Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sacramento Philharmonic in resurrection mode

This is the headline from the Sacramento Bee about next season.  They are getting advice from the Detroit Symphony so they are focusing on symphonic repertoire.  There will be no opera in 2015-16.

I haven't been going to the Philharmonic because they generally focus on repertoire that doesn't interest me, but the two announced concerts look very exciting:

On June 27 will be Mahler Symphony #2, called the Resurrection symphony.  Very suitable, don't you think?  I love this piece and will definitely be attending.

Michael Morgan is out.  The whole season is now available and there will be a series of guest conductors.  Here is the whole season.

27-Jun-15 8:00 Mahler 2
17-Oct-15 8:00 Tchaikovsky 4
16-Jan-16 8:00 Mozart/Mendelssohn
23-Jan-16 8:00 Mozart Requiem
20-Feb-16 8:00 Rachmaninov
9-Apr-16 8:00 Dvorak
7-May-16 8:00 Beethoven 9

If I can't have opera, I will take Mahler 2 and Beethoven 9.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ranking the Simulcasts 2014-15

Every year I rank that year's simulcasts from the Metropolitan Opera--it's that time again--and every year it is difficult. Of course, I can only rank the ones I saw, and I missed Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Bluebeard’s Castle.

Ranked strictly for pleasure I must go with Le Nozze di Figaro in first place. The production made lots of sense, as you know it very seldom does.

In second place for pleasure I have to place Grigolo's Tales of Hoffmann. Hoffmann's emotional rollercoaster seems very natural when Vittorio Grigolo sings him. This opera is just a lot of fun, though the staging of the Venetian scene doesn't really work.

I can't go any further without La Donna Del Lago in third place. It could just as easily be first. I enjoyed it all. There was a lot of complaining about the production, and I realize that this complaining is not usually accompanied by an explanation of what is wrong with it. I thought the rag-tag Scots were wonderfully contrasted with the opulent king. So what was wrong with it? I enjoyed this quite a lot.

I have to put I Pagliacci fourth. This was so much fun I almost forgot there would be mayhem at the end. It was very entertaining, though I think I prefer Cavalleria as an opera.

Macbeth falls to fifth. I thought Netrebko was amazing in this, an altogether different kind of pleasure, but I sincerely want her to stop singing it now. This role should only be sung by singers who never get carried away. It's too dangerous.

Rearrange these top 5 in any order.

The contrast with Netrebko in Iolanta at six could not be more astounding. I loved this and was pleased to get a chance to see this opera. I also know that Netrebko is happy to have gotten a chance to sing it at the Met.

Cavalleria Rusticana at seven made a powerful musical effect despite some singing difficulties.

Everyone sang well in Il Barbiere di Siviglia at eighth, but I want more. The opera seemed to be about the singing, and I wanted romance, too.

In Carmen I didn't like Antonenko as Don Jose. He doesn't project as weak. If Don Jose is a punk, why should we care if he screws up his life. Rachvelishvili's Carmen didn't quite make up for it.

Sorry.  I just don't like The Merry Widow.  Musically it had no spark.

There's nothing magical about these rankings.  I watch quite a lot of film and streaming from Europe these days and I notice a couple of things.  The Metropolitan Opera orchestra has a gorgeous sound which makes its best effect in contexts with a thick, romantic orchestral texture, like Cav/Pag.  I also begin to notice that Salzburg and Munich seem to have a better understanding of voices and who should sing what role.

Jamie Barton wins the Richard Tucker Prize

Jamie Barton wins the Richard Tucker Prize for 2015.  She's sort of the obvious choice, don't you think?  Congratulations.

So maybe a little journalism?  Jamie is the current holder of the Cardiff Singer of the World title.  I have referenced her work here, here, here, here, here and here. I'm sort of assuming that she is well known by now.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Opera Awards

My post about Anja Harteros from the beginning of 2014 has become very popular since then.  I explained why I liked her.  And now she has won the best female singer award at the Opera Awards, beating Joyce DiDonato, Liudmyla Monastyrska, Anna Netrebko, Anita Rachvelishvili and Sonya Yoncheva, all fabulous singers. I love her work.  Apparently she was a no show.

