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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Schubert'sFierrabras is a strange little opera. Well, not so little, really. There is alot 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.)
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).
In response to this
week's Gratuitous Friday post, a reader mentioned that it would be appropriate
to postSeptember 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.)
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:
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?"
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.
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.
watched two different versions ofArabella this
weekend; while looking for clips to go with the reviews, I found this on
Emily Magee recently has become another
object of my fanboy affection (SeeToscaandAriadnereviews). 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.
I talked about the
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.
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.
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.)
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?
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.
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 isRobert Carsen’s concept of Toscafrom 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.
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.)
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?"
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.
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.)
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.)
There are a few things we should note right up front about this DVD:
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.)
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.
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).