Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dutch Deal or "Your vote matters!"

People in general often naively think that --in the grand scheme of things-- their vote does not really matter and so they might as well use it to express their discontentment and sanction the current governing structures (sic!) They also forget that such reasoning falls right into the hands of extreme right movements whose members are never in doubts when it comes to supporting their [demagogic] leaders.

How bad the consequences of such a flawed logic can be is felt these days in Holland. Time magazine deals with this in more details, but the future for arts and culture looks bleak.

The Netherlands' State Secretary of Culture, Halbe Zijlstra (also member of the VVD, extreme right party) won that spot at the last fall's elections, and is now trying to approximate the (insane) program of the president of his party, Geert Wilders, who suggested the current governmental funding to arts and culture should be slashed from €800 million down to €200 million. Considered insane at first, the threat started to become a living nightmare: on Friday morning, June 10th 2011, the Dutch art and cultural institutes received a mail from their Minister of Culture informing them that the abrupt  €200 million cut in subsidies for art and culture was imminent and should be effective starting from January 2013.

Many still thought this was not serious but the menace is more real than ever. One of the first victims of the cuts would be the famous Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra -- yes, the same orchestra that 3-4 years ago recorded one of the best Lohengrin ever.

You cannot do much, but signing one of the petitions circulating on the Internet cannot harm.

Kent Nagano decided to join the supporters -- see video below:

For more information see Tom Service's excellent blog or ArtInfo blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Herheim's delicious ripple of Eugene Onegin in Amsterdam

Eugene Onegin, De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam, June 26 2011

Stefan Herheim ..... director
Mariss Jansons ..... conductor

Olga Savova ..... Madame Larina
Krassimira Stoyanova ..... Tatyana
Elena Maximova ..... Olga
Nina Romanova ..... Filippyevna
Andrej Dunaev ..... Lensky
Bo Skovhus ..... Onegin    
Mikhail Petrenko ..... Prince Gremin
Guy de Mey ..... Monsieur Triquet
 Peter Arink ..... Zaretski
Richard Prada ..... Zapevalo

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Koor van De Nederlandse Opera [Martin Wright]

Waiting for the premiere of The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic

The opera art form needs to develop new ways forward for the future. This could mean, of course, new composers but also projects developed by great visual artists, actors or singers who do not necessarily need to be opera singers. For sure, Antony, for example, brings a lyricism that in conjunction with Bob Wilson and Marina Abramović will make this production a real opera, just as Monteverdi would have loved.
Gerard Mortier, Artistic Director, Teatro Real Madrid

Next July 9th in Manchester will open one of the most awaited new performing art creations this year, The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic -- involving Bob Wilson, Antony, Willem Dafoe and obviously Marina Abramovic herself.
  After its run at the Manchester International Festival this peculiar theatrical-operatic form [or whatever you wish to call it] will travel to several places and in particular to some of the artistically most exciting opera houses in Europe today: Teatro Real - Madrid in April 2012, and Theater Basel in June 2012.

Who would better introduce us to The Life and Death of Marina Abramovic than Marina Abramovic?! Here is a short video of her introductory presentation.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Gurre-Lieder in Paris

Gurre-Lieder, La Salle Pleyel in Paris, June 25 2011

Marc Albrecht ..... conductor

Ricarda Merbeth ..... Tove
Lance Ryan ..... Waldemar
Anna Larsson ..... the Dove
Barbara Sukowa ..... Narrator
Albert Dohmen ..... Bauer
Arnold Bezuyen ..... Klaus-Narr

Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg
Czech Philharmonic Choir Brno [Petr Fiala]

Wrapping up the Paris Ring

One entry to tie up all the pieces together and summarize in pictures the Ring produced in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 at the Paris Opera.

This Ring will be remembered as a huge project that the Paris Opéra decided to confide to Günter Krämer. 

The stage at Opéra Bastille is huge and setting up the show that can be viewed by everyone in such a vast auditorium is tough, especially if we keep in mind the standard requirements applying to every contemporary production of the Ring: the show must be subtle, ideas should be clear and different from recent productions (at least in some aspects), and the show must be spectacular. Even though Krämer was not audacious in his approach, his take on this saga was coherent, interesting for the most part, and the parallel with the 20th century history of Europe and Germany was very engaging.
I felt that the last of 4 operas was less captivating, most probably because the production team got  tired. Perhaps they should have spread the producing process over three operatic season, instead of two.**

This was also the first official Ring conducted by Philippe Jordan. He's taken great care of everyone involved in building the musical structure around this Ring and even though the orchestra started off a little apprehensively in the Rheingold, they ended the Ring in a great style.

