Saturday, June 24, 2017

Emerging Stars Competition

The San Francisco Opera is conducting an emerging stars competition with 14 candidates from this season.  I am arbitrarily dividing them into two categories:

Those who have made their Met debuts
  • Lawrence Brownlee Don Pasquale W-yes 1972 Met-158
  • Leah Crocetto Aida W-no Met-7 
  • Brian Jagde Aida W-yes Met-6 
  • David Pershall Andrea Chanier W-no Met-7 
  • Irene Roberts Dream of the Red Chamber W-no Met-36
  • Heidi Stober Don Pasquale W-no Met-23 
  • Ellie Dehn La Boheme W-no Met-21 
  • Anthony Clark Evans Madama Butterfly W-no Met-14

Those who have not made their Met debuts
  • J’Nai Bridges Andrea Chenier W-no Met-no 
  • Arturo Chacón Cruz La Boheme W-yes 1977 Met-no 
  • Vincenzo Costanzo Madama Butterfly W-no Met-no 
  • Erika Grimaldi La Boheme W-no Met-no 
  • Sarah Shafer Don Giovanni W-no Met-no 
  • Michael Sumuel Don Giovanni W-no Met-no 
I have bolded those I am sure I have seen. My schedule shows that I have not yet seen La Boheme this season.

The number after the Met- refers to the number of entries for that person in the Met archives.  I might think they are all fine singers, but I think any winner of an emerging star contest should have appeared at the Metropolitan Opera already.

I want to object to the inclusion of Lawrence Brownlee on the basis that he is already an established star of very high quality.

Leah Crocetto is a gifted singer and so is Brian Jagde.  Either one would make an excellent winner.

From the list of those who have not yet sung at the Met my favorite is J'Nai Bridges with her gorgeous mezzo voice.

So who is your favorite?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Diana Damrau Meyerbeer

I bought Diana Damrau's new recording Meyerbeer Grand Opera because I am virtually unfamiliar with his work.  In 1988 I saw L'Africaine at the San Francisco Opera with Shirley Verrett and Placido Domingo.  I think this is the only Meyerbeer opera I have seen.

Diana is the perfect soprano for this album with her big voice and spectacular coloratura.  Meyerbeer was the principle composer of French Grand Opera, the dominant form of opera in the middle of the 19th century.  He focused on giant subjects suited for huge spectle.  She is the grandest diva we have today.

We have arias from 10 different operas in three languages.  There is pleasing variety.  For the lover of coloratura it is very highly recommended.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Don Giovanni from San Francisco

     Leporello, Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, Don Ottavio, Don Giovanni

Conductor Marc Minkowski  *
Director Jacopo Spirei

Leporello Erwin Schrott  *
Donna Anna Erin Wall *
Don Giovanni Ildebrando D'Arcangelo *
The Commendatore Andrea Silvestrelli
Don Ottavio Stanislas de Barbeyrac *
Donna Elvira Ana María Martínez
Zerlina Sarah Shafer
Masetto Michael Sumuel

At the San Francisco Opera we have gone suddenly from a performance with 5 Adler Fellows to one with 5 debuts and no Adler Fellows.  The debuts include the great conductor Marc Minkowski, Erwin Schrott and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.  You can see this is something of a big event.

The production and Minkowski's conducting went well together.  Both moved briskly and smoothly from scene to scene with no hesitation.  With these wonderful singers our conductor brought us a masterful performance.  The only problem with the production from our viewpoint in the balcony was that it was filled with shiny screens that reflected the lights from the pit rather than the projected images.  Perhaps something could be done to reduce their shininess.

Schrott and D'Arcangelo are a magnificent pair.  Never was Giovanni such an arrogant asshole, and never was Leporello such a genius of comic timing.  We laughed.

The ladies were also beautiful though very serious.  Erin Wall whom I know from performances at Santa Fe was an elegant Donna Anna.  Ana Maria Martinez who recently sang here in Don Carlo was magnificent and intense as Donna Elvira.  Sarah Shafer made a youthful Zerlina.


It seemed to me that this Don Giovanni was longer than usual, that I was hearing things I didn't usually hear.  The talk seemed longer and more detailed.  So I called the opera, and yes, there were a number of restored recitatives that are usually cut.  Perhaps Minkowski wanted this.  I like that I noticed this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tosca from Vienna

There's a film currently on YT of Tosca from the Wiener Staatsoper with Anja Harteros & Jorge de León. It doesn't tell who the Scarpia is. I wasn't particularly wild about the tenor but very much enjoyed Anja's idea of Tosca. She is the first Tosca I've seen that made you feel you were watching a famous opera singer. It's as though she herself murdered Scarpia. She behaves as though she expected people to be constantly watching her. She is ever self-consciously melodramatic. She moves like an actress. And in act III when she instructs Mario how to die, she demonstrates like a director with a very theatrical fall to the floor. This is the Tosca of imagination.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rigoletto in San Francisco

