Monday, February 17, 2020

Plaisir d'amour

This weekend someone sang this. It is very much a favorite, perhaps because it's me.

Joan Baez


Elisabeth Schwarzkopf


Victoria de los Angeles (definitely of the angels)  My favorite.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Spiritual Sacramento Philharmonic


The latest performance of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera took place in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, a beautifully decorated space with the usual resonance found in large churches.  They did an excellent job of selecting repertoire that would withstand the echoes.

Our conductor was Douglas Boyd, a former oboist from the UK.  I enjoyed his work.

The concert began with Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis for post-romantic orchestra.  I am a great admirer of Vaughan Williams and was pleased to hear that they succeeded in developing the color and phrasing to make the piece soar.  With him it's all in how you perform him.  A British conductor performs a British work.

This was followed by a complete contrast:  Psalm Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter, a piece for a cappella choir by Thomas Tallis.  One of the psalm tunes is the theme from the previous piece.  These are short pieces in English which one might expect to hear in an Anglican church.  Tallis composed for both Catholic and Protestant churches during the Tudor period in England.

We finished by combining the resources of both of the previous pieces to present the Gabriel Fauré Requiem.  In addition we enjoyed soloists baritone Timothy Murray, Liisa Davila soprano and Dan Flanagan violin.

Fauré worked as an organist in a church in Paris, and would have heard his Requiem in circumstances very much like this.  This was the highlight of the program.  I especially enjoyed "Pie Jesu" sung by Ms. Davila.

It was a very unusual program for a symphonic orchestra such as ours.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Metropolitan Opera in HD for 2020-2021


Oct 10, 2020  Giuseppe Verdi Aida.   This is a new production featuring Anna Netrebko.  Anna and Anita Rachvelishvili were wonderful together last time, and this casting solves the tenor problem.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production: Michael Mayer
  • Aida Anna Netrebko 
  • Amneris Anita Rachvelishvili
  • Radamès Piotr Beczala 
  • Amonasro Ludovic Tézier 

Nov 7, 2020 Giuseppe Verdi Il Trovatore  Sonya and Quinn will be interesting.
  • Conductor Michele Mariotti
  • Production Sir David McVicar 
  • Leonora Sonya Yoncheva
  • Azucena Ekaterina Semenchuk
  • Manrico Roberto Aronica
  • di Luna Quinn Kelsey

Dec 12, 2020 Ludwig Van Beethoven Fidelio.  I love Fidelio.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin 
  • Production Jürgen Flimm
  • Leonore Lise Davidsen   This should be an excellent role for her.
  • Marzelline Golda Schultz 
  • Florestan Brandon Jovanovich 
  • Jaquino Alek Shrader 
  • Don Pizarro Tomasz Konieczny 
  • Rocco Franz-Josef Selig 
  • Don Fernando Christian Van Horn 


Jan 16, 2021 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Die Zauberflöte.   This is a new production and will be done in German.  I've heard there will be a rerun of the old production in English in December.
  • Conductor Gustavo Dudamel
  • Production Simon McBurney, new director for the Met. 
  • 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 a new production with an excellent cast.
  • Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin
  • Production Ivo van Hove, new director at the Met.
  • 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, February 12, 2020

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Sacramento Music

I have recently attended a couple of concerts in Sacramento by groups I have not seen before.  It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to get out of town, so I am trying to know more about the place where I live.

Carlos & Brennen are a duo consisting of Brennen Milton on clarinet and Carlos M. Fuentes on piano.  For their recent concert at Crocker Art Museum they added soprano Robin Fisher.  Concerts at Crocker involve associating the repertoire to the current exhibits which in this case are landscapes.  When instrumental groups add a singer, they must track down repertoire for this specific combination.  So they needed pieces for clarinet, piano and soprano which illustrate the outdoors. For this concert we heard:

O Lady Moon by Alan Hovhaness, an American composer.  In this piece a cat and a rat are carrying a barrel of sake over Mount Fuji.

Coty by Quincy Hilliard, from Mississippi.  Daybreak, Sunset, Dance.  This is for only clarinet and piano.  The composer said it reminded him of his home.

Hirtenlied by Giacomo Meyerbeer.  Meyerbeer is most famous as a French opera composer, but this song is in German and translates to Shepherd Song.  The whole trio perform.  Again we are outdoors.

Three Vocalises by Ralph Vaughn Williams.  Prelude, Scherzo, Quasi menuetto.  This features only the soprano and clarinet and has no words.

Silentium Amoris by Carlos McMillan Fuentes, our pianist.  Seduction, Infatuation, Silentium Amoris.  The first two movements are instrumental and the third is the full trio on a poem by Oscar Wilde.

I very much enjoyed the variety of repertoire in this concert.  I'm always ready for something new.  Our clarinetist played from a score on a tablet (iPad?) with a foot pedal to turn pages.  I have a complaint:  they provided a sheet with English texts but did not provide sufficient light to be able to read it.  AND they specifically requested that people not use flashlights.


