Saturday, July 25, 2009

Live Offerings - Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bayreuth Festival 2009 starts today with a performance of Tristan und Isolde! Our Bayreuth Page will tell you who is broadcasting which performances.

Also on the boards today is Handel's Theodora from the Salzburg Festival, with Bejun Mehta, Chritine Shafer and Bernarda Fink; another chance to hear the First Night of the Proms; and Iphigenie en Tauride from Rome with Krassimira Stoyanova.

Here's the live lineup:

  • 11 stations - From Bayreuth, the opening night of the 2009 Bayreuth Festival: Tristan und Isolde, with Robert Dean Smith, Iréne Theorin and Robert Holl.
  • Radio 4 Netherlands, Catalunya Musica, Latvia Radio Klasika, Radio Oesterreich International (OE1), and Sveriges Radio P2 - From the Salzburg Festival, Handel's Theodora, with Christine Schäfer, Bejun Mehta, Johannes Martin Kränzle, Joseph Kaiser Bernarda Fink and Ryland Davies, conducted by Ivor Bolton.
  • CBC Two - From Queen of Puddings Music Theater, a February 2009 performance of Rolfes's Ines, with Inês Santos, Giles Tomkins, Shannon Mercer, Thomas Goerz and Elizabeth Turnbull, conducted by Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From Staatstheater Braunschweig, a May 5 performance of Spohr's Der Alchymist, with Bernd Weikl, Moran Abouloff, Jörg Dürrmüller, Jan Zinkler, Susanna Pütters and Mike Garling, conducted by Christian Fröhlich.
  • DR P2 - Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, with Nikolai Shukoff, Anne Margrethe Dahl, Louise Fribo, Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, Hanne Fischer, Kjeld Christoffersen og Bengt-Ola Morgny, conducted by Marc Soustrot.
  • Espace Musique - A double bill: Gluck's Orphée et Eurydice, with Topi Lehtipuu, Maria Riccarda Wesseling and Magali Léger, conducted by Jérôme Rhorer; and Cherubini's Lodoïska, with Sofia Solovivy, Tadeusz Szlenkier, Alexander Kröner, Lionel Lhote, Wojtek Gierlach, Remigiusz Lukomski, Elia Susmanek and Anna Marchwinska (pianos), and Paul Émile Deiber (récitant), conducted by Lukasz Borowicz.
  • RTP Antena 2 - Another chance to hear the Washington National Opera performance of Handel's Tamerlano, with Sarah Coburn, Patricia Bardon, Claudia Huckle, David Daniels, Plácido Domingo and Andrew Foster-Williams, conducted by William Lacey.
  • WETA - From Teatro dell'Opera in Rome, Gluck's Iphigenie en Aulide, with Krassimira Stoyanova, Alexey Tikhomirov, Avi Klemberg, Ekaterina Gubanova and Beatriz Diaz, conducted by Riccardo Muti.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - 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, Daniel Armstrong, Renee Sousa, Rebecca Tomlinson, Ayana Haviv, Nicole Fernandes, Tara Victoria Smith, Adriana Manfredi, Helene Quintana, Amber Erwin and Jennifer Wallace, conducted by James Conlon.
  • XLNC1 - Another chance to hear Wagner's Die Walkure from Los Angeles Opera, with Plácido Domingo, Anja Kampe, Eric Halfvarson, Vitalij Kowaljow, Linda Watson and Michelle DeYoung, conducted by James Conlon.
  • NPR World of Opera - From Washington National Opera, Donizetti's Daughter of the Regiment, with JiYoung Lee, José Bros, Victoria Livengood, Simone Alberghini, Obed Urena, Matthew J. Minor and Madeleine Gray, conducted by Riccardo Frizza.
  • WDAV - NPR World of Opera on a one-week delay: From the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, Haydn's Orlando Paladino, with Henriette Bonde-Hansen, Marcel Reijans, Pietro Spagnoli, Elena Monti, Kenneth Tarver, Nikolay Borchev, Martijn Cornet, Peter Gijsbertsen and Laura Cheric, conducted by Alessandro De Marchi.

