Thursday, October 30, 2014

Italy After Puccini

Or Post-Puccini:  Modern Italian Vocal Music.  I receive email announcements from UC Davis of musical performances, and this time it included an announcement for this recital with Stacey Mastrian, soprano, and Scott Crowne, piano.

From Deità silvane (Woodland Deities, texts by Antonio Rubino) (1925) Ottorino Respighi
   Musica in horto

From Quattro Favole Romanesche di Trilusso, Op. 38 (1923)  [in Roman dialect] Alfredo Casella
   Er gatto e er cane
   L'elezzione der presidente

From Sette favole e allegorie (1945)  Roberto Lupi
   L'ostrica il ratto e la gatta
   La formica e il chicco di grano

Liriche su Verlaine (1946-47) [in French]   Bruno Maderna

Sequenza III per voce femminile (1966)  Luciano Berio

Needless to say I have never heard any of these pieces before.  That's why I went.  The artists assured me that they could do another complete recital on this same subject with no duplication.

I especially liked the Maderna group which reminded me of Poulenc.

The Berio is in experimental style.  The only accompaniment was a tuning fork which she applied to her temple to find the correct pitch.  There was whispering, arpeggios, screams, laughter, things uttered through her hand, etc.  We all crowded up after to look at the score which looked very strange indeed.  I always ask to see the score, such as Tan Dun's Tea, but this is the first time I have succeeded.

I'm ready for just about anything.  The parking costs money but the recital was free.

Echo Klassik 2014

These are the German classical music awards.

Female Singer of the Year

Anna Netrebko

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Justice Ginsburg rules

WASHINGTON—Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday pronounced her verdict on “The Death of Klinghoffer”: Not guilty.  See article here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Brahms Horn Trio

I heard this piece today at a concert.  The horn player tells us that Brahms wrote this for his mother. Please recall that I am a Brahmsie.

The scherzo is especially cool.

This is for my son the horn player.

This was played on a concert with the Capitol Chamber Players by  I-Hui Chem, piano, Pete Nowlen, French horn, and Robert Bloch, violin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sexiest in Partenope

I had so much fun at this opera that I can't seem to let it go.  You may choose which one of them is the sexiest.

Partenope:  Danielle de Niese

Arsace:  David Daniels

Ormonte:  Philippe Sly

 Armindo:  Anthony Roth Costanzo * 

Emilio:  Alek Shrader

Rosmira:  Daniela Mack

Rosmira exposes herself to Emilio and he turns these pictures into a giant mural.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Death of Klinghoffer

MS Achille Lauro was a cruise ship based in Naples, Italy, that was hijacked by four members of the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985.  Apparently there were specific intentions for this hijacking involving sailing to Israel and killing Israelis.  This proved impossible.  So instead they shot a disabled Jewish-American passenger named Leon Klinghoffer and threw his body into the sea.

Then John Adams and his librettist for Nixon in China, Alice Goodman, decided to do an opera on the subject.  It premiered in Brussels in 1991 and then played at the San Francisco Opera in 1992.  I attended one of these performances.  According to Wikipedia, "The concept of the opera originated with theatre director Peter Sellars, who was a major collaborator, as was the choreographer Mark Morris."  That's Peter Sellars of Don Giovanni as a drug addict and Doctor Atomic as a bomb hanging in the air.  I never get him.

Why write an opera about such a disgusting subject?  I generally feel that the fact that Palestinians don't receive more sympathy stems from the fact that they have absolutely no sense of PR.  We aren't going to feel sympathy for people who kill crippled old people and throw them into the sea.  Elevating a disgusting act to a performance subject just makes the perpetrators seem all the more disgusting, no matter how hard the creators of this work try to make it seem even handed. Perhaps they are trying to create PR where it has so obviously failed.

I can understand that the Klinghoffer family might not wish their father's death to turn into this ridiculous media circus, but never at any time did this opera make me feel sympathetic toward his killers.  If I go to an opera about the most disgusting public act of my lifetime, I would like for that opera to attempt to engender the nausea I naturally feel about it.  It didn't.  So my question is, if it completely fails in its attempt at even handedness, is it still antisemitic?  When I was watching it, I didn't feel this antisemitism.  For me it was mostly just boring.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Man Ray

Most of my comments about the photographer Man Ray were from friends.  We have samples.

