Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Two years before she brought the role to Wiener Staatsoper in a production somewhat dominated by Jonas Kaufmann, soprano Nina Stemme sang her first-ever Minnie in La fanciulla del West at Stockholm’s Royal Opera. To my ears, the voice sounds more at ease in this 2011 outing that it did in Wien, plus, from the few productions photos I managed to find, she must have been pleased with the physical production. Imagine her horror at her first fitting in Wien when she saw the overalls which overemphasized her butt, not to mention the Ronald McDonald wig. Also, there was less competition in Stockholm with Aleksandrs Antonenko as her Dick rather than the attention-grabbing Kaufmann. Pier Giorgio Morandi also seems to have a better grip on verismo style than Franz Welser-Möst did in Wien. I hope you enjoy this upload, and stand with me in solidarity with our comrades in Paris. Giacomo Puccini: La fanciulla del West Königliches Opernhaus Stockholm Pier Giorgio Morandi, conductor 17 December 2011 Minnie – Nina Stemme Dick Johnson – Aleksandrs Antonenko Jack Rance – John Lundgren Nick – Niklas Björling Rygert Ashby – Michael Schmidberger Sonora – Ola Eliasson Trin – Karl Rombo Sid – Gunnar Lundberg Bello – Linus Börjesson Harry – Conny Thimander Joe – Magnus Kyhle Happy – Kristian Flor Larkens – Ian Power Billy Jackrabbit – Alar Pintsaar Wowkle – Agneta Lundgren Jack Wallace – John Erik Eleby José Castro – Anton Eriksson Pony Express Roder – Jon Nilsson
Andrea Carè © Andrea Carè, 2015 Due to a viral infection, German tenor Jonas Kaufmann has had to withdraw from singing the role of Don José in Carmen on 14 and 16 November 2015. The role will now be sung by Italian tenor Andrea Carè . Andrea Carè made his Royal Opera debut in 2013 as Ismaele in Nabucco . His recent performances include B.F. Pinkerton in Madam Butterfly for Savonlinna Opera Festival and Canadian Opera Company , Pollione in Norma for Gran Teatre del Liceu , Barcelona and Opéra National de Bordeaux; Giasone in Medea for Grand Théâtre de Genève , Cavaradossi in Tosca in St. Margarethen and Don José in Carmen for the Royal Swedish Opera . The rest of the cast remains unchanged. If you have a ticket please see terms and conditions of sale .
Since the Metropolitan Opera published its ’15-‘16 calendar, Thursday night’s Tosca lost its conductor, tenor and baritone. Who could ever have imagined that the one principal who did show up would be the often elusive Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu? Her idiosyncratically alluring, sometimes maddening, always fascinating Floria Tosca inevitably became the evening’s unmissable raison d’être! Once one of the Met’s biggest stars, Gheorghiu, who recently turned 50, had been absent from its roster for nearly five years when she returned last season for just two performances of La Bohème opposite Michael Fabiano. While those reappearances were mostly well-received, Mimi has been a frequent Met role for her there since her debut in Bohème 22 years ago. However, the prospect of a Gheorghiu Met Tosca, a portrayal until now seen only in London and Vienna, was a much more enticing prospect for the sizable contingent of diva-watchers who assembled last night curious to discover how the frequently capricious soprano might tackle this most coveted and demanding title role. Although she had starred in Benoît Jacquot’s effective 2001 film of Puccini’s masterpiece opposite her now ex-husband Roberto Alagna, many doubted she would actually take on the role onstage. Yet five years later she starred in a new production by Jonathan Kent at Covent Garden, captured on DVD at a starry revival there in 2011 conducted by Antonio Pappano with Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel. Thursday’s Met Tosca was an altogether bumpier, less glamourous affair. Substituting on the podium for the ailing Placido Domingo, who recently had gall bladder surgery, Paolo Carignani led an often raucous, unsubtle reading that didn’t sound like he was taking any special pains to accommodate his new star. Originally only scheduled to take on Mario Cavaradossi for the final three performances with Liudmyla Monastyrska, Roberto Aronica instead jumped in early for the ailing Massimo Giordano. Returning to the Met for the first time since 2008, the handsome Italian tenor generally wielded his big burly instrument like a blunt object. While “Recondita armonia” seemed distracted and brusque, the “Vittoria” sequence in the following act sounded huge, its high notes thrilling. His softly introspective “E lucevan le stelle” began promisingly, but he then leapt to his feet and belted out the final phrases as if trying to reach the back rows at the Arena in Verona! I suspect many squillo-queens were in heaven with this loudly unpoetic Mario, but most of us were left wanting more. Simon Keenlyside’s cancellation of all of his Rigolettos along with Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s partial withdrawal from Il Trovatore caused baritone chaos at the Met this fall. The originally scheduled Scarpia, George Gagnidze, took over Rigoletto, so Zeljko Lucic, having just finished his run as Iago in the new Otello, arrived early. Lacking the ideal snarling force—his “Te Deum” was particularly underpowered—Lucic gave us a Scarpia who was more the ravenous sensualist than the brutal predator. His warmly enveloping baritone and self-amused demeanor suggested that under other circumstances he might have been a real rival to Cavaradossi. A delicately moving Violetta, like her compatriots Virginia Zeani and Ileana Cotrubas, Gheorghiu might not have seemed a natural match for Tosca. But Thursday she made the role her own: a feminine, vulnerable woman, not the shrewish virago one often sees. From the beginning, Gheorghiu had the audience on her side, something not every Tosca can manage. Needless to say, she looked ravishing, first in a sleek black gown with red piping and red veil, then in a striking and immensely flattering crimson creation topped with a new and regal tiara. Richard Peduzzi’s bizarrely stark Castel Sant’Angelo set for the third act saw her swoop in, an avenging angel clad all in black