Sunday, May 24, 2015
The results are in for the 2015 Pubie Awards, cher public, and may La Cieca just say that you could knocked her over with featheras some of the results! Best New Production: Cavalleria rusticana/Pagliacci, with 354 votes. (Write-in votes included La Donna del Lago, Bluebeard only, None, The Merry Widow, Pagliacci (not Cav), Le nozze di Figaro and “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Don’t argue with me.”) Worst New Production: The Merry Widow, with 384 votes. (Write-ins: Cavelleria Rusticana (numerous times), The Death of Klinghoffer, Iolanta/Bluebeard’s Castle and “The new rush ticket system.) Best Revival: Macbeth, with 285 votes. (Write-ins: Many votes each for The Rake’s Progress and Un ballo in maschera.) Worst Revival: Aida, with 274 votes. (Write-ins included: Ballo in Maschera, La traviata, Manon, Don Giovanni, Les Contes D’Hoffman, Traviata and “All of the Above.) Best Performance in a Diva Role: An easy triumph for Anna Netrebko in Macbeth, with 329 votes. (Many write-ins nominated Sondra Radvanovksy for Un ballo in maschera.) Worst Performance in a Diva Role: A surprise reversal awards the prize to Liudmyla Monastyrska (Aida) with 289 votes, edging out Renée Fleming (The Merry Widow) with 272. Several grumblers wrote in Anna Netrebko in Macbeth. Best Performance in a Divo Role: Peter Mattei (Don Giovanni) with 204 votes. Write-ins include Paul Appleby (Rake’s Progress), Vittorio Grigolo (Manon) and Michael Fabiano (Boheme.) Worst Performance in a Divo Role: Marcello Giordani (Aida) with 337 votes. Vittorio Grigolo, Erwin Schrott and Marcelo Alvarez were the few write-ins. Best Performance in a Non-Diva Role: Curiously, James Morris (Don Carlo) topped the filed with 195 votes. Stephanie Blythe (Rake’s Progress) gathered most of the write-in votes. Maestro of the Year: Yannick Nézet-Séguin, no doubt about it, with 376 votes, almost 60% of the total. A write-in reads “Giananadrea Noseda (we missed you… please save us from mediocrity!!)” Most Significant Cancellation: Jonas Kaufmann (Carmen) was severely missed, with 417 votes. The write-ins, however, insist on “Death of Klinghoffer HD broadcast.” Einspringer of the Year: Sonya Yoncheva, with 698 votes. (The only write-in was for Ricardo Tamura…) Debut of the Year: Ailyn Pérez, with 224 votes. A write-in trio includes Marjorie Owens, Johannes Martin Kränzle and “Who?” Comeback of the Year: Elina Garanca, with 247 votes. Touchingly, Ricardo Tamura was the only write-in. Best Non-Met Staged Production: Lucrezia Borgia at Loft Opera, with 156 votes. A wide range of write-ins included Juilliard Turco in Italia, L’enfant et les Sortileges (Bare Opera), Don Pasquale (Wiener Staatsoper), Semele Canadian Opera company at BAM, The Passenger (Lyric Opera of Chicago), Cavalleria/Pagliacci Salzburg and The Rape of Lucretia. Best Concert Performance: Roberto Devereux (OONY), with 135 votes. Write-ins range from Dido and Aeneas (Les Violons du Roi) to Otello (Buxton Festival.)
