Monday, May 31, 2010

New Otello premiered in Berlin: Kriegenburg and Harteros rocked -- Cura and Lucic were great too!

Otello, Deutsche Oper Berlin, May 30 2010

Conductor Patrick Summers
Director Andreas Kriegenburg

Otello José Cura
Iago Zeljko Lucic
Cassio Yosep Kang
Roderigo Gregory Warren
Lodovico Hyung-Wook Lee
Montano Jörn Schümann
Desdemona Anja Harteros
Emilia Liane Keegan

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pieczonka is a great Tosca of our time

Tosca, Deutsche Oper Berlin, May 29, 2010

Pieczonka after Vissi d'arte

Director Boleslaw Barlog 
Conductor Matthias Foremny

Tosca Adrianne Pieczonka
Cavaradossi Roberto Aronica
Scarpia Luccio Gallo
Angelotti Ben Wager
Sacristan Roland Schubert
Spoletta Joerg Schoerner
Sciarrone Hyung-Wook Lee
Turnkey Lucas Harbour

Preparing for the premiere of Otello @ DOB

After a couple of really hellish weeks, I can find an hour or two a day to keep this blog rolling.

Before the long awaited Walkure in Paris -- which will be premiered tomorrow, May 31 2010-- I decided to spend a weekend in Berlin and to see the new gem prepared by Andreas Kriegenburgen. It's a new production of Otello for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, with sensational cast members including  Anja Harteros, José Cura, Željko Lučić. La prima is tonight and the daily newspapers are filled with infos about this event. Here is a pic from the Berliner Morgenpost of an interview with Kriegenburgen [whose Wozzeck in Munich I totally loved].

Another interesting news is...

June is good...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ach Berlin...

Just 1 quick hello from Berlin  ((for work and for a few operas too)).

EU lesson: iPhone in France works fine but as soon as you cross the fr-borders, while still remaining in the EU, your iPhone becomes useless - worse, YOU pay every text msg and every call you receive as if you'd phoned to the farthest corner of the Universe at the busiest time of the day. \end{rant}
Ed1: L'etoile was cute. Rattle and Staatskapelle showed how this score has to be played if you want the public to feel and hear the richness of the texture of this music. Madge Kozena sounded much better than in my previous experiences of her singing in a large auditorium. Fouchecourt - excellent, Stella Doufexis - always reliable. The cast is really good although the orchestra and Simon Rattle dominate the show. As for Dale Duesing and his staging, it's very uneven... I'll explain it more when I get some decent internet connection. The show starts very well and then the momentum was lost and the show simply didnät work for me... I have an impression that he either had to wrap up the show very fast or he ran out of ideas in the last third of his inszenierung. It's a show that would please the public at the Met or at the Paris Opera. For Berlin UDL it's "too nice", too pleasant, zero surprise... Dunno, maybe I've set a bar too high and my expectations were hard to match?! Go figure.

"The Chartreuse aria" reminded me of chartreuse -- a French liqueur made in a Monastery close to Grenoble. As much as that monastery is beautiful, the liqueur is dreadful - looks and tastes like a shampoo ;)

Ed2: Just saw Fidelio at the Komische Oper. Homoki was right: Benedikt von Peter is a young genius director. His show is close in spirit to what you'd expect from Herheim, but it's (very) different in form. It is very Regie, and highly nontrivial. If anyone saw the show and reads this blog, do tell how you understood the white flags and banners at the end of the show.
Carl St.Clair obviously didn't conduct. Was replaced by Martin Hoff (whoever that is) and the orchestra sounded very good. Props to Caroline Melzer for singing this killing role (Leonore) -- she gave her all and sang *everything*.  I took some photos - will post them when I become iPhone independent :)

