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.