ENO’s rolling good times 2018-2019

Good news, ENO seems to be powering on most cylinders. Some interesting things written in English:

Oct – Nov 2018 Porgy and Bess! How cool, I’ve always wanted to see it, so yay ENO.

Feb 2019 Akhnaten is back already! 😀 I’m going twice again. Whoever wants to come along, please do, it’s a lot of fun. Maybe they’ll film it this time?

Apr 2019 Jack the Ripper – I wonder if it’s ok. I’ve always been in two minds about the subject – on the one hand unsolved mystery = yes, on the other serial killers = eh

May 2019 Dido (without Aeneas?) Dido and Belinda?

There’s also a new Salome (but this Strauss has been seen around town in recent years so I don’t know), and a new Merry Widow that could be fun.

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Just when I thought Gritsy wasn’t so bad after all…

…I ran into this (for your convenience, I’ve linked the ending – you need to stay for the “flea market” chorus – everybody in for themselves!1):

What in the world was that? And how did anyone – especially the conductor – think this was a good idea?2 Works well for the final stretto 50m dash in the Operalympics or as an advert to stop kids from playing with electricity, otherwise…

ps: from another Opera Ball – this time in Dresden. Coincidence? I think not.
ps2: in her defence, she is not afraid of taking chances (and watching her moves is half the fun), unlike a certain mezzo we know and (I) love 😉 One hopes that these chances were less misguided…
ps3: even more in her defence, as a redeemer for Rossini, this trailer of Adelaide di Borgogna, where Ottone seems to be a woman. So maybe she just needs to ditch the Opera Balls and stick with trouser (wearing) roles?

  1. thanks to T for the wise words ;-) 
  2. someone please remind them all it’s not Les Contes D’Hoffmann

The Carmen-Tancredi mystery solved

Last night thadieu and I decided to revisit this precious moment in Viennese Opera Ball history 😉 and then it occurred to us to compare Gritskova’s moves to previous Opera Ball featured singers. What came out was both amusing and illuminating:

As you can see, the moves appear pre-ordained. Now of course, Netrebko was on the verge of fabulousness (already on top of the world?) at the time and she is a natural mover, as opposed to La Grits, who looks like she’s thinking, I will be famousbulous if it kills me!

You didn’t think you’d escape this “scientific experiement” without an incursion into the steely moves of the Ice Mezzo herself, did you? Here she’s singing Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix (brace yourself for some arctic seduction). But, as you can see, she also has to walk and twirl (I mean wowza at the camera movement! That’s some getting down with the debutants for Vienna!).

As thadieu observed whilst we very carefully surveyed a few of her performances (including La tremenda ultrice spada and Non piu mesta), she seems to be thinking I will sing this intense aria, but I will make 100% sure not to trip on the hem of my gown at any time (actually T was more colourful, saying she was careful to avoid stepping into – vocal – mud).

After some big names, prepare for textbook DIVA action:

Aside from the curiously unflattering musical choices, it’s plain to see that Draculette has drafted into her contract if and when she will be moving! Haha! She’s such a veteran, she knows that she will be asked to cover that huge space and wants it in her own terms.

So there you have it, we can be a little less harsh on Gritsy today. After all, her choice of aria was the most… daring?!

Evening longing with Matthias Goerne (Wigmore Hall, 24 April 2018)

Goerne is one of those people who does not sing in a repertoire I frequent, but, for whatever reason, I thought I should go see him (I do read reviews/writeups of a wider rep than I physically enjoy and in hindsight it can be hard to pinpoint what made me curious about one singer/work or another).

Once again, it was a wise choice (wise beyond my ears, that’s me). Right from the getgo I thought, wow, this is a gorgeous voice! And later I could see how skilled he is at building drama with that lucky break he got from the universe. The second part of the performance did start to get a bit same-y in mood, which happens often enough in recitals, as singers I guess find a groove that works for their psyche and/or voice and go with it, often potentially losing the casual listener who’d like a bit of variation.

The general mood that works for him seems to be rather sinister – it fit seamlessly with the cruel-ish intentions dream (I know, right? ha.ha…) I had woken up with that morning – which kept my imagination busy particularly during the Pfitzner set.

