Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thoughts about Star Quality (and My Dad)

There are a lot of qualifications to become an opera superstar. Great singing and acting, of course, top the list. And there are many we all love, admire, follow, and yes, even worship. But the best of the best, as far as I am concerned have that extra something – a likability factor.

My Dad watched the latest Jonas Kaufmann interview the other day, and we chatted about what makes JK special. (Dad saw him in cinema broadcasts: Lohengrin from La Scala and the Met Parsifal, and has the Wagner CD.) Of course JK sings super-well, he is very easy on the eyes, and he is a pretty good actor. But what my Dad commented on was JK’s intelligence, friendliness, and approach-ability. Dad said that he’d like to be friends with JK, to hang out, have a beer, and talk about stuff—opera and otherwise.

And I think that’s the magic element to super-superstardom, at least in the opera world. Sing good, act good, and be someone that people would want to be friends with. I think about who I’d like to hang out with: Jonas Kaufmann, Joyce DiDonato (duh), Thomas Hampson, Annette Dasch (after seeing some of her German TV clips), Beverly Sills (OK, that’s now impossible, but you know what I mean.) There are others of course, but these are singers who put themselves out there and let people know them as people.

There also are singers who put themselves out there, whom I would not like to hang out with. I won’t name names, but some of these singers come across as arrogant, unapproachable, and “I am a superstar, and don’t you forget it!” Whatever, I don’t feel like I want to have a beer with them...


I started writing this blog post about a year ago. I never finished it, because I couldn't find a way to wrap it up neatly. But I came across it when searching my files for the key word "Dad." Although I try not to go off topic in this blog, I do have to pause to talk about my Dad; in many ways, he is very on topic.

My Dad passed away last week, early in the morning on December 26, at the age of 91. Last week, he sang in his church choir for midnight mass on Christmas Eve; and, among other things, he heard his great-grandson play the violin on Christmas Day. 

In addition to being the nicest man in the world (I'm not just saying that. Ask anyone who knows him!) my Dad had star quality and unending curiosity: 

Star quality that drew everyone to him. Like JK, my Dad was likable, approachable, intelligent, and friendly (and nearly as handsome). 

And curiosity that kept him exploring life, art, religion, theology, science, and music (including opera) throughout his entire life. He was working his way through one of those "Great Courses" DVD sets about the history of music. In our daily phone chats, he often shared some new-found (or brought back from memory) musical fact. Having sung in a madrigal group in his earlier adulthood, he was excited to learn more background of music he'd been singing for years. My Dad actually was excited about the origin of chant, and organum, how polyphony was developed, and the circumstances surrounding the creation of the first opera. 

He and I shared a particular love of opera, and spent many evenings chatting on the phone (I've mentioned some of these debriefings in other posts) discussing the most recent Met in HD broadcast, a webcast from Brussels or Munich, or an opera DVD. He was particularly intrigued by Willy Decker's Traviata, and he watched the DVD several times before attending the Met in HD. I dare say he was one of the few folks in his retirement village who really "got" that production. And he wasn't content to just "get it" for himself; he made it his goal to bring his fellow opera-lovers on board. 

Dad participated in local amateur opera productions back in the 70s. He did the father and father-like roles: Bartolo in Nozze, Krušina in The Bartered Bride, Dr. Grenville in Traviata, and one of the uncles in Gianni Schicchi, to name a few. He recently shared with his grandsons that he wished he'd done more opera. He was a bit shy back then, but now he felt ready to really step out there. Although he stepped out in only a few operas, he always stepped up in life. 


Again, I am stuck for a tidy wrap-up for this blog post. But this time, I am not going to let that keep me from posting it. I guess I can wrap up by saying that I really miss my Dad, but I can't begrudge him the rest. He lived a long, full life, always following his curiosity and always with star quality! I love you, Dad! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Opera Stars Sing Christmas Music on Ö1 Radio

World opera stars from Enrico Caruso to Renee Fleming are included in this little Christmas music program on Austria's Radio Ö1. Not just the familiar carols, but also a bit of Bach and some opera excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov's Christmas Eve and (of course) Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel. The program also includes selections from Juan Diego Florez, Mado Robin, Paul Robeson, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Thomas Quasthoff, and others.

