Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tantissimi Auguri di Buon Anno 2010!

Dalloyau released its new cake "Opéra 20.10" to celebrate 55 years since their original creation of the most delicious cake ever, "Opera".
 As usual, it's outrageously expensive but boy does it taste gooooddd!

 I also saw that Delloyau made a new cake called La Diva.

but I didn't taste that one yet ;)

Best operatic wishes and lots of beautiful Classical Music in 2010 to whoever gets to read this post!

I will be waiting for the Ring and Billy Budd in Paris; Rienzi, Fidelio, Tristan and Etoile in Berlin; Parsifal in Stuttgart; Tannhauser in Oslo; Elektra and Macbeth in Brussels; Carmelites in Munich and then some good stuff at the summer festivals.

Meilleurs vœux !

Rijksmuseum habite la Pinacothèque de Paris

Last time I was in the Pinacothèque de Paris, only 3 years old galery, it was in January 2008 when I saw a magnificent and extensive collection of paintings by Chaim Soutine. This time it's The Dutch Golden Age [17th century], a collection which rarely travels away from Amsterdam.

If you can possibly go, please do see it before its closing (February 7, 2010). 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's up in January 2010?

My selection of good operas or concerts to see in Paris during January 2010

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Franz Lehar Lost in Translation

"La Veuve Joyeuse"  (The Merry Widow, Die Lustige Witwe): this production, filmed in Opera de Lyon  2007, was released in France on DVD only a few months ago, and is nowadays being shown on  cable TV [ Mezzo]. Not very wise or businesslike if you ask me, but hey, I ain't gonna buy this DVD, so that's good with me ;)
After having watched it on TV,  I don't understand why the show was released on DVD at all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Sound of Cheese

Le dernier spectacle de l'année à Paris est "La mélodie du bonheur". J'aime toujours autant le Théâtre du Châtelet [c'est beau, ça "sent" le vécu], mais un des plus moelleux-gimauveux spectacles jamais crées dans l'histoire de l'humanité - c'est trop.
Autre que d'accompagner Ellie, pour moi le seul intérêt était Sylvia Schwartz, superbe jeune soprano que Barenboim adore et qu'on a récemment écouté en Zerlina (splendide!) dans "Don Giovani" à Verbier. Bien sonorisée elle a fait son travail et a récolté des bravos du public 30% enfants,  20% parisiens-Américains-âgés qui murmuraient les nombreux tubes tout au long du spectacle.

Comme si la France n'avait pas sa "Véronique" - il a fallu importer "The Sound of Music"... 

Friday, December 25, 2009

Best productions

Photo I took at the end of this monumental production of Parsifal

 - PARSIFAL (Bayreuther Festspiele) 
 Stefan Herheim & Daniele Gatti
 - ARMIDA (Komische Oper Berlin) 
 Calixto Bieito & Konrad Junghanel
 - ROSENKAVALIER (Staatsoper Stuttgart)  
 Stefan Herheim  & Manfred Honeck
 - KROL ROGER (Opera National de Paris) 
 Krzysztof Warlikowski & Kazushi Ono
 - LOHENGRIN (Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin)  
 Stefan Herheim & Daniel Barenboim
 - WOZZECK (Bayrische Staatsoper Munchen) 
 Andreas Kriegenburg & Kent Nagano
 - RIGOLETTO (Komische Oper Berlin)  
 Barrie Kosky & Patrick Lange
 - ARIADNE AUF NAXOS (Bayrische Staatsoper Munchen)   
 Robert Carsen & Bertrand de Billy
 - LE GRAND MACABRE (La Monnaie Brussels)  
 La Fura dels Baus & Leo Hussain
 - AEGYPTISCHE HELENA (Deutsche Oper Berlin)  
 Marco Arturo Marelli & Andrew Litton
 - LADY MACBETH OF MZENTSK (Opera National de Paris) 
Martin Kusej & Hartmut Haenchen

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Opera Directors (and Conductors) in 2009

This was a great year, marked by some outstanding theatrical Opera productions. The stage directors made this art alive by providing a different or entirely new view on the works they directed. The theatrical brilliance, wittiness and ability to take us "beyond"... those guys deserve a huge THANKS from us, the operagoers and fans. I know that a top-5 list is petty, but hey! :)
The Top-5 opera directors who really made me love this art more or in a different way are:






Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Opera singing in 2009 - II

Male Singers

1. Albert Dohmen as Hans Sachs in "Die Meistersinger von Nurenberg" Guth & Weigle (Liceu Barcelona)
2. Kwangchul Youn as Heinrich der Vogler in "Lohengrin" Herheim & Barenboim (DSO Berlin) and as Gurnemanz in "Parsifal" Herheim & Gatti (BFS Bayreuth)
3. Klaus Florian Vogt as Lohengrin in "Lohengrin" Herheim & Barenboim (DSO Berlin)
4. Michael Volle as Wozzeck in "Wozzeck" Kriegenburg & Nagano (BSO Munich)
5. Christopher Ventris as Parsifal in "Parsifal" Herheim & Gatti (BFS Bayreuth)
   Mariusz Kwiecien as Roger in "Krol Roger" Warlikowski & Ono (ONP Paris)

Opera singing in 2009 - I

Of  what I've seen in staged Operas this year the most striking voices I've felt were: Nina Stemme as Isolde in ROH, and Albert Dohmen as Hans Sachs in Liceu.
Since this blog is also a personal diary, I add  a more extensive list.

Female Singers

1. Nina Stemme as Isolde in "Tristan und Isolde" Loy & Pappano (ROH London)
2. Anja Harteros as Elsa in "Lohengrin" Jones & Nagano (BSO Munich)
3. Diana Damrau as Zerbinetta in "Ariadne auf Naxos" Carsen & De Billy (BSO Munich)
4. Anna Netrebko as Adina in "Elisir d'Amore" Pelly & Arrivabeni (ONP Paris) 
5. Eva-Maria Westbroek as Katerina Ismailova in "Lady Macbeth of Mzentsk" Kusej & Haenchen (ONP Paris)
 Ricarda Merbeth as Helena in "Aegyptische Helena" Marelli & Litton (DOB Berlin)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Moscou, quartier des Cerises" de Chostakovitch à l'opéra de Lyon

29/12/2009 à 20h sur

Live from the Lyon Opera on Arte,  December 29 at 8 P.M (CET), Moscow Cheryomushki (Москва Черемушки) opera by Shostakovich.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best & Worst Opera Shows in 2009

Out of incredibly many shows I've seen this year, only a few were memorable failures. The list of very good shows is huge and it will take me a couple of days to figure out "da best" ones. To list the bad productions is much easier - which is why I decided to talk about them first.

MY Top-5 list of bad productions seen in 2009:

- CENDRILLON (Opéra de Massy) Nadine Duffaut  & Xavier Saumon
- MIREILLE (Opéra National de Paris) Nicolas Joel  & Marc Minkowski
- MOISE et PHARAON (Salzburger Festspiele) Jürgen Flimm & Riccardo Muti
- SALOME (Opéra National de Paris) Lev Dodin  & Alain Altinoglu
- UN BAL MASQUE (Opéra National de Paris) Gilbert Deflo &  Renato Palumbo

Unhonorable mention
- FRA DIAVOLO (Opéra Comique Paris) Jérôme Deschamps & Jérémie Rhorer
- ANDREA CHENIER (Opéra National de Paris) Giancarlo Del Monaco & Daniel Oren
- DIE ZAUBERFLOTE (Châtelet Paris) Jean-Paul Scarpitta & Lawrence Foster
- TANNHAUSER (Deutsche Oper Berlin) Kirsten Harms & Donald Runnicles

Воццек Курентзисa & Черняковa

You may want to check out these two videos to get a clue about the new [smashing-looking!] production of "Wozzeck" by Dmitri Tcherniakov  (pic) and Teodor Currentzis, very recently premiered in Bolshoi theater  in Moscow.

