Friday, August 31, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Malin Hartelius sings Monteverdi

A duet from Act 1 of Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria. 

Malin Hartelius as Melanto
Roger Widmer* as her boyfriend Eurimaco
Zurich Opera's Orchestra la Scintilla, Nikolaus Harnoncourt

*Roger is a delightful tenor! I wonder what he's been up to lately.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Luca Pisaroni – Recital Interval Interview

This is the intervew that BBC 3 played during intermission of the broadcast of Luca's recital last Thursday (August 23, 2012). I will post the whole recital over the weekend, for those who were unable to catch it live or on the BBC iPlayer. 

Tristan, Luca, and Lenny 2.0. 
(The dogs are not interviewed.)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wagner: Der Fliegende Holländer – 1985 Bayreuth (Part 2: I Never Sang for my Father)

I would call this production of Der Fliegende Holländer ur-Regie. It doesn’t look like what we think of as regie, with its detailed period costumes and décor; but there is definitely a firm director’s hand guiding the plot. Harry Kupfer has a strong point of view that does not coincide exactly with Wagner’s original ideas. However, he makes a convincing case for his interpretation.  And he clearly worked closely with the singers on their characters. Each one (including each member of the chorus) has a strong character and an individual take on the action. Kupfer also choreographs many of the actors’ movements to coincide with musical gestures. It’s effective and not obvious or clichéd—I didn’t really notice the synchronization until the second or third viewing. In addition to the versatile set, the lighting enhances the action well.  The three acts are played without a break, per Wagner’s original intention.* 
Lisbeth Balslev has a bright, full, and clear voice. She sings with warmth (and an occasional appropriate chill); and fortunately, she lacks that stereotypical Wagnerian wobble that puts so many people off opera. She is a superb actor, too, and does “neurotic” well. I read recently that she studied nursing before starting her opera career. She apparently drew on her experience working in a psychiatric ward for her gripping portrayal. Senta is hunted, haunted, and obsessed. I just wanted to hug her and comfort her.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Wagner: Der Fliegende Holländer – 1985 Bayreuth (Part 1: I Love You for Senta-mental Reasons)

Der Fliegende Holländer is fairly early Wagner. He is still using traditional operatic forms: Recitative and Aria, Duet, etc., and the duet of the Dutchman and Daland has a distinct Verdian flavor to it.  Maybe this is why I find DFH to be the most approachable of Wagner’s operas; it has musical landmarks and punctuation that make it easier than some of his later dramas to follow. I remember learning about the overture in general music class way back in Jr. High; about how the overture tells the story and introduces the main music themes that reappear throughout the opera, making the whole opera seem familiar even on first or second hearing.

Harry Kupfer, who directed this Bayreuth production, is probably the first to tell the story through Senta’s eyes—as hallucinations; but it’s a jumping off point for many productions that followed. Only Senta sees and hears the Dutchman; when others are around, he lurks in the background in his ship. The production moves smoothly from Senta’s hallucinations to real life and back again; but even the real life scenes seem to be tainted by her psychosis. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Miah Persson Sings Mozart: Ruhe Sanft

The beautiful Miah Persson beautifully sings the beautiful Ruhe sanft from Mozart's unfinished opera Zaide. This is from the recording of Mozart concert and opera arias she made in 2005 called Un moto di gioia. It includes the motet Exsultate, jubilate. Highly recommended!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Dorothea Röschmann is Susanna

Dorothea usually appears as the Countess;
not too long ago, she was Susanna. In either role,
she's Awesome.
Le Nozze di Figaro
"Giunse alfin il momento . . Deh, vieni"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

More Blog Posts I Wish I had Written

Now and then, I come across a blog post that really speaks to me.  It might be deep, thoughtful, spiritual, analytic, or just silly. Here are a few more that I wish I had written, and some clips to go with them. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Handel: Theodora – Salzburg 2009: I Respectfully Dis-regie

I have nothing but praise for the musical quality of this performance of Handel’s oratorio. Each soloist is top notch (both singing and acting), the Salzburger Bachchor is outstanding, and I don’t think the Freiburger Barockorchester can do anything wrong.  However, I feel neutral-to-negative about the overall package.

