Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Curious Opera Lover – Inquiring Minds Want to Know

I was just thinking that I'd really like to know more about Ortrud, Telramund, and Elsa. Before the opera starts, Telramund is a good guy. Elsa and Gottfried’s Dad entrusted them to him, and the Männer von Brabant seem to hold him in high regard. The King comes to Telramund find out what’s up in Brabant. So, what happened to Telramund?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Marriage of Figaro – Paris Opera, 2006 (Part 2: Eyeglasses and Wine Glasses)

Marthaler and Maestro Sylvain Camberling decided that a harpsichord or fortepiano wouldn’t seem quite right in this setting. So they brought in a performance artist as a “Recitativist.” He’s on stage and participates in the drama—accompanying the recitatives on an electronic keyboard and a batch of odd instruments, including a melodeon, a glass harmonica (pictured), and a pair of beer bottles.  This guy interacts with the other folks on stage, at one point providing the Countess with a couple of shots of whiskey.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Marriage of Figaro – Paris Opera, 2006 (Part 1: The Chair, the Stair, and the Lectern)

This Nozze di Figaro received such mixed (mostly bad) reviews I knew I just had to see it! I usually find Christoph Marthaler's viewpoint fascinating—but not always convincing. He often creates a lot of subsidiary action as a commentary to the main action. It’s something I enjoyed in his production of Věc Makropulos.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Monteverdi Monday – Richard Croft & Patricia Schumann

Richard Croft and Patricia Schumann as Nerone and Poppea sing Pur ti miro. It’s not an "authentic" performance, although the edition was prepared by René Jacobs. But when Richard Croft is singing, who cares? This is from 1993; he had (and still has) such a bright clear, unaffected voice.  And the staging is kind of erotic, in a non-explicit way. Happy Monteverdi Monday!

L'Incoronazione di Poppea: Pur ti miro

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Commentary on Blog Post Comment Chats (off topic)

I love the conversations that get started by blog posts; and I love how they frequently veer wildly away from the original topic—or even split in two. A few weeks ago,  a lengthy discussion was prompted by a brief comment on opera in English. The final discussion actually had little to do with language at all, but not only was it a lively discussion on the original post; it prompted new posts on a few other blogs. My post was on etiquette,  rather than on language, but the language discussion continued there as well.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gratuitous Friday – Beverly Sills sings Baby Doe – 1962

I just came across this clip from a TV broadcast in 1962. Vintage Bubbles! Back before Beverly Sills became “BEVERLY SILLS” she was already breaking hearts and wowing them with her bright clear voice. I have always loved this aria from Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, sort of an American L’Incoronazione di Poppea. The opera has never really caught on, but a few arias live on. It seems like singing about willow trees is always a sure bet. 

The Willow Song, from The Ballad of Baby Doe

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What's Up with the Prelude to Act 3 of Lohengrin?

Can anyone tell me what the Prelude to Act 3 has to do with Lohengrin? It sounds like a twisted mash-up of the Roman Carnival Overture, the William Tell Overture, and the Ride of the Valkyries, that accidentally wandered in from the opera playing next door. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Wagner – Lohengrin, Metropolitan Opera, 1986 (Safe Viewing for Regie-phobes)

To make up for subjecting my TV-viewing companion (TV-VC) to the Bayreuth “rat” Lohengrin (reaction: beautiful music; too bad about all those rats), I dug up this 1980s version from the Met. It got really mixed reviews at, and now I know why. James Levine and the Met chorus and orchestra do not disappoint, but the rest of the production is uneven.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Awesome Behind the Scenes Opera Video (or Why I Follow Other Blogs)

It pays to keep up with what other bloggers are writing about. I follow many other bloggers who, in turn, follow other bloggers. One blogger simply cannot keep up with all the neat shtuff going on all over the opera world. Why do I mention this?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sunday Brunch – Philippe Jaroussky Elegizes (Massenet)

Philippe Jaroussky's Opium album is a tonic for...well, almost anything. Admittedly, with 24 songs, it may be more Mélodies francaises than a non-Francophone would care for in one sitting. (Of course if you spring for the CD, you probably get translations, which would help.) I was listening to this collection the other day and thinking, "Wow, his French sounds really idiomatic." DUH.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Joyce DiDonato's Julliard Master Class 1/25/13 Will be Streamed Live

On Facebook, Joyce DiDonato says:
Ladies and gentlemen: I am MOST pleased to announce that The Juilliard School has gone above and beyond the call of duty and made it possible to do a live stream of an upcoming masterclass I'll be giving on JANUARY 25. Many of you have asked me about doing classes where you are, and while I wish I could be there in person, Juilliard has kindly found a way to bring you to me!! I do hope you'll tune in.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gratuitous Friday – Gerald Finley sings Mahler

Gerald Finley and Julius Drake from their recent Wigmore program.  

