Saturday, January 30, 2021

Jenůfa from Amsterdam


Conductor: Patrick Lange
Jenůfa: Lise Davidsen - soprano,
Kostelnička Buryjovka: Claude Eichenberger- soprano,
Stařenka Buryjovka: Helena Rasker - alt,
Laca Klemeň: David Butt Philip - tenor,
Števa Buryja: Pavel Petrov - tenor,


Jenůfa (yeh-NEW-fuh) by Leoš Janáček is on the radio this morning from the Netherlands.  I got up early to hear Lise Davidsen as Jenůfa, but with her is a lovely soprano named Claude Eichenberger as Kostelnicka.    This is Lise's debut in this role.  I'm enjoying it very much.

While the live program is enjoying intermissions, we are treated to instrumental interludes, sometimes by Janáček, but also by Dvorak.  It is new to me to hear something by Janáček that isn't from one of his operas.  

Unfortunately, Kostelnička has all the fun in this opera.  Lise gets a terrific finish.  Beautiful performance.


So today, Sunday, we have a video.  Remember this is a concert performance. On the radio that doesn't matter.  It is easier to evaluate specific singers when you can see everyone.  Lise seems to dominate this particular ensemble.  She's the only one who doesn't have a chair in Act I, but stands serenely in the center.  Later she gets a chair.  Lise is the most intense Jenůfa I've seen.

The announcer calls it Moravish verismo.  Cute.  

This can now be viewed on Opera on Video.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Fidelio from Birmingham

                                                     Marzelline - Leonore

ConductorWilliam Lacey
DirectorGraham Vick

FlorestanRonald Samm
Leonore Jane Leslie MacKenzie
Rocco Jonathan Best
Marzelline Donna Bateman
Jaquino John Upperton
Don Pizarro Keel Watson
Don Fernando Michael Druiett

This version of Beethoven's Fidelio from Birmingham, England, 2002, by way of Operavision, is sung in English in modern dress.  The performance is inside a large tent with the audience and performers all packed into the same space.  A row of washing machines lines one side.  The translation is excellent.  This is fun for some unknown reason.  They haven't fractured it as is sometimes the case.  The main difference is that between scenes there is rioting with a lot of anarchist shouting.  These are the political fights of today.  

I love this opera as I do not love other operas.  Here there is goodness and love.  In this production all is serious.  Rocco is never a clown.  We see the truth of the story even though it is very chaotic.  Only the camera brings sense and organization.  I love Leonore who risks everything for love.  One can't help wondering what it would be like to experience all this chaos and intensity live and in person.  I know what's going on, so I don't become confused by the at times overwhelming intensity.

For the second half many of the audience members stand on numbered spots and when told, put bags over their heads.  I have never experienced anything like this and think it would be amazing.

I like this tenor who does an excellent reading of Florestan's aria.  Much of the credit for the excitement in this performance must go to the young conductor William Lacey.  In the middle of the act, after Florestan and Leonore have sung of their nameless joy, comes a long instrumental part which must be one of the Leonore overtures.  It is staged with people coming out of their cells in the ground.

I've never seen anything like it, but I wouldn't have missed it.  Thank you, Graham Vick, and thank you Beethoven.

Queen of Baroque - Out Today

Note:  I have finally received my copy and listened to about half.  Once again Cecilia displays her greatest talent--the ability to assemble a fabulous program.  Her whole career is shown.  Enjoy.

Amazon says today is the day.

Cecilia Bartoli announces a new CD from Decca:  Queen of Baroque.  It will be released on December 18, 2020.  Pre-order now by clicking below.  It can be delivered in time for Christmas.  It's described as:

A collection of the very best of Bartoli's treasured recordings of musical delights and discoveries of the 17th and 18th century. Featuring two previously unreleased world premiere recordings of forgotten jewels by Leonardo Vinci and Agostino Steffani. With guest appearances from Philippe Jaroussky, June Anderson, Franco Fagioli and Sol Gabetta.  Here is a track list.

