Tuesday, January 28, 2014

ABS Magnificat

Last night I went to Davis to see the American Bach Soloists, an excellent Baroque ensemble.

I will begin with my pet peeve.  As an undergraduate my meat and potatoes repertoire was the alto solos from Bach choral works.  Eric Jurenas is a perfectly good countertenor, but I want to see altos in this repertoire.  And don't think you can pull the authenticity card on me.  You know as well as I do that to be authentic you would have to replace all the sopranos with men, too.  Bach did not single out altos for this nasty treatment.  I'm just sayin.

Jeffrey Thomas, the conductor, is on the choral faculty at UC Davis.  I'm not completely sure of this because it says "University of California" which usually means either Berkeley or the entire University system, but all other references refer to Davis.  This explains their preference for choral repertoire.  I'm grateful.  Thank you.  This is the Bach I know and love.

I love them, and this program was especially interesting.  The program began with "Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!"  It turns out this cantata, written for a secular birthday celebration, became the first section of the Christmas Oratorio.  If you have been wondering all these years why this piece begins with a drum solo, goes immediately on to trumpets, followed by strings, it's because the words mean, "Sound you drums!  Ring forth, trumpets!  Vibrating strings fill the air!"  Isn't that cool.  The different voices are assigned roles as they would be in an oratorio.

It's nice to hear all this Bach, in spite of my complaints about alto soloists.  The tiny chorus handles all their assignments with skill and enthusiasm.  It was especially pleasant to see them swaying in rhythm with the 3/4 time in the opening number.  Bravo.

A suite, Ouverture in B Minor, turned out to be a marvelous flute concerto played by Sandra Miller.  It was excellent.

Whenever there is a final chorale, the audience sings, as for instance at the end of "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir."  It was fun.

The program closed with the piece with which I was most familiar, The Magnificat.  This is Mary's outburst after the annunciation, "My soul doth magnify the lord."  Bach performance practice has changed enormously in the 50 years since I sang it.  Orchestral textures are lighter, tempos are faster, and probably most significantly legato is consistently replaced by leggiero.  The notes are separated with a marked diminuendo.  I was taught in the Romantic style where everything is legato.  This must not be interpreted as a criticism.  It is the nature of life to change.  It helps to bring the old back into our hearts again.

Thank you for a wonderful concert.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Sacramento Philharmonic And Opera Receives Donation

According to CBS news yesterday, the Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra received a half million dollar donation from the Raley family.  The whole article says:

It’s music to their ears. The Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra will play on. They were on the brink of collapse until someone stepped in with a big gift just in time. The donor’s identity has been a secret, until now.

The stage was set for a tragic ending.

“Theatrics in the bank account we don’t want. Theatrics on the stage we want…we were cutting it very tight,” said Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra CEO Rob Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum was planning on asking the city for a subsidy. “And my CFO comes into the room and she looked a bit dumbfounded,” said Tannenbaum.

A gift of a half-million dollars came in the mail. “There was a moment of what, what, until she put the checks on the table. And there was $250,000 for the opera and $250,000 for the philharmonic,” said Tannenbaum.

The two checks came from the family behind Raley’s supermarket, headquartered in West Sacramento. Of course the surprise left Tannenbaum singing their high praises.

He immediate responded to the Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation. “I called Joyce to thank her for this gift and it’s in memory of her mother, E. Claire Raley,” said Tannenbaum. Tannenbaum says changes are needed to keep arts alive in Sacramento. “Talking about how can we change the organization so that it has the power to move and talk to people from 2014 and beyond,” said. This half-million-dollar surprise has the CEO singing a whole new song.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Classical Grammy Nominations

Classical Field

Best Orchestral Performance

Atterberg: Orchestral Works Vol. 1 - Neeme Järvi, conductor (Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra)

Lutoslawski: Symphony No. 1 - Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Schumann: Symphony No. 2; Overtures Manfred & Genoveva - Claudio Abbado, conductor (Orchestra Mozart)

Winner:  Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 4 - Osmo Vänskä, conductor (Minnesota Orchestra)  This is the disappearing Minnesota Orchestra.

Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps - Simon Rattle, conductor (Berliner Philharmoniker)

Best Opera Recording

Winner:  Adès: The Tempest - Thomas Adès, conductor; Simon Keenlyside, Isabel Leonard, Audrey Luna & Alan Oke; Luisa Bricetti & Victoria Warivonchick, producers (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)

Britten: The Rape Of Lucretia - Oliver Knussen, conductor; Ian Bostridge, Peter Coleman-Wright, Susan Gritton & Angelika Kirchschlager; John Fraser, producer (Aldeburgh Festival Ensemble)

Ståle Kleiberg: David and Bathsheba
Ståle Kleiberg: David & Bathsheba - Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor; Anna Einarsson & Johannes Weisser; Morten Lindberg, producer (Trondheim Symphony Orchestra; Trondheim Symphony Orchestra Vocal Ensemble).  The composer is Swedish.

Vinci: Artaserse - Diego Fasolis, conductor; Valer Barna-Sabadus, Daniel Behle, Max Emanuel Cencic, Franco Fagioli & Philippe Jaroussky; Ulrich Ruscher, producer (Concerto Köln; Coro Della Radiotelevisione Svizzera, Lugano)

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen - Christian Thielemann, conductor; Katarina Dalayman, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson & Linda Watson; Othmar Eichinger, producer (Orchester Der Wiener Staatsoper; Chor Der Wiener Staatsoper)

Best Choral Performance

Berlioz: Grande Messe Des Morts - Colin Davis, conductor (Barry Banks; London Symphony Orchestra; London Philharmonic Choir & London Symphony Chorus)

Palestrina: Volume 3 - Harry Christophers, conductor (The Sixteen)

Parry: Works For Chorus & Orchestra - Neeme Järvi, conductor; Adrian Partington, chorus master (Amanda Roocroft; BBC National Orchestra Of Wales; BBC National Chorus Of Wales)

Winner:  Pärt: Adam's Lament - Tõnu Kaljuste, conductor (Tui Hirv & Rainer Vilu; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir; Sinfonietta Riga & Tallinn Chamber Orchestra; Latvian Radio Choir & Vox Clamantis)

Whitbourn: Annelies - James Jordan, conductor (Ariana Zukerman; The Lincoln Trio; Westminster Williamson Voices)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

Beethoven: Violin Sonatas - Leonidas Kavakos & Enrico Pace

Cage: The 10,000 Things - Vicki Ray, William Winant, Aron Kallay & Tom Peters

Duo - Hélène Grimaud & Sol Gabetta

Winner:  Roomful Of Teeth - Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth

Times Go By Turns - New York Polyphony

Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Bartók, Eötvös & Ligeti - Patricia Kopatchinskaja; Peter Eötvös, conductor (Ensemble Modern & Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Winner:  Corigliano: Conjurer - Concerto For Percussionist & String Orchestra - Evelyn Glennie; David Alan Miller, conductor (Albany Symphony)

The Edge Of Light - Gloria Cheng (Calder Quartet)

Lindberg: Piano Concerto No. 2 - Yefim Bronfman; Alan Gilbert, conductor (New York Philharmonic)

Salonen: Violin Concerto; Nyx - Leila Josefowicz; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

Schubert: Piano Sonatas D. 845 & D. 960 - Maria João Pires

Best Classical Vocal Solo

Drama Queens - Joyce DiDonato (Alan Curtis; Il Complesso Barocco)

Mission - Cecilia Bartoli (Diego Fasolis; Philippe Jaroussky; I Barocchisti)

Schubert: Winterreise - Christoph Prégardien (Michael Gees)

Wagner - Jonas Kaufmann (Donald Runnicles; Markus Brück; Chor Der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Orchester Der Deutschen Oper Berlin)


Winner:  Winter Morning Walks - Dawn Upshaw (Maria Schneider; Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough & Scott Robinson; Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Best Classical Compendium

Winner:  Hindemith: Violinkonzert; Symphonic Metamorphosis; Konzertmusik - Christoph Eschenbach, conductor

Holmboe: Concertos - Dima Slobodeniouk, conductor; Preben Iwan, producer

Tabakova: String Paths - Maxim Rysanov; Manfred Eicher, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Lindberg, Magnus: Piano Concerto No. 2 - Magnus Lindberg, composer (Yefim Bronfman, Alan Gilbert & New York Philharmonic)

Pärt, Arvo: Adam's Lament - Arvo Pärt, composer (Tõnu Kaljuste, Latvian Radio Choir, Vox Clamantis & Sinfonietta Riga)

Salonen, Esa-Pekka: Violin Concerto - Esa-Pekka Salonen, composer (Leila Josefowicz, Esa-Pekka Salonen & Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra)

WINNER:  Schneider, Maria: Winter Morning Walks - Maria Schneider, composer (Dawn Upshaw, Jay Anderson, Frank Kimbrough, Scott Robinson & Australian Chamber Orchestra)

Shaw, Caroline: Partita For 8 Voices - Caroline Shaw, composer (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth)

Production, Classical Field

Best Engineered Album, Classical

Hymn To The Virgin - Morten Lindberg, engineer (Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl & Schola Cantorum)
La Voie Triomphale - Morten Lindberg, engineer (Ole Kristian Ruud & Staff Band Of The Norwegian Armed Forces)
Roomful Of Teeth - Mark Donahue & Jesse Lewis, engineers (Brad Wells & Roomful Of Teeth)

Vinci: Artaserse - Hans-Martin Renz, Wolfgang Rixius & Ulrich Ruscher, engineers (Diego Fasolis, Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, Daniel Behle, Franco Fagioli, Valer Barna-Sabadus, Yuriy Mynenko & Concerto Köln)
Winter Morning Walks - David Frost, Brian Losch & Tim Martyn, engineers; Tim Martyn, mastering engineer (Dawn Upshaw, Maria Schneider, Australian Chamber Orchestra & St. Paul Chamber Orchestra)

Producer Of The Year, Classical

Manfred Eicher
Winner:  David Frost
Marina A. Ledin, Victor Ledin
James Mallinson
Jay David Saks

[Winter walks pretty much won everything.  Grammy consistently awards to new music rather than the usual classical criteria for interpreting existing repertoire, so that wasn't a surprise.  But I bought this album and it's jazz.  Don't they have their own category?

Ades showed up to accept his award.  The Minnesota orchestra, the orchestra most in the news this year, won the orchestra award.]

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Minotaur

Someone persuaded me to take an interest in Harrison Birtwistle's The Minotaur.  Someone at the New York Times liked it.  So I bought a DVD.

The Minotaur (Asterios):  John Tomlinson, bass
Theseus:  Johan Reuter, baritone
Ariadne:  Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano
Snake Priestess:  Andrew Watts, countertenor
Innocents:  Rebecca Bottone, Pumeza Matshikiza, Wendy Dawn Thompson, Christopher Ainslie, Tim Mead
Hiereus:  Philip Langridge, tenor
Ker (death spirit, sister of the fates, in this production vulture):  Amanda Echalaz, soprano

The plot is the incidents that took place just before Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos.  The Minotaur is in the labyrinth, and his half sister Ariadne looks out for him, makes sure people sent to Crete to provide dinner for the Minotaur find their way into the labyrinth.  The Minotaur doesn't care for bread.

We are 45 minutes into the opera before Asterios appears and 57 minutes in before he sings anything.  If you like opera as orchestral tone poem with only incidental singing, then you will like this.  If, like me, for you opera is about the singing and you don't really care what is going on at the same time, you will hate it.

The Minotaur groans as he kills his victims in full view of the audience.  The vultures come in afterward to eat what remains of them, screeching hideously.

Sorry.  No singing, no opera.  Think how much better we might enjoy this if a troupe of comedia del arte performers came in after say 20 minutes.

