Friday, June 30, 2017

La Bohème from San Francisco

Picture by Cory Weaver

Conductor: Carlo Montanaro
Production Designer: David Farley

Marcello: Audun Iversen
Rodolfo: Arturo Chacón-Cruz
Colline: Scott Conner
Schaunard: Brad Walker
Benoit: Dale Travis
Mimì: Erika Grimaldi
Musetta: Ellie Dehn

La Bohème by Puccini is ever green.  The enthusiasm of youth always burns in our hearts.   No opera by Puccini or any other composer is so beautifully romantic from beginning to end.  We were blessed with an Italian conductor who only occasionally let the orchestra play too loud.

I enjoyed Ellie Dehn and Erika Grimaldi, but my favorite was Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rodolfo who has a gorgeous, bright sound.  The acting was excellent across the board.  This is an opera that works on every level.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Macbeth rerun

I loved seeing Macbeth again and had pretty much the same reaction as last time.

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Production: Adrian Noble

Macbeth: Željko Lučić (baritone)
Banquo: René Pape (bass)
Lady Macbeth: Anna Netrebko (soprano)
Duncan, King of Scotland: Raymond Renault
Malcolm, Duncan's son: Noah Baetge (tenor)
Macduff, Thane of Fife: Joseph Calleja (tenor)

The witches with their purses is fun.  This time I liked Željko Lučić more.  I went with a friend who had never seen this opera before.  We both had a wonderful time and are looking forward to Carmen and Otello next month.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Perhaps it isn't only Renee who can sing this.

Lucia Popp sings "Depuis le jour"  This is glorious.

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.   The list now includes La Boheme.

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

Eschenbach 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

Ranking the Simulcasts 2016-17

This is a personal ranking of the Live from the Metropolitan Opera in HD season 2016-2017.  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.  It features the great Barbara Hannigan.

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.