Seong-Jin Cho brought all the Korean women in the Wiggy yard – and I mean all of them! I hadn’t seen so many Koreans in one place since Uni days (my school was very popular with South Koreans). One of them came and asked me about my seat (remember that story? this was the first time it happened that week) but then softly drifted away before I could even answer, just like Cho’s pps 😉

Matthias Goerne baritone
Seong-Jin Cho piano

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Drei Gedichte von Michelangelo

Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949)
Sehnsucht Op. 10 No. 1
Wasserfahrt Op. 6 No. 6
Es glänzt so schön die sinkende Sonne Op. 4 No. 1
Ist der Himmel darum im Lenz so blau Op. 2 No. 2
An die Mark Op. 15 No. 3
Abendrot Op. 24 No. 4
Nachts Op. 26 No. 2
Stimme der Sehnsucht Op. 19 No. 1

Interval

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Wesendonck Lieder

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Traum durch die Dämmerung Op. 29 No. 1
Morgen Op. 27 No. 4
Ruhe, meine Seele Op. 27 No. 1
Freundliche Vision Op. 48 No. 1
Im Abendrot from Four Last Songs

Baroque triomphe (Wigmore Hall, 6 May 2018)

L’Amour Triomphe

Royal Academy of Music Baroque Soloists
Rachel Podger violin

This was the second time last week when I had to cut a performance short due to work. It happens (so I’m less critical with people who leave at the interval; you never know what their reasons were).

The show was lovely for three reasons: Podger is a wonderful soloist, the students were very good and the musical selections likewise. Though the violin isn’t my favourite sound (especially when it comes to the ways it was used in the second half of the 19th century, but then I usually frind that musical period difficult to crack…), Baroque-style violin has done a lot of good for my warming up to it.

In this context of further opening to new (to me) things, I more than enjoyed Podger’s playing – fluid and playful yet perfectly controlled. Her sense of style is fabulous (super flexible, light). Baroque Bird quipped that the students could’ve relaxed more, as they were doing very well and appeared enthusiastic (especially the trumpets), kept the rhythm without overpowering the others (the harpsichords). And indeed, I can think of at least one established Baroque band that could consider themselves so lucky to sound as disciplined and accurate as the RAM Baroque Soloists… The impish slide to ppp(p) in the pizzicato part was ace – but you know I’m very partial to the soft approach.

A few days ago I was reading YT comments on a certain pop song, where a conversation had started on whether the greatness of classical music vs pop lies in its being harder to play. Someone who’d done both mentioned how often times single classical piece parts are easy because the focus is on sound as a whole, rather than on solo parts. As they say, the devil is in the details – how you approach them, what you do with them.

Georg Phillipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Don Quichotte auf der Hochzeit des Comacho TWV21:32 (excerpts)

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Platée RCT 53 (excerpts)

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
Don Juan (excerpts)

Interval

Jean-Philippe Rameau
Pigmalion RCT 52 (excerpts)

Chinese warped whispers or Orfeo 55 on Sichuan TV

The other day around noon I was at home deciding which thumb to start twiddling, just on time to see Stutzmann/Orfeo 55’s concert in Chengdu, thanks to thadieu’s link. Sichuan (otherwise known for its spicy sauce and giant pandas) has a snazzy TV station that broadcasts online.

I clicked the link to see the TV presenter sat in a comfy chair near a neat little table (set Chinese style, of course), checking her messages (Western style) whilst the accompanying picture on the Orfeo 55’s FB page shows La Stutz languidly lounging in someone’s suped-up basement.

I was thinking ok, nice setting but are we going to watch this young woman check her messages? Yes, we were! For about 20min. In the meanwhile, other people got in and out of the camera, in a nice kind of way. I suppose the cameram… person was checking their messages, as well? – and the video director, too.

Eventually some adverts with a giant panda came on and I recognised the music from adverts back home (to something or another, possibly mobile providers?), though the visuals were obviously nothing like you’d see on Eastern European TV (they were way cuter, in a Poundland-cute kind of way). So far so £1 hipster (especially the message bubble sound effects).