I also see that Anna Bonitatibus won for her album Semiramide.

Two Readers’ Awards were given, one female, Aleksandra Kurzak, and one male, Jonas Kaufmann.  Just as I have the anyone but Duke tournament, perhaps we need an anyone but JK readers award. We love him.  Is there more to say?

Here is the complete list.

Addendum.  A fuss is being made about the fact that the three German winners--Christian Gerhaher, Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros--did not show up.  The voting for the Readers' Award was down to the wire.  A commenter on Slipped Disc points out that awards often trim their list by awarding only to nominees who are willing to show up.  So at least we know these were the actual winners.  These people are busy.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci in HD

CONDUCTOR: Fabio Luisi
PRODUCTION: Sir David McVicar

Cavalleria Rusticana

Turiddu: Marcelo Álvarez (tenor)
Santuzza: Eva-Maria Westbroek (soprano)
Mamma Lucia: Jane Bunnell (contralto)
Alfio: George Gagnidze (baritone)
Lola: Ginger Costa-Jackson (mezzo-soprano)

The final HD from the Metropolitan Opera for this season was a new production of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.

It might probably have been a good idea for me to wait to watch the Salzburg film until after this one.  Though in black and white, the Salzburg production was far more visually interesting.  I chose the above picture as the most colorful from the Met's Cavalleria.

I seldom say this so here goes:  The Met Orchestra was absolutely fabulous in both operas.  I know they are supposed to be... but I don't generally have this reaction.  Luisi must get a big piece of the credit. This is a very beautiful opera, and Luisi brought exactly the right feeling to it,  This cannot be said of Thielemann in Salzburg who could have been conducting Strauss.

It is impossible not to compare the two performances.  And there is much to contrast.  The Salzburg performance was beautiful and dignified.  Everyone is dressed for Easter.  Santuzza and Turiddu have a child who is an altar boy.  Mamma Lucia is the most northern Italian mother I've ever seen.  It was unbelievably restrained.

The Met performance despite its extreme low-stimulus production was the right one for Marcelo Alvarez.  His mother is very much the warm Italian mother.  Lola's husband is a tough.  I'm not sure about Eva-Maria Westbroek.  Sing something a bit lighter.

I Pagliacci


Tonio: George Gagnidze (baritone)
Canio: Marcelo Álvarez (tenor)
Beppe: Andrew Stenson (tenor)
Nedda: Patricia Racette (soprano)
Silvio: Lucas Meachem (baritone)

Pet peeve out of the way--venti-tre ore means twenty-three oclock or 11 pm, not sunset or whatever other goofy times appear in the translations for this.  They have siesta in these places.

I enjoyed very much Susan Graham's interview with Patricia Racette in the intermission.  Racette informed us that Nedda is much closer to her real personality than the parts she generally plays.  She bragged about riding in on a horse with no hands, but she forgot to mention she was side-saddle with no hands.  She was by far the funniest Nedda I have ever seen.  We already knew she could do anything, but now we know that anything includes riding horses, dancing, doing slapstick comedy, and covering the emotional gamut in a single opera.

Tonio in the picture above is using the chicken (duck?) as a ventriloquist dummy.  He sang an excellent prolog.

This is the perfect opera for Marcelo Álvarez whom I sincerely doubt is as serious as his character here.  When he needs the big emotions, he rises to the occasion.

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.

Footnote.  Some one in our audience asked me what "toi" was, and I said it is "toi, toi, toi," means nothing in particular and is said instead of "break a leg" for good luck.  At this point in life I treasure the first time it was said to me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Perhaps I don't enjoy the Merry Widow because I know it's supposed to sound like this.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Chat Noir

I recently attended a recital with Carrie Hennessey and John Cozza at the Crocker Art Museum celebrating a current exhibit about Toulouse-Lautrec.   The song selections were marvelous:  Satie, Poulenc, Schoenberg and Gustave Charpentier.  All had something to do with night club singing.  The Charpentier was the aria from Louise.

