Friday, May 24, 2019

Parterre new productions

In Parterre's end of season awards I found this list under new stagings.  The first group is the nominees with the most popular at the top.  I'm assuming that these all took place in New York.  I have added composers' names.  I have included links to articles in Parterre Box.
I have a vague memory of German friends mentioning Goldmark's Die Königin von Saba, but I have never seen it.  There is a vast repertoire of German Opera that never is heard in America.  I should look into this.

The Mile-Long Opera appears to be more of an event than an opera.  People stand about 10 feet apart along a mile and a half stretch of walk way in New York City called the High Line and sing.  This would be to experience first hand.

This next group is the write-ins, a few of which I recognize.  I will assume that the grossly mispelled Les Huguenots is the one from Paris with Lisette Oropesa.  I have no idea if this is true or not.  I also saw the Forza from the Royal Opera.  Many of the others also took place in New York.  Murasaki's Moon was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
  • Murasaki’s Moon
  • Les huguenots saw this
  • Elektra Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Tosca Philadelphia Orchestra
  • Kata Kabanova at Covent Garden
  • Kopernikus by Claude Vivier
  • La Forza del Destino Royal Opera  saw this
  • David Hertzberg’s The Rose Elf
  • Rape of Lucretia (New Camerata)
  • Sarah Kane's Psychosis 448
I see live or find films of lots of things going on in Europe, but the same is not true of opera in America.  Here in our country performances go out into the air and are never seen again.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ranking the Simulcasts

This is the list of HD broadcasts this season from the Metropolitan Opera shown in reverse order.  I skipped Carmen and Magic Flute for reasons of excess familiarity.  Perhaps one of these is your favorite.  I will discuss those I saw and then rank.

👍🏻Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc  Revival.  This was my first time in French.  It was a towering performance which Isabel Leonard brought virtually to perfection. 

👍🏻Wagner's Die Walküre  Revival shown for Christine Goerke.  The Met revived the whole Ring but only Die Walküre made it into movie theaters. 

👍🏻Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment  Revival.  I enjoyed this enormously, more than I thought possible.  Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Maurizio Muraro and a special guest appearance by Kathleen Turner made this a very lively and up beat performance.

Bizet's Carmen  Revival.  This features Roberto Alagna again in French repertoire, which I cannot rate because I missed it.

👍🏻Francesco Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur  Production from the Royal Opera.  This was one of two HD transmissions to feature the duo Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili.  Their voices and performance styles are extraordinarily well suited to one another and worked to great effect here.  It's not the greatest opera, but the cast was great across the board.  I especially enjoyed the work of Ambrogio Maestri.

Verdi's La Traviata  New production replaces the red dress.  I found the new very decorative production to be no more than just functional.

Mozart's Magic Flute  Revival which I missed.  I prefer Flute in German.

Marnie by Nico Muhly  New Opera presented a year after its premier in London.  It's based on a movie by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Isabel Leonard in a tour de force..

👍🏻Puccini's La Fanciulla del West  Revival of the old Giancarlo del Monaco production.  Both Eva-Maria Westbroek and Jonas Kaufmann were fabulous in their roles, but for me the story makes a bit more sense if Minnie might possibly marry Jack Rance.

👍🏻Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila  Revival.  I like Roberto Alagna, especially in French repertoire. The Production created the impression that the Israelis were very poor in contrast with the much richer Philistines.  What I liked was the sexual chemistry between Roberto and Elina Garanca. 

Verdi's Aida  Revival.  This was one of two HD transmissions to feature the duo Anna Netrebko and Anita Rachvelishvili.  It failed due to the truly catastrophic singing of Aleksandrs Antonenko as Radames.  I thought the scene between the two ladies was the best I had seen.  That overall it was spoiled by the tenor is sad.

So we have six thumbs up which is probably too many.  I do love opera.  What we are missing again this year is a run away favorite.  Can I have a tie?  Both of these operas were the best versions I've seen.
  • Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc
  • Francesco Cilèa's Adriana Lecouvreur  

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Dialogue des Carmélites in HD

Production..............John Dexter

Blanche de la Force.....Isabel Leonard
Madame de Croissy.....Karita Mattila
Madame Lidoine........Adrianne Pieczonka
Mother Marie.............Karen Cargill
Sister Constance........Erin Morley

Dialogue des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc brings the 2018-19 HD season to an end.  When I saw this opera in San Francisco long ago, it was in this same production, only in English.  This is my first time in French.  Poulenc, who lived before supertitles, wanted the opera performed in the language of the audience.  The production follows the historical context of the French Revolution while creating a context through abstractions.  The giant white cross will stay in memory forever.

