Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Le Nozze di Figaro: Sull' Aria

Hillevi Martinpelto

Alison Hagley

This musically stylish Le Nozze di Figaro is led by John Eliot Gardiner. I personally find the two-dimensional sets and overdone makeup annoying and a little disturbing. Perhaps in 1993 the production folks didn't think about things like camera close-ups.  And Hillevi Martinpelto (Countess) should sue the wig maker! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mathias Vidal Sings Rameau: L'Impatience

Mathias Vidal is a tenor to keep an eye (and an ear) on!  He appeared in L'Incoronazione di Poppea with Philippe Jaroussky. (Remember their marvelous duet?

Interestingly, he made this Rameau recording in the U.S., but beyond performances in Dallas and Houston in conjunction with the recording, he seems to have stayed east of the Atlantic. According to his website he has been performing regularly in Europe.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Jonas Kaufmann is Don José

Jonas Kaufmann is heartbreaking in this beautiful rendition of the flower song. 

La fleur que tu m'avais jetée
Carmen, La Scala, 2009

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Otterphile Bonus – The Eyes Have It

I made this clip for my review of Capriccio, (yes, that review really is coming up – next week, in fact!) but I just couldn’t wait to share it. This is the scene in which the actress Clarion (Anne-Sofie von Otter) is “auditioning” the Count (Dietrich Henschel), an amateur thespian. Watch as ASvO channels Norma Desmond via Carol Burnett. 

La Traviata, Salzburg 2005: I Have a Theory, and it's Mine

Probably no one needs to say anything more about the Willy Decker production of La Traviata. But I never let that stop me before, and with a blog called “Regie, or Not Regie?” I feel obligated to address it. In this post, I will present several theories, answer a few questions, and make a suggestion.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Otterphile – Sogno Barocco Promo Video (and other stuff)

This post had a point when I started. Now it is a potpourri of information all vaguely linked by our favorite Mezzo, Ms. Anne Sofie von Otter (ASvO). Fasten your seat belts!

Anne Sofie von Otter has always had an interest in early music,and she seems to be exploring it more and more now. Here is a sampler from her latest album:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fun With Statistics – Survey Says…

I know it's a bit early in the life of this blog to be counting statistics, but as a new blogger, I do find this stuff interesting. And since it's my blog and I can write what I want to, I decided to do a little post about statistics.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Janáček: Z Mrtvého Domu (From the House of the Dead) – You Need to See this Opera

From the House of the Dead is a dark opera—dark music, dark story, dark set—and a powerful drama. It’s hard to make it sound like must-see opera, but you really must see it. In this production, the three acts are played without intermission, and the ~100 minutes go by fast.  As expected from Janáček, there isn’t much lyricism nor are there melodies per se. The music is direct and driving, and it enhances every scene and every line of dialog.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Jonas Kaufmann & Michael Volle are Fierrabras und Roland

Schubert's Fierrabras is a strange little opera. Well, not so little, really. There is a lot of music and most of it is lyrical and lovely, but the plot of the opera is convoluted and fairly static. And with character names like Roland and Boland, Eginhard and Brutamonte, it's hard to keep track of everyone. (One of our heroines is named Emma, but I'm sure that was an oversight. Her real name probably was supposed to be Emmamentandina or something.) 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Night Special – Jay Hunter Morris is Siegfried: Nothung, Nothung!

I watched the Met Siegfried again the other night. It turns out I like Wagner a lot better than I thought I did. My Mom developed an aversion to Wagner from years of sitting in the middle of the second violin section, and I think I picked up on her feeling. Mom also taught me that Bach is the voice of God, so I generally trust her judgement. But, as it turns out, I kinda like Wagner (Then again, I play cello, not 2nd violin).

Richard Strauss – Dorothea Röschmann Sings (the other three of the) Four Last Songs

In response to this week's Gratuitous Friday post, a reader mentioned that it would be appropriate to post September from the Four Last Songs, since it is, in fact, September right now. I decided I'd go one better, and post all three of the other songs. (In addition to including the texts here, I added the text to Frühling.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Dorothea Röschmann Sings Strauss' Spring

The glorious Dorothea Röschmann singing Spring from Strauss' Four Last Songs, with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Unfortunately, there is no video of Frau Röschmann here, but there are some lovely, spring-like nature scenes to accompany her. 