Director Christof Loy thinks the oratorio has no narrative, so he doesn’t bother to deal with it. I happen to disagree with him, but he somehow forgot to consult with me.  The Groβes Festspielhaus is hardly an ideal venue for this intimate work. However, Loy notes that the massive stage helps him create an “installation” in which intimacy appears to be “threatened in the most extreme ways.” I admire him for attempting to turn a liability into an advantage, but I don’t buy this half-and-half, kind-of-staged approach. I say have more action; have less action; take a stand.  He keeps teasing me into thinking something is going to happen, but then it doesn’t.  If one is going to treat the piece as if there is no narrative, do a concert performance, or at least give us some nice tableaux to look at.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Late Edition – Luca Pisaroni, Live from Edinburgh

Venezuelan born opera singer Luca Pisaroni makes his debut live from the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh with a recital of dramatic, opera-inspired songs from Schubert, Rossini, Meyerbeer, and Liszt.

Live at 6 AM (EST) this Thursday, August 23 on BBC 3. For those of us unlikely to be awake that early in the morning, it will be available for about a week on the BBC iPlayer.

Thanks to our friends over at Barihunks for drawing this broadcast to our attention!

Mozart: Apollo et Hyacinthus – Neo-Baroqus in Extremus

This certainly is beautiful music. But, honestly, if it hadn’t been written by our little Wolferl, we wouldn’t be talking about it now, would we? This is traditional opera seria with standard (long) da capo aria types: joy, rage, hate, sadness, etc. There are two duets and a trio, which is a surprise, and some nifty accompanied recitative.
Most exquisite is the duet, accompanied by muted strings and horns, as Oebelus and Melia mourn the death of Hyacinthus. There is also a lovely trio to conclude the opera. What is really surprising to me about the music is that the soprano and alto parts were written for students: boys under the age of 15. The tenor and bass parts were sung by young men who were around 19 or 20.   

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Tim Mead is Eustazio

A relative newcomer, countertenor Tim Mead (whom I just noticed in the 2011 Glyndebourne Rinaldo) already has a growing international career.  He made his  Glyndebourne debut in 2006, covering for David Daniels in David McVicar's Giulio Cesare. He will sing Messiah with the New York Philharmonic in December 2012.

Here is an excerpt from Rinaldo. Instead of trying to come up with new superlatives, I am simply going to quote from BBC Proms – Opera Today:

Countertenor Tim Mead made a strong musical and dramatic impression as Eustazio, with vivid vigorous articulation and notable precision in the coloratura decorations. His is a truly appealing sound.
Handel Rinaldo, Act 2: "Siam prossimi!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Stupid Reviewer Comments

Amazon reviews can be the source of thoughtful insights. If undecided about purchasing a particular recording, I will often consult the customer reviews. Frequently I find the negative reviews, if not helpful, at least infinitely entertaining.  

Usually they tell us a lot more about the reviewer than about the music. What they sometimes tell us is that the reviewer is kind of stupid. 

This type of comment is one of the reasons I started a blog! Here are some of my recent favorites:

I am not a particular fan of Dorothea Röschmann, who nevertheless gets a lot of plum jobs in opera and choral works nowadays. (Brahms Requiem)
Lucky for her he's not her manager!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Luca Pisaroni is Figaro

The Marriage of Figaro, set in a car dealership.