Conductor Nicola Luisotti
Director Rob Kearley

Rigoletto Quinn Kelsey (Hawaii)
The Duke of Mantua Pene Pati † (New Zealand)
Gilda Nino Machaidze * (Tiblisi, Georgia)
Matteo Borsa Amitai Pati * † (New Zealand)
Countess Ceprano Amina Edris † (New Zealand)
Count Ceprano Anthony Reed † (Minnesota)
Marullo Andrew G. Manea * † (Michigan)
Count Monterone Reginald Smith, Jr. * (Atlanta)
Sparafucile Andrea Silvestrelli (Italy)
Giovanna Buffy Baggott (California)
A page Erin Neff  (California)
An usher Jere Torkelsen (Nebraska)
Maddalena Zanda Švēde  (Latvia)

*San Francisco Opera debut †Current Adler Fellow

I included the entire cast from Verdi's Rigoletto so you could see how many of the cast members were Adler fellows.  In addition Zanda Švēde was Adler 2016, Quinn Kelsey is Merola 2002.  This is just bragging.  Two Georgias are represented, one in eastern Europe, the other in southern US.  And Quinn is native Hawaiian.  This is the present day world of international opera.

I enjoyed this very much.  The production seemed prettier, livelier.  Pene Pati started off a bit slow, but improved as he went along.  His high notes have a spectacular ring.  Nino Machaidze seems to have skipped hers, but was otherwise OK.

One is always searching for the wonderful, glorious portrayal of Rigoletto himself, and we found it today in Quinn Kelsey.  The second act aria was especially beautiful and received a suitable ovation.  This is the role that makes this opera, and Quinn covered the emotional gamut of this complex character.

I keep thinking how much we will miss the maestro.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Eschembach conducts Beethoven's 9th

This is a live stream on of Christoph Eschenbach's final concert as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra.


  • Bright Sheng, Concerto for Orchestra, "Zodiac Tales"
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125

Leah Crocetto Soprano
J'Nai Bridges Mezzo-soprano
Joseph Kaiser Tenor
Soloman Howard Bass

We need Beethoven more than ever.  He was a great soul who told us to walk our paths with joy.  We send a kiss to the whole world.  It always gives me great joy.  Eschenbach is an excellent conductor.  I don't know if a replacement is announced.

The concert can be viewed in delay.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Philip Gossett (September 27, 1941 – June 13, 2017)

I bought Philip Gossett's book Divas and Scholars in 2006 when it was published and immediately started blogging about it in my usual disorganized way.  I liked that he as a musicologist took Cecilia Bartoli's side in the scandal about her aria changes in Le Nozze di Figaro.

He was a musicologist who specialized in Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi, and he supervised the printing of new editions of their complete works.  In Divas and Scholars he writes about musicology in a way that it might be understood by people who are not musicologists.

In October 2006 while he was still in Chicago, I sent him an email about the things I had blogged.  This started a long exchange of email that seems to have ended in 2012.  He sent me some nice things to quote.  He was very kind to me.

I especially enjoyed detecting his influence in Santa Fe at the performance of Maometto II.  The entire performance was wonderful.  And now he has died.  We were similar in age.  For his four composers he has altered the landscape of music. 

When I was a student, the library was full of large books of the complete works of various composers.  Telemann's was perhaps the largest.  The only Italian works in any of these volumes were those that had been performed in German cities.  It appeared that musicology was German.  Today that has all changed, perhaps because of Dr. Gossett.  Italian repertoire is the musicology of today.  Newly discovered Italian opera scores appear regularly.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Carrie Hennesey in Recital

Carrie Hennessey and her accompanist Jason Sherbundy, piano, gave an extremely ambitious recital at Pioneer Church in Sacramento.  I could not help thinking the selections were made for love.

L'Aria di Doretta from Puccini's La Rondine (1917)

In the opera this is a party song and is supposed to be extemporized.  It was the perfect start for this recital of soaring, almost operatic music.

Strauss's Vier letzte Lieder (1949)

"Frühling" (Spring)
"Im Abendrot" [usually last, composed first]
"Beim Schlafengehen" (When Falling Asleep)

I probably have more recordings of these than anything else.  Elisabeth, Jessye, Renee, maybe others.  They are the peak of song repertoire.   The rearrangement was probably done to place two songs with the unique soaring phrases found only here at the beginning and end.  Carrie has her own personal style which adds an extra layer of intensity.

Barber's Knoxville, Summer of 1915  (1947)

The text is by James Agee whose father died in a car accident in 1916.  It seemed to me that this was a perfect choice for the approach to Fathers Day.  I wasn't sure the operatic style exactly suited this, but it was still very moving.

"I want Magic" from Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire (1998)

"Don't turn on that light."  Carrie has played this role and loves this music.

