Wednesday, July 31, 2013


This is the new album of The Best of Joyce DiDonato.  I follow Joyce on Facebook and have watched as she coaxed her fans into creating this album.  First the fans chose which of her many lovely and exciting tracks should be included in the album.  Then she asked them to title the album.  Joyce preferred another name, but the fans were solidly behind ReJoyce.

And now we have the cover photo also provided by a fan, Xenia Varelas.  There is a rumor that this renders producers officially obsolete.  Of course, they were already unofficially obsolete.

I'm not sure when it will be released. ----  August 27.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pre-bought CDs

I have already purchased a few albums out soon.  First we have our two Verdi albums.

Jonas Kaufmann's Verdi on his new Sony label due to be released on September 17 in US.  He will sing arias from Aida, Il Trovatore, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Forza del Destino, Don Carlo, Louisa Miller, Simon Boccanegra, I Masnadieri, Otello and Macbeth

Anna Netrebko's already announced album will be out on August 20 in the US.  She will sing arias from Macbeth, Giovanna d Arco, I Vespri Siciliani, Don Carlo and Il Trovatore.

And this is the Agostino Steffani Stabat mater, the latest installment in Cecilia Bartoli's Mission project due out on September 10 in US.   I see that Fasolis and I Barocchisti already recorded this over a decade ago.

When they arrive, I'll let you know how I like them.  In addition you may be interested in Rolando Villazon's already released Verdi album which overlaps only a little with Jonas's album.

Best Wagner

I've only seen one complete Ring cycle done in successive performances over a few days, and it was the one conducted by Edo de Waart at the San Francisco Opera.  It remains in memory as something truly wonderful.

And now virtually all of it is posted on YouTube.  On part 2 of Die Walküre you can hear James Morris' very first performance of Wotan's Farewell.  For my ears it is the most beautiful Wagner singing I have ever heard, far better than the later Met performance also available on YouTube.  He just sings.  He lets his gorgeous voice roll out.  At the Met he becomes manipulative and self-conscious, slips in and out of sotto voce, and all of that stupid stuff.  What made Kirsten Flagstad the greatest Wagner singer in history?  She sang in the phrase and let the music do the work.  Don't try to squeeze the emotions out.  Just let them flow from your soul.  In comments Morris said he sang it as though it were Verdi.  Wagner would have loved this.

In the modern world of Wagner singing there is a desire (I would say a tendency, but it very much exceeds that) to turn the music into talk.  The modern Wagner singer would have you believe that it's all recitative, that recitative did not die but lived on to consume the entire genre of Wagner.  For the greatest Wagner singers it's all aria. 

When I go to see Die Walküre, my heart waits for this emotion to come again.  So far it is in vain.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Did you know about this?

And if you did why didn't you tell me?  I didn't know the English ever censored anything.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hippolyte et Aricie from Glyndebourne

Jean-Philippe Rameau's opera Hippolyte et Aricie (1733) is basically the same plot as Phèdre by Jean Racine (1677), a play that was done at my college when I was an undergraduate. This is only my second experience of a Rameau opera--the first was Platée at Santa Fe, a comedy.

Hippolytus Ed Lyon, high tenor
Aricia Christiane Karg, soprano
Phaedre Sarah Connolly, mezzo
Theseus Stéphane Degout, bass
Diana Katherine Watson, soprano
Pluto/Jupiter/Neptune François Lis, baritone
Œnone Julie Pasturaud, soprano
Cupid/A female sailor Ana Quintans, same voice type as Hippolytus but sung by a mezzo
High Priestess/Huntress Emmanuelle de Negri, soprano

Conductor William Christie
Production Jonathan Kent

"It has an extraordinary quality of meandering."  Phaedre, wife of Theseus, falls in love with her step son Hippolytus who wishes to marry Aricia.  This is a serious opera, filled with gods and mortals.  Cupid and Diana vie for the souls of men, and Jove grants that one day a year Cupid will reign.  Racine is dark and very tragic, but we are now in the high Baroque which demands its happy ending. 

In this production the mortals are modern and the gods are Baroque.  In the beginning Diana's servants live inside a refrigerator and proceed to prepare broccoli and cauliflower.  Cupid pops out of one of the eggs.  Theseus and Phaedre live in an ordinary small apartment with a fishless fish tank.  Perhaps that's their fish poking their heads out of the radiator below.

