Sunday, July 05, 2020

Die Walküre with James Morris


 👍🏻
Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Otto Schenk

Brünnhilde..............Hildegard Behrens
Siegmund, brother.....Gary Lakes
Sieglinde, sister.........Jessye Norman
Wotan......................James Morris
Fricka, Wotan's wife.....Christa Ludwig
Hunding.................Kurt Moll

This performance of Wagner's Die Walküre streamed today from the Metropolitan Opera, played at the Met on April 8, 1989.  One forgets.  James Morris is the most intensely emotional Wotan that ever existed.  Everyone is wonderful.  Hildegard Behrens indeed seems like a goddess.  Gary Lakes has that true Heldentenor sound and pairs well with the ever great Jessye Norman.  Who could top Christa Ludwig, and I actually recognized Kurt Moll under all that makeup.

I liked the set for not distracting from these magnificent singing actors.  All was as it should be.

One forgets.  One forgets that in his prime James Levine was truly a great conductor.  Why he wanted to go on past even merely competent we will never know.

One forgets that this is the greatest Wagner performance ever assembled, that James Morris towers over Wotan like a true god.  Thank you for the reminder.

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Saturday, July 04, 2020

Bach's Matthew Passion

There has been some controversy about Johann Sebastian Bach's Matthäus-Passion, claiming that it is anti-Semitic and should never be performed. 

In my time in school my teacher John Lewis was a great lover of Bach, so as I result I sang everything:  St Matthew, St John, Christmas Oratorio, Magnificat, B minor Mass, and misc. cantatas.  The "Erbarme dich" from St Matthew is my favorite Bach aria.  It is important to notice that this aria begs the Lord to forgive ME!  The loss of this work from our repertoire would for me be the most terrible tragedy. 

There are two types of texts in the Passions:  Invented poems found in the arias and choruses, and actual Biblical texts from the translation by Martin Luther.  The Roman Catholic Church used only the Latin Bible.  The Evangelist, Jesus and others speak what to Christians is the sacred word of God.  Except for Pilate and his guys, everyone in the story is a Jew including Jesus, Judas, Peter, etc.  Jesus has just processed into Jerusalem and been hailed as the Messiah.  My theory is that the priests of the temple saw Jesus as competition.  It's politics, not religion.  So the anti-Semitic parts come entirely from the New Testament.

These are the core beliefs of Christianity.  Calling them anti-Semitic just seems absurd.  Which side of the quarrel are we supposed to be on?  You can be a Christian without being a Jew, but you can't be the Messiah without being a Jew.

Calling this, the greatest of all Christian musical religious works, evil is not something I could accept.  Should we translate it into Latin?  I've been feeling flabbergasted.  America is founded on freedom of religion, and this feels to me a bit like book burning.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Salome from San Francisco



 👍🏻
Garrett Sorenson - Narraboth
Elizabeth DeShong - A page
Greer Grimsley - Jokanaan
Nadja Michael - Salome
Kim Begley - Herod
Irina Mishura - Herodias

I loved seeing this again.  I mean, of course, Salome from the San Francisco Opera.  I saw it live here, 11/2/2009.  Each of the main characters represented their role to a T.  This opera is based on a play by Oscar Wilde and follows the original closely in German.

The biggest problem with Salome is that Salome is 15 and the voice required to sing her is about 40, I would say.  Nadja overcomes all this.  She convinces as a young woman insanely in love.  I don't know what would improve on this.  In the house I could not see the dance well enough to tell what was going on.  It turned out to be very sexy and merely suggestive of nudity.

I also found Greer Grimsley beautiful and believable.  This Johanahan might lure young women to follow him with his charisma. 

As an overall theatrical experience, this may just possibly be the best.  I'd have to watch Maria Ewing again to be sure.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Lorraine sings Dido

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson has left this to comfort us.  This is the first time I have felt a singer truly understood this aria.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Live from the Royal Opera


Today at 11:30 PDT we were treated to a live performance from the Royal Opera House in London.  The photo is of a rehearsal with David Butt Philip, tenor, and Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano, preparing Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.  This is one of my favorite things in the whole world and could simply not be missed. 

The ensemble orchestra was conducted by Antonio Pappano.  The chamber orchestra seemed to include only one instrument per part, including 2 violins, 1 viola, etc.  This seemed to work fine.  In the live performance there was also no audience.

Before the Mahler, Vadim Muntigarov performed a short piece representing the Royal Ballet.  There was a small fee to support the opera house.  I loved it.

Friday, June 19, 2020

La Forza del Destino


  👍🏻
Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............John Dexter

Leonora.................Leontyne Price
Don Alvaro..............Giuseppe Giacomini
Don Carlo...............Leo Nucci
Padre Guardiano.........Bonaldo Giaiotti
Preziosilla.............Isola Jones
Fra Melitone............Enrico Fissore [Last performance]
Marquis de Calatrava....Richard Vernon

The live stream from the Met today is Leontyne Price's last performance at the Metropolitan Opera of Verdi's La Forza del Destino, March 24, 1984.  This was also one of her signature roles.  The first scene makes a lot more sense than the Munich version with Jonas and Anja.  There the whole family sits around a table.  In this version people come in and out depending on whether they are relevant to what is going on.  Talking about eloping with the father there is pretty silly.  The shooting is handled well.

In fact I think perhaps this is the most sensible production of Forza I've seen.  They are in a war and wear military uniforms.  What a concept.  Giuseppe Giacomini and Leo Nucci both look and sound similar.  One must work out a method to tell which is which. It is hopeless to choose who is better.  The cast for this performance is excellent from top to bottom.  Isola Jones is my favorite Preziosilla. 

Unfortunately a somewhat silly production makes this extremely gloomy opera somewhat more tolerable.  A trick ending would be tolerated.  The Munich version cuts a lot.

But we are here for Leontyne Price.  She is a singer to love.  Her Verdi is like no one else's.  She puts her own personal magic into the Italian's line.  Thank you for all the joy you have brought us.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Trittico Stream from San Francisco

ConductorPatrick Summers
DirectorJames Robinson

 👍🏻
Il Tabarro


Michele-Paolo Gavanelli
Giorgetta, Michele's wife-Patricia Racette
Luigi-Brandon Jovanovich

It's hard to like this opera.  It's rough and nasty.  Since their child died, Giorgetta has grown tired of her husband and their life on a barge and flirts with his employees, including the incredibly handsome Brandon Jovanovich.  In this opera Patricia Racette is overdressed for her environment.  However, they are in Paris, Giorgetta's native city, so we will cut her some slack.  There is much wonderful singing from our three stars.


Suor Angelica

Catherine Cook-Sister Monitor
Patricia Racette-Sister Angelica
Meredith Arwady-The Abbess
Ewa Podleś-The Princess

I realized watching Suor Angelica that I could not be a nun.  Obedience isn't something I do.  I guess that leaves out the army, too.  My mother knew exactly how to deal with this.

This opera is deep with religious significance.  Angelica has had an illegitimate child, it was immediately taken from her, and she was forced into a convent.  She has been here for 7 years with no news from her family.