The opera begins in the home of Blanche de la Force with her father and brother.  Her brother worries that she is always afraid while her father dismisses just about everything she says.  But when she tells him she wishes to join the Carmelite convent, he doesn't refuse.

The convent of Carmelite nuns is changing.  There are two novices, Blanche and Constance, and the mother superior is dying.  Isabel and Erin are charming in their relationship throughout the opera.  Karita Mattila plays her death scene to the ultimate extreme.  It is frightening to watch.  The opera is about death, so I suppose this is one extreme.

After she dies, a new mother superior is sent in from outside:  Madame Lidoine.  Adrianne Pieczonka played her very low key.

Blanche provides the story.  She loves the private life and prayer, but news of the outside world seeps into the seclusion of the convent.  The nuns agree to commit to becoming martyrs.  Even Constance agrees.  All but Blanche agree.

Her brother comes to warn her she is in danger.  The priest is removed from his position and tries to escape.  Finally they are all arrested and forced to give up their nun clothing for "normal" clothes.  At this point Blanche escapes and finds her brother.  She learns that her father has gone to the guillotine.  She rejoins them right at the end.  We hear the sound of the guillotine falling.

Isabel is such a spectacular performer.  She gives us beauty, emotional connection, great singing and her own personal magnetism.  She keeps the stream of emotion going.

This opera is deeper than opera usually is.  Altogether it was a great performance with emotional and musical intensity and exceptional theatrical clarity.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Lisette Oropesa wins Beverly Sills Award

After just winning the Richard Tucker Prize, Lisette Oropesa has now received the Beverly Sills Award from the Metropolitan Opera.  Congratulations.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Hannigan does Weill

Barbara Hannigan sings Youkali of Kurt Weill with the pianist Alexandre Tharaud. Song recorded for Radio France.  I don't think I knew he wrote songs in French.  We don't want to go too long without some Weill.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Two Operas about Women

Conductor:  Ryan Murray (new opera theater director)
Stage Director:  Gia Battista
Piano:  Renee Harris

California State University Sacramento performed two operas last night. 

Game of Chance by Seymour Barab

First knitter:  Taylor Graham
Second knitter:  Katie Thorpe
Third knitter:  Valerie Loera
The representative:  Justin Ramm-Damron

This is the second time for this opera at Sac State.  So what is the attraction?  Three women are knitting their lives away and wish for something else.  The attraction is that each of them gets a nice solo scene.  A man comes to take them away to their dream.  At the end they are discontented and wish they had asked for more.  As a person who became a systems analyst in her 40s, this seems absurd.  Why settle?  There's not a lot that can be done with this opera.


Amelia Goes to the Ball by Gian-Carlo Menotti

Amelia:  Angela Yam
The Friend:  Valerie Loera
The Husband:  Michael Carey
The Lover:  Aaron Gallington
The Chief of Police:  Justin Ramm-Damron
First Maid:  Taylor Graham
Second Maid:  Monica Serrano

This is fun.  There is nothing in this opera that is actually about a ball.  It's all about getting there.  At the start the maids are helping Amelia dress while her friend urges her to hurry.  I have included the above so that all may see what a fichu looks like.  Amelia searches for hers without success, thus causing the delay.

Before she finds it husband arrives home.  He accuses her of having a lover, which she admits on the condition that he will take her to the ball.  He lives upstairs.  Husband goes looking and lover enters.  The Lover was played very much for laughs.  Aaron Gallington was an amusing physical comic with lots of odd looking gestures.  The opera ends with husband knocked out and taken to the hospital, lover accused of theft and taken off by the police, and finally with Amelia going off to the ball with the Chief of Police.  We have to assume that all is well.

This opera is a vehicle for the woman who sings Amelia, in our case Angela Yam who was impressive.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Camerata Deia

Camerata Deia is an ensemble of varying composition that came to Sacramento last night from their home base in Spain to conclude this season's Millennium Concert Series.  Two of our pieces included piano, so I have included a picture that shows one.  They played.

Joaquin Turina's Piano Quartet in A minor Op.67 (1931) in three movements.  The program seems to be full of mistakes.  This one says Turina's dates are 1833-1897 while Wikipedia says 1882-1949.  Based on the sound of the music, I am inclined to go with the latter.  There are hints of modernism but nothing too extreme.

