Opera Suggestions, II

Tinami Amori

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This article from the NY Times about a clearance sale of opera costumes gave me a good laugh:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/03/...column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news

I thought the Frog, the Mummy, and the Slime were especially becoming!
I went to San Francisco Opera costume sales twice, and found that women's costumes are extremely small-sized, 2-4-6 (maximum), and even 6 is more like 4. I bought Iago's (Otello) robe once and the fabrique fell apart very quickly after 2 costume parties. Then i bought "witch" costume fr Macbeth, a black tunic with feathers, and most of the feathers fell out after 1 use...
 

Marge_Simpson

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Anyone here a Pavarotti fan? I have a poster from one of his concerts, autographed by the man himself. I inherited it from my mom but I'm no opera fan and he's just sitting in my closet. If anyone is interested, send me a PM and I will pass it along.
 
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kwanfan1818

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For the New Yorkers, this Sunday the Wagner Society of NY is holding a seminar on "Parsifal" on Sunday, February 18th from 12-5pm.

According to the Peter Mattei news tweet,

Great news: Evelyn Herlitzius will join @Peter_Mattei, Klaus Florian Vogt, and Evgeny Nikitin for the cast Roundtable, a highlight of our February 18 Parsifal Seminar! Register here for the event, on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Special rate for students! https://secure.acceptiva.com/?cst=eb8e95
 
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The opera quiz question during this evening's intermission of the Sirius broadcast of "Il Trovatore" is "What seven Met artists sang in the Opening Ceremonies of the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona."

Mary Jo Heath, one of the co-hosts, talked about how much she enjoyed the Figure Skating Team Event.

ETA: William Berger corrected himself, and said there were eight, including Agnes Baltsa, who sang in honor of Greece: Juan Pons, Montserrat Caballe, Teresa Berganza, Giacomo Aragall, Placido Domingo, Jose Carerras, and Alfredo Kraus. Victoria de los Angeles sang in the Closing Ceremony.
 
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emason

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Now that the HD broadcast of Semiramide has come and gone, I feel free to talk about the night I heard it at the Met a few weeks ago.

Substitute conductor (slip of paper announcement in the program); substitute tenor (announcement from the curtain before the start). Tenor was, I believe, Ryan MacPherson and he was awful, just awful. I get that this opera isn’t done that often and tenors who know the role aren’t thick on the ground, but there must have been someone, somewhere who could have done a better job as cover.

The overture was fabulous, but then the tempi in the first half of the first act dragged so that no one could hold a melodic line for five seconds.

Meade and DeShong were the standouts but the final tomb scene was not staged well and so anti-climactic. Poor DeShong was saddled with costumes that made Arsace look like a five-year-old playing dress up in Mommy’s closet.

One of the most disappointing nights I’ve had at the Met in a long time.

OK, rant over.
 

BlueRidge

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I saw the live in HD yesterday. I had to work hard to suppress laughter at the costumes and staging in the first act. I don't mind some ridiculousness so its not to say I didn't enjoy it. I enjoyed the music and I thought Javier Camerena was really good. But I have to agree about DeShong. She tried mightily to be the heroic character and her singing was wonderful, but she's a small woman and they needed to take that into account instead of leaving her to look swallowed up in her costumes!
 
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That is so sad: in the Live in HD, the chorus and orchestra sounded magnificent, and Camarena was stronger than in the Sirius broadcast earlier in the week and sounded wonderful.

I really loved it in the cinema. If someone had told me that Assur's mad scene was early Verdi, most of which I'm unfamiliar with except for excerpts here and there, I would have believed it.

DeShong to me was the vocal standout: over an octave of caramel cream in the lower register, with nary a hickup. But, of course, there's no way to tell what anyone sounds like in the house from the cinema.

Seattle is having a Shakespeare festival across many organizations, and Seattle Opera teamed with ACT Theatre, our local pro theater company, with Artistic Director John Langs directing, to expand Berlioz's "Beatrice and Benedict" by adding some music from other Berlioz works (Benevenuto Cellini and Damnation of Faust) and adding back the meat of the Hero and Claudio plot, creating a "I am betrayed!" aria for Claudio to open Act II, and using actors to play Borachio, Don John, Leonato, and Margaret. Seattle Symphony musicians have first right of refusal for playing for the opera, and most of the SO orchestra is made of SSO musicians, but this is the first time that SSO Music Director Ludovic Morlot has conducted. (His predecessor, Gerard Schwarz used to conduct every season or two.)

