The greatest love of all (corporate clichés in opera)

You know when you read a press release and just go blah blah blah but then you feel strangely compelled to disect the blah?

Last month, the Met announced its new season and today I had some time to devote to shredding the announcement before launching into the proper discussion at parterre, as signalled by Regie, or Not Regie?

Referring to the gift from the Neubauer Family Foundation, Gelb said, “The Met is so fortunate to be the recipient of such enlightened and generous philanthropy from two of our most loyal supporters, who believe in the power of transformative gifts.”

The power of transformative gifts… what does that even mean? If I were a horrible human being I’d’ve latched on to the enlightened and generous philanthropy but this is just gold so I’ll pass 😉

In response to Neubauer Family’s Foundation naming his position,

Yannick Nézet-Séguin said, “The Metropolitan Opera is the greatest opera company in the world

And the US is the most enlightened democracy in the history of said world. I guess YNS lucked out in the current situation and they must’ve upped his salary if he could please bail them out two seasons early but subtlety is a nice trait if you can get the hang of it (don’t look at me!). Then again, I bet Gelb jumped at the chance of talking about a different Met conductor these days. So the ping-pong goes on with his equally smooth return:

“The orchestra loves him, the chorus loves him, everyone in the building loves him.

Don’t they always? Just hopefully not as much as they loved… others.

For his part, YNS doesn’t shy away from a challenge:

I’m eager to continue to collaborate with the Met Orchestra, Chorus, and administration to keep the Met’s artistic standards at the highest level, and to amplify the great work the company already does to reach new audiences and ensure the future of the art form.

Weren’t they lucky to retain the services of Captain American Opera, always ready to ensure the artform is safe from evil doers?! Whew, just in the nick of time, too.

In YNS they trust:

But he also adds a new kind of energy, making opera a compelling choice for broader and younger audiences.

a compelling choice, heh heh. Just how compelling? Are youngsters going to cope with mobile phones in airplane mode in exchange for the transformative gift of 6 hours of LOTR musicals?

Wagner’s epic four-opera masterwork, Der Ring des Nibelungen, returns to the Met this season for the first time since 2013.

For the first time in 5 years! How did the Met audience cope?! And I thought 5 years was the minimum amount of time one needed to get their battery life back after sitting through an entire Ring.

Because of the significant production demands and rehearsal time required by the revival of the Lepage Ring cycle, the Met is presenting only four new productions this season.

I was re-reading Sestissimo’s blog the other day and I remember her writing

Today was our second day of rehearsal on the stage. As I mentioned yesterday, I am totally amazed that we have as much stage time as we do, because in the states, this would be unheard of.

So I take it this Ring will be given a monstrous extra week of rehearsal? I mean one day for each opera in the cycle and one for the chorus.

We believe his enthusiasm, energy, and inspired music-making will continue to be a major asset for the Met and will push the boundaries even further for what great opera can achieve.”

Towards the further reaches of the galaxy, presumably. Or was she simply talking about a humble cure for cancer? I mean what can opera achive in the 21st century that wasn’t already achieved in the 17th century? But here’s a spellbindingly new step towards that goal, just in time for the New Year’s Eve Gala:

For the first time at the Met, Anna Netrebko sings the title role of Adriana Lecouvreur, the great 18th-century actress in love with the military hero Maurizio, sung by Piotr Beczala. Gianandrea Noseda conducts Cilea’s tragedy, directed by Sir David McVicar, with the action partially set in a working replica of a Baroque theater.

You mean the 10 year old ROH production? I guess there is still a thing or two the colonies need to learn before they master peak sophistication. Post-Brexit exports count on you, Sir David McVicar. Bonus: Baroque nod from the Met! We’re not worthy, take it back.

My favourite paragraph, though, is this one:

It was also announced that the Neubauer Family Foundation, founding sponsors of the Met’s successful Live in HD transmissions to movie theaters, now in its 12th season, has made a $15 million gift to name the Music Director position in honor of Nézet-Séguin’s appointment. In recognition of this gift, the position will be called the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer Music Director, the first time in the history of the Met that the position has been named.

a gift to the name of the Music Director position: maybe it’s because of my unsophisticated origins but I find this charade very amusing. Introductions are going to be quite the double-barelled name bonanza. I don’t think it can get posher than that. Take that, ROH. The colonies have finally won. Btw, would the position be renamed if anyone has a $20 million gift to spare?

