Monday, March 29, 2010

Esta noche en Pleyel: Juan Diego Flórez

From the photo exhibition by Pietro Spagnoli at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées

Siegfried: Lance Ryan et al.

After I saw this third opera of the Furasic Ring, the publicity stunt by which this DVD-set has been promoted --"The Ring of the 21st Century"-- crossed my tolerance threshold. Did they see the Copenhagen Ring before formulating that PR-line?

La Fura dels Baus did manage to produce a mind-blowing Rheingold. There the timing was perfect, an exquisite combination of their theatrical language with clever ideas that uncovered a different face of that opera. Add to that some superb singing and yes, you may say their Rheingold had set a very high standard and will remain a reference to whoever decides to mount The Ring in the future.

In Die Walkure, instead, Carlos Padrissa started relying too much on video imagery. I'm not complaining about video if it supported the drama instead of diverting our attention from the lack of  theatrical ideas. That second opera was nevertheless wonderfully sung and the verve of the libretto somehow makes you tolerate the excessive use of video.

Siegfried is less crowdy and less busy, and the lack of director's ideas becomes more apparent. Padrisa tries to compensate by throwing the video stuff at you but only to further tickle your annoyance and by the time we reached the hour four of the show, I was this close to stop the DVD...
On the positive note, this opera is as wonderfully sung as the previous 2, and even if there are a few great moments on the stage, it's hard to forgive too much pointless video trash [Fura is usually so much better than this Robert Lepage kind of videology].

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tonight la prima of Parsifal in Stuttgart, Dialogues des Carmélites in Munich, and Daphne in Frankfurt

On the website of the Staatsoper Stuttgart there is a short promotional video where his awesomeness, Calixto Bieito, talks about his take on this masterpiece-opera.
Parsifal for me is coming from poverty, no cultural education, and somebody is manipulating him to be a hero, to be a kind of Jesus Christ... and he's the new model of the society.
Watch out for Andrew Richards who's singing the title role in Stuttgart. He's got the potential to be as good as Christopher Ventris and Klaus Florian Vogt.

 Click on "Read more" to see a trailer for each of the three shows [Parsifal, Dialogues des Carmélites, and Daphne].

Friday, March 26, 2010

April in Paris

A selection of operatic and concert events in Paris - April 2010.

Souvenirs from Bayreuth 2009 (1)

Whatever is the good thing you've heard about the Opera Festival in Bayreuth, it is true. ;) 
It's a special experience, and if you're a Wagner fan you really take heaps of pleasure. You may think the adventure is just a money-drainer but it's less than you probably expect it to be. 

The only major expense is of course the ticket for one of the operas. I think the myth of it being dreadfully expensive is due to the risk you take by going to Bayreuth without opera tickets: It may easily happen that you pay for your trip, hotel and what-not, and then you spend 4-5-6 hours a day waiting in front of the Festspielehaus' box-office without ever getting to see to see even 1 Act of any opera. When I say that I assume you didn't wait for 10-15 years to get the famous tickets (I wouldn't have that kind of patience...

Let's face it: It is kinda crazy to go to Bayreuth and hope someone would return his tic on the day you're standing in front of the box-office and you'll be the lucky one to get it. That's why nobody wanted to go with me, but I'm living proof that the risk can pay off: I've spent three days in Bayreuth and saw three operas (well, 2 and a half). 

I collected here some photos that might bring you a bit of Bayreuther-Summer-2009 atmosphere, and maybe even encourage you to go and feel the Green Hill  yourselves.

Approaching the legendary theater (Festspielhaus) is fun. You see the street signs such as "Meistersingerstrasse", "Nibelungstrasse"... The long street leading to theater is called "Siegfried Wagner Allee". If you're a Wagner fan it's cool :)

In a pretty park, right in front of the Festspielhaus, you can't miss the busts of Richard and Cosima Wagner. In a park adjacent to the Festspiel-complex there is also a bust of Franz Liszt.

Souvenirs from Bayreuth 2009 (2)

Intermissions  are 1 hour long each, but very pleasant. You should keep in mind that this is a significant social event for rich Germans. Well, not only Germans.

4 minutes for Roxana sung by Olga Pasichnyk

Olga Pasichnyk will appear tonight at TCE in Gloria by Poulenc, which is a good reason to go and listen to this live.

She was singing Roxana last June at Opera Bastille, in a sensational Krzysztof Warlikowski's production of  "Krol Roger" by Szymanowski -- the show that I went to see 6 times [how crazy is that?!]

Take 4 minutes of your precious time to enjoy this brilliance...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Une petite salle parisienne: Concert with Max Emanuel Cencic

Salle Gaveau in Paris is a nice concert hall;  a small auditorium hosting less than 1000 people, looking like a chapel, but acoustics is fantastic.