I trionfi del fato: “E l’honor stella tiranna”*

Alessandro nelle Indie: “Quanto Invidio…Chi vive amante”*

Rinaldo: “Lascia ch’io pianga”

Artaserse: “Son Qual Nave”

Stabat Mater, P. 77: 1. Stabat Mater dolorosa feat. Anderson

Griselda: Agitata da due venti

Niobe, regina di Tebe: “Serena, o mio bel sole… Mia fiamma…” feat. Jaroussky

A. Scarlatti
Il Sedecia, Re di Gerusalemme: “Caldo Sangue”

Serse: “Ombra mai fu”

Il nascimento dell’Aurora: “Aure andate e baciate” feat. Sol Gabetta

Adriano In Siria: Deh, tu bel Dio d’amore…Ov’e il mio bene?

Stabat Mater: “Eja Mater, fons amoris… Fac, ut ardeat… Sancta Mater… Tui nati, vulnerati” feat. Fagioli, Behle

Il Trionfo dell’Innocenza: “Vanne pentita a piangere”

La Resurrezione (1708), HWV 47: “Disserratevi oh porte d’Averno”

Germanico in Germania: Parto ti lascio, o cara

I Triondi del fato: “Combatton quest’alma” feat. Jaroussky

Rinaldo: “Bel piacere”

*Denotes a world premiere recording

And here is a sample.


Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Linda di Chamounix from Firenze


Conductor - Michele Gamba
Production - Cesare Lievi
Linda - Jessica Pratt
Pierotto - Teresa Iervolino
Carlo - Francesco Demuro
Antonio, Linda's father - Vittorio Prato
Maddalena, Linda's mother - Marina De Liso
Il Marchese di Boisfleury, Carlo's uncle - Fabio Capitanucci
Il Prefetto - Michele Pertusi
L'Intendente del feudo - Antonio Gares

Maggio Musicale Fiorentino brings us Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, 1842.  There are subtitles, but they are in Italian.  The chorus and orchestra are wearing medical masks, so we may assume this performance is current, last week.  

Our heroine has just made her entrance and sings "O luce di quest'anima," the hit tune of this opera.  Well done.  Pierotto is a pants role, and his song does not appear to be part of the story.  Nevertheless, it's good.

There is a stereotypical plot element in this opera.  A male member of the upper class pretends to be poor so he can flirt with girls from the lower classes.  La Donna del LagoRigoletto.  These are some other examples.  Linda is the daughter of tenant farmers in Chamounix, France, though her father is played as far too feeble to be a farmer.  Her boyfriend Carlo is the nephew of  the Marchese who owns the land where Linda's parents farm.  She, of course, does not know this.  I have no idea how Pierotto fits into the plot.
The Marchese wants Linda for some reason and will evict her parents if he cannot take her back to his palace.  This is a new twist.  The Prefetto tells her she must go to Paris with the boys for the winter to escape the Marchese.  Pierotto will take care of her.

The music is very beautiful.  In Act II Linda and Pierotto have a charming duet.  He explains to her that he has not been with her because he has been ill.  She explains that Carlo has been there to help her.  Pierotto leaves, and the Marchese arrivcs and tries to get her to go with him to his palace.  After he has gone, Carlo appears in a military uniform, and they sing of love.  He goes over to her and starts unbuttoning her clothing.  She falls on the floor and appears shocked.  Duet.  He leaves.  

It is convenient how each person appears one at a time.  Next comes padre.  She thinks maybe she should button her clothes before he recognizes her.  She reveals herself, he gets angry, Pierotto tells him and her that Carlo is the Viscount.  He gets really angry, curses her and leaves.

