Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Readers of this site are typically up to speed on emerging vocal talents, so clearly there is no need for me to write a review of Chilean-German soprano Carolina Ullrich’s riveting recital at the Paris Opera? Oh wait—you haven’t heard of her?! Ullrich has been delighting opera audiences from Dresden to her native Santiago, but she has scarcely made it across the pond to North American stages, save for a concert at the Kennedy Center in 2010. Ullrich, who made a surprise debut at Opera Bastille last year, teamed up with stellar Brazilian pianist Marcelo Amaral—who studied with Helmut Deutsch, Jonas Kaufmann’s loyal lieder accompanist—to present a program of mostly unfamiliar works by Granados, Guridi, and Obradors, as well some Fauré (this is Paris after all). The Fauré—a set called “La Chanson D’Ève”—made for a nice warm-up but the real fun began with Granados’ “La Maja y el ruiseñor.” The rest of the recital featured Spanish pieces that are evidently special to Ullrich, as she projected genuine enthusiasm and appeared delighted to introduce the audience to a new world of repertoire. At the same time, Ullrich strikes me as a highly disciplined performer who never resorts to frivolous antics. She’s a singer who draws you in—and goodness knows that is a rare capacity. While a Spanish-themed recital would likely be well received in New York, the question is whether we will soon see this promising soprano onstage, perhaps even in a zarzuela? I was also incredibly impressed with Amaral’s sensitive accompaniment. Here is a pianist who blends the flare of Latin America with the studiousness of Schubert’s Germany. Not to mention the fact that he appeared tireless. I so look forward to hearing him again. This was my second time attending a concert as part of the Convergences series at Opera Bastille’s sterile yet acoustically pleasing Amphitheatre. These concerts feature distinguished artists and offer the perfect foil to the crowd-pleasing yet unambitious roster (Traviata! Tosca! Barber of Seville!) upstairs in the gigantic opera auditorium. I previously wrote about Christian Gerhaher’s Schubert awesomeness, and I look forward to seeing soprano Angela Denoke in November.
Gift Membership, available from the ROH Shop in time for Christmas © ROH, 2013 On Tuesday 21 October orders made online through the Royal Opera House Shop may be delayed due to a retail technology refresh. The shop in Covent Garden will continue to run a normal service. Please call the shop directly on +44 (0)20 7212 9331 if you are having any problems with your order. Recent Royal Ballet and Royal Opera productions available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray include Giselle and Don Giovanni . Also see our recommended recordings for this month , including new releases from Joyce DiDonato, Jonas Kaufmann and Franco Fagioli. Browse the online shop now .
Kevin O'Hare and Melisson Hamilton at the 2014/15 cinema launch The Royal Opera House Live Cinema Season 2014/15 opens tonight with Kenneth MacMillan ’s ballet masterpiece Manon . 'Kenneth was an enormous film fan so would have been thrilled this was happening,' said the choreographer's wife, Deborah MacMillan. 'The cinema relays mean such a lot to us and it is amazing to see how they have grown,' said Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O'Hare. 'It is a particular pleasure opening with Manon as it is the 40th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan's production, and it is a production that has really shaped The Royal Ballet.' The new Season will feature 11 Royal Opera House productions broadcast to more than 1,400 cinemas in 30 countries worldwide. Kevin O'Hare and Melissa Hamilton at the 2014/15 cinema launch Deborah MacMillan and Jan Parry at the 2014/15 cinema launch Kiandra Howarth, Rachel Kelly, Luis Gomez, Samuel Sakker at the 2014/15 cinema launch Elizabeth Watts at the 2014/15 cinema launch Following Manon, the next live relay of the Season will see Verdi’s early tragic opera I due Foscari , simulcast on 27 October. The Royal Opera production stars Plácido Domingo and is conducted by Music Director of The Royal Opera Antonio Pappano . Three other new productions to The Royal Opera will also feature this Season: Giordano’s French Revolution romance Andrea Chénier starring Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek ; Brecht and Weill’s impassioned satire Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny starring Anna Sofie von Otter ; and Rossini’s final opera and greatest masterpiece Guillaume Tell starring Gerald Finley . Royal Opera productions of L’elisir d’amore , Der fliegende Holländer and La bohème will also be relayed live this Season. As well as Manon, The Royal Ballet will present Christopher Wheeldon ’s family-favourite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , followed in the New Year by Tchaikovsky’s much-loved classic Swan Lake , and Frederick Ashton’s Company classic La Fille mal gardée starring Natalia Osipova and Steven McRae . ‘The Live Cinema Season is increasingly important as a way of sharing the artists of Covent Garden with the rest of the world,' said Chief Executive of The Royal Opera House Alex Beard. View the full list of productions for the 2014/15 Season, find a cinema near you and sign up to our mailing list.
