Saturday, February 13, 2010

An Insomniac's Ring Cycle . . . '

For those who can't sleep tonight, there's always Wagner's Ring Cycle. Swiss Radio Crazy's Opera channel will be airing the complete Haitink Ring Cycle starting sometime after 9:00PM EST. This recording features Eva Marton (Brunnhilde), Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegmund), James Morris (Wotan), Cheryl Studer (Sieglinde), Reiner Goldberg (Sigfried), and Waltraud Meier (Fricka).


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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Live Offerings - Saturday, February 6, 2009

Somewhat slimmer pickings than usual. The biggest curiosity will probably bed Placido Domingo singing the title role in Simon Boccanegra (usually tackled by baritones). Also two different performances of Verdi's Macbeth, and from La Scala, a live performance of Schumann's Scenes from Goethe's Faust. Here's the complete lineup:

  • DR P2 - From Geneva, Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Pietro Spangnoli, José Fardilha, Diana Damrau, Serena Farnocchia and Christoph Strehl, conducted by Kenneth Montgomery.
  • Metropolitan Opera Broadcast (on numerous stations)- Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, with Placido Domingo, Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordano, James Morris, Nicola Alaimo and Richard Bernstein, conducted by James Levine.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - Handel's Ariodante, with Ann Hallenberg, Karina Gauvin, Maarten Engeltjes, Jaël Azzaretti and Krystian Adam, conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From Ukrainian National Opera in Kiev, Lysenko's Taras Bulba, with T. Shtonda, A. Pozniak, P. Priymak, P. Priymak, Y. Orlov, S. Godlevska, T. Kuzminova, O. Gourets, V. Kolybabiuk, S. Skochelias, V. Dudar, A. Goniukov, D. Gryshyn, O. Boyko, M. Gubchuk and O. Vostriakov, conducted by V. Kozhukhar.
  • KBIA2 - NPR World of Opera: From Washington National Opera, Puccini's La Boheme, with Adriana Damato, Vittorio Grigolo, Nicole Cabell, Paolo Pecchioli, Hyung Yun and Trevor Scheunemann, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From La Scala in MIlan, Schumann's Szenen aus Goethes Faust, with Michael Volle, Dorothea Röschmann, Dimitri Ivashchenko, Steve Davislim, Irena Bespalovaite, Adina Aaron, Elena Zhidkova, Maria Radner and Jacheui Kwon, conducted by Pinchas Steinberg.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From Glyndebourne, Dvorak's Rusalka, with Ana Maria Martinez, Brandon Jovanovich, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Mikhail Schelomianski, Larissa Diadkova, Natasha Jouhl, Barbara Senator, Elodie Méchain, Diana Axentii, Alasdair Elliott and John Mackenzie, conducted by Jirí Behlohlávek.
  • Espace 2 - From the Vienna State Opera, a December 7, 2009 performance of Verdi's Macbeth, with Simon Keenlyside, Erika Sunnegardh, Stefan Kocan, Dimitri Pittas, Gergely Nemety, Donna Ellen and Alfred Sramek, conducted by Guillermo Garcia Calvo.
  • Klara - From Vlaamse Opera, Bernstein's Candide, with Michael Spyres, Jane Archibald, Graham Valentine, Thomas Oliemans, Andrew Ashwin, Katarina Bradic, Karan Armstrong, Keith Lewis, Adrian Fischer, Gijs Van der Linden, Milcho Borovinov and Thorsten Buettner, conducted by Yannis Pouspourikas.
  • HR2 Kultur - A November 1, 2009 performance of Act 2 of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with Waltraud Meier, John Mac Master, Michelle Breedt, Franz Josef Selig and Kurwenal Michael Vier, conducted by Daniel Harding.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (on a one week delay): From Bastille Opera in Paris, Verdi's Macbeth, with Dimitris Tiliakos, Violeta Urmana, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Stefano Secco, Alberto Nigro and Letitia Singleton, conducted by Teodor Currentzis.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) & Concert FM (New Zealand) - Another chance to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Bizet's Carmen, with Elina Garanca, Barbara Frittoli, Roberto Alagna, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Earle Patriarco, Keith Jameson, Keith Miller, Trevor Scheunemann, Elizabeth Caballero and Sandra Piques Eddy, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
. . . And don't forget the live videocast of the Indiana University Lucia di Lammermoor tonightat 8:00PM EST.

Happy listening . . . .

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, December 19, 2009

The strongest, most interesting choice today is probably the Met Tales of Hoffmann broadcast, but there are other offerings worth a look as well. WWFM is re-airing the Bayreuth Meistersinger from this past summer; Deutschlandradio Kultur offers another chance to hear Klaus Florian Vogt in Korngold's Die Tode Stadt from Frankfurt; NPR World of Opera is airing Handel's Ariodante from this past summer's Beaune Baroque Opera Festival with Karina Gauvin; several stations are carrying a Geneva performance of Chabrier's L'Etoile with Jean-Paul Fouchécourt; Radio Tre and Radio Oesterreich International offer Tristan und Isolde from the Vienna State Opera with Robert Dean Smith and Violetta Urmana; and Czech Radio is airing Gounod's Faust with Piotr Beczala and Soile Isokoski (if one doesn't think of Kwangchul Youn as a liability...).

Now for the details:

  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Oper Frankfurt am Main, a November 22 performance of Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, with Klaus Florian Vogt, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Michael Nagy, Hedwig Fassbender, Anna Ryberg, Jenny Carlstedt, Julian Prégardien and Hans-Jürgen Lazar, conducted by Leitung: Sebastian Weigle.
  • Espace 2, Dwojke Polskie Radio, NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From the Grand Théâtre in Geneva, a November 9 performance of Chabrier's L'Etoile, with Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, René Schirrer, Jean Doyen, Fabrice Farina, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Blandine Staskiewicz and Jérôme Savary, conducted by Jean-Yves Ossonce.
  • Metropolitan Opera (on numerous stations) - Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann, with Kathleen Kim, Anna Netrebko, Ekaterina Gubanova, Kate Lindsey, Joseph Calleja and Alan Held, conducted by James Levine.
  • NPR World of Opera - From the International Baroque Opera Festival in Beaune, France, Handel's Ariodante, with Ann Hallenberg, Karina Gauvin, Maarten Engeltjes, Jael Azzaretti,; Krystian Adam and; Sergio Foresti, conducted by Federco Maria Sardelli.
  • WWFM - From this past summer's Bayreuth Festival, Wagner's Die Meistersinger, with Alan Titus, Artur Korn, Charles Reid, Rainer Zaun, Adrian Eröd, Markus Eiche, Edward Randall, Hans-Jürgen Lazar, Florian Hoffmann, Martin Snell, Hans Schwarz Mario Klein, Diógenes Randes, Klaus Florian Vogt, Norbert Ernst, Michaela Kaune, Carola Guber and Friedemann Röhlig, conducted by Sebastian Weigle.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) & Radio Tre (RAI) - From the Vienna State Opera, a December 14 performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with Robert Dean Smith, Violetta Urmana, Yvonne Naef, Bo Skovhus, Franz-Josef Selig, Clemens Unterreiner, Wolfgang Bankl, Gergely Nemeti and Peter Jelosits, conducted by Simon Rattle.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From the Vienna State Opera, Gounod's Faust, with Piotr Beczala, Kwangchul Youn, Boaz Daniel, Soile Isokoski, Zoryana Kushpler, Hans Peter Kammerer, Roxana Constantinescu, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
Messiah Alert!
This being the week before Christmas, there are many opportunities to hear Handel's Messiah (by my count I have entered eight for this week!), including a gem of a performance I heard the other evening with the New York Philharmonic, Helmut Rilling conducting a the Philharmonic's chamber orchestra with the Gächinger Kantorei Stuttgart. The soloists are all more than respectable, but the glory of this performance is the utter clarity and beauty of the choral singing. There will be more than one chance to hear it (unfortunately abridged to fit a two hour time slot - the performance included all three parts and ran about an hour and a half), as many stations in the U.S. will be carrying it as part of their NY Philharmonic series this week.