The cast was uniformly brilliant with several stand-out/memorable performances: a stunning Brünnhilde by Katarina Dalayman in the Walküre; extraordinary Thomas Johannes Mayer whose stamina to sing 10 Wotan in a row at Opéra Bastille was mind-boggling; authority by which Stephen Milling and Hans Peter König sang their parts; Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke and his dramatically phenomenal Mime; Kim Begley's fantastic rendition of Loge... and many-many others. A huge THANKS to all the singers. 

In the end, I should say that I  did like the Paris Ring mainly for its grandeur, its ambition to be huge (and huge it was), although a lack of director's audacity was often unsettling.
Below you can find the production photos with links to my blog-entries related to each of the four operas.

On the less complimentary side I must note: (1) A disappointing behavior of the Parisian crowd that boorishly disapproved everything that even slightly strayed off the good-ole traditionalism: they consistently booed  Krämer after every show, often just to vent out their frustration [that they wouldn't admit!] for having missed the points in Krämer's references; (2) Scandalously pretentious critics of the leading French newspapers that collectively decided to thrash each of the four productions, even when it was painfully obvious that they totally misunderstood the Krämer's intentions to relate his shows with important historical references. They even copied from one another the "arguments" against Rheingold that were completely off the target.

To use your platform and officially kill a production by your review is valid if and only if your arguments are clear, you demonstrate that you've understood the director's intentions but you found them misplaced, misfit, untenable... [or at least admit you didn't understand them!] Otherwise your review is both humanly and intellectually irresponsible (to put it nicely).
Prepare and read something about the background story related to a given production before writing about it -- especially when submitting your review to the main-stream media!

** Even though the stage at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich is much smaller than the one at Opéra Bastille, I can only imagine troubles that Andreas Kriegenburg will meet while mounting all four Ring operas in a single season 2011-2012.

Les brigands of the Opéra Comique

Les brigands (The Bandits), Opéra Comique in Paris, June 24 2011

François-Xavier Roth ..... conductor
Macha Makeïeff & Jérôme Deschamps ..... directors

Eric Huchet ..... Falsacappa
Julie Boulianne ..... Fragoletto
Daphné Touchais ..... Fiorella
Franck Leguérinel ..... Pietro
Philippe Talbot ..... Le Comte de Gloria Cassis
Francis Dudziak ..... Le Baron de Campo Tasso
Martial Defontaine ..... Le Prince (Duc de Mantoue)
Jean-Marc Martinez ..... Pipo

Chorus of the Toulon Opera
Orchestre Les Siècles

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Alagna 2.0

A few years back, following the infamous 'Radames incident' at La Scala, Roberto Alagna seemed to be vocally tired. Many critics were busy making sarcastic comments about his flirt with crossover, insisting that his best singing years were long behind us...

Alagna as Rodrigue in Le Cid produced at Opéra Marseille [photo R. Terzian]

Whatever the routine change Roberto's made in his vocal training, the result is that he definitely regained the full beauty of his voice [In your face critics!]

The other day we could see on Mezzo TV the premiere of a new production of Le Cid --a rarely staged opera by Massenet-- live broadcast from Marseille, with Roberto in the role of Rodrigue.

Apart from being a rarity, the show itself was totally uninteresting: the stage design was good but most of the stage action was reduced to a bunch of people standing and pointlessly staring at Rodrigue, Chimène and the King (excellent Franco Pomponi btw), just like in the pic above. In short: Naive met uninspiring!

However, Alagna actually made the evening interesting as he sang one of his best roles so far (and the role is very tough). There are in fact two famous arias in that opera, one of which is "O Souverain, Ô Juge, Ô Père" that Roberto killed that night. See video below.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From LA, via Vienna, Il postino finally rings in Paris

Il postino, Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, June 20 2011

Ron Daniels ..... director
Jean-Yves Ossonce ..... conductor

Plácido Domingo ..... Pablo Neruda
Charles Castronovo ..... Mario Ruoppolo
Amanda Squitieri ..... Beatrice Russo
Cristina Gallardo-Domâs ..... Matilde (Mrs Neruda)
Victor Torres ..... Giorgio
Patricia Fernandez ...... Donna Rosa
Laurent Alvaro ..... Di Cosima
David Robinson ..... Le prêtre
Pepe Martinez ..... Le père de Mario

Orchestre Symphonique de Navarre

Monday, June 20, 2011

Delicately produced Idomeneo in Paris: Bravi tutti!

