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Szanowni Państwo,

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Jeszcze raz dziękujemy wszystkim sympatykom opera.info.pl za uwagę, którą poświęciliście Państwo naszemu przedsięwzięciu.

Serdecznie Wszystkich Państwa pozdrawiamy,

Beata i Michał Olszewscy
opera.info.pl - 11/05/2015

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English reports

"Don Giovanni" at the Metropolitan Opera

Wersja polska
pl
Author: Gabriela Harvey
 
Gabriela Harvey
Peter Mattei in the title role of Mozart's "Don Giovanni"  photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Click to magnify

A quick look at the calendar confirmed my fear, only three weeks left in the 2014-2015 MET season. My notes from the Tuesday February 28th performance of “Don Giovanni” are still on my desk. Anticipating at least two “Un Ballo’s” and maybe “Cav and Pag,” and not wanting to disappoint my faithful translator… So, I thought I would tackle this on a beautiful New York City spring weekend…

On Tuesday February 28th the conductor Alan Gilbert was on loan from the Philharmonic next door at Lincoln Center. Mr. Gilbert, it was recently announced, will leave his post as music director of the New York Philharmonic in the summer of 2017. He kept a lively tempo throughout, without sacrificing the lyricism and romanticism of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.” The orchestra played superbly. Sweden’s baritone Peter Mattei was Don Giovanni, Venezuelan (via Italy) bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni was Leporello, our own bass-baritone James Morris was The Commendatore, tenor Don Ottavio was Russia’s Dmitry Korchak (Met debut), South Africa’s soprano Elza van den Heever was Donna Anna, England’s soprano Emma Bell Donna Elvira, Virginia’s mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsay was Zerlina and Czech Republic’s bass-baritone Adam Plachetka was Masetto.

I know the story, but that evening it hit me hard. I was about to spend hours witnessing the crimes of a serial rapist! Maybe it was Mr. Mattei’s superb portrayal of the…,oops, I almost said rascal… a sociopathic rapist, that added to my “discomfort”! The Met’s production, first directed in 2011 by Michael Grandage, is set in the opera’s own era, but it manages to reflect our time. Perhaps another reason for my epiphany - this opera is all about lust, love, hate, jealousy, murder, revenge, envy, and more…

Luca Pisaroni as Leporello, and Emma Bell as Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni" photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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And so it begins: we encounter Don Giovanni in the bedroom (Leporello is keeping watch outside) of a noblewoman, Donna Anna who is engaged to Don Ottavio. She manages to fight his advances off.

Her cries for help are heard by her father, the Commendatore. He challenges her disguised assailant. A sword fight ensues. Don Giovanni kills him and manages to escape unrecognized. Donna Anna asks Don Ottavio to avenge her father’s death. Next we “meet’’ Donna Elvira, one of Don Giovanni’s former conquests. Leporello sets her straight, showing her the “catalogue” of all of Don Giovanni’s victims. Masetto and Zerlina’s wedding takes place and Don Giovanni sets his eyes on his next victim … Zerlina. Anna seeks Don Giovanni’s’ help in finding her father’s murderer. Elvira warns all about Don Giovanni. He “declares” her mad and invites all to celebrate the wedding in his house. As he leaves, Anna recognizes his voice as that of the man who attacked her. Again she begs Don Ottavio to avenge her father’s death. Having accepted Don Giovanni’s invitation Masetto and Zerlina (now contrite for not being able to resist the temptation of flirting with Don Giovanni) enter Don Giovanni’s home. Anna, Elvira and Ottavio (all masked) also appear. Don Giovanni tries to distract Zerlina and drag her into another room. She cries out. Anna, Elvira and Ottavio reveal their identity but Don Giovanni manages to slip away. Don Giovanni and Leporallo exchange clothing. Elvira continues to be in love with Don Giovanni despite what she knows. Disguised as his master Leporallo encounters Masetto, (who is looking for Don Giovanni) and a fight ensues. Leporello beats up Masetto and leaves. Zerlina comforts Masetto. Later on, Anna, Elvira, Ottavio, Zelina and Masetto surprise Leporello. Fearing for his life, he reveals his true identity and manages to escape yet again. Don Giovanni and Leporello, escaping to a cemetary/garden, find the tomb of the Commendatore. The statue at the grave speaks to them and asks for repentance. Don Giovanni makes Leporello invite “the ghost” of the Commendatore to join them for dinner. He comes and asks them again to repent. Don Giovanni laughs …and the earth opens and sends him to the flames of Hell.  Anna, Elvira, Ottavio, Zelina, Masetto and Leporallo are left…

Kate Lindsey as Zerlina, Peter Mattei in the title role, and Emma Bell as Donna Elvira  in Mozart's "Don Giovanni."     photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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On to the music…

In the famous seduction duet between Giovanni and Zerlina, “La ci darem la mano.”  Mr. Matei with his vibrant baritone was very convincing as the seducer of Zerlina, the flirtatious girl with beguiling yet naive innocence. His is  a commanding Giovanni: he towered (literally) over everyone and his performance was charged with the requisite sensuality, sexuality, and devious cruelty. We witnessed the fluidity of his notes when Giovanni attempts to seduce Zerlina. The legato in “La Ci darem La Mano” had an alluring softness. He was the charming seducer in “Deh vieni all finestra,” his serenade to Donna Elvira’s maid. On the other hand the “Fin ch’han dal vino,” (also known as the Champagne Aria), where he reveals his plans to get all the peasant girls drunk and add ten names to his list before dawn, was full of frenzy, revealing Don Giovanni’s zest for life, “at any cost”! His menacing, cruel humor reached its peak at the end of Act II, when he feasts while Leporello looks on…and we mustn’t forget his betrayal of Leporallo after his own attempt to seduce Zerlina.

What a wonderful actor M. Mattei is!

He and Mr. Pisaroni (perhaps the opera’s other leading man?) complemented each other very well. Leporello’s “Madamina, il catalogo è questo” (“Catalog Aria,”) in which he reveals that Don Giovanni has slept with thousands of women, no matter their pedigree…was masterful. Mr. Pisaroni maintained the wide range and fast tempi but also showed off his excellent comic timing. At the end of the aria he was hilarious, balancing his master’s boasting and his own flirting, mocking Dona Elvira. Balancing the comic timing was the terror in the ‘repent or else’ scene, when the statue of the Commendatore comes to dinner. Bravo!

Staying with the men….Making his Met debut, the Russian tenor Dmitry Korchak  was Ottavio. His is a warm and polished voice. His singing has an elegance, beauty and softness. However, he was not without assertiveness in his rendition of “Il mio tessoro,” the beautiful love aria. He proves more a man than the plot implies!