Ed3:  Friday night -- La Traviata at the Komische, dir Hans Neuenfels. I've been blessed to cleverly avoid horrifying productions of this opera, i.e. the ones with kilometers of fabrics, loads of kitsch and tons of pathos, with a deranged Violetta screaming Che str-ah-ano... Except for 2-3 productions on video and a horrid show produced by Gruber shown in Lyon last year, all the productions I've seen were good or excellent.  
This show is really something special: it follows very closely the libretto, it only introducing an angel-protector of Violetta's, but the amount of little ideas that support the flow of drama --that is sometimes very minimalistic and sometimes very opulent in terms of number of actors and the stage dynamics-- is huge.
The elegance of costumes is a treat per se, and a direction of actors is rarely seen in an opera. Too bad they don't make DVD of their productions. It is a lesson of stage directing!
Brigitte Gelleris is a wonderful Violetta.
If you can possibly come to Berlin and see this Traviata, please do - it's the classiest form of  Regie-theater for you. It's regularly on the program of the Komische.
And yes: Komische Oper in Berlin is definitely the coolest opera house in Europe I've seen so far.

Ed4:  Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail: This is the best Calixto Bieito's show ever, and --if not the best then-- one of the best opera-shows I've ever seen in my entire life. Even without Mozart this would be a smashing piece of theater.
In the end  I felt sorry Mozart couldn't see this show. He would have been proud of his music and of this theater.

There is a moment in which Bieito's show is "too much to stomach -- when one prostitute was being slowly massacred. Many people started to yell in protest but refused to leave auditorium. 15 mins later they must have understood how wrong they were to react so violently, but a spontaneous reaction to refusing what you're seeing is totally comprehensible too...
It's clearly a "for adults only" show, but with all the cruelty and in spite of somewhat pessimistic finale, it's deeply human/humanistic.
One of the rare shows that I call unforgettable!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Les Boulingrin: The Sound of Boredom or Art of Noise?

Les Boulingrin, Opéra Comique Paris, May 16 2010

Musical direction Jean Deroyer
Stage direction Jérôme Deschamps

Des Rillettes  Jean-Sébastien Bou
Boulingrin  Lionel Peintre
Madame Boulingrin  Doris Lamprecht
Félicie  Donatienne Michel-Dansac

Klangforum Wien

Sunday, May 16, 2010

So far in May...

I bet the most important operatic event in Europe this month is the new production of Der Ferne Klang in Zurich, with our fave Ingo Metzmacher rocking the house & a huge cast performing very well too.  On this link you can find a 10 mins long video trailer which only made me regret more that I wasn't able to better organize my travel plans and see this wowzerly-show.
Please see the reviews by Intermezzo and by Welt der Oper.

From the Jens-Daniel Herzog's production of Der Ferne Klang

More after

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Good news: Das Rheingold from La Scala on TV-Mezzo

Guy Cassiers's magnificent-looking production of Das Rheingold --which is to be premiered tomorrow at  La Scala in Milan-- will be live broadcast by Mezzo-TV on Wednesday, May 26 at 8 pm (cet). This is extra-good news as our fave Kwangchul Youn will be singing Fasolt (he shares the role with Tigran Martirossian)

Anna Samuil and René Pape

Check out the package of TV-channels you received together with your Internet connection. Mezzo might be somewhere on the list. The above and the pics you can find below are all taken during the final dress rehearsal and are © Koen Broos.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Star in Berlin - L’étoile by Chabrier

Next Sunday, May 16,  will open a new production of L'étoile, a fun opera by Emmanuel Chabrier, at the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin. The show is produced by Dale larger-than-life Duesing, the cast includes Magdalena Kozena and looks very good, and the Staatskapelle will be conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. Photos from one of the dress rehearsals are already available on their website.
I hope to be able to see one of the total of 5 shows in this run.

Magdalena Kozena as Lazuli

Recently there were several productions of this opera in Europe and in the US, of which the worst  must have been the one presented at Opéra Comique in Paris [this is very often the case with French operas, i.e. they are much better produced outside of France (Les Contes d'Hoffmann is a notable exception!)]. Thus my hope that the show in Berlin will be much better than the thing presented in Paris.