Frau Röschmann's voice seems ready-made for Richard Strauss. It’s interesting how many Mozart sopranos find that Strauss fits them as well. She has sung the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier, and a few light Wagner roles. One hopes that these recordings soon will appear commercially. Meanwhile, to round out our Richard Strauss week, here is the sound of spring:

Frühling (Spring)
Vier letzte Lieder by Richard Strauss

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Eternal Enigma: Words or Music? – Richard Strauss: Capriccio (Introduction)

This is the opening of Robert Carsen's Paris production of Capriccio. Someday I am going to gather my thoughts together enough to finish writing my review of this wonderful performance.

Rainer Trost and Gerald Finley
Carsen does seem to like to remind us we are watching an opera, and this production is no exception. I like this segment because of the way it sets up our theatrical expectations during the wonderful string sextet. Plus, the opening comments from composer Flammand (Rainer Trost) and poet Olivier (Gerald Finley) state the argument of the opera: "Words or Music?"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Richard Strauss: Arabella – Met, 1995: Back to the Future

McLaughlin and Te Kanawa
This Metropolitan Opera production of Strauss’ Arabella is top-notch, from the bottom of the orchestra pit to the top of the opulent sets. In between there is believable acting and magnificent singing. 

I went back to this DVD after reviewing the Zurich 2007 production; which stars the wonderful Renee Fleming and Julia Kleiter as the two sisters, but overall is not completely satisfying.  This story really seems to work better in its period setting. Somehow the scandal is more scandalous, and frankly (I cannot believe I am writing this) the whole story is more convincing in this über-traditional, über-literal Otto Schenk production. Clearly, the Met had more financial support than the Zurich Opera had for their 2007 production; the set, costumes, and rich casting just leave Zurich in the dust. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jonas Kaufmann is the Italian Singer (More Richard Strauss)

Only an Ochs would have the audacity to interrupt Herr Kaufmann in mid-phrase! What seems to be turning into Strauss week continues. 

This Rosenkavalier is from the Baden Baden re-staging of the Salzburg production with a stellar cast including Renee Fleming, Sophie Koch, Diana Damrau and Franz Hawlata. (Talk about luxury casting!!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Richard Strauss: Arabella – Zurich, 2007: It's Different for Girls

Fleming as Arabella and Kleiter as Zdenka

Arabella is sometimes considered a poor relation to Strauss’ Rosenkavalier and, to some extent, Capriccio. The title soprano part is actually very similar in character to the Countess and the Marschallin, and most sopranos who sing one of these roles, usually sing the other two, also.  The plot is light: Arabella wants to marry der Richtige (loosely translated as Mr. Right) and her parents want her to marry for wealth, as they are in dire financial straits. Arabella’s sister Zdenka is disguised as a boy Zdenko—because the family cannot afford to formally “present” two daughters to society. Of course, Zdenka is in love with Matteo, Arabella’s most ardent suitor, but cannot admit it since everyone thinks she’s a boy. Confusion and a scandal ensue, and ultimately there is a happy ending. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Emily Magee is Arabella

I watched two different versions of Arabella this weekend; while looking for clips to go with the reviews, I found this on YouTube. 

Emily Magee recently has become another object of my fanboy affection (See Tosca and Ariadne reviews). Tomasz Konieczny looks like a baritone worth following, too. I hope I can track down this entire performance, especially since it also features Genia Kühmeier and Michael Schade.             
               Final scene from Arabella

Saturday, September 15, 2012

BPO Digital Concert Hall – Part 2: The One that's not about Opera or Regie

I talked about the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall (DCH) in the last post, and I want to share two more gems that I found recently on the site. DCH is a subscription service of the Berliner Philharmoniker that provides access to live broadcasts in addition to an abundance of archived concerts.

You have to pay to see the concerts, but a lot of specials, interviews, and extras are free. I came across the site through Anne Sofie von Otter's (ASvO) Facebook page.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Siegfried @ the Met – No More Double-post Days

I really need to stop posting more than once a day. This is what happens when I work ahead and schedule posts, then have brilliant (?) thoughts that simply can't wait!