Adam Plachetka (another Met debut) as Masetto , always in Zelina’s shadow, manages to convince us that he puts up with Zerlina’s flirtatious nature and flightiness and, because he truly loves her, outwaits the uncertainty. Both Mr. Korchak and Mr. Plachetka grew stronger as the evening progressed. They stood up to the challenge of their formidable colleagues.

A scene from Mozart's "Don Giovanni" photo (c) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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The veteran James Morris was the Commendatore.  Mr. Morris, whose career spans decades, continues to give us solid performances. It helps that he is a good actor and also that he knows his limitations.

Zerlina’s (Kate Lindsay) two arias sung to Masetto, “Batti, batti” and “Vedrai, carino,” were enchanting. This is where the orchestra was superb, guiding Ms. Lindsay’s bright soprano voice with a light and sweet timbre, in the lyricism of the music. She sang reassuringly about making up and spending their days and nights together, but seductive in “Vedrai, carino,” prescribing the cure, all will be well “if you only rest your hand on my breast” – “Toccami qua!” she sings over and over: “touch me here.” Donna Elvira (Emma Bell) has been rejected by Don Giovanni but continues to have feelings for him. The aria “Mi tradì quell’alma ingrata” occurs late in Act Two, as she sings: “That ungrateful wretch betrayed me, and made me so miserable, oh Lord! He deceived me and abandoned me, yet I can’t help but forgive him.” This is a demanding role. I thought the high notes in: “Ah chi mi dice mai” and the “Ah fuggi il traditor” had a hard edge. I found her a bit harsh and wiry at times and thought she sang an uneven Dona Elvira. In the ensembles she seemed disconnected at times from the others. Perhaps the harshness and/or hard edge was a deliberate attempt to underline the character’s bitterness? In all fairness, she sounded softer and more vulnerable in the “Mi tradì quell'alma ingrate,” where she struggles with her feelings of betrayal and her concern for the one who betrayed her.

Elza van den Heever’s Donna Anna spends much of the opera in a state of mourning. The recitative “accompagnato” with Don Ottavio and the aria that follows, “Or sai chi l’onore,” summarize the character. The music here is thrilling. Her rendition of “Non mi dir,” when she asks Don Ottavio to stop talking about marriage, was a testament to her flawless technique.

This was an evening of masterful conducting, a wonderful orchestra, a solid production and a splendid cast of singers.

"King Roger" - Boston

Wersja polska
pl
Author: Gabriela Harvey
 
Mariusz Kwiecień zdjęcie opublikowane dzięki uprzejmości Mariusza Kwietnia
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Gabriela Harvey

The first time I saw this opera was in Wroclaw in April 2014. Mariusz Trelinski, now (sic) of “Yolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle” fame, was the director, and Ewa Michnik conducted. Mariusz Godlewski was King Roger. The title character is a historical figure from the 12th century, King Roger II of Sicily, but the plot echoes Euripides’s “The Bacchae.” Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz (Szymanowski’s distant cousin) and Karol Szymanowski collaborated on the libretto. The inspiration came after a trip they made together to Sicily and North Africa in 1914.

In Boston, another Mariusz, this time Kwiecień (baritone) was King Roger, Olga Pasichnyk (soprano) was Roxanna, Yvonne Naef (mezzo-soprano) was the Deaconess, Edgras Montvidas (tenor) was the Shepherd, Rafal Majzner (tenor) was Edrisi, Alex Richardson was the solo tenor (I recently encountered Mr. Richardson after the DiDonato concert at Carnegie Hall), Raymond Aceto (bass) was the Archbishop, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the children’s chorus Voices of Boston, the full BSO orchestra, the renowned Charles Dutoit conducting.

I confess I found it overwhelming, starting with my arrival. After the winter for all ages, not a parking spot anywhere, street or parking lot alike! What…to do?!  A companion offers to drop me off…it is five minutes to curtain…I agree…the performance is luckily delayed, there are many in similar woes… the lobby is full of those whose companions for the evening were out parking…

I suspect that the extra minutes were welcomed by the orchestra and soloists alike. I confess…I found the BSO stage that evening overwhelming. A confession, had I not already seen the Opera, much would have been lost… (For background and synopsis, I recommend an excellent article at http://culture.pl/en/article/king-roger-op46-and-the-clash-of-the-gods and an enlightening interpretation by Mr. Kwiecień in an interview posted on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIHZbtQ-mG4). What was missing was the sexual ambiguity and tension present with a fully staged opera. But that is just one point of view. To this day, the opera remains controversial and open to many interpretations. Some think the Shepherd Jesus Christ…

Despite the concert version (no costumes, no set, crowded stage and, at times, an overwhelming orchestra) Mr. Kwiecień’s persona, his controlled intensity, warm, dark, colored baritone voice, excellent enunciation, musical virtuosity and temperament were all evident throughout. In his "Słońce! Słońce! Edrisi!" (Act III) we witness King Roger free from the shackles of authority, no longer the man in full control (Act I and II), seemingly happy now… at least I thought so…all this matched by the expressiveness from the orchestra.
It stayed with me for days!

Soprano Olga Pasichnyk was more than able to convey Roxanna’s importance and her intoxication with the Shepherd. Her voice was clear, her orchestral fortissimos riding high above the orchestra, not a small feat. (Only once did I fear she might have been overwhelmed by the power of the orchestra.) She was wonderful in Act II, where her wordless notes were intoxicating

The Lithuanian tenor Edgars Mintvidas had perhaps he biggest challenge of the concert version. Difficult to convey the complicated, at times controlling, then seductive and intoxicating persona of the shepherd, when you are wearing a tuxedo…

His lovely tenor voice stood up to the rigor of the evening, the lengthy vocals with their high notes. Impressive.

Mr. Maizner was overshadowed by the above mentioned soloists, not because he is not a good enough singer, but again because of the constrains of the concert version. The importance of his role as the advisor/confidant remained clear.

The vocal journey for all was impressive!

The “supporting” cast was superb including The Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the children of “Voices Boston” (Andy Icochea Icochea conductor). Tackling the Polish language could not have been easy! Bravo!

Charles Dutoit and his ‘plus size’ orchestra are obvious fans of Szymanowski’s music and this Opera!

