Friday, September 17, 2021

Keith Bohm in Recital



Faculty Recital: Keith Bohm, saxophone

Capistrano Hall - Room 151

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony in Sacramento

Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera opened their 2021-2022 season last night in the Memorial Auditorium.  This venue was chosen because it is one of the few places with a built in pipe organ, and they wanted to feature the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns.  The rest of the program also included organ. 

The conductor for the performance was Robert Moody,

and the organist was James Jones. 

Originally the program was set to include Barber's Adagio for Strings in an arrangement for organ, but the organ itself is being repaired and would not play the piece.  Short pieces for organ were substituted.

Next was Edward Elgar's (1857-1934) Enigma Variations (1899). One source says there are 14 variations.  This information would have made sense to include in the program.  Some but not all of the variations included organ for a different sound.

To end the program we enjoyed the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921).  I liked the sound of this piece much better than the previous one.  Memorial Auditorium is not an ideal space for classical concerts due to the acoustics.  Towards the end of this piece the organ began to boom in.  I was disappointed that we had to wait so long for this loud booming sound.  All in all it was enjoyable.  Welcome back.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges Premier

The project I mentioned here will have its first showing on August 27.

I attended this first showing, and my friend Omari Tau turned out to be the star.  The life of the Chevalier was dramatized with all the other characters portrayed in silhouette.  This film was created for educational purposes and should not be confused with the movie Chevalier de Saint-Georges starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. 

Friday, August 20, 2021

Pagliacci from Chicago

Conductor: Enrique Mazzola 
Director: Peter McClintock 
Canio: Russell Thomas 
Nedda: Ailyn Pérez 
Silvio: Lucas Meachem 
Tonio: Quinn Kelsey 
Beppe: Eric Ferring

You can see this cast of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci from the Lyric Opera of Chicago is impressive.  This copy has no subtitles in any language, so I have to rely on memory.

My memory, such as it is, tells me that this is the opera where they say "a venti-tre ore." Venti-tre is 23, so that means all are invited to a circus performance that begins at 11 pm. In Italy they might actually do this. They have dinner at 8 or 9 pm and go on from there. The American translations usually pretend it's earlier.

However, this is regie and the things going on have little to do with the original plot.  Here our theatrical troop is the cast of the TV show The Honeymooners.  It might very well be playing at 11 pm. They give out Pagliacci t-shirts to the chorus/audience.

Nedda, wife of Canio in both show and life, is tired of her husband and has become interested in Silvio, apparently a stagehand. She sings about this. The beautifull sung prologue is outside the Lyric Opera, and subsequent scenes are inside. Nedda sings in the wings next to the cables to draw the scenery. It's show business. Tonio wants her too. He goes after her and she hits him with her purse.

The second act is the comedy.  This is the Kramdens from the Honeymooners, apparently.  Forties/fifties furniture and clothing.  It's also in black and white like the TV show.  Adorable.  I believe Ralph was also a bus driver.  I have to say this concept completely works.  When the camera shows the stage and the wings, the color comes back.

These are all wonderful singing actors who bring this all to life.  I'm a Quinn fan and enjoy his work here, but his part is not large.  There is an argument on the internet over who gets to say the final line.  Apparently, in the score it is Canio who has just stabbed two people.  But here it is Tonio who plays Ed Norton.  "La comedia e finita.?  

If you can find it, watch it.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Tristan und Isolde from Munich 👍🏻


Conductor -  Kirill Petrenko 
Production - Krzysztof Warlikowski 

Tristan - Jonas Kaufmann 
Isolde - Anja Harteros 
King Mark - Mika Kares 
Kurwenal - Wolfgang Koch 
Brangäne - Okka on der Damerau

This is Wagner's Tristan und Isolde from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  It's a regie production, naturally.  Almost everything from there is.  I'm not sure it provides a context.  They all wear modern clothing, and we don't seem to be on a ship.

Act I.

Tristan has traveled to Ireland to bring back the future bride of King Mark of Cornwall.  He is there in his official capacity as representative of Cornwall.  Actually Tristan and Princess Isolde have an already existing relationship.  In a war between the two kingdoms, Tristan has killed Isolde's fiance and been seriously wounded in the process.  Isolde with the help of Brangäne nursed him back to health.  

On the journey she tries to order him around.  He remains distant and sends his assistant, Kurwenal.  This bit is not precisely clear.  Brangäne prepares a potion that Tristan and Isolde are to share.  Tristan drinks half, and then Isolde drinks the rest.  They seem to think it will kill them, but instead they fall hopelessly in love.  I thought the sudden falling in love was well handled.  We appear to be doing social distancing in this production.  No one touches in this part.

Act II

Isolde keeps turning the lights on and off.  I'm not sure what that's about.  I've never seen this character portrayed as perverse.  A feature of this production is that we see the characters live on the stage and projected on the wall in the form of a film at the same time.  Brangäne blames herself for administering the potion, but Isolde blames the Love Spirit who spreads love all around.  Isolde sees herself without love as destined for death.

I am an hour and a half in and did not ever before realize what a bear of a part Isolde is.  Other characters make brief appearances.  Finally Tristan enters and they talk about their time traveling to Cornwall.  She feels that she loved him then, but he was there in the role of foe.  Now they cannot simply forget that they love one another.  There is much discussion of which is better:  day or night?  Night is chosen.  Tristan wants to die.  The picture above comes from this section.

