Saturday, August 29, 2020

Lise Davidsen from Norway

Lise Davidsen with James Baillieu, piano.
I have changed the picture to this one that shows both of the faces of the performers in Lise Davidsen's Metropolitan Opera sponsored recital on Saturday.  For the performance they were dressed in normal recital clothes.

Lise began with what is already her signature piece:  “Dich, teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser and followed it with “Allmächt’ge Jungfrau” from the same opera.  I reviewed her performance of this at Bayreuth in 2019 and said: "Lise Davidsen is utterly magnificent.  I adore her 'Dich teure Halle.'"  It's somewhat less impressive with piano but is still excellent.  I have also seen her in a production of Fidelio from the Royal Opera described here.

In a similar vein she performed “Es gibt ein Reich” from R. Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos.  This also displays perfectly her suitability for German repertoire.  I enjoyed this very much.

Operatic pieces included one Verdi,  “Morrò, ma prima in grazia” from Un Ballo in Maschera, and one Puccini, “Sola, perduta, abbandonata” from Manon Lescaut.  All of her operatic selections were easy for her.  She is never pushing or struggling with the notes.  She has been taught an excellent legato as well.  Or perhaps she comes by it naturally.  Operatic works were alternated with song repertoire.
  • “Ved Rondane,” Op. 33, No. 9 By Edvard Grieg 
  • “En Svane,” Op. 25, No. 2 By Edvard Grieg 
  • “Våren,” Op. 33, No. 2 By Edvard Grieg
  • “Säf, säf, susa,” Op. 36 By Jean Sibelius 
  • “Var det en dröm?” Op. 37 By Jean Sibelius 
  • “Ruhe, meine Seele!” Op. 27, No. 1 By Richard Strauss 
  • “Cäcilie,” Op. 27, No. 2 By Richard Strauss 
  • “Heimliche Aufforderung,” Op. 27, No. 3 By Richard Strauss 
  • “Morgen!” Op. 27, No. 4 By Richard Strauss  
She finished with pieces approaching pop songs, ending with "I could have danced all night" where we were invited to sing along.
  • “Johnny” By Benjamin Britten 
  • “Heia, heia, in den Bergen ist mein Heimatland” From Kálmán’s Die Csárdásfürstin 
  • “O lovely night!” By Landon Ronald 
  • “When I have sung my song to you” By Ernest Charles 
  • “I Could Have Danced All Night” From Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady.  I sang along, of course.
That's Norwegian, Finnish, German, Italian, and English.

She grows on me very quickly.  The Queen of Norway loves her.  This is an excellent selection of pieces for her voice.  She sings from a place of joy and peace.  We should await a long career.

She was hosted by Christine Goerke.

Friday, August 28, 2020

Giusto Ciel

Early in my madness for Cecilia Bartoli this tune by Rossini was one of my favorites. It's just shown up on YouTube.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Elina sings Wagner

I have fallen quite by accident into a film of the Wiener Philharmoniker directed by Christian Thielemann with mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča singing Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder at this year's Salzburg Festival.  For many years these were my favorite Wagner.

This is something I sang myself.  Which means my head is full of ideas of how it should go.  Tempo, legato, etc.  It can't be helped.  Maybe it's just not Wagnerian enough.  I think it wouldn't have occurred to me that it should be like Schumann.  There's no evidence that she looks at him.  She's not required to, you know.  Now looking back at these songs I hear that they are not like a Wagner opera at all.  Perhaps she's right.  The orchestra claps and stands.

The concert goes on.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Hansel and Gretel from the Met

Conductor - Thomas Fulton
Director - Nathaniel Merrill 

Gretel - Judith Blegen
Hänsel - Frederica von Stade
Gertrud - Jean Kraft
Peter - Michael Devlin
Witch - Rosalind Elias 

I watched the Met stream from 1982 of Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel.  It is perfection.  It plays in my head in German, but this is also very nice.  I could do this forever.  Blegen and von Stade are lovely children.  Elias as the witch looks like someone from the Wizard of Oz.  This is the one you want if you speak English.  And luckily you can have one of your own.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Salzburg Whitsun 2021

The program for next year's Whitsun Festival at Salzburg has been announced.  I was sorry to see the homage to Pauline Viardot disappear, but in today's world it's only a small loss.  In 2021 Cecilia Bartoli will celebrate Rome, the city of her birth.

