Opera 2

Posted by: Barbara

Opera 2 - 05/13/09 04:26 PM

Nine simulcasts next season, down from eleven. Four of the nine run over four hours, and a couple close to four hours. All except Hamlet have two intermissions.

All of which makes me wonder how well Salome and Orfeo did at the box office...as single one-hour operas instead of being paired in a double bill. Next year's schedule sounds like a response to criticism of offering one-acts as standalones. But opera schedules are drawn up four and five years in advance, aren't they? I'm just wondering what's going on.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 05/14/09 10:13 PM

The Met's playing it close to the chest about ticket sales. I couldn't find anything other than a grand total for 2006.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 05/25/09 08:18 PM

In fact, there AREN'T any one-act operas on the schedule for next year, broadcast or not. And though I don't have any statistics to offer, Salome seems to have been well liked and well attended. On the whole, though, a 4-hour show, with 2 intermissions, is pretty much the norm these days. So I wouldn't be inclined to read anything into the change.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 08/21/09 02:51 PM

The Met website says tickets for the simulcasts go on sale next month, but they're actually on sale NOW. The first two operas both come in October, Tosca and Aida. Andrew, if I remember correctly, you don't care much for either of those -- right? I'm going to both of them.

Incidentally, a few months ago I rented the Angela Gheorghiu / Roberto Alagna CD titled Tosca: The Movie because Ruggiero Raimondi was singing Scarpia and I'd never heard him in the role. But Mr. & Mrs. Alagna managed to accomplish something that up to then I had thought was not possible: they made Tosca boring. ::sigh::
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 08/21/09 04:00 PM

Quote:
Originally posted by Barbara:
The first two operas both come in October, Tosca and Aida. Andrew, if I remember correctly, you don't care much for either of those -- right? I'm going to both of them.
You do remember correctly, Barbara. Of course, they both have lots of good music and a number of striking dramatic situations, but overall I find Aida dull and Tosca overblown. The one-dimensional characters don't help, either. I don't go out of my way to see them.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 08/21/09 10:15 PM

Maybe somebody could come up with a libretto about Scarpia and Amneris using the best music from both scores.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 08/22/09 10:57 AM

Chacun à son goût, I guess. I think they're both terrific.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 08/22/09 04:05 PM

Actually I tend to find Aida tedious and much prefer Otello and Falstaff.

Tosca is schlock, but a good Scarpia (Leonard Warren comes to mind) makes it tolerable until the last act, when, of course, he's dead.

Boheme, OTOH, always, always manages to reduce me to tears, unless the Rudolfo is just plain awful.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 08/22/09 05:27 PM

Scribe is schlock; Tosca is not. I can't believe this!
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 08/23/09 07:18 PM

I can't believe it either. Tosca-bashing? The world is insane.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 08/23/09 08:48 PM

Speak kindly of Tosca, people. It was my break-through opera.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 08/24/09 12:59 AM

Really, Austin? Not, well, Carmen?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 08/24/09 10:23 AM

We went to Carmen the year before Tosca, but I was headachy and coming down with a cold and Carmen was so LOUD. Changed my mind later, of course, but it was Tosca that first got through to me. I heard those three heavy chords that open the curtain and I was sucked right in. Stayed in, too. I still feel grateful to that opera, if you know what I mean.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 08/24/09 03:31 PM

Austin, I don't think I've ever seen a better testimonial for an opera.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 08/24/09 05:10 PM

Hear, hear!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 08/28/09 07:16 PM

Finally ordered the tickets, after a bit of a mix-up, but I'll have to wait for the Encore performance of Tosca. There are five of us going, and one has a birthday coming up; her daughter is planning a surprise birthday party for her, on the same day of the live simulcast. I knew about the party; I'm going to it. But I forgot the date. So I had to think up a convincing lie to persuade her to change her ticket, for the later performance, and I had to swear the other three in our group to secrecy about the party to get them to change, etc. Ah, me.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 08/29/09 10:05 PM

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

I hate surprise parties.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 08/30/09 11:07 AM

So do I. And I don't think my friend is going to be as thrilled as her daughter thinks she will.

I read on some fan-maintained opera page that the advance sales for Hoffmann are going quite well. No locality specified, just a general statement that's enough to make me think now is a good time to order tickets.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 08/30/09 08:59 PM

Repeating...I hate surprise parties....although I don't think Liz looks at the opera topic.

A friend who is slightly older than I am has a landmark birthday coming up next month. HER daughters decided summer (two are teachers) was the best time to celebrate, and let her select the guest list for the luncheon they threw for her at a favorite restaurant. (Her favorite...not mine necessarily)

She even helped plan some of the celebration and everybody greatly enjoyed it...the "right" people got invited (although she did worry that she might have overlooked somebody)...This is so much better that SURPRISE!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 09/07/09 07:18 PM

The last time I mentioned Elina Garanca here, we ended up trying to find a way to make the hacek/caron visible on both PC and Mac screens. This time I'm just going to leave out all the diacriticals.

When the Met's simulcast schedule was released, I was disappointed to see Garanca was appearing only as Nicklausse in Les Contes d'Hoffmann. I knew she'd been singing Octavian and Carmen in Europe, but she'd not sung either of those roles in the short time she'd been at the Met. So there were Rosenkavalier and Carmen on the schedule, both of them Garanca-less. It will be years before the Met starts repeating operas already simulcast, so I was out of luck.

Then the substitutions began, with Hoffmann. Rolando Villazon, scheduled to sing the title role, had to drop out because of throat surgery (Joseph Calleja is taking on the role). Then Rene Pape decided he didn't want to add the Four Villains to his repertoire and withdrew (Alan Held is substituting). Then Elina Garanca was replaced by Kate Lindsey. What??? But that turned out to be good news.

The new production of Carmen was designed specifically for Angela Gheorghiu, with hubby Roberto Alagna as her Don Jose. Then she withdrew from all but two of her scheduled performances, for "personal reasons" (unexplained). But the two performances she will be singing are the only two in which Alagna is NOT her Don Jose; she'll sing opposite Jonas Kaufmann instead. Earlier this year Alagna gave an interview in which he said the two of them probably will not be sharing the stage much in the future. Interesting, hm?

But not pertinent. What is pertinent is that Elina Garanca will be replacing Gheorghiu as Carmen. Yippee! Since Carmen rehearsals will be taking place during Hoffmann's run, she had to give up the smaller role. Tough choice, I'm sure.

I am very happy.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 09/08/09 10:49 AM

I'm happy too. It doesn't hurt that a great voice isn't the only thing she's got going for her.

Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 09/10/09 08:43 PM

All these substitutions make life interesting, don't they? I would rather have had Pape as the Hoffmann villains (he's always first-rate, I think), but it's his choice to make as to whether he's doing them, and sometimes it's not until you've learned the notes and are starting to "sing it in" to the voice that you may learn that it feels wrong.

Calleja, however, should be marvelous as Hoffmann. It'll be his first time at the role, but I have great confidence in him, and I think it's the right step forward for him. (The Met has underused him, restricting him to the Rigoletto Duke, a few Macduffs, and one Nemorino last season when Villazon pulled out and almost every tenor on the roster got a crack at it.) I saw Calleja's Duke in Washington DC 2 years ago, and it was sensationally good -- the voice free and liquid and unpushed in a way hardly any other tenor sings now.

In a way, I'll be sorry not to see Gheorghiu's Carmen -- the voice has a smoky sexy star quality that could make her a throwback to soprano Carmens of the past, and I find her recording highly intriguing; but it may be an illusion of the microphones. Garanca should work out very well.

It does sound as if something is going on (or maybe isn't) with Roberto & Angela, does it not?

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 09-11-2009).]
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 09/11/09 09:45 AM

Too much togetherness, I guess. Aren't they the two who did the 45-minute Romeo et Juliette? I'd like to hear Calleja as the Duke. In fact, I keep waiting for a simulcast of Rigoletto but it never comes.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 09/21/09 10:28 AM

Meanwhile, in other opera houses of the world...

I thought to look for the schedule for the 2010 Glyndebourne Festival, and there it is .

After 2 summers off, I think I have to try to get there again. Right at the start of the season, Cosi fan tutte and Billy Budd are running concurrently, which is a combination made just for me. Time to start saving up....
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 10/11/09 02:25 PM

And it ends with The Rake's Progress. Interesting choice.

Meanwhile, back at the Met...

What an awful production. Awful, awful, awful! You know I'm talking about Tosca, don't you? The good singing couldn't rescue this one. I know they couldn't keep doing the Zeferelli production forever, and I know the next director would feel compelled to come up with something different, but couldn't they get a director who has some understanding of the music? Bah.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 10/11/09 05:55 PM

Oh, I agree 100%. I hated it. I'd heard that the production was "controversial" but didn't really worry about it. I thought that music could overcome anything, and I was wrong. The hookers on stage, the sheer ugliness of the look, etc. Bleaghh.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 10/11/09 07:16 PM

Hookers? In Tosca?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 10/11/09 08:45 PM

Playthings for Scarpia in Act 2.