In the real world they sit in chairs and sing, but in the film behind they meet in the bedroom.  I don't know why I like this, but I do.

They sing for a long time about death, then suddenly they take needles from a bowl on the table and give themselves shots.  Death?  The bed in the background is suddenly surrounded by water.  Then people begin to enter.  They are discovered.  King Mark tells his story, that it was Tristan who thought he should marry.  Isolde is hearing this story for the first time.

This hardly seems like the same opera.  We want these two singers together in this opera because they are together emotionally.

Isolde says that she will follow Tristan to his home.  Melot, the betrayer, complains and the two men draw swords.  The bald person reappears.  Melot stabs Tristan.


Bald people in uniforms drinking coffee?  This part of the production I don't get.  Tristan sits with them and drinks coffee.  Next to him they look like children.  All but one appear to be puppets. A return to childhood?  An English horn plays on the stage.  

Kurvenal sings to the puppet Tristan while Jonas sings.  Then they exchange places. The puppet in the yellow blouse is Isolde herself.  I don't think I realized before how little time Tristan and Isolde spend on stage together.  I feel like I have never seen this opera before.  Opera's greatest singing actors have brought it to life as never before.  Absolutely stunning.

Old age advice.  Do not mourn that your love cannot be fulfilled.  Rejoice that passion can come to you.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Katya Kabanova at West Edge


Jonathan Khuner - Conductor / Music Director 
Indre Viskontas - Production Director 

Carrie Hennessey - Katya
Kristin Clayton - Kabanicha, mother in law
Christopher Oglesby - Boris, boy friend
Alex Boyer - Tichon, Katya's husband
Chad Somers - Kudrjaš
Sarah Coit - Varvara, Tichon's sister
Philip Skinner - Dikój, Boris's uncle 

Leoš Janáček's Káťa Kabanová (1921) played at the Bruns Amphitheater in the East Bay hills as part of the season for West Edge Opera.  It's sunny and hot when the sun is shining on you, and cold when it isn't.  You may rent yourself a blanket.  Luckily I brought a hat and a jacket.  This is normally the venue for what is lovingly called Cal Shakes, meaning UC Shakespeare, I assume.  Adjustments were made to accommodate the orchestra who played from under the stage.  In the current era where performing before an audience is difficult, I suppose they were lucky to get it.  I felt that the heat/cold situation was extreme and the acoustics, particularly for the singers, were bad.

I have seen this opera before at the San Francisco Opera before I began blogging.  I remember only the part where Katya throws herself into the Volga.  I felt that this staging introduced the characters and their relationships more successfully.  The stage didn't become cluttered with irrelevant people, because the tiny chorus seemed always to be offstage.  Everyone dresses in modern clothing.  The singers for Tichon and Boris look similar, but were clearly distinguished through their costumes.

This opera would probably best be described as verismo, concerned with the hum drum problems of ordinary people.  Katya and Tichon love one another, but then there is the boss/mother in law who expects to be always the center of attention.  She runs a business and Tichon works for her.  Katya seems to want to be a good girl, and when it transpires that she cannot manage this, she wants to be punished.  She goes around asking everyone to accommodate this desire, and when they don't, she kills herself.

I am a fan of Carrie Hennessey whose character pretty much carries this opera.  (Pun?)  I enjoy her work, and felt that the cast did a fine job.  This is not in line to become a favorite opera.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Tannhäuser from Bayreuth 👍🏻

Conductor: Valery Gergiev 
Director: Tobias Kratzer

Tannhäuser: Stephen Gould
Landgraf Hermann: Stephen Milleing
Elisabeth: Lise Davidsen
Wolfram von Eschenbach: Markus Eiche
Walther von der Vogelweide: Daniel Behle
Venus:  Elena Zhidkova
Shepard:  Katharina Konradi

Tannhäuser from Bayreuth from 2019, which can be found in Opera on Video, is a confusing mix of images.  The first scene suggests that we add it to the caravan series, since we see Tannhäuser, Venus and her troop wandering around in an RV in the guise of a carnival.  Venus drives.  They live outside the law.  When the vehicle runs out of gas, they siphon some from a nearby vehicle.  They go through the Burger King drive through and steal their food.  This is not realistic since you always have to pay before they give you anything.  A policeman tries to stop them and Venus runs him down, making Tannhäuser uninterested in going on with her.

In the second scene the curtain opens on an exterior shot of the Bayreuther Festspielhaus.  He is met by a bunch of guys in black outfits drinking beer out of the bottle.  They recognize him in his clown outfit and welcome him back.  At the end of the scene Venus arrives in her RV.

Lise Davidsen is utterly magnificent.  I adore her "Dich teure Halle."  Our boy is back in normal clothes.  Or at least the clothes suitable for the singing contest that is to come.  People begin to enter.  Outside Venus and her gang are trying to get inside.  This must play like a film inside the hall.  Venus steals a suitable outfit from one of the dressing rooms and participates in the ceremony.  This whole thing is like a movie with cameras behind the scenes.  Is that the trend of the future?