Hell is the most fun.  Pluto whose realm is pictured as a giant radiator is served by a variety of insects, include two spiders who perform a charming duet.  We aren't sure what Theseus is doing in hell, but the change of scene is welcome.

After Phaedre kills herself, the young lovers are reunited to happy rejoicing.

Though they are contemporaries, you will not hear the wondrous variety of Handel here.  If the tempo starts to pick up a bit, it must be a ballet.  There are, of course, no castrati in French opera and little of the intense display of coloratura that is present in Italian opera.  Perhaps we might even call this the Rococo.  It is graceful, elegant and formal above all else.  Rameau is pleasant but not particularly exciting.

This opera came to me via a live stream from Glyndebourne.  If it is considered a success, the opera and its production may start showing up other places. Between the scenes is the head of an old bald guy staring out at us.  If they make a DVD, they could think about leaving him out.

You may be curious to know that the version on YouTube with Emmanuelle Haim is traditional in its staging.  Diana descends from above just as she should.  The subtitles are in French.

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Apparently Alexander Pereira, the Salzburger Festspiele and La Scala Milano have all come to an agreement that he will become the head of La Scala on October 1, 2014.  See here.  This means he will continue to manage in Salzburg through next year's festival.  This change is a year earlier than planned and represents a large drop in salary for Pereira.

Reports seem to say that he left because of restrictions to his budget.

Antony and Cleopatra

I became interested when I noticed that there is a complete film of Samuel Barber's opera Antony and Cleopatra on YouTube.   All I have known about it has been rumors of a giant catastrophe.

This opera was composed for the opening of the New Met on September 16, 1966 with Leontyne Price as Cleopatra.  She is known to have loved this work.

According to the Met archives, this opera was given one series of performances the first of which was broadcast.  As a Price fan, I feel it would be wonderful to hear this. There can be no question that the Met has at least an audio recording of the complete opera.   Look in Met on Demand.

Everything was criticized about this opening.  The preparation seems to have been inadequate, resulting in an embarrassing performance by the orchestra.  Carping about the text is a little silly, don't you think?  It is from the Shakespeare play and selected by Franco Zeffirelli.  Operas always have less text than plays.  This performance was pre-supertitles, so perhaps that is the problem.  It isn't one of Shakespeare's best plays but has an outstanding role for a woman.

The complete film on YouTube (pt1, pt2) is of a performance that occurred at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1991 in a revised version created by Gian Carlo Menotti.  Here is the cast of that performance.

Cleopatra - Catherine Malfitano, soprano
Mark Antony - Richard Cowan, baritone
Octavius Caesar - Jacque Trussel, tenor
Enobarbus - Eric Halfvarson, bass
Charmian - Wendy White, mezzo-soprano
Iras - Nancy Maultsby, mezzo-soprano
A Messenger - Paul Jacobsen, tenor

Conductor - Richard Buckley

I don't mind Malfitano but she is not in the same league with Price, one of the greatest singers of the 20th century.   Everyone sings big.  Richard Cowan is a gorgeous, hunky baritone, and Catherine is beautiful enough.  After all, it is Cleopatra's infinite variety that pleases.  And perhaps that is what is missing--variety.

The work is unrelentingly somber, following slavishly the tenets of the Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk.  Think how much more fun is the ever changing Cleopatra of Giulio Cesare.  I cannot think of an opera more intensely tragic and dark without any hints of self-parody or cynicism.

I am able to imagine a singing actress who could make a success of this.  She would have to be a giant.  People are more inclined to sympathize with women with tuberculosis or dying geishas.  Your knowledge of opera is incomplete without it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Becoming La Traviata

This is all in French but great if you like to watch rehearsals.

And this one is the official trailer.

I don't think this movie ever came to Sacramento.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Coloraturafan says goodbye

I'll have to go through and see what is missing now.

I have an editorial comment on this subject. Coloraturafan has been removed from YouTube due to copyright violations. Obviously, if you buy a commercial video, bring it home and upload it to YouTube, that is illegal. Emphasis on the word commercial. If you capture something from a stream, is that illegal? Who knows?