There was an encore:

Rachmaninoff's Vocalise (1915)

After such a difficult concert, one would choose this for an encore.  After the concert was over, we were told that Carrie was sick with a cold.  It is allergy season in Sacramento.  There were tiny indications, but all in all this was very successful.  I put in the dates for the pieces so it would be clear that everything was from the twentieth century.  Wonderful music, terrific singing.  Who says the recital is dead?

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Met in HD Ranked

This is a personal ranking of the Live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD season.  Please remember I missed La Traviata so it is not ranked.  This was truly an excellent season, so things appear toward the bottom of the ranking that were still quite good.
9. I liked least Idomeneo which suffered severely from draggy tempos and a general lack of excitement.  When I saw this in Paris, I don't remember thinking it was so long.  Of Mozart's 2 famous opera seria I generally prefer La Clemenza di Tito.

8. There was nothing exactly wrong with Rusalka, especially since it included the towering performance of Jamie Barton as Jezibaba.  Maybe this opera just isn't my cup of tea.

7. There were here and there some pleasing details in Don Giovanni but nothing fabulous.

6. This was an excellent Nabucco which has the disadvantage of being not the best Verdi.

5. L'Amour de Loin was a welcome modern opera performed well.  I love the music and thought this an excellent production, but the DVD with Dawn Upshaw and Gerald Finley was far better.

4. Roméo et Juliette starred Diana Damrau and Vittorio Grigolo and was very very sexy.

3. Anna Netrebko's performance in Eugene Onegin continues to grow as the years pass.  I was sorry not to see Dmitri but found this version excellent.

2. I was deeply moved by Tristan und Isolde, a first for me.

1. This was the Der Rosenkavalier of a lifetime.  I'm going to need to see this again.  There were some spectacular characterizations in this cast.

Many will want to rearrange these.

Sunday, June 04, 2017


The topic of pointillism came up in a conversation in Facebook, so I thought I would do a blog post.

Pointillism started out as an art term and refers to what Georges Seurat was doing with little dots.  Each dot seems to have nothing to do with those around it.  When you stand back from the painting, there is a picture.

Music adopted this word to mean that in twentieth century music each individual note seems to have nothing to do with those around it.  Emphasis is on the word "seems."   In the Schoenberg school Klangfarbenmelodie [tone color melody] is said to represent this.  It looks very strange on an orchestral score, but when played, sounds like a tune with a lot of different instrumental colors.

I'm only familiar with the term applied to melodic lines designed for opera singers.  Traditionally a melody is constructed from notes similar in pitch.  A pointillistic melody jumps around to different far apart pitches, sometimes in different octaves and was a significant feature of modernist opera.

This aria from Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre is the best example I could find.

John Adams jettisoned most of modernism for Nixon in China, but he kept the jumping around in pitch.  This example is minimalism.

Do these examples still have melodies?  Decide for yourself.  As you were.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Ariodante in Salzburg

Speechless.  I wish I was going, but I just bought a car....

Another picture.

Sorry, I can't get enough of this.

Apparently it's a hit.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Selfie of the Week no Month no Year

This one is very sexy, so I moved it up.


Enough.  Maybe.

It is pleasing how much she is enjoying this. I am made merry hearing her in an interview saying that she would like to sing Don Giovanni. If that happens, I promise to fly.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


It has occurred to me that the annual KK awards need to include a best performance by a female and best performance by a male awards.  Or maybe soprano, mezzo, tenor, baritone/bass would work.

My favorite news of the week is that Der Rosenkavalier live from the Met in HD made the top 10 on the international movie charts.  

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Keith Bohm Recital

Saxophonist Keith Bohm played a recital at Crocker Art Museum today with pianist John Cozza.  I found the selected repertoire extremely entertaining.  A few comments.

Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1959) by Lawson Lunde (b.1935)

This American composer has written for children's shows.  This piece is in three movements and is very tonal.

Night Bird (1996) by Karen Tanaka (b. 1961)

This Japanese composer has brought us a piece in one movement for recorded synthesizer and live saxophone.  The synthesized part sounds very dark and forbidding.  It didn't say "bird" to me, but I still enjoyed it.

Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (1965-70) by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992)

This Argentine composer was the only one that I had heard of.  To summarize this is the four seasons of Buenos Aires in the form of a tango for saxophone and piano.  Fun and exciting.  It will not make you think of Vivaldi.

Improvisation 1 pour Saxophone Alto seul (1972) by Ryo Noda (b. 1948)

This is also a Japanese composer who has written an improvisation for solo saxophone.  They put up the lid on the piano for this.  Keith explained this at some length.  It involves various kinds of technical tricks such as different types of tonguing. At the end Keith turns and plays into the piano, and we notice that John is holding down the sustain pedal.  I know improvisation was popular for a while, but I don't know if it still is.

