Sunday, May 20, 2018

Singers for the Ring

Shortly The Ring of Richard Wagner will begin at the San Francisco Opera.  These are some of the main singers.

Wotan and The Wanderer: Greer Grimsley.  On a good day he can be fabulous. 

 Alberich: Falk Struckmann*  He was our Iago with Botha and Fleming.


Fricka, Waltraute, and Second Norn:  Jamie Barton.  She was our Adalgisa in Norma with Sondra Radvanovsky.  She will have some quick changes.


Brünnhilde:  Iréne Theorin, our replacement.  She'll do fine.


Sieglinde: Karita Mattila.  She appears frequently at both the Met and in San Francisco.  I've loved her since her fabulous Fidelio.


Siegfried: Daniel Brenna*.  He played Alwa in the Met Lulu.  He comes in toward the end.


Siegmund and Froh:  Brandon Jovanovich.  He was here recently in Meistersinger, but this example is the best I've ever heard him sing.  Perhaps he should change Fach.

The list goes on and on.  Maybe more later.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Whitsun

I have always thought that one of the great secrets of the astounding success of Cecilia Bartoli was her ability to construct a program.  Who knew Vivaldi was this interesting?  So she proves it year after year in Salzburg.


Here is a photo from L’italiana in Algeri this season. Rossini was fascinated by the culture clash between Italian women and moslem culture. Here is this year's program for the whole festival which is going on now.

Here is next year's program which is all about castrati and features five of the top countertenors:  Philippe Jaroussky, Max Emanuel Cencic, Yuriy Mynenko, Christophe Dumaux and Franco Fagioli.  The operas are Handel's Alcina and Porpora's Polifemo, as well as an oratorio by Caldara composed for Farinelli called La Morte d'Abel.  Every singer in the genre will be there.

You were wondering if she still had it.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Serenade to Music



I thought to myself while leafing through lists in YouTube of Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music that Bernstein would completely understand this piece.  He understood perfectly the necessity of ecstasy.  The words are Shakespeare, of course.  "How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank...."  I think I got it in one.

I have found this wonderful recording again.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Bach Orchestral Suites

American Bach Soloists performed all four of Bach's orchestral suites on Monday in Davis in the order IV, II, I, III.  This seems to be their groove.

II was scored as a transverse flute solo which was played by Sandra Miller.  It was rather like a concerto in the form of a suite.  It was gorgeous.

This completed their season.  See you next year.

Lisette Oropesa


Lisette in costume for Gilda at the LA Opera.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Cecilia Bartoli Forum

The fan site Cecilia Bartoli Forum is going down on May 24 because on May 25 the new EU laws concerning the internet go into effect.  He is concerned that as a blogger with no commercial content he is nevertheless exposed to potential fines.

I'm not in the EU, so I am ignoring this.  I am minimally involved in commerce because I display links to Amazon.  If they want me, they will have to come and get me.  I don't collect information about anyone except opera singers and maybe conductors, directors, etc.  I collect this information in my head.

The cookies law was far simpler.  Blogger could simply take care of it.  When I pull up my blog here in the United States, there is no cookie warning, but if I pull it up in Europe, there it is.  We were wishing there was a similarly simple solution to this new situation, but no one has any idea what they need to do.  So:  Dear EU, if I am violating your law, you will please inform me first of what I am doing wrong and second what I might do about it.  Until this happens, I'm going on with what I'm doing.

Schedule information about Cecilia Bartoli may be found on her official site.  She posts occasionally on Twitter.

__________________________

Footnote.  People don't go into business on the internet for fun.  They do it for money.  Money on the internet generally comes from advertising.  It works like this:

1. I pay someone to advertise my product or site.

2. They identify what type of product I am wanting to advertise.

3.  They identify which internet users might be interested in my product.  They do this by gathering data on what they do when on the internet.

The only alternative to this advertising model is to distribute advertisements for product randomly to all internet users.  Only a very small percentage of internet users have any interest in opera.  I am not even able to imagine how you would get this to work so that you actually gained viewers or sales.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Tosca Again


Conductor:  Christoph Campestrini
Director:  Mark Streshinsky

Tosca:  Alexandra Loutsion, soprano
Mario:  Marco Cammarota, tenor
Scarpia:  Philip Skinner, bass-baritone

This time the list of people involved in last night's semi-staged performance of Puccini's Tosca at Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera exactly matches the picture above the list.  Our conductor was here last season to present a program of Italian music.  Mark Streshinsky directs operas for West Edge.  Our Tosca and Mario are new for me, but Philip Skinner (sometimes Philip, sometimes Phil) is a regular at West Edge in the San Francisco Bay Area where he has a following.  I have seen him before in seven different operas, including the by now famous Lulu.

The conducting was good.  View screens of the conductor were placed at the sides of the stage, as at Covent Garden, but I didn't notice anyone looking at them.  As a semi-staged performance, the orchestra was at the back of the stage with a staging area at the front.  Each act had an arrangement of furniture to make the set.   The singers' proximity to the front of the stage made me more aware of the fine points of the plot than ever before.  I don't remember noticing before that the current government was celebrating the defeat of Napolean, when at the end it is announced that Napolean has won and is moving toward Rome.

Phil went loud and domineering with his Scarpia.  He is extremely good at this and received loud booing at the end.  How much can one write about Tosca?  I have reviewed it 9 times before.  The singing was lovely, especially Alexandra.  They followed the current fad of "Vissi d'arte" starting with Tosca lying on something.  It was nevertheless beautiful.

Extremely interesting to me was Scott Levin (normally billed as E. Scott Levin?) who played the Sacristan who appears only at the beginning of the opera.  His voice is extremely full and beautiful.

If we aren't to get a fully staged opera, this semi-staged one was good.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Opera in Disguise


Sacramento State Opera Theater presented two short operas with a common theme:  one or more characters are in disguise.  The great disguise opera is La Cenerentola where the Prince and his valet exchange places. Both roles are well developed.

There is a small orchestra positioned behind the singers.  I have been in this theater when it had a pit, and the remnants of the pit are still visible.  So why don't they use it?  The supertitles were virtually invisible, and other signs of disrepair were all around.