Then suddenly out of the blue a high class carriage carrying her aunt appears.  The aunt is here not to see Angelica, but to get her signature on a document that disposes of the family wealth and titles.  Angelica has to ask to find out that her son has died.  These two together are wonderful singing actresses who thrill us and break our hearts.

Angelica knows about herbs and plants.  In short she knows how to poison herself and does.  She realizes perhaps before it is too late that she has committed a mortal sin, and begs the Madonna to forgive her.

Only Patricia Racette and Ewa Podleś came out for bows.  They were both magnificent, towering performances.  This was Ewa's San Francisco Opera debut.


Gianni Schicchi

Michael Harvey-Buoso Donati
Meredith Arwady-Zita
Paolo Gavanelli-Gianni Schicchi
Patricia Racette-Lauretta

Someone smokes in all three operas, but in this one they all do, are in a hospital room.  It is amusing that Buoso Donati gets a casting credit since he's already dead.  It would be strange to play a dead body.

The house that Gianni Schicchi acquires is apparently in a high rise next door to the Duomo in Florence.  There is, of course, no building in Florence anything like that.

Magnificent in the dual roles of Michele in Il Tabarro and Gianni Schicchi was Paolo Gavanelli. He was both very funny and terrifying (in the appropriate places--not very funny as Michele and terrifying as Schicchi).

This is Patricia Racette's masterpiece where she triumphs in three different roles.  Hers was by far the silliest "O mio babbino caro" I've ever heard.  Her Lauretta is virtually a child.

I loved seeing it again.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Metropolitan Opera in HD for 2020-2021 -- Begins 1/21


Jan 16, 2021 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Die Zauberflöte.   This is the old Julie Taymor production and will be done in German. 
  • Conductor Gustavo Dudamel
  • Production Julie Taymor 
  • Pamina Christiane Karg 
  • Queen of the Night Kathryn Lewek 
  • Tamino Stanislas de Barbeyrac 
  • Papageno Thomas Oliemans 
  • Sprecher Christian Van Horn 
  • Sarastro Stephen Milling


Jan 30, 2021 Charles Gounod Roméo et Juliette
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Bartlett Sher
  • Juliette Nadine Sierra, she sang this for us in San Francisco this season.
  • Stéphano Julie Boulianne 
  • Roméo Stephen Costello  
  • Tybalt David Portillo 
  • Mercutio Joshua Hopkins 
  • Capulet Laurent Naouri 
  • Frère Laurent Ildar Abdrazakov 


Mar 27, 2021 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Don Giovanni   This is the old Michael Grandage production with an excellent cast.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Michael Grandage
  • Donna Anna Ailyn Pérez 
  • Donna Elvira Isabel Leonard 
  • Zerlina Hera Hyesang 
  • Don Ottavio Ben Bliss 
  • Don Giovanni Peter Mattei 
  • Leporello Gerald Finley 
  • Masetto Alfred Walker 
  • The Commendatore Ryan Speedo Green


Apr 17, 2021 Jake Heggie Dead Man Walking  This is a new production of an opera new to the Met.  It's not new to me since I was at the world premier.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Ivo van Hove 
  • Sister Rose Latonia Moore 
  • Sister Helen Prejean Joyce DiDonato 
  • Mrs Patrick De Rocher Susan Graham 
  • Joseph De Rocher Etienne Dupuis 


Apr 24, 2021 Richard Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten.  This is a spectacular cast.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Herbert Wernicke 
  • The Empress Elza van den Heever
  • The Dyer's Wife Nina Stemme
  • The Nurse Evelyn Herlitzius
  • The Emperor Klaus Florian Vogt
  • Barak Michael Volle
  • The Geisterbote Ryan Speedo Green


May 8, 2021 Giuseppe Verdi Nabucco.  This will be Netrebko's first Abigaille.
  • Conductor Marco Armiliato 
  • Production Elijah Moshinsky
  • Abigaille Anna Netrebko
  • Fenena Varduhi Abrahamyan
  • Ismaele Najmiddin Mavlyanov
  • Nabucco George Gagnidze
  • Zaccaria Dmitry Belosselskiy 



May 22, 2021  Vincenzo Bellini Il Pirata.  This is a new opera for me.
  • Conductor Maurizio Benini 
  • Production John Copley
  • Imogene Diana Damrau 
  • Gualtiero Javier Camarena
  • Goffredo Nicolas Testé 


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Record Sales

According to Google November, 2019, Cecilia Bartoli has sold 12 million records.

And June 4 is her birthday.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Lucrezia Borgia




Conductor - Riccardo Frizza
Director and Production - DesignerJohn Pascoe

Michael Fabiano - Gennaro
Renée Fleming - Lucrezia Borgia
Vitalij Kowaljow* - Duke Alfonso
Daniel Montenegro* - Rustighello
Ryan Kuster* - Astolfo
Blanche Hampton* - Princess Negroni
Elizabeth DeShong - Maffio Orsini

The most fun part of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia from the San Francisco Opera is Michael Fabiano in a wild blond wig.  We are used to him bald, but with hair he is completely gorgeous.  Sigh. 

I was present at the original performance series in 2011.  Hearing it again, I am most impressed with the ensembles.  Musically it is a joy, and with a film acoustic and balance problems are fixed. 

The production and singing are enjoyable, but it is clear that Lucrezia creates her own tragedy.  She has searched for Gennaro and has finally found him in Venice.  He shows her a letter from his mother.  No matter how dire the circumstances, she never tells anyone that she is his mother.  Not even him.  She's willing to risk killing him but not this.  She would not risk her own status.  It's ok for men to have illegitimate children, but not women.  So everyone dies.  One does not identify with this story.
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Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Makropulos Affair


Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Stage director: Christoph Marthaler

Angela Denoke (Emilia Marty),
Raymond Very (Albert Gregor),
Peter Hoare (Vitek),
Jurgita Adamonyte (Krista),
Johan Reuter (Jaroslav Prus)

From the Salzburg Festival: The Makropulos Affair by Leos Janácek (1854-1928) is streamed through a site called Never In New York.  On the left is what can only be the smoking room.  I recognize it from my travels in Europe where similar rooms appear.  It took me a long time to make out the rest of the stage.  It seems to have everything.  The center of the stage represents a court room.  On the right is a waiting area with a plant room behind.  Most of the action takes place in the center, but people wander in and out of the other areas.

The heroine's real name is Elina Makropulos, and she was the test subject for a potion that would make the king live 300 years.  The king never took it, but here she is at 337, and it appears she is finally dying.  So people won't notice, she changes her name and gives herself a new life.  Each new name has the initials EM.  Over the course of the opera she meets her own great great grandson, an old boyfriend, etc.

