Jonas Kaufmann (Eisenstein),
Elisabeth Kulman (Prince Orlofsky),
Andreas Schager (Alfred)
Rachel Willis-Sørensen (Rosalinde)
Nicola Hillebrand (Adele)
and the Staatskapelle Dresden
I'd guess we did about 40 performances of Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, so I pretty much know the whole thing by heart auf Deutsch. No need for subtitles. It's not really my Fledermaus in English. So Jonas Kaufmann's first Eisenstein is a present to me via medici.tv.
An early favorite is the ensemble where they pretend to be sad and completely fail. "Oh yeh, oh yeh." This Orlofsky is something else. She/he doesn't take no for an answer. (If they cast a man as Orlofsky, I leave.) The substitute Adele is excellent.
I was underwhelmed by the Rosalinde until she started into the Csárdás which was just right. The soloists get champagne but the chorus doesn't. We would never have stood for that. It's also nice to hear such excellent German diction. I miss Germany.
Jonas is fine as Eisenstein who is actually a high baritone, but the music for him isn't the focus of attention. It's mainly an acting role, which we know he is also quite good at.
Thank you all for a happy new years eve performance. Alles gute.
One of my activities for this year was to research the career of Peter Sellars. This involved some new works I had not seen before: Weill's Die sieben Todsünden, and Stravinsky's Perséphone. The Weill was filmed rather like a song cycle, so perhaps I have still not seen it staged. Other films that were seen included Sellars' staging of Giulio Cesare. The performances generally occurred before our calendar year and don't get awards. In Europe he is a significant figure, so it is best to try to understand his works. I gave him mixed reviews. You can find these by using the Peter Sellars label.
I also decided that my complete ignorance of the works of Meyerbeer needed to be dealt with.
BEST NEW OPERA AWARD: So who deserves an award? Of the new works I am torn between Lessons in Love and Violence and Marnie. I enjoyed Marnie a lot so I award to it. Isabel Leonard is always fabulous and carried this production.
BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD Since I saw only one opera from the Baroque, the award must go to Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea from Salzburg with Sonya Yoncheva and Kate Lindsey. It was beautifully sung and fun to watch.
BEST MOZART OPERA AWARD Again I saw only one opera by Mozart and must award to Cosi fan Tutte from the Met. I enjoyed the new production, especially the arrogant and absurdly self-confident males. How could any woman reject me?
BEST GRAND OPERA AWARD I researched Meyerbeer a bit and saw his Le Prophete from Toulouse and Les Huguenots from Paris. Both have plots from the European religious wars which are hard for modern people. Meyerbeer founded Grand Opera and Les Huguenots is very much esteemed among his works. I was there because Lisette Oropesa replaced Diana Damrau. She was beautiful. I'm thinking of moving on to his Dinorah. The award goes to Les Huguenots.
BEST BEL CANTO OPERA AWARD Bel canto was represented by Rossini's Semiramide from the Met, Donizetti's L’Elisir d’Amore from the Met with Pretty Yende and Matthew Polenzani, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from Madrid with Lisette Oropesa and Javier Camarena, and Donizetti's Roberto Devereux from SFO starring Sondra Radvanovsky. Semiramide suffered from comparison with last year's version from Munich where I loved hearing Semiramide sung by a mezzo. For me the award is a tossup between Lucia and Roberto Devereux. Sondra Radvanovsky in Roberto Devereaux was simply wonderful. With so many candidates I must award to Roberto Devereux for the heroine's spectacular acting and singing and for the overall high quality of the performance.
BEST VERDI OPERA AWARD The nominees for best performance of a Verdi opera in 2018 are Il Corsaro from Valencia with Michael Fabiano, Rigoletto from the ROH, Aida from the Met with Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili, Otello from Munich with Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros and Gerald Finley, Luisa Miller from the Met with Placido Domingo and Sonya Yoncheva, and La Traviata from the Met with Diana Damrau. We have simply too many riches. Verdi is always special, and while I enjoyed La Traviata and loved Aida, Otello was deeply moving with expert performances by all three leads. Can anything be more wonderful than lots of fabulous Verdi? For bringing true greatness I must award to Otello.
BEST WAGNER OPERA AWARD The candidates are Das Rheingold from SFO, Die Walküre from SFO, Die Walküre from Munich, Parsifal from Munich with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, and the blue Lohengrin from Bayreuth with Anja Harteros and Piotr Beczala. There were no home runs in this crowd. It was sad for me that I missed half of the San Francisco Ring. Too many plot points were missing from the staging of Parsifal. In spite of the fact that the blue Lohengrin was also the bondage Lohengrin, I have decided to award to Lohengrin. Piotr was terrific in this role.
