Sunday, July 29, 2018

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Demon

Conductor: Mikhail Tatarnikov
Director: Dmitry Bertman

Demon: Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tamara: soprano Asmik Grigorian
Angel: countertenor Vadim Volkov
Tamara's nurse: contralto Larisa Kostyuk
Prince Sinodal, Tamara's betrothed: tenor Vasily Efimov

In the semi-staged performance of Anton Rubinstein's The Demon from Russia we have Dima singing gloriously. There appear to be no subtitles. You may look up the plot in Wikipedia, of course. I watched it on YouTube. It's gone now.

Two weeks ago I did not know this work existed.  The music is not very adventuresome but inspires some wonderful singing by this cast.   The idea here is that someone can be condemned for loving inappropriately.  You would want this for Dmitri.   YouTube includes some other versions, including one with Kristine Opolais.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Anja Harteros has announced that she will no longer perform outside of Europe.  She likes to sleep in her own bed.  She was already performing in Europe most of the time.  If I want to see her live, I will have to travel.  She makes a great impression over the internet.

In other important news baritone Philippe Sly is doing a Klezmer version of Schubert's Winterreise.  I don't make this stuff up.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Jonas Kaufmann repertoire

I love lists, so here is my list of complete operas with Jonas Kaufmann that I have seen over the years. This is 25 different operas in 37 venues/formats.  They are listed in the order found in the blog.  His age has been added.

Fidelio  live in Zurich 23-Jan-07 38
La Clemenza di Tito DVD 3-Nov-07
Fierrabras DVD 7-Jan-08 39
Carmen live in Zurich 2-Jul-08
Carmen DVD 6-Nov-08
Lohengrin live in Munich 16-Oct-09 40
Werther live in Paris 5-Feb-10 41
Die Walküre live at the Met 10-May-11 42
Die Walküre movie from Met 2-Jun-11
Werther DVD 26-Aug-11
Faust movie from Met 10-Dec-11
Nina DVD 11-Mar-12 43
Adriana Lecouvreur DVD 1-Jun-12
Ariadne auf Naxos (original) stream from Salzburg 28-Aug-12
Königskinder DVD 9-Feb-13 44
Parsifal movie from Met 2-Mar-13
Il Trovatore stream from Munich 5-Jul-13
Don Carlo stream from Salzburg 16-Aug-13
La Fanciulla del West film from Vienna 7-Oct-13
La Forza del Destino stream from Munich 29-Dec-13
Werther movie from Met 15-Mar-14 45
Manon Lescaut movie from Covent Garden 30-Jul-14
Andrea Chénier YouTube Covent Garden 3-Feb-15 46
Don Carlo DVD 5-Mar-15
Cavalleria Rusticana YouTube from Salzburg 13-Apr-15
I Pagliacci YouTube from Salzburg 13-Apr-15
Fidelio  YouTube from Zurich 14-May-15
Manon Lescaut stream from Munich 31-Jul-15
Fidelio  stream Salzburg 13-Aug-15
The Damnation of Faust stream Paris 22-Dec-15
La Forza del Destino DVD 10-Sep-16 47
Andrea Chénier stream from Munich 18-Mar-17 48
Otello movie from Covent Garden 21-Jul-17
Don Carlos stream from Paris 25-Oct-17
Parsifal stream from Munich 8-Jul-18 49
La Fanciulla del West movie from Met 27-Oct-18
Otello stream from Munich 2-Dec-18
La Forza del Destino stream from ROH 12/2/2019 50

I saw the first Fidelio quite by accident,  I was in town for Bartoli and had a free evening.  The Carmen in Zurich I flew deliberately to see on my way to Italy.  By that time I was buying DVDs.

The Paris Werther and the Munich Lohengrin coincided with concerts by Cecilia.  How could I resist?  In both he was marvelous, at his peak.  All three of these operas can be bought commercially.

Then he began appearing in my local movie theater from the Met and streaming from Salzburg and Munich on my computer at home.  Then came movies from The Royal Opera in London.  The Verdi year with Il Trovatore, Don Carlo and La Forza del Destino was thrilling

That makes 39 altogether.with 5 live operas and one recital in Berkeley, 11 live streams from Salzburg, Munich and Paris, and 5 live in HD from the Met.  I regret that the planned live stream of him in Die Meistersinger never took place.

Jonas is a special singer.  He is beautiful both to look at and to listen to.  He is wonderfully present when he appears on the stage, loving and singing to the women present with him on the stage.  You believe that he loves all three of his Leonoras, his Minnie, his Elisabetta, Lola, Manon and so on.  His diction is wonderfully clear and his phrases never lose their thread.  He is always himself.  His music is always informed by his intelligence.