It started very low key and almost got boring, but once Emilia starts revealing why she is here, it picks up.  If you haven't seen this opera, try this one.  Or even if you have.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Manon Lescaut Stream



Conductor.............James Levine
Production............Gian Carlo del Menotti

Manon...................Renata Scotto
Des Grieux...........Plácido Domingo
Lescaut.................Pablo Elvira
Geronte.................Renato Capecchi

Three days ago the Met brought us Massenet's Manon.  Today the Metropolitan Opera streamed Puccini's Manon Lescaut from March 29, 1980.  In the streaming series we have already seen Scotto in La Bohème, 03/15/1977.  In the three years between these broadcasts, she lost weight and looks like we are used to seeing her.  We believe Domingo when he exclaims about her looks.

One cannot help comparing the two operas.  Massenet messes around for quite a while before the train arrives carrying Manon.  Puccini puts the carriage arrival with Manon and the falling in love right at the beginning.  He follows this with a gorgeous tenor aria.  He is the master. 

This opera jumps directly from the escape with Des Grieux to her life in luxury with Geronte.  This Manon is more of a narcissist.  Puccini begins act II with a tremendous aria for the soprano.  This is followed by the madrigal. 

When Cecilia Bartoli recorded the Madrigalist for the Decca recording, of course I bought it.  So this opera plays in my head with Mirella Freni and Luciano Pavarotti.  I love the sound of Pavarotti better than Domingo, but Placido is adorable to watch.

The opera takes place before the French revolution.  Gian Carlo del Menotti is the son of Mario del Monaco and received opera from his father's knee.  He tries to evoke the intended setting, and I find this successful. 

Manon very much wants to have her cake and eat it too.  I always think this opera is much sleazier than the other one, but maybe that's mostly because I've seen Netrebko with all her joie de vivre  in two different productions of the other one.  The music here is gorgeous, but you can't help feeling she gets what she deserves.   Scotto dies in style.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Lohengrin stream


Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............August Everding

Lohengrin..........Peter Hofmann
Elsa....................Eva Marton
Ortrud................Leonie Rysanek
Telramund..........Leif Roar
King Heinrich....John Macurdy
Herald.................Anthony Raffell 

This nightly stream from the Metropolitan Opera is Wagner's Lohengrin from 1985.  This Lohengrin is not pretty, unless you count Peter Hofmann, who is really quite gorgeous.  But prettiness isn't everything.  I don't think I've seen this version before.

If you know only his recent outings, you may have forgotten or never have known how great James Levine was in his prime.  Musically this is a triumph.

What can one say of the production?  The sets are consistently dark with only occasional dark brown to contrast with the black.  The men wear dark military outfits, but are surprised when Lohengrin says he will lead them into battle.  Against whom is not said.  Only Lohengrin and Elsa, sung beautifully if calmly by Eva Marton, wear relatively light colors.  Lohengrin is always dressed in white.  For my requirement that it explain the plot, I find it very successful.

The flashiest character in the opera is Ortrud who is as flashy as can be imagined played by Leonie Rysanek.  She is intense.

Lohengrin himself is kind of a rat.  He marries her knowing full well that the longest he will be allowed to stay with her is one year even if she never asks who he is.  He doesn't mention this until after she asks the forbidden question.  His excuse is that you can have a lot of fun in a year.  Ortrud admits that it was she who transformed Heinrich into a swan.  Lohengrin's last deed is to change him back.  I like the careful detail explaining the plot.

Hofmann retired from opera not long after this, but he sounds ok to me.  Rysanek sort of upstages Marton.
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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sure on this shining night



This is Samuel Barber's "Sure on this shining night."  Our Lisette Oropesa, she does it all.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ariadne

👍🏻
Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Bodo Igesz

Ariadne.................Jessye Norman
Bacchus.................James King
Zerbinetta..............Kathleen Battle
The Composer.......Tatiana Troyanos
Music Master.........Franz Ferdinand Nentwig
Harlekin................Stephen Dickson
Scaramuccio..........Allan Glassman
Truffaldin..............Artur Korn
Brighella...............Anthony Laciura
Najade..................Barbara Bonney
Dryade..................Gweneth Bean
Echo....................Dawn Upshaw

For today's Metropolitan Opera stream we are treated to Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, 3/12/1988.  It is unbelievably wonderful.  My all time favorite mezzo is Tatiana Troyanos who sings an outstanding, over the top Composer.  She alone is worth the time.  But look at the complete excess of riches.  Zerbinetta is Kathleen Battle herself, here lively and young.  Ariadne is probably Jessye Norman's greatest role, and here we have her at her peak.  And if that isn't enough, there is James King to sing Bacchus.


In the prologue they all appear as themselves in a peek at backstage life.  Originally the play followed a play by Molière, see here.  They are all wonderfully lively. 

Jessye is beyond wonderful, but they have decided to focus on her face in endless closeups, and she makes faces when she sings.  One might prefer the camera a bit further back.  The singing of "Es gibt ein Reich" is absolutely glorious.  Is this the greatest opera performance every recorded?  I'm tempted to say yes.

Then Kathleen does her wonderful "Großmächtige Prinzessin".  We have one delight after another.  I loved Kathleen Battle and would have fired the conductor. 

Ariadne's three ladies sing what seems to be Schubert's "Schlafe, schlafe."  We transition to the entrance of Bacchus.  "Are you the queen of this island?"  He persuades her.  King isn't quite up to the ladies, but Jessye is fabulous all the way to the end.  They go off to be happy.

Thank you.  This is one of the great things.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Werther

👍🏻
Conductor: Alain Altinoglu
Production: Richard Eyre
Set and Costume Designer: Rob Howell

Werther:  Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
Charlotte:  Sophie Koch (mezzo-soprano)
Sophie:  Lisette Oropesa (soprano)
Albert:  David Bizic (baritone)

Goethe was 24 when he wrote his novel Die Leiden des Jungen Werther, 1774.  Thus he was virtually a child himself.  It was a raging success which made him very famous for the rest of his life.  For us Goethe is Faust, written later.  For that era he was Werther.

So what is Jules Massenet's excuse?  He was 50 when he wrote his opera Werther, 1893.  This Werther when seen from the view of 2020 is simply a sexual harasser.  We know that unrequited love is painful, but do we need to spread the pain to everyone else?  So the question arises:  is he a cad?

Part of our problem with this opera is what a wonderful job Jonas is doing arousing our sympathy.  This is indeed a beautiful version of the opera.  Now that I know who she is, I especially enjoy Lisette Oropesa as Sophie.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Mother Plots


  • Handel Giulio Cesare  Cornelia is the step-mother of Sesto who has just lost his father Pompey.
  • Handel Agrippina   Agrippina is the mother of Nero
  • Mozart Die Zauberflöte  The Queen of the Night is the mother of Pamina.
  • Verdi Il trovatore  Azucena is the mother of Manrico (or not).  She also has mother issues of her own.  Her mother haunts the story.
  • Smetana The Bartered Bride Both of the main characters have mothers in the cast.
  • Mascagni Cavalleria rusticana Turiddu's mother is prominent.
  • Strauss Elektra  Elektra's mother Klytemnestra has killed her father. 
  • Humperdinck Hänsel und Gretel The mother sends the children out alone into the woods. 
  • Janáček Jenůfa Jenůfa's step-mother kills Jenůfa's child.
  • Strauss Salome Salome's mother starts this whole mess.
  • Puccini Madama Butterfly  The main character becomes a mother during the opera.
  • Wagner The Ring This features Erda, mother of the Earth.  Her children include the Valkyries and the Norms.
  • Massenet Werther.  Charlotte's dead mother haunts the story and persuades Charlotte to marry Albert.