Even though the whole structure (auxiliary rooms, entrance, rest rooms...) looks quite provincial, the auditorium brings some peculiar intimacy to any event (recital/concert) organized in Gaveau. That was particularly the case with a beautiful all-Handel concert last night with Max Emanuel Cencic, I Barocchisti from Lugano and their conductor  Diego Fasolis.

The problem with Salle Gaveau is that it's literally 50 meters away from the premises of the national committee of UMP (UMP = the governing French right-wing party) who during various elections rent the Salle Gaveau. For that reason, la Salle Gaveau is often perceived as adjacent to the UMP committee --->  many people --liberal or politically  disoriented-- are somewhat reluctant to visit Gaveau.

It may sound unreasonable... but since the offer in Paris is so large, this is enough to make you prefer to go and see other concert halls.

Salle Gaveau, Paris, March 24, 2010

What about the last night's concert?

Una giornata particolare

Yesterday I had to go to Brussels for some paperwork.

The ultra-fast trains operating between Paris and Brussels are wonderful [it's only a 72 minutes ride!] but the tickets are very rigid so since I finished my job much earlier than predicted, I had to wait for more than 4 hours to get on my train back to Paris.

Blessing in disguise: enough time for an impromptu visit to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. ;)

Instead of giving you dozens of reasons why "you must" visit this place, I'll post here a bunch of photos I took there yesterday...

La chute des anges rebelles, Pieter Brueghel - 1562

Of course I saw the Brueghel-section and most of what you can find in their superb collection of ancient Art (I'll upload many pics later today), but you should not neglect their equally magnificent collection of the Modern Art. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Neues Museum in Berlin

OK, I decided not to blog about the appalling production of Lucia di Lammermoor at Deutsche Oper last Saturday which went down the drain in spite of Eglise Gutierrez [a petite girl with too small a voice] and Roberto Alagna [who looked like a pedophile next to Eglise]. Plus, on the same night at Komische there was that new production of Don Pasquale that I so wanted to see, but since I had a ticket for Lucia, what could I do?! I guess I would've been be less pi*ed if Diana Damrau was singing.
All, all, but you should see those sets... Dear God!!!

Nor I'd talk about Peter Seiffert who screwed up my Tristan und Isolde on Sunday [Why, oh why does he keep singing something he cannot?] He already ruined the whole series of Tristan in Liceu last January, and now the series continues  in Berlin. René and Waltraud clearly saved the best for the Festtage, and just wanted to get it over with... Only Ekaterina Gubanova and Saint Barenboim made me not regret to have spent the operatic weekend in Berlin.  It happens...

2011-2012 2012-2013 in Austria


Theater an der Wien

SUPERB program!!!

September 2012: Il ritorno d´Ulisse in patria [dir- Claus Guth, cnd- Christophe Rousset, cast: Garry Magee, Delphine Galou, Katija Dragojevic...]

October 2012: Il trittico [dir- Damiano Micheletto, cnd- Kirill Petrenko, cast: Patricia Racette, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Roberto Frontali, Stella Grigorian, Paolo Fanale...]

November 2012: Iphigénie en Aulide [dir- Torsten Fischer, cnd- Alessandro de Marchi, cast: Myrto Papatanasiu, Bo Skovhus, Paul Groves, Michelle Breedt...]

December 2012: Mathis der Maler [dir- Keith Warner, cnd- Bertrand de Billy, cast: Kurt Streit, Franz Grundheber, Heidi Brunner, Wolfgang Koch...]

January 2013: Radamisto [dir- Vincent Boussard, cnd- René Jacobs, cast: David Daniels, Sophie Karthäuser, Patricia Bardon, Florian Bösch...]

February 2013: Le Comte d'Ory [dir- Moshe Leiser/Patrice Caurier, cnd- Jean-Christophe Spinosi, cast: Lawrence Borwnlee, Cecilia Bartoli, Pietro Spagnoli...]

March 2013: Fidelio [dir- Herbert Föttinger, cnd- Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cast: Michael Schade, Juliane Banse, Anna Prohaska...]

April 2013: Béatrice et Bénédict [dir- Kasper Holten, cnd- Leo Hussain, cast: Malena Ernman, Bernard Richter, Nikolay Borchev, Christiane Karg...]

July 2013: Attila [dir- Peter Konwitschny, cnd- Riccardo Frizza, cast: Lucrezia Garcia, Dmitry Belosselsky, Nikolai Schukoff, George Petean,...]

Wiener Staatsoper

The house of Krassimira Stoyanova, Nina Stemme, Ain Anger et al.