Rumba (1949) by Maurice C Whitney (1909-1985)

We are informed that rumba is one of the mainstays of saxophone literature.  The piano is back for this piece of South American rhythm by an American composer.

The variety of styles on display was attention grabbing.  My favorite was probably the tango four seasons.  The recital isn't dead.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Thank You

This is the moment in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, live in HD from the Metropolitan Opera, at the end of Act I when Renée Fleming looks out into the auditorium and thinks this is perhaps the last time. 

Octavian.....................Elīna Garanča
Princess von Werdenberg...Renée Fleming
Baron Ochs...................Günther Groissböck
Sophie.......................Erin Morley
Faninal......................Markus Brück
Annina.......................Helene Schneiderman
Valzacchi...................Alan Oke
Italian Singer.............Matthew Polenzani

Conductor....................Sebastian Weigle
Production...................Robert Carsen

The time has been moved to 1912 when the opera was first performed, just before WWII.  All the men are soldiers.  There were many special moments in this Rosenkavalier, but I especially liked when the Marschallin sings "Wenn ich auch an ein Maedel errinnern, die frisch aus dem Kloster bis in die heiligen..." and she goes over to the chest containing the rose, takes it out and remembers that once the rose arrived for her.  I have never seen this business before.  I saw my first Renée Fleming Marschallin in 2000 in San Francisco and find her characterization was deeper and more serious than before.  I also loved that at the end she takes the arm of the police sergeant, moving on to her next lover it would seem.  I can only describe her as magnificent.

I didn't agree with every detail, but the richness of texture of this production filled my heart to overflowing.  Der Rosenkavalier holds a special place in my heart, and this one has risen to the top. 

Günther Groissböck was Ochs in Salzburg in 2014.  He adds many layers of depth to this character.

And our Italian singer was none other than Enrico Caruso.

This moment in the second act was also perfection, though of the more traditional sort.  Octavian leans over to smell the Persian attar of roses, looks up at Sophie and instantly falls in love.  I first heard Erin Morley in King Roger in Santa Fe where she was wonderful.  Her Sophie is much more than a mere soubrette and adds soaring lines.  Her acting is also more complex than usual.

When I saw her in duets with Anna Netrebko, I did not imagine that our Latvian mezzo would turn out to be such a wonderful actress.  She was simply spectacular.  I'm having a hard time finding the words for something that exceeded my wildest imaginings.  She threw herself so gleefully into Mariandel.

We finished with a spectacularly glorious trio.  Thank you, Peter Gelb, Metropolitan Opera, Günther Groissböck, Erin Morley, Renée Fleming, and most of all Elīna Garanča for a wonderful memory.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Big News

The news for this summer at the San Francisco Opera is that drinks will be allowed in the auditorium during the performance.  Too many opera people see opera in movie theaters these days.

Sunday, May 07, 2017


Orgon:  Justin Ramm-Damron, bass
Madame Pernelle, his mother:  Paige Kelly, mezzo-soprano
Elmire, his wife: Nicole James, soprano
Damis, his son:  Jordan Krack, baritone
Mariane, his daughter:  Tatiana Grabciuc, soprano
Valere, Mariane's fiance:  Robert Vann, tenor
Dorine, maid:  Gia Battista, soprano
Flipote, maid:  Juanita Iniguez
Tartuffe:  Walter Aldrich, baritone

CSUS opera workshop presented Kirke Mechem's Tartuffe.  Wikipedia says this opera premiered on May 27, 1980, at the San Francisco Opera, though there is no mention of it in the archive and I was a season ticket holder at the time.  My memory consultant says this would have been Spring Opera, a second tier company that existed at the time.  It is a number opera with arias and ensembles, and makes an excellent opera for an opera workshop because many of the roles have musical substance.  Our performance was accompanied by a full orchestra from VITA Academy conducted by Brian O'Donnell.  The theater department provided the production, as was always the case in my day.

The picture above looks a lot like our Tartuffe except ours had much thinner legs.  This was fully staged and not semi-staged as advertised.  Dorine is a distinctively Despina-like character who gives advice and noses in on pretty much everything.

The opera is after the play by Molière which is subtitled "The hypocrite."  He pretends virtue while conning people out of their wives and goods.  It was censored by Louis XIV to please his archbishop. 

Orgon is fascinated by the very virtuous Tartuffe whom he sees at mass.  Then he invites him to live in his house.  Everyone in Orgon's family hates Tartuffe.  Orgon announces that Mariane will marry Tartuffe which brings the action to a head.  It has a happy ending.

It would have benefited from some improved diction but was fun.  The composer was clearly interested in writing music for operatic singers, something that is not all that common in the post-Puccini world.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Sorochyntsi Fair

Mussorgsky's Sorochyntsi Fair from the Komische Oper Berlin is brought to us by the Opera Platform.  The librettto is by Mussorgsky on a story by Gogol.  It was unfinished when Mussorgsky died and was finished by Vissarion Shebalin?  I see.  There are several versions, and this is the one chosen by Komische Oper.