The contestants sing about love back and forth until Tannhäuser tells the crowd that he has been in Venusberg.  The women in the crowd all escape except for Elisabeth, Venus removes her disguise, and her group all appear together with Tannhäuser.  Elisabeth prevents the men from killing him, and he thanks her.  The scene is strange.  While Tannhäuser thanks Elisabeth, he is also happy to see Venus.  Someone calls the police.  The Landgraf curses Tannhäuser for admitting he was with Venus.

I am enjoying the idea that the teure Halle is the Festspieshaus itself.  A song contest with pieces that are more like songs would have been nice.  The story is concerned with salvation, and the music is a bit droning.   Tannhäuser chooses to go to Rome with the pilgrims and the giant black man in drag drapes a rainbow flag over the harp that accompanied the singers.

This is almost the Tannhäuser as comedy version. Frei im Wollen! Frei im Thun! Frei im Geniessen!  R.W. [Free in the wanting! Free in the doing! Free to enjoy!]  This seems to be the opposing of two life views that make up the struggle of modern life:  The path of individual freedom represented by Venus and the path of adhering to social norms represented by Elisabeth.  The sign outside the Festspielhaus seems to place Wagner on the side of freedom.  Our hero vacillates back and forth between them.  One gives him a life of earthly pleasure and the other brings salvation to his soul.  He seems to want both.

It ends horribly.  In the libretto first Elisabeth dies, and then he sees her body borne past him, and Tannhäuser dies.  In this version Tannhäuser goes off with Venus, Wolfram sees his opportunity and dresses up in Tannhäuser's clown outfit so Elisabeth will think he is the man she loves.  He seduces her in this disguise, and later we see her covered in blood.  She seems to have killed herself.  This is truly hideous.  



I watched the film of Tannhäuser from Bayreuth in 2019 again because it is now playing again in Bayreuth in 2021 and I cannot go. Ekaterina Gubanova is Venus in the current version, and this may be an improvement.  I had already seen all the shocking parts, and was content to watch the whole opera.

I noticed the part where it is indeed Katarina Wagner who calls the cops, as a joke, I assume.  I saw that Wolfram puts on Heinrich's clown outfit, but isn't actually trying to fool Elisabeth.  She laughs and draws him into the van.  That puts a completely different spin on it.  It's too bad she doesn't love Wolfram who is quite charming.

The more I see and hear of Lise Davidsen, the more I admire, enjoy, respect and indeed love her.  She is very well suited to this role.  I am a long distance from having too much of her.  Es lebe die Lise.


Friday, July 23, 2021

Saariaho's Innocence

Conductor: Susanna Mälkki 
Production:  Simon Stone

Waitress:  Magdalena Kožená, 
Mother-in-law: Sandrine Piau,  \   Groom's parents
Father-in-law: Tuomas Pursio,  /
Bride: Lilian Farahani, 
Groom:  Markus Nykänen, 
Priest:  Jukka Rasilainen, 
Teacher:  Lucy Shelton

Kaaija Saariaho's new opera in 5 acts without intermission is called Innocence.  There is a film available from Aix en Provence which runs under 2 hours.  

Something terrible has happened before the start of the opera.  Research tells me that there are two groups:  The wedding party, and the teacher and her students who were present at a shooting that took place at their school 10 years before.  [It is strange to me that I am watching this on the 10th anniversary of a shooting in Oslo--irrelevant, or perhaps not.]  I found this in a review, and without it I would have had a hard time figuring out what was going on.

The father talks about another son he had and how he taught him how to shoot. This is dense and very complicated.  I think that they are reliving the tragedy.  This would be more possible with English subtitles. 

Attempt at a plot summary:  ten years ago at the International School in Helsinki one of the students stole his father's gun and shot a number of his fellow students.  Quite by accident the Waitress is serving a wedding in modern times.  Her daughter was one of the victims, and she recognizes the family.  The Groom is the brother of the boy who killed the others, including her daughter.  We learn that the murderer is out of jail and has been given another identity because he was a child at the time of the incident.  The Groom has not told his bride, whom he met in Bucharest.

The subtitles are in French, but I am hearing English occasionally.  One character speaks German. Some speak French.  Some characters change languages.  I hear other languages which I do not speak.

Some are wearing microphones:  the ones who only speak and the teacher.  The wedding party have no microphones.  I guess and suggest that this distinguishes people from the present from people from the past.

This is a story of modern times, a story where people think of shooting others around them.  Perhaps it is a suitable subject for an opera.  The thing I have seen recently which most resembles this is the recent production of Die Tote Stadt.  We seem to change from one reality to another with no transitions.  At the end everyone goes off on their own.

It's deeply gripping and very relevant.  I was drawn to it, but I would need more explanation and English subtitles.

Read more here.


It turns out it is more than a coincidence that I was reminded of the recent Korngold Die tote Stadt. The same guy directed both. Since I assign to the director the task of explaining the story, he is not focusing on that. 


