Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Carmen Aldrich

Carmen at Chorégie d’Orange was TV live broadcast less than two weeks ago. Contrary to the Puccini operas or the dreaded Verismo repertoire, Carmen is always enjoyable to listen to, so even when the visuals are less appealing you may always take pleasure in music and good singing — especially with the cast like the one chosen for this year’s Carmen in Orange.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Operalia 2015 - We love Lise!

Despite atrocious conducting [can someone please tell Placido Domingo that he cannot conduct?!], Operalia remains a superb annual concert of amazing young operatic talents that are most likely to  become operatic stars tomorrow. This year finalists
  • Edward Parks, baritone, USA, 31
  • Andrea Carroll, soprano, USA, 25
  • Julien Behr, tenor, France, 32
  • Kiandra Howarth, soprano, Australia, 25
  • Bongani Justice Kubheka, bass-baritone, South Africa, 24
  • Hyesang Park, soprano, South Korea, 26
  • Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone, USA, 26
  • Darren Pene Pati, tenor, New Zealand, 27
  • Noluvuyiso Mpofu, soprano, South Africa, 24
  • Ioan Hotea, tenor, Romania, 25
  • Lise Davidsen, soprano, Norway, 28

were truly excellent. Congratulations to each and every one of them for brilliant performance, and to Placido Domingo for organizing this event!

Lise Davidsen, however, still managed to steal the show with a sensationally high-octane singing of "Dich teure Halle!"

Ladies and Gents I believe we just got our next "Nina Stemme" — not to dig farther in the past and make comparison with other famous Scandinavian dramatic sopranos…

You can watch the whole concert on
Winners: Ioan Hotea (a superb tenor!) and Lise Davidsen.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Abduction in Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail is being live streamed from Glyndebourne and the Mozart aficionados will know to appreciate.

If you missed the live-stream you will still be able to catch on via The Guardian and obviously The Glyndebourne Festival websites.

The show, staged by the very conservative David McVicar, will please his targeted audience. It is conducted by the uber-talented Robin Ticciati and with Edgaras Montvidas in the role of Belmonte you will definitely spend good couple of hours.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.

Belcanto operas are known to be super-difficult to stage because of the poor librettos. Most of the belcanto productions are truly dreadful and the common attitude is that the concert versions of operas operas are far better and more efficient than the staged attempts to make the lame-ass librettos look plausible on stage.

Christof Loy’s take at I Capuletti e I Montecchi at Zurich Opera — the house run by the unsurpassable Andreas Homoki — is an example of precisely the opposite. He turned this butchered text of Romeo and Juliet into a SUPERB theater piece — premiered las month at the 2015 Zurich Opera Festival. His outstanding staging is based on mafia rivalry and highly inspired by The Godfather and the direction that respected the timings of this opera to a precision that only can fills you with awe and respect for the director. It takes a village… so this show wouldn’t be as fantastic if it was without the sensational cast lead by Olga Kulchynska (what a superb singer!), always reliable and brilliant Joyce DiDonato, as well as Benjamin Bernheim (!) in one of his finest interpretations.

To me this is clearly the best Christof Loy production of a belcanto opera since his La Donna del Lago in Geneva — which was unfortunately never broadcast or recorded on DVD (I should emphasize that I loathed his Lucrezia Borgia despite the rave reviews it received at the time it was premiered in Munich).

As much as I thought Fabio Luisi was awkward in Wagner, I thought he was the master of the Universe while conducting this opera…

Major props are due to Christian Schmidt for sets and costumes.

This compelling show --which is a rarity today!-- can be seen on Arte on this link

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Renaissance of the Paris Opera?

After the years of appalling mediocrity and catastrophic productions presented at the Paris
Opera, the new artistic direction --lead by the formidable Stéphane Lissner-- is proposing
a fantastic program for their first season (2015-2016) which is likely to revive our passion
for opera in Paris that was sadly reduced to a few OKish productions presented at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées during the past several years.

What new productions?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Interesting news from Munich

Two weeks before la prima of the new production of Manon Lescaut at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, the house announced today that Anna Netrebko decided to pull out from the show. It is quite clear from the press release that the main reason for her withdrawal is that she does not like the Hans Neuenfels production. Details are obviously unclear:

During the premiere performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (15th, 19th, 24th, 27th, 30th November as well as 4th and 7th December) Kristīne Opolais will replace Anna Netrebko in the title role. 

General Manager Nikolaus Bachler expressed his deep regret that Anna Netrebko would not be performing. “We would still like to thank Anna Netrebko for deciding at an early stage that, due to differing artistic perspectives on the work, she would prefer to pull out. The Bayerische Staatsoper is well known for combining first-class musical quality with exciting and innovative directorial approaches. In this field this can, of course, mean that in rare cases certain artistic constellations don’t work out. But, we’re looking forward to welcoming Kristīne Opolais back and working together again with Anna Netrebko in future seasons.”