So, I watched the beginning of Siegfried last night. I noticed again how much all the characters like to chat about what has already happened. I think you could start right at Götterdämerung and not miss much of the plot of the whole cycle. (Of course you’d miss some great music).  Then I got distracted by an email that required a thoughtful response, and heard the opera but didn’t watch as closely for a bit.

Gratuitous Friday – Miah Persson is Fiordiligi

Fiordiligi tells Guglielmo and Ferrando where to go and how to get there. Miah Persson is a feisty gem in this performance, alternately boisterous and dignified. 
This Glyndebourne production is fairly traditional, with a slightly contemporary edge. It's one of the most lively I have seen. 

Come scoglio, from Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Die Walkürie at the Met: This Ring Thing is Looking Up

OK, my opinion on Das Rhinegold still stands. But apparently for Die Walkürie, Mr. Lapage felt the Machine was more or less under control and was able to focus more on his singers. Either that, or the singers got fed up with waiting, and did their own Personenregie. Bryn Terfel was convincingly blustery and brow-beaten by Fricka, who at least got to emote facially. I was worried about both of them going over the edge—the edge of the Machine, that is. Deborah Voigt gave me a few moments’ cause for concern, too. (It didn’t help that I’d seen her fall in the documentary.)

Further Blog Posts I Wish I had Written

Now and then, I come across a blog post that really speaks to me.  It usually says, "Why didn't you think of that?" Here are a few more that I wish I'd written, and some clips to go with them. 
Opera Obsession blogger Lucy says she “learned to love opera via studio recordings; then I saw Ponnelle's Cenerentola production and realized that there were worlds even beyond the fabulous music.” 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vensday Wagner Vexation: Wagner's Dream? Or Bob's Machine?

Das Rhinegold: Still Life with Machine
After watching the documentary on Robert Lepage's Ring Cycle on PBS Monday night, and most of Das Rhinegold on Tuesday, I can't help but wonder: What would the opera have been like if M. Lepage had expended as much creative energy directing his singers as he did worrying about the Machine?

Puccini: Tosca – Zurich 2009 (Part 2: Art is Life)

Thomas Hampson’s Scarpia is a man who keeps his cool and is used to being in charge. He is a perfect bad guy: refined, handsome, smooth, and suave.  He doesn’t look bad, evil, or scary. In fact, his evilness is scarier because he looks so smooth. (When the typical Scarpia makes his entrance, you think, “Ew, yuck, bad man!!” But this Scarpia makes you think, “Wow, he’s handsome!”) As the opera progresses, Scarpia’s nastiness emerges. He is not used to being questioned, defied, or inconvenienced. He taunts Tosca with the fan, he shouts at people, he eats dinner, he has Mario tortured, and he is annoyed that his dinner keeps getting interrupted.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Puccini: Tosca – Zurich 2009 (Part 1: Life is Art)

Life is Art and Art is Life for Floria Tosca. Her actions and reactions to everything that happens around her all are based on her theatrical experience. She is always on stage. This is Robert Carsen’s concept of Tosca from beginning to end. The political intrigue, and even her love and jealousy are secondary. She truly loves Mario, but Tosca is the main character in her own drama.
Carsen also feels that once Scarpia and Mario, Tosca’s two most ardent admirers (her public), are gone, that life has no more meaning for her, and this is why she chooses suicide. I understand his theory, but I believe the fact that Tosca is about to be arrested for murder, plus her general disillusionment, has something to do with her final leap, too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Philippe Jaroussky and Mathias Vidal

In this scene from Pier Luigi Pizzi's production of  L' incoronazione di Poppea, Emperor Nerone (Countertenor Philippe Jaroussky, right) and his friend Lucano (Tenor Mathias Vidal, left) are singing about how beautiful Nerone's girlfriend Poppea is and how much Nerone loves her.  

Or are they?

This clip might make some folks uncomfortable and others may find it hot.  (Some may feel both ways about it.)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Le Nozze di Figaro: Sull' Aria

This 1973 Glyndebourne performance of Le Nozze di Figaro is, in my humble opinion, one of the best "traditional" productions. Video and sound quality are not awesome, and I didn't think I would particularly enjoy Ileana Cortrubas as Susanna. 