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

New Fidelio Recording

Marek Janowski, conductor

Lise Davidsen, Leonore
Christian Elsner, Florestan
Georg Zeppenfeld, Rocco
Günther Groissböck, Don Fernando
Cornel Frey, Jaquino
Christina Landshamer, Marzelline
Johannes-Martin Kränzle, Don Pizarro

My copy of Beethoven's Fidelio with Lise Davidsen came in the mail today.  I loved her in the Royal Opera production, but there were a number of things that didn't quite succeed.  The men's chorus here is perfection.  O Welche Lust is a beautiful piece, beautifully done here. It wasn't very attractive at the Royal Opera.  On the first disc the voices are well balanced.

And then we come to Florestan and his big aria.  I'm used to Jonas Kaufmann, whom I once described as "a Florestan to die for," and Ben Heppner.  This one is too light, particularly when paired with Lise Davidsen.  She lightens her performance a bit.  I love Lise too much to turn it down, and she is incredible here.  Later in the act she lets it rip, and the Florestan can't really balance with her.  He's not that bad.  He just doesn't come up to Lise's standard.  This opera is hard to cast.  Who has come along to follow Jonas?  

In general I find this enjoyable.


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Jonas gets a bis

This is Tosca in Madrid where both Sondra Radvanovsky and Jonas Kaufmann were encored.  First is Jonas's bis.  We miss our opera.  This film is long but fun.  And then comes Sondra Radvanovsky's bis.


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Lise in Die Walküre at BSO 👍🏻


Lise Davidsen sang Act I of Die Walküre at the Bayerische Staatsoper today with Jonas Kaufmann, Georg Zeppenfeld, and Asher Fisch .  I broke down crying it was so wonderful.  How can I pretend to review this?  

We were stomping our feet at home along with the distanced live audience.  Orchestra, conductor and soloists were all outstanding.  Lise is the fiercest Sieglinde I've ever seen.


I originally posted this on May 13 this year.  I have just finished listening to it for the third time.  It's absolutely wonderful, with two of my great operatic loves singing.  There is a Die Walküre series at Bayreuth this summer with Lise but not Jonas.  It's not being streamed.  But how could I possibly love it as much as this?  Wagner has never gone so deep into my heart.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Porgy and Bess HD Rerun

Conductor...............David Robertson

Porgy...................Eric Owens
Bess....................Angel Blue

I saw Wednesday's rerun of Gershwin's Porgy and Bess from the Metropolitan opera at my local theater.  I didn't enjoy it as much as the last time.  I think the sound in my theater was not adequate to the task of reproducing the voices. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

San Francisco Opera 2021-2022

The season has been announced for 2021-2022 at the San Francisco.  To reduce the number of people in the house at any given time, they are switching to the kind of season where only one opera plays at a time.  This change will result in only 5 operas.  We can only hope for a return to normal in the following season.


August 21, 27, 29; September 3, 5  Puccini's Tosca with the new music director Eun Sun Kim and starring Ailyn Pérez, Michael Fabiano, and Alfred Walker.  This is an excellent group.  


October 14, 17, 20, 22, 26, 30  Beethoven's Fidelio in a new production by Matthew Ozawa, starring Elza van den Heever and Russell Thomas. Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts.  These are also excellent singers.  Fidelio is one of my favorites.

November 21, 23, 27; December 1, 3  Mozart's Cosi fan tutte.  Henrik Nánási conducts an  ensemble featuring Nicole Cabell, Irene Roberts, Benjamin Bliss, John Brancy, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Nicole Heaston.  This is part 2 of the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy production by director Michael Cavanagh.  I saw part 1 in 2019 here.  It seemed to work well.


June 4, 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 26; July 2, 2022  Mozart's Don Giovanni conducted by Bertrand de Billy and starring Étienne Dupuis, Luca Pisaroni, Adela Zaharia, and Carmen Giannattasio.  This is part 3 of the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy production by director Michael Cavanagh. 

June 14, 17, 19, 23, 25; July 1, 3, 2022   Sheng's Dream of the Red Chamber I saw this opera in 2016 at the world premier.  They have not provided much additional information.

Friday, July 09, 2021

Donald Pippin has Died (1925-2021)

The one and only Donald Pippin has died.  When I was a young person living in the Bay Area I went to see him perform Handel operas at the Spaghetti Factory in North Beach.  His gimmick was to perform the interesting parts with a small orchestra and talk between the numbers to explain what was going on.  His explanations were much funnier than the actual stories.

I even performed in one.  I was in Julius Caesar where I played Tolomeo while Caesar was sung by the magnificent Stephanie Friedman.  Standing on my left, towering over me, was John del Carlo who later sang at the Met.

Donald was much loved.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

West Edge Postponed

2021 has arrived and here is the West Edge Opera summer postponed from last year.  The text is the same, but the pictures are new and dates and location are added.

This is the publicity for the 2020 season of West Edge opera:
 Leoš Janáček’s  Katya Kabanova
 Elizabeth Cree, by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell
 Francesco Cavalli’s Eliogabolo

August 6, 2019

West Edge Opera’s Mark Streshinsky | Credit: Mark Mayfield

While West Edge Opera has your attention, as their season rolls out, the company has announced next year’s season. No surprise, it’s just as ambitious as this year’s season. The festival opens a week earlier, July 25, 2020, instead of the first week in August and, just as with the current productions, you will have to wait for Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky to do location scouting to discover where the shows will be held, so stay tuned.