Did she she withdraw earlier and they did not want to pass information to public until they made sure with Kristine Opolais would step in, or she abruptly decided not to sing because the whole production was not quickly redesigned and reorganized to meet her requirements?
I hope the latter is not true and Anna is not suffering from inflated diva-ego-itis... yet.

The fact that she showed off her Halloween outfit a few days ago (?) suggests that she's still that same down to earth person we love...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

DVD -- Tcherniakov & Warlikovski

Two DVD to cherish, recorded at the World's best opera house --La Monnaie/De Munt:

  • Dimitri Tcherniakov production of Il Trovatore: After his superb humanistic approach to one of the most reactionary operas, Dialogue des carmélites, he deconstructed Il Trovatore by essentially eliminating its subliminal and profoundly racist tone. 
  • Krzysztof Warlikowski did a stunning job with Lulu: while DVD remains just a good approximation of the live experience, this production definitely deserves its place in any DVD collection of outstanding opera productions and makes us regret that his unforgettable production of Macbeth (also at La Monnaie) has not been released on DVD. 

As for the other two outstanding directors, I saw the new production of Die Soldaten  at the Komische in Berlin [I will write a separate note on that] in which Calixto Bieito once again reminded us who is a true master of the razor-sharp story-telling and who has audacity to do what no one else can.

Romeo Castellucci is presenting his theater pieces in Paris this fall [hopefully this time without religious freaks interrupting the shows!]: Go Down Moses this week at Théâtre de la Ville,  Schwanengesang D744 at Buffés du Nord, and Le Sacre du Printemps at Grande halle de la Vilette [due to unprecedented demand the organizers added an extra date, so you may still find free tickets for Le Sacre].

Note also that tomorrow, November 1st 2014, at 6 PM (cet) the Bayerische Staatsoper will live stream their new production of The Makropulos Affair -- one of the best operas there is ;)

Pur ti Miro

Clash of the two our most beloved divas, Sonya Yoncheva and Max Emanuel Cencic

from the superb Jean-François Sivadier production of l'Incoronazione di Poppea presented in Lille, 2012. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

L’Enlèvement au Sérail - Opéra Garnier à Paris

Musically it was a lovely evening and a radio recording might make many Mozart aficionados happy for a few hours [Philippe Jordan deserved ovations, as well as Bernard Richter, Erin Morley and Anna Prohaska]. The show itself, however, is a total flop. There is literally nothing salvageable in this moronery...

Last Spring the pleasure of experiencing a very good Robert Carsen production of Die Zauberflöte was partly ruined by the fact that it was given at the immense auditorium of Opéra Bastille. That flaw was corrected for this time and the Entführung aus dem Serail is presented at Garnier. Hélas, the show is most of the time an insult to our intelligence. We are not that shallow or naive. We do not go to opera to be seen and hope to be perceived as cultivated. We are not at the opera for the first time...

I wonder if there is anyone serious elaborating a strategy on how to preserve opera in the 21st century. This is definitely not a way to go. Why would anyone pay 140€/seat and go to theater to see a parade of stupidity that we could see [zap through] a week later on-line anyway?

A good production of this opera is possible and it is given almost every year at the Komische in Berlin.
DVD offer of this opera is actually quite good  -- the Johan Simons production and the one by Stefan Herheim stand out though. I didn't find them on YouTube but I just realized that a delicately constructed Christof Loy production is available, as well as one creative Stuttgart show.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Otello Alagnesque

Like every year,  two new opera productions were presented at Les Chorégies d'Orange 2014, Nabucco and Otello [2 shows each], and one of the shows was broadcast on national TV broadcast - Otello on France2, August 5 2014.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Devastating Orphée in Brussels "Rien n'égale mon malheur..."

This is undoubtedly the best show I've seen since Parsifal staged by the very same Romeo Castellucci. Only 20min into the show I felt I was on the edge of tears and was holding back until the last 15min and then wept like a willow... almost felt embarrassed when the light came back on.

Warlikowski can sometime go deep and tackle your hidden emotion... but this is a whole another level yet. The concept is very simple, the message extremely poignant, and the impact on me/us was simply devastating... especially the moment of complete darkness when Orphée sings the celebrated aria was heartbreaking [Stéphanie D'Oustrac IS the most wonderful singer today! She's not the loudest, her voice is not the most beautiful, but no other singer can sing like her... It simply happens with her like with no other singer out there...]

You MUST be there to feel the show. This cannot work via webcast or a video recording. It simply drags you in and grabs your every emotion... Will write more when I come back to Paris.

Romeo Castellucci is a theatrical genius!

THANK YOU to Romeo and his team, and to Peter De Caluwe and this incomparable opera-theater! 

J'ai perdu mon Eurydice...