I do wish to comment on the orchestral part of the opera, though.  Modernism, the music of Bartok, Stravinsky and those guys, has died here.  We in America, represented by Glass, Adams, Heggie, have gone on to minimalism and other less harsh styles.  In Europe modernism appears to be alive and ....  I was going to say well, but, you know....  Birtwistle and Ades, and perhaps even Saariaho are very much modernists.  Our paths have forked.  I would need to conduct research to discover which path is the more successful.  The New York Times critics evaluate the fork by ignoring our half.  If it doesn't sound like late Stravinsky, it isn't classical music, apparently. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cross-Dressing in the Movies

Often in the movies a character of one gender dresses up as the other, such as here where we see Marlene Dietrich in Morocco.  Her character in the movie is female.  In this disguise she kisses one of the women in the audience.

In Some Like it Hot two guys, played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, are pretending to be women.  Everyone in the audience knows they are not really women, and part of the joke is deciding how well or badly they have managed it.

In Tootsie Dustin Hoffman pretends to be a woman.  We know that he is actually a man.  A common motive for cross-dressing is to get a job.  The general consensus was that he was badly disguised.

That is also Julie Andrews' motive in Victor Victoria.  We didn't buy her either.

Tom Hanks did it in Bosom Buddies to get a room in a women only hotel.  For some reason we believed this.

But if you didn't read about it in advance, you might not have known that the male character Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously was played by a woman, Linda Hunt, currently of NCIS Los Angeles.  I suppose this is the only case I can think of that parallels operatic cross-dressing.  The singer in an opera is supposed to be the other gender and not just pretending to be.

I especially loved this movie because of the scene where the older man (Linda) introduces the younger man (Mel Gibson) to the joys of the Strauss Four Last Songs.  I believe if memory serves, that the version was Kiri te Kanawa.

The Crying Game was a special case.   Everyone I knew did a fabulous job of keeping the secret that Dil was actually a guy.  If you knew, it spoiled the joke.  He takes a man home with him and we get to find out together with the man on the screen that his plumbing is not really female.

This is based on an item in Entertainment Weekly.  I used different pictures, but the idea is the same.  No one thinks anything of cross-dressing when it's a joke.

Cecilia's Ory

Some of us keep wishing for a DVD of this, Le Comte Ory in Vienna last year.  We're falling way behind.  I don't need videos of concerts, but a nice Giulio Cesare, or Ory, or Otello would be nice.  This weekend she opens in Zurich in Alcina.  Of course.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Interview with Giovanni Antonini

[I found this interesting interview here in the Aargauer Zeitung.  It corresponds to the opening of Alcina at the Zurich Opera.]

The Milanese Giovanni Antonini became world famous as a flutist and conductor of the Baroque ensemble "Il giardino armonico".  Today he conducts operas in Salzburg and Zurich.  In this interview he talks about divas and his native Italy. by Christian Berzins

Only a few days after the interview at the Opera House Zurich it becomes clear why Giovanni Antonini said three times in the music room in an hour, "There is no right or wrong, it remains a matter of taste." Though convinced that he is doing the "right thing", the Milanese knows that it is not without controversy.

He can live with that because his style of conducting is well received by both opera star Cecilia Bartoli, with whom he works a lot, as well as the Basel Chamber Orchestra, with whom he plays a Beethoven cycle.  And last but not least by most critics.  In the interview he talks enthusiastically about Bartoli, sighingly over his native Italy, and positively about Alexander Pereira's chances in Milan.

Giovanni Antonini, in 2009 you performed Handel's "Alcina" with the German Anja Harteros in Milan, and in ten days with the Italian Cecilia Bartoli in Zurich. What will be different about this for you?

Giovanni Antonini: An opera performance always depends on the artist.  Here in Zurich are both the production as well as the singer quite different. My view of this music, however, remains more or less the same.  Anja Harteros and Cecilia Bartoli are worlds apart.  I've been working a lot lately with Bartoli, in this work one realizes a development, the way to a common language.

Both singers are divas. Is that difficult for the conductor?

