Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tout en douceur... Gabriel Fauré

Do NOT tell me you didn't listen to the St. Matthew Passion I told you about a couple of weeks ago (as an alternative to the abysmal production of Aida)! Whether you're religious or not, a refined beauty of this music cannot leave you unmoved. Berlioz said: "Bach, c’est Bach, comme Dieu c’est Dieu."

I am normally not crazy about sacred music but recently, for whatever the reason, I found myself very often listening to Fauré's Requiem. I guess I got soothed in by the first track on my CD, which is Pavane, and then the Requiem unfolds pleasantly. So here is Pavane to make your day nice and easy:

and then two excerpts from the performance at La Salle Pleyel, earlier this year, by Orchestre de Paris under Paavo Järvi (Matthias Goerne is singing)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wagner in the Swiss Alps

A potentially great concert in Verbier will be live broadcast on today, Saturday July 30, starting from 7 p.m. (cet). In the first part Valery Gergiev will conduct the Verbier Festival Orchestra in a performance of Métabole pour orchestre by Henri Dutilleux. They will be then joined by the phenomenal Denis Matsuev to play Burlesque for piano and orchestra by Richard Strauss. In the second part we may enjoy the first act of Die Walküre with the real Dutch deal singing the roles of Sieglinde and Siegmund [Eva-Maria Westbroek and Frank van Aken] together with Matti Salminen as Hunding.

Here is your link. make a fantastic job by providing many live broadcast concerts and make them available for free viewing to the audience worldwide. If you can afford to subscribe for a month or more to see concerts/operas/documentaries of your choice from their rich archive, please do! It would help them to keep doing what they do. 

OK, not to make this entry too dry, here is a good quote by R.Wagner
Three different types of people take interest in me, if I am correct: those who know my music (and they are rare), those who do not know it but love it and those who hate without knowing it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Munich Opera Festival 2011: Gloriously sung Rosenkavalier with the smell of Mothballs

Der Rosenkavalier, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, July 23 2011

Bayerische Staatsoper House with its pillars dressed in festive stockings

Conductor ..... Constantin Trinks
Director ..... Otto Schenk

Die Feldmarschallin ..... Anja Harteros
Der Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau ..... Peter Rose
Octavian ..... Sophie Koch
Herr von Faninal ..... Martin Gantner
Sophie ..... Lucy Crowe
Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin ..... Ingrid Kaiserfeld
Valzacchi ..... Ulrich Reß
Annina ..... Heike Grötzinger
Ein Polizeikommissar ..... Christoph Stephinger
Der Haushofmeister bei der Feldmarschallin ..... Kenneth Roberson
Der Haushofmeister bei Faninal / Ein Wirt ..... Francesco Petrozzi
Ein Notar ..... Christian Rieger
Ein Sänger ..... Piotr Beczala
Drei adelige Waise ..... Evgeniya Sotnikova, Martha Hirschmann, Angela Brower
Eine Modistin ..... Hanna-Elisabeth Müller
Ein Tierhändler ..... Dean Power

The Bavarian State Orchestra
The Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bregenz Festival 2011: Lucky Miss Fortune

Miss Fortune/Achterbahn, Bregenz Festspielhaus July 24 2011

Judith Weir and Paul Daniel

Chen Shi-Zheng ..... director
Paul Daniel ..... conductor

Tina ..... Emma Bell
Fate ..... Andrew Watts
Hassan ..... Noah Stewart
Donna ..... Anne-Marie Owens
Simon ..... Jacques Imbrailo
 Lord Fortune ..... Alan Ewing
  Lady Fortune ..... Kathryn Harries

Prague Philharmonic Chorus 
Wiener Symphoniker

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Way to go Sebastian Baumgarten!

Unfortunately I couldn't have a ticket for the new Tannhäuser in Bayreuth but I am so glad to read that Baumgarten made it different and truly special.

The army of traditionalists --who else, beside the lazy critics, could get a ticket for the premiere in Bayreuth?!-- was heavily disturbed not to see recounted the story they already knew.
His staging was obviously innovative in form and in content -- a part of public was placed on the stage and even participated in certain sequences of the show [c.f. this link].

Proof that his experiment worked well are the reactions of the critics who we expected to be incapable  to distinguish art from pedantry. Blessed be Sebastian Baumgarten!

Below you may see a video with several excerpts from the show (©nordbayerischer-kurier)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Operalia 2011: Congrats to Pretty and René!