Cherevik bass: Jens Larsen
Khivrya, Cherevik’s wife mezzo-soprano:  Agnes Zwierko
Parasya, Cherevik’s daughter, Khivrya’s stepdaughter soprano:  Mirka Wagner
Kum, Gritsko's father bass-baritone: Tom Erik Lie
Gritsko, a peasant lad, boy friend tenor:  Alexander Lewis
Afanasiy Ivanovich, a priest’s son, wife's lover tenor: Ivan Turšić
The gypsy bass:   Hans Gröning
Intermezzo (Shebalin edition) Chornobog bass:  Carsten Sabrowski

Music director - Henrik Nánási
Director - Barrie Kosky

Gritsko and Parasya meet at the fair.  Papa decides that since he is the son of a friend, they should marry.  Mama thinks this is ridiculous. The parents go home and quarrel.  Mama sings.  Her lover arrives but has to hide when other people arrive.

You thought this was going to be a typical love story, but no.  The devil has lost his red jacket, and eventually the whole story turns to this.  Famously, A Night on Bare Mountain is embedded as a dream sequence, here staged as a pigs banquet.  Surrounding the dream are portions of the Songs and Dances of Death.  (I did them once.)

The daughter, missing since the opening scene, returns to sing.  Then dance.  Everything works out for the best.  The music is gorgeous, and the story is fun.  The quality of work in German theater is excellent.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Anna Netrebko, the one and only

Die Netrebko treibt es bunt in den USA

This is news in the German press.  She went to Calgary for a concert and bought cowboy clothes.  Then she went to LA for another concert and wore her cowboy clothes to the Hollywood walk of fame.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

La Traviata in Sacramento

Conductor: Jose Luis Gomez
Violetta Valéry: Lyric soprano Jennifer Black
Giorgio Germont:  baritone Sol Jin
Alfredo Germont: tenor Yongzhao Yu

To finish the 2016-17 season of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera we were presented Verdi's La Traviata.  We were worried about whether or not it would be staged or cut.  I was pleased to see that the carnival music in the last scene was cut to just a few lines.  Otherwise the score seemed virtually in tact.

There was no set except a single stuffed green chair, but the acting was played out in full in the small area in front of the orchestra.  Since my seat is in the fifth row, I enjoyed this very much.  It is wonderful to sit so close to the performers.  I always say the best seat at an opera is on the stage.

We found that this was very successful thanks to the above named performers.  Our conductor faced and conducted his players with great skill and familiarity with the score.  He seemed never to look at the singers.  They in turn never looked at him.  See.  I keep saying this is possible.  One sings with the music.  It felt like a fully realized performance.  Minor characters were filled by members of the chorus who held book.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves.

This opera belongs to Violetta and rises or falls with her.  Our soprano Jennifer Black paced herself beautifully.  It is a long and arduous role.  Her phrasing was very beautiful and she died in style.  That turned out to be the purpose of the green chair.  She had a different gown for each scene.

We were lucky to hear Sol Jin, probably the only one ready for the big time.  His voice and his gravitas were perfect for Giorgio Germont.  He also provided the only small piece of comedy when Violetta sat on his hat.

Now is the place for some small comments.  The current management of this group receives most of its advice from people who manage instrumental ensembles.  Opera for them is just another concert.  I continue my seat, but I was here for opera.  They seem to spend more energy on pops concerts.  This makes me sad.

I have decided to write a post script.

My professional career, such as it was, did not include repertoire from the bel canto, unless you count Maddalena in Rigoletto.  I was what used to be called a low and slow.  I sang in an era when Handel was still performed unornamented.  However, my library does include the standard cadenza book.  I learned Azucena but was probably not heavy enough for her.

I noticed that our soprano left out the cadenza and the high note.  This is, however, Sacramento, and I was hesitant to make a fuss about it.  I suppose the question at issue here is was it her fault because she wanted to save her energy for what remained of the role, or was a cadenza simply impossible when neither the conductor nor the singer are looking at one another.

So what do I actually think if I don't care about negative reactions?  I found that our conductor had conducted opera (Mozart e.g.) but not necessarily bel canto.  So perhaps his background is as weak as mine.  What would normally happen in a concert performance is when singer and orchestra get to the cadenza, the conductor would turn toward the singer and follow her home.  I reject absolutely that she should stare at him and in any way follow him.  You cannot do the cadenza and accompanying high note to maximum effect without just letting it go.  He should turn around and see what she is doing, although he may feel free to ignore her most of the rest of the time.  In our performance I didn't notice that he ever turned around.  It exists as a possibility that he was unaware there was something he was supposed to be doing.