BEST ROMANTIC OPERA NOT VERDI OR WAGNER AWARD. The nominees are Massanet's Cendrillon from the Met with Joyce DiDonato, Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila from the Met with Elina Garanca and Roberto Alagna, and Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades from Salzburg with Brandon Jovanovich. I enjoyed very much all three of these operas but adored the wonderful sexiness of Samson et Dalila and award to it. I did like Brandon Jovanovich in Queen of Spades, though.
BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD The nominees are Puccini's Tosca from the Met with Sonya Yoncheva, Puccini's La Boheme from the Met also with Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Fabiano, Cav/Pag from SFO which successfully merged into one opera, and Puccini's La Fanciulla del West from the Met with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jonas Kaufmann. I think Jonas wins again.
BEST MODERN OPERA AWARD The candidates are Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence, Barber's Vanessa from Glyndebourne, Strauss' Arabella from SFO, Muhly's Marnie from the Met with Isabel Leonard and Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life from SFO. There's some good stuff in this short list, but I turned out not to like Heggie's opera, and found Arabella a let down after the Munich version. So I award to Marnie.
BEST/WORST REGIE PRODUCTION AWARD The regie nominees are Verdi's Otello from Munich, Monteverdi's Poppea from Salzburg, Wagner's Lohengrin from Bayreuth, Wagner's Parsifal from Munich, Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte from the Met, and Wagner's Die Walküre from Munich. From this bunch I must say all the Wagner was terrible but sometimes amusing. Parsifal was the worst. Dear Regisseurs, Wagner's operas are generally not comedies. I loved the Cosi even if it was too busy, but the production for Otello transformed the opera to focus on Desdemona and the love story. So BEST is Otello and WORST is Persifal.
BEST SINGING AWARD Lisette Oropesa. It was her year.
Alfredo.....................Juan Diego Flórez
Hostess .................Anita Rachvelishvili
We were treated to the new production by Michael Mayer of Verdi's La Traviata live in HD from the Met. I could not find a picture that looked just like the single set production. The actual set had the piano upstage right instead of downstage left as shown here. Throughout the opera Violetta's bed was downstage center. It was simply integrated into the staging. A dance in Act I successfully used this bed.
This versatile set looked remarkably different in each scene. The busyness of the design, elaborate deco figures and costumes, was successfully offset by dressing Violetta in white, Alfredo in a dark military uniform and Germont in a brown suit. They each easily stood out from the background. Another unusual feature of the production was the appearance of Alfredo's sister in a mime role. I am counting this as a successful production.
There seemed to be unusual unanimity of purpose here. Much complaining appeared concerning Juan Diego's light voice, but my impression was that he fit impressively into the overall concept. From beginning to end Violetta is a woman with a very serious disease who is dying. We see this emphasized first through her lying on her death bed during the prelude. Diana in particular played and sang her fragility. This was a particularly beautiful performance which stayed close to the story.
Juan Diego's role was more varied, but was also acted extremely well. And Quinn Kelsey has followed his line of great Verdi successes with a beautiful Germont performance.
This series is the debut of Yannick Nézet-Séguin in his new role as music director. Welcome, Yannick. Singers love him. We were shown in intermission a coaching session between Yannick and Diana, who said he was like a brother to her. They were together in this beautiful, delicate concept of La Traviata.
My interest is primarily in opera that is being presented now. It would
be colossally boring for me to see the same ancient productions over and
over. Nevertheless I do enjoy a surprisingly large amount of different
This is just something fun and is constantly a work in progress. 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 around 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.
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, live stream or HD
## top 20 all time
list is limited to performances that took place in 2018. This was
another year without travel, but there is so much on the internet these
days that it hardly matters. There is no order.
Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte.
I saw only one Mozart this year, and it was this overdone, rather silly
circus. Nevertheless I loved it because it slanted the plot toward the
arrogance and egotism of the men. ** Met HD
Rigoletto: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone
Gilda: Nadine Sierra, soprano
Duke of Mantua: Francesco Demuro, tenor
Sparafucile: Andrea Mastroni, bass
Maddalena: Oksana Volkova, contralto
This CD of Verdi's Rigoletto, I believe, is Dmitri Hvorostovsky's last recording. It has been nominated for a 2018 Grammy. It is a work I performed in my youth that stays in my heart. I don't need help to keep track of the story, but a full libretto is provided.
You will want this for Dmitri. Nadine Sierra is everywhere these days, and you may also want it for her. Or you can listen on Amazon prime.
