Saturday, February 27, 2021


I bought this so I could have some Lise Davidsen in the car.  On my car stereo it sounds spectacular.  I can still drive fine, but are driving and ecstasy compatible?  So what is the fuss about?  Her voice is big and extremely beautiful.  She seems to be able to bring sufficient weight into her singing while still achieving the color of a lyric soprano.  

My first reaction to a complete film with Lise:

  • Barbara Baker
    This is what I love best about opera, that some day you will wake up and find that a wonderful new voice has come into your life.

There is much chatter on the internet comparing her to the other Scandinavian sopranos:  Kirsten Flagstad, Birgit Nilsson and Nina Stemme.  I don't hear them in her voice.  I hear something entirely new, big and with a certain bite to the tone.  I have already grown accustomed to it and love it very much.  She is smart and seems to be not at all in need of my advice.



Monday, February 22, 2021

Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges

My music group has become involved in a project about a forgotten composer named Joseph Bologne or Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745 – 1799).  His mother was a slave on the island of Guadalupe in the West Indies.  In 1753 his father, noticing that his son was a musical prodigy, took him to Paris.  He was a composer, a violinist and a champion fencer.  When Mozart was touring the world, he heard concertos by Saint-Georges in Paris.

I'm listening to a YouTube file that says Violin Concertos, one after the other.  They're quite lively.  This is in the style period generally called Rococo, transitioning to classical.


He was in Paris at the time of the French Revolution in 1789.  Since he had acquired a title, he was probably lucky to get through it alive.  He sided with Revolutionary France because of their stance on racial issues.  

Some people don't want to get involved in politics.  But how political is this really?

Starry Heavens Concert


All the music on this concert is by Ludwig van Beethoven.


Ludwig van Beethoven
Irish Songs

 Baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer and piano trio.

1. Since grey beards inform us (WoO153, Nr. 4)
2. The Pulse of an Irishman (WoO154, Nr. 4

Ludwig van Beethoven
Schottische Lieder op. 108

 Baritone Edwin Crossley-Mercer and piano trio.

1. The Shepherd’s Song
2. O sweet were the hours
3. Come fill, fill, my good fellow
4. O Mary, at thy window be
5. Faithfu’ Johnie
6. Sunset
7. Bonny Laddie, Highland Laddie

Ludwig van Beethoven
Sechs Lieder von Gellert, op. 48

Soprano Lise Davidsen with Sophie Raynaud on piano.

1. Bitten
2. Die Liebe des Nächsten
3. Vom Tode
4. Die Ehre Gottes aus der Natur  "The heavens declare the glory of Gott"
5. Gottes Macht und Vorsehung
6. Bußlied

Ludwig van Beethoven
Heiligenstädter Testament (Brief des Komponisten Ludwig van Beethoven an seine Brüder Kaspar Karl und Johann von 1802) 

Nikolaus Bachler, reader.  There is no music.

Ludwig van Beethoven
Streichquartett a-Moll, op. 132, 3. Satz
Canzona di ringraziamento. Molto adagio 

Musicians from the orchestra of the Bayerische Staatsoper

One knows from hanging around in libraries that these songs exist.  They're in the complete works, after all.  But one never hears them performed.  Schubert seems to have kicked other people's songs out of the way.   The Scottish songs are in Scottish dialect, and Lise sings only in German.  She hits just the right religious note.  I wish I was seeing more of her.  I noticed that both singers rushed on to the next song with no pause between.  Just because songs appear together on the same opus doesn't mean it is all one piece.  It was possible to tell how many songs had been sung only by looking at the program.  A small separation would have worked better for me.  One wishes to characterize each song individually.

For the speaking there are no titles.  Nikolaus Bachlere has a lot of confidence in his diction. 

This virtual concert comes with a sound machine in case you were missing the normal noises of a concert.  It includes booing.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Aida from Paris


Director -- Lotte de Beer 
Conductor -- Michele Mariotti 

Amneris - Ksenia Dudnikova
Aida - Sondra Radvanovsky
Radames - Jonas Kaufmann
Amonasro, Aida's father - Ludovic Tézier

We've all been warned.  This production of Aida from Paris is a puppet show, at least in part.  Sondra is dressed in black like the puppeteers.  The above picture shows her and her Aida puppet.  She sings, it acts.  The Ethopians have puppet representations and the Egyptians don't.  That means Amonasro also has a puppet.  I wrote about a different opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio, where two people played each character.  One sang, the other acted and spoke lines.  When I see this, I think they don't think singers can act. Of course now that blackface is forbidden, this might be a way to represent a different race.

Sondra was wonderful.  I believe that she is the best spinto soprano in Italian repertoire singing today.  I gave her a brava in "O patria mia."  Jonas's hair wasn't as straight as we'd feared. It took him a while to warm up.

