Sunday, January 31, 2016

Turandot in HD

 Nina Stemme


Conductor:  Paolo Carignani
Production:  Franco Zeffirelli

Turandot: Nina Stemme (soprano)
Liù: Anita Hartig (soprano)
Calàf: Marco Berti (tenor)
Timur: Alexander Tsymbalyuk (bass)

Puccini's Turandot from the Metropolitan Opera is such a familiar old friend that one scarcely knows what new thing one can say.  In contrast with the picture above, Nina seems to have been deliberately made up to look hideous.  Nothing could deter her spectacular performance, however.  Her warmth always shines through.

This time I paid particular attention to the place in the opera where it stops being Puccini.  This happens immediately after Liu dies.  The stage clears and there is an extended love duet which is not by Puccini. It was composed by Franco Alfano.  So this is what the fuss is about.  Puccini would undoubtedly have composed something far more beautiful for this important scene, but the drama takes over.  It's tolerable and that's about it.  The final scene is made up entirely of music heard earlier in the opera.

Anita Hartig as Lui both looked and sang beautifully.  Perhaps the opera is about Liu.

Berti is the only tenor I've ever seen who got no applause at all for "Nessun dorma."  He chopped off his high note.  I'm not a fan.

________________________________

Over the time that I've been blogging, I have written a lot about Turandot.  I think my favorite performance is still Maria Guleghina in this same production.  I love Nina, but for me Maria completely redefined the role.

I wrote about why Franco Alfano was chosen to write the ending, what the long ending sounded like and why it was shortened here.  I wrote about seeing La Leggenda di Sakùntala by Franco Alfano live in Rome here.  I didn't know at the time that this was a recently rediscovered score.

The only aspect of the opera that I seem never to have discussed is the plot.  Is it disgusting?  Should we hate Calaf?  Look people.  It has to do with princes and princesses.  One desires a princess or prince because she or he is a princess or prince.  Physical beauty is vastly enhanced by power and position.  In the 21st century Prince William is allowed to marry a commoner.  Whatever time you move Turandot to, no one would have considered that.  Father agrees to Turandot's plan only because it includes at least the slim possibility that she will marry a foreign prince and produce an heir.  Prince Calaf would simply never consider marrying Liu.  So get over it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Concerts in the Sacramento Area

Andrés Cárdenes

The first Sacramento Philharmonic concert of the year featured the man pictured above.  All season each concert will be led by a different conductor.  With Maestro Cárdenes we got two for the price of one when he both conducted and played the violin solo for the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 3.  I especially liked Mendelssohn's The Hebrides which has very unusual orchestration for its period.  It was an enjoyable concert.

Coote does Mahler

This is Alice Coote singing Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen by Mahler at the Royal Albert Hall.

I - "Wenn mein Schatz Hochzeit macht" ("When My Sweetheart is Married")


News

I will add items as I think of them.

Jonas Kaufmann has cancelled his appearance in Manon Lescaut at the Met.  He may be catching colds from all those women he kisses.  So we will have to settle for the ROH film.  Roberto Alagna should be a good replacement.

Thanks to Opera Tattler for the LA Opera season announcement: September 17- October 16 2016: Macbeth; October 19-23 2016: Ted Hearne's The Source; October 29-31 2016: Nosferatu with score from Matthew Aucoin; November 5-27 2016: Akhnaten; December 2-5 2016 Bernstein's Wonderful Town (semi-staged); January 28- February 19 2017: The Abduction from the Seraglio; February 18- March 19 2017: Salome (Racette);March 25- April 8 2017: The Tales of Hoffmann (Grigolo); April 22- May 13 2017: Tosca; June 15-18 2017: Kamala Sankaram's Thumbprint.  Wow.  This is far more interesting than ours.

Go to Facebook for Christine Goerke's Photoshopathon.  It will be well worth it.

The New Century Chamber Orchestra will no longer be led by Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.  I just discover her and now she is gone.  She is moving to New Orleans to become a teacher at Loyola.


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Pearl Fishers in HD


Conductor: Gianandrea Noseda
Director: Penny Woolcock
Live in HD host:  Patricia Racette

Leïla: Diana Damrau (soprano)
Zurga: Mariusz Kwiecien (baritone)
Nadir: Matthew Polenzani (tenor)
Nourabad: Nicolas Testé (Diana Damrau's husband) (bass)

For the first time in over 100 years the Metropolitan Opera presented Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles (The Pearl Fishers).  Unlike most of the audience, this was my fourth time, including once in San Jose, once in San Francisco and once in Santa Fe.

We were put in the mood of actual pearl divers with what appeared to be a film of people diving into deep water.  It was instead a kind of Peter Pan harness that looked amazingly realistic.


The famous duet was even more beautiful than I anticipated.  I did not take into account the fabulous conducting of Maestro Noseda.  He brought new lyrical qualities to the entire opera.  This is the most I have liked Mariusz Kwiecien who was perfect in his role.  I have always liked Matthew Polenzani.  Their voices were as perfect together as I thought they would be.

This revival was requested by Diana Damrau.  She brought many qualities to the role of Leola:  wonderful coloratura technique for the coloratura parts and power for the increasingly dramatic requirements as the opera progresses.


This is a big hit in New York.  All are predicting it won't be 100 years before we see it again.

