Friday, February 16, 2018

Sacramento State Faculty, Alumni, and Friends Gala

This concert is part of the New Millennium Concert Series.  All the publicity photos have been of flutist Laurel Zucker.  However, the Faculty Gala concert at Sacramento State began with a group by Percussionist Daniel Kennedy.

The stage was littered with instruments and stands much as shown in the picture above.  He is said to be dedicated to the performance of contemporary percussion repertoire.  I only know about the traditional kind.  He played:

  • Five by five, an improvisation on an instrument called a solo riq.  It looked a bit like a tambourine.
  • To the Earth, by Frederic Rzewsky, played on ceramic pots such as you might plant flowers in.  There was also talking, but his voice was unamplified and not loud enough for me to understand.  He struck a gong to announce the end of the piece.
  • Poly Patterns, an improvisation played on caxisis, small objects held in each hand.
  • Shradanjali, by John Bergamo.  Daniel played the tabla and was assisted by Nariman Assadi on the tombak.

This was a new experience for me.

Next Laurel Zucker and John Cozza performed Sonata for Flute and Piano by Francis Poulenc in three movements.  Poulenc has long been a personal favorite.

The final group featured The Peregrine Trio (George Hayes, violin, Burke Schuchmann, cello, Miles Graber, piano) playing Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major, Opus 87 by Johannes Brahms.  Like all of Brahms this is a very traditional piece.  They sounded well together.  I especially liked the beautiful playing of the cellist.  I love Brahms.  This program was designed for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Metropolitan Opera 2018-19 in HD

Here is the announced season of Live in HD choices.  I would have liked Pelléas et Mélisande.  The choices we are getting are great.

  • 6-Oct-18 Aida  This is the Met standard production with Anna Netrebko as Aida.  She premiered this role in Salzburg last summer.
  • 20-Oct-18 Samson et Dalila   Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna will inhabit a new production by Darko Tresnjak. 
  • 27-Oct-18 La Fanciulla del West  It turns out that what I want is to see is Eva Maria Westbroek as Minnie. Jonas Kaufmann is her love.  I love this opera for no reason I could explain.  The romance has to work before the opera does.
  • 10-Nov-18 HD Marnie  Isabel Leonard, Christopher Maltman and Denyce Graves star.  This is a new opera with music by Nico Muhly, libretto by Nicholas Wright, based on the novel by Winston Graham.  They are letting us see the new stuff this time.
  • 15-Dec-18HD La Traviata  Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Michael Mayer’s richly textured new production, featuring a dazzling 18th-century setting that changes with the seasons. Soprano Diana Damrau plays the tragic heroine, Violetta, and tenor Juan Diego Flórez returns to the Met for the first time in five seasons to sing the role of Alfredo, Violetta’s hapless lover. Baritone Quinn Kelsey is Alredo’s father, Germont, who destroys their love.  From Met advertising.  I'm not wild about traditional La Traviata productions which is what this is.
  • 12-Jan-19  Adriana Lecouvreur  This is a new production by David McVicar starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala and Anita Rachvelishvili.  This is not the greatest opera, but it will be enjoyable to see Anna and Piotr perform it.
  • 2-Feb-19 Carmen  This time with Roberto Alagna will be his wife Aleksandra Kurzak.  Our Carmen is Clémentine Margaine.  Here she is singing Carmen a few years ago in Latvia.  There's a baby crying.

  • 2-Mar-19 HD La Fille du Régiment  This is for your Javier Camarena and Pretty Yende fix.  Javi gets encored in this opera.  Maybe he will in our performance.
  • 30-Mar-19 HD Die Walküre  Christine Goerke plays Brünnhilde, Wotan’s willful warrior daughter, who loses her immortality in opera’s most famous act of filial defiance. Tenor Stuart Skelton and soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek play the incestuous twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. My schedule says that our Wotan is Greer Grimsley. Philippe Jordan conducts.  We get to see Christine's Brünnhilde.  I can't wait.
  • 11-May-19 Dialogues des Carmélites  The Met's promotional materials say:  "Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sings the touching role of Blanche and soprano Karita Mattila, a legend in her own time, returns to the Met as the Prioress."  Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct.  I have seen this production before and was very moved.  We die that others may live.  As messages go, this one is the best.
I think this is a respectable season that shows the biases of our new maestro.

