October 31, 2006

TOSCA — Metropolitan Opera House

Anne Midgette [NY Times, 31 October 2006]

A few things were supposed to be newsworthy about the Metropolitan Opera’s first “Tosca” of the season on Saturday night. It was to be the first Tosca of the American soprano Andrea Gruber, and she was to wear the stage jewels Swarovski made for Maria Callas’s first Met Tosca in 1956.

Posted by Gary at 8:07 AM

A Classical Education

michael_tilson_thomas.jpgBY FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 31 October 2006]

In November 1954, the young Leonard Bernstein appeared on the program "Omnibus" standing on a gigantic score of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. He began the program by pointing to the opening four notes with his shoe.

Posted by Gary at 7:52 AM

October 30, 2006

Photo Journal: New York City Opera's New Così Fan Tutte

Maureen_McKay.jpgBy Vivien Schweitzer [Playbill, 30 October 2006]

After a 25-year absence, the 85-year-old conductor Julius Rudel has returned to New York City Opera — a company which he helped found and which he led for two decades — to conduct a new production of Così fan tutte.

Posted by Gary at 6:17 PM

Peter Grimes

Richard Morrison at the Grand Theatre, Leeds [Times Online, 30 October 2006]

No shingle, boats, pub or borough. Just one vast fishing net, hoisted like a mysterious communal totem in one of many darkly symbolic moments that punctuate Phyllida Lloyd’s staging of Britten’s masterpiece. Opera North’s new production must be one of the starkest yet conceived. The very people seem like flotsam and jetsam, adrift in a black sea. Even the pub singsong resembles a bunch of castaways huddled in a makeshift refuge.

Posted by Gary at 1:59 PM

Magdalena Kozená, Barbican Hall, London

By Richard Fairman [Financial Times, 30 October 2006]

The operas of Mozart hold such irrepressibly vivid and contrasting arias that it is surprising more singers have not devised concert programmes of them in the past 12 months. Linking one’s star to Mozart’s in his 250th anniversary year was never likely to do anybody any harm.

Posted by Gary at 1:50 PM

Bavarian Opera Lovers Are Faithful in the Face of Change

By ALAN RIDING [NY Times, 30 October 2006]

MUNICH, Oct. 28 —This city’s love affair with opera, now more than 350 years old, has survived the fires that regularly razed 18th- and 19th-century theaters as well as regime changes, revolutions, two world wars and, most recently, the reduction of crucial subsidies from Bavaria’s regional government. In that context a change of command at the Bavarian State Opera can hardly be deemed traumatic.

Posted by Gary at 1:46 PM

A ‘Tosca' Triple Threat

Guleghina_Maria_small.pngBY FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 30 October 2006]

"Tosca" began its season run at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday evening with an unexpected cast change, a major debut, and a veterans returning in a signature role. The three principals together mounted a colorful, if a bit gritty, performance.

Posted by Gary at 1:16 PM

Encore and entrance

Julianna_Di_Giacomo_small.jpgCity Opera fans get cozy with history

[NY Daily News, 29 October 2006]

When Julius Rudel stepped into the New York City Opera orchestra pit last week to conduct the debut of a new production of Mozart's "Così Fan Tutte," the applause was much louder and longer than what normally greets a conductor.

Posted by Gary at 8:31 AM

October 29, 2006

"Turandot": Wie man eine Motte beklatscht

Turandot_Volksoper_small.jpgVON WILHELM SINKOVICZ [Die Presse, 30 October 2006]

Die Wiener Volksoper siedelt Giacomo Puccinis letzte Oper im Insektenreich an.

Warum die Volksoper Puccinis "Tu randot" ins Programm nimmt, obwohl selbst das große Schwes terhaus am Ring Probleme hat, dieses Werk adäquat zu besetzen, wird ein Rätsel bleiben. Die Premiere gab jedenfalls keine Antwort auf die Frage, formulierte vielmehr eine weitere: Warum reagiert das Wiener Opernpublikum begeistert auf eine mittelmäßig bis schlecht gesungene Wiedergabe eines Meisterwerks, das zudem durch eine geschmacklose Regiearbeit entstellt wurde? "Turandot" sieht im Haus am Gürtel nun aus wie der Versuch eines sibirischen Provinztheaters, das Musical "König der Löwen" ins Reich der Insekten zu transferieren.

Posted by Gary at 5:54 PM

Don Gregorio, Dun Mhuire Theatre, Wexford

By George Hall [Financial Times, 29 October 2006]

At what is clearly a crucial turning-point in its history, the Wexford Festival is in the process of reinventing itself on a grander scale. This year’s event is in the nature of an interim measure.

Posted by Gary at 5:47 PM

First performances are not all of a feather

Bird of Night fails to lift Paul Driver, but premieres of Maxwell Davies and Knussen prove transporting [Times Online, 29 October 2006]

Of four premieres I attended in the past few days, the grandest was the least. For the first time, the Royal Opera has commissioned a work from a woman, the Trinidadian Dominique Le Gendre, and it was staged at the Linbury. In 2003, a 20-minute opus by her had been put on there as part of A Nitro at the Opera — a Sunday of “black operas”.

Posted by Gary at 5:42 PM

That's Donizetti, Daddy-O!

Jonathan Miller’s L’Elisir d’Amore ain’t for squares, baby.

By Peter G. Davis [NY Magazine, 23 October 2006]

Jonathan Miller, the British polymath who long ago put aside medicine and acting for opera directing and giving peevish newspaper interviews, is back in town to stage Donizetti’s rustic comedy L’Elisir d’Amore at the City Opera and, during lulls in rehearsal, receive the press.

Posted by Gary at 5:33 PM

Placido Domingo — Be My Love

This was Domingo’s first solo album on DG and it is re-edited the way it appeared thirty years ago, though with one difference with the Decca re-issues. The sleeve notes from the original LP release are reprinted at the inside and are clearly readable, which cannot often be said of many Decca releases where you need a magnifying glass to decipher the text.

Domingo always liked to take an artistic risk and he surely did it on this record. Though he only mentions one name in his sleeve note interview –Mario Lanza – it’s clear that’s he up to some of the most intense competition in his whole career, probably even more than on many an aria recording. Almost all pieces on this record were intimately connected with some of his greatest predecessors: ‘Non ti scordar,’ ‘Core ‘ngrato’ and ‘Marta’ with Gigli; ‘Ay ay ay’ with Fleta; ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’ with Tauber; ‘Mattinata’ with Caruso and Björling; ‘Amapola’ and ‘Munequita Linda’ with Schipa etc. I regret to say but the Spanish tenor fails almost in every of his trials. Of course he set himself some impossible goals. Many a song was composed to bring out the best in a particular voice. Tauber even co-composed a few things with Lehar. But the consequences are there for everybody to hear. Most collectors will have that particular sound in their ears and it needs more than the golden tone Domingo still had at the time to challenge the earlier recordings, as the tenor almost never varies the volume he uses. Out comes a stream of honeyed tenor tone without one original phrase, without a piano or even an occasional mezza-voce. Not that everything was still perfect in Domingo’s vocal production at the time. In ‘Core ‘ngrato’ and ‘Mattinata’ one is immediately struck by the squeezed nasal top, warning of Domingo’s difficulties with high B from 1978 on.

As could be expected, he is at his best when singing his own language, though even there his predecessors win hands down. Miguel Fleta and definitely Tito Schipa had less than half of Domingo’s vocal means and still they make twice the effect: Fleta by his haunting messa di voce in ‘Ay, ay, ay’ and Schipa by rhythmic incisiveness in ‘Amapola’. Domingo is excellent in the lesser known ‘Marta’ but who can compete with the 1932 recording of Gigli?

Domingo always was an admirer of Mario Lanza and back in 1976 it was still not done to do that clearly and loudly. So praise to the Spanish tenor. But we are used to hear that glorious high C at the end of ‘Be My Love’ and that’s a note that never was in Domingo’s vocal armoury (even Gheorgiu sings the note less well than Lanza).

I cannot help thinking that this is one of these records where Domingo looked at the score while flying in, relying on the beautiful sounds he could make and recording at a whirlwind pace. In some of his earlier albums like ‘Perhaps Love’ or later ones like ‘The Broadway I love’, the tenor proved that he could tune down his voice and look for and find the magical phrase that makes these recordings often more interesting than his operatic ones. He is not helped by the orchestra either. The conductors probably wanted to earn a few Deutsch Marks themselves as arrangers and they only succeed in adding syrupy preludes and postludes with rather noisy brass between. Many a tenor has sung the abbreviated version of ‘Core’ngrato’ as an encore in a live recital; but Domingo is the only major tenor to have recorded it that way in an official recording, probably another proof of the haste in which this recital was recorded.

Jan Neckers


image_description=Placido Domingo: Be My Love

product_title=Placido Domingo: Be My Love
Granada, Core 'ngrato, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, Mattinata, Siboney, Ay, Ay, Ay, Be my love, Magic is the Moonlight, Because, Marta, Non ti scordar di me, Jurame, Ich schenk dir eine neue Welt, Amapola
product_by=Placido Domingo, tenor; London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karl-Heinz Loges and Marcel Peeters.
product_id=DG 477 619-2 [CD]

Posted by Gary at 3:06 PM

SPONTINI: La Vestale

And another oddity is the fact that nobody at Ponto took the pains to look around and give us the names of the singers in two small parts.

And now that’s out of the way, I immediately admit I was very much surprised by the performance. Nowadays we are so used to listening to the famous Italian version, be it complete with Callas and Corelli in the live La Scala recording or Rosa Ponselle in the big aria, we take the Italian version for granted. The original French however makes for quite a musical difference. Julian Budden succinctly summed them up while discussing the Italian translation of Verdi’s Vêpres Siciliennes: “The fact is that when faced with the new metres and more flexible prosody of French verse the Italian translator of that time still tended to reach for the nearest of the standard Italian metres. ‘Comble de misère’ is a six-syllable line with a strong accent at the beginning; the translator renders it as ‘Parola fatale’, orthodox Italian with the accent firmly on the second syllable. As a result it sits very awkwardly on the musical phrase. Examples of this fault can be found in all translations of Italian opera up till the time when the Italians themselves extended their system of metres (Zanardini’s translations in Don Carlos are on the whole much better).”

A comparison of the best known piece of La Vestale indeed leads to the same conclusion : ‘Toi, que j’implore’ sounds far more as heart-felt begging than the harsher sounds of ‘Tu che invoco’. As a result I found this performance to be more restrained, lighter, more classical than the Italian version which always reminds me as a lesser version of Fanciulla del West where everybody marks time for a deus-ex-machina (be it Minnie or a flash from the sky as in La Vestale) to save the situation and send everybody home satisfied with the bliss of the new couple.

Of course much depends on the kind of voices and, though the singers are not of the powerhouse variety we know from some Italian versions, they are an attractive lot indeed. Michèle Le Bris sings the title role. She was one of the last generation of French singers who rarely left France and was used to singing all her Italian roles in her own language. Some will know her from her Barcelona performances of La Juive with Tucker. She made very fine highlight recordings of Le Trouvère and Un Bal Masqué with Tony Poncet. The voice is agreeable, agile and individually coloured and one is struck by her impeccable legato and by the sureness of attack on all notes. Of course this can be expected from a singer who was a fine Marguerite in Faust and a wonderful Sylva Varescu in Kalman’s Gypsy Princess as well. She may not be Callas but her ‘Toi, que j’implore’ gives a wonderful sense of young almost innocent teenage love which is probably nearer to a young vestal virgin than the American soprano’s far riper and tragic sound.

Le Bris is very ably partnered by Nadine Denize. She too restricted most of her performances to La France and her rich high mezzo is a delight.

With my customary modesty I was sure I knew every tenor singing in France from the fifties till the seventies; especially as I belong to that kind of opera lovers who delight in cast reading in obscure old magazines. Well, I have to admit I never heard of Robert Dumét whose only appearance I could trace was in a French Moïse. His is a baritonal tenor very well suited to the role.

Bass Jacques Mars was a stalwart of many fine radio performances. He sings an impressive High Priest.

Roger Norrington conducts in the same vein the singers use: keeping his orchestra light and getting right the flow of the music. His tempi are marginally slower and more relaxed than Votto’s in the La Scala version and that’s for the better. Spontini is often conducted too fast and the music sounds rushed, so that one tires quickly. With Norrington’s marginally slower beat one misses nothing of the excitement and gains a lot in depth. The sound is fine as this was probably a radio performance.

The bonus is an interesting one as recordings of Maria Casula are rather rare. Her's is the more traditional Italian spinto: warm, well rounded, with a nice Leontyne Price-sound to it, while it is clear from the first syllable she has no idea what French pronunciation is about.

Jan Neckers

   image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/vestale.jpg image_description=Gasparo Spontini: La Vestale product=yes product_title=Gasparo Spontini: La Vestale product_by=Michèle Le Bris (Julia), Nasine Denize (Grande Vestale), Robert Dumét (Licinius), Claude Méloni (Cinna), Jacques Mars (Grand Pontife), Chef des Aruspices (N.N.), Consul (N.N.). Orchestre Radio-Lyrique et Choeurs de la RTF conducted by Roger Norrington. Recorded in Paris 1976. product_id=Ponto PO-1038 [2CDs] price=$11.98 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000EGEKOM?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000EGEKOM&adid=0J4ECYJ761BBAPNJR1FF&
Posted by Gary at 2:44 PM


After all, opera in nineteenth-century could be performed in translation and even with each principal singing in their own native languages. Such was the case when Gustav Mahler arrived in Budapest in 1888 and faced a performing tradition that allowed for multiple languages. Just as Mahler succeeded, to a degree, in arriving at a more consistent approach to opera by the time he left Budapest in 1891, so too do audiences almost expect such practices to be absent in the twentieth century, and certainly by 1959, when this recording was made.

The differences are not limited to the language, though, as the score was adapted to have the Valentin’s aria “Avant quitter” occur after the overture and just before the conventional first scene with Faust in his study in lieu of its place in the middle of that act (as Act 1, no. 6). This kind of revision is jolting, but not incomprehensible, and it establishes a certain tone by having ones of the opera’s more memorable pieces occur first.

While interest in this performance may focus on Ghiaurov, the other principals are strong and the ensemble as a whole is convincing. The intensity of the interpretation emerges, even when the opera is sung in translation and, further, in an unfamiliar language. The diction sounds clean, and more, the line as conceived in French, is not lost in the Bulgarian. Familiarity with Gounod’s Faust brings out, in a sense, an inner prompter to echo silently the lines of the French libretto even without having a text and translation to consult.

In some ways, it is reminiscent of Reiner’s recording of Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The latter is sung in English, but the intensity of the performance may be seen to compensate for the use of a translation for the original text. Likewise, Atanas’s Faust works well, and those interested may want to listen to some of the more popular numbers, like Valentine’s aria or the “Veau d’or” scene of Mephistopheles or Marguerite’s “Jewel” aria. Those intrigued may wish to look further and enjoy the fine timing at the end of third act, where the interaction between Faust and Marguerite is memorable. If there is a weakness, it is, perhaps the chorus, which does not have the distinct sound that modern audiences have come to expect in opera performance. At the same time, the sound is forward on the stage, catching, as it were, the principals at the footlights, but not always reflecting equally well the sound of the full ensemble. Likewise, the source of the recording poses some challenges, which result in beating when Katjan Popova sounds as though she is singing directly into the microphone in full voice.

Such concerns are small quibbles, as it is possible to become accustomed to the sound and enjoy the fine, if not well-known performance. Given his later reputation, this recording is of interest for the role of Nicolai Ghiaurov in the role of Mephistopheles, and his performance is quite memorable. The rich sound of the Bulgarian bass is prominent in this recording, and those familiar with some of the singer’s other recordings will want to hear him in this live performance. In fact, the third CD includes excerpts from a performance of Verdi’s Attila (sung in Italian) with Ghiaurov in the title role (from a performance in Sofia), and those tracks are also of interest for hearing the bass in fine voice especially when heard in ensemble with Ezio (Nikola Vassilev), whose vocal style is less forward and projective than that of Ghiaurov. In this well-known role for Ghiaurov, the spontaneity of the live performance is of interest, and the sound quality is notable for a clear presentation of his voice.

The other bonus tracks on that CD (all undated, unfortunately) also feature some of the other principals heard in the recording of Faust, including the soprano Katja Popova (“Adieu, notre petite table” from Massenet’s Manon and “O mio bambino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi), the baritone Georgi Genov with an extended aria from Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tsar’s Bride (sung in Bulgarian), and the tenor Ilija Jossifov (“Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s La bohème and Lensky’s aria from the second act of Tchaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin). These are fine singers who are not known in the West, yet who were part of the music culture in which Ghiaurov developed as a performer. Such a perspective demonstrates the strong tradition in which the bass worked, and which for various reasons was essentially closed to the West. Again, the regional color of Bulgarian-language performances may set these recordings apart, but that does not seem entirely out of place, as opera is still performed in English translation at the English National Opera and elsewhere.

By no means the only Faust to own, this recording has much to offer. Those familiar with Ghiaurov’s voice should appreciate the live performance, which stands well besides some of Gala’s other releases in this genre.

James L. Zychowicz

   image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Faust_Gala.jpg image_description=Charles Gounod: Faust product=yes product_title=Charles Gounod: Faust product_by=Illija Jossifov, Katja Popova, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Georgi Genov. Orchestra and Chorus of the National Opera, Atanas Margaritov (cond.), Sofia [Bulgaria]. product_id=Gala 100.625 [3CDs] price=$17.98 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FIGGPU?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000FIGGPU&adid=0T9048DW84VC66Y9C36X&
Posted by Gary at 1:46 PM

October 28, 2006


Operetta was still so popular that there were two amateur companies, competing with each other in our small provincial Flemish town. As soon as I could read, one of my tasks was to rehearse my father’s lines with him. I remember my amazement that such a famous composer as Lehar would situate a work like Eva in Brussels. Years later I was sure this was updating by the company as none of the names had a Dutch ring to it. And I was even more amazed when I discovered that Brussels indeed is the place the libretto-writers wanted, though in reality they had Paris in mind (where indeed act 3 takes place). But, as they didn’t like to be accused of copying Die Lustige Witwe, they simply moved the plot somewhat more northern.

And finally and almost unbelievably, 95 years after its successful première, there is a complete recording. Up to now we had to do with some very old 10-inch highlights and a 60-minute LP (transferred unto CD) with Alfredo Kraus as Octave. Not a bad version, though the Spanish makes it somewhat sound like a zarzuela and soprano Ana Maria Olares is not a joy to hear. This new complete German version has forty minutes more music and includes a half hour of dialogue as well (still a very shortened version). One is immediately struck by one thing: the lusciousness of Lehar’s orchestration. After the First World War one of the accusations levelled at Lehar was that he was an imitator of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. Eva (and Zigeunerliebe) premièred in the same year as Rosenkavalier and therefore it is highly improbable Lehar took a few leaves out of the Strauss-book.

Unlike many another recent CPO recording, this is not a radio performance but a souvenir of the Lehar festival in Bad Ischl (Austria) where Lehar had a sumptuous villa and composed a lot of his operettas. The Lehar villa nowadays is a museum. The difference with recordings like ‘Schön ist die Welt’ is striking. All singers have operatic voices as well but they have operetta experience under their belt too. Morenike Fadayomi may not be on a par with Pilar Lorengar (who is ?) or Lucia Popp. But, she has a nice full lyric and a free top and she successfully copes with ‘Im heillichem Dämmer’, Eva’s big solo and a hauntingly beautiful melody — maybe Lehar’s greatest tune for soprano.

Reinhard Alessandri as the tenor is a surprise: at last an incisive and charming Austrian tenore lirico and finally a successor to Adolf Dallapozza. Alessandri sings Mozart, Lortzing and Puccini but Oscar Straus and Lehar are in his repertoire too. He has the lightness of touch, the ‘schwung’ a real operetta tenor needs though this is no buffo sound.

A classic operetta has a second couple or even a trio and Lehar always provided generous music for them. As the operetta tradition died out, often good actors but bad singers succeeded in spoiling many a wonderful recording (dour Harry Friedauer in Das Land des Lächelns with Gedda and Rothenberger is a prime example.) I’m happy to report that Zora Antonic is a lovely second soprano (she has sung Adalgisa) and that Thomas Zisterer and Thomas Malik sing their roles instead of whispering of just saying. Wolfgang Bozic is an experienced conductor with an ad hoc orchestra that knows its Lehar and fully proves Eva to be one of the maestro’s great scores.

Jan Neckers

Lehár: Eva

image_description=Franz Lehar: Eva

product_title=Franz Lehar: Eva
product_by=Morenike Fadayomi (Eva), Zora Antonic (Pepita), Reinhard Alessandri (Octave), Thomas Zisterer (Prunelles), Thomas Malik (Dagobert), Gerhard Balluch (Bernard), Karl Herst (Voisin), Peter Andreev (Mathieu), Florian Widman (Freddy), Christian Giglmay (Teddy). Franz Lehar-Orchestra conducted by Wolfgang Bozic.
product_id=cpo 777148 [2CDs]

Posted by Gary at 2:16 PM

Brewer makes Isolde hers in stage debut

And she was wise in so doing, for her incarnation of Wagner’s most demanding woman was clearly the sensation of the SFO season.

Although a major Ariadne for the past decade, Brewer had never sung a note of Isolde in public until 2000, when she performed the role in concert — one act an evening — with the BBC Orchestra at London’s Barbicon. Critics celebrated that event as the best Wagner heard in the British capital in four decades. Brewer then did Isolde — again an act at a time — with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Peter Sellars’ “Tristan Project.” Only in August 2005 did she put it all together for the first time in a concert “Tristan” at the Edinburgh Festival. Jonathan Nott conducted the Bamberg Symphony. And prior to the San Francisco debut she recorded the “Liebestod” with Donald Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony and a complete “Tristan” with the BBC Orchestra and Runnicles for Warner Classics with. John Treleaven as Tristan.