To only be a diva is not enough for an opera by Handel. Whether one likes one or the other singer better is one thing.  But Bartoli has studied this musical language for many years, has her own unique way of singing this music.  Thus, this Zurich production is much more interesting for me.  Although the work was beautiful with the Scala orchestra, I met in Zurich an orchestra that is used to playing Baroque operas.  Here the orchestra is playing on gut strings, with baroque bows and baroque brass instruments.  We start on another level!  As with the singers: It's not about good or bad but to understand the language of music.

Who is this singer, this diva?

Cecilia Bartoli embodies a rare combination of skills. Two tones from Bartoli - and you know who sings. It is the mix of technique, originality, uniqueness of her voice - and she has a musical instinct:  If something does not work, then she notices it.  Bartoli is a typical Italian woman, she can formally smell situations.  She manages to sing so that everyone in the audience thinks she'll do it for him alone. She has many admirers, but kindles at the same time discussions about her person.  This is quite normal .

A few evenings after Bartoli, Agneta Eichenholz sings.  Do you change your conducting?

Quite. The conductor and his orchestra have to breathe with the singers . And at a Einspringerin or understudy I need to understand their breathing. But the times are now situations that exist in the theater. It exerts an opera over many weeks, and on opening night you have to re-adjust to the situation. Suddenly something happened : A change of pace , a forgotten word , something falls down ! Since the conductor must be ready. There are singers who are completely detached from the orchestra : "Follow me , I am the diva."  The Bartoli is the opposite: She's a diva who practices, experiments, and discusses a lot with the conductor.

You quite often work with singers.   Do you love them?

I love singers who want to work together to evolve and have a vision of their role.  I do not like simply to accompany a singer.  But I respect every singer because singing is something quite different to master from an instrument like a violin.  A singer is naked on stage.  How badly we sometimes judge the voices and hit the people!  While talking about voices we have to be careful not to destroy the people.

You have not only conducted Handel with Cecilia Bartoli, but Vincenzo Bellini's "Norma", a major work of the 19th Century.  And now you present a Beethoven cycle with the Basel Chamber Orchestra.  Is this a normal step for the baroque specialist Antonini?

Each was an adventure.  There are standards on how to conduct Bellini's music.  But this tradition, I do not know, so we said:  let's see what is really in this score, we let go of everything that Maria Callas had shown us!  My musical roots are in the 18th Century, I drew this Bellini closer to Mozart than to Verdi.  So I went also at the Beethoven symphonies .

Handel, Beethoven, Bellini - now follow Verdi and Puccini?

I'm not sure if the world of opera should be my center.  My nature corresponds to the more symphonic and my flute playing with chamber orchestra.  There are ideas, projects, but better not to make any greater steps than the leg allows, as we Italians say. The 18th Century remains my world.  I have conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and other world-famous orchestras , but when I conduct Il Giardino Armonico, the Basel Chamber Orchestra, the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg or a comparable orchestra, I meet a familiar community that is trusts me and is congenial.  Also here in Zurich it seems to me that it's on the musical and human plateau.

You, the Milanese, since 2009 have directed no more operas in Milan or anywhere else in Italy, the "Land of Music,"
but trade it for headlines in Salzburg.  Is not that strange ?

Italy is now a very strange land (hesitates).  I told you how I want to work - the emphasis is on "work".  That's no longer possible in Italy today.

There are so many great Italian musicians! Do men gather together for anything to happen in Italy? Why is there no Baroque Festival in Florence in the historical halls - where the opera had its origins?

The politics has not yet understood that the cultural offering can make a major contribution to the economic development of a country.  Salzburg is for example a small town, but the international success of the festival is a benefit for the whole of Austria, culturally and economically. In Italy there are many talented, creative people with great ideas, who call festivals to life.  But they are not supported, which makes it impossible for them to plan long term.  Sitting together is not an Italian strength. The sense of the Country or the sense of community can be seen, despite unification in the 19 Century less and less. We let Pompeii disintegrate, we do not care. It has so many other works of art ... Soon one has some less ( sighs) ... Nevertheless, I love this country .