Enrique Granados's Piano Quintet in G minor, Op.49 (1894) in three movements.  The program identified a fourth movement which did not exist.  I liked this piece.

Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (1825) in four movements.  This is for two string quartets together.  The third movement was interestingly named Scherzo:  Allegro leggierissimo.[the most amount of leggiero].  You remember a leggiero tenor?  This would sort of translate to the most amount of not legato.  There was a lot of bow bouncing.  A 16 year old might get off on this.  It's a fun piece.

This concert series usually emphasizes chamber ensembles.  I liked the music selection.

Monday, April 22, 2019


Gianluca Capuano: Conductor
Christof Loy: Production

Nathan Berg: King of Scotland (bass)
Kathryn Lewek: Ginevra, his daughter (soprano)
Cecilia Bartoli: Prince Ariodante, her betrothed (originally a castrato)
Rolando Villazón: Lurcanio, his brother (tenor)
Christophe Dumaux:  Duke Polinesso (contralto countertenor)
Sandrine Piau: Dalinda, Ginevra's attendant (soprano)
Kristofer Lundin:  Odoardo (tenor)

This is the Salzburg production of Handel's Ariodante starring the one and only Cecilia Bartoli.  They have found an excellent soprano who is smaller than her to play her love.  The presence of many men in business suits makes it regie.  At the very beginning Cecilia speaks to us in Italian to explain her story.  The set is large and almost blank.

Cecilia's entrance is made in a full suit of armor.  One cannot stop staring at her.  In her first aria after the king has declared Ariodante to be his heir, she sings all that coloratura while getting increasingly drunk.  I didn't know this opera was a comedy.  Villazon prevents her from falling down.  On the eve of the wedding there is a party where people dance in period costumes, including Ariodante and Ginevra. The bits where Cecilia dances are relatively short but enjoyable.  So far so good. 

The plot is one of those she loves him, while he loves someone else, et.  Polinesso is the villain.  He plots to steal Ginevra.  Dalinda loves Polinesso, and Lucanio loves Dalinda.  Polinesso bribes Dalinda to disguise herself as Ginevra to fool Ariodante.  He succeeds with this ruse and drops one of Ginevra's dresses on the floor outside her room.  Ariodante sings "scherza infida" and puts the dress on.

The efforts to bring the story to life seem very successful to me.  Ginevra laments the loss of Ariodante, but when he returns, he's wearing his beard and the dress Polinesso gave him, and Ginevra freaks out.  Suddenly she's interested in all the other men around her.  Hmmm.

This entire opera is performed with great emotional intensity.  If you've followed the news about this, you know that Ariodante eventually turns into Cecilia Bartoli.  So then she's singing and smoking a cigar at the same time.  It doesn't look lit, but....  When I was married long ago, my husband smoked a pipe, and I swear he would blow smoke rings exactly like that.  I swear.  This indicates a level of expertise.

It has a peculiar but happy ending.  It is nice to see Rolando, and Kathryn Lewek was marvelous.  Hail La Bartoli.  I did kind of like the beard.

The production is about gender ambiguity.  At the beginning our hero doesn't seem very happy while at the end he/she is full of smiles.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tanya Végváry Plescia pianist

Berceuse by Tanya Vegvary (2015)
Lullaby for Elijah by Tanya Vegvary (2010)
Sonata in Bb Major, Molto moderato by Franz Schubert (1828)
Chopin, Etudes Opus 25 No, 1, 2, 3
Chopin, Fantasy Impromptu Opus 66
Waiting for a Call by Tanya Vegvary (2018)
Geary Street by Tanya Vegvary (2005)  [The one in San Francisco]

I attended the Saturday Club performance of Tanya Végváry Plescia last night.  She has a school called the Sacramento Piano Conservatory where she performed for us.  She explained that this way she gets to play her own piano which is voiced heavy in the bass, as she prefers.

Her existence and the existence of her school was new to me.  The test of a pianist is Chopin, of course, and she passed.  She showed plenty of rubato and played as loud as necessary.  She said he's her favorite, and her own music seemed to descend from this style. 