Brewer’s approach to a new role — the subject of many interviews with the soprano — focuses intensely on the text divorced from the music. She reads it over and over in the original language and then in her own literal translation. At the SFO the success of her method was underscored by the profundity that she brought to the exposition of the opera’s plot. For many singers Isolde’s recall of her earlier meeting with Tristan, how she spared his life and nursed him after he had killed her betrothed Morold, is something to be gotten through before delivering the curse upon them both. In her reconstruction of events Brewer made clear that this is the heart of “Tristan.” The love potion and what follows are only the unraveling of the tale spun here. Her growing agitation demanded shipboard confrontation with Tristan, without which everyone would have lived unhappily ever after.

Brewer is not one to wear her heart on her sleeve. Isolde’s torment seethed within her, and she laid bare this tempest of pain and passion step by step, building half the first act to the curse, which she delivered with shattering fury. Yet she sang the curse — just as in Act Two she sang the plunge of the torch into the abyss. She did not declaim; she eschewed Sprechstimme, and there was radiant beauty in every note.

Although American Thomas Moser will hardly go down in music history as a great Tristan, at the SFO he was very good in the role — solid and fully reliable. And he had the stamina to carry through to the end of Act Three — even in this uncut performance heard on October 10. Soon to sing Parsifal in Vienna with Runnicles on the podium, Moser is a tenor of taste and intelligence and a near-ideal partner for Brewer.

In this production Israel-born bass Boaz Daniel made his North American debut as Kurvenal, the role that he sang both in the BBC concert “Tristan” and on the Warner recording. He was the loyal servant of his master without overplaying his obedience, and in Act One his mockery of Isolde was comfortably low key. Daniel seems destined to be heard in leading roles for decades to come.

And it is not size alone that made Kristinn Sigmundsson a monumental King Marke — although the bass from Iceland is of dimensions that suggest Fafner and Fasolt in a single figure. And the voice is of equal proportions. In keeping with the overall perspective of this staging Sigmundsson’s second-act lament spoke not of self-pity, but of a deep and painful wound — something beyond his comprehension. (During the season Sigmundsson also sang a Sparfucile in the SFO “Rigoletto” that made the figure even more sinister than Verdi perhaps intended.)

England’s Jane Irwin, a regular in several European “Ring” productions, made her North American debut here as Brangäne. Her second-act warning to the enraptured couple floated with lilting lyricism into the reaches of the War Memorial Opera House.

Matthew O’Neill and Sean Pannikar, members of the SFO Adler studio, sang Melot and the Shepherd; veteran chorus member Jere Torkelsen was the steersman.

Thor Steingraber directed this re-staging of David Hockney’s production, new at the Los Angeles Opera in 1988. Hockney’s stunning use of primary colors, along with regally stylized costumes, complemented the static nature of Wagner’s score, a quality that allegedly prompted actress Beatrice Lilly to observe after Act One that for Germans love was obviously a state roughly akin to paralysis.

Much, of course, could still be said about this “Tristan” — the hurricane force of desire behind the “Liebesnacht,” the eye-moistening authenticity of lament in the “Liebestod, but what made it even greater than the sum of its many superb parts was the continuity brought to the work by Runnicles, one of today’s top Wagnerian conductors. Runnicles, praised in England as “a psychoanalyst summoning Leitmotivs like hidden memories,” allowed Wagner’s score to unfold with full force. For him this is true music drama, not an assembly of “greatest hits” separated by seemingly interminable — and thus often abbreviated — dialogue.

The SFO staging further profited from the fact that most members of the cast had been involved — in various constellations — in the “Tristan” productions in Edinburgh and London. Their interaction recalled the glories of ensemble perfection in the pre-jet-set age.

Runnicles, by the way, has announced his decision to leave the SFO music directorship at the end of the 2008-‘09 season. He has held the position since 1992.

Wes Blomster

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/brewer_christine.jpg image_description=Christine Brewer
Posted by Gary at 10:52 AM

October 27, 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo — Berlin 1948

First Performance: 11 March 1867 at the Opéra, Paris.
Revised version 10 January 1884 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Philip II, King of SpainBass
Rodrigue/Rodrigo, Marquis of PisaBaritone
Don Carlos/Don Carlo, Infante of SpainTenor
The Grand InquisitorBass
Elisabeth de Valois, Philip's queenSoprano
Princess Eboli, Elisabeth's lady-in-waitingMezzo-Soprano
Thibault, Eisabeth's pageSoprano
The Countess of ArembergSilent role
The Count of LermaTenor
An Old MonkBass
A Voice from HeavenSoprano
A Royal HeraldTenor
Flemish DeputiesBasses

Setting: France and Spain, about 1560


Act I.

In France and Spain in 1568. The Infante of Spain, Don Carlos, meets Elisabetta di Valois in Fontainebleau, and immediately falls in love. The young woman returns his sentiment, but the news that the king of France has conceded the hand of Elisabeth to Carlo's father, the king of Spain Filippo II, strangles the love of the young couple.

Act II.

In the cloister of the San Giusto convent, the monks are praying at the tomb of Carlo V. Here Don Carlo confides his sorrow to his friend Rodrigo, who advises him to leave Spain for Flanders where a gesture of pacification on his part is urgent. Carlo entrusts a last message for Elisabetta, by now bride of the king of Spain, to Rodrigo: he wants to see her once more before leaving the country. During their furtive meeting he tries to win her back, but, though perturbed, she remains faithful to her vows. As soon as Carlo goes out, king Filippo comes in; finding the queen alone, without her usual lady companion, he blames the countess of Aremberg, sending her back to France. Then, alone with Rodrigo, he makes fleeting mention of his jealousy of a possible love between Elisabetta and his son.

Act III.

In the queen's gardens in Madrid, during a feast. Don Carlo has a meeting with a lady who presents herself heavily veiled. He thinks it is Elisabetta and confirms his love for her, but instead, it is the princess of Eboli, in love with him, but when she realises what his real sentiments are, decides to get her revenge. Rodrigo tries in vain to calm her. On the square of Madonna d'Atocha, a group of heretics are sent to the stake. Several Flemish deputies, led by Don Carlo, interrupt the royal procession to ask the king to end the persecution taking place in Flanders. The king defines them as rebels and Don Carlo draws his sword against his father, but Rodrigo stops him. For this act, Filippo names Rodrigo duke.

Act IV.

In his study, Filippo meditates on the difficulties of the life of a monarch, when the Grand Inquisitor arrives. He asks that both Carlo and Rodrigo be condemned as heretics: the latter especially, he fears headed for open rebellion. Elisabetta comes in distraught: her jewel-case is missing. The case is on Filippo's desk, taken by the princess of Eboli from its owner, as her revenge against the queen: in it is a portrait of the Infante, and now the king is certain of his wife's betrayal. In vain the queen denies an adulterous relationship with Carlo. Princess Eboli, repentant, arrives to confess her guilt and decides to retire to a convent. Meanwhile, in the prison where Don Carlo is held prisoner, Rodrigo tells him he will not be condemned: to save him he has accused himself, using the document the Infante had entrusted him previously. Carlo does not believe him, but a shot rings out from an arquebus hidden behind them: Rodrigo is hit in the back and dies. The king arrives to free his son and the people celebrate Don Carlo.

Act V.

Elisabetta is in the cloister of the San Giusto convent. She prays on the tomb of Carlo V, asking protection for Don Carlo. He arrives, to give his final adieus: he is on his way to Flanders, to install there the ideals of liberty. But Filippo II and the Grand Inquisitor arrive, believing the two to be lovers.

Carlo is about to be arrested, but Carlo V's tomb opens and the soul of the Great Emperor takes possession of his descendant, saving him, and taking him away.

[Synopsis Source: Giuseppe Verdi il sito ufficiale]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the complete libretto (German translation).

Click here for the text of Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien.

Click here for the text of Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien (English translation).

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/philip-ii.jpg image_description=Philip II audio=yes first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/DonCarlo1.m3u product=yes product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Don Carlo (Sung in German) product_by=Boris Greverus (Don Carlo), Irma Demuth (Elisabetta), Johanna Blatter (Eboli), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Posa), Josef Grendl (Filippo II), Josef Herrmann (Il Grande Inquisitore), Chor und Orchester der Städtischen Oper Berlin, Ferenc Fricsay (cond.)
Live recording, 18 November 1948, Berlin.
Posted by Gary at 7:24 PM

Otello: Eiseskälte auf der Pawlatsche des Lebens

botha_johan.pngvon Wilhelm Sinkovicz [Die Presse, 27 October 2006]

Saisonauftakt in der Staatsoper: Johan Botha ist der neue Otello von Weltformat.

Den „Tristan“ vielleicht ausgenommen, gibt es in der Opernliteratur wohl nur eine Tenorpartie, die mit dem heute so gern gebrauchten Vokabel grenzwertig zu charaktersieren wäre: Verdis musikdramatisches Gegenbild zu Shakespeares Otello. Die Anforderungen, die der Altmeister in dieser, seiner vorletzten großen Partitur an die Sänger, den Interpreten der Titelrolle voran, stellt, sind tatsächlich außerordentlich. Ein Künstler, der sich dieser Herausforderung stellt, sieht sich damit notwendiger Weise Vergleichen ausgesetzt, die in der Vergangenheit liegen. Sprechen Opernfreunde von „Otello“, schwingen die Namen von Ramon Vinay, Mario del Monaco, zuletzt Placido Domingo sozusagen automatisch mit. Kaum sind Vergleiche mit aktiven Darstellern möglich, denn in Wahrheit hat jede Generation wohl nur einen Otello-Sänger von wirklichem Weltformat.

Posted by Gary at 2:26 PM

No Big Names, But Plenty of Charm

pons.jpgBY FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 27 October 2006]

Last season's "Rigoletto" at the Met was an occasion for star turns. Anna Netrebko was stunningly good, not only as a singer but an actress as well. Rolando Villazon was in superb voice as a callously clueless Duke of Mantua. Even the indisposition of Carlo Guelfi on the night I attended couldn't dampen a very special evening. Only the oom-pah-pah conducting of Placido Domingo was disappointing.

Posted by Gary at 8:49 AM

Berlin to stage canceled opera after security review

By Eva Kuehnen [Reuters, 27 October 2006]

BERLIN (Reuters) - A Berlin opera house said on Friday it would after all stage a Mozart opera in which the severed head of the Prophet Mohammad is seen, after police reversed their earlier view that it posed a security risk.

Posted by Gary at 8:39 AM

Here's the book on the Opera Company production

Ermonela_Jaho.pngBy TOM DI NARDO [Philadelphia Daily News, 27 October 2006]

MIMI DIES, AND everyone cries.

Since its debut in Turin, Italy, 110 years ago, Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" has gripped audiences emotionally like no other opera.

Posted by Gary at 8:29 AM

October 26, 2006

Wagner Passion, Belgian Torment, Pre-Columbians: Brussels Picks

Tiihonen.jpegBy Jim Ruane [Bllomberg.com, 26 October 2006]

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Poor Tristan and Isolde look even grimmer than usual in the Brussels Opera's relentlessly dark new production of Wagner's 1865 opera. Fortunately, the orchestra draws out the passion that's missing on stage.

Posted by Gary at 10:26 AM

Regina Resnik pipes up for the art of Kurt Weill

resnik.jpgBen Finane [San Francisco Chronicle, 26 October 2006]

New York -- Inside her Manhattan apartment a block away from Carnegie Hall, mezzo-soprano Regina Resnik sits surrounded by art. Paintings adorn every wall, a silk screen stands in the corner of the living room, and sculptures line the mantel. All of the oils, lithographs, sculptures and drawings on display were created by Resnik's late husband, Arbit Blatas, and of the subjects the artist chose for his work, one is overwhelmingly represented: Kurt Weill's "Threepenny Opera."

Posted by Gary at 10:17 AM

Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz

With much concert and stage experience to his credit, Drabowicz has recorded a number of well-know baritone arias that demonstrate not only facility with various works and styles. Among the highlights of this recording are the idiomatic interpretations of music from two Russian composers, Alexander Borodin and Peter Tchaikovsky.

The extended aria from Borodin’s Prince Igor is memorable for its almost flawless execution and solid interpretation. Taken from the scene in which Prince Igor recognizes his vast losses and yet retains his sense of duty. The aria is essentially a scena for baritone, and a critical point in the work. It is a telling moment from the opera, and Drabowicz captures the spirit of the music well and sustains not only the musical line, but also the emotional pitch of the excerpt.

Likewise, the excerpts from several of Tchaikovsky’s operas are notable for the arioso style he employs to bring across the musical line and also to present the text. The lyrical passages demonstrate Drabowicz’s fluid sound. Not only is his voice appealing, but he colors it well in shaping the line, as at the end of the excerpt from The Queen of Spades. Onegin’s aria is another fine example of Drabowicz’s command of Tchaikovsky’s style and his understanding of the musical and emotional demands of his particular number.

Drabowicz’s voice is quite effective in performing Verdi’s music, where the baritone roles demand equally lyricism and declamatory expression. His approach to Germont’s aria reflects a sense of melodrama through the inflection of various phrases and, at the same time, Drabowicz has colored his voice to fit the character. It differs in style from his more dramatic approach to the aria from Rigoletto, “Cortigiani,” which shows another aspect of the baritone’s voice.

With the inclusion of two almost obligatory arias from Mozart’s operas, the “Champagne” aria from Don Giovanni that opens the recording, and the Count’s aria from Le nozze di Figaro, the CD demonstrates Drabowicz’s abilities to cover most the standard repertoire for this voice. Added to it is a finely lyric interpretation of the Toreador’s aria from Carmen, which he executes well. In the final selection, Drabowicz demonstrates his facility with Wagner, repertoire that would seem demanding because of the scoring, not for the vocal line itself. Yet Drabowicz’s lyricism is never lost in the famous “Song to the Evening Star,” here presented in a somewhat subdued manner. It is welcome not to hear this delicate music not taken in the stentorian fashion that some used for this music. Moreover, the lingering sound suggests a promising Wolfram on stage for Tannhäuser

While Drabowicz’s credits do not yet include Wagner’s operas, his experience is notable for the number and variety of roles he has performed. In addition to the traditional bass-baritone roles in Mozart’s main operas, Drabowicz has performed in Il barbiere da Siviglia, I Puritani, The Queen of Spades, and such Verdi operas as Don Carlos and La forza del destino. In addition, he has also been part of productions as such works as Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, Szymanowski’s King Roger, and Martinů’s Epic of Gilgamesh. Moreover, he has been part of various festivals in Europe and worked with such conductors as Claudio Abbado, Antoni Wit, and Sir Charles Mackeras.

This CD offers a fine introduction to a baritone who has much to offer. Yet of criticism can be leveled, it must be directed to the length of the recording, which is just about fifty minutes. With such an effective voice and a performer with Drabowicz’s experience, the ten selection s found on this recording do not seem like quite enough and, in a sense, it may be praise to want to hear more from this fine singer, whose accomplishments merit attention as he continues to perform repertoire roles and create new ones in recent compositions.

James L. Zychowicz

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Drabowicz.jpg image_description=Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz product=yes product_title=Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz product_by=Wojciech Drabowicz, baritone, Poznań Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. Grzegorz Nowak (cond.) product_id=Dux 0494A11904 [CD] price=29.90 Zlotych ($9.79) product_url=http://www.kmt.pl/pozycja.asp?DZ=&KsID=11904&kstr=1
Posted by Gary at 9:46 AM

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

This CD includes restored recordings of selected performances from London in 1955 for the Wagner performances, with the Schubert Lieder from London in 1949. A bonus track contains an excerpt of Hotter singing the Holländer's entrance aria "Die Frist ist um" from a concert of the Concertgebouw from 1936 and conducted by Bruno Walter. The 1955 performances are with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Ludwig, and the Schubert selections are accompanied by Gerald Moore.

The extended scene from the second act of Der Fliegende Holländer is remarkable for its clarity of sound and fine precision. The lack of audience sounds suggests the logistics of a radio broadcast, but the recording has the ambiance of the concert hall. Both Hotter and Nilsson are prominent sonically, and the intensity of their ensemble near the end of this passionate duet conveys a sense of physical proximity that assures the audience of finely wrought execution. Left as a single long band (approximately fifteen minutes long), the excerpt is memorable for its emotional pitch.

With the excerpt from the concluding scene of Die Walküre, the sound is equally clean and resonant, with both Nilsson and Hotter sounding as if they were standing in front of the orchestra. Again, the recording connotes the isolation of a radio broadcast, since the sound is devoid of ambient noises. Nilsson opens the scene with the fresh and resonant sound for which she was known, and her precision is matched by Hotter's deeply etched bass sounds in his famous interpretation of Wotan. Recorded just two years after Clemens Kraus's Bayreuth Ring cycle with Hotter in the role, the 1955 recording affords a better sound which may be the result of the restoration implicitly made for this Archipel release. Moreover, the commanding sound of Hotter and the ringing tone of Nilsson are exciting in a performance that predates their famous recording of the same work conducted by Sir Georg Solti in his famous studio recording of Wagner's Ring der Nibelungen (on Decca/London). Like a full-length opera recording, this 1955 performance is banded into separable units, thus making it possible to return easily various memorable sections easily. Ludwig Leopold's approach to Wagner may be seen to differ from Solti's for its sparer treatment of the orchestra so as to allow the vocal lines to predominate. The perspective that comes with such a textural emphasis may seem dated, especially when the sonics Solti demanded a decade later set a different standard for Wagner recordings and is not far removed from the way that Bruno Walter treated Der fliegende Holländer in the bonus track of "Die Frist ist um" from 1936. In the latter it is possible hear Hotter from almost two decades earlier in his career. In that band Hotter's resilient bass sound is clear, with this diction punctuating the finely placed line. More than a curiosity, this band offers a point of reference that demonstrates the quality of Hotter's musicianship almost twenty years before audiences almost relied on him for this role.

As rich a selection of Wagner performances that are on this CD, the producer included four Lieder, presumably from a longer recital that Hotter gave with Gerald Moore in 1949. The microphone may be a little close, as the sound is surprisingly loud in comparison to what precedes it on the CD. Yet these tracks offer a chance to hear the famous bass singing Lieder with the idiomatic presentation one would expect of such an accomplished musician. The selections include four well-known Lieder: "An die Musik," "Meeresstille," "Am Bach im Frühling, and "Im Frühling," all performed with aplomb, as would be expected of performances accompanied by Gerald Moore.

This selection of performances by Hans Hotter is an excellent to become reacquainted with the work of this legendary baritone, or, for those unfamiliar with his voice, it can serve as an introduction. Nilsson's performances are equally strong, and her work with Hotter conveys to modern audiences the vibrancy that they brought to their Wagner performances. As to the recording itself, the reconstructed sound is remarkably clear and conveys the sonic images without introducing any distractions. Live performances like those preserved on this CD are always of interest, and the quality of those chosen for this recording makes it all the more notable.

James L. Zychowicz

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Hotter_Nilsson.jpg image_description=Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert product=yes product_title=Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert product_by=Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson, Gerald Moore, Philharmonia Orchestra, Leopold Ludwig (cond.) product_id=Archipel Records ARPCD 0334 [CD] price=$11.98 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000F6ZOL4?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000F6ZOL4&adid=1162CB6315T3JM4BPPEB&
Posted by Gary at 9:16 AM

WEBER: Der Freischütz; Oberon

The degree of that impediment feels steeper with the release on the Ponto label of two 1973 Rome RAI broadcast performances of Carl Maria von Weber's masterpiece, Der Freischütz, paired with his flawed but fascinating last work, Oberon. The Der Freischütz in particular captures an exemplary cast, under the idiomatic leadership of conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch. With that extra, visceral charge of a live performance (albeit not a staged one), Weber's opera comes to life as it hasn't consistently done in the studio. With the German-language Oberon (originally composed to an English libretto) as a supplement, this recording becomes a must-buy for lovers of early Romantic opera.

James King and Margaret Price, the Max and Agathe of Der Freischütz, are captured in their prime, and both invest their roles with both dramatic involvement and tonal appeal. Karl Ridderbusch's Kaspar has the requisite Satanic tinge in his dark delivery, and Helen Donath shines forth in her lovely act three showpiece. The whole performance hangs together so naturally that it revives the lingering question as to why this opera, once a mainstay of the repertory, now qualifies as a relative rarity.

And if Der Freischütz can be called rare, what to say about Oberon? It lives on today in its overture, set in the same mold as that of Der Freischütz's but with its own memorable thematic material. The booklet essay by Andrew Palmer relates how this opera's composition apparently literally proved fatal to von Weber. Perhaps if he had lived he would have been able to make or insist on revisions to the libretto that would make the piece more stageworthy. However, as a pure listening experience, the music need make no excuses. Although often more the work of an experienced craftsman than an inspired artist, that craftsmanship still supplies consistently appealing music. The cast doesn't quite match the standard set by that of Der Freischütz's, with Werner Hollweg's homely tone and Ingrid Bjoner's substantive soprano not always having the flexibility von Weber's score demands. So a better cast can be imagined, but this cast sings well enough to showcase the strengths of the opera. George Alexander Albrecht handles the baton here.

Ponto provides the referenced essay and artist biographies, but regrettably no synopses, except for some sketchy descriptions in the essay. Still, for the budget price Ponto asks, that omission can't mar the appeal of this entirely enjoyable set. Collectors, commence your search now.