New Productions:

November: Alceste [dir- Christof Loy, cnd- Ivor Bolton, cast: Joseph Kaiser, Véronique Gens] (production Aix-en-Provence 2010)

December: Ariadne auf Naxos [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Christine Schäfer, Stephen Gould, Krassimira Stoyanova, Daniela Fally] (Salzburg Festival 2012)

January: La Cenerentola [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Jesus Lopez-Cobos, cast: Dmitry Korchak, Vito Priante, Alessandro Corbelli, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo] (Salzburg Festival 2012)

June: Tristan und Isolde  [dir- David McVicar, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Peter Seiffert, Nina Stemme]

and some potentially interesting revivals (because of the casts involved):

September: Don Carlo [dir- Daniele Abbado, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: René Pape, Roberto Alagna, Krassimira Stoyanova, Simon Keenlyside, Luciana D'Intino]

October:  Fidelio  [dir- Otto Schenk, cnd- Peter Schneider, cast: Gary Lehman, Ricarda Merbeth, Albert Dohmen]

November:  Simon Boccanegra  [dir- Peter Stein, cnd- Philippe Auguin, cast: Placido Domingo, Barbara Haveman, Ramon Vargas, Ain Anger]

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [dir- Otto Schenk, cnd- Simone Young, cast: James Rutherford, Johan Botha, Adrian Eröd, Norbert Ernst, Christina Carvin]

The Queen of Spades [dir- Vera Nemirova, cnd- Marko Letonja, cast: Tómas Tómasson, Marina Poplavskaya, Neil Schicoff, Grace Bumbry]

La Traviata [dir- Jean-Francois Sivadier, cnd- Paolo Carignani, cast: Marlis Petersen, Rolando Villazon, Fabio Capitanucci]

Wozzeck [dir- Adolf Dresen, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Simon Keenlyside, Gary Lehman. Anne Schwanewilms...]

Parsifal [dir- Christine Mielitz, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Jonas Kaufmann, Evelyn Herlitzius, Kwangchul Youn, Tomasz Konieczny]

Fidelio  [dir- Otto Schenk, cnd- Adam Fischer, cast: Lance Ryan, Anja Kampe, Falk Struckmann]

Don CarloS [dir- Peter Konwitschny, cnd- Bertrand de Billy, cast: Kwangchul Youn, Yonghoon Lee, Iano Tamar, Nadia Krasteva, George Petean]

Eugene Onegin [dir- Falk Richter, cnd- Andris Nelsons, cast: Anna Netrebko, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Dmitry Korchak, Konstantin Gorny]

Werther [dir- Andrei Serban, cnd- Bertrand de Billy, cast: Roberto Alagna, Elina Garanca, Tae-Joong Yang]

Der fliegende Holländer [dir- Christine Mielitz, cnd- Daniel Harding, cast: Stephen Gould, Anja Kampe, Juha Uusitalo]

Rheingold [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Tomasz Konieczny, Anna Larson, Gerhard Siegel, Janina Baechle, Norbert Ernst, Wolfgang Bankl]

Die Walküre [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Tomasz Konieczny, Simon O'Neill, Nina Stemme, Camilla Nylund, Janina Baechle, Ain Anger]

Siegfried [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Stephen Gould, Nina Stemme, Camilla Nylund, Anna Larsson, Tomasz Konieczny, Gerhard Siegel]

Götterdämmerung  [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Stephen Gould, Nina Stemme, John Tomlinson]

Die Walküre [dir- Sven-Eric Bechtolf, cnd- Peter Schneider, cast: Johan Botha, Katarina Dalayman, Mihoko Fujimura, Juha Uusitalo, Ain Anger]

Capriccio [dir- Marco Arturo Marelli, cnd- Christoph Eschenbach, cast: Renée Fleming, Bo Skovhus, Angelika Kirschlager, Kurt Rydl, Michael Schade, Markus Eiche]

Oper Graz

Manon Lescaut [dir- Stefan Herheim (Heike Scheele), cnd- Michael Boder, cast: Gal James, Javier Franco, Gaston Rivero,...]

L'elisir d'amore [dir- Damiano Michieletto, cnd- José Esandi, cast: local]

Hänsel und Gretel [dir- Brigitte Fassbaender, cnd- Domingo Hindoyan, cast: David McShane, Sieglinde Feldhofer,...]

Falstaff [dir- Tama Matheson, cnd- Johannes Fritzsch, cast: James Rutherford, ...]