A Mahler gem from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
Text and Translation below.
If player is not working, click here to listen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Don't Listen to This Lohengrin (Ludwig and Fischer-Dieskau)

Yup! More Lohengrin.
If you listen to Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Ortrud and Telramund in this performance of Lohengrinyou will be spoiled forever. No one else will ever live up to your expectations after hearing these master singers. They manage to sound evil without resorting to either barking or shrieking. Maybe you like your Lohengrin villains to sound nastier, but I love the way these two interpret their parts. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

(More) Herr Kaufmann on Wagner – An Interview with Thomas Voigt

This interview over at The Wagnerian blog covers similar ground as the Decca promo video commentary. However, it expands on the discussion of the music JK chose to record for his upcoming Wagner album. 

(I know I said I was going to try to go a week without mentioning Jonas Kaufmann. But when there's news, I can't just ignore it, can I?)

More Opera in the Cinema

Frankly I am a little annoyed that this series seems to be such a secret. Well, it was a secret to me. I am not sure where I expected to find out about it. But it should be easier than stumbling over it while doing a random search on Google. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Gerald Finley Live from Wigmore Hall – Singing Schubert & Mahler

Update 7 PM EDT: The recital is now available at iPlayer. Click on the same BBC link below. You can listen to it there for the next 7 days.

On BBC Radio 3 today
@ 19:30 London time.

Gerald Finley, baritone
Julius Drake, piano


La Traviata at La Monnaie, Brussels – More Disturbing Than Shocking

Šaturová as Violetta
The Brussels staging of La Traviata by Andrea Breth generated quite a bit of controversy. I found it relatively unpleasant but not terribly shocking, and I am glad I saw/heard it, though I might not visit it again. Here they are depicting a more realistic grimy underworld of prostitution and drugs versus a more standard romanticized 18th Century series of ever-so-slightly decadent, but elegant formal parties. 

The staging definitely is uncomfortable, especially in the party scenes. The female nudity is more depressing than erotic; perhaps the stark black and white setting serves to distance us. But I think the point could be made without so much overt S&M activity. It wouldn't take much compromise to make this less controversial. Then again, why should the director and company compromise their vision?  (That’s a rhetorical question, but I don't mind if a discussion/argument breaks out here.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

The La Scala Lohengrin – I think I may be in love with Annette Dasch (Sort of an Actual Review)

Watching Annette Dasch's Milan Elsa—similarly bewildered as her Bayrueth Elsa but more girlish—I thought, “I really love this girl.” Elsa von Bayreuth is already set up as a martyr, and one feels distanced from her. But Elsa di Milano is more of a dreamy, innocent girl; she seriously doesn’t know what she’s getting in to. Elsa's fascination is not romantic love at all to me. She's intrigued. She's attracted. It's like she just found a puppy (a really, really cute puppy). When it dawns on her that Lohengrin might really be Gottfried, (and egged on by Ortrud) she just has to find out. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sunday Brunch – Miah Persson Sings Sacred Mozart

Yesterday morning I was daydreaming about Miah Persson singing Lungi da te mio bene from Mozart’s Mitridate. And I wondered to myself: what else could ever be as lovely? I came across this performance of the Et incarnatus from Mozart’s Great C minor mass.  Mozart never completed this mass, and it’s really the most operatic sacred work he wrote—with lots of flashy arias and massive double choruses. It’s kind of Mozart’s answer to the Verdi Requiem (if, indeed, anyone had asked) or Rossini’s Stabat Mater.  If Mozart had completed this Mass, it would rival Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis or Bach’s B-minor Mass  in massiveness (pun intended).

Friday, January 11, 2013

Jonas Kaufmann is Lohengrin – Coming Soon to a Theater Near You

Well! Call me late for dinner. I was idly browsing the net to see who else was writing about the 2012 La Scala Lohengrin, and I discovered that a film distributor called Emerging Pictures is presenting the opera in movie theaters [in the US] this winter. 

In addition to indie films, Emerging Pictures has an opera and ballet series, and they're offering a series of performances from London and Milan over the next few months. Like all good websites, you enter your zip code to find theaters near you. Most theaters seem to be showing it only once or twice. Living in a major metro area, I have a choice of two dates in February at a cinema nearby, or two dates in January at a theater a bit further away. 

Since La Scala had the YouTube video of Lohengrin pulled (can you blame them?), and since opera is way better in the cinema than on a laptop, I'm looking forward to seeing this on the big screen. Boy, am I glad I was wandering around the net this afternoon. The internet: it's not just for porn anymore.  

After this post, I'm going to see if I can go a whole week without posting about JK. I'll give it a try, but I'll tell you right now, I'm not optimistic!

Gratuitous Friday – Fritz Wunderlich is Lensky (More Opera in the Wrong Language)

Heartbreaking, smooth, beautiful… Wait…what? Is he singing in German??? Who cares? It's awesome singing. I’m not saying it doesn't sound better in Russian. Of course it does! But if we insisted in everything being sung only in the original language, we’d miss a lot of gorgeous—and in particular, vintage—singing. Thanks to many recordings like these, Fritz still lives!