I'll have to keep my eye out for her.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

La Forza del Destino at ROH

Original director: Christof Loy
Conductor: Antonio Pappano

Leonora: Anna Netrebko
Don Alvaro: Jonas Kaufmann
Don Carlo di Vargas: Ludovic Tézier
Padre Guardiano: Ferruccio Furlanetto
Fra Melitone: Alessandro Corbelli
Preziosilla: Veronica Simeoni
Marquis of Calatrava: Robert Lloyd
Curra: Roberta Alexander
Alcalde: Michael Mofidian

This production of La Forza del Destino from the Royal Opera in London emphasizes the already chaotic nature of this opera.  The plot is enhanced by staging the overture with scenes from the childhood of siblings Leonora and Don Carlo.  It is clear that Don Carlo hates his sister from long before her boyfriend shot their father.   A grown up Don Carlo is still playing with a red yo-yo from these scenes.  This is a visual clue so you will recognize Don Carlo as a grown up.

The opening scene of the shooting is by far the best staging I have seen of this difficult scene. Wonderful. You must believe that he intends no harm when he throws the gun to the floor. A further enhancement in the staging comes with projections of this death scene to show how it lives in Leonora's memory.

I love this chaotic opera, primarily for the music--it is some of the best Verdi--but would like very much to love it as theater as well.  It never quite works.  But here the opening is true to the plot and clearly outlined.  With our love of guns we still must ask ourselves, "What is he doing in her house with a gun in the first place?"

I'll admit I could do entirely without Preziosilla and her scenes.  Now that I realize "rataplan" came from Meyerbeer, I'm still not sure anything about the opera is improved by it.  Silliness in the deadly serious opera seems like nonsense.  It represents soldiers relaxing between killing people.  When Leonora sees her brother in this place, she knows she must go into hiding.

It's a terrible opera with glorious music and in this case spectacular singing.  Netrebko represents the
fear and horror that haunts Leonora with wonderful intensity.  Jonas is his usual spectacular self.  Tézier is a beautiful man who portrays Don Carlo's evil nature better than seems possible.  All this great music is wasted on useless vengeance.  I guess Rigoletto has a similar plot but hating your boss and hating your sister are rather different.  At least Rigoletto loves someone.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Rigoletto in Sacramento

Conductor: Michael Christie
Director: Michael Mori

Rigoletto……………………Joshua Jeremiah (baritone)
Duke…………………………Rafael Moras (tenor)
Gilda…………………………Monica Dewey (soprano)
Sparafucile………………..Kenneth Kellogg (bass)
Maddalena………………..Julie Anne Miller (mezzo)

This concert performance of Verdi's Rigoletto at the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera had a real director who with a few tables and chairs successfully staged this complex opera in the area in front of the orchestra.  Coordination between the singers and the conductor appeared to be smooth, and occasionally a singer would look out into the audience in a way that looked like more than just wanting to face the audience, so I could not resist turning to see if there was something they were looking at.  Yes.  Large screens under the balcony focused on the conductor.  Professional hands at work.  Small details of the plot were clarified.

This is the last performance of the classic season in the Sacramento Community Center.  Next year Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera will perform in the Memorial Auditorium, Fremont Presbyterian (the presence of a  quality organ suggests a concert that includes organ), and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.  In the fall of 2020 they will return to the community center.

The singing was top notch.  Our Rigoletto both sang and acted well.  One forgets that the story is about Rigoletto until such an excellent actor shows us his emotions.  Rafael Moras sang the Duke of Mantua, very much a singing role.  He has a bright sound that many would love and a spectacularly penetrating high C.  We predict good things.

I liked the child-like portrayal of Gilda by Monica Dewey.  I also liked her Caro nome.  She is young and has already had her European debut.  Sparafucile was a real bass with a spectacular low f.  Everyone took their high notes.

We clearly have professional casting at work.  Congratulations for a marked step up in the quality of this semi-staged Verdi performance.  We all continue to be astonished that the orchestra improves steadily throughout this period when they have no regular conductor.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mir ist die Ehre wiederfahren

The horse is utterly irresistible.

Singers Added

AandJ means Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann.  Recently I added Dolora Zajick, Sondra Radvanovsky, Pretty Yende, Alessandro Corbelli, Tomasz Konieczny, Stéphanie d'Oustrac.  I create labels for the singers I am interested in.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Cultural Change

I was reading the comments in YouTube, not quite as unsatisfying as you might imagine, and a light bulb went on for me.  In my youth tenors sounded like Placido Domingo and Franco Corelli and men were admired for their macho behavior.  These things actually go together. Wagner, late Verdi and Puccini were the models for sound in all voice types.

Then along came Maria Callas singing operas from the earlier bel canto period but in a somewhat heavier technique.  In those days Norma was the hardest popular role to cast.

