Yep, the new season looks Baroque/Hallenberg-fabulous.
Saul 16-27 Feb 2018 Arnold Schoenberg Choir ❤
Ottone, re di Germania 24 Sept 2017 Hallenberg
Giulio Cesare 18 Oct 2017 Galou + a very tempting cast in general with Dantone conducting
Publio Cornelio Scipione 24 Jan 2018 Sabata/Mynenko/MP
Giulietta e Romeo 27 Jan 2018 Hallenberg
Armida 21 Feb 2018 Jacobs conducting + Zorzi Giustiniani
Radamisto 20 April 2018 Bardon
There’s also a Maria Stuarda in January for those who enjoy Marlis Petersen (and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir). Could be a fun few days in the middle of winter…
Cotroversial in everyday life and politics, 2016 was a good opera year for yours truly. I went to Vienna again and returned to Paris after two decades, lots of fun! London wasn’t too shabby either, with its mezzo/contralto traffic jams and my love affair with Wigmore Hall only intensified this year ❤ Last but not least, looking over the many shows that sign posted this year I had another opportunity to think about the fine people I shared some of these good times with. Thank you all and a much happier 2017!
11 Benjamin Appl | Wigmore Hall: a Schubert start to the year
20 L’Etoile | ROH: a bit of a weird romp, but a romp nonetheless (le romp francais). I hope whoever succeeds Holten at ROH sprinkles the seasons with wackiness of this sort.
