Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Anne Sofie von Otter's Dreamy Wesendonck Lieder

Here is something I haven't seen in a while: ASvO received a lengthy ovation at the end of her performance of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. That ovation wasn’t unusual—the wonderful surprise was her encore of the fifth song: Träume (Dreams). It was even better than the first time—a bit slower and dreamier. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

World Premiere: Claude – Opéra de Lyon

Claude – Opera in one act (World Premiere) 
Music by Thierry Escaich 
Libretto by Robert Badinter 

The man turned assassin under certain circumstances, 
if differently influenced would have served his country well.

The plot for this new opera is taken from Victor Hugo’s short story Claude Gueux (1834), which was based on actual events. The story expresses Hugo's early thoughts on social injustice. Thirty years later he fleshed out this theme in his novel Les Misérables, and Jean Valjean can be seen as a latter day Claude. While Les Miserables offers a sense of redemption, the opera Claude basically just lays out the events. Only Hugo’s commentary, sung as a choral backdrop throughout the opera, offers any moral. It’s a harsh and brittle opera, and well worth seeing.

The recording that’s available at arte.tv is sung in French and has French subtitles. Because my French skills are slightly below survivor level, I decided to read (a so-so translation of) the original story first. It helped a lot, as some of the dialog in the opera is taken directly from the book. There are some minor differences. In Hugo’s version, Claude has stolen bread to feed his family. In the opera, he is a weaver who is put out of work by automated looms and ends up being arrested at the barricades. 

Look at Claude Gueux. An intelligent and most noble-hearted man, 
placed in the midst of evil surroundings, he turned thief.

Director Olivier Py uses machinery, in particular a wheel, and constant, relentless motion as the primary image of inhumanity here.  The set and the cast are in constant motion, as is the music. While the action is realistic, it’s frequently accompanied by stylized activities. Also the main unit of the set, representing the prison, and containing nine cells on one side, is always moved by the prisoners. In this world the machines are more important than people. 

Claude is good and sensitive man, and is respected by the other prisoners, who rally around him. The Prison Director resents Claude as a man and for his status among the others, and singles him out for verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Brunch – Gerhaher sings Brahms

Christian Gerhaher is so intense. His performance here is infused with intensity, determination, and pathos. His aria is not just a plea, or a prayer; it’s almost a demand. This is from the same performance as the Christine Schäfer clip I posted two weeks ago.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Verdi's Simon Boccanegra Wows Vienna

EURONEWS: Verdi's Simon Boccanegra wows Vienna. Here is a brief video with interview and (enticing) performance excerpts. 

Look closely, and you can see Tristan through Tom's leg.
Lenny's paws are showing behind the interviewer's chair.
I am really, really looking forward to the release of the complete performance. Interestingly, Luca speaks only Italian here, (his English is pretty good) but they do make it a point to remind us he grew up in Verdi's home town. Sadly, although Lenny and Tristan were present for the interview, their thoughts on the concert are not shared in this video. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gratuitous Friday (The Otterphile Edition) – Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

Pop, Opera, Lied, or Broadway: ASvO can Sell it!!

Happy Friday

Incidentally, ASvO will be singing Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder with Marc Minkowski and the Orchestre National du Capitol de Toulouse this evening (2 PM New York time). It will be webcast by medici.tv.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

2012 Lieder Recitals from Schwetzingen Still Available

So, I was over at Dorothea Röschmann – an appreciation, checking out a notice about the Berlin Philharmonic's November 2013 concert of Schumann’s scenes from Faust*. The rest of the vocal cast is compelling too, and includes Martina Janková, Werner Güra, Christian Gerhaher, and Luca Pisaroni. 

On that same page, there is a link to the (still active) archive recording of DR’s wonderful 2012 Schwetzingen SWR Festspiele Lieder recital. (Earwormopera published the sung texts) In fact, most all of the 2012 Schwetzingen programs are still available from Südwestrundfunk SW2. The site says the recordings are available for a year, which means they’ll be disappearing soon (to be replaced by the 2013 programs, no doubt.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Heaping Helping of Thomas Hampson (With a Side of Mahler)

One of the more awesome things about the Internet is the opportunity to see and hear many great (and not so great) singers in performance. So many events that in the past were only available to a few people are now available to pretty much anyone who's interested enough to check it out.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sing Along with L'Opéra de Marseille

Are you completely over Messiah sing-alongs? Try a Libiamo sing-along!