As for the night’s English ‘supertitles’ (I read, write and speak Polish), there were too many misspellings and many times an awkward choice of words (I did not take notes…). Surely there is no lack of excellent Polish to English translators available to the BSO…

I hope Mr.G. (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/a-fight-at-the-opera) brings it to the Metropolitan Opera…I think it is time Szymanowski gain the respect and audience he deserves. After all, he was a modern, dare I say XXI Century man at a time and place not friendly to such a persona (I’m afraid he is still much misunderstood, dare I say disapproved in Poland, where his lifestyle and criticism of Polish provincialism is still a subject for some …)

So…I think it is time to acknowledge that this is not an unknown opera by an unknown composer! It has now been performed (in no small measure do to Mr. Kwiecien’s efforts) in Paris, Madryt,  Santa Fe, Bilbao, (here  in the new production by Michal Znaniecki), and  in London(http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/krol-roger-by-kasper-holten) Warszawa and Krakow. The opera is being presented in London again this May and in Krakow (I will be there…) this Fall.

New York City next…

"Donna Del Lago" at the Metropolitan Opera

Wersja polska
pl
Author: Gabriela Harvey
 
Joyce DiDonato as Elena in Rossini's "La Donna del Lago"  photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Click to magnify
Gabriela Harvey

The recent production of “Donna Del Lago,” (the run ending last Saturday) was all about the singing. I saw the Saturday February 28th, 2015 performance. In spite of the opera’s convoluted story line, I suspect it was revived because there is a cadre of available singers who could tackle the ‘bel canto’ challenge.

In the Andrea Leone Tottola libretto, based on Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake, Elena is promised to Rodrigo Di Dhu (John Osborn) a Highland Clan warrior. She in turn is in love with Malcolm Groeme (Daniela Barcellona). Elena’s Father Duglas D’Angus (Oren Gradus) is an enemy of King James, who disguised as ‘Uberto” is also taken with Elena. Scotland becomes embroiled in a war between the Highlanders and the Loyalists. Rodrigo is killed in battle, and Elena’s father is captured by the King’s Loyalist forces. Although now an enemy, Elena’s Father was once the King’s tutor. Meanwhile Elena, protected by a ring that King James (disguised as the suitor “Uberto”) has given her as an assurance of his loyalty and providing access to the “King,” hopes to convince the King to spare the life of her Father and Malcolm (who also arrives looking for her).  King James reveals his true identity, accepts Elena’s love for another, and pardons both Duglas and Malcom. All ends well…

Joyce DiDonato as Elena and Juan Diego Flórez as Giacomo V in Rossini's "La Donna del Lago"  photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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Much has been written about the staging by the Scottish director Paul Curran, the lackluster scenery, which worked at the outdoor Santa Fe Opera (where this production of the opera was staged previously) but alas not at the Metropolitan… All I can say is that I thought it benign and for me it did not get in the way. One comment, it was often difficult to distinguish the soloists from the chorus, often crowding the stage with nothing to do.

This production stars opera superstar Joyce DiDonato, a recent darling of the NYC Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall. (DiDonato concludes Her Carnegie Hall Perspectives Series with The Philadelphia Orchestra this Wednesday, March 18th. The concert features a program of ‘bel canto’ arias). An aside: on November 4, 2014 I attended her “A Journey Through Venice” Carnegie Hall concert. She was brilliant!

Daniela Barcellona as Malcolm and Joyce DiDonato as Elena in Rossini's "La Donna del Lago"  photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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Opposite her in Donna Del Lago was her co-star from last year’s Met production of “Cenerentola”: Juan Diego Flórez, in the role of Uberto, as the disguised King James V of Scotland. Juan Diego Flórez whose voice I think occasionally has a strained (pinched?) edge, stood up to the challenge. He certainly looked the part. I loved the form fitting leather suit he sported while meeting Elena for the first time. The coloratura aria “Oh fiamma soave “ was masterfully executed! A wonderful performance throughout! He did not disappoint. Bravo!

Osborn’s Rodrigo, a smooth, deep, pleasing tenor (one I found myself at times preferring to the voice of Flórez), was good enough, he certainly stood up to challenge of Act II’s “No! Piu Non so frenarmi” and his “Ma Dov'e Colei Che Accende.” Solid singer!

Daniela Barcellona sang Malcolm Graeme, a part written for a contralto. Despite her less than attractive costume, wig and facial hair she was convincing in her role as Elena’s love interest and her’s was an especially wrenching rendition of the Act II aria “Ah! si pera,” when Malcolm, convinced that Elena is about to marry Uberto, wants to die.

A scene from Rossini's "La Donna del Lago"  photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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Oren Gradus as Elena’s Father, Olga Makarina as Elena’s confidant  and Gregory Schmidt as Bertram, a servant at the Court Of King James completed the stellar cast.

The young and a rising star conductor, Michele Mariotti kept a lively tempo, being careful not to hurry or drown out the singers.

But at the end, this opera was all about Joyce DiDonato. She was perfect, beginning with the beautiful “O mattutini albori, never faulting throughout and ending with the breath taking, almost impossible for others “Tanti affetti,” the closing aria.

She looked the part, she acted the part, she owned the part. That evening she was a perfect singer, fearless, her voice soaring high, confident, effortless perfection! Those of us who were there will never forget her performance!

1

Riccardo Primo* in Karlsruhe – the real king is only one.

Polish version Flaga polska

Author and translation: Małgorzata Cichocka

malgorzata cichocka4
Franco Fagioli (Riccardo I.) photo (c) Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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Do you like fairy tales?
Do you remember those wonderful moments when you were children and you were listening to your mum or dad reading you different stories, and you – curious of an  unknown world - were travelling there on wings of imagination?
So, do you like fairy tales?
Because I do. And I think that most people like opening the door to their imaginary and dreamy land – to the world of fairy tales – and peep there.
One of the keys to this door is music. Like a beautiful ship, it crosses the endless oceans of human impressions and emotions. On its board we sail through seas of thrills, happiness, euphoria and occasionally nostalgia.
The musical form that shows us and helps us with which route to take is opera, namely fusion of music, words and action.
And do you know why you go to the opera?
I do, I know why I go there. First of all, to listen to the music and beautiful singing. And to see a fairy tale. When we take a seat, when the lights fade, one can hear first sounds of the music and when the curtain rises, we enter the magic world. A fairy tale is starting. Certainly we all love this moment.
Unfortunately, the majority of present directors or producers submit, in my opinion, to modern fashions. With their contemporary productions they often take away all the pleasure and joy of an encounter with this great art - opera.
They want to be very modern and original, so they don't respect the authors of these masterpieces, only impose on the audience their own, very often, bizarre and redundant  ideological conception.
They burden the piece with personal obsessions and frustrations, which actually are of no interest to us. They change the plot and sometimes even the music, which is completely incomprehensible.
As a result, we watch on the stage everything we can see around us every day – at home, at work,  in the street and on the Internet. Our reality which very often has an ugly face.
So, is this what you want? Because I don't, at least not in the opera. I have got enough.
I want a fairy tale. 