Happy listening . . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2009

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

More listings of Live stuff on for this Saturday:

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

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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, July 11, 2009

STill no highloights . . . but in other news. . . .

We haven't posted our usual Saturday highlights here in quite a while, partly because we have been away (when we travel we are on one computer, and then generally with only a slow, dial-up connection). And three weeks ago the hard drive on our laptop died. It took over a week to get a new drive and load everything back onto it. We are again traveling this week, so we did not have time this morning for the highlights posting. But do expect the highlights next week.

In other news, we understand that stagehands at Bayreuth are planning a strike over better wages and overtime (apparently Wolfgang Wagner had cut some sort of sweetheart deal with the union (called the "Verdi" union, can you believe?) to keep wages low and with no overtime payment required. But with Wolfgang gone, all bets are off. We hope things can be resolved before July 25th, when the Bayreuth Festival begins.

Also, Joyce DiDonato has posted all about her onstage accident during her first performance of a run of Barbieres at Covent Garden and subsequent wheelchair performances with a broken leg. She writes wonderfully, so her blog is always worth a read, but this week has been more than a little unusual for her.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Hum Along

Sam Shirakawa was in Cologne last Sunday for the performance of a German operetta thought to have long been lost...

Abraham: Die Blume von Hawaii
Cologne
28 June 2009

Not long into the first act of Die Blume von Hawaii in concert form at the Cologne Philharmonie this past Sunday, I became aware of an unsettling sound. The score calls for some unusual instruments, including two Hawaiian guitars, but the sound resembled... I’m not quite sure what.

Then it struck me. Vast sections of the audience (everybody donning colorful Hawaiian leis) were humming along with the music! The median age among the near-sellout crowd must have been around 90, but everybody stayed awake and paid enthusiastic attention. The work represents in many ways a pair of bookends for many of these spectators: its first appearance took place in 1931, two years before the Nazis banned it as “Degenerate Art,” and its reincarnation happened soon after the war. It was filmed twice. Once before the Nazi takeover and again in 1953 [Editor: There was also an adaptation made for TV in 1971]. It was a big hit in both periods.

Paul Abraham’s operetta was the second of four successive hits he composed between 1930 and 1932 (the others are Viktoria und Ihr Hussar, Ball im Savoy and Die Privatsekretärin, which actually was a film musical). Die Blume von Hawaii, according to many accounts, is a groundbreaking work: Abraham and his librettists Alfred Grünwald and Fritz Löhner-Beda sought to free operetta from the bonds of sentimental waltzes and soapy story lines. In the former, Abraham was largely successful. In the latter, the team stuck to the formula of romantic threads that become entangled, only to get disentangled by the final act finale.

The operetta format was rapidly atrophying by 1931, when Blume von Hawaii, with its mix of South Seas exotica and Continental chic, received its world premiere in Leipzig. What is astounding about this work is the ease with which Abraham integrates musical elements that were new or unusual into the operetta form. Among the requisite waltzes and marches, you also hear foxtrots of varying tempi, the charleston, swing, and, of course, jazz. A lot of English is also evident in the lyrics. And the words -- whether in German, English, or occasionally in French and Italian, utter what all "classic" operetta expresses: nostaligia.

Abraham had to flee Germany after the Nazis seized power and eventually landed in New York. His works meanwhile were banned by the Nazis and his recordings and sheet music were deleted or destroyed. It was believed that the full score to Blume von Hawaii had also met this fate.

Abraham was never able to establish himself in musical circles in the United States and had to be committed to a hospital in 1946, following a mental breakdown. It has also been reported that he was suffering the effects of secondary syphilis. Ten years later, friends and fans in Germany heard about his plight and established a foundation, which enabled him to live out the remaining four years of his life together with his wife, Charlotte, in Hamburg.