Chris Mullins

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/weber_ponto.jpg image_description=Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz; Oberon product=yes product_title=Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz; Oberon product_by=Der Freischütz: James King, Margaret Price, Helen Donath, Karl Ridderbusch, Mario Ferrara, Anton Diakov, Andrezj Snarski, Mario Machì, Rolf Tasna, Carmen Lavani, Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della RAI, Wolfgang Sawallisch (cond.)
Live recording, Rome, January 27, 1973

Oberon: Werner Hollweg, Hanna Schwarz, Olivera Miljakovic, Ingrid Bjöner, Julia Hamari, Joseph Hering, Siegmund Nimsgern, Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della RAI, George Alexander Albrecht (cond.)
Live recording, Rome, February 7, 1973 product_id=Ponto PO-1045 [3CDs] price=$17.98 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000FIGGWS?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000FIGGWS&adid=1ZH7TFCK2XYPEX3R7YMS&
Posted by Gary at 8:38 AM

October 25, 2006

The three David Hockneys

hockney.pngJudith Flanders [Times Literary Supplement, 25 October 2006]

There are three David Hockneys, I think, and only one of them matters. The first one, and the least important, although the most intrusive, is the public, much-photographed David Hockney – the 1960s owlishly bespectacled mop-top turned twenty-first-century curmudgeon, the one who writes letters to the newspapers about smokers’ freedoms and what the modern world is coming to.

Posted by Gary at 2:28 PM

Trouble in Catfish Row

porgy_bess2.jpgIs it a celebration of the African-American spirit - or just a high-class minstrel show? Gary Younge on the controversy that has plagued Porgy and Bess since its creation [Guardian, 25 October 2006]

In 1955, the year that Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks refused to give up their seats to white people on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, an all-black cast took to the stage of Milan's La Scala to perform the theatre's first ever American opera, Porgy and Bess. Maya Angelou was among the cast, and wrote about the night with a characteristic lack of guile in her memoir, Singin' and Swingin' and Getting' Merry Like Christmas.

Posted by Gary at 9:54 AM

A minimalist opera now too smoothed over

teslatower.png(Photo: Andreja Maričić)
By David Patrick Stearns [Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 October 2006]

NEW YORK - The clearer experimental theater becomes, the more its poetic allure is threatened.

That threat was ever present last week when Violet Fire, a minimalist opera about electricity wizard Nikola Tesla, emerged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music after a workshop two years ago at Temple University.

Posted by Gary at 9:43 AM

Kitsch Operetta Has Audience Singing Along at Paris's Chatelet

lopez_francis.jpgBy Jorg von Uthmann [Bloomberg.com, 25 October 2006]

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Nobody writes operettas anymore, and the old ones, save for ``Die Fledermaus'' and ``The Merry Widow,'' are rarely produced.

Posted by Gary at 9:29 AM

La bohème, Royal Opera House, London

By Richard Fairman [Financial Times, 24 October 2006]

When the Royal Opera’s production of La bohème was new in 1974, half these singers probably were not born. In an ideal world a cast of young faces would be just what is needed to breathe life into a middle-aged production apt to sag in the middle, but it did not work out like that here. Far from being bright and breezy, this performance felt positively enervating.

Posted by Gary at 9:24 AM

October 24, 2006

Jurinac: "Dann singen Sie's halt kroatisch!"

jurinac.jpgVON WILHELM SINKOVICZ [Die Presse, 24 October 2006]

Sena Jurinac ist 85. Der beste aller "Rosenkavaliere" über Karriere 1945 und Oper heute.

Ach, das ist eigentlich von selber gegangen", sagt Sena Jurinac heute, an ihrem 85. Geburtstag, wenn sie auf ihre fulminante Karriere zurückblickt. "Als Kind", sagt sie, "hab' ich ja schon immer am lautesten gebrüllt. In der Klosterschule war ich es, die mit den Nonnen die Messen angefeuert hat." Hinzu kam die Lust am Spiel, gefördert durch die Tanzschule: "Mit der sind wir im Auftrag vom Ministerium nach Rotterdam gefahren, slawische Volkstänze aufzuführen. Schicksalhaft: Auf der Fahrt war der zweite Kapellmeister der Oper von Agram mit. Der hat gesagt: Das Mädel muss singen lernen. Meine Mutter natürlich: Um Gottes willen, das ist doch kein Beruf!"

Posted by Gary at 9:10 AM

Mozart’s Social Experiments, Conducted in a Shifting Chamber of Intrigue

Camera_Obscura.JPGBy BERNARD HOLLAND [NY Times, 24 October 2006]

The New York City Opera’s new production of “Così Fan Tutte” takes place in what seems to be an outsize camera obscura. People had the idea for this precursor of photography as far back as the ancient Greeks. Working models began to appear in the 16th century. Images from outside entered a dark enclosure through a lens and projected themselves on inner walls.

Posted by Gary at 9:04 AM

Exploring Composers and Their God

Botstein.jpgBY FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 24 October 2006]

Leon Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra inaugurated their new season at Avery Fisher Hall with a concert designed to demonstrate the relationships between five diverse composers and their God. The program, titled "The Art of the Psalm," was shaped as if it were a major choral symphony in five movements, something Gustav Mahler might have conceived.

Posted by Gary at 8:57 AM

'Corinth,' a Rossini Relic Given a New Polish

siege_art.jpgBy Mark J. Estren [Washington Post, 24 October 2006]

BALTIMORE -- Some neglected operas deserve their neglect. Rossini's "Siege of Corinth" is one of them.

Posted by Gary at 8:49 AM

A 'Caligula' who speaks to our many demons

camus.jpgBy George Loomis [International Herald Tribune, 24 October 2006]

FRANKFURT In an interview, the composer Detlev Glanert said he was drawn to Albert Camus's play "Caligula" because, rather than having characters who interact with one another, it centers on a single character who dominates the others. That's putting it mildly, but another, more down-to- earth answer might be that the play is crammed with violence, an ingredient long cherished by opera composers.

Posted by Gary at 8:39 AM

October 23, 2006

The Turn of the Screw

Neil Fisher at Glyndebourne [Times Online, 24 October 2006]

The first thing to say about Jonathan Kent’s new production of The Turn of the Screw is that it isn’t scary. The second thing to say is that this opera probably doesn’t need to be — unlike the Henry James novella on which it is based. In Britten’s world the two ghosts that haunt the Governess and her young charges, Miles and Flora, occupy ambiguous ground. Should she confront them? Does she even need to? In Kent’s mind the battle lines are fuzzy. Kate Royal’s youthful Governess is no Victorian tragedienne, but she and her household come from the cosy world of 1950s domesticity. Here family values take precedence, the friendly housekeeper, Mrs Grose, does the vacuuming, and children are allowed to be children.

Posted by Gary at 5:26 PM

Deborah Voigt Shimmies, Thrills in `Salome' at Chicago Lyric

strauss_richard.pngBy Robert Hilferty [Bloomberg.com, 23 October 2006]

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Before her celebrated gastric-bypass operation, Deborah Voigt used to joke that if she ever did Salome, she'd have to dance with 77 veils.

Posted by Gary at 4:47 PM

Onstage and On Screen, A Nevsky Immersion

BY FRED KIRSHNIT [NY Sun, 23 October 2006]

The New York Philharmonic presented two shows for the price of one Thursday evening, performing Sergei Prokofiev's monumental score for the film "Alexander Nevsky" and projecting the original Eisenstein epic at the back of the orchestra.

Posted by Gary at 4:38 PM

October 22, 2006

HANDEL: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

These opening words from Handel’s cantata, “Cecilia, volgi un sguardo,” point to a special relationship between England and the patron saint of music, and never was that more the case than in the late seventeenth century when the feast day (November 22) elicited annual festivals, marked by grand-scale church music, odes, and sermons on musical themes. Purcell’s contributions set the bar high with odes for the 1683 and 1692 festivals and a Te Deum-Jubilate pair for 1694. Handel’s entry into the London musical scene post-dates the annual festivals, but the Cecilian tradition, so amply solidified by Purcell, is one that Handel furthers with great flair in his own day, and he does so with unconstrained Englishness. Chief among his contributions are settings of two works by John Dryden, “Alexander’s Feast” and “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” the latter of which is splendidly recorded here by Robert King and the King’s Consort.

The text for “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” is in part a traditional trope on the power of music, especially the particular powers of individual instruments. Part of the joy is clearly the unfolding of movements featuring “the trumpet’s loud clangor,” “the soft complaining flute,” passionate violins, and the “sacred organ.” And the players of the King’s Consort bring the lauded characteristics to life with unflagging skill. However, the richest of the instrumental obbligati is ironically not from one of the instruments named in the text; in the aria “What passion cannot Music raise and quell” the solo cello line is a jewel, played here by Jonathan Cohen with a memorable expressiveness and finely sculpted dynamic shading.

In addition to the poetic catalogue of instrumental attributes, the text is framed by Dryden’s evocation of music at the creation of the world and, ultimately, at the end of the world, as well—“the dead shall live, the living die, and Music shall untune the sky.” The opening description of creation is powerfully evocative, pointing ahead, it seems, to Haydn’s famous representation of Chaos in “The Creation.” It is in these movements, as well, that the eighteenth-century propensity for pictorialism is fully engaged.

A brilliant work, it receives a brilliant rendition. In addition to the excellent instrumental forces and the tightly focused choir, “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day,” glories in the singing of soprano Carolyn Sampson and tenor James Gilchrist. Gilchrist sings with a wonderfully free tone, handling the florid passage work with flair and the intimate sections with an engaged expressive manner. Sampson is at her best in the Ode where she sings with noble simplicity (“But oh! What art can teach”) and in reflective moods. For example, her flexibility of sound allows her, along with flautist Lynda Sayce, to shape a tonal partnership of unusual eloquence and closeness in “The soft complaining flute.”

Both Gilchrist and Sampson have much to keep them busy in the cantata “Cecilia, volgi un sguardo,” originally performed as an interlude between the acts of “Alexander’s Feast.” The opening tenor aria, “La Virtute è un vero nume,” is extremely florid and Gilchrist meets the challenges with masterful command. Sampson’s “Sei cara, sei bella,” is a challenging aria, not least for its quick change of gestures and affections. Where it is florid, Sampson is confident and at ease; where it is rapturous, she is compellingly luxuriant, as in the suspension-rich, middle section of the aria. Through it all her sound is radiant, her expression, responsive, and her performance never less than memorable.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/ode.jpg image_description=Handel: An Ode for St Cecilia's Day product=yes product_title=G.F. Handel: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day. Cecilia, volgi un sguardo product_by=Carolyn Sampson, soprano; James Gilchrist, tenor; Choir of the King’s Consort; The King’s Consort; Robert King, Director. product_id=Hyperion SACDA67463 [CD] price=$21.98 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002VSS5G?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B0002VSS5G&adid=1KXDW0SVJMBM92YZYAQ0&
Posted by Gary at 9:32 PM

A Diva Reborn

Sleeker soprano Voigt now a good fit for the sultry 'Salome'
By John von Rhein [Chicago Tribune, 22 October 2006]

Deborah Voigt is about to take it all off.

At least that's the teasing impression the Illinois-born singer gives as she glides through the title character's notorious striptease in a recent rehearsal for Richard Strauss' "Salome" at the Civic Opera House.

Posted by Gary at 9:15 PM

PUCCINI: Turandot

Music composed by Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924). Libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni based on Turandot, Prinzessin von China (1802), Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's adaptation of Turandotte (1762) by Carlo Gozzi.

First Performance: 25 April 1926, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Characters:
Princess Turandot Soprano
The Emperor Altoum, her father Tenor
Timur, the dispossessed King of Tartary Bass
Calaf, the son of Timur Tenor
Liù, a young slave-girl Soprano
Ping, Grand Chancellor Baritone
Pang, General Purveyor Tenor
Pong, Chief Cook Tenor
A Mandarin Baritone
The Prince of Persia Silent role
The Executioner (Pu-Tin-Pao) Silent role

Setting: Peking in the distant past.


A Mandarin announces that any prince seeking to marry the Princess Turandot must first answer three riddles. If he fails, he must die. The latest suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon's rising. In the crowd is Timur, banished King of Tartary, who is reunited with his son, Calaf, who he thought died in a battle. The Prince of Persia passes on his way to the scaffold and the crowd calls upon the Princess to spare him. Turandot bids that the execution proceed. As the death cry is heard, Calaf, transfixed by the beauty of the Princess, strides towards the gong that announces a new suitor. Turandot's ministers, Ping, Pang and Pong, try to discourage Calaf. Timur and Liù (who is in love with Calaf) also beg him to reconsider, but he strikes the gong and calls Turandot's name.

Ping, Pang and Pong lament Turandot's bloody reign, hoping that love will conquer her icy heart and peace will return. They think longingly of their distant country homes, but the noise of the populace gathering to hear Turandot question the new challenger brings them back to reality.

The people, eager for another execution, have gathered in the square. The Emperor asks Calaf to reconsider, but he refuses. Turandot describes how her ancestor was dishonoured and killed by a conquering prince; the cruel trial her suitors have to undergo is revenge for that crime. Turandot asks Calaf three riddles, which he answers correctly. Turandot begs her father not to give her to the stranger, but to no avail. Calaf, hoping to win her love, offers Turandot a challenge: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.

Calaf hears a proclamation: on pain of death, no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger's name. Ping, Pang and Pong try unsuccessfully to bribe him to learn his secret. As the mob threatens him, soldiers drag in Liù and Timur. Calaf tries to convince the mob that neither knows his secret. Liù declares that she alone knows but will never tell. She is tortured, but remains silent. Impressed by such endurance, Turandot asks Liù's secret: "Love" replies Liù. Fearing that she will weaken under torture Liù seizes a dagger and kills herself. The crowd, fearful of her dead spirit, forms a funeral procession. Left alone with Turandot, Calaf first reproaches her for her coldness and cruelty, then kisses her. Feeling emotion for the first time, Turandot weeps. Now sure of his victory, Calaf reveals his identity. Before the assembled crowd, Turandot announces the stranger's name: it is Love. As Calaf embraces her, the court hails the power of love and life.

[Synopsis Source: Opera Australia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

Click here for the complete libretto (German translation).

Click here for the complete libretto (English translation).

Click here for the complete text of Turandot, Prinzessin von China.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/Poster_Turandot.png image_description=Giacomo Puccini: Turandot [Source: Wikipedia] audio=yes first_audio_name=Giacomo Puccini: Turandot
WinAMP or VLC first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Turandot_Wien56.m3u product=yes product_title=Giacomo Puccini: Turandot product_by=Gertrude Grob-Prandl (Turandot), Karl Terkal (Calaf), Lotte Rysanek (Liù), Josef Grendl (Timur), Eberhard Waechter (Ping), Peter Klein (Pang), Murray Dickie (Pong), Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Mario Rossi (cond.)
Live performance, 6 March 1956, Vienna (Sung in German) product_id=Above image courtesy of Wikipedia
Posted by Gary at 8:27 PM

Maria Stuarda, Staatsoper Berlin

mary-stuart.jpgBy Shirley Apthorp [Financial Times, 22 October 2006]

When the Deutsche Oper Berlin cancelled its run of Idomeneo because of a fictitious Islamic threat, the world sat up and watched. But something of far more note was happening just across the city in the Staatsoper. A good opera production! And that in Berlin!

Posted by Gary at 11:37 AM

October 21, 2006

Gérard Mortier will nach Paris keine große Oper mehr leiten

[APA/dpa, 21 October 2006]

Moderne Mozart-Inszenierungen vom bürgerlichen Publikum ausgepfiffen - Positive Entwicklung bei Zuschauerzahlen

Paris - Der international renommierte Kulturmanager Gérard Mortier (63) hat eingeräumt, die Probleme als Intendant der Pariser Oper unterschätzt zu haben. "Ich habe schwere Monate hinter mir. Ich hätte nicht gedacht, dass die Kritiker und das Publikum so vehement auf das neue Repertoire reagieren würden", sagte Mortier in einem dpa-Gespräch in einer Halbzeit-Bilanz seiner vierjährigen Amtszeit.

Posted by Gary at 9:03 PM

Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love

In an ideal world, we would have a lyric tenor for the bel canto repertory, a lyrico spinto or spinto for the basic Verdi, Puccini, verismo and French repertory, and a dramatic tenor for Otello, Pagliacci, and some of the heavier French operas, such as Samson and Juive. But, in the real world, the bulk of these roles, with the possible exception of Otello, might well be all taken by the same tenor.

The way this reviewer sees it, such a tenor should have a beautiful voice, a secure and reliable top, going up at least to a high C, plenty of squillo, be able to sing with artistry, sensitivity, imagination and musicianship, be a fine actor with an endearing personality, as well as having an interest in expanding the repertory.

My initial reaction on listening to the first of the 14 selections on Salvatore Licitra’s second aria CD, Forbidden Love was something like: “Hey, this could be the guy”. While not quite at their level, his voice is almost beautiful enough to put him in the select company of Lauri-Volpi, Bjoerling, Pavarotti, and Carreras, and well ahead of most other recent tenors. Just as importantly, he exhibits plenty of squillo, and sings with great artistry and sensitivity. There is no way to judge his high C from this CD, since the arias selected just do not go this high. But he did record “Di quella pira” on his debut CD, which I have not heard, and I understand from reviews on the Internet that he has plenty of high Cs.

Looking more closely at the individual selection, I was delighted to see that he starts off with one of the young Verdi’s most thrilling arias: “Come rugiada al cespite” from Ernani, and that he includes the striking cabaletta “O to che l’alma adora.” But I was disappointed to see that he omits the cabaletta to the Luisa Miller aria, and only sings the slow part. The ”Lamento di Federico” from Cilea’s L’arlesiana demonstrates his ability to sing with great lyricism, while in “Vesti la giubba” he sings with deep feeling without excessive sobbing. His voice is not yet powerful enough to be fully satisfactory in the “Dio! Mi potevi scagliar” from Otello, but it is one of the best versions since Mario del Monaco’s.

Perhaps the best selection is the “Improvviso” from Giordano’s Andrea Chenier, which shows off his dramatic abilities a well as his ringing high notes. He grabs you with his first words, and holds your attention throughout.

My one disappointment with this CD was the absence of at least one genuine rarity—an aria that no other singer or almost no other singer had ever recorded. Ideally, such an aria should be from some opera he might eventually be the first to sing and record complete. There are many such operas, including less well known works by composers like Ponchielli, Montemezzi, Giordano, Halévy, or others who are now regarded as “one opera composers”.

This one quibble not withstanding, I think that Licitra has a bright future, and can recommend this CD without hesitation.

Tom Kaufman

Forbidden Love

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/forbidden_love.jpg image_description=Salvatore Licitra -- Forbidden Love product=yes product_title=Forbidden Love product_by=Salvatore Licitra, tenor, Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Robert Rizzi Brignoli (cond.) product_id=Sony 82876-78852-2 [CD] price=$18.98 product_url=http://service.bfast.com/bfast/click?bfmid=2181&sourceid=41277783&bfpid=0828767885223&bfmtype=music
Posted by Gary at 1:53 PM

Magdalena and the men in her life

Magdalena Kozená is passionate about Mozart, especially when partner Simon Rattle helps out, she tells Neil Fisher [Times Online, 21 October 2006]

It was July 2004, and Magdalena Kozená was making her Proms debut. In the line-up, heartache, tragedy, love and loss: a devastatingly poignant aria by Mozart, Vado, ma dove?, and Vitezslav Novák’s Melancholic Songs — a trademark slice of Bohemia from the Czech mezzo-soprano.

Posted by Gary at 10:55 AM


Tim Ashley [Guardian, 21 October 2006]

Handel considered Theodora his finest oratorio. It fazed his contemporaries, however, and it was not until the late 20th century that audiences acknowledged its greatness. This was doubtless due, in part, to an exhaustive reappraisal of the diversity of Handel's output - though, as many have remarked, Theodora also maps disturbingly on to the major issues of our times.

Posted by Gary at 9:14 AM

Frost presents a bracing slice of American operas

frost.pngBy Lawrence A. Johnson [Sun-Sentinel, 21 October 2006]

In the past decade there has been an explosion in American opera with works such as Mark Adamo's Little Women, William Bolcom's A View From the Bridge, and Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking enjoying critical raves and audience popularity.

Posted by Gary at 8:35 AM

Soprano is a rising star

mercer_shannon_small.jpgShannon Mercer's credits growing
UofT grad appears in Così fan tutte
JOHN TERAUDS [Toronto Star, 21 October 2006]

There's an intensity about Shannon Mercer on stage that is even more powerful in person. She radiates poise and determination well beyond her years during a pre-opera chat at the University of Toronto's Edward Johnson Building.

Posted by Gary at 8:18 AM

Bloodthirsty mythology

oqlogo.jpgBy Sandra McLean [Courier-Mail, 21 October 2006]

CHRIS Mangin admits cutting up people's tongues is not exactly socially acceptable behaviour.

But in an opera, well, it's to be expected. After all, this is an artistic form that revels in tragedy, lust, power and love gone horribly wrong.

Posted by Gary at 8:03 AM

October 20, 2006

`Bird of Night' Is Hobbled by Patchy Libretto, Plodding Score

Le_Gendre.jpgBy Warwick Thompson [Bloomberg.com, 20 October 2006]

Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- ``Bird of Night,'' which received its world premiere in the Linbury Studio at London's Royal Opera House last night, has more devil worship, incestuous love and noble self-sacrifice than many a new opera I've encountered recently.

