Saturday, May 22, 2010

Live Offerings - Saturday, May 22, 2010 - Part II

Radio Oesterreich International - From Wiener Konzerthaus, a May 20th double bill - Puccini's Il Tabarro and Zemlinsky's Eine florentinische Tragödie, with Heidi Brunner, Elza van den Heever, Johan Botha and Wolfgang Koch, conducted by Bertrand de Billy.
Cesky Rozhlas 3-Vltava - From Salle Métropole in Lausanne, a January 26th performance of Rossini's Otello, with John Osborn, Olga Peretyatko, Riccardo Zanellato, Shi Yijie, Isabelle Henriquez, Rémy Corazza and Sébastien Eyssette, conducted by Corrado Rovaris.
Klara - From Massenet's Don Quichotte, with José van Dam, Silvia Tro Santafé, Werner Van Mechelen, Camille Merckx, Julie Mossay, Gijs Van der Linden, Vincent Delhoume, Bernard Villiers, Jacques Does, Gérard Lavalle, Pascal Macou, Aldo De Vernati, Marc Coulon and André Grégoire, conducted by Marc Minkowski.
Radio Tre (RAI) - From the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, A September 23, 2009, performance of Verdi's Don Carlo, with Ferruccio Furlanetto, Jonas Kaufmann,, Simon Keenlyside, John Tomlinson, Marina Poplavskaya, Pumeza Matshikiza, Marianne Cornetti, Robert Anthony Gardiner, Eri Nakamura and Robert Lloyd, David Kimberg, Changhan Lim, David Stout and Lukas Jakobski, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.
Sveriges Radio P2 - From the Royal Albert Hall in London, an August 11, 2009, performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's Patience, with Rebecca Bottone, Felicity Palmer, Pamela Helen Stephen, Elena Xanthoudakis, Sophie-Louise Dann, Simon Butteriss, Toby Stafford-Allen, Donald Maxwell, Graeme Danby and Bonaventura Bottone, conducted by Charles Mackerras.
WABE Calssical, WHQR, WUGA, KBIA2 & WDAV - Additional stations airing NPR World of Opera's Don Giovanni from Washington National Opera at later starting times.

Happy listening . . . .

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Live Offerings - Saturday, May 22, 2010 -Part I