After the adverts went on for a while I finished twidling both thumbs and decided to take a shower; hen I came back the presenter was interviewing someone in French (she was speaking in Chinese, the other woman was answering in French). After the interview they rolled what seemed like the same bubble sound effect advert for 25min, which is only fair if your consumerist communism is trying to hammer the message home to its subjects. I think I want the giant panda provider myself now. But I was confused since the show was supposed to start and the adverts were merrily popping on and on.

25min later the giant panda suddenly gave way to the Orfeo 55 performance – smack dab in the middle of an aria 😀 – opera broadcast Sichuan style! Now that we were finally in business, something became alarmingly obvious: the performance was broadcast via someone’s not so smart mobile. The high strings as well as the applause was distorted in an early ’80s well worn VHS kind of way but the vocals and the lower pitched instruments came off as well as one can hope from a Poundland mobile phone. Leave it to Chinese tech to work out the impossible.

There seemed to be more breaks than usual and the panda returned at random times, after the video director let us admire the empty stage for a suitable amount of time. The performance itself was all right, perhaps a bit less enthusiastic than I remember Orfeo 55/La Stutz from previous Wiggy moments but maybe it came down to the Poundland broadcast acoustics.

Proms 2018 (slim pickin’s for yours truly)

I parsed the programme and, as far as I’m concerned, there are two Proms I would be interested in:

Prom 71

John Eliot Gardiner conductor | Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique
JDD mezzo

Hector Berlioz
Overture ‘Le corsaire’ (8 mins)
La mort de Cléopâtre (21 mins)
The Trojans – Royal Hunt and Storm (10 mins)
The Trojans – Dido’s death scene (7 mins)

INTERVAL

Hector Berlioz
Harold in Italy (42 mins)

Prom 74

Handel’s Theodora. I know I said it was boring but Ann Hallenberg is Irene. It will be worth listening to it on the radio 🙂

A slice of Lucy Crowe (Wigmore Hall, 4 May 2018)

After a not-quite meeting of minds on the local live scene, I discovered Lucy Crowe in last year’s Madrid Rodelinda, which you may remember as an unusually tender affair from Guth with some formidable singing from the top trio Crowe-Mehta-Prina. Things followed the same exciting path a couple of months later live, with ROH’s resuscitation of their long dormant Mitridate and here we are in 2018.

What the first part of the recital solidifies for me is that Crowe’s voice is best suited to Early-ish mezzoforte to pp detail work rather than sustatined drama shaped by drastic volume gear changes. She’s at a point in her career where she can fire the jets if needs be, but the result, at least to my ears, is acidic and opaque (claustrophobic)1 – nowhere near a challenge for someone whose top volume revels in dramatic colouring like, say, Roschmann.

When she tries something like Wolf’s Philine, on the other hand, it’s a revelation to whoever has not experienced her Handel and early Mozart (like I imagine the chap behind me, who, before the show made some of the most refreshing comments I’ve overheard at Wiggy). Her voice sparkles, full of life and kinetic and she handles the text with the right amount of impishness.

Sadly I can’t comment on the second part of the show, as I had to leave early for an unshakable night shift. I do, however, want to comment on the term “female” when used to describe women in converstation as opposed to in biology books. I hate it. It sounds like how a serial killer would itemize its bludgeoned victims rather than a thoughtful man’s musings on what he makes of women’s experience – as I suppose it’s intended here.

On the other hand, a programme of women’s portraits done by men yet sung and played by women is still a good idea. But I would’ve needed to stay until the end to get a real idea of how this mirrored reinterpretation works out.

Female Portraits

Lucy Crowe soprano
Anna Tilbrook piano

Henry Purcell (c.1659-1695)
Bess of Bedlam Z370

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
An Silvia D891
Gretchen am Spinnrade D118
Marie D658
Suleika I D720

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Ach, um deine feuchten Schwingen Op. 34 No. 4

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Lieder und Gesänge aus Wilhelm Meister Op. 98a
No. 1 Kennst du das Land?
Myrthen Op. 25
Lied der Suleika

Hugo Wolf (1860-1903)
Goethe Lieder
Philine

Richard Strauss (1864-1949)
Drei Lieder der Ophelia Op. 67
Cäcilie Op. 27 No. 2

Interval

Reynaldo Hahn (1874-1947)
A Chloris

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)
Lydia Op. 4 No. 2
Sylvie Op. 6 No. 3
Nell Op. 18 No. 1