Conductor:  Ryan Murray
Director:    Omari Tau

Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard (1946) by Pierre Petit

Sylvia, a young Parisian    Angela Yam, soprano
Lisette, her maid                Tatiana Grabcluc, soprano
Dotante, a young Parisian  Nathan Halbut, baritone, guest artist

Sylvia is expecting a visit from her betrothed, a man named Dotante.  They are betrothed but have never met, apparently.  Sylvia and Lisette change places, which consists primarily of putting the maid's outfit onto Sylvia.  When a young man arrives, he claims to be Dotante's servant.  The two pretend servants get along very well and decide once the disguises are revealed that marriage would be a good idea after all.

This is a relatively modern piece and is therefore through-composed.  The music was sweet and charming.  I liked both of the young women in this work, and would have liked to hear more of Tatiana.  Angela is beautiful and appeared also in the next opera.

Il campanello di notte (1836) by Gaetano Donizetti

Serafina, a young bride                       Angela Yam, soprano
Don Annibale Pistacchio, an apothecary  Justin Ramm-Damron, bass
Enrico, Serafina's cousin                      Jordan Krack, baritone, opera theater alumnus
Spiridione, Don Annibale's servant      Jacob Burke, tenor
Madama Rosa, Serafina's mother        Valerie Loera

Don Annibale, an old man, has just married Serafina who is much too young for him.  Their family members are celebrating the nuptials.  A cute bit of business occurs when Don Annibale and his new mother-in-law dance together and she leads.  Enrico arrives and has a long duet with Serafina for the most operatic section of the piece.  She is not encouraging, and Enrico leaves after toasting the groom.  This scene would have been improved with visible supertitles.

Don Annibale dresses for bed with his new bride, but before anything can happen, Enrico arrives in three disguises, each needing a prescription.  From here it is a major slapstick tour de force for Enrico.  He looks and acts like an idiot in all three of his disguises.  The audience screamed.  The most amazing thing about this opera and probably the explanation for why you have never seen it lies in the lines for disguise number 3:  they have a long list of ingredients for the prescription which they recite like a patter song.  How is this even possible?  Jordan Crack carried this entire opera.

It was Donizetti and therefore featured extended sections of secco recitative played on an electric piano.  It was too loud.  I always say sing with the music, not the conductor.  Here there was no choice.  The conductor faced the musicians at the back, even when playing the electric piano.  The singers either faced each other or the audience.  No one got lost or confused.

This is fun, and you will never see either of these operas again.



Monday, April 30, 2018

Ranking the Simulcasts 2018



Every year I rank the Met Live in HD simulcasts.  It's not easy since the quality of the product is so high.

This season included the Sonya Yoncheva film festival:
  • Tosca by Puccini 
  • La Bohème by Puccini 
  • Luisa Miller by Verdi 
Luisa Miller was the most difficult for her, but I enjoyed her Tosca best.  She and Placido Domingo seemed to have great rapport in Luisa Miller.

This season we had the grotesque James Levine scandal with his name disappearing from performances.  Anna Netrebko appeared in the Met season but not in an HD simulcast.  There was no Jonas Kaufmann this season, but most of the rest of my favorite current tenors made appearances:
  • Vittorio Grigolo in Tosca 
  • Matthew Polenzani in L’Elisir d’Amore 
  • Michael Fabiano in La Bohème
  • Javier Camarena in Semiramide
  • Piotr Beczala in Luisa Miller  
And now for the ranking.

10. I liked the idea of The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès, and I even liked some of the details, but I could not get past the hideous screeching. Knowing vocal classifications is a minimum requirement for opera composing.

9. Luisa Miller by Verdi comes ninth for me, since I don't really love the opera.

8. Semiramide by Rossini was very unusual--assertive and intense.  I'm used to a more low key mood for this opera.  It also suffered for me because of the recent live stream from Munich of this opera with Joyce DiDonato.

7 Die Zauberflöte Mozart was in German and uncut in a repeat of the Julie Taymor production, with an excellent cast, but I didn't get very excited.

6. L’Elisir d’Amore by Donizetti was OK, but this is its sixth outing for me since I started blogging.  In spite of that I liked this performance very much indeed, especially Pretty Yende and the light-hearted atmosphere.  Perhaps it's a comedy after all.

5. Norma by Bellini featured a new, very naturalistic production which attempted to do a better job than usual of explaining the plot.  It also featured Joyce DiDonato as Adalgisa.  I'm still stuck on Cecilia's version.

4. La Bohème by Puccini.  It's hard to know where to put La Bohème.  It always seems to work.

3. Tosca by Puccini was a new traditional production with a fabulous cast.  I especially liked Yoncheva.

2. Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart.  This opera needs something to make it work.  Otherwise it's just beautiful music accompanying a horrible story.  The point is supposed to be that women are fickle, but this production made it seem to be more about men behaving badly.  Maybe in revivals they will diminish the frantic circus activity a bit.  Pompous asses in naval officer uniforms made all the difference.

1. Cendrillon by Massenet.  This was a fabulously cast, spectacularly mounted fairy tale opera well worth seeing.


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Alice Coote: My Life as a Man

This is an article borrowed from the Guardian:

Ahead of her solo Brighton festival appearance showcasing Handel’s gender-bending operatic writing, mezzo-soprano Alice Coote reflects on the complexities of a creative life playing ‘breeches’ roles.

Alice Coote as Xerxes  in Xerxes by Handel, London Coliseum. An English National Opera production.

Alice Coote as King Xerxes

I get paid to flatten my breasts, dress up as a man, make love to other women, all the while singing athletically elaborate music without a microphone. This is my day job in rehearsals, and thousands of people around the world watch me do it in performance several nights a week.

I am an opera singer, and for those of us with the middle and lower range voices – mezzo-sopranos and contraltos – this is a normal part of the job.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Cendrillon in HD

A carriage in the form of the French word for carriage.
👍🏻
Conductor...............Bertrand de Billy
Production..............Laurent Pelly

Cendrillon (Lucette)....Joyce DiDonato
Prince Charming.........Alice Coote
Fairy Godmother.........Kathleen Kim
Pandolfe................Laurent Naouri
Madame de la Haltière...Stephanie Blythe

Today we were treated to the first production of Massenet's Cendrillon ever to appear on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.  We begin with a French conductor, a French production and a Frenchman to speak the only spoken dialog heard in the opera.  The rest of the cast is not French but is nevertheless spectacular.

The story divides into three contexts:  1. The home of Pandolfe, his wife Madame de la Haltière, his daughter Lucette and his two stepdaughters.  2.  The palace of the King and his son Prince Charming.  3.  A dream-like fairy land populated by the Fairy Godmother and her minions.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

San Francisco Opera Annual Meeting


I received in my email a link to a film of the board meeting of the San Francisco Opera.  The president, the CFO and Matthew Shilvock, the general manager.  The entertainment was cut.  A number of points were covered.

