Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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 medici.tv 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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Ying Quartet

You could call them The Ying String Quartet, I suppose.  They started out as a family enterprise, but now the first violinist is not a family member.  They are Janet Ying (violin), Phillip Ying (viola), Robin Scott (violin), and David Ying (cello).  For our final New Millennium Concert Series program at Sacramento State we enjoyed this excellent quartet.  They are my favorite of the recent chamber music groups I have heard.

String Quartet No. 2 in D Major (1881) by Alexander Borodin
This piece sounds familiar because a couple of the movements provided source material for the musical Kismet.  It's also just very beautiful music from the high Romantic.

String Quartet No. 2 in F Major Op. 92 (1941) by Sergei Prokofiev
This is pleasingly modern but not too modern since it's based on Russian folk tunes.

Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No 3 (1808) by Beethoven
This is one of the Razumovsky string quartets commissioned by a Russian Prince Razumovsky, thus continuing the Russian theme of the concert.

The selection of repertoire is part of what made this concert particularly pleasing, along with the beautiful romantic playing.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Michael Fabiano at Mondavi

I went out in the pouring rain to see Michael Fabiano at Mondavi in Davis. His accompanist was Laurent Philippe.  He said they'd been working together 12 years.  We were seated at small tables on the stage.  This is an enjoyable intimate arrangement.

I have seen Michael live at the San Francisco Opera in Lucrezia Borgia, Luisa Miller, and Don Carlo.  In 2014 I predicted he would win the Richard Tucker Prize, and he did.  That was fun.  Next season in SF he will sing in Manon opposite Nadine Sierra, and at the Met next season he will simulcast in La Boheme.

I got the impression that Michael very much loves his chosen repertoire for this recital.

Four songs by Puccini (Italian)

Four songs by Duparc (French)
    Duparc is not performed nearly enough.  These were virtually theatrical performances.

An aria: "Ne pouvant reprimer les elans" from Hérodiade by Massenet. (French)

Five songs by Toscanini (Italian)
    Who knew Toscanini composed?

"Kuda, Kuda, kuda" Lensky's aria from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky (Russian)
     This is very timely since it is currently playing at the Met.

Three songs by Barber, including "I hear an army" for a rousing finish.  (English)

He is a serious artist and does not hesitate to use his operatic voice in song repertoire when suitable.  It was very much worth the trip.  There were two encores:

Duparc's "La vie anterieure" (French)
'Lamento di Federico' from Cilea's L'arlesiana (Italian)


Selfie of the Week

Thursday, April 06, 2017

New Millennium Faculty, Alumni and Friends Gala

I went last night to the Gala night at CSU Sacramento where Bach, Pilss, Liszt and Mendelssohn were played.

The Liszt was from Années de pèlerinage.  Pianists love Liszt, if they can play him, and Renee Pajer seemed to be enjoying herself.  We singers were puzzling to remember the name of the Liszt song we loved and finally came up with "Oh, Quand Je Dors."

In 2009 I preferred Barbara Bonney.  But this amazing rendition by Beverly Sills is stunning.

I digress.  Faculty members Anna Presler, Andrew Luchansky and Eric Zivian, played a gorgeous Piano Trio No 1 by Mendelssohn.  This was wonderful to hear, the highlight of my musical week.  I would definitely like to hear more of this group.

I reserve the right to make whatever irrelevant remarks I wish when reviewing.

Or perhaps this.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Orphée et Eurydice

My education with regard to Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice is woefully inadequate.  In part to compensate for this I have purchased this DVD of Orphée et Eurydice starring Vesselina Kasarova.  The other reason was to see more of Kasarova.

This is the version created by Hector Berlioz for Pauline Viardot, making it a legitimate vehicle for a star like Kasarova.  The role in Italian was written for a castrato, and in French it is often sung by a haute-contre (French high tenor).  Only since 1950 has the role been taken by a countertenor.  At Glimmerglass I saw Michael Maniaci who bills as a male soprano.

The curious feature of this production is the genderless costuming.  Whatever style is on display, it is worn by both males and females.  I've always wondered what this would be like.  At first everyone is dressed in men's tuxedos.  The fires of hell are tended by laborers in bakers' hats. Then we see Greek outfits which look a bit odd on the men.  Then back to tuxedos.

An annoyingly large amount of time in this not that long opera is consumed by ballet.  If you are French, this probably is not a problem.  The chorus mimes an orchestra.  Vesselina does not play her violin, but she sings and acts gloriously.  To fully understand why Berlioz would make such an arrangement for Viardot requires that you see such a towering performer in the role of Orphée.  It is a tour de force.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

American Bach Soloists do Bach Motets

Bach: Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir

Bach: Komm, Jesu, komm
Bach: Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf 
Bach: Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt 
Bach: Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied

Jeffrey Thomas conductor

The program was filled out with 2 other recently attributed motets and 2 trio sonatas.