The best run opera house in the world --with the most exciting and steadily good programs-- that at the same time shows the role opera should play in the 21st century --La Monnaie/De Munt-- is presenting these days their new production of Orphée et Eurydice directed by no one else but Romeo Grandioso Castellucci and with our huge fave Stéphanie D'Oustrac singing the role of Orphée [isn't she the most wonderful singer today?!]

Yours Truly obviously could not resist temptation and hopped on Thalys to spend a Sunday in Brussels and see this singular operatic event this year.

In Paris, the new production of La Traviata -- I won't blog about that. It is fair to say that it is only better than the dreadful Richard Eyre production that was contaminating London/ROH for years and --worse-- numerous DVD players worldwide...

Instead of reviving the extraordinary Christoph Marthaler production (that you can see on YouTube), or producing something astounding, along the lines of what Benedikt von Peter did in Hannover,  Peter Konwitschny in Graz & London/ENO, or even Hans Neuenfels in Berlin/Komische... the artistic leadership of the Paris Opera confided a job to a tired French film director who only demonstrated his artistic emptiness and an astonishing lack of opera producing skills... In the end, and despite our dear Diana Damrau singing phenomenally the role of Violetta Valéry, the result was truly pitiful... 

OK, let's get ready for Orphée: an interview with Romeo Castellucci about this opera and his production 

Excellent Trailer:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Der Glyndebournenkavalier

Arte portal Arte Concert [ex Arte Live Web] will live broadcast the Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier (staged by Richard Jones -- the best British director). Mezzo TV is also broadcasting the show.

Interestingly, Robin Ticciati will be conducting. He's only 31 and starting from this year he is also the Glyndebourne festival music director. Among the cast member keep an ear on a superbissimo Andrey Dunaev (tenor)...

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Twelwe-tone celebration: Zimmermann's Die Soldaten -- webcast from Munich

Andreas Kriegenburg is in charge of staging of this amazing opera and the choice to choose him for directing this opera is excellent, which makes me very optimistic for the tonight's show -- live from the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, webcast following this link starting from 19:00 CET.

Visual resemblance with the characters of the Kriegenburg production of Wozzeck is obvious...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Max Emanuel Cencic

The CD market pretty much dried up but happily iTunes and Amazon still propose a way to get new albums and enjoy music we all love.

At some point there were just too many CD releases and without proper guidance one would easily get drowned by too many slightly different sounding arias recorded (and sound engineered) time and time again.  Jonas Kaufmann had that  first CD that clearly stood out from the rest. It invited us for something different -- something truly artistic. After that album, Jonas surprised us even more by delivering one of the best lieder-album ever, the one that made us appreciate his unique artistic style and made us rush to each of his Liederabende in Paris (or elsewhere) that soon became the most appreciated concerts in Paris every year. The first was audaciously organized at Opéra Garnier by Gérard Mortier...
Then came the pressure on Kaufmann to sing Wagner and to record more and more and more... and so the Jonas' recordings started to lose that special subtle thread of genuine beauty  -- some of the albums that followed were OK-ish, some yawnish and some downright bad.  His new album --his take on Winterreise-- is definitely his return to the greatness. While it does not reach the heights of  Winterreise sung by Christine Schäfer  or by  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, it is every bit as good as that sung by Gerhaher, Quasthoff , Bostridge... and arguably even better.

To me the best recording in years was Ombra Cara by Bejun Mehta after which I definitely became a BM fan.  In the same league is the newly released recording of Max Emanuel Cencic which to me is among the most exciting releases of the past 10 years or so. It is called Rokoko and it includes 14 opera arias by Johann Adolf Hasse that not many of us are familiar with. Cencic, the man with admittedly a poor fashion sense (jk) but with an absolutely divine voice did his magic again and made us fall in love with this repertoire.

Another thing: If you ever get a chance to listen to Max singing live, do not miss it for anything (his solo concerts in particular)! That man simply has a divine talent -- magic voice and the uncommon interpretative skills. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Krzysztof Warlikowski se souvient de Gérard Mortier

Parfois, le plus important dans ce qui se noue entre deux êtres est contenu dans la façon dont ils se rencontrent. Avec Gerard Mortier, j’ai eu le sentiment d’une approche d’une rare élégance, digne du XIXe siècle, dans la manière dont il m’a signalé qu’il voulait me faire travailler. Rentrant de vacances en Italie, je me vois faire une chose que je ne fais jamais : je regarde dans ma boîte aux lettres et j’y trouve une enveloppe de l’Opéra de Paris ! C’est une lettre de son nouveau directeur Gerard Mortier, dont je n’avais  jamais entendu parler. Je préparais alors Wozzeck d’Alban Berg pour l’opéra de Varsovie. Depuis, je n’arrête pas de me dire : et si je n’avais pas trouvé cette lettre… ?