I should do a wish list.  He is the best ever in Carmen, Werther and maybe La Fanciulla del West.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Eugene Onegin Rerun

Conductor...............Valery Gergiev
Production..............Robert Carsen

Eugene Onegin..Dmitri Hvorostovsky
Tatiana...............Renée Fleming
Lensky................Ramón Vargas
Olga....................Elena Zaremba
Prince Gremin....Sergei Aleksashkin

Yesterday I attended the rerun of  Eugene Onegin from the Metropolitan Opera.  This opera has been broadcast live into theaters from the Met on three different occasions with three different men in the title role:  Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Mariusz Kwiecien and Peter Mattei.  Because he recently died, the version with Dmitri Hvorostovsky was chosen for re broadcast.  Apparently some theaters decided to show whatever version they had on hand instead of the advertised version.  I'm glad that didn't happen to me because I was there for Dima.  When he steps out onto the stage, he is so beautiful you might want to consider falling in love, too.  This may be his greatest recorded performance.

The production by Robert Carsen is also very easy to love.  Locales are merely suggested rather than depicted.

And another thing to consider is that it is conducted by the great Russian conductor Valery Gergiev.  It was a joy.   If they played something else in your town, complain to Fathom Events.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Dresden Amen

I've been complaining about Richard Wagner and the Dresden Amen for years.

In 2005 I said:

"If you don’t mind all that constant modulating, Wagner is wonderful. Except for Parsifal, of course. His use of the borrowed theme of the Dresden Amen which he repeats ad nauseum, always in its original borrowed harmonization, cannot be considered thematic development in any sense. It’s a mistake, a serious lapse in judgment, maybe even a sign of senility. The emperor has no clothes."

The Dresden Amen also appears in Tannhäuser.

In 2012 I said:

"I have been trying to explain it.  I was raised on wonderful Baptist hymns like "Rock of Ages," and when professional concerns led me to participate in the music of other religions, I was forced to become aware of the tradition of adding an "amen" to the end of hymns.  Usually this was a simple plagal cadence, but sometimes it was that most corny and cloying of musical phrases--the Dresden Amen.  Just thinking about it now makes me shudder."

So I decided for no particular reason to look into this.  The man who wrote the Dresden Amen died a little over a decade before Wagner was born.  Wikipedia shows it notated here.  It turns out I should really cut him some slack.  It turns out he was raised in Dresden and was a Kapellmeister in Dresden from 1842 to 1849.  So he's allowed to have the same sentimental attachment to it that I have for things from my own childhood. 

I have only one final comment.  It is absolutely not possible that it showed up accidentally in either of the operas in which it appears.  Maybe it's supposed to make you think of church or god or something.  Apologies.

Sunday, July 08, 2018


Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Production: Pierre Audi

Amfortas: Christian Gerhaher
Titurel: Bálint Szabó
Gurnemanz: René Pape
Parsifal: Jonas Kaufmann
Klingsor: Wolfgang Koch
Kundry: Nina Stemme

I was overdosed on television, so I waited until the second act to see Wagner's Parsifal from Munich.  The opera started off with the most discussed part of the staging, the fat suits.  Nina was not required to wear a fat suit.  Nor was Jonas.  But I did recognize Golda Schultz.  Most of the Dresden Amens which I always dislike are in Act I, so this turned out to be a good decision for me.

Many people commented that they loved the production, but I felt it explained nothing.  I liked very much the collapsing wall effect, but that was pretty much it.  No subtitles and a production that explains nothing didn't work for me.  Too many things were not portrayed, such as Parsifal baptizing Kundry.

The biggest applause, as always in Munich, was for Kirill Petrenko.  I'm not sure I want to write any more about this.  As a listening experience, it was fabulous.  Such wonderful singing and conducting.  It was an especially good role for Nina Stemme.  I loved her blond wig.  Thank you.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Lucia from Madrid

Conductor: Daniel Oren
Director: David Alden

Lucia: Lisette Oropesa
Edgardo: Javier Camarena
Enrico Ashton: Artur Rucinski
Raimondo Bidebent: Roberto Tagliavini
Lord Arturo Bucklaw: Yijie Shi
Alisa: Marina Pinchuk
Normanno: Alejandro del Cerro

I've never actually seen a live bis in an opera before (they do them all the time in concerts in Italy, usually of something you'd rather not hear again).  When I realized what it was, I burst into tears.  And an ensemble, the sextet, on top of it.  I'm seriously loving this.  Everyone is a shit except Lucia.  She's already pretty insane before the mad scene.   We had a glass harmonica.

