Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gatti, Antonacci, Lemieux, Reiss & Tutto nel mondo è burla

Daniele Gatti conductor
Mario Martone director

Anthony Michaels-Moore  Falstaff
Anna Caterina Antonacci  Alice Ford
Paolo Fanale  Fenton
Caitlin Hulcup  Meg Page
Chen Reiss  Nannetta
Francesco Ellero d'Artegna  Pistola
Marie-Nicole Lemieux  Mrs Quickly
Jean-François Lapointe  Ford
Raul Gimenez  Dr Cajus
Patrizio Saudelli  Bardolfo

Friday, February 26, 2010

March in Paris...

A selection of good operas & concerts to see in Paris in March 2010.

Deux ailes de l'âme

 Portrait of Berlioz by Gustave Courbet, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
Laquelle des deux puissances peut élever l'homme aux plus sublimes hauteurs, l'amour ou la musique ? ...  C'est un grand problème.  Pourtant il me semble qu'on devrait dire ceci : l'amour ne peut pas donner une idée  de la musique, la musique peut en donner une de l'amour...
Pourquoi séparer l'un de l'autre? Ce sont les deux ailes de l'âme.
Hector Berlioz, Mémoires, 1865

High in Amsterdam - De Nederlandse Opera

New Operatic Season at DNO in Amsterdam:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Béatrice et Bénédict: Yes he can!

Bénédict (Allan Clayton) & Béatrice (Christine Rice) - Photo by Pierre Grosbois

Musical direction  Emmanuel Krivine
Stage direction  Dan Jemmett

Béatrice   Christine Rice
Bénédict   Allan Clayton
Héro    Ailish Tynan
Ursule   Élodie Méchain
Claudio   Edwin Crossley-Mercer
Don Pedro   Jérôme Varnier
Somarone   Michel Trempont
Alberto   Bob Goodie

Béatrice et Bénédict @ Paris' Opéra Comique: The Talented Mr. Jemmett

Will blog tomorrow morning about the tonight's premiere of Béatrice et Bénédict. In 2 lines: Very very pleasant show, especially because of the intelligence of Dan Jemmett's production. The actors/singers are all very good.
Even though this is not very difficult to sing, it's hard to keep the delicacy of both Shakespeare and Berlioz and that strange delicacy was present out there tonight.

Dan Jemmett [with hat] and next to him 
wonderful Christine Rice and Allan Clayton

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Paris Ring - Countdown

The Paris Ring will officially start with the premiere of Das Rheingold on March 4, 2010. There will be 8 shows of the prologue-opera in March, followed by 9 shows of Die Walküre, which will open on May 30. The two remaining operas will be presented in 2011.

This better be a success because this season at the Paris Opera was quite bad so far -- with an exception of the wonderfully sung Werther. There were several excellent shows in Paris but they were all presented either at the Opéra Comique, or Châtelet or even at Théâtre des Champs Elysées, but not at the main Opera Houses (Bastille and Garnier). 

It is of course hard to predict anything about this Ring, but on the paper it looks very good to me: the cast is strong enough, the conductor is extremely good, Philippe Jordan, and hopefully the director Günter Krämer will come up with an interesting concept.

In a relatively long interview --published in the Paris Opera magazine "En Scène!"-- he [G. Krämer] gives a few hints...

New/"New" at the Met

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bayreuth 2010

An hour ago the Opera Festival in Bayreuth web site announced the full cast for this year's festival

Ariadne auf Strasbourg

Opéra National du Rhin (ONR) in Strasbourg, February 20, 2010

Director André Engel
Conductor Daniel Klajner

The prima donna/Ariadne Christiane Libor
Zerbinetta Julia Novikova
The Composer Angélique Noldus
The tenor / Bacchus Michael Putsch
Harlequin Thomas Oliemans
Scaramouccio Xin Wang
Truffaldino Andrey Zemskov
Brighella Enrico Casari
Naiad Anaïs Mahikian
Dryad Eve-Maud Hubeaux
Echo Anneke Luyten

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Francesco Meli and Isabel Leonard not coming to Paris Opera

And so I've been waiting for Isabel Leonard to come and sing in Paris next month, and I realize only now that she canceled her Rosina in the second run of Il Barbiere at Opéra Bastille :(

We also learned that Francesco Meli pulled our from the new production of La Donna del Lago which will open next June in Paris. As much as I'm sorry not to see him singing in Paris, I am glad he realized that this role was too big for him right now. He's one of the best young tenors and I prefer to see him enlarging his repertoire gradually.   Colin Lee will be singing the role of Rodrigo instead [listen to him here].

Julia Novikova & Christiane Libor auf Naxos

Greetings from Strasbourg where we go tonight to see the last show of the new André Engel's production of Ariadne auf Naxos with two SUPERB singers, namely Julia Novikova [saw her recently in Rigoletto at the Komische Oper Berlin -- magnificent Gilda], and Christiane Libor [one of the top promising wagnerian sopranos, who we loved in Die Feen last year at Châtelet in Paris]. Engel is either good or not-good -- it's rarely in between, so I'm hoping for the best...

Here is one pic from this production [lifted from the ONR website]
in which you can see Libor (Ariadne in red) and Novikova (Zerbinetta in black).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Secco, Radvanovsky, D'Intino and Tézier for a knockout singing in Don Carlo

Opéra National de Paris (Bastille), Wed February 17, 2010

Graham Vick Stage director
Carlo Rizzi Conductor
Giacomo Prestia King Philipp II.
Stefano Secco Don Carlo
Ludovic Tézier Rodrigo, marchese di Posa
Victor Von Halem Il Grande Inquisitore
Balint Szabo Un Frate
Sondra Radvanovsky Elisabetta di Valois
Luciana D’Intino La Principessa Eboli
Jason Bridges Il Conte di Lerma

La Sonnambula cancelled after intermission...

A coup de théâtre at Opera Bastille tonight. The infamous intendant of the Paris Opera "forgot" to make sure a cover singer for Amina was ready to replace Natalie Dessay in case she was unable to finish the show. It was relatively easy to predict that possibility as Natalie was already suffering from pharyngitis and was even unsure to sing on the night of the premiere...

And so tonight La Dessay turned completely voiceless during the intermission and --since there was no singer to replace her-- the management had to cancel the rest of the show tonight.
The crowd apparently shocked became also pi**ed when they learned that they wouldn't be even partly refunded...

 A pic from La Sonnambula in Paris

Dessay was to finish this Sonnambula (tonight + two more shows), and then fly to New York where she's supposed to sing Ophélie in Hamlet next month.

We always feel sorry for the singers running in this kind of troubles and wish Natalie a quick recovery. As for Mr.Nicolas Joel, the ONP intendant...

Update 1: Dessay cancels her last two shows in Paris. She will be replaced by Íride Martínez.

Update 2: No refund but for those who had tickets for the night of the truncated Sonnambula, ONP offers 50% discount on the tickets for one of the two concerts scheduled at the Paris Opera this spring. Those who had the most expensive tics will have an extra choice --> 30% off for a seat in the same price-category for either Billy Budd or The Cunning Little Vixen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Opéra Comique: In Love with Shakespeare

Remember the Shakespearean semi-opera by Purcell, The Fairy Queen, that I've been raving about?   Good news is that it has been recorded in Glyndebourne and will soon be released on DVD.  For your ears only, the France Musique radio recorded it in Paris [Opéra Comique, January 19 2010] and it is available (for free) on their website until March 15 ;)

Opéra Comique's love with Shakespeare continues, and already next week they will premiere the new production of Berlioz's  Béatrice et Bénédict [based on Much Ado About Nothing]. The director is  Dan Jemmett, a Brit who lives and works in Paris. Here is a short promotional video:

I especially expect my 2 young favs to do well: Allan Clayton, a Brit who bursts with talent & whom we saw last year in Opéra Comique as a brilliant Albert Herring; and Edwin Crossley-Mercer, a guy with an English-Irish name and sorta Anderson Cooper-ish look but who's actually French and sings wonderfully! Add to that Christine Rice who must be very good as Béatrice, and the show has all ingredients to be a success. That's how it looks when you prepare the new production with care... I'm telling you, Opéra Comique is in love with Shakespeare!

Yours Truly will of course be at the premiere [February 24]  ;)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More from Amsterdam...

OK the city of Rembrandt is the city of everything you could dream to see/experience when you're very young -- Sigh! :) When you're a bit older you either become freaky or you observe it for a couple of days and say -- not for me any more... Besides the Opera house, you can visit its 2 art museums, or simply walk along the canals and enjoy its very charming architecture...

Le Vaisseau fantôme d'une confrontation sociale (2)

This was maybe the first opera in which Wagner announced his approach to composing, to structuring the musical language in such a way that it supports the flow of the dramatic action [instead of interrupting it by the occasional arias]. This opera is still far from what Wagner would make later, but here you can already see a clear distinction from what's been done before him.

The smartest element in the libretto of The Flying Dutchman is its ambiguity that allows countless interpretations, and as many ways to keep this opera in life in theaters (is it about the Dutchman?, or about Senta?; is the Dutchman real?, or he's just a product of fertile imagination?...) Martin Kusej goes a step beyond and stresses the role of Erik much more than the other directors did/do.

Kusej exhibits his cold way to depict the "naked truth" (always with a white background to emphasize the contrasts), and his well-known "cruelty" to push his interpretation of the libretto farther than necessary. In the process he often goes against the expectations of typical operatic audience, i.e. there is no happy-ending nor you leave the show filled with optimism. His work forces you to think rather than dream.

In a sense his show was telling the audience that they are being insensitive [self-centered] and borderline obnoxious, which is why I found the joyful applause at the end quite incongruent. [Apparently he was booed at the premiere ---> a far more conceivable reaction, if you ask me :-)]

Barenboim's Chopin-izer

Two more concerts by Barenboim in front of the packed audience of la salle Pleyel in Paris. This time the eternal wunderkind was alone --without his Staatskapelle-- and gave us two beautiful piano performances of the all-Chopin program, which was also his way to mark 2010, The Year of Chopin.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Der fliegende Holländer in Amsterdam (1)

Director Martin Kusej
Conductor Hartmut Haenchen

Daland Robert Loyd
Senta Catherine Naglestad
Erik Marco Jentzsch
Mary Marina Prudenskaja
Der Holländer Juha Uusitalo

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's day!

It's one of those days when you go to Ladurée to buy a box of Macarons (not macaroons!)...


Friday, February 12, 2010

Kusej kills the Dutchman in Amsterdam. And Senta too!

What a show! What a sensational show!

You may wish to see the pics from the DNO web site, but you need the underlying story too -- which I'll try and bring to you tomorrow evening (hopefully).

Kusej definitely delivers his best when premiering his productions in Amsterdam. It's clever, it's positively "ambiguous", and although the finale is rather depressing this is just good theater (opera or not!) He modified the [poor] ending of the libretto and his Erik kills both Senta and the Hollander. ;)

The chorus was very good and  Maestro Haenchen confirms once again that he's got Wagner's music in his fingers. Juha Uusitalo and Catherine Naglestad were mind-blowing as Hollander and Senta. Towards the end you could feel your jaw dropping as the intensity of their singing was  progressing (!!!) After 2 hours of unbelievably strong singing, they had enough gas to add extra power to their extraordinary performance... Standing Ovations totally deserved!

Andrea Chenier to hit Madrid too [we commiserate]

I just realized that Teatro Real will premiere this Saturday the history biggest dust-in-the-eyes-production of Andrea Chenier, a.k.a. poo-poor taste verismo. The only interesting detail about this production is that it counts ~180 wigs  and ~300 very kitchy costumes,  the purpose of which is completely unrelated to any of the clumsily staged dramatic action.


The same show was killing the Paris Opera in December 2009, and received the famously accurate review in FT which explicitly mentions the director's staggering incompetence and bad taste.
Especially the finale leaves you speechless!

No, it's not about the premiere of Don Carlo - it's about Teodor Currentzis

Last night in Paris was premiered the revival of the Graham Vick's production of Don Carlo. I didn't go but I of course will. I liked this show very much in 2008 when a highly polarizing figure was the young conductor - Teodor Currentzis. Many people disliked him instantly because of his peculiar style, but we were as many who immediately recognized his passion, and saw a wonderful musician behind his peculiar style.

I already mentioned him in the post about the first ever production of Wozzeck in Moscow.

Yes, you guessed it right: he is Greek living in Russia. Other details: he's 37; he is very much appreciated in Russia; he was Temirkanov's assistant who now calls him a genius...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Idomeneo drowns in La Seine

In Paris, at Palais Garnier, we have yet another rerun of Idomeneo, the same Luc Bondi's production seen many times over the past 5 years on the stages in Milan, Madrid and in Paris.

More specifically, in Paris we saw it last year (!), but Nicolas Joel --the new unfortunate intendant of the Paris Opera-- insisted to program the very same production this year again. The only rational explanation for such an irrational decision is that he wanted to show how he can bring a better show to Garnier than his predecessor (Gerard Mortier). And so he announced Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko to sing, Emmanuelle Haïm to conduct, which made many aficionados rush to subscribe for the 2009-2010 Season at the Paris Opera: safe way to score the tickets for Idomeneo before the box-office opened... However,  several months before the premiere the two super-stars cancelled their appearance and the whole Nicolas Joel's vanity show turned into a nightmare:

Philippe Hui    Conductor
Luc Bondy    Stage Director

Charles Workman Idomeneo
Vesselina Kasarova Idamante
Isabel Bayrakdarian Ilia
Tamar Iveri Elettra
Lothar Odinius Arbace
Xavier Mas Gran Sacerdote di Nettuno

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Arte's keeping it COOOOL! Jurowski

The World's best TV (Arte, of course!) continues with its wonderful web supplements. Not only can you still watch the K und K version of Werther for free,  you can also catch up with concerts you had to skip.

The other night a part of me wanted to be at the TCE (Théatre des Champs-Elysées) for the evening of Beethoven Symphonies with The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, lead by their ginormously talented young [37] conductor Vladimir Jurowski. But since there was Daniele Gatti and a Mahler night at the Théâtre du Châtelet it was obviously impossible for me to attend both concerts.

Suprise-surprise! Arte recorded the live webcast of the concert at TCE and it is available on their website. How COOL is that!? Makes you feel like a Schrödinger cat for one night. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No broadcast of Giulio Cesare from Pleyel... New CD(s)

I am not a Cecilia Bartoli fan. Too much humming and winking is not my thing. Plus that morbid CD in which she included a detailed (>100 pg) notice about the tools which had been used to castrate young boys (I wonder who reads that in her/his spare time...) No thanks!

In any case  she will be the biggest star in the tonight's concert version of Giulio Cesare at Pleyel. This is the first of 3 concerts with a very starry cast: Bartoli, Scholl, Stutzmann, Jaroussky, Dumaux + Les Arts Florissants. Yours Truly called Pleyel to double check whether or not they planned any form of broadcasting (radio, video...) of any of the 3 concerts -- and the answer is NO! Instead, the concert will be recorded and released on CD, later this year.

The other CD you might be interested in is released by the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées (TCE). Last May the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Seiji Ozawa,  accompanied Renée Fleming in the first ever performance of "Le Temps l'Horloge", songs composed by Henri Dutilleux (exclusively for la Renae).  Notice that this CD can be ordered ONLY from TCE (click on "Nouveau CD") - which is why I'm posting about it here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Barenboim et Staatskapelle-Berlin triomphent à Paris

Three concerts of the phenomenal Staatskapelle-Berlin and their big boss, Saint Daniel Barenboim just finished last night and it was excellent as I expected it to be - and more.

If I had to single one artist  who I totally admire, then that would be Barenboim. That man is a performer, he's an extraordinary musician, and one of the best living conductors. Never Tristan sounds as good as with Barenboim, and he does it again and again.

After their run in London this wonderful orchestra [founded in 1742 = one of the oldest in Germany]  came to Paris to deliver a disturbingly excellent series of three concerts in which they presented 5 Piano Concertos by Beethoven and the orchestral pieces by Schönberg [please see Boulezian and Intermezzo for details of the London concerts]

After the concert last night I felt I lived a special evening, one of those when you could tell there was a moment in which the performance crossed the threshold of perfection and the music's let you in an extra dimension.  That happens sometimes with Jansons and his orchestra, but this was the first time it happened to me with Barenboim and Staatskapelle with the program which did not include Tristan und Isolde. In such a state of exultation, only 300m from the concert hall (Salle Pleyel), I saw this glorious picture of l'Arc de Triomphe [pic above] and thought it was a perfect fit for that Sunday evening.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday in Brussels...

Sunday in Brussels was not ONLY about Elektra. In pictures...

Everybody visits La Grand-Place, but seriously - when you're there you  need to check out the Godiva chocolate shop: they make all those sweet devils in front of you. [ Let me see you resist that temptation! ]
OK, you buy a few boxes of their divine chocolate, then you must go to  Café Terrace (w/o leaving La Grand-Place!), to order and taste Strawberry-Banana Gaufre (they add chocolate and ice-cream anyway), plus a cappuccino and you'll cry about your diet on Monday :)

¿Qué pasa en otra parte?

I've been enjoying immensely the Barenboim concerts with his Staatskapelle these days at Pleyel. Today is the 3rd out of 5.

Meanwhile, great things are happening on the European Operatic Stages...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Wo bleibt Elektra? In Brüssel

I finally got to see the much-talked-about production of Elektra at La Monnaie/De Munt, last Sunday (January 31). Elektra is my favorite Strauss' opera and one of my favorite operas in general. Every year I try to see it at least once. Last year I saw both productions in Berlin, of which the magnificent conducting by Kazushi Ono will stay with me for good many years... But this entry is about Elektra bruxelloise. Here is the pic of the Royal theater of La Monnaie:

music direction  Lothar Koenigs
direction Guy Joosten

Klytämnestra Natascha Petrinsky
Elektra Nadine Secunde
Chrysothemis Annalena Persson
Orest Gerd Grochowski
Aegisth Donald Kaasch

Friday, February 5, 2010

Maestro Gatti does what Mahler did 100 years ago

Last night was a positively crazy musical night in Paris. Look at this:
  • the last show of this memorable Werther, with Kaufmann and Koch rocking la Bastille again
  • Théatre des Champs-Elysées hosted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment lead by Vladimir Jurowski to perform the Beethoven's Symphonies 4 & 7
  • Pleyel was singing with Philippe Jaroussky and Orchestre de Paris (I bet this is the material for his next CD)
  • Garnier Opera hosted the Luc Bondy production of Idomeneo with Kasarova, Workman, Iveri...
  • Salle Gaveau organized the baroque concert with Ensemble Orfeo 55 and Nathalie Stutzmann
  • in Théâtre du Châtelet maestro Daniele Gatti (our fav) was conducting the Orchestre national de France -- the Symphony #2 by Mahler, a.k.a. the Resurrection [which is where I decided to go ;)]
Conductor Daniele Gatti
Soprano Camilla Tilling
Contralto  Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Orchestre National de France
Radio France Chorus

I thought the theater would not be that packed -- because of so many events  happening in Paris [and it was a Thursday-night], but I obviously underestimated the intensity of the Mahler-mania among Parisians ;) Even the staircases were crowded with people (many of them very-very young!).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

La Cenerentola @ Théatre des Champs-Elysées

Michael Güttler, conductor
Irina Brook, director

Antonino Siragusa, Don Ramiro
Stéphane Degout, Dandini
Pietro Spagnoli, Don Magnifico
Carla Di Censo, Clorinda
Nidia Palacios, Tisbe
Vivica Genaux, Angelina
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo, Alidoro

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Brilliant production of Rienzi in Berlin

What a way to begin 2010! First there was The Fairy Queen which instantly blew me away. Then  K und K (for Koch & Kaufmann) slammed us with unbelievably emotional Werther. Plus I liked the witty way Mussbach brought to life Norma, and finally my dream to see a well-done staged version of Rienzi came true...

As I said it before, this was my first Rienzi ever and I loved it.

Conductor  Sebastian Lang-Lessing
Director Philipp Stölzl
Choir Conductor William Spaulding

Rienzi Torsten Kerl
Irene Camilla Nylund
Steffano Colonna  Ante Jerkunica
Adriano  Kate Aldrich
Paolo Orsini Krzysztof Szumanski
Cardinal Orvieto  Lenus Carlson
Baroncelli  Clemens Bieber
Cecco del Vecchio  Stephen Bronk 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deutsche Oper - The Scent of the Seventies

Before I get back to the MAGNIFICENT production of Rienzi,  I thought I could blog a bit about the Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB).

Monday, February 1, 2010

New Productions in Europe - February 2010

2 major European operatic events in February will take place in Amsterdam and (again) in Berlin.

Martin Kusej directs the new production of Der Fliegende Hollander which opens tonight (February 1) at De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. His Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is to me still the best Amsterdam production ever & I hope this Hollander will live up to expectations. The orchestra will be lead by Hartmut Haenchen (always good in Wagner) and the top notch cast includes Juha Uusitalo (WOW!), Catherine Naglestad, and Marina Prudenskaja (sensational Octavian in the Herheim's production of the Rosenkavalier last December in Stuttgart!)

At Unter den Linden in Berlin, the long awaited Vincent Boussart's production of Agrippina will finally open next Thursday (February 4); lead by maestro René Jacobs the superb cast includes Alexandrina Pendatchanska (our fav), a super-promising soprano Anna Prohaska, Bejun Mehta and the new American mezzo -whom we already like! - in her first big role, Jennifer Rivera.   Some sneak-pics are available on the Kulturradio website [they will broadcast it live next Sunday, February 7 at 7:30 pm (CET)].

Heppnered Lohengrin at Deutsche Oper Berlin

Friday, January 29 2010
Going to Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB), I felt I was lucky to have a ticket for this ausverkauft and very starry night of Lohengrin :

Lohengrin - Ben Heppner
Elsa- Ricarda Merbeth
Ortrud - Waltraud Meier
Telramund - Eike Wilm Schulte
Heinrich - Kristinn Sigmundsson
King's Herals - Anton Keremidtchiev 

Director - Goetz Friedrich
Conductor - Michael Schonwandt

In spite of the very snowy weather, freezing cold and ice on the pavements surrounding DOB, the theater was packed for the opening of the new run of Lohengrin.

Personally I was mostly interested in the DOB chorus, and maestro Michael Schønwandt (whose Copenhagen Ring I tenderly loved), but I think most of the opera-goers were answering to the buzz the PR staff generated about Ben Heppner (many interviews in the daily newspapers; plus huge posters "big voices return to Berlin") and about Waltraud Meier -who doesn't sing that often at DOB- who the Germans simply love.