I haven’t posted as much in 2014 as in past years (oddly, it was easier to keep up when I had a steady job), but I hope to get back to more regular presence here on the blog pages in 2015. So for now, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all my readers! And to carry us through the 12 days of Christmas, here are some Regie or Not Regie Christmas posts from seasons past. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

La Clemenza di Tito from Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on Arte (soon)

Arte TV live-streamed the new production of La Clemenza di Tito from Théâtre des Champs-Élysées today. It should be ready for archival viewing in a day or so. At left we see Kurt Streit as Tito, Kate Lindsey as Sesto, and Robert Gleadow as Publio. 

While we cool our heels waiting to see/hear the performance, we can whet our appetites with a few brief videos, as found on the Theatre’s YouTube channel. I have shared a few that include singing (yay singing!) Other clips include interviews with the artists. Sadly (for those of us who are French comprehension-impaired), without subtitles. 

Can there ever be enough La Clemenza di Tito? I don't think so!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Neuenfels, Kaufmann, and Opolais – More about Manon Lescaut

I was going all nostalgic (for the summer...I have a short memory) and looking for the recording I made when BBC Radio 3 broadcast Manon Lescaut from the Royal Opera House. Of course that file has gone missing. After trolling the various disc drives where my music goes to hide, I gave up and googled it, thinking someone else must have recorded the broadcast. 

Well, I did find it, for 7 bucks, which I don’t care to spend on a questionable mp3 download. But better yet, I found this:

Interviews with the director, conductor, and stars of the Bayerische Staatsoper production. It's amazing what you find when you're looking for something else!

I also found this trailer:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Natalie and Véronique and Topi and Luca vs. Mozart's C-minor Benedictus (Audio only)

Well, here is the Benedictus from this recording. The one chance for the bass soloist to sing! Think what other goodies the tenor and bass might have ended up with, if Mozart had managed to complete this Grand Mass!  

I like Natalie, but she's not my first choice to top this quartet*. Meanwhile, I love Véronique, Topi, and Luca; and the chorus is quite good. The timpanist seems heavy-handed; but it is the "end" of the mass. I guess he wanted it to sound really final.

References to this recording indicate that the score has been "revised" by Louis Langree. This means I now have to do some research to find out what exactly he felt he had to do to "fix" the work.

*One soprano in particular I enjoy hearing in this mass is Miah Persson.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

In Other Staatsoper News - Manon Lescaut vs. Hans Neuenfels

The new production of Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper is produced/directed by the ever divisive Hans Neuenfels (I love his work, but many don't!) Possibly redeeming the production (or in my case, making it even more exciting) are the two leads: none other than Jonas and Kristine!

The opera will be broadcast, but not till next summer. Meanwhile be on the lookout for (probably) scathing reviews of the production. See more pics at the Staatsoper website.

And here are a few reviews (I am sure there are more somewhere) to tide us over, tempt us, or make us certain we don't want to see it. (Check all that apply.)
Bachtrack (in English)
Der Neue Merker (auf Deutsch)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Luca Interview: "I am Figaro" (unfortunately overdubbed in German)

Here is a brief interview on Bavarian Radio with Luca. He is back to Figaro at the Bayerische Staatsoper. But he talks a bit about the contrast between singing the Count (der Graf) and Figaro. The interviewer asks questions in German (natch!) but Luca answers in English (great!) except as soon as he starts talking, some German dude starts translating over him (buh!). 

With a bit familiarity with German, and catching the beginning and ending of Luca's English antworten...I mean answers, one can pick up that he feels very much at home with Figaro, but enjoys being the bad guy too. He also contrasts the sunny mood of Italy with the darker attitude in Austria. I am sure Austrians just love hearing that! 
So here it is. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dorothea Röschmann Speaks! (About Her New Recording)

Internationally acclaimed soprano Dorothea Röschmann discusses her debut recital CD Portraits in an exclusive interview with Askonas Holt. 

The who, the how, and the why. It's wonderful to hear her thoughts about the program. I guess I need to get out and buy the CD now! 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Morning Mozart – Natalie vs. Véronique

The Soprano Sing-off from Mozart's C-minor mass. This time with two sopranos (often we hear a mezzo in the role of Soprano 2.) I am not sure where this came from, but as you can imagine, I was searching for Luca Pisaroni when it cropped up. (The bass gets totally short-changed in Mozart's partial setting of the Roman Catholic Mass.)

