Saturday, April 24, 2010

Live Offerings - Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pick of the litter today seems to be the Metropolitan Opera Tosca with Patricia Racette and Konas Kaufmann, followed by Gluck's Armida with Ewa Podles on Czech Radio and Cavalli's La Calisto with Bejun Mehta. Here's the whole lineup of live offerings for this afternoon:

  • Metropolitan Opera International Broadcast (on numerous stations) - Puccini's Tosca, with Patricia Racette, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel, David Pittsinger, John del Carlo, Eduardo Valdes, Jeffrey Wells, Richard Bernstein and Jonathan Makepeace, conducted by Fabio Luisi.
  • Radio Oesterreich International (OE1) - From the Vienna State Opera, an April 19th and 22nd performance of Bellini's I Puritani, with Désirée Rancatore, Christof Fischesser, José Bros and Mariusz Kwiecien, conducted by Jan Latham-König.
  • Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - Gluck's Armida, with Mireille Delunsch, Laurent Naouri, Charles Workman, Vincent Le Texier, Yann Beuron, Francoise Masset, Nicole Heaston, Valérie Gabail, Ewa Maria Podles, Brett Polegato, Magdalena Kožená, Sandrine Rondot and Myriam Sosson, conducted by Marc Minkowski.
  • Espace 2 - From the Grand Theatre in Geneva, Cavalli's La Calisto, with Sami Luttinen, Bruno Taddia, Anna Kasyan, Bejun Mehta, Christine Rice, Kristen Leich, Kristen Leich, Christine Rice, Fabio Trümpy, Mark Milhofer, Catrin Wyn-Davies, Ludwig Grabmeier, Mariana Florès, Mariana Florès, Dina Husseini, and Matthew Schaw, conducted by Andreas Stoehr.
  • Klara - From the Opera of Lausanne, Rossini's Otello, with John Osborn, Olga Peretyatko, Maxim Mironov, Riccardo Zanellato, Shi Yijie and Isabelle Henriquez, conducted by Corrado Rovaris.
  • Latvia Radio Klasika - From Opera Bastille in Paris, Symanowski's Krol Roger, with Mariušs Kwiecen, Erik Cutler, Olga Pasišcuka and Vojteks Smileks, conducted by Kazuši Ono.
  • Radio Tre (RAI) - From the Grand Theatre in Geneva, a November 9 performance of Chabrier's L'Etoile, with Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, René Schirrer, Jean Doyen, Fabrice Farina, Marie-Claude Chappuis, Sophie Graf, Blandine Staskiewicz and Jérôme Savary, conducted by Jean-Yves Ossonce.
  • KBIA2 & WDAV - NPR World of Opera: From Washington National Opera, Verdi's Rigoletto, with Carlos Alvarez, Lyubov Petrova, Joseph Calleja, Maigoratza Walewska, Andrea Silvestrelli, Magdalena Wor and Robert Cantrell, conducted by Giovanni Reggioli.
  • Concert FM (New Zealand) & ABC Classic FM (Australia) - From the Metropolitan Opera, Verdi's Aida, with Stefan Kocán, Dolora Zajick, Hui He, Salvatore Licitra, Carlo Colombara, Carlo Guelfi, Elizabeth DeShong and Diego Torre, conducted by Marco Armiliato.

Happy listening . . . .

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, April 17, 2010


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

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

We're Still Here . . . .

Due to a family emergency, we have not posted here for several weeks, but we are now back (more or less) to our routine. You can expect some new reviews from Sam Shirakawa and some posts from us in coming days.

It's good to be back!

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 . . . .

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,