Saturday, January 29, 2011

San Francisco Opera 2011-12

I have allowed my booklet for next season at the San Francisco Opera to get lost in the pile of junk mail that comes to my house. Fishing it out I see some interesting things.

  • The cover story is the most exciting item.  Renée Fleming will sing the title character in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia.  Riccardo Frizza will conduct and an Italian tenor named Francesco Meli will make his debut with her.  This sounds exciting.
  • Any serious company like San Francisco will want to do Don Giovanni every few years.  Lucas Meachem whom I saw in the role at Santa Fe in 2009 will sing the Don.  He was seen in San Francisco in Die Tote Stadt.  Curious is the fact that Kate Lindsey will sing Zerlina and was also in the same production at Santa Fe.  Maestro Luisotti will conduct.
  • The company will also do another Mozart:  The Magic Flute.  Heidi Stober will sing Pamina.  I saw her in Santa Fe, too--in Platée in 2007.  Nathan Gunn will sing Papageno.
  •  Kate Aldrich has already sung Carmen at the Metropolitan Opera and will be singing her in San Francisco next fall.  This is the reverse of the usual direction.  Things usually start here and then go to New York.  She took over from Angela Gheorghiu who said she was unprepared.  She was unprepared TO BE A MEZZO.  We digress.  This is interesting:  Paulo Szot will make his San Francisco debut as Escamillo.  He is the guy seen recently on TV in South Pacific.  He is supposed to be a major gay heart throb.  Luisotti will conduct.
  • Luisotti will conduct Turandot.  Is there anyone important in this?  The blurb says it features Irène Théorin, "the world's reigning Turandot."  I saw Marco Berti in Il Trovatore where I made certain remarks about him.  We'll see.
  • That's the standard stuff.  Luisotti will also conduct Verdi's Attila with one of my current favorites, Ferruccio Furlanetto, as Attila.  The last time I saw this opera Samuel Ramey sang the title role, and I see he is doing Pope Leo I this time.  Ramon Vargas will sing some of the performances, so check your tickets.
  •  Patrick Summers is coming to conduct the world premiere of Heart of a Soldier by Christopher Theofanidis, an American.  He previously wrote an opera called The Cows of Apollo.  Thomas Hampson is the featured singer.  That's all I know.
  •  Handel's Xerxes will also feature the conducting of Patrick Summers.  Susan Graham, a San Francisco favorite, will sing the title role.  Others in the cast are Heidi Stober and David Daniels.  I don't think I've ever seen this opera.
  • John Adams' Nixon in China will round out the list.   You might be interested to know that not one cast member from the current Metropolitan Opera cast will be repeated here.  The sudden appearance of this opera in standard repertoire is all since I declared it an "excellent opera" in 2005.
To summarize, that's one Handel, two Mozart, one Bel Canto, one Verdi, one Puccini, one French and two modern operas.  Pretty nice, I think.

    Thursday, January 27, 2011

    Measha does Cage

    Here you go. I am long overdo to post something on YouTube with Measha Brueggergosman and what do I find? This performance of Measha singing "Aria" by John Cage while the orchestra plays something else entirely took place at Carnegie Hall on April 15, 2009. The guy talking is Michael Tilson Thomas.

    This represents the intersection of a few different strains. Being something of a modernist at heart, I absolutely love this. Enjoy.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    26 January 1911

    It has been pointed out to me by the Mad Scene at Opera Australian that today is precisely 100 years of Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier. Find a little Rosenkavalier to hear before the day is over.

    You could start here.

    Footnote. All my life I've known people who complain about her diction, so let's make something clear. If you speak the language, you can understand every word.

    And you simply must watch this.


    It's true that I have posted 20 different YouTube films of Cecilia Bartoli since I began blogging 6 years ago. In my own defense I have also posted films of over 100 different singers. This includes 10 of Netrebko and 9 of Kaufmann.

    This list includes 40 entries of singers who may be considered old-timers:

    Agnes Baltsa, mezzo
    Anja Silja, dramatic soprano
    Barbara Bonney, light lyric
    Beniamino Gigli, tenor
    Beverly Sills, coloratura
    Birgit Nilsson, dramatic soprano
    Boris Christoff, bass
    Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo
    Christa Ludwig, mezzo
    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone [no one is more shocked than I]
    Eileen Farrell, dramatic soprano
    Elisabeth Schumann, soprano
    Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano
    Fritz Wunderlich, tenor
    Grace Bumbry, mezzo
    Gwyneth Jones, soprano
    Hans Hotter, bass
    Janet Baker, mezzo
    Jessye Norman, soprano
    Joan Sutherland, coloratura
    Judith Blegen, light lyric
    Jussi Bjorling, tenor
    Kathleen Battle, light lyric
    Kathleen Ferrier, mezzo
    Kiri Te Kanawa, lyric soprano
    Kirsten Flagstad, dramatic soprano
    Leonard Warren, baritone
    Leontyne Price, soprano
    Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, mezzo
    Lotte Lehmann, soprano
    Lucia Popp, lyric
    Luciano Pavarotti, tenor
    Maria Callas, soprano
    Marian Anderson, contralto
    Marilyn Horne, coloratura mezzo
    Mario Del Monaco, tenor
    Mario Lanza, tenor
    Maureen Forrester, mezzo
    Mirella Freni, soprano
    Montserrat Caballe, coloratura
    Peter Hoffmann, tenor
    Regina Resnik, mezzo
    Regine Crespin, soprano
    Renata Tebaldi, soprano
    Richard Tucker, tenor
    Rise Stevens, mezzo
    Rosa Ponselle, soprano
    Sena Jurinac, soprano
    Shirley Verrett, mezzo
    Tatiana Troyanos, mezzo
    Victoria de los Angeles, soprano

    This includes everyone I listened to in my youth and some I didn't.

    There are also 10 mostly American pop singers:

    Barbra Streisand
    Christine Ebersole
    David Cook
    Doris Day
    Gisela May
    Jennifer Hudson
    Josephine Baker
    Judy Garland
    Mahalia Jackson
    Nina Simone

    I notice there is no Alison Krauss, Linda Ronstadt or Dolly Parton. The biggest mental stretch for me has been learning to like Jennifer Hudson. Nobody sang like that when I was young. I had never heard of Josephine Baker when I was young.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    La Gioiosa is calling

    Somewhere in a comment it says that this is "salzburg, mozart-jahr [2006], uchida, muti, bartoli." They are performing "Ch'io mi scordi di te," K 505, the great Mozart concert aria.

    My flagging memory tells me that Salzburg wanted a performance of this specific aria and had asked Renée Fleming to sing it. She replied that it did not suit her voice. She offered to sing something else, but the pianist Mitsuko Uchida was the featured soloist.  And thus occurred this performance. Cecilia Bartoli is still my favorite Mozart singer, and she is very much in form here.

    Why am I posting this? Because I wish I was going to Zurich for Rossini.

    All the performers are very fine.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Simon we didn't see

    I was reading yesterday Tommasini's review of the current cast of Simon Boccanegra at the Metropolitan Opera.

    They get Dmitri Hvorostovsky, a real baritone, as Simon.  We got the pretend baritone Placido Domingo.

    They get the utterly magnificent Ferruccio Furlanetto as Fiesco. We got James Morris who sang only about 3/4 of the part--everything except the low notes.

    They get the very Italian Barbara Frittoli as Amelia.  We got  Adrianne Pieczonka who appears never to have been in the same room with an actual Italian.

    I am definitely feeling cheated.  Was it a joke?

    P.S. This is pretty snarky. One expects certain things from the Met.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Birth of Opera

    This information comes from Brittanica.

    "Giovanni Bardi, conte di Vernio, (b. Feb. 5, 1534, Florence—d. 1612, Florence), musician, writer, and scientist, influential in the evolution of opera. About 1573 he founded the Florentine Camerata, a group that sought to revive ancient Greek music and drama. Among the members were the theorist Vincenzo Galilei (father of Galileo) and the composer Giulio Caccini. Bardi collaborated with these and other Florentine musicians in court entertainments from 1579 to 1608. [Other members were the poet Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621), the musician Emilio de' Cavalieri (c.1550-1602), and the composer Jacopo Peri (1561-1633).]

    "Bardi and his circle were influenced by the theorist Girolamo Mei, who had translated all known works of ancient Greek music theory."

    What I cannot find in any book is that if you are walking along a street in Florence and happen to notice it, there will be this sign.

    It stands on the side of this unassuming building where met the famous Camerata.

    Now everything is a camerata, but in that day the word was newly minted to refer to Bardi's group.  The Camerata read everything available at the time and speculated on the actual experience of Greek drama.  They concluded that in a proper play in ancient Greece everything was sung.  They also concluded that there was no place for counterpoint in such a drama, and composed their own pieces with simple chordal accompaniment.

    Searching yields this example with text by Bardi and music probably by Cavalieri.

    This piece by Caccini is also very nice.

    None of them resemble recitative. I'll look further.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Very nice

    I like the slow tempo.

    Greatest Composers: Get in on the argument

    Some candidates above, from left, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Mozart, Schoenberg, Haydn, and Stravinsky; below, from left, Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, Handel, Bach, and Debussy. 