As far as revivals, yours truly only has eyes and ears for one thing:

In the spring, Lothar Koenigs conducts La Clemenza di Tito, with Matthew Polenzani adding a new Mozart role to his repertoire as the noble title character

Err, I know “The Metropolitan Opera is the greatest opera company in the world” but there’s evidence that Polenzani has already sung Tito – and on US soil at that. That being said, aww, they’re running it again. It’s also kinda funny that this is the first time JDD will be singing Sesto at the Met, considering she’s sung him all over the place already.


ROH rumours up to 2021

Fantastic ROH news:

During this extended period there will be 2 (yes, two) new Handel productions! The very brand new one by Kosky! The other one – new to ROH – you know and love by Loy (not that one, the other one). Scroll down 😉

Tl;dr: this is turning into a really excting period at ROH and not just because of Handel (but especially). I am also expecting Poppea cca Januray 2020, after the first two Monteverdi instalments. Very low on Mozart, though. You know there is more to him than the DaPonte stuff (and Mitridate).

It’s that time of the year people are eager to find out what’s coming up, so here are some updates from the ever reliable source. I put a NEW next to the information that’s transpired since my last post on the subject:

late 2018 – 2019

Katya Kabanova (Janacek)
NEW Fall 2018 | Production: Richard Jones all the Janacek! from Jones!

The Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky) Co-Production with De Nederlandse Opera | Production: Stefan Herheim
NEW January 2019 | Polina: Anna Goryachova <- will they keep the trouser role scene?

La Forza Del Destino (Verdi) February 2019 | Conductor: Antonio Pappano
Production: Christof Loy <- Leo gets a white shirt?
Don Alvaro: Jonas Kaufmann
Leonora: Anna Netrebko
Fra Melitone: Alessandro Corbelli

NEW Das Liebesverbot (Wagner) coproduction with Teatro Real-Madrid
Spring 2019 | Director: Kasper Holten

NEW Billy Budd (Britten)
Conductor: Richard Farnes | Director: David McVicar hm, why not?

NEW Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
2019 La Contessa: Julia Kleiter

Faust (Gounod)
NEW March 2019 | Marguérite: Diana Damrau I might go

NEW Otello (Verdi)
Desdemona: Ermonela Jaho

Andrea Chénier (Giordano)
NEW Spring 2019 (pushed back)

2019 – 2020

NEW Jenufa (Janacek)
Director:  Claus Guth
Kostelnicka: Karita Mattila yes to more Mattila and more Janacek. Hope Guth will be on form.

Death in Venice (Britten)
NEW November
Conductor: Mark Elder | Production: David McVicar

Agrippina (Händel)
Production: Barrie Kosky ❤ you know you want to come to London!

[edit: debuting in Munich this Summer with Coote in the title role and Fagioli and Davies as Nerone and Ottone]


Elektra (Strauss) 2020
Klytemnestra: Karita Mattila I’ll go see her!

Parsifal (Wagner) 2020
Conductor: Semyon Bychkov

Madama Butterfly (Puccini) Summer 2020
Conductor: Antonio Pappano
Goro: Carlo Bosi

NEW 2020 – 2021

Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Offenbach) Fall 2020
Production: Michieletto
Hoffmann: Juan Diego Florez

So they’re chucking out their ancient Hoffmann? Good riddance! I hope Michieletto does something with this sexist story. On the other hand, there’s a lot of Hoffmann in just a few years, chap wrote other fun stuff (like his take of Orphee).

Hänsel und Gretel (Humperdinck)   
Production: Antony McDonald I wonder if it’s replacing the cancelled Konigskinder?

4 new works inspired by Slavoj Zizek’s writings (Saariaho, Turnage, Francesconi, Widmann)  heh, interesting idea
Librettist: Sofi Oksanen

Alcina (Händel) ❤ ❤ ❤
Production: Christof Loy (from Zurich)
Bradamante: Varduhi Abrahamyan ❤

I’m expecting everyone to London for an extended Alcina party!