Sinfonia Spirituosa, a new group directed by Lorna Peters, harpsichord, performed at Clara.  This concert while all from the Baroque, was also varied.

Six movements from the Suite "La Bizarre" by Georg Philipp Telemann.  Overture, Gavotte en Rondeau, Sarabande, Fantasie, Minuet I and II, Rossignol.

Passamezzo and Gagliarda for Two Violins and Continuo by Johann Vierdanck.  I had never heard of this composer, but he was a student of Heinrich Schütz and died young.  For continuo we expected the usual cello and harpsichord, but got only the cello part.  This was very pleasing.

Chaconne in G Minor by Henry Purcell for the full ensemble.  The members of the ensemble varied quite a lot.  Then suddenly came "Curtain Tune on a Ground" from Timon of Athens.  Our version was very uptempo and jazzy sounding.  "Where am I?"  I love Henry Purcell best.

From the tragedie lyrique "Les Boreades" by Jean-Philippe Rameau.  Entree de Polimnie, Gavotte pour les heures et les zephirs, Minuet I and II, Contredanse en rondeau.

Sinfonia Spirituosa in D Major by Telemann.  Spirituoso, Largo, Vivace.  This is the group's theme music.

They are new and in only their second season.  It interests me how much is going on in the provincial city of Sacramento.  I wish them good luck.  If I have a complaint, it is the constant tuning.  This may be necessary with period instruments.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Judith live from Munich


Conductor Oksana Lyniv
Production Katie Mitchell

Duke Bluebeard John Lundgren
Judith Nina Stemme

Judith:  Concerto for Orchestra in five movements / Duke Bluebeard's Castle by Béla Bartók streamed from Munich.

And now for something completely different.  Bluebeard is now a full length opera.  All the music is by Bartok, and I loved him more than ever.  We begin with a silent movie accompanied by the Bartok concerto for orchestra, where Detective Nina investigates a stalker who kidnaps women off the streets.  We have cell phones, cameras, computers, all the modern devices of criminology.  We have Bluebeard vaping.  This is followed immediately by the opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle.  She tracks him down and frees his three prisoner wives.  I was surprised at how well the story fit this treatment.  It explains why she so aggressively insists on seeing all of the rooms.

I loved it.  When was an opera this exciting?  Except for Bluebeard himself, it was an all female production with a female conductor and director.  He gets it in the end.

I was completely drawn in to this concept and was happy to see the woman triumph in the end.  This could be the new wave.  I need to look into this.  It will be available on demand for the next month.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

San Francisco Opera 2020-21

  • Beethoven's Fidelio  Sept 12, 2020 -- Oct 1, 2020  This is for the Beethoven year and stars Elza van den Heever as Leonora and Eric Owens as rocco. Our new maestra Eun Sun Kim will conduct.  This is a new production.  I would like to see Elza in this role.
  • Verdi's Rigoletto Sept 14 -- Oct 4.  For me this is too soon.  We saw Quinn Kelsey triumph in this production in 2017, and I don't think Rigoletto is that good.  Rigoletto is George Gagnidze, Gilda is Nina Minasyan and The Duke of Mantua is Pene Pati.
  • Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte  Oct 6, 2020 -- Oct 28.  This is a new production by Michael Cavanagh, part 2 of the new Da Ponte series which began last fall with Nozze di Figaro.  I liked part 1 very much so curiosity is working.  There is a swimming pool, so perhaps the singers will all look good in swimming suits.  Speranza Scappucci will conduct.
  • Poul Ruders' The Handmaid's Tale Oct 29 -- Nov 22.  This opera premiered in 2000 in Copenhagen, and it comes with a violence warning.  It will star Sasha Cooke who has recently drawn our attention.
  • Puccini's La Bohème  Nov 15 -- Dec 6, of course.   Nicola Luisotti, our former maestro whom I liked very much, will conduct.  There are two casts for this, so you must choose your favorites.
  • Rossini's Barber of Seville  April 25 -- May 16, 2021.  Almaviva and Rosina are double cast, so choose your favorites.  I am very happy to see the return of Larry Brownlee, a personal favorite.  Last time I went to both casts, but probably not this time.
  • Zemlinsky's Der Zwerg [The dwarf] April 27 -- May 15, 2021.  I've never seen this.  Naturally it comes in a new production.  Heidi Stober will appear here.  The conductor is Henrik Nánási.
  • A Celebration of Verdi & Wagner, Concert May 2, 6, 8, 2021.  The conductor is Henrik Nánási, and the singers are Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin, both excellent.  There is no mention of which pieces they will sing.

Evgeny Nikitin to replace Sir Bryn


Evgeny Nikitin will replace Sir Bryn Terfel in Wagner's Der Fliegende Hollände from the Met in HD on March 14.  He appears in featured roles at Bayreuth, Bayerische Staatsoper and the Metropolitan. Sir Bryn suffered a very serious injury to his ankle which required surgery.