Here's a picture of Lee Miller in the bathtub with a photo of Hitler.

I knew about Man Ray only in relationship to Gertrude Stein whom he photographed on many occasions.

This is Gertrude posing for Jo Davidson in a photo by Man Ray.


This is Gertrude and Basket.

Can you get a famous photographer to photograph your dog?

And here is Gertrude with her portrait by Picasso.

Un Ballo in Maschera

Conductor:  Nicola Luisotti
Director:  Jose Maria Condemi

Amelia:  Julianna Di Giacomo *
Oscar:  Heidi Stober
Gustavus III (Riccardo):  Ramón Vargas
Count Anckarström (Renato):  Thomas Hampson
Madame Arvidson (Ulrica):  Dolora Zajick

If you go all the way back to 1982, Un Ballo in Maschera at the San Francisco Opera starred Lucciano Pavarotti and Monserrat Caballe, but that was during the reign of Kurt Herbert Adler who ran the San Francisco Opera as though it were the greatest institution on earth.  Our cast wasn't quite that distinguished, but it was still excellent.  Dolora Zajick is still the greatest Ulrica.

I was very impressed with the Amelia Julianna Di Giacomo who had plenty of Verdi voice and Verdi style.

I have been puzzling over the credits listed on the programs.  If you look through the production photos from 1982 to 2014, you will see that the look of the scenery and costumes changes, but never do any of these changing productions, all traditional, claim to be a new production.  Who decides the credits and why has become something of an obsession to me.

The conducting was exemplary. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014


My background was in both music and theater.  I have never felt the desire to choose between them.  My first great operatic love was the Marschalin of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf who was fully an actress and a musician.

I feel very strongly that opera is becoming a theatrical medium.  This is validated for me by this wonderful week in opera.

First Anna Netrebko invigorates a bizarre production of Macbeth by sheer force of will.  No one acts with such overwhelming energy, both in her voice and in her body.  Perhaps it is she who defines this new theatricality.  This opera is moved in time. 

Then on Wednesday comes the astounding Handel comedy Partenope which is not merely moved to the 1920s but is also transformed into an homage to the great art period of Paris.  The strongest influencing artist would seem to be the photographer Man Ray, someone we see not nearly enough of.  I understand that the giant photo mural in the last act is by Man Ray, though I could not find a copy of it on line. 

And now today is a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro where the producer is first and foremost a great theatrical director.  It is also moved to the twentieth century with Spanish style mixed with modernism.  For the first time I see Susannah in what to our eyes is a wedding dress.  At last a real wedding.  When she changes costumes with Susannah, the countess wears the wedding dress and reveals herself to her husband by raising her veil.

It is only suitable that Isabel Leonard, the most real of all Cherubino actresses, would grace this production.  Richard Eyre also brought us last season's Werther and the great Carmen with Elīna Garanča and Alagna.

Opera is becoming a theatrical genre.  It is all very well to complain about the productions where everything is moved to modern times, but these are the people who produce opera today.  If not them, then who?

The opera for this week is the opera of the future.

P.S.  I am biased toward acting, something seen only occasionally in the past.  Scenery and costumes are less interesting to me.

Figaro #75

Conductor:  James Levine
Production:  Sir Richard Eyre
Host:  Renée Fleming

Figaro:  Ildar Abdrazakov (bass)
Susanna:  Marlis Petersen (soprano)
Doctor Bartolo:  John Del Carlo (bass)
Marcellina:  Susanne Mentzer (soprano)
Cherubino:  Isabel Leonard (soprano)
Count Almaviva:  Peter Mattei (bass)
Don Basilio:  Greg Fedderly (tenor)
Countess Almaviva:  Amanda Majeski (soprano)
Antonio:  Philip Cokorinos (bass)
Barbarina:  Ying Fang (soprano)

Today was James Levine's 75th time conducting Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera.  There aren't enough superlatives to describe this.

This was also the best staged Figaro I've seen.  The countess stays in her disguise until the end, and for me this works much better than when she changes back into the countess before surprising her husband.

