Monday, January 31, 2011

La Monnaie Parsifal - and now for something completely different

Will hopefully blog more tomorrow about the show (if not then on Tuesday). Singing was as awesome as I expected it to be since three from my short list of the most remarkable singers in 2010 participated in this show (A.Richards, T.J. Mayer, and T. Tómasson), joined by a superb Kundry sung by Anna Larsson. Maestro and the orchestra - terrific!

How to produce a relevant Parsifal after the shows by Herheim, Warlikowski, and Bieito? Well, ask Romeo Castellucci!

It is COMPLETELY different with respect to anything you've seen before. You have to see the show yourselves to make your own idea on what you think it is. Of course I will try and put in words what and how I saw it.

But before I get to that I must say that the second act of this show contains all the elements of good contemporary theater - something that will be remembered as theater circa 2010. It's a truly monumental piece of work that I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone to see. I am obviously thrilled to see that this theatrical form found its way to opera so soon.

Had a great seat but the pics I took aren't any good. Sorry! Above: Thomas Johannes Mayer, Anna Larsson, Hartmut Haenchen [take this Christian Thielemann! :)], Andrew Richards, Jan-Hendrik Rootering

The finale of this production however rubbed me the wrong way: climax is missing... the show ends "unspectacularly". I tried to spin and argue that it represents humanity in a hypnotic walk, a collection of individuals wandering aimlessly (which the postmodern society indeed is starting to look like), so it is natural that it ends... lost in space... wandering. Fine, but how do you reconcile that with the music? This lead me to believe that something's been cut out from the final act during the process of mounting this production.

Other than that, AWESOME SHOW!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Il barbiere di Parigi

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, January 26 2011

Three protagonists of the show in Paris

Director ..... Emilio Sagi
Conductor ..... Jean-Christophe Spinosi

Il conte d'Almaviva ..... Bogdan Mihai
Figaro ..... Bruno Taddia
Rosina ..... Anna Stéphany
Don Bartolo ..... Tiziano Bracci
Don Basilio ..... Nicolas Courjal
Fiorello ..... Christian Helmer
Berta ..... Giovanna Donadini

Ensemble Matheus, Choeur du Châtelet

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Premiere of Die Liebe der Danae in Berlin

Die Liebe der Danae/The Love of Danae, Deutsche Oper Berlin, January 23 2011

Conductor ..... Andrew Litton
Director ..... Kirsten Harms
Chorus master ..... William Spaulding

Jupiter ..... Mark Delavan
Merkur ..... Thomas Blondelle
Pollux ..... Burkhard Ulrich
Danae ..... Manuela Uhl
Xanthe ..... Hulkar Sabirova
Midas ..... Matthias Klink
Four Kings ..... Paul Kaufmann, Clemens Bieber, 
" ..... Nathan De’Shon Myers, Hyung-Wook Lee
Semele ..... Hila Fahima
Europa ..... Martina Welschenbach
Alkmene ..... Julia Benzinger
Leda ..... Katarina Bradic

Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

La Monnaie Parsifal approaching fast

Very likely the most important Wagnerian event this year -- Parsifal, directed by Romeo Castellucci and conducted by Hartmut Haenchen-- should open in two days, Thursday January 27, at La Monnaie/De Munt in Brussels.

Romeo is one of the artistically most fascinating theater directors today but he is a newbie when it comes to opera producing. Maestro Haenchen, on the other hand, is one of the very best Wagnerian conductors of our time, who in this configuration is also in charge of protecting the musical awesomeness of this opera. The antagonism is then easily generated which in fact --when properly tuned-- can be a booster to all creative spirits involved in this production.

We learned from three different sources that the creative process of mounting this production was indeed difficult. So difficult that the house's intendant --and infinitely cool-- Peter de Caluwe had to step in to remedy a few delicate situations, and to re-establish a good balance between theatrical and musical sides of the production.

Ah, passionate people exercising their passion... This Parsifal looks more and more promising to me [watch the birth of this production through a series of videos on La Monnaie website .]

I'll see the second show (next Sunday), and yes  I can't wait!

Below are some rehearsal photos [© ???], in addition to a text by Romeo Castellucci, written before the rehearsal process had begun. 