Ticket sales for next season are well ahead of this season.  We are closer to a balanced budget than we've been in years.

The search is on for a new Musical Director to succeed Nicola Luisotti. I hope they can find another Italian.

We were told that Dream of the Red Chamber from the 2016-17 season has been touring in Asia where it is a big hit.  Fascinating.

Next season there will be only 8 productions, a significant factor in balancing the budget.  This was accompanied by a rather disturbing announcement.  Only two (Riccardo Frizza and Patrick Summers) of next season's 8 conductors have ever conducted an opera before.  I am hoping I misunderstood this.

The San Francisco Opera began with Tosca, and it seems we have been watching the same Tosca set for all that time.  I remember Maria Collier, Angela Gheorghiu and Leontyne Price.  We are getting a new production created here in our shops.

Matthew addressed the issue of his artistic vision.  When they first hired him, I brought up the fact that no one had ever mentioned this in anything I had read about him.
  • I entered the world of the San Francisco Opera through Kurt Herbert Adler (1953–1981), probably first seeing him looking up at me auditioning.  His vision was to make our company into one of the finest in the world.  He attracted famous singers by offering to stage whatever they wanted to sing.  These included Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  He started the Merola program.  
  • Terence McEwen (1982–1988)  was a recording executive who knew the singers personally.  His biggest achievement was Norma with Sutherland and Horne.  He was the first to use supertitles.
  • Lotfi Mansouri (1988–2001) was a director and continued his career as a director while being general manager.  He hired Donald Runnicles as Musical Director, something of a coup.  He brought us James Morris as Wotan, the greatest thing ever.  He produced some outstanding new operas:  Harvey Milk, composed by Stewart Wallace, A Streetcar Named Desire, composed by André Previn, Dead Man Walking, composed by Jake Heggie, and The Death of Klinghoffer composed by John Adams.  This must be considered a great success.
  • Pamela Rosenberg (2001–2005) is for me most famous for bringing us Messiaen's Saint-François d'Assise.  She had been Intendant in Stuttgart, a medium sized German house, and brought us things she would have produced there.  San Franciscans were horrified.  I may only have seen her when she came out after 9/11 to lead us in singing God Bless America.
  • David Gockley (2006–2016) promised us stars and basically delivered.  He also brought us what is called The American Ring, which plays again in June.  He replaced Runnicles with Luisotti who now departs.
Shilvock spoke only of connecting with the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I support this.  The San Francisco Opera is idle in both early spring and late summer, giving him ample time to see operas from around the world.  He hasn't promised us anything in particular, and I still see this as a problem.  I will be watching closely to see who he hires as Musical Director.  And just because we haven't been promised stars doesn't mean we can't still have them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Nadine Sierra wins 2018 Beverly Sills Artist Award



The Beverly Sills Artist Award is given by the Metropolitan Opera to extraordinarily gifted singers between the ages of 25 and 40 who have already appeared in featured solo roles at the Met.  Previous winners have been Jamie Barton, Michael Fabiano, Joyce DiDonato, Matthew Polenzani, Susanna Phillips and Angela Meade.  I have seen her in leading roles in Lucia di Lammermoor, Eliogabalo, Rigoletto, Idomeneo, and Nozze di Figaro.  I have been following her career for over 6 years and find that she richly deserves this award.

Monday, April 23, 2018

West Edge Summer Festival 2018


West Edge Opera
has announced three operas for this summer:
  • Debussey's Pelléas and Mélisande (1902).   This is to be directed by Keturah Stickan and is a change from the original announcement.  The cast sounds excellent.  Britten's Death in Venice was previously announced.
  • Matt Marks' Mata Hari (2017) which premiered at Prototype Festival this year.  Tina Mitchell will play the title role.  This is to be directed by Paul Peers.
  • Luca Francesconi's "sexual psycho-drama" Quartet (2011)  This will be directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer.  "Brutal fury."

The venue is Craneway Conference Center, Harbour Way South, Richmond, CA.  Tickets are available.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Takács Quartet

👍🏻

We finished the New Millennium concert series at Sacramento State with a grand performance by the Takács String Quartet, a founding member of the Gramophone Hall of Fame.  This is what quartet playing is supposed to sound like.  They are from Hungary and have been playing together for over 40 years.  Wow.  For our concert they played:

  • Mozart's String Quartet No 14, K.387 (1782)  This is the first of the Haydn Quartets, in the standard 4 movements.
  • Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 6, Op.80 (1847)  This is the last piece completed by Mendelssohn before his death.  I especially liked the first of four movements.
  • Beethoven's String Quartet No.14 Op. 131 (1826) This piece listed 7 movements, but they all seemed to flow one into the other.  An especially fast section seemed a Presto to me--section 5.  I turned out to be correct.  They are famous for their Beethoven.

This was a treat.  They have recorded extensively for Decca.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ten Operas

This is a list, and you know I love lists.  These 10 operas are all operas which I had never heard before I began blogging and have never seen a second time.  All stand out in my mind as outstanding memories.  None of them came to me by way of the Met and none are even close to the top 100.  I have listed them in order of their premier dates.  They cover the entire history of opera, and all of them deserve to be revived IMHO.

Francesco Cavalli's La Calisto (1651) in Italiian.  The musical style is late Monteverdi.  I acquired this from a pirated source in a production that involved René Jacobs.  I understand there is a legitimate DVD of this production that with some effort might be acquired.  This opera production seems to try to show us a true Venetian opera production with gods who descend through stage machinery and transform from baritones to sopranos.  I loved it for its sense of  fun.  Venice is the land of carnival so entertainment is the order of the day.  To present this opera you would need a baritone with a fabulous falsetto.


Jean-Philippe Rameau's Comédies lyriques Platée (1745) in French.  The musical style is French Baroque.  I saw this live at the Santa Fe Opera and thought it was great fun.  Since we are in France, the title character cross dresses from a male tenor to a female, instead the usual Italian arrangement at that time which involved mainly sopranos.  Maybe comedy is a theme for me.  I think perhaps operatic comedy was more significant in times gone by.  This plot is also about gods and magic beings. The title character is written for a French type of tenor called a haute-contre.  To present this opera you might need one.  He isn't falsetto.