Franco Fagioli (Riccardo I.), Claire Lefilliâtre (Pulcheria) photo (c)  Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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Fortunately, when Badisches Staatstheater in Karlsruhe decided to show Händel's opera 'Riccardo Primo', they commissioned the direction to the French director Benjamin Lazar. Lazar, a specialist on baroque opera is the guarantee that Händel's work will be performed in baroque convention and in this way it will give priority to vocal art of singers.
When we start to work on Händel's opera, like `Riccardo Primo` we must consider what is the most relevant in it. Plot and libretto are not the most significant; it is only a pretext for presenting characters and arranging action. The essence of this masterpiece is beautiful, virtuoso, florid solo singing demanding great technical skill, precision, emotional sensitivity and passion. Because if baroque music with its figurative-melodic repetitiveness is not performed with passion, it is simply boring.
For Händel the most important matter was who would sing his pieces and how he or she would manage it. Sound is a priority, word follows it.
`Riccardo Primo` is a story about twists and turns of two couples in love, fighting with fate, adversities, embodied in a bad Governor Isacio. He desires king's fiancée and he does everything to achieve his goal. Certainly, all ends well, the lovers can be together and evil is banished.
Paolo Antonio Rolli was the author of libretto, but he later admitted that his text was adopted from a libretto by Franesco Briano,  written in 1710 for Antonio Lotti.

Nicholas Tamagna (Oronte), Franco Fagioli (Riccardo I.), Claire Lefilliâtre (Pulcheria), Statisterie photo (c) Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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`Riccardo Primo` is not the best opera by Händel, but it is performers who make it beautiful and valuable.
It has a small cast: two female characters and four male. The operatic pattern follows opera seria in its current formula : recitative as setting; next a solo aria expressing emotions of a character, and finally - exit. Group music fragments are rare. There is only one duet in the whole opera. But in this work Händel introduces beautifully sounding additional form : dramatic arioso and recitative  accompanied.
In the plot there is also one of the elements favoured by the 18th century authors – a storm at sea. And precisely with this element the opera begins; Costanza and Berardo appear at the sea side. It is worth mentioning that the music in this scene is one of the best instrumental fragments in this masterpiece.
Händel, having at his disposal three great stars of the current opera stage, created many possibilities to present their talents and he composed from six to seven arias for each of them.
The main character - Riccardo Primo - was performed by the extraordinary castrato Senesino (Francesco Bernardi) with alto voice. Also, the last aria of the opera belongs to Riccardo.
Costanza was sung by Francesca Cuzzoni known and valued for her expressive and moving singing.
The role of Pulcheria – second soprano – was taken by Faustina Bordoni, famous for her great technical skills and brilliant interpretation.
Other roles fell to remaining members of Händel's group : castrato Antonio Baldi and basses Giuseppe Maria Boschi and Giovanni Battista Balmerini.
Having in mind the vocal abilities of his singers, Händel wrote such difficult music that performing it today is a serious challenge for vocalists. His musical genius demands the best performers.

Claire Lefilliâtre (Pulcheria), Sine Bundgaard (Costanza), Franco Fagioli (Riccardo I.) photo (c)  Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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Beside remarkable singers, Händel also had an outstanding orchestra at his disposal.
The band accompanying the vocalists consisted of the best musicians in London and had about 35 members. They played the strings, wind instruments, theorbo or lute and 2 harpsichords. Händel played and improvised on one of the latter and the fame of his playing and improvisation attracted listeners from all over Europe. Due to that reason, there are many generously orchestrated fragments in the score and accompaniment of many arias is sophisticated and elaborate.
This year’s performances were repetition of last year`s production. I knew what to expect. Travelling one thousand kilometers to Karlsruhe I was glad to see a unique stylish spectacle, to listen to good music and beautiful singing. In a word, an exceptional artistic event. My marvellous fairy tale.
First spectacle took place on 24th February, then 26th and 28th February – held as part of the Internationale Händel Festspiele.
After a great two-part overture the curtain went up and we saw the stage with two solitary figures in dim light. A moment later behind the next veil there appeared a Medieval castle. When performers came out, we could see the gorgeous costumes in warm gold and brown colours like in old icons and paintings. Only the costumes of Riccardo and Costanza stood out with their red colour.

Franco Fagioli (Riccardo I.), Claire Lefilliâtre (Pulcheria), Sine Bundgaard (Costanza) photo (c)  Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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This year Paul Goodwin, English conductor led all performances. He is known for his great conducting skills; besides, he is a baroque music specialist. In 2008 he released opera 'Riccardo Primo', and he knew the score thoroughly. But did he have his own conception of the masterpiece?
Truly, he emphasized the melodiousness of melodic line and took out both dancing nature and  rhythms from music. I liked it very much. Good, lively, sometimes incisive tempos of arias (frankly, a few of them were even too fast for me) were alternated by a little monotonous recitatives, but with the excellent accompaniment of basso continuo: viola, harpsichord and  theorbo, my favorite one.
It seems Paul Goodwin mainly focused on singers, watched over every entrance of soloists. He ensured to orchestra played in proper dynamic and so that it wouldn't deafen the vocalists. And it was done skillfully.
Franco Fagioli was the king for this performance, in every sense of the word. When he appears on the stage, others don't count. He is a singer of such high class, that only a few are equal to him. His voice is mezzo-soprano. Singing parts written to Senesino, who was alto, he had to considerably lower his vocal register, but it didn't detract any beauty from his singing. The sound was full, vivid, resonant, and the ornamentations brilliant, light and precise. When he sings the part 'da capo' and introduces his own variations, we have the feeling he is playing with sounds, juggling them up and down, adding rich ornamentations. It is made in such a natural and easy way, that his singing is elegant and full of charm.
Moreover, his 'messa di voce'. I hadn't heard it before from any singer, who performed it, in such an extraordinary manner as Franco Fagioli.
But do you know what 'messa di voce' is? Probably not many people still remember it, and it was one of the main elements to decorate 17th and 18th century singing.
Franco Fagioli knows how to do it. And he does it. He does it beautifully. Listen to arioso `Quanto tarda il caro bene...`