But I learned to overlook the quality issues (and everyone making clomping noises on the raked stage), and Cortrubas is great as Susanna.  This performance also captures pre-royal-wedding Kiri Te Kanawa, and Frederica von Stade in her signature role of Cherubino (not included in this clip.) 

Note how the Countess suddenly turns apprehensive on the final "il capirar," as if she is thinking, "OMG, what are we getting ourselves into?"

Susanna & Rosina, plotting again. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

BPO Digital Concert Hall – Part 1: The One that's about the new Carmen Recording

I just discovered the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall (DCH): yet another reason to spend time in front of my computer. I came across the site through Anne Sofie von Otter's Facebook page. I will say more about ASvO and DCH in a later post, since this post is supposed to be about the new Carmen recording. 

You have probably already read about the new recording of Carmen conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, and starring Mrs. Rattle Magdelena Kožená, Jonas Kaufmann, and Genia Kühmeier (a soprano to watch... and listen to, of course!) It's already been reviewed, previewed, and otherwise discussed at blogs such as Likely Impossibilities, Music Web International, Parterre Box, and I Hear Voices.  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Luca Pisaroni is Argante

This is from Robert Carsen's recent Glyndebourne production of Handel's Rinaldo. In this version, Argante is the school headmaster, who becomes the villain in the revenge fantasy of bullied schoolboy Rinaldo. 

Argante's entrance aria. He's not happy.

(And yes, I do note the irony of posting this clip the day after my fanboy post. Would it help if I said I had this one scheduled already, and wrote yesterday's post more recently? No? I thought not.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's the difference between fanboy (or girl) and stalker?


Fanboy of the Opera*

Contrary to the opinion of certain people, I am not stalking Luca Pisaroni. 

Not real-life stalking, nor cyber-stalking. 

Yes, I track down any performance broadcasts I can find. 

Yes, I check for updates on his webpage. 

Yes, I "liked" his Facebook page. 

Yes, I even "liked" Lenny and Tristan's Facebook page. (Their lives are a lot more interesting than a lot of humans I know!)  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Puccini: La Boheme – Bregenzer Festspiel 2002 (Part 2: A Cozy Table for Two Hundred)

There are approximately a gazillion extras in this production of La Boheme: Shoppers, children, partiers, chefs, waiters, guards, street cleaners, private body guards, etc., etc. Zeffirelli would be envious. During the Momus scene, extras actually sit around the huge (main stage) table. In the crowd scenes there is always a big crowd, especially at Momus; but the principals are never obscured nor lost in the confusion.  There are a few modern-ish dance moves and a marching band that looks suspiciously Sgt. Pepper-inspired.  I will never get that “tattoo shimmy” line dance at the end of Act 2 out of my head. (For better or for worse.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Puccini: La Boheme – Bregenzer Festspiel 2002 (Part 1: Cafe Grandissimo)

There are a few things we should note right up front about this DVD: 
  1. An opera on the Seebühne at Bregenz is meant to be a spectacle. It’s a tourist attraction. The stage is in the lake. They have fireworks, there are tons of people on stage, they always have to work a boat into the production, and the set is usually something really strange and/or symbolic. (It also has to be sturdy enough to survive being in the lake for 2 full years.)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Simon Keenlyside is Orfeo

Here is a young-ish Simon Keenlyside in a beautiful (if slightly strange) production of L'Orfeo, choreographed and directed by Trisha Brown and conducted by Rene Jacobs in 1998. The singing is lovely, the dancing is lively, and you gotta admire all the singing while leaping about. 

                                                                Orfeo is happy 'cause he just married Eurydice.
                                                                We are happy 'cause he is singing & dancing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro: Sull' aria

Another Classic:
Dorothea Röschmann & Miah Persson 

I really enjoy the friendship that Rosina and Susanna have in this production. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Luca Pisaroni in Recital – Edinburgh Festival 2012

Totally adorable!
(And so are the doggies!)
For those who missed either the live broadcast (6 AM Eastern time last Thursday) or the replays on BBC 3's iPlayer, here is the  (audio only) recital from August 23, 2012 (without most of the announcer chit-chat). 

Luca Pisaroni, bass-baritone 
Justus Zeyen, piano

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