Usually I have no complaints about the Davis Community Church where American Bach Soloists hold their concerts, but unfortunately the stage portion of the church is too small to allow for the double chorus effect to be heard.  A comparison was made to San Marco in Venice, a giant space with amazing acoustics where the two choruses could be widely separated.  The reference is due to the fact that the multiple chorus idea was invented at San Marco.  So all we could experience was seeing their mouths move.

Elizabeth Blumenstock and Jude Ziliak played violin in trio sonata BWV 525 to pleasing effect.  I was not able to understand why a violin and an oboe were the treble voices in BWV 226.

I came because I had never heard any of these motets played before.  I remember studying Singet dem Herrn in school.  They are of widely varying interest and quality.  Some are iffy attributions.  Choosing to play all of them on one program would have to do with generating a CD, probably.  Every motet was accompanied by continuo and a small group of treble instruments.  I think I had a different expectation not based on current musicology.

Singet dem Herrn is a glorious piece, wildly contrapuntal in places, much admired by Mozart.  Jauchzet dem Herrn seemed to involve Telemann with fascinating, almost operatic ornamentation, and seemed much too Italian for Bach.  Telemann is much more Rococo than the strictly high Baroque of Bach. Fürchte dich nicht had the most noticeable antiphonal effects.

I enjoy more varied programming.

Monday, April 03, 2017


My apologies for not posting an April Fools joke.  There were a couple of good ones.

Jessica Duchen said that the London Philharmonic Orchestra was moving to Hamburg.

And then there was this excellent post on Facebook by Gabriela Jacqueline:

Some breaking news from the Met Opera Site! I am surprised that no one here has mentioned it! I just read that Andre Rieu will be Guest Conductor for the next Season of the Met!!!!!!!!
He will conduct 10 different Operas and the women of the Met Opera Orchestra will have to wear the fairy tell dresses that the women of Andre's orchestra always wear at his concerts!
And the shocking news is that (I am shocked that no one has mentioned it yet!) Andre Rieu and Peter Gelb decided to cancel Norma as opening season performance and instead, they will do Lloyd Webber's "Evita"!

My own surprise was that I would sing the lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical  Sunset Boulevard!  I am ready for my closeup. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Idomeneo in HD

Idomeneo, King of Crete:  Matthew Polenzani
Idamante, his son:  Alice Coote
Ilia, princess from Troy:  Nadine Sierra
Elettra, princess from Argos:  Elza van den Heever
Arbace:  Alan Opie
High Priest:  Noah Baetge
Voice of Neptune:  Eric Owens

Conductor...................James Levine
Production..................Jean-Pierre Ponnelle

Eric Owens was also the host for the Metropolitan Opera HD presentation of Mozart's opera seria Idomeneo, composed when Mozart was only 24.  It is very much in the traditional Neapolitan style of endless da capo arias.

Idomeneo has sworn to Neptune that if he lives through a storm at sea, he will sacrifice the first person he sees on the shore to him.  He lives.  He walks down the stage already lamenting the death to come when his son Idamante approaches him.  The plot has the best possible ending.  Idomeneo does not kill his son but instead cedes his kingdom to him.  Opera seria usually has happy endings.

It was as long as Tristan and did not start early.  A lovely film of a much younger James Levine coaching Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle in Ariadne auf Naxos was inserted between acts II and III.  I miss them.  It was nice to see them, but this added to the length of the performance.

The camera showed Levine conducting the Mozart overture today, and I thought his movements looked much better than the last time I saw him.  This didn't help the draggy tempos. There needed to be cuts.  By the third act it all began to seem tedious.  I think we are in a period where people refuse to cut anything.

People have jumped on Elza van den Heever for her manic performance, but I found her refreshing and the highlight of the program.  I always love Nadine Sierra, and she was outstanding here.  There were three tenors, but none of them were in the Mozart tenor tradition.  We had big singing and intense drama from all of them, especially our hero Matthew Polenzani.  Perhaps Alan Opie is considered a baritone, but this role was on the high side.  The only disappointment was Alice Coote who seemed out of sorts.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Rosa Ponselle sings Casta diva

She was the Norma for her time.  I posted this because it is the model for Casta Diva even for Callas.  It is a level of quality in phrasing that is seldom heard today. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Andrea Chénier from Munich

Conductor: Omer Meir Wellber
Production: Philipp Stölzl

Andrea Chénier, a poet tenor: Jonas Kaufmann
Carlo Gérard, a servant baritone: Luca Salsi
Maddalena di Coigny, soprano: Anja Harteros
Bersi, Mulattin, her maid mezzo-soprano: J'Nai Bridges
La comtesse di Coigny mezzo-soprano : Doris Soffel

They layered every nuance for us to see at the Bayerische Staatsoper for Giordano's Andrea Chénier.  Above is how we generally viewed the sets.  Below is closer to what the audience saw.