Sine Bundgaard (Costanza), Lisandro Abadie (Isacio) photo (c)  Falk von Traubenberg published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Karlsruhe Opera
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In the performance one more countertenor sang, Nicolas Tamagna. He has a nice, interesting and warm voice with low timbre. He bravely managed with technical difficulties in his parts. Maybe he could master  the  musical side of his singing a bit more. Lisandro Abadie and Andrew Finden, two additional male vocals, bas and bariton, were also very good. Especially Andrew Finden, who sang a role of Berardo. He only had one aria, but he showed how nice voice he has got.
There were two female roles in the cast. Costanza was sung by Danish sopranist Sine Bundgaard. Her voice is pretty, subtle and high. Perhaps occasionally in her voice I heard too much vibrato and sound fading in ending notes, but it all depends on what we approve of. We should appreciate her beautiful sound and musical interpretation where she put much emotion. She was the real embodiment of the charming king's fiancée, waiting for liberation by her sweetheart.
Second female role – Pulcheria – was taken by French singer Claire Lefilliâtre.
Unfortunately, her voice and singing have so many inadequacies that she should avoid  the parts written for Faustina Bordoni. The audience was very kind to her, praising her several times with applause, but undoubtedly her singing was below the level of other performers.
All in all, it was a beautiful and unique performance, despite a few minor defects.
Benjamin Lazar wanted to show how such operas looked like in the 17th and 18th centuries – perhaps in Händel's London theatre in Haymarket.
Candle light, a bit naive decorations, simple choreography, all created true atmosphere of dated epoch, like in a dream.
When after the third act, the curtain went down and it was time to stand up and leave – a fairy tale was over.
But one king stayed. The real one. Because the real king is only one.
His name is Franco Fagioli.
Do you agree with me?

See you in the next fairy tale…

Author: Malgorzata Cichocka

_________________________________

*The original title is 'Riccardo I, Re d'Inghilterra'

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of “La Bohème”

Polish version
pl

 

Author: Gabriela Harvey
Kristine Opolais as Mimì in Puccini's "La Bohème" photo (C) Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the MET
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Gabriela Harvey

The January 2015 woes at the Metropolitan included a problem with the changing of the set after Act I in Puccini’s La Bohème on January 15th, a postponed premiere of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, canceled because of an impending nor'easter on January 26th, and an on stage protest of Putin's policies in Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. The latter, while the entire company was taking its well deserved bows after Iolanta’s premiere on the 29th.

To be honest I wasn’t going to see “La Bohème” this time around. Unlike many, I am not a fan of Zeffirelli’s production. I find it visually too dark and irritating when Musetta’s quirky behavior (kissing a stranger) interferes with the Mimi and Rodolfo anguish (Act II). Also too crowded at the café, where the principals are often lost in the crowd. Thank goodness for Musetta and her red dress!

But how could I not go and hear Ms. Opolais live and then there was Mariusz Kwiecien (I was invited backstage on the 19th…Thank you Berta!) ! The loss would have been mine…
I first went on the 15th, again on the 19th, and then there was the HD cinema matinee broadcast on the 24th.

Among the soloists, without a doubt the Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien was the star of all three performances! Jealous, tempestuous, virile, and crazy in love when he quarrels fiercely with Musetta in acts one and two. He swaggers, threatens, and brawls. Given all that, he shows his wistful side in the third act in his duet with Rodolfo “O Mimì tu più non torni,”. Vocally he was “on top of his game.”  As Marcello, he wasn’t just good, he was phenomenal! Glad to hear he is not about to give up the role. (I look forward to hearing him again on March 7th, in a concert version of Karol Szymanowski’s ‘King Roger” with The Boston Symphony Orchestra, where Ms. Opolaise’s husband Andris Nelsons  is the Music Director.)

Kristine Opolais returned as Mimi in “La Bohème.” This after her April 2014 performance, when Opolais made history at the Metropolitan Opera, making two role debuts within 18 hours. She gave a scheduled performance in “Madama Butterfly,” only to step in for a matinee performance of “La Bohème” the next day. The other wrinkle…. the performance was the HD cinema broadcast heard around the world. Opolais impressed listeners the world over, her performance earning critical acclaim.

On the first night, some of her singing was quivering and colorless, coming through as lifeless, spiritless. Then again, as Ms. Opolais explained hers is a Mimi, who knows she is dying. She reminded me of a ghost. I think her tendency to go sharp that evening was no doubt an effort to compete with the orchestra conductor's lack of consideration, forcing the singers to “ride” the orchestra (something I might add Mr. Borras successfully, ignored). She was wonderful in the last act, her interpretation wrenching and the chemistry between the two obvious. All laced with sadness!

Mariusz Kwiecien as Marcello in Puccini's "La Bohème" photo (c): Marty Sohl / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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Starring as her lover Rodolfo was the French tenor Jean-François Borras. Borras has a lovely voice but lacked top notes, particularly in the first act of the January 15th, performance. He recovered nicely as the night wore on. His duet with Marcello in Act III, "O Mimi, tu piu non torni,” was one of the evening’s highlights.  He grew stronger with each performance.

Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka soared as Musetta! Ms. Rebeka controlled the (too crowded) setting of the Café Momus , really shining in the familiar  “Musetta’s Waltz” ("Quando men vo" ). Her querulous relationship with Marcello showcased outside the inn in Place d'Enfer (“Strega” he calls her…), where Mimi comes (staggering down a staircase) looking for Rodolfo, amused us throughout! We are happy to see them “make peace” at the end, knowing theirs will always be a tempestuous relationship.

Alessio Arduini (Schaunard) and David Soar (Colline) gave more than credible vocal performances often competing with the conductor's drowning some of their lines; they were charming during their antics both in their studio-attic and at the Cafe Momus.

These comments apply largely to the performance of January 15th. The long unintended intermission and the additional intermission time impacted much of the mood of the evening, and no doubt the singers performance. It was a long evening. Things were much better the second time around. Mariusz Kwiecien continued to “wow”, as did Ms. Rebeka.  Mr. Borras and Ms. Opolais were good together, making us weep every time…of the three performances I think the broadcast was the best. You be the judge….

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of “La Bohème”
January 2015

Cast
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Mimi: Kristine Opolais
Musetta: Marina Rebeka
Rodolfo: Jean-François Borras
Marcello: Mariusz Kwiecien
Schaunard: Alessio Arduini
Colline: David Soar
Benoit/Alcindoro: John Del Carlo
Production Team
Production: Franco Zeffirelli
Set Designer: Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler

Two in one…

Polish version
pl

 

Author: Gabriela Harvey
Anna Netrebko as the title character in Tchaikovsky's Iolanta. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
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Gabriela Harvey

Iolanta/Bluebeard's Castle January 29th, 2015 the Metropolitan Opera NYC

Two stories, two women: one born blind, the other blind in love. Seemingly unrelated … but what connects them is their obsessive relationship with a domineering man. Does Treliński go as far as to suggest that Judith is the mature Jolanta. I think perhaps…

In Treliński’s interpretation, the two operas represent different phases in the life of one woman. Jolanta emerges out of physical darkness—and seeming innocence—into ‘light and love’; Judith leaves behind all she knows, and throws herself back into ‘darkness’ because of blind love. Could it be the older disillusioned Jolanta?