I don't always want to point out every flaw in a performance.  The problem I am having with the organization reviewed here is that no one currently associated with it knows anything at all about opera.  When the staff included opera people, tv monitors were placed at useful locations around the house.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Rameau’s Le Temple de la Gloire

Le temple de la Gloire (The Temple of Glory) is an opéra-ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau with a libretto by Voltaire.  This is all rather well explained in the Mercury News.  This performance by Philharmonia Baroque and the New York Baroque Dance Company was of the 1746 version in a prelude and 3 acts.

Gabrielle Philiponet, soprano:  Arsine, Une prêtresse, Plautine
Chantal Santon-Jeffery, soprano:  Lydie, Une bacchante
Camille Ortiz-Lafont, soprano:  Une bergère, Érigone, Junie
Artavazd Sargsyan, haute-contre:  Un Berger, Bacchus
Aaron Sheehan, haute-contre:  Apollon, Trajan
Philippe-Nicolas Martin, baritone:  Bélus, Un guerrier
Marc Labonnette, baritone:  L'Envie, Grand prêtre
Caroline Copeland, principal dancer.

Nicholas McGegan, conductor
New York Baroque Dance Company, Catherine Turocy, director
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director
Catherine Turocy, stage director and choreographer

This is a large and complex undertaking.  There is at least as much dancing as singing.  There are three supplicants to enter the temple of glory:   Bélus, a conqueror who forces the kings he has defeated to carry him in on a sedan chair; Bacchus who celebrates love and wine; and the emperor Trajan, who forgives and releases those he has conquered.  Only Trajan is deemed worthy.  We are viewing Voltaire's outlook on virtue.  I understand it to have been a failure because it did not enjoy the king's approval.

This is something that modern commercial opera productions simply don't do--an attempt at an authentic reproduction of a Rameau theatrical work as it would have been presented at the time.  A modern company like the Santa Fe Opera will make the frog Queen look as much like a real frog as possible, such as in Platée here.  Or Glyndebourne will stage his characters inside a refrigerator, such as in Hippolyte et Aricie here.  Or the Bayerische Staatsoper will choreograph break dancing, such as in Les Indes Galantes here.  So an attempt to show something as it might possibly have been in the eighteenth century is a rare treat. The period style dancing was pleasant to see.  A peak part of the dance experience was when someone danced an ostrich in the Bacchus act.

The music still sounded very sweet and nothing like Handel.

The stage is well populated and the stories complex and a bit hard to follow.  There is an intended political message.  Our kings should be seeking more than their own glorification.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


There is a meme going around on Facebook where you list singers you have seen but one of them is a lie.  This always reminds me of September, 1980, at the San Francisco Opera where I saw Strauss' Die Frau ohne Schatten.   The program says "Place and Time:  Legendary"  Indeed.

The Emperor (Der Kaiser) tenor James King
The Empress (Die Kaiserin) high dramatic soprano Leonie Rysanek
Barak, the Dyer (Barak, der Färber) bass-baritone Gerd Feldhoff
The Dyer's Wife (Die Färberin) high dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson

It was utterly spectacular, a peak experience.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Not a Selfie

It looks like a Rolex ad.  It is for me.  I haven't seen this film before.  It's from 1995

Das Lied von der Erde

Anyone would want to sing "Der Abschied."  I used to play it in piano reduction even with my pathetic keyboard skills just for the joy of making this music.  It's one of the great things.  So it isn't hard to understand why Jonas Kaufmann would want to.  Perhaps he reads the idiotic comments where people tell him he's a baritone.  He isn't.

So this is sort of a stunt recording of Mahler's Synphony Das Lied von der Erde (1909).  It is important to remember that the expected voicing is tenor and alto.  I like Janet Baker.

Don't get the wrong idea.  I love Jonas Kaufmann, but I think it is the operatic dramatic tenor Jonas Kaufmann that I most love.  Here we have Jonas in his two most prominent incarnations:  Verdi tenor and pop song crooner.  Alternating.  His renditions of the tenor movements are great.  His renditions of the alto movements aren't.  He isn't a baritone because he doesn't achieve any intensity in the baritone tessitura, and he can't really do the low notes.  Sorry.  It's pleasant but not thrilling.

Die liebe Erde allüberall blüht auf im Lenz und grünt
Aufs neu!

Bayerische Staatsoper 2017-18

This is the complete season.  The ones with dates in front have already been live streamed in the year shown.  The ones with "pre" in front are the premieres that are scheduled.  The live streams usually come from this list.  The cast for Parsifal is very distinguished.