  • BBC 3 - From the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Prokofiev's The Gambler, with Roberto Saccà, Angela Denoke, John Tomlinson, Jurgita Adamonyte, Kurt Streit, Mark Stone, Susan Bickley, John Easterlin, Dawid Kimberg, Jeremy White, Simona Mihai, Elisabeth Meister, Elizabeth Sikora, Carol Rowlands, Kai Rüütel, Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts, Steven Ebel, Alasdair Elliott, John Cunningham, David Woloszko, Lukas Jakobski, Graeme Danby, Hubert Francis and Robert Anthony Gardiner, conducted by Antonio Pappano.
  • CBC Two - From Calgary Opera, Adamo's Little Women, with Allyson McHardy, Colin Ainsworth,Krisztina Szabó, Mariateresa Magisano and Soprano Catherine May, conducted by Gordon Gerrard.
  • Deutschlandradio Kultur - From the Vienna State Opera, an April 22nd performance of Bellini's I Puritani, with Désirée Rancatore, José Bros, Mariusz Kwiecien, Christof Fischesser, Alexandru Moisiuc, Benedikt Kobel and Roxana Constantinescu, conducted by Jan Latham-König.
  • DR P2, Dwojka Poplskie Radio, Radio 4 Netherlands, NRK Klassisk & NRK P2 - From Schwetzingen, Grétrys Andromaque, with Judith van Wanroij, Maria-Rccarda Wesseling, Sébastien Guèze and Tassis Christoyannis, with Hervé Nique.
  • Espace Musique - From Canadian Opera, Puccini's Madama Butterfly, with Adina Nitescu, David Pomeroy, Anita Krause, James Westman and Steven Cole, conducted by Carlo Montanaro.
  • KBYU & WRTI - From the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Gounod's Faust, with Piotr Beczala, Ana Maria Martinez, René Pape, Corey Crider, Lucas Meachem, Katherine Lerner and Jane Bunnell, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
  • KUSC - From Los Angeles Opera, Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato and Bruno Praticò, conducted by Michele Mariotti.
  • Radio Clasica de Espana - From the Vienna State Opera, a February 28th performance of Reimann's Medea, with M. Petersen, M. Selinger, E. Kulman, M. Roider, A. Eröd and M. E. Cencic, conducted by M. Boder.
  • RTP Antena 2 - Haydn's L’Infedeltà Delusa, with Iwona Sobotka, Mijke Sekhuis, Aleksander Kunach, Leif Aruhn-Solén and Dominik Woerner, conducted by Hansjoerg Schellenberger.
  • WETA - From Washington National Opera, Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, with Alan Held, Jennifer Wilson, Gidon Saks, Ian Storey, Janice Meyerson and Andreas Conrad, conducted by Heinz Fricke.
  • WFMT Opera Series (on numerous stations) - From Lyric Opera of Chicago, Janácek's Katya Kabanova, with Karita Mattila, Brandon Jovanovich, Andrew Shore, Liora Grodnikaite and Garrett Sorenson, conducted by Markus Stenz.
  • WPLN - NPR World of Opera - From Washington National Opera, Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Erwin Schrott, Ildar Abdrazakov, Anja Kampe, Erin Wall, Amanda Squitieri, Trevor Scheunemann and Morris Robinson, conducted by Placido Domingo.
  • Bartok Radio - From the Glyndebourne Festival, an August 19, 2009, performance of Dvorak's Rusalka, with Ana Maria Martinez, Brandon Jovanovich, Mikhail Schelomianski, Larissa Diadkova, Tatiana Pavlovskaya, Alasdair Elliott, Diana Axentii, Natasha Jouhl, Barbara Senator, Elodie Méchain and John Mackenzie, conducted by Jirí Belohlávek.
  • France Musique - From Théâtre des Champs-Elysées à Paris, a May 5th performance of Cavalli's La Calisto, with Sophie Karthaüser, Lawrence Zazzo, Giovanni Battista Parodi and Véronique Gens.
  • Latvia Klasika Radio - From Vienna State opera, a June 18, 2009, perfofrmance of Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau, with Kurt Rydl, Michael Schade, Adrian Eroed, Janina Baechle and Jane Archibald, conducted by Peter Schneider.

More to come . . . .

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chin-Cin-Chin, Kiri! The Dame's Farewell

Again, due to our technical difficulties with this blog, we have been delayed in posting this review of Kiri's final farewell to Opera in Cologne. Sam was there:

Der Rosenkavalier
2 April 2010, 17 April

Lieder Recital
21 April


It’s hard for me to believe, that 41 years have gone by since I first heard Kiri Te Kanawa sing. That was at a performance of La Donna del Lago at the St. Pancras Festival in London.

What struck me at that performance was her extraordinary beauty: tall, blonde, large penetrating eyes. The voice -- a pirate recording of that performance substantiates this -- was pretty but hardly extraordinary, the technique, especially in the coloratura passages, seemed serviceable but hardly a match for the competition of that time -- Caballé, Gencer and Gianna D’Angelo for starters. If luck would have it, she could make a meal out of her package of gifts. And thanks to luck, hard work and shrewd career moves she has made not merely a meal but served up a delectable banquet to legions of fans.

Now Dame Kiri apparently is taking leave of the operatic stage, although she will continue giving recitals. She is said to have chosen Cologne for her stage farewell because she launched her career as a top-line artist here. She also has maintained friendships with her fans in this city and feels at home here -- so much so that she cooled her heels in the shadow of Cologne Cathedral for two weeks (“very relaxing,” she told her audience at the last of three appearances at Cologne’s opera house.)