Gioachino Antonio Rossini's Maometto Secondo (1820) in Italian. The musical style is early bel canto.  This was also seen live at the Santa Fe Opera with marvelous performances by Luca Pisaroni, Leah Crocetto and the rest of the cast.  It's a serious opera of great significance and an important political plot.  It's one of the operas composed for Isabella Colbran.  This needs to return, but to present it you might need someone who can be Isabella Colbran.


Heinrich Marschner's Der Vampyr (The Vampire) (1828) in German.  The musical style is German romantic.  I saw this live at the Komische Oper Berlin.  Is it a comedy, a tragedy, a soap opera, a horror movie?  What?  So Germans aren't as serious as we thought.  Who knew vampires were popular in the 1820s?  Our heroine is also a modern girl who dares all and triumphs in the end.  There's no cross-dressing.  There are no vocal oddities here or particularly difficult roles.  Present this in your local company.


Hector Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini (1838) in French.  The musical style is French romantic.  This is from a DVD from Salzburg that just happened to be in the opera shop in San Francisco when I was there.  The story takes place in Rome during carnival, creating many opportunities for frivolity. The title character is an actual historical figure, an artist from Florence who wrote a famous autobiography.  His bust is on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. The Pope is a character. Cellini gets into lots of trouble but always finds his way out.  I see no severe difficulties with presenting this opera and don't think it has to be comedy.  Of this set of operas this is the only one that appears in the Met On Demand.


Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans(1881) in Russian.  The musical style is Russian post-romantic.  Perhaps the reason this opera is not popular is because it is in Russian.  The Verdi Joan of Arc is more popular, but I think this one is a better opera.  For one thing this plot is a lot less ridiculous than Verdi's.  I saw it live at the San Francisco Opera and loved it.  Joan is a mezzo.  Is that the problem?  The difficulty with presenting this opera would be finding a singer to be Joan.  Dolora Zajick might not be available.



Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die Tote Stadt (1920) in German.   In this list I think it is the closest to standard repertoire and would be classified as post-romantic or what I have called post-Wagnerian.  I saw it live at the San Francisco Opera.  I sat next to someone at the Cosi HD who thought this was the opera she hated most.  The more repulsive parts of the story suit the world view of the early twentieth century.  Maybe you shouldn't revive this for your local company.

Gian Carlo Menotti's The Last Savage (1963) in English.  Menotti's musical style is closest to American musical, but here he approaches bel canto. Modernism makes an appearance.  I saw this live at the Santa Fe Opera.  The plot most resembles a Tarzan movie.  I don't know if you would want this without the production.  The voice parts are not unusual, but you need a baritone who can pass for Tarzan.  Try it.


Philip Glass's Orphée (1993) in French after the Cocteau film of the same name.  In fact the dialog comes from the movie.  The musical style is modified minimalism.  I saw this live at Glimmerglass where they advised that you first see the movie.  I did not.  It seems the most like a real opera of Glass's operas.  It is an angel of death plot, except the angel falls in love with a mortal and tries to cheat fate. I see no barrier to producing this opera.





Oswaldo Golijov's Ainadamar (2005) in Spanish.  The musical style is South American modernism.  I saw this live in San Francisco presented by Opera Parallèle.  It jumps the time frame a couple of times, a problem that was easily solved in this production by displaying the year in the super-titles.  It is a biography of the playwright Federico García Lorca.   The music is exciting and fun and incorporates dance genres.  You will need dancers.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Luisa Miller in HD


Conductor...............Betrand de Billy
Production..............Elijah Moshinsky

Luisa...................Sonya Yoncheva, soprano
Rodolfo...............Piotr Beczala, tenor
Miller..................Plácido Domingo, baritone
Count Walter.......Alexander Vinogradov, bass
Wurm..................Dmitry Belosselskiy, bass
Federica..............Olesya Petrova, contralto  


Yesterday the Metropolitan Opera presented Verdi's Luisa Miller in HD.  I liked it better this time than I did in 2015 in San Francisco.  This is a very fine cast, but perhaps it is Placido Domingo, a man born to musical theater, who makes the difference.  In the other staging everyone seemed like a bad guy, but here we are clear that Miller deeply cares about his daughter and will give up everything for her.  Rodolfo on the other hand thinks only of himself and commits a murder/suicide, something we generally hear about from the newspaper.  His excuse is only a tiny bit better than Otello's.

All over the internet are people wondering why Placido keeps singing.  His scenes with Yoncheva were by far the most spectacularly beautiful of anything seen here today.  He definitely still has it, and this performance is one of his better outings as a baritone.

Plot--young nobleman goes wandering around the countryside in disguise looking for girls, very much like the Duke in Rigoletto or the King in La Donna del Lago.  He knows that makes him a shit, but does it anyway.  It turns out badly for everyone.  It was like a magic trick, but this cast made it work.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Il Corsaro from Valencia

Verdi's Il Corsaro from Palau de les Arts, Valencia

Conductor Fabio Biondi
Director Nicola Raab

Corrado Michael Fabiano
Medora Kristina Mkhitaryan
Gulnara Oksana Dyka
Seid Vito Priante
Giovanni Evgeny Stavinsky

Il Corsaro is on a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave which is based on Lord Byron's poem The Corsair.  A corsair is a pirate.  Other characters have period costumes in colors, but Michael is relatively modern and purports to be the poet himself.  He doesn't even remind me of Lord Byron.  It's more the minimalist black and white.  I don't generally find productions which are conceptually split, here split between period and modern, to work at all.  There are occasional cute images, but nothing that explains the story.  Apparently two women are in love with the pirate.  It ends as only an opera can.  Poison.  Cliffs.  That sort of thing.  In this production Medora dies and then gets back up to make a three person tableau.

This is bombastic early Verdi but nevertheless fun to listen to. The singing, especially Fabiano, is pleasing to listen to.  The two women are also excellent.  You are currently unlikely to find a better version of this opera.  The two women are remarkably similar.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Jason Sia Music at Noon


Jason Sia, pianist, appeared this week on the Sacramento concert series Music at Noon which occurs every Wednesday at Westminster Presbyterian.  For this audience he focused on the great composer-pianists Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Franz Schubert.  It may just possibly be even harder to impress an audience when you perform blockbusters.  Jason is an excellent pianist who seems to have mastered the romantic style.  He will perform later this spring at Carnegie Hall in New York.