Enough plot.  People aren't behaving as they should.  The role of Linda is HUGE.  It all has a happy ending, which makes it lots less interesting than Lucia, I guess.  There's lots of talking.  You shouldn't expect it to enter standard repertoire any time soon, but it's enjoyable.  Lovely cast.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Samson et Dalila


Conductor - Patrick Summers 
Production - Nicolas Joël 

Samson - Clifton Forbis
Abimélech - Eric Jordan
The High Priest of Dagon - Juha Uusitalo
A Philistine Messenger - Noah Stewart
An Old Hebrew - Oren Gradus 
Dalila - Olga Borodina

This performance of Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila, 1877, comes from the San Francisco Opera in 2007.  I saw Olga sing this opera three times around that time.  Read about it here.

I love Olga's voice for this.  For me she has the perfect sound.  And all the good stuff in this opera is written for her.  For her type of heavy mezzo this is the peak experience.  I don't mind Elina in the role, but true love is only for Olga.  The second verse of "Mon coeur" is a duet.  For some reason I didn't remember this.  I think it's better without the tenor.

I enjoy the other singers in this production.  This is old fashioned, lush late romantic, in singing, in conducting, and in visual tone.   It is well worth a visit.

Monday, January 04, 2021

La Walkyrie from Paris


Left to right:

Stuart Skelton, ténor (Siegmund)
Günther Groissböck, baryton-basse (Hunding)
Lise Davidsen, soprano (Sieglinde)

This is the concert performance from Paris of Wagner's Ring that has been going on this week.  I think you can still catch it.  I'm listening to Act I.  All three of these singers are fabulous in these roles.  Lise just sings and out comes this amazing sound.  Stuart sounds good, too.

Go to the Paris opera to listen.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Three Decembers

Composer --  Jake Heggie
Librettist --  Gene Scheer from play by Terrence McNally
Conductor -- Christopher James Ray
Director -- Tara Branham

Madeline Mitchell, theater icon -- Susan Graham
Beatrice, Madeline's daughter -- Maya Kherani
Charlie, Madeline's son --  Efraín Solís

Heggie's Three Decembers premiered at the Houston Grand Opera in 2008. This performance streams from the San Jose Opera.  The singers are accompanied by two grand pianos.  The pianists wear masks and were separated by a sheet of plastic.

Christmas 1986

This part is just for people who have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and then down into Sausalito.  As I have.  With son Chris.  We took the ferry back to the City.  This is Madeline's memory of their father on Christmas when he was still alive.  All three are on the same stage singing, but each is in a different place.  Mom has written a letter and kids are discussing it on the phone.  Mom is going to star in a Broadway musical.  Mom sends greetings to Charlie's gay lover, calling him Curt instead of Burt.  Burt has AIDS.  

Mom and daughter fight in a dressing room somewhere.  Then Charlie and Bea walk across the Golden Gate Bridge and complain about how cold it is.

This opera is socially distanced.  Each of the three characters has their own part of the stage, and they talk on the phone. 


Burt has died.  Charlie is boxing up his stuff.  Mom sings him a lovely lullaby when he lays down to sleep.  Mom is taking Bea to the Tonys with her.  She expects to win.  The children sing about shoes as they prepare to accompany their mother to the Tonys.  When she finally arrives, they fight and Mom reveals that their dead sainted father was a drunk and jumped in front of the subway.  The children storm off, leaving her to go to the Tonys alone.


Mom dies in her sleep, and everyone talks about her.  She appears to talk about herself.  She praises life, art, music and theater, all things that I love, too.  Susan Graham is in her element.

It streams to the end of January from San Jose Opera.

Messiah from San Francisco

This is a performance of Handel's Messiah from Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal cathedral on Nob Hill in San Francisco, by the American Bach Soloists.  They are the original instruments ensemble I visit regularly in Davis, but they perform Messiah only in Grace Cathedral, which is a bit far away for me.  They are seriously striving for an authentic style, and I think the effort here was very successful.  If you are not getting enough Messiah, I recommend this one.  Disclaimer--there is no historical basis for using a countertenor to replace the alto solo.  This is my usual complaint.