There was a translation of the French lyrics, and Langs added in spoken dialogue directly from the play for the added parts. The singers and actors were miked for the dialogue; unfortunately, there were not titles for the dialogue, because as good as the actors were -- including the singers, who had plenty of Shakespeare's dialogue themselves -- and as clearly as they spoke, the acoustics of the house are resonant for the singing and instruments, which meant much of the dialogue was a muddle, at least when it got to the second story up. I know the play pretty well, so it wasn't an issue following it, but it would have been more enjoyable if they had the dialogue in the titles.

Berlioz added the character of the conductor, Somarone, and Langs turned him into a hybrid of a bunch of roles to further the plot: Dogsberry, Antonio, and a few others. Somarone was played by Kevin Burdette -- he was in the Exterminating Angel Live in HD -- who was a superb Don Alfonso in the Jonathan Miller "Cosi" that was revived here in January. (The Costa-Jackson sisters were fabulous as Fiodiligi and Dorabella. Sadly, Laura Tatulescu, a terrific actress with a beautiful voice who sang Despina in January, was sick; the young chorister who replaced her, Shelley Traverse, did a wonderful job as Hero, who is as big a character as Beatrice in this production. Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader were on fire as the lead characters; in the other cast, Hanna Hipp and Andrew Owens were also terrific, and as funny as Shrader was, Owens' comic timing and physical slapstick ability was out of this world.

It was an engaging production. Unfortunately a chunk of the Seattle Opera audience only goes to what it knows, so there were too many empty seats. That it was a mostly unfamiliar work gave the artistic staff a lot of latitude, and it was a great success, in my eyes, anyway.
 

emason

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Thanks for the above review. Sounds great.


On a better note, friend and I went to Farinelli and the King a second time. This time we heard Iestyn Davies; we sat up in the mezzanine this time and had totally a different perspective. We loved it just as much the second time as the first.
 
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Alex Ross hated the Semiramide production, and he contrasted it to the Girard Parsifal. About Herlitzius he wrote,

In the end, though, this “Parsifal” belonged to the ferociously expressive German soprano Evelyn Herlitzius, making a belated Met début as Kundry. Herlitzius trained as a dancer before turning to singing, and it shows in the extraordinary flexibility and focus of her physical movement. She conveyed with uncommon vividness the various personas inhabited by Wagner’s undying heroine: the sleepless wanderer, the motherly companion, the agonized seductress, the remorseful seeker who once laughed at Christ. Spastic, puppetlike gestures evoked her subservience to the sorcerer Klingsor. Herlitzius’s voice is not conventionally beautiful, its steeliness verging on harshness, but it delivers the musical goods. In her mighty cry of “Lachte”—“I laughed”—she landed the vertiginous descent from high B to low C-sharp with athletic precision. In the final act, where she had only one phrase to sing (“To serve”), her portrait of spiritual devotion remained at the center of the drama. Girard conceives of Kundry not simply as Parsifal’s penitent servant but as the celebrant of the Grail. Too often, Kundry’s death, during the final tableau, seems incidental and unmotivated. Herlitzius, crawling toward Amfortas and then collapsing, made it the necessary, wrenching resolution. It felt as though a problematic masterpiece had been healed of its wounds. One can ask no more of a night at the opera
and that bodes crazy well for her San Francisco Brunnhilde coming up in a few months. I hope Zambello directs her to the fullest.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/03/12/the-metropolitan-operas-split-personality
 

BlueRidge

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I saw Washington Opera's Don Carlo last night. It was quite fantastic. Many good voices. The highlight was Jamie Barton and her final aria pretty nearly blew the roof off the place. Leah Crocetto has quite a lovely voice. I was very impressed with Quinn Kelsey as the Marquis of Posa, his was a very moving portrayal. Russell Thomas was Don Carlo and sang well also. The reviews complained about the sets which were pretty simple but I didn't feel they took away from it. They did only 4 acts, leaving out the first act. I'm glad I had seen the Met Live in HD version or I would have been a bit lost not seeing that. But otherwise I really enjoyed it.
 
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That sounds wonderful! Jamie Barton has been blazing a trail if great reviews and performances.

I've loved Quinn Kelsey since I heard him in SF in Attila. He more than held his own opposite Ferruccio Furlanetto, who was in great voice. I love seeing that he's having a major career. di Posa is such a great role.
 

emason

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Cendrillon at the Met tonight: sigh! Just loved it. If DiDonato and Coote had a bridge for sale in Brooklyn, I’d be buying it. Those two can sell me on anything when they sing.
 

emason

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Last night I went to Juilliard for their student production of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. Why, oh why, has it taken me so long to finally go to Juilliard? My bad.

Bass Alex Rosen (final semester as an Artist Diploma in Opera Studies candidate) was absolutely terrific as Theseus. Fabulous singing; total dramatic commitment to the character; great stage presence; he had it all.

The staging of the scene of Theseus in Hades being tortured by Pluto and Tsiphone blew everything else out of the water. It was the most terrifying version of Hell I've ever seen. Lighting, costuming, movement, singing - everything was spot on.

The whole cast, actually, was terrific but I did find Hippolyte and Aricie a little bland compared to Theseus and Phaedra. Well, I guess that's only natural given the nature of the characters.

It was a great evening and for a ticket price of $30, really, who could complain. There was a man in my row who had come up from Baltimore to see all 3 performances. Alas, something came up and he has to go back before seeing the final performance of Saturday's matinee. Then on the M104 bus afterwards there was a man on his annual visit from San Francisco; he and other opera-goers were discussing the Cosi they had just been to - unanimous verdict seemed to be thumbs down.

Well, that's my report. What has everyone else been seeing or listening to?
 
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Crazy opera weekend in Vancouver, where the Vancouver Opera Festival, this year with a "White Nights" theme, and at the same time, the yearly Yarn Crawl and a Dance Festival (ETA: For International Dance Day) were happening.

It started with the Met in HD "Cendrillon": what beautiful music, and the freaking mezzo trifecta of DiDonato, Coote, and Blythe. I hadn't seen this since NYCO did it in the '80's, with Faith Esham's Lucette -- the perfect Susannah with the company as well -- and Erie Mills as the Fairy Godmother. What a lovely score.

Then off to New Westminster to Vegan Yarns, where I met the woman behind the company and learned she has a background in theatre and costumes. As it turned out, my only yarn crawl stop, but since the studio isn't generally open during the year, and only open the Saturday of the yarn crawl, I was really glad to meet her and to see the yarns in color. But I digress.

As part of the White Nights Festival, there are a series of chamber concerts at CBC Studio 700. I went to the opener, "A Musical Tribute to Anna Akhmatova: Russian Poet." Elena Razlog, who was the Russian coach for "Eugene Onegin" and this concert, gave background info about Akmatova's life and works, and before each set, recited two of the poems vividly and musically.

The first part was Prokofiev's 1917 setting of four 1916 love poems. The last, which is translated as "The grey-eyed king" was especially beautiful. The last part, "Chetki" was, according to pianist Tina Chang, written by Arthur Lourie as Akmatova wrote the poems. While all of the singers and accompanists were expert, my favorite combination of music and performance was the middle part, John Tavener's 1993 settings of poems written about famous writers and poets -- Dante (1936) Pushkin and Lermontov (1927), and Pasternak (1936) -- plus a couplet (1931) and "The Muse" (1924) and "Death." (1942). Robyn Driedger-Klassen was the soprano, and her approach, vocalism, and absorption in this contemporary score reminded me of Barbara Flannigan's; Flannigan, a great favorite of mine, is more well known, but I'm not sure should be. Rebecca Wenham accompanied her on cello, and it was a perfect meld of voice and instrument.

In the evening, it was "The Overcoat," a new opera by James Rolfe, which premiered in Toronto last month. It's based on the short story by Gogol with an English libretto by Director Morris Panych. I didn't know what to expect: the closest way I can describe it dramatically is as a cross between "Sweeney Todd" and "The Nose," with a hint of Brecht and Weill. Mirroring the pulses of the music, the direction was kinetically driving with ingenious touches. It's playing in the Vancouver Playhouse, which has 668 seats, so it's a lot more intimate than most opera houses, and the production was tight as a drum between acting, singing, orchestra, and movement.

There were many standouts, especially Andrea Ludwig's Landlady and the Mad Chorus of Caitlin Wood, Magali Simar-Gales, and Erica Iris Huang, but Geoffrey Sirett's Akakiy was a tour-de-force as strong as I remember Len Cariou in "Sweeney Todd." This is a must see over the next week.

Yesterday started with a Flamenco performance in the lobby of the wonderful central branch of Vancouver Public library by Al Mozaico Flamenco, where I used to study. One piece I was especially glad to see was a Spanish classical dance piece to Boccarini, which was performed in the late sixties by Oscar Nieto, who taught it to his student, 15-year-old Kirill Deljanin, and yesterday was his first performance of the piece. What an amazing first effort it was, and especially so since it was in the round in daylight with random noise all around. The program was varied and generally focused on the lighter palos and performed with bata, castanets, fan, and manton. As I watched people I had first seen dance a decades ago, I realized the Fountain of Youth was right there, within reach: every woman looked even more beautiful than she had ten years ago.

Then food -- not enough time to crawl to the next yarn store and get back in time -- and the opener of "Eugene Onegin." I'm not a fan of the most of the projections of Onegin scattered throughout -- aside from the handsome factor of baritone Konstantin Shushakov, and showing him writing his letter to Tatyana to the opening notes of Act III, which was fine -- because I don't think the audience needs to think of Onegin as a sap, and Shushakov gave a much more nuanced reading on stage. I've seen the "I'm so above it all" approach to the first two acts, but Shushakov gave the character a back-and-forth underlying tension throughout: a dissatisfaction more than simple snobbery and a displaced energy that would incite him to fabricate drama and trouble between Lenski and Olga in Act II. And it wasn't just vocal tension: it was there in his body, sometimes brewing and later a coiled spring that propelled him through the last act. Add that to his clear, fine baritone, and it was a really compelling interpretation.

Alexei Dolgov's Lenski is familiar to people who saw the last Met Live in HD "Eugene Onegin," so it was unsurprising that his singing and acting was superb, and he didn't try to tone down Lenski's impulsiveness and immaturity to make him more likable. He, too, had a discernable energy, as did the splendid Carolyn Sproule who sang and acted Olga. One of my favorite directorial decisions was in Act II: Olga had an upstage entrance in a pale dress behind a big crowd, and as she worked her way through the crowd and greeted guests and friends, you could feel her first, and then be drawn to her without anything particularly dramatic happening. Similarly, Lenski's initial sulks were done at the edge of the crowd stage right, not, as typically happens, downstage in one of the corners. No great gestures or scenery chewing: you could just feel him.

Svetlana Aksenova sang Tatyana, and it was a more nuanced performance of the title role that I've seen in a long time. Often Act III, scene 2 is one big roil, and most of the "Will she, won't she?" is conveyed by the sopranos physical movements, but she had a dramatic range in this scene that made her decision look like it was coming from much more than angel vs. devil: she responded differently to each of his pleas and arguments, making the point where finally makes her decision that much more dramatic, especially since there are so few operas in which characters put their cards on the table and have a real conversation about it.

Goderzi Janelidze sang Prince Gremin, and his voice is HUGE. He nearly stole the show. The chorus, led by Kinza Tyrrell, who accompanied the Prokofiev songs in the Akmatova recital, and the orchestra, conducted by Jonathan Darlington, sounded brilliant. There are two more performances left on May 3 and May 5, both at 7:30pm, a much more reasonable time to sing :)
 
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I just got email from SF Opera that Herlizius has withdrawn as Brunnhilde in the upcoming Ring. Irene Thoerin will replace her.

Thoerin sang Brunnhilde in the magnificent Copenhagen Ring. That was recorded in 2006 or so, and she was a wonderful Tosca a few years earlier. I haven't heard her sing in a while, though.
 

alexikeguchi

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I just got email from SF Opera that Herlizius has withdrawn as Brunnhilde in the upcoming Ring. Irene Thoerin will replace her.

Thoerin sang Brunnhilde in the magnificent Copenhagen Ring. That was recorded in 2006 or so, and she was a wonderful Tosca a few years earlier. I haven't heard her sing in a while, though.
I just got that email and was in the process of posting to hear thoughts about the substitution when your post popped up! Were your ears ringing? Or fingers itching? Thanks!
 
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From a membership email I just received from the President of the Wagner Society of Northern California:

Excitement is building for the RING! As you may have heard, the San Francisco Opera has announced that there will be a new Brünnhilde, Swedish dramatic soprano Iréne Theorin will now take over due to the withdrawl of Evelyn Herlitzius. I have heard Ms. Theorin sing Brünnhilde on many occasions and have always enjoyed her commanding voice and her stately stage presence. We are all fortunate that such a notable replacement has been engaged on such short notice.

The Wagner Society has also had a bit of drama behind the scenes as well. I am very sad to announce that Heath Lees has had to withdraw from Forum #2 on June 23rd due to health reasons (he was also to lead two Australian Ring Group Tours to San Francisco!!). We wish Heath all the best! Some quick work and many e-mails later and we have been able to engage three wonderful speakers. We will welcome a new speaker, William Berger, author and broadcaster for the Metropolitan Opera Radio; David Clay Large, of the Fromm Institute for Life Long Learning and Jonathan Khuner, Music Director of the West Edge Opera. The Society is grateful to these speakers for stepping in at the last minute. You can read more here: https://sfopera.com/ring/planyourring/ring-festival/ring-cycle-forum/
 
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Seattle Opera just closed a three-week run of "Aida." The roles of Aida, Amneris, Radames, and Amonasro were shared. The original director was Francesca Zambello, as this is a co-production with Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, and now it's off the Minnesota Opera. The direction was pretty static under E. Loren Meeker, with lots of singing from downstage facing the audience. The orchestra and chorus sounded great, but from both the top of the house and in Row G of the Orchestra, the orchestra covered the Amonasros (Gordon Hawkins and Alfred Walker) and Amnerises (Miljana Nikolic and Elena Gabouri) intermittently, and none of them have small voices. John Fiore conducted and brought out a number of orchestra details and nuances. He also spoke with General Director Aidan Lang for Wagner and More, where he was sharp and so funny describing his start as a teenager playing piano rehearsals for the Ring under Glyn Ross.

The sopranos were splendid from first note to last, Leah Crocetto and Alexandra Lobianco sharing Aida, and Marcy Stonikas singing all performances of the High Priestess. I've heard a lot of Aidas -- unfortunately, never Leontyne Price live, although I treasured her second recording with Bumbry -- and these two were the best, most vibrant and text-driven Aidas I've heard live since Martina Arroyo in the '70's, so a long time waiting. (I've heard many, many great Amnerises in the meantime, though.) Stonikas sang the soft passages beautifully -- she was on stage, which isn't often the case -- but it was a amazing when she was able to let it rip.

Both Radameses -- Brian Jadge with Crochetto and David Pomeroy with Lobianco -- were at their vocal best in the tomb scene. Pomeroy gets major props for his stellar acting. It's rare for me to hear a King and think I'd like to hear his Amonasro, but Clayton Brainerd was that singer. Daniel Sumegi was very strong as Ramfis in all performances -- he's a handsome dude and has presence -- but I just don't like his voice, purely my personal preference.

The staging is supposed to be modernish, with the men in military uniforms -- to kill the point, the priests wore military uniforms under their sheer black priests' robes with opaque striped hems, and the boys were dressed like cadets in short. Amneris wore a tiara and regal robes, with her courtiers in beautiful flowing silk patterned gowns. RETNA did the scenic design over Michael Yeargan's sets, and it was not only brilliant visually, combining graffiti and hieroglyphics, it provided a remarkable visual energy.

The choreography by Jessica Lang was mostly generic Lang, but the patterned walks at the beginning of the Nile scene were affecting. I wish she had stuck with it instead of having the dancers break out occasionally in generic dance movement. According to some reviews from SF, the central female dancer was supposed to have been gang raped by the male dancers, but that went over my head, even from the 7th row. Lots of ideas, not quite coherent, but, Aida, one of the most remarkable operas ever, in a remarkable setting.
 

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