Clara, Angel Second Class:
Kearstin Piper Brown
Angels First Class:
Uncle Billy Bailey:
I saw Jake Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life yesterday. We missed Golda Schultz as Clara. Her replacement was often covered by the orchestra. The picture above is Clara getting her Angel First Class wings. Obviously this is an opera based on a movie. Other such operas are Orphée by Philip Glass and The Exterminating Angel by Thomas Adès, which seemed to work better.
I wish I liked this, but I didn't. There were too many words, words not clearly enunciated by all but William Burden. This meant much staring at the subtitles which were slightly small for me. Too much talk, not enough arias. There were even long stretches of spoken dialog so more words could be fit in. When Clara gets her wings, she needs an aria. When George and Mary get married, they need a duet. I could go on and on. It ended well, but it was too long to wait for this.
I don't pan many things. After all, I loved Moby Dick. No thank you. This seems to be strictly for people who love the movie.
Evan Leroy Johnson
This performance of Verdi's Otello from Munich is unquestionably a masterpiece. We have here the ultimate domestic violence story. It was a simple regie production in modern dress with many pictures to be seen here. There are a few plot alterations. Normally Otello and Desdemona are married before the opera starts, but here they marry shortly after he returns from war, after the love duet. People enter and cover their bed with flowers.
In the past I have doubted that this opera was exactly right for Jonas Kaufmann, but now I may have to reconsider. He refrained from pushing, as do many tenors here, and won me over. This Otello is not black but he is also not beautiful. This is why it is so easy for him to believe that this particular woman doesn't love him. He believes in himself as a warrior but not as a lover. Jonas has created this character in the manner of the great performer he certainly is. We are lucky to live in his time.
The sets and staging focus on the couple and their relationship, and who better to play this couple than the great opera stage couple of our own era: Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros. Anja is a stage creature. To come to her greatest triumphs requires the stage where she can show voice, movement, beauty, expression and I think perhaps most of all acting. In my mind I think of Desdemona as a light, relatively insignificant role. With Anja we have the greatest depths of tragedy. We have love and fear together in abundance. Like many others before and after, she prepares for her own death and does not think of escaping. It was a triumph.
And as if that were not enough we have the dream Iago of Gerald Finley, one of the greatest singing actors in opera. You need to overlook the outfit where he wears baggy pants and Adidas. He approaches Otello rather more intimately than one would generally expect, creating a new dimension to the opera. Our imaginations immediately leap to lovers. Could it be jealousy that motivates all this mayhem?
Petrenko was marvelous, as usual. In my group people complained that he is seen rather more during the drama than they would prefer. At the start they jumped immediately to film of Anja, which meant no shots of Petrenko.
This was a genuinely great thing. I'm going to watch it again tomorrow.
P.S. I did. It was wonderful the second time, too.
I first saw Javier Camarena in Zurich about a decade ago in Carmen. I like him very much and have DVDs of him in Rossini's Otello and Le Comte Ory. In his Fach (leggiero tenor) he is the best today. This CD is an homage to Manuel Garcia, the famous tenor who was the father of Malibran and Viardot. This homage is like similar ones in that Javier performs works from Garcia's singing repertoire. In addition he also performs works by him; in fact fully half of the tracks are by Garcia. The ones that sound familiar are all by Rossini.
One of the Rossini tracks is a duet from Armida with Cecilia Bartoli. This is charming. The recording may be regarded as a tour de force.
Cecilia Bartoli is listed as Mentor on this album. Her orchestra Les Musiciens du Prince accompany conducted by Gianluca Capuano.
I went today to see Maria by Callas, a movie on the life of Maria Callas, born Maria Anna Cecilia Sofia Kalogeropoulos in Manhattan. Callas is seen from the perspective of her own words. In the movie she is seen and heard speaking, but I heard only English and French. The speaking voice reading things written by Callas was Joyce DiDonato. Extensive footage of Callas in interviews is included, including a long one with David Frost and another with Barbara Walters.
We were shown the most important people in her life: her mother Elmina Evangelia who organized her life into a musical career, her teacher Elvira de Hidalgo who created her wonderful technique, her husband the wealthy industrialist Giovanni Battista Meneghini who acted as her manager for most of her career, and her boy friend Aristotle Onassis. They don't get to speak for themselves, but there is footage for all four.
Callas's voice swells to anger only in discussing the breakup with Rudolph Bing, then the manager of the Metropolitan Opera. She wanted new productions. Someone who has already triumphed at La Scala has a right to expect this. But she blames Meneghini for these problems. After the blow up with Bing, she separated from Meneghini.
Anyone interested in Callas should see this. It is best for the pictures and films from all phases of her career and for the carefully selected recordings that play throughout. My favorite was "La mamma morta." I thought I spotted Franco Corelli several times. Even as a very young woman her huge voice boomed out. She was even chosen as a Wagner singer at the start. It was her giant voice that separated her from the crowd.