Joyce DiDonato © Simon Pauly, 2013 Joyce DiDonato - Stella di Napoli (Warner Classics) After the usual slow summer, the recording companies have gone into overdrive and this month’s recommendations are chosen from a wide field, not least the re-issue on Warner Classics of the entire studio recordings of Maria Callas , re-mastered from the original tapes and an astonishing aural experience. Topping the charts now though is Joyce DiDonato ’s new album, Stella di Napoli. DiDonato requires no introduction, and in this recording the mezzo explores some little-known reaches of the bel canto repertoire. Few singers today understand how to build the aural architecture that allows bel canto its natural expression, let alone the technique to deliver it, but DiDonato excels throughout. Each aria is delivered as an individual act of expression, alive to the text and music and this creates a fascinatingly varied recital – no mean achievement in music that in lesser hands can sound too similar. There are rich pickings and many surprises, not least alternative takes on Lammermoor (Carafa's Le nozze di Lammermoor in place of Bellini's better-known Lucia di Lammermoor) and Sonnambula (Valentini's Il sonnambulo instead of Bellini's La sonnambula), and the final prayer from Maria Stuarda in Donizetti’s own reworking. A captivating and must-have disc. Buy Stella di Napoli from the ROH online shop Franco Fagioli - Il maestro: Porpora Arias (Naive Classique) Argentine countertenor Franco Fagioli recently had the Wigmore Hall on its feet as he earned one of the few standing ovations that the Hall has witnessed of late. The countertenor soon debuts at the Royal Opera House in Idomeneo so this new release from him of arias by baroque composer Nicola Porpora is very timely. Accompanied by the excellent Academia Montis Regalis , you can be guaranteed an hour of absolutely sensational singing. Fagioli is a true virtuoso and it seems none of these arias holds any fear for him: the voice is distinctive and dramatic, and his technique allows him to sing astonishingly complex vocal lines with ease and abandon. Buy Il maestro: Porpora Arias from the ROH online shop Jonas Kaufmann - You Mean the World to Me (Sony) Jonas Kaufmann is seemingly never far from the recording studio and has just released his latest album, You Mean the World to Me. A tribute to the great Richard Tauber and his Berlin contemporaries, Kaufmann offers a generous selection of song and operetta by Lehár, Stolz, Kálman and their like, and even includes a tantalizing glimpse of Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt - based on this performance, what a Paul he would be! With Julia Kleiter offering stylish soprano support and the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the lively baton of Jochen Rieder, it’s clear Kaufmann loves this repertory and he sings it with real affection and style. It’s a charmer of a disc and one you’ll return to often. Buy You Mean the World to Me from the ROH Shop The Royal Opera House Online Shop stocks a full range of classical recordings, as well as DVDs and merchandise.
Daniil Trifonov Shines at the TSO Joseph So Daniil Trifonov receiving audience accolades (Photo: Joseph So) Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini / Daniil Trifonov (piano) Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 ("Choral") Jessica Rivera (sop.) / Andrea Ludwig (mezzo) / David Pomeroy (ten.) / Tyler Duncan (bar.) Toronto Mendelssohn Choir / Noel Edison, director Peter Oundjian, conductor Roy Thomson Hall / Thursday September 25, 2014 Any performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony is an occasion, and the performances currently at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is no exception. And with the added attraction of star pianist Daniil Trifonov in Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, it's really icing on the cake, Never mind the combination of these two totally disparate works on the same evening seems to lack rhyme or reason. But with such a wonderful pianist as Daniil Trifonov, who am I to complain? I attended opening night on Thursday September 25. It was quite a good turnout, and the knowledgeable audience was respectful and well behaved, unlike the stargazing attendees bent on breaking Joshua Bell's concentration on opening night with their unruly applause. The Rachmaninoff Rhapsody is an extremely challenging work, but for the Warsaw Competition Silver Medalist Daniil Trifonov, it was a virtual cakewalk. He combined bravura technique, singing tone, and uncommon sensitivity in his playing, but never showing off his virtuosity at the expense of the music. The slow section leading up to the big theme was played with great expression, lots of soft pedals, perhaps rather ultra-Romantic, but with Rachmaninoff it's allowed! Over all, it was a remarkable performance and Trifonov deservedly received thunderous applause. Surprise, surprise - the Russian pianist rewarded the audience with an encore, something that never used to happen in symphonic concerts. Staying with the same composer, Trifonov played - wonderfully I might add - Rachmaninoff's transcription of a Bach Partita. TSO's Beethoven 9th ("Choral") on September 25th 2014 (Photo: Joseph So) The second half was the centerpiece of the evening, the 70 minute Symphony No. 9. Peter Oundjian explained the unusual placements of the musicians, with the basses and celli on the left and the second violins on the right. Members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir were also not arranged in sections the normal way, by voice types, but are