The production made frequent use of split  pictures.  In the opening party scene we see the household staff laboring below stairs while the party goes on upstairs.  When the revolutionaries arrive, we see people from the below stairs staff among them.  When Andrea and Maddalena are preparing to die, we see the guillotine just above them.  The last thing shown is the blade falling.  In the task of explaining the action this production was excellent.

This is a play about patriotism and class resentment.  It started to sound familiar.  The central character is actually Carlo Gérard who tries to stand on both sides of the conflict.  He is for the revolution and overthrowing the aristocracy, but he also loves the family he served.  He is the truly honorable but conflicted man.  Each speaks of how he loves his country.

The artistry of the performers set fire to this opera.  It is an opera about one of the most violent periods in western history.  But somehow before today it has never had a sufficient effect. From "La mamma morta" to "Vicino a te" it blazed to ever more emotional intensity.  Opera should set fire to your heart, and this one did.  Bravi.

La Voix humaine

Anna Caterina Antonacci and her accompanist Donald Sulzen presented a program of French vocal music at the Taube Atrium Theater in the Veterans Building.  The first half of the program was a selection of French songs done in the traditional recital way with the addition of projected translations:

BERLIOZ: La mort d’Ophélie, Op. 18, No. 2
    This is familiar to me from Cecilia Bartoli's recording.

DEBUSSY: Chansons de Bilitis (a group of 3 songs)

POULENC: La fraîcheur et le feu  (a group of seven songs)

These were all pleasing if not very exciting.  I think I liked best the Debussy.

After the intermission they performed the POULENC: La Voix humaine   I would describe it as fully staged.  We can tell from the projection shown above that we are in Paris.

This opera is based on a play by Jean Cocteau.  The liner notes say that Ms Antonacci based her interpretation on a film starring Ingrid Bergman. This woman is complicated and desperate.  She begins with lies, pretends to have been away visiting a friend.  Then she admits that she has been to the hospital after attempting suicide.  The only thing hard to grasp is why he is calling her.

He is lying too, pretending to be at home when he is out at a club, probably with his new girl friend.  Anna Catarina is a wonderful singing actress.  Grazie mille. This was a marvelous tour de force.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Salzburg La Bohème

Instead of going to the HD of La Traviata, I went to a party where the film of Puccini's La Bohème from Salzburg in 2012 was shown projected on the wall.  I liked very much seeing the faces up close.  Mimi isn't lighting her candle, she is lighting her cigarette.

Conductor: Daniele Gatti,
Production:  Damiano Michieletto

Anna Netrebko (Mimi)
Piotr Beczala (Rodolfo)
Nino Machaidze (Musetta)
Massimo Cavalletti (Marcello)
Alessio Arduini (Schaunard)

The production is supposed to make you think of Paris.  There are many reminders.  I love this wonderful cast and enjoyed seeing it again.

I have only enjoyed the Traviata red dress production when it was done with Netrebko.  Perhaps I will watch my DVD.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

More Beethoven at Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera

Chee-Yun Kim 

The Sacramento Philharmonic performed Beethoven's Fourth Symphony in the first half and his Violin Concerto after the intermission.  Our guest conductor was Michelle Merrill, the first female conductor we have had.  She dressed all in black. 

The treat of the concert was the wonderful violinist Chee-Yun, called Chee-Yun Kim in our program.  She is from South Korea and was wonderful to hear. 

Our soloist played an encore of a very fancy solo violin arrangement of the Beatles' "Yesterday."

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Semiramide from Munich Revised

Conductor: Michele Mariotti
Production:  David Alden

Semiramide, Queen of Babylon, widow of King Nino: Joyce DiDonato
Assur, a prince, descendant of Baal: Alex Esposito
Arsace, Commander of the Assyrian army: Daniela Barcellona
Idreno, an Indian king: Lawrence Brownlee
Oroe, high priest of the Magi:  Simone Alberghini 
Azema, a princess, descendant of Baal: Elsa Benoit 
Mitrane, Captain of the Guard:  Galeano Salas
Nino's Ghost:  Igor Tsarkov

The role of Semiramide in Rossini's opera Semiramide is usually sung by the same people who sing Lucia, people like Montserrat Caballé, Joan Sutherland, June Anderson, etc.  It was, however, composed for Isabella Colbran who is generally considered a mezzo-soprano.  (Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra, Otello, ossia Il Moro di Venezia, Armida, Mosè in Egitto, Ricciardo e Zoraide, Ermione, La donna del lago, Maometto II,  Zelmira, and Semiramide are the operas written for Colbran.)  After her success in La donna del lago, Joyce DiDonato clearly wanted to try her hand at another Colbran role.