On this day in 1347, Cola di Rienzo, a Roman commoner, declared himself Emperor of Rome in response to years of baronial power-struggles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hhN9son1eg Born on this day in 1893 bass-baritone Hans Hermann Nissen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ9B1Wi0lYY Born on this day in 1909 bass-baritone Erich Kunz http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5xLymsSbEg Born on this day in 1925 baritone Chester Ludgin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_VSqXO86MY Happy 77th birthday soprano Lone Koppel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65uKAQTkYas Happy 76th birthday director Nikolaus Lehnhoff http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aQ5fm-SOsI Happy 65th birthday soprano Julie Kaufmann http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shbKU1WGWdU
“Töt erst sein Weib!” shrieks Anja Kampe as Leonore during the very first moments of Andreas Homoki’s ingenious production of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio, at Opernhaus Zürich. With her husband Florestan inches away from politically-mandated murder, Leonore at last uncovers her manly guise and sets out to save her beloved. A gunshot sounds followed by a trumpet solo announcing the arrival of the Minister of Justice, Don Fernando. We hear the emancipatory undulations of the ”Leonore Overture No. 3,} the light of day finally visible. This unexpected beginning—in lieu of the opera’s own famous overture—sets in motion a suspenseful, mostly satisfying journey (performed without intermission) that tries hard to address the opera’s imperfections while focusing the audience on Beethoven’s unmatched ability to sanctify through music the power of love and freedom. Leonore’s heroism is undeniable, and Homoki allows the opera to unfold with greater clarity and focus than usual. Though by leaving all visual and many plot-related details to the audience’s imagination, this is by no means an effortless night at the opera. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fw1Zq8zoIc This is Homoki’s second production since taking the top job in Zürich, alongside music director Fabio Luisi (whose other gig as Principal Conductor at the Met may in part explain why there are so many prominent rising American singers making significant role debuts here, such as Brandon Jovanovich (Florestan) and Nadine Sierra (see below for a review of her glimmering debut as Lucia). I suppose this was mildly lighter fare—it is spring, after all—than my last trip to Zürich for Tristan und Isolde and Norma! In Homoki’s grey shoebox, sets and props are abolished (no banana eating, as in Jürgen Flimm’s memorable Met production starring Karita Mattila—my introduction to this great opera). The spoken recitatives—mundane and difficult to stage—are eliminated entirely, save for a brief montage of pre-recorded voices and a number of stage directions projected onscreen, with male chorus members assembling around the upstage wall as if awaiting news on their fate posted on the prison bulletin board (stage design by Henrik Ahr and smart costumes by Barbara Drosihn). And yes, the closed-in set acts as a voice amplifier, lessening pressure on the singers to push. Contrary to the rest of Beethoven’s illustrious output, Fidelio is revered despite its edginess and clunky musical structure, essentially demanding the integration of three musical languages. The first act is light and Mozartian, the second is gripping drama, and the finale is a transcendent oratorio. Here the dramatic and musical elements are compounded as the production is performed without intermission, clocking in—thanks to the axed dialogue—at only two hours in total. I agree with many other reviewers that the dialogue was hardly a significant loss; the downside is that, contrary to Beethoven’s final version, there are few moments for the audience to breathe as one intense musical moment leads into the next. The spoken scenes, as written, also allow the audience to connect on a more human level with the characters in the opera—their interests and insecurities—rather than merely witnessing their more profound expressive episodes. Yet this two-hour ride is packed with some serious singing, and despite Beethoven’s lack of familiarity with the contours, strengths, and limitations of the human voice, his score draws upon a vast palette of ideas, from the delicate quartet, “Mir ist so wunderbar,” to the explosive love duet—“O namenlose Freude!”—sung following Florestan’s release and reunion with his remarkably cunning and devoted wife. Kampe has sung the tiring role of Leonore around the world, including Munich (with Jonas Kaufmann in Calixto Bieito’s intriguing production , Milan, and here in Zürich where she premiered this production in 2013. Kampe sails through the role, demonstrating believability and ease across its extreme range with respect to tone and dynamics. “Abscheulicher” lacked the bite of Mattila and the vocal glamour of Nina Stemme. By contrast, her exclamations during the opera’s finale were superb, with barely a hint of fatigue after having just repeated the climactic scene in Florestan’s cell. Florestan is a brief role, but as we have seen with Kaufmann, a tenor can convey all of the character’s history of pain, isolation, torture, and hope, simply through the solo scene that begins the second act. Jovanovich—football