____________________________
Jason said:

What a joy to share music with the "Music at Noon" community yesterday. I am deeply thankful to Westminster Church, Brad Slocum, the staff, and the great audience for their support!! Everyone seemed to enjoy the concert, and I especially enjoyed it after the concert when audience members told me how much the music meant to them-- because it brought back beautiful memories for them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Christian Van Horn named 2018 Richard Tucker Award Winner


"The Richard Tucker Music Foundation announced today that bass-baritone Christian Van Horn – “one of those treasurable singers in whose presence one can entirely relax, assured that everything he does will be delivered with solid interpretive insight and unfailingly attractive tone” (Opera News) – has been named as the winner of the 2018 Richard Tucker Award. The first bass-baritone to be afforded this honor since 2003 and only the third in the award’s 40-year history, Van Horn is currently accruing a string of credits in starring roles, most recently winning praise as Mephistopheles in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s new production of Faust. Widely referred to as the “Heisman Trophy of Opera,” the Tucker Award carries the foundation’s most substantial cash prize of $50,000 and is conferred each year by a panel of opera industry professionals on an American singer at the threshold of a major international career. Past winners include such luminaries as Stephanie Blythe, Lawrence Brownlee, Joyce DiDonato, Renée Fleming, Christine Goerke, and Matthew Polenzani. Christian Van Horn will be inducted into this who’s who of American opera at the foundation’s annual gala, a perennial highlight of the opera season, on Sunday, October 21, at Carnegie Hall."

I have seen him in San Francisco as the four villains in Tales of Hoffmann where he was dark and sinister, as Oroveso in Norma, as Alidoro the fairy godfather in La Cenerentola, as Colline in La Bohème, and in Les Troyens.  We're proud that he has moved on to the Metropolitan Opera where I have seen him in The Exterminating Angel and Die Zauberflöte.  We are also happy that he will return to us next season in Handel's Orlando.  Congratulations and good luck.

2018 International Opera Awards Winners Announced

See all the winners below!

CHORUS MusicAeterna
CONDUCTOR Vladimir Jurowski (He conducted Wozzeck at Salzburg)
DESIGNER Paul Steinberg
DIRECTOR Mariusz Treliński
EDUCATION AND OUTREACH Opera Holland Park
FEMALE SINGER Malin Byström



FESTIVAL Festival Verdi Parma
LEADERSHIP IN OPERA Bernd Loebe
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT Teresa Berganza



MALE SINGER Piotr Beczala



NEW PRODUCTION Britten: Billy Budd, d. Deborah Warner (Teatro Real, Madrid)


NEWCOMER Barbora Horáková Joly (Director)
OPERA COMPANY Bayerische Staatsoper [every year]
OPERA ORCHESTRA Teatro alla Scala, Milan
PHILANTHROPY Annette Campbell-White
READERS' AWARD Pretty Yende


RECORDING (COMPLETE OPERA) Berlioz: Les Troyens (Erato) [with Joyce DiDonato]
RECORDING (SOLO RECITAL) Veronique Gens: Visions (Alpha)
REDISCOVERED WORK Krenek: Drei Opern (Oper Frankfurt)
WORLD PREMIERE Brett Dean: Hamlet (Glyndebourne)
YOUNG SINGER Wallis Giunta

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Monteverdi Vespers

Jeffrey Thomas conductor

For the last several years I have been attending performances in Davis of the American Bach Soloists led by Jeffrey Thomas.

This concert was billed as a performance of Claudio Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine or The Monteverdi Vespers.  It turned out to be the named piece interspersed with pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli who was organist and composer at San Marco in Venice from 1585 to 1612 when he died.  Claudio Monteverdi was maestro di cappella at San Marco from 1613 to 1643 when he died.  Both of these composers are major figures in the transition from Renaissance (prima pratica) to Baroque (seconda pratica) musical styles.  The Vespers were from 1610 before Monteverdi moved from Mantua to Venice.  It was submitted as a job application, rather like Bach's B minor mass  Whether Gabrieli and Monteverdi knew each other is not known, at least by me. Renaissance style comes primarily from the Netherlands--in fact Gabrieli studied with the immigrant Orlando di Lasso--while Baroque is basically a native Italian style.

For my ears the Italian music sounds a lot more ornamented than music from the Netherlands, especially in the Monteverdi.  I heard at least one trillo, the Monteverdi ornament that sounds like repeated notes. Vocal solos featured accompaniment by continuo alone, small organ and theorbo in this concert.  Use of continuo is supposed to be the hallmark of the Baroque.  At least that's what I thought until I learned that it continues on into the bel canto.  Continuo represents the concept of chords with a certain amount of extemporization.

San Marco is very roomy, and musicians could move around unobtrusively.  The Davis church is not.  Members of the ensemble stood up and rearranged themselves between virtually every two numbers 

In ecclesiis, C78 (1615) Giovanni Gabrieli.  This is a chorus accompanied by orchestra.

Vespers [first half] (1610) Claudio Monteverdi
  • Deus in adiutorium
  • Dixit Dominus
  • Nigra sum  (solo with continuo)
  • Laudate pueri Dominus
  • Pulchra es (duet for two women with continuo)
  • Laetatus sum
Canzoni a 10, C. 207 (1615) Giovanni Gabrieli.

Canzon in echo duodecimi toni (1597) Giovanni Gabrieli.

Vespers [second half] (1610) Claudio Monteverdi
  • Duo Seraphim  (male trio)
  • Nisi Dominus 
  • Audi coelum  (soloist with small chorus in response)
  • Lauda Ierasalem
  • Ave maris stella  (hymn)
Canzon primi toni  Giovanni Gabrieli.

Magnificat (1615) Giovanni Gabrieli.  Soloist, chorus and orchestra.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Convergence II Episode II

Omari Tau, Maquette Kuper, Deborah Pittman,

Today was Episode II The Spirit (60s - 80s) of MôD Artists trilogy on Oak Park, a neighborhood of Sacramento informally bounded by U.S. Route 50 to the north, Stockton Boulevard to the east, the South Sacramento (99) Freeway to the west and Fruitridge Road to the south.  Episode I was reviewed briefly after a piece by Omari Tau called "The g word."  Which word this is I do not know.

This time they were assisted by Sacramento Ebony Chorale who performed "My soul's been anchored in de Lord," arranged by Glen Jones and included a wonderful soprano soloist.  When it came their time to sing, they rose up suddenly behind us.