I experienced a lot of technical difficulties with this stream from the Bayerische Staatsoper and finally ended up listening on my iPhone, not an ideal medium for watching an opera. 

The cast for this opera was simply spectacular.  DiDonato and Barcellona sing beautifully together.  It is one of the great bel canto operas with an endless stream of gorgeous music.  It may well be considered Rossini's masterpiece.

As with most of the streams from the Bayerische Staatsoper, this performance will probably disappear forever.  This makes me sad.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Pinchas Zukerman

Pinchas Zukerman played at our local college.  We were lucky to get him.  I asked "What's he going to play?"  The answer was, of course, violin sonatas.


This included a piece by Brahms called "Sonatensatz," which means movement from a sonata, a postumous composition.  I explained to the people sitting with me that Satz is German for sentence and is what they call a movement.  So why do we call it a movement?  I will communicate your sympathy.

I enjoyed the Brahms most.  I generally do. 

As an encore, he played a short romantic piece by a female composer named Maria Teresa....  I should have written it down.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera 2017-2018

Part of Saturday night's concert was the announcement of next season's concerts.


Saturday, October 14, 2017
Andrew Grams, our conductor on Saturday, conducts:
Prokofiev Violin Concerto #1 with Rachel Barton Pine on the violin
Brahms Symphony #1.

November 18, 2017
Sameer Patel conducts selections by
Rossini, including excerpts from Barber of Seville, followed by some
Mozart, including highlights from Don Giovanni and Marriage of Figaro.
The concert ends with the Mozart Symphony #38.

Saturday, January 20, 2018
Case Scaglione conducts
Russian Festival:
Mussorgsky – Night on Bald Mountain
Tchaikovsky– Piano Concerto No. 1 with Andrew von Oeyen, piano
Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances

Saturday, January 27, 2018
Mei-Ann Chen conducts the second part of the 
Russian Festival: 
Glinka – Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture
Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto No. 3 also with Andrew von Oeyen, piano
Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Saturday, March 3, 2018
Dmitry Sitkovetsky conducts
Tchaikovsky – Suite No. 4, “Mozartiana”
Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 5 with our conductor on the violin 
PÄRT – Fratres
Beethoven – Symphony No. 8
I've never attended a concert with a piece by PÄRT.  It should be interesting.

Saturday, May 5, 2018
Christoph Campestrini will conduct
Puccini's Tosca
Cast to be announced


Saturday, November 25, 2017 (Thanksgiving Weekend)
Music of Prince
Symphonic Tribute The Sacramento Philharmonic, backed by a full rock band, presents a symphonic tribute to Prince. Brent Havens, conductor

Saturday, February 24, 2018
The Music of Abba
Direct from Sweden, “Arrival” – the world’s foremost Abba tribute band performs live in concert with the Sacramento Philharmonic TBD, conductor

Saturday, April 28, 2018
Movie melodies from Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters: The Godfather, James Bond, Rocky, 2001, Jaws, E.T., Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, and more! Stuart Chafetz, conductor

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bach and Beethoven at the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.

The latest concert with the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera featured guest conductor Andrew Grams with Peter Serkin and Tomoki Park on the two Steinway grand pianos.

The concert opened with the Brahms Academic Festival Overture.  When they reached "Gaudeamus Igitur," my friend and I began to sing along.  I even remember the words from when I played a student in The Student Prince

The second piece was for 2 pianos and orchestra by Toru Takemitsu and was composed in part for Peter Serkin. I found this piece pleasant and enjoyable, but was shocked to find that I did not like at all the Bach Double Keyboard Concerto which was switched to BWV 1061 at the last minute from 1062.  Bach's keyboards would have been harpsichords, but we are all well accustomed to pianos on these pieces.

The concert closed with a lovely rendition of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7.  Beethoven always comes through.  I liked Andrew Grams enthusiasm.

Rusalka in HD

Rusalka:  Kristine Opolais
Prince:  Brandon Jovanovich
Princess:  Katarina Dalayman
Jezibaba:  Jamie Barton
Gnome:  Eric Owens

Conductor:  Mark Elder
Production:  Mary Zimmerman

Dvorák's Rusalka was live from the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday. Many of the people around me had never seen this opera.  This is my fourth time with all the previous times starring Renée Fleming. 