I have not seen this entire production lately, as I loaned the DVD to my Dad.  It's not very regie, mostly because the director doesn't do enough (in my opinion) with the (potentially clever) updated setting (the Almaviva Motors showroom.)  Figaro works out the floor plan on the computer instead of measuring. And later, Cherubino hides in the car.  But Luca Pisaroni and Danielle de Niese  sing beautifully; and they do make a really cute couple. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mozart: Mitridate, Re di Ponto – M22 (Part 2: I Can See Clearly Now)

At 14, Mozart had neither the clout nor the maturity yet to write the character-specific music of his later music dramas.  He was required to write pretty, flashy music so the singers could show off. However, many of the arias in Mitridate are quite expressive.  “So," you ask, “Speaking of the arias, how is the singing?”
One might expect the smooth light voice of Bejun Mehta to be overshadowed by all the soprano/tenor brightness, but it's not. His acting skills and agile voice characterize Farnace’s journey from snottiness to maturity. His final aria, much of it sung almost sotto voce, is heartbreaking.
Blindfolded, Farnace finally sees the light.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Mozart: Mitridate, Re di Ponto – M22 (Part 1: Make Room for Daddy)

Here is the setup: Aspasia is supposed to marry King Mitridate (whom they think died in battle); but she falls mutually in love with his son Sifare; Farnace is also in love with Aspasia, but he is supposed to marry Ismene. They all express themselves in beautiful but lengthy arias. It sounds challenging but I think it’s worth it. Stick with the weird Mozarts and the odd initial behavior of the principals; patience is rewarded. Let the games begin!

Monday, August 13, 2012

DVD Extras – The Animated Cast Gallery

I love DVD extras! Extras are a reason I like to get the DVD instead of streaming or buying digital.  Of course sometimes, the extras consist only of trailers for other DVDs, or even just one trailer for a bunch of other videos.  But, when I can get a good "Making of..." feature, I am in heaven. I always enjoy the backstage activity, and seeing how the production comes together. (Sometimes I think rehearsals are more fascinating than actual performances.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Sull' Aria from the Marriage of Figaro

Not Regie (not particularly "historically informed" either, but soooo lovely.)  
Classic performance by classic sopranos of a classic duet from a classic opera. 
Mozart Heaven!

Lucia Popp and Gundula Janowitz
Le Nozze di Figaro: Sull' Aria

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Dorothea Röschmann IS Michaela

This one caught me by surprise.  Not only is Dorothea blonde(!), she's singing in French. 

Unfortunately, it seems she is not in the commercial DVD release of this 2006 Berliner Staatsoper production. It looks pretty interesting; it also stars Rolando Villazón, is conducted by Daniel Barenboim (apparently his first Carmen), and directed by Martin Kušej.  It seems Don José dies during the overture and the rest is in flashback. I hear that Escamillo falls before the Finale, too. 

Die blonde Dorothea

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Otterphile – Handel: Son nata lagrimar

Handel: Giulio Cesare: Son nata lagrimar
from the  Salzburger Pfingstfestspiele  2012
Music to melt the hardest heart:
Anne Sofie von Otter & Philippe Jaroussky
(the mean-looking guy is Ruben Drole)

(Make the jump for more info on this production, and a link to the complete first act!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ariadne Auf Naxos – Zürich 2006 (Part 3: More Questions than Answers)

When the curtain opens on the “Opera” proper, we are in a replica of an actual Zurich restaurant.

  • Are we literally in the restaurant, or is this the set for the Opera?
  • Do we feel sad for Ariadne’s plight, or do we admire the Prima Donna’s artistry?
  • Are we supposed to know that the servers are the comedians and nymphs? Is that part of the Opera or is it "opera"?
  • The nymphs later are patrons in the restaurant. Is this literal, or are we supposed to understand this as part of the theatrical experience?
  • The comedians each play three roles in the Opera (or opera.) Do we take note of this, or are we not supposed to realize they are the same people?
  • It's played very realistically. but just how literally are we supposed to be taking this restaurant scene?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Late Edition – The Complete 2012 Salzburg Ariadne

Someone has uploaded the entire performance from last Sunday!  The opera proper starts at about 1 hour, 30 minutes, should you wish to skip the play portion. No subtitles, but a chance to see an interesting staging and hear some wonderful singing.  Check it out!