At La Scala there is now the ex - "Zuricher", the Austrian Alexander Pereira. Will this go well?

I think so, he knows the Italians.  Pereira will understand the system.  In Milan a lot is expected from him, but also there is a lot of confidence in him.

Giovanni Antonini was born in 1965 in Milan.  While still a student the flutist founded the specialist ensemble Il Giardino Armonico, with whom he performed all over the world and he leads alone since 1989.  The encounter with Cecilia Bartoli was 2000 when the famous Vivaldi album came out. He has conducted, among others, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich. His recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies with the Basel Chamber Orchestra is nearing completion. Giovanni Antonini conducts at the Zurich Opera House on 26 January Handel's "Alcina".

[Dr B.  I like very much at the beginning where the question of right and wrong is discussed.  He says it's a matter of taste.  Whether or not something is correct means nothing to me.  All I care about is does it live in the soul of the artist?  In Antonini's case that seems to be true.]


Monday, January 20, 2014

Death of Claudio Abbado (26 June 1933 – 20 January 2014)

Norman Lebrecht has the best remembrances of Maestro Abbado here and here.  Some are translated from Italian, I presume.  Here's another.

Things you can buy in Germany

This is an advanced sale.

But not here.

The ones I want are Winterreise and Don Carlo.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Titter / Twitter

You may remember this quote.  I said, "if [Jonas] really didn't want to be a sex symbol, he would cut his hair differently." Well, this picture made me laugh out loud and caused a stir on Twitter.  So was I right? 

Babes of Opera

An article in the Daily Mail has come to my attention.  It says that "opera gets sexy."  I beg your pardon.  Opera has always been sexy.  There can be no question that our up-coming Partenope star, Danielle de Niese, is about as sexy as it gets.  She already appeared in our sexiest list here.

She is currently appearing at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich in La Calisto (see above), one of the sexiest operas ever. Here is Danielle in Giulio Cesare.  I also flagged her for a very sexy Poppea here.

Read the article for yourself.  The subject matter appears to be that Danielle has compared her own on stage sexiness (artistic integrity) with Miley Cyrus (sexuality for the wrong reasons).

This doesn't sound like an argument we wish to become involved in, but we do very much prefer Danielle to Miley.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ercole Amante

No expense has been expended to explain the plot of Cavalli's Ercole Amante (1662).  Perhaps a dissertation would be required.

Here we go.  In Act II Scene 4 someone explains that:

"Hyllus [son of Ercole, Jeremy Overden] loves Iole and she loves him, but she hates Ercole [Luca Pisaroni] who loves her;  Nicander loves Licoris, and she loves Orestes who loves Olinda; Olinda and Celia love gold and jewels...."

Ercole is married to Deianira, mother of Hyllus, and Iole hates him because he killed her father.  Ercole thinks he should kill Deianira and Hyllus.  Apparently, explained in Act III, Iole's father promised her to Ercole.  Iole then talked him out of it, and Ercole killed him.  Ercole blames everything on her.

There is a lot of hanky-panky in this opera which was supposed to be given at the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa of Spain.  I'm not sure, but I think there is a confusion of Ercole with Louis.  It's a kind of Iron Man plot where as the king of France he is skinny like, well, like Luca Pisaroni, and then he puts on his muscle suit and turns into the super buff Hercules.  This suit doesn't help him fight crime, it's just for attracting women. 

Doesn't seem like a particularly suitable plot for a wedding celebration.  They could not perform the opera at the wedding in 1660 because the construction of the stage machinery was not complete.  I imagine things soaring through the air or flying down from above, things which don't seem to happen in modern productions.

This is all miserably hard to understand.  Much like in the Ring, there are gods littering the stage who take sides with the mortals.  Venus is with Ercole.  Juno [Anna Bonitatibus], naturally sides with Deianira and tells Iole how wonderfully virtuous she is.  Neptune and Juno advise Hyllus.  Oy.  It's exhausting.