If you are strictly literal, absolutely everything that you didn't film with your own camera and then post to YouTube is illegal. And even that might be illegal if you are filming someone or something that is otherwise covered. In these two sentences we have covered all the classical music on YouTube.  If you film yourself, you're good. Would I want a film of myself?  Probably not.  I notice there's an old woman who films her blog.

YouTube allows samples, supposedly. I am unaware that coloraturafan posted anything but samples. Recently I know he posted items from the Il Trovatore stream from Munich.  I know this because I linked to a couple of them. When asked, he took them down. The usual reason organizations ask that a film be removed is because they decide to make a commercial video of it. If they decide not to, they let it go.  I won't cite specific instances.  How is someone to know this before the fact? And why should someone be punished for something they can't know?

I think the world of classical music needs all the exposure it can get.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

La Donna del Lago

 Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona

Since I will probably not make it to Santa Fe to see this opera, I watched the film from the Royal Opera on YouTube.  This is the cast:

Joyce DiDonato (Elena),
Juan Diego Florez (Uberto),
Daniela Barcellona (Malcolm),
Michael Spyres (Rodrigo),
Simon Orfila (Douglas).

There are so many complaints about the productions on YT that it is something of a surprise that no one seems to mind this one.  It made no sense to me at all.  It's like an archeology club that is digging up these people to stare at them for a while and then put them back into their display cases.  Ick.  It's supposed to be a young woman sailing around in a boat, maybe a bit hard to stage.  I'd like to see someone try.  In Santa Fe you actually are outside.

Joyce is wonderful, and the other people are fine.  Daniela Barcellona is the largest person on the stage, dwarfing all the others, which makes her completely believable as Malcolm.  If you can't go to Santa Fe, watch this.  Here.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic

I have tracked down the brochure for next season for the combined Opera and Philharmonic.  We have a lot more details.

August 11, 1:30, the Opera and Philharmonic will combine at Fairy Tale Town in William Land Park for the "Cat and Fiddle Music Festival."  Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is one of the numbers in this family oriented concert.

Oct 19, 2:00 and 8:00, Community Center Theater, "Here to stay:  the Gershwin Experience" concert with Sylvia McNair, conducted by Michael Morgan.

Nov 22, 8:00, Crest Theater, International Stars of Opera Recital, Ruth Ann Swenson, soprano, Frank Lopardo, tenor, Mark Robson, piano.  This is what was meant by Una Sorpreso Lirico! 

January 11, 8:00, Community Center Theater, Michael Morgan conducts Brahms Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Stravinsky Firebird Suite and Daniel Bernard Roumain Woodbox Concerto.  Here's a short film of DBR playing an electric violin.

Feb 28, 8:00, and March 2, 2:00, CCT, Verdi's Il Trovatore.  Michael Morgan will conduct.  Leonora, Lisa Daltirus; Azucena, Tichina Vaughn; Manrico, Arnold Rawls; Count Di Luna, Marcus Jupither.

March 14, 8:00, The Assembly (1000 K st.), Violinist Rachel Barton Pine and cellist Mike Block will discuss the evolution of music from Bartok to Metalica.  This is a bold undertaking. 

April 5, 8:00, CCT, concert featureing Dvorak, Glazunov and John Williams.  Michael Morgan conducts and Rachel Barton Pine plays the Glazunov violin concerto.

June 21, 1:00 and 3:00; June 22 1:00 at Crocker Art Museum, Family opera to coincide with a Crocker exhibition.  Robert Xavier Rodriquez is the composer and the words "mariachi music" appear in the text.  I think this is just for fun.

I feel this represents a different perspective.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Modern Stagings

Watching streamed opera from Europe generally results in viewings of modern European style stagings, what we here in America like to call Eurotrash.  This always makes me think back to my days at the Ulmer Theater.  I like to think we were in at the beginning.

We had Busby Berkeley in John Dew's Der Vogelhändler.

We had psychoanalysis and shadow figures haunting the stage in Peter Mussbach's Figaros Hochzeit.  He may possibly be a psychoanalyst. 

And we had black on black productions by Giancarlo del Monaco, including Pique Dame.  Giancarlo was told to come up with some colors or find another job.  He found another job.  His Met production of La Fanciulla del West started out in Ulm.

I like to feel that there is nothing new in current European productions.  I'm only guessing that these are the right pictures.  They were all much younger then, and so was I.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013


When I was posting everyone singing "L'Aria di Doretta," I did not include the beautiful Anna Moffo.  Her version is very sweet.


