Sunday, October 30, 2016

Richard Tucker Gala

Instead of making us wait until the end of the year, the Richard Tucker Gala live streamed from Carnegie Hall on today.  What a fabulous concert.  The singers were:

Jamie Barton
Javier Camarena
Joyce DiDonato
Joshua Guerrero
Renée Fleming
Anna Netrebko
Kristine Opolais
Nadine Sierra
and this years winner Tamara Wilson
Asher Fisch conducted the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Yusif Eyvazov was expected but broke his foot.

And here is the program:
Wagner: “Entrance of the Guests” from Tannhäuser
New York Choral Society

Wagner: “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser
Tamara Wilson, soprano
This was an excellent introduction to Tamara.

Renée Fleming, soprano
Massenet: “Adieu, notre petite table” from Manon
followed by
Leoncavallo: “Mattinata”

Rossini: “La danza”
Javier Camarena, tenor

Donizetti: “Regnava nel silenzo” from Lucia di Lammermoor
Nadine Sierra, soprano

Dvorak: “Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém” (“Song to the Moon”) from Rusalka
Kristine Opolais, soprano
Unfortunately for Kristine there were two other sopranos on the program known for this aria.

Verdi: “Tu al cui sguardo onnipossente” from I due Foscari
Tamara Wilson, soprano
New York Choral Society.  Tamara was excellent in this, too.

Saint-Saëns: Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” from Samson et Dalila
Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano.  For me this was one of the highlights of the evening, sung in a wonderfully smooth legato.

Rossini: “Ah vieni, nel tuo sangue” from Otello
Lawrenece Brownlee, tenor
Javier Camarena, tenor
Two Rossini tenors in competition.  I think it was a tie.

Giordano: “La mamma morta” from Andrea Chénier
followed by
Cilea:  "Io son l'umile ancella" from Adriana Lecouvreur 
Anna Netrebko, soprano
Netrebko was in form and remembered to thank first the cellist and then the violinist for their solos.  She received a bouquet and then left.

Heggie: “Si, son io” from Great Scott
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano
This was particularly and surprisingly beautiful.

Bellini: Finale of Act I from Norma
Tamara Wilson, soprano
Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano
Joshua Guerrero, tenor
New York Choral Society

Donizetti: “Seul sur la terre” from Dom Sébastien
Lawrence Brownlee, tenor

Puccini: “Un bel dì vedremo” from Madama Butterfly
Kristien Opolais, soprano

Handel: “Son nata a lagrimar” from Giulio Cesare
Jamie Barton, mezzo-soprano
Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano

Bellini: “Vieni fra questa braccia” from I puritani
Nadine Sierra, soprano
Javier Camarena, tenor
I liked Nadine and Javier in this.

Bernstein: “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide
Tamara Wilson, soprano
Joshua Guerrero, tenor
New York Choral Society

The concert lasted 2-1/2 hours.  I skipped another concert for this and found that it was worth it.  This is a slightly lighter mix of arias than is usual for a Richard Tucker Gala.  There was no intermission.

You can watch this now on

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Vĕc Makropulos

Conductor:  Mikhail Tatarnikov
Production Designer: Frank Philipp Schlössmann

Emilia Marty, formerly Elina Makropulos, a celebrated singer:  Nadja Michael
Albert Gregor, Dr Kolena's client:  Charles Workman *
Dr. Kolenatý, a lawyer: Dale Travis
Vítek, Kolenatý's clerk: Joel Sorensen
Kristina, his daughter, a young singer: Julie Adams 
Baron Jaroslav Prus, the other party to the case: Stephen Powell
Janek, his son and Kristina's sweetheart: Brenton Ryan *
Count Hauk-Šendorf, Emilia's old lover:  Matthew O'Neill

The Makropulos Case by Leoš Janáček was presented last night at the San Francisco Opera.  It is interesting to note that this opera made its American premier in 1966 in San Francisco.  I think this opera doesn't quite work.  Perhaps it works when you are seeing it for the first time and don't know what will happen.

For most of the opera it seems to be about a lawsuit between Albert Gregor and Baron Jaroslav Prus over the estate of  "Pepi" Prus, a lawsuit that has been going on for at least 100 years.  It sounds like a Dickens novel.  One side of the lawsuit, Albert, has a rumor saying Pepi promised the estate to his ancestor, while the other side, Baron Prus, is a distant relative of Pepi.