Gasparone (operette by Carl Millöcker) [dir- Olivier Tambosi, cnd- Marius Burkert, cast: ]

Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny [dir- Calixto Bieito (Rebecca RIngst), cnd- Johannes Fritzsch, cast: mostly local]

La Traviata [dir- Peter Konwitschny, cnd- Domingo Hindoyan, cast: local]


 Vienna Calling

Theater an der Wien already unveiled their 2011-2012 program. Interesting and delicately cast, the list of new productions includes:
  • September: The Turn of the Screw [dir- Robert Carsen, cnd- Cornelius Meister, cast: Nikolai Schukoff, Sally Matthews, Jennifer Larmore, Ann Murray...]
  • October: Serse [dir- Adrian Noble, cnd- Jean-Christophe Spinosi, cast: Malena Ernman, Bejun Mehta, Adriana Kucerova, Danielle de Niese...]
  • November: Gogol, world premiere of an opera by Lera Auerbach [dir- Christine Mielitz, cnd- Vladimir Fedoseyev, cast: Bo Skovhus, Ladislav Elgr, Natalya Ushakova...]
  • December: L'Orfeo [dir- Claus Guth, cnd- Ivor Bolton, cast: John Mark Ainsley, Mari Eriksmoen...]
  • January: Iolanta & Francesca da Rimini by Tchaikovsky [dir- Stephen Lawless, cnd- Kirill Petrenko, cast: Olga Mykytenko, Saimir Pirgu, Dalibor Jenis, Svetlana Shilova, Rinnat Moriah...]
  • February: Telemaco [dir- Torsten Fischer, cnd- René Jacobs, cast: Bejun Mehra, Reiner Trost, Alexandrina Pendatchanska]
  • April: Hamlet [dir- Olivier Py, cnd- Marc Minkowski, cast: Stéphane Degout, Christine Schäfer, Frédéric Antoun, Sylvie Brunet]

Note that they will be working during summer: July 2012 Les contes de Hoffmann with Marlis Petersen singing 4 roles, and in August 2012 they will give La donna del lago (production by Christof Loy premiered last year in Geneva) with Malena Ernmann, Gregory Kunde and other (Leo Hussain to conduct)

The list of new production to be presented in 2011-2012 at  Staatsoper Wien  includes:

  • October: La Traviata [dir- Jean-Francois Sivadier, cnd- Bertrand de Billy, cast: Natalie Dessay, Charles Castronovo, Fabio Capitanucci]
  • November: Kat'a Kabanova [dir- André Engel, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Emily Magee, Klaus Florian Vogt, Deborah Polaski]
  • December: From the House of the Dead (Z mrtvého domu) [dir- Peter Konwitschny, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Misha Didyk, Christopher Maltman...]
  • January: Otello [dir- Christine Mielitz, cnd- Dan Ettinger, cast: Peter Seiffert, Krassimira Stoyanova, Carlos Alvarez]
  • January: Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny [dir- Jérôme Deschamps, cnd- Ingo Metzmacher, cast: Elisabeth Kulmann, Angelika Kirchschlager, Christopher Ventris, Tomasz Koniecny]
  • March: Die Frau ohne Schatten [dir- Robert Carsen, cnd- Franz Welser-Möst, cast: Adrianne Pieczonka, Robert Dean Smith, Birgit Remmert, Evelyn Herlitzius] (ed: revival of the R. Carsen's production premiered in the late 90's)

Plácido Domingo in Stein's Boccanegra, Minkowski will be back for one more run of Alcina but this time w/o Anja Harteros. Patrick Lange will conduct Don Giovanni and Madama Butterfly.
They too will rerun their Ring twice (November & April), this time conducted by Christian Thielemann [Rheingold: Juha Uusitalo, Anna Larsson, Anna Larsson, Janina Baechle; Walküre: Christopher Ventris, Juha Uusitalo, Waltraud Meier, Katarina Dalayman; Siegfried: Stephen Gould, Juha Uusitalo, Wolfgang Schmidt, Katarina Dalayman; Götterdämmerung: Stephen Gould, Eric Halfvarson, Katarina Dalayman]. They will also give both Don Carlo [René Pape, Ramon Vargas, Luciana D'Intino, Krassimira Stoyanova, Simon Keenlyside] and Don Carlos [Kwangchul Youn, Adrianne Pieczonka, Ludovic Tézier, Béatrice Uria-Monzon]. Great cast for Tannhäuser...

Oper Graz

New productions:
  • Otello [dir- Stephen Lawless, cnd- Johannes Fritzsch, cast: Frank van Aken, James Rutherford, Gal James...]
  • The Queen of Spades [dir- Peter Konwitschny, cnd- Tecwyn Evans, cast: Asmik Grigorian, Avgust Amonov...]
  • Elektra [dir- Johannes Erath, cnd- Johannes Fritzsch, cast:...]
  • Maria Stuarda [dir- Stefano Poda, cnd- Gaetano d'Espinosa]
NB: In June 2012 they will rerun the celebrated production of Carmen directed by Stefan Herheim.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Olivier Py recounts masterfully Les Contes d'Hoffmann

This DVD is a recording of the much praised Olivier Py's revisited production of Les Contes d'Hoffmann, shown last year in Geneva. I saw it only now, on DVD, and I can understand the rave reviews the production received from both the critics and the general audience.