Posted by Gary at 8:58 AM

October 19, 2006


mcgreevy.jpgGeoff Brown at the Barbican [Times Online, 20 October 2006]

I looked around. No outsize broken bottles. No lethal injections on hospital gurneys. No baffling, maddening semaphore gestures. This was not Peter Sellars’s eccentric opera version of Handel’s oratorio Theodora; though the memory of that Glyndebourne landmark was hard to escape. Emmanuelle Haïm, Le Concert d’Astrée, and the soloists certainly kept it close in their minds: the performance was dedicated to the memory of the late mezzo Lorraine Hunt Lieberson — so searing and engulfing at Glyndebourne in the role of the heroine’s friend Irene.

Posted by Gary at 8:05 PM

Anna Russell, Comic Who Made Fun of Richard Wagner, Dies at 94

russell_anna_100.gifBy Shirley Apthorp [Bloomberg.com, 19 October 2006]

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Anna Russell, revered by music-lovers for her 22-minute sendup of Richard Wagner's epic, four-opera ``Ring'' cycle at New York's Town Hall and other venues, died today in Batemans Bay, Australia. She was 94.

Posted by Gary at 7:53 PM

DONIZETTI: Alahor in Granata

In today's market, a second will not be soon arriving, but not to worry. On the debit side, although the opera's score presents itself as the sturdy dramatic work of a talented craftsman, it lacks those glittering moments of genius that secured Lucia di Lammermoor a place in the core repertory, or even those flashes of inspiration that inspire occasional revivals of La Favorite or the "three queen" operas. To the recording's credit, however, a more enthusiastic or professional performance than this is hard to imagine.

Two excellent booklet essays detail the complex history of the opera's composition and the even more labyrinthine ongoings of the libretto, which passeth all understanding. Granada under Muslim rule provides the setting for betrayal, revenge, passion, and joy, all exhibited at the zenith of the range of human emotion. It is enough that there are plentiful opportunities for choral, ensemble, and solo vocal display. The Orchestra of the city of Granada may not be of world-renown, but they exhibit more than enough skill for Donizetti's score, and the seasoned leadership of Josep Pons supports the singers at every step.

When it came time to find singers, the opera really found luck on its side. The excellent Simone Alaimo has the title role, a baritone lead, and it perfectly suits this accomplished bel canto artist. As his sister, soprano Patricia Pace has a bright, dancing vocal timbre that sometimes falls a bit shy of the note, evoking a plaintive air (and a slight reminiscence of the great Edita Gruberova).

But the discoveries of this recording are two young singers, even younger in 1998, the time of the recording. Vivica Genaux now brings her quick, light mezzo to many of the world's best opera houses. Here she finds herself, if not for the first time (and far from the last) in pants. Her quickness and delineation have a heroic quality which make the cross-dressing entirely fitting. Juan Diego Florez now stars in the top opera houses, and here he is in his-mid-twenties. The tangy, sharp tone is unmistakable, as is his control and skill in fast, high music. Genaux and Florez have a long duet near the end of act one that alone makes this set a desirable acquisition for fans of contemporary singers.

So Alahor in Granata, after falling into many decades of obscurity, finds itself resurrected, and the living proof comes in a handsome recording in fine sound. Bel canto lovers and Donizetti worshipers, rejoice.

Chris Mullins

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Alahor_in_Granata.png image_description=Gaetano Donizetti: Alahor in Granata product=yes product_title=Gaetano Donizetti: Alahor in Granata product_by=Simone Alaimo, Patrizia Pace, Vivica Genaux, Juan Diego Flórez, Josep Pons, Orquesta Ciudad de Granada product_id=Almaviva AMV-125 [2CDs] price=$19.99 product_url=http://www.shopforte.com/product_info.php?products_id=4215
Posted by Gary at 4:07 PM

Rossini By The Sea 2006 Enjoying The Unexpected

The month of August in this resort town is usually filled with sunshine, but this year, the festival's first week was filled with cloudy days, intermittent rain showers, fluctuating humidity and some choppy waters, rare for the Adriatic resort town. As unexpected as the weather was, the outcome of the main operatic productions, proved equally topsy-turvy.

First was L'Italiana in Algeri, one of Rossini's most popular endearingly tuneful comedies, followed by the festival premiere of Torvaldo e Dorliska, an opera semi-seria. In another debut was Adelaide di Borgogna, presented in concert form.

Audiences were most likely expecting the fast-paced L'Italiana, to rise to the top of the performance scale with the relatively obscure Torvaldo on the bottom end. Torvaldo has never garnered a lasting reputation in the Rossini canon, as say, The Barber of Seville or Semiramide have, and has failed to inspire much musical appreciation in operatic circles.

It was, however, Mario Martone's fluid production of Torvaldo, interspersed with alternating moments of standstill intensity that captured the eye and ear of the festival's audiences. The director, who two years earlier had produced the now-fabled Matilde di Shabran for Pesaro(recorded on Decca), readily accepted the challenge of mounting the Torvaldo. This pre-romantic opera steadily swings in and out of comic and serious dramturgy. Even die-hard Rossinians accustomed to the composer's penchant for running musical themes of both genres in one work, had not had the opportunity to hear this opera in which the comic and serious aspects are meshed into the opera's characters. How this was so skillfully accomplished points to the artistic insights of the director and the conductor, Víctor Pablo Pérez.

Torvaldo is set in an unspecified European country around the 16th or 17th Century, and Martone's idea was to emphasize the dark, hooded woods surrounding the Castle of the Duke d'Ordow so that he could move his band of singers around the set, letting the music's flow be the main motivating factor into the building of well-rounded characterizations. Martone and Pérez recognized early on two noticeable drawbacks to the opera: Cesare Sterbini's libretto was not always explicit enough to do the job; and two, the opera contained weak patches of unexceptional music. They handled these weaknesses by supplying the extra dimensions needed: namely, a thoroughly developed directorial point of view, coupled with conducting that constantly supported the singers in giving Rossini's music the fullest performance value.

Although Torvaldo, the knight, is the hero, and Dorliska, his beloved ,the heroine, Martone also emplasized the role of the tyrannical Duke of d'Ordow, sung with great vocal insight by bass Michele Pertusi and bass Bruno Practicò who forged an interpretive gem as Giorgio, the custodian of the castle. By bringing these two characters to the forefront of the action to join Francesco Meli's Torvaldo, sung with intense muscular tones and Darina Takova's Dorliska, portrayed with veiled vocal dramatics, the director was abe to move these four characters in constant ebb and flow fashion. And when necessary, he held the action at salient parts in the storyline so the singers could execute Rossini's challenging vocal line, thereby setting up the opera as an ensemble piece.

Aiding the director in his plan to match stage movements with Rossini's lyrical transitions was set designer Mario Tramonti, who extended the proscenium out and around the orchestra pit allowing the singers greater freedom of movement. The designer also built side steps that led into the two main aisles of the intimate Teatro Rossini extending the action into an even wider area, creating the illusion of a desolate space facing the castle which we never saw, but could full imagine was there.

But what about the music in Torvaldo, an opera which hasn't enjoyed many performances over the years nor critical acclaim as a total work? There is much to admire in this opera that happenstance placed between Rossini's very successful drama, Elisabetta, Regina D'Inghilterra, and possibly his most popular comedy, The Barber of Seville. Bruno Cagli, Rossinian scholar and critic describes Torvaldo's overture in his program notes as "...a magnificent number of Schubertian refinement and grace..." which also includes quick woodwind and string flourishes ending with a touch of dissonance reminding us we will hear serious motives that tip toward the comic throughout the opera. Most of the memorable music in this opera is couched in segments that often surprise the listener by rising to the surface as cresting musical waves that thrill rather than break on the the shoreline as those big Rossini finales audiences are accustomed to from his more familiar works.

Probably the best example of one of these distingushing moments occurs more that half way through Act One. In a trio where the Duke, thinking that Torvaldo is dead and is ravaged with his own unrequited love for Dorliska, sings that he may finally have his love for her realized, Torvaldo, in disguise, reveals he is ready to do what it takes to get to his Dorliska, while Giorgio reflects on his conflict of loyalties, one to his master, the Duke, and, the other, his empathy for Torvaldo's plight. Here, Rossini not only shows his talent for part-writing, but supports their anxiety with a number of musical inventions, including a variety of tempos that show every aspect of their personal struggle. In this trio, Perutsi, Meli and Practicò are able to give full value to their musical gifts through clear expression of the text, rhythmic correctness and, best of all, to demonstrate this ability by sailing through the music with vocal assurance and aplomb.

At the beginning to the finale of Act One, Rossini composes a quartet - now including Carlotta, Giorgio sister-in which the Duke,Giorgio, Torvaldo and Carlotta commiserate about Dorliska upon her hearing that Torvaldo is dead. By adding the soprano line, the composer is able to fully shape the vocal refrain with such pathos, equaling the type of emotional response Verdi would accomplish in the future.

In Act Two, Torvaldo's aria of hope in finding Dorliska and her aria denouncing the Duke's amorous advances, give Meli and Takova the opportunity to express both the lyrical and dramatic qualities inherent in their voices. When the couple finally meets up, Rossini gave them a lovely short duet in which they renew their devotion, ending in a cadenza of quiet beauty. All this eventually leads to the Duke's defeat by the people's uprising against an oppressive ruler, ironically led by Giorgio, a comic and serious character fashioned by Rossini into one personality, and which Practicò with his vocal acting turned into a work of art.

The opera ends with general rejoicing for the restored peace allowing Torvaldo and Dorliska to be reunited. Rossini's spirited musical finale points to his experience in the classical style that requires pre-romantic opera to have a happy ending. But it was the combined efforts of Matrone and Pérez to complete the festival's audience enjoyment - by hearing one of Rossini's seldom performed works - and seeing it staged with confidence and a thorough understanding of the opera's quaint but heartfelt story.

Nick del Vecchio
Living at the Opera

image_description=Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Posted by Gary at 3:01 PM

Theodora, Barbican Hall, London

By Richard Fairman [Financial Times, 19 October 2006]

In retrospect, it is clear that Glyndebourne’s unforgettable staging of the oratorio Theodora in the mid-1990s marked a watershed. The Handel revival was already well under way by that point, but here was proof that his neglected works were not just worth hearing – some of them, at least, were masterpieces.

Posted by Gary at 11:25 AM

Giulio Cesare, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris

caesar_bust_small.jpgBy Francis Carlin [Financial Times, 19 October 2006]

Christophe Rousset has no luck with producers. Here’s another example of his excellent baroque band Les Talens Lyriques harnessed to an embarrassingly bad staging. The culprit this time is Irina Brook, a young producer who might have had the courage to avoid giving Handel the camp treatment that has ruled for the past 20 years. Instead, she goes for a laboured version of the same.

Posted by Gary at 11:23 AM

City Opera’s Great Innovator Returns, Baton at the Ready

rudel.jpgBy ANNE MIDGETTE [NY Times, 19 October 2006]

“It’s a little funny in a way, the attention I’m getting for going back to City Opera,” Julius Rudel said last week. “For 25 years I have been conducting at the Metropolitan Opera and nobody has written anything, or even noticed.”

Posted by Gary at 11:17 AM

Berlioz's `Troyens' Has Battles, Wooden Horse at Paris Opera

By Jorg von Uthmann [Bloomberg.com, 19 October 2006]

Oct. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Hector Berlioz never saw a complete performance of his monumental opera ``Les Troyens.'' Only in 1921, 52 years after his death, did the Paris Opera dare to stage all five acts, though with substantial cuts.

Posted by Gary at 8:29 AM

October 18, 2006

Haendel et son «César» dans le désert

Par Eric DAHAN [Libération, 18 October 2006]

Première nouvelle production lyrique de la saison du Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, le Giulio Cesare de Haendel réunissait lundi, presse, musiciens et mélomanes, moins impatients, on l'imagine, de découvrir la mise en scène d'Irina Brook, que d'entendre la distribution prometteuse, réunie par le chef Christophe Rousset.

Posted by Gary at 4:47 PM

Berlin's Embattled Harms Fails to Triumph With `Germania'

Germania.jpgBy Shirley Apthorp [Bloomberg.com, 18 October 2006]

Oct. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Kirsten Harms, the head of Berlin's Deutsche Oper, needed a triumph for her opening production after the fuss over the cancellation of a planned run of Mozart's ``Idomeneo.''

Posted by Gary at 10:00 AM

October 17, 2006


These works offer not only a variety of intriguing settings of poetry, but are also a fascinating for the way the composer allows vocal timbres to shape the content. In this selection of Lieder from various periods in Strauss’s life, the tenor Jonas Kaufmann and the pianist Helmut Deutsch include some familiar pieces, as well as music that may be less well know. Some of the pieces, like “Zueignung,” “Allerseelen,” and “Heimlich Aufforderung” and “Morgen!” are often heard in recital, while others may be less familiar and nonetheless moving. Kaufmann’s rich tenor voice is particularly effective in this repertoire, which approaches with sensitivity to the texts and enthusiasm for the music. His ringing, resonant sound helps to bring out Strauss’s wide-ranging melodic lines. Likewise, his capacity for a range of dynamic levels contributes to the expressiveness that this repertoire demands.

At the same time, the accompaniment of these songs sometimes exceeds the bounds of the piano, with keyboard timbres that suggest the scoring Strauss used for the orchestral versions of some of his Lieder. The accompanist for Strauss’s Lieder must, at times, become an equal partner in performing these works successfully, and Deutsch’s facility lends itself well to these works. As a pianist who recorded all of the Lieder of Brahms, Deutsch is well-suited to performing Strauss’s works in this genre. He not only delivers the full-sounding chords that are de rigeur in some pieces, but Deutsch offers adept readings the more intricate figuration found in a setting like “Schlechtes Wetter,” which is particularly effective in his hands.

The aggressive character of some of these pieces can add demands to the voice, and Kaufmann brings a vigorous quality that seems tireless. Not jus a strong voice, Kaufmann posses a vibrant tone that allows him to infuse sustained pitches with dynamism that adds to these performances of Strauss’s Lieder. While this may not be approach that other singers may choose, it contributes to Kaufmann’s interpretations of Strauss’s Lieder and, in particular, the ones he selected for this recording. Even in the subdued passages of some songs, like “Heimliche Aufforderung,” Kaufmann retains an intensity that sustains the line. Likewise, Deutsch brings elicits wonderfully rich sonorities in the accompaniment of these settings, as occurs with “Cäcilie,” as well as others. The two seem to play off each other intuitively, and the result can evoke chamber music, as with their performance of “Traum durch Dämmerung.” In fact, the latter is memorable for the subtle control Kaufmann uses to keep from overstating the concluding strophe of the text.

A number of the Lieder included in this recording are familiar in their orchestral versions, and this makes the recording all the more interesting. The larger canvases of the orchestrations are not without interest, but the versions for voice and piano allow for a more intimate ensemble like that which Kaufmann and Deutsch bring out well in this set of performances. The immediacy of the piano versions is not always possible with orchestra, and this aspect of the music makes this recording particularly attractive. While the piano cannot convey the specific timbres found in Strauss’s orchestrations, Deutsch’s nuanced playing is quite exciting and colorful for what the pianist brings to the accompaniments.

In fact, the sound on this recording allows for a lively tone that makes these nuances audible, while still maintaining the intimate ensemble between Deutsch and Kaufmann. Like other recordings on the Harmonia Mundi label, this one benefits from well-thought mastering. Not only is the piano clearly present, but the voice is neither distorted nor obscured. With a song like “Mein Herz ist stumm,” for example, the subtleties that Kaufmann brings to his interpretation are evident and yet never overshadowed by the accompaniment. While this is due to the ensemble between the performers, it is laudable when such balance that is possible in a live recital also emerges clearly in a recording.

This recording of Strauss’s Lieder represents some fine performances of selections that are well-suited to a tenor, and Jonas Kaufmann is particularly effective with the music chosen for this CD. The pieces fit his voice well, with the tessitura of Lieder like “Sehnsucht” demonstrating the need to consider the appropriate voice type for this repertoire. While a single performer, like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, can record the entirety of Strauss’s output in this genre, it is also useful to hear these works executed by such a tenor like Kaufmann, who brings his own strengths to them. Kaufmann is a fine interpreter of this repertoire, and one can look forward to further performances and recordings from him.

James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Richard Strauss: Lieder

product_title=Richard Strauss: Lieder
product_by=Jonas Kaufmann, tenor, Helmut Deutsch, piano.
product_id=Harmonic Mundi HMC901879 [CD]

Posted by Gary at 8:31 AM

Jephte/Dido and Aeneas

By Neil Fisher, Touring [Times Online, 17 October 2006]

THIS is a company that is never short of ambition, no matter what its bank manager might say. And this autumn English Touring Opera’s no doubt meagre resources are being stretched further than ever in a festival celebrating the Baroque. It began with the world’s first indisputably great opera, Monteverdi’s Orfeo; now it continues with an English icon, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, alongside Carissimi’s oratorio, Jephte.

Posted by Gary at 3:21 AM

Carter's Latest Gets Friendly Reception

CarterBoosey.jpgBY JAY NORDLINGER [NY Sun, 17 October 2006]

Elliott Carter has many friends in the music world — friends among performers — but he has no better one than James Levine. Mr. Levine programs him about as much as he does Mozart. And, in fact, Mr. Levine had both Carter and Mozart on his program Sunday afternoon. This was a concert of the Met Chamber Ensemble.

Posted by Gary at 3:11 AM

DESIREE COOPER: It's time to give 'Porgy and Bess' another look

gershwin.jpgBY DESIREE COOPER [Detroit Free Press, 17 October 2006]

In 1998, I went to my first production of "Porgy and Bess."

I felt almost ashamed that I'd never seen one of the most significant American operas before, especially since it was about African Americans. The opera's opening song, "Summertime," almost seems like part of my DNA.

Posted by Gary at 3:02 AM

Mozart Opera celebration, Royal Opera House, London

By Richard Fairman [Financial Times, 16 October 2006]

As the Mozart 250th anniversary year nears its end, perhaps it is time to take stock. Have we learnt anything new about Mozart or has the year’s onslaught of performances around the world only reinforced everything that we knew already?

Posted by Gary at 2:17 AM

October 16, 2006

Opera at Curtis

Directed by Mikael Eliasen, internationally renowned vocal collaborator and coach, the Curtis Opera Theatre trains around twenty-five singers, ages 18-28, each year in the Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, and Professional Studies programs. Students from around the world audition, singing four to five selections from opera, oratorio and art song, depending on the desired program. Many audition, but few are accepted to pursue this elite training.

A scene from Albert Herring

What makes this program cutting edge is its emphasis on musical and dramatic values, offering weekly classes in movement, repertoire, make-up and foreign language diction, along with performance seminars lead by Eliasen. Students also receive three hours of vocal coaching each week, as well as additional language classes.

A scene from Albert Herring
Albert-Herring---photo-cred.pngIn addition to such diversified classes, students have a chance to apply what they learn in the studio to the stage. Each season Curtis presents fully staged performances, as well as concert productions, in halls such as the Prince Music Theater, Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, and the Curtis Opera Studio. This year’s offerings include L’Ormido by Francesco Cavalli, The Audition, based on Mozart’s Impresario, Puccini’s La Rondine, and Postcard from Morocco by Argento. Singers also appear in the Field Concert Hall Student Recital Series and in concert performances with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra.

With such extensive training and performing experiences, it is no surprise that more than sixty alumni have sung with the Metropolitan Opera, and Curtis graduates can be found singing on stages worldwide.

Cick here for information on this year's performances at the Curtis Opera Theatre.

Sarah Hoffman

All photos by David Swanson

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles on music education relating to opera and vocal music.]

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Magic-Flute---photo-credit-.png image_description=Magic Flute (Photo: David Swanson)
Posted by Gary at 8:14 PM

HANDEL: Hercules

Notwithstanding an occasional lovely aria for the young lovers Hylius and Iole (the latter of which inadvertently inspires Hercules' wife to marital homicide), the three hours of agonized vocalizing in Handel's score might benefit from restraint when depicted on stage. Bondy from the start reveals his intention to dive, with leaden ponderousness, into the pool of despond. At least this admirably performed DVD allows the viewer to come up for air from time to time, via the life preserver of the remote control.

Joyce DiDontao's distraught Dejanira begins the opera in despair of ever seeing her intrepid husband again. Clad in black (and by opera's end, everyone will be, except for the blood-smeared white shroud for Hercules), DiDonato twists and writhes on the floor - when she doesn't twist and writhe while pacing or propping her enervated frame against a wall. Khaki-clad Lichas (Malena Ernman) tries to console Dejanira, but the hero's joyous homecoming soon deteriorates into the shock of Hercules's mid-life crisis, a passion for the abducted Iole, for whom Hercules has slaughtered an entire town. The chorus, in contemporary street clothes, observes all this in various stages of dismay. The tragic conclusion, including an amazing mad scene for Dejanira dispatched with bravura by DiDonato, takes its own sweet time in arriving. A final joyful chorus for the marriage of Hylius and Iole finds Bondy unable to relax his steely resolve, as the dark clouds are not banished at all by this unmotivated jubilation.

The oppressive set offers not much more than a concrete box and a sand floor, along with the ubiquitous fallen, broken statuary. While undeniably handsome in its spartan fashion, the eye soon longs for a spot of color. Bondy does keep the stage picture alive with movement, and his committed cast never flags in its dedication to the director's vision.

The stand-out performance comes, as it should, from DiDonato as Dejanira, much more the true lead role of the piece (and appropriately, she gets the final bow.) As a showcase for this singer's exquisite tone and agility, the production earns ample gratitude. William Shimell never has an opportunity to earn much sympathy as the titular hero, and so his occasionally brusque, grainy delivery can't be faulted. Besides being exquisite herself, Ingela Bohlin sings a lovely Iole, and Toby Spence's Hyllus gives more evidence of this young tenor's promise, with his light instrument easily grasping Handel's meandering melodic lines.

The irreproachable William Christie and his orchestra and chorus of Les Arts Florrisants get the sharp and detailed recording their performance deserves. The singers all appear to have been miked for the cameras, as there is no aural dimension to their delivery.

For lovers of the somber and lachrymose, this DVD will be a gray-toned treat. For all others wishing to spend some pleasurable hours with the music of Handel in a theatrical setting, the recent Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare makes an excellent alternative.

Chris Mullins

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Hercules.png image_description=Handel: Hercules product=yes product_title=G. F. Handel: Hercules product_by=William Shimell, Joyce DiDonato, Toby Spence, Ingela Bohlin, Malena Ernman, Simon Kirkbride, Les Arts Florissants, William Christie (dir.). Mise en scène Luc Bondy. product_id=Bel Air Classiques [2DVDs] price=$44.99 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/Handel-Kirkbride-Christie-Florissants-Aix-en-Provence/dp/B000CR8RY2/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt/102-0397056-9492965?ie=UTF8
Posted by Gary at 4:33 PM

Homage — The Age of the Diva

Originating from the Latin for “goddess,” the word has morphed through the last century to signify both performers with star power as well as anyone who is temperamental enough to demand “star” treatment. Even water cooler crowds can now have “divas.” Although most people use “diva” to refer to both sexes, the term “divo” for males actually exists.

It is the original meaning of word that is celebrated in the new Renée Fleming CD, Homage – The Age of the Diva (Decca, October 2006). The premise, according to Fleming, is to “stretch” herself musically with some intriguing selections that were star pieces for some of the late 19th – early 20th centuries greatest names, many of whom are featured on historic recordings. Among these are the likes of Rosa Ponselle, Maria Jeritza, Magda Olivero, Geraldine Farrar, Emmy Destinn, and Mary Garden, all women who added their own dimension to the image of the operatic diva. However, as much as this recording is dedicated to these stars and the roles and music they premiered and portrayed, it is as much a vehicle initiating today’s audiences to a wide variety of little-known arias from works that have been forgotten (at least in twenty-first century America). Fleming’s yearlong research into this repertory (the only opera with which she herself is intimately associated is Jenůfa) also provides her with a unique group of dramatic arias that sit perfectly with her voice.

Fleming is accompanied on this artistic crusade by a conductor she admires intensely: Valery Gergiev, who for this recording leads his own Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre. Just as there are those who adore him as an opera conductor, there are those who hate him; on this recording, though, he pairs so seamlessly with Fleming that the result is indeed, as she describes his work, “magic.” The recording is a series of 14 selections that are one better than the other, dramatically sung and elegantly accompanied.

The operas from which Fleming drew her selections are Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur (Milan, 1902); Smetana’s Dalibor (Prague, 1868); Tchaikovsky’s Oprichnik (premiered at the Mariinsky in 1874); Korngold’s last two works, Das Wunder der Heliane (Hamburg, 1927) and Die Kathrin (Stockholm, 1939); Gounod’s Mireille (Paris, 1864); Richard Strauss’ Die Liebe der Danae (Salzburg, 1952); Rimsky-Korsakov’s Servilia (also at the Mariinsky, 1902); and Massenet’s Cléopâtre (Monte Carlo, 1914-15). The three remaining, Il trovatore (Rome, 1853—the earliest work represented), Tosca (Rome, 1900) and Jenůfa (Brno, 1904) are the most commonly known operas on the list. Although all of the other works contain gems for the diva voice, their histories in many cases reflect scores and librettos that in their day were considered troublesome. Dalibor, for instance, drew initial criticism for not being “Czech” enough; Mireille, too, had a spotty history, as did Danae, a performance of which was sidetracked by none other than Joseph Goebbels. Nevertheless, the compilation is a credit to Fleming’s desire to resurrect rich and worthy numbers.

In the Smetana and Janáček, Fleming demonstrates her facility with Czech; she is equally able in the other four languages represented: Italian, French, German, and Russian. Her voice also “fits” the gamut of this repertory, from the traditional aria forms of “Tacea la notte … Di tale amor” to the other-worldly melodies of the two Korngold works. Her intelligent renditions of all of the arias and the sensitive orchestral support of Gergiev’s baton make this recording a noteworthy offering from one of the most respected divas of the contemporary American stage.

Denise Gallo

Click here for more information on this album, including musical excerpts.

[Editor's Note: Dr. Gallo is the author of Opera — The Basics (New York and London: Routledge, 2006)]


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Posted by Gary at 12:23 PM

October 15, 2006


First Performance: 7 May 1860, Opéra-Comique, Paris.

Rita, an innkeeperSoprano
Beppe, her husbandTenor
Gaspar, a planterBaritone


The story begins at the inn of Rita, the tyrannical and abusive wife of the timid Beppe. The life of the couple is thrown into turmoil with the unexpected arrival of Gaspar, the first husband of Rita, whom all believed to have drowned. In reality, Gaspar had run away to Canada. Believing that Rita has died in a fire, Gaspar has returned to obtain her death certificate so that he can remarry. When the two meet, Gaspar tries to run away. Beppe, however, sees this as an opportunity to free himself from Rita's slaps because Gaspar is her legitimate husband. The two men agree to a game such that whoever wins has to remain with Rita. Both try to lose, but ultimately the winner is Gaspar. Yet Rita, who had suffered frequently from the hand of Gaspar, refuses to return to be his wife. Gaspar, pretending he has lost the hand, induces Beppe to declare his love for Rita and his firm intention to remain as her husband. The crafty Gaspar, having achieved his purpose, takes his leave from the reconciled couple.

Click here for the complete libretto.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/donizetti.png image_description=Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) audio=yes first_audio_name=Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848): Rita first_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Rita.m3u product=yes product_title=Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848): Rita product_by=Adelina Scarabelli (Rita), Pietro Ballo (Beppe), Alessandro Corbelli (Gasparo), Orchestra da Camera Siciliana, Federico Amendola (cond.).
Posted by Gary at 9:25 PM

A bold step in the right direction

Fatykhova.jpgVincent Plush [The Australian, 16 October 2006]

Lucia di Lammermoor
By Donizetti. Opera Queensland. Lyric Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, October 14. Also on Thursday (6.30pm) and , Saturday (1.30pm), October 24, 26 and 28. Tickets: $36-$133. Bookings: 136 246.

THIS is the most impressive production I have seen from Opera Queensland in six years. Australia's second largest opera company is one that government ministers and captains of industry love to dress up for, while only proffering subsistence support. It attracts the fickle upwardly mobile set, drawn to its predominantly conservative productions. Occasionally, it delivers winners.

Posted by Gary at 5:31 PM

Cosi Fan Tutte — Glyndebourne

mikolaj.jpgGeorge Hall [Guardian, 14 October 2006]

One of the most sophisticated games ever played by a composer and librettist with an audience, Mozart's opera was damned as trivial by the 19th century, but steadily came into its own in the 20th, when the cracks that open up and finally shatter the certainties of its two pairs of lovers began to intrigue directors.

Posted by Gary at 5:15 PM

Mehr darf man nicht verlangen

Figaro_Volksoper.jpg[Die Presse, 14 October 2006]

Wiederaufnahme der "Zauberflöte" im Theater an der Wien: Weiterhin keine Idealversion.

Zweiter Versuch mit der jüngsten Wiener "Zauberflöte". Die Festwochen haben sie mit dem Festival von Aix produziert. Intendant Lissner nutzt seine vielen Positionen für Synergien.

Posted by Gary at 3:36 AM

October 13, 2006

Tobias and the Angel

Neil Fisher at the Young Vic [Times Online, 13 October 2006]

“Don’t let it seem finished” was David Lan’s command to Steve Tompkins, the architect entrusted with the makeover of the Young Vic, and I’m sure that the theatre’s dynamic boss isn’t disappointed.

Posted by Gary at 5:23 PM

October 12, 2006

Grand Ambitions

Helikon Opera prepares for a new "Boris Godunov" - and for a massive, $33 million reconstruction project.

By Raymond Stults [Moscow Times, 13 October 2006]

The opening months of the 2006-07 season find three of Moscow's four principal opera companies suffering the pains of redevelopment and reconstruction. Only Novaya Opera, happily ensconced in its elegant theater in the Hermitage Garden, currently enjoys what might be called a normal operatic existence.

Posted by Gary at 4:16 PM

October 11, 2006

An afternoon at the opera

By offering weekday matinees, Lyric has found a devoted niche audience

By Emily Nunn [Chicago Tribune, 11 October 2006]

It was a perfect afternoon for a beheading, apparently; an eager crowd jostled one another at the corner of North Wacker Drive and Washington Street, including two silver-haired ladies scalping tickets to the upcoming spectacle.

Posted by Gary at 9:46 PM

Un monument de Berlioz

berlioz.jpgPar YVES BOURGADE [Le Figaro, 11 October 2006]

Berlioz a moins de chance que Wagner qui dispose de Bayreuth. Le compositeur romantique français n’a pas un théâtre fait sur mesure, ce que réclamerait son épopée spectaculaire et lyrique Les Troyens, inspirée de L’Énéide de Virgile.

Posted by Gary at 5:38 PM

La Scala's Risky Choice of Conductor Pays Off in `Don Giovanni'

mussbach.jpgBy Shirley Apthorp [Bloomberg.com, 11 October 2006]

Oct. 11 (Bloomberg) -- La Scala's new ``Don Giovanni'' is nihilist, minimalist and high-risk.

Blank walls, black-and white-costumes and a total absence of frippery characterize Peter Mussbach's somber take on Mozart's work, heralding closer links between the Milanese house and the distant Berlin Staatsoper.

Posted by Gary at 4:41 PM

October 9, 2006

“A voice so beautiful, it will break your heart.”

JenniferOLoughlin_small.jpg[Opera Today, 9 October 2006]

Mary-Lou Vetere-Borghoff interviews Soprano Jennifer O’Loughlin of the Vienna Volksoper

Posted by Gary at 4:13 PM

October 8, 2006

Joan Henkelmann can't carry a tune, but she still thinks opera is pretty grand

By Preston Turegano [San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 October 2006]

Joan Henkelmann believes so strongly in the future of opera and operetta, she works year-round to nurture young singers, even though she's not a singer.

Posted by Gary at 10:25 PM

Opera performance bogged down to point of distraction

macbeth_azopera.jpgCathalena E. Burch [Arizona Star, 8 October 2006]

Sometimes being ambitious comes at a price.

Take Arizona Opera's $800,000 production of Verdi's "Macbeth," as envisioned by the innovative stage director Bernard Uzan.

Posted by Gary at 10:05 PM

“A voice so beautiful, it will break your heart.”

In a world filled with strife and struggle, war, and the ever-mounting difficulty of just trying to get through every day, it has become a common human response to turn to the arts; not only as a means for coping with such difficulties, but with the hope of being touched and moved by something that is perhaps stronger than our own human existence. After the tragic events of 9/11, our world changed forever. We were silenced by the extraordinary dissonance of that day and in order to heal we have turned to music; specifically, we have relied on the comfort that is provided by the power of the human voice. The most delicate of instruments, it pierces our soul and often carries with it the emotions that we are too afraid to confront ourselves. Such a voice is not found in every singer, but the few who have this power to affect us, personally, emotionally, and physically, stand out among the sea of vocalists who bless our striving world.

In 2002 in Urbania, Italy, I had the distinct pleasure of being blessed with hearing “a voice so beautiful, it broke my heart.” That voice belonged to American soprano, Jennifer O’Loughlin. Hers is a voice that will bring humanity to its knees and teach us to pray for those things that we cannot control. To hear her, is to gain strength in our everyday lives, and to see her is to comprehend that one solitary soul can truly instruct us to “believe.” And so, this young, vibrant woman of extraordinary talent graciously agreed to share with us some of her thoughts on the operatic life she pursues, and her notion that the voice is more powerful than we can even begin to understand.

Born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Jennifer began her musical training with the Clarinet and Piano. She received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Peabody Conservatory of Music of the John Hopkins University where she studied voice with Ruth Drucker. She later completed her Master of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with the great pedagogue, Joan Patenaude-Yarnell. In the 2002- 2003 season, and after receiving a stipend from the Herbert von Karajan Foundation, Jennifer became a member of the Zürich Opera Studio; during which time she also won the first prize in the Anneliese Rothenberger Competition, was a finalist in the International Jeuneusse Musicales in Montreal, and in 2001 was the winner of the Aspen Concerto Competition. After having performed at the Salzburg festival this season, she comes to us from the Volksoper, in Vienna Austria, where she is performing the role of “Susanna” in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. She has been an ensemble member there since the 2003/2004 season.

Mary-Lou: Jennifer, having a career in opera is not the most 'typical' of careers in this day an age; especially in a world plagued by the affects of war and in a world where arts programmes are continually being cut. Tell me, what was it that influenced you to become a singer, and not just any type of singer, but an opera singer?

Jennifer: I began singing as a child. I was chosen to perform some solos in grade school and was then encouraged to audition and subsequently join the Children's Festival Chorus of Pittsburgh. There, I learned a great deal about music and performing. As a member of the Children's Festival Chorus, I was blessed with numerous opportunities for a young singer, such as performing in the children's chorus for the Pittsburgh Opera's production of La Bohème. As one of the children asked to remain on stage during “Musetta's” Act two scenes, I was mesmerized by her character and the thrill of watching this tremendously sexy and funny scene transpire before my eyes. I felt privileged to be on stage, and it was at that moment I knew that I wanted to someday sing the role of “Musetta,” which I did about 15 years later at the Volksoper, but in German! After I left the children's chorus, I began studying voice with a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. I was about 13 years old, and I continued with him until my junior year of high-school, at which time I was applying and preparing for auditions at several conservatories in the United States. These lessons truly inspired me to become a professional musician. I also played the piano and clarinet growing up and participated in several musicals and operettas in my teens. This in addition to singing in the church choir growing up greatly fueled my desire to have a career in music.

Mary-Lou: When you perform, you exude a very mature style, and it’s obvious that your voice is an extension of your soul. Would you agree? Tell me who have some of your musical influences been?

Jennifer: At the beginning the greatest influences were my grade school music teacher and one of my third grade teachers. They saw that I had a musical and dramatic aptitude and encouraged me to audition for the Children's Festival Chorus. I would also say that my parents, although not musicians, influenced me tremendously. They were always supportive of my musical endeavors and allowed me to take private clarinet, piano, and voice lessons. My childhood piano and clarinet teachers greatly influence my musical development as well as the director of my church choir who asked me to perform many church solos as well as the lead role in the Pirates of Penzance with his community theater. Interestingly, it was my father wanted to become a better singer and asked the director of my children's chorus to recommend voice teachers in the Pittsburgh area. The teacher he chose to work with was Thom Douglas who teaches at the Carnegie Mellon University Music School. After I finished with the children's chorus, I accompanied my father about every month or so to have a lesson with Thom. It would be an afternoon, four hours or so, of music making. We would sit and listen to each other's lessons. It was a very special time for my father and me because we loved the music and we enjoyed working with Thom on both a musical and personal level. Thom was my first voice teacher, so I will always be very indebted to him for his guidance and inspiration. He was a wonderful teacher for a young person. He never pushed me beyond my limitations and yet challenged me and was extremely positive. I later went on to work with two wonderful voice teachers during my undergraduate and graduate programs. Ruth Drucker, was my teacher at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. She encouraged my love for song and I learned a great deal of the repertoire with her and acquired a greater knowledge of style and language. She also understood how to teach the high female voice and gave me a great deal of personal attention. At the Manhattan School of Music, where I did my Master of Music degree, I worked with Joan Patenaude-Yarnell. She helped me greatly improve my technique and taught me the foundations of the Bel Canto style. She also introduced me to Italy with her program, Centro Studi Italiani in Urbania. Now, in Vienna, I work with a mezzo named Glenys Linos who was the last student of Madame DeHildago, the famous voice teacher of Callas. With her, I have increased the strength of my entire voice but especially my middle range. I feel like I have the power and control to sing whatever I want within reason, now. I also believe I've become more of a feeling singing instead of a thinking singer with her, which is a good thing. These two aspects of singing must stay in balance.

“Singing was a part of who I was and who I am. I suppose I just knew that singing was something I really wanted to do with my life, like the way you know when you are in love.”

Mary-Lou: Music, and especially singing, is such an emotional art form. Music schools and conservatories churn out hundreds and thousands of singers, but there are only a few that actually achieve careers. What is it that made you desire such a career and one of such personal proportions?

Jennifer: I desired a career as a classical singer because I knew at a very young age that I had a special talent for expressing this music in a personal way. I was also a good clarinet player and could have perhaps made a career doing that, but somehow singing was different. It was a part of who I was and who I am. I suppose I just knew that singing was something I really wanted to do with my life, like the way you know when you are in love. Everything just connects and I can't imagine anything else I'd rather do. It has to be that way in order to devote one's self to a career in music. I spent a lot of time thinking about why and if I wanted to attend music school, because I knew it was a huge commitment and a huge investment. I came to the conclusion that I had to accept the challenge to develop the talent God had given me. I never expected it to be easy, and I was right!

Mary-Lou: And did you feel that you were ready to handle the “personal” nature of a singing career?

Jennifer: I don't think I've ever had problems sharing myself with an audience. I've never found it tremendously difficult to be vulnerable on stage. But sometimes that translates into every day life and so I've learned how to become tougher as a person without losing my sensitivities as a singer. I don't think any singer is truly prepared for the intense “personal” nature of a singing career until they've experienced it. The personal nature also has to do with dealing with the way people perceive you and what you do on stage and how that translates into the way people treat you. That can be a little bit tricky at times.

As "Valencienne" in Die Lustige Witwe
Lustige Witwe026.jpg

Mary-Lou: It is certainly a very trying career, both professionally and personally. There are many sacrifices that come with a singing career. Do you feel that the benefits outweigh the sacrifices?

Jennifer: Yes, it is a very trying career and one must be willing to sacrifice in order to make it work. I've never really sat down and thought to myself, “Why in the world am I putting myself through this?” It hasn't gotten to that point yet because I'm so involved with the process of “making it". I believe that all things worth doing require some sacrifice, and part of that sacrifice, for a singer, is the investment of a lot of time, money, and energy. These elements are crucial to the perfection of one’s craft. That is also true of a lot a careers. The main difference is that as a performer and particularly as a singer, one's work is really out there in the public light for anyone to scrutinize. Consequently, one’s persona and personality are infused into the character being portrayed, thus allowing our “inner selves” to also be scrutinized. And the scrutiny is often very subjective. There are a lot of political variables involved in this business which complicate things. I feel that it is always a great trial and sacrifice to have to deal with these political issues while I'm trying to be the best performer I can be. It is easy to allow these issues to become distracting or consuming. That is why one must truly believe in one's self and surround themselves with objective, honest, and highly supportive people. In terms of money, one has to expect not to make so much of it in the beginning, but you will be expected to do to do quite a lot of work. It's the old adage of “paying your dues". In terms of family, singers must be very careful with whom they choose to spend their lives. A good partner must be someone who understands what the complexities of a singing career and support it wholeheartedly. I think it takes a lot of patience, faith, and strength of will to wait for that special person who will be the right one. But as I said, anything worth doing requires sacrifice. And I believe, at least at this point in my life, that the benefits outweigh the sacrifice. The greatest benefits are in knowing that you are doing what you want to do, what you've trained to do, and what you love to do. Plus, you're getting paid to do it with the possibility of "promotion” in a very competitive, colorful, and exciting arena. I think the greatest benefit is simply the act of performing. There is something beautiful and fulfilling about the whole process of preparing a role or song and then getting out under the lights with the costume and sets and presenting your very own interpretation to an audience who is hopefully eager to hear what you have to present.

“I think the purpose of music and opera is to open us up as human beings and show us a world that we may not have known existed, both internally and externally, and to elevate the human spirit.”

Mary-Lou: You speak of the personal aspect of music and singing. Opera has always been an art that affects the social aspects of a community; perhaps one can consider it the artistic instruction of the public sphere, a sort of what or what not to do in the presence of trying situations. What purpose do you think music and opera serve today, other than a device for pure entertainment, and what has opera taught you?

As "Clorinda" in Rossini's La Cenerentola70CDimo Dimov.jpg

Jennifer: I think that people go to the opera to be entertained, but more than that, they go because they want something to move them physically and spiritually. They want to experience something that takes them beyond the intellectual realm of everyday living. I think the purpose of music and opera is to open us up as human beings and show us a world that we may not have known existed, both internally and externally, and to elevate the human spirit. Music and opera teach us that beauty is not just a thing that we see but a thing which we can hear and feel as well. Opera and music have taught me how to express myself and subsequently helped me to acquire a greater sense of self confidence. By being a performer of music and opera, I have learned to appreciate the plethora of intricacies that surround this art form. More than that, I couldn't answer yet. Maybe in twenty years or so I'll understand how music has truly touched me and what I have learned from it.

Mary-Lou: As an opera historian, I always maintain the notion that specific operas retain their status in the musical canon by withstanding the test of time. Whether an art form exists or not has much to do with what you say, the purpose, or what I call the “value” of a work. What operas do you feel most retain this “value” and do you feel that they continue to instruct us on social and moral levels?

Jennifer: I believe that all operas written have some relevance to modern society. There is always some kernel of truth in every opera regardless of how trivial one might find the libretto. For example, some artists say that La Traviata is not really viable today because Violetta would never have given up Alfredo for the sake of morality or reputation. The concept today is that we do whatever we want and keep whatever we want regardless of how it affects other people. But I do not think all “modern” people adhere to this philosophy. I think there are still people out there who understand what it's like to do the right thing for someone or something they love even if means sacrificing a great deal. How many of us have been afraid at one point or another in our lives to allow someone into our hearts for fear of being hurt as Violetta was? How many people know what it feels like not to have had a proper father and therefore crave that kind of love and attention all their lives as Violetta did? How many people know what it feels like to have found their soul- mate and to be madly in love for the first time in their lives as Alfredo and Violetta were? I think the truth is that many people experience these emotions associated with a work from the past, even today in their own “modern” lives.

Mary-Lou: Your response is intriguing and tells us a lot about who you are, not just as a singer but as a person. And with that being said, let me ask what singers you consider to be the “staples” of operatic art, or those whom you consider idols?

Jennifer: I can tell you who I listened to growing up. I don't really have one singer who I idolize but several for whom I have a great deal of respect. As far as sopranos are concerned, I grew up listening to and enjoying recordings of: Sutherland, Callas, Tebaldi, Price, Freni, Moffo, Caballe, Te Kanawa, de Los Angeles, Ponselle, Flagstad, Auger, Upshaw, and Flemming. Tenors that I like are Pavarotti, Björling, Kraus, Vicars, and Wunderlich. I also really appreciate Bryn Terfel and Kurt Moll.

Mary-Lou: What is it about them that you admire?

Jennifer: Well I will be quite general because there are many specific reasons I like each artist. To me all of these singers have tremendous technical, musical, and interpretive skills. But as I look at the list, there are two main things which bind these artists together. One is that each possessed or possesses a voice of great beauty and power. The second is that each of these singers is highly unique and had or has something very personal and special to offer.

“I think there are still people out there who understand what it's like to do the right thing for someone or something they love even if means sacrificing a great deal.”

Mary-Lou: Although you studied primarily in the United States, you have been in Europe for several years now. This might be a bit of a controversial question, but do you feel that there is a distinct difference in the way in which European and North American singers are trained?

Jennifer: I wouldn't know that for sure because I never attended a university or conservatory in Europe. It is my impression, however, after having talked to several colleagues who were at one time students studying in Europe, that the music schools in America generally educate their students more thoroughly and demand more of them. My agent has said to me more than once, “I hate to admit it, but you have that American professionalism.” We are trained in music school to be very professional. My conservatory productions were more professionally run than some of the professional productions in which I've been involved. In fact, sometimes American singers are accused of being too precise, demonstrative, and “over competent".

As "Pamina" in the Volksoper's Die ZauberflötteDSC_0087.jpg

Mary-Lou: That’s very interesting, so let me ask you a question that would pertain to an American singer. Musicians have often tried to find special meaning for what they do; of course to have personal communication with one's audience and to entertain as well as instruct, but after 9/11 music kind of stopped, almost as if silenced by the dissonance of sound that took place on that day. Do you think that attitudes toward music and the importance of art have changed since then?

Jennifer: I think for some who don't understand the real value of art and music, its importance has decreased and become eclipsed by the many problems we face in this world. For others who do appreciate the real value of art and music, its importance has increased because art and music serve as a vehicle to show us how beautiful life can be even amidst the ugly trials and tribulations from which this world suffers.

Mary-Lou: What works are you performing at present and what are your upcoming engagements?

Jennifer: I am performing the role of “Susanna” in the Volksoper's production of the Le Nozze di Figaro and singing four Tschaikovsky songs with the Staatsoper Ballet in a production called Tschaikovsky Impressions. I play the long time sponsor of Tschaikovsky, Madame von Meck. Also, I’ll be performing the role of “Fiametta” in Franz von Suppé's Boccaccio in October. I am preparing the role of “Tytania” in Benjamin Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream which will be revived in November at the Volksoper and sung in the original language, English. In the spring I’ll perform the title role in Die Kluge by Carl Orff. This will be a new production at the Volksoper and I will sing the opening night, which is a great honor for me. In 2007, I will sing “Pamina” in a new production of Die Zauberflötte at the Grand Theatre de Geneve.

Mary-Lou: Pamina is an interesting character, but some singers have found her to run out of possibilities. What do you think are the secrets to keeping the freshness and vitality in a character throughout an operatic run?

Jennifer: I don't agree that Pamina runs out of possibilities. Some even think she's boring. But the fact is, that Pamina is the only character that Mozart and Schikenaeder created from scratch. She did not come from any of the stories or manuscripts they used to compile The Magic Flute libretto. I had the experience of doing a run in Ludwigsburg when I was singing Susanna in Figaro. I really had to fight the feeling of déja-vous from evening to evening. I think the only way to do that is to not think about what you did yesterday but to stay in the moment. Sometimes that means avoiding trying to do something better than the night before.

As "Susanna" in Mozart's Le Nozze di FigaroJennifer in Figaro.jpg

Mary-Lou: What do you think is the most affective manner of communicating with your audience? Singers, communicate with their voice, which again is the most personal of instruments, so how do you retain that intimacy with your viewers?

Jennifer: Well, that's a tricky because one must give the impression of intimacy on a big stage. One must project intimacy which seems like a contradiction in terms. I've had issues with this on stage. Of course intimacy does not automatically imply softness or whispering. For me, it has a lot to do with the prayer I say each time before I perform: “God, please help me to touch my audience, to sing beautifully, to be filled with the energy of this character, and be with me guiding me always,” or something to that effect. To me, that is intimacy: when you are trying to always give the best of yourself to the audience.

Mary-Lou: Which conductors do you most enjoy working with?

Jennifer: I like the ones who let me do whatever the hell I want to do!!! Just kidding! (The Diva comes out!) No, seriously, I enjoy working with conductors who breathe with me and make me feel like they are on my side and yet demand a lot from me as well. I loved working with Harnoncourt in Salzburg.

Mary-Lou: If you could sing anywhere in the world, tomorrow, where would it be and why?

Jennifer: I would want to sing at the Pittsburgh Opera. I would want my family to be there and to know that I had taken my craft home.

Mary-Lou: Tell me more about why it would mean so much for you to sing at the Pittsburgh Opera?

Jennifer: Because I began there. It is my home and it is also a lovely house. I've sung at the Benedum Center. I participated in an internship there, where I observed rehearsals for Così fan Tutte. I sang for a high school musical competition on that stage. I sang as a child on that stage in La Bohème. After spending many years studying and living in Pittsburgh, and I think it would be neat for my family to see me perform there. My great aunt always asks me when I'm going to perform with the Pittsburgh Opera!

Mary-Lou: Do you have regulated routines to keep your voice from becoming tired and what tips would you give to young and aspiring opera singers?

Jennifer: I would advise young singers to avoid practicing for over two hours at a time and to sometimes practice without singing. I consider listening to a mini disk of a lesson or coaching practice, too, because the brain is absorbing information and storing it for later use. It's also good to just softly speak through the text or even go through the piece softly with acting and gestures to work on the total performance. I would also recommend learning how to warm one's self up very thoroughly without the help of a teacher and also keeping the body fit as well. Physical fitness plays a tremendous role in ones ability to sing well and sing for a long time. I also believe it increases the longevity of a career. It’s very important to know how to warm the voice down after difficult passages too. Just doing a little bit of soft humming in the middle register can help to relax the voice after a very high or difficult passage.

As "Martha" in Flotow's Martha127CDimo Dimov.jpg

Mary-Lou: Are you planning to return to the United States?

Jennifer: I would love to come back and sing in the States. Not exclusively, but definitely a lot. There are so many good houses in the States, but it is absolutely necessary to be well developed before tackling them because they are much larger than most European houses.

Mary-Lou: Do you have any final words you would like to send to family and friends back home?

Jennifer: Thank you for everything.

In the Fall of 2007, Jennifer is scheduled to make her debut at the Grande Théatre de Geneve as “Pamina” in a production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflötte. Other future engagements include “Tytania” in the revival of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and “Die Kluge” in the new production of Carl Orff’s Die Kluge at the Vienna Volksoper, 2006/07. Her website will be available in mid-October.

Mary-Lou Vetere-Borghoff, PhD (ABD), M.A., Mus.B.
Faculty of Music
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Jennifer%20O%27Loughlin.jpg image_description=Jennifer O'Laughlin
Posted by Gary at 9:59 PM

KILAR: Piano Concerto

Through his accessible style, Kilar has become one of Poland’s best-known composers, and with a work like Bogurodzica (Mother of God), the first of the pieces collected in Tryptyk (1997). Removed from Kilar’s Tryptyk, Bogurodzica remains a strong work that conveys complex meanings through its highly textured structure. The martial overtones suggested by the percussion that frame the pieces are not out of place in a work that is also a paean to the Blessed Virgin. Composed before the fall of the Eastern bloc, the pained religiosity is nonetheless fervent in this piece that remains a powerful work for chorus and orchestra.

Yet the central work on this CD is Kilar’s Piano Concerto (1997), a relatively recent work in which the composer explores some aspects of minimalism to fine effect. The first movement (Andante con moto) has repetitive character establishes the timbre of the piece as a structural element, and like some of Kilar’s other music, the subtle textures are effective in serving as a prelude to the central movement (Corale). The various allusions in the second movement blur within a structure that essentially a set of variations that culminate in an intricate section for solo piano. Improvisatory in character, the passage reflects a change of tone in the movement that involves more interaction between the soloist and the orchestra. The tutti sonorities with which the movement ends are a springboard for the final movement (Toccata), which offers a contrasting character to what preceded it. Full or energy and rhythmic interest, this is a wonderfully exciting movement that reveals an innovative approach to composing a piano concerto at the end of the twentieth century. In some ways it resembles the tack that John Adams took in his Grand Pianola Music, which is essentially a Konzertstück – concertpiece – albeit in Adams’ work for two pianos and orchestra. At the same time, the more intricate passages in the final movement of Kilar’s Concerto suggest some aspects of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G minor. Yet the style of the 1997 work is wholly that of Kilar, who has reshaped the structure of the piano concerto in this fine new work.

The two other pieces included in this recording are also of interest. Siwa Mgla (Gray Mist) is a work for baritone and orchestra that is reminiscent of Sibelius’s tone poem Luonnatar. The evocative sonorities with which the piece begins set the tone for the entrance of the solo voice. Unlike some of Kilar’s other vocal music, this is a secular work that is nonetheless meditative. While some of the passages are atmospheric, the dramatic use of brass and percussion serve as a foil for the baritone, whose lines respond to the orchestral accompaniment. Just as Kilar can evoke the sound worlds of other composers in some of this works, the repeated minor thirds which intersect, at times, with pentatonic sonorities, convey the kind of Orientalism that Mahler used in Der Abschied, the final movement of his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. Composed in 1979, this work reflects another aspect of Kilar’s oeuvre as he evolved his style.

In fact, the finale work, Kościelec 1909 is a symphonic poem that Kilar completed in 1976. With its thick textures and complex sonorities, Kościelec 1909 evokes the precipitous mountain in the Tatrian range, with the year 1909 being significant for the date the promising Polish composer of the fin-de-siécle, Mieczysław Karłowicz died in a skiing accident in that area. Suggestive more than narrative, this piece serves as tribute to the earlier composer, whose tone poems established a niveau for composers of his generation, like Karol Szymanowski. Such tribute to Karłowicz is indeed touching, and this is an effective recording of a rarely heard work.

Antoni Wit is a fine interpreter of Kilar’s music, and the live performances preserved on this recording are noteworthy for various reasons. Wit’s command of the orchestral forces is quite effective, and he brings a convincing style to these fine works of a contemporary composer. This is an excellent selection of Kilar’s music, which merits further attention.

James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Wojciech Kilar: Bogurodzica; Piano Concerto; Hoary Fog; Koscielec 1909

product_title=Wojciech Kilar: Bogurodzica; Piano Concerto; Hoary Fog; Koscielec 1909
product_by=Waldemar Malicki; Wieslaw Ochman; Henryk Wojnarowski, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, Warsaw Philharmonic Choir, Antoni Wit (cond.)
product_id=Naxos 8.557813 [CD]

Posted by Gary at 5:28 PM

The Art of Elaine Bonazzi

From the opening phrase declaimed on virtually a single pitch in Monteverdi’s “Io ch’armato sin hor” we are captured and simply have to hear what the next note will sound like, and the next, and the next. Whether or not we approve of this and the other Monteverdi pieces that begin the program is another matter and will likely depend upon our concerns about authenticity in early music performance. Elaine Bonazzi doesn’t hold back from using her whole voice to sing these pieces, nor does she shrink from shaping the phrases of the three Scherzi Musicali with a flowing legato that frequently becomes full-fledged portamento, set off by the spare piano accompaniment. This was an “old-fashioned” approach to music of this period by the time this disc was recorded in 1985, but it works remarkably well here, probably because the artist’s concern is with shaping the phrases into beautiful lines that express the emotion of the text without sacrificing the integrity of the music’s essential purity. That this was a stylistic choice is clear when we hear the Messenger’s scene from Monteverdi’s opera Orfeo, which is beautifully phrased without portamento to bring out the drama of the extended declamation. To my ear the artists do an admirable job of performing early music in a way that resonates with modern sensibilities while not forsaking the fundamental emotional integrity of the music.

The description of Euridice sinking into death sets us up for a program of more recent music united by a theme of sleep or dreaminess. Britten’s A Charm of Lullabies opens with “Sleep, sleep, beauty bright”, with a gently rocking accompaniment that can make us think we’re hearing a conventional lullaby—until Bonazzi’s excellent English diction brings out Blake’s unsettling text that hints at “dreadful lightnings” when the child wakens into adulthood. We get a better idea of what these might look like in “The Highland Balou”, where a poor highland woman imagines her young son stealing livestock in raids into the more prosperous lowlands, sung in a Scottish accent (the authenticity of which I can’t evaluate) over a humorous syncopated dance rhythm. “Sephestia’s Lullaby” alternates tender consolation to the child too young to know adult sorrow with a frantically abbreviated history of how the baby’s arrival has ultimately led to the father’s departure. Bonazzi handles the mood swings very effectively, pattering out the frantic sections, and beautifully sustaining the last note of the penultimate phrase of the final slow section. In the humorously hostile “A Charm”, the frustrated mother or nurse threatens the child with the vividly described wrath of the Furies if it does not quiet down and sleep. After the energy of these two songs, a peaceful sleep would seem impossible for any child, but then we hear “The Nurse’s Song”, a quietly spectacular song of reassurance that the child’s nurse will be there to take care of it. The vocal line is extremely exposed, beginning with several unaccompanied lines of melodic but unusual intervals that must be sung with supreme musicality so that, when the piano enters at the end of the first verse, it is a perfect meeting. Bonazzi’s artistry is well up to the challenge, spinning a vocal line that combines the improvisational sound of the nurse singing alone with the sure musicality that allows the audience to relax with the child at the moment the piano enters in perfect tune with the voice, reassuring us that the nurse will always be right where she needs to be.

Following the spare precision of the Orfeo scene and the Britten songs, the listener is invited to bask in the sheer beauty of Brahms’s Opus 91 songs for voice, piano and viola, which set two texts that continue the theme of sleep and rest. First is a setting of a Rückert poem seeking rest from yearning, and in the second, the viola begins playing the old German Christmas song “Joseph lieber, Joseph mein” as the voice takes the part of the Virgin Mary asking the winds to be quiet so that her baby may find rest from the sorrow he came into the world to bear. Interwoven with the viola line, sensitively executed by Karen Tuttle, Bonazzi’s rendition of Brahms’s gorgeous vocal melodies flows seamlessly while allowing every German consonant to be clearly heard. In listening to these pieces I am struck by some similarity I hear between the timbre of Bonazzi’s voice and that of the string instruments, which I confess makes it less pleasant to me than the sound of some other mezzos. This is largely a matter of personal taste however, and I have to say that at all times on this recording she brings out the best in her instrument.

A phrase by another string instrument, in this case the cello, opens the Chansons Madécasses of Ravel, easing the rather abrupt transition from the lush Brahms songs to the twentieth-century dissonances of Ravel’s late work. The first and third songs in the set, which Ravel set as a quartet for voice, cello, flute, and piano, are languid and dreamy with more than a little eroticism expressed in these spare musical lines. The dream turns temporarily to a nightmare in the dissonant “Aoua!” that separates them, whose text is a lament upon the effects of colonialism. In all three songs the ensemble is seamless, making the disc a true showpiece of the talents of the faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where Bonazzi was teaching when this performance was recorded. My one quibble at this point is that, while the Chansons Madécasses bring together the most instruments with the voice and might therefore be expected to be a fitting climax to the recital, the fact is that “Il est doux”, which closes the set, so perfectly expresses the indolence of the tropical afternoon that it describes, that it peters off into a single a capella vocal phrase before dropping into complete silence, bringing the recital to an abrupt end.

The CD booklet includes texts and English translations, and some brief notes on the songs, but the bulk of the booklet is given over to a summary of Elaine Bonazzi’s career, with photographs from her personal collection. Given the number of world premieres in which she participated and the high level of her artistry that is clearly demonstrated by this recital, this information is a valuable adjunct to the recording and a welcome memento to those who enjoyed her work during her performing career, as well as an impressive introduction for those who will be encountering it for the first time in this recital performance.

Barbara Miller

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Bonazzi.jpg image_description=The Art of Elaine Bonazzi product=yes product_title=The Art of Elaine Bonazzi product_by=Elaine Bonazzi, mezzo-soprano, Ellen Mack, piano, Karen Tuttle, viola, Timothy Day, flute, Stephen Kates, violoncello product_id=Bridge 9176 [CD] price=$16.99 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000ASAT5I?tag=operatoday-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000ASAT5I&adid=1KGN6FRM9G44KVMBFTD2&
Posted by Gary at 5:15 PM

For Opera Companies, Architecture Is Destiny

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI [NY Times, 8 October 2006]

ALTHOUGH music lovers here appear to be very excited about the new home of the Canadian Opera Company, people have been taking affectionate pokes at the place, calling it the Ikea Opera House.

Posted by Gary at 3:57 PM

Die Soldaten, Jahrhunderthalle, Bochum, Germany

Zimmermann.jpgBy Shirley Apthorp [Financial Times, 8 October 2006]

Marie’s fall from grace has never been more palpable. David Pountney’s new production of Die Soldaten is one vast sensual excess. As the merchant’s daughter slides from flirtation to prostitution, the audience slides with her. Literally. The podium on which the seats are mounted rests on railway tracks that run the length of the cavernous Jahrhunderthalle. The effect is unnervingly dizzying.

Posted by Gary at 3:50 PM

ROSSINI: Il Signor Bruschino

Music composed by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). Libretto by Giuseppe Foppa, based upon the play Le Fils par hasard, ou Ruse et Folie by Alissan de Chazet and E.T.M. Ourry

First Performance: 27 January 1813, Teatro San Moisè, Venice

Principal Characters:
Gaudenzio, guardian of Sofia Bass
Sofia Soprano
Bruschino, her father Bass
Bruschino, her brother Tenor
Florville, lover of Sofia Tenor
Un delegato di polizia Tenor
Filiberto, innkeeper Bass
Marianna, waitress Mezzo-Soprano

Setting: The environs of the Castle of Gaudenzio.


Sofia and Florville are in love, but Sofia's guardian, Gaudenzio, is against the match. He is an enemy of Florville's father and when matters seem easier, with the latter's death, he presents a further obstacle, having promised Sofia to the son of his old friend Signor Bruschino. Florville impersonates young Bruschino, detained for an unpaid tavern bill, which Florville has actually settled on his behalf, and the complications that arise when old Bruschino appears are eventually solved when Signor Bruschino is induced to accept Florville as his son, for the present purposes, although well aware of the whole situation.

[Synopsis source: Naxos.com]

Click here for the complete libretto.

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Windows Media Player second_audio_link=http://www.operatoday.com/Bruschino.wax product=yes product_title=Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868): Il Signor Bruschino product_by=Sesto Bruscantini (Gaudenzio), Alda Noni (Sofia), Afro Poli (Bruschino, padre), Tommaso Soley (Bruschino, figlio), Cristiano Dalamangas (Filiberto), Fernanda Gadoni (Marianna), Antonio Spruzzola (Florville), Orchestra Sinfonica Della RAI Di Milano, Carlo Maria Giulini (cond.)
Live recording, 24 September 1951, Milan.
Posted by Gary at 1:52 PM

Settling the Score — An Interview with Philip Gossett

Music is his passion, which he is eager to share with others. Generally recognized as a leading expert on Nineteenth Century Italian opera, Opera Today interviewed Professor Gossett to discuss his life and work.


OT: How long have you been a member of the faculty of the University of Chicago?

PG: I have been a member of faculty since 1968. Two years ago, however, I also joined the faculty of the University of Rome. I now teach alternately at Chicago and Rome.

OT: Do you teach only at the graduate level or do you also teach undergraduates?

PG: At Chicago, I teach undergraduates and graduates, including the introductory music course. At Rome, my undergraduate students are at a somewhat more advanced level than those at Chicago. This is because by the time they arrive there they know they want to pursue the study of music. Moreover, when it comes to opera, these students tend to be more informed of the background, thereby enabling discussions in more depth.

OT: What is a musicologist? Are you also a musician?

PG: A musicologist is a music historian. My instrument is the piano. I often accompany singers for rehearsals or for performances of works where I have acted as consultant or in some other capacity.

OT: What led you to specialize in 19th Century Italian opera?

PG: I received my Ph.D. from Princeton in 1970. Contrary to the trends of the time, I chose the operas of Rossini as my dissertation topic. Together with Charles Rosen, I later published a series of facsimiles of printed scores or autograph manuscripts devoted to Early Romantic Opera that consisted of approximately 40 works. This was followed by another series of facsimiles devoted to Italian Opera 1810-1840. This latter project proved to be too ambitious and it was terminated after the publication of 25 volumes. Sadly, these are all out of print because their publisher, Garland, is no longer in business; and, in any event, libraries do not have the budgets that permit the acquisition of such costly series.

Meanwhile, I became the general editor of the critical editions of the Opera omnia of Gioachino Rossini and of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi.1 The need for these critical editions is pressing. Contrary to popular belief, neither of these composers saw their works in print until, in the case of Verdi, perhaps with Otello and Falstaff. And, Verdi’s letters to Ricordi complained of numerous mistakes in the materials, printed and manuscript, the firm prepared. Indeed, Ricordi tended to use sources that were available in Milan, autograph manuscripts when he had them, otherwise poor copies . He didn’t bother looking for alternate sources, particularly for works by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, or Verdi whose most important sources were in other collections. The printed scores that have been available for the last 100 years, then, do not represent the best evidence of the composer’s intentions.

I am also on the advisory boards of the Bellini and Donizetti editions, which are being prepared by many scholars who first worked under my direction.

OT: The Rossini project shows that Il barbiere di Siviglia is forthcoming. Yet Alberto Zedda produced a critical edition of this work several years ago. Why is this work en queue?

PG: Alberto Zedda is a talented musician but he is not a musicologist. When he prepared his edition, he believed that the secco recitatives in the autograph manuscript were in the hand of Rossini. They were not. He was also unaware of additional music, as well as Rossini manuscripts containing cadenzas and variations. He found many contradictions between the traditional Ricordi edition and the autograph manuscript. He revised the Ricordi edition, making important changes, but in the process, many errors were committed. Nonetheless, Zedda took on a monumental task that resulted in the first critical edition of a 19th Century opera.

OT: Let’s move on to your new book, Divas and Scholars — Performing Italian Opera.2 How would you describe your book at the “30,000 foot” level?

PG: This book takes on the subject of the performance of Italian opera and places critical editions in relation to performing traditions and their subsequent transformations. In studying this relationship, I try to provide information about all aspects of performance, instrumentation, the art of vocal ornamentation, cuts, versions, staging. It is not a study of Italian opera in its entirety, but is limited largely to the works of Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini and Verdi, which have been the focus of my studies over the years.

The book is divided into two principal parts. The first part, which is entitled “Knowing the Score,” is an account of the preparation of critical editions. For example, I recently returned from St. Petersburg where I examined Verdi manuscripts in the library of the Mariinsky Theatre. I found there complete traces of much of his earlier work on La forza del destino, much of which was prepared from his 1861 skeleton score. A skeleton score contains the complete form of the vocal lines, bass and important instrumental ideas. This would be subsequently “filled in” by completing the orchestration. Now, what is interesting about the Mariinsky collection is that it includes all the vocal parts prepared from that 1861 skeleton score, because the planned premiere was delayed for a year as a consequence of the prima donna’s illness. A great deal of material in the collection is in Verdi’s own hand.

Between the first and second parts is a chapter entitled “Intermezzo.” This is a case study of the preparation of the critical edition of Rossini’s Semiramide and the problems posed in performing it.

The second part is entitled “Performing the Opera.” This covers such matters as the selection of versions of a score, ornamentation, transposition, and performance issues. One chapter, which is entitled “Serafin’s Scisors,”3 takes on the issue of cuts as traditionally made and artistic integrity. In this regard, it needs to be emphasized that a performance is not an edition and that by no means is a critical edition intended to foreclose making cuts and following performance traditions.

The book concludes with a “Coda” that relates to the reconstruction of two operas — Verdi’s Gustavo III (the predecessor of Un ballo in maschera) and Rossini’s Il viaggio a Reims in which the, theatrical genius, Dario Fo, substantially rewrote large parts of the libretto.

OT: At the back of your book is a glossary that not only defines technical terms but includes with the definitions some of the key points that you make throughout the book. For example, the definition of “come scritto” is “as written.” Yet, you go on to write:

Some performers believe that they should follow strictly the indications of a written or printed score. In doing so, they fail to understand that implicit within a composer’s notation are a series of conventions for interpreting that notation.

PG: An accurate reconstruction of the score is not the end of the matter. There were certain conventions that the composer assumed when putting pen to paper. For example, there were performance conventions regarding vocal ornamentation and performance styles that have long been known. Rossini’s notation clearly implies the use of appoggiaturas. Verdi, on the other hand, wrote out embellishments, though even here singers would add their own cadenzas.

OT: You make an important point that music can accommodate different texts. What is the relation of text and music in 19th Century Italian operas?

PG: The relationship of text and music in opera is a fascinating subject. But, I am approaching this in a more limited manner. I cite Hanslick’s famous example of an aria from Gluck’s Orhpée et Euridice. He noted that if the words “J’ai perdu mon Euridice, / Rien n’égale à mon malheur” (I have lost my Euridice, nothing equals my sadness) were changed to “J’ai trouvé mon Euridice, / Rien n’égale à mon bonheur” (I have found my Euridice, nothing equals my joy), a new union of music and text is created that is just as satisfying as the original. What this means is that, through the substitution of text, the same music can accommodate different “atmospheres” or idealize different content. Rossini, for one, did not hesitate to rework music with different texts.

OT: What about translations? For example, Don Carlo is the Italian translation of Don Carlos, which had a libretto in French for performance at the Paris Opéra?

PG: The problem of translations is particularly apparent in the several versions of Les Vêpres siciliennes where Verdi was directly involved. The translation between Italian and French is particularly problematic, because poetic systems were quite different and it was common to translate the words into another series of poetic forms and then stuff the words under the music in the most absurd fashion.

OT: Do you maintain that the instrumental accompaniment to the operas of Donizetti and Rossini, for example, should be played with original instruments?

PG: Not necessarily. Most performances today certainly employ modern instruments. But, it is important to note that the 19th Century trombone, for example, was quite different from the modern instrument. Therefore, when the score calls for trombones to play forte, that means mezzo forte or even mezzo piano, for modern instruments simply because historic instruments were incapable of producing the same volume of sound.

OT: Then you are not dogmatic when it comes to so-called historically informed performance practices?

PG: There is no such thing as an historically authentic performance. Alleged authenticity must give way to the complex interactions of theory and practice, history and contemporaneity, tradition and innovation.

OT: Where do things go from here?

PG: Using the results of my research at St. Petersburg, we will be producing a critical edition of Forza, followed by Giovanna d’Arco, Attila, Un ballo in maschera, Aroldo, Falstaff, and so on.

As for the Rossini project, I have parted ways with the Fondazione Rossini, which has had serious problems financially and politically. With the use of some of the Mellon Award,4 I am fairly certain that continuation of the project will be taken up by Bärenreiter. The Petite Messe Solennelle is in the works, and La cambiale di matrimonio and Il barbiere di Siviglia will follow soon after. There is much yet to be done.

OT: And you are enjoying every minute of it. Thank you Professor Gossett.

1. For an explanation of critical editions, see Patricia B. Brauner, What is a critical edition? How does it happen? at http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/ciao/Introductory/Rcritical%20edition.html.

2. Divas and Scholars — Performing Italian Opera (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006).

3. This refers to Tullio Serafin, the resident conductor at La Scala in the 1950s and co-author with Alceo Toni of Stile, tradizione e convenzioni del melodrama italiana del Settecento e dell’Ottocento (Milan: Ricordi, 1958).

4.In 2004, Professor Gossett received the Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award, the first musicologist to receive this award. The award was in the amount of $1.5 million. See Philip Gossett Receives Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award (17 December 2004) at this link.

image_description=Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera

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Posted by Gary at 12:00 AM

October 5, 2006

MAHLER: Symphonie no. 2

Thus, after releasing his performances of various works of Mahler, Boulez has turned to the Second in a 2006 release of performances made in June 2005 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Boulez brings to this and other recordings of Mahler’s symphonies a sense of clarity and precision that is evident from the start. With the incisive gesture that is reminiscent the opening scene of Wagner’s Die Walküre, Boulez presents an interpretation of the first movement that is faithful to the score and lacking the affectations that some conductors make. While his tempos cannot be mistake as impetuous, Boulez never paints himself into an interpretative corner that forces him to resort to unconventional means of relating one section to another, in the extended sonata form of the first movement. Likewise, Boulez balances sonorities and in doing so does avoids compromising timbres. In the rich string textures he evokes from the Vienna Philharmonic, Boulez does not overemphasize that timbre at the expense of the brass sonorities. Likewise, his command of the brass and winds never allows their sound to overshadow the generally balanced tone of the orchestra. As conservative as this may sound, such judgment is effective in allowing the work to speak for itself. For those who might prefer a recording that has excessively contrasting tempos and an extremely wide choice of dynamic ranges, such scene-chewing is absent from this recording. When Mahler uses percussion in the dramatic gestures at the center of the movement, the sudden contrast that Boulez creates introduces a moment of genuine drama.

Likewise, Boulez offers a clarity in the string textures at the opening of the second movement that give the effect of chamber music, albeit on the scale that Mahler would introduce to his orchestral scoring of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet. The distinctions of tempo in this movement are effective in rendering Mahler’s musical narrative. This is a movement full of subtleties that emerge from the attention that Boulez brings to the details. It is by no means a conventional slow movement or intermezzo, but a more dynamic form that embodies both the sectional organization of its ternary structure and the kind of developing variations that Mahler would bring to near-perfection in the penultimate movement of the Fourth Symphony. Boulez offers a fine reading of this movement, which is cleanly played and, to a degree austere. The portamento sonorities are evident, but subdued, thus giving the sound a modern slant.

The third movement is noteworthy for its use of the song "Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt" as the basis for the Scherzo, and in transforming the song into an instrumental milieu, Mahler found a way to introduce yet another text implicitly into the Symphony. Without sacrificing lyricism, Boulez offers a reading that is somewhat brisker than some conductors take the movement. Such tempos are useful in conveying the character of the symphonic movement and effecting the transformation of the song into the orchestral idiom. Thus, the trio, which echoes the Scherzo theme from Mahler’s academic colleague Hans Rott, is approached in a less jarring manner. The deft hand of Boulez keeps the musical ideas flowing one to the other. It is a reading of the Scherzo that deserves attention for its clearly delineated form. The architecture of the movement is evident in the execution which relies, no doubt, from Boulez’s clear understanding of the structure of the movement.

With the fourth movement, the setting of the text “Urlicht,” from the anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Mahler created a vocal prelude to the choral Finale. The mezzo-soprano Michelle de Young offers a fine reading of the song, which is a critical link to the thematic content of the concluding movement. Some of the darker sounds of de Young’s voice contribute to the timbre of the movement, with its stronger reliance on winds and brass colors. In the second section of the song, where the text concerns the implicit narrator’s confrontation with the angel, de Young brings a dramatic sense to the song that suggests the inner struggle that must precede the resolution of ideas that ultimately occurs in the movement that follows.

Yet the Finale of the Second Symphony may be regarded one of Mahler’s more challenging conceptions as he combines somewhat programmatic ideas with a structure that involves several interconnected sections that are held together by text. It is difficult not to recall some of the more highly charged interpretations of this movement by conductors like Leonard Bernstein, but Boulez maintain the integrity of the score in a reading that maintains some restraint and, if it can be inferred, a degree of objectivity. It is difficult to encounter a performance of this work that is not compelling. Yet if Boulez exhibited restraint earlier in the Symphony, the concluding section is powerful in its aggressive tone and full textures. With such a highly integrated chorus as that of the Wiener Singverein, the powerful conclusion emerges with a strength and precision that the work deserves. In leading the Finale Boulez refrains from introducing mannerisms that detract from the score as Mahler left it. No scene-chewing histrionics mar the dignity that Boulez brings to his reading, which stands well with his other recent recordings of Mahler’s symphonies.

Christine Schäfer is notable for her solid performance of the relatively short part that Mahler conceived for the soprano, as well as in her duet with de Young. The part is hardly challenging for Schäfer, as she delivers the text clearly and, as elsewhere in this recording, without affectation. Both solo voices are a foil for the choral forces that convey the ultimate message of the text that gives the work its epithet of “Auferstehung.” This is a fine addition to the existing discography of a Symphony that has become quite familiar in recent years not only through some prominent concert performances, but also solid recordings like this one. Boulez achieves a convincing reading of the work that is first of all symphonic, and this helps to put the recording into the context of his other recent performances of Mahler’s works.

James L. Zychowicz

image_description=Gustav Mahler: Symphonie no. 2 “Resurrection”

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product_by=Christine Schäfer, Michelle DeYoung, Wiener Singverein, Wiener Philharmoniker, Pierre Boulez (cond.)
product_id=Deutsche Grammophon 477 600-4 [CD]

Posted by Gary at 3:45 PM

‘Faust' Cleans Up Its Act

BY JAY NORDLINGER [NY Sun, 5 October 2006]

When Andrei Serban's production of Gounod's "Faust" made its debut at the Metropolitan Opera two seasons ago, it did not please everybody. (What can?) Many critics found it too busy, gaudy, and distracting. My view, in a nutshell, was, "This is ‘Faust' — let it all hang out." Most controversial was the bodysuit worn by Méphistophélès in the church scene. Speaking of letting it all hang out: That suit showed a lot of equipment, if you know what I mean.

Posted by Gary at 1:34 PM

Der Rosenkavalier, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By Andrew Clark [Financial Times, 5 October 2006]

Conventional wisdom tells us that Strauss’s “comedy for music” is at best a Viennese masquerade, at worst a succession of highlights for which we pay with extended longueurs – a bit like Wagner, except the highlights come sugar-coated. That’s not the way it appears in David McVicar’s classic production. In a performance as good as this, Der Rosenkavalier becomes a continuous thread of voices, instrumental and vocal, that coalesce into a witty, sentimental drama. The result is to leave the audience moved as much as entertained, which certainly was the case on Wednesday.

Posted by Gary at 1:23 PM

Shostakovich Is Scaled Down After Protests From Church

Shostakovich.pngBy SOPHIA KISHKOVSKY [NY Times, 5 October 2006]

MOSCOW, Oct. 4 — Dmitri Shostakovich, who died in 1975, would have been 100 this year, and his centenary is being observed in Russia by a flood of concerts, ballets, operas and events.

Posted by Gary at 8:45 AM

Berlin Vows to Gauge Security for Opera

polizei.jpg[AP, 5 October 2006]

BERLIN -- Berlin's city government said Thursday it will soon reassess the security risks associated with a Mozart opera that was canceled over fears it could anger Muslims, a move the city's Deutsche Oper requested before deciding whether to reverse its decision.

Posted by Gary at 8:36 AM

October 3, 2006

San Francisco Opera Launches Podcasting Venture With Deborah Voigt Interview

By Vivien Schweitzer [Playbill, 3 October 2006]

San Francisco Opera has joined the iPod generation. The first of a new series of podcasts from the company, a conversation with soprano Deborah Voigt, is now available on the San Francisco Opera website.

Posted by Gary at 10:14 PM

Rare Scarlatti Oratorio Resuscitated in Florence

scarlatti_alessandro.pngBy Carlo Vitali [MusicalAmerica.com, 3 October 2006]

FLORENCE, Sept. 15 -- Among the giants of Baroque music prior to Bach and Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725) was probably the most influential and largely quoted composer, although his works are performed less than his successors’. Even during his lifetime, his fine instrumental output was overshadowed by a terrific flood of operas, oratorios, serenatas, cantatas and church music, to say nothing of son Domenico’s success as a creator and a virtuoso on the keyboard.

Posted by Gary at 10:02 PM

October 2, 2006

The Psalms of David

The mainstay repertory for the psalms is the so-called “Anglican chant,” short, repeating, harmonic formulas that grew out of harmonized plainsong in the seventeenth century.

This present recording is a compilation of three LPs from the late 1960s and 1970s recorded by the famed Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, then, as now, among the most celebrated of Anglican choirs. In the 1960s, if the choir was celebrated, so too was its legendary Master, Sir David Willcocks, who brought their sound and interpretative subtlety to the level of a “golden age.” And with the psalms, no less than with anthem literature, his results were finely detailed, interpretatively rich renditions. So much so that the quip that the “Psalms of David” seemed equally apt for Biblical King and Cambridge Organist alike never seemed too great a stretch to the imagination! Accordingly, here is a generous helping of Anglican chant led by one of its greatest practitioners and his successor, Sir Philip Ledger.

There is much to admire. The performances aim at a variety that keeps the repetitive forms dynamic and alive to the images of the text without overwhelming the devotional priorities of liturgical recitation. To this end, discreet organ descants, frequent changes of registration, alternations of men and boys and unison and harmony are all applied with care. The declamatory naturalness of the chanting is particularly refined, bearing the stamp not only of close rehearsal, but especially of the daily singing of the repertory at evensong.

The chants are drawn in the main from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, including chants composed by well-known composers (Stanford, Crotch, and Parry, for instance) and those whose names are known mostly to church musicians (Walmisley, Bairstow, and Barnby, for example). Forays into more modern chants are few. The lengths of the psalms vary considerably, and the heroic length of Ps. 78—seventy-three verses over fifteen minutes—is an impressive feat of endurance by any calculation.

All this said, I suspect the recording will have limited appeal. Anglophilic enthusiasts wishing to revel in the characteristic sounds of a beloved liturgical repertory will embrace these re-issues with unflagging delight. On the other hand, the more general listener may find in the recordings a beautiful curiosity of surprising quantity, but a quantity that in the end may outdistance his interest.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Psalms.jpg image_description=The Psalms of David product=yes product_title=The Psalms of David product_by=The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, Sir David Willcocks, Sir Philip Ledger, Directors product_id=EMI Classics 7243 5 85642 2 8 & 7243 5 85643 2 7 [2CDs] price=$14.98 product_url=http://www.hbdirect.com/album_detail.php?id=889055&aff=operatoday
Posted by Gary at 11:43 AM

October 1, 2006

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Lady_Macbeth_Mtensk.jpgGeoff Brown at Covent Garden [Times Online, 2 October 2006]

FEW recent musical parties have been as prolonged and extensive as Shostakovich’s. Even moles in their tunnels must know that he was born 100 years ago, had troubles with Stalin and wrote 15 noisy symphonies. The Royal Opera House’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, winner of the 2005 Olivier award for Best New Opera Production, was an obvious choice for a centenary revival. Who could resist this knickerbocker glory of sex, violence, satire and tragedy?

Posted by Gary at 7:17 PM

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Dave Paxton [musicOMH.com, 1 October 2006]

Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is not only one a highlight of Russian opera, but one of the greatest pieces of theatre ever written.

Posted by Gary at 7:08 PM

Lyric's 'Iphigenie' a stark, psychological drama

By John von Rhein [Metromix, 1 October 2006]

Gluck's operas live and breathe as long as there are performers who take their music and text seriously. Otherwise, these works can easily become fancy tableaux vivants, exquisite but oh, so boring.

Posted by Gary at 7:00 PM

Pairing and Elaboration

In both cases this is achieved through a strophic two-stanza arietta, itself an uncommon formal resource in Vivaldi’s operatic output. In these ariette Vivaldi implements by musical means the dramatic coupling of the two female roles in the libretto, dwelling on two key moments in the action when they are first of one mind, and then expressing directly contrasting emotions. Since by Vivaldi’s day it was expected that only the primo uomo and prima donna were to sing together, these two ariette are especially remarkable, and provide both a dramatic and a musical challenge to the performers.

The first arietta takes place in the second scene of Act II, when Tito decrees the impending double marriage of Servilia (princess of the Latins) with his own son Manlio (the primo uomo of the opera) and his daughter Vitellia with Geminio, prince of the Latins and brother to Servilia: Vitellia’s opening stanza rejoicing on her friend’s smiling at the prospect of love is answered in both musical and emotional unison by Servilia’s declaration of fealty to her joyful “sister-in-law-to-be”. Manlio’s subsequent arrival and his announcement that he has slain Geminio in battle creates apparently identical responses of shock and anger by both women, but by Scene 9 we see that their common ground has eroded. When the two women sing their second arietta in this latter scene, their music is again the same but their messages are diametrically opposed: Servilia declares her love for Manlio despite her grief for her brother, while Vitellia proclaims her hatred for Manlio and her wish for her brother’s death.

At the end of the first arietta, “D’improvviso riede il riso,” Vivaldi indicates that Vitellia and Servilia should repeat the arietta in unison (“all’unisono”). Dantone and his cast have chosen an altered approach: while Ann Hallenberg’s and Marijana Milanovic’s timbres are close enough (and the simultaneous presentation of the two texts sonically confusing enough) to make it difficult to discriminate entirely between their voices, it appears that they are taking turns singing Vivaldi’s melody and adding new counterpoint to that melody. This is a satisfying solution that is in keeping with Dantone’s overall approach to musical elaboration in this recording, to which we will return below.

The second arietta, “Dar la morte a te mia vita,” is the first moment at which Servilia and Vitellia display their disunity (up to this point they have had common purpose); perhaps because of this, Vivaldi does not explicitly call for a unison repetition of the stanzas, as he had for “D’Improvviso”. Given that the first arietta did call for this unison, however, it would not have been unreasonable to have one here as well – which could have provided Dantone and his singers with a chance for an even more drastic simultaneous departure from the arietta melody to exemplify the characters’ opposing goals. Regrettable, too, is the slow tempo chosen for this passage, since it makes the singers’ short repeated exclamations of “no, no, no” sound heavy and almost pedantic, and the overall effect is not one of determination (which the text would seem to imply) but one of sluggishness. As a comparison one might propose another recording of this arietta in the same Naïve Vivaldi series, from Vivaldi’s own “greatest hits” compilation, reviewed elsewhere on this site and also featuring Ann Hallenberg. See VIVALDI: Arie d’Opera (17 February 2006). (Both ariette are included in the compilation, which may speak to Vivaldi’s own high esteem for this experimental form, and both are sung with a third repetition of the melody and the simultaneous presentation of both characters’ stanzas. The performers on the compilation recording do not, however, introduce ornamentation in the “combined stanza” – Ann Hallenberg’s Servilia and Guillemette Laurens’s Vitellia sing in unison, making their version of “D’improvviso” sound simplistic in comparison to the one offered on this recording.)