The opera is actually about a glamorous young woman who appears in the law office with information that may resolve the case in Albert Gregor's favor.  She knows where the will is to be found.  The woman is Emilia Marty, a famous singer.  I'm not sure I want to explain the entire plot.  Emilia was born Elina Makropulos in 1585 in Greece.  At 15 her father gave her a potion that made her virtually immortal.  She has lived in various countries under various assumed names, including Ellian MacGregor, making her Albert Gregor's ancestor.  This is also the reason she knows so much.

The opera has an astounding role for a dramatic soprano.  I'm sure our Emilia, Nadja Michael, could hold her own against any of the others.  It is staged in a very physical way.  She climbs on the furniture and shows off her swimmer's physique.  I have previously seen her here as Salome and live in HD from the Met in Bluebeard's Castle.  She brings to the stage a huge voice and thrilling intensity.  She is what you would want here.

Over the course of the opera Emilia realizes that she has lost her lust for living and explains to the other characters that it is death that gives life its meaning.  She allows herself to die.  The opera ends well, except we never hear how the case came out.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Nasty Don Giovanni

Conductor:  Fabio Luisi
Production:  Michael Grandage


Don Giovanni:  Simon Keenlyside (baritone)
Donna Anna:  Hibla Gerzmava  (soprano)
Commendatore, Anna's father:  Kwangchul Youn (bass)
Don Ottavio, Anna's fiance:  Paul Appleby (tenor)
Donna Elvira:  Malin Byström (soprano)


Leporello, Giovanni's servant:  Adam Plachetka  (baritone)
Zerlina:  Serena Malfi  (soprano)
Masetto, Zerlina's fiance:  Matthew Rose  (baritone)

Mozart's Don Giovanni premiered in Prague in 1787 which, I have recently learned, was enjoying a Don Juan vogue at the time.

Nasty is the word of the week, and it seemed suitable for this somewhat raunchy Don Giovanni from the Metropolitan Opera in HD.  General reaction:  Oh, THAT'S what it's about.  Don Giovanni is about sex, a subject we are getting rather a lot of this year.  The Don seems not to focus on certain areas for his sex crimes.  He covers the gamut of entitled male animal.  We have to say that Da Ponte seems to know rather a lot about his subject.  He also knew enough to leave the sex scenes ambiguous so we don't quite know what happened.  We are thus spared the phony sex scenes that permeate modern opera productions.

I didn't mind the drab production this time because the characters filled it so vividly.  The Don begins at the bottom with rape and murder.  He enters Donna Anna's bedroom while she is sleeping, and she awakens to fight him off.  If we take the libretto at its face, she is successful in fighting him off, unless we assume he raped her while she was asleep.  Her father comes in, and Don Giovanni kills him.  There is an amazing piece of blocking where the Don leans over the Commendatore and raises his hand in the air to represent the Commendatore's soul flying away at the moment of death.  Wow.  This is not Don Giovanni as Austin Powers, as I have often imagined, but rather a deeply evil Don.  This Don Giovanni will not escape his doom.  Don Ottavio vows to avenge the Commendatore.

I appreciated Simon's comment that Don Giovanni lies between the American and the French Revolutions.  I separated the characters by class because this would have been what mattered most in the era.  The entitled upper class who in the American Revolution lived across an ocean were still the target.  We sent them back home.  The French Revolution solved the problem by cutting off their heads.  In the opera God intervenes.

Don Giovanni is never far from a woman.  When Donna Elvira appears, Giovanni starts to seduce her until he sees who it is.  He comes upon a wedding party, and from all the women present he chooses to pursue the bride.  He serenades Donna Elvira's maid, and may actually have been successful here.  We don't hear if he was successful.

The first time they go to Don Giovanni's house the singers are actually dancing.  Not well, but dancing.  The second time we are in the Don's house, his first course at dinner consists of fruit being eaten off of a woman's stomach.  In case you had forgotten what the opera was about.  After Giovanni descends into hell, Donna Elvira says,  "I will go into a nunnery."  Zerlina and Masetto say,  "And we will go home to dinner."  Favorite line.  Nothing so trivial as sex will bother us.  In the lower classes women are not traded for political advantage.