Moscow is too far and visa-fussy, so here is hoping this production soon travels westward and/or gets released on DVD ;)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bless Francis Carlin

In his hilarious critique for Financial Times, Francis Carlin wittily thrashed the "new" Del Monaco's production/thing of Andrea Chenier  in Paris. I needn't say that I  fully share his views or do I? ;) Here is an excerpt from Carlin's critique:
"Both producer and work were making their house debuts, Chénier having previously been confined to French provincial theatres where patrons can be expected to suffer bursts of the Marseillaise and Carmagnole without wincing too much. The irony is that del Monaco has subjected Paris to an aggressively provincial stew of corny ideas shamelessly reworked from an earlier attempt. Ham acting and stylistically jumbled sets (Carlo Centolavigna) suggest a revival of a moth-eaten production dragged down from the attic, not a new venture.
Nobody expected a cutting-edge staging from this production team but such staggering incompetence and bad taste are still an unwelcome surprise: Chénier delivers his Act II Credo from a high terrace for the benefit of the technicians in the flies rather than the adoring public, the sans-culottes look totally uninvolved and Maddalena and Andrea exit this world not by marching to the guillotine but by clambering up the giant prison bars like a pair of chimpanzees in your local zoo. The only accurate description for this circus is the French connerie insondable (unfathomable idiocy)."

The Konwitschny Affair, or Why Salome rubbed me the wrong way?

"Salome" by Konwitschny had everything I need to consider it an excellent show, and yet there was something rubbing me the wrong way. After digging a bit deeper I think I've found the answer: I saw "Armida" by Calixto Bieito in Komische Oper Berlin this spring. And yes, Bieito has set a standard that Konwitschny's "Salome" simply didn't fulfill.

Que fait l'Art pour nous ?

Il met en forme et rend visibles nos émotions et, ce faisant, leur appose ce cachet d'éternité que portent toutes les œuvres qui, au travers d'une forme particulière, savent incarner l'universalité des affects humains.
L'elegance du herrisson, Muriel Barbery

Aix-en-Provence 2010

Ticketsale for all the productions of the Aix-en-Provence Festival 2010 open on Thursday 28 January 2010 on their website 

Don Giovanni • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Louis Langrée CONDUCTOR
Dmitri Tcherniakov STAGE DIRECTOR
Freiburger Barockorchester ORCHESTRA

Alceste • Christoph Willibald Gluck
Freiburger Barockorchester ORCHESTRA

Le Rossignol et autres fables • Igor Stravinsky
Opéra national de Lyon ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS

Pygmalion • Jean-Philippe Rameau
William Christie CONDUCTOR

Thalys to Aulide or to Tauride postponed due to heavy snow

The fast train "Thalys" -which normally takes you from Paris to Brussels in 1 hour and 22 minutes- had its timetable  screwed up today because of the thick layer of fluffy snow on the tracks. Never have I seen so much snow in Paris and it HAD to happen today! :(
Since my train wouldn't arrive to Brussels before 15:00, I had to throw out my tickets for two operas today in "La Monnaie/De Munt"

"La Monnaie/De Munt" is one of the very best opera houses in Europe which benefits 4-5 times less subsidies from the government than does Paris Opera (ONP), and yet manages to compile a far better and much more coherent program than the uninspiring rich-man amusement "made in elsewhere and imported to France" in ONP. La Monnaie is lead by an amazing and dynamical young intendant, Peter de Caluwe, who had a clever idea to program "Iphigénie en Aulide" and "Iphigénie en Tauride" back-to-back.
The critics [NYT, FT, Le Figaro, Welt, Nigel's blog] apparently didn't like the Pierre Audi's directing, but they all seem to have loved Christophe Rousset, his phenomenal orchestra "Les Talens Lyriques", and three excellent singers Véronique Gens, Stéphane Degout, and Topi Lehtipuu.

Better luck next month for "Elektra"!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra hit Paris (Dec.17 2009)

The "Salle Pleyel", as it is called here, is the Paris' best concert-hall. Its magnificent quality in programming pretty much owes to its music director and manager Laurent Bayle, who I'll say a bit more on some other occasion.

Today it's snowing in Paris, the public transportation is rarefied because of the social movement on the RER lines... but we hope for a good concert tonight in Pleyel to end the day on a good note: 
Mahler's Second Symphony by Mariss Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra - excuse meh! ;)

Report to follow...