On Saturday, January 12,  at La Place de L'Opéra de Marseille, more than 10,000 people participated in L’Operaclameur, singing Libiamo from La Traviata along with the opera chorus.

It sounds like they had fun, but it also proves that more is not necessarily better :-) 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christmas in April with Peter Mattei

Any day is a good day to hear Peter Mattei sing—even Christmas music. This is not your standard pop/crossover Christmas record. Neither is it an esoteric program in the way that Christmas with the Palestrinas would be. It’s an absolutely beautiful, gentle program that you might hear in your local church; if your local church had an amazing chamber orchestra, and if Peter Mattei sang in your choir.  It’s simply Jul med Peter Mattei—his gorgeous voice backed by tasteful arrangements, with a few bells, but no whistles, and no backup singers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Where in the World are Malin and Luca? In Cleveland. Where Else?

Tristan, getting packed...literally.
Thank goodness Lenny and Tristan keep us up to date on their travels via their Facebook page, because usually they have their Dad along. In case you haven’t been paying attention, their Dad is Luca Pisaroni. They all were in Vienna for Simon Boccanegra last week; and this week, they’ll be in Cleveland.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander – Bayerische Staatsoper (Review of the Live Webcast)

The Bayrische Staatsoper is live webcasting selected performances this season. This afternoon I saw Peter Konwitschny’s version Der Fliegende Hollander, thanks to reading Intermezzo blog's reminder in time for me to actually watch it. 

Giulio Cesare: Audio Webcast Monday, Live in HD Next Weekend

I always forget to tune in to these webcasts. There are two more this season.

And of course, we can head to the cinema next Saturday to catch this:

I wonder who will be singing Cleopatterer...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Verdi: Simon Boccanegra – Radio Broadcast from Sweden

While we are waiting for the Vienna concert to be released commercially... (I was going to say on CD, then I remembered I really don't buy very many CDs any more; and I'm more likely to download it. This makes me wonder how my readers are consuming commercially recorded music these days. Should we take a poll?)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cav & Pag – Together Again for the First Time (Opéra Royal de Wallonie)

Marie Kalinine and José Cura
José Cura directs and stars in this traditional double bill, and he adds a few twists. Both operas take place in the same village, with the action of Pagliacci immediately following Cavalliera Rusticana. Most of each cast appear in both operas. The waiter in Mama Lucia’s café, whom she treats as a son, turns out to be Silvio. Oh, and both composers appear in the performance.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Brunch – Christine Schäfer sings Brahms

Christine Schäfer's skills as an interpreter of Lieder shine in this beautiful aria from Brahms' German Requiem. It's said Brahms composed this movement in memory of his mother. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gratuitous Friday – Jonas Kaufmann Sings Rienzi

Rienzi Vowing to Obtain Justice... by William Holman Hunt

Wagner’s opera Rienzi was fairly successful when it opened. But it was long. Rienzi was only Wagner's third opera, so he was still writing in that Italian grand opera style. In fact Meyerbeer (I know, he's not Italian, but you get the idea) championed this opera when it was new. 

Subsequently, Hans von Bülow referred to Rienzi as "Meyerbeer's best opera,” and I don't think he meant it as a complement to either composer. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Should I be Worried about My Boys Luca and Pavol?

Pavol Breslik and Luca Pisaroni are dipping into Verdi roles. What will happen to their wonderful agile voices for Mozart, Handel, Rossini, and the like?
Bayrische Staatsoper

I know they’re both young, and voices change as they mature. I suppose it’s inevitable they will take on heavier roles at some point. But ….well, I just worry about them. On the other hand, they've both made sensible career choices so far. So I should probably trust them to do what’s best. Besides, they’re hardly likely to take advice from me. 