The Schoenberg group included a song "Arie aus dem Spiegel" on a text by Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist for the Magic Flute.  Carrie thought it sounded like something Papageno would sing.  It is necessary at this point to remember that Schikaneder was the original Papageno and not just the librettist of Magic Flute.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Woman in Gold

I remember that I went to New York when the Klimt paintings went on display at the Neue Gallerie after the legal settlement.  It was wonderful to see them up close.

So it is only fair that I should see the Woman in Gold movie.  I liked it much more than I thought I would.  It was a beautiful and emotional film.  Helen Mirren is the best.

I tend to feel that art belongs to everyone and should be on display, and that wasn't the point of view of the movie.  They made it clear that if the museum owners had behaved respectfully at any point she might have decided differently.  I feel myself that being treated with respect is what matters most.

She plays a song on her victrola, and I was pleased to recognize Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh."  And at the wedding he sings "Deh Vieni a la finestra" from Don Giovanni.

I must add--the most amazing thing about this movie is that they found a German speaking actress who looked exactly like Adela Bloch-Bauer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Browsing through the ROH season announcement

Werther  Jules Massenet
Dir: Benoît Jacquot
Cond: Antonio Pappano
Benoît Jacquot’s production of Massenet’s tragic opera explores the conflict between duty and our most passionate desires.
  • Werther  – Vittorio Grigolo
  • Charlotte  – Joyce DiDonato
  • Albert  – David Bižić
  • Sophie – Heather Engebretson
  • Le Bailli – Jonathan Summers
  • Johann – Yuriy Yurchuk §
  • Schmidt – François Piolino
  • Käthchen – Emily Edmonds §
  • Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
§ Jette Parker Young Artist
19 June at 3pm
24 | 27* June at 7.15pm
3 July at 3pm
6 | 13 July at 7.15pm
*Live cinema relay

Eugene Onegin
Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky
Dir: Kasper Holten
Cond: Semyon Bychkov
Tchaikovsky’s most famous opera is given an elegiac telling in Kasper Holten’s production.
  • Eugene Onegin – Dmitri Hvorostovsky
  • Tatyana – Nicole Car
  • Lensky – Michael Fabiano
  • Olga – Oksana Volkova
  • Prince Gremin – Ferruccio Furlanetto (except 7 Jan) / Brindley Sheratt (7 Jan)
  • Madame Larina – Diana Montague
  • Filipyevna – Catherine Wyn-Rogers
  • Monsieur Triquet – Jean-Paul Fouchécourt
  • Captain – David Shipley §
  • Zaretsky – James Platt §
  • Royal Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
§ Jette Parker Young Artist
19 December at 7pm
22 | 30 December at 7.30pm
2 January at 7pm
4 | 7 January at 7.30pm

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cavalleria Rusticana

You can watch the brand new Cavalleria Rusticana from the Salzburg Easter Festival on YouTube. Here are some bits.

Conductor:  Christian Thielemann
Production:   Philipp Stölzl

Turiddu: Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
Santuzza: Liudmyla Monastyrska (soprano)
Lola: Annalisa Stroppa (mezzo-soprano)
Mamma Lucia: Stefania Toczyska (contralto)
Alfio: Ambrogio Maestri (baritone)

I like both Kaufmann and Lyudmyla Monastyrska in this, Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana.


I find that I want to comment on the production.  It was hard to understand exactly what was going on.  There was a conductor in the pit and an orchestra, and they were playing.  On the stage it seemed to be a film playing.  Up to six different screens appeared in two rows, and the scenes of people milling around outside the church for Easter services could have actually been films.  The gorgeous choral work could not be seen, and they didn't get a bow.

The only thing I could figure out was a large screen with films of live action which went on behind it.  The maybe four actual sets were shot and put together into what we were seeing.  It was hard to tell exactly since I am possibly seeing a film of a film.  Or who really knows? 

In the scenes with mama Lucia there were two mysterious men that came and went.  I kept rewinding to see what happened.  And who exactly were they?  Mama seemed to be working.

The plot was easy to follow.  It was only confusing if you wanted to understand how they did it.