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Jane

Henri Duparc (1848-1933)
Phidylé

Émile Paladilhe (1844-1926)
Psyché

William Walton (1902-1983)
Daphne
Beatriz’s Song

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
Sweet Polly Oliver

Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981)
Georgia on my Mind

Cole Porter (1891-1964)
Miss Otis regrets


  1. Though it’s true it freed up quite a bit by the end of ther period. 

Mauro Peter (what, a tenor?!) (Wigmore Hall, 3 May 2018)

Contrary to popular belief, I sometimes pay attention to tenors. Even more unusual, sometimes I go to a show based on a single item on the menu. I’ll let you guess what that was.

Other than having noticed he’s said some silly things about Don Giovanni the character, I hadn’t heard Peter at work before. But I’m cool like that and didn’t let silliness deter me from hearing a potentially exciting Mozart tenor.

Mauro Peter tenor
Helmut Deutsch piano

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
An Silvia D891
Stimme der Liebe D412
Dass sie hier gewesen D775
Über Wildemann D884
Die Liebe hat gelogen D751
Wandrers Nachtlied D224
Im Frühling D882
Die Sterne D939
Hoffnung D637
Fischerweise D881
Auf der Brücke D853

It turned out open mindedness can pay off handsomely. As far as I’m concerned, he’s got a superb tone and a lovely placement of the voice, specifically tailored for those bright eyed, youthfully energetic yet rather dopey Mozart young tenor roles. I’m aware he’s currently hung up on Belmonte and I can definitely see why. If he sings him anywhere near me I will make sure to attend. All in all, a pleasure to listen to, kept me engaged all evening. He really has a lot of energy to spare!

There is enough heft to the voice and very good projection (no problems hearing him from the last row, overhang be damned), with superior diction in both German and French, but his pps are especially soulful and they were wonderfully supported by Deutsch. I’ve made an effort lately to pay attention to the piano accompaniment and I can say I enjoyed Deutsch light touches a great deal, along with his exciting story telling.

Sounds like Peter should stay in the German rep (don’t know enough about the French one to suggest, but I think tenors tend to be a bit lighter there? or am I discounting all French tenor roles in favour of the haute contre?), though I guess it would be interesting to hear some Italian stuff from him, just to see how it works out.

To conclude the first part, I was very happy with his bright eyed-cheerful rendition of my favourite Schubert ditty. Smiles all around.

Interval

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
S’il est un charmant gazon S284
Enfant, si j’étais roi S283
Comment, disaient-ils S276
Oh! quand je dors S282

Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272/2
Es war ein König in Thule S278
Über allen gipfeln ist Ruh S306/2
Vergiftet sind meine Lieder S289
Die stille Wasserrose S321
Ihr Glocken von Marling S328
Die drei Zigeuner

Encore:

something soft and sweet I didn’t recognise (sorry!)

Liszt’s French songs are all good and ever since discovering how much I like French song in general I was happy to hear them. He was very fine here as well and his French wasn’t bad at all (perhaps being Swiss helps).

One of those funny things particular to song recitals is having people (re)position themselves centrally only to have their noses stuck in the programme. It’s even funnier if said person is very tall and swings mysteriously into your line of vision. Luckily my seatmates on the left were defeated by part I (apparently it was very consistent-intense). As opposed to the fizzle surrounding the well established duo I’d seen two days before, this performance was a much quieter affair. However, those who did show up seemed very satisfied. I say check him out, if you trust my tenor picks.

Baroque Death Match: Senestino vs Farinelli (Wigmore Hall, 1 May 2018)

From Reinhard WIlting Photography: check it out, there’s more.

Sonia Prina contralto
Vivica Genaux mezzo
Lars Ulrik Mortensen director
Concerto Copenhagen

The ladies and assorted gents sang/played this show the night before in Copenhagen and the next day their special Baroque papier mache helicopter dropped them on the Wigmore Hall stage.