I was angry. I look upon Tosca as MY opera and I hate seeing it mistreated so. I don't even want to talk about it.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/12/09 01:30 AM

Big weekend. We bomb the moon, Obama snags a Nobel, the tea parties are turning on the GOP. And what are we talking about? Tosca.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 10/12/09 01:24 PM

Good to see we have our priorities right. (You forgot to mention Cuba has run out of toilet paper.) What did you think of Tosca, Barbara? We have tickets for the Encore showing, but I'm thinking of asking for our money back.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/12/09 03:42 PM

Good luck with that. I'm going to the Encore performance myself; I had a birthday party to attend on Saturday.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 10/14/09 03:51 PM

Oh, that was the surprise party for your friend who doesn't like surprises? How did that go?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/15/09 12:22 AM

It was a success! When everyone first yelled "Surprise!", for a moment there I thought my friend was going to turn and bolt. But then she saw who was there, and that made all the difference. Her daughter had invited people her mother had once been close to but hadn't seen in years; some of them flew in from out of state. And some of them she'll probably never see again, as they are getting along in years. It was a lovely California party, candles floating in the pool, etc. The daughter can be kind of a flake, but this time she got it absolutely right.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 10/15/09 03:15 PM

Good to hear that. That was a great gift the daughter gave her mother.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/24/09 10:42 PM

Anyone else go to the Aida simulcast?
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 10/25/09 10:41 AM

I did, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. This is only the second Aida I've seen, and the first one seemed to go on forever. But yesterday those four hours just zipped by. I would have been glad of a fifth act.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 10/25/09 04:10 PM

I liked it too, in spite of its three leads all being walrus-sized. Good spectacle...I don't think I've ever seen that many people on one stage before. My wife was fascinated by the way the Amneris was able to sing most of her role with her mouth barely open and her lips barely moving. But I was surprised that the tenor received no applause for his "Celeste Aida". Botha sang it beautifully.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/25/09 08:10 PM

Indeed he did. To a thundering silence. Then when Violeta Urmana finished "Ritorno Vincitor"...again, silence. She was actually leaving the stage when someone in that NY audience yelled "Brava!" (Urg, no -- bravo.) Then they began to applaud, as if they'd been waiting for permission. Strange audience.

I had one problem with Urmana. Big voice, with a lovely, lovely high-notes pianissimo. But when she sang her top notes full voice, as often as not those notes came out as a screech. Her Lady Macbeth was booed at La Scala (now there's a shocker -- booing at La Scala) but not for screeching; for making mistakes. However, La Scala is supposedly grooming her for their first Norma in over 20 years.

Back to the Aida simulcast, I read a review that criticized the stage direction as being too static, citing specifically the way the chorus just stood still in rows while singing. Well, they didn't just march in in rows; the rows were created by the addition of segments alternating with other choreographed moves by the principals and the supers. When you're building a mosaic picture on a stage using people instead of tiles, you can't have people bouncing around all over the place. I thought the staging was stately and right.

By the way, did you know the ancient Egyptians had Velcro?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 10/25/09 09:48 PM

Female singer, brava...no?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 10/25/09 10:44 PM

No. You're applauding the singing, not the gender of the singer. "Bravo" for both men and women.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 11/09/09 07:35 PM

The day the board vanished was the day after I saw Tosca, but I still want to get my two cents in. That production roundly deserved the booing it got. Drab, ugly sets; dumb stage directions that all but ignored the music; costuming better suited to a comic opera than to a tragedy. The second-act set was downright offensive. Scarpia's quarters are supposed to be ornate, luxurious -- the reflection of a man who denies himself nothing. This one looked like a bus station. The only real color in the set was a pair of red sofas. So what color dress does Tosca wear in that act? Yep. Clashing red, at that.

Hated the production...but I loved the performance! Three powerhouse singers, all in perfect control -- I thought they were fantastic. George Gagnidze (Scarpia) was new to me, but he was singing on the same level as Mattila and Alvarez. They made a perfect vocal triangle. I'm soooo glad I went.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 11/10/09 05:20 AM

Was there booing in the cinema where you saw Tosca, Barbara? Of course, the only time one gets to boo the production team is when they potter in on a first night (I'm usually surprised at how scruffy they usually are, not that I go to many first nights) and when they aren't there, the booing can, of course, be misinterpreted.

On "brava" (or indeed, "bravi") I tend to feel that it's "Look at me, I know a word of Italian that you don't know!" so I would never use it. But in Gianni Schicchi, Schicchi sarcastically sings "Brava, la vecchia, brava" (and a lot of extra abuse) when Zita tells him to get lost. How does that differ from "Brava, Madame Mattila" or whoever?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 11/10/09 11:38 AM

Re: Booing the production team....I am sure I posted here, some years back, about the Salzburg "Aida" that including Amneris using the dancers for target practice and a triumphal parade of men in combat fatigues riding kiddy car sized tanks.

It was beautifully sung and at the final curtain several of the singers got standing ovations...then the production people were led onstage and you never heard such catcalls, stamping of feet and whathaveyou from the largely European audience. I think some of them even threw things.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 11/11/09 08:54 AM

There's no point in booing at a motion picture. No one responsible for what you are booing is there to hear it. Exception is probably the big premiere where everyone turn out, and that probably has a hand picked audience who would never express displeasure at all.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 11/13/09 06:45 PM

I don't in fact shout "brav-"anything. It's not my style. But hypothetically, I can see two ways to look at it.

(1) "Bravo" as a word adopted into the English language, which therefore remains uninflected under all circumstances. (This is how I generally handle Italian musical terms in musical life: "tempos" not tempi, etc.)

(2) If one prefers to maintain the distinction of the endings, then my point of view would be that I am indeed applauding the singer, thanking them for work that I enjoyed. (The singing is already over, but the singer is standing there before me.) With this would go bravo, brava, bravi, according to circumstances.

As I suggested, I go with (1). Being too ostentatiously foreign seems pretentious to me (admitting that this is a matter of taste). I feel the same way about pointedly pronouncing foreign names "authentically" (over-rolled R's, French vowels, all the stuff that Richard Wilbur called "nasal and uvular agonies") in the middle of an English sentence.

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 11-24-2009).]
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 11/14/09 06:04 AM

Do the Italians actually cry "Brava!" for female artists?
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 11/14/09 08:50 AM

They do.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 11/14/09 11:03 AM

Quote:
Originally posted by Andrew:
Was there booing in the cinema where you saw Tosca, Barbara?
No, I was referring to the first-night booing. I have heard spontaneous applause on occasion, until people realize what they're doing.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 11/24/09 09:32 AM

Why I can't see the telecasts without driving 3 hours:
http://www.roanoke.com/extra/arts//wb/227073
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 11/30/09 06:17 AM

I got to the Met on Saturday (thanks to a university bus trip) and saw that wonderful Il Trittico production. Stephanie Blythe did all 3 mezzo roles again, and this time Patricia Racette did the 3 big soprano roles, most impressively. And Alessandro Corbelli was back for Schicchi. A marvelous experience.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 12/07/09 09:40 PM

We can get the simulcasts in Lynchburg, which is about an hour and a half away. Can anybody tell me where I go to get info on what's being shown when, how to get tickets., etc?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 12/08/09 06:02 AM

http://www.fandango.com/cinemarkmovies10_aainq/theaterpage - scroll down to "Tickets Now Available for these Coming Attractions", keep on scrolling and there are the Met operas. If you want to see, say, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, click on the date Saturday, December 19, 2009 or Wednesday, January 6, 2010, then on the next screen click the time of the performance (6.30) and hey presto, you can buy tickets online.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 12/08/09 10:51 AM

Thanks, Andrew. I finally found it.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 12/08/09 03:50 PM

Fandango is selling tickets in the East? I thought that was Fathom's territory.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 12/12/09 02:05 PM

Jon, today's broadcast has the same Trittico cast as the one you saw? Frankly, I just don't get Soeur Angelica. I think it's the story that keeps me from hearing the music (if that makes any sense!).
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 12/12/09 06:06 PM

I was sorry to have missed Il Tabarro, an atmospheric work which I like a lot, but heard the other two. I've never much liked Suor Angelica, and didn't find anything today to change my view - the general sound of the music was in the Fanciulla/Turandot neck of the woods, not really my sort of Puccini. On the other hand, Gianni Schicchi is one of my favourites (along with La Bohème), and I enjoyed it, give or take a bit of sloppy ensemble. Corbelli was excellent as ever, and I was impressed by the Albanian tenor. The sound quality, alas, was poor.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 12/12/09 07:20 PM

It makes sense. She "remembered" suicide was a mortal sin after she took the poison? C'mon.

We get our opera tickets from Fathom (East Coast).
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 12/16/09 10:28 AM

Yes, same cast as I saw in late November, give or take a name or two in the supporting ensemble.

I can only take Suor Angelica as an interlude in the middle of this triple-bill, not on its own. The first half is overdependent on the same dubious gimmick as many tiresome Hollywood movies, the adorableness of nuns having human weaknesses and quirks. And the latter half is marred by, as noted, her forgetting suicide is a mortal sin till she's done it. I always want to say "Girl, you're too stupid to live... oh wait." There's also the tinselly music which is the best Puccini could come up with for the "miracle." But I will give this production points for actually staging the miracle. Many productions (including the previous Met one) go for "we see it in her face," which may sound like a good idea in theory but doesn't work out in practice.