"Kuda, kuda vy udalilis" from Eugene Onegin
(Wohin, wohin?)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

More Kaufmann: Why Wagner? Why Now? (Why Not?)

OK, OK, I know it looks like this blog is turning into a Jonas Kaufmann Fansite. But really, it’s just timing. I hadn't planned to post at all today, but right there on Facebook was this Decca promo video for his new Wagner album. And it would simply be irresponsible to not share it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Coming Soon: More Wagner from Herr Kaufmann

This just in: Thanks to the Opera Chic, we now know that Jonas Kaufmann has a new Wagner album due out in February. (Pause for applause, cheering, sighing, and/or swooning.) 

JK sings the Wesendonck Lieder,  and arias from Die Walküre, Siegfried, Rienzi, Die Meistersinger, Tannhäuser, and Lohengrin. Thanks, OC, for keeping us up to date.  

If you don't read it already, please check out OC's blog. Her posts are timely, clever, witty, smart, and fun.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

This is Opera. No Thinking Allowed.

Yes, I mean no thinking allowed. Although thinking aloud is not a good thing to do at the opera, either—at least not in live performances. But this is about whether or not we are supposed to think when we view/listen to opera. Should we just turn off our brains and let the music wash over us? I don’t think so. And  here is why I bring it up today.

An argument was made the other day in comments on another blog that opera, as an art form, is intended to make people feel, not think. This writer also contends that all composers prior to "our modern age" would agree with him. This writer opined that any attempt to make opera more accessible (particularly singing it in translation) is patronizing (to whom, I am not sure...I guess patronizing to the patrons.) This writer also is either a plagiarizer, directly quoting another blogger verbatim without proper attribution, or actually is that blogger hiding under the ubiquitous moniker: Anonymous. (I am not sure which annoys me more!)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Monteverdi Monday – 1610 Vespers: Duo Seraphim/Tres sunt

This is not opera, but it sure is operatic. This is another selection from the 1610 Vespers, one of the "concertos" that are sung in between the choral psalms. I believe the Vespers are to Monteverdi;s operas are what Verdi’s Requeim is to his operas. This is also another selection from Christina Pluhar's energetic recording of the Vespers with L'arpeggiata and a host of early music singers. No big names in this excerpt, but they do a great job. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Brunch – Arabella: Aber der Richtige (della Casa & Rothenberger)

No one could mistake Anneliese Rothenberger for a boy, especially not in this getup. But that doesn't make this clip any less enjoyable. For much of her career she sang operetta, but she also sang major Mozart and Richard Strauss roles, including Sophie, and performed the role of Arabella, at least in concert. Ironically, with all that operetta, Strauss and Mozart in her repertoire  my first exposure to Ms. Rothenberger was as Alban Berg's Lulu (photo in the NYT obit).

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bloggery Snobbery (completely not about opera or music at all)

There have been several blog-discussions not long ago about singing opera in translation. The discussions have been fairly balanced, good-humored, and cordial, and there seem to be good arguments both pro and con. This post is not about opera in translation, nor is it about balanced, good-humored, and cordial discussions.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gratuitous Friday - Ann Hallenberg Sings Handel

I mentioned my "discovery" of Ann Hallenberg earlier this week. I actually picked up that recording because of Sonia Prina and Pavol Breslik. And of course, I admire the early music adventures of Emmanuelle Haim. But I really fell for Ann. I also mentioned Monday that there were some familiar tunes in Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno. One of them is the aria Lascia la spina, which also appears, reworked into Lascia ch’io pianga in Rinaldo. Below is the Il Trionfo recording.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

FB is for Fanboy…and for Facebook

So, where is a good place for a fanboy to track down his 
favorite singers and find out what they’re up to? Well, if said singers have a Facebook page, that’s a good place to start. 
I found out about the New Year’s Eve Beethoven’s Ninth broadcast in Leipzig from Malin Hartelius’ Facebook page. 
A note on Ann Hallenberg's page alerted me to a stylish performance of Mozart's C minor Mass. And I keep up to date on Luca Pisaroni with his frequent posts. (Luca's dogs, Lenny and Tristan, post even more than he does!) 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

...with Frequent Gratuitous Mentions of...

In the spirit of bloggers on that other major blog site, who get much more detailed stats than I do, I decided, since it's a new year, to check my 2012 stats. Based on the names that draw people to my blog, I’m thinking about adding to my parenthetical subtitle up there. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Not Really About the Music At All (OK, maybe a little)

Thomas Tatzl as Figaro
The Opera Chic notes in her post today
Austrian bass Thomas Tatzl...probably declines invitations from Abercrombie's street team recruiters every time he treads the pavement. 
My first thought was, "Hey check him out." My second thought was, "Yeah but can he sing and/or act?" 
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