Pretty Yende, a young South-African soprano --who amazed the Parisian crowd last December by winning the International Bel-Canto Competition Vincenzo Bellini-- is now conquering the world. Last night she's won the Operalia 2011. She actually shared the prize with an excellent American tenor, René Barbera (American tenors are like Swedish sopranos!)

You can watch the whole final night --which took place last night at the Stanislavski Theater in Moscow-- on (c.f. this link)

Meet your new stars [videos attached below]

Bayreuth Festival 2011: Tannhäuser (photo album)

A quick post to tell you that the live radio broadcast of the new Bayreuth production of Tannhäuser is underway. Listen here

A photo album of this new Tannhäuser, directed by Sebastian Baumgarten, is attached below.

All photos are ©

Monday, July 18, 2011

Komische Oper 'Festival 2011: Mighty Meistersinger

Since I was in town and since I loved this production first time I saw it  [and since I couldn't get a ticket for  Matsukaze], I decided to see Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Komische Oper Berlin. Repetitio est mater studiorum ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Komische Oper 'Festival 2011: Idomeneo for the future

Idomeneo, Komische Oper in Berlin, July 15 2011

    Benedikt von Peter ..... director
    Patrick Lange ..... conductor

    Rainer Trost ..... Idomeneo
    Karolina Gumos ..... Idamante
    Erika Roos ..... Elektra
    Brigitte Geller ..... Ilia

    Anton Hiller ..... Das Kind

Japanese Mix: Acis and Galatea from Aix (webcast)

When you travel for some time open-minded in Japan, you realize the true meaning of cultural differences. It is a whole different level of communication, and the subtle surprises are endless. It is not then surprising to see more and more Japanese directors producing baroque operas, and the Japanese composers doing contemporary operas that are embraced by the Western public.

When planning my trip to Berlin, Matsukaze by Toshio Hosokawa was on my must-see list. Since it is a contemporary opera I thought I could buy the ticket in Berlin. Well, no! Today is the last show and it has been sold out [on the second thought it is not all that surprising since Pablo Heras-Casado is conducting, Sasha Waltz is directing the show, with the phenomenal Barbara Hannigan singing --> see trailer here and here]
After its success this year at La Monnaie in Brussels and at Narodowa in Warsaw this production is finally on at the Staatsoper (DSO-UdL) and the Berlin cultural crème is ecstatic about it.
Acis and Galatea in Aix-en-Provence [production pic by Patrick Berger]

As for the Japanese directors bringing something special to the baroque repertoire, I believe it is their meticulous sense for details that resonates with the finesse of the baroque music.
Tonight [July 17 at 21:30 (cet)] you can see the webcast of a new production of Handel's Acis and Galatea live from the Festival in Aix-en-Provence, via Arte Live Web. Directed by a famous choreographer Saburo Teshigawara, Leonardo Garcia Alarcon will conduct, and the cast includes Joelle Harvey, Pascal Charbonneau, Grigory Soloviov, Rupert Charlesworth, Zachary Wilder.
Video link is embedded below

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Komische Oper 'Festival 2011

Contrary to yesterday --when I considered buying a ski-jacket!-- today Berlin is bathing in summer, so this blog entry will be relatively short.

It's the Festival time at the Komische, the season's finale when they present all the new productions unveiled in 2010-2011. On the stairs --after entering the theater-- several young girls and boys carrying platters with glasses of white wine or water offer you your welcome drink. You climb up a flight of stairs to the house's atrium, and there is a cool string quartet performing the chamber music by Mozart, thus preparing you to smoothly immerse in a peculiar world of Mozart's Idomeneo, prepared by my favorite director of this generation, Benedikt von Peter (BvP).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Two likely good shows live for free: Arte Live Web love you too

TWO opera shows will be live broadcast simultaneously on Arte Live Web this Saturday, July 16 2011 starting from 21:30 (cet)

  1. La Traviata from the Festival in Aix-en-Provence, with Natalie Dessay, Charles Castronovo and Ludovic Tézier (among others). This new production is directed by a talented French theater director Jean-François Sivadier --someone capable of bringing a deeper content of the piece, with a peculiar style-- and with Louis Langrée conducting the London Symphonic Orchestra.
  2. Cosí fan tutte live from Opéra National de Lyon (one of the artistically exciting opera houses in France) will be streamed for public viewing on big screens in several towns around Lyon and in front of the city hall in Lyon. This year they decided to share that pleasure with all of us giving one stream pipe to Arte Live Web too. Directed by Adrian Noble, and with Stefano Montanari conducting (very good in Mozart rep!), this should be a good show also thanks to a very good cast: Maria Bengtsson, Tove Dahlberg, Daniel Behle, Vito Priante, Elena Galitskaya, Lionel Lhote
Both video links are embedded below.
There is no geographical restriction, i.e. both webcasts will be freely accessible to everyone.

