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


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 #ad

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


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.


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


Jamie Barton
Joyce DiDonato *
Susan Graham *
Isabel Leonard


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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 


Anthony Roth-Costanzo