Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mahagonny dels Baus on your TV, live from Madrid

I just learned that la prima of the first new production at Teatro Real since Gérard Mortier became its artistic director, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, will be live broadcast to many cinemas worldwide, and also on your Mezzo-TV (cable, ADSL) -- tomorrow, September 30 at 8 p.m. (CET).

This should be interesting because it's new, because La Fura dels Baus sign this show, the cast is good: Jane Henschel, Willard White, Measha Bruggergosman, Michael König, Donald Kaasch... and Pablo Heras-Casado (!) will conduct.

Trailer attached below.... [You're welcome! ;)]

Opéra français

While Opéra National de Paris scheduled ZERO operas in French for its entire 2010-2011 season (sic!), De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam opened its new season with a new production of Les Vêpres siciliennes, directed by Christof Loy [with lots of chairs and a theatrical language focused on gestures and interactions among characters - pics here]. Neither the FT reviewer nor Fomalhaut-blogger seem to have liked the show but both are quite complimentary about its musical quality. 

ENO opened its season by a new production of Faust, co-produced with The Met, and directed by Des McAnuff.  FT slashed it, The Independent disliked its Broadway style but loved the singers, and The Telegraph was pretty positive about everything. ENO proposes various discounts for the remaining shows (c.f. here).

OOOPS!  Roberto Alagna and Béatrice Uria Monzon as Don José and Carmen in Barcelona (©

Calixto Bieito's production of Carmen opened the season 2010-2011 in Barcelona a couple of days ago. The premiere was apparently electrifying with only a few boos for Calixto, however drowned in loads of Bravo's. Katharina Wagner was at the premiere and after the show said she loved it.  Roberto Alagna was très en voix. To see him taking part in a show like this is surprising but certainly props-worthy [more pics here].  Spanish reviewers are exulted, as well as our Mei.
Yours Truly will see this production, so more on that next week...
[I owe you my take on Bieito's smashing Aida that I saw in Basel last Sunday -- a few sentences hopefully tonight] 

Trailers for all three productions are appended below.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Così fan Freiburger Barockorchester

Così fan tutte (in concert), Salle Pleyel - Paris, September 27 2010

Alexandrina Pendatchanska, Marie-Claude Chappuis, and maestro Jacobs

     René Jacobs ..... conductor

     Alexandrina Pendatchanska ..... Fiordiligi
     Marie-Claude Chappuis ..... Dorabella
     Sunhae Im ..... Despina
     Johannes Weisser ..... Guglielmo
     Magnus Staveland ..... Ferrando
     Marcos Fink ..... Don Alfonso   
      Coro Gulbenkian
         Freiburger Barockorchester

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tout en douceur

Susan Graham, Orchestre de Paris & Bertrand de Billy, Salle Pleyel, September 23  2010

Susan Graham after Poème de l'amour et de la mer

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rolando who?

You remember when Joshua Bell played almost unnoticed in one of the Metro stops in Washington DC, and made only $32 for 45 minutes of play? (here is the link to YT)

Rolando Villazon made an extra step and sang a tune from his new CD on a Paris Métro train, in front of the numerous commuters. All that happened last Monday during rush hour... and despite his star-status in Paris, Rolando was completely ignored. Here is proof:

What do you conclude from this?

Ed: Above video contains only 45 sec of full material suppressed from both WAT and DailyMotion portals.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Diva/Divo at Théâtre des Champs Elysées: We love Joyce

Les grandes voix: Joyce DiDonato, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, September 22 - 2010 

It's a great pleasure to see Joyce DiDonato back in Paris, less than 3 months after her superb Elena in Rossini's La donna del lago at Opéra Garnier and her memorable recital at Théâtre des Champs Elysées (TCE).  Joyce and Paris -- that's a love story, so I wasn't at all surprised to see TCE full with people.

In one sentence, this was a wonderful concert and my pleasure was doubled by the fact that Kazushi Ono (who I also like very much!) came with the Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon to accompany Joyce. We learned...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Der Rap des Nibelungen

Another exciting theater in Switzerland is Theatre Freiburg. It's very Regie-oriented with a goal to resonate more explicitly with cultural needs of the people of Freiburg. In 2009-2010 they completed their Ring des Nibelungen which received rave reviews (especially Das Rheingold and Die Walküre). This season they will run the whole cycle twice...

In parallel they organized Der Rap des Nibelungen, to increase their interaction with younger audience and introduce them adiabatically to the Wagner's masterpiece. To that end they unified theater groups of youngsters from Freiburg and a rap-band from Berlin and produced a Ring that proved to be success. It was premiered last June and several shows were performed at the main theater in front of the packed house.  Here is a collage of the photos taken during the show:

Americanized story of Armide in Gennevilliers

Armide, Théâtre de Gennevilliers September 21 2010

Pascal Rambert, Antoine Plante, Zachary Wilder, Isabelle Cals,  Lauren Snouffer, Sarah Mesko and Sumner Thompson

Director ..... Pascal Rambert
Conductor ..... Antoine Plante

Armide ..... Isabelle Cals
Renaud ..... Zachary Wilder
Hidraut/Haine ..... Sumner Thompson
Phénice/Glorie ..... Lauren Snouffer
Sidonie/Sagesse ..... Sarah Mesko

Mercury Baroque - Houston, TX

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fidelio at the Komische Oper in Berlin: Is Benedikt von Peter next 'Stefan Herheim'?

Fidelio, Komische Oper Berlin, May 20 2010

 Conductor  Martin Hoff
 Director  Benedikt von Peter

 Don Fernando  Mirko Janiska
 Don Pizarro   Anton Keremidtchiev
 Florestan   Will Hartmann
 Leonore   Caroline Melzer
 Rocco  Tilmann Rönnebeck
 Marzelline  Karen Rettinghaus
 Jaquino  Thomas Ebenstein

Monday, September 20, 2010

Have 5 minutes?!

Portrait of Richard Wagner - Auguste Renoir, 1882  (Musée d'Orsay, Paris)
Listen to Bryn Terfel's unearthly 'O du, mein holder Abendstern' from Tannhäuser:

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Onegin in Paris: Incredible Mr.Petrenko!

Eugene Onegin, Opéra Bastille, September 17 2010

Vasily Petrenko ..... Conductor
Willy Decker ..... Stage director

Nadine Denize ..... Larina
Olga Guryakova ..... Tatyana
Alisa Kolosova ..... Olga
Nona Javakhidze ..... Filippyevna
Ludovic Tézier ..... Eugene Onegin
Joseph Kaiser ..... Lensky
Gleb Nikolsky ..... Prince Gremin 

Jean-Paul Fouchécourt ..... Triquet
Ugo Rabec ..... Zaretsky

Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bonne chance maestro Järvi!

Paavo Järvi is a very good conductor who these days officially became the new music director of Orchestre de Paris. The inaugural concert at Pleyel will take place tonight [Wednesday, Sept. 15 @ 8 p.m. (CET)]. I have a ticket and I'll go but you (all of you!) can come with me too --if you want-- thanks to Arte Live Web. You can either follow this link or see the concert tonight in a video embedded below [at the end of this entry].

The program is available here.
Järvi evidently opted to present himself with a Nordic sound of Jean Sibelius [close to his native Estonia], and combine it with a fitting French sound which appears to be La Péri by Paul Dukas.
Two Finnish soloists will be singing: Soile Isokoski and our fave Juha Uusitalo.

Paavo Järvi

Orchestre de Paris is a strange bunch: they are like a treasury of top class musicians, but together they rarely perform at the level you'd expect them to. Last time I listened them reaching the level of any Top-10 world orchestra was at Pleyel, in a performance of the Britten's War Requiem, conducted by Ingo Metzmacher. That was a good illustration that they could be great and that a chemistry between them and their previous director, Christoph Eschenbach was lacking. Let's hope Järvi will be able to make the best of the orchestra's potential and help them regain the Top-10 level they deserve. 
Good luck maestro!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bieito's Aida @ Theater Basel - trailer

Bieito's Aida opens tonight at Theater Basel

For all of us who unfortunately cannot go and see the new  Calixto Bieito's show in Basle, the pics taken during the final dress rehearsal come as a mini-consolation (see below).

Note that there will be 19 shows  running until the end of 2010, so if you can squeeze in a trip to Basle...

Michelle De Young --Amneris in this production-- on her website writes:
Working with Calixto is extreme, exhausting and exhilarating. I have definitely had my comfort zones pushed, and enjoy it! It's very violent and sexual. I have fallen in love with both the character and the sing of Amneris.

More pics below

October 1st: Aida at the Rhine

We know that Calixto Bieito will direct new Aida at Theater Basel. Although Aida is my least favorite opera by Verdi, I wish I could see it (1) because of Calixto, and (2) because that theater is one of the most exciting places (artistically) in Europe right now.

If you don't care much about Calixto or Theater Basel, you might still be interested to know that the same cast will participate in a live TV-event  Aida at the Rhine, organized by the Swiss SF1.

This is the third in the series of projects, following La Traviata at Zurich Main Station in 2008 and La Bohème in the Suburbs of Bern in 2009.  Aida at the Rhine will be live broadcast from Basle on October 1st 2010 at 8 p.m. , and the live video stream will be available on this link.

This peculiar show will be directed by Georges Delnon, Gabriel Feltz will conduct and the cast includes: Angeles Blancas - Aida, Michelle de Young - Amneris, Sergei Khomov - RadamesDaniel Golossov - Ramfis. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

La meglio gioventù

In the last concert of this year's Festival in Lucerne, Gustavo Dudamel will conduct the Wiener Philharmoniker  in a performance of works by Rossini, Orbón, Bernstein and Ravel. Detailed program can be found here, and you [and you, and you, and you, ... ;)] will be able to see it live, thanks to who will broadcast the concert on Saturday, September 18, at 6:30 p.m. (CET)

It's free but you have to register at

Italiana at Garnier: Ridiculous ≠ Funny

L'italiana in Algeri, Opéra Garnier, September 11 2010

Oncioiu, Novaro, Azzaretti, Corbelli, DiStefano (chorus master), Benini, Genaux, Serban, Brownlee, Vinco

Maurizio Benini ..... Conductor
Andrei Serban ..... Stage director

Marco Vinco ..... Mustafà
Jaël Azzaretti ..... Elvira
Cornelia Oncioiu ..... Zulma
Riccardo Novaro ..... Haly
Lawrence Brownlee ..... Lindoro
Vivica Genaux ..... Isabella
Alessandro Corbelli ..... Taddeo

Orchestre et Choeur de l’Opéra national de Paris

The Dutchman took off at Opéra Bastille

Der fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman/Le vaisseau fantôme, Opéra Bastille, September 9 2010

Angel on the top of the Bastille obelisk seen from Opéra Bastille 

Peter Schneider ..... Conductor
Willy Decker ..... Stage Director

Matti Salminen ..... Daland
Adrianne Pieczonka ..... Senta
Klaus Florian Vogt ..... Erik
Marie-Ange Todorovitch ..... Mary
Bernard Richter .....  Steuermann
James Morris ..... Holländer

Thursday, September 9, 2010

New opera productions in Europe - September 2010

There is quite a number of new productions to be presented in Europe during September, of which I expect the most from the following four:

  • Aida at Theater Basel [dir Calixto Bieito, cnd Maurizio Barbacini] - Sept 14
  • Semele at Theater and der Wien [dir Robert Carsen, cnd William Christie] - Sept 15
  • Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Komische Oper Berlin [dir Andreas Homoki, cnd Patrick Lange] - Sept 25
  • Carmen at Liceu Barcelona [dir Calixto Bieito, cnd Marc Piolet] - Sept 27
  • Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at Teatro Real Madrid [dir La Fura dels Baus, cnd Pablo Heras-Casado] - Sept 30

Other potentially exciting new productions...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The time is up

Since we are in The Flying Dutchman mood, I think it is the right moment to draw your attention to  a brilliant young bass-baritone, Ryan McKinny, who won the Birgit Nilsson Prize at this year's Operalia for his performance of "Die Frist ist um"(The time is up)

YT video appended below. Enjoy!

Next Mammoth TV-Opera Project: Les contes de Hoffmann in 3D

And so the world saw Rigoletto from Mantua last weekend. To me it was yet another proof that opera cannot be adapted to look like a TV-show or a movie.  Opera belongs to theaters -- that's where the genuine magic happens, and the best approximation to that experience are the DVD recordings of the shows presented in theaters.

Photo taken at Stohrer (pastry shop in the Montorgueil street in Paris)

The attempts (futile?)  to convert opera and present it like a movie will continue. We learn that the next big TV-project is Les contes de Hoffmann. Good news is that the adaptation will not be directed by an opera newbie, but by Robert Carsen. Less good news is that Carsen has no experience in directing movies.

It will be filmed in HD and in 3D, in 4 cities: Paris, Venice, Prague, and Milan. The project is a collaboration of Opéra National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Prague Estates Theatre, and Teatro La Fenice, and the shooting will start in 2012, involving more than 1000 walk-ons, 50 dancers, large chorus and orchestra. The cast is not fixed yet.

Good luck with that!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Senta stuck at Bastille

Der fliegende Holländer/The Flying Dutchman/Le vaisseau fantôme, Opéra Bastille, September 6th 2010

Peter Schneider ..... Conductor
Willy Decker ..... Stage Director

Matti Salminen ..... Daland
Adrianne Pieczonka ..... Senta
Klaus Florian Vogt ..... Erik
Marie-Ange Todorovitch ..... Mary
Bernard Richter .....  Steuermann
James Morris ..... Holländer

Paris Opera to release Mireille on DVD and to live TV-broadcast 3 operas in 2010-2011

The Paris Opera magazine "En Scène!" informs that two productions presented last year are to be released on DVD this month, namely the appalling production of Mireille [Sept 23]*, and Jacquot's  Werther with Kaufmann, Koch et al. [Sept 17].

"En Scène!" also informs us that, during the current season, France Télévision will live broadcast the following three operas:
  • Le Nozze di Figaro , dir Giorgio Strehler,  with Tézier, Frittoli, Syurina, Pisaroni, Deshayes [30 years old production]
  • Giulio Cesare, dir Laurent Pelly, with Zazzo, Dessay, Leonard, Abrahamyan, Dumaux, Berg, Visse [new production!]
  • Francesca da Rimini, dir Giancarlo Del Monaco, with Vassileva, Alagna, Smilek et al. [a year after his horrid Andrea Chénier in Paris, Del Monaco is back with this show premiered in Zurich in 2007]
Precise dates are not communicated. Will keep you posted.
* Incidentally,  I see that ROH too rushed to release its worst 2009-2010 production on DVD: The Tsarina's Slippers. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

The best Wagnerian conductor of our time?

You may have already realized that I'm not into old recordings and stuff remastered beyond recognition. To me the audio recordings are there like old photos -- to bring back the memories of the most memorable shows I've seen.

With Wagner's operas the story is a little different.  Not that I indulge myself into listening to hundreds of hours of old recordings, but because it is interesting to figure out the evolution of styles and approaches to conducting this music over the past 5-6 decades. Once you do that exercise you soon realize the difficulties today's conductors conducting Wagner's music encounter in preparing their performance: they should make their sound 'right' yet refreshing, deliver a distinguishable sound with peculiar timings, and display a profound understanding of the score.

Of all the active conductors, Daniel Barenboim comes on the top. He was the only one able to make that special moment to happen to me, when music almost materializes and detaches from the orchestra. It happens with his Staatskapelle and only sometimes, but when it happens it's the sound that marks you for life.  All Wagner operas conducted by Barenboim are special to me, but his Tristan is likely to remain unbeatable for a long-long time.

Second best to me is Hartmut Haenchen. This year I listened to his Flying Dutchman in Amsterdam and it was magnificent. His Parsifal in Paris --a couple of years ago-- remains an unforgettable musical shock. His Ring, that you can find on DVD, is brilliant as well.

Then comes Christian Thielemann, whose Ring is really special. His Parsifal was interesting too but  not as brilliant as Haenchen's, or even Gatti's or Honeck's.