2014 Strauss, R.: Die Schweigsame Frau
2015 Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore
2015 Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
2015 Strauss, R.: Arabella
2016 Donizetti: La Favorite
2016 Schostakowitsch: Lady Macbeth von Mzensk
2016 Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera
2017 Giordano: Andrea Chénier
2017 Rossini: Semiramide
2017 Schreker: Die Gezeichneten
pre Haydn:  Orlando Paladino
pre Janacek:  From the House of the Dead
pre Mozart:  Le Nozze di Figaro
pre Puccini:  Il Trittico Eva-Maria Westbroek, Ermonela Jaho, Pavol Breslik 
pre Verdi:  Les Vêpres siciliennes  Bryan Hymel
pre Wagner:  Parsifal Kaufmann, Stemme, Pape, Gerhaher, Erraught

Bizet: Carmen Ailyn Pérez, Anita Rachvelishvili, Elīna Garanča 

Boito: Mefistofele

Cavalli: La Calisto Anna Bonitatibus 

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia Edita Gruberova 

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Mozart: Così fan tutte Ailyn Pérez, Tara Erraught, Thomas Hampson

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail Lisette Oropesa

Puccini: La bohème

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

Puccini: Tosca Anja Harteros

Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Rossini: Il Turco in Italia Olga Peretyatko 

Rossini: La Cenerentola

Strauß, J.: Die Fledermaus

Strauss, R.: Ariadne auf Naxos

Strauss, R.: Der Rosenkavalier Adrianne Pieczonka, Angela Brower

Verdi: La traviata

Verdi: Macbeth

Verdi: Rigoletto

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer Adrianne Pieczonka 

From the standard repertoire I will quote my standing request to see Die FledermausLa Calisto would be fun to see, and I would definitely enjoy seeing Adrianne Pieczonka in Der Rosenkavalier and Anja Harteros in Tosca

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dido and Aeneas

Christopher Hogwood conductor
Wayne McGregor choreography, stage director

Lucy Crowe (Belinda)
Sarah Connolly (Dido)
Anita Watson (Second Woman)
Lucas Meachem (Aeneas)
Sara Fulgoni (Sorceress)
Eri Nakamura (First Witch)
Pumeza Matshikiza (Second Witch)
Iestyn Davies (Spirit)
Ji-Min Park (Sailor)

There is a film of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas on which can be viewed through Amazon prime. I performed the spirit as a freshman in college and am always surprised by the level of detail I can remember.  Except now everyone does ornaments that are not in the score.  I doubt sincerely that they are extemporized.

Lucy Crowe and Sarah Connolly are worth the visit.  One of the odd features of this performance is that the First Witch and Second Witch are portrayed as Siamese twins joined at the side. 

Since I left college, I have only seen this opera staged by choreographers.  It would be nice to see it done as an opera.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Eugene Onegin from the Metropolitan Opera

The Prince and Princess Gremin

Eugene Onegin...... Peter Mattei
Tatiana.................Anna Netrebko
Lensky..................Alexey Dolgov
Olga....................Elena Maximova
Prince Gremin......Stefan Kocán
Larina..................Elena Zaremba
Filippyevna, nanny....Larissa Diadkova
Triquet.................Tony Stevenson

Conductor...............Robin Ticciati
Production..............Deborah Warner

Today was the Metropolitan Opera Live in HD presentation of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin starring Mattei and Netrebko.  This was the third HD presentation of this opera and the second of this production.  I had no sense that I was seeing a repeat.

This time the production seemed perfect.  The first two acts are clearly in a country villa with villagers and land owners.  Larina, Lensky, Olga, Tatiana and Onegin represent the latter.

Every role was cast to perfection.  Tony Stevenson did a star turn singing the couplets at Tatiana's birthday party.  Larissa Diadkova is very attentive as Tatiana's nanny.  Olga and her mother were wonderfully sung by the two Elenas.  Alexey Dolgov as Lensky was perfection as the too immature man who simply assumes Olga is his forever and does not know what to do when Onegin flirts with her.  We will have to read the novel if we want to know what happens to Olga.  Stefan Kocán seems a little young for Gremin but sang beautifully.

But it is the amazing acting of Anna Netrebko and Peter Mattei that brings this opera thrillingly to life.  Anna has gone deeper into the character this time with astounding results.  Peter portrays arrogance and ennui better than any of his predecessors, and then caps his performance with an intense finish.

Here he appears at a party in St. Petersburg in the third act.

It is an opera about love.  I often think that I am happier in my old age because I no longer feel inclined to fall in love.  It is far better to watch others suffer at the opera.  This performance was a level of theatrical and musical achievement that comes only rarely.  Bravi.

Renée Fleming was our hostess.  In two weeks we will see her in Der Rosenkavalier.  We hope that isn't the last time we see her.


Comment from Stefan Kocán on Facebook:

"Dear my facebook friends ,
I just like to say one thing about Gremin.
He is NOT old!
At the end of opera is Onegin 26, [this is in the dialog.] Tatyana let's say 20-22 (?) and Gremin is around/after 30.
Gremin in his aria only refers to an old man and to a young boy in the bloom of youth...
That means the staging of the MET didn't felt short! ...but totally in accordance with Pushkin and Tchaikovsky potrayed Gremin as an adult ( not anymore boy) man with an war experience."