Before he fled Berlin, Abraham left the key to a large cabinet with his butler. The chest reportedly contained over 300 manuscripts, including songs for operettas, musicals, cabaret and for specific performers. His butler promptly sold many of the manuscripts to hacks, who shamelessly profited from passing off Abraham’s music under their own names. Years later, it turned out that the documents entrusted to the butler apparently included the autograph score to Blume von Hawaii, which eventually was sold to a private collector, who preserved it among his vast treasury of important musical artifacts.

The autograph, however, was not complete. Two musicologists, Matthias Grimminger and Henning Hagedorn, recently went to work on reconstructing the score, using recordings, films, and hints from other more complete scores by Abraham to flesh it out.

The fruits of their labor of love were produced in a full-scale concert performance in the Cologne Philharmonie on Sunday evening 28 June. To make sure the massive efforts that went into the enterprise don’t disappear, WDR (West Deutsche Rundfunk) produced the concert and recorded it for broadcast on 3 July (on WDR4). Despite some lapses in stylistic matters, the performance is a thrilling achievement, and one worth hearing on internet radio. A significant piece of history, once thought to be lost forever, will be revived.

If you have even a mild interest in operetta, you should listen to this broadcast, so I don’t want to jade you by commenting extensively on the performance, except to point out three performers who were standouts. Two of them are Americans. Puerto Rico born Melba Ramos in the eponymous part is accruing a formidable repertoire as a member of Vienna's Volksoper. She started off as a lyric coloratura, but her voice is darkening while retaining its evenness and dexterity. On Sunday, she displayed the right mix of exotic allure and world-weary sophistication.

Melvin Edmondson as Jim Boy has been living in Germany since the 1980s after racking up credits with Harry Belafonte and on Broadway. His account of the Al Jolson pastiche “Nur ein Jim Boy” (Just a Jim Boy) included a rousing tap-dance routine, which, trust me, was worth the price of admission.

Kay Stieferman was the big surprise. His superb Kurvenal in Wupperthal last month gave no indication of his glamorous way with lighter music. His bright, evenly distributed baritone reminded me of early James Morris.

The others in the sparkling and largely home-grown cast included Dominik Wortig, Stephan Boving, Heike Susanne Daum, Anja Metzger and Boris Leisenheimer.

Rainer Roos, sporting a dazzling white satin dinner jacket, was called in as a last-minute replacement for the originally scheduled conductor, but his command of a score that obviously was new to him suggested that his versatility has more going for it than the biography inserted into the program booklet indicates. Roos has something few up-and-coming conductors have but need: the common touch. He was helped, of course, by the versatile WDR Orchestra and Chorus, whose members seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Purists may sneer at the score as mere show music or salon drivel, but listen closely and you may find that Abraham’s melodies, played so stylishly, are too infectious to be dismissed.

The event in itself proved to induce a bit of nostalgia for me. While the Metropolitan Opera and other performing arts institutions in the United States present broadcasts regularly, the days of weekly concerts as radio and television broadcasts, replete with a host/emcee have long since gone the way of The Voice of Firestone and Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. If you understand a bit of German, by all means tune into the broadcast of Blume von Hawaii on 3 July. The host Winfried Fechner takes you through the operetta’s plot complications between numbers -- just the way Milton Cross, Ben Grauer and other hosts of bygone radio days once did -- but with a good deal more wit and humor. While the WDR no longer has a regular slot for broadcasting live concerts, it still maintains its own symphony orchestra and chorus as NBC and CBS also once did. The classical department of the WDR broadcasts an astonishing variety of live music every week of the year. (In fact, each regional government-sponsored network in Germany has its own orchestra, chorus and broadcast schedule.) How much longer this paradisal policy can continue in the wake of the world-wide economic crisis is a matter few want to think about.

© Sam H. Shirakawa 2009

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