She's right.  You can't tell from a film, but my current guess is two rows of three boxes.  Sometimes they are only frames that make it look like boxes.  Turiddu is respectable but Santuzza isn't, though they live together and have a child together.

The street cleared and mama Lucia's box appeared in the lower row.  They must be rolled around backstage.  Maybe this would only work for the lower row.  One can't help wondering.


There is a film also of Ruggero Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci which I find I don't like quite as much.  There is the same arrangement of two rows of boxes.  In this one when the play is being enacted in one section above, there are closeups projected on the section next to it.  Then at the end there is a big empty stage.  Curious.

Dirigent: Christian Thielemann

Canio:  Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
Nedda:  Maria Agresta (soprano)
Tonio:  Dimitri Platanias (baritone)
Beppe:  Tansel Akzeybek (tenor)
Silvio:  Alessio Arduini (baritone)


Sunday, April 12, 2015

L'Elisir d'amore from Munich

Giannetta, Nemorino, Asher Fisch, Adina, Belcore

Conductor: Asher Fisch
Director: David Bösch

Adina: Ailyn Pérez (soprano)
Nemorino: Matthew Polenzani (tenor)
Belcore: Mario Cassi (baritone)
Dulcamara: Ambrogio Maestri (bass)
Giannetta: Evgeniya Sotnikova (soprano)

I commented a few times on line during the live stream of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  "It's in Ailyn's contract that she must look gorgeous."  Now I realize that this role was originally played by Anna Netrebko, and that it is probably she who has this in her contract.  Her Nemorino was also Matthew Polenzani.

"Die Öde verschlingt ihn," also popped into my head when the set was revealed.  This means the wasteland engulfs him and is a line from the Alto Rhapsody.  We're in Somalia, or somewhere war ravaged and deserted like that, but nevertheless, Adina always looks gorgeous.  Everyone else looks terrible.

Above are Adina and Nemorino early in the opera.  Though I have searched for quite a while, I have not been able to find a picture of Belcore's soldiers who in this production are in combat fatigues with lots of guns and gear.  They gang up on Adina in a very threatening way, and only when Belcore threatens to kill Nemorino does she agree to marry him.  In all of the versions of Elixir that I have seen this one makes it clearest that Adina always adores Nemorino and is just messing with him. 

The oddest thing in the whole production has to be:

Nemorino singing "Una furtiva lagrima" while up a telephone pole.  Poor Matthew.

I don't quite know what to say about this production with all its aura of menace.  The women's chorus tried to make it all light and entertaining, but for a while in the first act it got pretty creepy.  Area 51?

Don't get me wrong.  The cast was fabulous, with magnificent singing and acting from beginning to end.  Ailyn Pérez is becoming a great singer.  She got the biggest applause.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Selfie of the Week

Close in second place is this....

You have to guess.  I like these, too, but I won't make you guess.

Lawrence Brownlee and Anja Harteros.  I still need to see her live.

The one and only Brigitte Fassbaender with Brownlee.  He gets around a lot.  This has to be for Rosenkavalier and maybe the above one is, too.

To heck with guessing.  The top one is René Pape in his makeup for Gurnemanz followed by Luca Pisaroni as Henry VIII in Anna Bolena.  Doesn't Rene look like a street bum?

Sunday, April 05, 2015


And this is Pavol Breslik in Lucia di Lammermoor from the live stream from the Bayerische Staatsoper. 


Leah Crocetto will be singing this, Liu in Turandot, at the Met next season.  The simulcast will be Stemme and Hartig.

Friday, April 03, 2015

Andrew Porter (August 26, 1928 — April 3, 2015)

Andrew Porter wrote for the New Yorker in the seventies, the time in my life when I read it from cover to cover.  He was deeply curious and wrote long pleasing articles.  The one I remember most vividly is the long essay on the completion of Lulu in 1976. He was a fabulous writer.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Breaking News!

Placido Domingo just announced that now he is going to perform Bass roles! He will make his Bass operatic debut as Mephistopheles in "Faust" and later as Wotan in Wagner's Ring Cycle!

Thank you, Gaby Leon.