Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fierrabras Complete – You Know You're Curious, Go On, Check it Out

Yes this opera has its flaws—most of them dramatic. On the other hand, it has some really nice tunes, and this cast does a great job. While you're at it, you can try to suss out the reasoning behind the giant grand piano. Leave it to Claus Guth to give us something to chew while we listen to the pretty music.

You might be interested in reading my other posts about this production.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lieder in a Foreign Land – Two Recitals on Radio 4 Concerthuis

For about 20 more days you can listen to Austrian Florian Boesch singing in England and Michael Schade (oft described as German/ Canadian) singing in Switzerland.

Here is Herr Boesch's recent Wigmore Hall recital of Schubert and Wolf, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau.

And here is Herr Schade's Freiberg program of mostly Schubert and Beethoven, accompanied by Justus Zeyen and recorded in June 2013.

Happy Listening!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Gratis Lohengrins for Gratuitous Friday (In Case You're too Cheap...) pay for the Wiener Staatsoper webcast today, here are a few other complete Lohengrins to keep you busy over the weekend:

One from Munich:

The recent Guth version from La Scala:

An earlier Wiener Staatsoper production:

...and a (literally) dark production from Paris:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Live Lohengrin aus Wien am Freitag

Live this Friday from Vienna:

It's a new production of Lohengrin; it's pay per view; and it's available in prime time—no matter where you live. (I think I just sprained my brain). 

Actually, it's live in Vienna at 5 PM, making it live in New York at around 11 AM (if I am calculating my Daylight Savings Time correctly). However, you can arrange see a delayed transmission in any time zone you want. Those innovative Austrians! 

Here is the link to the Wiener Staatsoper's websiteAnd here's who we have to thank for this new production:

Michaela Martens | Ortrud
Detlef Roth | Heerrufer

Mikko Franck | Conductor
Andreas Homoki | Director
Wolfgang Gussmann | Stage and costume design
Franck Evin | Light Design
Werner Hintze | Dramaturgie
Thomas Bruner | Bühnenbildmitarbeit
Carl-Christian Andreasen | Kostümmitarbeit

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peter Sellars – Two of his Classic Mozart Productions on the Tube

Nearly everyone has an opinion about Peter Sellars' productions of...well everything he's ever directed. He's been around for a while, now and he is not going away—I think his work has really matured over the years. He surfaced as an opera director with his 1990-ish films of the three great Mozart/DaPonte operas. (You might argue with the term "classic" when describing his productions. However, like them or not, they are classics of their genre.) 

I encountered these three productions when they were first broadcast on PBS. I was fascinated by Le nozze di Figaro, a bit annoyed by Cosi fan Tutte, and completely put off by Don Giovanni (I switched it off in the middle of the "Champagne Aria," finding the production icky and some of the singing unbearable.)

Now, with more life experience, more opera experience, more experience with Regietheater (although I am not sure these two really count as regie—feel free to discuss/disagree in the comments section below), and a completely different world outlook, I re-approached these operas with curiosity. The good news is that we can experiment with and form our own opinions on Mr. Sellars' Cosi and Giovanni for free on YT (for now). Thanks to the enterprising Opera Nerd for posting them!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gratuitous Good Friday – Magdalena Kožená Sings Bach

The Monteverdi program with MK that I posted the other day is quite recent. Here is some vintage Magdalena (Amazon says it was issued in 2004, but a reviewer comments that it was recorded in 1999). This aria from Bach's St. Matthew Passion is from one of Ms. Kožená's first commercial recordings. I find her performance—and that of the un-credited solo violinist—almost unbearably moving.

Erbarme dich, mein Gott,
um meiner Zähren willen!
Schaue hier, Herz und Auge
weint vor dir bitterlich.
Erbarme dich, mein Gott.
Have mercy, my God,
for the sake of my tears!
See here, before you
heart and eyes weep bitterly.
Have mercy, my God.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Must-See Monteverdi from France

Technically, Magdalena Kožená and Rolando Villazón are the "star power" in this program. Ms. Kožená really does shine (RV, not quite so much, but we still love him), especially in her solo turns as Octavia and the lamenting Nymph (She seems to be pregnant again, which lends a special poignancy to her Octavia. I'm surprised no director has explored the idea of Octavia being pregnant when Nero dumps her. Maybe someone has and I just haven't seen it.)

But the real stars here are Emanuelle Haïm and the vocalists and instrumentalists of her Concert d'Astrée. 

The program, a "Monteverdi Gala" performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées last February, contains opera excerpts and madrigals, and it's great fun. And of course, the music-making is marvelous as usual. Conductor, musicians, and the audience all seems to be having a great time. And you will, too!  

(Unless you don't like Monteverdi, in which case, you won't enjoy this concert at all.)

Meanwhile, here's the concert, as seen on the Arte Concert website: 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Mozart – Kenneth Tarver is Arbace (Audio Track)

Arbace is such an ungrateful role. You need a super technique to sing his two arias, yet it's not really a big part. Depending on which version you are in, you're at least the second tenor, or maybe even third! 

So, I was listening to Rene Jacobs' recording of Idomeneo recently, having only just realized that Richard Croft (sigh) sings the lead in this performance. I confess I was listening casually, so when this aria came on, I had to double check who was singing. Who the heck is Kenneth Tarver? Where can I find more of his performances? 

Well, he is also Don Ottavio on Jacobs' Don Giovanni. He is not brand new on the scene, and he's been singing some big roles in big houses, but we definitely need to hear more. I wonder when he will take on the title role in Idomeneo? (He’d also be an awesome Idamante – I am beginning to really like the idea of tenor Idamante – but don’t worry, I am still a Major Mezzo Fan, too!)

Here is Mr. Tarver as Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Still More Stupid Reviewer Comments

This series of posts continues to be popular. So brace yourselves. Here comes another round of Stupid Reviewer Comments, all culled from Amazon customer reviews. 

If it ain’t Baroque...

  • Let's just face it...those of us enthralled by Italian composrs of the Romantic era...just cannot enjoy this kind of music at all, no how no way. If you do, then fine. …but if you think you don't liek Baroque music...stick with don't, and you never will.
  • If you don't like Baroque music, this is not the opera for you…
  • If we can have original Baroque instruments, why can't we have castrati?

Well, duh! It’s opera...

The opera is silly, makes no sense.

Insulting to Italians...

The production is horrible. Very italian!!!

Insulting to choruses...

Where the hell did they find this tenor? … He has no skills, no power, no breath and the high notes come out horrible. … This guy does not deserve any role but perhaps to be a chorus singer.


It is the only recording currently available of this opera which is complete… (I'm not sure it's absolutely complete...)

Get this box set…or don’t:

It's a good price for a boat load of music. But if you don't like Mozart, you're not gonna have a good time.

OK, now tell us how you really feel:

The staging is meaningless, worthless, uninteresting and an ludicrous bore, bore, the idea a leach; an offense to nature and a disrespect for talent and wonder.

You also may enjoy these previous SRC posts:
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