Friday, November 30, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Pavol Breslik is Lensky

Pavol Breslik has an absolutely beautiful voice and sings with artistry. He’s making his career primarily in Mozart and bel canto roles. True, he may not have a wide tonal range, and his vibrato is rather fast, but his intonation is true, he's easy on the ear and the eye, and he is a charming Lensky in Eugene Onegin.

This Tchaikovsky sounds like it's almost too much for him. Then again, it seems to be a mobile phone video; it's not bad for a phone video, but I don't trust the vocal/orchestral balances. It's clearly not Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Otterphile – Vintage von Otter @ Definitely the Opera

For fanboys and girls who (like me) just can't get enough Anne Sofie von Otter:

The Vintage von Otter Series

featuring clips and photos from the early career of ASvO

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Juilliard Releases Banned Repertoire List, ‘12-‘13

Noted in The Yard (a new, independent newspaper run entirely by current students and recent graduates of The Juilliard School):
This past week, the Juilliard Administration released a list of repertoire to be banned for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year. The decision was made in response to growing discontent among faculty and students regarding the seemingly endless repetition of the same old hackneyed nineteenth century repertoire... 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gratuitous Dorothea Röschmann Post

The Earworm's blog linked to a video a day or so ago, stating: 
I am not sure who is ultimately responsible for the appearance of this video, but the entire Salzburg 1995 Le Nozze di Figaro is up on YouTube! The highlight of this for me of course is Röschmann as Susanna, but you also get the added bonus of Susan Graham as Cherubino. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Psalm 122

Psalm 122: Laetatus Sum (a sei voci)

In addition to inventing opera, Claudio Monteverdi wrote a bunch of madrigals and a whole lot of sacred music. While initially, there was a stylistic difference, his sacred and secular works started to sound more and more alike. This is an excerpt from Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine, also known as his Vespers of 1610 (which I believe is when the set was first published.) Vespers is an evening worship service that consists mainly of psalms. Monteverdi's choral settings are still in a somewhat older style, with lots of polyphony, and in between are "concerti" or settings for one or more voices, that are much more operatic. Although he does let the operatic style sneak into the choral bits, too.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Cosi Fan Tutte: Ah Guarda Sorella

Stéphane Degout and Elina Garanca
This is a Cosi that we don’t hear as much about. Patrice Chéreau directed this for the 2005 Aix-en-Provence Festival, and most of the feedback was not very positive. I like the “this is a stage production” feel, though it was not one of those self-referential, “hey, we’re doing an opera” productions. And the personenregie is very strong.

Alan Riding of the New York Times called it "a disappointment" and said:

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Kaufmann and Harteros sing Verdi

Sometimes it’s just better not to read the comments on YouTube opera clips. The comments on this clip take Jonas Kaufmann to task for his glottal attacks. Gee I never heard any Italian tenor use a glottal attack. 

Some idiots  jerks annoying people will make up any excuse—valid or not—to criticize  Kaufmann, or other well-known, well-liked (and well-talented) singers, simply because they are well-known and well-liked (and well-talented).

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More Digital Concert Hall – Mahler from von Otter, Kaufmann, and Abbado

I've extolled the Berliner Philharmoniker's Digital Concert Hall in other posts. It's a pay site; I'd rather be able to get these concerts on DVDs, but this service is so worth it! And this concert is one reason why:

Here is something to be thankful for: Anne Sofie von Otter and Jonas Kaufmann on stage with Claudio Abbado at the helm. What more could a fanboy ask for? This is a near-perfect performance of Das Lied von der Erde. We already know that ASvO loves singing Mahler, and JK has the perfect voice for it too. They are both consummate singer/actors, slash actor/singers. And Maestro Abbado achieves so much with relatively few podium dramatics. I love the visual feedback Maestro Abbado gives his singers. He clearly loves the human voice. Watch especially for the look he gives JK after the fifth song.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Metropolitan Opera, 2007 (Part 2: It's all Fun and Games till Someone Challenges You to a Duel)

Directed by Robert Carsen, one might be tempted to place this production of Eugene Onegin into the regie category, but other than the sparse sets (and all those chairs), there is nothing shocking happening here (no dancing cowboys!) 

It’s a beautiful, character-driven performance. Hvorostovsky is just Hvorostovsky—handsome, silver hair, silver voice—and isn’t that enough? I mean, who could ask for more? It’s hard to dislike him, but he does manage to make Onegin a condescending jerk. (Not to mention petulant, rude, and self-centered.) Lenski is pretty hot-headed too. He wears his low self-esteem on his sleeve, while Onegin tries to “bravado” his way past his own self-doubt. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin – Metropolitan Opera, 2007 (Part 1: Les Feuilles Mortes et Des Rangées de Chaises)