In eastern Europe, Russia, Romania, etc., these heavy techniques continue to mark the standard for operatic training for both men and women.  But for the rest of us our tenors are of a lighter model.  We should remember the article in the New York Times in 2014 about New Three Tenors:  Camarena, Brownlee and Florez.  These three tenors, all from the western hemisphere, are all leggiero tenors, tenors with lighter, less legato techniques, and are best suited for the music of Rossini and Donizetti.

What else has changed during this period?  We have lived through the women's movement.  Another thing that has happened over the same period is the rise in popularity of the countertenor, a voice that sounds mostly but not entirely like a woman.

So there it is.  Life has changed.  There are more women in congress than ever before, women occasionally conduct symphonies, and unwavering masculinity is no longer a standard for men.  They might be gay.  They might be countertenors. 

I confess that I have not seen this correlation before.  I cannot explain why.  But it follows the concept that changes in life are reflected in changes in art.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Lisette wins Richard Tucker

The Richard Tucker Foundation Award for the year 2019 goes to soprano Lisette Oropesa.  Lisette is a personal favorite and well deserves this award.  I first noticed Lisette when she sang the role Lisette in Puccini's La Rondine in HD in 2009.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Die Walküre in HD

Brünnhilde..............Christine Goerke
Siegmund, brother.....Stuart Skelton
Sieglinde, sister.........Eva-Maria Westbroek
Wotan...................Greer Grimsley
Fricka, Wotan's wife.........Jamie Barton
Hunding.................Günther Groissböck

Conductor...............Philippe Jordan
Production..............Robert Lepage
Hostess..............Deborah Voigt

Opera is the greatest of all art forms because it centers on so many great female characters.  The opera is almost always about them.  Men tried to keep it all to themselves for as long as they could, but as soon as opera became commercial, that was over.

Wednesday I saw Wagner's Die Walküre delayed from last Saturday. I have seen this work many times, but this was very romantic for some reason.  I followed the story of Wotan better than ever.  In the previous opera, Das Rheingold, he is Fricka's husband, and they are happy but have no children.  He gains power by trading away the gold for Valhalla.  He is all powerful and uses his power to do whatever he wants.  By Walkure he is the father of everyone else in the story except Fricka and maybe Hunding.  He's been busy and Fricka is pissed.  All of the 9 Valkyries are his daughters by Erda.  Siegmund and Sieglinde are his children by a she wolf.

They did act bows to avoid making people stay in costume all the way to the end.  Act I is Siegmund, Sieglinde and Hunding.  The twins have not seen one another since the day their house burned down, killing their mother.  Siegmund has wandered alone while Sieglinde was forced to marry Hunding.  The singing in this act was beautiful.. Eva-Maria created the role in the original mounting of this production.  Her partner at that time was Jonas Kaufmann.  They truly looked like brother and sister.  Stuart sang well this time, but Eva has grown in the role.  She was wonderful, with great dramatic presence.

The staging was slightly different.  The planks at the front of the stage didn't stick up in front of the singers this time which looked much better.  When he sings, "du bist der Lenz" I want something spectacular to happen.  I want to feel that in that moment spring has arrived. 

In Act II Wotan, Fricka and Brünnhilde arrive.  Christine is very saucy at this point.  Her Brünnhilde has truly spectacular emotional range.  She shows us joy, love, pride, sympathy, sorrow.  It is the greatness of this performance that makes this production of Die Walküre the best that I have seen.  Wotan asks to see the joy again, and she justly refuses.

I have seen Jamie Barton's Fricka before and loved it again here.  I have also seen Greer Grimsley's Wotan before and found him very much improved.

Act III starts with Valkyries waving.  A bit too silly for me.  However, the act ended well.

Philippe Jordan brought us the emotional range that appeared in the interpretations of all the actors.  I truly loved this.  The Met seems to have realized that Christine Goerke would be something we would all want to see.  Thank you.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

San Francisco Opera Season 2019-2020

The San Francisco Opera has announced its next season.   The first important thing to notice is that there are only 8 operas.