scholarship kid turned singer and winner of the 2007 Richard Tucker Award—is blessed with a clarion voice but he made rather bland musical choices here. His aria seemed rushed and moved from mezzo-forte to forte without any of the burnished pianissimo that would most effectively convey the state of his abandoned soul. (And Zürich, with its small size, is not an opera house in which one must fear inaudibility). Christof Fischesser, announced as suffering from allergies, was an amiable Rocco, the prison intendant who has adopted ‘Fidelio’ as an almost son-in-law and trusts ‘him’ enough to bring him down to the cell where Florestan languishes. Fischesser paired with Kampe for some truly beautiful legato singing in the first act. Martin Gantner’s Pizzaro was rather cartoonish as the state official demanding Florestan’s execution, and he bellowed rather than basked in the ferocity of his aria, “Ha! Welch ein Augenblick!” His portrayal was sufficiently grotesque such that the prisoners’ ethereal chorus—in which they appear blinded by sudden exposure to daylight—is laden with a palpable sense of bewilderment at the extent of mankind’s capacity for evil. Deanna Breiwick’s playful Marzelline was surprisingly unaffected during the finale despite the revelation that “Fidelio” is in fact a devoted wife rather than a bachelor. With little in the way of visual clues, we rely heavily on the orchestra and chorus to capture the emotional undercurrents of the piece. Markus Poschner led a tight rendition that emphasized Fidelio’s symphonic dimensions. Coordination between soloists, orchestra, and chorus was seamless during the finale and, appropriately, it felt as if the frenzied jubilation would blow the roof off the opera house. I am happy to report on Nadine Sierra’s smashingly successful role debut as Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, culminating in a dramatic suicidal leap from the top of a leaning glass skyscraper. Sierra at only 27 possesses the sort of coloratura soprano that prompts “sparkling champagne” metaphors, not to mention a delightful stage presence. These qualities make her an ideal fit for Rossini’s cheerier ladies, but her willingness to take on the demented Lucia—replacing rising star Sonya Yoncheva, originally scheduled for this run—deserves our appreciation. Unlike stage animals such as Natalie Dessay, Sierra—American with Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Italian ancestry—does not provide, during the earlier scenes, even a hint of the craziness we will encounter with the famous Mad Scene. This Lucia is poised yet playful, blissfully removed from the bitter rivalries between her family and that of lover, Edgardo (Ismael Jordi). My only observation was that Sierra’s every gesture and inflection—both physical and vocal—came across as meticulously planned and measured, and perfectly executed. The tone is lovely, although there is room for improvement in projection, and the high notes are sterling; runs, however, were noticeably effortful (but who am I to be picky?). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ8Cpq842ec I forgot how much I enjoyed Lucia—so many great tunes!—and this performance turned out to be a highly memorable event, thanks to the presence in the pit of Maestro Nello (“Papa”) Santi, who at 84 is beloved by the Zürich crowd (he was musical director here from 1958 to 1969—feels like yesterday, right?). His physical frailty did not interfere with his conducting, which demonstrated sensitivity to his singers and a wonderful sense of phrasing. There were, however, a few coordination problems with the chorus during the second act party-before-the-storm. Still, Santi received a rare (this ain’t New York), and deserved, standing ovation at the end. Lucia demands an ensemble of singers with considerable virtuosity and stamina, and Zürich mostly succeeded in this respect. Jordi, a Spanish tenor, sang Edgardo immediately after appearing at the same house alongside Anna Netrebko in a run of performances of Anna Bolena. Edgardo has been a pillar of his young career and, despite an excessively bright timbre, he brought significant energy to the role from his ardent head-over-heels entrance to his humiliation after crashing Lucia’s arranged marriage to Lord Arturo (a suave Benjamin Bernheim) to, finally, his aching death scene, during which he sang passionately and showed no signs of strain (rare!). As Lord Enrico—Lucia’s brother, determined to restore his family’s honour and punish his sister for her forbidden romantic exploits—Polish baritone Artur Rucinski sang with rich, unforced tone and marvellous Hvorostovky-like breath control. He and Jordi incited each other to thrilling effect during their act three pre-duel sing-off. Wenwei Zhang was stentorian and often profondo as the priest Raimondo, Damiano Michieletto’s production uses the Zürich chorus to excellent effect. Observing the dynamics within Lucia’s fragile world, the singers looked stunning in Carla Teti’s costumes. There is no glass harmonica to accompany Lucia during her mad scene, but there is plenty of glass in the aforementioned set (by Paolo Fantin) and by the end of that monstrously difficult scene, Sierra lets out her last high E-flat, takes a few steps along a glass walkway at the very top of the structure, and leaps to her death. I somehow doubt Zürich favourite Edita Gruberova would be cast in this production!