As a respite between the wonderful mellerdramer of Tabarro and the hilarity of Schicchi, though, I don't mind it.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 12/19/09 08:10 AM

Hoffmann today. Tickets bought through Fathom.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 12/19/09 06:03 PM

And wasn't it terrific! Kathleen Kim stole the show, as far as I'm concerned.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 12/19/09 06:28 PM

I heard the first and second parts on the radio (had to abandon the third in order to watch the gripping Wallander drama - penultimate Series One episode - on TV). Calleja's fluttery vibrato always bothers me, but it disappeared when he wasn't trying to sing softly.

At least they performed the Acts in the right order - I saw the old John Schlesinger Covent Garden production earlier in the year, and it really doesn't make sense to do Giulietta before Antonia.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 12/20/09 04:59 PM

But it's only a one-line reference, isn't it? Could be omitted.

I'm with you, Chris -- Kathleen Kim stole the show, or at least the part of it that featured her. She was funny and cute without working at it, and she handled the coloratura passages with such authority! Wonderful. Andrew, did you hear anything "fluttery" from Calleja in the part you listened to? I don't remember noticing anything; I thought he sounded grand all the way through.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 12/21/09 10:24 AM

The reason that the Giulietta act ought to come after Antonia is that the music from the Hoffmann/Giulietta duet reappears in the Epilogue, as if Giulietta is still in Hoffmann's head. I'm fairly certain that Offenbach wanted the acts in that order; the reason that Antonia is often performed last of the three is because the Antonia is usually a bigger star and has more to sing than the Giulietta (if the roles aren't performed by the same singer). Plus the end of the Antonia act is much more dramatic.

Calleja - yes, I heard lots of fluttery vibrato ("bleating", some might call it) on Saturday. The opera seemed very closely miked on the radio (I could hear Levine turning the pages of the score at some points), but, even so, I had to turn the volume up quite a bit to get it to the level of sound that I normally get from BBC opera broadcasts.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 12/22/09 05:05 PM

I wish I knew Hoffmann better; this is only the third production I've seen. I know there's always a lot of tweaking and cutting and re-arranging, but I was surprised at how small Giulietta's role was -- and how large Nicklausse's role had become! Co-star status. Is it possible Giulietta's part was cut down to make room for an expansion of Nicklausse's role? Can that be done? Enlarging of the Nicklausse role would have been to take advantage of Garanca's considerable talents; but Kate Lindsey, her replacement, couldn't match all the big voices around her. She seemed to grow stronger after the first act, but there was a hint she had some help. In the "Barcarolle" her voice all but drowned out Ekaterina Gubanova's, which would take some doing. It sounded to me as if the volume had been boosted in Lindsey's microphone alone. (Can they do that?)

I didn't care for the set for the tavern scenes -- too drab. I will be sooooo glad when the Met gets over its love affair with black/brown/gray sets and costumes.

Aside from those two things, I loved everything else about this production. I liked Calleja's warm, open tenor, and I too flipped over Kim's Olympia. Lots of spontaneous applause in my movie theater, with no hesitation in any of it. Sometimes you see something you like so much, you just have to pound your hands together.




[This message has been edited by Barbara (edited 12-22-2009).]
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 12/23/09 07:05 AM

Oh, now I wish I'd gone!
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 01/04/10 09:06 AM

Has anyone heard Renée Fleming sing the Marschallin?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 01/04/10 04:40 PM

I was a little surprised when I saw that she was doing it...to be sure, she is "maturing", but age doesn't necessarily give the voice the weight it needs that that demanding role.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 01/05/10 08:50 AM

She's sung it 11 times at the Met (6 in 2000, 4 in 2009 and once so far in 2010) and four times with the Met in Japan (2001), and it's highly likely that she's sung it elsewhere in between.

You can check the Met database at http://archives.metoperafamily.org/archives/frame.htm . Choose "Multi-field search" from the menu on the left, then put Fleming into the Personal Names field, Rosenkavalier into the Titles field and press the Search button.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 01/06/10 09:06 PM

Yes, but has anyone heard her in the role?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 01/09/10 10:31 AM

Guess not, Rita.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 01/09/10 11:38 AM

Well, I may have done when it was broadcast last year, and I certainly will hear at least some of it this evening. However, Der Rosenkavalier isn't a favourite opera of mine (actually it isn't even one of my favourite Strauss operas - there are at least eight others that I'd rather see).

I've only seen Fleming twice on stage, once in Rossini some years ago and once last year in La Traviata.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 01/10/10 02:49 PM

I ended up skipping it. Did anyone go?
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 01/10/10 10:08 PM

Sorry, belatedly catching up here.

With all the recent research and new editions of Hoffmann, the role of Nicklausse (the Muse) has indeed gotten larger than it used to be. (The Met uses a "mixed" edition, largely the long-standard one but not entirely so.) Giulietta has always been the smallest role of the three "heroines," and remains so. I wouldn't think that anything special had been done to redistribute the roles to flatter this cast. It's just an oddly balanced opera in some ways.

I had planned to see the moviecast but was prevented by the East Coast snowfall. I did hear most of the radio broadcast, and thought that Calleja sounded marvelous, just as when I'd heard him live. The flicker of vibrato impresses me as a colorful and individual (and entirely healthy) part of his vocal color (just as I did with Troyanos).

The Marschallin is right in line with Fleming's roles in the last decade or so -- what the Germans call "youthful-dramatic" (or on the bigger side of "lyric"): Desdemona, Tchaikovsky's Tatiana, Rodelinda, Strauss's Arabella, Russalka. It's true that she has balanced these with roles sometimes sung by lighter voices (Violetta, Thais, etc.), as smart singers will generally try to do.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 01/11/10 07:22 PM

I saw it, and I must say Fleming surprised me. She was completely believable and in command all the way. On the whole, I liked Christine Schafer's Sophie, but she did have to strain to reach her high notes. Fleming's, on the other hand, were as lovely and as effortless-seeming as you could hope for. Susan Graham...well, I thought she'd be stronger. Or maybe someone was fiddling with the volume controls again.

Now, I know this is sacrilege to say about an opera written for three varieties of soprano, but I thought the best voice on that stage came from Baron Ochs. Kristinn Sigmundsson is a wonderful singer, and I loved every minute he was on the stage. He's a pretty good actor, too.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 01/12/10 05:23 PM

The one time I saw Rosenkavalier on stage, at the ENO many years ago and I haven't a clue who was in it, Ochs stole the show...partly by comedy, of course, but the fact is Strauss gave that obnoxious man some of the best music in the entire opera.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 01/12/10 06:51 PM

The Rosenkavalier that I saw at ENO was in 1975, with Anne Evans (Marschallin), Valerie Masterson (Sophie), Josephine Barstow (a soprano Octavian), Eric Shilling (Faninal) and Australian bass-baritone Neil Warren-Smith as Ochs. The conductor was Charles Mackerras.

I heard Acts 1 and 3 of Saturday's Met broadcast. It was OK, but I'm not a great fan of the opera. I really don't like anything in the first Act until Ochs turns up. I do like the start of Act 2, but then find that it sags until the Octavian/Ochs bust-up. And I enjoy most of the third Act, though the stuff after Och's exit is too mushy for my taste.

So I'm with Kay on this.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 01/14/10 06:45 PM

Is everyone ready for Carmen on Saturday?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 01/14/10 08:00 PM

Oh, yes. Time to get Rosenkavalier out of my head anyway.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 01/16/10 04:13 PM

I am sooooo in love with Elina Garanca!
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 01/16/10 05:31 PM

Me too. And so is my wife!
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 01/17/10 04:59 PM

That should make for interesting dinner table talk.

Better make that four...I don't remember ever being "into" an opera as much as I was yesterday. Didn't you all see me up there on the stage, in the chorus? I loved every moment of it.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 01/17/10 07:49 PM

I saw you, Lorna, and you looked grand. I did grow weary of the sand-colored sets and costumes, and that substitute baritone should stick to accounting, but that's all I have to quibble about. Easily the best simulcast yet. Gheorghiu is going to have one helluva time following that Carmen.

Do you know what I would like to hear Garanca sing? Dalila. Garanca has these great chest tones, and Dalila has a couple of, er, chesty arias; it should be a perfect match. Time for a revival of that potboiler anyway.
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 01/18/10 08:15 PM

I liked the pas de deux at the beginning and during the Entr'acte...that was a good idea. Some of the kids in the children's chorus were really having fun, and that was fun to watch. Alagna gave The Flower Song his all, and the audience appreciated it. But what can you say about Garanca? She's the perfect Carmen. Perfect.

Barbara, what didn't you like about the baritone?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 01/19/10 12:11 AM

Oh, he turned in a serviceable enough "Toreador Song", but by the time he reached the little bit he sings in the last act ("Si tu m'aimes, Carmen..."), he sounded as if he was gargling. Not a long-distance runner.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 01/19/10 01:13 PM

I didn't hear or see it, so I'm not commenting on the actual performances. But Teddy Tahu Rhodes is actually quite a coup to be able to snag for a last-minute replacement: he has a substantial career going, and I remember him being a strong Ned Keene in the Peter Grimes simulcast. No doubt the attention he gets is partly due to his looks and physique, but I think there's a real vocal and musical-dramatic gift there.