We meet Jolanta surrounded by her attendants, “trapped” in her “gilded” cage, a white room with mounted deer heads. Is she lovingly cared for? Or a prisoner of an obsessed Father who refuses to come to terms with her blindness?

I have many friends who wax poetic about the 2009 Baden Baden Jolanta  by Netrebko. Clearly it was the pre Lady Macbeth Anna. Here she is a mature woman, with a strong voice, soaring above the melody. It is hard to envision her as the vulnerable, confused, blind young woman Tchaikovsky had in mind. But wait… here comes Vaudémont to the rescue (in more ways than one…). This performance is all about Beczala! He seizes the moment  and more! The story comes alive during the knight’s encounter with Jolanta. Mr. Beczala’s silky tones align with the beautiful, lyrical and romantic music of Tchaikovsky. Lovely also was the duet of Jolanta and Vaudémont Tvoyo molèan ye neponyatno (I do not understand your silence).

Here I know I should say something about Mr. Gergiev’s brilliance as a conductor. I recognize it … but I am not a fan…perhaps one day he will see the ‘light’ and be on the right side of history.

There was the baritone Aleksei Markov as the Duke Robert, the man Jolanta is promised to, but who now is in love with another. The bass is Ilya Bannik as King René, Jolanta’s stern Father, and he baritone Elchin Azizov, as the mysterious Moorish Doctor - and others, all very good; but…forgive me…all overshadowed by the brilliance of Piotr Beczala.

Many of the staging elements appear again in “Bluebeards Castle”. This is essential to Mr. Trelinski’s interpretation and in tying the two stories together. The ragged floating trees with their roots exposed, deer heads decorate one of the rooms in both operas.

Nadja Michael as Judith in Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
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Mr Terlinski turns the Metropolitan Opera into ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ by placing speakers throughout the house. The creaking sounds, the murmurs, all create a sense of doom, and sexual tension abounds. In accepting the blindfold Judith surrenders to her husband and despite his trying to distract her, insists on the keys that open all seven doors. Her obsessive love takes us through all the rooms. Loved the treasury scene (here a luxurious bathroom), where Ms. Michael’s nearly naked admires the jewelry, but recoils in horror when she discovers they are drenched in blood. Her acting and singing skills are obvious here. She has a clear, strong expressive voice. With her voice she was able to express the many emotions the character of Judith goes through, love, hate, curiosity, surrender. She like Piotr Beczała earlier, stole the performance. It doesn’t hurt that she is beautiful. The scene in the bathroom with its weeping walls and Ms. Michael in a fetal position is terrifying.  Mikhail Petrenko, often off stage as Bluebeard and with his gravelly voice (that night?), was all but background for Judith’s turmoil. What I remember is “Judith kiss me…”, “Judith don’t open the door….”

I loved the mix of cinematography, the video, the stage effects and the traditional and the modern, the beautiful singing. Loved the blue dresses. Jolanta’s a dress of the 50’s, sweet. Judith’s is sophisticated, sexy…It all should play very well during the HD broadcast.

Here again I should say something about Mr Gergiev’s conducting, but I can’t. I was overwhelmed by Ms. Michaels’ presence, the impact of the sets …the sounds. Was it because of the excitement, the sense of foreboding? Or was the horror on stage not reflected in his direction of the orchestra….were they upstaged by the director’s brilliance and Nadja MichaeI’s overwhelming performance ? I will concentrate on the music (after all it is Béla Bartók!) on Saturday…

"The Merry Widow" at the Metropolitan Opera

Polish version
pl

 

Author: Gabriela Harvey
Nathan Gunn as Danilo, Renée Fleming as Hanna and Alek Shrader as Camille de Rosillon in Lehár's The Merry Widow photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Kelli O'Hara as Valencienne and Alek Shrader as Camille de Rosillon in Lehár's The Merry Widow. photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Kelli O'Hara as Valencienne with the Grisettes in Lehár's The Merry Widow photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
 
Gabriela Harvey

I grew up in places where the regional (provincial) Opera Houses were dominated by the operetta. Lehar, Offenbach, Strauss were kings… My eyes still mist when I listen to Franz Lehar’s - Das Land des Lächelns - Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz – my German mother’s favorite.

It seems to me that there is a revival of this genre, or at least attempts to resurrect the operetta. Witness the two new competing recordings of Piotr Beczala and Jonas Kaufmann. Both say they have a great deal of respect for the genre, which is definitely not easy to perform, even though it is often referred to as “light.” The operetta is infrequently performed these days because its outdated social customs are not well received by modern audiences.

Franz Lehár’s “Die Lustige Witwe/The Merry Widow,” at the Metropolitan Opera House (I saw the 1/9/15 performance) is s a new production directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (of Broadway fame) with sets by Julian Crouch, costumes by William Ivey Long and lighting by Paul Constable. English version by Jeremy Sams. (oh how I wish they stuck with the original German) Conducted by Andrew Davis with Renée Fleming (Hanna Galwari), Nathan Gunn (Danilo), Broadway’s Kelli O'Hara (Valencienne), Alek Shrader (Camille), Sir Thomas Allen (Baron Zeta), Carson Elrod (Njegus).

The story, is that of an attractive widow from a Balkan land, Montenegro…(oops….Pontevedro) now living in Paris, whose husband left her a fortune. Her country is nearing bankruptcy. The Pontevedrin officials at the embassy in Paris scheme to have Hanna marry one of her fellow citizens, thus save her country. They draft Count Danilo as the most obvious suitor.

As is custom with an operetta the singers are frequently alternating between sung numbers and spoken text, and therefore the challenge is that the singing and speaking voices must be attuned to each other. It seemed to me that in the first act especially, they failed the challenge and the singers never quite sounded fully at ease, whether singing or speaking. Even though they wore microphones (used only during the speaking parts) much of the sound didn’t travel. The Metropolitan Opera House is simply too big.

Ms. Fleming looked the part and was in good voice all evening. Her “Vilja, o Vilja,” the tender, wistful love song that Hanna sings at the garden party reminded me of Rusalka…..She looked fabulous in the costumes reminiscent of the Belle Époque. Her counter to Mr. Gunn’s antics was quite believable…..and given her attraction to the scoundrel in Act II, when Hanna and Danilo dance and hum to the recurring “Merry Widow” waltz, it was truly romantic. The baritone Thomas Allen was notable as Baron Mirko Zeta, the Pontevedrin envoy in Paris, clueless about his wife Valencienne’s infatuation with Camille. Speaking of Valencienne …. The much talked about and anticipated Broadway star Ms. Kelly O’Hara stood up to the challenge of singing without amplification. She and the tenor Alek Shrader, as Camille provided much of the spice of the evening. Carlson Elrod as Njegus, the “go to” Danilo assistant provided much of the comic relief.