14 Maria Ostroukhova | St George’s Hanover Sq: Cecca notte!
16 Ekaterina Siurina/Luis Gomes | Wigmore Hall: there is still Belcanto, lest we forgot about it
17 Berenice | St George’s Hanover Sq: hit and miss Handel
21 Boris Godunov | ROH: Terfel, the Welsh Boris(h)
23 Ann Hallenberg | Wigmore Hall: Il pianto di Maria
31 Elpidia | St George’s Hanover Sq: very good singing, so-so pasticcio
14 Lucia di Lammermoor | ROH: Damrau is no damsel in distress
27 Lucio Silla | Theater an der Wien: the Arnold Schoenberg Choir! with not that much to sing 😉
28 Il Vologeso | Cadogan Hall: proof that Jommelli rocks
30 Sandrine Piau | Wigmore Hall: super stylish Boroque with La Piau
08 Tannhauser | ROH: an opportunity to see Christian Gerhaher sing Wagner lyrically.
23 Ann Hallenberg | Wigmore Hall: 😀
26 Oedipe | ROH: almost as spectacular as Akhnaten
24 Werther | ROH: Pappano gets it
29 Sonia Prina | Wigmore Hall: the first of two shows this year; this is the feisty one.
02 Nathalie Stutzmann | Wigmore Hall: the smoothest contralto takes on Vivaldi
07 Il trovatore | ROH: Bosch brings his caravan to Verdi
17 JPYA | ROH: ROH students return
03 Bluebeard’s Castle | Proms/Royal Albert Hall: there are a few things I will always attend and this is one of them.
21 Demetrio (Hasse) | Cadogan Hall: musically not the most exciting
22 Cosi fan tutte | ROH: this one was a bit of a miss…
02 Nathalie Stutzmann/Orfeo 55 | Wigmore Hall: oh yea!
05 Anna Bonitatibus | Wigmore Hall: …and yea to Semiramide, too.
21 The Nose | ROH: between this and L’Etoile we covered Eastern and Western wackiness.
02 Juditha triumphans | Barbican: the mezzo/contralto fest of the year
05 Dorothea Roschmann | Wigmore Hall: dramatic Roschmann is here
07 Les contes d’Hoffmann | ROH: traditional tales of sexism (with mezzos)
13 Oreste (Handel) | Wilton’s Music Hall: the Atrides in Jack the Ripper’s neighbourhood
20 Luca Pisaroni | Wigmore Hall: Luca sings the Schubert
24 Stuart Jackson/Marcus Farnsworth | Wigmore Hall: more Schubert!
28 La Calisto | Wigmore Hall: Wigmore Hall goes kookoo-funny
30 La finta giardiniera | RCM Britten Hall: students being successfully silly
05 Don Giovanni | Theatre des Champs-Elysees: Don Leporello muses in the beautiful surroundings of TCE.
06 Sancta Susanna/Cavalleria rusticana | Opera Bastille: Sancta Susanna = the runner up in the badass production contest of the year
29 Sonia Prina/Roberta Invernizzi | Wigmore Hall: oh so quiet and gentle
12 May 2017: it turns out that Theater an der Wien has the exact same Ariodante team that hits the Barbican on 16 May 2017. Warehouse in Brutalism Central vs. cosy little venue across from the Naschmarkt…
22 March 2017: Rene Jacobs conducts Ulisse (with Degout, Zorzi Giustiniani and Chappuis).
Dear TadW, thanks for nothing! Way to spread the love around instead of condensing everything for my convenience. I keep singing your praises yet I get no respect >:-O whichever one of these will be my next time there I’m going to pack the venue up in my holdall and transplant it to London. For a bribe of poppyseed strudel I can send the Barbican over.
Behold the outdoors splendor:
And the halls:
The rumours aren’t true, the great Viennese beast has not gulped me 😉 I’ve just been tired and/or otherwise engaged but luckily today is an absolutely lovely Mayday, super slow and lazy at work = perfect blog updating conditions.
So whilst being distracted by life I missed the fact TadW was going to and did livestream this. Anyway, my main reason for going was to hear the Arnold Schoenberg Choir in the flesh. This is hardly the most choir-friendly opera (they had exactly 3 things to sing, though they were on stage for much longer than that) but having sorely missed them (and Rene Jacobs) in Idomeneo earlier this year I took my chances this time, because seeing them in the same place where I “found” them is extra special.
Also though Bayerische Staatsoper is my temple of music, Theater an der Wien is currently the place where I’ve had the best all around memories – each of the three times I’ve been there was memorable in its own way. This reminds me of a short chat I had with thadieu yesterday where she made me pause for a moment and put things in perspective. Namely, what a great venue Wigmore Hall is. But the heart is easily seduced by greener pastures, isn’t it? 😉 Now’s a good moment to take a deep breath and ponder on the luxury of having been able to attend performances at all of them.
Lucio Silla: Alessandro Liberatore
Giunia: Olga Pudova
Cecilio: Franco Fagioli
Cinna: Chiara Skerath
Celia: Ilse Eerens
Conductor: Laurence Equilbey | Insula Orchestra | Arnold Schoenberg Choir
It’s no mystery that I’m fond of Mozart’s opera seria of which the chunkiest ones are Mitridate, Silla, Idomeneo and Tito. Mitridate and Idomeneo have in common the parent-child relationship whereas Silla and Tito are two takes on the benevolent ruler faced with a difficult personal choice cliche. Out of the last two, Silla has the severely inferior libretto, the type where historical fact is but a background for soap opera twists and turns. Which is annoying, as real life Silla was a rather interesting character.
In our case he’s (fictionally) fixated on Cecilio’s wife Giunia, reason for which he banishes Cecilio from Rome, hoping Giunia – incidentally, the daughter of the man he has deposed (Gaius Marius, the great reformer of the Roman army) – will eventually warm up to his insistence. She’s a constant 18th century heroine, so of course she doesn’t, however she has the opportunity to verbally abuse him (with great vocal florish) at every turn. Mozart has written some of his most gleefully difficult music for her and rare is the soprano who can do it proper justice.
Our Giunia was rather good (keeping in mind that I’m sold on Gruberova in this role). She did an especially satifying job with Ah se il crudel periglio which means her coloratura and breath control are exemplary. Basically Giunia’s breath is catching because she’s scared shitless. I’ve heard established sopranos struggle to make its seemingly endless grupetti sound natural instead of backfiring machine gun set to a metronome 😉 She wasn’t quite as emotionally elaborate as the above towering example but I was pleasantly impressed with her fearless approach and technical skill. So if I find it a bit difficult to be objective, let me go further the other way and admit that I found Pudova way cute and I had a hard time looking elsewhere when she was on stage.