While everyone is still buzzing about this year’s Salzburg Easter Festival, I was visited by the Ghost of Easter Past. The spirit took me back to 2010 (Götterdämmerung was the opera that year) to a glorious Verdi Requiem with the Berliner Philharmoniker led by Mariss Jansons and two of my favorite contemporary singers: Krassimira Stoyanova and Jonas Kaufmann. I scheduled this performance several weeks ago, but it now takes on a special significance in light of the ongoing tragedy in Nepal. I hope you will consider joining me in making a contribution to a humanitarian aid organization. Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks Berliner Philharmoniker Mariss Jansons, conductor Osterfestspiele Salzburg Großes Festspielhaus 30 March 2010 Krassimira Stoyanova, soprano Jonas Kaufmann, tenor Maria Prudenskaya, mezzo-soprano Stephen Milling, bass
Aleksandra Kurzak as Fiorilla and Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Selim in Il turco in Italia © ROH/Clive Barda, 2010 A number of Royal Opera artists have won prizes at the Opera Awards 2015 . The awards, now in their third year, celebrate excellence in opera and provide bursaries for emerging talent. The Conductor of the Year award was presented to Semyon Bychkov . Bychkov – whose most recent engagement at Covent Garden was conducting Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten (which itself won the Richard Strauss Anniversary Production Award) – returns in December 2015 to lead performances of Tchaikovsky ’s Eugene Onegin . Soprano Aleksandra Kurzak won the Readers' Award. Kurzak is currently performing in Rossini's Il turco in Italia and will return to the Royal Opera House in Spring 2016 as Lucia in Katie Mitchell’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor . Former Jette Parker Young Artist Justina Gringyte was awarded Best Young Singer. The mezzo-soprano, a member of the Programme from 2011-2013, returns to the Royal Opera House in March 2016 to perform the role of Flora in La traviata. The awards also highlight excellence behind the curtain with director Richard Jones winning Best Director and Es Devlin winning Best Design. Jones returns to Covent Garden in 2015/16 with a highly anticipated new production of Modest Musorgsky’s Boris Godonov alongside a revival of his acclaimed production of Il trittico, while Devlin's designs for Kasper Holten 's production of Don Giovanni can be seen this summer on BP Big Screens around the UK on 3 July. Other winners include Jonas Kaufmann (also receiving the Readers' Award), Anja Harteros (Female Singer) and the Welsh National Opera Chorus (Best Chorus). The Cardiff-based Company return to the Royal Opera House in July 2015 for the London premiere of Peter Pan . View the full list of Opera Awards 2015 winners
Antonio Pappano © Sim Canetty-Clarke/ROH 2011 Royal Opera Music Director Antonio Pappano made his Covent Garden debut in 1990. Now in his 12th year as Music Director, he has built up an impressive repertory with The Royal Opera, including the full The Ring Cycle , new productions of Les Troyens , Parsifal , Les Vêpres Siciliennes and Manon Lescaut , and two world premieres - Harrison Birtwistle ’s The Minotaur and Mark-Anthony Turnage ’s Anna Nicole . ‘This house is not a pushover – not the audience, or the orchestra or the chorus’, he says. ‘You really have to earn your spurs!’ And he certainly has. This Season alone he has conducted four operas, including Verdi ’s I due Foscari , starring Plácido Domingo , and a new production of Andrea Chénier , starring Jonas Kaufmann . ‘When Plácido walks into the room, he raises everybody elses's game, which is a fantastic gift', he says. 'By his sheer presence, everyone around him gets better.’ For the remainder of the 2014/15 Season, Pappano conducts new productions of Król Roger – his first collaboration with Director of Opera Kasper Holten – and Guillaume Tell . He will also conduct the first in a new series of annual concert performances , which are designed to celebrate his work with the Orchestra. ‘You have to stick your nose into all corners of the repertory to keep an eye on the orchestra and its development’, he says. ‘We have to jump from Puccini to Wagner to Mozart , from Rigoletto to Anna Nicole. I think I change with every piece, and orchestra has to as well - we start again each time, but with a backlog of experience and a theatrical trust. We can count on each other!’ The Music Director is renowned as one of the world’s best conductors of Puccini. ‘Puccini was a very fastidious, refined man; a snappy dresser who loved women and sports cars’, he says. ‘There’s natural sophistication in his music, even though he’s manipulating you from note one. La bohème , for example, can only be conducted by someone who has a deep knowledge of the opera and knows the ins and outs, because otherwise it’s treacherous.’ For more on the operatic language, commissioning new work and learning to conduct – and what he’s looking forward to in the 2015/16 Season – watch highlights from the In Conversation event. Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House perform in concert on 4 May 2015. Tickets are still available. Król Roger runs from 1 to 19 May 2015. Tickets are still available. Guillaume Tell runs from 29 June to 17 July 2015. General Booking opens on 31 March 2015.
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