Monday, February 03, 2020

Metropolitan Opera in HD for 2019-2020 - Cast changes


Agrippina by Handel (February 29), At last we will get to hear Joyce DiDonato sing a significant Baroque role.
  • Conductor Harry Bicket 
  • Production Sir David McVicar--New
  • Agrippina Joyce DiDonato 
  • Poppea Brenda Rae 
  • Nerone Kate Lindsey 
  • Ottone Iestyn Davies 
  • Claudio Matthew Rose 


Der Fliegende Holländer by Wagner (March 14).  I think this is new to HD.
  • Conductor Valery Gergiev 
  • Production François Girard--New
  • Senta Anja Kampe
  • Mary Mihoko Fujimura 
  • Erik Sergey Skorokhodov 
  • Steuermann David Portillo 
  • Holländer Evgeny Nikitin, replacing Sir Bryn
  • Daland Franz-Josef Selig


Tosca by Puccini (April 11),  This is for Netrebko, of course.
  • Conductor Bertrand de Billy 
  • Production Sir David McVicar
  • Tosca Anna Netrebko
  • Cavaradossi Brian Jagde
  • Scarpia Michael Volle 

Maria Stuarda by Donizetti (May 9)  This is the third David McVicar production in this list.
  • Conductor Maurizio Benini 
  • Production Sir David McVicar
  • Maria Stuarda Diana Damrau
  • Elisabetta Jamie Barton
  • Leicester Stephen Costello
  • Cecil Andrzej Filonczyk 

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Sacramento Philharmonic 1812 Overture

Christopher Rountree was our conductor for last night's Sacramento Philharmonic performance at the Memorial Auditorium.  The pieces were:

Selections from Aaron Copland's Rodeo.  We heard Buckaroo Holiday, Corral Nocturne, Saturday Night Waltz and Hoe Down.  It's surprising that one seldom hears much from Copland.  The pieces on the program all seemed to form a whole.

George Gershwin's Second Rhapsody.  The first Rhapsody (in Blue) is so famous that it is a surprise to hear this completely unfamiliar one.  The style is similar but the themes are new.  This is basically a piano concerto with the fine pianist Orion Weiss. 

Zhou Tian's Transcend.  Movements:  Pulse, Promise and Done.  his piece was commissioned by the Reno Philharmonic, Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera plus other orchestras, and had its world premiere April 27, 2019 in Reno, NV.  It commemorates the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.  Interesting program note:  the rhythm of Done is based on the rhythm of DONE in Morse Code.  I found it enjoyable and showing a strong sense of how to compose for a classical orchestra.  It fit well on a program with Copland and Gershwin.

Hint for the conductor.  There's a trick to holding up your baton between movements that discourages the audience from clapping.  Perhaps the custom of remaining silent between movements is dying out.

Peter Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.  This piece shows a Russian perspective and commemorates their successful defense of the invasion of Napoleon.  It's not an overture to anything, but follows the trend established by Berlioz to call a stand alone piece for orchestra an overture.  It is famous because it is scored for cannon which fires repeatedly toward the end.  We were spared an actual cannon.  The drum resembled a cannon heard at a distance.

The pieces were well chosen to go with one another.  There was an excellent crowd.


Porgy and Bess in HD

Conductor...............David Robertson
Production..............James Robinson
Choreographer.........Camille A. Brown

Porgy...................Eric Owens
Bess....................Angel Blue
Sporting Life.......Frederick Ballentine
Crown.................Alfred Walker
Clara...................Golda Schultz
Jake....................Donovan Singletary
Serena.................Latonia Moore
Maria..................Denyce Graves

Host...................Audra McDonald

Saturday we were treated to a live in HD transmission of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.  This was a wonderful experience.  It was announced that Eric Owens had a cold, but we loved him anyway. They have spared no expense in assembling the above cast.

It was a new production shared with the ENO and some other companies.  Rooms are outlined in transparent beams, allowing for private spaces when needed and open spaces for the larger crowd scenes.  Porgy wears a brace like he had polio, a reasonable explanation for his crippling.  The only aspect of the production anyone seemed to mind was the choice to portray Clara and Jake's child as a babe in arms, a tiny, always sleeping babe in arms.  The current trend in opera is to eliminate any children without dialog and replace them with puppets, robots, or maybe inert blobs of cloth.  This reduces rehearsal time.  The baby doesn't grow with the passage of time.  It wasn't terrible, but it was a distraction.

All the supporting groups were in top form.  The great Met orchestra played Gershwin in perfect style.  One comment about the chorus said, "They're doing the Verdi Requiem."  Big singing.  We go to the opera to hear big singing, and we got it here.  The ballet was choreographed to suggest what might have been happening in this place and time.

The singing was incredible, including Eric.  But the thing that set this Porgy apart from all others was the drama.  The individual characters came to life.  The director and the actors themselves get the credit for this.  Opera is so dense and complicated, and this certainly includes Porgy and Bess, that the development of complete personalities is often left by the wayside.  We loved them all.

The extremely high quality was maintained in the interviews by Audra McDonald.  She was a friend to all.

Thank you for bringing us such a magnificent Porgy and Bess
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