I want to discuss the performers.  Simon Keenlyside was a physical dynamo, though clearly no longer young, his Don Giovanni pursued women with fascinating energy.  I enjoyed his performance.  Paul Appleby was just the right singer for Ottavio with a beautiful Mozart legato.  He is young and will grow into his roles.  Hibla Gerzmava has a huge voice that roared over the ensemble.  We could hear her in some Verdi.  Adam Plachetka's Leporello was very genuine and funny.  I liked him, and find that I saw him before in Marriage of Figaro from Salzburg in 2015.  Malin Byström was our Jenufa in San Francisco last Spring.  I thought she was a strong performer.  My only disappointment was the Zerlina of Serena Malfi.  I absolutely adored Mojca Erdmann's Zerlina the last time we saw this production.  It was my impression that Serena did not want to take her eyes off the conductor.  I'm going to be annoying and give advice:  sing with the music. 

We all enjoyed this and felt we understood Don Giovanni as never before.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Vissi d'arte

Gradually this has become my favorite version of this aria. Anja's version is the inner Tosca, the real woman who has lived for art and love and does not understand why the Madonna has turned against her.  Armiliato is with her in every note.

The film I posted before is gone.  This one is more recent.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Conductor:  Leonardo García Alarcón
Production:  Thomas Jolly

Eliogabalo (Roman Emperor): Franco Fagioli (countertenor)
Alessandro Cesare (Eliogabalo's cousin): Paul Groves (tenor)
Flavia Gemmira (Alessandro's girlfriend): Nadine Sierra (soprano)
Giuliano Gordio (Flavia's brother): Valer Sabadus (countertenor)
Anicia Eritea (Giuliano's girlfriend): Elin Rombo (soprano)
Atilia Macrina: Mariana Flores (soprano)
Zotico: Matthew Newlin (tenor)
Lenia (old female servant): Emiliano Gonzalez Toro (tenor)
Nerbulone, Tiferne: Scott Conner (bass)

This performance from the Paris Opera of Eliogabalo by Cavalli in Italian with French subtitles is rather more cold than even I can tolerate.  I tried watching it without knowing anything, and this didn't work out for me.  For an excellent discussion of this production see The Idle Woman. It was composed for a Venetian carnival performance in 1668 which did not take place.  Many speculate why this would happen.  Cavalli was the most important Venetian opera composer but was coming to the end of his life.  It may also have been censors.  One writer suggests that it may have been too serious for carnival.  It's first performance was in 1999, then René Jacobs revived it in 2004, and it's played in several locations since.  A description of the plot can be found here.  View the stream here.

The music is clearly still in the style of the late operas of the great Monteverdi.  I am no longer "cold" in this aspect of the performance and enjoy it very much.

Act I

Campidoglio (the square on the capitol in Rome)
Emperor Eliogabalo has returned to Rome.  A rebellion by the Praetorian Guard has been put down.  The plot concerns itself primarily with his sexual interests.  He's no longer interested in Eretea and needs new women to harass.  There are frequent appearances of young men wearing only loin cloths, such as our Amor above.

I find the arias, especially by Nadine Sierra and Paul Groves, particularly beautiful.

Hall in the Senate
I've been in the Senate and there are no halls.  Women in tall hats are entering.  Eliogabalo has replaced the male Senate with an all female one.  Eliogabalo himself is dressed as a woman and sings their praises.  We can say already that this opera is about cross-dressing, mostly men dressing as women, such as Lenia who is a tenor.

The women cover their faces and are told to embrace one another.  The one who guesses who is touching them wins.  Atilia guesses and becomes a proconsul.  Flavia cannot guess when it is Eliogabalo and goes off embarrassed.

Act II

If you are tired of the impossible to stage da capo arias of Neapolitan opera, this may be just what you want.  This is from the era when the composers wrote their own recitative and regarded it as an important part of the work.  This opera is strangely relevant.  Who would have thought our own country would become something like this.

Nadine suddenly sings a very high note.  Fun.

