Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Brunch – Arleen Auger sings Brahms

Last Thursday, blogger  at opera, innit? posted a clip of Arleen Auger as Alcina. At the conclusion of that wonderful performance, YouTube (being the great time-sink of the interwebz that it is) offered me another Auger clip. This is from a performance of the Brahms Requiem under the direction of Sergiu Celibidache. 

This has got to be the slowest performance on record. But rather than sounding static, it gave me a sense of being suspended in time. At some points, it almost threatens to go backwards. It's gorgeous. And best of all, soprano Arleen Auger is undaunted by the slow tempo. Kudos also to the chorus and orchestra for keeping the line moving. Exquisite!  

You now have sorrow; 
but I shall see you again 
and your heart shall rejoice 
and your joy no one shall take from you.

Behold me:I have had for a little time toil and torment, 
and now have found great consolation. 

I will console you, 
as one is consoled by his mother.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Gratuitous Friday – Malin Hartelius is Vitellia (Non piu di fiori)

And here is a link to the complete performance recorded at Barbican Hall on February 22, 2012. Louis Langrée conducts the Deustcher Kammerchor and the Deutsche Kammer Philharmonie Bremen, which also features Michael Schade as Tito and Alice Coote as Sesto. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Double-Mezzo Monday – Belle nuit, Indeed!

Continuing my pursuit of Sd'O: what to my wondering eyes did appear? 
A duet with ASvO (before she learned the part of Niklaussse by heart!)!! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Gratuitous Friday Double Feature – The Merry Widow Waltz

I said I wanted to hear more from Stéphanie d'Oustrac; and this clip is one of the first I came across. Of course she's sung a lot of real French music, and a lot her performances can be found on YouTube. But here is something that couldn't be much more different than her recent appearances as Orphée. Duetting with her is the (unknown to me) tenor Philippe Do, who sounds like he's worth searching out, too. 

Singing the Merry Widow outdoors seems to be a very European thing to do. Right on the same page as the above video (thank you, YouTube, for being one of the biggest time sinks in my life) is this performance from Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (seen recently in Munich with very big hair as Servillia) and Martin Mitterrutzner (noted previously in this blog.) Could they be any more charming?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Moving (if somewhat manipulative) Orphée from La Monnaie

I really want to write a full-on review of this performance. But, as so often is the case, I am not 100% sure how I feel about it. I feel manipulated; but I'm not sure I mind. 

Overlaying a new story over an established plot is not a new idea. That's what great directors (sometimes) do. While Romeo Castellucci is no Stefan Herheim, I believe he has an interesting and effective new way to approach Orphée et Eurydice. Castellucci equates Eurydice's plight to the story of Els, a young Belgian woman suffering from Locked-in Syndrome, or a pseudocoma. She is completely paralyzed, and seems comatose, but is fully aware of here surroundings; and with accommodation, she can communicate. The story of her condition and how her family has responded is quite moving; so moving that it actually threatens to overtake the opera completely at some points. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Staged Performance of Die Winterreise with Matthias Goerne

I just took a 90-minute break from my total-Orfeo-immersion week to watch Schubert's Die Winterreise live from the Aix-en-Provence Festival on The cycle is performed by Matthias Goerne and Markus Hinterhäuser, and directed for stage by William Kentridge. Herr Goerne is always worth hearing (and watching). He proves once again that he is a consummate vocal artist; and with the addition of the video animation backdrop and moody lighting, his performance is particularly moving. Some of the images struck me as a little naive, but overall I thought the production was quite effective.

As I type this, Medici is regrouping for the on-demand replays, which you can probably access in the next few hours. It’ll only be available in the U.S. until July 23; they say it’ll be back November 11, but I am guessing that it’ll be for pay-for-play at that point. If you’re in Europe, I think you can continue to watch it throughout the summer. Wherever you are, do take the time to give this performance a watch/listen. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vocal Ornamentation in Gluck's Reform Operas – Please Discuss

While looking up the DVD of an Orfeo performance in order to comment on one of my own recent posts, I read a reviewer complaint about the ornaments that countertenor Jochen Kowalski added to "Che faro..." So of course I had to track it down and listen to it (the aria starts at about 3 minutes in)

I didn't find it too bad. But I understood the reviewer's concern. I had a similar initial reaction while listening to Franco Fagioli in a gorgeous concert performance broadcast not long ago. 