Thank the opera gods for allowing Isabel Leonard to get over her cold so we could see her marvelous Cherubino.  How many mezzos can do pushups?  She was the best Cherubino I've seen.  They have her take a leak on the stage.  Hmmm. 

Here is a surprise for me:  both Isabel Leonard and Amanda Majeski were in Griselda in Santa Fe.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Think of her as one of a pair of twin girls:  PeNELope and ParTENope.  Penelope, Partenope, Penelope,  Partenope.  You'll be close enough to how to pronounce it.

We are referring, of course, to the Handel opera Partenope now playing at the San Francisco Opera.  Get up from your couch and get down to see this.

David Daniels selfie


Partenope:  Danielle de Niese
Rosmira:  Daniela Mack
Arsace:  David Daniels
Emilio:  Alek Shrader
Armindo:  Anthony Roth Costanzo *
Ormonte:  Philippe Sly

Conductor:  Julian Wachner * 
Production:  Christopher Alden
Dramaturg:  Peter Littlefield

I was ready for this because I read this tweet from David Daniels:

Opening Night of PARTENOPE  #Cards #Bourbon #cigarettes #gasMasks & #HANDEL TOYZ!

It has all this and tap dancing, toilet paper, bare chested man not baritone and a gorgeous homage to art deco.  Favorite joke:  Sound of a toilet flushing followed by Arsace saying "I hear her."  It all kind of went like that.

The production, originally in English at the ENO, is a constant flow of references to the artists of Paris in the twenties.  There is a film by Man Ray, gas masks a la photographer Lee Miller, Ezra Pound, etc.

Lee Miller photograph

The plot can be briefly summarized.  Partenope has three male suitors:  Arsace, Armindo and Emilio.  At the start of the opera she prefers Arsace and has completely rejected Emilio.  She is ambiguous toward Armindo.  Rosmira arrives disguised as a man who wishes to kill Arsace.  At the end Arsace has returned to Rosmira and Partenope has turned to Armindo.  Ormonte is a servant?  As Baroque plots go, it is quite sweet and uncomplicated.

This is the first time in all my years at the San Francisco Opera when I have seen a Dramaturg listed in the program.  A dramaturg is someone who conducts historical research and places the action within the historical period.  You see this in European opera companies quite a lot.  So why would you need a dramaturg for Partenope?

They have moved the action from 1730 to 1930 Paris.  Or perhaps, since Partenope is an historical figure, from 300 b.c. to 1930 Paris and the great art movements between the wars.  So Partenope may or may not be the photographer Lee Miller, Arsace may or may not be the writer Ezra Pound and Emilio is definitely the photographer Man Ray.  Or Maybe Arsace is Tristan Tzara, also a writer.  I'm sure there were more historical references I didn't pick up on.  Perhaps the dramaturg is for making any sense at all of the historical environment of 1920's Paris.

I simply loved it.  It was beautiful to see and hear.  The set was simply gorgeous, and it was populated by some of the most gorgeous singers around.  The countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo entertained us with beautiful singing, astounding acrobatics on the staircase, a scene where he bares his chest for Partenope and tap dancing.  AND he gets the girl.

Alex Shrader photographs people, develops the pictures and hangs them on the wall, all while entertaining us with some spectacular singing.  One aria is sung while....  I'm giving too much away.

Danielle de Niese gets four wonderful costumes, including a tuxedo, to display gracefully while she sings her arias.


In case you were wondering why Partenope wore a tuxedo in Act II, this is from the movie Morocco 1930 where Marlene Dietrich wears one in her night club act.

The sweetest arias were for Arsace, sung beautifully by David Daniels.  I can't exactly explain the effect this had on me which consisted of smiles and contentment.

In spite of all the smoking I didn't smell any tobacco smoke in case you are worrying about that.

Oh, and I forgot shadow puppets.