Her interactions – both vocal and dramatic – with Fagioli’s Cecilio were excellent and believable, expecially in their D’elisio in sen m’attendi, another one of those swoony Mozart sexy love duets. Who can resist the heart flutter-like twin coloratura? D’elisio… can sit any day next to S’io non moro a questi accenti and Ah perdona il primo affetto. We need two singers to do an entire Mozart sexy duets recital together 😀 My only complaint is that she felt a bit underprojected before intermission. Maybe she needed some time to warm up.
Cecilio was Franco Fagioli whom I was eager to see again in Mozart, now in a smaller house than the ROH. The smaller, more intimate venue certainly works in his favour, especially when it came to understanding what he was saying. His diction is not his strongest point in general but in this case it wasn’t usually a challenge. The trademark warmth of his delivery was also much better supported by TadW’s acoustics.
Though I think he needs more “body”1 for Il tenero momento for the voice to bloom in the beautifully expansive manner that Mozart seems to ask for, he provided a really lovely diminuendo in the da capo and sounded (here and elsewhere) gorgeous and seductive when sentiment was called for. Reminiscent of his usual Baroque repertoire, his take on the bravura aria was satisfying. He got a bit buried in the duets with Pudova’s Giunia but their voice mix was good – they sound the same at the top which works for a lovers’ duet.
Liberatore in the title role (who’s already sung Lucio in that rather meh Liceu production from a couple years back) would make (has made?) a good Idomeneo, given that his bravura aria, Il desìo di vendetta, e di morte, is pretty much a proto Fuor del mar. His bigger voice provided good contrast with the others, especially effective in the trio with Cecilio and Giunia. He makes a pretty good villain.
Ilse Eerens’ (Celia) voice was particularly well projected with a bright top but not excessive ping, good take on top notes (good differentiation) and consistently good acting as everybody’s go-between. She’s Lucio’s sister in love with dissenter Cinna (Cecilio’s best buddy) and on friendly terms with Giunia. Her job is mostly to help Lucio calm (the hell) down and hide her interest in enemies of the state.
Celia’s boyfriend Cinna was sung with pluck by soprano Chiara Skerath. She did a pretty good job in this somewhat thankless trouser role. I think she actually has a solid middle, which is not bad at all for a young soprano 😉 Her coloratura is reliable for early Mozart, though perhaps more vocal oomph was needed to bring across Cinna as the outlaw Annio that he is. Her stage movement was good enough but I think she needs work on facial expressions, especially when she’s not singing.
Now onto the Arnold Schoenberg Choir = not enough singing!!!! Otherwise OMG2, we got a little glimpse at what it can do – very well drilled, lovely tone across the voices, great interplay between the sopranos and the tenors, real expressivity from the get-go, personality – once you heard it, you will recognise it – and, as Anik said, they brought a “Gluck-ish” feel to the proceedings that really worked in this intimate setting by giving it a sort of introverted gravitas.
The moment they got up and started to sing in the scene where Giunia is visiting her father’s grave is still vivid in my mind. A good choir can have a similar effect on you to hearing a favourite singer. But then they also featured on my favourite Silla recording, the Harnoncourt/Gruberova/Bartoli one from 1989 which I heartily recommend to anyone interested in getting (better) acquainted with this opera. Forget about the plot and just listen.
The performance was semi-staged, which meant the singers were in (contemporary) costume and fussed around with some boards but also the Personnenregie was paid more attention to than you’d normally get in a concert performance. I’d say TadW is getting quite good at recycling its surplus stage equipment 😉 Cecilio and Cinna play around with
graffiti red and white chalk, which made me think next time they might give the young chaps a sandbox.
At some point we have Giunia visit Cecilio in prison. That was represented by them talking to each other through mesh fixed to the frame that was normally holding up the boards the boys (yes, not men) were practicing their graffiti skills on. At the end Giunia tears it down and walks through it (ok, around it) to amusing effect (at least for some of us).