The program alternated film segments and musical numbers.  I don't think I was aware that the early twentieth century was the worst period for racism in America.  They talked about racial contracts in property deeds, something that apparently didn't exist in Oak Park.  Urban renewal was mentioned.  I am old enough to remember seeing Old Sacramento before urban renewal when many people lived there cheaply.  No thought was given to where they would move.

Pieces performed by the core trio of MôD Artists are:
  • De Gospel train
  • Stars by Omari Tau
  • The Sound of Silence by P. Simon
Another supporting artist was Lawrence Dinkins who performed his piece "Change."

They finished with "Lean on Me" by B. Withers.  Sacramento Ebony Chorale joined in.  I wanted to sing along.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

News


Congratulations to Jamie Barton for winning the BBC Music vocal prize for this album.  I reviewed it here.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera 2018



We have one more event for this season of Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera:

Saturday, May 5, 2018-- Puccini's Tosca


Christoph Campestrini will conduct.
Director -- Mark Streshinsky who directs for West Edge.  The presence of a director means staging.

Cast 

Tosca: Alexandra Loutsion, soprano
Cavaradossi: Marco Cammarota, tenor
Scarpia: Phil Skinner, bass-baritone
Sacristan: Scott Levin, bass-baritone
Angelotti: Keith Colclough, bass-baritone
Spoletta: Salvatore Atti, tenor
Sciarrone: Keith Colclough, bass-baritone

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Fabulous Cosi in HD

Full cast
👍🏻
Conductor...............David Robertson
Production..............Phelim McDermott

Fiordiligi..............Amanda Majeski
Guglielmo............Adam Plachetka 
Dorabella..............Serena Malfi
Ferrando................Ben Bliss
Despina.................Kelli O'Hara
Don Alfonso.........Christopher Maltman

Two words:  saddle oxfords.  The sisters in Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte in HD from the Metropolitan Opera are on the right in outfits which were popular when I was in junior high school.  They look so fabulously authentic.  They are in a motel and Despina is the woman who cleans the rooms.

These two guys, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are in a bar with Don Alfonso, their older male friend. When they are just a bit too drunk, the younger men start to brag about the faithfulness of their fiancés, the two sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi.  According to the guys, they are truly faithful. Don Alfonso says this is nonsense, that all women are fickle. He bets that their girlfriends are like all the others, and he will prove it. The two guys agree to test this. The two guys first appear in their naval officer uniforms, a touch that for me made all the difference.  These two young men might indeed be suddenly called off to war.

This production completely transformed my take on this opera.  It is important to remember that it is the young men's complete faith in their girl friends that makes any of this plausible.  In their military uniforms they obviously feel their young fiancés are too insignificant to jilt such important people as themselves.  They never seem to consider they might lose.  They do whatever Don Alfonso tells them and laugh at the results until it's too late.

My favorite thing about the production is the disguises, especially the mustacchi (mustaches) which make the young men look far more gorgeous than their stuffy military officer real selves.  Ferrando is completely transformed.  The disguises are always lame.


The circus performers were fun if sometimes a little overwhelming.  In the green outfit seen above is our Despina as the notary who brings the marriage certificates all the way from Texas.  This was the most fun of all with her Broadway dance number.  The entire production was complex and busy with virtually a set for each aria.  It made the whole thing a lot funnier.  It's a comedy.  We should laugh.

In the end Don Alfonso makes his case, but he realizes that Despina has done all the real work and gives her all the winnings.  New motto for Cosi fan Tutte:  Don't take your woman for granted.  My favorite Cosi ever.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Clarinet Virtuoso Katsuya Yuasa


On his tour as the winner of the Mu Phi Epsilon Foundation Performance Award clarinetist Katsuya Yuasa stopped by our local university for a recital, along with his accompanist Sakurako Kanemitsu.  He is both a skilled and an entertaining musician.

I was most interested in the chosen repertoire which went back only as far as 1899.

  • Solo de Concours (1899) by Andre Messager is a post romantic piece whose life began as an academic exam requested by Gabriel Fauré.  I like for the romantic style to at least make a showing, and this was excellent.
  • Flute Sonata, Op. 94 (1943), 1. Moderato, by Sergey Prokofiev is more modern, and was arranged for clarinet by Kent Kennan.  Prokofiev is supposed to have composed this in his free time.
  • Premiere Rhapsodie (1909/10) by Claude Debussy strangely also requested by Fauré.  I admired his technique here but always feel that Debussy requires something more.
  • Pocket Size Sonata (1957) in three short movements by Alec Templeton adds jazz to our clarinetist's broad range of styles.  He's very musical.
  • Fuer Arvo (2018) by Ryan Suleiman was presented as a world premier.  The composer was present.  And yes, the Arvo is Arvo Pärt.  It is a response to one of the older composer's compositions.  I have taken the liberty of redating this piece from 2017, since music is normally dated on the date of the world premier performance.  This was minimalist like Pärt.
  • Fantasie for Solo Clarinet (1993) by Jorg Widmann was for the clarinet alone.  This piece is for fun, to show off all the many things you can do with a clarinet, including slurs that I may only have heard in Rhapsody in Blue.  He has this stuff all down.
  • Time Pieces, Op. 43 (1983) in four movements by Robert Muczynski finished the recital. 
I found that our performer's enthusiasm for performing along with his skill made this a very pleasing recital. Good luck in the future.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Alcina on Medici.tv


Marc Minkowski | Conductor 
Adrian Noble | Stage director

Anja Harteros | Alcina
Verónica Cangemi | Morgana
Vesselina Kasarova | Ruggiero
Kristina Hammarström | Bradamante
Alois Mühlbacher | Oberto
Benjamin Bruns | Oronte
Adam Plachetka | Melisso

I have been subscribing to medici.tv without actually watching much of anything.  I notice that there are films from San Francisco on here.  All are highly recommended.

So I decided I should watch Handel's Alcina from the Vienna State Opera, 2011, with Harteros and Kasarova.   This is a typical opera seria with a traditional staging.  The best part is at the beginning where Alcina and Ruggiero are flirting.

You would want this for the singing which is very high class.  Anja in giant fro gets the most applause.  Why isn't Alcina played scarier?  This is hard to understand about this opera.  Here she seems genuinely in love and hugs everyone at the end.

Alois Mühlbacher is elsewhere called a countertenor who sounds like the boy soprano he is supposed to be according to Wikipedia.  This is a significant role, and Minkowski makes a fuss over him at the end.