Two nights only in Vienna
Pavol Breslik is singing Cassio in Otello and I guess that's OK. It's a fairly light, non-taxing role, and it's not a lengthy one either. On the other hand, Luca Pisaroni is singing in Simon Boccanegra (in concert). I’m not familiar with SB, and I’m hoping that the role of Paolo Albiani is a bass-baritone equivalent of Cassio.

Of course we love to see/hear our idols in new roles; and I’m not suggesting that our favorite singers not grow and expand their repertoires. I am sure they and their coaches know what they’re doing and are proceeding with care. It’s just that fanboys worry about these things.

Toi, toi, toi, guys!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Don Giovanni di Dijon Disappointing

It concerns me when the dramatic standouts in a performance of Don Giovanni are Zerlina and Masetto. 

This performance is beautifully sung, but not terribly engaging. I feel I must blame the director; I can’t imagine that all of these singers lack dramatic skills.

Smooth of voice, and easy on the eyes, Edwin Crossley-Mercer’s interpretation of the Don himself is rough-hewn and confined to a few stock facial expressions: mainly a sneer, a leer, a jeer, and just a little bit of fear. He does move nicely about the stage, he sounds marvelous, and as a bonus he is slender enough for Leporello to carry. But I feel he needs a good drama coach. He is so good at vocal interpretation, it’s kind of surprising to find him lacking in physical drama.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Bass-Baritones Amuse Themselves (David Bižić and Yuri Kissin)

Yuri Kissin
So this is how baritones and basses kill time when they are not on duty during the orchestra rehearsal. Well, some basses, baritones, and bass-baritones. And probably many tenors and counter tenors, and maybe even some sopranos, mezzos, and contraltos. Yuri Kissin and David Bižić give us a peek at what goes on in the back row when the conductor isn't watching.

There are parts of Don Giovanni that you just don't get to do if you are a bass-baritone. Say, Donnas Elvira or Anna. I think it'd be fun to have a beer or two with these wild and crazy guys. If you have a low tolerance for silliness, do not watch this video!

At YT, the poster calls this: 
A different Don Giovanni orchestra rehearsal 
I'd call it: When Serbia Meets Siberia

Monday, April 8, 2013

Die Zauberflöte aus Baden Baden 2013 – Review Part 2: It Takes a Village

Blindfolds. I'm tired of 'em.
Someone else can explain 'em this time.
The only characters who remain distinguishable from the crowd throughout this Zauberflöte are Pamina, Tamino, and Papageno, who wanders in from the lobby, as if from another show. Like Tamino, Pamina is literally thrown into the action. Several choristers grab her and plop her on the ground for her first scene with Monostatos.

Everyone else steps in from the chorus to be or do whatever is needed to move the story along and get the two couples united in the end; then they meld back into the ensemble. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Die Zauberflöte aus Baden Baden 2013 – Review Part 1: An Earthly Kind of Magic

Tamino sings to the portrait of Pamina.
This Zauberflöte is about death. Well, not about death, but death plays a prominent role. In one of the video blogs leading up to the performance, director Robert Carsen points out the multiple suicide attempts, murder threats, and attempted rapes (see below). That being said, while it’s not fluffy and cartoon-ish, it’s far from the darkest, stuffiest interpretation I’ve seen.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

More about Vesselina in São Paulo (another Stream-of-Consciousness Post)

I pointed out a blog post about Vesselina Kasarova's concerts in São Paulo the other day. Well, Bela went back to hear the concert the second night! And over at SmorgZone, you now can find two arias from that program. Isn't the internet cool? 