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Le Nozze di Figaro from the Met

👍🏻
Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Jonathan Miller

Figaro..................Bryn Terfel
Susanna.................Cecilia Bartoli
Count Almaviva..........Dwayne Croft
Countess Almaviva.......Renée Fleming
Cherubino...............Susanne Mentzer
Dr. Bartolo.............Paul Plishka
Marcellina..............Wendy White
Don Basilio.............Heinz Zednik
Antonio.................Thomas Hammons
Barbarina...............Danielle de Niese

The Metropolitan Opera has rerun free of charge the 1998 telecast of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.  I would have seen the original, of course.  It was in the center of my infatuation with Cecilia Bartoli. Watching it again I find that it is a Figaro for the ages.  There is not even the tiniest hole in this cast.  Even Barbarina features Danielle de Niese making her Met debut at 19.

This opera features the Countess in two glorious arias-- Porgi Amor and Dove sono--sung gloriously by Renée Fleming.

This film still has the most hits for Cecilia Bartoli on YouTube and the second most for Fleming.



The Met cast Bartoli into more or less the same Fach as Kathleen Battle only with a comic slant. In her career she was known for her very successful coloratura singing, and this provides the explanation for the replacement of Deh vieni non tardar, an entirely legato aria, with something with at least some coloratura.

Bryn is perhaps my all time favorite Figaro, and Cecilia and Bryn's flirting is the best ever seen in this opera.

The last time I watched it I wrote this:

It was a surprise when it was announced that Cecilia would sing the role of Susanna, a role I don’t think she has sung since. There was a huge scandal because she insisted on performing different arias. I know “Un moto di gioia” is one of her favorites. Her choices, especially the final aria, are very successful, but she does not sing “Deh vieni non tardar.”

I have felt since I first saw this film that I never really understood this opera before. In a world where everything had to be about status and privilege, where the operas were clearly divided between elevated moral dramas about the upper classes and comedies in dialect from the lower classes, Mozart has brought us real people from all the various classes of his era, people with serious problems, people like us. I don’t think I really understood how deeply serious Figaro really is.

Cecilia is key in the success of this entire performance because she makes you feel how much Susanna loves Figaro and how much she hates the idea of sex with the count, how much she loathes his attentions while successfully masking her emotions from him. This is the content of the Marriage of Figaro, not just the jokes. I have read the book this is based on, but it is Mozart and da Ponte who give true life to these people.

There is a wonderful rapport between Cecilia and Bryn which they exploited in a duet album and dvd. This rapport is at its best here. They are exciting and very charismatic together.

As if this were not wonderful enough, there is also the fabulous countess of Renée Fleming, who needs only to sit around being miserably regal while singing two of the most gorgeous arias ever written. Gorgeously. She is in top form.

It is a succession of perfectly executed scenes by ideally cast singing actors. When was Figaro’s discovery of his parents ever so perfect? The count and countess are effectively upper class while Susanna and Figaro are common, as it should be. The entire production is pure perfection in singing, conducting and ensemble acting, and never becomes stale.

As one who has long adored Cecilia and has seen a lot of her stage work, this is her masterpiece.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Rainbows

I collect renditions of Over the Rainbow (see here), but this one cannot be overlooked. The singer is Christine Brewer.



Contrast with her Liebestod here.

Announcement

The Performance Calendar page now includes the streaming schedule for the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Kaufmann Dichterliebe



On May 1 I found a link to Jonas Kaufmann with his accompanist Helmut Deutsch performing Schumann's Dichterliebe.  His diction is amazing.  Man versteht jedes Wort.  They are performing to an empty room, the Bayerische Staatsoper.  At the end Jonas complains that he doesn't like it that there are no people.

This is quite wonderful and not to be missed. 

The Only Aida


👍🏻
Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............John Dexter

Aida....................Leontyne Price [Last performance]
Radamès.................James McCracken
Amneris.................Fiorenza Cossotto
Amonasro................Simon Estes
Ramfis..................John Macurdy

I'm going to cut everyone some slack in the replay of Aida, 1985, from Leontyne Price's last performance anywhere in a staged opera.  The previous season she presented at the Met the last performance of her other signature role from La Forza del Destino.  It starts slow and warms to an intensity seldom seen today.

"Celeste Aida" is tough.  I always remember that when Pavarotti did his first Aida in San Francisco that the papers panned him.  It's tough.  But McCracken carries his weight after that.  Cossotto comes out of the box roaring and carries this to the end.  Perhaps she knows that she will be remembered for this performance.

But this performance is about Leontyne Price.  I cannot top what I said years ago about the Blue Album which I used to play in my dorm room at college:

"To begin here tends to set ones standards absurdly, artificially high. Forever after I thought anyone should be able to do that gorgeous open, almost raw sound, that unbelievably fat middle tone, those awesome high notes. Anyone should be able to hit a high C and spin it back to a pianissimo. Right? How hard can it be?

"And that perfect, fluid phrasing, that perfection of ornamentation, that flawless instinct for scooping and sliding in Verdi, that must be a dime a dozen. Must be.

"And that reckless intensity, that daring passion, there must be hundreds of those.

"But no one who could approach this ever came again. For Bellini it's Callas, but for Verdi there is no one who ever could touch the one and only, never to be seen again Leontyne Price. Herbert von Karajan said that her singing gave him goose bumps. Yes."

And our Aida rerun from the Met captured my attention as seldom happens these days.  Our hearts are with them to the end.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Summer Festivals 2020 Future Unknown


Santa Fe Opera  Cancelled
  • Gioachino Rossini The Barber of Seville
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart The Magic Flute
  • Richard Wagner Tristan und Isolde 
  • Antonín Dvořák Rusalka
  • Huang Ruo  M. Butterfly (new opera)

Salzburg Whitsun  Cancelled
  • Gaetano Donizetti Don Pasquale (and main festival, Cecilia Bartoli)
  • Hector Berlioz Orphée (the usual Berlioz arrangement of Gluck, here attributed to Berlioz.)


Salzburg Festival 1 August – 31 August 2020
This festival is still talking optimistically about going on with a reduced schedule.  Current plan:
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Cosi fan Tutte
  • Richard Strauss Elektra
  • Vienna Phil 4 concerts
  • Guest orchestras 4 concerts
  • Netrebko/Eyvasov concert
  • Concert with Bartoli
  • Yoncheva concert
  • Florez concert
  • Igor Levit plays all Piano Sonatas by Beethoven. 
  • And more things
 
Aix-en-Provence Festival Cancelled
  • Giacomo Puccini Tosca  Angel Blue is Tosca
  • Wolfgang Rihm Jakob Lenz
  • Adam Maor The Sleeping Thousand World Premier
  • Kurt Weill The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny with Karita Mattila
  • Michel van der Aa Blank Out  French Premier

Glyndebourne Festival  Cancelled
  • Francis Poulenc Dialogues des Carmélites with Danielle de Niese streamed
  • Gaetano Donizetti L’elisir d’amore
  • George Frideric Handel Alcina streamed
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Lisette Oropesa
  • Ludwig van Beethoven Fidelio
  • Igor Stravinsky The Rake’s Progress, streamed

Munich Opera Festival  Cancelled
  • Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Koch, Kaufmann
  • Hans Abrahamson The Snow Queen
  • Giuseppe Verdi Nabucco
  • Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto with Calleja, Keenlyside
  • Joseph Haydn Orlando Paladino
  • Giacomo Puccini La Boheme
  • Peter Tchaikovsky Eugene Onegin
  • Erich Korngold Die tote Stadt with Kaufmann, Peterson
  • Giuseppe Verdi Otello with Kunde, Harteros
  • Giuseppe Verdi Falstaff with Koch, Kurzak  streamed
  • Giacomo Puccini Tosca
  • Giuseppe Verdi I Masnadieri with Damrau, Castronuovo
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau Castor et Pollux  streamed
  • Béla Bartók Bluebeard's Castle
    • Georges Bizet Carmen
    • Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus
    • Tobias Picker & Aryeh Lev Stollman Awakenings
    • Carlysle Floyd Susannah
    West Edge Opera Festival Postponed to 2021
    • Leoš Janáček Katya Kabanova
    • Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell Elizabeth Cree
    • Francesco Cavalli Eliogabolo

    Glimmerglass  Cancelled
    • Rogers The Sound of Music with Leonard!, Burden
    • Wagner Die Feen
    • Handel Rinaldo
    • Mozart Don Giovanni
    • Mozart Cosi fan Tutte

    Chorégies d'Orange  Cancelled
    • Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila
    • Viaggio italiano Song Recital with Cecilia Bartoli 24/07/2020 
    • Verdi La forza del destino

    Roberto Devereux Stream

    👍🏻

    People don't give Peter Gelb enough credit.  In this production of Roberto Devereux he has chosen the perfect cast.

    Elisabetta: Sondra Radvanovsky (soprano)
    Sara, Duchess of Nottingham: Elīna Garanča (mezzo-soprano)
    Roberto Devereux: Matthew Polenzani (tenor)
    Duke of Nottingham: Mariusz Kwiecien (baritone)

    He has also chosen the great Englishman, David McVicar, to create this wonderful production.  Of the three queens, I prefer this one because it isn't so dark and drab.

    I like Sondra Radvanovsky in other operas, but this is her masterpiece.  The opera comes to life because of the wonderful intensity she brings.

    The plot is nonsense, of course.  Elizabeth was a truly great queen who would never have allowed the execution of one of her courtiers on anything so trivial as sex.  My understanding is that Devereux tried to overthrow the queen, the precise meaning of being a traitor.  I doubt that having a girlfriend qualifies.  It wouldn't make an opera, though.

    Thank you all.

    Tuesday, April 28, 2020

    Anna Bolena stream


    👍🏻

    Conductor.......................Marco Armiliato
    Production......................David McVicar

    Anna Bolena (Anne Boleyn).......Anna Netrebko
    Giovanna (Jane Seymour).........Ekaterina Gubanova
    Enrico (Henry VIII).............Ildar Abdrazakov
    Riccardo (Lord Richard Percy)...Stephen Costello
    Mark Smeaton....................Tamara Mumford
    Lord Rochefort..................Keith Miller
    Sir Hervey......................Eduardo Valdes

    In the announcement before Donizetti's Anna Bolena began we were told that this was the first time this opera had played at the Met.  When Beverly Sills sang her three queens, it was across the plaza at City Opera.

    We are not to see the happy time when Anna Bolena married Henry VIII.  Instead we come in at the point in her marriage where he has already moved on to his next wife, Jane Seymour.  In this context she as portrayed as loved by many men, but still remaining faithful to her husband.  The sets are dark and uninviting, but much love has gone into creating costumes that are true to the period of Henry VIII.  In this era of modern black business suits in virtually any opera, we are grateful.

    Donizetti is the closest to Verdi of any of the Italian composers.  This could be early, or even middle Verdi.  There is much bombast.  Everyone earns a big aria.  The top three singers are all Russian, so we are treated to some magnificent Russian style singing characterized by big voices and big production.  Perhaps this is what prompts Stephen Costello to sing in this big voiced style.  It's the heaviest I remember for him.

    Netrebko wished to sing this.  It is probably the intensity of emotion that attracted her.  The duet with Gubanova is especially dramatic.  Ildar makes Henry an angry asshole.  Seen from this perspective, he does seem like a megalomaniacal pervert.

    Dear Anne Boleyn, Someone has written this opera for you, and now some other people have made this wonderful performance.  I think it's the best we can do for you.

    What we love so unreservedly about Anna Netrebko is how completely she commits to the inner emotions of her performances.  She gives it all.  Viva.

    Saturday, April 25, 2020

    Met Gala



    There was never a gala like this.  Due to the wonders of modern computers, people from all over the world have gathered in their homes to make and enjoy music.  The sound wasn't always perfect, but the spirit was deep.  I cried many times.  Seeing them all as themselves made the meaning of our problem very clear.  Opera brings art and beauty to the world, and must go on.  May all be well for all of you.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2020

    Tosca from Vienna

     Scarpia, Tosca, Cavaradossi

    I wanted to see Tosca, but the recent one from the Met is too soon for me.  Besides it was just ok.  I looked around and found this amazing one from the Wiener Staatsoper 2016.

    Conductor: Jesus Lopez Cobos
    Stage Designer: Nicola Benois

    Tosca: Angela Gheorghiu,
    Cavaradossi:  Jonas Kaufmann,
    Scarpia:  Bryn Terfel

    Bryn is astounding.  I've seem him in a variety of roles--Falstaff, Méphistophélès, Figaro, Wotan, etc. --, but this is not the Bryn I know.  He roars and terrifies.  Perhaps Scarpia should always be like this.  He's peeling fruit while he interviews Cavaradossi.

    Jonas is the great romantic hero of our time, and is perfect in this role.  He receives extended applause for his aria at the beginning of the third act.  In fact he gets an encore here.  This is the performance where Angela missed her cue.  I'm very surprised they left it in.  Maybe you could get an edited version.  Because it's funny but spoils an otherwise fabulous performance.

    I recommend this.  All are on the same page, with great intensity and beautiful singing.

    No offense to the Met.

    Tuesday, April 21, 2020

    Les Contes d'Hoffmann

     Hoffmann, Nicklausse

    Conductor : Philippe Jordan
    Director : Robert Carsen

    Olympia : Nadine Koutcher
    Giulietta : Kate Aldrich
    Antonia : Ermonela Jaho
    La muse, Nicklausse : Stéphanie d'Oustrac
    La mère d'Antonia : Doris Soffel
    Hoffmann : Ramón Vargas
    Spalanzani : Rodolphe Briand
    Nathanaël : Cyrille Lovighi
    Luther, Crespel : Paul Gay
    Andrès, Cochenille, Pitichinaccio, Frantz : Yann Beuron
    Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto, Miracle : Roberto Tagliavini

    Les Contes d'Hoffmann from Paris, 2016. I'm watching this because I'm a huge fan of Stéphanie d'Oustrac. She's doing the male-Nicklausse/female-Muse thing with great expertise.

    Our Olympia treats us to a bit of pseudo-nudity before being shockingly disassembled.  She is fun.

    There are no titles.  This is what going to the opera used to be like.  Perhaps this is why opera has shifted its values toward the theatrical.  They used to just stand around singing.  Nobody really knew more than just vaguely what was going on.  Now everyone acts.

    In the Antonia act we are in a theater orchestra pit, where she steals the conductor's score.  Her aria is my favorite part of the opera.  Her mother appears on the stage above, Antonia runs about trying to get up on the stage, and finally she succeeds.  This segment of the story is confusing.  In opera everyone sings all the time.  So Antonia is told if she sings she will die.  She sings.  She dies.  But how do we tell which singing is the singing that kills her?   The orchestra appears in the pit and the act ends.

    Now we are in the audience of the same theater?  Nicklausse and Giulietta sing the barcarole from the seats.  The audience files in and begins making out with one other.  This is Paris where there seems always to be hanky-panky on the stage.  Being in the chorus there is a whole different thing.  We're supposed to be in Venice.

    When all Hoffmann's loves are gone, the muse returns.  I loved only the one I came to see.  For the bows she changes quickly back into her Nicklausse outfit.  Enjoyable if not very romantic.

    Sunday, April 19, 2020

    Ranking the Simulcasts 2019-2020

    This is the list of HD broadcasts this season from the Metropolitan Opera shown in reverse order. Because the season was cut short, I saw only six operas. They were nevertheless an amazing set of operas.  


    👍🏻Agrippina by Handel. From 1709 this is the oldest opera ever presented at the Met. It Starred Joyce DiDonato, Kate Lindsey and Brenda Rae in a new production by David McVicar.  Considering the Met's lack of experience in Baroque opera, it was excellent.


    👍🏻Porgy and Bess by Gershwin in a new production by James Robinson, starring Eric Owens and Angel Blue.  This was an enormous hit.  Performances were added and encores of the live in HD were added in the following 2 weeks.

    Wozzeck by Berg.  The William Kentridge production was new at the Met, but came originally from Salzburg.  Peter Mattei starred.  I had already seen the production which took some of the excitement out of it for me.


    👍🏻Akhnaten by Glass.  Phelim McDermott created the very abstract new production.  It was long and included a lot of juggling.  I found it much more interesting than I thought I would.  In fact it was so popular the Met has arranged to bring it back in 2022.

    Manon by Massenet. with Lisette Oropesa.  Revival.  This production by Laurent Pelly was new with Anna Netrebko. This is a good role for Lisette.

    Turandot by Puccini. Revival of the ever popular Zeffirelli production. Christine Goerke and Yusif Eyvazov.  Perhaps I've seen this too many times.

    All of these were very good, but one and two exceeded all expectations:
    1. Porgy and Bess
    2. Akhnaten
    3. Agrippina
    4. Manon
    5. Turandot
    6. Wozzeck
    Neither one of these starred one of the great names of today, and neither one is a frequently performed opera.




    Saturday, April 18, 2020

    I Capuleti e i Montecchi from Zurich

     The Companion, Giulietta, Romeo

    Fabio Luisi Conductor
    Christof Loy Staging

    Joyce DiDonato Romeo
    Olga Kulchynska Giulietta
    Benjamin Bernheim Tebaldo
    Roberto Lorenzi Lorenzo
    Alexei Botnarciuc Capellio
    Gieorgij Puchalski The companion

    Everyone is streaming these days.  Today was Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi from the Zurich opera in 2015.  Joyce performed this role in 2012 in San Francisco, but it is rather astounding how much more intense she is here.  There's something about watching opera two feet from your eyes that makes it seem more personal, more real.  Her Romeo here is intensely emotional, far more than the other characters on the stage.

    Background tells us that there are two R&J operas:  Gounod's and Bellini's.  Gounod's opera is French and derives from the Shakespeare play.  The Italian Bellini designs his play around Italian history.  I previously wrote:  "We studied the Guelphs and Ghibellines in my class in Florence. The Guelphs, represented here by Giuletta's family the Capuleti, support the Pope, and the Ghibellines, represented here by Romeo's faction the Montecchi, support the Holy Roman Empire. So you see it isn't just two families that don't like each other. It's a war that went on in Italy from 1140 to 1289."

    Christof Loy has made of this history a minimalist regie production with the usual black suits for all the male characters.  The women all seem to wear white dresses which we confuse with wedding dresses.

    There is one other regie feature--The companion.  He's an androgynous figure with long hair who dresses sometimes in a black suit and other times in a black dress.  He says nothing but seems to fill holes in the plot.  When Romeo pulls a gun and tries to get Tebaldo to shoot him, The companion disposes of the gun.  When Giulietta needs lifting, he is there to do the job.  [Why do directors assume that tenors can lift sopranos?]

    You want this opera for the music.  It is glorious here, beautifully conducted and beautifully sung. 

    I couldn't face Butterfly.

    Wednesday, April 15, 2020

    La Rondine




    👍🏻
    Conductor...............Marco Armiliato
    Production..............Nicolas Joël

    Magda...................Angela Gheorghiu
    Ruggero.................Roberto Alagna
    Lisette.................Lisette Oropesa
    Prunier.................Marius Brenciu
    Rambaldo................Samuel Ramey

    The daily rerun from the Metropolitan Opera is Puccini's La Rondine with Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna.  Now I know that the maid Lisette is played by Lisette Oropesa who is far more famous today.  It is lovely to see her.

    Wonderful things in Act I:  Angela's lightness and enthusiasm, Roberto's youthfulness, the gorgeous art nouveau set, the aria, Lisette's charm.  Not so wonderful is the sharp decline in the voice of Sam Ramey from earlier years.  At his peak I loved him madly, but here not so much.  Prunier the poet says he wants Salome or Berenice, larger than life women.  Magda is a kept woman, but sneaks out of the house looking for love.

    In Act II Magda has gone to a place with small round tables and bentwood chairs where there is dancing.  She happens on Ruggero whom she did not notice in Act I.  Magda and Ruggero dance.  Then couples come out and do what I would call Apache dancing where the men throw the women around.  Roberto is rather incredibly adorable.  I realize that I can't remember the ending.

    Lisette and Prunier also come to entertain themselves in this student hangout.  Both Magda and Prunier think they will not see anyone they know, and when they do see someone they know they pretend not to know them.  Lisette is not sophisticated.  Magda asks Prunier, "Is she Salome or Berenice?"  No longer pretending.  Love music is followed by the arrival of Rambaldo, the man who is keeping her.  She tells him she's leaving him for true love.  He is rather nice about it.  "I hope you don't regret it."

    In Act III Magda is still with Ruggero, this time in another gorgeous art nouveau set.  They are still in love.  The ending is not happy.

    This is not like any other Puccini opera.  I suppose it is nearest to Fanciulla in plot, but the music here is much sweeter.  It started its life as an operetta and was later turned into an opera.  So this is more like Lehar than Puccini.  It never quite feels like Puccini, but one might still love it, especially this one. 

    #ad

    Monday, April 13, 2020

    Conversation

    Q. Here is a question for you: Can you differentiate country/culture of origin of a singer solely by listening to them?

    How about an Asian singer vs European or even American?

    Me: I would guess not. Unless they're singing in their native style. If you mean people singing opera, today they are from everywhere.

    Q.They are from everywhere- mostly. So you cannot tell a Russian soprano singing Puccini from an English woman singing Tchaikovsky? A German singing Gershiwin? We were also trying to call to mind Big Name singers from Asia?

    Me. Kathleen Kim is from Korea. Sumi Jo also. Yonghoon Lee tenor also. These are the main ones I know. The biggest hot singer today is Pretty Yende, a black woman from South Africa. And yes, she is very pretty.

    Some foreigners sing other languages quite well. If I'm listening to Song to the Moon, I know that only Lucia Popp is Czech, but the other people don't have accents from their own countries. I for instance have no trace of an American accent in German. I don't speak Czech so I can't tell. People on YouTube who speak Czech complain a lot.

    Q,And Pavarotti could sing in another language without a trace of Italian accent?🤗

    Me. I know he sang in English in his pop singer phase, but I don't know if he bothered to try to sound American. He was famous for Daughter of the Regiment which is in French. This is very wowie.



     If you speak the language, the crucial bit is to understand what they are saying. If you are in Munich and they are singing in German, and you speak German, you will understand a lot more than you will other places. This can be attributed to the coaches.

    Q.And wasn’t Fledermaus one of his roles? German?

    Me. In Fledermaus there is a party scene.  He appeared with Sutherland as one of the entertainers at the party.  No role.  No dialog.  He also appeared in Rosenkavalier as The Italian Singer. He sings in Italian in both places.  



    P.S.

    If you see a film of people rehearsing for a professional opera recording, in the circle of professionals will be the language coach.  It is very important that everyone seem to be speaking the same language.  There is a very wide variation in how singers perform in foreign languages.  In every professional company there are coaches.

    In Ulm we did everything in German, and the coaches came from the theater part of the house.  We learned Buehne Deutsch. The main person who did this was from Berlin and spoke an almost incomprehensible dialect in real life.  This always made me laugh.  Her stage German was very beautiful, but it would be like learning a foreign language.

    PPS.
    It is important to distinguish language and style.  I took this question to mean language, and maybe there would be a completely different answer if it referred to style.  OK.  Pavarotti is the very definition of Italian style and shows it in everything he sings.

    So where do you think this woman is from?




    Thursday, April 09, 2020

    Fidelio from Theater an der Wien


    You could stare at this picture for hours and nothing about it would make you think of Beethoven's Fidelio.  This performance takes place in the Theater an der Wien (Vienna, Austria) where the opera made its debut in 1805.  This performance is of the 1806 version and was performed before cameras but no audience.  It was intended as part of the 250 anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.  It came to me via medici.tv.

    Manfred Honeck | Conductor
    Christoph Waltz | Stage director

    Eric Cutler | Florestan
    Nicole Chevalier | Leonore/Fidelio
    Gábor Bretz | Don Pizarro
    Christof Fischesser | Rocco
    Mélissa Petit | Marzelline
    Benjamin Hulett | Jaquino
    Károly Szemerédy | Don Fernando

    Throughout the performance people walk up and down the stairs without falling down.  I am not able to forget the danger.  Seated on the stairs in chains is Florestan.  For some reason this picture which suggests nothing at all is never confusing.

    The plot is not complex. Jaquino loves Marzelline.  Marzelline, who smokes and wears pants, probably to reduce the possibility of falling, loves Fidelio.  Fidelio isn't who he seems to be.  This is the liveliest staging of the opening scene with Marzelline and Jaquino that I've seen.  They are seriously fighting.  It's fun.  Except for the stairs.  These two young people are quite enjoyable.

    There seems to be some confusion about Rocco.  He's Marzelline's father, I believe, but at the end when Florestan is rescued, they seem to blame him for everything.  It's my understanding that he just works there.

    I love this opera and always know what is going on.  Someone with less experience would have to tell me if the staging worked.  I enjoyed all the singing, especially  Eric Cutler, Nicole Chevalier and  Mélissa Petit.

    Wednesday, April 08, 2020

    Girl of the Golden West



    Conductor:  Nicola Luisotti
    Production:  Giancarlo Del Monaco

    Minnie:  Deborah Voigt
    Dick Johnson:  Marcello Giordani
    Jack Rance:  Lucio Gallo
    Sonora: Dwayne Croft
    Wowkle:  Ginger Costa-Jackson

    From California to the Metropolitan Opera, thank you for this spectacular presentation of our opera, Puccini's La Fanciulla del West.  There's something about sitting home alone with no distractions, with the faces so near to ones own face that makes the performances seem so present, so alive and personal. 

    I have never loved Deborah Voigt this much.  This is her masterpiece.  She becomes this character as no one else.  There is intensity and joy throughout the cast.  Thank you all.  Life is better.
    #ad

    Tuesday, April 07, 2020

    Marcello Giordani (1963-2019)

    I seem to have completely missed that Marcello Giordani died of a heart attack last October.  Here he is at his best.

    Friday, April 03, 2020

    Don Carlo


    Conductor-Yannick Nézet-Séguin
    Production-Nicholas Hytner

    Don Carlo-Roberto Alagna
    Elizabeth of Valois-Marina Poplavskaya
    Princess Eboli-Anna Smirnova
    Rodrigo-Simon Keenlyside
    King Philip II-Ferruccio Furlanetto
    Grand Inquisitor-Eric Halfvarson

    The Metropolitan Opera is treating us in our hibernation to some streams of marvelous past performances.  It is interesting to see these films again.  I am having very different reactions, Don Carlo being no exception.  I feel no inclination to compare Marina Poplavskaya to anyone.  She had a brief but glorious career.  She crossed my path only between 2009 and 2011. I enjoy her today very much.  I think she became a real estate agent in Manhattan.

    The peak of Ferruccio Furlanetto's career is the great scene here where he laments that his wife does not love him.  It is a great opera with a great cast.  They are mostly giving us traditional productions.

    Smirnova isn't that interesting in the role of Eboli, but she gives a barn-burning "O don fatale."  Each character has a wonderful scene.

    This is the era of the Inquisition, and Spain was at its center.  They ruled over a protestant land and killed many people.  As political operas go, this one is at the top of the heap, with glorious music, great characters, and here a beautiful performance.

