Monday, December 31, 2018

Die Fledermaus from Dresden


Franz Welser-Möst (conductor) –

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.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Opera Year in Review KK Awards


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 DinorahThe 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 MunichFrom 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.

Unwatched Videos

My pile of unwatched videos is getting pretty tall again.

Left over from the previous list are:


  • Rossini's Maometto Secondo from Teatro La Fenice di Venezia.  I saw the opera at Santa Fe.
  • Meyerbeer's Dinorah is a movie.
  • Henze's L'Upupa with Matthias Goerne from Vienna. I still have not seen Henze.


New additions are:

  • Pergolesi Il prigionier superbo and La Serva padrona.  You'd think these would be performed.  I watched the second one. 
  • Strauss Intermezzo.  I tried but this is actually boring.
  • Moore The Ballad of Baby Doe.
  • Hindemith Cardillac
  • Only the Sound Remains by Saariaho starring Philippe Jaroussky. 
  • Saint-François d'Assise by Olivier Messiaen.  I've seen this live.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

La Traviata in HD


Conductor.................Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Production................Michael Mayer

Violetta.....................Diana Damrau
Alfredo.....................Juan Diego Flórez
Germont...................Quinn Kelsey

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.

I liked very much Anita as hostess.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Favorites by Year

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 things.

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.

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

** live, live stream or HD
## top 20 all time


2018

For another perspective on 2018 see the KK Awards.

This 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.

Full cast
  • 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
  • (AN)Verdi's Aida  with Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili  I loved Anna and Anita together and was surprised to see the same old production made to look new.  The tenor sort of ruined it.  Look it up in Met on Demand.  ** Met HD
Lisette Oropesa wins the singing prize for both Lucia and Les Huguenots.  For the year of Lisette.


New operas for me this year were:
  1. Verdi's Il Corsaro (it amazes me I can still see new Verdi), 
  2. Donizetti's Il campanello di notte, done live at CSUS
  3. Petit's Le Jeu de l'Amour et du Hasard, done live at CSUS
  4. Benjamin's Lessons in Love and Violence (new this year), 
  5. Weill's Die sieben Todsünden (research for Sellars),
  6. Stravinsky's Perséphone (research on DVD for Sellars), 
  7. Rubinstein's The Demon (for Dmitri), 
  8. Sullivan's The Gondoliers (I'm weak in the Gilbert and Sullivan area.  Live in Sacramento), 
  9. Britten's Albert Herring (research), 
  10. Meyerbeer's Le Prophete (research from Toulouse), 
  11. Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots  live from Paris
  12. Muhly's Marnie (new from the Met), 
  13. Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life.  (new at SFO) 


2017


2016


2015


2014


2013


2012


2011


2010


2009


2008


2007


2006


2005


** live, live stream or live in HD

Vivaldi Part II


Happy birthday to me.  This arrived just in time.  Thank you, dear.  The voice is as good as new.  Perhaps she is immortal, a goddess.  There is only one Bartoli. 

OMG.  Track 2 from Orlando Furioso is magnificent.  Spectacular phrasing.  Sigh.  She knows that it's all in the music.

The ensemble is completely with her.  They are Ensemble Matheus conducted by Jean-Christophe Spinosi. I hope you weren't expecting a regular review.

I wish you could see me smiling.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dmitri's Rigoletto

Conductor:  Constantine Orbelian

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.


Monday, December 10, 2018

It's an OK Life

Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director: Leonard Foglia

Clara, Angel Second Class:  Kearstin Piper Brown
A Voice: Patti LuPone
Angels First Class: Sarah Cambidge, Ashley Dixon, Amitai Pati, Christian Pursell 
George Bailey: William Burden
Mr. Potter: Rod Gilfry
Uncle Billy Bailey: Keith Jameson
Mary Hatch: Andriana Chuchman
Harry Bailey: Joshua Hopkins

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.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Otello is Here


Musikalische Leitung / Conductor Kirill Petrenko
Inszenierung / Production Amélie Niermeyer

Otello Jonas Kaufmann
Jago Gerald Finley
Cassio Evan Leroy Johnson
Roderigo Galeano Salas
Lodovico Bálint Szabó
Montano Milan Siljanov
Ein Herold Markus Suihkonen
Desdemona Anja Harteros
Emilia Rachael Wilson

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.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Barbara Hannigan

The career of Barbara Hannigan is endlessly surprising. The secret seems to be complete fearlessness.


Thursday, November 29, 2018

Contrabandista


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.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Maria by Callas, the Movie


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.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Salzburg 2019 Summer Season

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949) Salome

Franz Welser-Möst Conductor
John Daszak Herodes
Anna Maria Chiuri Herodias
Asmik Grigorian Salome
Gábor Bretz Jochanaan

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) Idomeneo

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) Médée 

Thomas Hengelbrock Conductor
Simon Stone Director
Sonya Yoncheva Médée

George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) Alcina 

Gianluca Capuano Conductor
Cecilia Bartoli Alcina
Philippe Jaroussky Ruggiero
Sandrine Piau Morgana
Kristina Hammarström Bradamante
Christoph Strehl Oronte

George Enescu (1881 - 1955) Œdipe 

Ingo Metzmacher Conductor
Christopher Maltman Œdipe
John Tomlinson Tirésias
Brian Mulligan Créon