André Breton - Man Ray

At last!  This is a portrait of Andre Breton, the founder of surrealism, by Man Ray.  Yeah!!  Alex Shrader wears something that looks like this in Act I.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Lately I have been pre-ordering from iTunes who send out emails when your order is ready to download.  In the middle of the night I was notified that St. Petersburg had arrived.  (So of course I leaped out of bed....)  So far "Pastore che a notte ombrosa" from Seleuco by Francesco Araia is my favorite with its wonderful sinuousness.

This recording has made me wish to ask about the available singers in Russia at that time.  Were they Italians?  Castrati?  Russian?  What?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Scottish Opera

CONDUCTOR: Fabio Luisi
PRODUCTION: Adrian Noble
LIVE IN HD HOST: Anita Rachvelishvili

MACBETH: Željko Lučić (baritone)
BANQUO: René Pape (bass)
LADY MACBETH: Anna Netrebko (soprano)
MALCOLM, DUNCAN’S SON: Noah Baetge (tenor)
MACDUFF, THANE OF FIFE: Joseph Calleja (tenor)

This performance of Verdi's Macbeth simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera is the same opera and the same production that we saw in 2008.  So why doesn't it feel like it?  Because it is about 100 times sexier.  For me Netrebko simply transformed the production.

There are at least two other Scottish operas besides Macbeth, the name you are not supposed to say aloud:  Lucia di Lammermoor and Handel's Ariodante.  There wasn't anything particularly Scottish in this production.  Perhaps the landscape might resemble a wooded part of Scotland.  It bothered me that there were no branches illustrating the movement of Birnam Wood.  In fact there didn't seem to be much relationship between the play and the set.

So much of this performance has been written about already that there is little I could add.  Anna was stunning, truly shocking.  There were lots of chairs.  I've never seen women carry their purses the way the witches did.  If there's a strap, don't they just hang it over their arm?  Perhaps they carried them like that so that they would be easy to open and let the lights shine out.  The witches had lights inside their purses.

There was only one thing I would criticize about Anna's performance--she is intensely self-confident for long stretches of the play and then is suddenly having nightmares about the blood on her hands.  Could we have seen this coming just a little?  Perhaps I am being nit picky.

Lučić was excellent, better than his Rigoletto.  There is a roughness to his voice that doesn't go with Rigoletto for me but was ideal for Macbeth. The entire cast was excellent, especially Rene Pape.

I was struck by how huge both the roles of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are.  Luisi called the opera short, but we were out after 3 1/2 hours.  Except for the chorus, all the other roles are insignificant.  This is part of why the opera is so difficult.

I was pleased that Netrebko did not try to push into her chest voice.  In the really quite mad intermission interview she said that she would give herself 2 years on Lady Macbeth and then let her go.  I am hoping this is true.  There will probably be a DVD.

No one generates the sheer excitement and intensity that Anna Netrebko can.  She is the singer for our time.


Thursday, October 09, 2014


I had a small comment in passing:  what is the difference between opera today and opera 50 years ago?  It seems to me the main change is that opera doesn't have the same penetration into the general culture that it had before.  Renée Fleming appears on David Letterman and at the Superbowl, but that's about it.  Thank you, Renée.  Comedy / variety shows where Beverly Sills guested no longer exist.  Do we need an opera singer on Big Brother?  Certainly the other guests wouldn't recognize them.

Just thinking.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Die schweigsame Frau

Conductor Pedro Halffter
Production Barrie Kosky

Sir Morosus: Franz Hawlata
Housekeeper: Okka von der Damerau
Barber: Nikolay Borchev
Henry Morosus: Daniel Behle
Aminta: Brenda Rae
Isotta: Elsa Benoit
Carlotta Tara Erraught
Morbio: Christian Rieger
Vanuzzi: Christoph Stephinger
Farfallo: Tareq Nazmi

Die schweigsame Frau or the silent woman by Richard Strauss streamed today from Munich.

I know I've never seen/heard this opera before, but it kept sounding familiar.  Here a phrase from Rosenkavalier, then another, then Aminta hums the Ride of the Valkeries.  Aminta  is rehearsing L'Incoronazione di Poppea, but it sounds a bit more like Donizetti.