The music is mostly Florentine recitative with arias and ballet interspersed.  Because it's meant for Paris, there is quite a lot of ballet.  There are some funny scenes.  The dialog refers to Atlas, so he appears holding up the world, which Ercole takes out of his arms and carries easily around before giving it back to Atlas.  The program notes call this an opera buffa, but we know that it is before the split into seria and buffa.  It can't be a buffa because there was at least one castrato who sang Juno.

In Act IV there are giant fish, boats and water for Neptune to rise out of.  They could have more successfully differentiated the gods from the humans.  But then what to do with Ercole who is some of each?  Luca is adorable in his muscle suit.

In the end Ercole becomes a god who marries Beauty.  In his guise as a god he goes back to resembling Louis XIV, a significantly thinner person who wears a sun crown.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Interesting things in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Opera has also made a season announcement, and it includes a couple of interesting items.

I might think it was worth a trip to LA to see Florencia en el Amazonas by Daniel Catán which is part of the 2014-15 season.  I liked very much his Il Postino.  I liked especially the way he composed for voices.  Lisette Oropesa is in this.  She's everywhere these days. Francesca Zambello is doing the production. She is also everywhere.

And when did you ever see a Figaro Trilogy?  The order from Beaumarchais is The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Ghosts of Versailles.  What an incredible idea.  There isn't a lot of information about this, but it doesn't play until Feb-Mar in the 2014-15 season.  Ghosts will star Patricia Racette and Patti LuPone.  File it away in your brain somewhere.  They're not doing them like a Ring Cycle, unfortunately.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get acquainted with next season's stars

I have chosen these films to help you get acquainted with the singers next season at the San Francisco Opera.

Stoyanova who will sing Amelia

Radvanovsky who will sing her Norma.

De Niese will sing Partenope

Deshayes will sing Angiolina in her very contralto voice.

Haroutounian will sing Tosca.

Michael Fabiano, who recently won the Richard Tucker prize, will sing Rodolfo.  For my ears he is one of the stars of the future.

Nadine Serra will sing the Contessa in Figaro and Musetta in La Boheme.  This film is from her last summer appearance in the Neue Stimmen vocal competition.  You can tell she has been busy.

Luca Pisaroni.  Usually he is Figaro, but in our production he will sing the Count.

And here is the recently added Mimi of Alexia Voulgaridou.  She is miked because this is outdoors in Bregenz 2002.

Here's something more recent.  This makes two of "Je veux vivre."

I just thought you should have an idea.  This is all very top shelf.

San Francisco Opera 2014-15

San Francisco Opera
David Gockley, General Director 
and Nicola Luisotti, Music Director
Announce 2014–15 Repertory Season

Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma
Starring Sondra Radvanovsky [direct from the Met] and Conducted by Nicola Luisotti
New Production Directed by Kevin Newbury Opens 92nd Season September 5.  Daveda Karanas, a former Adler Fellow, is Adalgisa.  She has been very busy since leaving the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens (The Trojans)
Starring Anna Caterina Antonacci [we are hoping Cassandra], Susan Graham [her wonderful Dido], Bryan Hymel [his fabulous Aeneas] and Sasha Cooke.
New Production by David McVicar, Conducted by Donald Runnicles


World Premiere of Marco Tutino and Fabio Ceresa’s La Ciociara (Two Women) 
Starring Anna Caterina Antonacci, Dimitri Pittas and Mark Delavan
Directed by Francesca Zambello, Conducted by Nicola Luisotti 

[This from Stephen:  Stephen Costello to star in San Francisco Opera’s world-premiere production of Marco Tutinof's La Ciociara (“Two Women”) in 2015. based on Alberto Moravia's novel of the same name that was adapted into a classic movie starring Sophia Loren. ]

Company Premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah
Starring Patricia Racette, Brandon Jovanovich and Raymond Aceto
New Production Directed by Michael Cavanagh, Conducted by Karen Kamensek
[This is in my list of operas to see.  Picture was chosen to show Racette can sing anything.]