Now, it may well be that he didn't do himself justice in this performance, or that the role isn't suited to his voice (it's oddly unsuited to almost any bass or baritone who isn't José van Dam). I can't speak to that, I wasn't there.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 01/19/10 06:13 PM

Well, he did have only three hours' notice to prepare himself, and that was bound to affect his performance. But he really did sound bad by the last act.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/04/10 11:35 PM

Simon Boccanegra Saturday, starring Domingo the baritone. Ramon Vinay did that, switch from tenor to baritone, but I don't believe I ever heard how he fared in his new lower roles.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/05/10 05:47 AM

Vinay (born 1912) actually made his debut as a baritone in 1931, singing Rigoletto, Scarpia, etc. In 1943 he started singing tenor roles - Don José, Otello, etc., also Tristan, Parsifal, Tannhäuser and Siegmund at Bayreuth. Then in 1962 he went back to baritone - Telramund at Bayreuth, Falstaff, Dr Bartolo(!), Falstaff and Iago. Harold Rosenthal in Opera Grove says "his artistry, intelligence and musicianship were always in evidence", which I guess includes his late baritone roles.

It'll be interesting to see if Domingo the baritone, also a famous Otello of course, emulates Vinay by singing Iago!
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/05/10 07:26 PM

Oh, Vinay went back to singing baritone. Never knew that.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 02/05/10 07:51 PM

I think we actually had a Jeopardy question covering that way way way back when.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/06/10 04:18 PM

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I'm still under the Boccanegra spell; will post later.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 02/07/10 02:39 PM

It did leave a buzz, didn't it? It was glorious. Why is this opera not performed more? It's easy to see why Domingo wanted to sing that role. It took me about two minutes to get used to those baritone notes coming out of Domingo's mouth...then it seemed the most natural thing in the world. The music was great, the singing was great, the production was great. Anybody who did not see this, go to the Encore showing. GO.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 02/07/10 03:50 PM

I'm still feeling the buzz. What Chris said -- GO.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/07/10 08:43 PM

Yes, absolutely GO. The only thing I knew from this opera was "Il lacerato spirito", and that only because of Ezio Pinza's recording. So it was virtually a brand new Verdi opera for me, and I found the music dramatic and satisfying, with a few snatches of exciting choral music tossed in at just the right places. Not a single aria for the title character, yet Domingo soared over the entire opera like some divine presence leading everyone else to their fates. It was wonderful. And for once I don't have a single nit to pick with the production; it was beautiful. The stage looked like a series of Renaissance paintings. I think my favorite scene was the one in which Boccanegra forced Paolo to pronounce a curse on Amelia's kidnapper (who was Paolo himself). How much did Boccanegra know? Did the other Council members also suspect? Oh, that was good theater!

But Boito's libretto has its usual improbabilities. One I found hard to wink at came in the scene in which Boccanegra told Paolo he could not marry Amelia. When Paolo wanted to know why not, Boccanegra answered with an imperious "I wish it!" Now, if he'd just said "She's not a Grimaldi. She's an orphan they took in," then the story would have ended happily. Paolo only wanted the Grimaldi money and might even feel grateful to Boccanegra for keeping him from making a bad mistake.

Does anyone know if there's an opera with a longer death scene than Boccanegra's? His even spans a change of setting.

Was Renée Fleming's backstage interview with Domingo part of the radio broadcast? He answered a few questions that have been raised here, such as NO, he is not going to sing Iago. And he hasn't really switched away from tenor to baritone; he's still singing tenor roles. He expressed an interest in Heldentenor roles (he's already singing Parsifal). But there is another baritone role he wants to do, and that's Athanaël in Thaïs. The man doesn't seem aware he's 69 years old.




[This message has been edited by Barbara (edited 02-08-2010).]
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/08/10 01:09 PM

I'll GO, I'll GO!
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 02/08/10 07:43 PM

So will I. Wow.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/09/10 05:27 AM

This is in my top five Verdi operas, and I'm sorry that I wasn't sufficiently organised to go and see the simulcast. I've seen it quite a few times on stage, at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and elsewhere. One or two comments on Barbara's post:

"Not a single aria for the title character"? Hmm! What about his "Plebe! Patrizi! Popolo!" in the Council Chamber scene? That's as much of an aria as, say Iago's Credo or Falstaff's "Tutto nel mondo è burla". The ending ("E vo' gridando 'pace', e vo' gridando amor", with the chorus and other soloists coming in with a Big Tune) is one of a number of emotional moments, for me at least. Others are the postlude to "Il lacerato spirito" (I was amazed that the Met audience didn't interrupt it with applause - kudos to the director), the scene where Boccanegra discovers that Amelia is his long-lost daughter, his reminiscence of his seafaring life ("Il mare, il mare" to the accompaniment of the sounds of the sea in the orchestra) when he's beginning to feel the effects of the poison, and the opera's ending.

I agree about the the scene in which Boccanegra told Paolo he could not marry Amelia. However, I doubt if this is Boito's fault - the libretto was written by Piave about 25 years before Boito got his hands on it, and the opera premiered in 1857, after La Traviata and before Un Ballo in Maschera. Boito wrote the whole of the Council Chamber scene, and the music for it is as good as anything in Otello or Falstaff (the revised version premiered in 1881, after Aida) but elsewhere there was only some retouching and rearranging and not a lot of new music, as I understand it.

I heard the broadcast on the radio. Domingo sounded fine (and very Domingoesque), but I had some problems with other singers - the tenor was off-pitch initially and you could drive a coach and horses through James Morris's wobble (though Ramey or Plishka these days would have been worse!). But listening on the radio isn't at all the same as seeing it in the theatre (or cinema), so don't let me put anyone off.

They're doing this at Covent Garden soon, with Domingo, but they've upped the prices to a level that even I am reluctant to pay, and a trip to London and overnight stay isn't cheap either. (However, I'm doing exactly that, at a much lower cost, to see Prokofiev's The Gambler next Monday.)
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 02/09/10 08:49 AM

What intrigued me was that the opera is the story of a good man who won over two of his three enemies. How often do you see that on an opera stage?

The New York Times has an article saying that when Domingo auditioned for the Mexican opera at age 18, he did so as a baritone. Okay, so he's a tenor/baritone. Why not?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/09/10 12:51 PM

His debut was in 1957 at age 16, in a baritone role in a zarzuela. His first important tenor role was Alfredo in La Traviata in 1961 - still only 20 years old, and he'd been singing smaller tenor roles since 1959. So the upwards (as it were) trajectory isn't anything like Vinay's.

Of course, while singing tenor roles, he made a recording in 1992 of the baritone role of Figaro in The Barber of Seville.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 02/09/10 06:21 PM

If you've got the range, you've got the range....And didn't Callas sing a few mezzo roles...I seem to remember a Carmen or two.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/09/10 07:40 PM

She recorded Carmen and sang arias in concert, but I don't think she ever performed in an onstage production. The dancing was the reason; she didn't want to display her thick ankles. Bizet added some higher bits to the published score so sopranos could sing the role. Consequently there have been quite a few soprano Carmens -- Geraldine Farrar, Emmy Destinn, Rosa Ponselle (who flopped), Victoria de los Angeles, etc. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu, for whom the current production was designed, has cancelled her two scheduled performances (and cancelled her marriage to Roberto Alagna as well). Gheorghiu said she needed more time to prepare, but I'll bet she just didn't want to follow Garanca in the role. She'll be replaced by Kate Aldrich, a mezzo.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 02/12/10 11:55 AM

Barbara is quite right (of course) about soprano Carmens; they were almost the rule in the early 20th century, when the role was considered the soprano's by divine right, and Farrar, Calvé, et al were the ones audiences wanted to see in the part. As far as I know, though, the soprano alternatives in the score aren't by Bizet; he died soon after the unsuccessful world premiere, didn't he? and didn't have time to touch it up for future productions.

The sopranos who have recorded the role but never sung it onstage include Leontyne Price, Callas, Victoria de los Angeles (a borderline case, as she did undertake the role briefly a number of years later, in Newark NJ and at NYCO, and not successfully), Jessye Norman, Julia Migenes (for the film in which she appeared), and Angela Gheorghiu. AG is actually quite effective and seductive on that recording, but live performance is another matter.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 02/22/10 06:02 PM

Next Season at the Met

Just picked this up on Facebook.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 02/23/10 09:38 AM

One knows he has gotten truly old when he recognizes only one name among the singers the Met has contracted for the new season. All the ones I knew have undoubtedly retired long since.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/25/10 11:46 AM

I know THAT feeling.

Ah, Jon, you're right. Bizet did die only a few months after the first performance, and the score wasn't published until two years later. Any idea who did add the soprano bits?

Curious selection for next season's simulcasts. Two by Wagner, two by Verdi, two by Strauss, two by Donizetti. One each by Moussorgsky, Rossini, Puccini. And the simulcasts' first repeat of an opera -- Lucia, so soon after the first. It must be a new production.