This is for the Handel lover.  The camera makes a quick flash over to the audience, and I thought it might be Donna Leon, a known Handel lover.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bayerische Staatsoper 2018-19 plus my picks

The only one of these operas that I have never seen before is Krenek's Karl V.  The first list is those that have already been live streamed.

2013 Verdi: Il trovatore
2015 Strauss, R.: Arabella
2015 Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore
2015 Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor
2016 Verdi: Un ballo in maschera
2017 Wagner: Tannhäuser
2017 Giordano: Andrea Chénier
2017 Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
2018 Verdi: Les Vêpres siciliennes
2018 Wagner: Parsifal
2018 Janáček: Aus einem Totenhaus



Premiers



pre Verdi: Otello   Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros, Gerald Finley
pre Smetana: Die verkaufte Braut Günther Groissböck, Pavol Breslik
pre Krenek: Karl V. Bo Skovhus, Anne Schwanewilms
pre Puccini: La fanciulla del West Anja Kampe, John Lundgren, Brandon Jovanovich
pre Gluck: Alceste Charles Castronovo, Dorothea Röschmann
pre R. Strauss: Salome Marlis Petersen, Wolfgang Koch, Pavol Breslik
pre Handel:  Agrippina Alice Coote



This is the rest of the season with some cast listings.




Beethoven: Fidelio Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Kampe, Günther Groissböck

Bellini: Norma

Bizet: Carmen Gaëlle Arquez, Joseph Calleja 

Donizetti: Roberto Devereux Sondra Radvanovsky, Charles Castronovo

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel Tara Erraught

Janáček: Jenůfa Karita Mattila, Hanna Schwarz

Mozart: Così fan tutte Despina: Tara Erraught

Mozart: Don Giovanni Simon Keenlyside

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Mozart: Die Zauberflöte Golda Schultz

Puccini: La bohème

Puccini: Madama Butterfly Ermonela Jaho

Puccini: Tosca Anja Harteros 

Puccini: Il trittico

Puccini: Turandot Golda Schultz

Tschaikowski: Eugen Onegin

Verdi: Nabucco

Verdi: Rigoletto Simon Keenlyside

Verdi: La traviata

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer Anja Kampe, Bryn Terfel

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Jonas Kaufmann

I think I would like any of the premiers, plus maybe Fidelio, an opera I never tire of, finally Jonas in Meistersinger, Keenlyside as Rigoletto, Bryn as the dutchman.  These would all make me happy.
  

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Tommasini

When I finally review Cosi fan Tutte from the Met, I will probably not have much to add to Anthony Tommasini's review in the New York Times Saturday.  He even talks about Kelly O'Hara's Italian diction.  I often feel a longing for Broadway diction at the opera.  What's the purpose for operatic diction?  The purpose, believe it or not, is not correctness but rather to achieve understanding by someone who speaks the language.  Tone is the other consideration.

He talks about the lame disguises that appear in every production which we are supposed to think fool the girls, a pet peeve of mine.

There's nothing to be done about the fact that the premise is simply disgusting.  It plays for the music.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Dawn Upshaw in Sacramento


Dawn Upshaw came to Sacramento for a recital at CSUS as part of the New Millennium concert series.  Her accompanist was Gilbert Kalish.  I last saw her in San Francisco in 2010.  After a rather spectacular career, this lyric soprano seems more like the single mom she is.  Die Zeit, sie ist ein sonderbar Ding.

The theme of the recital was love.

She performed two groups by female composers.  The first was "On Loving," three songs by Sheila Silver.  These songs can be found on YouTube.  I believe these songs were composed in memory of Gilbert Kalish's wife.

The second group by a female composer was four songs by Rebecca Clarke who mostly composed for her instrument, the viola.  From this group I most enjoyed "Infant Joy."  It also can be found on YouTube.

The rest of the program was wide ranging and began with familiar songs by Franz Schubert.  "Gretchen am Spinnrade" was my favorite.  I do also love "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt."

Mr Kalish played a movement from Charles Ives' Piano Sonata No.2, which was followed by three of Ives' songs.

My favorite group of the concert was five songs by Béla Bartók.  In school one is taught that Bartók was an ethnomusicologist.  This means he went around his native Hungary with a recorder taping every song he heard.  There are supposed to be hundreds of these, but this is the first time I have heard them on a concert.  They were fascinating.

The program ended with three songs by William Bolcom.  There are also YouTube films of these.

There was an encore:  Ives' "Two little flowers", a song I love madly which I must surely have sung at one time or another.

Curiously, Gilbert Kalish can be found accompanying many of these songs on YouTube.

______________________
Highlights of the career of Dawn Upshaw as seen from this blog.

  • CDs of works by Oswaldo Golijov including Ayre and Oceana.
  • A live performance of Ayre in Berkeley.  This did not seem possible since so much of it is electronic.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Semiramide in HD

Camarena - DeShong - Meade - Abdrazakov
👍🏻
Conductor...........Maurizio Benini
Production..........John Copley

Semiramide, Queen of Babylon, widow of King Nino, soprano:  Angela Meade
Assur, a prince, descendant of Baal, bass:  Ildar Abdrazakov
Arsace, Commander of the Assyrian army, contralto:   Elizabeth DeShong
Idreno, an Indian king, tenor:   Javier Camarena
Oroe, high priest of the Magi, bass:   Ryan Speedo Green
Azema, a princess, descendant of Baal, soprano:   Sarah Shafer
Mitrane, Captain of the Guard, tenor:  Kang Wang
Nino's Ghost, bass:  Jeremy Galyon

This wasn't my first time with Rossini's Semiramide.  My first time was probably the only time it played at the San Francisco Opera in 1981 with Montserrat Caballé, Marilyn Horne and James Morris.  I sat next to a woman who was a Caballé fan, and we alternated sighing for the two female stars.  This in spite of the weirdness of the costumes.  Richard Bonynge conducted.


I bought a film from the Bel Canto Society filmed in 1980 with a very similar cast which included Sam Ramey.  The singing is amazing if you'd like to hear it.

And then a year ago I watched a stream from Munich starring Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona which I enjoyed very much for the singing but which was modernized.


Let's just say I had certain expectations today.  For one thing I expected not to like it.  Instead I got surprises.

Semiramide is Rossini's last opera seria.  It may in fact be the last opera seria at all.  This form of opera means serious opera, has serious subject matter, consists of endless rows of da capo arias and ensembles, and usually has a happy ending.  The singing is the point.  You can see from the pictures that this is the first time in my experience that any effort was made to make the costumes look Assyrian.  In Marilyn's version the soldiers looked a bit like playing cards.  In Joyce's everyone seems like modern middle-eastern.  Today's costumes may not be pretty, but they are trying to be period.