Though I wasn’t quite as underwhelmed by Equilbey/Insula Orchestra as thadieu was, I can’t say that I got a very vivid picture about the working of the whole either. The overture – one of my favourites – was taken at a more languid pace than I’m used to from Harnoncourt’s recording. It felt a bit disconcerting but that’s what happens when you have very clear favourites. I liked the very disciplined and prominent though not intrusive harpsichord throughout and I noticed the strings in bulk come in very handsomely at the more anguished moments.
Musically, it wasn’t the best evening but, as they say, the sum of the evening was greater than its parts: Mozart, the choir, the venue and the very good company of thadieu and Anik made for another great Viennese memory.
In spite of the (reoccurring) fickle weather (Tuesday was in the mid teens and sunny, Wednesday around 7C and rainy) Vienna continues to exert its subtle lure on me. Mozart and lazy chummy chats will do that to you.
Chez dehggi, 2015 shall go down as the year of smashing opera trips abroad and the full Monteverdi. I’ve also visited new (to me) local venues such as the Roundhouse and Wanamaker Playhouse at the Globe. I had a boatload of Baroque and recitals from some of my top favourites but all periods were included. Also I had the chance to catch Operalia in its first stop to London. The one glaring miss this year was Glyndebourne.
L’Orfeo | Roundhouse: very moving performance and surprisingly fitting venue. It’s not for nothing I started the year on a Monteverdi high, I went on to see live his other two great works, in chronological order no less.
Farinelli and the King | Wanamaker Playhouse: a play with music, kinda like an opera but with less music, though the music got the most applause, so… 🙂
L’Ormindo (Cavalli) | Wanamaker Playhouse: not quite Monteverdi but silly as hell
VK Handel Recital | Karlsruhe Handel Fest: when the Baroquemobile shifts into turbo gear
Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny | ROH: film noir meets mezzos
Semele | London Handel Festival: if I persist in listening, Sem’le I shall adore
Catone in Utica | London Handel Festival: new gen gets whimsical with pasticcio
St Matthew Passion | Barbican: the Passion of Mr Oboe and the Coughing Squad
Ben Johnson | Wigmore Hall: Mr Oronte sings zany stuff
JDD Masterclass | Milton Court/Barbican: shut up and learn to trill!
Adriano in Siria (JC Bach) | Britten Hall, RCM: a traditional production!
Il turco in Italia | ROH: introducing Aleksandra Kurzak’s chutzpah
Roschmann/Uchida | Wigmore Hall: when very serious and not so serious meet
VK’s Cleopatre | Stadscasino Basel: in which la forza del cleavage defeats dehggi
La forza del destino | Bayersiche Staatsoper: la forza del bad libretto vs. the Temple of Music
Krol Roger | ROH: mesmerising stuff
Sara Mingardo | Wigmore Hall: wrist slashing music done with elegance and… calm
Jessica Pratt | Wigmore Hall: major fun but should come with silencer
La voix humaine/Bluebeard’s Castle | Wiesbaden: women battling demons on a hot, sunny day
Queen of Spades | ENO: the least suspected mezzo tour de force (thanks (I think?!), David Alden)
Don Giovanni | ROH: all hail La Roschmann’s Donna Elvira!
Guillaume Tell | ROH: Gerry Finley acting mighty morose
JPYA Summer Performance | ROH: mixed bag with young singers
Operalia | ROH: high quality contestants
Roberta Invernizzi | Wigmore Hall: finally fearless Invernizzi
Daphne | Grimeborn: unplugged Strauss
La voix humaine/La dame de Monte Carlo | Wigmore Hall: la voix de la merveilleuse dame Antonacci
Adriano in Siria (Pergolesi) | Cadogan Hall: Farnaspe in love
Orphee et Eurydice | ROH: the Monteverdi Choir tames the furies
Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria | Barbican: il triunfale ritorno d’AAC to Barbican
Ariadne auf Naxos | ROH: Mattila does it again
Leo Nucci | Cadogan Hall: old skool Italian
Xerse (Cavalli) | Theater an der Wien: Emmanuelle Haim and Le Concert d’Astrée at work
L’incoronazione di Poppea | Theater an der Wien: Metastasio, tornado of concepts and chatting about opera
Franco Fagioli recital | Wigmore Hall: sweetly done and Dopo notte!