For her Farewell in costume, she wisely chose the Marschallin: Actually, it's the leading role of Rosenkavalier, but it requires less singing than the title part, and permits a two-hour respite. It is also a role that has brought Te Kanawa considerable acclaim. She sang it ten times at the Met. While time has taken its toll on the luster of her voice, it remains an attractive instrument -- supple, steady and, absent a gaffe here and there, remarkably focussed. And she remains an astonishingly beautiful woman. What time has given her, that I sorely missed while listening to her Marschallin twice at the Met in 1982, is fascination. Back then, her characterization struck me as somewhat bland -- beyond doubt beautiful, but tame. At both performances last month in Cologne, though, she projected the aging Marschallin’s self-doubt, vague dread and longing for lasting love with gripping simplicity. The telling gestures, the averted glances, the faultlessly timed turns -- all adumbrating the subtleties of the vocal line. Powerful stuff.

Her portrayal last month in Cologne was undoubtedly informed by misfortunes in her personal life -- her husband of many years left her suddenly, emailing her notice of his departure; a swindler recently made off with a Madoff-proportion of her savings.

The Kölner Oper surrounded Te Kanawa with a strong cast that complemented rather than supported her, drawn largely from its resident roster. Most notable: Bjarni Thor Kristianson as possibly the most boorish Ochs I’ve witnessed live, Jutta Böhnert singing an elegant Sophie, and Claudia Mahnke, ill-costumed and a bit short for the statuesque Te Kanawa, but ardent and supremely musical as Oktavian. Patrick Ringborg led the superb Gürzenich Orchester in both performances with fleet precision.

Günter Krämer’s production threw no curve-balls except for an annoying detail in the the third act, which takes place in a tacky restaurant. For some reason he instructed or allowed designer Jürgen Bäckmann to mount posts around the set, that look like stalks of giant green asparagus. One of them bisects the down-stage area, so that you wonder whether the action is taking place in two parts of the eatery. It also forced Te Kanawa to make her way around the post, as she came forward to take her calls with the rest of the cast.

For her final appearance of her fortnight in Cologne, Te Kanawa gave a song recital that included generous morceaux of Mozart, Richard Strauss, Cantaloube, Guastavino, Ginestera and Puccini. The question was whether a singer in the autumn of her career could withstand the rigors of singing more or less continuously for the better part of two hours. For Kiri Te Kanawa, the answer, at least on 21 April, was a resounding, of course. For all the fragility she has projected so effectively at appropriate moments in her performances and the friendliness with which she treats her fans, this Dame is one tough dame.

Her exemplary resilience took center-stage during an incident which took place shortly after the recital began. Just as she was traversing the middle passage of Strauss’ elegiac “Morgen,” the cell-phone belonging to the aisle-sitter directly in front of me began its own recital of Top Hits from Hell. As the poor dear frantically rummaged through what looked more like a steamer trunk than a purse -- to a hissing chorus redolent with Teutonic imprecations, I instantly gathered from the sundry paraphernalia she was exhuming, including a massive set of keys she hurled to the floor with a resounding clunk (E-flat minor, second inversion?), that she must be the arts critic from the local woman’s detention center. By the time she found the melodious and very loud mobile and turned it off -- but not before carefully reading the caller display, Dame Kiri had nearly finished “Morgen,” missing neither a beat nor dropping a bangle. Whereupon she and her superb accompanist Julian Reynolds promptly retreated backstage for what must surely have been a round of bitter lemon, straight up.

Returning to the stage fully composed, Dame Kiri turned to the lady and said quietly in English: “I could have killed you.” Others, including myself, might have done the deed for her, but thinking the mobile madam was indeed a critic, I desisted out of professional courtesy.

She then turned to the audience and warned, also auf Englisch, “If it happens again, a murder will take place.”