Salzburg August 5, 2012

Emily Magee - The Prima Donna/Ariadne
Elena Mosuc - Zerbinetta
Jonas Kaufmann - The Tenor/Bacchus

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Daniel Harding music director
Sven-Eric Bechtolf stage director

Ariadne Auf Naxos – Zürich 2006 (Part 2: They Shoot Composers, Don't They?)

<rant> People who complain that Ariadne is not regal enough, or Zerbinetta isn’t perky enough make me nuts.  It’s an opera about mythical and theatrical characters. For that matter, it’s an opera about opera.  So, how would one propose a literal staging or interpretation?  OK, that was rhetorical, although if anyone has some ideas, I welcome them.  Ariadne is supposed to be on a deserted island. If there are some paper maché rocks and cliffs on stage, does it suddenly become more believable? I suggest for the perfect literal/realistic interpretation, the entire audience be flown to an actual deserted island with real rocks and caves. </rant>

Monday, August 6, 2012

Blog Posts I Wish I had Written

Every once in a while, I come across a blog post that really speaks to me; it usually says, "Why didn't you think of that?"  It might be deep, thoughtful, spiritual, analytic, or just silly.  Here are a few blog posts that I wish I had written, and some clips to go with them.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Extrablatt – Salzburg Ariadne 2012

I just watched the "original" Ariadne auf Naxos live online from Salzburg, and I really enjoyed it. Although I have to admit the play section left me a bit cold, in great part because there were no subtitles. I know enough German to get the gist of what is going on, but not the nuances. Though I am not sure there were many nuances, judging from Zerbinetta's (the blogger, not the character) review, which is quite detailed and perceptive.  

Ariadne Auf Naxos – Zürich 2006 (Part 1: Is this the real life?)

 “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? 
Caught in a landslide, No escape from reality…”
- Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody

I keep trying to write my review of the 2006 Zürich Opera performance of Ariadne auf Naxos (staged by Claus Guth). But my notes continue to be no more than a series of questions. Questions are good, but I am not sure a list of questions actually constitues a review. Though now that I think if it, that could be a great new approach...or not.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Saturday Night Special – Dorothea Röschmann sings Brahms

Found treasure:
I had no idea I owned this recording. I discovered it when I was searching online for Die Röschmann's recording of Strauss' Four Last Songs. Much to my surprise, up popped this German Requiem reference.  And I thought, "I have that recording!" 

I hope you enjoy this gorgeous bit of Brahms as much as I do.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Dorothea Röschmann singt Händel

Händel: German Aria No.6 ''Meine Seele hört im Sehen'' 

Dorothea Röschmann sang a lot of Bach and Handel early in her career.

I first heard this aria many years ago, in a fairly unadorned version.  I find Röschmann's ornaments to be elegant, yet not overdone.  I hope you enjoy this performance as much as I do. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Die Zauberflöte – Zurich 2000 (Part 2: Pounced into eternal night)

Recap of the last post: Music 10 (well sung, well played), Looks 3 (we are not (very) amused)
Jonathan Miller told an interviewer that the Queen of the Night is the Empress Maria Theresa, and the opera is about light and reason and freemasonry.
So this production is regie, but maybe it isn't? Sort of.  It could  be.  I feel Miller should go further to make his point about the enlightenment and freemasonry.* Be more French. Somehow make it clear why he bothered.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Die Zauberflöte – Zurich 2000 (Part 1: Light and Reason and Freemasonry)

During the Overture, Tamino reads a book, (the set is some sort of library/temple combo) and falls asleep. Is this going to be staged as a dream sequence? Yup. Or…no. Actually the audience is more likely to fall asleep.  The Zurich Zauberflöte of 2000 is a static staging, but not in the way that makes you pay attention like Robert Wilson’s Orphée. It’s static in a way that makes you start making a mental grocery list. 
Although I have issues with the staging, this disc is worth checking out for fine music-making. I got it mostly because I really wanted to see Malin Hartelius as Pamina.  (Every time she entered, I thought, “She’s so pretty!” She sings really well too.)

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