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.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Lise -- Vocal Arts DC 👍🏻


March 19, 2021?  This picture is of the people performing, Lise Davidsen and James Baillieu, but the venue shown is wrong.  This recital is in London on a different date.  I am discussing the Lieder recital streamed from London to Washington, DC.

I feel a certain musical kinship to Lise, not for her glorious Wagner and Strauss operatic triumphs, but more for her Bach, Brahms, Schumann and Strauss Lieder.  When I started at IU, I told the professors that I had performed the alto solos for all the major works of Bach.  They responded, "No you haven't."  So I said,  "Matthew Passion, B minor mass, Magnificat, St John Passion, Christmas Oratorio.  What does that leave?"  I love it that Lise has sung some of the same music.   I once did a whole recital of Lieder by Brahms so it is nice to see a couple of them here.

"Auf dem Kirchhofe" Op.105 No. 4    Johannes Brahms
"Da unten im Tale"  WoO. 33 No. 6
"Mädchenlied"  Op. 107 No. 5
"Liebestreu" Op. 3 No.1
"Von ewiger Liebe" Op. 43 No. 1

Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart     Robert Schumann

Abschied von Frankreich
Nach der Geburt ihres Sohnes
An die Königin Elisabeth
Abschied von der Welt

Luonnotar  Op. 70                             Jan Sibelius  She tells us this is a tone poem.

Five Songs  Op. 37                          Jan Sibelius

Three Songs from Six Songs  Op. 48                   Edvard Grieg

From Acht Gedichte aus "Letzte Blaetter"  Op. 10        Richard Strauss
Die Georgine  "ob spät, ob früh, es ist deselbe"  [Early or late it is the same.]  She has come to me late in my life,  It is a wonderful gift.
"Wiegenlied"      Richard Strauss  I have grown to love this in Lise's version.

"Malven"      Richard Strauss
"Befreit"      Richard Strauss
"Caecilie"      Richard Strauss     This makes a great ending.

This is an entirely different style of singing than the Wagner and Strauss operas she is rapidly becoming famous for.  It is true Lieder singing.  I'm pretty sure the only two languages are German and Finnish.  The film includes the original text with an English translation below it.

Between each group she talks to us, generally about the songs and about how much she is missing the audience.  She would like to say hello to each of us.  I can only hope that this will happen.  I wish her a wonderful career and a life of happiness.  I've never been famous, but I've had fun.

If you want a disinterested review of Lise Davidsen, you will have to look elsewhere.  I find that I love it because she does.  In the not too distant future there should be a Grieg song album.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Cherubini's Medea Audio

Stephen Barlow, conductor

Medea – Lise Davidsen
Giasone – Sergey Romanovsky
Glauce – Ruth Iniesta
Neris – Raffaella Lupinacci
Creonte – Adam Lau

This is an audio recording from the 2017 Wexford Festival of Luigi Cherubini's opera Medea, 1797. I haven't been able to locate a video.  I am here for Lise Davidsen, of course.  There will be no confusion about when Lise is singing.  

Cherubini was born only 4 years after Mozart and lived well after Beethoven.  Listening to this one has to wonder why one never hears his music.  There needs to be someone to sing the leading role which has a certain weight.  The opera is performed here in Italian and sung throughout.  Originally it was an opera comique in French with spoken dialog.  In the 21st century there is generally a return to French, but not here.  It's rather like Beethoven's early period without the melodrama.

Giasone (Jason) is marrying Glauce and Medea is not happy about it.  She shows up to prevent the marriage and failing that to destroy everyone.  The aria from Lise Davidsen's recent album is in the first act. It sounds wonderful here, too.  Medea pretends to give the fiance a gift, but it is poisoned.  I prefer to see operas.  In this one you need at least to see the children to get the idea.

What a wonder she is.  She roars like a lion  One can only adore.

Elizabeth Blumenstock


This is someone I know. I know her as the concert mistress of American Bach Soloists, a group I very much admire.  Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin, is performing Nicola Matteis Jr: Fantasia and Thomas Baltzar: A Prelude for the Violin.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Freddie de Tommaso


Lise was pitching him, so I thought I would give Freddie de Tommaso a listen.  We don't get many real Italian tenors these days, so I liked him very much.  He is lyric, but might expand into more operatic repertoire.  His style is dead on.  I wanted a selection where you could see him singing.  Firenze.  I'd know it anywhere.  Near the Ponte Vecchio.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Lisette Oropesa takes a bis


This is "Addio des passato" from La Traviata.  I love that the encore performance is back in international opera.  Lisette gets better every year.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

Jessye sings Mahler


This is Urlicht from Mahler Symphony #2, Resurrection.


I have been blogging for a long time.  When I first started, I had a lot to say.  This was fun.  But time has passed and I have said a lot of things.  I no longer feel issues rising from within.  I am also having trouble commenting on opera that I am never live at the performance.  I am going to comfort myself by reviewing only things that I feel an inward desire to talk about.

I don't know how long this will last.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Lise's New Album

Lise Davidsen's new album is out, and I'm having a hard time thinking of anything to say.  Listen for yourself?

I chose this track because it is the thing I least expected.  I was thinking to criticize her Italian work, and then came this.  She is glorious beyond my wildest imagination.  Everyone who has experienced her live says you need to be there.  Go away stupid virus.  I'm doing all I can do.  If you wanted something serious and sensible, I apologize.  I follow opera for passion alone.

The recording includes Beethoven, Mascagni, Verdi, Cherubini and Wagner.  My son said it's amazing, like something from a bye-gone era.