Interesting note on the Met's website. After the last two simulcasts of this season (Hamlet, Armida), the simulcasts will have been seen by over two million people. That's a 2 followed by six zeroes! The number of people who will have attended perfomances at the Met is 800,000.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 02/26/10 04:52 PM

Well, now, wait a minute. Didn't the Opéra Comique first try to cast a soprano in the role? And when she said no, the role was given to a mezzo? That would indicate the score was originally written for the higher voice. So when the higher passages were added to the published score, maybe that was just restoring what had been cut to accommodate the lower voice. Meaning the added bits were written by Bizet after all. Could it have happened that way?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/26/10 06:55 PM

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (Hugh Macdonald) says that Bizet worked on the score in 1873, and at the end of that year Célestine Galli-Marié (a mezzo) was engaged to sing the title-role, which she did when it opened in March 1875. Bizet died on the night of the 33rd (of 45) performance. Absolutely no mention of sopranos having been approached.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 02/27/10 01:32 AM

Wikipedia says the role was first offered to soprano Marie Roze, who declined. This web page says Roze was thought to be Bizet's first choice. This site says she called the opera "scabrous" (no source cited).

But the lady changed her mind. This site says: "Marie Roze, who had earlier declined the role as 'scabrous,' played it to great acclaim in San Francisco." In fact, Carmen seems to have been one of Roze's two most successful roles, the other being Marguerite in Faust. Now, if she could handle Marguerite's high notes and Bizet did indeed want her to sing Carmen, would he have written it for mezzo voice? Lots of iffy stuff here.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 02/27/10 08:40 AM

It sounds as if the soprano for whom Bizet may have written the part didn't like high notes, and thus Bizet wrote a role that could be sung by both sopranos and mezzos.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/27/10 12:26 PM

It sounds as if the soprano for whom Bizet may have written the part didn't like the opera.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/27/10 12:27 PM

I'm no expert on any of this, but it's interesting that none of the sites that Chris has linked to provides any source for the Marie Roze story and, as we all know, disinformation spreads like wildfire on the Internet. The Wikipedia article on Carmen has 42 footnotes, but not one for this. The Wikipedia article on Marie Roze makes no mention of any approach by du Locle or Bizet (and it's interesting, en passant, to see there that she sang Leonora in La Favorita, like Carmen a mezzo role - maybe her Marguerite was transposed down?). The Marston site only says "Marie Roze is thought to have been Bizet's first choice. The short article about her in Grove doesn't say anything about Carmen.

One other thing: as Bizet died during the original run of Carmen, he can't have authorised any of the editions that came out afterwards. For example, recitatives (by Ernest Guiraud, who also monkeyed with The Tales of Hoffmann, replaced spoken dialogue for a long period and still do a lot of the time, and it's highly likely that sopranos wanted to sing the title-role and editions allowing this appeared.

Jon may have access to Winton Dean's book on Bizet - but if the Marie Roze story appears there, I'm surprised that Wikipedia didn't provide a reference. I think I'll slip a "citation required" tag into the Carmen article...
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 02/27/10 04:29 PM

Yes, Chris said the Marston place said "thought to be". If there was any way of tracking down that "scabrous" comment, that should prove it. Marie Roze came up in a Jeopardy game once, didn't she? I don't know anything about her.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 02/28/10 05:19 AM

I've asked around, and someone pointed me to "Georges Bizet, Carmen" by Susan McClary. Here is the proof - a letter from Marie Roze to Bizet - and it contains the word "scabrous"! Also interesting to see that Offenbach's mistress Zulma Bouffar, was approached first. More about her (in French) here.

[This message has been edited by Andrew (edited 02-28-2010).]
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 02/28/10 12:55 PM

Oho, so Galli-Marié was third choice for the role, and Marie Roze thought the character was scabrous, not the opera. Well, there's still some of that going around; what role is it Natalie Dessay won't sing because the character isn't nice? But I'm glad to see Bizet got his "six additional first-upper-voices and four second-upper-voices" for the women's chorus.

Still, the interesting point in McClary's book is that the score was sold for publication two months before the premiere. Those two months were the period of intense revision during rehearsal, including the 13 versions of the "Habanera". So does that mean the "Habanera" in the score is not the one Galli-Marié sang? It's more likely Bizet re-submitted the score to the publishers once the changes were nailed down. But that doesn't explain the reappearance of the high passages.

Andrew, thanks for finding McClary.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 02/28/10 06:30 PM

Sorry, I don't have the Dean book at hand.

The "New Grove online" article isn't as helpful as we might hope, having just a paragraph for all the pre-premiere details. It does confirm that he worked on the opera in 1873 before interrupting work for another project, and had engaged Galli-Marie by the end of the year.

On the Habanera, I'm working from memory here, but I've seen articles about the many versions of many numbers, the musical examples including a Habanera in 3/4 rather than 2/4, with a wholly different tune. That hardly seems possible to me, as the particular tango-like rhythm is surely part of the character of a habanera; so maybe my memory is mixing things up. But the objections to the characters were widely shared in early years, of course; and I can't see that the precise fitting of notes to voices would have been a factor at that point. I'd like to track this down, but realistically am not likely to do so very soon.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 03/06/10 02:28 PM

Anyone listening to Attila?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 03/06/10 02:59 PM

It just ended...completely new to me...rather reminiscent of other Verdi of the same period but I liked it.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 03/06/10 06:34 PM

I heard half of it, including the big Attila/Ezio scene. Red-blooded early Verdi.

Samuel Ramey (as Pope Leo the xxxxth) has, alas, a wobble that you could drive a coach and horses through these days.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 03/13/10 01:12 PM

How about The Nose? Anybody still with that?
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 03/13/10 02:21 PM

I listened to the whole thing. I don't know why.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 03/13/10 04:24 PM

I've seen The Nose twice on stage, both times sung in English, and enjoyed it both times, so I listened to it again this evening. I like most Shostakovich, even though, generally speaking, I'm more of a Prokofiev man. The BBC followed it up with Rachmaninov's Aleko, which I saw at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg last year and enjoyed hearing again - it's a sort of cross between Carmen and Il Tabarro.

Next week, the BBC will follow the Met broadcast of From the House of the Dead with Bluebeard's Castle - gloom all round!
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 03/13/10 09:38 PM

I, too, like Shostakovich, although I am partial to the orchestral stuff...but I had to be somewhere this afternoon and only caught the last few minutes.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 03/15/10 03:17 PM

And I was out of town all day with friends, going to the theater in Virginia. I was interested in this one too; surreal and extreme as it is, The Nose interests me, and what I've heard about the production interests me too.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 03/15/10 05:03 PM

I gave up on it. This opera is clearly something I need to see as well as hear before I could get plugged in, and this production sounded like a good one. Frankly, the music annoyed me. Peppy, discordant orchestral tunes that might as well have lyrics along the lines of "I'm being funny now." Somber, heavy chords that wag their finger at you and tell you to pay attention because something serious is coming. I need to see it.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 03/26/10 06:40 PM

Hamlet tomorrow. Or Prosciuttino, according to Anna Russell. I'm looking forward to this; all I know of Thomas is Mignon. Next-to-last simulcast of the season.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 03/27/10 12:08 PM

Just listening to the Juntwait/Siff show as I type. The big number is Ophelia's mad scene, recorded by Callas and others.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 03/28/10 12:09 PM

So, Barbara, how did you like it?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 03/29/10 01:54 AM

Well, I liked it, with reservations. I think I liked the singing more than the music. There were high spots -- the drinking song, the first interlude, etc. -- but all separated by long stretches of forgettable music. Rather like Gounod in that respect. But my primary reservation -- well, blame Shakespeare.

It's difficult to keep the play out of your head while watching the opera, and I wasn't entirely successful. I know everything in the play can't be included; there have to be drastic cuts. So it comes down to a question of choices made of what to cut and what to keep, and I can't help but think the librettist missed the boat in so many places. One example of a bad choice, and then I'll quit. The opera is more than half over when a new character walks out onto the stage for no discernible reason, and he finds Claudius worrying that he will be found out. The new character sings one line, advising Claudius to hold fast. Then he leaves. An eavesdropping Hamlet thoughtfully informs the audience that that was Polonius, Ophélie's father. And that one line is the only line Polonius sings in the entire opera. Better just to cut the character entirely.

It was a brown production. An almost bare stage, a few movable brown walls. Brown costumes for the most part. I was disappointed at not getting to hear Natalie Dessay (no, Marlis Petersen is not just as good), but Simon Keenlyside is a marvel; he alone is reason enough to go to this opera. I left the theater satisfied and glad I went, but I also understand why this Hamlet was last performed at the Met 118 years ago.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 03/30/10 09:01 AM

Yet Shakespeare had been done brilliantly as opera...notably by Verdi (and Boito)...

[This message has been edited by Kay (edited 03-30-2010).]
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 04/10/10 04:35 PM

My local radio station always follows the Saturday Met broadcast with a recording of another opera, and I don't like that. You shouldn't go straight from one opera just completed right into a different one. Today it was Rigoletto, which I love...normally. But today all it did was spoil my Mozart buzz.

What do you folks listen to after an opera broadcast?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 04/11/10 12:04 PM

I'd like to say "silence," but my wife says she needs some ease-down music after an opera. Something orchestral, not too heavy.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 04/11/10 05:34 PM

If it's Cav and Pag I suppose you can follow one opera with another...