As usual, there is no sign of a top 50 opera anywhere, which is why some of us regard WEO so highly. However, there is a lot of great music in the works: the 2020 festival opens with Leoš Janáček’s brilliant, realistic drama Katya Kabanova with soprano Carrie Hennessy in the title role. This is a show that will challenge the company on a number of levels, but WEO has waded into these waters before, producing Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in 2016. If they succeed, it will be one of the highlights of the Bay Area’s musical year.   July 24, Aug 1 & 5

The contemporary opera that the company always offers will be Elizabeth Cree, by Kevin Puts and Mark Campbell, based on a novel by Peter Ackroyd and premiered by Opera Philadelphia in 2017. The opera is the third collaboration by Puts and Campbell, following Silent Night (2012) and The Manchurian Candidate (2015). Despite the fact that the opera is about a grisly murder, it is, the authors insist, darkly comic, and Puts believed it was his best theater work up to that time. His tonal idiom and command of period style should work well in this tale of a music hall singer of the 1890s who is accused of murdering her surgeon husband. July 25, 30 & Aug 7

Francesco Cavalli’s Eliogabolo (1667), from the anything-goes Venetian opera houses of the 17th century is the third show of the season. The tale of a perverse and depraved Roman emperor, it almost feels like a modern show (an operatic Caligula, maybe) and in fact it never got its Venetian premiere, but not because it was too risqué. (It was replaced by an opera on the same subject by a different composer.) Maybe it was that Cavalli was too old-fashioned at the time, but in the 21st century, audiences have come around to Cavalli. The show has major productions at Theatre de la Monnaie (Belgium, 2004), the Aspen Festival (2007), Gotham Chamber Opera (NY, 2013), and Paris Opera (2016/17). Not bad for a modern opera. The West Edge production will star countertenor Randall Scotting in the title role, a part he can only hope leaves him clothed most of the time.   July 31, Aug 6 & 8

Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.

BB.  This will all take place in The Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda in 2021.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Yannick Movie


I went to my local theater to see the movie from the Metropolitan Opera called Yannick: An Artist’s Journey, a new documentary from filmmaker Susan Froemke about Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met's new music director.  It shows his life in music throughout his whole life.  His childhood piano teacher is shown.  She's very proud.

I liked it very much.  They never forgot to show his love for music.  They showed a lot of rehearsal scenes, which for me is a joy.  They showed him rehearsing Diana Damrau in La Traviata and the whole cast in The Dialogues of the Carmelites.  This last was particularly enjoyable.  Try to see it.

Addendum.  It went by on the screen very quickly, but Yannick conducted as his Met debut the Carmen I loved so much.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

All in one photo

 Pereira, Netrebko, Kaufmann, Mehta, Bartoli, Salsi.

This is from May in Salzburg and shows all of my long time opera loves in one photo.  They were also all in the same performance of Tosca.  Is it a coincidence that they are the most beautiful people in opera?  I think not.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Die tote Stadt, Munich


Conductor: Kirill Petrenko 
Production: Simon Stone 

Paul (tenor):   Jonas Kaufmann
Marie/Marietta (soprano):   Marlis Petersen
Juliette (soprano):  Mirjam Mezak
Brigitta (mezzo-soprano): Jennifer Johnston
Frank-Fritz (baritone):  Andrzej Filonczyk

This performance of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die tote Stadt, 2019, finally came to me from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.  I've been wishing for it.  It's a reminder that the current management disappears in the fall of 2021.  Goodbye to Petrenko.

We begin with Paul returning home where he has been away.  He removes sheets covering the furniture and throws everything to Brigitta.  Paul's young wife has recently died, and he has become obsessed with another young woman who looks like his dead wife.  Paul appears to be a screamer role.  I love Jonas but prefer him not screaming.  When he's not screaming, Jonas is glorious.  You know that.  He's a wonderful singer and actor with spectacular diction and a fabulous legato.  The rotating stage set seems to work well.

A blond woman comes in on a bicycle.  She enters the house through the window.  He appears to have invited her for dinner since the table is set.  She puts on one of his wife's dresses, and he calls her Marie.  She reminds him that her name is Marietta.  They sing Mariettas Lied.  It's very beautiful and intense.  It's Jonas.  What else would it be?  I like the production a lot so far.  [My favorite]

Very quickly we move to a flashback with a bald woman who must be his wife who died, and she must have died of cancer.  What a fast change, for this is also Marlis Petersen.  No hair, bare feet, hospital gown.

At the beginning of Act II we see Brigitta in a nun's uniform with other nuns.  She says this is her life now.  Marietta is having fun with a group of friends.  Paul drags her away and initiates sex.  Marlis Petersen may be just the right singing actress for her role.  She wears the unfeminine shoes throughout, except when she's barefoot, to protect her feet in this very athletic role.  The plot becomes confused, especially for me whose copy has no titles.

In Act III we still have the rotating building, but in each act the configuration has changed. A chorus of children appears and disappears without explanation.  And here we have Marie and Marietta in the same scene.  Then there are a crowd of bald Maries.  I have a feeling this is brilliant.  Jonas is having such a great career.  Both of these roles are bears.  That's reason enough not to perform it.  She's dancing around in his dead wife's wig, and he strangles her with it.  "Now you're just like her."  Just when we think she's dead, she comes out, gets on her bicycle and rides away.  I think I love it.