Huh! The entire Mass was at YT just the other day. Ach, the ephemeral internet!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

In Case You Missed It – Orphée from La Monnaie Replay

I did a "kind of" review of this production when it was streaming from La Monnaie last summer, stating, in part:
While I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this production...Stéphanie d' an amazing singer/actor. In what, for the singer, is essentially a concert performance, she evokes Orphée 's full range of emotions.  
In case you missed the performance, or want to check it out again, here it is at the Toob. If you haven't seen it, I do recommend setting aside about an hour and a half to view/listen to it.  If you have a little less time, go directly to the scene leading up to Je perdu mon Eurydice.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gratuitous Friday – Luca Pisaroni is Count Almaviva

More Luca joy! I think this Madrid performance is his first Conte. It's kind of odd to see him being the angry Count instead of the crafty Figaro. The whole performance was broadcast in Spain. Here's hoping for more clips soon!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Cosi fan Luca (and Martin and Gerald)

Thanks to the YouTuber who posted the opening sequence from last year's Salzburg revival/reworking of Sven-Eric Bechtolf's "don't drink the blue (in this case green) kool-aid" CosiMaestro von Eschenbach received generally bad reviews for this performance, but this bit seems to go well. (Note that the action begins before the overture ends.)

Speaking of the blue kool-aid, I notice there is more byplay with beverages in this opening scene than before. There seems to be some foreshadowing that Alfonso is gonna get it this time. 

Also note the nightgown exchange...already the boys are having trouble remembering which sister is his girlfriend. I must find the rest of this broadcast!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Malin Hartelius as Armida (Photos As Seen on Facebook)

So, poor Netta Or got sick, and Malin Hartelius stepped into a new production of Rinaldo in Bonn. From the looks of it, she sexes things upwith a little something for everyone! Now if we can just get to hear her performance as the sorceress Armida.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Emmanuelle Haïm Speaks about Handel's "La Resurrezione"

The Berlin Phil posted this video interview on Facebook. When I clicked the YT video to share it, I got this message:

This video is unlisted. Be considerate and think twice before sharing.

So I thought twice, and quite a few more times, and I thought maybe I should just leave it alone. Then I thought, "If I am intrigued enough by this interview to go to the Digital Concert Hall and pay to see the concert, maybe some other people would be, too." (I found it most interesting when she talked about the unusual orchestrations in La Resurrezione and the very operatic tone of this oratorio. It sure made me want to go hear the program!)

I also thought, "Why post it if you don't want people to see it?" and, "I hope I don't get in trouble." Maybe they'd prefer you go directly to the DCH to see the interview. (This is why I just added the link—in two different places.) 

But in the meantime, I can name quite a few people in the blog world who would be really delighted to see this interview (fellow Haïm-heads, unite!) who may not regularly visit DCH or follow the BPO on Facebook. 

So here she is, Emmanuelle Haïm and her hair (in English, with German subtitles):  

I also thought, "I haven't posted anything for a while. I'd better remind the blogosphere that I am still here!" 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wiener Staatsoper Live

About a year ago the Vienna State Opera started streaming live broadcasts on the web and to specially equipped Samsung TVs. It seems they've noticed that not everyone who is interested in their programming speaks German. So this fall they broadened their advertising to reach the English-speaking audience. It is now somewhat easier to figure out how works the website. 

Unlike some organizations, the Staatsoper does charge for their streamed performances, but they also offer benefits such as delayed streaming so you can see the opera at 6pm in your own time zone. Right now you can also get a free pass to an opera of your choice just by registering at their websiteAnd there are some goodies coming up just within the coming week:

Sunday, November 2 
Wagner: Tannhäuser

Friday, November 7
Puccini: La Boheme 

Le Nozze di Figaro
La Cenerentola
La Traviata
Die Fledermaus

...all before the clock strikes 2015!

Check out the webpage, to get the free offer, and go to to see the full schedule. And click below to see a preview:

I have to add, whether in the interest of full disclosure, or just to brag, that I received an email a few days ago from the Staatsoperlive folks asking me to post this video on my blog. I have posted about their broadcasts before, so I don't feel I am pandering. On the contrary, I am flattered that they found me and thought my little blog was worth their effort!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

JDD Hits a Home Run at KC

OK, so I am not the first blogger to post this; and I know I won't be the last. But here it is. Thank goodness for the intrepid viewer who captured and already posted this clip!

JDD did a few interpretive things I'd disagree with. However, (1) JDD does not need my approval; and (2) overall, this is an awesome performance and a model of how to "properly" sing our National Anthem! Brava Joyce!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Anticipation – What I Downloaded Today...

