Thursday, September 29, 2011

Opera Now

Jonas Kaufmann is on both the front AND the back covers of Opera Now for August-September.  I know I am a bit slow to notice this.

The cover article describes how he becomes involved in his productions early.  None of this showing up at the last minute unrehearsed for Jonas.  I want to say that this was my impression of the wonderful Werther in Paris.  My sense of the entire performance was that everyone, especially the conductor Michel Plasson, was working together toward the same goal.  This level of artistic coordination is not possible without planning.

The magazine also includes a list of hot productions over the next year.  Maybe I'll include some of them in my performance calendar.

Here's an interesting quote about Lawrence Brownlee:  "The young tenor Lawrence Brownlee is now prime property, just as virtuosic as Juan Diego Florez and with more shades of color in the voice."  You know, I think I agree.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Anna

Because she opened the Met season on Monday, Anna Netrebko is everywhere.

Here is a radio interview from New York.

And Intermezzo has provided this link to a terrific article about her from Newsweek.  Newsweek is also back.

Someone seems to have talked Anna into returning reluctantly to opera.

Monday, September 26, 2011

On the Subject of Modern Dance

Yes, that's Cecilia Bartoli singing the "Fac ut portem" from the Pergolesi Stabat Mater as accompaniment to the Chemnitzer Ballet in 2010. That means there are no live performers because this was recorded years ago. It's still fun to watch.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is Anna Back?

So maybe you didn't know she was gone.  I have been mad at Anna Netrebko because she refuses to diet off her pregnancy fat.  If you are one of the most beautiful women in the world, you have certain obligations.  Or so I thought.

So today in the New York Times I read that for the last couple of years she has been truly enthusiastic only for home and family.  I think my intuition told me this.  After all, one of the things we most love about Anna is her enthusiasm for performing.  Who but Anna jumps up and down in the final bows, or sticks out her tongue at the camera, or shows off her marvelous joie de vivre.

So (we are trying to start every paragraph with so) the New York Times seems to feel she is regaining her enthusiasm for performing.  She points out that she needs always new things to be singing to maintain her interest.  Anna Bolena is part of this plan.  She is at this moment pretty much the prima donna assoluta.

So she is also doing a recital at Carnegie Hall consisting entirely of Russian songs.  I went to a Netrebko recital years ago with Donald Runnicles accompanying, and concluded that the world did not need Anna Netrebko doing Lieder recitals.  After all we have a lot of perfectly excellent Germans for that.  What the world needed was an artist of Anna's stature singing Russian songs.  If not Anna, then who?  The passage of time has proved me right.  As the years pass, I begin to feel moderately less arrogant, but I was still dead on on this one.

So perhaps the Netrebko is back.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We stood and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" before the start of Christopher Theofanidis's Heart of a Soldier. In September, 2001, it was the beginning of the term of Pamela Rosenberg at the San Francisco Opera.  We first got to see our new General Manager when she stepped out from behind the curtain and asked us to stand and sing "God Bless America."

By the end of Heart of a Soldier we felt that we knew Rick and his friend Dan.  Some of this is due to the powerful portrayals of Thomas Hampson and William Burden.

The story begins when Rick and Dan meet in Southern Rhodesia and practice the ritual of gaining strength by wearing the blood of the dead lion.

Then there is the war lesson of protecting the person to your left.  The goal seems to be to do what you are told while keeping everyone alive.  It is the story of lives trained to withstand danger.  We are told to teach our hearts to be brave, and the greatest aid in accomplishing this is to sing.  The story ends when Rick leads his office-mates out of the burning tower, and then goes back to try to save others.

The heart of a soldier would appear to be a heart trained for duty.  We see how a hero is made.

The production enhanced the ever shifting setting--a bar in Rhodesia, a training camp in Georgia, a battlefield in Vietnam, and most vividly the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York.  From a strictly theatrical sense it is a triumph.  The text, the production and direction all combine to move us.  It is our 9/11 opera.

For me the music was nothing more than sound effects, timbre and little else.  A true opera should be mostly about the music.

Monday, September 19, 2011

At last some good news

I found this comment on the Jonas Kaufmann unofficial website:

Dear Kaufmann fan community,
After unfortunately hearing no information on Jonas Kaufmann's health, I want to let you know about a picture in today's "Courier" which shows Jonas Kaufmann with lederhosen and traditional jacket at the opening of the Oktoberfest in Munich. So please calm down Jonas is obviously very well!
Kind regards, Eleanor Moser

Dated today, translation mine.

