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.
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 Dinorah. The 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 Munich. From 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.
Alfredo.....................Juan Diego Flórez
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Clara, Angel Second Class:
Kearstin Piper Brown
Angels First Class:
Uncle Billy Bailey:
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.
Evan Leroy Johnson
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.