On Twitter there was an ongoing comparison of this opera to Don Pasquale.  I have only ever liked the Don Pasquale with John Del Carlo and Anna Netrebko, and I wasn't completely sold on this opera either.  It's too long.  There is too much of the Strauss style recitative on top of all the spoken dialog.  There are terse ariettas and the wonderful monologue at the end, and that's about it.  Speaking from the perspective of old age, a lot of young people picking on an old man isn't very funny.  In Don Pasquale the old man brings it on himself.  As I'm sure many of the current crop of television network producers know, comedy is hard.

It was a simple minimalist production with excellent cast members and fantastic performances.  When the theater troop first appears, they are all wearing costumes of opera singers: Bruhnhilde, Butterfly, Rigoletto, Otello and his Desdemona, Carmen, Violetta, etc. There is a swan just like the one from their Lohengrin production.

I felt that Hawlata was perfect for his role of Morosus.  Perhaps he understands better the need for legato in Strauss. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

In truth Pereira wanted to stay in Salzburg

[Translated from today's edition of the Salzburger Nachrichten.  He is writing about things I don't know anything about, thus making it hard to translate.]

By Wolfgang Gmachl 

The Baroque "impresario" who owned the Salzburg blew the march. Of course, with this conflicts were programmed.

There were no stones, there were rocks that fell from the hearts of many as the "God with us" Alexander Pereira a month ago disappeared highly motivated in the direction of Milan. Now we can have rest - almost silence. Gone are three years of a reign that brought the biggest public success to the biggest festival in the world, that had dared and won a lot.

It was the 41st Salzburg Festival in unbroken succession, I was able to experience in the summer. And the three years of directorship of Alexander Pereira mark not only for me a high point of the Festival's history.

As Pereira was unanimously nominated by a selection committee and appointed as unanimously by the Trustees, the world still seemed fine - but only for a few hours, because of the baroque "impresario" blew the march for his festival and broke new ground. [Above my grade.]  Conflicts were programmed. His critics had written in the album: Pereira wanted to stay in Salzburg and in truth we have a lot to thank him for.

1 This includes the
Ouverture Spirituelle that appealed together with the Disputationes of the Herbert Batliner Institute, under the scientific direction of Erhard Busek, a whole new audience and thus the known target groups also gained a lot of sympathy for the Salzburg Festival. With the project torn out-the individual contributions came on philosophical considerations, a new dimension of the political into the game.  [He brought in this new group, perhaps as donors.]

2 Pereira in 2013, the event El Sistema - whose founder José Antonio Abreu, in the festival opening speech - enforced against opposition and
financed outside the festival budget (!!). An "insubordination" for which to thank him.  [He brought in this other new group, also perhaps as donors.]

3 For the Whitsun Festival Pereira won with Cecilia Bartoli an artistic director who is almost a godsend for this small but brilliant festival.   [He brought in Cecilia Bartoli.]

4 Pereira's conviction that a festival like the one in Salzburg could only offer premieres, was initially ignored by me as wasteful. It remained unnoticed that the sale of such productions to other opera houses can import more money than reprises in-house.  Undeniably premieres are the strongest crowd puller of a festival. The gifted networker and Fundriser was just miles ahead of us.  [He insisted on only new productions which would then be sold to other companies.]

5 An important contribution to the renewal of the Festival has Pereira, media expert, with his projects "Abduction from the Seraglio" (staging and TV recording in Hangar-7) as well as the live broadcast of this year's "Don Giovanni" with backstage and background scenarios provided. He has made it possible that the possibilities of contemporary media are not yet exhausted, but the foundation for Festivals of the 21st century was laid.  [He arranged for this year's streaming on]

6 His commitment to the future audience is served by his own, very successful program for children and young people - in this summer alone were 8000 children in the auditorium to see Cenerentola.  This has never happened at the Festival before. Thus Pereira defined here also the requirements for a future of the Salzburg Festival.  [He attracted more children than ever before.]

7 His often emotional struggle to find an appropriate level for the festival made it ​​in any case once more clear that the Salzburg Festival delivers a net contribution significantly more in taxes than they receive in subsidies, and has ultimately led to a long overdue granting of index matching funds of 2,500,000 for 2015.   [The festival delivers more money in taxes than it costs in subsidies.  The subsidy will increase in 2015.]