...but don't have time to listen to till tomorrow:
Mitridate, rè di Ponto, K. 87 (74a)

Barry Banks (Mitridate)
Sophie Bevan (Sifare)
Lawrence Zazzo (Farnace)
Klara Ek (Ismene)
Robert Murray (Marzio)
Anna Devin (Arbate)
The Orchestra of Classical OperaIan Page, conductor
Recorded at St Jude-on-the-Hill, London, England, UK, 12 – 26 July 2013

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Joyce/More Medici

Tuesday November 4, 2014 @ 8:00pm (New York time)
Be there!
(at least in front of your computer, if you can't make it to NYC)

Other People's Blogs

The Eyes Have It points us to a great interview with conductor Marin Alsop on BBC's Desert Island Discs. (You can download this show as a podcast, too.)

Dorothea Röschmann – An Appreciation alerts us to a new recital recording guessed it: Dorothea Röschmann!

Over at opera, innit, dehggial didn't like Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges; but at least now we know where to find it at YT.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Laurence Equilbey Conducts Mozart, Beethoven, and Weber

Live broadcast on October 11, 2pm (Eastern U.S. time) 
and in archive for a while thereafter.

 I just acquired LE's Mozart Requiem recording. Of course, it's amazing. 
More to follow about that. But meanwhile be sure this concert is on your to do list!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Was I Thinking? Wunderlich's "An die ferne Geliebte" Revisited

About a year and a half ago, I did a column on Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. In it, I reviewed several tenor performances, and promised to talk about the baritones next. Well, this is not about the baritones. (I did recently hear one baritone version I was not too thrilled about, but I’ll save that for later.)

Anyway, in my review, I said of FW, "He may seem slightly less involved in the text than the other performers."* 

What was I thinking? I don’t know. Maybe it was Beethoven Burnout. Today, I happened upon this version again and it moved me nearly to tears. I felt Fritz was really inside both the music and the text. The way he paints a phrase here and there, and stretches and inflects, and caresses certain words. 

You can hear it right in the first song. Some singers make this strophic song sounds so...strophic. (Here's stanza 1, OK now we're repeating the music with different words, ah one note is changed... maybe...) Fritz makes every stanza sound fresh, almost as if the song is through-composed; and when he bends it like Beethoven in the third stanza, he is definitely involved in this Poet's story!

The man is a genius—Fritz I mean. (Beethoven is generally acknowledged, so I wasn’t going there again.) Fritz’s poet is wistful yet hopeful about seeing his love again. But as the cycle continues, he gradually realizes he really isn’t going to see her ever again. 

Here it is again, for your consideration:

*To be fair to myself, I did add, "But in reality, he is just way more subtle."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reading the Fine Print – Miah Persson Singing Mahler

A few years back I was caught up in a Mahler craze (right before the opera craze took hold) and I listened to quite a few different recordings of each of the symphonies. I decided to check out a few today, and as I was scrolling through my iTunes library, I saw a Mahler 4th and wondered, "hmmm, who might the soloist be?" Squinting, I read the name I love to see of the soprano I love to hear: Miah Persson!

I am always intrigued to hear what kind of soprano a conductor chooses for this movement. Maybe it’s whoever he/she can get, but I always hope that they choose a soloist for this song based on the sound of the voice and the soprano’s approach to the text.

Some sopranos sound a bit too grown up and worldly-wise for this text. I mean it’s a pretty ironic text, but I think the singer should sound a little child-like (maybe child-like with an edge) without actually sounding childish.

I think Miah Persson nailed it on this one. Listen and see (hear) if you agree.

For a contrasting  (more ominous) interpretation from another beloved (by me) soprano, check out this version with Dorothea Röschmann.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mozart Monday with Malin Hartelius – Et incarnatus est

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Et incarnatus est
Mass in C minor, "The Great", KV427
Malin Hartelius
Mozarteum Orchester Salzburg
Ivor Bolton

Malin and Mozart: nothing more to say!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tchaikovsky: Mazeppa – Live Concert Broadcast from Amsterdam

Tenor Vsevolod Grivnov (Andrei)
I mentioned this performance of Mazeppa the other day. Today, I actually listened to it. I don't know if the music actually gets better as it goes on, or if I was just paying more attention towards the end, but I found the tenor aria that opens Act 3, the baritone/soprano duet, the tenor/soprano duet, and the final soprano aria to be the most musically satisfying (i.e., tuneful and moving) parts of the opera. My recommendation is if you don't time for the full performance, start with Act 3 (about 58 minutes into the Act II/Act III part of the broadcast.) 