My local station usually leads right into "Weekend Edition" which is in progress by the time the opera ends. This week, though, it was "Peoples Pharmacy."
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 04/11/10 05:36 PM

Oh, sorry...I switched to the "other" public radio station because they followed the Met with something musical I didn't, like Rita, particularly want to hear after the Mozart.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 04/12/10 12:16 AM

Solo piano. Crisp and clean.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 04/17/10 06:13 PM

It was nice hearing a new Met Traviata today. I was beginning to think they'd forgotten about it. Now if they'd just come up with a Rigoletto for Rita...
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 04/29/10 07:11 PM

Yes, Rigoletto, yes!

Last simulcast of the season this Saturday. Andrew, have you seen Armida?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 04/29/10 07:44 PM

No, never. However, I bought the much-praised Renée Fleming CD set in about 1996, and somewhere-or-other have Maria Callas singing the big rondo at the end. I have another engagement on Saturday, unfortunately.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 05/01/10 11:15 AM

Like, Andrew, I have another engagement...otherwise I might drive all the way to Lynchburg for this one.

Tomorrow I will be attending Opera Roanoke's Lucia, which is reviewed in today's paper but apparently the review is not online...

It got high praise but the reviewer noted that only about 1/3 of the 900+ seats were occupied.

As a budget measure it is being done in concert form...and, from past experience, I know that a lot of people who will faithfully LISTEN to a radio broadcast won't go to a live opera that doesn't have scenery...go figure.

The conductor, of course, is Steven White, who got a standing ovation in his debut conducting Traviata at the Met a few weeks ago: http://www.roanoke.com/242694
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 05/01/10 11:02 PM

What a strange opera...Armida. Everybody singing coloratura, but there was other stuff that I thought wasn't supposed to be in bel canto operas, like a chorus, and a long ballet, and orchestration that didn't sound scaled down to me. And the plot! It didn't conclude, it just stopped. The last scene was a rousing gathering of demons to accompany Armida on her search for vengeance on Rinaldo. Okay, but then what happened? Did she catch him and chop his head off? Did he escape? Were Rinaldo's fellow soldiers able to send Armida and her hellish companions back to where they came from? Is there a sequel?

In spite of all that, I did enjoy the opera. It was fun.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 05/02/10 11:53 AM

You'll have to read Tasso's Gerusalemme Liberata, Rita! Incidentally, Goffredo in the opera was a real person - Godfrey of Bouillon (yes, really). I saw a statue of him when I was in Brussels last year.

As for the music, lots and lots of bel canto operas have choruses - certainly most of the ones I know by Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini and early Verdi. Ballets are more unusual, certainly. Incidentally, the fast section at the end of the ballet was re-used by Rossini three years later when he replaced Alidoro's aria in La Cenerentola (which, because of shortage of time, had been written by another composer, Agolini) with one of his own.

[This message has been edited by Andrew (edited 05-02-2010).]
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 05/02/10 01:00 PM

I thought it didn't matter--if an opera was to be performed in Paris, it had to have a ballet in the second act?

I suppose some of those bel canto operas were never exported to France.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 05/02/10 03:08 PM

The history of this opera is kind of skimpy; I couldn't find anything online to indicate it had ever been performed in Paris. It premiered at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, but later Rossini was so lionized in Paris that it may have been revived by the Opéra. Was the ballet inserted then? Possibly. However, it does fit into the opera nicely and doesn't seem like an add-on. It's also about twenty minutes too long.

Armida struck me as being a kind of hybrid opera; I'm with Rita on that. But the singing should be paramount, and that's what satisfied me. Fleming's runs weren't always crisp, but that must surely be one of the most demanding roles in opera. I was amazed she was still on her feet at the end. And she ended strong. Lawrence Brownlee has lost a lot of weight and looks great, and he still sounds great. And I was much taken with Barry Banks's voice; he doubled as Gernando and Carlo.

The production itself was flat and unimaginative; the Palace of Pleasure was especially disappointing. Why does the Met keep hiring Mary Zimmerman and her collaborators?

[This message has been edited by Barbara (edited 05-02-2010).]
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 05/03/10 04:22 PM

The opera was written for the newly(ish)-rebuilt San Carlo, so a bit of spectacle would have been appropriate. The ballet was definitely written for Naples, not Paris, and it's the only ballet music that I'm aware of that Rossini included in any of his operas before he moved to Paris (Guillaume Tell certainly had a ballet, so did his French revision of Mosè - which recycled some of the Armida ballet - and I'm fairly sure there's some dancing in Il Viaggio a Reims.)

I can't find any evidence that Armida was performed in Paris, though an opera called Robert Bruce (a pasticcio, with music culled from various Rossini operas including Armida) was premiered there at the end of 1846.

Another oddity is that Rossini wasn't in favour of supernatural elements in opera - hence Cenerentola had no fairy godmother - but that isn't apparent in Armida, with demons and allegorical figures and what-have-you. Lots of composers, notably Handel, Haydn, Salieri, Lully and Gluck, had already written Armida operas, however, and the well-known story probably meant that Rossini was unable to avoid magic on this occasion.Incidentally, it was one of three operas that he wrote within ten months.

One of my books says that Armida wasn't much appreciated at the time, but that it was a big stepping-stone towards his later operas.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 05/03/10 08:35 PM

I wasn't able to see it, though I had wanted to (grading hell, all weekend kept me chained to my desk). It's definitely unusual (almost unheard-of, I would say on the basis of my admittedly partial knowledge) for an Italian opera of the primo ottecento to have a ballet.

They all, however, have chorus. (It's Baroque opera seria that almost never has an actual chorus -- the final "coro" is an ensemble of all the soloists.) One oddity in this period is that the chorus is fairly often male-only (Barber of Seville and Rigoletto come to mind.)

All these stories of the knights of Charlemagne are, as Andrew said, part of the same long episodic saga -- I first read it as Part III of the collected "Bulfinch." Armida, Alcina, Orlando, Rinaldo... the stories go on and on. Even Huon of Bordeaux (see Weber's Oberon) links up to it.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 05/04/10 06:50 PM

Opera Grove has an article entitled "Dance". Mostly, this is about French opera, but it does say, in the Nineteenth Century section, "In Italy, where they had never been institutionalized, opera dances occurred less frequently than in France, suites in the French manner being rare (Rossini's Armida, 1817; Donizetti's L'assedio di Calais, 1836)." It goes on to mention dance in Verdi's non-Paris compositions - Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), La traviata (1853), Ballo (1859).

I've actually seen L'assedio di Calais (at Wexford, where else?), but have no recollection of any ballet in that rather sombre work.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 05/04/10 08:40 PM

Quote:
It goes on to mention dance in Verdi's non-Paris compositions - Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), La traviata (1853), Ballo (1859).

I don't remember Ernani very well, but in the other 3 cases, these are "realistic" dances on a social occasion -- not a balletic divertissement for the audience alone. Traviata comes closest to the latter, as there are two extended numbers as part of a party, each with a full stop for applause. (Rigoletto's dances pass quickly as background in the opening scene, and Ballo's serve as background to the intrigue of the masked ball that is its final scene.)

Other examples of Verdi providing important dance segments in non-Parisian works might include Macbeth, which even in its earlier version (which I have seen) pre-Paris-revision has a ballet movement in the incantation scene; and, much later, Aida with its ceremonial and slave incidentals, and the big Triumphal Scene ballet midway -- which, though later expanded for Paris (the only case, I think, where a Paris revision became a standard part of the definitive Italian score), was there in substantial form from the beginning. Aida is in some ways an Italian twist on the idea of French grand opera.

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 05-05-2010).]
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 05/05/10 04:43 PM

To complete the picture, Verdi also produced ballet music for Paris performances of Il Trovatore and (would you believe?) Otello.

When I was trying to convince myself that I ought to like ballet, I saw The Lady and the Fool at Covent Garden in the 1960s. Charles ("Pineapple Poll") Mackerras had used music from some of Verdi's lesser-known operas - not necessarily music specifically intended for dancing, but the really really dire story-line was one of the things that pretty much put me off ballet for life.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 05/06/10 10:11 AM

Sorry to hear that, Andrew. You're missing so much.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 05/06/10 09:45 PM

And it was at Covent Garden many years ago that I saw La fille mal gardee which is performed to a pastiche that includes a bits and pieces of operas...

I rather liked it, but the thing I remember most was some dancing chickens.

On that same trip to London I saw the original production of "Cats" and I liked it a lot better.



[This message has been edited by Kay (edited 05-06-2010).]
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 05/08/10 07:44 AM

Right, dance music in Verdi's French (or revised-for-Paris) operas is a familiar concept; it's finding it in Italian operas that's unusual.

Otello has actually been recorded at least twice with the Paris ballet included (oddly, as none of the other Paris alterations were made). It makes for an odd interruption before the Act III finale. Even odder, the novelAria, which concerns the making of a recording of Otello in Rome, acts as if the ballet music were a standard and essential part of all recordings of the piece. And it's written by a former record executive, who ought to know better. But it's a dreadful book in so many ways, I suppose one more isn't surprising.