Renee Fleming

The National Medal of Arts will be presented tomorrow to soprano Renée Fleming.


Yesterday in Munich Jonas Kaufmann became a Kammersänger.  Thanks Intermezzo.  Anja Harteros, standing next to him with the rest of the cast of Il Trovatore, preceded him in this honor. 

The title is ancient and was previously awarded by the monarch. My memory, but admittedly no reference source, tells me that this refers to singing in the king's chamber and not with singing chamber music.

Here is a list for Austria.
Here is a list for Bavaria.  

This year's Fortune 100 Great Things about America includes Joyce DiDonato at number 76.

 Anything else?

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Netrebko sings Lady Macbeth

This film comes with a lot of snarky comments.  This role is the great voice killer, but this sounds fine to me.  Her voice is maturing, and she doesn't want to keep singing the same things.  A couple of times through on this one should be enough, though.  She pays no attention to anyone's comments, and that certainly includes mine.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Bayerische Staatsoper Il Trovatore

Conductor Paolo Carignani
Production Olivier Py

Conte di Luna: Alexey Markov
Leonora: Anja Harteros
Azucena: Elena Manistina
Manrico: Jonas Kaufmann
Ferrando: Kwangchul Youn
Ines: Golda Schultz
Ruiz: Francesco Petrozzi

It was a lot of fun watching the stream of Il Trovatore from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.  Nowadays the European producers are all ex-psychoanalysts.  Everything happens for some deep psychological reason which we then display on the stage.  And what better reason for this treatment than the twisted motives of Il Trovatore?

Count di Luna's father killed Azucena's gypsy mother because she looked at his new born son?  This is another racial hatred plot.  When people in white cone hats show up, we Americans imagine it has something to do with the Ku Klux Klan, but my sources say this is supposed to represent the inquisition.  Azucena spends the rest of her life trying to avenge her mother's death.  In our production Azucena's mother is constantly present on the stage in the person of a thin skeletal woman with long blond hair (ballet, I think).  We aren't allowed to forget her importance in the story.

So Manrico is also a mess.  Azucena tells him that in a frenzy she threw her own son into her mother's flames.  "So then who am I?" he asks.  He is a warrior and a singer and a lover and a very confused guy.  Early in the opera he tries to kill di Luna but something prevents him.

Count di Luna has the mysterious ghost of his lost brother whom rumor would tell us is not dead but kidnapped by the gypsies.  Of course, this brother is Manrico.  It's interesting that I am interested in the plot of this opera for the first time.

This leaves Leonora, the romantic object of both Manrico and di Luna.  How can we make her more complicated, too?  In this production she is blind, making her mistaking di Luna for Manrico more  believable.

There is a stage within a stage which in the anvil scene contains a large cylinder that someone beats on.  It's something to make noise when there are no anvils.  Though not in the score, the anvils are such a firm tradition that no one but Muti ever leaves them out.  The following scene included real nudity by a dancer in the small stage.  Only her shoes remain after she removes her clothes.  I am tempted to digress into nudity at the opera, but will resist.

We are not here for the production, interesting as it may be.  Anja Harteros doesn't really like to travel and is most at home performing in her home house, the Bayerische Staatsoper.  She was simply magnificent and received the most accolades.  I shouted a few bravas at my computer for fun.  This is how we like our Verdi.  The soprano dominates the ensembles with the natural force of her voice and not through shouting and distortion of the tone.  Her phrasing is a joy.  I am a fan.

There was a fuss because Jonas Kaufmann sang "di quella pira" a half tone down.  This is an established operatic tradition every bit as firmly established as the anvils.  Muti leaves out the uncomposed high C that makes this transposition necessary.  Jonas's performance of this aria was exciting.  I listened to this opera in a pirated recording earlier in the week, and I liked him a lot more in this performance.  His confused Manrico was very sympathetic.

They put together an excellent cast for this.  Is Munich now the center of the operatic universe?

P.S.  I see in the teaser a lot more nudity than I saw on the stream. This specific performance is not really suitable for DVD release because while Frau Harteros was generally wonderful, she fudged most of her high notes, perhaps the conductor's fault.

In the teaser the director says that the production is supposed to be a nightmare.  Does that make it less horrible?