Also note that after the live broadcast, both videos will remain available for free viewing 105 and 185 days respectively.  

Thanks Aix, Thanks ONL, and Thanks Arte!

Vlaamse Samson et Dalila again: Ce DVD est vraiment fantastique!

Unfortunately I couldn't come to Berlin yesterday to catch on the acclaimed production of Rusalka by Barrie Kosky at the Komische Oper, where the annual Komische-Oper Festival is underway. Hopefully I'll get to see that Rusalka sometimes in 2011-2012. I'm still happy to be here and be able to see the remaining three operas of the festival (if only it wasn't this cold!)

I'm still (and even more) hooked up on Samson et Dalila that I blogged about the other day. It completely changed the way I used to see (and listen to) this opera. Now I'm discovering bits and pieces that I didn't even notice before. This opera is in fact beautiful, and this production is GREAT!

This is a scene in which the High Priest comes to visit Delilah before Samson appears, to convince her to work together and trap Samson. To his surprise Delilah was even more hungry for revenge than him, and their instant complicity transforms into sexually charged moment...
In this production there is no ambiguity about Delilah's feelings for Samson: she's not in love with him at all.

Seriously, this is a must have DVD! 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bayreuther Tannhäuser approaching fast: Who is Sebastian Baumgarten?

The other day I discussed the revival of Les Brigands at the Opéra Comique in Paris, and I realized that a German version of this work [well, "inspired by this work", would be more accurate a statement ;)] was produced last year at the Theater Neumarkt in Zurich by Sebastian Baumgarten -- yes, the same guy who is in charge of this year's opening show of the 100th Bayreuther Festspiele, Tannhäuser, to be premiered on July 25.

Baumgarten (photo Nordbayerischer Kurier)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Alternative to tonight's Aida from Orange

I recently suggested you to see a brilliant concert of Britten's Requiem [for 5 more months you can see it for free!] That concert was a part of the Festival de Saint Denis that ended a week ago by a truly wonderful performance of the Bach's St Matthew Passion, with John Nelson conducting Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, two choruses [Maîtrise de Paris, and Scola Cantorum Oxford], and a mighty cast: Lucy Crowe, Christine Rice, Werner Güra, Nicholas Phan, Stephen Morscheck, and Matthew Brook

So if you like (or might like) sacred music, then this video is definitely the one to see. Lucy Crowe is always fantastic, and Christine Rice will surprise you in this repertoire (bravissima!) All men are brilliant too.  Check out this link [to see it with no interruptions you're gonna have to register (it's free!)]

Big thanks to

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Samson et Dalila on DVD

Samson et Dalila in concert

Samson et Dalila, Salle Pleyel in Paris, May 17 2011

Tomas Tomasson and Elena Bocharova (and the members of the orchestra du Capitole - Toulouse)

        Tugan Sokhiev ..... conductor

    Elena Bocharova ..... Dalila
    Ben Heppner ..... Samson
    Tómas Tómasson ..... Le Grand-Prêtre de Dagon
    Nicolas Testé ..... Abimélech
    Alain Gabriel ..... Un messager philistin
    Gudjon Oskársson ..... Un vieillard hébreu
    Charles Ferré ..... Premier Philistin
    Tomislav Lavoie ..... Deuxième Philistin
    Alfonso Caiani ..... choirmaster
    Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse
    Chorus of the Théâtre du Capitole, Toulouse

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What was good this year so far?!

In spite of what might look like a proliferation of artistry in opera, the genre still remains dead-locked, notoriously conservative form in which art is most often reduced to pedantry, or to a mere entertainment.

I didn't blog about bad surprises this year, and I'm still unsure if it's worth talking about Salomé and The Queen of Spades in my beloved Komische Oper in Berlin, or a pathetic recreation of a 40 years old production of Le Nozze di Figaro (suffocated) in a vast hall of Opéra Bastille,  about Dan Jemmett who in one year changed from a delightfully inventive producer to the author of an amorphous pile of kitschy boredom, or the Paris Opera staging one of the lousiest operas ever composed, Luisa Miller, with a phenomenal Krassimira Stoyanova almost looking like condemned to sing in what must be one of the crappiest productions ever, and so on and so on... Without mentioning the TV set-backs from London and Vienna with major snoozers Adriana Lecouvreur and Anna Bolena respectively, or the money wasting useless machinery in uninspiring Die Walküre live broadcast from The Met...

All in all, it's been less good a year for me so far, as far as opera is concerned, especially when compared with the last 4-5 years.

I guess I did well by not blogging about those numerous disappointments. ;)

A scene from Act-2 of Castellucci's production of Parsifal at La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels

Happily, there were some truly wonderful shows that made me stick to the opera genre.
The best musical treat was definitely Barenboim conducting the Staatskapelle in Wozzeck during the Festtage in Berlin. Of all the singers I was the most impressed by Anna Larsson (Kundry) and Stephen Gould (Tannhäuser).
The most filling, illuminating, intriguing... artistic event in opera --that seemed like a life changing experience to many people-- took place last January in  Brussels: Romeo Castellucci's Parsifal.

So my list of good shows so far this year looks as follows:

Aix 2011: Thanks to my Eyes by Oscar Bianchi tonight on Arte Live Web

The World Premiere of Thanks to my Eyes took place a few nights ago and tonight --starting from 20:00 (cet)-- we will be able to see it live from Aix en Provence thanks to Arte Live Web.

A scene from Thanks to my Eyes [photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat]
5 points:
  • Oscar Bianchi is a young internationally trained composer, born in Italy in 1975, nowadays lives in NYC.  His style with particularly rich textures is en vogue among contemporary music orchestras today. This is his first opera.
  • Libretto for Thanks to my eyes is an abridged version of Grâce à mes yeux, a play by Joël Pommerat. Yours Truly did not quite understand why it was translated into English, but it seems clear that the style of this piece is close to that of Samuel Beckett. 
  • The story is about an absurd and yet human desire: a famous comedian wants to pass his talent onto his untalented son (Aymar). The frustrated son is then turned to his inner self, here represented by two women -- one is the day/light and the other is the night/darkness. Good question would be "Why calling the piece Thanks to my Eyes?" The answer probably tonight ;)
  • This 75 mins long chamber opera is directed by Joël Pommerat (librettist). He is a well known contemporary theater director, but this is his first opera too [too dark and too loose according to critics]. 
  • Critics loved the music, Ensemble Modern conducted by Franck Ollu, and four singers. 
Video link embedded below.

"His voice is an emotional hologram of my soul"

I like this expression that Marina Abramovic used to describe the way she feels when listening to Antony Hegarty's singing.

Willem Dafoe and Marina Abramovic at the rehearsal in Manchester

 Tonight is a big premiere of what must be the cultural event number one in the world, "The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic" in Manchester.

Friday, July 8, 2011

C'est beau Paris...

It's not about opera and not even about music. But it's about beauty...

Yann Arthus-Bertrand rocks! See video attached below

Fidelio from Munich LIVE tonight!

Tonight at 8 pm (cet) the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich will live stream the Calixto Bieito's Fidelio.

Anja Kampe as Leonore/Fidelio

I was lucky to see this production when it was premiered and I LOVED it (c.f. here). Its profound impact  stays with and within you for days after the show.

Of course it is much better to see it in the theater, but the web-stream is a good approximation too, so do try and see it tonight.
A superb cast includes Jonas Kaufmann, Anja Kampe, Franz-Josef Selig, Wolfgang Koch, Steven Humes, Laura Tatulescu, Jussi Myllys.

Link to the live stream is here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Saint François d'Assise done differently

I am more than sorry for not being able to go to Madrid and attend one of the five shows of Saint François d'Assise taking place at the Madrid Arena, prepared by Teatro Real and --always opened to various kinds of art-forms-- Gérard Mortier.

A huge installation for this happening --a 22 tons heavy dome!-- is a creation by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov - no less!

So, one of the most significant cultural events in Europe this year, in which the spectacular meets creative and  extravagant, opened last night in Madrid [in presence of Queen Sofia of Spain], with our fave Alejandro Marco Buhrmester singing the title role.  Other shows are scheduled for July 8, 10, 11, and 13.

Mortier wrote a brilliant article published in El Paìs which is a must-read!

It is maybe not the right moment to say it, but even though I'm happy for Madrid to have grandly boosted their cultural and artistic offer, it is kinda sad to see the Paris Opera stone-falling artistically since Mortier left it two years ago. Oh well...

A short trailer with Kabakovs below:

Monday, July 4, 2011

What CD for summer 2011?

I am not too much into CD's but some obviously find their way to my iPod and stay there longer than the others. I listened to a number of recently released CD-recitals, and I would like to particularly mention 3 that might embellish your summer vacations:

  1. I'm still to write a review about Die Walküre that I saw during the Festtage in Berlin last April. It was grand on several levels, but especially because of the outstanding Wotan by René the great Pape. His new CD, Wagner, is a gem you would appreciate even more if you listened to his Wotan live. 
  2. Bejun Mehta's last CD, Ombra Cara, is really a special treat. Whether you like baroque or not, it is impossible to resist the beauty of his timbre and a perfectly balanced interpretation. This is actually the CD I listen to the most.
  3. Belcanto aficionados will be admiring La bellezza del canto, a debut CD for Sony-Universal by Olga -infinitely charming- Peretyatko. Wherever she appears these days people love her, which makes this CD a logical consequence of her remarkable popular success.
Three promo videos below

    Festival at Chorégies d'Orange: Aida for the people

    One of the temples of traditionalism in opera is the Festival at Chorégies d'Orange. Every year they propose two new productions, each performed twice, with one of them live broadcast on the French national TV, which is why the Festival is so well known in France.

    Even though the productions are almost always quite shallow, the singing at Chorégies is steadily great.

    This year the festival celebrates its 40th anniversary with two operas by Verdi on the program:

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Congrats to David McVicar & Marko Letonja, and to Romeo Castellucci & Hartmut Haenchen

    Even though I don't have much esteem for the French critics [not that anyone cares - I know! ;)],  I was very glad to learn that they voted the David McVicar's  Götterdämmerung, conducted by the incredible Marko Letonja at ONR-Strasbourg, the best opera production presented  in France in 2010-2011.
    The Prix de l’Europe francophone went to Romeo Castellucci's Parsifal, conducted by one of the greatest Wagnerites today, Hartmut Haenchen, at La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels.

    Congratulations to them, to their production teams, and to all the musicians involved in both shows!  

    Yours Truly saw the premiere of that memorable Götterdämmerung and blogged about it. I also saw Parsifal in Brussels, a production that is definitely in its own league -- hard to compare with anything else you can see these days in the Opera Houses worldwide.

    Saturday, July 2, 2011

    La Dolce Vita with Berliner Philharmoniker

    You can watch and listen to the live performance of the Berliner Philharmoniker at the Berlin Waldbühne, today July 2 at 20:15 (cet), thanks to -dear to our hearts- Arte TV.

    The concert theme is "Felini, Jazz & Co." and will include:
    • Dmitri Shostakovich - Suite No. 2 for Jazz Orchestra
    • Nino Rota - La Strada Suite 
    • Ottorino Respighi - Fountains of Rome 
    • Ottorino Respighi - Pines of Rome
    Conductor: Riccardo Chailly

    Embedded video link below:

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    Aix does it better: Festival 2011

    Last year the Festival in Aix en Provence was the best we could see in Europe. I doubt we will see the same level of intensity and creativity this year, but it looks very promising anyway, and our July might be more exciting for the new productions presented there.

    What I particularly appreciate from the organizers --and their delightfully competent director, Bernard Foccroulle, in particular-- is their strong outreach effort: contrary to many other festivals a big part of the festival in Aix is available on the Internet for free.  This is possible also thanks to the world coolest TV, Arte and their Arte Live Web portal.

    Four of the programmed six operas (all new productions!) will be live broadcast this July. Below is the sched:

    Saint François d'Assise opens the Munich Opera Festival today

    Die erste Viertelstunde dauert eine Ewigkeit, die restlichen vier Stunden nur eine Sekunde.
    Kent Nagano on Saint François d’Assise

    I am sorry that I cannot go to Munich to see the premiere of Saint François d'Assise, an opera that I particularly like, but it is good to know that the Bavarian Radio Klassik provides a live broadcast, starting today from 16:00 (cet).

    Paul Gay and Christine Schäfer as St. Francis and Angel

    This is one of the two new productions that will be presented at this year's Opernfestspiele, the other being Mitridate, rè di Ponto [that I'll hopefully be able to see later this month]

    Parsifal in Zurich: Interesting and Guth

    Parsifal, Opernhaus Zürich, June 29 2011

    Claus Guth ..... director
    Daniele Gatti ..... conductor

    Matti Salminen ..... Gurnemanz
    Stuart Skelton ..... Parisfal
    Thomas Hampson ..... Amfortas
    Yvonne Naeff ..... Kundry
    Pavel Daniluk ..... Titurel
    Egils Silins ..... Klingsor
    Eva Liebau, Teresa Sedlmair, Katharina Peetz,
    Sen Guo, Viktorija Stanelyté, Irène Friedli ..... Blumenmädchen

    Zurich Opera Chorus and Orchestra