I don't dislike ballet, but it doesn't do much for me. NYCB used to come to Ravinia in the summer, so I saw the full-length Jewels when some of its original dancers were in it, I saw Villella in Dances at a Gathering, and so on. Another time, I saw Fonteyn and Nureyev in Swan Lake. I guess I'm glad to have been present for now-classic performances, but I probably can't really tell the difference. I was always more interested in the music. When I saw the Stuttgart Ballet do Romeo and Juliet, I was thrilled, only to be told the next day how bad all the choreography was. I had barely noticed -- for me, it was about Prokofiev's wonderful music, and the action was the familiar story synchronized with it, so what's not to like?

[This message has been edited by Jon (edited 05-08-2010).]
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 05/09/10 11:55 AM

Something in the last post has been ringing a bell, and I've finally realized what it is: it's the bad novel. I'm pretty sure it's one I read, eons ago. Is the Otello a young black tenor who many feel doesn't have the seasoning to sing the role? Something about his "Esultate!" -- it either reassures the doubters or confirms their fears, probably the former. Only two other things I remember from the book. One is the album cover. Black Otello and white Desdemona, stripped to the waist, with their arms around each other. His face and her back on one side of the cover, her face and his back on the other. That's an image that stays with you. The other thing is the record executive in the story makes a stab at healthy eating, like fish for lunch instead of steak. Odd thing to remember.

Jon, are you sure Aria is the right title? Amazon doesn't know it and Google can't find it.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 05/09/10 03:43 PM

Us librarians are good at this sort of thing. The title is indeed Aria and the author is someone with the rather peculiar name of Brown Meggs. Lots of copies are available at AbeBooks - http://www.abebooks.com/9780689108327/Aria-Meggs-Brown-068910832X/plp .

More on the author at http://www.infoplease.com/ipea/A0760974.html .

[This message has been edited by Andrew (edited 05-09-2010).]
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 05/10/10 06:21 PM

So Meggs is the guy who introduced the US to the Beatles. ABE has eight copies of Aria, five of which are priced at $1. Not that I'm recommending it even at that rock-bottom price.

Thank you, Mr. Librarian.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 05/13/10 03:34 PM

Summer reruns in the big screen opera: Summer HD Encores
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 05/13/10 03:41 PM

Woe is me: I just checked the participating theaters and NONE are in my area, as usual. Two in Northern Virginia, one in Charlotte and two in Raleigh. ForTurandot, I might just consider doing an overnight in Raleigh if I can find someone else who wants to go.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 05/14/10 06:56 PM

Oh, that's a shame, Kay. I'm in luck; my usual theater is showing them. I'm thinking of two from the first season I missed, Eugene Onegin and Roméo et Juliette, and I'll probably go see Carmen again.
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 05/15/10 01:09 PM

Had an interesting chat last night with a friend who plays viola for both our opera and our symphony...He's never seen a staged opera except in Roanoke...but he has played in a LOT of regional orchestras. He says, as others have, that we should keep an eye on Opera Roanoke's Steven White (who debuted on the podium at the Met last month)...he's headed for big time. I have mixed feelings about that. I want the best for Steven but I really would hate to see us lose him completely.

[This message has been edited by Kay (edited 05-15-2010).]
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 06/25/10 08:44 PM

I went to the Encore simulcast of Roméo et Juliette Wednesday night. I'd seen the opera performed only once, a long time ago...I was still in high school. But I fell in love with "Je veux vivre", absolutely flipped over it. Back then you could still buy 10" vinyl records of single arias, and there were a number available, as the aria was a fairly popular concert piece at that time. So I bought the one recorded by Bidú Sayao, checked the libretto out of the library, and memorized the words. (Yes, my schoolmates all looked at me funny when I tried to talk about it.) And you know, I still remember most of those words. Anyway, it was a special pleasure for me to hear the aria again as a part of a larger whole instead of isolated from its context.

The minor singers in this production were forgettable, but then so are their roles. There are only two voices that matter in this opera, and Netrebko and Alagna certainly delivered. They sounded so good, both singly and together. All the nuances Netrebko put into her singing...she certainly doesn't look upon R&J as a second-rate opera. And I don't think Alagno knows how to sleepwalk through a role.

The set was scaled-down Renaissance with one prominent, deliberate anachronism: the sky. The backdrop projections were enlargements of modern astronomical photographs -- the sun shooting out solar flares, a couple of nebulas, the surface of the moon, and what looked like a red dwarf burning off its surface gases. The sky was always visible...through an open window, through an archway in town, etc. It was all preparation for R&J's one night of love. Their bed was a platform suspended halfway down from the ceiling, against a backdrop of a starfield. They truly looked as if they were floating among the stars. A wonderful illusion. The platform was slowly lowered during the duet to rest on another platform, with steps, so they could get out of bed and get on with the opera.

Only later did I get to thinking how dangerous that must have been. Their platform bed had no guard rails to keep them from falling off. That platform must have weighed a ton, because it was completely stable; it had to be, with all the thrashing, groping, entwining, and, oh yes, singing going on. This R&J pair did not make love quietly. But the platform never tilted or even wobbled. The cables holding it were visible in the close-up shots, but they didn't look nearly thick enough to support so great a weight. As an indication of how well the device worked, I didn't think of any of this during the performance. Only the next day did I get to wondering.

Odds & ends:

1. The orchestra members were dressed as usual, men in tuxes and women in black, but the conductor (Domingo) was wearing a brown jacket, striped tie, and a beige sweater-vest.

2. They cut the epilogue, thank goodness.

3. The friend I went with discovered the Encore simulcast was repeated at 10 a.m. the following day. There's no indication at the Met site of a second showing, nor was it listed on the theater's web page schedule of shows and times. It was listed in the newspaper (Sacramento Bee), but the guy who answers the phone at the theater doesn't know whether the rest of the summer simulcasts will be repeated or not.

4. My friend and I are agreed that Roberto Alagno is one sexy tenor.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 05:33 AM

You can see quite a lot of him on Youtube... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hObQanDkXVg&feature=related

I saw Roméo et Juliette, which I mostly didn't know at all, for the first time a couple of years ago - Opera North were doing a Shakespeare season - Falstaff and A Midsummer Night's Dream as well, and later in the year there was Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

One thing that really struck me about the opera was that "Je veux vivre" stuck out like a sore thumb - there's no music remotely like it in the rest of the opera. Apparently Gounod added it at a late stage because the soprano wasn't capable of singing the more dramatic aria in Act 4.

The Opera North team actually debated leaving "Je veux vivre" out! I suspect the audience would have rioted if they had done so.
Posted by: Christopher

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 10:32 AM

Ha, and rightly so. That's how I always thought of it, as a one-aria opera.

Barbara, please stop posting reviews of simulcasts I didn't go to. I've got bruises all over my body from kicking myself.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 11:29 AM

Yeah, thanks a lot, Barbara. All I'm hearing is "See, I told you we should go!"
Posted by: Rita

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 03:39 PM

Serves you right. Serves us all right, for not going. But this sexy tenor stuff...Barbara, you've seen Alagna before. He was the José in this year's Carmen simulcast.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 07:04 PM

Chris and Austin -- wise guys.

Rita -- Yes, I've seen Alagna quite a few times, and without ever thinking he was particularly sexy. I've even seen him as Romeo before, in that 45-minute version he made with Gheorghiu. But I've never seen him in such tight-fitting trousers before. He was lookin' good, both coming and going.

But it was more than just a cute tush; it was his whole demeanor. There were places in the performance where the guy absolutely radiated sexuality. The first meeting of R&J was one such. He made it clear that he wanted her so much it was killing him, but he was restraining himself, unwilling to force himself on her. So he kept approaching her with small steps, waiting for signs of encouragement. Much of the scene was shot over J's shoulder, so the audience could see him as she did. She watched all that intensity slowly moving closer to her -- how could she say no? I've never seen Netrebko look more beautiful, but Alagna was still the sexier of the two.

She has better hair, though.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 10:30 PM

Here's the floating bed scene:

http://www.video4viet.com/watchvideo.html?id=4QAH_IpEG6o&title=Anna+Netrebko++Roberto+Alagna+%22va%2C+Je+T'ai+Pardonn%C3%A9%22+Romeo+Et+Juliette
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 06/26/10 10:39 PM

There's an excellent DVD from the Royal Opera of Alagna in RomŽo et Juliette just as he was becoming famous -- it was one of the appearances that quickly made him so, in fact. He's younger and really poetically beautiful, visually and vocally. I like the whole production and particularly Charles Mackerras's conducting (but then he does everything well; I just saw him at Glyndebourne leading Cos“ brilliantly). It doesn't have the floating bed, though.

There are several French operas from that period that seem to have one coloratura display aria for the soprano, but the rest of her role is not of that character at all. Faust is another example, and so is LakmŽ. It must make them a challenge to cast -- really you want a singer with lyrical or dramatic qualities, but the one crucial showpiece can't be ignored.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 06/27/10 05:42 AM

One of the fruits of my (and others') efforts to boost the operatic content in Wikipedia is the table of roles and (where available) the première cast in the articles on operas. The article on Roméo et Juliette
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rom%C3%A9o_et_Juliette gives Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho as the Juliette and, hey presto, you can follow the link to her article and discover that she was also the first Marguerite in Faust. In fact, Gounod wrote two other roles for her as well.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/06/10 05:48 PM

Eugene Onegin simulcast tomorrow. I tried to go when it was first shown, but I couldn't get a ticket. This was during the first season of simulcasts, when there was only one theater in the area wired to receive transmission from the Met and so every opera sold out quickly. (Now we have eight theaters.) This is another opera I've seen only once, a Met tour production, and that was many, many years ago. What I remember most is a letter scene that goes on for twenty minutes...
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 07/06/10 07:55 PM

Actually, the letter scene takes all night (in theory, at least).

