Tuesday, February 27, 2018

St. John Passion in Davis

Jeffrey Thomas conductor

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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

La Bohème in HD

Conductor:  Marco Armiliato
Production:  Franco Zeffirelli

Mimi:  Sonya Yoncheva
Rodolfo:  Michael Fabiano
Musetta:  Susanna Phillips
Marcello:  Lucas Meachem
Schaunard:  Alexey Lavrov
Colline:  Matthew Rose
Benoit/Alcindoro:  Paul Plishka

Today was the HD for Puccini's La Bohème from the Metropolitan Opera.  Michael explained that they don't really get to rehearse.  Nevertheless it was a beautiful ensemble performance with excellent conducting.

Between scenes was a lot of hammering.  My impression was that the workers were repairing the ancient and well used sets.  Each set slides in on the stage machinery.  Garret stage left, Momus stage right and snow scene from the back.  There was a film of this happening.  So why all the hammering?

Sonya and Michael are both wonderful singing actors who play well with one another.  They both have beautiful emotional range which is the secret to great opera.  Or maybe opera has a lot of secrets and this is just one.

She died a couple of seconds before her chord, but I have decided to forgive everyone.  Look.  There is scene painting in the orchestration in this opera.  First you hear the flames going up in Act I when Rodolfo throws his play into the fire.  And there is a chord at the end that signals Mimi dying.  Am I the only one who knows this?

It was lovely to see Paul Plishka who once appeared frequently in San Francisco.  The magic worked once again.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Convergence II Episode I

Maquette Kuper, Deborah Pittman, Omari Tau

MĂ´D Artists are difficult to classify.  They are all classically trained and play a wide variety of other styles.  One of the things they do is celebrate the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, which, it turns out, has its own Wikipedia page.  We had Convergence I which also celebrated Oak Park here, and now we move into Convergence II Episode I which covers 1860 - 1950.

The period celebrated included an amusement park called Joyland which existed from 1895 - 1920.  We were treated to a film about this era which showed a spectacular looking roller coaster.  The program included a song devoted to Joyland composed by tuba player Portia Njoku.  I am not old enough to remember Joyland.

However, I am old enough to remember the old state fair which was on the south side of Stockton Blvd.  The display space was much bigger than the current state fair, making the exhibits much more interesting.  The film shown in this concert seemed to think it was closed due to a lack of parking.  At a certain point driving automobiles everywhere was encouraged and street cars disappeared.  I remember streetcars in San Francisco but not in Sacramento.

Is this supposed to be sounding like a review?  The group performed a couple of old time songs:
  • When the Harvest Days are over (1901) by Harry von Tilzer.
  • In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree (1905) by Harry Williams.
The program ended with what is now their signature piece:
  • Bach/Gounod Ave Maria arranged by Deborah Pittman with dancer Diego Campos.  At first he is carrying a bag which eventually he leaves behind.  Perhaps he has arrived in heaven.  Omari sings Bach's arpeggios while the others play.  This time he sang some of the melody.
I am by now a devoted follower.  This series will have two more segments:
  • Episode II The Spirit (60s - 80s)  Sunday, April 8
  • Episode III Convergence/Hello (1980  - present) Sunday, June 3

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Modern Operas, a list

This is my list of operas since 1976. I have seen the ones in bold.  Updated January 2019.