What anyone likes about this opera is the music and the singing, spectacularly well done today.  What anyone doesn't like is the plot.  Leila has been hired to protect the pearl fishers from their constant exposure to the weather.  She is to sit alone by the ocean and sing to the god Brahma.  She fails miserably at this.

Nadir promises his friend Zurga that he has gotten over their mutual interest in Leila, the priestess they both simultaneously fell in love with years before.  Zurga does not similarly make such a promise to Nadir.  This doesn't matter because Nadir is lying.  It is important to notice that Nadir immediately recognizes Leila when he hears her voice, but Zurga does not.  This tells us that only Nadir truly loves her.

Zurga only allows them to escape because of the contrived deus ex machina, this time a giant pearl on a gold necklace.  In this action he betrays the pearl fisher community whom he has sworn to lead.  Because of Leila's inattention, they have been hit by a tsunami, fascinatingly evoked in the projections.  Sometimes Zurga is just left standing there, but sometimes Zurga dies at the end.  For me this works better.

Nadir seems to legitimately love Leila, while Zurga doesn't really make his case.  He is jealous for its own sake.  But what logic forgives Leila?  Would we like it more if Zurga killed them instead?  One can't help wondering.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Bis at La Scala

Nadine Sierra

Opera Bobb tells us:

"Ciao, Opera Mavens. At the end of the La Scala Rigoletto second act last night, the standing ovation audience demanded former Adler Nadine Sierra (Adler 2011-2012) and Leo Nucci repeat the final aria (conducted by SF Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti)."

Nadine is a raging success everywhere these days. For my encounters with her in San Francisco:

Her performance in a Merola final here.
Her Schwabacher debut recital here.
She sings Lucia here.

And now see it for yourself.

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Tantrum

I just found out that the San Francisco Opera lost big on Sweeney Todd.  Nothing could make me happier.  I have always thought San Francisco was a big opera town, one that would not appreciate the dumbing down of the product.  In sharp contrast Die Meistersinger was a success.  Dear management, please learn from this.  Wagner yes.  Sondheim no.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Jonas Kaufmann

I love lists, so here is my list of complete operas with Jonas Kaufmann that I have seen over the years. This is 22 different operas in 30 venues/formats.  They are listed in the order found in the blog.

Fidelio  live in Zurich
La Clemenza di Tito DVD
Fierrabras DVD
Carmen live in Zurich
Carmen DVD
Werther live in Paris
Lohengrin live in Munich
Die Walküre live at the Met
Die Walküre movie from Met
Werther DVD
Faust movie from Met
Nina DVD
Adriana Lecouvreur DVD
Ariadne auf Naxos (original) stream from Salzburg
Königskinder DVD
Parsifal movie from Met
Il Trovatore stream from Munich
Don Carlo stream from Salzburg
La Fanciulla del West film from Vienna
La Forza del Destino stream from Munich
Werther movie from Met
Manon Lescaut movie from Covent Garden
Andrea Chénier
Don Carlo DVD
Cavalleria Rusticana Youtube from Salzburg
I Pagliacci Youtube from Salzburg
Fidelio  Youtube from Zurich
Manon Lescaut stream Munich
Fidelio  stream Salzburg
The Damnation of Faust stream Paris



I saw the first Fidelio quite by accident,  I was in town for Bartoli and had a free evening.  The Carmen in Zurich I flew deliberately to see this on my way to Italy.  By that time I was buying DVDs.

The Paris Werther and the Munich Lohengrin coincided with concerts by Cecilia.  How could I resist?  In both he was marvelous, at his peak.  All three of these operas can be bought commercially.

Then he began appearing in my local movie theater from the Met and streaming from Salzburg and Munich on my computer at home.  Then came movies from The Royal Opera in London.  The Verdi year with Il Trovatore, Don Carlo and La Forza del Destino was thrilling

Jonas is a special singer.  He is beautiful both to look at and to listen to.  He is wonderfully present when he appears on the stage, loving and singing to the women present with him on the stage.  You believe that he loves all three of his Leonoras, his Minnie, his Elisabetta, Lola, Manon and so on.  His diction is wonderfully clear and his phrases never lose their thread.  He is always himself.  His music is always informed by his intelligence.

This year he will appear as a baritone in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

This year we will see Walther from Die Meistersinger. I should do a wish list.  He is the best ever in Carmen, Werther and maybe La Fanciulla del West.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Friday, January 08, 2016

West Edge Summer Festival 2016

WEST EDGE OPERA ANNOUNCES REPERTOIRE FOR 2016 FESTIVAL


November 23, BERKELEY, CA –  West Edge Opera will present its complete 2016 Festival at Oakland’s abandoned Train Station, July 30 through August 14. Under the combined artistic leadership of General/Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky and Music Director Jonathan Khuner, the Festival’s three operas will be Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Thomas Adés’ Powder Her Face, and Handel’s Agrippina. Exact dates, casting and ticket information will be announced at a later date. For more information go to westedgeopera.org or call (510) 841-1903.

A not-for-profit performing arts organization, West Edge Opera (formerly Berkeley Opera) was founded in 1979 by Richard Goodman. Music Director Jonathan Khuner led the company from 1994-2009, when he was joined by Mark Streshinsky as Artistic Director, now General Director. West Edge Opera believes that everyone, regardless of age, circumstance or background, can discover the excitement and relevance of opera in their lives. The company looks at the art form through a new lens, re-imagining tradition to connect with a modern audience and create innovative experiences of the highest quality that respect the original spirit of the work.

This is a press release.