The most shocking thing about this production is how not shocking it is.  Obviously Eliogabalo is a scandal.  How can such a dark and low key production express this scandal?

Eliogabalo prepares a banquet with two prominent pitchers.  Zotico and Lenia taint the pitchers--one is sleeping potion and the other poison.  Nerbulone drinks the sleeping potion.  Large black owls descend on the table, and the banquet is cancelled.  The owls dance.  Franco Fagioli is enjoying a peak in his career.  His countertenor is very robust.


I am a fan of Nadine Sierra and am happy to see her performance here.  Eliogabalo is the only character who gets interesting costumes.  He sticks his arms and feet into a bath and they come out covered in gold.  He gets in.  One of the people dressed in a loin cloth appears to be a girl.  He thinks about Flavia while everyone else thinks about killing him.  Eventually they succeed.

One would choose an opera about this particular Emperor for the debauchery, surely.  It was probably rejected for the seriousness.  I personally would have liked a less serious production.  The music is glorious but just a little long.

Circo Massimo
Everyone is at the games, but Eliogabalo does not arrive. Then it is reported that he is dead.  Flavia brings in his head and explains that the guards killed him when he broke into her room.  Alessandro becomes emperor, marries Flavia and everyone lives happily ever after.  This music is very beautiful, but I imagine the Venetians wanted more bang for their buck.

Sunday, October 09, 2016


I seek out oddities because I have quite a lot of intellectual curiosity.  In the process of writing my music history book I crammed a lot of knowledge into my brain.  I cannot resist the opportunity to experience something that I know only from study, such as Les Indes Galantes, Béatrice et Bénédict or Donnerstag aus Licht.  What I find is that there is with music no wasted time.  I don't always like what I experience, but I always feel that my mind is wider, fuller, more ready for new experiences.

I now feel that I have given to Stockhausen all that he deserves.  I might watch the helicopter string quartet again, but that's probably enough.  But from Rameau I might want more.  If he were performed with the same musical lightness of touch, I would not wish to miss it.

Previous to blogging I had never made it to the end of Tristan.  I watched several famous films and loved only Nilsson and Vickers, though only for the singing.

I cannot speak for you, but I can encourage everyone to seek joy in unexpected places.  Offer your soul the right to expansion.  Find that something you never thought of watching will unexpectedly find its voice.  That Tristan will tell its meaning as never before.  Perhaps here too it is the lightness of touch that speaks to me.  Perhaps the greatest success comes from allowing the music to speak for itself instead of trying so hard to impress us. 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Tristan und Isolde in HD

Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Production:  Mariusz Trelinski

Tristan:  Stuart Skelton
Isolde:  Nina Stemme
Brangäne:  Ekaterina Gubanova
King Marke:  René Pape
Kurwenal:  Evgeny Nikitin

English Horn Solo:  Pedro R. Díaz

Things I liked about Wagner's Tristan und Isolde live in HD today.

I liked the outstanding conducting by Simon Rattle.  I very much enjoyed listening to him talk about today's performance.

I liked Debbie Voigt interviewing Nina Stemme, one Isolde to another.  I liked it when Nina said playing a Valkyrie could make you more of a Valkyrie.

I liked that this was the first time I thought while listening to the performance that only the Metropolitan Opera orchestra could play this piece this much more beautifully than anyone else.

I liked Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton putting their own personal stamps on this opera.  So much emotion, so much emotional singing and acting.

I liked René Pape, the best Wagner baritone around.

I liked so much love.  So much love by everyone on the stage, in the pit, behind the stage.  So much love.  I cried.

I liked the production which took images from the libretto to form the basis for its visual effects.

I liked talk about the anniversary performance of Antony and Cleopatra by Samuel Barber.  It was a new house with all the fancy new equipment.  Franco Zeffirelli used every new gadget in his production, and most of them failed.  Rosalind Elias and Justino Díaz were interviewed from the original cast.  And it's not true that the other performances were cancelled.

I liked Richard Wagner's libretto which I could primarily understand in Nina's singing.  This was a surprise.  This production might just work better without the surtitles.  In the house this would be possible.  For me the text was too bright against the dark background.

I liked seeing the love in their faces.

I haven't thought of anything I didn't like except Isolde smoking.  I feel recovered from Donnerstag.