Jacques Offenbach 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) Simon Boccanegra 

Valery Gergiev Conductor
Luca Salsi Simon Boccanegra
Marina Rebeka Amelia Grimaldi
René Pape Jacopo Fiesco
Charles Castronovo Gabriele Adorno

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Luisa Miller 

James Conlon Conductor
Roberto Tagliavini Il conte di Walter
Piotr Beczala Rodolfo
Teresa Iervolino Federica
Plácido Domingo Miller
Nino Machaidze Luisa
John Relyea Wurm

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jonas Kaufmann Operas on Blu-ray

These are only the complete operas on Blu-ray or perhaps DVD.  There are 17 films of complete operas on YouTube.  There are also quite a few videos of concerts.  Jonas with Anja Harteros:



They have also done Il Trovatore and Andres Chenier (YouTube--I prefer this one) together.

Jonas with Nina Stemme (also on YouTube):



Jonas with Angela Gheorghiu:




Jonas with Emily MaGee:




Jonas with Vesselina Kasarova:



Jonas with Maria Agresta:



Jonas with Kristina Opolais:



Jonas with Sophie Koch:



Jonas with Eva-Maria Westbroek:


My favorites are Werther, Fanciulla and Lohengrin, but all of them are good.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Marnie HD


Conductor.....................Robert Spano
Production....................Michael Mayer

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
Derek...................Ian Koziara
Miss Fedder...........Marie Te Hapuku
Mrs. Rutland..........Janis Kelly (soprano)
Dr. Roman...............James Courtney
Lucy....................Jane Bunnell
Dawn....................Stacey Tappan
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.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

News


Nicholas McGegan's retirement as director of Philharmonia Baroque after the 2019-2020 season was announced in a headline in the New York Times:

Maestro of the Influential Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra to Step Down


I cannot imagine how they will find someone to replace him.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Top American Singers 2018

Order is alphabetical.

Sopranos:

Christine Goerke
Lisette Oropesa *
Ailyn Pérez
Sondra Radvanovsky * Is she Canadian now?
Nadine Sierra

Mezzos:

Jamie Barton
Joyce DiDonato *
Susan Graham *
Isabel Leonard

Tenors:

Lawrence Brownlee*
Michael Fabiano *
Brian Jagde
Bryan Hymel 
Matthew Polenzani *

Baritones/basses:

Thomas Hampson, baritone *
Christian Van Horn, bass-baritone
Quinn Kelsey, baritone *
Eric Owens, bass-baritone  *
Morris Robinson, bass 

Countertenors

Anthony Roth-Costanzo

General Comments.

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.

Sopranos:


Patricia Racette *
xSondra Radvanovsky *  Is she Canadian now?
Christine Goerke
Leah Crocetto
Nadine Sierra
Lisette Oropesa *
Angela Meade
Ailyn Pérez
Amber Wagner  
Erin Morley
Nicole Cabell

Mezzos:

Dolora Zajick *
xJoyce DiDonato *
Susan Graham *
Stephanie Blythe
Jamie Barton
Isabel Leonard
Kate Lindsay 
J'nai Bridges

Tenors:

xMatthew Polenzani *
Bryan Hymel
Lawrence Brownlee*
Michael Fabiano *
Jay Hunter Morris
Stephen Costello 
Charles Castranovo 
Russell Thomas 
Brandon Jovanovich
Paul Groves
René Barbera 
xBrian Jagde

Baritones/basses:

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 

Countertenors


Anthony Roth-Costanzo

Saturday, October 27, 2018

La Fanciulla del West in HD


Conductor...............Marco Armiliato
Production..............Giancarlo Del Monaco

Minnie..................Eva-Maria Westbroek
Dick Johnson........Jonas Kaufmann
Jack Rance............Željko Lučić

Note


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.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Arabella in San Francisco

























--

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: Michaela Martens ‡
Count Theodor Waldner, a retired cavalry officer, their father: Richard Paul Fink ‡

Arabella's suitors:
Mandryka, A Croatian landowner Brian Mulligan ‡
Matteo, a young officer Daniel Johansson * ‡
Count Elemer, one of Arabella's suitors Scott Quinn ‡
Count Dominik, one o f Arabella's suitors Andrew Manea † ‡
Count Lamoral, one of Arabella's suitors Christian Pursell † ‡

A Fortune - Teller to Countess Waldner: Jill Grove ‡
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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

American Bach Soloists in Davis


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.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Richard Tucker

I watched the Richard Tucker Gala on medici.tv.

Cast
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.

Season Opener for Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera


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.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Samson et Dalila in HD


Conductor................Mark Elder
Production...............Darko Tresnjak

Samson..................Roberto Alagna
Dalila.....................Elina Garanca
High Priest.............Laurent Naouri
Abimélech..............Elchin Azizov

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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

New Releases



Cecilia Bartoli will release at the end of November a new second CD of arias by Vivaldi.  Here is a sample.






At the end of October Javier Camarena will release a new CD called Contrabandista which includes a duet with Bartoli.




This release by Jonas Kaufmann includes your choice of CD or DVD.  It's number one on the classical charts in Germany.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Les Huguenots


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.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Aida from New York


Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Production:  Sonja Frisell

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.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Le Prophete from France


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.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Albert Herring

Conductor Michael Rosewell
Director Liam Steel

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.