We return to the beginning with the return of Brigitta and Fritz.  Marietta returns for her roses.  Paul burns stuff including Marie's wig.  This is the best part of the regie.  Marie wore a wig because of her cancer treatments.  Jonas sings Marietta's Lied, and there is still ein Auferstehen.  I'm so glad I returned to see this.


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Music in Time of Covid19

Audiences are returning.  Houses are opening.  Perhaps now is the time to discuss this.  What was it like?  We all watched what pickings there were on our computers at home where we were the only audience.  We had some categories. 

Normal performance.

  • I am including this category to provide a place for the London performance of Fidelio with Lise Davidsen where everyone was ill without knowing it.  The film of a late performance where Jonas Kaufmann had withdrawn with Covid and replaced by David Butt Philip was surprisingly good. There is also an audio only version of an early performance with Jonas Kaufmann.  The final performance was cancelled.  This was the beginning.

Recitals without any audience.

The Metropolitan Opera put on a whole series of recitals by their stars from venues in Europe.

  • Netrebko Recital was part of the Met series.  Instead of standing still as is traditional in classical recitals, Netrebko strolled around constantly.  I've never seen anyone do that, but she sang well.
  • Starry Heavens Concert from the Bayerische Staatsoper with Lise Davidsen.  This was an entire concert of pieces by Beethoven.  I knew that the complete works of any composer includes a list of songs which I assumed were never performed.  This is the exception that proves the rule.  They did not pause between songs, so it wasn't possible to tell how far along they were.  Lise was fine.  The entire concert felt rushed.  I no longer remember if this was live or delayed.  If delayed, it could have been edited.
  • Schumann's Dichterliebe from the Bayerische Staatsoper with Jonas Kaufmann.  I love Dichterliebe and strongly disapproved of an early performance by Jonas.  He has completely erased my previous impression with this wonderful performance.  Jonas has perhaps complained the loudest about the absence of an audience.
  • Lise -- Vocal Arts DC.  An excellent recital with subtitles in original language, Finnish or German, and English.  Talking is inserted into the performance between sets.  I enjoyed this very much.  This was prepared long in advance.  I knew some of the songs, and others were completely new.
  • Three Divas from Versailles.  Ailyn Pérez, Isabel Leonard and Nadine Sierra are also part of the Met series, but the final one, I fear.  Gounod, Mozart, Vivaldi, Leoncavallo, Bellini and R. Strauss are included.  Ensembles include Offenbach's Barcarole, the trio from Der Rosenkavalier and some Spanish songs.  They are all Latinas and friends.
This particular format worked pretty well for me.  It feels more intimate than a normal live recital.  I particularly enjoyed the one where Lise talks to the audience.  It is important to understand that the Bayerische Staatsoper continues their funding from the state of Bayern throughout the pandemic.  Peter Gelb is working with donations.

Concerts without any audience

  • Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde from the Royal Opera Covent Garden with David Butt Philip, tenor, and Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano. The orchestra was very much reduced, which worked surprisingly well.
  • Lise Davidsen from Trondheim in Norway  The audience was cancelled at the last minute.  You could hear cheering from the back, but it was probably the tech staff.  We probably got to see it because there was no audience.

I haven't felt that this worked quite as well, though the concerts were good.  In these performances without audience it is difficult to distinguish between a performance and a rehearsal.  The performers wear their performance attire.  That's the only clue.  I enjoy watching rehearsals.

Concert versions of operas without audience

  • La Walkyrie from Paris with Lise Davidsen as Sieglinde.  I am very familiar with this work and don't require staging to follow the story.
  • Jenůfa from Amsterdam with Lise as Jenůfa.  I am much less familiar with the story here and felt much was missing from the normal intensity of this work.  I prefer my opera acted out.

Fully staged operas without an audience.

There are rather more of these than I would have predicted.  These seem to be almost entirely from Germany and Austria.  There is one snuck in from Italy. 

Fidelio from Theater an der Wien.  This is the production with the giant staircase. 
La Boheme from ROH with Michael Fabiano.
Mozart's Cosi fan tutte from the Salzburg Festival.  The Salzburg Festival managed not to cancel their entire season by retaining two opera performances.  This seemed to be roughly comparable to a normal opera streaming.

Elektra from Salzburg.  This is the second opera retained for the Salzburg Festival.  The relatively small casts seemed to be key.  The lack of chorus reduces the danger.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail from Vienna with Lisette Oropesa.  In this production each singer has a speaking partner in their role.  Lisette was amazing, but the action was confusing.
Die Vögel [The Birds], 1920, by Walter Braunfels from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  This is a new Opera for me, so I cannot compare it with anything.
La Boheme is streaming live from the Bayerische  Staatsoper.  This was done without all the crowds that appear in the cafe, and I liked it better.  Who cares about them anyway?
Werther from the Wiener Staatsoper with Piotr Beczala.  I didn't feel that the pandemic conditions negatively impacted the performance.  It was very serious and intense.
Tosca from Vienna with Anna Netrebko.  Not my favorite Tosca.
Heggie's Three Decembers from San Jose Opera.  This is a new opera for me.  It felt like a normal performance and was successful.  Susan Graham is always wonderful.
Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix from Firenze.  This is a new opera for me.  People wore masks on stage, just not the soloists.  I was glad to at last see this opera.
Weber's Der Freischütz from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  This was regie which takes a lot of the fun out of it.  As a modern American, I might prefer not to see guns on the stage.  Better this than no Freischutz.
Aida from Paris.  This is the puppet show Aida.  Since people are no longer allowed to make up as black Africans, puppets were used for those characters, and the singers stayed in their normal makeup.  Egyptians did not have puppets, only Etheopians.  I don't see the point.  I only looked at the singers.