I don't promise not to edit this later.


The big news is that Yannick Nézet-Séguin will be music director beginning in the 2018-19 season.  This is very good news and two seasons earlier than planned.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Wishes for 2018-2019

Futures missed that La Boheme will appear as usual.  This is changed to reflect the actual choices which I am pretty happy with.

Changes appeared in the Futures post so I changed mine.

In a couple of weeks the Met will announce the coming season.  While there is still time I would like to take the guesses on Future Met Wiki and express which ones I would like to see in HD. DEFINITE YES!! means I would definitely like to see this in HD.

New Productions

Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila (Opening Night)   GOT THIS!!
Production: Darko Tresniak
Samson: Roberto Alagna/Kristian Benedikt* [1]
Dalila: Elina Garanca
(The coproduction by Michieletto with the Opéra National de Paris has been cancelled [1])

Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur      GOT THIS!!
Production: David McVicar
Adriana: Anna Netrebko
Maurizio: Piotr Beczala
Princess de Bouillon: Anita Rachvelishvili
Michonnet: Ambrogio Maestri

Nico Muhly's Marnie   GOT THIS!!
Production: Michael Mayer
Margaret "Marnie" Edgar: Isabel Leonard
Co-production with the English National Opera [2]

Verdi's La Traviata   GOT THIS!!
Production: Michael Mayer
Date: November and December
Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Violetta: Diana Damrau
Alfredo: Juan Diego Florez
Germont:Quinn Kelsey

Rigoletto from the ROH

Conductor Alexander Joel
Director David McVicar

Duke of Mantua Michael Fabiano
Rigoletto Dimitri Platanias
Gilda Lucy Crowe
Sparafucile Andrea Mastroni
Maddalena Nadia Krasteva

My local cinema brought me Rigoletto from the ROH in London.  They are attempting a realistic Rigoletto.  The duke's court is an actual orgy with nudity and obvious sexual brutality.  No wonder Rigoletto wants to keep his daughter away from them.  Usually the duke makes it with everyone but the rest of the court are relatively well behaved.  The story makes a lot more sense this way.

Michael was his usual fantastic self, but vocally I didn't get excited about the other singers.  If you want to understand this opera, this is the one.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Leontyne Price

Happy birthday.

L’Elisir d’Amore in HD

CONDUCTOR:  Domingo Hindoyan
PRODUCTION:  Bartlett Sher

ADINA:  Pretty Yende
NEMORINO:  Matthew Polenzani
BELCORE:  Davide Luciano
DULCAMARA:  Ildebrando D'Arcangelo

We saw in HD today the excellent Bartlett Sher production of Donizetti's L’Elisir d’Amore.  I've seen this production before and know that the top hat worn by Adina proclaims that she is the landlord of this country property seen at the beginning of the opera.  Matthew was Nemoriino the last time.

Something happened this time that hasn't happened for me:  in the second scene in town before Dulcamara arrives Adina and Nemorino tease and play with one another.  Clearly she already has eyes only for him.  What we with our egalitarian perspective don't notice is that penniless Nemorino is far too much lower in class for land owner Adina.  I felt tremendous rapport between Pretty and Matthew in this performance, and it changed the dynamic of the opera for me.  Pretty is charming and beautiful.

This is the sixth time I have blogged about this opera, and I think I have enjoyed this one the most.  It was extremely cheerful, and I think I prefer it that way.  The prompter's arm was seen as he struggled with the elixir. Lidia Bastianich appeared in the intermission to tell us about her new pasta dish called "pasta d'amore."  Food and opera are her great loves.  She did standard opera bragging by telling that her first live opera was Aida at the old Met with Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli.  Dulcamara ate the pasta on stage.

Jamie singing Brahms

Don't forget if all the world fails you, there is Jamie Barton singing the Brahms Alto Rhapsody.


Friday, February 09, 2018

L'Histoire du soldat

L'Histoire du soldat by Igor Stravinsky and Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz was created during WWI while Stravinsky was living in Switzerland.  Unfortunately it's premiere coincided with the flu epidemic.  The combination of the war and the flu prevented it from being heard very much.