In case I haven't been clear enough I want to say that I found this Tristan und Isolde to be deeply satisfying on every level.  I felt that the story penetrated my consciousness as never before, that the orchestra playing was profoundly beautiful and the singing actors the best ever.

Of course the production is Regietheater.  We are moved to an abstraction of today with military uniforms and modern dresses.  If there were difficulties, they were to be found in the projections, sometimes symbolic, sometimes personal.  A boy is seen and a thin man in a white uniform who cannot be King Marke.  I think this comes from the Act III solo by Tristan where he describes how he knows the sad tune he is hearing.  His mother died when he was born and his father when he was still a child.  So the projections picture the young Tristan and his father who must also have been a high ranking military man.  The ghost child is also Tristan.

I thought I was seeing a solar eclipse in the black circle surrounded by light.  And some kind of nautical device in the other circle.  I always feel free to ignore symbolism.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Donnerstag aus Licht

In center Michael trumpet, Michael tenor (on gurney), Michael dancer

A full length, fully realized performance of Stockhausen's Donnerstag aus Licht (Thursday from Light) has been presented in Basel and live streamed through  If you hurry, you can see it for yourself.  It is important to notice that this work, composed in 1978-80, came very quickly after Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach (1976).  My son assures me there is a full 7 day cycle, but we find one day sufficient.  The two operas, Donnerstag and Einstein, share the feature of having instrumentalists appear on stage as characters.

I notice from reading Wikipedia that the staging presented here does not precisely conform to the description of the action in Wikipedia.  Then I notice that the Stockhausen Foundation for Music has "grave misgivings" about the staging presented here.  With Einstein the opera and the staging are considered one.  Wikipedia also reassures us that "no clear meaning is apparent."

Conductor: Titus Engel
Production: Lydia Steier
Dramaturgy: Pavel B. Jiracek

Michael (tenor): Peter Tantsits (act 1), Rolf Romei (act 3)
Michael (trumpeter):  Paul Hübner
Michael (dancer): Emmanuelle Grach
Eve (mother, soprano): Anu Komsi
Eve (basset horn):  Merve Kazokoğlu
Eve (dancer):  Evelyn Angela Gugolz
Lucifer (father, bass): Michael Leibundgut
Lucifer (trombone): Stephen Menotti
Lucifer (dancer): Eric Lamb

Thursday, October 06, 2016

MôD Artists at Westminster

Trio MôD has expanded, at least for this concert, into a group called MôD Artists which includes:  Maquette Kuper, flute; Deborah Pittman, clarinet; Sterling Cozza, jazz piano; John Cozza, piano; Jack Fanning, bass; Nick Micheels, drums

There seems to be a concept at work here.  While the founding members are classically trained, their programming expands outside the usual range of classical programming.  This concert focuses on jazz and the blues in repertoire that is still basically classical.  This is part of a Wednesday at noon concert series at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano by Claude Bolling (French jazz pianist and composer, b 1930)
  • Baroque and Blue 
  • Sentimentale 
  • Javanaise 
  • Irlandaise 
  • Veloce 
The ensemble for this piece was flute, jazz piano, bass and drums.  This was my favorite piece on the program and can only be described as a mash up of jazz and classical.  Sterling Cozza got heavily into jazz improvisation.  It was a treat.

Blues from "Moonflowers, Baby" by Meyer Kupferman  (July 3, 1926 – November 26, 2003)
This is a single movement for solo clarinet.

Blue Monkey for Flute and B flat Clarinet by Lauren Bernofsky (1967-) duet for flute and clarinet.

California Suite by Claude Bolling
  • Hannah's Theme 
  • Black Folks
California Suite is a movie, and these two movements are a small portion of the soundtrack from this movie.  The ensemble is flute, clarinet, piano, bass and drums.

For my taste the bass and drums could have been a bit louder.  This was a fun program, very upbeat and cheerful.  Maki is a busy woman, but is always looking for something new.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Rosenkavalier on the radio

Thank you Renée Fleming, soprano (Marschallin) Erin Morley, soprano (Sophie) Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano (Octavian) Franz Hawlata, bass (Baron Ochs) and Andris Nelsons and WCRB.  There can never be too much Rosenkavalier.