Gounod's Romeo and Juliet

Romeo Bryan Hymel,  Juliet Nadine Sierra.  This pair should be able to generate some heat, the key to a successful Romeo and Juliet.I notice they are not singing in our performance, so we will have to change.  Yves Abel will conduct.
1 September 6–October 1, 2019

Britten's Billy Budd

Captain Vere William Burden, Billy Budd John Chest *, John Claggart Christian Van Horn, Mr. Redburn Philip Horst, Mr. Flint Wayne Tigges with staging by Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage.  Lawrence Renes will conduct.
September 7–September 22, 2019

Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro

Figaro Michael Sumuel, Susanna Jeanine De Bique *, Count Almaviva Levente Molnár *, Countess Almaviva Jennifer Davis *, Cherubino Serena Malfi *.  I am not familiar with these singers.  This is part of a multi-season trilogy of all three Mozart/da Ponte operas with a narrative linking their stories.  Henrik Nánási will conduct.
October 11–November 1, 2019

Puccini's Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut Lianna Haroutounian [Nedda this season], Chevalier des Grieux Brian Jagde [Mario Cavaradossi this season], conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
November 8–26, 2019

Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel

Hansel Sasha Cooke [Orlando this season], Gretel Heidi Stober [Zdenka this season], The Witch Robert Brubaker.  Christopher Franklin will conduct.  This is not the food fight production but comes from London.
November 15–December 7, 2019

Verdi's Ernani

Ernani Russell Thomas, Elvira Michelle Bradley *, Don Carlo Simone Piazzola *, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva Christian Van Horn.  James Gaffigan will conduct.
June 7–July 2, 2020

Handel's Partenope

Partenope Louise Alder *, Rosmira Daniela Mack, Arsace Franco Fagioli *, Armindo Jakub Józef Orliński *, Emilio Alek Shrader, Ormonte Hadleigh Adams.  This is a repeat from 5 years ago with some of the same cast.  Our Arsace this time will be the fabulous countertenor Franco Fagioli.  Christopher Moulds will conduct.
June 12–June 27, 2020

Mason Bates' The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Edward Parks *, Laurene Powell Jobs Sasha Cooke, Steve Wozniak Garrett Sorenson, Kōbun Chino Otogawa Wei Wu *.  This is co-produced with the Santa Fe Opera where it has already played.  Our cast is the same.  Quote from Wikipedia:  "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs was the most popular new opera in Santa Fe Opera’s history and one of the top-selling operas in the company's history."  Michael Christie will conduct.
June 16–July 3, 2020

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Fanciulla from Munich

Conductor James Gaffigan
Production Andreas Dresen

Minnie: Anja Kampe
Jack Rance: John Lundgren
Dick Johnson: Brandon Jovanovich
Nick: Kevin Conners
Ashby: Bálint Szabó
Sonora: Tim Kuypers

This is Puccini's La Fanciulla del West live streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  I confess I love this opera very much.  This is the most Wagnerian of any Puccini opera.  There is lots of big singing and orchestration, but very little of what we would call arias.  At the end Dick Johnson sings a short aria just before they are about to hang him.  We are told Caruso insisted on this.

The production could also be counted as regie, but at least there are no balloons.  After proceeding in a more or less contemporary look, it just suddenly ends.  The curtain goes down with Minnie and Dick standing in front of it.  We proceed with the bows.  There were also no horses.  I missed them.

It looked consistently rough and drab.  The point of the story is that we are in an entirely masculine environment with only one woman:  Minnie.  There is an Indian woman who keeps house, but she doesn't come to the saloon.  So the time displacement didn't bother me since nothing definite was suggested.

This time the Sheriff Jack Rance is ugly and nasty.  This changes the dynamic.  It's no wonder Minnie rejects him. Dick would be more handsome with less facial hair.  This Minnie is the woman for all seasons.  She teaches the bible, cheats at cards, shoots, fantasizes a long term love, etc.  She projects toughness and treats each man as he deserves.

This piece is very hard to sing but worked successfully almost all of the time.  I enjoyed it. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Garrick Ohlsson in Sacramento

Last night at Sacramento State University we had a treat when the pianist Garrick Ohlsson performed an all Brahms program for us.  This is my interpretation.  Please remember I am far from being deeply informed on the subjects of piano repertoire and technique.

Three things.

Brahms was interested in maintaining and developing the forms of the classical masters.  In this category we find the piano Sonata in F-sharp Minor Op.2 (1853).  This is the standard four-movement form developed by Mozart and Beethoven.

Another classical form that Brahms continued was the theme and variations, here represented by Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24 (1861).

The Romantics Chopin and Schumann were both born in 1810 and were perhaps his strongest influences.  Brahms was born in 1833, a generation later.  The rest of our program was filled primarily with character pieces, primarily Intermezzi (1893, 1892).  The character piece, a one movement piece with no strict form, was developed by the romantics.