Franz Welser-Möst Conductor
John Daszak Herodes
Anna Maria Chiuri Herodias
Asmik Grigorian Salome
Gábor Bretz Jochanaan
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Teodor Currentzis Conductor
Peter Sellars Director
Russell Thomas Idomeneo
Paula Murrihy Idamante
Ying Fang Ilia
Nicole Chevalier Elettra
Francesco Cilea (1866 - 1950) Adriana Lecouvreur
Marco Armiliato Conductor
Anna Netrebko Adriana Lecouvreur
Yusif Eyvazov Maurizio, conte di Sassonia
Anita Rachvelishvili La principessa di Bouillon
Luigi Cherubini (1760 - 1842)
Thomas Hengelbrock Conductor
Simon Stone Director
Sonya Yoncheva Médée
George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759)
Gianluca Capuano Conductor
Cecilia Bartoli Alcina
Philippe Jaroussky Ruggiero
Sandrine Piau Morgana
Kristina Hammarström Bradamante
Christoph Strehl Oronte
George Enescu (1881 - 1955)
Ingo Metzmacher Conductor
Christopher Maltman Œdipe
John Tomlinson Tirésias
Brian Mulligan Créon
Orphée aux enfers
Enrique Mazzola Conductor
Barrie Kosky Director
Marcel Beekman Aristée / Pluton
Martin Winkler Jupiter
Joel Prieto Orphée
Kathryn Lewek Eurydice
Max Hopp John Styx
Anne Sofie von Otter L’Opinion publique
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901)
Valery Gergiev Conductor
Luca Salsi Simon Boccanegra
Marina Rebeka Amelia Grimaldi
René Pape Jacopo Fiesco
Charles Castronovo Gabriele Adorno
Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901)
James Conlon Conductor
Roberto Tagliavini Il conte di Walter
Piotr Beczala Rodolfo
Teresa Iervolino Federica
Plácido Domingo Miller
Nino Machaidze Luisa
John Relyea Wurm
Marnie..................Isabel Leonard (mezzo)
Mark Rutland........Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Marnie's Mother.....Denyce Graves (mezzo)
Mr. Strutt..............Anthony Dean Griffey (tenor)
Terry Rutland.........Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
Laura Fleet.............Ashley Emerson
Malcom Fleet........Will Liverman
Miss Fedder...........Marie Te Hapuku
Mrs. Rutland..........Janis Kelly (soprano)
Dr. Roman...............James Courtney
Little Boy..............Gabriel Gurevich
Shadow Marnies: Deanna Breiwick, Disella Lárusdóttir, Rebecca Ringle Kamarei, Peabody Southwell
Wikipedia says, "Marnie is an opera in English by Nico Muhly to a libretto by Nicholas Wright based on the 1961 novel by Winston Graham. It premiered at the English National Opera in November 2017 and at the Metropolitan Opera in October 2018." However, this story is most famous as an Alfred Hitchcock movie. The premier at the ENO explains the presence of so many English singers.
The story and the production are dense and complicated, more like a crime novel than an opera. Marnie has four alter egos who dress in similar outfits and occasionally sing. No one but Marnie notices them. She invents identities for herself and gets jobs in offices where she is the payroll clerk. Then she steals the money. This all takes place in small towns in southern England.
The alter egos aren't the only strange figures wandering around the stage. We have frequently thin men in gray business suits and hats who seem to be merely menacing. Reminder: thin people in the opera generally indicates ballet.
In one scene in Act I Marnie visits her mother, played by the great Denyce Graves. Mother constantly suspects and accuses. Marnie is reminded that she killed her younger brother.
Mark Rutland recognizes Marnie and blackmails her into marrying him. She agrees to stay with him if he moves her horse to the country. He makes her see a psychiatrist. This is one crazy lady. In Act II there is an extended scene where Marnie rides her beloved horse on a fox hunt. The horse injures itself, and she is forced to shoot it. Her mother dies and much is revealed. The ending is ambiguous. That's enough plot stuff. The production has an acceptable air of mystery and creepiness.
Isabel Leonard is a wonderful actress as well as an excellent singer, and pretty much carries this opera. She has 15 costumes or maybe more. They showed us a film of her going in and out of her cubicle in the wings.
The score as played by the orchestra was fascinating and rather beautiful. I have been listening to the Festival of New American Music all this week, and I must say Nico Muhly's style is more coherent than seems to be generally the case these days. I enjoyed listening to it. My only problem with the music here was with the material composed for the voices. Act I lacked any sense of vocal legato, the core feature of opera. There was more solo material and therefore quite a bit of improvement in Act II. It was entertaining, but I'm not sure I would want to see it again.