While browsing VK's website, I found photos of her debut as Eboli (right) in Don Carlo last year in Zurich. The production is by Sven-Eric Bechtolf, and gee, don't those trees look familiar. (Do you remember what other opera we've seen them in?) I do admire the Zurich Opera's recycling program. I wonder if anyone has ever tracked their reuse of sets and set pieces (like the doors from the restaurant in Ariadne reused in Arabella.) But, I digress. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Gratuitous Friday – Joseph Kaiser is Lenksy: Kuda, Kuda

I commented a while back on Canadian tenor Joseph Kaiser’s excellent performance in a musically wonderful, but dramatically strange (and to me, annoying) performance of Handel's Theodora. Just recently, it has come to my attention that he’ll be singing Tamino next season with the Washington National Opera (the other WNO).  Of course, I needed to find out more about him.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

La Traviata from The Met – Only 3 More Days of the Radio Broadcast Archive

If you missed the Met's direct webcast of this year's La Traviata, then zoned out last Saturday and missed the radio broadcast (like I did), BBC Radio 3 is giving you one more another chance! There are still 3 days left to hear this performance. 

Violetta Valery...........Diana Damrau
Alfredo Germont...........Saimir Pirgu
Giorgio Germont..Placido Domingo
And a host of others…plus

The Chorus and Orchestra of The Metropolitan Opera, New York
Yannick Nezet-Seguin, conductor. 

"Unexpected Song" Blogs about Vesselina Kasarova

VK and Bela
My new blog buddy Bela had a front-row seat to a VK concert last night in São Paulo, and I am a teensy bit envious. Bela is a music student in Brazil, who shares her experiences as a student and as an opera fan in a blog called Unexpected Song

Bela manages to get behind the scenes frequently, and her enthusiasm just spills off the screen. I almost feel like I am there with her when I read her posts. I highly recommend her blog and I suggest starting with today's post:

Wagner: Wesendonck for Wednesday – More Nina Stemme

Last month, I posted Nina Stemme singing the Wesendonck Lieder in their original guise, with piano, from (I believe) a studio recording. Here is a live performance from the 2012 Salzburg Festival. Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic (sounding lush as always, even in their reduced chamber configuration.) Is Nina's voice getting darker and richer? She sounds almost contralto-ish to me.  (Upon re-listening, I think it just takes her the first song to warm up.)

Wagner: Wesendonck Lieder, op. 91 
Nina Stemme, Wiener Philharmoniker, Mariss Jansons

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Masetto in Madrid – Another Gratuitous David Bižić Post

BLG Artist Management posted this on their Facebook page today (roughly translated): 
Called to the rescue, David Bižić reprises the role of Masetto in D. Tcherniakov's staging of  Don Giovanni at the Teatro Real de Madrid ... Starting tomorrow, April 3 to April 24.
This would explain his new cover photo at Facebook:

It must be interesting to finish playing the Don and go right back to Masetto. It's not actually clear whom he is replacing, as he is already listed by Teatro Real in the role. 

But what's really important is this means... the controversial production from Aix-en-Provence has been revived in Madrid. Canadian baritone Russell Braun and American bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen appear as Don Giovanni and Leporello respectively, and Christine Schäfer leads the women as Donna Anna.

Fingers crossed for a broadcast! 

The Accessible Thomas Hampson – Classical Music is a Right

If you don't already think Thomas Hampson is a cool guy, watch this video with Sarah Willis of the Berlin Philharmonic. This 38 minute interview covers a lot of ground as it flies by. He talks about digital media in performance, for entertainment and for education. 

Mr. Hampson talks also about YouTube and digital downloads, both authorized and not. Though not in these words, he suggests that YT can be the "entry drug" to classical music. Sarah asks him about his Twitter and Facebook presence, which he uses to share both professional and personal thoughts. Mr. Hampson sees himself as a "doorway" to the music, not wanting to reach the audience so much as to be accessible to the audience.

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Arkiv Music Archival Review

Originally published by Music Web International, April 2007:

John CAGE (1912-1992) 
4’33" (five performances)
4’33" (orchestral transcription by Leopold Stokowski)* 

 Evgeny Kissin (piano)
* New York Philharmonic Orchestra/José Serebrier
rec. London in June 1997, Moscow in February 1998, Tokyo in September 1998, Berlin in May 2000, Vienna in June 2000 and *New York in June 2001
Picture format NTSC 4:3; Sound Format 0; Region Code 0; Disc Format DVD 9; subtitles in American, French, German, Russian and Esperanto 
 SONY CLASSICAL DVD  4334 3343-3 [33’00]

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