Other highlights: the opening, with Mme Larina and Filipyevna remembering their husbands; Olga's aria; what Onegin says to Tatyana when he's received her letter; the dance at Mme Larina's, with M. Triquet's little song in French; the Onegin/Lensky duel scene; the polonaise; Prince Gremin's aria; what Tatyana says to Onegin when SHE receives HIS letter; the subsequent carpet-chewing.

One of the great operas, IMNSHO. And the moral? "It's never the right time".
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 07/07/10 07:22 AM

I too think highly of Onegin. But it's tricky in performance, in my experience, because it has a few grand-opera trappings (mostly the two or three big group scenes, complete with formal dance numbers with big applause-grabbing endings) but is basically an intimate chamber drama, involving some rather subtle interactions and states of mind. If the dances come off too much as divertissement interludes for the audience, rather than part of the social life of these characters, it can throw off the scale of the piece.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 07/07/10 11:54 AM

The dances move up the social scale as the opera goes on - first the peasants at the end of the harvest, then the country-dance for the gentry at Madame Larina's, then the grand ball in St Petersburg. Only the last feels a bit like a divertissement to me (especially if they repeat the schottische).

I meant to say that another tricky thing is that hardly any of the Tatyanas that I've seen or heard have been able to encompass both the romantic young girl and the older and wiser Princess - most could do one but weren't so convincing as the other.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 07/09/10 10:04 AM

Oh, I agree on the dances -- I was talking about the better or worse ways they can be staged. I saw one production (a university one, for shame) in which they all ended Oklahoma!-style, with upflung arms and big smiles to the audience. And that spelled death in terms of taking the opera seriously.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/09/10 03:16 PM

Well, the dances got no big production in the simulcast version. In fact, nothing did. The sets were bare walls; different-colored spotlights indicated changes of scene. The effect of those tall, imposing, unadorned walls was to dwarf all the people onstage, a far cry from intimate chamber drama. The only near-intimacy came with the camera's close-ups, but of course the New York audiences didn't get any of that.

At the opening, the stage floor was covered with leaf litter to tell us the action was outdoors. Then Tatyana's bed and writing desk were placed in the middle of that leafy floor for her letter scene. Renée Fleming spent as much time writing as she could, but at one point she danced around scooping up leaves and tossing them over her head in girlish glee. Leaf litter from her bedroom floor. Right. That's an example of one thing that bothered me about the opera: so many orchestral passages go on so long that the singers have nothing to do except stand there like statues or indulge in nonsensical stage business.

The three dances were color-coded. The peasants were brown and beige; the country dancers were bright pastels; and for the St. Petersburg ball, everyone wore black. For St. Petersburg, chairs were placed on the stage in an exact rectangle, and the dancers all stayed inside that rectangle. (Did Czarist Russia really have Hepplewhite chairs in its homes?) Two of the dancers were real dancers, and they did their thing for about a minute. That was the only enhancement added.

As to the two faces of Tatyana -- Fleming played the romantic young girl by hunching down a little and wearing pink ruffles; for the mature Princess, she stood up straight and wore black mesh. She sang real purty, though.
Posted by: Lorna

Re: Opera 2 - 07/10/10 11:44 AM

I know there's a legitimate place for minimalist/symbolist staging in all forms of theater, but sometimes it's hard not to suspect that it's either a failure of imagination or a small budget that's behind it. Didn't all that melody compensate at all?
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/10/10 02:11 PM

Not for me, it didn't. The only time I felt any opera-excitement came when Ramon Vargas sang Lenski's big aria. That piece is a show-stopper anyway, and Vargas gave it his all -- he was wonderful. But that's the only time the opera came alive. It's been many years since I saw that one Met tour production, and I just didn't remember the opera as being as static as it was Wednesday night.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/11/10 04:32 PM

Belatedly, it occurs to me I should have said "Sorry" to Andrew and Jon. I know you both like the opera. But I'm wondering if you would have liked the production I saw Wednesday.
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 07/11/10 06:53 PM

No need to apologise, Barbara.

I think that this was the first of the Met's simulcasts that I saw (at the York City Screen, 10 minutes walk from here, a couple of years ago). I felt that Fleming, much more in close-up than one would have registered in the opera-house, was better in the carpet-chewing at the end than the letter scene.

I had no problems with the not-all-that-but-somewhat-minimalist production. And I do agree that Vargas's aria was pretty much the highlight.

This week, I'm off to Buxton in the Peak District to see Verdi's Luisa Miller, a great favourite of mine, plus Cornelius's The Barber of Baghdad, of which I know nothing, Handel's Alcina (know some of the music, never seen it on stage), plus a double-bill of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and Arias and Barcarolles. Oh, and an illustrated talk about Pauline Viardot (composer, sister of Malibran, Berlioz's Orphée, Meyerbeer's Fidès, first singer of Schumann's Liederkreis and Brahms's Alto Rhapsody.....), who died in 1910.
Posted by: Jon

Re: Opera 2 - 07/14/10 08:09 AM

Ack! I would adore all of that. I too am very fond of Luisa Miller; I think The Barber of Baghdad is an undeservedly forgotten comic masterpiece (well, I suppose it's not a masterpiece, but the words and music are so witty and sparkling, I always have a good time hearing it... never had a chance to see it); as Handel operas go, Alcina seems to have a lot going for it; and I think Trouble in Tahiti is delightful as long as the production doesn't go overboard with "biting social commentary" (I haven't much use for Arias and Barcarolles, and doubt that it can gain anything by being staged).

AND I'm fascinated by Pauline Viardot. Clearly I need to zip back over there for this.
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/14/10 09:30 AM

I first heard of The Barber of Baghdad in a Jeopardy game here, and I still haven't heard a note of it. Andrew, a full report, please?
Posted by: Anonymous

Re: Opera 2 - 07/17/10 04:33 PM

I'm afraid that the Barber of Baghdad left me pretty cold. It's not particularly long, but the first act seemed to go on for hours. Most of the singing was done by the tenor (Nureddin) who, alas, seemed to have a load of plums in his mouth. The arrival of Bostana to tell him that his girlfriend will see him didn't do much for me, and the arrival of the comic and very garrulous barber did even less. In the second half, bizarrely, Nureddin hardly had anything to sing and was hidden in a trunk for much of the time, but the music was a bit better, the girlfriend (Margiana) was good and some of the comic business was mildly amusing. Grove Opera claims that this work influenced Meistersinger, but I found that very difficult to believe. German romantic opera? Give me Weber, Marschner, Lortzing or early Wagner over Cornelius every time.

Everything else (except the weather) was very enjoyable. Luisa Miller was very well done and Alcina, though long, held the attention, even in a rather-too-minimalist staging. Trouble in Tahiti was very enjoyable, and the serious bits were quite moving. The Sam and Dinah were also the singers in Arias and Barcarolles. The band (string quintet with double-bass, plus two percussionists) were on stage, and the singers moved around a bit, but it wasn't really staged. I liked most of the music, and it ended with a sort of nocturne.

The Viardot show, about 90 minutes, consisted largely of songs composed by her, often with words by Russian writers (she lived in a sort of ménage à trois with Turgenev and her husband). The exceptions were composed by her father (Manuel Garcia I), Gounod (she premièred the role of Sappho in his opera of that name) and Meyerbeer (she was the first Fidès in Le Prophète). The singer was a Bulgarian mezzo who had sung the role of the duchess in Luisa Miller - she was good, as was her accompanist, the songs were mostly enjoyable, and there was a judicious narration about Viardot's life and times by a scholarly conductor (Julian Smith).
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/18/10 09:40 AM

Oh, too bad about Barber; it doesn't sound like something you'd want to see more than once. Were any of the Viardot songs memorable -- any melodies that are still in your head?
Posted by: Kay

Re: Opera 2 - 07/25/10 11:50 AM

Thanks to Jon for posting this on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/2e74xe9
The Glyndebourne Don Giovanni on Medici TV
Posted by: Barbara

Re: Opera 2 - 07/29/10 06:37 PM

The Met's Summer Encore series are shown without any intermissions, and last night's Carmen was no exception. The three talkative women I went with sat there silent and motionless for three hours and ten minutes, completely absorbed in the opera. I've never before seen any of them go that long without speaking. And I liked it even better the second time around. I am soooo in love with Elina Garanca!

But I still don't care for Teddy Tahu Rhodes.
Posted by: Pete

Re: Opera 2 - 08/11/10 09:33 AM

I turned on the TV last weekend, and caught the last 45 minutes or so of Der Rosenkavalier. I don't know any of the names involved; while the Marschallin seemed quite in character, the other two sopranos seemed a little long in the tooth for their respective parts. I saw it from the comic scene with Baron Ochs on. That soprano trio is beautiful music, isn't it?