Happy listening - and Merry Christmas to all!

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, August 9, 2009 - Part I

  • Bayern 4 Klassik, MDR Figaro, NDR Kultur, RBB Kulturradio & WDR 3 - Continue with their traversal of this summer's Bayreuth Festival Ring Cycle, with Die Walküre.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Salzburg Festival, Rossini's Moise et Pharaon ou le Passage de la Mer Rouge, with Ildar Abdrazakov, Juan Francisco Gatell, Nicola Alaimo, Nino Surguladze, Eric Cutler, Marina Rebeka, Barbara Di Castri, Alexey Tikhomirov and Ante Jerkunica, conducted Riccardo Muti.
  • CBC Two - From Teatro Real, an October 4, 2008 performance of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, with Marcelo Alvarez, Violeta Urmana, Ludovic Tézier and Elena Zaremba, conducted by Jesús López-Cobos.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Verdi's Aida, with Kristin Lewis, Salvatore Licitra, Ekaterina Gubanova, Marco Vratogna, Giacomo Prestia, Christian Van Horn, Lana Kos and Kenneth Roberson, conducted by Daniele Gatti.
  • DR P2 - From Montpellier, a July 13th performance of Bellini's Zaira, with Ermonela Jaho, Varduhi Abrahamyan, Shalva Mukeria, Wenwei Zhang and Gezim Myshketa, conducted by Enrique Mazzola.

More to follow. . . .

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, July 18, 2009 - Part II

More listings of Live stuff on for this Saturday:

  • NPR World of Opera - From Amsterdam, Haydn's Orlando Paladino, with Henriette Bonde-Hansen, Marcel Reijans, Pietro Spagnoli, Elena Monti, Kenneth Tarver, Nikolay Borchev, Martijn Cornet, Peter Gijsbertsen and Laura Cherici, conducted by Alessandro De Marchi.
  • KAMU, KBAQ & KUAT - later in the afternoon, the Los Angeles Opera Die Walkure.
  • NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Wagner's Die Meistersingers von Nurnberg, with Albert Dohmen, Reinhard Hagen, Yves Saelens, Kurt Gysen, Bo Skovhus, Robert Bork, Roger Padullés, Ángel Rodriguez, José Ferrero, Josep Ribot, Tobias Schabel, Dario Russo, Robert Dean Smith, Norbert Ernst, Magnus Baldvinsson, Véronique Gens and Stella Grigorian, conducted by Sebastian Weigle.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Vienna State Opera, a June performance of Gounod's Faust, with Piotr Beczala, Soile Isokoski, Kwangchul Youn, Boaz Daniel, Roxana Constantinescu, Hans Peter Kammerer and Zoryana Kushpler, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Montreal, Bizet's Pearlfishers, with Karina Gauvin, Antonio Figueroa, Phillip Adis and Alexandre Sylvestre, conducted by Fréderic Chaslin.
  • BBC Radio 3 & Dwojke Polskie Radio - The Proms 2 - Haydn'e Creation.
izet, Wagner
Happy listening....

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wagner alla Romana

Sam Shirakawa will be in Europe for the next few months, reporting to us periodically on what he sees and hears.

Bremen 2 May 2009
video clips

You may know that Richard Wagner's breakout work was Rienzi, his third opera. It was supposed to have its premiere in 1840 in Paris, but Wagner had to get out of town because of his political activities. The first performance finally took place in Dresden in 1842. Despite its six-hour-plus duration (long even for Wagner), it was perhaps the composer's most frequently performed work during his lifetime. It's often said, that this opera is rarely produced these days, but that's not really the case. A partial list: The English National Opera staged it in 1983, the Komische Oper Berlin mounted it in 1992 and revived it in 1999, the Vienna State Opera put it up for Siegfried Jerusalem in 1998, Oper Leipzig produced it last year, and the Opera Orchestra of New York has presented it twice in concert form.

Wagner himself, of course, eventually found his breakout work to be an embarassment, and his heirs have yet to permit a production of it at Bayreuth--though certain family members have been agitating for mounting ALL of the composer's stage oeuvre at the composer's shrine.

One of those activist clan members is Katharina Wagner, great-granddaughter of the Master and youngest child of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer's grandson and recently retired Lord of the Sanctum Sanctorum. She, along with her half-sister Eva, is now co-director of the annual Festival at Bayreuth. This year she directed a production of it in Bremen, so I trekked all the way to this lovely Hanseatic city to attend its 13th and final performance this season.

The fascistic themes of the plot, based on a book by the 19th century English nobleman, writer and politician Edward Bulwer-Lytton, may have emboldened Katharina to revisit those very leitmotifs that her family has sought assiduously to avoid since the end of World War II. The story revolves around Cola di Rienzi, a medieval Italian politician, who defeats a grim coterie of nobles in behalf of the populace. But the power Rienzi accrues goes to his head, and he ultimately is crushed by his erstwhile supporters.

In a simple stroke of theatrical brilliance, Katharina uses wigs to show how the trappings of power and the futility of vanity are inextricably related in the hero's ascent. Katharina's Rienzi is bald, but donning facsimiles of hair invigorates his political potency: the trendier the wig, the greater his power. She also arms Rienzi with a flame-throwing device that becomes a one-man instrument of annihilation. Katharina's designer Tilo Steffans places a huge faux-alabaster statue of a female deity on a stage-length set of steps. The statue ultimately devolves into a prurient cartoon poster, as the decadence that Rienzi causes turns the Glory that was Rome into a lascivious caricature of itself.

While Katharina's basic take on her great-grandfather's nascent work frequently provokes even as it amuses, it's hard to make out where she is leading us. Yes, power corrupts and ultimately destroys itself. But so what? Rienzi doesn't lose all his hair as he loses power. And yes, I am also aware of the commonplace wisdom that tells us that powerful friends can turn into deadly enemies. (A certain recently elected world leader is learning that sad fact.) Perhaps the point lies in those immoveable steps, spanning the stage. They remain unchanged through bloodbaths and debauchery- They also lead nowhere...

What strikes me as most fascinating about the work as a whole, though, is that Wagner is forced to articulate in a musical language that is not his own. You hear bits and chunks of Tannhäuser and Dutchman straining to burst out, but hardly a trace of Tristan, not to mention Parisfal. Wagner at this stage of his career must still speak through the tub-thumping, rum-ti-tum conventions of early 19th century Italian opera and the inflated gestures that animated Parisian Grand Opera of his time. To experience the eventual revolutionary composer of the Ring "putting out" for paltry approval is both unnverving and, at times, utterly delectable.

No less delectable in this production, which was performed with about half an hour worth of cuts -- not including the 40-minute ballet -- is the singing. Hats off to American heldentenor Mark Duffin in the killer title role. His big, beefy timbre never tires, as it bulldozes its way through page after page of stentorian declamation. While Duffin's tenor runs the risk of turning coarse if he sings like this too often, his musicality prevents it in this instance from taxing the ear.

As Rienzi's sister Irene, Duffin's fellow American Patricia Andress soared effortlessly above the staff, as her role evolved act by act into what might be described as Senta's step-sister. If Andress' professional ambitions are leaning toward Wagner, she already has at least one listener looking forward to her Brühnnhilde.

Why Wagner conceived of Irene's lover Adriano as a trouser-role remains a mystery for me, even though he tailored it for his favorite Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, who created the role. But if singers like Tamara Klivadenko are assigned to it, I have no regrets. It's hard to say in which direction Klivadenko is leaning, but her bright and warm Adriano left me with the impression that her options are wide open.
The English National Opera staged it in 1983, the Komische Oper Berlin mounted it

Other standouts in the cast were Pavel Kudinov as Steffano Colonna, Loren Lang as Paolo Orsini and Franz Becker-Urban as Kardinal Raimondo.

Daniel Montané leading the Bremen Philharmonic and the Theater Bremen Chorus brought focus and clarity to a score that seems at times to ramble. Speaking of the orchestra, it never fails to astonish me how much superior the brass and woodwinds sound among so-called provincial pit orchestras in comparison to some of their counterparts in so-called "major" opera houses.

© Sam Shirakawa

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