Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gratuitous Good Friday – Magdalena Kožená Sings Bach

The Monteverdi program with MK that I posted the other day is quite recent. Here is some vintage Magdalena (Amazon says it was issued in 2004, but a reviewer comments that it was recorded in 1999). This aria from Bach's St. Matthew Passion is from one of Ms. Kožená's first commercial recordings. I find her performance—and that of the un-credited solo violinist—almost unbearably moving.

Erbarme dich, mein Gott,
um meiner Zähren willen!
Schaue hier, Herz und Auge
weint vor dir bitterlich.
Erbarme dich, mein Gott.
Have mercy, my God,
for the sake of my tears!

See here, before you
heart and eyes weep bitterly.
Have mercy, my God.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Must-See Monteverdi from France

Technically, Magdalena Kožená and Rolando Villazón are the "star power" in this program. Ms. Kožená really does shine (RV, not quite so much, but we still love him), especially in her solo turns as Octavia and the lamenting Nymph (She seems to be pregnant again, which lends a special poignancy to her Octavia. I'm surprised no director has explored the idea of Octavia being pregnant when Nero dumps her. Maybe someone has and I just haven't seen it.)

But the real stars here are Emanuelle Haïm and the vocalists and instrumentalists of her Concert d'Astrée. 

The program, a "Monteverdi Gala" performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées last February, contains opera excerpts and madrigals, and it's great fun. And of course, the music-making is marvelous as usual. Conductor, musicians, and the audience all seems to be having a great time. And you will, too!  

(Unless you don't like Monteverdi, in which case, you won't enjoy this concert at all.)

Meanwhile, here's the concert, as seen on the Arte Concert website: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Mozart – Kenneth Tarver is Arbace (Audio Track)

Arbace is such an ungrateful role. You need a super technique to sing his two arias, yet it's not really a big part. Depending on which version you are in, you're at least the second tenor, or maybe even third! 

So, I was listening to Rene Jacobs' recording of Idomeneo recently, having only just realized that Richard Croft (sigh) sings the lead in this performance. I confess I was listening casually, so when this aria came on, I had to double check who was singing. Who the heck is Kenneth Tarver? Where can I find more of his performances? 

Well, he is also Don Ottavio on Jacobs' Don Giovanni. He is not brand new on the scene, and he's been singing some big roles in big houses, but we definitely need to hear more. I wonder when he will take on the title role in Idomeneo? (He’d also be an awesome Idamante – I am beginning to really like the idea of tenor Idamante – but don’t worry, I am still a Major Mezzo Fan, too!)

Here is Mr. Tarver as Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Still More Stupid Reviewer Comments

This series of posts continues to be popular. So brace yourselves. Here comes another round of Stupid Reviewer Comments, all culled from Amazon customer reviews. 

If it ain’t Baroque...

  • Let's just face it...those of us enthralled by Italian composrs of the Romantic era...just cannot enjoy this kind of music at all, no how no way. If you do, then fine. …but if you think you don't liek Baroque music...stick with don't, and you never will.
  • If you don't like Baroque music, this is not the opera for you…
  • If we can have original Baroque instruments, why can't we have castrati?

Well, duh! It’s opera...

The opera is silly, makes no sense.

Insulting to Italians...

The production is horrible. Very italian!!!

Insulting to choruses...

Where the hell did they find this tenor? … He has no skills, no power, no breath and the high notes come out horrible. … This guy does not deserve any role but perhaps to be a chorus singer.


It is the only recording currently available of this opera which is complete… (I'm not sure it's absolutely complete...)

Get this box set…or don’t:

It's a good price for a boat load of music. But if you don't like Mozart, you're not gonna have a good time.

OK, now tell us how you really feel:

The staging is meaningless, worthless, uninteresting and an ludicrous bore, bore, the idea a leach; an offense to nature and a disrespect for talent and wonder.

You also may enjoy these previous SRC posts:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Two More Traviatas on the Tube

Both of these productions are/were controversial, but for different reasons. 

One is the Zefferelli film: you either love or hate it's "cinematicity". (I'm not a fan of Mr. Z's style, and the lovely Teresa Stratas sounds like she wasn't in good health when she recorded the soundtrack.)

The other is the 2012 La Monnaie production, widely hated by many (and lauded by some) for its unsettling setting. (I like the staging and appreciate the concept, but it is rather unpleasant. Well, it's supposed to be. Meanwhile, Simone Šaturová shines  as a jaded Violetta; and Sébastien Guèze's Alfredo is an adorable young pup.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Trio of Traviatas

Here are three Traviatas you can view (for now) in their entirety. Each has its charms (and foibles) and all are (mostly) beautifully sung.

A classic 1968 film version (with initially distracting lip-synching):

A more recent (2007), yet still "traditional" star-studded version (though I personally was not thrilled with the baritone in this one):

A very recent (2014), rather controversial version (although I'm a Regie fan, I had trouble with this staging, and with poor Violetta's unfortunate wardrobe):


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