It is a very traditional theatrical style but it is very well done. If you already experienced one or more productions directed by Olivier Py, you will recognize his peculiar manner to organize the sets through a system of moving scaffoldings, a structure that allows him to quickly change the scene and avoid any slowdown of the dramatic action. His clever way to fit the scene transformations with the text result in a flawless flow of the show. The traditionalists may be upset by Olivier's aesthetics, but they will be more than happy to see that he never drifts away from Jules Barbier's libretto. Personally, this is the only aspect of this show I don't fully appreciate -- lack of the surprising element.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

TONIGHT @ 8pm (Paris time): Platée - live webcast

Don't forget: the new production of  Platée an opera by J.-P. Rameau, directed by Mariame Clément, will be broadcast  TODAY via Arte LIVE WEB

To easily follow the show read the synopsis here.

@ Palais Garnier

2010-2011: Cité de la musique - Paris

The place where you can sens the love for music much more than elsewhere is this wonderful Cité de la musique. It is much less starry than in the other operatic or concert houses, but the program is always much better structured around the specific themes, covering the music that you rarely see programmed in the main concert houses. In their premises you can visit a Music Museum (excellent!), they organize seminars, workshops, round tables with authors, artists, they give you free access to their ginormous Media Center...

Yes, the stars perform there sometimes too, and in my opinion they perform even better -- perhaps because they perform the music they don't normally do in other concert houses.

And their auditorium is excellent -- the best in Paris! They will officially announce their program for 2010-2011 season this evening and already tomorrow it will be available on their web-site.

I received the program this morning and will type a list of say 20-30 concerts/events to see next season  à la Cité.

Yet another Faust in Paris

Philippe Fénelon is a French composer [born in 1952], who learned his job from Messiaen [among others], who's apparenty quite prolific [Yours Truly never heard any of his work though], and who's the author of this new Faust, premiered last night at Palais Garnier in Paris [NB the production is of course not new; was premiered in Toulouse three years ago].

Anatomie de la beauté : Palais Garnier

Opera National de Paris, Palais Garnier, March 17, 2010: Faust
Bernhard Kontarsky    Conductor
Pet Halmen    Stage Director

Gilles Ragon  Görg
Arnold Bezuyen Faust
Robert Bork Méphistophélès
Gregory Reinhart Wagner, Le Moine
Bartlomiej Misiuda Le Forgeron
Eric Huchet Le Duc, Le Capitaine
Marie-Adeline Henry La Femme du forgeron, La Princesse
Karolina Andersson Annette
Johan Christensson Kurt
Stanislas de Barbeyrac Hans
Guillaume Antoine Michel
Zoé Nicolaidou Kathe
Ilona Krzywicka Suschen
Aude Extrémo Lieschen

5 minutes of brilliance: Mariusz Kwiecien

Primavera arrivata a Parigi!

 I'm not into flowers and sweet colory stuff (quite the opposite actually), but the wake of Spring is always irresistible... It's sunny, the new green is coming and the flowers are popping up all over the place...  

Ah, this entry is not about Spring. It's to suggest you to take 5 minutes of your time and... 

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010-2011, 2011-2012 2012-2013 in Belgium

Can you find a better intendant of an opera house in Europe [or anywhere else] than Peter de Caluwe? Of course not! With a much smaller budget, compared to the top European opera houses, year after year, he and his team manage to compose a well balanced and highly interesting program. .

L'Amant jaloux mais bête

It had to happen. Opéra Comique just screwed up their winning streak of excellent shows this year. Last night's premiere of L'Amant Jaloux [The Jealous Lover] is a poor tribute to André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry, a.k.a. French Mozart.

Paris, March 15, 2010:  L'Amant Jaloux, an opera by André Grétry

Musical direction, Jérémie Rhorer
Stage direction, Pierre-Emmanuel Rousseau

Léonore, Magali Léger
Isabelle, Daphné Touchais
Jacinte, Maryline Fallot
Florival, Frédéric Antoun
Don Alonze, Brad Cooper
Don Lopez, Vincent Billier

Le Cercle de l’Harmonie

Monday, March 15, 2010

Waiting for Treemonisha

Did you know that the king of ragtime, Scott Joplin, actually wrote an opera? Well, I didn't!

The Artistic Management of the Théâtre du Châtelet had a good idea to program an opera by an African-American composer -- 1 year after the US elected the first African-American president: it will be Treemonisha by Scott Joplin. The 6-shows series of this new production will be premiered on March 31.
What to expect? To get an idea about the musical content, a DG recording is always helpful.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chopin in Paris & Edna Stern performs on a Pleyel piano

Last week in the Cité de la musique in Paris was opened the exhibition Chopin à Paris [it will run through June 6]. If you're in Paris or plan to come, I would wholeheartedly recommend you to visit the place (on the same go you may visit their very interesting Musée de la musique; it's in the same building).