Mark Morris' Dido

I would like to get all complaining out of the way quickly. There were no supertitles and the room was too dark to read the text to Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas at Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall this afternoon.

Don't get the wrong idea. I remember precisely every single word of this wonderful text. Who could resist...

"Oft she visits this lone mountain.
Oft she bathes her in this fountain."


"No repentance shall reclaim
The injured Dido's slighted flame;
For 'tis enough what e'er you now decree
That you had once the thought of leaving me."


"Harm's our delight and mischief all our skill."

And the music shapes these words in a way that approaches divine perfection

Stephanie Blythe was an amazing Dido:  strong, thoughtful, emotional, sensitive.  Perhaps, like Christa, she searches for the perfect performance.  She was also a very nice sorceress.

Philip Cutlip's Aeneas was also excellent.  His voice has a wonderful quality.

But this is Mark Morris's Dido.  He would want nothing to distract us from watching the dancers.  Morris also conducted.  The Philharmonia Baroque, the chorus, and all the soloists were crowded into the small pit below the virtually empty stage.

The troop of dancers, male and female, all dress the same in unisex skirts or briefly in unisex shorts.  They dance barefoot, and their feet slap against the smooth floor.  The angularity of their movements suggests pre-classical Greece.

There are several numbers where no one sings, and I have always thought they needed dancing in these spots.  I was right.

The great works of music can be created again and again, each time with the insight of the individual artists bringing us to see it anew.  It helps to know every word, every note.  You see and hear every gesture in stark relief.  I wouldn't have imagined this dance, but it expanded my idea of the work.  It was very beautiful.

[See Kinderkuchen History 1670-95]

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Happy Birthday Anna

Tomorrow, September 18, marks a major milestone in the opera world:  Anna Netrebko will be 40.  Congratulations, Anna.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mark Morris' Dido

One of the entries from my new calendar--a calendar deeply biased toward California--is Mark Morris' Dido and Aeneas at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley.  SFGate has a very nice interview here.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Christa Ludwig

I apologize for the snail's pace of my journey through Christa Ludwig's autobiography.  Charlie Chaplin, and a lot more celebrity types, wrote an endless "and then I met" name dropping list.  Christa writes about the business.

She writes about her take on each of her major roles, of her own particular style in creating characters. She tells us that somewhere there exists a score where she and Gottfried von Einem rewrote the opera Der Besuch der alten Dame to suit her voice. She thinks it is unfortunate that this opera is no longer performed.

We learn in a footnote that there is a privately printed newspaper by and for the standees of the Vienna State Opera. This is now called Der neue Merker and, of course, is available on line here. Who knew?

She writes the most amazing things about Lady Macbeth from Verdi's opera Macbeth. It wouldn't have occurred to me that a mezzo would sing this. She tells a wonderful story about studying this with Zinka Milanov. They agreed on a bel canto approach to the role. Perhaps this is the problem. This is SOOO interesting.

I promise to finish eventually.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011


I regret to report that Salvatore Licitra has died.

Wikipedia:   "Salvatore Licitra (1968 – September 5, 2011) was an Italian operatic tenor."

I feel I should post something of him singing.

Golijov Deadline Controversy

Here from Wikipedia is the explanation for the Dawn Upshaw concert:

Golijov came under scrutiny in 2011 for a series of high-profile commissions that were either delayed or cancelled. A violin concerto written for the LA Phil was not completed in time, and had to be replaced on the program. This followed a similar cancellation in 2010, when a song cycle that was scheduled had to be removed from the program when it was not complete in time.  The March, 2011 premiere of a new string quartet for the St. Lawrence Quartet was also delayed due to a missed deadline.

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Since I have recently discovered that my largest concentration of readers is in fact in Sacramento, I have decided to add a Performance Calendar page.  This is entirely slanted toward what I would want to see, and thus emphasizes singing.  It's actually impossible to find all of this information in one place.

I include things in Sacramento (Sacramento Opera, Mondavi Center), things in the San Francisco Bay Area (Philharmonia Baroque, San Francisco Opera, Cal Performances, etc.), and outstanding performances much further away.  When this is possible, I link to the appropriate web page.  You can use these links to guide you to other performances that might interest you.  For the Met in HD performances, please consult your local movie listings.

The performances in distant locations are more or less a wish list.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to see Joyce Didonato at La Scala, Milan, in La Donna del Lago.  And I do intend to travel to see Cecilia Bartoli at least once this year, perhaps in conjunction with the Jonas Kaufmann Gala in Zurich in May.  I'll have to pull myself together and buy some tickets.

When a review shows up here, you will know that I was there.

Friday, September 02, 2011