Danielle DeNiese. Photo ©Chris Dunlop.

Company Premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Partenope
Starring Danielle de Niese, David Daniels, Daniela Mack, Alek Shrader
Directed by Christopher Alden, Conducted by Christian Curnyn
[We haven't had nearly enough of Danielle in San Francisco.  We are told that this production will include cross-dressing.]

 Opéra national de Paris production. Photo ©Christian Leiber

Rossini’s La Cenerentola  
[Karine Deshayes sings the title role in the Ponnelle production.  The entire cast is new to me.]

Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera
[Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova sings Amelia and is very big in Europe.  We also get Dolora Zajick, Thomas Hampson and Ramon Vargas, an outstanding cast.]

 San Francisco Opera production. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro
[Susanna is Lisette Oropesa, our marathon running opera singer; Figaro is Philippe Sly; Countess Almaviva will be Nadine Sierra, another former Adler Fellow; Cherubino is Kate Lindsey; Count Almaviva is my favorite Luca Pisaroni; and Bartolo is John Del Carlo.  How can you resist this?] 

Puccini’s Tosca
[Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian sings Tosca and Brian Jagde is Cavaradossi.  It may be too soon for me to see another Tosca, but Haroutounian was fabulous in the recent Verdi from the ROH.]

Canadian Opera Company production. Photo by Michael Cooper.

New Production of La Bohème
[My rumor mill says this will be Leah Crocetto and Michael Fabiano who have both been away wowing people in other places.  There are two casts for this, so watch out.  Nadine Sierra will be one of the Musettas.]

My God!!

We have fallen into a time warp.  Not since the late Kurt Herbert Adler have we seen anything like this. There are some really fabulous singers here.


I've been blogging for 9 years now, and I feel I must pause to consider.

I have a new friend who has an opera website called Classical Searchlight.  It isn't really a blog.  His point of view is very much the viewpoint of my contemporaries.  He catalogs and evaluates primarily recordings, most of them from my youth.

I find that I own only about 30 CDs of complete operas while owning about 175 opera videos, tape and DVD.  Callas recorded a lot of complete operas, while I own only 4 of them.  There was a sale.  I don't believe there are any films of complete operas with Callas, but there are some individual scenes.  Second act of Tosca.  I don't own any CDs of Sutherland or Caballe.  I do have a video of Caballe's Semiramide with Horne and Ramey.  This is quite spectacular.

I was collecting Bartoli, of course, and have 6 of her opera CDs.  In contrast I have 11 videos of her in complete operas.  The oddest thing in my opera CD collection is 2 complete Tristan and Isolde recordings--Stemme and Brewer.  One was a gift, you may guess which one.  The only T&I I really like is Nilsson.  You knew that.

I'm not trying to get it to stop in my brain.  I'm not trying to find perfection.  In fact what I am doing is almost the opposite.  I want to see what these new ones are going to make of our art form.  

A nameless singer told me recently she never learns from recordings.  And I say that is simply not possible.  If you listen to them, you learn from them.  It is your ears that build the music in your brain.  I know what she meant though.

We each of us have our own music.  This is part of the great joy that it brings to us.  I want my brain to go on to hear new things, even new things in the same old recordings.  I don't still like things I loved before.  I used to listen all the time to the Four Last Songs in the Schwarzkopf recording.  Now I love best Jessye, I think, but also Lucia and Renée.

The Verdi year has for me transformed Verdi into a German.  Perhaps the young singers should find some nice Italians to listen to.  

I was happier when I thought no one read it.  It was just me thinking out loud.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Anniversary of Undefined Length

It was xx years ago that I suddenly went mad for Cecilia Bartoli.  The complete madness of it has died down, but has not completely left me still.

This is the contract signing in Salzburg.  The Forum printed only the version where her contract covered the front of her dress.

This came in the mail postmarked Roma.  She is still the only famous person I ever wanted to meet.

She does seem to be having more fun than the others. 

Toi toi toi for Alcina.