all mixed together, and singing without the score. I am curious about the thought processes behind that. Whatever it was, it worked! The choir sang beautifully, if quite loudly, perhaps to match the orchestra. I find the torrents of sound from the orchestra and the choir impressive in terms of decibels, but the downside was it put the quartet of soloists at a disadvantage. TSO and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (Photo: Joseph So) I think I've heard Beethoven 9th at least fifty times (actually probably a lot more) over the last 48 years of concert going, and I admit that I'm partial to helden-voices in this piece. I guess I've been spoiled by the likes of Dame Gwyneth Jones, Jon Vickers, Dame Margaret Price, Matti Salminen, and more recently Jonas Kaufmann. There is a reason why big voices are essential in this piece, given the size of the orchestra and the size of the choir often used. It certainly applies to this performance. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir makes a big sound when asked, and when you pair it with the TSO under Peter Oundjian, there is no sparing of decibels here. The quartet of soloists - Jessica Rivera, Andrea Ludwig, David Pomeroy and Tyler Duncan - all have fine voices and they sang well, but none of them can be considered dramatic singers. Perhaps it was the overhang in the mezzanine, even sitting in my prime media seats in the middle of the mezzanine, I found in the climaxes, the soloists didn't have much impact. I would have preferred a darker, more bass-like sound from the baritone Tyler Duncan. The soprano Jessica Rivera sounded quite angelic but her lyric voice was under-powered most of the time, even in that one line where the soprano gets to show off her purity by rising to a high note dolcissimo at the end of the phrase. The mezzo soloist in this work has always been problematic as Beethoven simply didn't write anything showy for her. Mezzo Andrea Ludwig did the best she could with a thankless part. Tenor David Pomeroy managed his lines well in a bright if somewhat lean sound. Soloists (l. to r.) baritone Tyler Duncan, tenor David Pomeroy, mezzo Andrea Ludwig, soprano Jessica Rivera (Photo: Joseph So) Beethoven 9th, however its greatness, is a rather episodic work, and its up to the conductor to hold it together. It is a showcase for many sections in the orchestra, particularly the brass - I can't quite think of another work requiring the amount of trilling from the horns, for example! There were plenty of individually brilliant playing tonight. The only thing wanting was perhaps a stronger sense of the overarching architecture of the work from beginning to end. The finale was taken extremely fast by Oundjian, making for a sonically brilliant ending, but didn't contribute to the total cohesion of the work. If I'm sounding curmudgeonly, it is because I've been cursed with so many great memories of this work in the concert hall over nearly half a century. But I'm the first to say that every performance of Beethoven 9th is an occasion, and I'm happy to have been there to witness it.
This is a revision of the original preview post from February. Changes are in bold and discussed [in brackets]. Figaro (new Richard Eyre production) Abdrazakov, Majeski, Petersen, Leonard, Mattei / Levine (September-October) Schrott, Willis-Sørensen, de Niese, Malfi, Kwiecien / de Waart (December) Levine opens the season, as he should, with an excellent male cast and a somewhat odd but not impossible female cast for this new Figaro. As for the second bunch, I've knocked Erwin Schrott's Figaro in the past, and still have little hope for dramatic parts, but his excellence in comedy since then offers hope. Edo de Waart conducted some of the best Figaro performances that the last Met production had. [A bit of shuffling makes for two promising Americans as the Countess: Amanda Majeski, a real find for the roster, sings this month while 2010 Met Council winner Rachel Willis-Sørensen makes her debut in the second run.] La Boheme Scherbachenko, Papatanasiu, Hymel, Kelsey, Lavrov, Soar, Maxwell / Frizza (September-early October) Opolais, Papatanasiu/Phillips, Vargas, Salsi, Arduini, Rose, Del Carlo / Frizza (November/early December) Gheorghiu, Phillips, Vargas, Salsi, Arduini, Rose, Del Carlo / Frizza (December 10/13) Opolais, Yoncheva, Borras, Kwiecien, Arduini, Soar, Del Carlo / Frizza (January) Wait... Gheorghiu is back!? (I still suspect her Mimi will be too much Musetta, but...) [January's tenor, originally TBA, is now Jean-François Borras who apparently subbed for Kaufmann in Werther this spring.] Macbeth Lucic, Netrebko, Calleja, Pape / Luisi (September-October) Wait... Netrebko is singing Lady Macbeth!? Nice cast the rest of the way around. Carmen Rachvelishvili, Antonenko, Hartig, Cavalletti / Heras-Casado (September-early November) Garanca, Alagna, Pérez, Bretz / Langrée (February) Garanca, Kaufmann, Pérez, Bretz / Langrée (March) Rachvelishvili has the beefy Aleksandrs Antonenko opposite her this time, while Garanca gets the tenor star power. Hei-Kyung Hong spells both primary Micaelas (Anita Hartig and 2012 Tucker winner Ailyn Pérez) for a performance each. Magic Flute (not the kids' version) Yende, Durlovski, Spence, Werba, McKinny, Pape / Fischer (October) Persson, Lewek, Spence, Werba, McKinny, Kehrer / Fischer (October-November) 2013 emergency debutant Pretty Yende and 2009 definitive Sophie Miah Persson split this return of the Magic Flute into adult-show circulation. [Tobias Kehrer debuts as Sarastro in place of Franz-Josef Selig.]
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