Octobass and Harpolyre

Octobass has nothing to do with Octomom  :)

Cité de la musique in Paris is fun place visit. Adjacent to the Conservatory, it's a home to one of the world's best contemporary music orchestra, L'ensemble intercontemporain. In the complex there is a very good shop, plenty of space for workshops, seminars, educational programs, in addition to a fantastic auditorium... And there is a huge Musics Museum  -- Musée de la Musique -- where you can see more than 40,000 pieces of musical instruments, exposed chronologically so you get a feeling of how and why the orchestral music  evolved.

You can see many fancy instruments, such as octobass -- almost double in size with respect to a double bass (pic above). Berlioz apparently liked it a lot --for his huge orchestral experiments-- but since it was too large, the strings too thick... the instrument disappeared from all standards.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sublime Winterreise by Edwin Crossley-Mercer

This was one of the best recitals I've listened to in years.

Edwin Crossley-Mercer was lucky to be given the opportunity to present his first recital in Paris at the auditorium of the Musée d'Orsay. If you looked for the most appropriate place in Paris to organize a  recital of Winterreise by Schubert, it would be there. It's cosy and big enough at the same time and the acoustics is  impeccable. Last year, in that same venue, I listened to two superb Liederabends -- one was with Petra Lang, and the other with Ian Bostridge. Both were fantastic and I knew Edwin could be excellent too if he managed to stay calm and focused throughout the entire Winterreise, which is tough: it's long, it's easy to let one's mind wander away in e.g. Fruehlingstraum, or in Tauschung...

Edwin Crossley-Mercer happy after his memorable recital

Only at the very beginning you could read from his hands that he was tense, but as soon as Semjon Skigin started playing, all those little signs disappeared and he opened with a gloriously sung Gutte Nacht -- that nevertheless felt a tad too controlled. By the time he arrived to Erstarrung he was completely in his groove, totally at ease, and the recital gained on spontaneity -- everything was delicately emphasized and vocally sculpted. At one point you could've felt the crowd immersing in the thick silence and a 'winterreisish' atmosphere he imposed by his singing. Of course, he sang all 24 songs in one go, fully focused on every verse he'd pronounce [impeccably!]. Add to that the freshness and flexibility of his voice and you get a picture: definitely a memorable Winterreise.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

FREE: Carmen from Lille

Judging from the photos and a few video excerpts,  Carmen --produced by Jean-François Sivadier and his team-- that will be premiered tonight at Opéra de Lille, looks interesting.
You may wish to see/listen to the second show live from Lille. Next Friday, May 14, at 20:00 (cet), it will be live broadcast via the France3 website.

Cast: Stéphanie d’Oustrac Carmen, Gordon Gietz Don José, Olga Pasichnyk Micaëla, Jean-Luc Ballestra Escamillo

Here you can find a video add made for the regional TV France3 (contains images from the final dress rehearsal).

Ed: The show is available for free viewing on the same site.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Les Contes de Hoffmann at Opera Bastille

Les contes de Hoffmann, Opéra Bastille, May 7, 2010

Giuseppe Filianoti at his best

Jesus Lopez-Cobos    Conductor
Robert Carsen    Stage Director

Laura Aikin Olympia
Inva Mula Antonia
Béatrice Uria-Monzon Giulietta
Ekaterina Gubanova La Muse / Nicklausse
Giuseppe Filianoti Hoffmann
Cornelia Oncioiu Une Voix
Rodolphe Briand Spalanzani
Jason Bridges Nathanaël
Alain Vernhes Luther, Crespel
Léonard Pezzino Andres, Cochenille, Frantz, Pitichinaccio
Franck Ferrari Lindorf, Coppélius, Dr Miracle, Dapertutto
Vladimir Kapshuk Hermann
Yuri Kissin Schlemil

Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Saturday, May 8, 2010

GRATIS: Watch the new production of Don Quichotte from La Monnaie/De Munt

Last  Saturday, May 8, at 20:30 (cet), there was a live broadcast from Brussels of the new Laurent Pelly's production of Don Quichotte, on Arte-Live Web. For the next 60 days when you find some time you can watch it for free:

Marc Minkowski conducted the show which is most probably the last time we could see José van Dam singing in an opera. 

A good note about this opera can be found  on Wiki.

Mad scene

This entry is just an element to understand why and what's happening in Italy right now [most/all of the opera houses affected by strikes of unionized theater workers...]

Renato Brunetta is a minister in the actual Berlusconi government, and the way he attacks art and culture borders with madness.

If you understand well Italian, you're in for a hell of a ride. If you understand it only partly, the last minute of the video below is enough to get a clue.

N.B. Minister Brunetta also said --in an interview on public television-- that he's convinced he would've won the Nobel Prize if he didn't prefer to pursue his career in politics (see this video - with English subtitles!)

Profitons bien de la jeunesse: Sonya Yoncheva - 2010 Operalia Winner

In the video below --extracted from the Operalia competition concert--  Sonya Yoncheva sings Manon with an ease and precision of rare quality. People who attended the finals say she sounded very impressive at La Scala too.

Best of luck to pretty Sonya, and hope to see her in some of the Paris venues sooner rather than later.

New donna del lago in Geneva

While waiting for La Donna del Lago with Juan Diego Florez and Joyce DiDonato in Paris in June, we're keeping our eyes and ears opened to what's happening in Geneva where Joyce sings her first Elena, in the new production by Christof Loy.

Gregory Kunde and Joyce DiDonato in the new production of La Donna del Lago in Geneva [photo lifted from the GTG website]

Below you will find the video of an interview with Joyce on Swiss television, which also contains a couple of excerpts from this new production (it's in French BUT with English subtitles  - enjoy!)

Update: Always reliable Mei was actually in Geneva and saw the show last night. Read her short and enthusiastic review!

Joyce la Diva Yankee herself brings a few keys for an easier reading of the Christof Loy's -- "Breaking the waves" inspired-- production. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010


  1. You can now listen to "L'amour coupable", which is the third of the trilogy of Beaumarchais' plays to have its operatic equivalent [after Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Le Nozze di Figaro]. I saw the show in Rouen 10 days ago [see this entry] and liked the opera. The France Musique radio was kind to let the broader audience listen to this new opera composed by Thierry Pécou. Check out this link. If you want to skip introduction go to minute 7:00, which is when the opera begins. Note that the opera is 90 min long and is very eclectic in style.
  2. SEE a surprisingly good content of the 2010-2011 opera season in Lille, in Monte Carlo, and in Nancy. 
  3. Also updated are the 2010-2011 opera-programs in Stockholm, and in Freiburg.
  4. Below you will find 5 videos of Guy Cassiers and his team discussing the new production of Rheingold which they prepared for La Scala of Milan and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. The premiere will take place sometimes after next Thursday [after May 13] in Milan. There are lots of shots taken during the rehearsals, where you can listen to René Pape and friends.
    Apparently Cassiers wants this Gesamstkunswork to have lots of video-imagery and a lot more ballet. At one point he even associates a dancer to each singer and they all perform simultaneously.

We will barock you (2): The premiere of La Calisto at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées

La Calisto,  Théâtre des Champs-Élysées (TCE), May 5, 2010

Christophe Rousset, conductor
Macha Makeïeff,

Sophie Karthäuser,
Lawrence Zazzo,
Giovanni Battista Parodi,
Véronique Gens,
Giunone, Il Destino
Marie-Claude Chappuis,
L'Eternità, Diana
Milena Storti,
Cyril Auvity,
La Natura, Pane
Mario Cassi,
Sabina Puértolas,
Graeme Broadbent,