Lisette Oropesa *
Sondra Radvanovsky * Is she Canadian now?
Joyce DiDonato * Susan Graham *
Michael Fabiano *
Matthew Polenzani *
Thomas Hampson, baritone * Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Quinn Kelsey, baritone *
Eric Owens, bass-baritone * Morris Robinson, bass
This is my list if I admit only American singers that I have heard. I haven't done one of these before. Your favorite might be someone I haven't heard or someone I think of as retired. Here's a longer list.
Patricia Racette * xSondra Radvanovsky * Is she Canadian now?
Lisette Oropesa *
Ailyn Pérez Amber Wagner Erin Morley Nicole Cabell
Dolora Zajick *
xJoyce DiDonato * Susan Graham * Stephanie Blythe
Isabel Leonard Kate Lindsay J'nai Bridges
xMatthew Polenzani *
Michael Fabiano * Jay Hunter Morris Stephen Costello Charles Castranovo Russell Thomas Brandon Jovanovich Paul Groves René Barbera
Thomas Hampson, baritone * Dwayne Croft, baritone
Nathan Gunn, baritone
Quinn Kelsey, baritone * Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Eric Owens, bass-baritone * Greer Grimsley, bass-baritone
Mark Delavan, bass-baritone Morris Robinson, bass
On Friday the Metropolitan Opera Guild honored Anna Netrebko. Opera Wire in his report of the occasion mentions that Peter Gelb who spoke concerning the blackface controversy surrounding Aida said he talked with Netrebko and,“We discussed which shade she would be, but she resolved the issue by going to a tanning salon,” I am posting this because at the time I said that Anna gets that dark with a tan. If that's her natural skin with a tan, it can't be blackface. So there.
-- Conductor Marc Albrecht * Director Tim Albery * Production Designer Tobias Hoheisel
Waldner family: Arabella, elder daughter of the Waldners:
Ellie Dehn (soprano)
‡ Zdenko/Zdenka, Arabella's sister:
Heidi Stober Countess Adelaide Waldner, their mother:
‡ Count Theodor Waldner, a retired cavalry officer, their father:
Richard Paul Fink
Arabella's suitors: Mandryka, A Croatian landowner
‡ Matteo, a young officer Daniel Johansson
‡ Count Elemer, one of Arabella's suitors
‡ Count Dominik, one o
f Arabella's suitors
‡ Count Lamoral, one of Arabella's suitors
Teller to Countess Waldner:
‡ The Fiakermilli, a cabaret singer
Hye Jung Lee
* San Francisco Opera debut
† Current Adler Fellow
‡ Role debut
A new production of Strauss's Arabella is currently running at the San Francisco Opera. This opera is very nice, has lovely music and a perfect ending, as long as you remember that everyone in it is an idiot. The Waldners have two daughters and no money because papa gambles it all away. They are trying very hard to find a wealthy and suitable husband for their elder daughter Arabella. Father remembers his old army buddy Mandryka and sends him a picture of his daughter.
I enjoyed this concert by the American Bach Soloists in Davis on Monday very much. Above is their conductor Jeffrey Thomas. This concert consisted of 2 Brandenburg Concertos, No.1 and No.3, and The Hunting Cantata. One reason for loving this group is because in addition to calling themselves after Bach they also play a lot of Bach. In this case the entire concert was Bach.
Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major began the concert. Of the two concertos this one was the less familiar. I believe it was chosen because it includes two parts for natural horns which appear again in The Hunting Cantata. Elizabeth Bloomenstock, the concert mistress, was also a soloists here.
Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G Major, a very familiar work, orchestrated for three violins, three violas and 3 cellos with continuo, completed the first half. All 9 designated parts perform as soloists It is an unusual orchestration both for Bach and for the world at large. Bach was always trying to stretch himself.
Apparently it is the habit of this group to add movements to established works. Brandenburg No.3 has only two movements, but an allegro from a trio sonata transcribed from an organ piece was inserted between the other two movements. The players reorganized themselves. The complex concerto was well played.
For me the treat of this concert came after the intermission: The Hunting Cantata, a work written to praise the Margrave of Brandenburg Schwedt. The Margrave was named Christian, a word that appears several times in the text. I found it interesting that they would use his first name. Apparently he was much loved and enjoyed hunting. The hit tune from this work I had not heard before is "Sheep may safely graze."
The performance began with the Allegro from Oboe Concerto in F Major featuring the oboist Stephen Bard? The vocal soloists were:
Hélène Brunet soprano (Pales)
Julie Bosworth soprano (Diana)
Derek Chester tenor (Endymion)
Mischa Bouvier baritone (Pan)
The Hunting Cantata is the most cheerful and lively piece by J.S. Bach I have ever heard. It is fun and was of course very well performed.