    Tuesday, March 31, 2020

    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    👍🏻

    Conductor...............Maurizio Benini
    Production..............Bartlett Sher 

    Figaro..................Peter Mattei
    Rosina..................Joyce DiDonato
    Count Almaviva....Juan Diego Flórez
    Dr. Bartolo.............John Del Carlo
    Don Basilio.............John Relyea

    The Met is streaming Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia that originally played in 2007 while I was driving across the country.  I don't seem to have had much enthusiasm for it, but seeing it now I like it a lot.  This is such a marvelous cast.  Every one is among the best in their class.  At this point in my life Mattei may be my favorite Figaro.  He plays the role with great vigor.  There is a strange, ghost-like man who wanders the stage.  The main trio are young and lively, great singers, actors, musicians.

    This opera was originally called Almaviva and ended with the big aria usually heard as the finale to La Cenerantola, here sung by the tenor.  Later Rossini removed it from this opera and assigned it to Angiolina, a coloratura mezzo.  In modern times it is only rarely heard in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and only when a company wishes to particularly honor a tenor.  Juan Diego's performance is excellent.

    I find this is highly recommended.


    Monday, March 30, 2020

    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg


    Conductor...............James Levine
    Production..............Otto Schenk

    Hans Sachs..............Michael Volle
    Eva.....................Annette Dasch
    Walther von Stolzing....Johan Botha
    Magdalene...............Karen Cargill
    David...................Paul Appleby
    Beckmesser..............Johannes Martin Kränzle
    Pogner..................Hans-Peter König

    When the Metropolitan Opera presented Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in December of 2014, I must have been in Ohio for Christmas.  The Met is streaming it today, and I realize this is my first time seeing it.  The Sachs was supposed to be Bryn Terfel, I think.  I generally love this opera, but I'm afraid this version is not working for me.  Paul Appleby's David is excellent, but so far he's my favorite.

    [I haven't been feeling well.]

    Tuesday, March 24, 2020

    Terrence McNally (November 3, 1938 – March 24, 2020)


    American playwright Terrence McNally died today from the corona virus.  In the opera world he is best known as the librettist for three operas by Jake Heggie:  Dead Man Walking (2000), Three Decembers (2008), and Great Scott (2015).  Of these I have seen only Dead Man Walking.  I was also present at the world premier in San Francisco before I started blogging. 

    He was most famous for plays and musicals and in 2019 won a lifetime achievement Tony.  Of all his works I have also seen Master Class in New York, a play about Maria Callas.  He loved the arts.

    Friday, March 20, 2020

    Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane

     Marc Albrecht | Conductor
     Christof Loy | Stage director 

    Sara Jakubiak | Heliane
    Josef Wagner | The Ruler, her husband
    Brian Jagde | The Stranger
    Okka Von der Damerau | The Messenger
    Derek Welton | The Doorman
    Burkhard Ulrich | The Blind Judge
    Gideon Poppe | The Young Man

    From Deutsche Oper Berlin on Medici.tv we have Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, 1927.  I am watching it because Lotte Lehmann said Heliane was her favorite role.  It is the outer extreme of post Romanticism.

    In Act I there are three characters:  The Stranger, the Ruler and his wife Heliane.  She is the only one with an actual name.  The Ruler is pissed because his wife doesn't love him.  So he kills anyone who seems happy, including The Stranger who wanders into town and cheers people up.  While he is in jail awaiting his execution, Heliane comes in to comfort him.  She announces herself as the Queen.  This is one of the wildest scenes in opera.  At The Stranger's request she first takes down her hair, then takes off her shoes, and finally takes off everything else.  Is this part of comforting?  So did Lotte like the nudity?  Husband comes back and things go from bad to worse.  The music is very intense.

    In Act II Heliane is tried for being unfaithful to her husband.  The blind Judge enters, and both The Ruler and Heliane call him Father.  He speaks to Heliane as though she were a child, so I presume that he is her father.  She testifies in a long amazing aria "Ich ging zu ihm."



    The Stranger comes into the courtroom and asks to be left alone for a moment with Heliane.  The King and the Judge allow this.  Our Stranger is very persuasive and gets Heliane to kiss him "for the first and last time."  She does, and he stabs himself and dies.

    The chorus enters complaining that The Stranger has been taken from them.  She tells her husband she is pure and he decides that if she is pure she will bring The Stranger back to life.  The act ends with her swearing that she will.

    The ending in Act III is complex.  The Stranger rises from the dead, but this only enrages the King who stabs his wife.  You should know it has a happy ending.  What is one to make of such a thing?  They played it very low key, but the music is large and soaring.  I'm glad I took the time to see it.

    Saturday, March 14, 2020

    Corona Crisis

    Sadly, one cannot help wondering about the possible devastation to our art form as a result of all the cancellations.  We must come back with love.

    Saturday, March 07, 2020

    Pie Jesu

    A piece I love by the artist I have always loved most. She has hidden herself in this music.


    Wednesday, March 04, 2020

    Comment

    Apparently if you had a "what the hell was that" reaction to Agrippina, that is exactly what was desired.



    We had a preview of Kate Lindsey's athleticism in San Francisco in 2015 when she played Cherubino in Nozze di Figaro and turned cartwheels on stage.

    Saturday, February 29, 2020

    Agrippina in HD

    👍🏻

    Conductor...............Harry Bicket
    Production..............David McVicar

    Agrippina.............Joyce DiDonato
    Nerone, her son.........Kate Lindsey
    Claudio, her husband the emperor.....Matthew Rose 
    Poppea, her rival..........Brenda Rae
    Ottone..................Iestyn Davies (countertenor)
    Narciso.................Nicholas Tamagna (countertenor)
    Pallante................Duncan Rock
     
    Deborah Voigt announced that Handel's Agrippina, 1709, was the oldest opera ever presented at the Met.  As I mentioned after the last time I saw it, it was composed for Venice early in the era of Neapolitan opera.  That means lots and lots of da capo arias and a happy ending.  What is more Venice than Naples is the mixing of comic and serious elements.  The Venetians weren't fussy about that stuff.

    This is the most I have enjoyed a Baroque opera maybe ever.  This is regie, of course.  The clothes are modern with lots of WWII military uniforms.  There is a bar scene where all the characters seem to meet by accident.  Maybe it's on the frequently mentioned Campidoglio. When Rome conquers England, they return with Elizabeth II's crown.  One of the scenes showed the ceiling of the Pantheon which brought some character to the mostly abstract sets.

    What makes this a great opera is the well designed plot.  No matter how difficult the complexities are for our heroine, she conquers them all.

    I was going to say there is no hit tune until Nerone sang "Come nembo" while snorting cocaine.  This is known because Bartoli recorded it.  The most unusual thing about this production is the staging of the character Nerone.  I think we are to presume that he is a very athletic, well-tattooed juvenile delinquent.  He loves his mother and acts up continuously.  Kate Lindsey said she had to train for this role.  We believe her.  Her rendition of "Come nembo" was excellent.

    The music was always excellent, but no one topped the magnificent Joyce DiDonato who created a wonderful, perfectly believable evil character and topped it with gorgeous singing.

    Wednesday, February 26, 2020