It's a nicely organized exhibition with many Chopin's manuscripts, his correspondence with Eugène Delacroix and George Sand. There are plenty of drawings, many of which emphasize Chopin's  constant feeling of being in exile despite the fact that his father was French.  He grew up in Poland and most of his work was in one way or another dedicated to Poland.

Fred loved Norma by Bellini, and especially Act 3 of Robert le Diable by Meyerbeer. Since his work is intimately related to the Pleyel pianos, there is a section describing his contact with Pleyel (the son).  In one section of the exhibiting hall there is a large Pleyel piano and there was a man playing various pieces by Chopin, who'd explain the details concerning the variety of structures in Chopin's music, relating them to various periods of his life.  

Pleyel piano from 1842, in the Amphitheater of the Cité de la musique in Paris.

Crummy Berlioz

Benvenuto Cellini is an opera that can be considered interesting because it shows a starting point to what would Berlioz's genius become 20 years later. Other than that, the opera is not really very interesting. OK, there are bits and pieces that are likable but overall it's long-winded and clumsily constructed: the drama isn't really taking off, while its comic part is desperately not funny. 

Happily Berlioz realized right after this opera that his language to touch the dramatic cord with the audience is music more than anything, and only a year later he composed his wonderful semi-opera Romeo et Juliette -- much-much better than Benvenuto Cellini

So if you're Berlioz fan and you take Benevenuto Cellini for what it is --an exercise, a building block in the learning process of young Berlioz, then you can give this DVD a try.  Otherwise you should keep in mind that life is short, and that there are so many other DVDs to see, books to read...  ;)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Théâtre des Champs Élysées 2010-2011

Check out here...

Yesterday, Sat March 13, I was at the TCE to listen to the presentation speech of their Artistic Manager,  Michel Franck. 

2010-2011 @ TCE looks terrific on the paper, with basically all the World's top orchestra coming (except for Berliners) and with la crème de la crème  as far as the conductors are concerned. In that All-Star configuration I am more than happy to see seven young super-talented conductors to be given a part in limelight: David Afkham especially, and then also Andris Nelsons, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Vasily Petrenko, Jérémie Rhorer, Tugan Sokhiev, and Kazuki Yamada. Operas, recitals, orchestral works, piano concerts... it's mind blowing!

Franck also told us that their season 2011-2012 will start only in November 2011, because of the heavy summer works to enlarge the pit and to be able to host larger orchestra. That would allow them to program also some works from the grand repertoire, such as Le Sacre du printemps, Dialogue des Carmélites...  We also learned that they're preparing a new production of Tristan und Isolde for 2012. 

As for the operatic stuff in 2010-2011 @ TCE...

Platée arrive chez vous (2)

The previous entry will hopefully motivate you to see the new production of Platée, directed by Mariame Clément,  which will be premiered tomorrow at the Strasbourg Opera (Opera National du Rhin). A lineup of very good singers and the orchestra Les Talens Lyriques will be conducted by Christophe Rousset.

 Shrek-y pic from the Mariame Clément's production of Platée  

MORE IMPORTANTLY,  next  Thursday - March 18 at 8 pm (cet), the world's best TV will broadcast it live. To see it simply visit Arte LIVE WEB and enjoy. 

2-3 days after the live webcast the video will be available for 60 days. It's good, it's free, we like it!

 For more pics from this production see here.

Platée arrive chez vous (1)

Platée is an opera written by a French baroque composer, Jean-Philippe Rameau, who is unfortunately not as famous worldwide as he should be: we're talking about a pure genius.
Most of his operas are  recorded, each involving the prestigious conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner, William Christie, Marc Minkowski...  Over the past 10 years or so his work is attracting more and more interest and many opera houses in Europe start including in one of his operas in the programs.

The trouble in producing his operas is that they regularly contain a couple of "ballet" numbers --->  need more rehearsal time --> productions are more costly.

Back to Platée... It is an opera bouffe, with a far-fetched plot, like in most[all?] baroque operas, which --when properly staged-- can become wickedly funny. This was the case with a recent revival of the Laurent Pelly's production of Platée at the Paris Opera. That's a kind of productions Laurent Pelly knows how to do well. I saw it last December and I liked it a lot: it was funny [full of froggy/self-deprecating humor], fast paced, well constructed, very well performed by Les musiciens du Louvre  & Marc Minkowski, and brilliantly sung too (see here for details). 

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rolando Villazon to direct Werther in Lyon

Opéra de Lyon is a very good house and their program regularly contains some extremely interesting works.

One of this season's highlights was the new opera by Kaija Saariaho Émilie du Châtelet,  premiered last week (cf. this entry). I also saw and very much liked Moscow Cheryomushki.