Hvorostovsky and Fleming do make magic together!
Tchaikovsky wrote lovely melodies. And that’s about it. Even conductor Valery Gavrilov points out in rehearsal that there’s not much development (a complaint I’ve always had about Tchaikovsky) and the orchestra needs to work on inflecting all those little motives, or it will get boring fast. But, they’re lovely melodies: and they come back now and then at appropriate times. All I knew of Eugene Onegin was the Letter Scene and (without realizing it) the Polonaise, and I’m happy to learn more of these tunes.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monteverdi Monday – Philippe Jaroussky and Nuria Rial: Pur ti miro

I "discovered" the performance of Monteverdi's Zefiro torna by Nuria Rial, Philippe Jaroussky, and L’Arpeggiata after one of my readers (Juha) mentioned that they had recorded Pur ti miro from Poppea.  There are actually are three different performances of Pur ti miro by L’Arpeggiata on YouTube: 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Cosi Fan Tutte: Ah Guarda Sorella

Dorabella already knows about the boys' plot to try to fool them. During the introduction, she thinks about it, hesitates, and then decides. She walks Fiordiligi over to show her the disguise the boys are going to wear when they pretend to seduce their girls. We're not sure Fiordiligi gets it yet.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Johan Reuter is Wotan (Das Rheingold)

Danish Bass-Baritone, Johan Reuter recently made his Met Debut as Jaroslav Prus in the Makropulos Case. I first noticed him in the same role on DVD from the 2011 Salzburg Festival. Reuter trained in Copenhagen at the Royal Danish Academy of Music and the Opera Academy. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Stuttgart, 1998 (Part 2: Buy One, Get One Free)

Konstanze & Belmonte 2 (far L & R)
congratulate the singers after a
lovely performance of the Act 2 Finale.
Double casting Entführung (or any opera) raises questions. What's the difference between the singing and the acting on stage? What separates the singers from the actors? What brings them together? Are we supposed to recognize each pair as playing one character? Don't you just love it when my reviews degenerate into a list of questions?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Die Entführung aus dem Serail – Stuttgart, 1998 (Part 1: Double Fun)

A lot of folks have already written thoughtfully about this Hans Neuenfels' Die Entführung aus dem Serail , so I will stick with some observations that I think are my own and that I think no one else has pointed out, or at least not dwelt on as much. In this production, Neuenfels has cast each role (save one) with both a singer and an actor. But not in a way that you might be expecting. 

Konstanze and Belmonte 1 (center) have decided to die for love.
No one else thinks this is a very good idea.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

And Speaking of Marthaler – Helene Schneiderman is Marcellina

HS (left) as Flora, lookin' butch.
Mezzo-soprano Helene Schneiderman is a Jersey girl who trained in the U.S. then started her professional career in Germany. A member of the Staatstheater Stuttgart since 1984, she sings mezzo repertoire around the world. Probably her most widely viewed performance is her appearance in the thankless role of Flora in the DVD of Willy Decker's Traviata (the one with the red dress)–particularly thankless here, as it's very hard to find her in the sea of dark men's suits!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wagner: Lohengrin – Gran Teatre del Liceu, 2006 (Loved Her, Hated Him)

I was actually doing OK with Peter Konwitschny’s Lohengrin for a while. Costumes, set, situation, check! I accepted the classroom setting with the kids learning about the legend of Lohengrin. Emily Magee was mostly convincing as a (really) young Elsa. She does shy, coy, and cute very well, and I like the idea of placing this “fairy tale” in a context of innocence.

Elsa comes out of the closet.
While Luana DeVol played the bullying schoolgirl well (I would hide from her in the cupboard, too!), she lost me as soon as she opened her mouth. This is not a voice I want to hear at all, let alone coming from a grownup dressed as a little girl. I am always eager to suspend my disbelief, but even I could not get past this “cognitive disconnect.” Please Mommy, make her stop singing. Ultimately, besides Elsa, I liked the Heerrufer and the King the best.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Cosi Fan Tutte: Ah Guarda Sorella

Throughout Act 1, Dorabella and Fiordiligi carry around matching journals. They sketch, scribble, and keep important thoughts in these books.

These two sisters are feisty and ready for fun and are certainly not wallflowers (They are ready for “fun”, too.) Malin Hartelius and Anna Bonatatibus offer sisters who seem a bit more worldly wise than the average Cosi girls. At the same time they’re ready to commit to their men. Or are they?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Wanna be Luca's Dog...

Tristan & Lenny
And no, I don't mean that in a figurative, kinky way. 
I mean I really would like to have the life of Luca Pisaroni's dogs. 

I mean, look at Lenny and Tristan! Their Dad is a famous opera singer. They call Vienna home.

Lenny & Luca

Friday, November 9, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Hvorostovsky & Kaufmann sing Bizet

I think the only complaint one could possibly have about the beautiful duet Au fond du Temple Saint is that Bizet didn't write more like it. 

It’s good to remember that Bizet was quite a melodist, and did write other stuff besides Carmen—not a lot—but there is other stuff. In general, however, there simply are not enough tenor/baritone duets in the opera world!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday Extra – More Reviews of Sale

MH is feeling low

Thanks to the blog Definitely the Opera, we have links to a few more reviews (one actually in English – YAY!) plus some bigger photos. I direct you there for more detail. 