We heard it in a faculty performance at California State University, Sacramento on Thursday evening.  It was originally written in French for performance in the French section of Switzerland, but has since been translated into English.

Our instrumental ensemble consisted of faculty members:

Anna Presler, violin
Chris Castro, bass
Sandra McPherson, clarinets
David Wells, bassoon
Steve Roach, trumpet
Phil Tulga, trombone
Daniel Kennedy, percussion

Omari Tau, speaker, who magically changed his voice to represent the soldier, the devil and the narrator.  I believe it was conceived for three actors.  In our performance there was a single speaker.  Sometimes it is performed with ballet, but we did not experience that.

Stravinsky lived in the time of jazz which he only knew from transcriptions.  In the sections below everything sounded like Stravinsky and not jazz, with the small exception of the section called Ragtime.

Part I

The soldier's march
Airs by a stream

Part II

Royal march
The little concert
Three dances: a, Tango - b, Waltz - c, Ragtime
The devil's dance
The little chorale
The devil's song
The great chorale
The devil's triumphant march

There is a plot.  The soldier is going awol.  He carries a fiddle which the devil offers to trade him for a book on how to get rich.  So this is a Faust story.  Soldier teaches devil how to play the fiddle, devil teaches soldier how to interpret the book.  After two days they part.

The soldier gets rich but is unhappy.  He plays cards with the devil to reverse the trade if he loses.  He does and gets back his fiddle and loses all his money.  He meets and marries a princess.  The devil tells the soldier that they must remain in the princess's castle, but you know that doesn't happen.  The devil wins and celebrates.  So in this Faust story the devil wins.

I like this and wish sometime to experience it with the ballet.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


Santa Fe Opera's Board of Directors appointed Robert K. Meya as General Director, replacing Charles MacKay who has been General Director since 2008. Alexander Neef, the intendant of Canadian Opera Company, will become artistic director of Santa Fe Opera, a new position created just for him.  To complete a trio of new appointments Harry Bicket will be Musical Director.  This is a very classy leadership trio for Santa Fe Opera.  This item is rewritten.

Mark S. Doss is someone I know from the Santa Fe Opera. I received news that he is making his debut with the Welch National Opera as Scarpia in Tosca. Toi toi toi.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Simon Estes in Sacramento

The great operatic bass-baritone Simon Estes appeared in recital here in Sacramento at the Sacramento State Capistrano Hall recital hall.  I remember him best from his appearance on television when Leontyne Price gave her farewell performance in Aida at the Met.  He will be 80 in March.  He sang seated and alternated his groups with a few numbers by Omari Tau, a local baritone.  Mr. Estes was accompanied by Judi Goble, pianist.

He opened with Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer."  He then performed two operatic arias:  "Il Lacerato spirito" from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Zacharia's Prayer from Verdi's Nabucco.  They were both nicely done.  This group ended with "Precious Lord, Take my Hand".

Omari Tau then came out with the Sacramento State Opera Theater Chorus, Virginia Electra, pianist, and performed "Ain't Gonna let Nobody Turn Me Around".  Omari and Virginia then performed "This Little Light of Mine" which I prefer at a slightly faster tempo.  Omari and the students kept their selections in tune with Mr. Estes' selections.  This is Omari Tau's theater style.   Next Thursday he will perform Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat her in this same performance space.

Simon Estes has had a glorious career, singing in all the great houses.  It is satisfying to hear how much of his fabulous vocal instrument still remains.  The middle group were spirituals.

The Opera Theater chorus sang something from Ragtime, followed by Omari Tau in "Make Them Hear You' from the same show.  The Broadway theme provided an introduction to these great Broadway songs sung by Simon Estes:

"You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel
"Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music

He closed with "Without a Song" by Vincent Youmans.

 Thank you for continuing to sing.  It was a joy.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

International Opera Awards Singer Nominees

Samples of the candidates for the singing prizes.

Female Singer

Malin Byström sings Salome:

Carmen Giannattasio sings Nedda:

Barbara Hannigan in her Grammy winning performance: