Saturday, April 25, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Part II

Later in the day and into Sunday, a few interesting offerings. Radio Stephansdom offers a rare 1951 live Rheingold . . . Radio Tre (RAI) offers two early '70s live broadcasts of Mozart opera - on Saturday Idomeneo with the likes of Gedda and Norman, and on Sunday Bonisolli singing in La Clemenza di Tito . . . Rebroadcasts (from Down Under) of the Met's La Sonnambula and L'elisir d'amore. More live offerings starting layer on this afternoon and evening:

  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From Teatro Regio in Turin, a 2008 performance of Cherubini's Medea, with Giuseppe Filianoti, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Sara Mingardo, Giovanni Battista Parodi, Cinzia Forte and Diego Matamoros, conducted by Evelino Pido.
  • Espace 2 - From Vlaamse Opera, a February 13th performance of Tchaikovsky Mazeppa, with Nikolai Putilin, Mikhail Kit, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Leandra Overmann, Viktor Lutsiuk, Milcho Borovinov, Vesselin Ivanov, Thorsten Büttner, Choeurs & Orchestre du Vlaamse Opera, Dmitri Jurowski.
  • Klara - From de Munt, Donizetti's Lucia de Lammermoor, with Elena Mosuc, John Osborn, Angelo Veccia, Jean-François Borras, Giorgio Giuseppini, Catherine Keen andR Carlo Bosi, conducted by Julian Reynolds.
  • Radio Stephansdom - a rare pirate recording of a 1951 Rheingold, with Heinz Rehfuss, Fridolin Mosbacher, Albert Kunz, Julius Pölzer, Alois Pernerstorfer, Julius Brombacher, Manfred Jungwirth, Siegfried Tappolet, Inge Borkh, Gerty Wiessner, Waltraut Demmer, Helga Kosta and Frieda Blatter, conducted by Otto Ackermann.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (one week delayed): From Houston Grand Opera, Donizetti's Don Pasquale, with John Del Carlo, Heidi Stober, Norman Reinhardt and Brian Leerhuber, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - in their overnight archival broadcast slot this weekend, two performances of Mozart operas: Idomeneo on Saturday and La Clemenza di Tito on Sunday. On Saturday evening, a February 6, 1971 performance of Idomeneo from Rome, with Nicolai Gedda, Jessye Norman, Heather Harper, Rae Woodland, Andrea Snarski, Antonio Liviero, Franco Pugliese. Due donne cretesi: Elvira Spica and Carla Virgili, conducted by Colin Davis. On Sunday, an October 31st, 1970 performance of La Clemenza di Tito from Rome, with Franco Bonisolli, Janet Coster, Beverly Wolff, Maria Casula, Mietta Sighele and Luigi Roni, conducted by Istvan Kerstez.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - A rebroadcast of the Met's performance of Bellini's La Sonnambula, with Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Flórez and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Evelino Pidò.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) - A rebroadcast of the Met's performance of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore, with Massimo Giordano, Angela Gheorghiu, Franco Vassallo, Ying Huang and Simone Alaimo, conducted by Maurizio Benini.

Happy listening . . . .

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 25, 2009 - Part I

Today is the last of the Met's Matinee Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung, and also the final broadcast of the season from the Met. James Levine was ill on Thursday evening and did not conduct Rheingold, so we hope he is feeling well enough for today's marathon performance (the Met website still lists him).

Many stations in the Met network will start next Saturday with an eight-week series of operas from Lyric Opera of Chicago and other will segue to NPR World of Opera - stay tuned as our Saturday page for next week fills in as we figure out who's airing what...

Here's the rest of today's live lineup:
  • Metropolitan Opera (on numerous stations) - Wagner's Götterdämmerung, with Christian Franz, Iain Paterson, Richard Paul Fink, John Tomlinson, Katarina Dalayman, Margaret Jane Wray, Yvonne Naef, Wendy White, Elizabeth Bishop, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Lisette Oropesa, Kate Lindsey and Tamara Mumford, conducted by James Levine.
  • Dwojkie Polsjie Radio, DR P2, Radio 4 Netherlands, Radio Clasica de Espana & Radio Tre (RAI) - From Teatro Real in Madrid, a performance of Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria, with Christine Rice, Kobie van Rensburg, Cyril Auvity, Sonya Yoncheva, Ed Lyon, Luigi De Donato, Xavier Sabata and Terry Wey, conducted by William Christie.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Aachen, a March 29th performance of Mozart's Lucio Silla, with Juan Tralla, Antonia Bourvé, Iva Danova, Eva Berard, Michaela Maria Mayer and Louis Kim, conducted by Marcus Bosch.
  • France Musique - From Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, with Bernard Richter, Anne-Catherine Gillet, Allyson McHardy, Stéphane Degout, Françoise Masset, Jennifer Holloway, Bruno Calucci, Jaël Azzaretti, Francis Lis, Jérôme Varnier, Emiliano Gonzales Toro, Aurélia Legay, Nicholas Mulroy and Nicolas Letilleux, conducted by Emmanuelle Haïm.
  • KBIA2 - NPR World of Opera: From Washington National Opera, the American Premier of Maw's Sophie's Choice, with Angelika Kirchschlager, Rod Gilfry, Gordon Gietz, Corey Evan Rotz, Clayton Brainerd, Erin Elizabeth Smith and Trevor Scheunemann, conducted by Marin Alsop.
  • Radio Oesterreich International - From the Vienna State Opera, a February 13th performance of Verdi's Stiffelio, with José Cura, Hui He, Anthony Michels-Moore, Gergely Nemeti, Alexandru Moisiuc, Benedikt Kobel and Elisabeth Marin, conducted by Michael Halász.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Berwald Hall in Stockholm, an April 18th concert performance of Torstensson's Expeditionen, with Charlotte Riedijk, Göran Eliasson, Mats Persson and Olle Persson, Niklas Willén.

More to follow in few minutes.....

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Sunday, April 19, 2009


Sam Shirakawa attended the opening performance of this season's run of Siegfried at the Met, on Saturday afternoon/ Here's his squib:


18 APRIL 2009 Season Premiere

Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungs has, in my view, two major inciting incidents. The first takes place in Rheingold, when Alberich curses love and steals the ring. The second incitement happens in the third act of Siegfried, which the Metropolitan Opera mounted for the first time this season at Saturday’s broadcast matinee -- the penultimate installment in the first of three Ring Cycles this season. Wotan’s mortal grandson challenges him at the proverbial crossroad and breaks his spear, thereby ending the god’s control of the world he created.

None of the nine Ring productions I’ve witnessed makes much of the spear-breaking. Except for a lightning flash in some stagings, it’s over in a blink. Wagner doesn't make much of it either: no anguished soliloquies, no Mozartean ensemble numbers, not even a da-da-da-dum from the orchestra to denote Destiny Descending. And yet, it marks the Beginning of The End, for which Wotan longs during his tortured narrative in Day One of the saga. Siegfried is now at liberty to go his merry way and do whatever he wants.

So what’s a liberated, horny teen love-child of an incestuous union to do? Commit incest, of course. And who better to guide him through the ins and outs of banging, than the archetypal Older Woman, namely his equally virginal but knowing great-aunt, Brünnhilde. (We’re not privy to the party that proceeds after the curtain falls on Act Three, but presumably, they know instinctively what goes where, when it comes to doin’ what comes unnaturally.)

Siegfried has occasionally been dubbed the “happy opera” of the Ring Cycle, given it’s flame-throwing dragon, chatty bird, nasty ogres and Sleeping Beauty. But while it has its sanguine moments, it’s really a somber setup for the six-hour tragedy to come in Day Three of the saga.

I’ve often complained that Siegfried has too many men barking at each other for far too long, before we get some feminine ear candy. But thanks to James Levine’s priorities, which places cantilena always at the top, we heard some wonderful singing from the guys bickering and bellowing during the first two acts on Saturday afternoon.

For me, the big pleasure of the afternoon was Christian Franz, making his Met debut as the eponymous hero. I’ve heard him several times over the past couple of years -- mostly in Berlin -- and was little impressed with his tendency to bark out phrases for emphasis, in much the way you expect from the Drum Major in Wozzeck. While he still yelps out some notes, this is essentially an all but reborn Christian. A Heldentenor in the Melchior vein Franz is not, but who is? Nearly always tone-perfect, he managed to maintain the requisite energy for this killer role all the way from the Forging Scene to the exhausting Awakening Duet at the finish.

The second major pleasure of being in the house on Saturday afternoon was hearing and seeing Irene Theorin as Brünnhilde. The role is comparatively small, but its pitfalls are huge, and Theorin avoided them all. Appearing even more radiant than she had looked in Walküre, she soared confidently from strength to strength, making the fitful transition from goddess to woman seemingly effortless. Hers is not a mega-voice, nor is it an emotional button-pusher like, say, Susan Boyle’s. But it shows a telltale sign of emerging major Wagner sopranos: a predisposition for grandly invigorating the dynamics Wagner prescribes. Its grace under pressure and the two bang-on high Cs reminds me of how Gwyneth Jones sounded all too rarely.

The sound of James Morris as Wotan/Wanderer was focused, on pitch and by turns effectively condescending in the Quiz Scene with Mime, cunningly brutish in dealing with Alberich, and just plain desperate in Wotan’s big scene with Erda in the third act.

Robert Brubaker is a bit tall to qualify as a dwarf, but his unctuous way with a whine makes him a memorable Mime. Richard Paul Fink turns Alberich into a fascinating portrait in slime.

It struck me as unfortunate that the role of the Fafner in dragon form (sung off-stage) prevents John Tomlinson from singing on stage. If his days as a top-notch Wotan and Sachs are behind him, he still has plenty of mileage left to portray backbench Wagner heavies.

The much-missed Lili Chookasian spoiled me for anybody else singing Erda, but Wendy White brings a dark, slender imperiousness to her brief appearance scolding Wotan for making a mess of Everything. Lisette Oropesa as the Woodbird sounded as if she had been placed too far off-stage, but the young native of the Big Easy has the right stuff for bigger things to come.

The legendary Wagner conductor Reginald Goodall often said the big challenge in taking on the Ring is finding the right basic tempo. After years of imposing phlegmatic pacing on his readings of late Wagner, James Levine at last has found the right basic tempo that works for him and his listeners. And the relatively brisk pacing he’s taking currently enlivens the tetralogy immeasurably. You can feel the pulse arching over the entire work. There is finally a sense of inevitability in his Ring that makes it Levine’s Ring once and for all.

© Sam H. Shirakawa

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

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

If you missed the start of the Met's Matinee Ring Cycle, you can catch it late this evening on Australian Radio (ABC Classic FM) .... Stephen Gould in Peter Grimes looks like a definite listening possibility .... From Radio Oesterreich International, an interesting-looking cast for Damnation of Faust .... Another chance to hear Rolando Villazon in magnificent form in a late March performance of Werther from Opera Bastille .... Here's the the lineup:

  • Espace 2 - From the Grand-Théâtre in Geneva, an April 9th performance of Britten's Peter Grimes, with Stephen Gould, Gabriele Fontana, Peter Sidhom, Carole Wilson, Julianne Gearhart & Laurence Misonne, Elizabeth Sikora, Michael Howard, Clive Bayley, Adrian Thompson, Daniel Belcher, Simon Kirkbride, Luke Clare-Wrigley and Dominique Dupraz, conducted by Donald Runnicles.
  • KBIA2 - NPR World of Opera: from Houston Grand Opera, Donizetti's Don Pasquale, with John Del Carlo, Heidi Stober, Norman Reinhardt and Brian Leerhuber, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • MDR Figaro - A historic April 9, 1959 broadcast of Handels Poros, with Pietro Metastasio, Günther Leib, Philine Fischer, Margarethe Herzberg, Hellmuth Kaphahn, Werner Enders and Franz Stumpf, conducted by Horst Tanu-Margraf.
  • NRK Klassisk - a rebroadcast of Massenet's Werther from Opera Bastille in Paris, with Rolando Villazon, Susan Graham, Adriana Kucerova, Ludovic Tezier, Christian Jean, and Christian Treguier, conducted by Kent Nagano.
  • Radio Oesterreich International - From Wiener Konzerthaus, an April 2nd concert performance of Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, with Olga Borodina, Ramón Vargas, Ildar Abdrazakov, Ante Jerkunica and Nina Bernsteiner, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From Göteborg Opera, a February 27th performance of Carl Unander-Scharin's Sömnkliniken, with Ann-Christine Larsson, Mats Persson, Karl Rombo, Peter Loguin, Linus Flogell, Susanne Sundberg and Erika Andersson, conducted by Martin Andersson.
  • Klara - From the Vienna State Opera, a performance of Bizet's Carmen, with Vesselina Kasarova, José Cura, Ilderbrando d'Arcangelo, Genia Kühmeier, Janusz Monarcha, Ileana Tonca, Sophie Marilley, Hacik Bayvertian, Clemens Unterreiner and Benedikt Kobel, conducted by Asher Fisch.
  • Latvia Klasika Radio - From Vienna, a September 8, 2008 performance of Verdi's Stiffelio, with José Kura, Hui He and Anthony Michaels-Moore, conducted by Mihaels Halašs.
  • RBB Kulturradio - From Dresden, Handel's oratorio, Jeptha, with Markus Schäfer, Miriam Meyer, Britta Schwarz, Patrick Von Goethem, Gotthold Schwarz, Birte Kulawik, conducted by Matthias Grünert.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (one week delayed): From Bavarian State Opera, Verdi's Macbeth, with Zeljko Lucic, Nadja Michael, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Dimitri Pittas and Fabrizio Mercurio, conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - From the Metropolitan Opera in New York, a rebroadcast of Dvorak's Rusalka, with Renée Fleming, Christine Goerke, Stephanie Blythe, Aleksandrs Antonenko and Kristinn Sigmundsson, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.
  • ABC CLassic FM (Australia) - From the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the start of the Matinee Ring Cycle, Wagner's Das Rheingold, with James Morris, Charles Taylor, Garrett Sorenson, Kim Begley, Yvonne Naef, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Jill Grove, Richard Paul Fink, Gerhard Siegel, Franz-Josef Selig, John Tomlinson, Lisette Oropesa, Kate Lindsey and Tamara Mumford, conducted by James Levine.

Happy listening . . . .

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

Siegfried, the third installment in the Met's Matinee Ring Cycle gets under way at Noon Eastern Time today. More Handel (two different Partenopes to catch). Other offerings of note:

  • France Musique - From Opéra Garnier in Paris,a January 24th performance of Boesmans' Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne, with Dörte Lyssewski, Paul Gay, Mireille Delunsch, Yann Beuron, Victor von Halem, Hannah Esther Minutillo, Jason Bridges and Jean-Luc Ballestra, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.
  • Metropolitan Opera (on numerous stations) - Wagner's Siegfried, with Iréne Theorin, Wendy White, Christian Franz, Robert Brubaker, James Morris, Richard Paul Fink, John Tomlinson and Lisette Oropesa, conducted by James Levine.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - An historic live March 20, 1940 Stockholm Opera performance of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, with Hjördis Schymberg, Helga Görlin, Isa Quensel, Einar Andersson, Hugo Hasslo and Sigurd Björling, conducted by Fritz Busch.
  • Dwojkie Polskie Radio - From the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersberg, a December 20, 2008 performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's Maid of Pskov, with Alexei Tanovitski, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Nikolai Gassiev, Yuri Vorobyev, Pavel Shmulevich, Mikhail Vishnyak, Edem Umerom, Rina Mataeva, Varvara Solovyeva, Ludmila Kanunnikova, Olga Legkova and Andrei Karabanov, conducted by Valery Gergiev.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Mecklenburgisches Staatstheater in Schwerin, an April 9th performance of Flotow's Martha, with Ulrike Maria Maier, Frauke Willimczik, Andreas Lettowsky, Stefan Heibach, Olaf Plassa and Dietmar Unger, conducted by Matthias Foremny.
  • DR P2 - From Copenhagen, an October 11, 2008 performance of Handel's Partenope, with Inger Dam-Jensen, Andreas Scholl, Christophe Dumaux, Tuva Semmingsen, Bo Kristian Jensen and Palle Knudsen, conducted by Lars Ulrik Mortensen.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands - From Nationale Reisopera, a March 28th performance of Beethoven's Fidelio, with Patrick Davin. Roland Wood, Peter Wedd, Lisa Livingstone, Machteld Baumans, Almas Svilpa.
  • Radio Clasica fe Espane - From the Vienna State Opera, a February 22nd performance of Handel's Partenope, with Christine Schäfer, Kurt Streit, David Daniels and Patricia Bardon, conducted by Christophe Rousset.

More to come shortly......

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 11, 2009 - Part III

Still more offerings, starting later on this afternoon:

  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, a March 4th performance of Wagner's Der Fliegende Höllander, with Bryn Terfel, Anja Kampe, Hans-Peter König, Torsten Kerl, Clare Shearer and John Tessier, conducted by Marc Albrecht.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (one week delayed): From the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov, with Alexei Taovitski, Irina Mataeva, Nikolai Gassiev, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Yuri Vorobyev, Mikhail Vishnyak and Varvara Solovyeva, conducted by Valery Gergiev
  • WOMR - On their program after the Met Broadcast is over, catch Anna Russell's Ring Analysis.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - Another chance to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, with Patricia Racette, Maria Zifchak, Marcello Giordani and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Patrick Summers.
  • KWAX - From the 2008 Oregon Bach Festival, a performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with Sibylla Rubens, Ingeborg Danz, Lothar Odinius, Nathan Berg and Michael Nagy, conducted by Helmut Rilling.
  • ABC CLassic FM (Australia) - Another chance to catch the Metropolitan Opera's broadcast of Bellini's La Sonnambula, with Jennifer Black, Jeremy Galyon, Natalie Dessay, Jane Bunnell, Bernard Fitch, Juan Diego Flórez and Michele Pertusi, conducted by Evelino Pidò.

Happy listening . . . .

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Live Offerings - Saturday, April 11, 2009 - Part II

Lots of Handel today - Orlando, Partenope, Acis and Galatea, and Tamerlano....Klara is probably not alone in running a Handel marathon over the next two of three days.

Here's this afternoon's lineup:

  • Bayern 4 Klassik - a 2008 performance of Handel's Acis and Galatea, with Julia Kleiter, Christoph Prégardien, Michael Slattery and Wolf Matthias Friedrich, conducted by Nicholas McGegan.
  • Deutschlanadradio Kultur - From Deutsche Oper in Berlin, an April 9th performance of Respighi's Marie Victoire, with Takesha Meshe Kizart, Markus Brück, German Villar, Stephen Bronk, Jörn Schümann, Simon Pauly, Martina Welschenbach, Gregory Warren, Nicole Piccolomini, Yosep Kang, Anna Fleischer, Stephen Bronk, Krzysztof Szumanski, Nathan Myers, Tomislav Lucic, Thomas Blondelle, Andrew Ashwin and Hyung-Wook Lee, conducted by Michail Jurowski.
  • DR P2 - From the Vienna State Opera, a February 13th performance of Verdi's Stiffelio, with osé Cura, Hui He, Anthony Michaels-Moore and Gergely Németi, conducted by Michael Halász.
  • RAdio 4 Netherlands - From the Royal Opera Covent Garden, Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer, with Hans Peter König, Anja Kampe, Thorsten Kerl and Bryn Terfel, conducted by Marc Albrecht.
  • Sveriges Radio P2 - From last season's Bayreuth's Festival, Wagner's Parsifal, with Detlef Roth, Fujimura, Arnold Bezuyen, Friedemann Röhlig, Julia Borchert, Ulrike Helzel, Clemens Bieber, Timothy Oliver, Julia Borchert, Martina Rüping, Carola Guber, Anna Korondi, Jutta Böhnert, Ulrike Helzel and Altsolo Simone Schröder, conducted by Danielle Gatti.
  • KBIA2 - NPR World of Opera: From Bavarian State Opera, Verdi's Macbeth, with Zeljko Lucic, Nadja Michael, Roberto Scandiuzzi, Dimitri Pittas and Fabrizio Mercurio, conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
  • Klara & Espace 2 - From Theater an der Wien, Handel's Partenope, with Christine Schäfer, Kurt Streit, David Daniels, Patricia Bardon, Florian Boesch and Mattias Rexroth, conducted by Christophe Rousset.
  • Latvia Radio Klasika - A February 5th performance of Handel's Orlando, with Viljams Tovers, Dominika Labelle, Daiana Mu-ra, Suzanna Ri-dena, Volfs Matiass Fridrihs, conducted by Nikolass Makgegans.
  • NRK Klassisk - From Berwald Hall in Stocjholm, a September 28th performance of Haydn's Creation, with Dorothea Röschmann, Mark Padmore, Thomas Quasthoff, conducted Daniel Harding.
  • Radio Oesterreich International - From Washington National Opera, an April 2008 performance of Handel's Tamerlano, with Placido Domingo, David Daniels, Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Claudia Huckle and Andrew Foster-Williams, conducted by William Lacey.
Part III to come....

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Live offerings for Saturday April 11, 2009 - Part 1

The first couple of offerings start at or shortly after Noon Eastern Time:

  • France Musique - From Opéra Bastille in Paris, Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth From Mtsensk, with Vladimir Vaneev, Ludovit Ludha, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Michaël König, Carole Wilson, Alexander Kravets, Lani Poulson, Valentin Jar, Alexander Vassiliev, and Nikita Storojev, conducted by Hartmut Haenchen.
  • Metropolitan Opera (on numerous stations) - Wagner's Die Walküre, with Gary Lehman, John Tomlinson, James Morris, Waltraud Meier, Irene Theorin, Yvonne Naef, Kelly Cae Hogan, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Laura Vlasak Nolen, Jane Bunnell, Claudia Waite, Lann Sandel-Pantaleo, Mary Ann McCormick and Teresa S Herold, conducted by James Levine.

More listing in a few minutes. Stay tuned....

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Lehman in for Botha today

News Flash! Johan Botha is ill and Gary Lehman will be singing Siegmund in this afternoon's Met Broadcast of Die Walküre...

Live offerings to come in a few minutes.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

DIE WÄLKURE - Season Premiere

Sam Shirakawa, peripatetic Wagnerian that he is, was at the opening night of Die Walküre at the Met on Monday night. His squib:

Season Premiere 6 April 2009
Metropolitan Opera

The Muses were in attendance at the Met on Monday night. I never thought “riveting” would be an appropriate way to describe James Levine’s reading of any score, but absent a lapse here and there, his umpteenth traversal of Wagner’s [who else’s?] Die Walküre was indeed riveting. The pacing seemed livelier, the dynamic thrust more propulsive than ever before.

After a briefly tentative start, James Morris sang possibly his finest Wotan at the Met to date. Few veteran singers get to show what they have learned over the years, because their voices give out before they get the chance. Morris is one of the lucky ones. Drawing from a wealth of acquired and innate reserves, he rendered a deeply moving account of an embattled god, forced to sacrifice two of his most beloved children. On Monday, though, his soft and heartbreaking farewell to his love child was overshadowed by the orchestra. Too loud, Jimmy!

The much anticipated curiosity of the evening was the debut of Iréne Theorin, a hastily recruited Brünnhilde, replacing the indisposed Christine Brewer. The Swedish soprano has an ample voice that’s evenly distributed from top to bottom, and she showed no signs of strain in scooping up to those treacherous Bs and Cs in the valkyrie’s signature war cry. What her voice lacks at this point in her young career is a personality that is distinctive and lingers in the ear. Withal, Theorin proved herself an effective actress on her first showing, and she needed no extra makeup to highlight her estimable comeliness.

The same can hardly be said of Jan Botha’s appearance. The stage lights may have been kept on extra low wattage to mask his corpulence. Ah, but the rotund sound of his Siegmund! Think Jon Vickers meets Franz Völker: seductive, sweet and potent. Too bad Wagner kills the Wälsung off at the end of the second act.

Too bad, too, that the composer also kills off Hunding almost at the same moment. Especially when the role is so deftly portrayed by John Tomlinson -- another veteran Wagnerian, who’s made a well-deserved name for himself as Wotan and Sachs over the years. As an acquaintance sagaciously commented during the first intermission, Tomlinson purveys a depth of understanding about the role that makes Hunding far more complex than a brutish cuckold. And it’s not all about the singing, about which: no complaints. The way he listens to Siegmund’s tale of woe and becomes aware that he’s giving hospitality to his arch-enemy; the way he makes his long-suffering trophy wife stand up so that he can sit down.

And speaking of that long-suffering wife, Waltraud Meyer is back again as Sieglinde. I’ve always liked her, but I don’t care for mezzo-Sieglindes. I long for that slightly girlish inflection that real sopranos bring to the role. But Meyer was in full possession of her dark powers on Monday night, and satisfied customers gave her huge ovations.
Yvonne Naef is a cooly bitchy Fricka in her Virginia Woolf encounter with Morris. When she quits the stage with no loss of perspiration, you know it’s Game Over.

The eight Valkyrie Sisters -- all in great shape.

Monday’s cast is set to appear on the broadcast matinee. Theorin will also appear in Siegfried, which is fortunate. But not, apparently, in the broadcast of Götterdämmerung, which is unfortunate.

A sidebar to Monday night’s performance: It was marred by the cacophony of cellphones beeping and jangling throughout the performance. The hall frequently sounded like an intensive care unit. Isn’t it time for a full-page ad opposite the cast listing in the program, telling patrons to shut off? Or maybe the security personnel at the entrances should make it mandatory. Even better, why not create a firewall around the building to prevent incoming calls? If Wotan could do it for Brühnnhilde way back in those pre-digital days of yore, certainly the Met management can do it for its public now.

© Sam Shirakawa

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Emergency announcement!


Ready Hosting has been conducting maintenance all day and has somehow put up out-of-date pages for this week's scheduled offerings! Ready Hosting indicates that we cannot access these faulty pages in order to bring these pages up to date until GMT 0000/EDT 8:00PM this evening (Wednesday evening, EDT)!

There is still time for our users to catch roughly half of

Janacek's Jenufa with Westbroek, Kaiser, Polaski and Dernesch, Kirill Petrenko conducting, on Bayern 4 Klassik;

and a rerun at GMT 2300/EDT 7:00PM this evening of NPR World of Opera's Pskovityanka with Gennady Bezzubenkov in the cast, on WBHM. If you miss this, it will be carried again at GMT 0200/EDT 10:00PM, on KPBX.

Hopefully, Ready Hosting's "guess-timate" of GMT 0000/EDT 8:00PM this evening (Wednesday evening, EDT) as the time when we'll finally have access to our pages -- so we can bring back the updated pages that were already up on line yesterday evening(!!), and that Ready Hosting inadvertently removed in favor of outdated pages today(!!) -- will pan out and not prove to be overly optimistic. If our "out time" does prove longer than that after all, and we cannot re-upload our already updated pages at that time, I will post here with a follow-up of some further programming that we already have listed on our updated pages but that our users can no longer view, because of the outdated pages that Ready Hosting has inadvertently substituted during this maintenance.

Our regrets for the disruption and

Happy listening (we hope),

Geoffrey Riggs

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 4, 2009

Four main items of interest for this afternoon: the Met's L'Elisir d'Amore with Gheorghiu and Giordani; La Monnaie's La Grande Macabre, by Ligeti, with Chris Merritt; from NPR World of Opera comes a Mariinsky Theatre performanc of The Maid of Pskov, with an all-Russian cast, conducted by Gergiev; and from Dwojke Polskie Radio, a recent performance of Werther with Rolando Villazon (who will be returning to the Met's L'Elisir cast this coming week) and Susan Graham. Also, three Met broadcasts from earlier this season are airing again: Il Trovatore with Radvanovsky, Doctor Atomic with Gerald Finley, and Dvorak's Rusalka with Renée Fleming.

  • Radio 4 Netherlands, Musiq3 & Radio Tre (RAI) - From La Monnaie in Brussels, Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre, with Chris Merritt, Frances Bourne, Ilse Eerens and Werner van Mechelen, conducted by Mark Wigglesworth.
  • Metropolitan Opera - Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, with Massimo Giordano, Angela Gheorghiu, Franco Vassallo, Ying Huang and Simone Alaimo, conducted by Maurizio Benini.
  • Dwojke Polskie Radio - From the Opera Bastille in Paris, a March 28th performance of Massenet's Werther, with Rolando Villazon, Alain Vernhes, Susan Graham, Adriana Kucerová, Ludovic Tézier, Christian Jean, Christian Tréguier, Vincent Delhoume and Letitia Singleton, conducted by Kent Nagano.
  • KBIA2 - NPR World of Opera: From Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Rimsky-Korsakov's The Maid of Pskov, with Alexei Taovitski, Irina Mataeva, Nikolai Gassiev, Gennady Bezzubenkov, Yuri Vorobyev, Mikhail Vishnyak and Varvara Solovyeva, conducted by Valery Gergiev.
  • MDR Figaro - From Thomaskirche in Leipzig, a March 21st performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion, with Sally Matthews, Anna Zander, Martin Petzold, Stephan Genz and Egbert Junghanns, Georg Christoph Biller conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomanerchor Leipzig.
  • Klara - From Grand Théâtre in Geneva, a performance of von Weber's Der Freischütz, with Nikolai Schukoff, Alexander Puhrer, Peter Wimberger, Jaco Huijpen, Olga Pasichnyk, Ellie Dehn, Jean Lorrain, Rudolf Rosen, and Feodor Kuznetsov, conducted by John Nelson.
  • Latvia Radio Klasika - Another chance to hear the Metropolitan Opera's November 8, 2008 broadcast of Adams's Doctor Atomic, with Penny Woolcock, Gerald Finley, Sacha Cooke, Meredith Arwady, Richard Paul Fink, Eric Owens, Earle Patriarco, Roger Honeywell and Thomas Glenn, conducted by Alan Gilbert.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera (one week delayed): From Vienna State Opera, Verdi's Stiffelio, with Jose Cura, Hui He, Anthony Micheals-Moore, Gergely Nemeti, Goran Simic, Peter Jelosits and Elisabeth Marin, conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) - Another chance to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Verdi's Il Trovatore, with Sondra Radvanovsky, Dolora Zajick, Marcelo Álvarez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Kwangchul Youn, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda.
  • ABC Classic FM (Australia) - Another chance to hear the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Dvorak's Rusalka, with Renée Fleming, Aleksander Antonenko, Christine Goerke, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Stephanie Blythe, David Won, James Courtney and Kate Lindsey, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.

Happy listening . . . .

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Passion Punch

Sam Shirakawa was at the Met on Tuesday evening for the season premiere of L'elisir d'amore. Here's his squib:


MARCH 31,2009

When the Metropolitan Opera mounts a good production, new or old, there’s nothing like it.

On Tuesday night, the delightful setting of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore by John Copley and Beni Montresor returned to the schedule with Angela Gheorghiu as the village belle Adina and Massimo Giordano stepping in for the ailing Ramon Villazon as Nemorino.

There was little doubt beforehand, that Gheorghiu would succeed. What I found surprising was how well she succeeded. If the reports that she can be a vixen are true, she certainly has channeled that penchant into an irresistibly coquettish Adina. She moves about the stage as if she owns it, interacts both musically and dramatically with her colleagues, as though she’s known them forever, all the while making flawless runs up and down the scale. Thinking back on her glamorous but somehow vague portrayal of Magda in La Rondine earlier this season, she seems infinitely more comfortable as Adina. I for one am dreading her Carmen, set for next season. Don’t do it, love! Don't! If you must do it, have them replace the Card Scene number with “Dunque io son...?” You know-- that thing from The Barber of Seville?

While some critics seemed to miss Villazon on Tuesday -- he’s supposed to be back for future performances -- Giordano proved to be an able deputy. His voice is big bright and flexible, and he too has comedic talent. But a peculiarity in his coloratura technique is worth mentioning: Certain notable sopranos of the past, Leyla Gencer, for instance, may have gotten away with aspirating vowels --- instead of ah-ah-ah-ah (correct), ha-ha-ha-ha. But Giordano sounds as though he’s just hyperventilating. Otherwise, he has the right stuff and delivered an unusually impassioned “Una furtiva lagrima.”

Simone Alaimo meanwhile aspirates a quantum of fun with every word he utters as Dulcamara and with every move he makes. Franco Vassallo embodies an attractive pre-nuptial foil as Sergeant Belcore. Ying Huang sounds like an aspiring big-league Adina.

It’s easy to dismiss any conductor leading L’Elisir as a timekeeper, but Maurizio Benini’s light touch with tempi laced the passion punch with plenty of Asti.

Hard as it may be to believe, the lovely storybook sets by the late Beni Montresor (1926-2001) date from 1991. Some sets at the Met, thankfully, never look outdated.

© Sam H Shirakawa

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