The way back 

Die Walküre from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  Jonas Kaufmann and Lise Davidsen presented Act I of Die Walküre before a reduced audience. A small audience appears to be the preferred retransition to normal.  The performers seemed happy to see faces again.  It made me happy to see them happy.

I apologize for the frequency of references to the Norwegian soprano.  She's been busier than most.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lise records Fidelio


This recording of Beethoven's Fidelio with Lise Davidsen is to be released on July 16.  On my side expectations are high.  Her intelligence has caused me to feel humble.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Lise Davidsen on Screaming Divas


Three sopranos, Sondra Radvanovsky, Keri Alkema and Lise Davidsen, talk about being opera singers.  It's an hour long and lots of fun.  They say sweet things and laugh.  Lise is awesome even to Sondra, who is pretty awesome herself.  You have figured out already that I love Lise.  Well, after this I only love her more.  She is a great lady.


Friday, June 04, 2021

Cecilia Bartoli and Friends

I just watched a film called "Cecilia Bartoli and Friends" on Medici TV.  It's lovely. 

I was 53 when I went mad for her, and I'm 80 now.  I have traveled 7 times to see her since I started blogging and, of course, more times before that.  I've seen her in Zurich, Berkeley, New York, Washington, Escondido, Paris, London, Munich and finally Salzburg for Norma.  I recognized some of the cities in the film.

I always feel great pride that I went instantly mad for this 27 year old phenomenon.  Think of all she has done and continues to do in music.  Her creativity is boundless.  Husband Oliver Widmer and her mother appear on screen but don't speak.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Bartoli Makes Wiener Staatsoper Debut

After all these years of not singing at the Vienna State Opera, Cecilia Bartoli is finally making her debut in not one but two operas.  Next summer she will sing Rossini's La Cenerentola followed shortly by his L'Italiana in Algerie.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Mary Martin


This film serves a number of functions. 

  • If I wander too far from Kurt Weill, I begin to feel lost. 
  • It's the wonderful Mary Martin from my youth. 
  • It's an excellent example of stage English diction, something you used to hear, something you used to learn.  Notice how you understand every word.


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Three Divas in Concert


This charming recital with pianist Vlad Iftinca and guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas comes from the newly refurbished opera house in the Palace of Versailles.  It is courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera.  Thank you, Peter.

The Program 

“Je veux vivre dans ce rêve” From Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette sung by Nadine Sierra.  [I saw Nadine sing this role at the San Francisco Opera.]

“Voi che sapete” From Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro sung by Isabel Leonard.[I saw Isabel sing this role in HD from the Met.]

“Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” From Catalani’s La Wally sung by Ailyn Pérez.

“Crudele? ... Non mi dir” From Mozart’s Don Giovanni sung by Nadine Sierra.

“Agitata da due venti” From Vivaldi’s Griselda sung by Isabel Leonard. [I saw Isabel sing this role in Santa Fe.  She was stunning.]

“Stridono lassù” From Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci sung by Ailyn Pérez.

“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” (Barcarolle) From Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann sung by Isabel Leonard and Nadine Sierra.

“Prenderò quel brunettino” From Mozart’s Così fan tutte sung by Isabel Leonard and Ailyn Pérez.

“Mira, o Norma ... Sì, fino all’ore estreme” From Bellini’s Norma sung by Nadine Sierra and Ailyn Pérez. [Gorgeous.  Thank you for not reminding me of any version heard before.  Bravi!!]

“Marie Theres’! … Hab’ mir’s gelobt” From R. Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier   [This is, of course, one of my great loves sung by all three.  These ladies can wail.  I need me some Rosenkavalier.]

Isabel Leonard speaks briefly about their shared Latina heritage before going on to the Latina part of the program.

“Près des remparts de Séville” (Seguidilla) From Bizet’s Carmen sung by Isabel Leonard [Why has she never sung this role?  Or she did and I didn't notice.]

“En medio a mis colores” (Canzonetta spagnuola) By Gioachino Rossini sung by Isabel Leonard

“Me llaman la primorosa” From Giménez’s El Barbero de Sevilla sung by Nadine Sierra.  [Fun]

“Estrellita” By Manuel Ponce sung by Ailyn Pérez.

Ailyn brings on the guitarist and music stands appear.  This entire recital is overflowing with love.  Thank you my dears. They all take off their shoes.

“Bésame Mucho” By Consuelo Velázquez sung by all three in harmony.

“Cielito Lindo” By Quirino Mendoza y Cortés sung by all three in harmony.

So much love.  Wonderful.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Lise Davidsen at la Scala


Lise Davidsen successfully made her La Scala debut last night in a concert with her as the featured soloist.  These days Lise starts everything at the top.  The above film shows the orchestra on the floor with the audience in the boxes above. Riccardo Chailly conducted.  I remember him primarily as the conductor of Cecilia Bartoli's La Cenerentola recording.