The chorus members wear masks while singing.  That's a first for me.  I greatly enjoyed the singing but was unenthusiastic about the concept. Here's a sample.


Production..............Franco Zeffirelli
Conductor...............James Levine 


Santuzza................Tatiana Troyanos
Turiddu.................Plácido Domingo
Lola....................Isola Jones
Alfio...................Vern Shinall
Mamma Lucia.............Jean Kraft

We are celebrating Franco Zeffirelli week from the Metropolitan.  This Zeffirelli production of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana might be a real place.  This is Italy. Perhaps there should be a list. This film, this production, this cast brings you the real thing.  

My favorite of this cast is Tatiana Troyanos, of course.  She is so intense that your heart is stirred. Plácido treats her badly, but she takes her revenge.  It's sad all these old productions are gone.  It's Easter Sunday and everyone is at church, except Santuzza who has been excommunicated.  She confronts people as they go in and out of the church.


Nedda...................Teresa Stratas
Canio...................Plácido Domingo
Tonio...................Sherrill Milnes
Silvio..................Allan Monk
Beppe...................James Atherton

This is just ok.  The set is not particularly interesting after the magnificent summoning of a realistic Italian village in CR.  It's still worth seeing for the great cast.  Milnes does a terrific prologue. I think I prefer the current production of Pagliacci.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Der Freischütz

Conductor: Antonello Manacorda 
Production: Dmitri Tcherniakov 
Ottokar, Prince: Boris Prýgl (baritone)
Kuno, forrester: Bálint Szabó (bass)
Agathe, Kuno's daughter: Golda Schultz (soprano)
Ännchen: Anna Prohaska  (soprano)
Kaspar / Samiel: Kyle Ketelsen (bass)
Max: Pavel Černoch (tenor)
Ein Eremit: Tareq Nazmi (bass)
Kilian: Milan Siljanov  (baritone)
Der Freischütz, 1821, by Carl Maria von Weber streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper.  It's a Singspiel, which means there is spoken dialog just as in Fidelio.  I remember it was covered in school as an historically significant event, though performances are rare.  Once long ago I was in Vienna when it was playing, and I thought not to miss it.  It is my only previous experience of this opera.

You can tell from the picture that it's regie.  These are business men in an office tower.  In the front is a man in a blue suit with brown shoes.  He has not been properly raised.  Blue suits go with black shoes.  I am not buying Freischütz in an office.  Waiters come in wearing pandemic masks.  The contest isn't about marksmanship, it's about being willing to shoot someone.  So the cops don't show up if you shoot someone through the window of an office building?  I'm not buying it.

I love the music in this opera.  I suppose it's the most like Beethoven.  The arias are nice.  Ok.  Alles gute.  So no one is really shooting anyone.  The waiters tell us that it's all fake.  The scenes end entirely without applause.

Max is told he must go to the Wolf's Glen, but in this single set production it looks just like the other scenes.  Max must shoot his fiance.  The music leads us to a happy ending, but then there is a twist.  I won't give it away.  The music is pretty good.  This is the same director that put Les Troyens in a mental hospital.  If you've never seen the opera, this will give you a rough idea.  It streams for 30 days.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Les Troyens


Conductor...............James Levine
Production..............Fabrizio Melano

Cassandra...............Jessye Norman [Debut]
Coroebus................Allan Monk
Aeneas..................Plácido Domingo
Dido....................Tatiana Troyanos 
This performance of Berlioz' Les Troyens at the Metropolitan Opera is from 1983.  Jessye Norman made her Met debut.  There were performances in the run where Jessye played Dido and someone else Cassandra.  She is spectacular as Cassandra.  No one else approaches her.  It is wonderful to see it again.

Berlioz isn't doing what anyone else was doing at his time.  Not Musically and not theatrically.  It is wise to notice he wrote his own libretto.  He loved Virgil's Aenead and based the opera on it. I know the French always treated him with disrespect and perhaps still do.  After all they were the ones who staged the Dido scenes in a mental hospital.  I prefer some semblance of historical setting which we certainly have here.  Both the Met and San Francisco Operas staged it in the last decade, and both achieved triumphs.  But perhaps this one is the greatest of all.  I love it. 