O gods of opera videos, please grant us a glimpse this odd but interesting-looking production. 

Sale - The First Post
Sale Part 2 - A review

Cosi Fan Tutte – Film by Jesusa Rodriguez, 1997 (Part 2: A Feminist Cosi)

Here are two more clips from this crazy Cosi! In the category of so bad it's good (or so bad it's bad?), this is a Mexican film of Cosi fan tutte made in the 1990s. The singing is not bad but not amazing and it's lip-synched, though I believe the actors are the the singers. It's kind of regie, with a modern, Mexican vacation resort version of Naples, and a commentary on women's attitudes towards men. It also has the feel of low-budget soft-porn movie (or what I imagine that would be likethat isfrom what I've heard. ahem.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cosi Fan Tutte – Film by Jesusa Rodriguez, 1997 (Part 1: Opera as Telenovela)

In the category of so bad it's good (or so bad it's bad?*), this is a Mexican film of Cosi fan tutte made in the 1990s. Ah guarda sorella first caught my attention, and I found a few other clips. The singing is not amazing and it's lip-synched, though I believe the actors are the the singers. I do like the fact that they approached it with a modern, Mexican vacation resort version of Naples. I also like the resolution at the end of Act 2. 
This is another interesting take on a timeless Mozart classic. I think it’s hysterical!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Sale – Handel, Marthaler, Zurich Opera – Part 2

We found one review, of Marthaler's "new" Handel opera via the blog Welt der Oper neu.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the review is in German. Since it's late on election night, I'm not going to try to make a sensible (logical and in standard English) translation just now. 

With a strong reading comprehension of German, you'll get more detail than I did. However, with Google translate's literal translation, we can get some idea of how the evening went. 

Sale – A Handel Project by Christoph Marthaler, Zurich Opera

ASvO left; MH right, at top of escalator.

It appears that Sale – A Handel project by Christoph Marthaler is going to be another Baroque pastiche along the lines of the Met's Enchanted Island. Of course, since Christoph Marthaler has conceived the plot and production, I am sure it will be much weirder.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Relief for Hurricane Sandy Victims in NYC

So many people are donating to the Red Cross and I wondered who else had campaigns going, so I started looking around for other ways to contribute to the Sandy relief effort. This one really struck me. Occupy Sandy Relief NYC is a community relief effort organized by Occupiers to help residents in the hardest hit areas of NYC recover from Hurricane Sandy. 

They have set up an registry so that we can order items and have them shipped directly to NYC. Here is an excerpt from the registry site:

Monteverdi Monday – Nadia Boulanger and Friends

Nadia Boulanger
Claudio Monteverdi
If everyone who claimed to have studied with composer, conductor, and teacher Nadia Boulanger, she would have to have been at least two people. However, she did have a strong influence over 20th Century American music, having taught Copland, Piston, Harris, and Bernstein, to name a few. (But not Gershwin. Boulanger was among many European composers who felt they had nothing new to offer this already popular and financially successful American composer.) 

Boulanger was the first woman ever to conduct the Boston Symphony and the New York Philharmonic (and several others.) She also was the first person ever to record the music of Claudio Monteverdi.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Brunch – Cosi Fan Tutte: Ah Guarda Sorella

There's really not much to say here. Gorgeous singing of gorgeous music pretty much says it all. Even before they open their mouths, you can get a sense of who these women are: their personalities, their dreams, and their approach to life. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Academic Interest – Textbooks vs. Readable Books

As in most aspects of my life, when it comes to learning new stuff, I tend to take the middle road. I am something between an extremely devoted layman and a weekend scholar. This often makes it a challenge to find just the right resources.

Lately I’ve actually developed an interest in the music dramas of Wagner. I want to know more, and I need something between Two-page Synopses of All the Great Operas and Tristan und Isolde: a Note by Note Analysis*. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Gratuitous Friday – Elīna Garanča Sings Sesto

Elīna Garanča is Annio  to Vesselina Kasarova's Sesto in the 2003 Salzburg production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (Claus Guth)Here, she sings Sesto's Act 1 aria Parto, ma tu ben mio. I’m really looking forward to seeing/hearing her sing Sesto in the Met in HD broadcast next month. Garanča has a lovely voice with a smooth, even tone from bottom to top. She is also one of those lovely-to-look-at mezzos who can be convincing as a dude on stage.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy All Saints Day – Messiaen: Saint François d'Assise

The great bass-baritone, José Van Dam was born in Brussels in 1940, and made his operatic debut in Paris in 1961. After an incredible career on the opera stage, in film, as a sensitive recitalist, and in the recording studio, Van Dam retired from opera in 2010. However, I believe he still performs in concert and recital. 

One of Van Dam’s greatest successes was as the title role in Olivier Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise. In honor of All Saints Day, we offer this clip of St. Francis preaching to the birds. 

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