That being said, there are some other nice arias, happy peasant choruses, mighty bloodthirsty choruses, bombastic, Russian-sounding battlefield music (a nice change from the 1812 Overture—actually I think it quotes the same hymn briefly in the battle-aftermath) and other pretty bits. But overall, I'd say it's not as tuneful, at least not up till Act III, as say, Eugene Onegin. Maybe it's just that I know EO better. The singers all sound great; and the audience clearly approved of their performances.

Since I know next to nothing about this opera, I searched (in vain) for a libretto in English (I found one in Russian and Spanish, but that was little use to me.) But the Met has a handy synopsis of Mazeppa that I found quite helpful in keeping track of the (melo)drama! So go, listen; then come back and let me know if you agree that Act 3 is the best, or if you think Acts 1 and 2 are just as lovely as Act 3, and that I need to pay closer attention.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Watching the Radio – Opera on Concerthuis 4

From Radio 4 in the Netherlands: More reasons to spend time in front of your computer!

Bejun Mehta
Sunhae Im
Lenneke Ruiten
Rene Jacobs conducting (2014)

Miah Persson
Topi Lehtipuu
Daniel Schumutzhard
Rene Jacobs conducting (2012)

Anders Dahlen
Lenneke Ruiten
Cynthia Seiden
Frans Brüggen conducting (2011)

Lado Ataneli
Gelena Gaskarova
Yuri Kissin
Alexander Vedernikov conducting (2014)

Happy listening!

*This one is great fun! I just finished listening to it, and I'm ready to do it again!

Friday, September 19, 2014

JDD Does it Again – Stella di Napoli

Yes, yes; I am still around—just not blogging very much, because my day job has been so much more demanding lately (darned day job—always interfering with my passions). This was going to be a Gratuitous Friday post but (as often happens with blog posts) it grew into so much more!

Recently, a young friend asked me to coach her for a musical theater audition; I said yes, of course I will! (I was both flattered and fascinated!) As we were working (on an aria from the MikadoI forgot how fun that music is), I found myself not quite channeling Joyce DiDonato (I would never presume) but sharing thoughts and advice I picked up from watching JDD's master classes. I decided to do my young friend a favor and introduce her to the magic of Joyce DiDonato. So I stopped talking and gave her links to all of JDD's master classes, so she could learn directly from the Yankee Diva. 

I realize that in the past few months, I’ve spent more time listening to JDD talk that listening to her sing. So, I finally acquired what just may be the vocal album of the year. Stella indeed! What an awesome album cover! But best of all is the creamy, flexible, and expressive vocalism inside. And new operatic treasures to behold (behear?) The only downside is I downloaded it instead of buying the CD, so I am probably missing out on some good liner notes, more photos, and some translations. On the other hand, with music and singing this beautiful, who needs to be distracted by reading a CD booklet?

Anyway, here's WarnerClassics' official promo video. We get Joyce talking (yay!) and Joyce singing (SIGH!)

And here is the recording session for L’Amica ancor non torna. (I love the clarinet solos, and so does JDD, you can just tell. But I think the composer missed a great opportunity for some sexy mezzo/clarinet duetting.) Is it my imagination or is her voice getting richer, fuller, and deeper? While you're pondering that, go get this album. Or if you already have it, go listen to it again! Now!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thursday's Something Else (Lakmé is in a Trance)

nicked today's post title from dehggial, who writes the nifty blog opera, init? My petty theft is only semi-appropriate, since this post will appear on Friday in most parts of the world. It’s also only semi-appropriate because it’s not as far off-topic for this blog as it may seem.

Regular readers of my posts and the occasional chat threads will not be totally surprised by a trance arrangement of the Flower Duet from Lakmé. Especially not after discussions of Reggae Vitellia, House Vitellia, Big Band and/or Blues Vitellia; plus a few other odd (imagined or real) fusions of opera and dance music.

I love discovering pieces/songs in my music library that I had no idea I owned. I was listening to this trance album today (Thursday). Yes, some opera fans are dance music fans, too—even though we do realize that most trance music sounds like most other trance music. But about four minutes into this song, I started thinking, “That little vocal riff sounds so familiar!”

If you don’t like dance music, or classical music turned into dance music, or classical music generally messed with at all, you’ll probably hate this track.

If you need to cleanse your aural palate, here's a more traditional version.

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