They are still to announce the program for their 2010-2011 season, but a few important infos already leaked in the local press (see also here)...

Opéra National de Lyon

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Salle Pleyel 2010-2011

Laurent Bayle and his very competent collaborators announced the content of the 2010-2011 program at la Salle Pleyel.


It will soon be available on their web-site. Meanwhile, below you can find my extensive selection of the events proposed in the program.

See also the fully updated 2010-2011 program @ the Opéra National de Paris (ONP)
UPDATE: The same but official list is available on the ONP website.

Complete photo gallery from Tannhauser in Oslo

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stefan Herheim's Tannhäuser - first pics

Yours Truly will try and go to the (outrageously expensive) city of Oslo to see the new Herheim's production of Tannhäuser, premiered last night at Den Norske Opera.

No news or reviews so far... Only a few sneak-pics from a Polish blogger in Oslo who we thank "Dziękuję Roberto!" [and yes, we thank Google Translate too, for letting us understand Polish & Norwegian ;)]

See inside this entry for updates...

Hello New York! Titania, Oberon and the crew are coming...

I see the sensational Jonathan Kent's production of The Fairy Queen is coming to New York this month [to BAM], and the show is not sold out!!! Whata... 

 The Fairy Queen, Jonathan Kent's production presented at the Opéra Comique in Paris, January 2010

Trust me guys, you don't want to miss out on this one. It's so much better than the usual Met soup... It's one of those shows that stays with you forever. [ DVD will be released after the run in New York.]

I saw it both in theater and recorded and it's soooo much better in the theater -- you can see better the details and feel that special spark between the stage/pit and the audience. 

If Love's a Sweet Passion, why does it torment?
If a Bitter, oh tell me whence comes my content?
Since I suffer with pleasure, why should I complain,
Or grieve at my Fate, when I know 'tis in vain?
Yet so pleasing the Pain, so soft is the Dart,
That at once it both wounds me, and tickles my Heart.
I press her Hand gently, look Languishing down,
And by Passionate Silence I make my Love known.
But oh! I'm Blest when so kind she does prove,
By some willing mistake to discover her Love.
When in striving to hide, she reveals all her Flame,
And our Eyes tell each other, what neither dares Name.
 The Fairy Queen, Purcell (Act Three)

Pelléas et Mélisande: from Natalie with Love

Pelléas et Mélisande is one of those delicate operas; it requires a special care and skills from the director to handle a tricky balance between the dramatic action and a perpetual interplay of symbols with music. If you surf on its libretto only, you are almost guaranteed to get a pretentious waves of boredom.

This opera is a touch of genius. Like most of his contemporaries, Claude Debussy loved Wagner but not to the point that it would impede his own creativity. His music and his dramatic instincts are maybe close to what Wagner did in Parsifal, but Debussy humanized those dramatic instincts by making them more intimate. The collateral effect --that in our days became the most significant part of Debussy's genius-- is that his music tickles our subconsciousness in a very different way from what we usually feel when listening to Wagner. 

What about this DVD? In one line, it is ruined by Laurent Pelly's staging but beatified by a superb Natalie Dessay as Mélisande

Saturday, March 6, 2010

«J'aime jouer du piano mais je déteste être pianiste»

Martha Argerich, one of those remarkable larger-than-life women and one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, will be performing tonight and tomorrow at la salle Pleyel in Paris, together with the young artists from her Lugano Project [pic lifted from their website].

Now, the best part for you guys is that both concerts will be live webcast by the World's coolest TV.

To see the concert tonight, Saturday March 6, @ 8pm (cet=gmt+1), see ARTE Live Web here; and to see the one scheduled for tomorrow, Sunday March 7, @ 4pm (cet) you should click here.
Later on [say 3-4 days after the live webcast] the video will be available for free viewing. Viva ARTE!

What to do between two Rheingold shows?

If you are Marcel Reijans, you can for example tour with your pals in Holland and be cool in a way complementary to your coolly sung & acted Froh at Opéra Bastille. We like the attitude! :)


Friday, March 5, 2010

The Paris Ring: Das Rheingold



VERY good premiere of Das Rheingold in Paris

It's late to spill out the details but just a quick post to say that the opening night of Das Rheingold in Paris was very good. EVERY role was wonderfully sung and I do like the Günter Krämer's sense for theater, his great attention to details, his way to guide all the actors to participate in the dramatic action. In this show the singers never park & bark. Still, you'd like to see the director "crossing the line" every now and then... In this show that never happens. Although it has a leftist pretension [the idea with the Giants being the Unions works really very well] the show is pretty bourgeois ;) 
Well, a brilliantly portrayed Loge is an exception (the only place where the director steps an inch over  the line). 1 fun pic of Loge the cynic ;)

Loge - Kim Begley (superb singer and remarkable actor) 


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet

was the first European woman in science. She was physicist & mathematician, also known for her translations of many philosophical works from Greek and Latin, and in particular for her translation of Principia Mathematica to French. At the same time, she was a very eccentric woman for her time  (she lived between 1706 and 1749). She was an amateur opera singer & actress, she played the harpsichord..., transgressed the rules of "proper female conduct" by practicing the horse-riding  and  fencing.... To that add the fact that she had many lovers, the most famous being Voltaire (who gave her the nickname  Émilie du Châtelet which is also the name of this new opera.)