Are we sufficiently educated?  There were no program notes, so I am trying to fill in a bit.

The biggest hit of the evening was the variations and fugue at the end.  Brahms seemed to like alternating hands with a few overlapping notes to create a characteristic texture.  After a rousing standing ovation, Garrick played an encore by Chopin which seemed to show this same texture.  I'm glad I stayed all the way to the end.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

American Bach Soloists Matthew Passion

And last night I drove to Davis in the rain to see Bach's Saint Matthew Passion sung in German.  For the beautiful work of the American Bach Soloists led by Jeffrey Thomas this is a short trip.

In my youth I performed a lot of Bach, including the "Erbarme dich" from this work.  I very much admired the performance of mezzo-soprano Agnes Vojtko who sang it here.  The entire piece lies in my heart like a buried treasure.

A performance of this monumental, life altering work rises and falls with the evangelist, here Guy Cutting, and the singer who performs Jesus, here William Sharp, both excellent in their roles.

With American Bach Soloists there are no weaknesses.  The original instruments orchestra lists the makers of all the instruments below the players' names.  The concert mistress Elizabeth Blumenstock plays a Guarneri.  The style is perfection, and how can anyone resist the tiny booming chorus.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Sacramento Choral Society does Brahms

This is an interesting week for me.  Last night the Sacramento Choral Society and Orchestra presented the Brahms Requiem, a piece I dearly love, at the Community Center Theater.  Monday night is the Saint Matthew Passion by Bach, my other favorite choral work. a/>

Donald Kendrick is the music director.  Here is the program with comments.

Serenade for Strings by Edward Elgar (1892).

This is a lovely piece in three movements for strings only.  They played it well.  The chorus sat behind but did not participate.

Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1911).

Trevor Scheunemann, baritone, was the excellent soloist.  This piece includes parts for chorus and winds.  I regret that I was less impressed with the work by the wind sections.  I have long been a fan of Ralph Vaughan Williams whose greatest contribution to western civilization is the Anglican/Episcopalian hymnal.  These pieces were new for me and were in Williams' usual English post-romantic style.  I liked them very much. 

Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms (1868)

Again Trevor Scheunemann was the baritone soloist, and Carrie Hennessey sang the soprano solo.
  1. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen
  2. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras
  3. Herr, lehre doch mich (baritone)
  4. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen
  5. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (soprano)
  6. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt (baritone)
  7. Selig sind die Toten
Brahms' Requiem is not related to any mass liturgy, either Catholic or Lutheran, but is instead a set of biblical texts about death from Luther's translation.  The title comes from Brahms himself.

This lives deep in my memory and was performed here with devotion.  The orchestra was less than ideal.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Bayerische Staatsoper 2019-20 plus my picks

The first list is premiers.  Only one is a world premier.  The rest are production premiers.  I would like to see all of them, even the opera studio.


pre Korngold:  Die tote Stadt Jonas Kaufmann, Marlis Petersen
pre Abrahamsen: The Snow Queen Barbara Hannigan, Peter Rose
pre Bartok: Duke Bluebeard's Castle Nina Stemme, John Lundgren
pre Verdi: I Masnadieri Diana Damrau, Charles Castronovo
pre Abramovic:7 Deaths of Maria Callas 7 different women-world premier
pre Rameau: Castor et Pollux ? don't know these people
pre Verdi: Falstaff Wolfgang Koch, Okka von der Dammerau
pre Thomas: Mignon Opera studio

 Here is the rest of the opera repertoire.  Dates in front signify when this opera was streamed before.


Beethoven:  Fidelio:  Adrianne Pieczonka, Günther Groissböck, Klaus Florian Vogt

Berg:  Wozzeck:  Christian Gerhaher

Bizet:  Carmen Matthew Polenzani
2015 Donizetti:  L’elisir d’amore: Pretty Yende, Mariusz Kwiecien, Ambrogio Maestri
2015 Donizetti:  Lucia di Lammermoor Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Quinn Kelsey

Gluck:  Alceste Dorothea Röschmann,

Haydn:  Orlando Paladino Mathias Vidal, Tara Erraught

Humperdinck:  Hänsel und Gretel:  Tara Erraught

Johann Strauß:   Die Fledermaus: 
2019 Krenek:  Karl V. Bo Skovhus

Mozart:  Cosi fan Tutte Tara Erraught

Mozart:  Die Zauberfloete Pavol Breslik

Mozart:  Don Giovanni Erwin Schrott, Luca Pisaroni, Carmen Giannattasio

Mussorgsky:  Boris Godunow:  Dimitry Ulyanov

Offenbach:  Les Contes d’Hoffmann Michael Spyres

Puccini:  La bohème: 
 2019 Puccini:  La fanciulla del West Anja Kampe, Brandon Jovanovich