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Di tanti palpiti

I am currently on something of a Kasarova jag.  Note:  she crosses herself in the Russian style before starting the main part of the aria.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Nadine Sierra wins Richard Tucker Prize

The winner of this year's Richard Tucker Prize has been announced, and it is Nadine Sierra.  She and I have a history.  In 2010 at the Merola Finale she was the only one I praised.  In 2012 I reviewed her Schwabacher Debut Recital and said, "She is strong in the thing that for me counts most:  expression."  I also praised her technique and her facility with languages.  I've seen her live in San Francisco in Le Nozze di Figaro and Lucia di Lammermoor.  Summary:  she's a wonderful young singer we can enjoy for a long time.  Congratulations.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Bach's Matthew Passion from Berlin

Sir Simon Rattle, conductor
Petter Sellars, staging

Mark Padmore Tenor (Evangelist),
Christian Gerhaher Bass (Jesus),
Camilla Tilling Soprano,
Magdalena Kožená Mezzo-Soprano (Musician),
Topi Lehtipuu Tenor (Arias),
Thomas Quasthoff Baritone (Arias)

This is the way I like it.  The continuo sounds like a synthesizer which I can take or leave.  Sorry, I like a real orchestra like the Berliner Philharmoniker.  I like a fairly big chorus and lots of emotional intensity.  Peter Sellars adds the element of movement to further intensify the emotion.  Padmore and Kozena are the best for this. This is Jesus as everyman, I guess.  He stands high over the others and is growing on me.

You know it's working when your heart swells.  I want to be clear.  One has never seen a staged Matthew Passion before, but one does not mind it.  It's interesting that the various characters of the drama interact with the evangelist, not Jesus.  Everyone is memorized, like an opera.

The ear is cut off.  Jesus is taken.  The chorus runs off into the audience, children enter and everyone sings from around the house.  I have been here and think it would be a joy to experience this.  Part of the fun is to watch Simon Rattle.

I love it very much.  Of course, nothing is so wonderful as to sing it.  This is Easter for me.

Magdalena will now sing the most beautiful aria ever written while kneeling.  My heart is full.  Here we sit down and cry.  They do this.  Matthew has written a wonderful story which is the more vivid with this glorious music and acting.

It plays still today, Monday.  There are no titles.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

All Who Wander

Jamie Barton won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 2013, including the Song Prize.  Then in 2015 she won the Richard Tucker Prize.  This cannot help but arouse ones curiosity.  So I bought her recording.

Mahler: [sung in German]

Rückert Lieder:
No. 1. Ich atmet' einen linden Duft
No. 2. Liebst du um Schönheit
No. 3. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder
No. 4. Um Mitternacht
No. 5. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 2: No. 2. Ich ging mit Lust
Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 1: No. 2. Erinnerung
Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, Book 3: No. 3. Scheiden und Meiden

Dvořák:  [sung in Czech]

Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104:
No. 1. Má píseň zas mi láskou zní
No. 2. Aj! Kterak trojhranec můj přerozkošně zvoní
No. 3. A les je tichý kolem kol
No. 4. Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala
No. 5. Struna naladěna
No. 6. Široké rukávy a široké gatě
No. 7. Dejte klec jestřábu ze zlata ryzého

Sibelius:  [sung in Finnish]

Svarta rosor (Black Roses)
Säv, säv, susa (Reed, Reed, Rustle)
Flickan kom ifran sin alsklings mote (The girl returned from meeting her lover)
Kyssens hopp (Kiss's Hope)
Marssnon (The March Snow)
Var det en dröm? (Was it a dream?)

I suppose I enjoyed the Mahler most because I speak German and her diction is excellent.  And the Rückert Lieder are the most famous pieces on the album.  Some of the Dvořák also sounded familiar, but the Sibelius did not.

Why would you want this?  Because Jamie has one of the most beautiful dark mezzo voices I have ever heard, because she sings every song with great intelligence.  Every note is just as you would want it to be.  If you are charmed by beauty, listen to this.

Could we have more Mahler, please?

Friday, April 14, 2017

For Rosenkavalier

From the moment I knew it existed I have loved it more than all the others.  I can see vividly in my mind’s eye standing before the student ushering sign-up sheet for the San Francisco Opera and having no idea what to see.  My fellow students said “Der Rosenkavalier.”  As one.  I also remember vividly sitting in the aisle on the right side of the balcony circle, feeling like a voyeur as Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Kirsten Meier sang their love scene on the bed.

I remember holding the program under the lights that shine onto the stairs.  WTF.  I didn’t swear in those days.  It seemed more real than any theatrical performance I had ever seen.  The Schwarzkopf loomed large over this role.  I was hooked.