I was completely won over by the water nymphs at the beginning.  First they danced and then suddenly as if by magic they sang.

In case you thought after her appearance in Nabucco that Jamie Barton was boring, her Jezibaba was evil and fun and completely upstaged everyone else.  Except maybe the water nymphs.

Eric Owens owns the Gnome. He pointed out in his interview that this was his actual Fach while L'Amour is more a baritone role.

This is an excellent role for Kristine.  Someone has to step into Fleming's repertoire.  Her acting is far more intense than Fleming which changes the dramatic intensity of the opera.  Her voice is not really heavy enough for most of the roles she sings, but if she keeps this under control, it should be good for her.

I thought the castle sequence in Act II worked better here than other productions I have seen.  Brandon was the picture of prince charming.  I liked it but don't want to go on and on about it.  The Wagner loving conductor thinks it's one of the great post Wagnerian operas, but for me it's just ok. I tend to think of Dvorák as post Brahms rather than post Wagner.  Wagnerians ignore Brahms.

Matthew Polenzani was an excellent host.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Favorites by Year

This is just something fun.  I went through the blog from the beginning to find the things that stood out in my memory.  I am only including the things I liked and have trimmed it down to no more than 10 per year.  If you're looking for pans, this isn't the place.  I like a lot of stuff, but you will notice that La Boheme only appears twice.

My goal with opera is simply to fall in love.  I prefer new opera performances because I'm not very likely to fall in love with people from the long ago past.

** live or HD


I was still working when I began blogging.  It was a present from my son.

  • (CB) Zurich Giulio Cesare  **  I traveled to Zurich on one of my many trips to see Cecilia Bartoli.  This time she was doing Handel's Giulio Cesare in a relatively sedate production.  The Egyptians wore blue and white striped outfits.  Cecilia was incredible.  By this time I had been a fanatical fan of Cecilia for over 10 years.  I still love her best.

  • Licitra's Tosca in Washington  **  Salvatore Licitra performed Tosca at the Washington National Opera.  I have a soft place in my heart for tenors.

  • The Pearl Fishers in San Francisco **  Bizet's Pearl Fishers appeared at the San Francisco Opera (SFO) long before it came to the Met.  What I appear to have enjoyed most were the very sexy Charles Castronovo and Norah Amsellem.

  • (CB) Opera Proibita, both live and on CD. ** Berkeley  This is the long ago time when Cecilia Bartoli still came to Berkeley virtually every year.  I was the only one who noticed that she wasn't just waving her arms randomly but was instead conducting the orchestra.

People say I like everything, but actually that's not true.  This year I didn't much like:  The Rape of Lucretia because of the disturbing mixture of pagan history and Christian commentary; The Dangerous Liaisons by Susa is just musically boring; Doctor Atomic where the characters never seem to be talking to one another.

For more years see below the jump.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Il Trovatore from the ROH

Director: David Bösch
Conductor: Richard Farnes

Leonora: Lianna Haroutounian
Manrico, the troubadour: Gregory Kunde
Azucena, his gypsy mother: Anita Rachvelishvili
Count di Luna: Vitaliy Bilyy
Ferrando, his lieutenant:  Alexander Tsymbalyuk

This performance of Verdi's Il Trovatore from the Royal Opera House in London played in my local movie theater.  We were told that when this opera first played in America, it was called The Gypsy's Revenge.

This is my eighth viewing of this opera and my sixth production since I began blogging. Two were Sondra Radvanovsky, two were Anna Netrebko, one was Barbara Frittoli and one was Anja Harteros.  This is what an opera should be.  Here the production focuses on explaining the action.

This is one in a small set of operas I am calling the caravan series:  Il Turco in Italia from Los Angeles, Le Comte Ory from Zurich, Die Meistersinger from Munich and this performance all used a caravan at some point in the action.  In this performance Azucena lives here with her collection of baby dolls.

In this production all of the scenes are staged in the open air instead of the usual giant buildings with no particular identity or purpose.  The count and his army are at war with the gypsies.  He is in love with Leonora who is in love with the troubadour who sings to her from a distance.  If we are in large buildings, we cannot help wondering how a character from one group might casually approach a character from the other group.  If we are in the open air, this is not a problem.

Of this cast Anita Rachvelishvili was the most outstanding.  Her Azucena was intense and a bit mad.  Haroutounian sings beautifully but is not the big voiced singer we find with Radvanovsky, Netrebko or Harteros.  I enjoyed Kunde's singing but find him a bit too old to be Anita's son.