Fri, May 21 7:00 PM OPERA

George Frideric Handel

Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno

Cecilia sings Piacere.

Sat, May 22 11:00 AM CONCERT

Orchesterkonzert · Poema Sinfonico

Conducted by Zubin Mehta 

includes Respighi's  Pini di Roma.


Concert performance Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

La clemenza di Tito

Cecilia sings Sesto

Sun, May 23 11:00 AM CONCERT

Sacred Concert · Dixit Dominus


George Frideric Handel

Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno   

8:00 PM GALA

Gala dinner

Mon, May 24 11:00 AM CONCERT

Alessandro Scarlatti

Cain, Overo Il Primo Omicidio


Concert performance Giacomo Puccini


Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel 

Friday, August 21, 2020


Stage director.....David McVicar
Conductor..........Ivor Bolton

Queen Elizabeth I........................Anna Caterina Antonacci
Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex...Leonardo Capalbo
Frances, Countess of Essex..........Paula Murrihy
Charles Blount, Lord Mountjoy...Duncan Rock
Penelope, Lady Rich...................Sophie Bevan
Sir Robert Cecil..........................Leigh Melrose
Sir Walter Raleigh......................David Soar
Henry Cuffe................................Benedict Nelson

This production on of Benjamin Britten's Gloriana comes from Teatro Real de Madrid, 2018.  The opera was composed to honor the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.  The queen herself came to the first performance.  It looks as you wish it to.  The costumes are magnificent.

The relationship between Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex is well known.  Less well known is his rivalry with Lord Mountjoy.

There is a masque portraying Concord dancing.  I am fascinated to see that this female role is played by a man in drag.  Accurately in short.  All the dancers are guys.  It's fun.  All is to glorify the Queen who adores it.

The star of this production is Anna Catarina Antonacci whom I have seen in Carmen with Kaufmann, in La Ciociara by Marco Tutino in San Francisco, in Sancta Susanna by Paul Hindemith at the Paris Opera, and in La Voix humaine by Poulenc in San Francisco.  This is a wonderful variety of roles all performed by a great singing actress.  There is great range in her portrayals, and that certainly is true here as well.  Her Elizabeth is mature.

Here we see Essex and Mountjoy plotting treason against the Queen.  Other versions slant the story more in favor of Essex. I'm fascinated that with the inclusion of period musical forms Britten is trying to bring the past to us.  The music is still Benjamin Britten and not Elizabeth's time.  There is a gathering of the court for entertainment, and Essex has brought his wife dressed more beautifully than the Queen.  Elizabeth orders the women to change their attire and steals Frances's dress.  When everyone reappears, Elizabeth is wearing the beautiful dress which she declares too long.  It is surprising that at this moment she sends Essex off to Ireland.  The scene ends with yet another dance.

In the next scene Essex returns from Ireland offering a truce.  The Queen wanted victory, not a truce.  There is something stunning about this.  The use of musical forms to frame the scenes is very attractive.  Why have I never seen it before?  I feel they are trying to show the truth, very rare in an opera.

Monday, August 17, 2020

100 Operas from Buzzfeed

Here is a Buzzfeed quiz about what operas out of a list of 100 you have seen.  [Originally from 2015.]

Out of the list, I was in:

Rigoletto (Verdi)
The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)
Die Fledermaus (Strauss)
Hansel and Gretel (Humperdinck)
Faust (Gounod)
Salome (Richard Strauss)
The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky)
The Force of Destiny (Verdi)
Death in Venice (Britten)
The Bartered Bride (Smetana)

Out of what remains, I have not seen at all:

Akhnaten (Philip Glass)
Gloriana (Britten)
Albert Herring (Britten)

Operas that I have seen only in HD from the Met:

Rodelinda (Handel)
Maria Stuarda (Donizetti)

Operas I have seen only on DVD:

The Fairy Queen (Purcell)
Written on Skin (George Benjamin)
Anna Nicole (Mark Anthony Turnage)
The Minotaur (Harrison Birtwistle)
The Coronation of Poppea (Monteverdi)
Benvenuto Cellini (Berlioz)
The Silken Ladder (Rossini) (La Scala di Seta, I have an unwatched dvd.)

That makes 88 live, 3 HD only, 6 DVD only and 4 not at all.  I think that's pretty good.  The list comes from the ENO and emphasizes their repertoire.