Which brings me to the one estimable flaw of Dame Kiri’s recital. During the intermission, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me. She told me she was enjoying the concert but found Te Kanawa’s German pronunciation extremely poor. She went on to say, that such faults prevented her from grasping what Te Kanawa was trying to convey emotionally. The lady’s case was also supported by Kiri’s banter between some of the song sets. I don’t ever recall attending a concert or serious music event in the US where a foreign artist did not address his/her public in English, however poorly. Likewise, I have never until this recital been present at a concert outside the US, where an English-speaking artist spoke only English while singing in other languages. You might argue that nearly everybody speaks English, especially in Germany. I have not found that to be the case.

If a singer’s linguistic skills leave something to be desired, maybe costumes do help disguise the flaw. Case in point: Kiri Te Kanawa’s operatic career.

© Sam Shirakawa

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Salome from Heidelberg

Sam Shirakawa is still in Europe making the rounds of various opera houses. We were having some technical difficulties that prevented us from posting here for several weeks. So we are just now getting to post this review of Salome that Sam sent us from Heilderberg:

Heidelberg 23 April 2010

I’ve been present for numerous singers having a go at the title role in Salome, but only four remain vivid recollections: Helga Pilarzcyk, Birgit Nillson, Leonie Rysanek and more recently, Manuela Uhl. Now there’s a fifth. Her name is Justine Viani. She is Australian, has a couple of years before she hits 30, and she is taking on the Nasty Nubile in Heidelberg, of all places, for the first time in her young career.

This lassie seems to have it all: beauty, brains, stage allure, maybe even a husband and children. But it’s the voice that grabs you by the throat: captivating in soft passages, whiplashing at full-throttle. All the more hair-raising is the ease with which Viani ascends to the top of the staff and free-falls into her cavernous lower register. She may not be as wildly sexy in the Final Scene as Welitsch was in that 1944 broadcast, but Viani is hands-down sicker: the obscene inflection of her “es war ein bitterer Geschmack auf deinen Lippen... (that was a bitter taste on your lips)” could make you wince. No Student Princess she!

But what do you do with a talent like this? Elektra, Turandot and the three Brühnhildes for starters -- but is that all that remains for a singer starting off with all burners blasting? And the the possibility of untimely burnout is all too real -- once agents and managements get wind of this phenomenon.

Better maybe to cease lauding and let the lady grow.

Viani was surrounded on 23 April by surprisingly exciting colleagues, notably: Gabriel Urrutia Benet as a superb Jokanaan, Winfrid Mikus, pathetically lascivious as Herod, Carolyn Frank as a slim-figured but hefty-voiced Herodias, and Emilio Pons’ rich sounding as Narraboth.

Cornelius Meister led an astonishingly confident reading of the score. He is one of Germany’s youngest general music directors, but his command of Strauss’ score had on this occasion all the subtlety and sweep usually purveyed by seasoned veterans.

Aurelia Eggers mercifully spurned the trend and resisted turning her production into a “concept,” but she did change a number of explicit stage instructions with mixed results. Jokanaan, for example, is executed in full view of the audience, not in the cistern. The executioner refuses to kill him, so Herodias obliges by slitting his throat. Heady stuff, if you enjoy the Senecan imperative.

© Sam H. Shirakawa

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Friday, May 14, 2010

We ask your indulgence

It's been a very busy week for the operacast elves (all two of us). With the end of the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast season, we have been busily vetting all the stations in the Met radio network to see what they are doing after the Met season. Some do no opera after the Met ends, others pick up the NPR World of Opera broadcasts, and the largest group starts in this week with WFMT's Bucksbaum Family Lyric
Opera of Chicago Broadcast Season - eight weeks of opening nights from this past season, starting with Gounod's Faust.

Both of us are working outside jobs besides the operacast work and coping with some family emergencies, so we have not had the usual amount of time to test every stream and schedule link. So please let us know if you find an incorrect or old link that needs fixing.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

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