DVR à programmer

Opéra à la télé

France TV
20/12 à 1h10 La Vie Parisienne sur France 3
24/12 à 0h10 Le Roi Arthur sur France 2
27/12 à 2h45 Don Giovanni sur France 2
 24/12 à 2h10 La Dame de pique
Mezzo TV
18/12 à 10h30 Faramondo d'Haendel
19/12 à 17h00 La vie parisienne
19/12 à 20h30 The Fairy Queen
22/12 à 20h30 Ta bouche  et Le Toréador ou l'Accord parfait d'Adolphe Adam
23/12 à 10h00 La Veuve Joyeuse
26/12 à 20h30 La Veuve Joyeuse
27/12 à 16h30 The Fairy Queen

+ 31/12 à 17h15  Concert du nouvel an en LIVE de Berlin  [Berliner Philharmoniker (chef Simon Rattle) et Lang Lang]

Marco Bellocchio davvero vince!

A sensational movie by Marco Bellocchio with two superb actors Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi is definitely worth paying the tic and sinking  2 hours of your time in the movie theater.  The story-telling is multidimensional but not pretentious at all.  It is only apparently a tragic love of Ida Dalser for Mussolini; the film digs much deeper in the immense complexity of the human texture... Bravissimi!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

L'Extase de Measha

Copenhagen, January 17 2009: Measha Brueggergosman sang "L'Extase de la Vierge", a rarely performed Massenet's aria.  Enjoy!

Do check out this album.

Muriel Barbery "L’élégance du hérisson"

Voila un roman grandioso que j'ai raté au moment de sa sortie, mais ce n'est jamais trop tard...

« Je m’appelle Renée, j’ai cinquante-quatre ans et je suis la concierge du 7 rue de Grenelle, un immeuble bougeois. Je suis veuve, petite, laide, grassouillette, j’ai des oignons aux pieds et, à en croire certains matins auto-incommodants, une haleine de mammouth. Mais surtout, je suis si conforme à l’idée que l’on se fait des concierges qu’il ne viendrait à l’idée de personne que je suis plus lettrée que tous ces riches suffisants.»

«Je m’appelle Paloma, j’ai douze ans, j’habite au 7 rue de Grenelle dans un appartement de riches. Mais depuis très longtemps, je sais que la destination finale, c’est le bocal à poissons, la vacuité et l’ineptie de l’existence adulte. Comment est-ce que je le sais ? Il se trouve que je suis très intelligente. Exceptionnellement intelligente, même. C’est pour ça que j’ai pris ma décision : à la fin de cette année scolaire, le jour de mes treize ans, je me suiciderai. »

Mimi Harteros and Rodolfo Grigolo in TCE

I don't like Puccini. I actually hate "La Bohème"! So -you may ask- why the heck I would go to Le théâtre des Champs-Élysées (TCE) and listen to this horrid opera?! The answer is Anja Harteros. I was completely flabbergasted by her Elsa in "Lohengrin" which I saw last summer in Munich: the production was all about Jonas Kaufmann and he was very good, but Anja completely stole the show.
Her voice is big enough, her harmonics are beautifully composed and very different in live from what you get from her recordings, her vocal dexterity is impressive, and she sings all the high notes with an astonishing ease. Combined with Vittorio Grigolo -an excellent young tenor- I had my guarantee for a good evening.

And good it was! Anja was head and shoulders above the rest, Vittorio sang beautifully too,  The Bayrische Staatsoper orchestra was magnificent as usual, the other singers were good too, and so I survived "La Bohème" ;)

Hope Anja will be back here and sing something else [anything but Mimi ;) ]

Fortunio saves the day in Paris

A very good show in Paris (YAY!) - it does not happen often these days, so it deserves to be boldly highlighted. OF COURSE I am not talking about the Paris Opera (ONP). It was in Opéra Comique, one of the several good opera-houses in Paris where you never know what you might get: it can be fantastically creative and uplifting, but it can be unbearably sweet too.  So, I saw there "Fortunio" this past Saturday, December 12 and all I can say is: there are 3 more shows to go [ December 16, 18 and 20]. Believe me, you don't want to miss this one! [Run Forrest, run! ;) ]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The King of Lieder is back

After quite a disappointing concert of the Brahms' "Die schöne Magelone", Matthias Goerne came back to TCE past Thursday (December 10 2009) and brought some of the most memorable singing ever: Bach cantatas straight in your face!  
Ch.Eschenbach and all of us who were in the theater that night, were totally mesmerized.  Not only Matthias was at his best, but his complicity with the orchestra was nearly perfect.
One of those evenings that remains with you foreva.