Orontea (Cesti) | Wigmore Hall: shambolic early Baroque
Hard to wish for more excitement after this romp but, as usual, you never know. What I do wish is to hang out again with the fine folks I had such good opera times this year. Half the fun was you 🙂
Do you know that feeling when you have a lot to say about something but the ideas, interesting as they may be, never quite gel together? The more you try to patch them together, the muddier it gets? This production is a lot like that: too clever and too facile at the same time. There are flashes of brilliance and then simple gags literally explained to you.
Poppea: Alex Penda
Nerone: Valer Sabadus
Ottone: Christophe Dumaux
Ottavia: Jennifer Larmore
Seneca: Franz-Josef Selig
Drusilla: Sabina Puertolas
Nutrice: Marcel Beekman
Arnalta: Jose Manuel Zapata
Fortuna: Victorija Bakan
Virtu | Pallade: Natalia Kawalek
Amore | 1. Famigliare: Jake Arditti
Damigella: Gaia Petrone
Valletto: Emilie Renard
Lucano | 1. Soldat | Konsul | 2. Famigliare: Rupert Charlesworth
Liberto | 2. Soldat | Konsul: Manuel Gunther
Mercurio | Tribun | 3. Famigliare: Christoph Seidl
Littore | Tribun: Tobias Greenhalgh
Conductor: Jean-Christophe Spinosi | Ensemble Matheus
Director: Claus Guth
I went in thinking that conceptually this could be either great or shit. It was neither. It had excellent singing/playing, dramatic commitment across the board and a mish-mash of ideas that added up to brain overload. It’s something of such glutonous glory that it couldn’t be described in any less words, though possibly more would’ve done it rounder justice.
Nerone. It’s safe to say that Valer Sabadus has one of the most beautiful top registers in use today. I was sitting there marvelling at how gorgeous every note sounded – all of a sudden more pleasant that I had ever heard them – how well the trills were controlled and how clearly they were produced. Remarkable qualities and lucky us who have heard it all unfold under our eyes. the full monty
My first operatic outing in Vienna was a last minute decision but it turned out to be highly enjoyable.
Cavalli’s Xerse is easy to follow by those familiar with Handel’s. There are a couple of more characters but the jist is the same: Xerse loves Romilda, who loves and is loved by Arsamene, who is in turn coveted by Adelanta. Amastre is once more Xerse’s forgotten lover disguised as a foreign warrior slash busybody. Ariodate is Romilda and Adelanta’s father and the commander of Xerse’s army. The others are hanger-ons, more or less there for comic relief.
Xerse: Ugo Guagliardo
Arsamene: Tim Mead
Ariodate: Carlo Vincenzo Allemano
Romilda: Emöke Baráth
Adelanta: Camille Poul
Eumene: Emiliano Gonzalez Toro
Amastre: Emmanuelle de Negri
Aristone: Frédéric Caton
Elviro: Pascal Bertin
Interestingly, here the title character is a bass and that works very nicely, though this version of Ombra mai fu feels a bit disconcerting and is much less flashy. Guagliardo has a pleasantly shaped voice with an imposing ring to it without being overly voluminous – consistent in mass, let’s say. Xerse is – or came off – as less of an annoying prat than in Handel’s version. Instead of a bratty rant he gets a heartbreaking aria towards when he realises he can’t have Romilda and his making up with Amastre is more credible. Then again, 17th century composers and librettists had a more natural way of mixing comedy and more serious situations.
Ariodate has the honour to sing the one proper bravura aria, unsurprisingly, his entrance aria – with percussion and cornetti. Allemano, also a bass and sporting Xerxes-era locks, sang it with gusto. His sound was more voluminous, the kind that wouldn’t be out of place in belcanto.
I liked Toro’s tone a lot, a lovely, expressive tenor, with lots to offer for the ear, though I think the coloratura in his second (?) aria gave him some trouble.