Premiere of Tristan und Isolde in Weimar

Tristan und Isolde, Nationaltheater in Weimar, January 22 2011

Karsten Wiegand ..... Director
Stefan Solyom ..... Conductor

Franco Farina ..... Tristan
Marion Ammann ..... Isolde
Hidekazu Tsumaya ..... König Marke
Tuija Knihtilä ..... Brangäne
Sebastian Noack ..... Kurwenal
Alexander Günther ..... Melot
Szabolcs Brickner ..... A shepherd/A young sailor
Andreas Koch ..... A steersman

Staatskapelle Weimar, Chorus of DNT Weimar 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Elisir d'amore in Lille

Opéra de Lille: pretty building both inside and outside

Director ..... Richard Brunel
Conductor ..... Antonello Allemandi

Olga Peretyatko ..... Adina
Bülent Bezdüz ..... Nemorino
Guido Loconsolo ..... Belcore
Renato Girolami ..... Dulcamara
Hanna Bayodi-Hirt ..... Giannetta

Picardie Orchestra and Lille Opera Choir

Per questo mio specifico Simpatico, prolifico,  
Un uom settuagenario E valetudinario,
Nonno di dieci bamboli Ancora diventò,  
Per questo “Tocca e sana” In breve settimana  
Più d’un’afflitta vedova Di piangere cessò.
O voi matrone rigide, Ringiovanir bramate ?
Le vostre rughe incomode Con esso cancellate.  
Volete voi donzelle, Ben liscia aver la pelle ?  
Voi giovani galanti Per sempre avere amanti ?  
Comprate il mio specifico, Per poco io ve lo do.

Dulcamara, L'elisir d'amore

Tristan in Weimar

Franco Farina turned his Tristan adventure into a major success. How could you expect this to happen? He has a thing for heavy Verdian roles, but Tristan is a whole different 'beast'. And yet he managed to sing it through as if it was a piece of cake -- with incredible vocal freshness in Act-3. Definitely one of the most compelling Tristan we were able to listen to in years.
Like everyone else Farina too was struggling with "piani" in the middle of Act-2, but what he was able to pull in Act-3 was beyond astonishing!
It remains to be seen if he can sustain this level of singing for a longer period of time. In any case for his first take on Tristan he deserves a huge BRAVO!  Marion Ammann's Isolde didn't lack stamina either: very powerful performance by this mighty lady in this humanly-sized theater!

Triumphant Marion Ammann and Franco Farina

I'm unsure what to think about Karsten Wiegand's show: there were good (Act-1), bad (Act-2) moments, and a bit of both in Act-3 (I liked his loopy Faust in Berlin with Poplavskaya, Castronovo and Pape, and I loved his Stuarda - which I thought was a lesson of audacity! Tristan is maybe just too big?)

Will post more about the last night's premiere tomorrow... Now I have a train to catch.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Haitink at Pleyel

The Chamber Orchestra of Europe with Bernard Haitink, Salle Pleyel, January 19 2011

Bernard Haitink after Beethoven's Symphony No.2

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Opéra Burlesque: Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Opéra Comique - Paris, January 9 2011

Musical direction ..... Ludovic Morlot
Stage direction ..... Macha Makeïeff

Thérèse /La Cartomancienne ..... Hélène Guilmette
Le Mari ..... Ivan Ludlow
Le Directeur de théâtre/Le Gendarme ..... Werner Van Mechelen
Presto ..... Christophe Gay
Lacouf ..... Loïc Felix
Le Journaliste parisien ..... Thomas Morris
Le Fils ..... Marc Molomot

Orchestre et Chœurs de l’Opéra de Lyon

Taste Bayreuth on La Rambla in 2012

3 operas from the Festival in Bayreuth will travel to Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona to open their 2012-2013 season, namely from September 1 to 6th 2012.

Lohengrin [Sept. 1 & 4] and The Flying Dutchman [Sept. 2 & 5] will be conducted by Sebastian Weigle, while maestro Peter Schneider will be in charge of Tristan und Isolde [Sept. 6]. All opera will be given in concert (thanks to Mei for this precision).
Note that The Flying Dutchman will be premiered in Bayreuth in July 2012, in a new production directed by Sebastian Nübling.

For the Liceu subscribers the ticket sales will begin on May 30  2011, and on September 19  2011, for us - ordinary folks.

Props are due to the Liceu artistic director, Mr. Joan Matabosch.

This article also states that the trip to Barcelona will be the third time the Bayreuth Festival travels outside Germany: 1st time it was to Liceu in 1955, and 2nd to Osaka-Expo in 1970.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Giulio Cesare in Egypt

Giulio Cesare, Opéra Garnier in Paris, January 17 2011

Emmanuelle Haïm    ..... Conductor
Laurent Pelly ..... Stage director and costumes

Lawrence Zazzo ..... Giulio Cesare
Varduhi Abrahamyan ..... Cornelia
Isabel Leonard ..... Sesto
Natalie Dessay ..... Cleopatra
Christophe Dumaux ..... Tolomeo
Nathan Berg ..... Achille
Dominique Visse ..... Nireno
Aimery Lefèvre ..... Curio

Orchestre du Concert d'Astrée and Paris Opera Chorus

Friday, January 14, 2011

Best of 2010 (2): Productions

Many fantastic new productions have been unveiled to us in 2010. To choose just a few and say 'these were the best three or four' is extremely hard. Instead I tried to isolate 5 and make a more extensive list of what I believe are memorable new productions (list is appended below.)  

On the horizon of the most exciting theaters in Europe, to me Komische Oper in Berlin remains the brightest spot as far as opera is concerned. I suspect there might be some other smaller theaters doing as good as Komische (or better?), but I don't see many theaters having that combination of audacity and desire to evolve artistically and create something new, while keeping the high musical standards. You will find other places looking richer,  maybe more prestigious, with impressive historical background, with more stars, ...  but if you are interested in seeing known operas produced differently, Komische is the place to start. Theater Basel is right there too, together with La Monnaie in Brussel, and Staatsoper in Stuttgart.

Big thanks to artistic directors of these inspiring theaters [Andreas Homoki, Dietmar Schwarz, Jossi Weiler, and Peter de Caluwe, respectively] and to all the folks who actually make these theaters live and be the way they are. 

Regarding the new opera productions in Paris, I think Opéra Comique produced a few good shows in 2010, and I did quite like the first two chapters of The Ring at Opéra Bastille but we cannot say 2010 was good. Several revivals were very well mounted, but globally we can only hope 2011 will be better. 

Mahler's Rückert Lieder and Tragic Symphony

Tout Mahler par Gatti, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, January 13 2011

Conductor ..... Daniele Gatti
Soloist ..... Matthias Goerne

Orchestre National de France

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best of 2010 (1): Directors and Conductors

I saw very many wonderful shows in 2010, and to me this was one of the most exciting years ever (opera-wise, of course.)

On one hand I realize how blessed we are to have more than a few great directors (creative, competent, inventive, and audacious), superb conductors, and amazing singers/actors who throw their hearts and souls into bringing the best from most of the operas on the repertoire today. Their work sometimes brought new insight in known operas, sometimes emphasized a particular thread that escaped the attention of other performing artists before --  all  that leading to a reassuring conclusion that opera is not locked dead as art, but rather an art form that still thrives on change.

Personally I can say I was 'wise' [and lucky!] in rightly picking what to see in 2010 and so --apart from some setbacks in Paris-- I truly enjoyed most of what I could see in 2010.

Now, after having seen so many great shows it is hard to come up with a Top-10 list. To compile it, I feel, I would necessarily be unfair to some singers, directors, conductors. The other day I went through a list of all wonderful male singers whose singing I thought was excellent or tickled some fine emotion and I ended up with a list of 59 names. So I'll try and focus on those whose work in 2010 I though genuinely stood out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

This and that... Sticky and Sweet

Ariadne auf Naxos in Paris

Ariadne auf Naxos, Opéra National de Paris (Bastille), December 22 2010

Philippe Jordan ..... Conductor
Laurent Pelly ..... Staging and costumes

Franz Mazura ..... Der Haushofmeister
Martin Gantner ..... Ein Musiklehrer
Sophie Koch ..... Der Komponist
Stefan Vinke ..... Der Tenor (Bacchus)
Xavier Mas ..... Ein Tanzmeister
Vladimir Kapshuk ..... Ein Perückenmacher
Jane Archibald ..... Zerbinetta
Ricarda Merbeth ..... Primadonna (Ariadne)
Elena Tsallagova ..... Najade
Diana Axentii ..... Dryade
Yun Jung Choi ..... Echo
Edwin Crossley-Mercer ..... Harlekin
François Piolino ..... Scaramuccio
François Lis ..... Truffaldino
Michael Laurenz ..... Müller Brighella

Paris Opera Orchestra

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stefan Herheim's Rusalka in Dresden [ossia Un Colpo di Genio]

Rusalka, Semperoper Dresden, December 14 2010

Conductor ..... Tomáš Netopil
Director ..... Stefan Herheim
Sets designer ..... Heike Scheele

The Princ ..... Zoltán Nyári
The Foreign Princess ..... Marjorie Owens
Rusalka ..... Tatiana Monogarova
Vodnik ..... Georg Zeppenfeld
Ježibaba ..... Tichina Vaughn
Kitchen Boy ..... Tara Erraught
1st Wood Sprite ..... Vanessa Goikoetxea
2nd Wood Sprite ..... Young Hee Kim
3rd Wood Sprite ..... Sofi Lorentzen
Hunter ..... Gerald Hupach
Policeman ..... Friedrich Darge
Butcher ..... Torsten Schäpan
Mr.High ..... Michael Auenmüller
Mr.Low ..... Jun-Seok Bang
Pharmacist ..... Bokyoung Kim

State Opera Choir
Staatskapelle Dresden
 State Opera Choir
Staatskapelle Dresden
State Opera Choir
Staatskapelle Dresden

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wim Wenders to direct The Ring in Bayreuth 2013

After so much talk and speculation on who will direct the bicentenary Ring in Bayreuth 2013, we just learned that the famous film director --author of Wings of desire-- Wim Wenders  accepted this difficult but passionate job.

 Good luck!

I should remind you that the conductor name has been known for quite a while -- Kirill Petrenko.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What's on in Europe this month?!

Many interesting revivals this month. In particular, Dima Tcherniakov's Boris Godunov will be premiered in CopenhagenKatarina Dalayman and Stephen Gould will sing their first Tristan und Isolde in Dresden. Diana Damrau will be back onstage this month, in a rather interesting production of I Puritani in Geneva [c.f. this trailer]. Furthermore, Jonas Kaufmann and Sophie Koch will again sing together in Werther - this time in Vienna, and Christopher Ventris and Kwangchul Youn will do what they do the best - Parsifal in Turin.

But since I'm much more interested in creations, below you can find a list of upcoming premieres of new productions in Europe (ordered chronologically.)

Baroque folks will rush to Paris to see new Giulio Cesare - directed by Laurent Pelly, or to Berlin for a  lesser known Antigone.  Balcanto freaks will dash to Barcelona to adooore Gruberova and Devia in Anna Bolena, or to Zurich to see Cecilia Bartoli in Le comte Ory...

To me the most interesting new production will be Parsifal in Brussels, followed by Tannhäuser in Zurich and Tristan und Isolde in Weimar [The Rape of Lucretia in Oslo could be good too!], although  I believe the general operatic buzz this January will be about new Werther in Lyon, directed by Rolando Villazón.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ah that great Armide again

Armida, Komische Oper Berlin, December 13 2010

Superb Elena Semenova in the revival of Calixto Bieito's production of Armida

Conductor ..... Konrad Junghänel
Director ..... Calixto Bieito

Armida ..... Elena Semenova
Hidraot ..... Tómas Tómasson
Rinaldo ..... Norman Shankle
Artemidoro ..... Christoph Schröter
Ubaldo ..... Günter Papendell
Der dänische Ritter ..... Thomas Ebenstein
Phénice ..... Olivia Vermeulen
Sidonie ..... Julia Giebel
Aronte ..... Hans-Peter Scheidegger
Der Hass ..... Karolina Gumos
Ein Dämon in Gestalt der Melissa ..... Anna Borchers
Der Mann mit der Schlange ..... Carsten Wykrota

Chorus and Orchestra of Komische Oper Berlin

Pour un bon début de 2011

A selection of events (classical music and opera) to see in Paris - January 2011.

Homoki and Lange and the superb Meistersinger at Komische: Tómasson, Ebenstein, Jentzsch, Lie...

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Komische Oper Berlin, December 12 2010

    Conductor ... Patrick Lange
    Director ... Andreas Homoki

     Hans Sachs ... Tómas Tómasson
     Veit Pogner ... Dimitry Ivashchenko
     Kunz Vogelgesang ... Christoph Schröter
     Konrad Nachtigall ... Carsten Sabrowski
     Sixtus Beckmesser ... Tom Erik Lie
     Fritz Kothner ... Günter Papendell
     Balthasar Zorn ... Peter Renz
     Ulrich Eißlinger ... Stephan Spiewok
     Augustin Moser ... Thomas Scheler
     Hermann Ortel ... Karsten Küsters
     Hans Schwarz ... Hans-Peter Scheidegger
     Hans Foltz ... Hans-Martin Nau
     Walther von Stolzing ... Marco Jentzsch
     David ... Thomas Ebenstein
     Eva ... Ina Kringelborn
     Magdalene ... Karolina Gumos
     Ein Nachtwächter ... Marko Spehar

Chorus and Orchestra of the Komische Oper Berlin

Kinder! Macht Neues! Neues! Und abermals Neues! Hängt ihr euch ans Alte, so hat euch der Teufel der Inproduktivität, und ihr seid die trurigsten Künstler!

Richard Wagner, letter to Franz List (Sept. 8 1852)

Fidelio in Munich

Fidelio, Bavarian State Opera in Munich, December 21 2010

Tatulescu, Selig, Myllys, Koch, Kampe, Kaufmann

Director ..... Calixto Bieito
Conductor ..... Daniele Gatti
Set ..... Rebecca Ringst
Chorus ..... Sören Eckhoff

Don Fernando ..... Steven Humes
Don Pizarro ..... Wolfgang Koch
Florestan ..... Jonas Kaufmann
Leonore ..... Anja Kampe
Rocco ..... Franz-Josef Selig
Marzelline ..... Laura Tatulescu
Jaquino ..... Jussi Myllys
1. Gefangener ..... Dean Power
2. Gefangener ..... Tareq Nazmi

The Bavarian State Orchestra
The Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera

His chief characteristic is his fear of thinking for himself
Czeslaw Milosz (about the intellectual's relationship to totalitarianism