The horse doesn't seem to look like a horse. Cassandra and all the other Trojan women commit suicide at the end of Act II. The effect of this production is just as it should be.  How does all this pompous singing translate to an insane asylum? It's designed to bring status to Dido.  I love this opera and this is a wonderful version. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Covid Label

I have created a new Covid label to designate which performances I have reviewed took place during the pandemic.  Later I will review them as a group to assess how they took the pandemic into account.  A friend thinks this is of historical significance.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Royal Opera Fidelio revisited

There is an audio copy floating around the internet from a radio broadcast from the Royal Opera of the Fidelio from last summer that includes Jonas Kaufmann.  He became ill before the broadcast into movie theaters, but this is an earlier performance.  So we have Lise Davidsen, Jonas Kaufmann and Tony Pappano together.  Look on rai?  I'm told it has been taken down.  This is the one.  We can only hope we will get other opportunities to see them together.  Two of my opera loves on the same stage might be too much for me.  O Gott, welch ein Augenblick.

My first take is here.  I love this opera as no other and can't really explain why.  Pappano understands.  All it misses is Jonas.  Lise goes back into women's clothes, but looks nothing like she did at the beginning.  She is wonderful in this role, and I hope to see her in it again.

Brahms Requiem from Zurich

Today I am listening to Ein Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms from Zurich.  Lydia Teuscher, soprano, and Konstantin Shushakov, baritone, are the soloists and Gianandrea Noseda conducts.

The orchestra sits on the stage in much the same arrangement as always.  The chorus is distributed around the house.  The audio is ghastly.  I was once in the greatest ever performance of this work with the San Francisco Symphony with Robert Shaw conducting and Kathleen Battle singing, so I am unimpressed.  That's the worst part of getting most of ones music from the internet--the audio seems to be consistently bad.  Professional recordings do a much better job.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

Netrebko Recital


The Program 

“Lilacs,” Op. 21, No. 5 By Sergei Rachmaninoff 

“Before my window,” Op. 26, No. 10 By Sergei Rachmaninoff 

“How fair this spot,” Op. 21, No. 7 By Sergei Rachmaninoff 

“The lark’s song rings more clearly,” Op. 43, No. 1 By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 

“Morgen!” Op. 27, No. 4 By Richard Strauss 

“Il pleure dans mon cœur” By Claude Debussy 

“Depuis le jour” From G. Charpentier’s Louise 

“It was in the early spring,” Op. 38, No. 2 By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 

“Tell me, in the shade of the branches,” Op. 57, No. 1 By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 

“Mattinata” By Ruggero Leoncavallo 


“Uzh vecher … Oblakov pomerknuli kraya” From Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades  (duet with Elena Maximova)  [Once upon a time I was the alto in this duet.]

“The clouds begin to scatter,” Op. 42, No. 3 By Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 

“Nights of Delirium,” Op. 60, No. 6 By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky 

“Die Nacht,” Op. 10, No. 3 By Richard Strauss 

“Ständchen,” Op. 17, No. 2 By Richard Strauss 

“Songs my mother taught me” from Gypsy Songs By Antonín Dvořák 

“The Dream,” Op. 8, No. 5 By Sergei Rachmaninoff 

“Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour” (Barcarolle) From Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann (duet with Elena Maximova)

“Amidst the day,” Op. 47, No. 6 By Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Languages:  Russian, French, Italian, German, Czech

This is Anna Netrebko's Met recital from Vienna.  They talk a lot about her career at the Met, but my first time with Anna was at the San Francisco Opera in Glinka's Ruslan and Lyudmila in 1995.  This was during the reign of Lotfi Mansouri who brought the production, conductor and cast from Russia for us.  Of course, Anna was the person we noticed most.  We've all been fans ever since.  

She is accompanied by pianist Pavel Nebolsin and is joined in 2 duets with Elena Maximova.  This was hosted by Christine Goerke.

Anna performed this recital as only Anna would.  It was a lot of fun seeing her stroll around and dramatize each song.  The Russian songs are her specialty.  I am a long time fan and look forward to future performances.  It is good to remember that Anna had covid last year.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Another Ariadne


Singers: Lise Davidsen, Eric Cutler , Sabine Devieilhe, Angela Brower, Huw Montague Rendall, Josef Wagner 

Conductor: Marc Albrecht 
Stage Director: Katie Mitchell

There is another Ariadne auf Naxos with Lise Davidsen from 2018 in Aix on Opera on Video.  In this one she is very very pregnant and miserable.  She frowns at the camera.  Towards the end she has the baby, and it is the "wunderschoenste Knabe" named Bacchus.  Cute.  Doesn't someone give birth on stage in Wicked?  

Why should the Komponist be the only genderbending?  In the on stage audience are men dressed as women.   Unlike the opera convention, they only dress as women and are not intended to be women.

The tenor keeps bringing her a box with a gun inside.  The three ladies who have assisted in the birth, sing the Bach-like tune and Ariadne at last takes the baby in her arms.  I found this very frightening and upsetting, but nothing terrible happens.  We forget how unhappy Ariadne is.  She decides to hold the baby and love it.  This is pure regie, but the tilt to deep seriousness is fascinating.  This is only for those who truly love regie.