Saturday, April 17, 2010

MORE MEISTER SINGING

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg
Cologne 5 April 2010


If you’re an opera lover (and if you’re not, why are you reading this?), you probably know that Europe is the place to be at Eastertide. Nearly every major city, and even a lot of minor municipalities mount non-stop lyric theater events. The choices you have to make can be bewildering. If you found yourself in the westernmost part of Germany this past Easter Monday, did you attend a Traviata in Bonn, a Gypsy Baron in Pforzheim, or a Parsifal in --let’s see now-- Stuttgart, Frankfurt or Düsseldorf?

I opted for Meistersinger in Cologne because it had three things going for it: of all the alternatives, it’s my favorite opera, the opera house is a 10 minute trolley ride from where I’m staying at the moment, and the cast featured an only-appearance-this-season appearance by Klaus Florian Vogt as Walther von Stoltzing. I can’t get enough of this voice, and Vogt, wisely, doesn’t sing that frequently.

I was sort of dreading my final choice, because Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s controversial staging has several complicated moments for Walther. But the cash-strapped Cologne Opera found the stash to fund sufficient rehearsals for the performance, which went much more smoothly than when I attended the production’s first performances last autumn. Not necessarily a good thing, for its infelicities, especially in the final scene became all the more apparent.

In place of the meadows outside Nuremberg, Laufenberg puts the Song Trial in a recreation of the plaza outside the Cologne Opera House. The set is dominated by a jumbotron that shows, among other scenes, video of the Mastersingers and honored guests entering the theater before taking their places on the stage. That makes sense enough. Mixed in with these proceedings, though, are a newsreel of vignettes showing Cologne before, during and after World War II plus scenes from a previous production of Meistersinger. Huh? When Walther finally takes the stage for his Prize Song, the projections switch to close-ups of Vogt looking dreamy before a background of amber-hued landscapes. To put it charitably, it’s distracting, not to mention awful.

Nonetheless, Vogt sang with even greater persuasiveness than in Berlin several weeks ago in the same role. His is a phenomenal voice: bright, light, penetrating and, for me, soulful. Admittedly, it is so unusual, that it’s not to everyone’s taste. A vocal professor I met during the breaks complained of a “disembodied” quality that left him cold. That quality is evident in the broadcasts of Meistersinger at Bayreuth, where Vogt is currently cast as Walther in Katharina Wagner’s production under Christian Thielemann. The microphone does not love him.

Vogt was partnered in this performance by Barbara Haveman, stepping in for ailing Astrid Weber. She was no disappointment, projecting a well-focussed sound that retained its sucrose in the heftier portions of “O Sachs, mein Freund...” and the Quintet.

The other principals in the cast have grown into their parts since the production’s premiere (see my report). Especially rewarding was Robert Holl as Sachs. Could but all singers mature with such grandiose gracefulness! Despite a moment of breath-catching in Sach’s Oration, Holl’s shoemaker was indeed a masterful singer.



General Music Director Markus Stenz led the Gürzenich Orchestra and the augmented chorus with sensible tempi and majestic sweep, but he still needs to parse out the dynamics. The outset of the prelude to Act One is marked “mezzo-forte.” And with good reason: the forte at the conclusion of the prelude must sound significantly louder Throughout the performance, the difference between loud and loudest was minimal.

All told, though, a richly satisfying performance.

©Sam H. Shirakawa
Photos: Forster

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

POWER TRIP


WAGNER: RIENZI

Oper Leipzig
2 April, 2010

What a deliciously perverse idea!
 
Hitler’s supposedly favorite opera Rienzi presented on Good Friday in Wagner’s hometown! 

That was the inspiration of Oper Leipzig under the artistic direction of Peter Konwitschny, son of fabled, politically controversial, conductor Franz Konwitschny.  If the sparse attendance at this performance was a reliable barometer, maybe it wasn’t such a hot idea after all.  Leipzig’s operagoers seemed more in the mood for an operetta gala playing at the city’s Musical Komödie.  It was sold out to the rafters.  I caught the first half of this delightful potpourri before racing to the main opera house in time for the start of Rienzi

Too bad the attendance for Rienzi was so slim, because this production was musically, at least, excellent.  Admittedly, I’ve never heard a complete, unabridged Rienzi live -- it takes about six hours to perform, not counting intermissions.  At best, the live performances I’ve heard in New York, Berlin, Bremen, and now Leipzig amount to summaries or highlights.  Each version has featured numbers that were excluded from the others. The current Leipzig production took four hours, including two intermissions, just long enough to savor a smorgasbord of ideas that Wagner was cooking up for his future operas. 

Like most well-organized musical buffets, Rienzi offers generous portions of tantalizing tidbits to abate aural hunger, providing you have an appetite for German operatic cuisine.  And that caveat may irk some operagoers:  a lot of Rienzi is just loud.   Beautiful, yes, but loud.  Its principal dramatic theme is the dynamic of political power, and even the loss of influence does not necessarily mean less volume.  Beefy singers in the leading roles must always be able to run the estimable distance from forte to fortissimo without tiring, and make themselves sound interesting.  

The title role in particular. 

In this production, Stefan Vinke delivered the goods in surprisingly interesting fashion.  All the more surprising, because he has bettered himself in every professional respect since I last heard him in Leipzig as Lohengrin.  Back then (2006), he seemed sufficiently competent to essay the Grail Knight, but his stage demeanor was at best tentative.  That, however, was then, and his voice has now emerged fully armed from Euterpe’s larynx: dark, virile and evenly distributed.  It can sustain itself through distended declamation without degenerating into droning.  In rare moments of quietude, his consummate musicality and affinity to this music evince a deeply felt sensitivity that eludes so many heroic tenors.   Undeniably, the voice has accrued some metal, but it has also retained ample honey.  His account of “Almächt'ger Vater, blick herab” received sustained, richly deserved applause.   The jury is still out on his stage demeanor, but the role doesn’t demand much more than ambling about looking important, which Vinke manifestly succeeded in doing.  

Marika Schönberg as Rienzi’s daughter Irene seemed a bit uncertain at the outset, but proved sufficiently reliable once she hit her stride.  Her stage personality is still in the process of defining itself, but she shows optimistic signs of becoming an A-Class opera singer. 

Charika Mavropoulou stepped in as Adriano for the indisposed Elena Zhidkova.  She also shows signs of heading for major-league opera houses, but she is encumbered with excess weight in a trouser-role that demands quite a bit of running around.  That said, she is in full possession of a ballsy mezzo-soprano that induces thrilling frissons at full-throttle. 

Miklos Sebastien as Colonna, Jürgen Kürth as Orsini and Roman Astakhov rounded out the principal roles without fault. 

Thanks to Matthias Foremny’s richly detailed reading and supernal playing from the Gewandhaus Orchestra, I heard details that I never noticed before in this music.  Take, for example, the elegiac postlude to Rienzi’s prayer.  It's long, seemingly rambling and fitfully anticipates the conclusion to Elisabeth’s prayer in Tannhäuser.  But Foremny and the Gewandhaus made it sound unique unto itself.   

I’ve left mentioning Nicolas Joel’s production to last, because it is the least impressive element of this otherwise superior mounting.  Why Rienzi is dressed in an Ancient Roman tunic, while almost everybody else is dressed in Gangsta Moderne, never becomes apparent.  If it was an effort to distinguish the ill-fated Tribune from everyone else in the plot, the ploy succeeded only in exposing Stefan Vinke’s estimable gams.


©Sam H. Shirakawa

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 10, 2010

All sorts of personal issues have prevented us from posting here for several weeks, but we are now back.

The Met is offering Mozart's Magic Flute with Matthew Polenzani; Sveriges has Meistesinger from Goteborg with an all-Swedish cast;Radio Oesterreich International is re-airing the Met's March 6th broadcast of Verdi's Attila; Radio 4 Netherlands offers Saariaho's Emilie with Karita Mattila; Norwegian Radio is carrying Handel's Agrippina from La Fenice , while Radio Tre is carrying Handel's Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, also from La Fenice. ANd ther;s more - here's the complete list for this afternoon:

  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Göteborg Opera, a live performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, with Anders Lorentzson, Richard Decker, Sara Andersson, Åke Zetterström, Ingrid Tobiasson, Mathias Zachariassen, Johan Schinkler, Ingemar Anderson, Mattias Nilsson, Mats Persson, Iwar Bergkwist, Sten Pernmyr, Mattias Ermedahl, Andreas Lundmark, Michael Schmidberger, Peter Loguin and Sami Yousri, conducted by Olaf Henzold.
  • LRT Klasika - From Palais Garnier in Paris, Gounod's Mireille, with Inva Mula and Charles Castronovo, conducted by Marc Minkowski.
  • DR P2 - From Teatro Real in Madrid, a March 20th performance of Martín y Soler's L'arbore di Diana with Ekaterina Lekhina, Ketevan Kemklidze, Ainoa Garmedia and Marisa Martins, conducted by Ottavio Dantone.
  • Dwojka Radio Polskie - From Moscow, a March 6th performance of Berg's Wozzeck, with Georg Nigl, Mardi Byers, Maxim Paster, Pyotr Migunov, Roman Muravitsky, Fredrik Akselberg, Xenia Vyaznikova, Valery Gilmanov and Nikolai Kazansky, conducted by Teodore Currentzis.
  • Metropolitan Opera Internation Radio Broadcast (on numerous stations) - Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, with Nathan Gunn, Matthew Polenzani, Julia Kleiter, Albina Shagimuratova, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Jamie Barton, Tamara Mumford, Jakob Taylor, Neem Ram Nagarajan, Jonathan A. Makepeace, Monica Yunus, Hans-Peter König,David Pittsinger, Greg Fedderly, David Crawford, Bernard Fitch, Philip Webb and Richard Bernstein, conducted by Adam Fischer.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From l'Opéra National de Lyon, Saariaho's Emilie, with Karita Mattila, conducted by Kazushi Ono.
  • NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From Teatro la Fenice in Venice, Handel's Agrippina, with Lorenzo Regazza, Ann Hallenberg, Florin Cezar Ouatu, Veronica Cangemi, Zavier Sabata, Ugo Guagliardo, Milena Stori and Roberto Abbondanza, conducted by Fabio Biondi.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Metropolitan opera in New York, the March 6th broadcast of Verdi's Attila, with Ildar Abdrazakov, Violeta Urmana, Giovanni Meoni, Ramón Vargas, Russell Thomas and Samuel Ramey, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
  • Klara - From Vlaamse Opera, Tchaikovsky's Eugen Onegin, with Tommi Hakala, Anna Leese, Katarina Bradic, Thorsten Büttner, Ilya Bannik, Mireille Capelle, Livia Budai and Guy De Mey, conducted by Dmitri Jurowski.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From Teatro La Fenice in Venice, a March 14th performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, with Ann Hallenberg, Marlin Miller, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Oriana Kurteshi, Sabrina Vianello, Elena Traversi, Julianne Young and Krystian Adam, conducted by Attilio Cremonesi.
  • KBIA2 & WDAV- NPR World of Opera: from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Rossini's Zelmira, with Kate Aldrich, Juan Diego Flórez, Marianna Pizzolato, Alex Esposito, Mirco Palazzi, Gregory Kunde, Francisco Brito and Sávio Sperandio, conducted by Roberto Abbado.
Happy listening . . . .

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Live Offerings - Saturday, February 20, 2009

Many European stations are carrying the Met broadcast of Ariadne auf Naxos this week, so there a re fewer offerings than usual this week....

  • France Musique - From Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, a January 30th performance of Rossini's La Cenerentola, with Antonino Siragusa, Stéphane Degout, Pietro Spagnoli,
  • Carla Di Censo, Nidia Palacios, Vivica Genaux and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo.
  • Metropolitan Opera Broadcast (on numerous stations) - Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, with Nina Stemme, Kathleen Kim, Sarah Connolly, Lance Ryan, Jochen Schmeckenbecher, Anne-Carolyn Bird, (Tamara Mumford, Erin Morley, Tony Stevenson, Sean Panikkar, Mark Schowalter and Markus Werba, conducted by Kirill Petrenko.
  • KBIA2 & WDAV - NPR World of Opera: From Houston Grand Opera, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Olga Guryakova, Marco Berti, Patrick Carfizzi, Raymond Aceto, Ryan McKinny, Maria Markina and Beau Gibson, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • Espace 2 - From the Vienna State Opera, a December 14, 2009 performance of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with Robert Dean Smith, Violetta Urmana, Yvonne Naef, Bo Skovhus, Franz Josef Selig, Clemens Unterreiner, Peter Jelosits, Wolfgang Bankl and Gergely Nemethy, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
  • Klara - From the Barbican Hall in London, a concert performance of Martinu's Julietta, with Magdalena Kozena, William Burden, Michel Andreas Jäggi, Rosalind Plowright, Zdenek Plech, Anna Stéphany, Jean Rigby, Frederic Goncalves and Roderick Williams, conducted by Jiri Belohlavek.
  • And later on this evening:
  • WFMT - Live from Chicago Lyric Opera, Opening Night of Berlioz' Damnation of Faust, with Paul Groves, Susan Graham, John Relyea and Christian Van Horn, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) & Concert FM (New Zealand) - From the Metropolitan Opera, Verdi's Stiffelio, with José Cura, Julianna Di Giacomo, Andrzej Dobber, Michael Fabiano, Phillip Ens, Jennifer Check and Diego Torre, conducted by Plácido Domingo.

Happy listening

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Friday, February 19, 2010

A Wagner Valentine

WAGNER: DIE MEISTERSINGER
Deutsche Oper, Berlin
February 14, 2010

Berlin’s Deutsche Oper gave its supporters a valentine of sorts on Valentine’s Day: a performance of Die Meistersinger. Nothing special about that, were it not for the presence of Klaus Florian Vogt as Walther von Stolzing. Despite a uniformly upper drawer cast that included Michaela Kaune as Eva, James Johnson as Sachs, and Markus Brück, Kristinn Siegmundson and Paul Kaufmann as Beckmesser, Pogner and David respectively, it seemed as though the stage darkened to a pin spotlight on Vogt, whenever he was on the boards, which, as those familiar with the work know, is most of the time.

In the seven years since I first heard Vogt as Lohengrin in Bremen, he has become, justifiably, I think, internationally known as one of the finest Wagner tenors of this age. Considering how few really great Wagner singers there have been in any age, his emergence into pre-eminence may be more a matter of luck than talent simply outing itself. What is extraordinary is that he is also emerging as one of the great voices of this or any other age. That is a real accomplishment in the light of how many singers of widely varying quality are vying for attention via their press agents, recording companies and media machines.

Some listeners have described his unusual sound as “boyish” while others have called it sort of “androgynous.” Actually, it is neither. Vogt played the horn at Hamburg’s Staatsoper, before a vocal teacher suggested that he might have a brighter future singing above the pit, rather than playing out of it.
 
Sometimes things work out.

Vogt’s sound in its current disposition is indeed reminiscent of a French horn played by Philip Miller or Dennis Brain: sweet in soft passages, penetrating and dominant under pressure. It is immediately recognizable, it commands attention even in the thick of competition from other voices and other instruments. It never tires the ear. I’ve never heard anything quite like it. It is, in the grandest sense of the word, unique.

Wagner created a real character in Walther von Stolzing, and the role gives Vogt an opportunity to act. His Walther is youthful, quick to anger and ardently passionate, but the passion is imbued with intelligence and humility. You get the impression that he’s really listening to Sachs, matter-of-factly sung by James Johnson, when the Master of the Mastersingers gives him a lesson in songwriting in the third act. And the Prize Song in the next scene becomes, in Vogt’s voice, a cumulative rather than repetitive precipitate of the Master’s tuition.

With such masterful singing in a work about the Art of Singing (among a few other things), it’s hard to comment on the able efforts put forth by Vogt’s colleagues: the aforementioned aural pin-spot on Vogt tended to occlude them. Nontheless, Michaela Kaune was an effectively flirtatious Eva, Markus Brück portrayed a delightfully irritating Beckmesser, Kristinn Sigmundsson’s height enabled him to present a grandly imposing Pogner, Ulrike Helzel sounded pleasantly youthful as Magdalena, and Paul Kaufmann as David showed hopeful signs of becoming an Almaviva with whom to be reckoned.

The Deutsche Oper’s new Music Director Donald Runnicles stepped in for the originally designated conductor, so his somewhat lackluster reading may have been the result of brief rehearsal time and the effort to avoid disasters in such a wildly complex work.

Götz Friedrich’s production from the mid-90s hold up well, primarily because it never strays far from the composer’s stage directions. In fact, it is a delight to see the festival in the final scene look and feel festive.

The current run of Meistersinger is part of the Deutsche Oper’s Wagner Weeks, in which most of the composer’s works -- including a new production of Rienzi -- are being presented over the course of several months. Rienzi has attracted a lot of press coverage, largely because its producer has turned it into a quasi-allegory in which the eponymous hero bears the appearance of a certain Austrian-born dictator. I haven’t seen it, so I can’t report much more, except to say, I’m looking forward to hearing the Leipzig Oper’s production this spring with none less than Elena Zhidkova as Orsini.

If you’re in Berlin this weekend, do what you must to get a ticket to Meistersinger on Sunday, providing that Vogt is singing. There’s only one bad seat in the house: the one you don’t get. But caveat emptor: it’s pretty much sold out.

©Sam H. Shirakawa

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Bon-Bons from Bonne Bonn

WAGNER : TANNHÄUSER
Theater Bonn
7 February 2010


I’ve made three trips to Bonn from Cologne in the past month (less than 30 minutes by train), twice to hear the last performances this season of Tannhäuser. As I suspected, the best thing about Klaus Weise’s new production is how new it looks.

Following the current trend, the musical format mixes the Dresden (1845) and Paris (1860) versions. For those members of the Great Unwashed who don’t know the key differences between the two versions: the Paris Edition has a ballet; the Dresden version has more singing, primarily in the second act. The mixed version going around these days purveys the ballet and more singing. For purists, this might not make sense: The later version is significantly more sophisticated. As the fat lady tauntingly told her husband though: All in all, there’s just more to love.

What’s truly to love in Bonn’s new production is Scott MacAllister. I never thought I would ever hear a Heinrich (that’s T’s first name) so well sung. All the more surprising, because I heard him sing a number of roles (mostly Mozart) 20 years ago in Mannheim, and I could not have imagined that I would ever hear him attempt, let alone achieve excellence in a Wagner opera. The voice in its current estate has no perceptible register breaks. It’s bright and open at the top, solid in the middle and below. The sound is clean, large and remains sweet under pressure: Think Bjørling meets early Max Lorenz. MacAllister needs at least one strophe of his Hymn to Venus to warm up, but once he hits his stride, he’s full-throttle right up to the final curtain. Of the 15-odd tenors I’ve heard as Tannhäuser over more than 30 performances, including Hans Hopf, James McCracken and Peter Seifert (and oh, yes, Pekka Nuotio, too), none come close to challenging him. Unfortunately though, the size of his midriff has increased in direct proportion to the outsize amplitude of his voice.

Elisabeth on 7 February was Ingeborg Greiner, who was satisfactory, following a nervous start. Far superior was Anna-Katharina Behnke, who sang the role in Bonn last month. She has grown musically by leaps since I first heard her as Aida in Halle about 12 years ago, but she remains an underestimated quantity.

Anna Magdalena Hofmann was an attractive Venus and Lee Poulis a dignified Wolfram. Both received a big round of applause at the curtain calls. The other principals carried out their duties efficiently: Ramaz Chikviladze (Hermann), Mirko Roschkovski (Walther), Mark Morouse (Biterolf), Mark Rosenthal (Heinrich der Schreiber), Marton Tzonev (Reinmar). No standouts though.

Stefan Blunier drew some excellent playing from the house orchestra.


Read more »

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Live Offerings, Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year! The highlights for this afternoon include two different performances of Verdi's Macbeth from the same December run in Vienna, with Simon Keenlyside; a Meistersinger from the Liceu in Barcelona, with Robert Dean Smith and Véronique Gens; Hansel und Gretel from the Metropolitan Opera, with Miah Persson and Angelika Kirchschlager; from Opéra Bastille in Paris, Giordano's Andréa Chenier, with Marcelo Alvarez. Here's the lineup:

  • Deutschlandradio Kultur & DR P2 - From the Vienna State Opera, a December 7th performance of Verdi's Macbeth, with Simon Keenlyside, Erika Sunnegardh, Stefan Kocán and Dimitri Pittas, conducted by Guillermo García Calvo.
  • HR2 Kultur - From Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, a March 23, 2009 performance of Wagner's Die Meistersinger, with Albert Dohmen, Reinhard Hagen, Bo Skovhus, Robert Dean Smith, Norbert Ernst, Véronique Gens and Stella Grigorian, conducted by Sebastian Weigle.
  • Metropolitan Opera (on numerous stations) - Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, with Miah Persson, Angelika Kirchschlager, Rosalind Plowright, Dwayne Croft, Philip Langridge, Jennifer Johnson and Erin Morley, conducted by Fabio Luis.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - Chabrier's L'Etoile, with Jean Paul Fouchecourt, conducted by Jean-Yves Ossonce.
  • Dwojka Polskie Radio - From the Vienna State Opera, a June 2009 performance of Gounod's Faust, with Soile Isokoski, Zoryana Kushpler, Roxana Constantinescu, Piotr Beczala, Kwangchul Youn, Boaz Daniel and Hans Peter Kammerer, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • France Musique - From Opéra Bastille in Paris, a December 18 performance of Giordano's Andréa Chenier, with Marcelo Alvarez, Sergei Murzaev, Micaela Carosi, Varduhi Abrahamyan, Stefania Toczyska, Maria José Montiel, André Heyboer, Igor Gnidii, Antoine Garcin, David Bizic, Carlo Bosi, Bruno Lazzaretti, Ugo Rabec and Guillaume Antoine, conducted by Daniel Oren.
  • KBIA2 & KOHM - NPR World of Opera: From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Tchaikovsky's The Tsarina's Slippers, with Olga Guryakova, Vsevolod Grivnov, Larissa Diadkova, Vladimir Matorin, Sergei Leiferkuss, Maxim Mikhailov, Vyacheslav Voynarovsky, Alexander Vassiliev and John Upperton, conducted by Alexander Polianichko.
  • MDR Figaro - From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, an August 23, 2009 performance of Verdi's Don Carlo, with Jonas Kaufmann, Marina Poplavskaya, Simon Keenlyside, Sonia Ganassi, Ferruccio Furlanetto and John Tomlinson, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From Teatro Comunale in Bologna, an August 9, 2009 performance of Rossini's Zelmira, with Kate Aldrich, Juan Diego Florez, Marinna Pizzolato, Alex Esposito, Mirco Palazzi and Gregory Kunde, conducted by Roberto Abbado.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From Czech radio archives, a 1964 performance of Dvorak's Jacobin, with Richard Novák, Jindr(ich Jindrák, Antonín Švorc, Milada Šubrtová, Karel Berman, Oldr(ich Spisar, Antonín Votava and Helena Tattermuschová, Marie Ovc(ac(íková, conducted by Jan Hus Tichý.
  • Klara - From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with Changhan Lim, Juan Diego Florez, Pietro Spagnoli, Joyce DiDonato, Alessandro Corbelli, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Jennifer Rhys-Davies, Bryan Secombe, Christopher Lackner and Andrew Macnair, conducted by Antonio Pappano.

Happy listening.....

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Live Offerings, Saturday, November 21, 2009 - Part I

Getting a late start on this blog today (thanks to a late but great party last night). Some things are already underway:

  • Sveriges Radio P2 - Stravinski's The Rakes Progress, from Malmö, with Nikola Matisic, Hulda Björk Gardarsdóttir, Bengt Krantz, Emma Lyrén, Ethel Schelin, Daniel Hellström, Sellem - Rickard Söderberg, Thomas Hildebrandt and Skådespelare - Keijo J. Salmela, conducted by Staffan Larsson.
  • WUFT-FM HD2 - From Houston Grand Opera, a Choral Gala.
  • Bartok Radio - Its Budapest Ring Cycle continues with a June 14 performance of Gotterdammerung, with Christian Franz, Oskar Hillebrandt, Eric F. Halfvarson, Hartmut Welker, Linda Watson, Markovics Erika, Cornelia Kallisch, Gál Erika, Németh Judit, Szabóki Tünde, Korondi Anna, Fodor Gabriella and Shöck Atala, conducted by Adan Fischer.
  • BBC Radio 3 - From Opera North, Massenet's Werther, with Paul Nilon, Alice Coote, Fflur Wyn, Peter Savidge, Donald Maxwell, Richard Burkhard and Joshua Ellicott, conducted by Richard Farnes.
And about to start:
  • CBC Two - From La Scala in Milan, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with David Daniels, Rosemary Joshua, Emil Wolk, Daniel Okulitch, Gordon Gietz, and Erin Wall, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Staatsoper Hannover, a November 14 perfromance of Wagner's Das Rheingold, with Tobias Schabel, Jin-Ho Yoo, Young-Hoon Heo, Robert Künzli, Stefan Adam, Jörn Eichler, Albert Pesendorfer, Young Myoung Kwon, Khatuna Mikaberidze, Arantxa Armentia, Okka von der Damerau, Nicole Chevalier, Julia Faylenbogen and Mareike Morr, conducted by Wolfgang Bozic.
  • DR P2 - From the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, an August 29 performance of Haydn's Orlando Paladino, with Tom Randle, Sine Bundgaard, Pietro Spagnoli, Magnus Staveland, Alexandrina Pendatchanska and Sunhae Im, condiucted by René Jacobs.
  • Espace Musique - From Vienna State Opera, Wagner's Lohengrin, with Robert Dean Smith, Morten Frank Larsen, Ain Anger, Falk Struckmann, Janina Baechle and Camilla Nylund, conducted by Leif Segerstram.
  • KBYU - From Houston Grand Opera, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Iestyn Davies, Laura Claycomb, Jon Michael Hill, Norman Reinhardt, Liam Bonner, Marie Lenormand, Katie van Kooten, Matthew Rose, Steven Cole, Ryan McKinny, Robert Pomakov and Leann Sandel-Pantaleo, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From The Liceu in Barcelona, Szymanovsky's Krol Roger, with Juan Pons and Anne Schwanenwilms and Scott Hendricks.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From Wexford, an October 31 performance of a double bill: Chabrier's Une éducation manquée, with K. Jayasinghe, P. Murrihy; and Rossini's La cambiale di matrimonio, with G. Bellavia, C. Pervin, G. Pelligra, V. Prato, L. Dall’Amico and A. Gill, both conducted by C. Franklin.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From Thuríngia, a February 2 performance of Mendelssohn's Soldatenliebschaft, with Gerlinde Illich, Linlin Fan, Joan Ribalta, Bernardo Kim and Serge Noviqueconducted by Eric Solén.
  • WETA - From Washington National Opera, one more airing of Handel's Tamerlano, with Placido Domingo, David Daniels, Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Claudio Huckle and Andrew Foster Williams, conducted by William Lacey.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From Houston Grand Opera, a Choral Gala.
  • WQXR - from Los Angeles Opera, Verdi's Requiem, with Adrianne Pieczonka, Stephanie Blythe, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, and René Pape, conducted by Placido Domingo.
  • XLNC1- From Houston Grand Opera, Verdi's Rigoletto, with Scott Hendricks, Albina Shagimuratova, Eric Cutler, Andrea Silvestrelli, Maria Markina, Bradley Garvin, Jamie Barton, Adam Cioffari, Shon Sims, Octavio Moreno, Faith Sherman and Tommy Ajai George, conducted by Patrick Summers.
More to come shortly. Happy listening.....

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reruns seem to be the order of the day. Most of the available "live" offerings have appeared elsewhere in previous weeks. Exceptions include a Budapest Rheingold from Bartok Radio, BBC 3's Carmen, yesterday's Lady Macbeth from Mtensk from the Vienna State Opera (being carried by three stations), the San Francisco Opera Don Giovanni, France Musique's Die Tote Stadt from Opera Bastille, and last, but certainly not least, the live La Traviata from Seattle Opera later on this evening (Charles Taylor's Germont pere will be worth a listen...).

Here's the complete lineup:

  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Stadshallen in Göttingen, a May 13, 2008 performance of Handel's Acis and Galatea, with Christoph Prégardien, Julia Kleiter, Wolf Matthias Friedrich and Michael Slattery, condcuted by Nicholas McGegan
  • BBC Radio 3 - From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Bizet's Carmen, with Elina Garanca, Roberto Alagna, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Liping Zhang, Changhan Lim, Henry Waddington, Eri Nakamura, Louise Innes, Adrian Clarke and Vincent Ordonneau, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • CBC Two - From Lyric Opera of Chicago, Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, with Matthew Polenzani, Erin Wall, Aleksandra Kurzak, Steve Davislim and Andrea Silvestrelli, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From the Vienna State Opera, Gounod's Faust, with Piotr Beczala, Kwangchul Youn, Soile Isokoski, Boaz Daniel, Hans Peter Kammerer, Roxana Constantinescu and Zoryana Kushpler, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • DR P2, Radio Clasica de Espana & Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Vienna State Opera, an October 23 performance of Shastakovich's Lady Macbeth from Mtensk, with Kurt Rydl, Marian Talaba, Angela Denoke, Misha Didyk, Donna Ellen and Michael Roider, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.
  • Dwojke Polskie Radio - From the 2009 Glyndebourne Festival, Dvorak's Rusalka, with Ana Maria Martinez, Brandon Jovanovich, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Misza Szelomian'ski, Larissa Diadkova, Diana Axentii and Alasdair Elliott, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.
  • Espace Musique - From the Vienna State Opera, Strauss's Die Schweigsame Frau, with Kurt Rydel, Janina Baechle, Adrian Eröd, Michael Schade, Jane Archibald, Caroline Weinborne, Michaela Selinger, Clemens Unterreiner, Janusz Monarcham and Walter Fink.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From Teatro da Música in Amsterdam, a June 7, 2008 performance of Messiaen Saint Francois d'Assise, with Camilla Tilling, Hubert Delamboye, Rom Randle, Donald Kaascg, Rod Gilfry, Henk Neven, Arman Arapian, Jan Willen Baljet and André Morsch, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.
  • WETA - From the Grand Theater in Geneva, Verdi's Il Trovatore, with Tatiana Serjan, Irina Mishura, Zoran Todorovich, George Petean and Burak Bilgili, conducted by Evelino Pido.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From San Francisco Opera, Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Mariusz Kwiecien, Oren Gradus, Elza van den Heever, Twyla Robinson, Charles Castronovo, Claudia Mahnke, Luca Pisaroni and Kristinn Sigmundsson, conducted by Donald Runnicles.
  • WQXR - From San Francisco Opera, Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, with Torsten Kerl,
  • Marie/Marietta: Emily Magee, Lucas Meachem, Katharine Tier, Ji Young Yang,: Daniela Mack, Alek Shrader, Andrew Bidlack, Bryan Ketron and Ben Bongers, conducted by Donald Runnicles.
  • NPR World of Opera - From the 2009 Aix en Provence Festival, Mozart's The Magic Flute, with Marlis Petersen, Magnus Staveland, Anna-Kristiina Kaapola, Daniel Schmutzhard, Sunhae Im, Marcos Fink and Kurt Azesberger, conducted by Rene Jacobs.
  • XLNC1 - From San Francisco Opera, Verdi's La Traviata, with Anna Netrebko, Charles Castronovo, Dwayne Croft, Leeann Sandel-Pantaleo, Renee Tatum, Andrew Bidlack, Dale Travis, Austin Kness and Kenneth Kellogg, conducted by Donald Runnicles.
  • Bartok Radio - From Budapest, a June 11 performance of Wagner's Das Rheingold, with Johan Reuter, Oskar Hillebrandt, Fekete Attila, Christian Franz, Hartmut Welker, Michael Roider, Thomas Jesatko, Ain Anger, Németh Judit, Herczenik Anna, Kovács Annamária, Korondi Anna, Fodor Gabriella and Schöck Atala, conducted by Stephen D´Agostino.
  • France Musique - From Opéra Bastille in Paris, Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, with Robert Dean Smith, Ricarda Merbeth, Stéphane Degout, Doris Lamprecht and Elisa Cenni, conducted by Pinchas Steinberg.
  • NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Haydn's Orlando Paladino, with Henriette Bonde-Hansen, Joan Martin-Roya, Marcel Reijans, Kenneth Tarver, Peter Gijsbertsen, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir Jörg Schneider, Elena Monti, Martijn Cornet, conducted by Alessandro De Marchi.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila, with Torsten Kerl, Marianna Tarasova, Micho Borovinov, Nikola Mijailovic, Thorsten Büttner, Onno Pels, Gijs Van der Linden and Tijl Faveyts, conducted by Tomáš Netopil.
  • Klara - From Vienna, a January 25 concert performance of Vivaldi's Ercole su'l Termodonte, with Vivica Genaux, Roberta Invernizzi, Emanuela Galli, Stefanie Iranyi, Carlo Allemano, Romina Basso, Philippe Jaroussky and Philippo Adami, conducted by Fabio Biondi.
  • Radio Tre - From Teatro la Fenice (or possibly Teatro Malibran??) in Venice, an October 9 performance of Handel's Agrippina, with Lorenzo Regazzo, Ann Hallenberg, Florin Cezar Ouatu, Veronica Cangemi, Xavier Sabata, Ugo Guagliardo, Milena Storti and Roberto Abbondanza, conducted by Fabio Biondi.
  • Lyric FM - Carlo Pedrotti's opera Tutti in maschera (Everyone in Masks) from last year's Wexford Festival Opera. Bass-baritone Enrico Marabelli heads the cast.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (on a one-week delay): From Washington National Opera, Handel's Tamerlano, with Placido Domingo, David Daniels, Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Claudio Huckle and Andrew Foster Williams, conducted by William Lacey.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - From Opéra Bastille in Paris, Szymanowsky's King Roger, with Mariusz Kwiecien, Eric Cutler, Olga Pasichnyk, Stefan Margita, Wojtek Smilek and Jadwiga Rappé, conducted by Kazushi Ono.
  • KING - Live from Seattle Opera, Verdi's La Traviata, with Nuccia Focile, Dimitri Pittas and Charles Taylor, conducted by Brian Garman.
  • ABC Classic FM - From the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov, with Alexei Tanovitski, Irina Mataeva, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Nikolay Gassiev, Yuri Vorobyev, Pavel Shmulevich, Mikhaol Vishnyak, Varvara Solovyeva, Ludmila Kanunnikova and Olga Legkova, conducted by Valery Gergiev.

Happy listening . . . .

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Friday, October 02, 2009

Disdaining the Master's Art

Sam Shirakawa went to Cologne last week to see Wagner's Die Meistersinger:

WAGNER: DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG
26 September 2009
Cologne

As I was leaving the Cologne Opera House, following a performance of Die Meistersinger last Saturday night. I couldn’t help but overhear two women conversing behind me:

“I didn’t understand the production at all,” said one in a distinctive Kölner accent.

“Neither did I,” replied the other.

I could barely keep myself from turning around to add: “And neither did I.”

Uwe Eric Laufenberg’s new production starts off with all the characters, with the exception of Walther von Stolzing, in period costumes--possibly the Wilhelmenian era. He is sporting a tie-less black suit that could possibly bear a Hugo Boss label. He is also snapping photos with a camera that is presumably digital. (The flash didn’t function on Saturday night.) The set sketches out a church -- presumably St. Katharine’s Church in Nuremberg. Is Walther then a visitor from the future?

In the second Act, the outdoor setting, top hats and bustles suggest the same period. Walther’s white satin dress coat suggests that he has quickly adjusted to the fashions of the times.

The interior of Hans Sachs’ house in the final act, though, is decked out in what looked like 1960s Bargain Outlet or maybe DDR Moderne. And the final scene takes place, not on the meadows outside Nuremberg’s walls, but on the plaza outside the Cologne Opera House -- presumably NOW. A mini-Jumbotron flashes a video montage of Cologne’s history over the past century, using archive photos, newsreels and other films, many of which I have never seen before. As a bonus, televised excerpts of from an earlier production of Meistersinger (no sound though) are interspersed with the other images.

Confusing? Distracting? No, just awful.

Thanks largely to Markus Stenz’s leadership at the podium, the performance withstood most of the on-stage shenanigans. Stenz’ love of Wagner was palpable in every measure of the score, as he moved the musical impulses in a seamlessly ascendent direction from start to finish. Only in the final scene did the powerful images on the Jumbotron overwhelm the thrust of the music. Despite a flub here and there, the Gürzenich Orchestra produced continuous incandescence.

Before the performance started an announcement from the stage informed the audience that Marco Jentzsch (Walther) and Johannes Martin Kränzle (Beckmesser) were suffering from colds and asking for indulgence. Kränzle fared better of the two. In fact, his scrivener was one of the most touchingly sung I have experienced live. Kränzle plays Beckmesser as an infatuated middle-age schoolboy. The desperate desire to please in his protracted second act serenade was well-nigh embarrassing.

Jentzsch, singing the role for the first time, got through the first two acts with style and in full, rounded voice. In the third act, he nursed his voice through the first scene and managed to deliver a prize-winning Prize Song in the finale. Given the circumstances, it’s difficult to assess what appears to be potential revealed, rather promise fulfilled. Jentzsch is young, tall and good-looking with a bright sizable tenor in the middle range. Since he sang most of the exposed upper notes between F and A in half voice, it’s impossible to say whether he’s in full possession of The Right Stuff for middle-weight Wagner.

Astrid Weber delivered a charming, occasionally neurotic Eva. Her voice shows signs of turning acidic at the top, but it retained its focus throughout the long evening.

Carsten Süß as David has two voices -- a candy-sweet lower and middle voice and another voice in the upper register that falls back into the head. If he can knead the two voices into one instrument, he could become a Lohengrin to be reckoned with.

The two glories of the evening were Bjarni Thor Kristinsson as Pogner and Robert Holl as Sachs. I never have heard Kristinsson before, and I wondered where I’ve been keeping myself. If you remember Gottlob Frick and Kurt Boehme, remember this: they live on in Kristinsson.

I’ve heard Robert Holl here and there for many years, but it’s hard to believe that nearly four decades have gone by since he started making the rounds on the international opera circuit. He is one of those blessed few singers who last long enough to implement the experience they acquire. Holl is still going strong and sounding better than ever.

As he struck a solid F in Sach’s peroration, I wondered what he thinks of some of his colleagues, who, though much younger, can barely make it through a performance.

© Sam H. Shirakawa

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, September 26, 2009 - Part I

  • Sveriges Radio P2 - already underway, from Göteborg Opera, Börtz's Goya, with Anders Larsson, Anders Lorentzon, Fredrik Zetterström, Michael Weinius, Mats Persson, Linus Börjesson, Iwar Bergkwist, Johan Schinkler, Henric Holmberg, Ann-Kristin Jones, Ann-Marie Backlund, Katarina Giotas and Natalie Hernborg, conducted by Joakim Unander.
  • BBC Radio 3 - From the Grand Theatre in Leeds (Opera North), the British premiere of Gershwin's Let 'em Eat Cake, with William Dazeley, Rebecca Moon, Steven Beard, Nicholas Sharratt, Martin Hyder, Rob Edwards, Richard Morris and Graham Howes, conducted by Wyn Davies.
  • CBC Two - From the Vienna State Opera, Strauss's Die Schweisame Frau, with Kurt Rydel, Michael Schade, and Diana Damrau, conducted by Peter Schneider.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From the Vienna State Opera, a February 13 performance of Verdi's Stiffelio, with José Cura, Hui He, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Gergely Németi, Alexandru Moisiuc, Benedikt Kobel and Elisabeta Marin, conducted by Michael Halász.
  • DR P2 - From the Aix-en-Provence Festival, a July 30 performance of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, with Daniel Behle, Marlis Petersen, Anna-Kristiina Kaapola, Daniel Schmutzhard, Sunhae Im, Marcos Fink and Kurt Azesberger, conducted by René Jacobs.
  • Espace Musique & Radio Oesterreich International (OE1)- From Festival de Radio-France et Montpellier 2009, Bellini's Zaira, with Ermonela Jaho, Varduhi Abrahamyan, Shalva Mukeria, Wenwei Zhang, Gezim Myshketa, Franck Bard and Marianne Crebassa, conducted by Enrique Mazzola.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands & France Musique - From Paris Opera, Gounod's Mireille, with Inva Mula, Charles Castronovo and Franck Ferrari, conducted by Marc Minkowski.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From the 2009 Bayreuth Festival, Wagner's Parsifal.
  • WETA - From the NPR World of Opera archives, from Houston Grand Opera, Verdi's Aida, with Zvetelina Vassileva, Marco Berti, Dolora Zajick, Gordon Hawkins, Tigran Martirossian, Bradley Garvin and Tamara Wilson, conducted by Carlo Rizzi.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From San Francisco Opera, Puccini's La Boheme, with Angela Gheorghiu, Piotr Beczala, Quinn Kelsey, Norah Amsellem, Oren Gradus, Brian Leerhuber, Dale Travis, Chester Pidduck, Colby Roberts, Ryan Hedrick, David Kekuewa and Jere Torkelsen, conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Capitole Theatre in Toulouse, Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, with Bernard Richter, Anne-Catherine Gillet, Allyson McHardy, Stephane Degout, Fancoise Masset, Jennifer Holloway, Bruno Calucci, Jael Azzaretti and Francis Lis, conducted by Emmanuelle Haim.
  • XLNC1 - From San Francisco Opera, Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore, with Inva Mula, Ramon Vargas, Giorgio Caoduro, Alessandro Corbelli and Ji Young Yang, conducted by Bruno Campanella.
  • NRK P2 & NRK Klassisk - From The Metropolitan Opera, the February 1, 1947 broadcast of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, with Bidú Sayão, Jussi Björling, Mimi Benzell, Claramae Turner, John Brownlee, Nicola Moscona, Anthony Marlowe, Kenneth Schon, Thomas Hayward, George Cehanovsky, Philip Kinsman and William Hargrave, conducted by Emil Cooper.

More to come shortly . . .

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, August 16, 2009

The 2009 Bayreuth Ring Cycle continues this weekend on five German stations - Siegfried on Saturday and Gotterdammerung on Sunday . . . Another Ring Cycle, from Seattle Opera gets underway this afternoon . . . Simon Boccanegra from San Francisco Opera . . . from Prague, Janacek's Makropoulos Affair . . . from Potsdam Sanssouci, Haydn's L'Infidelta Delusa . . . Rossini's Zelmira from Pesaro . . . Gilbert and Sullivsan's Patience, Purcell's The Fairy Queen and a Beethoven Ninth Symphony from the Proms in London . . . and more.

Here's the complete lineup:
  • Bayern 4 Klassik, MDR Figaro, NDR Kultur, RBB Kulturradio & WDR3 - From the 2009 Bayreuth Festival, Wagner's Siegfried; and on Sunday catch Gotterdammerung.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From San Francisco Opera, Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, with Dimitri Hvorostovsky, Barbara Frittoli, Marcus Haddock, Vitalij Kowalojow and Patrick Carfizzi, conducted by Donald Runnicles.
  • CBC Two - From the National Theatre in Prague, Janacek's Makropoulos Affair, with Gun-Brit Barkmin, Gustáv Belácek, Gianluca Zampieri and Alzbeta Polácková, conducted by Tomás Hanus.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci, a June performance of Haydn's L'Infidelta Delusa, with Gemma Bertagnolli, Raffaella Milanesi, Andreas Karasiak, Daniel Auchincloss and Christian Senn, conducted by Andreas Spering.
  • DR P2 - From Pesaro, and August 9 performance of Rossini's Zelmira, with Kate Aldrich, Marianna Pizzolato, Alex Esposito, Juan Diego Flórez and Mirco Palazzi, conducted by Roberto Abbado. Correction: from London, Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, with Anna Netrebko, Dario Schmunck, Eric Owens, Giovanni Battista Parodi and Elina Garanca, conducted by Mark Elder.
  • Espace 2 - From the International Baroque Opera Festival in Beaune, a July 11 performance of Handel's Giulio Cesare in Egitto, with Lawrence Zazzo, Juliette Gastian and Maria Riccarda Wesseling, conducted by Lopez Banzo.
  • KBYU - From Los Angeles Opera, Braunfels' The Birds, with Désirée Rancatore, Brandon Javanovich, James Johnson, Stacey Tappan, Martin Gantner, Valerie Vinzant, Courtney Taylor, Brian Mulligan, Matthew Moore, John Kimberling and Daniel Armstrong, conducted by James Conlon.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From the Proms in London, Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, with Rebecca Bottone, Felicity Palmer, Pamela Helen Stephen, Elena Xanthoudakis and Sophie-Louise Dann, conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From Vienna State Opera, an October 11, 2008 performance of Gounod's Faust, with Angela Gheorghiu, Michaela Selinger, Janina Baechle, Roberto Alagna, Adrian Eröd, Alexandru Moisiuc and Kwangchul Youn, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • WETA - From La Scala, Rossini's Il Viaggio a Rheims, with Patricia Ciofi, Annick Massis, Carmela Remigio, Juan F. Gatell Abre, Dmitry Korchak, Alastair Miles, Nicola Ulivieri and Fabio Capitanucci, conducted by Ottavio Dantone.
  • XLNC1 - From Los Angeles Opera, Verdi's Requiem, with Adrianne Pieczonka, Stephanie Blythe, Arturo Chacón-Cruz and René Pape, conducted by Placiso Domingo.
  • Bartok Radio - From Amsterdam, a June 7 performance of Messiaen's Saint-François d'Assise, with Camilla Tilling, Rod Gilfry (bariton), Hubert Delamboye, Henk Neven, Rom Randle, Donald Kaasch, Armand Arapian, Jan Willem Baljet and André Morsch\, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher.
  • BBC Radio 3 & France Musique - From the Royal Albert Hall, Prom 40, a Stravinsky and Beethoven program, including Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, with Rebecca Evans, Caitlin Hulcup, Anthony Dean Griffey and James Rutherford, conducted by Ilan Volkov.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Grand Theatre of Geneva, Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, with Marc Laho, Nicolas Cavallier, Stella Dufexis, Patricia Petitbon, Rachel Harnisch, Maria Riccarda Wesseling, Eric Huchet, Francisco Vas, Bernard Deletre, Rene Schirrer and Gilles Cachemaille, conducted by Patrick Davin.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Metropolitan Opera, an historic broadcast from Feberuary 1, 1947 of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, with Bidu Sayao, Jussi Björling, Nicola Moscona, John Brownlee, Anthony Marlowe and Mimi Benzell, conducted by Emil Cooper.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Läckö slott, a July 29 performance og Rossini's L'Italiana in algeri, with Markus Schwartz, Åsa Danielsson, Astrid Robillard, Andreas Lundmark, Fredrik Strid, Ulrika Skarby and Anders Kjellstrand, conducted by Simon Phipps.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera on a one-week delay: From Royal Albert Hall, the London Proms performance of Purcell's The Fairy Queen, with Lucy Crowe, Claire Debono, Anna Devin, Carolyn Sampson, Robert Burt, Ed Lyon, Sean Clayton, Adrian Ward and Andrew Foster-Williams.
  • KING - From Seattle Opera, recorded live earlier this month, Wagner's Das Rheingold (first installment of a complete Ring cycle to be heard over the next four weeks), with Greer Grimsley, Richard Paul Fink, Stephanie Blythe, Kobie van Rensburg and contralto Maria Streijffert, conducted by Robert Spano.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - From Teatro Real in Madrid, Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, with Terry Way, Luigi Da Donato, Hanna Bayodi-Hirt, Claire Debono, Christine Rice, Marina Rodríguez-Cusí, Ed Lyon, Kobie van Rensburg, Joseph Cornwell, Robert Burt, Cyril Auvity, Humberto Chiummo, Xavier Sabata, Juan Sancho and Sonya Yoncheva, conducted by William Christie.

Happy listening . . .

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

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

More live offerings today:

  • Espace Musique & Latvia Radio Klasika - From Paris, a rebroadcast of a March 12 performance of Massenet's Werther, with Rolando Villazon, Susan Graham, Adriana Kucerova, Ludovic Tézier, Christian Jean, Christian Tréguier, Vincent Delhourne and Letitia Singleton, conducted by Kent Nagano.
  • KBYU - From Los Angeles Opera, Wagner's Die Walkure, with Plácido Domingo, Anja Kampe, Eric Halfvarson, Vitalij Kowaljow, Linda Watson, Michelle DeYoung, Ellie Dehn, Susan Foster, Erica Brookhyser, Ronnita Miller, Melissa Citro, Buffy Baggott, Jane Gilbert and Margaret Thompson, conducted by James Conlon.
  • Klassikaraadio - From Tallinna XXIII Rahvusvahelise Orelifestivali, Handel's Theodora, with Kädy Plaas, Charles Humphries, Teele Jõks, Mati Turi and Uku Joller, conducted by Toomas Siitan.
  • KUHF - From the Metropolitan Opera on February 22, 2009, the Met Opera National Council Finals Concert 2009.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From Théâtre Municipal in Lausanne, a December 3, 2008 performance of Verdi's La Traviata, with V. Tola, S. Pirgu, S. Catana, B. Hool, C. Cornu, B. Bernheim, M. Mazuir, M. Signorini, B. Capt, Y. François, J. Etchepareborda and N. Woldi, conducted by P. Arrivabeni.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From Teatro Régio in Turin, an October 18, 2008 performance of Cherubini's Medea, with Anna Caterina Antonaci, Cinzia Forte, Erika Grimaldi, Luísa Francesconi, Sara Mingardo, Giuseppe Filianoti, Giovanni Battista Parodi and Diego Matamoros, conducted by Evelino Pidò.
  • WETA - From the Metropolitan Theatre of Lausanne, Handel's Faramondo, with Max Emanuel Cencic, Sophie Karthäuser, Marina de Liso, Insung Sinn, Philippe Jaroussky, Xavier Sabata Corominas, Fulvio Bettini and Johann Ebert, conducted by Diego Fasolis.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From Los Angeles Opera, the Verdi Requiem, with Adrianne Pieczonka, Stephanie Blythe, Arturo Chacón-Cruz and René Pape, conducted by Placido Domingo.
  • XLNC1 - from Los Angeles Opera, Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, with Audra McDonald, Patti LuPone, Anthony Dean Griffey, Robert Wörle, Donnie Ray Albert, John Easterlin, Mel Ulrich, Joe Stevn Humes, Catherine Ireland, Karen Vuong, Rena Harms, Natasha Flores, Sharmay Musacchio, Priti Gandhi, Derek Taylor and Mark Kelley, conducted by James Conlon.
  • Bartok Radio - From Magyar Állami Operaház, a June 28 performance of Verdi's I Vespri Siciliani, with Fekete Attila, Sümegi Eszter, Rácz István, Fokanov Anatolij, Vadász Dániel, Ulbrich Andrea, Tóth János, Daróczi Tamás, Horváth Ádám, Cserhalmi Ferenc and Derecskei Zsolt, conducted by Matthias Stegmann.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From La Scala in Milan, Rossini's Il viaggio a Reims, with Carmela Remigio, Patrizia Ciofi, Nicola Ulivieri, Alastair Miles, Annick Massis, Juan F. Gatell, Daniela Barcellona, Dmitrij Korc(ak, Fabio Capitanucci, Bruno Praticó, Alessandro Guerzoni, Enrico Iviglia, Paola Gardina, Aurora Tirotta, Annamaria Popescu, Filippo Polinelli, Patrizio Saudelli and Fabrizio Mercurio, conducted by Ottavio Dantone.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Royal Albert Hall in London, Purcell's Fairy Queen, with Lucy Crowe, Claire Debono, Anna Devin, Carolyn Sampson, Robert Burt, Ed Lyon, Sean Clayton, Adrian Ward, and Andrew Foster-Williams.
  • Lyric FM - Opera Ireland's production of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa with Valeri Alexeev and Sinead Mulhern.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Drottningholm, Monteverdi's L'Incorinazione de Poppea, with Ingela Bohlin, Charlotte Hellekant, Matilda Paulsson, Christopher Ainslie, Lars Arvidson, Malin Christensson, Rickard Söderberg, Thomas Walker, Lars Johansson Brissman, Johan Christensson and Daniel Carlsson, conducted by Mark Tatlow.
  • Dwojke Polskie Radio - From Aix-en-Provence, a July 20 performance of Offenbach's Orpheus aux Enfers, with Pauline Courtin, Julien Behr, Mathias Vidal, Vincent Deliau, Marie Gautrot, Jérôme Billy, Paul Cremazy, Emmanuelle de Negri, Soula Parassidis, Marie Kalinine, Estelle Kaique and Sabine Revault d'Allonnes, conducted by Alain Altinoglu.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From Teatro San Carlo in Naples, an April 23 performance of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, with Peter Simonischek, Jane Archibald, Valentina Farcas, Yi Jie Shi, Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke Kristinn Sigmundsson and Giulio Barbato, conducted by Jeffrey Tate.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera on a one week delay: From Houston Grand Opera, Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, with Lisa Saffer, Hector Vasquez, Jennifer Root, Ekaterina Gorlova, Fiona Murphy, Meredith F. Flores, Alina Slavik, Jon Kolbet, Allan Lawrence, Maria Markina, Laurie Lester, Rebeka Camm, Albina Shagimuratova, Alicia Gianni, Ryan McKinny, Bradley Garvin, Beau Gibson, Liam Bonner and Tamara Wilson, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) - A double bill: From Göttingen Handel Festival, Handel's Acis and Galatea (arr Mendelssohn), with Julia Kleiter, Christoph Prégardien, Michael Slattery and Wolf Friedrich, conducted by Nicholas McGegan; and from the Baltic Sea Festival, Janacek's From the House of the Dead, with Esa Ruuttunen, Robert Künzli, Tuomas Katajala, Gabriel Suovanen, Dan Karlström, Jussi Myllys, Petri Bäckström, Anna Danik and Hannu Niemelä, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - From Göttingen Handel Festival, Handel's Acis and Galatea (arr Mendelssohn), with Julia Kleiter, Christoph Prégardien, Michael Slattery and Wolf Friedrich, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
Happy listening . . . .

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

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

Just getting under way or about to start:

  • Bayern 4, MDR Figaro, NDR Kultur & RBB Kulturradio - From the International Handel Festival in Göttingen, a May 26th performance of Handel's Admeto, with Tim Mead, Marie Arnet, Kirsten Blaise, Andrew Radley, David Bates, William Berger and Wolf Matthias Friedrich, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
  • CBC Two - From Vlaamse Opera, a February 13th performance of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa, with Nikolai Putilin, Mikhail Kit, Tatiana Pavlovska, Leandra Overmann, Viktor Lutsiuk, and Milcho Borovinov, conducted by Dmitri Jurowski.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - Live from Kurhaus Bad Wildbad, Vaccaj's La sposa di Messina, with Jessica Pratt, Filippo Adami, Armando Ariostini, Jessica Pratt, Filippo Adami, Pietro Terranova, Wakako Ono and Maurizio Lo Piccolo, conducted by Antonio Fogliani.
  • DR P2 - From Beaune, a july 4th performance of Handel's Ariodante, with Karina Gauvin, Daniel Taaylor, Yaël Azzaretti, Andrew Kennedy and Sergio Foresti, conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli.
  • Espace 2 - From London, Proms 2, Haydn's Creation, with Sophie Bevan, Mark Padmore, Neal Davies and Peter Harvey, conducted by Paul McCreesh.
  • Espace Musique - From Montpellier, Betin's La Esmeralda, with Maya Boog, Manuel Nunez Camelino, Francesco Ellero d'Artegna, Frédéric Antoun, Yves Saelens, Eugénie Danglade, Éric Huchet, Evgeny Alexeiev, Marc Mazuir, Marie-France Gascard, Sherri Sassoon-Deshler, Alexandra Dauphin-Heiser and Gundars Dzilums, conducted by Lawrence Foster.
  • KBYU - From Utah Opera, a 2008 performance of Puccini's Manon Lescaut, with Irina Rindzuner, Marcos Aguiar, Alvaro Rodriguez and Bojan Knezevic, conducted by Barbara Day Turner.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From Opéra Royal de Wallonie, an April 30th performance of Auber's Fra Diavolo, with K. Tarver, S. Jo, D. Lamprecht, M. Molomo, A. Figueroa, V. Pavesi, T. Dolié and T. Morris, conducted by J. C. Malgoire.
  • RTP Antena 2 - From Teatro Rococó de Schwetzingen, an April 25, 2008 performance of Steffani's Niobe, with Maria Bengtsson, Ana Maria Labin, Delphine Galou, Peter Kennel, Pascal Bertin, Jacek Laszckowski, Lothar Odinius, Tobias Scharfenberger and Matjaz Robavs, conducted by Thomas Hengelbrock.
  • WETA - From Washington National Opera, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, with Samuel Ramey and Denyce Grasves, conducted by Giovanni Reggioli.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From Los Angeles Opera, Wagner's Die Walkure, with Plácido Domingo, Anja Kampe, Eric Halfvarson, Vitalij Kowaljow, Linda Watson, Michelle DeYoung, Ellie Dehn, Susan Foster, Erica Brookhyser, Ronnita Miller, Melissa Citro, Buffy Baggott, Jane Gilbert and Margaret Thompson, conducted by James Conlon.
  • XLNC1 - From Los Angeles Opera, another chance to hear Wagner's Das Rheingold, with Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, Beth Clayton, Gordon Hawkins, Michelle DeYoung, Vitalij Kowaljow, Ellie Dehn, Morris Robinson, Eric Halfvarson, Beau Gibson, Wayne Tigges, Arnold Bezuyen, Graham Clark and Jill Grove, conducted by James Conlon.

More to come...stay tuned.

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, June 20, 2009

Here's today's live lineup:

  • BBC Radio 3 - From the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, a double bill: Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, with Sarah Connolly, Lucy Crowe, Lucas Meacham, Anita Watson, Sara Fulgoni, Eri Nakamura, Pumeza Matshikiza, Iestyn Davies and Ji-Min Park; and Handel's Acis and Galatea, with Charles Workman, Danielle de Niese, Paul Agnew, Ji-Min Park, Matthew Rose, Juliet Schiemann and Philip Bell, both conducted by Christopher Hogwood.
  • CBC Two - From Vancouver Opera, a May 2009 performance of Strauss's Salome, with Mlada Khudoley, Greer Grimsley, John Mac Master and Judith Forst, conducted by Jonathan Darlington, followed by an interview with Dame Gwyneth Jones.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci, a live performance from the Schlosstheater Neues Palais of Haydn's Philemon und Baucis, with Lothar Odinius, Ruth Sandhoff, Ruby Hughes, and Magnus Staveland, conducted by Gary Cooper.
  • DR P2 - From Deutsche Oper and April 9th performance of Respighi's Marie Victoire, with Takesha Meshé, Markus Brück, German Villar and Jaco Huijpen, conducted by Michail Jurowski.
  • Dwojke Polskie Radio & WETA- From Flemish Opera in Antwerp a February 13 performance of Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa, with Nikolai Putilin, Mikhail Kit, Leandra Overmann, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Viktor Lutsiuk, Milcho Borovinov and Thorsten Büttner, conducted by Dimitri Jurowski.
  • Espace Musique - From La Scla in Milan, Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with David Daniels, Rosemary Joshua, Emil Wolk, Daniel Okulitch, Natacha Petrinsky, Gordon Gietz, David Adam Moore, Deanne Meek, Erin Wall and Matthew Rose, conducted by Andrew Davis.
  • France Musique - From Opéra de Lyon a January 27 performance of Prokofiev's The Gambler, with Misha Didyk, Kristine Opolais, Alexander Teliga, Marianna Tarasova, Maria Gortsevskaja, Francesco Lorenz and Andrew Schroeder, conducted by Kazushi Ono.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From Nationale Reisopera, Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, with Sophie Daneman, Paul Agnew, Eugénie Warnier, Maarten Koningsberger and Frans Fiselier, conducted by Jed Wentz.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From la Salle Métropole in Lausanne, a March 8 performance of Handel's Faramondo, with M. Emanuel Cencic, S. Karthäuser, M. de Liso, I. S. Sim, P. Jaroussky, X. Sábata, F. Bettini and J. Ebert, conducted by D. Fasolis.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From Lyric Opera of Chicago, Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, with Deborah Voigt, Tristan - Clifton Forbis, Brangäne - Petra Lang, Kurwenal - Jason Stearns and Stephen Milling, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
  • XLNC1 & KING - From Lyric Opera of Chicago, Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, with Nicole Cabell, Nathan Gunn, Eric Cutler and Christian Van Horn, conducted by John Mauceri.
  • KUSC - From Los Angeles Opera, Wagner's Die Walküre, with Placido Domingo, Michelle DeYoung, Linda Watson, Vitalij Kowaljow, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Eric Halfvarson, Ellie Dehn, Susan Foster, Melissa Citro, Erica Brookhyser, Margaret Thompson, Buffy Baggott, Jane Gilbert and Ronnita Miller, conducted by James Conlon.
  • Bartok Radio - Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, with Marc Laho, Patricia Petibon, Maria Riccarda Wesseling, Rachel Harnisch, Stella Doufexis, Nicolas Cavallier, Eric Huchet, Francisco Vas, Gilles Cachemaille, Bernard Deletré, René Schirrer and Nadine Denize, conducted by Patrick Davin.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Berlioz' Beatrice et Benedict, with Joyce di Donato, Charles Workman, Nicolas Cavallier, Nathalie Manfrino, Jean-Francois Lapointe, Jean-Philippe Laffont and Elodie Mechain, conducted by Sir Colin Davis.
  • Latvia Radio Klasika - From Vienna, a February 8 performance of Bizet's Carmen, with Veselina Kasarova, Jose Cura, Ildebrand d'Archangelo, Geniia Kumeier, conducted by A. Fisher.
  • NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From the Vienna State Opera, Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Alexandru Moisiuc, Ricarda Merbeth, Michael Schade, Roxana Briban, Rene Pape, Boaz Daniel and Michaela Seliger, conducted by Constantinos Carydis.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Vienna State Opera, a June 18 performance of Strauss's Die schweigsame Frau, with Kurt Rydl, Adrian Eröd, Michael Schade and Jane Archibald, conducted by Peter Schneider.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Stockholm, Berwald's Drottningen av Golconda, with Carrie Nilsson, Marianne Öhrn, Ingvar Wixell, Erik Sundquist, Uno Ebrelius and Sven-Erik Jacobsson, conducted by Tor Mann.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Wagner's Der Fliegende Holländer, with Bryn Terfel, Hans Peter König, Anja Kampe, Torsten Kerl, Clare Shearer and John Tessier, conducted by Marc Albrecht.
  • Espace 2 - From l'Opéra de Lausanne, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with Fabio Capitanucci, John Osborn, Sabina Puertolas, Luciano Di Pasquale, Deyan Vatchkov, Isabelle Henriquez, Alexandre Diakoff, Manrico Signorini and Sacha Michon, conducted by Günter
  • Klara - From the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Rossini's Matilde di Shabran, with Aleksandra Kurzak, Vesselina Karasova, Enkelejda Shkosa, Juan Diego Flores, Alfonso Antoniozzi, Mark Beesley, Marco Vinco, Carlo Lepore, and Bryan Secombe, conducted by Carlo Rizzi.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From Teatro San Carlo in Naples, a March 23 performance of Berlioz' La Damnation de Faust, with José Bros, Sonia Ganassi, Erwin Schrott, Maurizio Lo Piccolo, Bernadette Siano, Loredana Conte and Antonello Cossia, conducted by George Pehlivanian.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera on a one week delay - From Teatro dell'Opera in Rome, Gluck's Iphigenie en Aulis, with Krassimira Stoyanova, Alexey Tikhomirov, Avi Klemberg, Ekaterina Gubanova and Beatriz Diaz, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - From Parco della Musica in Rome, Vivaldi's Orlando furioso, with Romina Basso, Manuela Custer,. Sylva Pozzer, Anna Rita Gemmabella, Jordi Domenech, Xavier Sabata and Lorenzo Regazzo, conducted by Andrea Marcon.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) - From Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Handel's Partenope, with Christine Schäfer, Kurt Streit, David Daniels, Patrica Bardon, Florian Boesch and Matthias Rexroth, conducted by Christophe Rousset.

Happy listening,

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Happy hour @ Hunding's Hovel

Sam Shirakawa went to Essen recently to see Wagner's Die Walküre:


WAGNER: DIE WALKÜRE
ESSEN
11 JUNE 2009
[see Video Clip]

The curtain goes up long before the house lights dim. The audience attending Dietrich Hilsdorf’s new production of Die Walküre at Essen’s Aalto Theater has little choice but to contemplate a huge faded reception hall, fungus-stained green paint peeling from the walls and columns. The salle de réception, which doubles as a banquet hall, is designed in the mock-Hellenic style that characterized many bourgeois German mansions in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A few chairs, a long banquet table covered with a white table cloth, and a coal-burning stove are the only noteworthy furnishings. An enclosed staircase leads to an upper floor, and a wide escalier center-stage leads somewhere below. It’s a place that’s notable for its palatial size. The joint has seen better days.

So This is supposed to be Hunding’s hovel?

Yup.

Oh, so that rod with a handle sticking out of the column at stage left is really the sword Nothung!

Yessiree.

And that’s why the stove is so close to the column -- so the flames can light up the sword during Siegmund’s big solo!

In fact, this unit set is going to serve as the environment for all the proceedings that take place during the First Day of The Ring.

In his program note, Hilsdorf explains why he instructed his designer Dieter Richter to create such a room for all the action in Walküre:
“Hunding’s abode distills the essence of the world as the setting for the struggle for power and its loss. Despite changes in physical locale [throughout the opera], the inner setting remains unchanged.”
It’s a fascinating metaphor: A decaying mansion as the setting for power plays that ultimately produce no winners, only losers; its main remaining feature -- a banquet table where deadly deals are served.

Unfortunately, Hilsdorf doesn’t work his fecund conceit out. Once the idea of the idea is set forth, the players are left pretty much on their own -- to sit, stand and move around the banquet table -- sometimes rather awkwardly. For some reason almost everyone is dressed in evening clothes -- the Valkyries in crimson gowns and red Dorothy-in-Oz pumps, Fricka in a blue and white number, custom-tailored for a Cecil Beaton portrait sitting. Brünnhilde is in a party mood in her initial appearance, as she fills goblets of wine while flinging out the high notes of her Brindisi -- i.e. the War Cry. When Wotan puts his errant daughter to sleep, he leaves her slumbering erect at the banquet table, not on it.

A rude awakening awaits this Hilde: She’ll have to do the dishes...

We may never know which detergent Brünnhilde favors because Hilsdorf won’t be supervising next season’s new production of Siegfried. Essen is following the trend set by Stuttgart’s wildly successful Ring Cycle, which assigned each of the four operas to different directors.)

In one of Hilsdorf’s hilarious violations of the text, Sieglinde shows up in the second act very much in the family way. My, how time flies when you’re committing incest! Have the Wälsung Twins managed to elude Hunding, his henchmen, and their dogs for eight months between act one and two? Did they motel hop all that time? Slum with friends? (I thought neither had any.)

Oddly enough, though, the performance I heard on 11 June was spellbinding, owing primarily to Stefan Soltesz’ masterful leadership of a superb cast and orchestra. At age 60, Soltesz is becoming something of a cult figure. He’s well known on podiums throughout Europe, South America, and the Far East, but his appearances in the United States have been spotty. His well-deserved reputation as General Music Director in Essen brings visitors to his performances from far beyond the Ruhr area -- including me. His appearances are always well attended, if not sold out.

His view of The Ring has aroused huge expectations.

From the sound of Walküre, Soltesz is fulfilling those expectations. He served part of his apprenticeship under Karl Böhm, and the much-missed maestro’s influence is unmistakable. Soltesz tends to favor brisk tempos; the drive behind the tempo seems to be ruled more by the exigencies of the moment than a structural vision. At least, that’s how it sounded a few days ago. I’m looking forward to hearing how he takes things at a future performance.

Thomas J. Mayer is one of four Wotans cast for the current run of this production. (The others are Egils Silins (see photos), Terja Stensvold and Almas Svilpa.) Mayer is a bitter and angry Wotan -- bitter at how badly his shady deals have turned out; angry at himself for letting things slip so far and so fast. His fury is all the more alarming as he confronts his favorite errant daughter before her sisters. Through it all, Mayer never resorts to shouting out notes or barking to make a point. It’s clear that he’s heard Thomas Stewart’s recordings of the role at least once, and that by no means is a bad thing.

Idilko Szönyi as Fricka is truly a bad thing for Mayer’s Wotan, as she cooly exploits her diesel middle register to harass her wayward husband into submission. It’s been a while since I’ve heard Fricka sung with such elegant bitchiness.

Catherine Foster’s Brünnhilde could use a bit more shading, but for me, she can do no wrong, after the mini-vaudeville moment she essays, batting out those hellish Bs and Cs way over the Green Monster while, with steady hand, she fills goblets with Zinfandel. The glasses, helas, didn’t shatter. (But can she also rap out the War Cry while juggling a half-dozen raw eggs, and balancing a unicycle perched on a high-wire?)

Jeffrey Dowd sounds better, even more attractive, each time I hear him. He’s narrowed the vibrato in the upper register and deepened his middle and lower voice. His Siegmund is boyish and nervy -- especially effective in “Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater,” but his gestures and movements betray not merely an American Wälsung, but a Ziggy from New York. Not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes a bit of getting used-to.

Marcel Rosca’s Hunding also takes a bit of getting used-to. He’s not nearly as menacing as you might expect from a Hunding, but his svelte bass charms the ear. He may be better suited for Philip or Mephistopheles. In truth, he may be hampered by Hilsdorf's staging: His Hunding is a sappy middler, doomed to fall because of a mess that’s not entirely of his own making.

Now for the major find: I often wonder what Regine must have sounded like before she became Crespin. If a certain Danielle refuses to pack it in for family and security, she stands an excellent chance of becoming Danielle Halbwachs, the Sieglinde to be reckoned with. She’s sympathetic, warm and her immense soprano gains strength and amplitude as it rises above the staff. What she still lacks, though, is interpretive insight; her Wälsung sibling emerges at this point from her head, not from her heart. Despite a second act maternity costume that makes her look as though she’s just shoplifted a honeydew melon, it’s Danielle Halbwachs’ voice, a gorgeous instrument, that lingers in the memory.

No standouts among the Valkyrie Sisters, but they were all up for it.

© Sam H. Shirakawa 2009

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Aural Viagra (or Tristan Redux)

Sam went back to the Cologne Tristan to see if he could catch lightning in a bottle ... he claims to have captured "aural Viagra" instead:

WAGNER: TRISTAN UND ISOLDE
Cologne
8 May 2009

To discover a dream singer before the Great Unwashed is told what to think: It makes all those ho-hum hours of so-so opera-going worthwhile. There’s little else to compare with the thrill of hearing–-to name only a few--Regine Crespin, Jon Vickers, Marilyn Horne, Kiri te Kanawa, René Pape, Juan Diego Flórez before they became big stars. But to discover within a week not one but two turbojet singers who may be destined to join their ranks... that’s aural Viagra!

Recently I reported on finding mezzo-soprano Elena Zhidkova at the Cologne Opera, belting out what I called a “hair-raising” Brangäne. I could hardly believe it, so I returned a few days later to the succeeding performance of Tristan. She took a few dozen bars to really get with the program this time, but she nonetheless confronted me again with a voice that diddles the nerve-endings and invigorates those arcane longings that only a select few larynges can induce.

At this performance, a second discovery: Samuel Youn as Kurwenal. This South Korean bass-baritone, now in his mid-30s, was reportedly one of the few cast members who drew approval at the production’s much maligned premiere two months ago. (I have no doubt, that some readers may well be muttering: You’re only discovering him now? Catch up, Sam,– this guy’s already appeared at Bayreuth in Christoph Schlingensief’s production of Parsifal!. To which, I with abject contrition can only reply: Silly me, who could possibly forget that fabulous Second Knight on the radio four years ago...?)

Youn’s curriculum vitae shows that he’s been around and around, and he’s used his time profitably in honing his voice into a force to be reckoned with. It’s big, bright and it lingers in the ear -- a baritone with a distinctive vocal (and stage) profile. Unfortunately, Wagner gives Kurwenal only one real crack at taking command of the stage, but Youn made the most of it on this occasion in his third act duologue with Tristan.

The Cologne Opera has in Youn and Zhidkova a pair of powerhouse vocalists, and its beleaguered management should make sure it doesn't miss a golden opportunity to market their respective and combined merits. Here’s a proposal for the suits to consider: Cast Zhidkova as Dalilah in the current dropout-ridden new production of Samson, whose scandals are making it fodder for ridicule. Nobody will give a damn about the production if she’s on stage. (If she hasn’t learned the role yet, lock her in a rehearsal room with a coach or just have her sing it from the vocal score.) Mount Rigoletto and Il Tabarro for Youn. Recast Barbiere and revive Don Carlo for them both. Top line them in a Germany's Got Talent monster benefit concert. If you don’t do it now, somebody else soon will...

Two other noteworthy cast changes at this performance: Barbara Schneider-Hofstetter as Isolde and Mischa Schelomianski as King Mark. I first heard Schneider-Hofstetter as Minnie about seven years ago in Wiesbaden, when big plans for her were being hatched. A number of them have materialised. The voice has also grown in the interim – large enough to give Zhidkova a breath-baiting sprint for the money. Their first and second act exchanges raised the decibel level way into the red zone -- unusually exciting Can Belto -- more commonly heard on Pasta Nights. In its current estate, Hofstetter's soprano is evenly distributed and brightens metallically under pressure. She also possesses two pigments that complete the picture Gabriella Schnaut tried with variable success to paint: a pair of secure, well-placed and sustained high-Cs. (In fact, Gabi could manage neither top C convincingly, when she visited Cologne with Siegfried Jerusalem in Gunter Kramer's laser-lousy production a couple of years ago.)

If the audience applause level at the curtain calls was any indication, Schelomianski is a house favorite. He has a rich, compelling sound, but I would have welcomed a more plaintive articulation of King Mark’s self-pity.

Robert Gambill’s Tristan was in far better form that in his previous performance. His top, especially in the third act, seemed freer and more luminous than it was five days earlier. In fact, Gambill enacts the role more effectively than a couple of better known Tristans, who have appeared at the Met lately.

Some ragged entrances and intonation issues – an oboe was at one point markedly out of tune in the third act – diminished the otherwise grand sweep of the orchestral playing somewhat, but the Cologne Opera’s music director Markus Stenz maintained the impression he initially gave me of a master Wagner conductor well into the making.

© Sam H. Shirakawa

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