Stephanie Blythe | Mezzo-soprano (1999)
Javier Camarena | Tenor
Yusif Eyvazov | Tenor
Michael Fabiano | Tenor (2014)
Christine Goerke | Soprano (2001)
Quinn Kelsey | Baritone
Angela Meade | Soprano (2011)
Anna Netrebko | Soprano
Nadine Sierra | Soprano (2017)
Christian Van Horn | Bass-baritone
New York Choral Society,
Members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Marco Armiliato | Conductor
They are all like old friends. I am embarrassed to say I needed a program. Someone has found one for me, but it's still hard to work out.
PROGRAM Opening Speech Barry Tucker Giuseppe Verdi, Nabucco sung by our winner Christian Van Horn.
Jerónimo Giménez / Manuel Nieto, El Barbero de Sevilla II: "Me llaman la primorosa" with Nadine Sierra. Giuseppe Verdi, Luisa Miller II: "Quando le sere al placido chiaror d'un ciel stellato" with Michael Fabiano
Richard Strauss, Ariadne Auf Naxos, Op. 60 "Es gibt ein Reich" with Christine Goerke. Wonderful.
Small speech by Javier Camarena telling how he was robbed and was thus wearing Richard Tucker's cuff links and studs. Good luck?
Manuel Garcia, Florestan II: "Dieu!... pour venger un père, faut-il devenir assassin…" by Javier Camarena from his CD, spectacularly sung. Giuseppe Verdi, I Lombardi Alla Prima Crociata II: "Oh madre, dal cielo…No, no! giusta causa" with Angela Meade also spectacularly sung.
Giuseppe Verdi, Falstaff II, 1: "È sogno? o realtà?" with Quinn Kelsey. Giuseppe Verdi, Il Trovatore III, 2 - Scena ed Aria : "Ah! Sì, ben mio" with Yusif Eyvazov.
Giuseppe Verdi, Don Carlo (revised version in 4 acts) III, 1: "Ella giammai m'amo!" with Christian Van Horn
Gioachino Rossini, Armida "Amor! Possente nome" a duet with Angela Meade and Javier Camarena. Pietro Mascagni, Cavalleria Rusticana Regina Coeli...Inneggiamo with Christine Goerke. Leonard Bernstein, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Take Care Of This House with Stephanie Blythe. Jules Massenet, Manon "Toi! Vous!" (St. Sulpice duet sung Nadine Sierra and Michael Fabiano.) Vincenzo Bellini, I Puritani II: "Riccardo! Riccardo!" with Quinn Kelsey and Christian Van Horn. Georges Bizet, Carmen "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" with Stephanie Blythe. Umberto Giordano, Andrea Chénier IV: "Vicino a te s'aqueta" big finish provided by Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov.
It was a terrific concert in the Richard Tucker style of big voices. For some reason I expected an ensemble at the end but did not get it.
The 2018-19 concert season of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera featured guest conductor Andrew Grams with guest violinist Angelo Xiang Yu playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. They were fun together with their surprisingly matching over the top enthusiasm. This was met with great audience excitement. Yu played an encore of a solo version of the Meditation from Thais by Massenet.
The concert finished with Schumann's Symphony No. 4. Maestro Grams brings much excitement to his performances.
High Priest.............Laurent Naouri
Today was the HD broadcast of Camille Saint-Saëns' opera Samson et Dalila. There was a lot of complaining about this very flashy production, but except for the rather perverse ballet I loved it. I can't help wondering if the Philistines would have dressed so colorfully and the Israelites in contrast so drably. One imagines really more similarity. The production handled well the task I normally assign to it--explaining the plot. Each transition of the story is well demonstrated.
Director: Andreas Kreigenburg
Conductor : Michele Mariotti et Łukasz Borowicz
Marguerite de Valois, catholic queen : Lisette Oropesa
Raoul de Nangis, protestant: Yosep Kang
Valentine: Ermonela Jaho
Urbain, Queen's page: Karine Deshayes
Marcel, Raoul's servant: Nicolas Testé
Le Comte de Saint-Bris : Paul Gay
La dame d’honneur : Julie Robard‑Gendre
Une bohémienne : Julie Robard‑Gendre
Cossé, un étudiant catholique : François Rougier
Le Comte de Nevers : Florian Sempey
Tavannes, premier moine : Cyrille Dubois
Méru, deuxième moine : Michal Partyka
Thoré, Maurevert : Patrick Bolleire
Retz, troisième moine : Tomislav Lavoie
Coryphée, une jeune fille catholique, une bohémienne : Élodie Hache
Bois-Rosé, valet : Philippe Do
Un archer du guet : Olivier Ayault
Quatre seigneurs : John Bernard - Cyrille Lovighi - Bernard Arrieta - Fabio Bellenghi
From Paris Opera Bastille I have found a film of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, 1836, which I wanted to watch live on Thursday. The action takes place in 2063[?] according to a text on the screen. The Catholic men wear clown-like ruffs around their necks while the protestants look a bit more like business men.