I am not a big fan of Broadway but have to admit that the musical dance “numbers,” both the raucous, suggestive cancan at Maxim’s and the folkloric Balkan dances at Hanna’s party, were masterfully choreographed and executed . Ms. Stroman’s direction, the other much anticipated collaboration, shines here.

So given the challenges of the production, let’s give everyone an A for effort and a B- for the first act, B+ for the combined second and third, thus a solid B for the evening.

"Macbeth", "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk", "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" - report from the Met

Polish version
pl

 

Author: Gabriela Harvey

Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth and Željko Lučić in the title role of Verdi's Macbeth photo (c) Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
Kliknij, aby powiększyć / Click to magnify

This fall much has been written about Shostakovich’s "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" and even more about Verdi’s “Macbeth” with Anna Netrebko as Lady Macbeth.

Here some snippets of my impressions:

I saw the October 11th matinee with Željko Lučić as Macbeth and the afore mentioned Ms. Netrebko as his wife. They were joined by Joseph  Calleja as McDuff and Rene Pape as Banquo all under the baton of  Fabio Luisi and the superb production of Adrian Noble.

Mark Thompson’s somber set, enclosed by gnarled, tortured trees soon set the mood of this dark tale. There was no mistaking who the center of attention was. From the moment Ms. Netrebko appeared (in a blond wig, her idea), she controlled the mood of every moment she was on stage …and off…. The sleepwalking scene, where she walks atop an isle of chairs, was mesmerizing, the witches adding to the dread of the moment. Ms. Netrebko’s  two year preparation for the role paid off. Her voice carried the performance, but that afternoon acting was also her calling card!

Mr Lučić was perfect from the beginning till the final, full of fury call to battle. Competing with Netrebko’s stellar acting skills, he more then held his own. I really like this singer!

The wrenching “O figli o figli miei” lamenting the death of his family, was sung beautifully by the tenor Joseph Calleja. He was in fine voice all evening, as was Rene Pape the noble Banquo. The Met chorus could not have been better, and the music filled the house with the dread, drama and brutality of the score. A memorable afternoon…..

A scene from Shostakovich's „Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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On to the other Lady Macbeth …This time of Mtsensk. The surprise hit (I think) of this season.

I saw the November 21st, 2014 evening performance with Eva-Maria  Westbroek, Anatoli Kotscherga as her Father, Frank van Aken (Ms. Westbroek’s husband in “real life”) as Sergei, Oksana Volkova as Sonyetka, a convict, and many others. We were warned ahead of time that “the performance (used) gunshots and strobe light effects” what we were not warned about was the explicit nature of some of the “goings-on”…. It was amazing how closely Shostakovich’s music reflects the plot, all of it ….the pathos, eroticism, violence, absurdity…. The conductor was James Colon. Great!

All this was supported by the lurid colors and props of Graham Vick’s  “kitschy” set, as well as the costumes: Ms. Westbroek’s flowered, yellow1950’s dress, or the wedding dresses of the brides. Who will forget the 50’s car holding the disintegrating body of Katerina’s murdered (by her…) husband?

The opera had its premiere in 1934 during the height of Stalin’s reign of terror and was denounced by him two years later. It is the story of Katerina Isamailova, an unhappy, married to a boor, childless and utterly bored housewife. Quickly in the first act she falls for one of her husband’s workmen, Sergei, and a passionate entanglement ensues. What follows is punctuated by desire, violence, vulgarity and buffoonery ...and it all ends with a revengeful drowning, on the way to a gulag in Siberia…..

Ms. Westbroek was amazing as Katerina. An incredible example of  being able to conquer the vocal challenges of the score, as well as the physical demands of the performance. Brava!

As Sergei, Frank van Aken was skillful in portraying the “live for the moment, at any cost” cad. Boris, Katerina’s sleezy father-in-law, her first victim (rat poison), was sung by bass Anatoli Kotscherga, He was masterful in portraying all that was despicable in this character. Mikhail Koleshhvili aptly conveyed the comedy of his cameo as the corrupt, drunken priest. Oksana Volkova as Sonyetka was perfect in her characterization of the inmate seducing Sergei in act IV. UGH! What  a bunch of despicable characters! What a wonderful cast!

There were long bravos all around, after an evening not all were sure they would like (or approve of…).

James Morris as Hans Sachs in Wagner's „Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
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With Christmas 2014 behind me and the New Year almost here. Now comes Susan Stroman's new production of Lehár's "The Merry Widow" starring Renée Fleming, Mariusz Kwiecien as Marcello and Kristine Opolais as Mimi in Zeffirelli’s La Bohéme. February brings the return of everyone’s favorite, Piotr Beczala in Iolanta. Diana Damrau comes to town soon after.

To complete my fall cycle at the Met, here are some quickly scribbled notes, memories and impressions from the December 6th, 2014 return of one of the oldest performances (and rumored to be the last of this production) of   Richard Wagner’s ”Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” from the respected duo of Otto Schenk  and Günther Schneider-Siemssen .

I was not going to see it…but my husband talked me into it. We left  at 17:15 and  returned well after 24:00. The round trip took 55 minutes, there were two 40 - minute intermissions, the rest was music!

This "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" offered a stellar cast ... James Morris as Hans Sachs, the tenor Johan Botha as Walther, the Knight ... Annette Dasch as Eva, the bass Hans-Peter König as her father Pogner, Johannes Martin Kränzle as Beckmesser, the mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill as the handmaid Lena, (in love with David)! There were many more….too numerous to mention here…all deserving bravos!

James Morris, the veteran bass-baritone, is approaching the end of his Wagnerian career (known best for his Wotan) and is rumored to have sung his last Hans Sachs. Judging from the house response, Morris was spectacular. What was missing at the upper range of his voice was easily recaptured by the steadfastness and dramatic understanding of the character. Other cheers went to newcomer to the Met Johannes Martin Kränzle, who was brilliant as Beckmesser! He almost stole the show…. Hilarious!  Annette Dasch as Eva was perfect for the role of the love interest and the daughter, as was Hans-Peter König as her Father. The lyric tenor Paul Appleby, singing David the shoemaker’s apprentice, made a name for himself during the run. He proved well rounded in his singing and acting skills.  I should award accolades to Johan Botta. Great singer! His “Morning Dream Song” was beautiful. His visual presentation, however, made it impossible to accept him as the dashing suitor and the instant object of Eva’s affections.

Finally, but most important, I must pay high praise to the Met orchestra and chorus! Both were magnificent! No doubt, due in no small measure to James Levine’s mastery, understanding and love of the score. Levine is awesome! It feels so good to have him back. Bravo Maestro.