Věc Makropulos (Janacek) Mattila, right? She sang it at Southbank a couple of years back

From the House of the Dead (ROH, 14 March 2018)

From the House of the Dead at ROH (Photo by Clive Barda)

For me, Janáček is singular among composers in that he had the ability, unlike others who tried way too hard, to write some wickedly thoughful libretti on themes other than the same old operatic fodder – and the music isn’t bad either, especially after you get used to Sprechgesang.

I first came across him via Glyndebourne’s production of Cunning Little Vixen and although I found the singing a bit hard going, I genuinely enjoyed the fable-like libretto (I’m also fond of foxes; London is their playground, pretty much every neighbourhood has a den and they even walk along with you on the pavement in daylight). Then I heard The Makropulos Case, easier music to take (or perhaps I was a bit less green), again with a libretto that discusses a subject I find fascinating (immortality) and another very strong female character.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting this production, based on all this, a curiousity about Warlikowski and my longterm interest in psychology.

Alexandr Gorjancikov: Willard W. White
Aljeja: Pascal Charbonneau
Luka Kuzmič: Štefan Margita
Skuratov: Ladislav Elgr
Šiškov/Priest: Johan Reuter
Prison Governor: Alexander Vassiliev
Big Prisoner/Nikita: Nicky Spence
Small Prisoner/Cook: Grant Doyle
Elderly Prisoner: Graham Clark
Voice: Konu Kim
Drunk Prisoner: Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts
Šapkin: Peter Hoare
Prisoner/Kedril: John Graham-Hall
Prisoner/Don Juan/Brahmin: Aleš Jenis
Young Prisoner: Florian Hoffmann
Prostitute: Allison Cook
Čerevin: Alexander Kravets
Guard: Andrew O’Connor
Conductor: Mark Wigglesworth | Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House
Director: Krzysztof Warlikowski
Co-production with La Monnaie and Opera de Lyon

Janáček adapted Dostoevsky’s semi-autobiographical novel of life in a 19th century Siberian prison into a series of scenes rather than the kind of linear narrative libretto we know and love. Each of the characters has the centre stage for the purpose of sharing the events that lead to his index offence. The wider point of each story is to illustrate that a grain of humanity exists even within the most despicable characters – or, as the Foucault quote during the overture tells us, what society considers despicable.

(Well, it’s admirable (and desirable) to look at every person beyond their worst actions, but with some people it’s really hard to be optimistic. Still, ever since the performance I’ve been thinking from the point of view that justice is a system organised to apportion blame and dish out what is currently deemed as appropriate punishment; it’s far from perfect and it should continuously be bettered but it’s necessary – and it’s not entirely about making ourselves feel better/superior as it’s implied here; but our sentenced (and unsentenced) offenders do tell us a lot about ourselves as society).

The story begins with the arrival of a new prisoner (Alexandr Gorjancikov), who claims he is there for political reasons, thus setting himself apart from the run of the mill prison population. He functions as the narrator and the opera ends once he is, quite unexpectedly, discharged. (This is similar to what actually happened to Dostoevsky, who spent years on death row after which he was suddenly pardoned.)

Interestingly, although he is the narrator (for the sake of a minimal narrative), his role isn’t bigger than the others’ (we also never hear his backstory), which highlights one of the lines in the libretto – “we are all equal in prison”. He befriends a young prisoner (Aljeja, in for something that sounds like common theft) and tries to help him by defending him from vicious inmates and teaching him how to read and write. The other prisoners go about their usual (rather boring) routines and stand out randomly, for instance when they get into scuffles with each other.

A play is put on for the higher ups (all of which are portrayed as cruel, venal and grandiose and get some right on verbal beating from Kuzmič (aka, eternal rebel Filka Morozov, slyly portrayed by Margita), in which the prisoners perform their (very violent) version of pantomine and opera (a crudely funny take on Mozart’s Don Giovanni, a character which rightly resonates with the inmates; I like how Janáček refrained from pastiche and used only a few short phrases reminding of Mozart). Prisoners’ personal threads are woven into the plot of the play and they are later developed into characters’ testimonies.