I am speaking, of course, of Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor streamed live from Teatro Real Madrid.  The set is like your high school gym.  There's a radiator.  I think the theme is "you'd go nuts too if everyone you knew was this awful."  We're doing a play within a play.  At the end of the mad scene the chorus claps very slowly.  It's not at all like the loud shouting from the real audience.  The production does nothing to explain the opera but focuses entirely on the atmosphere.

The singing and for me also the acting were very good.  I love Lisette, but she will need to stay light in this role.  I came for Lisette and Javier, two of my favorites of the young singers, and they did not disappoint.  Javier wears a kilt in this, a first for me.

Lisette has also performed the ROH Lucia which I reviewed with Diana Damrau.  This version will be available on OperaVision for a while.  If you missed the live stream, watch it now.

I have to add a comment.  Lisette's physical training gives her a kind of absolute control over the phrase.  It's stunning.

Thursday, July 05, 2018


Sondra Radvanovsky got a bis last night at the Paris Opera in Il Trovatore for "D'amor sull'ali rosee." This is the first bis for a woman in the history of the Opera Bastille. Bis means encore. Encores are back but they are almost always tenors.  Congratulations are in order.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Iolanta / Perséphone

Conductor:  Teodor Currentzis
Production:  Peter Sellars

These two operas -- Tchaikovsky's Iolanta (1892) and Stravinsky's Perséphone (1934) -- were presented together at Teatro Real in 2012.  Both were staged by Peter Sellars.  I am considering this as the end of my Peter Sellars project.


René, King of Provence, bass, Dmitry Ulianov
Robert, Duke of Burgundy, baritone, Alexej Markov
Count Vaudémont, a Burgundian knight, tenor, Pavel Cernoch
Ibn-Hakia, a Moorish physician, baritone, Willard White
Alméric, armor-bearer to King René, tenor, Vasily Efimov
Bertrand, doorkeeper of the castle, bass, Pavel Kudinov
Iolanta, blind daughter of King René, soprano, Ekaterina Scherbachenko
Marta, Bertrand's wife, Iolanta's nursemaid, contralto, Ekaterina Semenchuk
Brigitta, Iolanta's friend, soprano, Irina Churilova
Laura, Iolanta's friend, mezzo-soprano, Letitia Singleton

Iolanta is a fairy tale sung in Russian.  It was not brought to its full effect in its semi-realistic setting at the Met in 2015.  The magic was missing.  We are presented here with abstractions.  Door frames are topped with mysterious dark objects that sometimes suggest birds.  Instead of a film, we have still pictures.  Iolanta carries a cane, as the blind often do.  Her own chamber music group accompanies her.  I think we may presume they are singing the original text rather than the Soviet approved one.

28 minutes in we have movement just in time for the wonder of Willard White.  I find this abstraction very beautiful, but when they sing of roses, no roses appear.  I like the soprano very much, but the tenor could be better.  This is Sellars' area of expertise.  He isn't here to provide you with pretty scenery.  He's here to provide you with a spiritual experience.


Eumolphe, tenor, Paul Groves
Perséphone Speaker, Dominique Blanc
Perséphone dancer, Sam Sathya
Demetra, dancer, Chumvan Sodhachivy
Pluton, dancer, Khon Chansythyka
Mercure, Démophoon, dancer, Nam Narim

Perséphone is a Greek myth about the underworld, here sung in French.  We are in the same set as the previous work, and visually the two are similar.  There is a tenor, a speaker, a chorus and dancers from Cambodia but no choreographer.  The director seems to have collaborated with the dancers.  The music is serene for Stravinsky.

A line caught my eye:  "never chase after what your eyes gaze on too lovingly."  The story of my life.

The pairing of these two works is genius.  The entire thing is a meditation on beauty.  Life is beautiful.  Love it more.  Do not go into the darkness never to return.  Open your heart to beauty.  Thank you, Peter.

Since I am counting this as the end, I repeat the score card here.  It omits works where Sellars is the librettist.

Score card:

Great things:  Mozart La Clemenza di TitoHandel Theodora, Bach Matthew Passion, Iolanta / Perséphone
Hits:  Saariaho L'Amour de LoinMozart Don Giovanni, Nixon (1st)
So so: Mozart Figaro, Giulio Cesare
Misses:Vivaldi Griselda, Adams The Death of KlinghofferNixon (2nd)