In Roberto Devereux we heard "God Save the Queen" in the overture. In this opera the well known tune incorporated into the story is Luther's "Ein feste Burg." This is to represent Protestantism. Les Huguenots precedes Roberto Devereux. We know that Meyerbeer was Wagner's patron and got him his start in composing operas, which might help to explain the presence of the Dresden Amen in Tannhäuser and Parsifal. In spite of his rants against Meyerbeer, imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery. Perhaps it serves to suggest an aura of religious feeling. I digress.
I'm finding the production pretty hard going. I have no background with this opera. I am here to see Lisette Oropesa, and here at the mid point I must say she is magnificent. The first scene is men and the second is women, with the queen's page going back and forth between them. What is one to make of religious persecution in the future? The set in Act II is very beautiful and includes a bit of nudity.
I am exploring this opera and am surprised to see a male chorus singing "Rata plan" See also Donizetti's La fille du régiment, and Verdi's La Forza del Destino. Again, this opera appears to be the first. I didn't realize how much borrowing went on. There's a lot of choral work which I am finding unattractive. Verdi bombast is somehow more fun. Things going on in my soul are also interfering with my enjoyment of this opera. I am tired of hatred and violence.
There is a line across Europe across the Alps dividing the descendants of Roman culture and the descendants of Vikings, Germans, etc. The former group remained catholic while all of the north, except maybe Poland, changed to protestant. I have always felt that when Luther went to Rome, he was mostly experiencing culture shock. However, in the Catholic countries were also pockets of Protestantism. There were two results: war and immigration to America. My German friends would always ask why we had so many religions in America. Because when you chased them out of Europe, they came to us. Again I digress.
Yosep Kang has a very beautiful tenor voice but fluffs a high note later on. As a lyric tenor he's wonderful. As a dramatic tenor not so much. Ermonela Jaho hasn't had much to sing in the first half but sings a lot in the later acts. Jaho is well known in Europe but has not really crossed my path that much. All the big coloratura show pieces are for the queen while Valentine is a full lyric type with very little coloratura. That seems to be the pattern with Meyerbeer. All the coloratura arias are for a specific voice. I admit to not being wild about any of these operas.
The greatest influences on Wagner seem to be Meyerbeer and Liszt, Meyerbeer for the heavy orchestration and dramatic style, Liszt for the invention of the tone poem which provides the through-composed concept applied to the full act of an opera. I have to say I very much prefer mythology to politics for opera plots. The only hit tune from this opera, other than the borrowed one, is the page's aria in act I.
Aida: Anna Netrebko
Radamès: Aleksandrs Antonenko
Amneris: Anita Rachvelishvili
Amonasro: Quinn Kelsey
Ramfis: Dmitry Beloselskiy
King: Ryan Speedo Green
Messenger: Arseny Yakovlev [Debut]
Priestess: Gabriella Reyes, not seen [Debut]
Today was the simulcast of Verdi's Aida from the Metropolitan Opera starring Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili. This performance series was the first time these two great ladies had sung together. They were perfection together and brought us a new Aida in spite of the same old production we have been seeing since 1988. The scene with the two women together was the best I've ever seen. Anna Netrebko brings an intensity to the role of Aida that exceeds all. Anita was much more a woman in love than the usual revengeful bitch. These two ladies will sing together again in Adriana Lecouvreur later this season.
The film director has a lot of influence over the impression made by an HD broadcast. In this case the emphasis was on the two women in love with Radamès. Camera shots were often chosen for intimacy rather than pomp and melodrama.
Quinn Kelsey was beautiful as the Ethiopian King. The only disappointment was in the Radamès of Aleksandrs Antonenko. I heard so much grousing about him that I expected him to be rather more horrible than actually turned out to be the case. However, it is still true that Anna deserved better. I remember when Pavarotti made his debut in the role in San Francisco years ago, that there was a lot of grousing then, too. I often wonder about the modern state of opera singer training. He could benefit from better physical conditioning.
Nicola Luisotti was his usual wonderful self. I found that the shift of emphasis off of war and on to romance found in this performance made for a very pleasurable Aida experience.