The program was completed by a magnificient cycle of songs by Hanns Eisler.

 Cantate "Der Friede sei mit dir" BWV 158
Cantate "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen" BWV 56
Cantate "Ich habe genug" BWV 82
Hanns Eisler : Ernste Gesänge

Vielen Dank!

Salomé : Amsterdam V. Paris 1:0

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Superbe "Carmen" de La Scala

Scéniquement c'était de loin la meilleure Carmen que j'ai vue et c'était la meilleure transmission live que j'ai vue à la télé.

Monday, December 7, 2009

7 dicembre, Sant'Ambroggio à La Scala di Milano

The coolest telly on Earth, ARTE-TV,  will be covering the whole evening LIVE (20:45 CET). Check out a few videos here taken during the rehearsals. Here is also a video ad:

In Bocca al Lupo Anita e Jonas!

Andrea Chénier : Quel Trouble Inconnu Me Pénètre !

Le 6 décembre j'ai vu et entendu  "Andrea Chénier", une production qui est nouvelle à l'Opéra de Paris même si elle a été donnée dans des nombreuses villes et existe même en DVD, avant de venir amuser un certain public parisien.

Le spectacle, signée Giancarlo Del Monaco, est opulent, avec des drapeaux français agités dans tous les sens. Cette production, tout-à-fait sous-Zeffirellienne, est marquée par le fait que rien ne se passe sur scène -une fois les décors sont dévoilés [d'où la répartition : 30min du spectacle, 30min d'entracte-1, 35min du spectacle, 20min d'entracte-2, 1 heure du spectacle].  Cette absence totale d'une quelconque direction des acteurs n'est qu'un retour vers les années 80, que le Met avec Peter Gelb (heureusement) enterrent en ce moment. Le message est donc, en ce qui concerne des spectacles d'opéra, que l'Opéra National de Paris devient le nouveau temple de la ringardise mondiale. :(

Positivons et soulignons les 3 excellents chanteurs : surtout le superbe Sergei Murzaev, ensuite Micaela Carosi et bien évidemment Marcelo Alvarez -- qui impressionnent par leur volume et leur capacité de chanter le répertoire verdien [OK ici c'est du verismo, mais leur capacité de chanter les lourds rôles verdiens nous réconforte dans le sens que la relève est bien là !]

Une œuvre d'un gout assez suspect, ou tout est exagéré et non-raffiné, est dirigée par  Daniel Oren qui a avec ces mouvements exagérés contribué que ce spectacle restera inoubliable - mais pas dans le sens positif.   

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Quatuor Ebène

The winners of the 2009 Gramophone Awards, and picked today by Axel Ross as one of the best recordings in 2009 for their smashing "Quatuors à corde" by Ravel, Debussy, Fauré

this quartet is not playing often in Paris (to say the least). If you check out the sched on their web-site you'll see that they will only be performing in Paris at the Chatelet theater, one morning (sic!) in April of 2010. Yes, you guessed it right, France is often bizarre. But hey, we love it for other reasons. ;)

Instead of prattling about how wonderful Quatuor Ebène are, here is a cool video of their take on the Pulp Fiction theme, as an encore at the 2008 Verbier Festival (video from Enjoy!

Annick Massis au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (TCE)

photo from the TCE web-site

That night in TCE was supposed to be special as there was a long awaited recital of one of the leading french sopranos, Annick Massis. She is parisienne who, in spite of her fan-base, shows up very seldom on any of numerous stages in Paris. Second reason for the night to be special was that it was a rare occasion to listen to the belcanto-repertoire in Paris, which is kinda weird since Paris counts quite many belcanto-freaks. On the less appealing side, the announced program was short and uninspiring, which probably explains about 1/5 of the seats being vacant (especially in the 2nd balcony). 

Hello World !

OK, so we have to begin from somewhere. I am in my later 30's, living in Paris (ahem, suburbs actually). My job has nothing to do with Opera or classical music whatsoever.  I am just a huge fan who often gets to see the Opera shows, concerts, recitals... in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. This blog will simply be a collection of my impressions/comments on the shows I've seen recently (sometimes in french tho).