Wrong opera performance? Can you blame me? 😉

This is going to be short and sweet: a blast! Best thing: it was on the Danish radio so this will surface, as some of the arias/duets were nowhere to be found on YT and as such I couldn’t remember what was what aside from: a blast! With endless trills taken in stride by Genaux (she can trill! And she can laugh about it, too) and Attitude from Prina (who knew?! heh heh) and a lot of good humour from Mortensen as well. The orchestra does a very sweet job as well, I wouldn’t mind hearing them again, can do a delicate ending if necessary. So soon after the Barbican Rinaldo concert performance we had Venti, turbini done just the way I like it – with a bassoon-voice on the spot battle that the bassoonist adapted quite quickly and did I mention Attitude? Happy camper in the house.

The house was packed, so I thought I was toast in my backseat next to the wall on the right aisle1. But then this weird thing happened – the ladies at the sweet end of my row got up and walked out just as the show was about to start. Then an usher came over and demanded (in a nice way) to see my ticket (like I would’ve upgraded there?!) saying something to the effect that maybe they had printed doubles and would I like a different seat but if I was fine with where I was sitting that was perfectly ok. Uh, what? This wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t the second time in two weeks (!) that this happened to me. With the same seat. I have one more show in that seat and I’m curious if someone rambles at me again about it. Stay tuned.

But since the subject was broached, I mentioned to the gent next to me that, if the ladies weren’t coming back, maybe we could scoot over. He looked at me in a jolly way as if “gosh, what a very funny thing to say, ha ha!” When I saw the doors had closed and the ladies were definitely not coming back I said I was going to sit on the end if he wasn’t moving. He did oblige. I then noticed another seat on the end a few rows up and I escaped from under the overhang. Hurrah!

Then Genaux came out in her black/silver trouser role frock and Prina in unisex black bra-frock, aka, the tattoo showcase frock, and went on frocking for the rest of the evening, with giggles and hand kisses and cheek kisses and hand holding and Attitude – and quite a bit of emotion. Plus these Ba-frock things that are very funny to look at. The countertenors love them too. I think they go with the trills. Their vocal mix was interesting, with Genaux doing a bright thing that did not cover the solid colour of Prina’s lows.

This was my first time hearing Genaux live. Like I said, the trills are beautifully detailed and fast – plus her da capos always lovely – and her Baroque style is superb but I don’t think I’ll ever warm up to her 5 greens of the day tone, especially in the highs, for which she was on duty during this performance. To Prina’s natural manner (she came out bowing to Genaux’ mad display of technique in the aria she brought out to match Prina’s Venti, turbini) she played the girly sidekick, with demure gestures and hands clasped on her chest at the (very, very) warm reception they got.

It was the most Pavarotti’s in the house atmosphere I’ve seen this side of the countertenor fangirling-machine and the JDD superstardom mayhem. Case in point: the applause started even before they sang one note! Haha. Steady, steady, we’re in England. Then again, the day had been much nicer than the wrist-slashers that preceeded it. Leave it to contraltos and mezzos to bring out the sunshine.

George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Overture from Rinaldo HWV7

Nicola Porpora (1686-1768)
Vado o caro con la speranza from Elisa

George Frideric Handel
Più d’una tigre altero from Tamerlano

Geminiano Giacomelli (c.1692-1740)
Parti dal core, lasciami in pace from Scipione in Cartagine nuova

George Frideric Handel
Overture from Tamerlano HWV18

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
La costanza, il timore, l’affetto from Astarto
Mai non potrei goder from Astarto

Interval

Attilio Ariosti (1666-1729)
Overture from Vespasiano

Geminiano Giacomelli
Placide a miglior vita from Gianguir

Johann Adolf Hasse (1699-1783)
Parto con l’alma in pene from Siroe, re di Persia

Antonio Lotti (1666-1740)
Sinfonia from Ascanio
Quella destra sì mi porgi from Giove in Argo

Pietro Torri (c.1650-1737)
Vo’ che in mezzo del furore from Nicomede

George Frideric Handel
Venti turbini from Rinaldo

Francesco Gasparini (1661-1727)
Se non temi il mio furore from Eumene

Encore:

Son nata a lagrimar from Giulio Cesare
(reprise of) Ma non potrei goder? a cute as hell duet, the replay of the Danish radio performance will tell


  1. sometimes I sacrifice the quality of the seat for the quantity of shows attended…