Puccini:  Tosca:  Anja Harteros

Puccini:  Turandot:  Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov

Rossini:  Guillaume Tell:  Gerald Finley, Michael Spyres

Rossini:  Il barbiere di Siviglia

Rossini:  La Cenerentola Teresa Iervolino
2019 Smetana:  Die Verkaufte Braut

Strauss:  Salome Marlis Petersen, Wolfgang Koch

Strauss:  Die sweigsame Frau

Tchaikovsky:  Eugen Onegin: Pavol Breslik

Verdi:  Don Carlo Charles Castronovo, Ludovic Tézier, Ildar Abdrazakov, Anja Harteros
2013 Verdi:  Il Trovatore Anja Harteros

Verdi:  Nabucco:  Placido Domingo, Liudmyla Monastyrska
2018 Verdi:  Otello:  Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Harteros

Verdi:  Rigoletto:  Ludovic Tezier, Erin Morley

Verdi:  La traviata:  multiple

Wagner:  Der fliegende Holländer:  Michael Volle
2018 Wagner:  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg:  Wolfgang Koch, Jonas Kaufmann, 

Wagner:  Lohengrin:  Klaus Florian Vogt, Anja Harteros
2018 Wagner:  Parsifal:  Anja Kampe

I would like to see Netrebko's Turandot and anything with Anja Harteros.  We have been promised over and over Die Meistersinger with Jonas Kaufmann.  Could we finally see it, please?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera 2019-2020

This is the official announcement.  It isn't completely working to paste this, but you should get the idea.

2019-2020 Season
The City is the Stage

The Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera is the capitol region's proud success storyplaying to sold out houses all season. The coming 2019-20 season will be especially excitingLook for your renewal packet coming in the mail this week.

As the Community Center Theater is being renovated for your comfort, all of Sacramento will become the Philharmonic's stage. Three venues have been selected
— showcasing music programmed specifically to the acoustic of each. In the coming year, you'll have the opportunity to experience music in:
MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM where Sacramento's first orchestra appeared, will resound with Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin and the season's opera to be announced this fall.
FREMONT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH with its grand and powerful organ, will thunder in Saint-Saëns' roaring "Organ Symphony," plus symphonies of Beethoven and Mozart.
CATHEDRAL OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT downtown Sacramento's jewel, will cradle Faure's tender Requiem, and intimate works of Vaughn-Williams and Thomas Tallis.
And your season concludes with the return to the renovated Sacramento Community Center Theater in Fall of 2020.

The deadline to renew is Saturday, April 27, 2019

Remember, by renewing now, you are assuring that you will be
the first to be seated in the renovated hall!

Ways to Renew:
  1. Mail in your renewal form (watch your mailbox for the renewal packet)
  2. Call the SP&O Box Office at 916-476-5975, Monday-Friday 10am-2pm
  3. Visit the SP&O Box Office in person, Monday-Friday 10am-2pm
  4. NEW! Click the button below to renew online
Season at a Glance
The 2019-2020 season is generously underwritten by Nancy McRae Fisher.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Andrew Grams, conductor
William Hagen, violin

WAGNER "Tannhäuser" March
MENDELSSOHN Violin Concerto
TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"

Friday, November 8, 2019
Saturday, November 9, 2019

Michael Christie, conductor

MOZART Operatic Finales from "Cosí fan tutte", "The Magic Flute", "The Marriage of Figaro"
MOZART Symphony No. 41, "Jupiter"

Saturday, February 1, 2020
Christopher Rountree, conductor

GERSHWIN Second Rhapsody
TIAN Transcend Commission for 150th Anniversary of Transcontinental Railroad
TCHAIKOVSKY 1812 Overture

Friday, February 14, 2020
Saturday, February 15, 2020

Douglas Boyd, conductor

VAUGHN-WILLIAMS Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
TALLIS Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
FAURE Requiem

Friday, March 13, 2020
Saturday, March 14, 2020

Robert Moody, conductor
James Jones, organ

Organ Recital with James Jones
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 4
SAINT-SAËNS Symphony No. 3, "Organ Symphony"

Saturday, April 25, 2020
Christoph Campestrini, conductor

Opera to be announced in Fall 2019