C’est quand même la classe, quelqu’un qui vous écrit une lettre sans même vous connaître… Tout aussi classe fut notre rencontre à Paris. Nous  avons tout de suite su qu’on n’était pas là pour se parler d’opéra, alors on a évoqué Proust durant trois heures d’affilée. Au départ, Gerard Mortier vient vers moi parce qu’il cherche un metteur en scène polonais pour la future création du  Roi Roger de Karol Szymanowski, prévue pour la fin de son mandat.  Mais une semaine après cette rencontre, il m’appelle et me dit : “Krzysztof, j’ai encore un projet pour vous.” Et cinq mois plus tard : “J’ai un autre projet pour vous.” C’est comme ça que ça a commencé et de fil en aiguille, il m’a inscrit à l’affiche des quatre saisons à venir de l’Opéra de Paris avec  Iphigénie, de Gluck (2006), L’Affaire Makropoulos, de Leos Janacek (2007), Parsifal de Wagner (2008), et Le Roi Roger de Karol Szymanowski (2009). L’extraordinaire, c’est que cette rencontre autour de Proust nous avait révélé à quel point on se comprenait et qu’il fallait tout de suite se mettre à l’œuvre.

L’autre extraordinaire, c’est que, lorsqu’ il m’a rencontré, Gerard Mortier ne connaissait rien de mon travail et j’ai appris bien plus tard que c’était Patrice Chéreau qui lui avait parlé de moi à propos de ma mise en scène au théâtre de Kroum d’Hanokh Levin. C’était si généreux de la part de Patrice, qui était d’ailleurs le metteur en scène le plus généreux que j’aie connu.

Avec Gerard Mortier, on a commencé avec Gluck (Iphigénie) et on a fini avec Gluck (Alceste). D’emblée, j’ai senti qu’il me soutiendrait. Car, c’est impossible de travailler et de faire un bout de chemin avec un directeur qui vous a déniché par hasard sans savoir qui vous êtes, si l’on n’a pas la certitude qu’au moment le plus crucial de la création, il sera le premier à prendre votre défense. Et Gerard Mortier a été comme ça dès les premières répétitions d’Iphigénie  et jusqu’au bout de notre parcours commun.

Evidemment, ce type d’attitude vous donne envie de faire toujours mieux, de travailler encore, d’aller plus loin avec l’autre. Il était convaincu de l’importance de l’opéra, qu’il ne fallait surtout pas considérer comme un art mort, mais au contraire, qu’il fallait intégrer aux mouvements artistiques de la société dans laquelle nous vivons. Moi, je venais du théâtre et je ne pouvais pas penser autrement l’opéra. C’est sûrement pour ça qu’on s’est tout de suite entendus.
Après Gluck et Janacek, Gerard Mortier a pris un très grand risque, celui de me confier la mise en scène de Parsifal de Wagner, la Bible de tous les fans d’opéra, à moi, un Polonais ! Car c’était lui qui était à l’origine de chaque proposition d’opéra dont il souhaitait me confier la mise en scène. Là est le savoir d’un directeur. Tout son art consiste à faire se rencontrer un chef d’orchestre et un metteur en scène en sachant  sur quelle œuvre il pourra les faire dialoguer et ensuite, quels chanteurs et chanteuses peuvent s’accorder avec  ce chef et ce metteur en scène. Plus qu’un savoir, c’est principalement ce génie intuitif qui caractérisait la méthode Mortier.

Du reste, je pense que son dernier casting pour Alceste fut celui d’un “crépuscule des dieux”, avec en perspective  une évocation de la fin pour chacun de nous. Il se trouve que j’ai 52 ans, l’âge des questionnements sur ma carrière d’artiste. C’est aussi  très exactement l’âge de la chanteuse Angela Denoke qui interprète Alceste. Et surtout, cela devint évident lorsqu’on apprit durant les répétitions la maladie de Gerard, avec  la terrible certitude de sa fin prochaine. La descente aux enfers d’Alceste a pris tout à coup un tour métaphorique, comme un décalque du réel. On savait dès le début que l’Inferno de l’acte III se devait d’être quelque chose qu’on lui dédierait, qui parlerait de la situation qu’on était en train de vivre, transcendée par l’ultime désir de le voir continuer d’exister.

C’est cette partie qui a posé le plus de problèmes au public de Madrid qui a préféré baisser la tête plutôt que de la regarder et a été la cause principale des huées à la fin de la représentation. Je n’avais pas entendu l’expression d’une telle désapprobation depuis longtemps, depuis Iphigénie à Paris, peut-être… Pourtant,  j’avais l’impression d’avoir proposé une mise en scène apaisée, il y a une telle sagesse dans ce personnage d’Alceste qui va en enfer et fait le sacrifice de sa vie par amour.
La dernière image, c’était le corps d’Alceste sans vie, allongé sur le sol. Suite à la mort de Gerard qui n’avait pas  pu assister à la première, conserver cette fin m’est devenu impossible. Je ne pouvais pas me contenter de dédier à sa mémoire cette vision d’un corps sans vie abandonné au milieu du plateau. J’étais déjà rentré à Varsovie et c’est au téléphone que j’ai contacté Angela Denoke et les équipes restées sur place pour les convaincre de modifier l’image finale. Pour qu’Angela ne tombe plus, mais sorte du plateau, attirée par la lumière comme le signe de l’espérance d’un ailleurs que je souhaite pour Gerard après sa mort.

 Krzysztof Warlikowski in Les Inrocks

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Gérard Mortier n'est plus

I did not know Gérard Mortier personally, but he was THE person who I truly admired in the world of Opera.
He was the one who made me love opera and who made me realize that opera is actually not dead art. 

This is a devastating news for opera. He was a person of importance, capable to resist the tsunamis of conservatism, who articulated his dislike of the pitiful opera productions, unambitious projects that reduce opera to singing on a kitchy stage [cf. 90% of new productions at the Paris Opera, the Met, or at the ROH /where Holten is trying to change the things/] 

He was a man who saw opera as a vector to further humanize our lives, to question our certainties, doubt our principles, and bring more nuances to our lives, more beauty and more tolerance... He was incessantly trying to democratize opera and pluck it from the claws of those rich who see in opera just an entertainment value...

Will Peter de Caluwe and a handful of other talented visionaries be able to fill his shoes, to resist and prevent opera from falling 100% back to the hands of aggressive ultra-conservatives?!
I certainly wish and hope they will...

I am very very very sad today :( 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Must see: Parsifal by Romeo Castellucci and Hartmut Haenchen

In the sea of theatrical mediocrity that we are offered to see at the opera houses these days, some gems still get to shine through.
Tcherniakov hits the cord every time he stages a new opera (he managed to sculpt the life-loving story out of Les Carmélites, render Il Trovatore not-racist, return Onegin the Russain romanticism,...); Warlikowski manages to tickle our subconsciousness by his thrillingly complex (emotionally and intellectually) productions; Bieito with his razor-sharp theatrical language finds and conveys a deeper and emotionally or socially engaging content of any given opera to his public. There are a few others that probably match these standards but not to this extent or not as consistently at that level as the above mentioned guys...

Romeo Castellucci is the other kind of gem. He is not an opera producer. He is a hard core avant-garde of today's theater and his take on Parsifal was very peculiar, philosophical, intellectually stimulating, deeply human(izing) and also spectacular [despite its  somewhat unspectacular ending]. It was one of the very few opera productions that remains with your for a very-very long time after the show, haunting your brain and your heart. *

Now, good news is that you can order a copy of DVD of that sensational production of Parsifal that I was more than happy to be able to see at La Monnaie/De Munt in 2011, and then blogged about here.  DVD is never a substitute for the real show but it is the best approximation we might have. I saw the DVD last night and I absolutely loved it although I have trouble focusing at my work today ;)
[Did I say that Anna Larson was by far the best Kundry of all time?!]

Trailer below.

Note that in June/July 2014 La Monnaie will give a new production of Orphée et Eurydice staged by Romeo Castellucci and with an amazing Stéphanie d'Oustrac in the role of Orphée. Do plan your trip to Brussels.

*) This is to date the only opera production signed Romeo Castellucci. If you get to see his "Sul concetto di volto nel figlio di Dio", it is very engaging and deeply touching as well. Unfortunately, when it was given at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, it was a trigger for the protests of ultra-conservatives who organized the demonstrations in front of the theater every night so that the police special forces had to ensure the minimal security conditions for the shows to happen. The protesters were mostly politically manipulated by those who did not want to understand a deeper meaning of the content of the story but preferred to see the imagery that they found outraging. And yet that was one of the best evenings at a theater I have ever experienced in my life...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

La mort d'un grand homme

To me Patrice Chéreau will be remembered as one of the great men of 20th century theater, a man who embraced opera and elevated it to the heights that assured its status of gesamtkunstwerk  to our days. He will also be [and should be] remembered as a great man who had courage and intellectual audacity to take Wagner away from the hands of fascists & right wingnuts and show the world that The Ring can be interpreted in a radically new way, as to resonate with our time and with us.

He was one of the precursors of the modern day theatrical language in which theater offers a quality that no TV or cinema can offer; in which a pure human emotion transcends the limits of mostly poor operatic librettos thanks to his ability to distinguish those emotions and shape them on the stage in a very peculiar way (cf. his stagings of the two operas by Berg).

Naturally, the late Chéreau did not have that same vigor to defy the crowds of those who believe that "art must be beautiful" or that "the opera staging is about the colored tableaux", but still remained true to his art that we dearly loved and deeply respected.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Herheim's Critics

After many years I realized that a typical operagoer is conservative, self-absorbed and very superficial. Most of the critics are like that too, with a major difference that they go public with their opinions that are often unfounded or based on personal misunderstanding of what they could see.

Last night I was able to see the new production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, directed by Stefan Herheim, and once again I was amazed by his [Stefan's] wittiness, dexterity, and his musicality in presenting any opera he decides to put on stage. If I had more time in the days to come I'll write a few paragraphs about the show.

This morning I just googled to see if the people saw the show and if they saw the masterful quality of the direction of the opera that includes a very awkward and cringeworthy monolog at the end. The first thing popped up on my google list was this review and after having read it I could not force myself to read anything else. It's the stupidity of that review that annoys me the most. In the same text the author --who qualifies this Meistersinger as 'confusing'-- astonished us by confessing that he actually liked Herheim's production of Parsifal - sic! How is that possible?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Macbetto di Monaco

Martin Kusej production of Macbeth is not one of my favorite but it is way above in quality when compared to the productions of this opera offered by The Met or the ROH -- sadly both available on DVD.
Last year I was lucky to see 2 superb production of this opera: one was staged by Ivo van Hoove and presented in Lyon, and another was the most delightful Peter Konwitschny production in Leipzig. Before that I was lucky to see the Richard Jones production in Lille (one of those Glyndebourne productions that didn't make it to DVD even though it was hugely more deserving than the awful Meistersinger or their very mediocre recent Don Giovanni, for example), and the next back in my memory is the Krzysztof Warlikowski production in Brussels that was one of my most astounding moments at the opera in general [which tells a lot since I'm not an unconditional fan of Verdi's work].

Two productions that I did not blog about and should be considered in the league with the show by  Richard Jones were the Dima Tcherniakov production presented in Paris (amazingly conducted by Teodor Currentzis!) and the Munich show staged by Martin Kusej. Tcherniakov production was very impressive, very clever, and very contemporary, but in the bulky sets the show somehow missed its target: it looks great on DVD though.  As for the Martin Kusej show, I remember I was very enthusiastic despite the critics that were fiercely trashing the show as not really adapted for the opera. Well, the opera critics are very conservative but I did not think that the modernity of the Kusej work disturbed them the most... You can judge it for yourself in less than an hour time when Macbeth will be live streamed from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich on this link

 Cast: Zeljko Lucic, Nadja Michael, Wookyung Kim, Goran Juric, Emanuele D'Aguanno... Massimo Zanetti will conduct (hopefully well!)

It's from Macbeth despite being reminiscent scene from Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Are you watching this?!

Konwitschny alert: Starting now (20:05 cet)

"Every seven years the Dutchman is allowed back on land. There this tepest-tossed creature can only be redeemed by a woman, Otherwise his endless odyssey continues. Will Senta be that woman? After all, she longs to break free from the confining world of her father. All he ever thinks about is money. Isn't the wealthy Dutchman just what the doctor ordered? Wagner's gripping early work: a psycho-thriller of operatic literature. Peter Konwitschny has already provoked audiences to delight and disgust with his spectacular Parsifal and Tristan und Isolde productions. This Munich Holländer is something you just "have" to see. A sea and see journey on the waves of the orchestra."

Sunday, March 17, 2013

D'Oreste, d'Ajace ho in seno i tormenti

In a few hours will begin the premiere of Idomeneo at the Frankfurt Oper, directed by our 'new' fave Jan Philipp Gloger. His production of Le Nozze di Figaro made big waves in German press despite the fact that it was staged at theater of a lesser prestige (in Augsburg and Heibronn), which proved once again that "prestigious" is most often misleading [if not even meaningless] as far as the quality of  productions is concerned.

Oper Frankfurt

Then came that divine production of Alcina in Dresden that I still hold for one of the most wonderful productions I've seen. I unfortunately did not see his Flying Dutchman that opened the Festival in Bayreuth last year [it will be streamed next August, btw].

And so today is la prima of his fourth big show this time at the Frankfurt Oper -- the house twice voted the best opera house in Europe in the past 5 years; maybe less prestigious but definitely the top tier in terms of quality of productions AND of musical performances.

Too many favorable elements converged: one of my favorite operas, produced by one of my top-directors, performed in an auditorium of fantastic acoustic quality...  and so the temptation was just too big for me to resist and I TGV-ed to this snowy and freezing city to see this new Idomeneo. Let's hope Julia Jones will be good conducting and the rest will be cool.

The production that buzzed my brain for almost a month after the show was the one at the Komische Oper in Berlin directed by Benedikt Von Peter, which must be one of the most profoundly staged opera shows ever. Benedikt is now the general director of Theater Bremen but we hope he will soon resume directing operas too...

OK, Mozart's Idomeneo -- version Gloger with elettrifying Elza van den Heever, in a few... .

Edit: Superb show - JPG is already a top-8 director; excellent cast (Elza & Roberto rocked, others were great too). More tomorrow...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lucrezia Borgia with Elena Mosuc and Charles Castronovo [the best belcanto duo in business?!]

Lucrezia Borgia, Cirque Royal in Brussels, March 3rd 2013

Director ..... Guy Joosten
Conductor ..... Julian Reynolds

Don Alfonso ..... Paul Gay
Donna Lucrezia Borgia ..... Elena Mosuc
Gennaro ..... Charles Castronovo
Maffio Orsini ..... Silvia Tro Santafé
Jeppo Liverotto ..... Roberto Covatta
Don Apostolo Gazella ..... Tijl Faveyts
Ascanio Petrucci ..... Jean-Luc Ballestra
Gubetta ..... Jean Teitgen
Rustighello ..... Alexander Kravets
Astolfo ..... Justin Hopkins
Oloferno Vitellozzo ..... Stefan Cifolelli
Usciere ..... Alain-Pierre Wingelinckx
Un coppiere ..... Gerard Lavalle

Orchestre symphonique de la Monnaie

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

ROH 2013-2014

I did not mention the 2013-2014 season in GTL Barcelona simply because there was nothing really new or interesting to mention, except that the Dima Tcherniakov production of The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya --premiered last year in Amsterdam-- will be remounted in Barcelona, with our beloved Svetlana Ignatovich singing [plan a trip to La Rambla in April 2014! ]

As expected, Kasper Holten continues reanimating the Royal Opera House, and with his team they propose a very promising 2013-2014 season.
You cannot get rid of all the bad productions in just two years and so he kept the old disposable CarmenTraviataTosca...  on the program. Importantly, however, the pitiful Don Giovanni will be replaced by the new production staged by Holten himself. Amen to that!

One of the underrated Verdi operas --that I really like-- Les Vêpres siciliennes will be on the program in 2013,  directed by Stefan Herheim (no less!) The last show in the run will be live broadcast to the cinemas around the world.

New Parsifal directed by Stephen Langridge could be interesting too [curiosity factor = 80/100], and the Claus Guth production of Die Frau ohne Schatten is not to be missed: it comes from Milan where it was recently premiered and enthusiastically acclaimed by pretty much everyone.

Finally, Maria Stuarda will be intelligently staged (just hope Leiser & Caurier do not decide to make it too dark) and definitely worth a trip [Elena Mosuc will be missed in the cast though].

All casts look very good on the paper [happy to see that the phenomenal Alfred Kim will make his house-debut]. The only snag is that John Daszak (one of the very best opera singers today) is only proposed a tiny role (Aegistus in Elektra): that (English)man is a living treasure for any relevant 21st century opera stage -- he sings AND acts like no one out there.

 N.B. that Eurostar often proposes good deals to frequent travelers

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Eugene Onegin: Praise Kasper Holten

Could it be that Kasper Holten [the author of arguably the best Ring production to date] is bringing a wind of change to the tired Royal Opera House that after so many tepid shows --Don Carlo, Carmen, Roméo et Juliette, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Tamerlano, La Traviata, and even Les Troyens... -- finally comes up with something more challenging, creative, smart and passionate?!
I most definitely hope so, and my hope was growing bigger after I read a few ultra-conservative media discussing what they recently saw in London [e.g. this].

Old remorseful Onegin standing next to a young desperate Lensky who will romantically die the next day

The recently premiered Kasper Holten production of Eugene Onegin, after its run at the ROH, will travel to Turin where it will be presented in May this year and then it will move to Australia.

I would have missed this amazing show --which was a major European operatic event of the first trimester in 2013-- if it was not broadcast to the selected cinemas across Europe. To be honest, the super-expensive seats for a rather unimpressive production of Ring des Nibelungen in London last fall significantly reduced my interest in live shows at the ROH. This Eugene Onegin had precisely the opposite effect on me  [eagerly waiting the list of the new ROH productions in 2013-2014].

So thanks to whoever decided the ROH would broadcast this show [last year's Tosca was truly dreadful].

Jenufa from Munich

If you saw more than one production of this excellent opera, then this Barbara Frey production will most probably not be your favorite one, but since Karita Matila is singing the title role and this opera is musically really magnificent... I would like to invite you all to watch the today's show that will be live streamed from Munich on this link starting from 19:00 (cet).

Our faves Stefan Margita and Ales Briscein will sing the roles of Laca and Steva respectively. Tomasz Hanus (conductor) can be great or wobbly, so let's hope for the best and enjoy the show!

Trailer  attached below

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Does anyone listen?

"Trying to reproduce pure historical reality is an illusion. We don't know exactly how opera was at the end of the 18th century. We only have images from the last 70 or 80 years. We have a duty to transpose the work to the present,"

Michael Haneke 
prior to the premiere of his second --which will also be his last-- opera production
Cosi fan tutte at Teatro Real in Madrid

Friday, March 1, 2013

An extraordinary performance

D'amour l'ardente flamme is a notoriously difficult aria from La damnation de Faust by Hector Berlioz. In a slow pace, Tugan Sokhiev remarkably conducted his orchestra and the phenomenal Olga Borodina who delivered one of the reference renditions of this aria.