Conductor: Claus Peter Flor
Director: Alfonso Caiani
Jean de Leyde, tenor, John Osborn
Fidès, Jean's mother, mezzo-soprano, Kate Aldrich
Berthe, Jean's bride, soprano, Sofia Fomina
Jonas, an Anabaptist, tenor, Mikeldi Atxalandabase
Mathisen, an Anabaptist, bass or baritone, Thomas Dear
Zacharie, an Anabaptist, bass, Dimitry Ivashchenko
Oberthal, a feudal count, bass, Leonardo Estevez
Meyerbeer's Le Prophete (1849) came to me from Toulouse by way of Culture Box. My only live experience of Meyerbeer was L'Africaine at the San Francisco Opera. I begin to think Meyerbeer is neglected, perhaps not in France but certainly here. Perhaps Yannick will change this.
Giocomo Mayerbeer was a truly international composer as very few are. He was born in Berlin of rich Jewish parents, studied and composed extensively in Italy in the time of Rossini, and then established himself in Paris and Berlin. We know him primarily for his French operas. However, Robert le Diable was written for Berlin. It is hard to grasp that such a prominent composer is virtually unknown to me. As would be expected, his works are orchestrated in the German style, emphasize chorus like a French opera and don't particularly follow the Italian ideal of bel canto. I think I should delve further before making any decisions about him. He is the main proponent of Grand Opera, a style that includes:
(a) obligatory spectacular scenes,
(b) death, not happy endings, in librettos by Scribe, (including this one),
(c) potpourri overture,
(d) extended ornate arias, though less ornate than bel canto,
(e) chorus and ballet, and
(f) a new heavier type of dramatic tenor as the featured hero.
Albert Herring Nick Pritchard
Superintendent Budd Matt Buswell
Sid Nicholas Morton
Nancy Angela Simkin
Emmie Catriona Hewitson
Lady Billows: Janis Kelly
Miss Wordsworth Natasha Day
Florence Pike Polly Leech
Mrs Herring Amy Lyddon
Cis Rowan Pierce
The Outsider Michael Taylor Moran
Mr Gedge Julien Van Mellaerts
Mr Upfold Joel Williams
Harry Max Todes
I have watched Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring presented by the Royal College of Music by way of Operavision. This is Benjamin Britten's idea of comedy. I think you have to be British. It's very much an ensemble opera which makes it a good choice for a music school.
It is time to choose the Queen of May for the May Day celebration, and none of the current crop of young women are found suitable. When widening the field of celebration, the council chooses Albert to be King of May because he just sells vegetables all day in his mother's shop. As King he even wears a white dress as if he were a bride. Albert's drink is spiked and he gets the hiccups.
A couple called Sid and Nancy enliven the scenes. Are we amused that a young man is dressed up like a girl and declared to be saintly? There's a lovely quartet toward the end when they all think he's dead. The goings on in an English village seem mysterious to us I think. They may have to abandon their dream of sinless youth.
I enjoyed the singing, but there are no arias. Only Janis Kelly is a professional singer.
Conductor Daniele Callegari *
Production José Cura *
Turiddu, tenor: Roberto Aronica
Santuzza, mezzo: Ekaterina Semenchuk
Alfio and Tonio, baritone: Dimitri Platanias *
Lola, mezzo: Laura Krumm
Mamma Lucia, contralto: Jill Grove
Canio, tenor: Marco Berti
Nedda, soprano: Lianna Haroutounian
Silvio, baritone: David Pershall
Beppe, tenor: Amitai Pati
Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci are now in rotation at the San Francisco Opera. I have listed the casts of the two operas together because the two operas have here become one.
The story of this production is reasonably interesting. In Buenos Aires, Argentina, exists a mural by Omar Gasparini called Escenografico. Here is a photo of the original.
From my seat in the balcony circle I saw the stage in a manner very much like the photo at the top, The mural was shown on the wall at stage left which I saw only fleetingly when the conductor entered. I know about it only from pictures in the program. The famous Intermezzo was staged as a ballet.
The church is at the back, and near it is a store that sells vegetables. Mamma Lucia owns the cafe at the front, and when Turiddu sings "O Lola," Lola peeks out one of the windows above and Santuzza peeks out from another. Silvio from Pagliacci is one of Mamma Lucia's waiters. At the end of Cavalleria Turiddo is killed, and his casket is carried by at the beginning of Pagliacci. Mamma Lucia and a very pregnant Santuzza also appear in the cafe in Pagliacci. This unified production made the pairing of these two operas make a lot more sense than is generally the case, but everything was much cheerier than others I have seen.
A number of conductors are making their San Francisco Opera debuts this season because we are without a maestro. Callegari brought us a very beautiful, very Italian verismo experience. The singing was excellent if a bit on the heavy side. I even rather liked Berti who was very heavy indeed. The only thing that seemed missing was acting.