Just as the (in)famous aria (variously known as "Amour, viens rendre," "L'Espoir Renaît Dans Mon Âme," and "Addio, miei sospiri") seems out of place, Mr Fagioli's ornamentation sounded a little anti-Gluck. I found it somewhat jarring. (On rehearing, I find I'm not as bothered by it any more.)

However, I do feel that Che faro really doesn't need any embellishment; it's perfect as is. (Although other singers have added a trill or a few appoggiaturas here and there, which never seemed out of place.) 

So this made me wonder what Gluck, opera "reformists," and other opera lovers would think about these additions.  
  • Are these ornaments out of character?
  • Are they anti-Reform?
  • Are they fine as long as they're tastefully done (a subjective call, at best)?
  • Should singers (and conductors) refrain from ornamenting Gluck – ever?
  • Should we just relax and enjoy the lovely singing?

Please feel free to discuss. Use other side of paper if necessary.

Monday, July 7, 2014

La Monnaie's Orphee – Some Background

Photo: Bernd Uhlig
After a prompt from Lydia (definitelytheopera), I decided to look up some additional information (in English) on this new, moving production of Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice. The official videos at the La Monnaie site are apparently quite informative; but only if you understand French and/or Dutch better than I do. Thus my Anglo-centric search for more info. 

So, here is notice that appeared in early June in the KULTURKOMPASSET blog that previews the concept of the production. 

Here is an article about Locked-in Syndrome (LiS) or pseudocoma from The Brain Foundation; and an interview with LiS Survivor Richard Marsh

And here are two reviews in English: from the blog londongrip; and from the New York Times.

This is a co-production with the Weiner Festwochen, and it was seen in Vienna in May, sung in Italian. Over at The Opera Critic, you can find links to reviews (in German) of those performances, plus a few reviews (in French) of the current La Monnaie incarnation.

Anja Harteros sings the Final Scene from Capriccio

On June 19th, Anja Harteros joined Phillippe Jordan and the Orchestre de l'Opéra National de Paris in Vienna to sing a bit of Richard Strauss. On July 6th, Ö1 Radio broadcast a recording of that performance.

Here is the first half of that concert, which contains the Mondscheinmusik and the final scene from Capriccio (starting at about 33 minutes in.) Before welcoming Frau Harteros to the stage, the orchestra presented a sprightly performance of Bizet’s youthful symphony. While orchestral music usually is outside the realm of this blog, I do recommend listening to the Bizet and to the two Ravel Daphnis et Chloé Suites that follow the break.   

Saturday, July 5, 2014

More About Orphée – Online Soon from La Monnaie

Opera Cake (the blogger) calls La Monnaie's new Orphée et Eurydice "simply devastating," and says we need to see in person. While OC did not reveal why (but promised a fuller review soon), I've a feeling some of it has to do with the projections (see below, and other photos at La Monnaie's site.)

Unfortunately, many of us in the U.S. can't pop over to Brussels within the next few weeks. So we won't be able see it in person. We will have get by with watching it online. And we can do that on-demand for about 20 days, starting this coming Wednesday, July 9.

© Bernd Uhlig
Orphée et Eurydice 
Christoph W. Gluck/Hector Berlioz
Orphée  Stéphanie d'Oustrac
Eurydice Sabine Devieilhe
Music direction Hervé Niquet
Staging, set design, lighting & costumes  Romeo Castellucci

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Watching the Radio – The Baritones-on-Ö1 Edition*

*With a bonus mezzo. Because there should always be a mezzo.

Thomas Hampson: Richard Strauss Orchestral Songs

Gerald Finley: Schubert and Liszt Lieder

Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender and his lovely daughter Brigitte, who is kind of an honorary baritone, since she often "gets the girl" in Operaland. And besides, it's her birthday! (July 3rd – this one airs Thursday night.)  

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