The lack of an ornamented “combined stanza” in the recording under consideration is especially frustrating given the otherwise extraordinary approach to ornamentation provided by Dantone and his cast. In the past decade, singers have become increasingly sophisticated in their ability to elaborate on the repeat of the first section in da capo arias, providing modern listeners with a more and more nuanced evocation of the excitement provoked by superstar singers of the early eighteenth century in their adoring audiences. However, elaboration of the da capo section has primarily been understood as an addition of ornaments – trills, runs to fill in larger intervals, triplets in place of duplets, and so forth. The basic contour of the melody has generally been kept unchanged; elaboration has provided filigree to the melodic framework.

In this recording, Dantone and his cohort break from this practice; in doing so, they are taking a page from an approach recently chosen by instrumentalists in their work on baroque variation technique. At the heart of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century instrumental practice was the notion that a framework for variation is neither solely a melody nor just a bass line nor merely a chord structure, but all three simultaneously. A creative approach to ornamentation in such a context requires the ability to move freely between those three components – giving some space to the melody, but otherwise experimenting with the implications of the harmony and pushing the envelope on those implications.

It is not surprising that the idea of bringing such an approach to da capo vocal elaboration should come from Dantone, since – while he is a self-styled neophyte with Vivaldian opera – for more than two decades he has been a prizewinning harpsichordist and teacher of both basso continuo and improvisation practice. At the helm of the Accademia Bizantina, Dantone has directed (among other projects) a remarkable recording of the complete works of Corelli in which he very successfully coaches his ensemble in experimenting with the kind of instrumental elaboration for which the Roman violin virtuoso was justly renowned in his day. Indeed, in a brief interview published in the CD booklet for Tito Manlio, Dantone takes full credit for devising the approach (“I wrote the Da Capos for my singers…”). It is a little bit disappointing to think that the verve with which the da capo elaborations are presented in this recording was so carefully staged, and not devised by the vocalists themselves. However, it is also true that singers today are less versed in improvised elaboration than the virtuosi whom Benedetto Marcello instructed, tongue-in-cheek, in his satire of operatic practice Il teatro alla moda, first published just a couple of years before the première of Tito Manlio: “When the da capo returns, [the singer] will change the entire aria as it suits him, and even though the changed version will have no correspondence with the bass or the violin parts, and the tempo will have to be changed, that doesn’t matter, because the composer (as we have said above) is resigned to this.” (Benedetto Marcello, Il teatro alla moda, introduzione di Sergio Miceli [Roma, Castelvecchi: 1993], 50; my translation.)

Dantone’s approach to “chang[ing] the entire aria” is perhaps most dramatic in Servilia’s aria “Andrò fida e sconsolata” from Act II, scene 14. This is a particularly opportune aria for “framework experimentation”, since the melody instruments (violins, recorders) do not just provide the refrains that punctuate the aria (as is standard in most of Vivaldi’s da capo works) but play “colla parte” (i.e. with the singer) throughout. This constant musical doubling is a resource for Dantone, since by the beginning of the singer’s entrance in the da capo he quickly shifts the rhythmic pattern of the vocal part, allowing the instruments to remind us of Vivaldi’s melody while Hallenberg adds an increasingly elaborate counterpoint to that original melody. Dantone’s sense of Vivaldi’s style is remarkably astute, and if one were not aware that the original aria calls for an exact repeat of the opening section, it would be possible to understand this as a formal experiment on Vivaldi’s part … that is to say, an aria with a composed-out alteration of the da capo, something that Handel occasionally did later in his career (for example in the famous entrance aria for Cleopatra in his Giulio Cesare). Dantone’s experiment with “Andrò fida” is not just musically powerful but also artistically important because it allows us a glimpse into the dynamic possibilities of the da capo form, which to this day is often understood as a static structure, even despite our growing sophistication in the use of ornamentation practice.

Marcello’s sly dig at the “ignorant” singers who reconfigure the da capo with little regard to harmony or instrumental obbligati is almost certainly as much an overstatement as the rest of his fabulously funny pamphlet, since the great virtuosi of the Italian operatic stage spent many years studying harmony and counterpoint (and harpsichord, and often other instruments as well) as part of their vocal training. We may well imagine that Farinelli, Caffarelli, Faustina, and the other great male and female stars of their day could readily improvise appropriately over a given harmonic framework, and deployed that skill in elaborating the da capo well beyond a handful of trills and runs. If Dantone was indeed instrumental (!) in shaping his singers’ decisions on the da capo for this recording, one can hope that they (and other vocal superstars of our own time) will take up the challenge of “changing the entire aria as it suits [them]”, further bringing out the dynamic potential of Baroque da capo form.

Andrew Dell'Antonio
Head, Musicology/Ethnomusicology Division
School of Music
The University of Texas at Austin

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Tito_Manlio_medium.png image_description=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio product=yes product_title=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio product_by=Nicola Ulivieri (Tito), Karina Gauvin (Manlio), Ann Hallenberg (Servilia), Marijana Mijanovic (Vitelia), Debora Beronesi (Lucio), Barbara Di Castri (Decio), Mark Milhofer (Geminio), Christian Senn (Lindo), Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone (cond.) product_id=Naïve OP 30413 [3CDs] price=$33.99 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/Vivaldi-Tito-Manlio-Accademia-Bizantina/dp/B000BU99XS/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt/102-5679264-6666515?ie=UTF8
Posted by Gary at 12:00 AM

Pratolino, Venice, Mantua: Musings on Vivaldi’s Tito Manlio

The opera opens with the Roman consul Tito Manlio demanding an oath of hatred against the Latins, who have rebelled against Rome. Daughter Vitellia’s refusal to swear to such an oath (she secretly loves Geminio, the leader of the Latins) portends trouble ahead for the family. As son Manlio sets off to assess the enemy’s forces, Tito warns him that both he and the Senate demand that he go peacefully into Latin territory: blood must not be shed. In the next scene Tito (a baritone/bass) converses privately with his son, Manlio, and his aria (“Se il cor guerriero”) reiterates his previous advice: “If your warlike heart invites you to fight, remember my command and your duty; Avoid the risk of battle, nor should you let vain pleasure flatter you.”2

Michael Talbot has described the aria’s rhythmic ostinato that “sets the warlike mood in a manner reminiscent of Monteverdi’s stile concitato,” and how it combines with several other motives to deliver a veritable tour de force.3 (Manlio, however, will disobey orders and murder Geminio, goaded through the Latin’s insults of cowardice.) Later, in Act 1, scene 8 Tito sings “Orribile lo scempio” (Horrible, bloody slaughter will be seen; for complete text, see below), predicting the consequences of Vitellia’s refusal to swear loyalty to Rome. Vivaldi, with the help of his libretto, creates a strong and powerful leader in Tito Manlio; indeed, it is difficult for the listener to imagine the opera without these arias. Tito’s characterization is continued further with the arioso “Legga e vegga” (II/16) and the aria “No che non vedrà Roma” (III/7). In the latter, having sentenced his son to death as punishment for having disobeyed his and the Senate’s orders, he sings that Rome will see no tears in his eyes: he is all cruelty. Vivaldi’s music powerfully conveys the iron will of this man who can show no pity or remorse. Manlio’s support will come from his betrothed; the Latin Servilia; Lucio, her countryman; and Decio, the leader of the centurions. All of these characters’ humanity shines through Vivaldi’s touching arias. (In Livy’s account, the son Manlio was indeed executed; according to operatic convention, however, our story ends happily, solely through Decio’s intervention.)

Tito Manlio and its travels

Vivaldi’s setting is based on a libretto by Matteo Noris first presented at the Villa di Pratolino in Tuscany in 1696, with music by Carlo Francesco Pollarolo, for Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici. Both of these creative artists were well established in Venice. Noris, Venetian by birth, had made his operatic debut in 1666, and Tito Manlio represented his thirty-first libretto (he would go on to produce twelve more before his death in Treviso in 1714). Pollarolo, from Brescia, some one hundred miles west of Venice, had recently become the house composer at one of Venice’s most important and luxurious theaters, San Giovanni Grisostomo. Tito Manlio was their fifth collaboration, and Pollarolo went on to compose over fifty more operas, both in and outside of Venice.

Noris’s popular libretto was presented in at least eleven different productions between its 1696 premiere and Vivaldi’s version, with performances at Ferrara, Livorno, Naples, Genoa, Verona, Reggio, Milan, and London. Tito Manlio was mounted twice in Venice, in 1697 and 1698, in the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo. Those Venetian seasons would affect the libretto in powerful ways. Indeed, Noris’s libretto provides a fascinating window into opera production in late-seventeenth and early eighteenth-century Italy. A number of these considerations were taken up by Luigi Cataldi in his “La rappresentazione mantovana del ‘Tito Manlio’ di Antonio Vivaldi.”4 Cataldi determined that of the thirteen librettos issued from the time of the original staging to Vivaldi’s, four were mined for use by Vivaldi: the original Florentine, the second Venetian (1698), Ferrara (1698), and Reggio Emilia (1701). Vivaldi’s libretto certainly had been reworked and refined by someone other than Noris, as the librettist had died several years earlier.

Tito Manlio in Venice

The changes that occurred in the Venetian performances of Tito Manlio at Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, especially the 1698 edition, must have been made by the the original librettist himself. Some of the most striking alterations, with profound musical and dramatic repercussions, occur in the first act of the opera. Vivaldi’s first aria for Tito mentioned above, “Se il cor guerriero,” was a refiguring of the sentiments originally written by Noris in 1696. The aria, as it appeared in Florence and in Venice in 1697, has the following text: “Tieni la spada al fianco/E questa legge al cor:/ Né faccio il cor guerriero/Uscir mai dal sentiero/Avidità d’allor.” The message is the same in both operas: restrain your military instincts, do not stray from the path of restraint. In Venice in 1698, however, Tito sang no such aria. Instead, the piece was sung by his son, Manlio, with a small change in the text (Tengo la spada al fianco: I hold the sword at my side). Manlio thus gains an aria, and also takes responsibility for following his father’s orders, delivered in recitative. Such a change is significant in itself, as Tito loses his initial opportunity to show his strength as a ruler. Moreover, later in the same act, the libretto continues to offer surprises. Tito also loses his second aria, “Orribile lo scempio.” This aria goes, instead, to a character of lower rank, Lucio, the Latin with Roman sympathies. The text (Horrible bloody slaughter will be seen. And the slaughter will serve as example to the hearts of others) thus takes on a quite a different meaning: rather than a threat coming from the consul Tito, Lucio sings, horrified, about the slaughter of Vitellia, whom he secretly loves.

If Tito is figuratively castrated (he sings no arias indicated as such in the Venice 1698 libretto), the ruler’s lyrical moments are transferred to others. Manlio now has nine closed forms, including a duet with Servilia (an increase of three from the Florence libretto); the clear winner, however, is the centurion Decio, who truly emerges from the background and finds his voice in 1698 with four arias compared with none in the two earliest versions of the libretto. By the time Vivaldi sets Tito Manlio, Tito, as mentioned above, will be blessed with closed forms, and Decio’s portion will decrease by two.

We do not know, of course, why Tito lost his arias in Venice in 1698. Was Noris making a political statement (in Venice the Senate and other governmental bodies held the true political power, not the Doge), weakening the title character’s role, reducing it to a series of dramatic recitatives (and giving an immediate boost to Manlio’s part), or could the change relate specifically to the voice of Anton Francesco Carli, the man who apparently sang the role?5 Michelangelo Gasparini, on the other hand, who sang the roles of both Geminio and Decio in the two Venice productions, ended up with six arias, surpassed in 1698 only by Manlio, Vitellia, and Servilla. In Venice during those two seasons, of all of the roles in Tito Manlio, only Tito, Geminio, Decio, and Breno (the comic character, originally Lindo in the Florence production), were performed by the same singers (by Carli, Gasparini, and the long-lived Tomaso Bovi, who by 1697 had been performing in opera for nearly fifty years).

The part of the servant Breno (Lindo) also merits our attention, if only briefly. “Lindo” (discussed in depth by Maria Purciello) accompanies Vitellia throughout the opera, the only such character who appears in this libretto (in many seventeenth-century librettos, several characters have servants and confidants). While the name “Lindo” appears on the list of characters in both Venice librettos, in the scenes themselves he is called Breno. Both “Lindo” and “Breno” are names attached to operatic comic characters in the decades preceding Tito Manlio, and Tomaso Bovi had played at least one “Breno” earlier in his career, so that the name could have been changed to suit the singer or to remind audiences of a previous “Breno.”

Vivaldi and Tito Manlio

Vivaldi began to compose Tito Manlio in 1718; it was to have served as a celebration of the marriage of Philip, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, who was the ruler of Mantua, and Eleonora di Guastalla, and recent widow of the Francesco Maria de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany.6 (Vivaldi was in the service of Prince Philip in Mantua for three years.) Two manuscript versions of the opera survive, the first famously annotated with the composer’s notation “Musica del Vivaldi fatta in 5 giorni” (music by Vivaldi accomplished in five days). It has been surmised that Vivaldi acquired Noris’s libretto during his sojourn in Florence earlier in 1718 for his Scanderbeg. While this may well have been the case–for it was the Florentine version of the libretto that Vivaldi first set–it is tempting to speculate about Vivaldi’s knowledge of the opera and its librettos in its earlier manifestations. Had the young musician or his father, the violinist Giovanni Battista (like Pollarolo, a native of Brescia), seen or had news of Pollarolo’s opera in 1697 or 1698? Pollarolo and Giovanni Battista Vivaldi served together at St. Mark’s from 1690; certainly, Antonio later knew Michelangelo Gasparini, the “Venetian” Decio and Geminio, who composed an opera for impresario Vivaldi at the Teatro S. Angelo in 1714 (Vivaldi signed the libretto’s dedication). Whatever the case, and whether or not he knew Pollarolo’s music personally, Vivaldi created a score based on a unique rendering of previous accounts of the libretto, a mélange of versions from Florence, Venice, Ferrara, and Reggio Emilia.

Vivaldi’s score (as performed by Ottavio Dantone’s Accademia Bizantina) is filled with gems; through his imaginative orchestration and skillful vocal writing the composer wonderfully brings all of Noris’s characters to life. I mentioned earlier Tito Manlio’s arias. Vivaldi’s Tito is steadfast in his resolution that Manlio must die for having disobeyed the Senate’s orders, though his heart softens when he bids goodbye to his son. (Missing from Vivaldi’s version of the opera, unfortunately, is the wonderful scene between Tito and Lucio, where Lucio tries to tell the consul that his son has been saved, while Tito, always interrupting him, is filled with remorse.) Among the highlights are the duets between Servilia and Vitellia (discussed by Andrew Dell’Antonio), the prison scenes, and, certainly, Lindo’s four magnificent arias, both clever and poignant at the same time (and a wonderful foil to his hardhearted mistress, Vitellia). Lucio and Decio also emerge as fascinating characters in their own right through the power of Vivaldi’s music. Manlio, too, is convincing; both the libretto and Vivaldi’s music allow him to remain dignified as he approaches his death. Finally, it should be noted that Vivaldi’s Manlio was played in Mantua by a woman, Margarita Gualandi. Gualandi had performed in Venice for a number of years, in Vivaldi’s operas as well as other, so that he must have specifically picked her for this role. We must wonder if he knew about earlier performances of the role by a woman in Naples in 1698 (Maria Maddalena Musi), and in 1720 Naples would see another female Manlio, Marianna Benti Bulgarelli.7

If I have only touched the surface of Tito Manlio, I hope I have conveyed some of the history, the richness, and the merits of this opera. Through its Edition Vivaldi, Naive is introducing Vivaldi’s operas to an audience, many of whom may be acquainted only with the master’s instrumental works or his Gloria, and other companies are issuing operas as well. Tito Manlio, a wonderful legacy of Vivaldi’s employment in Mantua, is likely to win over many listeners to the delights of the “other” Vivaldi.

Beth L. Glixon
University of Kentucky

1. I would like to thank Paula Hickner, Jonathan Glixon, Gary Hoffman, Herbert Kellman, Patrizia Metzler, Maria Purciello, Michael Talbot, Olga Termini, and Carlo Vitali for assistance of various sorts.

2. My translations are largely taken from the Accademia Bizantina recording of Tito Manlio, Naive OP 30413.

3. Michael Talbot, Vivaldi (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 133-35.

4. Luigi Cataldi, “La rappresentazione mantovana del ‘Tito Manlio’ di Antonio Vivaldi,” Informazioni e Studi Vivaldiana 8 (1987), 52-89.

5. The names of the singers (taken from an anonymous manuscript) appear in Harris Sheridan Saunders, “The Repertoire of a Venetian Opera House (1678-1714): The Teatro Grimani di San Giovanni Grisostomo” (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1985), 457. It is not completely clear whether Anton Francesco Carli, tenor, or Anton Francesco Carli, bass (who later performed in some of Vivaldi operas, as well as Handel’s Agrippina) sang the role. Those arias for the character Tito Manlio surviving in a collection of arias in Naples “58 arie et ariette” are notated in the alto clef. I would like to thank Olga Termini who kindly provided me with this information. According to Termini (private communication, 12 May 2006), the Naples collection comprises arias from different versions of the libretto.

6. For a fascinating look at Eleonora’s family, and their connections with Vivaldi, see Carlo Vitale, “I nove ‘principi di altezza’ corrispondenti di Vivaldi e la dedica enigmatica del Concerto RV 754. Alla ricerca dell’indirizzario perduto,” Informazioni e Studi Vivaldiana 16 (1995), 59-88.

7. A number of the Tito Manlio librettos listed in Claudio Sartori, I Libretti Italiani a Stampa dalle Origini al 1800 (Cuneo: Bertola & Locatelli, 1990-94) do not supply the singers, so we do not know how common or uncommon it was for a woman to play the role of Manlio. In Venice, according to Saunders’s appendix, Manlio was played by men, both in 1697 and in 1698. Musi had appeared in the 1696 Florence premiere as well as in Naples, 1698. See Robert L. Weaver and Norma W. Weaver, A chronology of music in the Florentine theater, 1590-1750 (Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1978, 178. As Musi was already playing other male roles at this time, it is possible, barring further documentation, that she was the Manlio in the Pratolino production.

image=http://www.operatoday.com/content/Tito_Manlio_medium.png image_description=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio product=yes product_title=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio product_by=Nicola Ulivieri (Tito), Karina Gauvin (Manlio), Ann Hallenberg (Servilia), Marijana Mijanovic (Vitelia), Debora Beronesi (Lucio), Barbara Di Castri (Decio), Mark Milhofer (Geminio), Christian Senn (Lindo), Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone (cond.) product_id=Naïve OP 30413 [3CDs] price=$33.99 product_url=http://www.amazon.com/Vivaldi-Tito-Manlio-Accademia-Bizantina/dp/B000BU99XS/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt/102-5679264-6666515?ie=UTF8
Posted by Gary at 12:00 AM

VIVALDI: Tito Manlio

First Performance: 20 February 1719(?), Teatro Arciducale, Mantua.

Principal Characters:
Tito Manlio, Consul of RomeBass
Vitellia, lover of GeminioContralto
Manlio, lover of Servilia and son of Tito ManlioSoprano
Lucio, the Latin lover of VitelliaMezzo Soprano
Decio, Captain of the FalangiMezzo Soprano
Lindo, servant to VitelliaBass
Geminio, Captain of the Latins and lover of VitelliaTenor
Servilia, sister of Geminio and fiancée of ManlioMezzo Soprano


Here we present Antonio Vivaldi's Tito Manlio (RV 738-A), as performed under the direction of Ottavio Dantone and released by Naïve as part of its Vivaldi Collection. The libretto to Tito Manlio was written by Matteo Noris in 1696 for performance at the Grand Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici’s theater at his villa in Pratolino. The music was composed by Carlo Pollarola, which was performed in Venice for several consecutive seasons. Thus, when Vivaldi took up the libretto in 1719, it had been in circulation for more than 20 years.

The source of the libretto is from Book VIII of Livy's The History of Rome. Noris, however, takes considerable license in departing from the facts and, indeed, the underlying rhetorical point presented in Livy's account.

Two essays are presented on this work. The first is by Professor Beth Glixon entitled "Pratolino, Venice, Mantua: Musings on Vivaldi’s Tito Manlio (1718/19)," which, among other things, compares the setting by Pollarola with that of Vivaldi. The second is by Professor Andrew Dell'Antonio entitled "Pairing and Elaboration," which looks at the manner in which Vivaldi "implements by musical means the dramatic coupling of the two female roles in the libretto."



Titus Manlius is engaged in war with the people of Latium. Conflicts of love and duty arise, with his daughter Vitellia in love with the Latin commander Geminius, but loved by the Latin Lucius. Manlius, the son of Titus, kills Geminius, disobeying his father, and is condemned to death, in spite of the pleas of his beloved Servilia, sister of Geminius. He rejects the offer of Lucius to free him. There is eventual reconciliation between father and son.

[Synopsis Source: Naxos.com]

image_description=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio

product_title=Antonio Vivaldi: Tito Manlio
product_by=Nicola Ulivieri (Tito), Karina Gauvin (Manlio), Ann Hallenberg (Servilia), Marijana Mijanovic (Vitelia), Debora Beronesi (Lucio), Barbara Di Castri (Decio), Mark Milhofer (Geminio), Christian Senn (Lindo), Accademia Bizantina, Ottavio Dantone (cond.)
product_id=Naïve OP 30413 [3CDs]

Posted by Gary at 12:00 AM