As you can imagine, the drama could be rather static. Warlikowski and his team give us a basic set, which looks like a prison gym with plastic chairs to the right and a glass-walled office for the guards to the left of the stage. The office revolves later to accommodate the stage for the play and also for the stories, which are acted out as they are being told. Everyone is always on stage, even when they (apparently) have nothing to contribute to the drama. But that comes in handy when characters are called to sing random lines. Also, their acting out other inmates stories keeps the entire world interconnected. You can imagine the prisoners have heard these stories before and have their own versions of what and how things went down.

This is one of the most (if not the most) Personenregie detailed opera productions I’ve seen so far, to the point where sometimes what was happening on stage made it hard to focus on the music. In a good way, though. I’m normally a fan of very contained dramas and the classic up to 6 characters, but getting a theatre director really enhanced the performance in this case. There were a lot of things going on but it never felt like clutter or unnecessary fussiness. Each character was defined as soon as the curtain went up, by having a personal thread to follow even when “idle”.

As far as performances I can say dramatically the standard was very high. Vocally I was especially impressed by Reuter’s Šiškov, whose story takes up something like 20min of singing in one chunk in act III. This is Sprechgesang, so success comes down to singers’ handling of text. I think the term “gripping” has been overused but that was pretty much how I felt about Reuter’s intervention – clear and solid and emotional (the story moves from cold violence to humbling sentiment and back again, which, according to Mum, is typically Russian). I don’t know this repertoire enough to talk further and, as I was saying ealier, I often felt it difficult to focus on stage action, singing and orchestra at once, but I will tell you there are many unusual objects played aside from usual instruments, my favourite being a real saw and plank of wood. Check out what Tim Ashley has to say, he heard more than I did.

Though quite a bit went over my head I’m really glad I went. Janáček’s voice is unique and interesting and speaks as much to one’s intellect as to their emotions. If you can get to at least like him it’s well worth it. I think I’m starting to feel him a bit of a hero.

Rinaldo: a story of love, battle and colonialism (Barbican, 13 March 2018)

Almost a year after Ariodante, the London public has returned to the Barbican for Handel’s first local smash hit, 1711’s Rinaldo. Set during the First Crusade, Rinaldo manages the feat to be both unapologetically silly and decidedly un-PC. Goffredo’s army has come very close to liberating Sion from the Saracens when Argante’s top scheming ally, the witch Armida, has nonchalantly plucked Rinaldo’s beloved from under his nose.

Armida: sorry, stud, I need your fiance for a moment. poof!
Rinaldo: … what just happened? … and where is Almirena? [aka, Cara sposa]

Goffredo: you can get my daughter back after we conquer Sion.
Rinaldo: no! Almirena first, battle next.

He might be young and relatively unexperienced but things fall into place the way he wants them to. Super bonus: the baddies, Argante and Armida, willingly (narrow miss) convert to Christianity! All in a day’s work.

The English Concert
Harry Bicket conductor
Iestyn Davies Rinaldo
Jane Archibald Armida
Sasha Cooke Goffredo
Joelle Harvey Almirena
Luca Pisaroni Argante
Jakub Józef Orliński Eustazio
Owen Willetts Mago

As far as concert performances go, this was a mixed bag. The English Concert was in its usual high form, very disciplined, at best in the muscular parts of the score, with just minimal desynchs in the wind section and some – I guess inevitable – trumpet clarity trouble in the trills of Or la tromba. To the trumpets’ credit, they absolutely rocked Sibilar gli angui d’Aletto, which was the highlight of the night for me (surprise, surprise). They did such a good job as far as I’m concerned that they very narrowly upstaged Pisaroni.

Everybody before him (and some after) started a bit cautiously but he took this massive entrance aria with the right aplomb and confidence (and sang without a score through the night). It didn’t hurt that his voice was 2 sizes larger than everyone else’s. However he didn’t show this off for the sake of muscle flexing and resized back for the rest of his interventions. Even here he played with volume dynamics in the coloratura – perhaps foreshadowing Argante’s weakness? Now if you have volume and you’re called to sing an aria such as this I’m all for you firing on all cylinders 😀 and if you can play with it, that’s even better.