Edited end of 2018 I find that Akhnaten and Gloriana are the only ones I have still not seen.
Edited again in August, 2020, I find that Gloriana is the only one I haven't seen.  Perhaps it will never play here.  I am pleased to say that today I watched and very much enjoyed Britten's Gloriana.  That makes 88 live, 3 HD only, 6 DVD only and 0 not at all. 
I see the list is still in place, so compile your own.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

Giulio Cesare from Glyndebourne

Conductor William Christie
Director David McVicar

Giulio Cesare - Sarah Connolly, mezzo
Curio - Alexander Ashworth
Cornelia, Pompei's wife - Patricia Bardon
Sesto, Pompei's son - Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo
Cleopatra - Danielle de Niese, soprano
Nireno - Rachid Ben Abdeslam, countertenor
Tolomeo, Cleopatra's brother - Christophe Dumaux, countertenor.
Achilla - Christopher Maltman, baritone

This performance of Handel's Giulio Cesare took place at Glyndebourne in 2005.  This is the David McVicar version that ran at the Met with David Daniels and Natalie Dessay in 2013.  I called it Julius Caesar the Musical.  I enjoy remembering that Natalie was ill for one of the performances, and Danielle de Niese was in town.  Naturally she took advantage of the opportunity and stood in for Natalie.  That would have been fun to see.

We are projected in time into the British Empire.  The Egyptian servants wear the Fez, and the Roman Army are dressed in the red uniforms of the British Army.  There is no evidence of Islam, I guess.  Cleopatra looks like a modern woman.  There are WWII ships and dirigibles.
In the real time of Julius Caesar the rulers of Egypt were descendants of one of the generals of Alexander the Great but still called themselves Pharoahs.  This is the original and in my opinion is better than the Met version.

I think I prefer this cast.  They are sincere in their change from Roman to British empire.  Angelika Kirchschlager is maybe the best trouser singer I have ever experienced.  It's worth it to see her alone. 
I'm never really wild about countertenors, so I am happy to see that Giulio Cesare is sung by the great Dame Sarah Connolly.  She even sort of looks like Caesar and carries herself like a great general.  This is Danielle de Niese's first big success, indeed this is her masterpiece.  She sings, she dances, she brings us joy.

I notice that the two dead guys, Tolomeo and Achilla, come back to life.  I also noticed this in Cecilia Bartoli's version.  The characters must have singing in the finale.  Here it is staged, but we're not sure what it should mean.

I loved it.  It runs for a little longer from Glyndebourne, so try to see it.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Cosi from Salzburg

Joana Mallwitz: Conductor
Christof Loy: Director

Elsa Dreisig: Fiordiligi, soprano
Marianne Crebassa: Dorabella, mezzo
Andrè Schuen: Guglielmo, bass
Bogdan Volkov: Ferrando, tenor
Lea Desandre: Despina, soprano
Johannes Martin Kränzle: Don Alfonso, bass 

This year isn't just the Beethoven year, it is also 100 years of the Salzburg Festival.  They were determined not to just skip the whole thing like almost all the other festivals, so they reduced it as far as possible.  There are quite a few concerts but only two operas, down from 10.  We are concerning ourselves with Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.

This is a regie production which provides virtually no context.  We are in white rooms with no furniture.  The clothing is the usual modern black outfits, except for the guys.  They start out in the usual black suits, but when it's time for them show up in disguises, they are in the above outfits.  If you have no idea what goes on in this opera, you still won't.  They are supposed to be in disguise, but they would know who they are.  Obviously.  Despina's first act aria is cut.  In fact the whole performance is at least a half hour shorter than usual.  I notice that Dorabella has a tattoo on her ankle.  So these are modern children.  

In their funny outfits after the poison gag the guys woo the same girls they did at the beginning.  This is not how it's supposed to work.  They switch back and forth.  Hmmm.  These guys are not in disguise.  They are just messing with them.  The girls get pissed and the boys split.
This production seems to have its own plot.  The guys are back in their dark suits way before they usually are.  I don't think I like any of these people.

But the music is gorgeous.  The soprano ornaments her arias.  Have I ever heard this kind of ornamentation in Mozart before?  I don't think so.  The tenor is also lovely.

No one is fooled at any point.  They end up in the beginning arrangement, but it could have gone either way.  I still want a trick ending.