Les Talens Lyriques

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We will barock you (1): Acis and Galatea at La cité de la musique

 Acis and Galatea, La cité de la musique, May 4, 2010

Joanne Lunn and Ed Lyon

Philip Pickett  conductor
Ed Lyon  Acis
Joanne Lunn  Galatée
Michael George  Polyphème
Joseph Cornwell  Damon
     Andrew King  Coridon
Faye Newton  
Jelena Kordic
Simon Grant

New London Consort

Billy Budd in Paris - 2nd go

I couldn't resist and this past Monday I went to see Billy Budd  at Opera Bastille again. So it's been 10 days since I saw la prima --that I liked very much (see this entry)-- and now I could appreciate more the details of this production. At the premiere I particularly enjoyed the Act-2 because that's where most of the action occurs. This time, instead, I enjoyed Act-1 more:  Francesca Zambello really did a brilliant job to introduce the characters and define relations among them in a basically spontaneous way. She never resorted to decor to do her job. The sets are there to support the action and not to define the personal side of the show. This show kinda makes for all the disappointment I felt after seeing her Carmen and Don Giovanni at the ROH.

 Jeffrey Tate

This time I also enjoyed the subtleties of the Maestro Jeffrey Tate's conducting.  You could tell he feels this music deeply, and when added to his huge experience with Britten's music, you get this singular style that makes this score breathe an extra life. He keeps all the dramatic moments perfectly at their place, but the intensity of music never falls, his attention to every line of the score remains constant and the result is delightful. One element that I liked very much (that the Puccini fans probably wouldn't like) is that Tate emphasizes the emotional moments dramatically too, but with no pathos at all.  Nothing vulgar - just plain classy!
Tate's conducting is maybe that extra-reason why I liked this time Act-1 more than Act-2.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Operalia WINNERS


1st prize: Sonya Yoncheva and Stefan Pop

2nd prize: Rosa Feola and Ievgen Orlov & Giordano Lucà

3rd prize: Dinara Alieva and Chae Jun Lim

Birgit Nilsson Prize: Ryan McKinny

Two Audience Prizes: Stefan Pop and Rosa Feola

Zarzuela Prizes: Rosa Feola and Nathaniel Peake


The recording of the entire evening is available here . Enjoy! ;) 

Opera and Art, or Art in Opera

I very often find it difficult to discuss with operagoers because I always feel like bouncing off the wall of that perpetual desire to standardize the ways operas are staged, sung and performed. To feel secure by an established set of rules in everyday life is of course OK, but to expect art to follow similar (rigid) laws often entails a rejection of everything artistic about opera. 

 Ceiling at the Garnier opera in Paris, painted by Marc Chagal.

I understand that the artistic directors of big opera houses are acting more like CEO's,  but those that are good manage to get a good attendance while keeping a creativity and artistry in their theaters at decent level. Otherwise it is hard to make a substantial difference between a show given in an Opera House and seen on TV [although you can nitpick on technical details]. 

The theatrical part of an opera provides a number of options to satisfy this creative part [a clever choice of directors is often an implicit statement about the artistic policy of a given opera house], while the musicians do the rest to make theater live, to produce that moment in which the audience and performers share something unique. That's why I like, for example, La Traviata by Christine Schafer more than many of "perfectly" formated characterless voices. 

The other day I was reading this paragraph and thought how a big part of operatic stuff performed today is so not art.

In science and philosophy successive workers in the same field produce, if they work ordinarily well, an advance; and a retrograde movement always implies some breach of continuity. But in art, a school once established normally deteriorates as it goes on. It achieves perfection in its kind with a startling burst of energy, a gesture too quick for the historian's eye to follow. He can never explain such a movement or tell us how exactly it happened, But once it is achieved, there is the melancholy certainty of a decline. The grasped perfection does not educate and purify the taste of posterity; it debauches it.
 R.G.Collingwood, Speculum Mentis, Oxford 1924, p.82

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