Giuseppe Verdi

From Macbeth  "Patria oppressa"  [chorus]

Henry Purcell

From Dido and Aeneas  "When I am laid in earth" with Lise 

Richard Wagner From Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg  Vorspiel (Prelude)
Richard Strauss From Ariadne auf Naxos  "Es gibt ein Reich, wo alles rein ist" with Lise
Giuseppe Verdi

 From La forza del destino Sinfonia

"Pace, pace mio Dio"  with Lise

Richard Wagner

From Tannhäuser Ouvertüre
"Dich, Teure halle"  with Lise

Giuseppe Verdi From Nabucco  "Va’, pensiero" [chorus] 

Only "When I am laid in earth" was something I had not heard Lise sing before.  It was good but unspectacular compared to the other things.  She wore black in the first half and looked radiant.  These songs are basically all tragic, so black was ok.  For the second half she wore a beautiful pastel outfit which brightened the mood.  Her hair is enhanced with an extension down to her waist. 

The two pieces in German are Lise's signature pieces, both of which I love dearly in her voice.  The most spectacularly sung of all was the Verdi "Pace, pace mio Dio".  It would not do for her to omit the Italian language.  All of her languages were beautiful.

I was intrigued by the interplay between Chailly and Davidsen.  He seemed to be looking to her for expressive cues.  This is something singers long for.  I felt it allowed Lise to feel secure and give her utmost.  As a result she made the greatest impression in the great Italian aria "Pace, pace mio Dio."  They were a magical pair.  This is La Scala after all.

I found this to be one of the most intense and spectacular vocal concerts I've ever seen.  The audience stood up a lot.  It's out there.

Monday, May 10, 2021

International Opera Awards


Metropolitan Opera
Kirill Petrenko
Małgorzata Szczęśniak
Robert Carsen
Birmingham Opera Company
Lise Davidsen
Salzburg Festival
(sponsored by the Good Governance Institute)
David Pountney
Bernard Haitink
Javier Camarena
Tale of Tsar Saltan
(Tcherniakov, La Monnaie De Munt)
Alpesh Chauhan
Teatro Real, Madrid
Denyce Graves
Bayerisches Staatsorchester / Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich
Martina Arroyo Foundation
Jakub Józef Orliński: Facce d’amore (Erato)

Thomas: Hamlet (Naxos) [DVD]

Jamie Barton

Moniuszko: Paria (Teatr Wielki, Poznań)
Glanert: Oceane (Deutsche Oper, Berlin)
YOUNG SINGER sponsored by Mazars
Xabier Anduaga
Vasilisa Berzhanskaya

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Christa Ludwig (1928-2021)

The great mezzo Christa Ludwig has died.  I have actually blogged about her on numerous occasions.  I see only one listing for her at the San Francisco Opera.  In 1971 she sang Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier to Sena Jurinac's Marschallin.  I think I did not attend.

I love this wonderful picture of Joyce DiDonato and Susan Graham at the Opera News Awards 2014 bowing before Christa.  What a great picture.

I'm going to post some of my favorite films, which I have mostly posted before.  Here she is with Bernstein singing "I am so easily assimilated."


And here at last is the perfect performance of Bach's "Erbarme dich" by the great Christa Ludwig.  The tempo and the phrasing are all masterpieces.

I'm trying to cover a lot of ground in these selections.  Here is Christa singing "Nur wer die Sehnsicht kennt" by Tchaikovsky.

My favorite Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde with Leonard Bernstein and the incomparable Christa Ludwig.
Der Einsame im Herbst


Von der Schoenheit

Abschied part I

part II

part III

We are currently doing Fidelio in different incarnations.  Here is Christa.

My heart leaps. Doch. Die Liebe wirt's erreichen. This is the most rubato in Beethoven I've ever heard.
She was a very great artist.  Spend some time listening.

Fidelio from the Met

Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Jürgen Flimm

Leonore.................Karita Mattila
Florestan...............Ben Heppner
Don Pizarro.............Falk Struckmann
Rocco...................René Pape
Marzelline..............Jennifer Welch-Babidge
Jaquino.................Matthew Polenzani
Don Fernando............Robert Lloyd

I think I like this production of Fidelio from 2000 quite a lot.  The cast alone is spectacular.  I have only one question.  Why would Rocco suggest Fidelio as a husband for his daughter when he is clearly already wearing a wedding ring?  Curious.  Rocco isn't at all clownish here.

Fidelio is good with money, so Rocco likes him.  Jaquino is very butch and waves around machine guns.  Yes, we've gone modern here. Why wouldn't Marzelline like Matthew Polenzani?  Does he ever get the girl?

Ben Heppner is glorious, though it is difficult to believe he's starving.  That's opera. I love every note of this piece.  Leonore and Florestan sing O namenlose Freude, the walls open up and Don Fernando arrives.  All is as it should be.  Karita Mattile is wonderful in this, but I would love to see my current obsession in this production.  When they say King, the titles say President.  So maybe this is the American's saving Europe scenario.

It's everything a great Fidelio should be.  Karita says that's her real hair.