Finally, we take a lot of suggestions with us for the future: A new attempt of a European Art Forum - such as in Gerard Mortier's time in 1996 - is obvious. Salzburg has to do so by the
Ouverture Spirituelle, the Herbert-Batliner Institute, Convoco and the Festival Dialogues of Friends of the Salzburg Festival has great potential. A new form of cooperation with the Easter Festival is back on the agenda.

We must be particularly pleased that Alexander Pereira will bring close the Christmas concert of La Scala the Silent Night Oberndorf an international audience together with the two TV channels RAI and Servus TV.

Wolfgang Gmachl was longtime director of the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce, People's Party Member of Parliament and representatives of numerous cultural institutions.

[I hope you can read this, such as it is.  I tried to translate it because I find it very shocking.  It's nice to know that stupid things don't just happen here.

Pereira has been for the last three years the head of the Salzburg Festival.  In this article a Salzburg resident attempts to explain the main things that Pereira contributed to the festival during his tenure.  It is now the most important of all the summer festivals.  They lured him away from Zurich who were very sorry to see him go only to push him out the door when he did what they wanted him to do.  This was followed by a similar reaction in Milan.  They want him and they don't.  The concern about his management style seems to focus on money.]

Friday, October 03, 2014

Joyce DiDonato in Brooklyn

She is by now the Queen of American singers.  We Americans are expressly forbidden to have titles, you know, but I still do not hesitate to dub her Queen Joyce.  She is singing in Brooklyn, and I am watching a live stream.  The music is from Stella di Napoli.  The Bel Canto composers are all represented.

She tries a little Brooklyn talk, but nobody buys it.  She introduces the arias.

She is singing "Riedi al soglio" and gets lost.  Only Joyce could get out of this so gracefully.  I have listened to this aria dozens of times and know exactly what she is supposed to be singing. 

She slips in and out of her very American personality and into this very Italian musical style faster than you can imagine.

Hail Queen Joyce.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

One hundred percent Diva

"To the one hundred percent Diva"
[Translated from Berner Zeitung.  I have switched all my Google Alerts to German and am getting much better results.]

By Carolina Bohren. Updated on 30.09.2014

Mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has sung lost libretti from the Tsarist empire. While talking in Salzburg, the Swiss by choice woman explains how she even rode on an icebreaker.

Under the empresses: Mezzo-soprano and director Cecilia Bartoli (48) [She is called Intendantin, which is the title of the person in charge of a theater or festival. She is usually called the music director, but we all know better.]

On the floor of the Mozarteum in Salzburg there is music to be heard. A door opens, and a good-humored Cecilia Bartoli sticks out her head. The Italian appears in an elegant blue pinstripe suit, discreetly made up and with matching sunglasses.  During the interview Bartoli is full of energy, often bursting into a hearty laugh, and shows the enthusiasm with which she pursues her projects.

Ms. Bartoli, what brought you to Russia?

Cecilia Bartoli: Many Italian composers of the Baroque period were immigrants, just like me. When I saw that many of them went to Russia, I was wondering: If the historical beginnings of Russian opera are recognized to be around 1830, then what are these, these madmen, already doing there in the 18th century?

What have you found?

They were invited by the empresses to the palace where they then wrote each year an opera for her birthday. When I found these fantastic scores, it was clear that I had to do a project.

How should we imagine that: Cecilia Bartoli goes to Russia and finds important documents in the archives of the Marinsky Theatre?

It was not so easy. The archive had transferred a kind of exclusive right for restoration work on the library of Washington. [Library of Congress?] This made it impossible for a long time to sift through the material at all.

Sounds like trouble.

Yes, I had to go to St. Petersburg several times before I got access to the archive. Twice I even traveled with the icebreaker from Lübeck by water.

The icebreaker?

Yes, I do not fly very much. And honestly, that was a fantastic experience! When we moved the boat across the sea and the ice broke (gesturing wildly with her arms, to simulate the breaking up of the ice layer), so that was an adventure. I arrived in St. Petersburg as the earlier explorers had.

What has most surprised you in your work in the archive?

To study the music of Italian composers and to discover that many arias are in a serious, nostalgic, dramatic timbre.