Pisaroni was also the most committed acting-wise, showing softeness when Argante falls for Almirena, (almost comical) caution and passion with lover/ally Armida and a very smooth U-turn at the end, when the baddies admit deafeat. This on top of the right amount of boastfulness of a “feared enemy”. It’s a silly role but a more nuanced one that you’d immediately give credit.

As Armida, Archibald was her usual self, I guess. I’m not a fan (for me she’s a soprano who has a very ringing but rather unpleasant top and little of interest elsewhere) but I will allow that, dramatically, her interactions with Pisaroni were rather fun. Vocally she was one of the most cautious ones, so Furie terribili was a bust – at least for me. Let us not forget that Handel wrote for virtuosi, who cherished the challenge to make a grand entrance, whereas I felt that she was still guaging how far her voice could go. If you have a voice large and sonorous enough to sing Strauss I’d say you could blast through a 2min Handel bravura aria (ok, ok, different style and all – but still; also as far as style went I thought she did well). But aside from a not entirely style-appropriate reach to the top of her voice later on, you wouldn’t have known what volume she has at her disposal. The coloratura was correct, if rather robotic (as Baroque Bird noted) but the moments when she cruelly played with Rinaldo by manhandling Almirena weren’t bad dramatically.

She was also unfairly hampered by the harpischord in that aria that features the keyboard at length, I wouldn’t know what to tell you about her interpreation, thank you overbearing harpsi. Imagine your concert performance is going well, with the various instruments having their moments, when an aria comes where you detect more prominent than usual harsichord involvement. At first I thought “how cool! There harpsi comes to the forefront to loudly let us know what it thinks, not just to whisper as it normally does – it’s ok if all the others (including the soprano) have to stop, turn around and pay attention.” It was ok and interesting even the second time. Then the third time came. Ok, I thought, Tom Foster is a very skilled player, why not? Oh, and this is actually an aria and the soprano is trying to convey something or another. What was that again? Nevermind, the harpsi will return for a fourth time. So all in all in that aria, the harpsi had centre stage for about 15min and the sorpano for 3. Classic(al) drum solo moment if I’ve ever seen one!

It was only upon further researching that I realised that was Vo far guerra (Archibald’s Italian diction isn’t anything to write home about…) and the harpsichord part is nowhere near as verbose, though it’s there and it’s definitely fun [edit: well, I’m proven kinda wrong. In the sense you can improv the hell out of it – according to your taste. It’s better if it’s at the end, though]. You’ll ask yourself, “come on, dehggi, you didn’t know Vo far guerra?!” Dear reader, I thought I did (kinda; that being said I totally forgot about Or la tromba until it started). One of the problems with the Barbican’s open plan hall is that if you’re seated on the Balcony and have my eyesight you can’t read the surtitles (I used the opera glasses to keep up with the plot but you can’t do it all the time or chance a headache).

Now of course I know Baroque is all about excess and if the singers can do their shtick, why not the instruments? Right, but it’s still an opera and not a keyboard concerto with bonus singing. Nevermind, judged by the ovations, this was the crowd’s favourite moment of the night, so there you go.

Iestyn Davies has been our local Rinaldo for a while now but I have to say he wasn’t in top form the other night. He came off a bit pale, both vocally and dramatically (most alive as a lover in his interactions with Harvey’s Almirena) and, hate to say it, his Rinaldo was upstaged in both stage presence and vocal shine by Orliński’s Eustazio – who has already sung his own Rinaldo in Frankfurt and I could see why.

I noticed some physical struggle with Davies’ coloratura in the massive bravura arias, which took his attention away from the drama. Especially in Or la tromba one needs to look like a very hopeful hero, ready to take on the last challenge in battle, and all I got from him was careful singing. I know it comes very late in the game but, you know, tough luck. In defense of the trumpets, aside from some tonal blur in the trills, the rest was great, beautiful sound, very good synch. I feel like I need to reiterate this because the trumpets were a pleasure and I know this is very difficult (impossible?) to do spotless with those valveless Baroque instruments.

To illustrate what I missed here dramatically, I’ll leave you with this concert performance (don’t be deterred by the low quality audio):

Harvey continues to baffle me. Though a singer of pleasant tone, vocal commitment and good technical skills, her stage presence is nonexistant. Glyndebourne is mere months away, I wager she needs to do something, because at this point, dramatically I have very low expectations from her Cleopatra. That being said, Almirena’s second aria was beautiful singing, my favourite from hers so far. The Augelletti aria not so much, though the piccolo was the bigger culprit (I didn’t like the tone, though I won’t argue if you call me nitpicky).

Like I mentioned earlier, I liked Orliński a lot. He and Pisaroni had the best stage presence and enthusiasm by far and he showed a very beautiful tone and nuanced phrasing. I’m going to see him in concert soonish, so expect to read something more in depth here once I hear more from him.

Cooke as Goffredo wasn’t bad, perhaps one needs to hear more before making a definitive call (I hadn’t heard her before). I couldn’t make my mind up if she was a low mezzo or a contralto but that wasn’t a problem. She came off as a good Goffredo, who’s supposed to be older and wiser – with unhurried gestures and a fairly authoritative vocal presence. She is one of those singers whose chest register sounds very different from her top. The chest is pretty solid though not particularly resonant whilst she can get a very strong ring out of her top. It’s quite metallic but rather intriguing, so I’d like to hear more of it. As an aside, hairwise she sported the curl of joy 😉 so there is a little extra bonus there.

All in all, a good, if not great evening. I’m way less familiar with Rinaldo than with Ariodante and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music Handel produced before his 26th birthday (it premiered the day after). The number of arias that have become Handel classics is impressive and the lesser known ones ain’t bad either.

The conversations around me were way amusing (how many times have we seen Davies? Three? No, many! Even when Farinelli transfered to the West End! He was also in something else here, though in a secondary role [dehggi: he was Ottone in Poppea a couple almost 4 years back, which is known as not having lesser roles – actually his E pur io torno qui is very nice]), though Mr. Twitter with fascist hair’s constant leaning directly in my line of view, especially during Cara sposa, wasn’t. I know not everyone suffers as much as I do if I can’t see the singers but I hate the disconnect. I have to say this was the first time I had “restricted view” at the Barbican. Moral of the story: never get second row Balcony seats, try higher.

Anyway! the next Handel opera concert performance at the Barbican is Serse this coming October, with Pomo d’Oro and a starry cast, including a certain contralto referenced in this very post 😀 I coughed up £40 for a second row Stalls seat so let’s hope all is good by then.

(as usual, sorry for the possible typos)

Should/could women sing the tenor parts in operas?

There is not one but two articles in the Guardian and Observer on this subject, no doubt given the times we live in. I personally am intrigued by the relaxing of gender divisions but I don’t know that the result should be a female Rodolfo (then again, I don’t care about Rodolfo enough to have an opinion on who should sing him).

As someone who doesn’t sing, further exploring the possibilities of the voice sounds interesting in theory, however I do trust that composers write certain parts for good reasons. Then again, if you have a singer with out of the norm vocal capabilities there shouldn’t be gender restrictions on what they sing, nor should they be restricted by lack of rep per se (like contraltos and CTs have for so long).

A couple of weeks ago I visited the Audiology department at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital and had a short convo with the doc on how we all hear differently. He highlighted the psychological side of things: maybe I’d like a contralto to sing Che gelida manina (…never actually considered it before today, need to ponder a bit) but then I like contraltos more than most fachs, yet there is a reason everybody knows about Pavarotti and not… well, exactly. Who is the contralto equivalent to Pavarotti? Is there a market for women who can sing in the tenor range? Will there be a market if more push through? Will they be seen as novelty acts? – kinda like how it felt with Fagioli as Idamante at ROH? – and for the same reasons. (Will we continue performing opera in very large halls? Is it necessary it do so? Is it efficient?)

You can’t usually find a dramatic contralto but perhaps you can’t because there is nothing much for them to sing in the regular rep, so these singers migrate to other genres. Back in the day composers favoured high voices, then what with Romanticism things moved lower and bases and tenors got meatiers roles – so who is to say that at some point there won’t be a large demand for very low voiced female singers? Especially, I would argue, after pop music has permeated our psyche in the past 100 years. There are a lot of iconic low female voices in that rep (perhaps because our attitude towards women and femininity has changed), so the public may be more open to it than some may think.

Anyway, I’m curious what everybody thinks, I’m after a couple of sleep deprived nights so though I’d like to say more on the subject, I’ll leave it at that.

Glyndebourne 2018 Gen sale kickoff

Currently waiting for the General sale to start, busy twiddling my thumbs, hoping not to end up too far back in the queue.

Here is a picture from last year:

Cavalli’s Hipermestra; the view from the Blue Circle Standing Room

Hipermestra = I fudged that writeup real well. I guess the reason is I still haven’t warmed up properly to Cavalli. It was very good – and I really liked the staging, with the small band not only given a lot of stage but becoming part of the show later on – but it was the kind of very good that didn’t make me very verbose. Aside from Nessie, about which I should talk some more.

But! On to the famous Giulio Cesare 😀

6:02 : Bad gateway!

7:02 : yours truly still 278 in the queue but we seem to have done a great job as a group 😀 we’re in business, thanks to spitfiretommy, who was a real spitfire and shot out and grabbed seats ❤

7:30 : the Cesare tickets went like hot cakes. I don’t think there’s anything left online at this point, so it’s all returns from now on. But there’s phone booking starting tomorrow morning, so luck could be had that way.

Let us not forget there are other productions this year, such as: Saul (a Kosky production), Pelleas et Melisande, Richard Jones’ Der Rosenkavalier, Vanessa (Samuel Barber) and Madama Butterfly. I myself (eventually) got a ticket to Saul (La Gauvin is in it!) and one for Pelleas (I’m not too keen on it but it’s a new production 😉 I mean I don’t hate it and I may like it even better in the house).

Golda Schultz’s bright sunshine in the dead of winter (Wigmore Hall, 5 February 2018)

Sometimes you have an idea about a singer that is so far off the mark that you (I) discreetly check your ticket to see if you’re at the right performance 😉 I exaggerate but only so much.

Golda Schultz soprano
Jonathan Ware piano

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
An Chloe K524
Das Lied der Trennung K519

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Heimliches Lieben D922
Romanze zum Drama Rosamunde D797 No. 3b
Suleika I D720
Suleika II D717

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
Three Browning Songs Op. 44

John Carter (1929-1991)

Somewhere over the Rainbow
South African Song

I know thadieu will remind me that she was also in that ‘trovatore in Munich with Harteros but to me she has so far been Vitellia in this past Summer’s Curretzology in Salzburg. That time I had to use a mental shovel and push away quite a bit of currentz-balast but in the end I liked her and upon seeing that she’d be coming to Wiggy I seized a ticket.

Well! This was a very good opportunity to be reminded that singers play roles in opera productions and whatever you think you can glean about them during the performance might be very little of or very different than how they are like in real life.

I don’t know that I’ve seen such a cute singer before (Petibon, perhaps, but that’s different kind of cute; cute with a lot of life experience; Schultz is young-cute – somebody giddy-positive that all is right with the world and happy to be doing what they’re doing). I don’t want to detract from her artistry; with me cute is a very high recommendation indeed. So much for Vitellia!

Schultz has sung the Countess, I hear, but I think Susanna or Adina are emotionally more up her alley. Or Rosina (I know she’s way past Serpetta career-wise, but she would be a hoot! Or how about the witty serva in Pergolesi’s La serva padrona? Does anyone sing that anymore? I wish someone (her) did in London!). I mean I’m all for getting ahead in life but there was such a brightness and liveliness to her in this recital, I think (and it might just be me) would be a shame to waste on more serious roles at this time. Anyway!

It was fresh and bright and happy and it flowed seamlessly from Mozart to John Carter then I teared up during Somewhere over the Rainbow – but in a good way – happy for her that she’s made it.

I wrote this immediately after and thought it was too short a writeup, but, really, this is how the performance was: short and sweet.

How to be cheerful about love and death in Venice (Wigmore Hall, 26 February 2018)

This was the first performance I attended in 3 weeks and that musical starvation added quite a bit to my enjoyment. If you look at the programme you can see it’s very attractive and interesting, though my favourite bit was, predictibly, the Poppea part. As we reached the interval I thought to myself “I could listen to the Poppea duets for hours!”

Love and death in Venice
Les Talens Lyriques
Christophe Rousset director, harpsichord
Gilone Gaubert-Jacques violin
Gabriel Grosbard violin
Emmanuel Jacques cello

Jodie Devos soprano
Judith van Wanroij soprano

This is the pared down team Rousset usually brings along to recitals and, also as usual, it did a great job. The violins stepped in and out, showing virtousity when taking centre stage, with Rousset himself and Jacques carrying most of the voice-supporting work. Rousset can, on occasion, come off a bit lacklustre in opera, but his very laid-back, rhythmically solid but non-intrusive keyboard style is always strong in recitals. His singers have room to shine and they did here, too.

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
Madrigals, Book 7
Chiome d’oro
O come sei gentile
Ahi sciocco mondo e cieco

Dario Castello (c.1600)
Sonate Concertate in Stil Moderno, Libro I
Seconda Sonata

Claudio Monteverdi
L’incoronazione di Poppea
Prologue and Sinfonia
Signor, deh, non partire
Signor oggi rinasco
Pur ti miro, pur ti godo


Luigi Rossi (c.1597-1653)
A che tanto spavento
Che può far Citherea
Vi renda Amor mercè
Lasciate, Averno

Johann Rosenmüller (c.1619-1684)
Sonata Sesta a3

Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
Lamento di Cassandra
Lamento di Didone

The singers took a bit to achieve optimal blend, what with Devos’ very bright top occasionally covering Wanroij more middle placed voice but as far as aural mix they worked very well and they looked like they were having fun singing together. Seeing two women in dresses (pink and bright red) sing the Poppea-Nerone duets also brought on a smile for yours truly.

As you know, I’m not exactly a fan of laments, and I learned Leander shares this feeling. Baroque Bird pointed out that Cassandra’s lament was rather interesting (quite chromatic, I guess? my vocabulary is a bit iffy – angular and “stabby” is what I felt) and while I agree it was memorable writing it was still a lament… Anyway, they did encore with another duet, and although Rousset mentioned its title/composer, they now completely escape me (but Leander got it, as well as Damigella and Valletto’s duet which I, uh, didn’t know was there 😉 d’oh!).

The performance was very well attended and the laidback feel permeated the hall, though London has been going through a most peculiar weather moment (dark clouds and snow/clear sky and bright sun chasing each other several times a day). Leander and Baroque Bird mentioned mezzo Emilie Renard was in attendence but sadly I spotted her at the opposite end of the hall so no hello from me though I would have liked to chat a bit. Hope to see her on stage at some point in the near future 🙂

No free advertisement for opera, please

I noticed that Prina’s Se l’inganno from the Aix production is currently unavailable on YT.

Well! I know you expose a video when you air it on yout blog – given how much time has elapsed since I posted it I guess I wasn’t the worst offender, though obviously I didn’t help – but I honestly don’t get this policing. I shared it years after the production happened, an official DVD doesn’t seem to have surfaced and most people who read this blog and have access to last year’s Ariodante tour have purchased tickets to at least one show (as shown by the conversations had on the blog).

So what is your problem, copyright enforcer? Enforcement will argue this video wasn’t the thing that broke the camel’s back, that channel did worse deeds (I shudder to think what else they might have shared!) and the video went down along with everything else.

But, really, why exactly is it a crime to share a video of an (otherwise unavailable) work and performers who might get fans out of this free advertising? I’m not going to go on a long rant on this subject because many others have done it before. It’s 2018, you get exposure but you don’t want it. You want to control said exposure confident that you know better how to get to the people who will take the bait. You clearly don’t.

Everything is better with contraltos

Yes, another contralto post this weekend. And it’s Lemieux again:

Isn’t her tone just perfect for this?!