Thursday, December 31, 2020

Met New Years Gala

Matthew Polenzani, Pretty Yende, Angel Blue, Javier Camarena

This wonderful Metropolitan Opera Gala concert came to us live from the Parktheater im Kurhaus Göggingen, in Augsburg, Germany.  I used to live near there.

The Program

“Ah! Mes amis ... Pour mon âme” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
               Javier Camarena    [I came in at the end where he hits the last high C.  Magnificent.]

“Chacun le sait” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
               Pretty Yende 

“Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s La Bohème
               Matthew Polenzani 

“Sì, mi chiamano Mimì” from Puccini’s La Bohème
               Angel Blue

“O soave fanciulla” from Puccini’s La Bohème 
               Angel Blue, Matthew Polenzani

“Quoi! Vous m’aimez?” from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment 
               Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena 

“Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” from Puccini’s La Rondine 
               Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Matthew Polenzani

“Sì, ritrovarla io giuro” from Rossini’s La Cenerentola
               Javier Camarena

“Una voce poco fa” from Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia
               Pretty Yende

“La donna è mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto
               Matthew Polenzani 

“D’amor sull’ali rosee” from Verdi’s Il Trovatore
               Angel Blue

“Son geloso del zefiro errante” from Bellini’s La Sonnambula
               Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena

“Lippen schweigen” from Lehár’s Die Lustige Witwe
               Angel Blue, Matthew Polenzani    [Perhaps I would like this if Angel was the widow.]

“Mattinata” by Ruggero Leonvacallo
               Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena

“Torna a Surriento” by Ernesto De Curtis
               Angel Blue, Matthew Polenzani

“’O sole mio” by Eduardo di Capua
               Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Matthew Polenzani

“Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici” from Verdi’s La Traviata
               Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Matthew Polenzani

“Auld Lang Syne” (Traditional)
               Angel Blue, Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena, Matthew Polenzani

Very nice.  All my favorite parts.  Lots of duets.  My emotions are getting the better of me.  I need more of all these people.  I sang along to Auld Lang Syne.  Love to all.


There has been controversy over this concert.  People argue that Met musicians should have been hired to accompany the singers instead of the Europeans, a pianist and a string ensemble.  The concert took place in Germany.  There would probably be two reasons for this:  1.  Live performances under controlled conditions are allowed in Germany, and 2. The singers are all in Europe where at least occasionally they can get gigs.  Javi is in Monaco and Madrid.  Pretty has been in Barcelona.  Angel will be in Berlin.  Matthew has been in Madrid.  

Other factors concern the accompanying musicians.  It might not be possible for American musicians to just fly in to Germany and play there.  I am not happy about Gelb and his treatment of the marvelous Met orchestra, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss this beautiful concert.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Favorite Operas of the Year 2020 👍🏻

For another perspective on 2020 see the KK Awards.

This list is limited only to performances that I viewed in 2020.  This was another year without travel but with a lot of free streams from the Met and the Vienna State Opera due to the global pandemic.  These are my top ten for this year and are in chronological order.  I find this to be a lovely mix of a wide variety of operatic styles.

Favorite Performances

  • Gershwin's Porgy and Bess  This came early in the year when we were still receiving live streams in HD in movie theaters from the Metropolitan Opera.  The stars were Eric Owens and Angel Blue.  I love this opera and found this cast perfect.

  • Bartok's Judith   This came to me as a live stream from Munich before the theaters closed and is entirely an invention of  Katie Mitchell. Bluebeard's Castle becomes a crime story.  This mashup of Concerto for Orchestra in five movements and Duke Bluebeard's Castle, both by Bartok, was new for everyone.  I don't quite know if I should say it's a new opera.  The concerto is staged as a film showing Nina Stemme preparing to go under cover to capture Bluebeard.  You'd have to make your own film.

  • Handel's Agrippina  This, too, is before the closing of the theaters and was live from the Met.  Joyce Didonato is Agrippina and Kate Lindsey as Nero are spectacular.  I didn't know that Handel wrote any comedies, but this is very funny.

  • Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane [Heliane's miracle] is from Deutsche Oper Berlin and was performed in 2018.  It was new for me, and I am apparently not the only one.  Korngold died young, and only his Die Tote Stadt has remained in the repertoire.  He is a neo-romanticist who writes great singing roles.  People are wondering why they have never seen this.


  • Beethoven's Fidelio   My selections jump to July long after the theater closing.  This performance is from ROH in London and occurred this year.  Lise blends in with the guys more than any other Leonore I've seen.  This is for the singing.  The staging of the last act is a bit odd.

  • Britten's Gloriana   This performance came to me from Madrid and played in 2018.  I had never seen this opera before and liked it very much.  This was composed for the coronation of Elizabeth II and has something of a bad reputation in England.  The story is slanted more politically than romantically.

  • Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos  This performance occurred in Vienna in 2017 and stars Lise Davidsen as Ariadne and Erin Morley as Zerbinetta.  This is for the singing.

  • Puccini's Tosca  There were four Toscas for me this year, but I liked best this one from Vienna in 2019 starring Sondra Radvanovsky and Piotr Beczala.  Two of the other Toscas also came from Vienna.  I am feeling insecure about this choice since the other three were also very good.

  • Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas    It comes from my alma mater Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, and played in 2016.  The set is a boat that rotates on the stage.  I saw a film of this last year, but this one is better.  If you have not seen this opera, try this one.  This was the first time I have viewed the IU website, and I should try it again.

  • Puccini's La Boheme  This was a live performance from Munich played to an empty house.  The waiter wore a mask, and there were no crowds.  I loved it best of all because the singers showed us their real selves and projected a sense of intimacy.  Jonas Kaufmann was his wonderful self.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

2020 Opera Year in Review KK Awards

It seems rather depressing to be suggesting awards for 2020.  Luckily I don't require that the performances reviewed be performed this year.  I only require that I saw them this year and did not see the exact same performance in a previous year.  This eliminates a lot of things, including the nightly Met streams.  

  • March 30 --  Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg  Met stream
  • March 31 --  Il Barbiere di Siviglia Met stream  [I liked it better this time]
  • April 3  --  Don Carlo  Met stream
  • April 8 --  La Fanciulla del West  Met stream
  • April 28 -- Anna Bolena Met stream
  • April 30 --  Roberto Devereux  Met stream
  • May 2  --  Aida  Met stream
  • May 7  --  Le Nozze di Figaro  Met stream [all time favorite]
  • May 12 --  Werther  Met stream
  • May 13  --  Ariadne auf Naxos  Met stream 
  • May 20  --  Lohengrin Met stream
  • May 27 --  Manon Lescaut  Met stream
  • June 19  --  La Forza del Destino Met stream
  • July 5  --  Die Walküre Met stream
  • August 24 -- Hansel and Gretel Met stream 
  • September 10 -- La Damnation de Faust  Met stream 

Though these are some of the greatest performances ever from the Metropolitan Opera, I will not consider them in the KK Awards.  Interestingly, the San Francisco Opera produced an occasional weekly stream.

  • May 31 --  Lucrezia Borgia SFO
  • June 14  --  Trittico from SFO
  • June 23 --  Salome SFO  [far better with closeups.]
  • July 29 -- The Makropulos Case SFO
  • October 11  -- Tosca  SFO (new to me)
  • October 20 -- Attila  SFO
  • October 31 -- Lucia di Lammermoor  SFO
  • November 22 -- Rigoletto SFO
  • November 30 -- The Elixir of Love  SFO (new to me)

Two of these streams were completely new to me and should be included in the competition.  My series does not always include everything.  The logic here is that they could have been included in the KK Awards for previous seasons.  There are more performances from the Wiener Staatsoper than generally come my way due to free streaming.  Usually they charge.

Every year I list the operas that were completely new to me.  I find it interesting that these things can still happen.  In chronological order of viewing this year they are:

  • BEST NEW OPERA AWARD   Ryan Suleiman's Bones of Girls from Sacramento, Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane from Berlin, Britten's Gloriana.  I liked the Judith idea, but the film that went before Bluebeard featured Nina Stemme and would not be transferable to another performance.  I enjoyed Hamilton but find that I must award to Britten's Gloriana, a truly excellent opera that should be performed more often.


  • BEST BAROQUE OPERA AWARD   The pickings here are rather slim.  Agrippina in HD with Joyce DiDonato, Giulio Cesare from Glyndebourne with Sarah Connolly which used the same production as the Met.  Flip a coin.  Neither one can be topped.  Because both the performance and the production were new to me, I award to Agrippina.  Joyce was exceptional.

  • BEST OF BEETHOVEN, MOZART AND WEBER AWARD  Fidelio from Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Fidelio from ROH with Lise Davidsen, Cosi fan Tutte from Salzburg, Weber's Euryanthe from Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail with Lisette Oropesa.  This is tough.  This is a Beethoven year, and I was so looking forward to seeing Fidelio from everywhere.   I am pleased that I found 2 excellent examples.  I am torn between Lise Davidsen and Lisette Oropesa, of course.  I have actually never liked Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail before seeing this performance from Vienna.  The production is very strange, but Lisette is magnificent.  Leonora in Fidelio is a perfect role for the 6'2" Lise Davidsen.  It fits her voice and herself.  I award to this Fidelio.  It would have been Lisette's Mozart except for the production. 

  • BEST BEL CANTO OPERA AWARD  Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi from the Zurich opera with Joyce DiDonato, Donizetti's The Elixir of Love from SFO with Ramon Vargas.  The rest of the bel canto repertoire was reruns.  This is tough.  One is serious, the other comedy.  I think I must choose Joyce once again in the serious opera.

  • BEST WAGNER OPERA AWARD No entries.  All my Wagner was reruns from the Met.

  • BEST VERISMO OPERA AWARD   Curiously, everything in this category this year is either Tosca or La Boheme.   Tosca list:
This is a wonderful selection of Puccini performances.  This is the broadest selection of a small repertoire.  Bryn is the best Scarpia.  I'm torn between Lianna and Sondra for Tosca herself.  However, the depth of my emotional reaction cannot exceed the Munich La Boheme.  They felt like friends.  There was real joy in being together even though there was no audience.  I award to this performance.

  • BEST BROADWAY REVIVAL AWARD   Cats the movieHamilton, Disney movie of an on stage performance.  The Cats movie was ok, but Hamilton was the real deal.  I was very pleased to have finally seen it.
  • BEST OVERALL AWARD  The Munich La Boheme.  How can it be anything else?

If I think of anything else to award to, I'll add it.  We can only hope for a return to live opera in the new year.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Elektra from Salzburg


Chrysothemis and Elektra

Stage director - Krzysztof Warlikowski
Conductor - Franz Welser-Möst

Elektra, Agamemnon's daughter - Aušrinė Stundytė (soprano)
Chrysothemis, her sister - Asmik Grigorian   (soprano)
Klytämnestra, their mother - Tanja Ariane Baumgartner (mezzo)
Aegisth, Klytämnestra's lover - Michael Laurenz  (tenor)
Orest, son of Agamemnon - Derek Welton (baritone)

Since it still is on, I decided to give Elektra from Salzburg last summer a try.  It was performed in the Felsenreitscchule and was one of only two operas presented at that time. The other was Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

It starts with a speech by Klytämnestra before starting the opera.  She says it was she who killed Agamemnon.  Elektra is one of the daughters of Agamemnon and Klytämnestra.  The women are left at home for ten years while Agamemnon leads the Greeks to Troy to fight for the return of his brother Menelaus's wife Helen who was kidnapped by Paris.  While he is away, his wife takes a lover, Aegisth, and kills her husband when he returns from the war.

The opera begins with Elektra brooding over the murder of her father.  This is a regie production with everyone dressed in modern clothes.  Elektra smokes.  The Felsenreitscchule provides a space for a long shallow swimming pool.  Perhaps it's a feature of the building.  When Elektra cries out to see her father, he appears.  At least I assume that's who it is.  She dances. 

The production is interesting, but these people seem to have been cast for their looks.  They look like the characters they portray, but there is a lot of shouting.  To look like their characters the girls are vocally too immature for their roles. Theatrically it is stunning.  Previously I have seen Christine Goerke and Nina Stemme sing Elektra, but this is more serious, more intense, more in the time of life when all becomes difficult. 

The lushness of the orchestra is beautiful.  The translation is very good.  Many people love this opera.  There seems to be an audience.  Recommended for the intensity.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Tosca from Vienna

Anna Netrebko - Tosca 
Wolfgang Koch - Scarpia 
Yusif Eyvazov - Mario

I watched Tosca from the Wiener Staatsoper where they aired another live performance with no audience. My interest was to see how Anna is singing after her bout with COVID19.  Vocally I found her in top form.  Physically I thought she has not really fully recovered.  No climbing on the furniture in this performance.

It was not my favorite Tosca.  There are wonderful ones everywhere you look.  The absence of an audience still seems weird to me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Beethoven's Birthday


For the occasion of Beethoven's birthday I have chosen this film of The Ode to Joy from the 60th anniversary celebration of the found of the German Federal Republic.  "All Menschen werden Brueder."

Friday, December 11, 2020

Werther from Vienna


Bertrand de Billy (conductor)
Andrei Serban (stage director), 

Piotr Beczała | Werther 
Clemens Unterreiner | Albert 
Gaëlle Arquez | Charlotte 
Daniela Fally | Sophie 

The Wiener Staatsoper has live streamed Werther with Piotr Beczala.  I have only really liked this opera with Jonas Kaufmann, but Piotr seems like the right type to carry it off.  We have soccer balls and hula hoops, so it must be at least the 1950s.  The stage is filled with a gigantic tree which stays through all the scenes.  Do they live in a tree house?  I am pleased to see a piano in Charlotte's bedroom. 

Charlotte seems to be seriously leading him on while telling him she has to marry Albert.  She blows him kisses.  Hmmm.  We are ambiguous about Charlotte.  Werther loves her for her responsible, motherly qualities.  She has married Albert because she promised her mother, but now she seems not to like him.  This Albert is nasty.  She is serious and sad.  Werther has ruined her life.  When one loves someone who cannot love you in the same way, one is obligated to pretend that all is well.  Piotr is excellent in this role but one does not love his Werther.  It is nevertheless a great role for him. 

I have not pictured Charlotte as the mature woman that she is here.  I prefer her as simply the older sister of her mother's many children.  It's too sad.  The emotional dynamic is very strong here.  In life this is too hard.  In opera it is perfect.  They are messing up everything.  

If you want a serious, intense Werther, this is for you.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Opera News Awards

 Janet Baker  --  Cecilia Bartoli  --  Lawrence Brownlee

These are this year's recipients of the Opera News Awards, all three artists that I love.  I'll find some music.  There will be a streamed virtual gala on April 18, 2021.

Monday, November 30, 2020

La Boheme from Munich 👍🏻

Conductor: Asher Fisch
Production: Otto Schenk 

Mimì: Rachel Willis-Sørensen 
Musetta: Mirjam Mesak 
Rodolfo: Jonas Kaufmann 
Marcello: Andrei Zhilikhovsky 
Schaunard: Sean Michael Plumb 
Colline: Tareq Nazmi 
Parpignol: Andres Agudelo 
Benoît: Christian Rieg
La Boheme is streaming live from the Bayerische  Staatsoper just to make me happy.  And it is succeeding.  This is fabulous. I hardly know what to say.  The waiter in Cafe Momas is wearing a mask.  This is the opera for our time.  This is the performance for our time.  Thank you.

The quality of complete ensemble is rare in all music, but rarer still in opera.  It's as though they had been together all their lives.  I am moved more by love and kindness than by cruelty.

The production is truly perfect.  All is as it should be.  My favorite Boheme.

Footnote.  This was a performance without an audience.  The usually crowded Momas scene had only the identified characters in the cast.  In a scene where usually one hardly notices that Mimi has any lines, we have a fully realized conversation.  She comments revealingly to Rodolfo about his friends.

The entire performance was played for the cameras.  I read social media, and people complain loudly that a singer might be performing for the camera.  So here everyone is singing to the camera.  The audience is in the closeups and not the back row of the balcony.  The intimacy of every word, every line, brought the opera to life.  I loved them all separately and together.

The Elixir of Love


Conductor:  Bruno Campanella
Director:  James Robinson

Giannetta: Ji Young Yang
Adina: Inva Mula
Nemorino:  Ramón Vargas
Belcore: Giorgio Caoduro
Dr. Dulcamara: Alessandro Corbelli
This version of Donizetti's L’Elisir d’Amore from 2008 at the San Francisco Opera is completely new to me.  How is this possible?  We are in Napa in California before the US entrance into WWI.  Uncle Sam is recruiting for the army.  For people from California this completely works.  Farms, wine, a rich lady farm owner.  Yes.  Adina and Nemorino are singing and eating ice cream.  They just nibble, or we would worry. 
Ramon Vargas is the perfect Nemorino, overflowing with cheerfulness..  This performance includes the greatest of all comic Italian baritones--Alessandro Corbelli.  He seems like the ideal con man.  This is charming and fun.  This is Inva Mula's only appearance at the San Francisco Opera.  She is not my favorite Adina but projects the too good for Nemorino aura required.  Stylistically she is dead on.

There is an ice cream truck and a motorcycle with a side car.  Belcore has boxing gloves instead of a uniform.  All the young men put on military uniforms as volunteers for the war.  It's fun and transfers effectively to Napa.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Cecilia's Grammys

I reposted this because Cecilia has just received a new Grammy nomination, at the bottom of the list. 

1992  Rossini Heroines Classical Vocal Solo Nominee
1992  Rossini Heroines  Classical Album Nominee

1995 · The Impatient Lover Classical Vocal Solo Winner

1996   La Clemenza di Tito Best Opera Recording Nominee


1998 · An Italian Songbook Classical Vocal Solo Winner


2001 · The Vivaldi Album Classical Vocal Solo Winner

2002 · Gluck Italian Arias Classical Vocal Solo Winner

2005   Opera Proibita Classical Vocal Solo Nominee

2009 · Maria Classical Vocal Solo Nominee
2009 · Maria Classical Album Nominee

2011 · Sacrificium  Classical Vocal Solo Winner
2011 · Sacrificium  Classical Album Nominee

2014 · Mission  Classical Vocal Solo Nominee

2016 · St Petersburg   Classical Vocal Solo Nominee

2016  Giulio Cesare Best Opera Recording Nominee

2021  Farinelli Best Classical Vocal Solo Nominee

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

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Rigoletto SFO stream


Conductor Nicola Luisotti 
Director Harry Silverstein 

The Duke of Mantua - Francesco Demuro 
Rigoletto - Željko Lučić
Gilda - Aleksandra Kurzak 
Maddalena - Kendall Gladden 

I appear to have missed this series of Rigoletto performances at the San Francisco Opera in 2012.  It's the same production as the one I saw in 2017.  I saw the second cast in 2012 which consisted of Marco Vratogna as Rigoletto, Albina Shagimuratova as Gilda and Arturo Chacón-Cruz as The Duke of Mantua.

We have more name artists than in the other presentations.  Perhaps this was Zeljko Lucic's preparation for his Met performance in 2013.  I like Željko Lučić in roles where he is truly nasty:  Iago, Scarpia.  That sort of thing.  Rigoletto is a truly tragic figure who demands more.  He was fine in the clownish rat pack version from the Met.  He does not replace Quinn Kelsey from 2017 in my heart.  "Cortigiani" should tear your heart.

This may be my first view of a performance by Aleksandra Kurzak, whom I know mostly for her relationship with Roberto Alagna.  I will have to listen to something more recent.  She very successfully brings us the youth and innocence of Gilda.  For this innocent child Rigoletto should have had an entirely different reaction.

The ending is excellent. Lučić rises to the occasion.  I'm sorry I missed them the other time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Die Vögel


Conductor: Ingo Metzmacher
Production: Frank Castorf

Prometheus: Wolfgang Koch (baritone)
Wiedhopf, einstens ein Mensch, nun König der Vögel [hoopoe; once a person, now king of the birds]  Günter Papendell (baritone)
Nachtigall [nightingale] Caroline Wettergreen (soprano)
Zaunschlüpfer [wren] Emily Pogorelc (soprano)
1. Drossel [thrush] Yajie Zhang (soprano)
2. Drossel [thrush] Eliza Boom (soprano)
Adler [eagle] Bálint Szabó (bass)
Rabe [raven] Theodore Platt (bass)
Flamingo [] George Vîrban (tenor)
Hoffegut [Good Hope] Charles Workman (tenor)
Ratefreund [Loyal Friend] Michael Nagy (bass)

Die Vögel [The Birds], 1920, by Walter Braunfels, after Aristophanes, comes to me from the Bayerische Staatsoper München, Germany, from this year.  It's 100 years old and was popular in its day. 

This opera appears to be about politics.  Two human guys, Hoffegut and Ratefreund, come looking for the king of the birds, Wiedhopf, to talk him into overthrowing the gods by building a city in the sky.  He was once a human and probably carries some of this desire for dominance with him from the human state.   The humans wear their regie uniforms of black suits.  The birds all have fancy feathers, including Wiedhopf.  The sets only suggest human life and never bird life.  It looks like a construction site, perhaps suggesting that building a city in the sky is already under way.

Spoiler Alert!  Aristophanes writes that the birds replace Zeus and become rulers of the world.  This band of birds fail in their quest.

I liked everything about the Nightingale, her voice, her costume, the music for her character, and so forth.  She is a modern day coloratura soprano.  Hoffegut courts her in an extended scene, but I don't think she's buying it.  Alfred Hitchcock makes an appearance.  You remember he had a movie called The Birds.  It's a horror film which this is not.  Briefly scenes from the movie appear.  Another reference is to a rock group called THE BYRDS poster in English.

A man enters in a NAZI uniform.  This appears to be Ratefreund.  There are long stretches with no singing which are filled up with political activities.  Two pigeons are to get married.  Clearly the opera allows for much range of interpretations, and this one is dark.  Perhaps birds and humans cannot cheerfully mix.

Finally a man with a gray beard is announced.  This at last is Prometheus.  Wolfgang Koch is magnificent in this role.  The dream fails.  They praise Zeus once again and return to the city.

The music is rather heavy neo-romanticism.  Only the nightingale brought lightness of feeling.  She returns at the end.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Florencia en el Amazonas, Bloomington

Conductor: David Neely 
Stage Director: Candace Evans 

Singers: Lauren McQuistin, Hayley Lipke, Courtney Bray, Michael Day, Robert Gerold, Christopher Seefeldt, Rivers Hawkins

This version of Florencia en el Amazonas (Catán) comes from Indiana University, Bloomington, 2016, by way of Opera on Video.  We are on a wonderful paddle wheel boat going up the Amazon.  Our heroine, Florencia Garibaldi, now a famous opera singer, has returned to the Amazon after 20 years in search of her long lost lover.  She will sing at the opera house when they arrive.  

The boat is surrounded by mysterious dances in the water.  There are 5 other people on the boat:  the captain, his crewman, a quarreling couple, and a woman who wishes to write a biography of the singer.  None of them recognize her.

The water gets rough and one of the men falls off.  I think it's the husband in the quarreling couple.  A man sings who is with the water creatures.  "We're adrift."  End of Act I.

I like the Florencia singer very much.  There are no hit tunes in this opera.  After the storm there is much singing about love.  The husband is rescued.  No one has died.  When they arrive, there is cholera, and they can't disembark.  Florencia is supposed to turn into a butterfly after her wonderful extended solo, but there is only a suggestion.

I find the production satisfying.  They've done an excellent job with this.  If you want to see this opera, I recommend this version.  This is my first viewing of a production from the IU opera theater.  I should try again some time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Tosca from Wien


Director:  Marco Armeliato
Production:  Margarethe Wallmann

Tosca  Sondra Radvanovsky
Mario  Piotr Beczala
Scarpia  Thomas Hampson

This production of Puccini's Tosca at the Vienna State Opera is very popular.  I can see why.  In Act I the church shows members of the Swiss Guard.  I was going to question this when I remembered we are in period, the time of Napoleon, when Rome was ruled by Naples.  I associate the Swiss Guard only with Vatican City.  Perhaps the Bishop of Rome is attending.

This performance is from last year.  I love Sondra in this.  She dominates her male partners.  She sings and acts with such wonderful intensity.  Tosca is a diva of the greatest quality, and should seem so.  

There is a lot to like here.  Unless I am hallucinating, Piotr gets a bis for "E lucevan le stelle."  Cool.  I don't seem to tire of Tosca as long as it's new people each time.


Sunday, November 08, 2020

Festival of New American Music Part II

Saturday Afternoon


Lara Downes (1973-  ), piano 

Florence Price (1887–1953):  Clouds

Stephanie Ann Boyd (b. 1990):  My Grandmother’s Garden(world premiere)

Mary Kouyoumdjian(b. 1983):Aghavni(2009)

Florence Price:  Meditation(1929)

Abbey Lincoln (1930–2010):  Caged Bird (with Magos Herrera, mezzo)

Marta Valdés (b. 1934):  ¿Hacia Dónde? (with Magos Herrera, mezzo)

Margaret Bonds (1913–1972): Tangamerican

Elena Ruehr(b. 1963): Quiet Streets.  This piece includes a small instrumental ensemble which remains invisible.

I read that Lara grew up in San Francisco near the beach.  She has a very distinctive style of playing which very much suits and brings alive these pieces, which are all by women.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Festival of New American Music

I am currently watching the 43rd Annual Festival of New American Music at Sac State.  Normally I would drive over the bridge and go inside, but this year it is a virtual festival.  Probably the artists aren't even in town.


It began with a Gala Concert featuring Hub New Music, Lara Downes and Loadbang.  I think the way this festival works is a member of the faculty is assigned to organize it, and then the artists reflect that person's taste.  They are trying to feature female composers.


Monday an entire concert featured Hub New Music, an ensemble of Michael Avitabile, flute; Nicholas Brown, clarinet; Alyssa Wang, violin; and Jesse Christeson, cello. The flute doubles on piccolo, and the clarinet doubles on bass clarinet.   I liked this combination of instruments.

Kati Agócs (b. 1975):  Rogue Emoji (2019) 

Takuma Ito (b. 1984):  Wavelengths (2019) 

Hannah Lash (b. 1981):  The Nature of Breaking (2020) 

  1. Refractions 
  2. In remembrance of 
  3. Time/place4.Hold nearly




Next loadbang reappeared.  This is a wind ensemble featureing Andy Kozar, trumpet; William Lang, trombone; Adrián Sandí, bass clarinet; and Jeffrey Gavett, baritone voice.  For me this ensemble is a little strange.  Maybe I'm just out of touch.  The baritone behaves like just another wind instrument and basically just makes sounds. 

Angélica Negrón (1981):  Dóabin (2016)

Heather Stebbins (1987):  Quiver (2014)

Chaya Czernowin (1957):  IRRATIONAL (2019)

Eve Beglarian (1958):  Island of the Sirens (2011)

Li Qi (1990):  Like a Dream (2018)

Paula Matthusen (1974):  old fires catch old buildings (2016)

You can see from the dates of the pieces listed that this music is indeed very new.  Perhaps it is too new for my old ears.  Loadbang appeared again on Wednesday afternoon to present a program of pieces by students at Sac State


Tony Arnold, soprano will perform this evening.  Her repertoire is not quite as exotic as the other performers.  There are men, and I've actually heard of these people.  I will report additional information after I've heard this.  No accompanist is listed, so we will see.  And what we see is her singing alone.

Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez (b. 1964):  ChanceForest Interludes(2015)  Short vocal pieces, each dramatized.  It's in English.  Each small piece has a literary quote to introduce it.

Chaya Czernowin(b. 1957):  Adiantum Capillus-Veneris I (2015)  Sounds.  No words.  Breathing sounds.

Luciano Berio (1925–2003):  Sequenza III(1966)  This has words though they are not understandable.  She calls herself Screamer, but when she screams her face turns red.

Kaija Saariaho(b. 1952):  Lonh(1996)  This is very much accompanied, both instrumentally and vocally.  The text is in English and is about love from a distance.  I'm going to guess that it is in anticipation of L'Amour de Loin, her opera which came 4 years later.  I'm enjoying this the most.  Saariaho is a wonderful composer.

This was all astoundingly amusing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

La Traviata from Philadelphia


Conductor:  Corrado Rovaris
Director:  Paul Curranan *

Violetta: Lisette Oropesa 
Alfredo: Alek Shrader
Giorgio Germont;  Stephen Powell: 

I am here for Lisette, naturally.  I think this is her role debut in 2015 in one of Verdi's greatest operas, La Traviata.  The other two leads were also good.  I especially liked Stephen Powell in the second act.

The sets are fascinating and beautiful.  The costumes are relatively modern.  I think Lisette is developing into a great singer.  Her emotional range is considerable here.  This counts for a lot.  Violetta just wants to have fun and go to parties.  Then she decides for love and spends all her money to move to the country.  She enters completely into love.

Then Giorgio Germont, Alfredo's father, sees the softness in her heart and convinces her to sacrifice everything for his children.  She goes back to being the party girl, or at least she convinces Alfredo that she has.  Then she becomes ill and dies.  A great Violetta must cover all of this grand scope of emotions while singing difficult bel canto arias.  "E tardi."  You feel it with her.  The opera only works with this.  

Lisette sings the sad aria before Alfredo arrives lying down on her bed.  There is blood everywhere.

Opera Philadelphia is a good company.  I wish we could see more of them.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Lucia di Lammermoor in San Francisco

ConductorJean-Yves Ossonce†
Production designer-Paul Brown

Normanno-Matthew O'Neill
Enrico Ashton-Gabriele Viviani †
Raimondo Bidebent-Oren Gradus
Lucia-Natalie Dessay
Alisa-Cybele-Teresa Gouverneur
Edgardo Ravenswood-Giuseppe Filianoti
Arturo-Andrew Bidlack

This is Natalie Dessay in San Francisco in 2008 singing Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.   I attended and reviewed at that time.  This is Donizetti's most popular serious opera, but perhaps I only like the comedies. 

I've seen 6 different productions of this opera by now, and my favorite by a wide margin is the Zimmerman version with the fountain and the ghost.  The ghost is my favorite.  I understand they are retiring it, which seems very sad to me.  This one from San Francisco is rather dull.

I am enjoying Filianoti more this time.  The singing is fine. I have only seen 6, so from the ones I've seen, I prefer the one with Lisette and Javier I saw in 2018.  I apologize for all this comparing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Santa Fe Opera Announcement


The Santa Fe Opera has announced its season for 2021.  There was much conversation about resisting COVID19, which I will not repeat.  So here is the list.

  • Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.  The production is by Laurent Pelly.  Harry Bicket will conduct. 
  • The world premier of Corigliano's The Lord of Cries with a libretto by Mark Adamo.  James Darrah will provide the production.  Johannes Debus will conduct.  This will star Anthony Roth Costanzo and Susanna Phillips.  It seems to be a joining of Euripides and Bram Stoker.  It sounds like fun.
  • Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin has Alessandro Talevi as the producer.  Nicholas Carter will conduct.  Nicole Car will portray Tatiana and her husband Etienne Dupuis will sing Onegin. 
  • Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream done in a fantasy production by Netia Jones.  She has imagined it in the specific surroundings of the Crosby Theater in New Mexico.  It sounds exciting.  Harry Bicket will conduct.  Erin Morley will sing Tytania.
  • Angel Blue in concert.  John Fiore will conduct the orchestra.

Harry Bicket is the music director of the Santa Fe Opera.  This film played with the announcement.