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.

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