Why is that unusual?

In Italy there was not this kind of music. When one thinks of the Neapolitan Baroque music, there are often the great coloratura arias with songs like fireworks. In the compositions of the Marinsky archive, however, beautiful, slow arias dominate. You already encounter the Russian spirit, although they were written by Italians.

Wouldn't it have been obvious in view of this Russian influence, to record the CD with a Russian orchestra instead of conductor Diego Fasolis and I Barocchisti?

On the one hand what you say is true. It is also true that the musicians who have played at the court of the Tsar, were also Italians. I would like to work with Russian musicians, and there isn't just enough material for another CD, but for at least one hundred (laughs). But for Maestro Diego Fasolis and his orchestra I feel very great respect, that's why I wanted them.

What impression do you get of the Empresses Anna [1730-40], Elizabeth [1741-62] and Catherine [1762-96]?

The fact that they thought very avant-garde, and with their efforts to cultural exchange they did much for music and its new forms. 

Also Tsarina Catherine the Great has written several libretti. What do you think of her work?

Perhaps you could make an attachment in the booklet (laughs). No, poor one. She has also written a beautiful march.  I didn't feel the need to put it on the CD, but I take my hat off to her!  Nowadays there are not many politicians who would be able to do so. Let's ask Angela Merkel if she will write a march for us (get a fit of laughter).

Will we now get from you a libretto to read?

No, such a thing will not happen.

On the album "St.Petersburg" you are singing for the first time two arias in Russian. Torture, isn't it?

Let's put it this way: The language is very beautiful, but it is very difficult because there are sounds that we do not know in Italian. So I had to learn a lot by imitation. Luckily, my teacher said then that at least there is still hope for me.

With your name often appears attributes such as "Superstar" or "opera diva". Do you like this fame?

I think if you can take the glory and use it in service of special cultural projects, then it is something very beautiful. For example, the Whitsun Festival here in Salzburg, where I will present projects, invite artists, can contribute to the artistic exchange.

And the Diva?

You simply have to want to believe it or not. I often say: You're a Diva? I have no time for that (laughs). I have no time, and it is not my character. So if to be such a diva means to make beautiful projects: Yes, I'm a diva one hundred percent (takes pleasurably a chocolate chip cookie).

Keyword Salzburg Whitsun Festival: Is your dual role as an opera singer and director not problematic?

Before me the artistic director of the Salzburg Whitsun Festival was a conductor. They organized the festival and the orchestras. So they used their instrument. Basically, I 'm doing the same thing, only that I sing rather than conduct. The great difficulty lies not in this dual role, but in the organization itself.

What do you mean?

I now have a responsibility that I have previously not perceived so. I am aware now of things which I used to not even have imagined that they existed.

Like what?

There are artists who need to be housed in completely white spaces so that they can relax. It's nice to be able to discover all these new things.

As director: How important is for you faithfulness to the original?

The music of a composer must be presented in its meaning [?]. From there we should get our inspiration. Of course every artist has the opportunity to develop their own interpretations of this music, but always with great respect for the score. The audience can love an artist or not. But we must always create new visions of the music of a composer. Basically singers with their voices make the colors of the music become visible. [I hope I got this right. I think this too.]

What opera role do you really want yet to embody?

(Thinks long) It is very difficult to answer this question. For one, I am of the star sign Gemini. That is, one twin wants one thing and the other something else. To find a role that corresponds to both is already difficult. (laughs). Then there is also the fact that I am a chameleon in character. Today I say to you, I would like to do Carmen, but maybe tomorrow I'd rather play an old woman.

After half an hour, Bartoli's manager interrupts the conversation. In parting the adopted Swiss woman says a choice bit of Zurich German, "Uf Widerluege" with a broad Italian accent. "Swiss German is almost as difficult as Russian," she grins. 

[Once in a while I understand a word or two of Schwiezerdeutsch.  I think it is the laughing Bartoli that I wished I could meet.

Is there any information about the singers?  So many questions.  This may turn out to be the greatest of her discoveries.

If you prebuy on iTunes, you can get 4 tracks immediately.  They are wonderful.]