The Martyrdom of saint Magnus 1976 Davies
Einstein on the Beach 1976 Glass
We Come to the River 1976 Henze
The Voyage of Edgar Allen Poe 1976 Argento
The Women in the Garden 1977 Fine*
Le Grand Macabre 1977 Ligeti
Lear 1978 Reimann
The Red Line 1978 Sallinen
The Lighthouse 1979 Davies
King Harald's Saga 1979 Weir
The Village Singer 1979 Paulus
Sweeney Todd 1979 Sondheim
Donnerstag aus Licht 1980 Stockhausen
Satyagraha 1981 Glass
The Postman Always Rings Twice 1982 Paulus
The English Cat 1983 Henze
The Juniper Tree 1985 Glass and Moran
Thomas 1985 Rautavaara
Akhnaten 1983 Glass
Saint Francois d'Assise 1983 Messiaen
Un re in ascolto 1984 Berio
The Mask Of Orpheus 1984 Birtwhistle
Samstag aus Licht 1984 Stockhausen
The man who mistook his wife for a hat 1986 Nyman
Nixon in China 1987 Adams
Europeras 1 & 2 1987 John Cage
A Night at the Chinese opera 1987 Weir
The Aspern Papers 1987  Argento
Into the Woods 1987 Sondheim
Montag aus Licht 1988 Stockhausen
Greek 1988 Turnage
Hydrogen Jukebox 1990 Glass
The death of Klinghoffer 1991 Adams
Gawain 1991 Birtwhistle
The ghosts of Versailles 1991 Corigliano
Dienstag aus Licht 1991 Stockhausen
Mary of Egypt 1991 Taverner
Life with an idiot 1992 Schnittke
McTeague 1992 Bolcom
Orphée 1993 Glass
Blond Eckbert 1994 Weir
La Belle et la BĂŞte 1994 Glass
The Dangerous Liaisons 1994 Susa
Harvey Milk 1995 Wallace
Powder Her Face 1995 Ades
Florencia en el Amazonas 1996 Catán
Der Koenig Kandaules 1996 Zemlinski
Rent 1996 Larson
Regina 1997 Blitzstein
Venus and Adonis 1997 Henze
A Streetcar Named Desire 1998 Previn
Little Women 1998 Adamo
A View from the Bridge 1999 Bolcom
Flight 1999 Dove
The Great gatsby 1999 Harbison
L'Amour de Loin 2000 Saariaho
Dead Man Walking 2000 Heggie
El Niño 2000 Adams
Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu 2002 Mzilikazi Khumalo
Sophie's Choice 2002 Maw
Tea, a Mirror of Soul 2002 Dun
Galileo Galilei 2002 Glass
A Christmas Carol 2003 Menken
The Little Prince 2003 Portman
L'Upupa Und Der Triumph Der Sohnesliebe 2003 Henze
Welfare: the opera 2004 Picket
Doctor Atomic 2005 Adams
The Tempest 2005 Ades
Margaret Garner 2005 Danielpour
Grendel 2005 Goldenthal
An America Tragedy 2005 Picker
Ainadamar 2005 Golijov
The Passenger  2006  Weinberg
The First Emperor 2006 Dun
Adriana Mater 2006 Saariaho
Appomattox 2007 Glass
Phaedra 2007 Henze
Glory Denied 2007 Cipullo
The End of the Affair 2007 Heggie
The Minotaur 2008 Birtwistle
The Bonesetter’s Daughter 2008 Wallace
The Letter 2009 Moravec
Il Postino 2010  Catán
Moby Dick 2010 Heggie
Heart of a Soldier 2011 Theofanidis
Anna Nicole 2011 Turnage
Kommilitonen 2011 Davies
Death and the Powers 2011 Machover
Silent Night 2011 Puts
Two Boys 2011 Muhly
The Gospel According to the Other Mary 2012 Adams
Written on Skin 2012 Benjamin
The Secret Garden 2013 Gasser
The Perfect American 2013 Glass
Spuren der Verirrten 2013 Glass
The Gospel of Mary Magdalene 2013 Adamo
Dolores Claiborne 2013 Picker
The Trial 2014 Glass
Bonjour, M. Gaugin 2013 Carlone
Brokeback Mountain 2014 Wuorinen
27  2014 Gordon
Anya17   2014 Gorb
As One 2014 Kaminsky
Paul's Case 2014 Spears
Usher House 2014 Getty
Great Scott 2014 Heggie
Cold Mountain 2015 Higdon
La Ciociara 2015 Tutino
Bel Canto 2015 Lopez
Charlie Parker's Yardbird 2015 Schnyder
Autumn Sonata 2016 Fagerlund
Breaking the Waves 2016 Mazzoli
Sister Carrie 2016 Aldridge
Dream of the Red Chamber 2016 Sheng
Cinderella 2016 Deutscher
The Exterminating Angel 2016 Adès
Girls of the Golden West 2017 Adams
Marnie 2017 Muhly
(R)Evolution of Steve Jobs 2017 Bates
Hamlet. 2017 Brett Dean
It’s A Wonderful Life 2017 Heggie
Hadrian 2018 Wainwright
The Skating Rink! 2018 Sawer
Harriet's Spirit 2018 Shelby
Lessons in Love and Violence  2018 Benjamin
Ice 2019 Kuusisto
The Hours 2022 Puts
If I were You 2019 Heggie
Bon Appetit 2019 Hoiby

I won't comment on the ones I haven't seen. Of the ones I have seen, I would put them into these categories:

Great works: Saint Francis, L'Amour, Moby Dick, Ainadamar

Excellent operas: Nixon, Le Grand Macabre, Satyagraha, Dead Man, Ghosts, Orphée, Florencia

Ok, I guess: Little Women, Lighthouse, Atomic, Liaisons

Boring: Streetcar, Lear, Klinghoffer

AAAAh!: Sweeney Todd

I have promoted Atomic to ok. After all, if you closed your eyes and imagined you were at the symphony, it was very nice. I should look into Schnittke and Stockhausen. Akhnaten actually sounds interesting. With a Glass opera it helps if you are on drugs. With Satyagraha you must view the opera in a meditative trance state. Don't fight it.

The Tempest has received very good reviews. This is a major area of interest for me. I am maintaining this list as I go along, adding any new operas.

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 PellĂ©as et MĂ©lisande.  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.  This will be conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
  • 20-Oct-18 Samson et Dalila   ElÄ«na GaranÄŤa and Roberto Alagna will inhabit a new production by Darko Tresnjak, conducted by Sir Mark Elder 
  • 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.  At the Met it plays in the old Giancarlo del Monaco production.  Marco Armiliato conducts.
  • 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.  Robert Spano conducts.
  • 15-Dec-18HD La Traviata  Met maestro Yannick NĂ©zet-SĂ©guin 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 FlĂłrez 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.  Gianandrea Noseda conducts.
  • 2-Feb-19 Carmen  This time with Roberto Alagna will be his wife Aleksandra Kurzak as Micaela.  Louis LangrĂ©e will conduct.  Our Carmen is ClĂ©mentine Margaine.  Here she is singing Carmen a few years ago in Latvia.  There's a baby crying.

  • 2-Mar-19 HD La Fille du RĂ©giment  This is for your Javier Camarena and Pretty Yende fix.  Javi gets encored in this opera.  Maybe he will in our performance.  Enrique Mazzola conducts.
  • 30-Mar-19 HD Die WalkĂĽre  Christine Goerke plays BrĂĽnnhilde, 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 BrĂĽnnhilde.  I can't wait.
  • 11-May-19 Dialogues des CarmĂ©lites  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 NĂ©zet-SĂ©guin 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 NĂ©zet-SĂ©guin 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

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 here 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 2018

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: