Opera Suggestions, II

emason

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The musical adventures continue:

On Wednesday I went to the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South to hear a staging of the rarely performed Italian Baroque oratorio Esther, Liberator of the Jewish People just in time for Purim. It's by Allesandro Stradella and that's the title more or less in English translation. It was a small venue with about 50-60 attendees. I was the only one who didn't seem to be part of the early music scene. I overheard a lot of interesting conversations, such as the lament about there not being enough theorbo players these days. It seems the same 3 guys are stretched thin getting all the early music gigs because no one is learning that instrument these days. Also lots of talk about who played or sang with which group and who was or wasn't trekking to BEMF (Boston Early Music Festival) in June. I really enjoyed the piece; the bass baritone Ian Pomerantz was a terrific Haman and the soprano who sang the interpolated role of Esperanza Celeste (Heavenly Hope) was another knockout. (I've forgotten her name and can't find my program at the moment to look it up.) The bass who sang Ahasueras (sp?) was also terrific; he was African-American, or perhaps Afro-Caribbean, and really had the goods, a gorgeous voice. I must find my program and get his name.

Alas, last night was the downer of the week. I went to hear Amore Opera at the Riverside Theatre at Riverside Church on the UWS. Bronx Opera Company, you have nothing to worry about if last night was the best AO could do. The Israeli-American soprano, Iris Karlen, was a terrific Fiordiligi, but that was about it. In short order: this is a production in English so they didn't put up supertitles, a big mistake because most of the singers didn't have good diction and even in English 90% of the time you had no idea what anyone was singing about. The fake disguise mustaches kept falling off, causing problems for singers; some singers forgot their lines and the prompter was very audible; a stagehand's arm came out from the curtain at one point to place a missing prop on a side table; and while the orchestra was actually quite good, there were some really rough, bad notes from the brass section on occasion.

Esther 1 - Cosi Fan Tutte 0
 

Spun Silver

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12,129
The musical adventures continue:

On Wednesday I went to the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South to hear a staging of the rarely performed Italian Baroque oratorio Esther, Liberator of the Jewish People just in time for Purim. It's by Allesandro Stradella and that's the title more or less in English translation. It was a small venue with about 50-60 attendees. I was the only one who didn't seem to be part of the early music scene. I overheard a lot of interesting conversations, such as the lament about there not being enough theorbo players these days. It seems the same 3 guys are stretched thin getting all the early music gigs because no one is learning that instrument these days. Also lots of talk about who played or sang with which group and who was or wasn't trekking to BEMF (Boston Early Music Festival) in June. I really enjoyed the piece; the bass baritone Ian Pomerantz was a terrific Haman and the soprano who sang the interpolated role of Esperanza Celeste (Heavenly Hope) was another knockout. (I've forgotten her name and can't find my program at the moment to look it up.) The bass who sang Ahasueras (sp?) was also terrific; he was African-American, or perhaps Afro-Caribbean, and really had the goods, a gorgeous voice. I must find my program and get his name.

Alas, last night was the downer of the week. I went to hear Amore Opera at the Riverside Theatre at Riverside Church on the UWS. Bronx Opera Company, you have nothing to worry about if last night was the best AO could do. The Israeli-American soprano, Iris Karlen, was a terrific Fiordiligi, but that was about it. In short order: this is a production in English so they didn't put up supertitles, a big mistake because most of the singers didn't have good diction and even in English 90% of the time you had no idea what anyone was singing about. The fake disguise mustaches kept falling off, causing problems for singers; some singers forgot their lines and the prompter was very audible; a stagehand's arm came out from the curtain at one point to place a missing prop on a side table; and while the orchestra was actually quite good, there were some really rough, bad notes from the brass section on occasion.

Esther 1 - Cosi Fan Tutte 0
I'm so glad you're checking out the small productions, @emason. You can't win 'em all! I was cracking up at your account of the audience chatter at Esther and the mishaps at Cosí. You're an excellent reporter. 👍
 

Wyliefan

Trying to appease the skategods
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36,129
On Sunday I saw a terrific Eugene Onegin at the Kennedy Center. Some of the cast were making their U.S. debuts, including soprano Anna Nechaeva. I stayed for a Q&A afterwards, where they said she's signed to do a role at the Met in a couple of years, though they didn't say which role! She really was good, so I hope to see and hear more of her in the future.
 

emason

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4,528
Another opera outing: last night for La Clemenza di Tito at the Met. For me, last night has to be measured against the 3 previous Clemenzas I have seen.

1) Almost 20 years ago, 2000 to be exact, I saw my first Clemenza. It was the NYCO production with Lorraine Hunt (Lieberson) as Sesto and Kurt Streit as Tito. The intimacy of the NY State Theater as opposed to the big barn of the Met was a huge plus in this production. It was intimate and concentrated; the drama of the characters' personal situations came through loud and clear. The late LHL is my all-time favorite mezzo; she had it all in my opinion: gorgeous singing, dramatic conviction and acting talent to spare. This production ended with Tito sending Sesto off to exile. The look of regret, devastation, acceptance, you name it, on Sesto's face as LHL walked slowly off stage said it all. Streit's Tito was every bit an equal; on the other side of the stage there was Tito with a face of anguish and regret and resignation, etc. That last scene was a body blow to the gut that I have never forgotten. Spoiler alert: this is my ne plus ultra of the Clemenzas; nothing else comes close.

2) In 2008 I saw my first Met Clemenza, the Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production still in use today. Susan Graham and Ramon Vargas were the leads. It was beautifully sung, a perfectly pleasant and reliable evening at the Met, but I can't get past the production, which I do not like. The Met is too big, the production too larger than life and the drama just doesn't come across so well for me. It doesn't help that it has a happy ending; no exile for Sesto. Instead Tito bestows the hand of Vitellia on Sesto. I give it a B.

3) Also in 2003, as part of Mostly Mozart that summer, I went to a concertized staging in one of the halls at Jazz for Lincoln Center. Alice Coote was Sesto and Toby Spence was Tito. This is my almost ne plus ultra of the group, a close second to my #1. Coote was sensational, everyone in fact was good and the drama was once again concentrated for me because of the intimacy of the venue and the staging.

4) Last night; a powerhouse cast to be sure. Joyce DiDonato as Sesto, Matthew Polenzani as Tito, and Elza van den Heever as Vitellia. All the singing was outstanding last night, the 3 principal and 3 supporting roles, the never miss Met chorus. The orchestra was great. The production still doesn't work for me with some added complications last night. Somewhere upthread I think I bitched about Alice Coote's costume swallowing her up in Idomeneo a few seasons ago. Same issue with DiDonato and her costumes; she's not wearing her 1st Act costume, it is wearing her. The additional problem is that van den Heever is almost a full head taller than DiDonato and she has a bigger frame. The first intimate scene between Sesto and Vitellia was uncomfortably Oedipal; I thought I was watching a boy making love to his mother. Sesto's prison garb in Act 2 is even worse; the trouser role aspect of DiDonato's performance went out the window and she just looked like good old Joyce in a gunny sack. My advice for anyone contemplating this: listen to a broadcast if one is available or if you see it in the house, then just close your eyes and luxuriate in the singing. I cannot fault the singing; everyone was terrific. DiDonato brought the house down with her big Act I aria and Polenzani and van den Heever gave no quarter. Final verdict: sensational to hear, excruciating to look at - at least for me. The mileage of others might vary.
 

canbelto

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7,677
Thanks for your review of Clemenza! Actually Joyce's small size has IMO always been a bit of a problem in trouser roles. I think it only works when the romantic lead is also fairly petite. As for Clemenza the piece is an odd duck. It's very unusual for Mozart that he farmed out the recitatives to another composer, and this was commissioned to celebrate the coronation of Leopold II, so the whole opera has a slightly artificial feel with its emphasis on enlightened monarchs.The music doesn't seem to be music that Mozart composed with that much love, if that makes sense.

With that being said I did see the 2012 revival with Elina Garanca as Sesto and she was remarkable. One of her best performances.

I went to see the Die Walkure and I know Ring tickets are very hard to get right now but this Die Walkure cast is worth seeing again on April 25:
https://humbledandoverwhelmed.blogspot.com/2019/03/die-walkure-casts-its-magical-fire-spell.html
 

emason

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canbelto, Thanks for your insights into DiDonato. Looking back on what I have seen her in it has mostly been non-trouser roles. Rosina in Barber of Seville, La Donna del Lago, Cendrillon, and so forth. Was her role in Comte d'Ory a trouser? I can't remember, but if so it's the only one I've seen I think. (The mind is going; I can't remember anything anymore.)

Yesterday was The English Concert doing Semele at Carnegie Hall; Brenda Rae as Semele and Elizabeth DeShong as Ino/Juno. I read of review of an earlier performance this month where it was felt that Rae was holding back; I sure didn't feel that way yesterday. She and DeShong tore up the place and the rest of the cast was terrific. Ailish Tynan as Iris was hysterical, just so funny in the role and her singing was great. As for The Clarion Choir, I noticed Jonathan Woody listed under the basses with an asterisk indicating he is an understudy, for Cadmus/Somnus one would presume. He was the terrific Ahasueras in the Ester I saw at the Gramercy Park Synagogue and I spotted him the minute the chorus came on stage at Carnegie Hall. I'm glad to see he is getting notice and I hope he has a great career.
 

kwanfan1818

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I love La Clemenza di Tito and don't find it odd or anything but a masterwork. It might have helped that when I saw it for the first time, Troyanos and Neblett were Sesto and Vitellia, and Janet Baker was Sesto in a beloved recording from around that time, making it easy to love.

I also have no problem with di Donato's height or frame. The costumes do sound appalling, though. That there was no HD capturing this cast is a crime, based on what I heard on Sirius.

@alilou dropped me off at the SkyTrain station after a wonderful lunch in which we :argue: about ice dancers. When I got out with an energetic crowd at the Chinatown Stadium station, I thought we were all in synch, until they headed to a Whitecaps game instead of taking a right with me to see La Cenerentola :fragile:.
 

kwanfan1818

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It was the first performance of the run and the Festival. There are another 7 regular performances and one "relaxed" performance.

if you can get to one of the others, go go,go! It was brilliantly staged and sung, and the acting was fantastic.

There are seven main singers, three women - Cinderella and her two.stepsisters -- and four men -- stepfather, prince, prince's valet, and the prince's advisor. Simone Macintosh knocked it out of the park as Cinderella -- her technique was wonderful -- but the big surprise was that the voices if the stepsisters, sung by Vancouver Opera Young Artists Nicole Joanna Brooks and Gena van Oosten, are ready for prime time. I noticed from their bios that they were the understudies for Mimi and Musetta in the stellar La Boheme Vancouver Opera did in February, and had they had a chance to sing, I would have been happy to hear them.

Two of the roles, Stepfather and Alcindoro, the advisor, are mature roles for deep voices, and Peter McGillivray and Tyler Simpson were top notch and totally comfortable, dramatically and vocally. Dandini, the valet, can be a young man, and here he was played by another Young Artist, Daniel Thielmann, whose at the very beginning of his career. His lower range was a bit rumbly, like he hasn't quite grown into to that part of his voice, but his upper range is beautiful tonally and clear, and he's a wonderful actor. The prince, young tenor Charles Sy, was fabulous.

It was a small orchestra, and the men's chorus was six of the prince's footmen and their singing belied their number and pay grade. Whoever decided that men should wear long pants instead of breeches and hose is a criminal.

Vancouver Playhouse is such an intimate venue that every detail registers. The sets by Daniel Meeker and costumes by Sue Bonde (both originally made for Portland Opera) were well-proportioned for the venue.

If I could get back again before CSOI to see it again, I would, but the run closes the weekend before with a May 12 matinee.
 
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canbelto

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skateboy

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My represented tenor, Jinho Hwang, gave a solo recital at the National Opera Center in March. Jinho has had a very good career, but this was a comeback of sorts: he has been battling severe, life-threatening heart and lung issues for nearly four years now and has not been able to sing. But his health is stronger every day. Just last year, his lungs were operating at 15% capacity. Today they are at 60%. I'm so proud of him fighting back, and having the guts to give this concert.

In case anyone is interested, here's a highlights video from his performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kRhVt7WAPs
 
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skateboy

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7,808
The musical adventures continue:

On Wednesday I went to the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South to hear a staging of the rarely performed Italian Baroque oratorio Esther, Liberator of the Jewish People just in time for Purim. It's by Allesandro Stradella and that's the title more or less in English translation. It was a small venue with about 50-60 attendees. I was the only one who didn't seem to be part of the early music scene. I overheard a lot of interesting conversations, such as the lament about there not being enough theorbo players these days. It seems the same 3 guys are stretched thin getting all the early music gigs because no one is learning that instrument these days. Also lots of talk about who played or sang with which group and who was or wasn't trekking to BEMF (Boston Early Music Festival) in June. I really enjoyed the piece; the bass baritone Ian Pomerantz was a terrific Haman and the soprano who sang the interpolated role of Esperanza Celeste (Heavenly Hope) was another knockout. (I've forgotten her name and can't find my program at the moment to look it up.) The bass who sang Ahasueras (sp?) was also terrific; he was African-American, or perhaps Afro-Caribbean, and really had the goods, a gorgeous voice. I must find my program and get his name.

I just saw your post here, @emason . Thanks for attending the Stradella Esther performance, and I'm glad you enjoyed Ian Pomerantz.
 

Yehudi

Stole the NFT of Gwendal’s dance belt from Sharpie
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4,791
Single show tickets for the Met are now on sale. Looking to see the following:

Akhnaten
Turandot
Tosca

For Turandot, I am willing to splurge to have a better view of the stage but am wondering whether it’s better to sit family circle for Akhenaten (particularly during the funeral scene) or try to see the spectacle.
 

kwanfan1818

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NYCO did the best staging of Act II: there was a pile of sand (I assume wet) in one downstate corner and some water in another. The chorus scooped up handfuls of sand and created the city by placing clusters of sand mounds over most of the stage, surrounded by a sand wall the height of a handful of sand.

When the soldiers came to destroy the city at they end of the act, they stomped on the sand structures.

That was a great one to see from the Fourth Tier.
 

Spun Silver

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12,129
Single show tickets for the Met are now on sale. Looking to see the following:

Akhnaten
Turandot
Tosca

For Turandot, I am willing to splurge to have a better view of the stage but am wondering whether it’s better to sit family circle for Akhenaten (particularly during the funeral scene) or try to see the spectacle.
You can have it both ways with Family Circle box seats on the sides of the house. Be sure to sit in the front row. If you get one close to the stage, you get a big corner of the stage cut off but a wonderful closeup view of the rest. If you get one close to the regular center seats, very little of the stage is cut off, and though you don't get that great closeup view you do save a lot of money. My favorites were the ones close to the stage on the string side, but really all the boxes are fine as long as you're in the front row. Life is bad for those in the back.
 

kwanfan1818

RIP D-10
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35,529

alexikeguchi

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We just saw Parsifal at Bayreuth last night, and wow! I don't think I have ever experienced a more musically outstanding performance. I'm not sure if it was entirely the singers or the stunning acoustics, but everyone down to the young boys as the Esquires sounded fantastic. Of course, the leads were the standouts. Gunther Groissbock as Gurnemanz had a sonorous bass and brought immense gravity and dignity to the role. I commented to my son after the performance that I could really see him in the role of Wotan/Wanderer, and it turns out that's what he'll be performing at Bayreuth next year. Meanwhile, Andreas Schager is a fantastic Heldentenor and played the "pure fool" role to perfection. I would be interested in seeing him as Siegfried, though it looks like I would have to travel to Europe again for that. Finally, Elena Pankratova as Kundry has a very rich soprano voice, never forced or shrieky (though the part seems more mezzo). She did an excellent job portraying Kundry's conflicted emotions, and her ultimate redemption was very touching.

The staging was interesting with a setting in Iraq and portrayal of the Flower Maidens as harem girls. In the final act, the scene seemed to transform into a new Eden, complete with lush vegetation and fully naked performers cavorting in the cleansing water (not kidding). In the final scene where the Holy Lance is revealed and Amfortas is healed, some members of the chorus are portrayed as Muslims and Jews, and all unite in ecstasy as light descends. I don't think I've quite worked out all the analogies, but it was definitely thought-provoking.

The full experience was a lot of fun too. The hotel had champagne and hors d'oeuvres before the performance and a shuttle bus to ferry us back and forth. It was pretty entertaining to see people in black tie and evening gowns crammed into the bus like a Tokyo subway car! Other amusements were observing whether there would be applause after the first act (I'd say 50/50) and full curtain calls after the second act; perhaps I'm displaying my ignorance, not having seen Parsifal performed before, but I didn't know that was a thing. Finally, the grounds of the opera house are beautiful and perfect for a stroll in fresh air during the intermissions.
 

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