Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Most Beautiful Women in Opera

Go here for a Spanish language list with photos of the 10 most beautiful women in opera.  This is in lieu of my annual sexiest list.  Apologies.

Manon Lescaut at the Movies

I'm very glad I went to see Manon Lescaut at the movies.  Seeing it up close and personal made the entire production make more sense.  The YT film reviewed here also has no subtitles.  I posted the above picture because this scared me to death.  They are flailing away on the edge of a set where they could easily fall and kill themselves.  The theatrical tension was upstaged by the real tension.

I actually think this production is excellent.  In the now ubiquitous interviews it was discussed why this opera is seldom performed.  The answer seemed true:  it requires the perfect operatic couple.  It has found them in Jonas Kaufmann and Kristīne Opolais.  The camera closeups gave us vivid insight into Manon's ever vacillating moods which reflected beautifully in Kristine's face. 

We also got to see the soft porn aspects of the second scene up close and personal.  Opolais is a very game performer is all I can say.

All in all this is a new level of achievement for filming of an opera.

I am here because of my artistic infatuation with Herr Kaufmann.  Waiting for the opera to begin I was reminded of a German song I have only heard once:  Ich möchte noch einmal verliebt sein.  I would like once again to fall in love.  This is a song of a certain age, an age when one does not so easily fall in love any more.  Opera brings us the semblance of love.  We may imagine love in the feigning of it.  I want to thank both the stars of this opera for the masterful semblance of passion.  It was simply wonderful.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carlo Bergonzi (13 July 1924 – 25 July 2014)

This film from Coloraturafan is the best one, I think.

Peter Gelb Part II

I always intended to write a Peter Gelb Part II after my Peter Gelb Part I.  Missing from the previous essay was a dollar figure attached to each production.  The main problem with any of these productions I discussed is how much they cost.  The infamous Ring is the high end at $19.6 million.  Gelb seems to think spending money on productions is a good thing.  It is significant to note that new productions are usually separately funded from the general budget.

What exactly is the problem with Peter Gelb?  I think this can be briefly summarized:  he imagines himself to be saving the opera genre and not managing the Metropolitan Opera.   He seems to correlate spending money on productions with saving opera, a significant logical mistake.

His actual job is to manage the Metropolitan Opera which basically consists of putting on operas people will enjoy, hiring singers to sing them while keeping the budget in balance.  I think a sensible opera board would fire him asap.  He would be vastly more successful if he stuck strictly to his real job.

And now we hear this.  Here is an article that suggests that what we are now witnessing is simple union busting.  I like it that the author cites a couple of illegal things going on.  Labor law in the US is strict.  If he's right, let's hope that shortly after the lock out will come the law suit. The goal of union busting is to get rid of the unions, not merely to reduce their pay.

I have already suggested that there will be no 2014-15 Met season.  And I so wanted to see Anna Netrebko sing Lady Macbeth.

It has been suggested that we lend them David Gockley, a man who actually knows how to manage an opera company.

I remind myself at this point of my recent Friday night visit to the San Francisco Opera where lots of young people were seen.  Are we sure opera really needs saving?

P.S.  The extension of the lockout deadline gives me at least a little hope.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut, soprano: Kristīne Opolais
Lescaut, her brother, baritone: Christopher Maltman
Chevalier des Grieux, tenor: Jonas Kaufmann
Geronte de Ravoir, Treasurer General, bass:  Maurizio Muraro

Conductor:   Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano

I go back and forth about this opera, Puccini's Manon Lescaut.   Manon doesn't seem to get to have any fun in this version of the story.

I saw it in Vienna a few years ago where it was all about couture.  There were dresses in store windows, and the scene where the girls names are called was staged as a fashion show.  The singers were almost incidental, but in spite of that it still had a basic unity.

I don't feel repulsed by this production.  I adored the first scene quite madly.  Street people.  A Manon who actually looks like a school girl.  The most wonderfully handsome des Grieux you've seen.  What's not to like?  It sort of goes down hill after that.  The scene in Geronte's house is a bedroom.  This worked for me.  But why did the bed from the previous scene show up in the scene where Manon is supposed to be getting on the boat?  Remember I'm the person who doesn't want to read explanations of the staging before, during or after.  I think this opera is hard to stage because it's all highlights and no continuity.

At the end they are on a wrecked freeway in Monument Valley which is in Arizona, not Louisiana.  It is however a desert.

We weren't here for the sets.  You will seldom ever see such spectacular casting.  The singing was magnificent.  Kristine almost makes it up to Jonas's level.  The tenor part in this opera is actually more significant than the soprano.  She can get away with rather low levels of intensity, but he must sing full voice almost all the time.  Jonas is simply spectacular, for singing, for acting, for looks, for phrasing, every aspect is absolutely beautiful.  All that big singing is thrilling.

The glorious score grows on me.  See this if you possibly can.

This discussion of the opera is interesting.

I seem to recall commenting on the requirement to sing constantly big and wondering if Jonas could do it.  He seems to be doing fine.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Laurie E. Nelson Board President

From Two in Tune:

Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance Elects Laurie E. Nelson to be Board President

The Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance has elected Laurie E. Nelson as president of the board. With her leadership, the organization will undergo a three-month review of all available opportunities to preserve the opera and philharmonic for the community, including the possibility of a modified or partial season that would be presented in early 2015. We’d like to thank all of our supporters, subscribers and donors for your patience as we consider how best to ensure that this vital community resource grows and thrives.

Monday, July 14, 2014


I have been trying to get into Twitter and tried my hand today while watching the stream of #ConcertDeParis honoring Bastille Day.  A number of foreigners sang in French:  Olga Peretyatko (Soprano) "Salut a la France",  Elīna Garanča (Mezzo) "Ah que j'aime les militaires",  and Lawrence Brownlee (Ténor) "Ah, mes amis".  The Twitter feed threw around a lot of criticisms of French diction.  With Google Translate at the ready I followed along.

So I thought I would ask all these native French speakers which foreigner they preferred in their language.  Jonas Kaufmann.  Unqualified agreement.  He was preferred over Sophie Koch who is French.

The French also complained about the use of Operetten Lieder as encores on Jonas's recitals.  Soon he will be doing whole concerts of these items.  I'm sort of looking forward.

It was a lovely concert which ended with La Marseillaise

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Our American Singers

Violetta Valéry: Ailyn Pérez
Alfredo Germont: Stephen Costello
Giorgio Germont: Quinn Kelsey

Conductor:  Giuseppe Finzi
Production:  John Copley

This all American trio set the stale war horse La Traviata ablaze at the San Francisco Opera.  They were supposed to be the second cast, but why completely escapes me.  My feeling was that we were lucky to have them.  I switched my ticket to see them.

Quinn came close to equaling my favorite Germont, Thomas Hampson.  For me the perfect combination is a warm tone and warm heart.  This was beautiful and strongly emotional singing.

Stephen Costello was best in the final duet where they sing of Paris.

But I was here for the rising star of opera Ailyn Pérez.  She has beauty of voice coupled with excellent penetration.  She was never covered by the only occasionally too loud orchestra.  She is also beautiful and an excellent actress who acts with both voice and body.  There is great depth already in her interpretation of Violetta.

I felt happy just to have been there.

My one negative thought was about the strange claustrophobic sets.  I don't know how all those women in gigantic skirts made their way in and out.

I don't usually go on a Friday night and was rather amazed to see the full house absolutely packed with attractive young people.  I hoped they were all there to see Ailyn.

Monday, July 07, 2014