    These 13 men from Tommasini's list of greatest composers include two Russians, one Pole, one Frenchman and nine Germans.  Not one Italian name appears.  What does this list tell us about standards for musical greatness?  It tells us that these standards originate from German sources.

    It tells us that greatness derives from development of forms in the repertoire for keyboard and orchestra.  Or else why not the sainted Wagner?

    I guess I already established my opinions in Opera as Drama.  There is something intensely satisfying about form and analysis, so satisfying that one is inclined to be drawn into the belief that it is the be all and end all of Classical Music.

    What if we proposed Palestrina, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Rossini, Bellini, Verdi and Puccini for our list?  We would be laughed from the room.

    Saturday, January 08, 2011


    In the intermission of Fanciulla it was mentioned that Deborah Voigt would be doing Annie get your gun at Glimmerglass this summer. Cool.

    Ancora Fanciulla

    Minnie:  Deborah Voigt
    Dick Johnson:  Marcello Giordani
    Jack Rance:  Lucio Gallo
    Sonora: Dwayne Croft
    Wowkle:  Ginger Costa-Jackson

    Conductor:  Nicola Luisotti
    Production:  Giancarlo Del Monaco

    I sat with an old friend at the HD simulcast of the centennial production of La Fanciulla del West from the Met, and she would nudge me and say "Phantom of the Opera" every once in a while.  This similarity developed into a lawsuit that was settled out of court.  Thankfully, I am relatively unfamiliar with Phantom.

    I like opera at the cinema.  It's nice to see their faces.  It was especially nice to see Deborah Voigt's face throughout the performance.  There was a lot to see.  I liked her a lot more this time.

    This is the same production broadcast on television with Placido Domingo years ago.  I was disappointed to see that Marcello Giordani had shaved off his mustache that he had during the intermission of Don Carlo. It is also the same production used in Ulm when Giancarlo Del Monaco was Intendant there in the seventies. 

    My friend was attracted to Lucio Gallo, the Italian baritone who sang Jack Rance.  He's very sexy.  In general the singers seemed more suited to their roles than they had in San Francisco.

    There were a lot of horses seen through the door in act 1, but Deborah Voigt didn't ride any of them.  Sondra Radvanovsky hosted.

    The performance passed the essential Puccini test:  I cried.

    NEA Opera

    It has come to my attention that the National Endowment for the Arts has an opera honors list:

    2011 John Conklin
    Speight Jenkins
    Risë Stevens
    Robert Ward

    2010 Martina Arroyo
    David DiChiera
    Philip Glass
    Eve Queler

    2009 John Adams
    Frank Corsaro
    Marilyn Horne
    Lotfi Mansouri
    Julius Rudel

    2008 Carlisle Floyd
    Richard Gaddes
    James Levine
    Leontyne Price

    "The NEA Opera Honors celebrate visionaries and luminaries who, by making extraordinary contributions to opera in the United States, have become cultural treasures."

    This is all very interesting.  Also very interesting is the fact that I am not familiar with all of these names.

    Three are the great singers Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, and Martina Arroyo. The first two are two of my greatest idols in the singing world while I admit I am not all that familiar with Arroyo. I have no excuse. Maybe I will have to fill in that gap.

    Three are conductors: James Levine at the Met, Eve Queler at the Opera Orchestra of New York, and Julius Rudel who spent many years as conductor and general director at New York City Opera. This is a bit slanted toward New York, don't you think?

    Three are some of America's finest composers of Opera: Carlisle Floyd, probably most famous for Susannah, John Adams, famous for Nixon in China and Doctor Atomic, and Philip Glass, composer of Satyagraha and Appomattox.

    I should have remembered the name Richard Gaddes, but my memory has never been that great. He is the reason for the wonderful success of the Santa Fe Opera, one of the more remarkable operatic institutions in America. He is definitely in the visionary category.

    Stage directors are Frank Corsaro who worked primarily at New York City Opera, and Lotfi Mansouri who worked at San Francisco Opera and went on to become general manager there. He is responsible for the "all the sets are brown logs" season, the "every opera has someone nude hiding in the chorus" season and the "opera house is being earth-quaked" season. He got the opera into the newspapers and saved it from a financial crisis.  For sheer "visionary" creativity he is not surpassed.

    David DiChiera is an interesting twofer. He is both a composer and the founder of the Michigan Opera Theatre, the opera company in Detroit. Or should I say threefer. In addition to these things he is also a musicologist who wrote for Grove's Dictionary and other music encyclopedias.

    My impression is that only living people are eligible because some sort of prize must be attached. This is just a guess. America has its own particular slant on the world of opera, and these people are a big part of the reason.

    Saturday, January 01, 2011