Idomeneo, Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris, June 15 2011

Stéphane Braunschweig ..... director
Jérémie Rhorer ..... conductor

Sophie Karthäuser ..... Ilia
Richard Croft ..... Idomeneo
Kate Lindsey ..... Idamante
Alexandra Coku ..... Elettra
Paolo Fanale ..... Arbace
Nigel Robson ..... High priest
Nahuel Di Pierro ..... The voice of Neptune

Le Cercle de l'Harmonie
Choeur Les Eléments direction Joël Suhubiette

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Julia Lezhneva - "New" Russian Phenom

After wonderful Svetlana Ignatovich and Olga Peretyatko, here we have a new big name from Russia --that the French press has fallen in love with-- Julia Lezhneva.

Marc Minkowski is totally fascinated by her. I guess it was him who gave her the part of Urbain in the new production of Les Huguenots in Bruxelles. Apparently she seduced everyone there -- yours truly will soon check that out in person...

Naïve realized Julia's great potential and already released her first CD with arias from operas by Rossini (see trailer attached below). Astonishing detail is that this girl is only 22!

Is it me or you too can hear some resemblance with Callas?! 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Third Tristan und Isolde in 2011: Third Time's a Charm

Tristan und Isolde, Opéra National de Lyon (ONL), June 13 2011

Alex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus) ..... director
Kirill Petrenko ..... conductor

Clifton Forbis ..... Tristan
Ann Petersen ..... Isolde
Christof Fischesser ..... King Marke
Jochen Schmeckenbecher ..... Kurwenal
Stella Grigorian ..... Brangäne
Nabil Suliman ..... Melot
Viktor Antipenko ..... A shepherd
Laurent Laberdesque .....Steersman

Orchestra and Chorus of ONL

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Stuttgart Staatsoper 2011-2012: Good luck Jossi Wieler!

I guess many of you already "studied" the 2011-2012 Stuttgart Staatsoper program. It is interesting as ever, except that this time it is special because 2011-2012 will be the first season since Jossi Wieler took the intendancy of this remarkably inventive and lively theater. Good luck Jossi!

In the next season they plan to present 6 premieres: La damnation de Faust (??), La sonnambula (Wieler/Morabito), Die glückliche Hand/Osud (Wieler/Morabito), Wozzeck (Andrea Moses), Platée (Bieito), and Don Giovanni (Andrea Moses).

To that add the revival of what's arguably the finest ever production of Alcina (Wieler/Morabito), Elektra (Konwitschny), Norma (Wieler/Morabito, with the classiest duo there can be: Catherine Naglestad and Marina Prudenskaya)

Among many other revivals, particularly recommendable are Bieito's groundbreaking Flying Dutchman, as well as his Trionfo del tempo e del disinganno. This latter show was premiered last month and I am sooooo sorry that I couldn't go to see it (been crazy busy lately) That show was the last big new premiere with Albrecht Puhlmann running the house. Puhlmann's era will probably be remembered by the rise of Calixto Bieito who presented most of his great productions in Stuttgart, Basle and Berlin-Komische -- theaters that gave him carte blanche to create...

In the following video-trailer of Il Trionfo, Calixto talks about his new production (bless him!) and ends it by a 'love letter' to Albrecht Puhlmann... well, sort of

Britten's War Requiem

If you're unable to attend one of the most interesting concerts at this year's Festival de Saint-Denis, and you'd like to see it, Arte Live Web is helping us again. Live webcast of Britten's War Requiem  starts in a little more than an hour [Thursday, June 16th 2011, at 20:30 (cet)] You can see it in a video embedded below, or on this link

Semyon Bychkov ..... conductor

Sabina Cvilak ..... soprano
Toby Spence ..... tenor
Matthias Goerne .....  baritone

Chorus 1: Rundfunkchor Berlin, Simon Hasley
Chorus 2: Maîtrise de Radio France, Sofi Jeannin

Orchestre National de France

Starting from tomorrow afternoon the recording of this concert will be available during 3 months for  free. Bless Arte... Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Twilight of The Paris Ring

(Die) Götterdämmerung [Le crépuscule des dieux], Opéra Bastille in Paris, June 3 2011

Director ..... Günter Krämer 
Conductor ..... Philippe Jordan

Torsten Kerl ..... Siegfried
Iain Paterson ..... Gunther
Peter Sidhom ..... Alberich
Hans-Peter König ..... Hagen
Katarina Dalayman ..... Brünnhilde
Christiane Libor ..... Gutrune, 3rd Norn
Sophie Koch ..... Waltraute
Nicole Piccolomini ..... 1st Norn, Flosshilde
Caroline Stein ..... Woglinde
Daniela Sindram ..... Wellgunde

Orchestre et Choeur de l’Opéra national de Paris

Monday, June 13, 2011

Second Tristan und Isolde in 2011

Tristan und Isolde, March 26 2011,  Deutsche Oper Berlin

Graham Vick ..... director
Donnald Runnicles ..... conductor

Peter Seiffert ..... Tristan
Kristinn Sigmundsson ..... King Marke
Petra Maria Schnitzer ..... Isolde
Eike Wilm Schulte ..... Kurwenal
Jörg Schörner ..... Melot
Jane Irwin ..... Brangäne
Peter Maus ..... Ein Hirt
Gregory Warren ..... Seeman
Jörg Schümann ..... Stauermann

Chorus and Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin

Saturday, June 11, 2011

ONF - Mahler 8

Symphony no.8 by Mahler, Théâtre du Châtelet, June 10 2011

Daniele Gatti

Daniele Gatti ..... conductor

Erin Wall ..... soprano
Melanie Diener ..... soprano
Kerstin Avemo ..... soprano
Christine Knorren ..... mezzo
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ..... alto
Nikolai Schukoff ..... tenor
Detlef Roth ..... baritone
James Morris ..... bass

Orchestre National de France (ONF)
Chorus of the Sächische Staatsoper Dresden (Pablo Assante)
Chorus of the Radio France (Matthias Brauer)
Maîtrise de Radio France (Sofi Jenin)

SFS - Mahler 2

Symphony no.2 by Mahler, Salle Pleyel in Paris, May 31 2011

Michael Tilson Thomas .... conductor

Laura Claycomb ..... soprano
Katarina Karnéus ..... mezzo

San Francisco Symphony
Chorus of Radio France (Matthias Brauer)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (5) Verdi by Noseda

I vespri siciliani (excerpts), Théâtre des Champs Elysées, May 25 2011

Michele Pertusi, Sondra Radvanovsky, and Gregory Kunde

Gianandrea Noseda ..... Conductor

Sondra Radvanovsky ..... La duchessa Elena
Gregory Kunde ..... Arrigo
Michele Pertusi ..... Guido di Monforte

Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Regio di Torino

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Useful info...

  • Tomorrow, Thursday June 9 at 20:00 (cet) you can watch the live webcast of Salomé from Opéra Royal de Wallonie.  The cast is more than interesting. Curiously the opera will be performed in its original language -- i.e. in French-- with June Anderson in the title role. This show simply must be better than Otello that we were given to see a month ago on the same portal. Here is the link where you can see it (live!)

  • New David McVicar production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, that was premiered in May in Glyndebourne, will be live broadcast on, on Sunday - June 26 at 16:00 (cet). Marco Jentzsch is a superb Walther, and Johannes Martin Kräntzle should be a brilliant Beckmesser. I am not sure if singing as big a role as Hans Sachs was a wise choice by Gerald Finley, but I would be more than glad to be proven wrong. Here is your link.

  • New Stefan Herheim production of Eugene Onegin will be live broadcast from De Nederlandse opera in Amsterdam on Thursday June 23 at 20:00  (cet) on Mezzo-TV (Yours Truly will see the show in Amsterdam...) Excellent cast from which our beloved Tatiana Monogarova will be missed, but Lenski by Andrey Dunaev should be a treat to any and every opera fan. The world's best orchestra in the pit will be conducted by the genius among conductors: Mariss Jansons.

  • One more interesting live broadcast is scheduled for Friday, June 17 at 20:00 (cet), also on Mezzo-TV, with Roberto Alagna singing the  role of Rodrigo in Massenet's Le Cid at Opéra Marseille. Good luck with that production, but at least Alagna will be interesting to listen to...
You're welcome!

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (4) Ariodantissimo

Ariodante (in concert), Théâtre des Champs Elysées, May 23 2011

Alan Curtis ..... Conductor

Joyce DiDonato ..... Ariodante
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ..... Polinesso
Karina Gauvin ..... Ginevra
Sabina Puertolas ..... Dalinda
Nicholas Phan ..... Lurcanio
Matthew Brook ..... Le Roi
Paolo Borgonovo ..... Odoardo

Il Complesso Barocco

Saturday, June 4, 2011

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (3) Pelléas et Mélisande

Pelléas et Mélisande (in concert), Théâtre des Champs Elysées, April 17 2011

Simon Keenlyside, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Natalie Dessay, Louis Langrée, and Laurent Naouri

Louis Langrée ..... Conductor 

Natalie Dessay ...... Mélisande
Simon Keenlyside .....  Pelléas
Marie-Nicole Lemieux ..... Geneviève
Laurent Naouri ..... Golaud
Alain Vernhes ..... Arkel
Khatouna Gadelia ..... Yniold
Nahuel di Pierro .....  Le Médecin

Chœur de l'Orchestre de Paris
Orchestre de Paris

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (2) Parsifal

Parsifal in concert, Théâtre des Champs Elysées,April 14 2011

Michael Volle, Kent Nagano and Kwangchul Youn

Kent Nagano ..... Conductor

Nikolai Schukoff ..... Parsifal
Angela Denoke ..... Kundry
Kwangchul Youn ..... Gurnemanz
John Wegner ..... Klingsor
Michael Volle ..... Amfortas
Steven Humes ..... Titurel

Orchestra and Chorus of the Staatsoper Munich
Tölzer Knabenchor

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 2011 in Europe: Новые постановки

And so we arrive to June, when many opera houses try to show off their best productions and attract more subscribers for the next season.

The most interesting will be to see the conclusion of the Paris Ring - Die Götterdämmerung.  Another important new Wagner production to open this month will be Tristan und Isolde in Lyon, conducted by Kirill Petrenko and produced by Alex Ollé from La Fura dels Baus, while the Claus Guth's production of Parsifal will be premiered in Zurich.

Of non-Wagner operas, the most awaited must be the new production of Eugene Onegin in Amsterdam, directed by Stefan Herheim, as well as the new Bieito-show at the Komische in Berlin, Les dialogues des Carmélites, together with the huge production of Les Huguenots in Brussels, directed by Olivier Py.

Idomeneo in Paris, by Stéphane Braunschweig, looks promising on the paper, and a hyper-talented Tobias Kratzer will present his new gem at Theater Basel -- Telemaco, a lesser known opera by Gluck.  London-wise, the operatic event of the year should be Simon Boccanegra directed by Dimitri Tcherniakov [ah, definitely: I saw the video of Anna Nicole and --with all due respect to Jones and Westbroek-- the show was just plain bad, while Adriana Lecouvreur  remains a hopeless cheesy opera that David McVicar quite obviously produced in parallel with Orlando in Paris/Lille, and I guess it was mounted only because Angie Gheorghiu said she would sing the title role - So, Boccanegra is legitimately expected to be the best show in 2010-2011 ;)]

Ordered according to their premiere, an extensive selection of new productions to be presented in theaters across Europe this June includes:

5 great opera-concerts at TCE: (1) Karita Mattila

Bartók, Saariaho, Sibelius, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, April 13 2011

Kaija Saariaho and Karita Mattila

Conductor ..... Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Soloist ..... Karita Mattila

Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest

Cesare in the heart of Champagne: Yoncheva and Dumaux like a glass of the finest Taittinger

Giulio Cesare, Opéra de Reims, May 8 2011

Christian Schiaretti ..... director
Jean Claude Malgoire ..... conductor

Sonya Yoncheva ..... Cleopatra
Christophe Dumaux ..... Giulio Cesare
Lina Markeby ..... Sesto
Alessandra Visentin ..... Cornelia
Dominique Visse ..... Tolomeo
Ugo Guagliardo ..... Achilla
Valérie Yang Seng ..... Nireno
David Witczak ..... Curio

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Paris in June

Pretty exciting program to conclude the 2010-2011 season in Paris.