Of the ladies I enjoyed de Negri’s Amastre best, not least because I thought her acting chops were ace and came through vocally as well. Amastre is quite a bit of a Bradamante and here even more so, having Aristone as sidekick/advisor. She is angry and hurt for most of the opera and thus has lyrical stuff to sing which tends to call for some delicate employment of pianissimi, sensitively done by de Negri. She also managed the “in disguise” acting very well.
I liked Tim Mead in the past and I liked him again. In this version of “the events”, Arsamene is less of a dormat, more of a credible rival for his brother. Still he’s the metrosexual to his brother “in charge” type. Mead has a very secure technique and a rather manly texture to his countertenor voice.
As I was saying to my box-mate, a very lovely and lively local lady, I’ve started to really enjoy these concert performances. Lately, at least, they involve a lot of interaction between singers that has quite honestly made me forget the scarcity or downright lack of props. Tonight we had a rectangular box that looked like a speaker as stand in for the plane tree, behind which characters would hide and a few smaller square boxes which could’ve been shrubs as well as benches. There was a knife as well and bracelets with which Xerse hoped to win Romilda over.
This trend is very good news for me, as it means opera can start to prove that relying on singers’ acting skills instead of lavish and overly expensive sets is viable.
I hovered on my decision to attend this show until yesterday, when it turned out that among the cheapest seats left was one in a box. I’d never sat in a box before but I enjoyed it tremendously. It was just me and the above mentioned lady and we got on like a house on fire. We were right behind the orchestra and thus had a great view of the musicians – scores included – and the singers could be heard very well and seen perfectly. If there was any muffle it was welcome, as a couple of singers had more penetrating voices. It was also a pleasure to see Emanuelle Haim at work, energetic and smiley. She got some beautiful, emotive performances from her singers.
About half way through it occurred to me that I was enjoying this more – musically speaking – than L’Ormindo. Maybe the sheer amount of 17th century baroque I’ve heard this year has something to do with it. Still, it did go on a bit too long and it’s not quite as fresh as Monteverdi.
Outside, the area is a bit blah, sort of in between this and that, especially with the (rather small) Naschmarkt closed on Sundays (weird if you come from Consumerism Central). Inside, Theater an der Wien seemed tiny to me but that much more accommodating for this repertoire. And since the Theatre cafe does a tasty goulash, it’s now on my list of opera venues to return to.
Remember this post?
Well… statistics say1 that you’re most likely to book another opera trip right after you returned from one. My arm was very painfully twisted (ow, ow) by Leander. So I booked a ticket to see what Penda + Sabadus and Co. (with Emilie Renard) will do in Wien in October under the strange parenting of Guth and Spinosi.
What goes with Monteverdi? (Mozartkugeln! Schnitzel! Waltz! But Wien without Der Rosenkavalier…?)
Theater and der Wien is at it again – sounds like this could be an event all right: conducted by Spinosi (so chipper?), directed by Guth (so maybe not chipper but possibly weird) and sung by these folks:
Nerone: Valer Sabadus (eh heh, Nerone wishes he looked like that)
Poppea: Alex Penda (I kid you not! Poor Sabadus, how will he cope in those duets, especially the last one 😀 )
Ottone: Christophe Dumaux
Ottavia: Jennifer Larmore (I didn’t know she was back in the saddle! Hope all is good)
Drusilla: Sabina Puertolas
Lucano (and others): Rupert Charlesworth (the smooth-voiced Jupiter/Apollo in the recent London Semele)
Valletto: Emilie Renard (the (very) cute/joyful Arbace in the London Catone in Utica)
and many others I don’t know. Leander wants to go see it and I have to say I am quite tempted myself since it could end up being all sorts of things.
Theater an der Wien’s Young Artists’ Program has put on I think 5 productions in the past year and we got a live streaming of the last show of the last production, namely Clemenza. Unsurprisingly for Theater an der Wien, it is a very conceptual reading. It felt a bit clunky in the beginning but eventually it was brought together by its coherence.