I feel fortunate to have been there.

Happy New Year ! See you in January!

Royal Opera House on your own sofa

Author: Jacek Kornak

pl Polish version

 

Jacek Kornak
Don Giovanni ROH DVD okładka
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Over the past couple of years Opus Arte has presented selected productions of the Royal Opera House on DVD. For those who cannot attend live performances in Covent Garden, these records offer a great opportunity to watch opera productions from this prestigious opera house. Recent releases of “Don Giovanni” and “Parsifal” are definitely worth the attention from any opera lover.

Kasper Holten’s production of “Don Giovanni” was recorded in February 2014. It is a highly symbolic, psychoanalysis-inspired tale of desire but also of finding and losing oneself. Don Giovanni is anything but a realistic character. It is a phantasm produced by sexual repression. The scenography in this performance is rather minimalistic, it consists of a big scale, circulating cube, something like a house-labyrinth, evoking a realm of unconsciousness. Elaborate and stylish costumes recall the Victorian era. Perhaps in order to make the performance even more a parable type, Holten often uses in this production video projections. Holten’s vision of “Don Giovanni” is concise and clear but I just have a feeling that it lacks some subtlety. Moreover, video projections are often unnecessary and visually tiring. One point is certain: Holten put a lot of effort into working with singers who act with intensity and passion and, in many scenes, one can sense the chemistry of desire.

In the cast we can find some of the leading Mozartian experts. Mariusz Kwiecien sings in the title role, Alex Esposito performs Leporello, Malin Byström is Donna Anna, Veronique Gens is Donna Elvira, Elizabeth Watts acts as Zerlina. Vocally, it is a strong performance but I have the feeling that this cast could do better. Alex Esposito is vocally supreme. Every single one of his phrases is clear, intense, full of meaning and emotions. This is exactly what I expect from an opera singer. Mariusz Kwiecien is able to charm with his voice. His legatos were truly seductive but at points he is also passionate and dramatic. The rest of the cast is not so convincing. Veronique Gens perhaps sings too strongly which does not suit her light and rather small voice. Her singing sounds at points forced and rough. I like the expressive voice of Malin Byström but it lacked lyricism and had a mat sound. Among women the best is Elizabeth Watts. She sings with confidence and technical precision. Watts in her interpretation perfectly captured the Mozartian atmosphere. The weakest element of this production is the conductor. Nicola Luisotti conducts “Don Giovanni” with energy but he misses uniquely Mozartian ambience. The orchestra sounds quite dramatic but too concise. Luisotti is not able to express all the richness of Mozart’s orchestration.

 

Parsifal Royal Opera House DVD okładka
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“Parsifal” is an impossible-to-stage opera. Here much more than the plot, matters Wagner’s philosophical vision. That is the reason why, when trying to give a concrete visual shape to abstract ideas, a director is destined to fail. This production from December 2013 manages quite well to express Wagner’s conception of humanism. The director, Stephen Langridge, decides to go here for a rather subtle symbolism. His “Parsifal” engages with the problem of the sacred that is always marked by violence. It is a tale about human existence and its limits. The scenography signed by Alison Chitty consists of geographical figures, mostly cubes that we find in different configurations. These lines and spaces limit but at the same time offer a possibility of transgression. This is the background for Wagner’s drama that in Langridge’s direction has a slightly antireligious dimension. Here the answer for loneliness and anxiety is not the sacred but empathy. Wagnerian humanism is presented by Langridge in a sublime way without literality. The director does not impose one vision of this work but rather opens it up for a variety of interpretations. In the last scene when Parsifal reveals the sanctuary, the place for the sacred is empty. Instead of a relationship with the sacred, Parsifal offers a transformed-by-empathy relationship with other humans.

Antonio Pappano prepared this production musically. This conductor has a unique sense of operatic dramaturgy and at the same time he has a perfect control over every detail of Wagner’s orchestration. In musical expression Pappano never goes too far, his conducting is perfectly balanced. He has a clear, coherent vision of this opus magnum in the field of opera.

In the title role we can hear Simon O’Neill. He performs this role with acuteness and emotional depth. To me, the brightest star of this record is Rene Pape, who sings the role of Gurnemanz. Pape sings confidently with a certain authority in his voice. When such great sense of interpretation is combined with this beautiful voice, it creates an unforgettable performance. Angela Denoke is a great Kundry. She has a uniquely intense, almost shrill voice that perfectly suits the mysterious role of Kundry. Gerald Finley created rather original interpretation of Amfortas. He has a light, lyrical voice but his interpretation of this role is really touching. Also Willard W. White needs to be mentioned here. He is a reverse of Finley. White has a powerful and confident voice.

Author: Jacek Kornak

 

"The Death of Klinghoffer" - Metropolitan Opera

Polish version Flaga polska

 

Author: Tom Harvey

Aubrey Allicock (Mamoud), Sean Panikkar (Molqi), and Paulo Szot (Captain) in The Death of Klinghoffer photo (c) Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera  published by opera.info.pl by courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera
 

When the curtain rang down the crowd went crazy, standing OHs and thunderous applause. That's how happy we all were that the thing was over. I can't believe it took only three hours. When we left the matinee, I was surprised to see daylight, feared it was the next day. Bada-bing!1

Don't want a refund, I know there are expenses, but I would like three hours of my life back...

I think Adams forgot to write an opera and came up with a play instead. So he just told the cast to sing the words. There is no score, just a flat line on the ekg. Not exactly "bel canto." Willie Nelson could have written better music. The Klinghoffers had the day off, there was so little singing from them. I hope we paid them by the note.

Ditto for the libretto. I know they are always weird, but: "I would spit on you but I am dry. I have no tears and no spit"?! What?!?  

The historical sidebars and footnotes were the most entertaining part of the piece. Admittedly, there were some "accidents," even a blind chicken finds corn sometimes:

- The male dancer was fabulous, as was the dance-team he led to close Act I. When he finally pulled the trigger, I prayed the end was nigh, but nooo...

- There were also some good voices (no good singing, need notes for that).

- The two captains, worthy rivals, mano a mano2, but mixed martial arts would have been more authentic

- The showgirl was terrific.

The jihad virgin was just awful, not attractive.

I had to go, to say I'd seen it. But I think one needs to be really smart or equally stupid to like it, quess I'm a 'tweener," no problem.

Thinking of that random couple from, let's say Iowa, in town for the first time, who said : "Hey, let's try an opera when we're in NY..." and got whacked by this thing. Gawd!

Just take me back past 1926...

Author: Tom Harvey - Metropolitan Opera November 15th, 2014

 

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