Several fragments of life of this larger-than-life lady are subject of the new opera by Kaija Saariaho, the Finnish composer who lives and creates in Paris and whose L'amour de loin we actually liked. Her librettist, Amin Maalouf, prepared the new work, she composed the musics, François Girard (who will direct the new production of Parsifal next year in Lyon, which will then travel to the Met in 2012) produced the show, and a good orchestra conducted by one of our fav maestros, Kazushi Ono premiered  Émilie at  Opéra de Lyon, last Monday, March 1. Karita Mattila, for whom Kaija composed this 80 mins long opera-monologue, was singing.

Photo by Heidi Piiroinen

April in Avignon

If you get a chance to listen to Indra Thomas singing LIVE,  please do (YT videos are a bad approximation to what you get from her live performance). I don't like comparing the singers of our time with glories from the past, but Indra's rich timbre makes you think of Leontyne Price -- the resemblance is too strong to ignore. She was my big surprise on the night of that awesome Requiem by Britten at Playel the other night (where I took this pic, btw).
I saw on her website that she'll be singing Aida in Avignon. The tickets are on sale for the matinee of April 25, and the evening of April 27. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

New productions in Europe - March 2010

Together with the Parisian Rheingold opening tomorrow, there are three other new productions that I expect to be particularly interesting this month:
  1. Stefan Herheim's  Tannhauser at Den Norske Opera in Oslo,  
  2. Parsifal in Stuttgart directed by our second fav director Calixto Bieito,
  3. Dimitry Tcherniakov is back to BSO in Munich, this time with Dialogues des Carmélites.

To the above four, I'd also add a potentially good Tannhauser at La Scala di Milano directed by Carlos Padrissa (for La Fura dels Baus), Daphne in Frankfurt with a good combination Claus Guth & Sebastian Weigle,  and Iphigenie en Tauride in Vienna with Torsten Fischer directing. A more extensive selection of the new European operatic productions in March includes...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Paris Ring: Rhein-ball [dress rehearsal]

I attended the final dress rehearsal last night. In this post I share some points about the production without talking about the vocal qualities of the singers nor about the orchestra -- as this show still carried a tag "rehearsal".

Das Rheingold (L'Or du Rhin) will be premiered coming Thursday, March 4, and Yours Truly has the ticket :)

So what's the Krämer's Ring about?

Important new productions in Europe we didn't see

 I was pointing out the important new productions in Europe and said I'd keep an eye on them even if I was unable to go and see them Live - in the flesh. In this entry I catch up with those I didn't mention in my previous post.


The latest opera by Peter Eötvös was premiered on Feb 22 in Munich. Die Tragödie des Teufel was directed by Balasz Kovalik and conducted by the composer himself. This 110 min long opera is based on the metaphysical /apocalyptic?/ comedy in which the mankind has become so evil that the devil became irrelevant - thus the title. The reviews are quite enthusiastic and talk about the sci-fi production concept, which is a good match to the inventive and inspiring musics. See photo-galery and the promotional video.
Update: Very reliable blogger Musica sola saw this show in Munich and reports that the stage solutions by Mr.Kovalik were quite poor, driving an already uninspiring libretto to a thick cloud of boredom... luckily rescued by some wonderful musics from Peter Eötvös. 
In case you wondered, Topi Lehtipuu was great as ever.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cos'è la bellezza? This is...

Oberon and Titania [Finbar Lynch & Sally Dexter] in the Jonatahan Kent's production of The Fairy Queen at the Opéra Comique in Paris, January 2010
See, even Night her self is here,
To favour your Design;
And all her Peaceful Train is near,
That Men to Sleep incline.
Let Noise and Care,
Doubt and Despair,
Envy and Spight,
(The Fiends delight)
Be ever Banish'd hence,
Let soft Repose,
Her Eye-lids close;
And murmuring Streams,
Bring pleasing Dreams;
Let nothing stay to give offence.
Night in The Fairy Queen, Purcell (Act Two)

Opéra National de Paris - Heads up

The 2011-2012 season at the Opéra National de Paris (ONP) will be officially announced on Sunday, March 13. Even though the ONP management tried to keep it a secret, little by little the details leaked out and by now we know the entire repertory, although many blanks in casting are still to be filled in.