I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Angela Meade in this role.  She has a steelier voice than either Caballé or DiDonato.  In fact that could be said of the other singers as well.  DeShong is steelier and heavier than Horne or Barcellona.  Camarena is heavier than Brownlee or Ariaza.  The result is a shift to a much more intense and dramatic work altogether.  All are working together to set a tone of intense tragedy.

There's only one problem with that:  all that intensity can become tedious.  Sometimes I appreciated it, and sometimes I didn't.  Bonynge and company focused on beautiful singing above all else.  This is pleasing in an entirely different way.

I was surprised by Ryan Speedo Green.  What a voice.  I was surprised by the clarity of the plot.  I saw the Commendatore from Don Giovanni in Nino's Ghost.  I liked it in a surprising way.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Beethoven and Mozart in Sacramento


Dmitri Sitkovetsky came to Sacramento to conduct and play solo violin for the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera.  I found this to be a particularly well constructed concert program and assigned this success to Dmitri.  Thank you for coming.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Suite No. 4 "Mozartiana", Op. 61 (1887)  

These movements are all based on music by Mozart. (Notes from Wikipedia)

  1. Gigue. Allegro (G major) After the Little Gigue for piano, K. 574. 
  2. Menuet. Moderato (D major) After the Minuet for piano, K. 355. 
  3. Preghiera. Andante ma non tanto (B♭ major) After Franz Liszt's piano transcription of the Ave verum corpus, K. 618. (In 1862 Liszt wrote a piano transcription combining Gregorio Allegri's Miserere and Mozart's Ave verum corpus, published as "À la Chapelle Sixtine" (S.461). Tchaikovsky orchestrated only the part of this work that had been based on Mozart.) 
  4. Thème et variations. Allegro giusto (G major) After the piano Variations on a Theme by Gluck, K. 455. (The theme was the aria "Unser dummer Pöbel meint", from Gluck's opera La Rencontre imprévue, or Les Pèlerins de la Mecque). 

I admit I'm not a huge Tchaikovsky fan.  Sitkovetsky conducted.


Wolfgang Mozart, Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major (1775)

This is a lovely violin concerto, Mozart's last, from the time when part of his income source was playing violin solos.  He was 19.  Sources point out that his violin concertos don't show off all the possibilities of the violin as Beethoven and Brahms do.  Ok.  Mozart would have played these pieces himself, while Beethoven and Brahms would have relied on professional violin soloists active at their time.  Mozart's concerto is characterized by beautiful melodies and typical Mozart style.  For me it was very beautifully played.  Sitkovetsky was conductor and soloist.  The orchestra played well without constant attention from the maestro.

Arvo Pärt, Fratres (Brothers) (1977)  

The title refers to religious brothers.  This was the first time I have heard Arvo Pärt played live on a concert.  He is a living composer from Estonia.  This piece was undoubtedly chosen because it is also a violin concerto of sorts.  It begins with a series of jarring violin arpeggios and goes on to repetitive chords and arpeggios.  You will note that this piece dates one year after Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass.  Both Pärt and Glass are pioneers of the minimalist school.  We went to the lecture before where this was mentioned.  Sitkovetsky was the violin soloist and occasionally had opportunity to conduct.

Ludwig Beethoven Symphony No. 8 (1814)

Sitkovetsky returned to conducting for this.  This is a somewhat small symphony which could have come from an earlier period.  Again it was well played.

I enjoyed the way this concert was constructed with works from many styles which all related back to the influence of Mozart.  I especially liked hearing the Mozart concerto, a favorite.  Now that I understand that Arvo Pärt is a minimalist, I hope he will appear again for me.  Otherwise I only know about him from recordings.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

St. John Passion in Davis

Jeffrey Thomas conductor

Remember when I said about the motets concert by American Bach Soloists last April, "Choosing to play all of them on one program would have to do with generating a CD, probably." You probably don't remember it. Well now there is a CD called Bach's Motets for Double Chorus from American Bach Soloists based on the this concert.  It was an easy prediction.

Last night they performed Bach's St John Passion.  This is a repeat from 5 years ago but is probably a different version of the work.   Apparently Bach performed his Saint John Passion four different times over the years in four different arrangements.

I want to be sure to mention the soloists.  The first four form the narrative from the gospel. Several also are from the chorus.

Aaron Sheehan, tenor, Evangelista
Jesse Blumberg, baritone, Christus
Bryan Jolly, baritone, Pilatus, chorus
Jefferson Packer, bass, Petrus, chorus
Robin Bier, contralto, chorus
Hélène Brunet, soprano, chorus
Stephen Brennfleck, tenor, chorus

All did a fine job, with very minor suggestions about the German diction.  I especially liked Robin Bier, contralto.  Her voice and style are very beautiful.

The work was performed in German with a translation provided.  I was curious to read that in English Barrabam is a thief while in German he is a murderer.  One might wish to have a theological discussion concerning the Bible in German.

The chorus is very strong for such a small group.  The maestro kept the pacing quick without seeming rushed.

I never get the final chorus I want so I'll just put it here.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Kinderkuchen most Frequently Reviewed

This is the top 10 list of my most frequently reviewed operas:

La Bohème #4 Puccini
Der Rosenkavalier #37 Strauss R
La Traviata #2 Verdi
Tosca #6 Puccini
Le Nozze di Figaro #5 Mozart
Aida #13 Verdi
Don Carlo #41 Verdi
Il Trovatore #23 Verdi
Carmen #3 Bizet
Rigoletto #10 Verdi

Half are Verdi, two are Puccini, none are Wagner.  This is all as should be expected. 

Here's another list of operas from the twentieth century that have been reviewed 3 or more times.  There's nothing surprising here either as long as you remember I prefer Lulu to Wozzeck.  Half are Richard Strauss, two more are Puccini.


Der Rosenkavalier #37 Strauss R
Bluebeard's Castle Bartók
Lulu Berg
Turandot #15 Puccini
Arabella Strauss R
Ariadne auf Naxos #46 Strauss R
Elektra #49 Strauss R
Jenůfa #61 Janáček
La Fanciulla del West #100 Puccini
Porgy and Bess #68 Gershwin
Rusalka #56 Dvorák
Salome #32 Strauss R