Красивая Ольга!

One could nitpick about her pronunciation, but this is vocally huge.
Concert version of the opera was given in Paris and in Vienna.
Video attached below is from the concert given at Musikverein Wien.


The Met 2013-2014

No, it is not that the recently presented Met productions are worse than those presented before. It is just that the standards remained the same as they were in the 80s, 90's, 00s. Somewhat surprisingly The Met refused to embrace the change in opera by preferring to label as Eurotrash anything that would be a slight theatrical attempt to elevate opera to the new artistic heights. And so while the others moved on, The Met continued with the same old static, no-brainer, uninteresting shows created only to entertain the most conservative part of the opera aficionados [recent such examples that I could see were Il Trovatore, Don Giovanni, (Faust), Carmen, Capriccio, Boris Godunov, Maria Stuarda, ...].

There were attempts to cross the line and bring a bit of life to the creative process, and even though some of the new shows were really bad [e.g. Sonnambula, Ring, Armida] they revealed something important & positive -- that the house's artistic management wanted to take risks but was just too afraid to really go for it [instead of N snoozefests directed by Bartlett Sher,  they could have given a chance to a bundle of talent -- Thaddeus Strassberger (also American), for example]. In any case, even these failed attempts to create something new are to be preferred to the old mothball events such as La Bohème by Zeff...

Happily, however, there are some rare but true gems  -- c.f. the new & currently running Parsifal (tomorrow in the movies!)

The Met's 2013-2014 program  indicates a big improvement as it announces the arrival of two great directors: (a) Deborah Warner who will present her take on Eugene Onegin [with Anna Netrebko singing, the event should be a winner], and (b) the über-talented Dima Tcherniakov who will most probably be viciously booed for his staging of Prince Igor, but like all of his productions this will provide a breath of fresh air to the house. Yours Truly is tempted to go to NYC for  the premiere despite the fact that one show in the run will be live broadcast in the cinemas worldwide.

You could nitpick about a few names missing in the casts but overall it is the top notch, as you would expect it to be from The Met's artistic management.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

De Nederlandse opera 2013-2014

While mentioning the best opera houses in the world I forgot to mention the Zurich Opernhaus which now --under Andreas Homoki-- should be making strides of improvement. But this post is about those big opera houses that are steadily great, and superbly run by Pierre Audi -- De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam -- the house that I relatively frequently visit and love dearly.

For 2013-2014 they are proposing a top-notch cast for the revival of their Ring des Nibelungen, but more importantly they propose five new productions, including Armide/Glück [one of my fave operas] directed by Barrie Kosky, and The Gambler staged by Andrea Breth, with Marc Albrecht conducting and the phenomenal John Daszak in the cast. Their new Faust might be very interesting too: a superb cast lead by the most exciting singer right now, Sonya Yoncheva; good guy from La Fura (Àlex Ollé) will  direct and always brilliant Marc Minkowski will conduct.

The DNO production of Lucia di Lammermoor is one of a few that are worth seeing. Good news is that their show will be back on stage in 2014. Soooo....

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Teatro Real in Madrid 2013-2014

Together with La Monnaie/De Munt and a few German opera houses, and thanks to a remarkable work by Gerard Mortier, Teatro Real in Madrid is nowadays among the best --if not the very best-- opera house in Europe.

For its interior it was the most beautiful opera house since quite some time, but now it is also artistically the most amazing opera theater we have around. Even though their 2013-2014 will begin with a mediocre production of Il Barbiere, everything that comes after that is brilliant.

See below

Paris Opera 2013-2014

After a couple of really bad years at the Paris Opera, a glimpse over the 2013-2014 makes you think: OK, it's less bad than before. Revivals are more often than not well done in Paris, so I won't say much except encourage everyone to go and see a wonderful production of La Clemenza di Tito with a wonderful Stéphanie d'Oustrac, and the superb Warlikowski production -- The Makropulos Affair.

I like Robert Carsen, but seriously... Out of 8 new production at the OdP, two of them [Elektra & Zauberflöte] are staged by Carsen, whose Capuleti and Alcina will be revived too!
Olivier Py too is supposed to come up with two new production [Alceste & Aida].

No younger directors, no contemporary opera, revivals of the embarrassingly bad Cosi and Italiana...

New Traviata by Benoît Jacquot will most probably be a tepid sellout  show [smt like the awful  ROH production by Eyre]... If we cannot be entirely enthused by the list of conductors, overall  --and modulo a few exceptions-- the lineup is good. I like the casts for the most part [YAY for Sonya Yoncheva and Jochen Schmeckenbecher!]. 

To stay positive, on the paper, it looks as if the operatic program at the ONP is improving.

see below...