with her lustrously glossy hair now tumbling around her shoulders. This Floria was truly, deeply in love with Mario, ecstatically rapt as he sang the praises of her dark eyes. Initially, her jealousy at the discovery of the Attavanti portrait was playful and coquettish. Crushed at Scarpia’s revelation of the fan, she was unable to comprehend that her lover might have betrayed her. Alone in Scarpia’s lair, Gheorghiu’s frightened, trapped prima donna resorted to murder only when she felt she had no other choice. Her shocked and uncomprehending reaction to her brutal act was extremely powerful. The playful lover returned to comfort Cavaradossi in the final act, blindly secure that she had succeeded in assuring their future together, blithely ignoring Mario’s urgent doubts. Her girlish delight at his play-acting gave way to fathomless despair when she discovered Scarpia’s scheme. If less heroically flamboyant than some, Tosca’s suicide has never seemed more inevitable, yet so sad. Most surprising about Gheorghiu’s performance was its avoidance of the usual “diva” theatrics. For all her reputation off-stage as a demanding, sometimes difficult prima donna, her Tosca remained refreshingly down-to-earth and sympathetic although she still kicked her train with a stylish flair to match the best of her predecessors. Vocally, matters were altogether rockier; those who prefer their Puccini opulent and stentorian would have been very disappointed. Gheorghiu’s voice has always had a touching fragility that made it a perfect vehicle for the composer’s Mimi, Liù and Magda. In addition, with age, the middle has dried out becoming more hollow-sounding, though her top remains remarkably shining and vibrant. To her credit, in Tosca’s dramatic and demanding music she never pushed, never screamed or sounded ugly. To all those who have complained for years about her “inaudiblity,” I would say that since my first exposure to her—as Mimi the night of Alagna’s Met debut in 1996—I have never had a problem hearing her. Yes, there have certainly been moments where one wanted more voice than one got; her 2011 Adriana at Carnegie Hall in particular was often frustratingly under-sung. One occasionally felt on Thursday that she was in over her head when she was buried under Puccini’s dense orchestration, but those moments were relatively few. Her “baby chest” voice sometimes failed to deliver the expected frisson, but her vibrant upper voice blazed. One always expects “Vissi d’arte” to be a high point of any Tosca, but hers was genuinely special, a simple, hushed prayer delivered with exquisite shading and remarkable control. Her falling to one knee at the climax seemed both utterly in character and the perfect “diva” moment to solicit the riotous ovation that ensued. A lack of rehearsal seemed evident in a number of musical mistakes and miscalculations. However, the improvisational nature of the performance may have also contributed to a palpable dramatic spontaneity that made her confrontation with Scarpia particularly exciting. More often than not, she eschewed Luc Bondy’s much-reviled staging and the ever-game Lucic was right there with her. Her complete restaging of the final moments of the second act were the most effective I have seen in this production, much of which otherwise remains as ugly and awkward as it has since its premiere in 2009. While those weaned on Zinka Milanov or Renata Tebaldi (to say nothing of Maria Callas) would likely denounce Gheorghiu as a girl struggling to do a woman’s job, I was happy to have experienced her smaller-scaled, yet remarkably fresh and touching Tosca. Sadly just one opportunity remains to experience it next Monday before her polar opposite—Maria Guleghina—returns to the Met to offer up yet again her Roman diva. Photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.
Anna Caterina Antonacci and Jonas Kaufmann in Carmen, The Royal Opera, 2006 © Catherine Ashmore Death is one of the few universal experiences, and it’s not surprising that it makes its presence felt in opera. Generally it is characters’ attitudes to death, rather than the actual experience of it that has fascinated composers. In the case of composer Georg Friedrich Haas 's new opera Morgen und Abend , however, it is the process of (rather than the emotional responses to) dying that is of interest. In the history of the art form, opera’s deaths are often brutal and quick. Manrico in Il trovatore is dragged to execution with barely a moment to think, while Canio’s onstage attack in Pagliacci comes as a savage shock to his wife Nedda. Tosca ’s suicide is also swift, though she has time to express her defiance, and anticipate a final confrontation with Scarpia in the next life. But death doesn’t always come swiftly. Violetta knows she’s doomed for most of La traviata , and in her beautiful Act III aria ‘Addio, del passato’ accepts her fate – though Verdi also poignantly shows us how the return of her lover Alfredo soon after makes Violetta yearn for recovery. Carmen has no such hesitation: she is fatalistic from the moment she foretells her death in the cards, and in her final confrontation with Don José refuses to compromise her integrity or struggle against destiny, bravely declaring that that ‘Carmen will never yield – free she was born, free she will die!’ By contrast, Boris Godunov dies an anguished, guilt-ridden death, convinced that God is punishing him for the murder of the Tsarevich Dmitry. In the opera’s final scene he bids his son farewell, to music that initially seems serene but grows agitated as Boris contemplates death. Eventually his voice shifts into harsh, unaccompanied speech as he urgently pleads for forgiveness in one of the bleakest of operatic finales. Boris is terrified of death, but other operatic protagonists view it as a release from an unbearable life. Massenet’s Werther commits suicide to end his torment at loving a married woman. His death scene – in which his beloved Charlotte finally admits she loves him – is the only time in the opera that he is happy. Lucia di Lammermoor eagerly anticipates a heavenly reunion with Edgardo in her mad scene, while Elisabeth in Tannhäuser pleads in her Act III aria to be allowed to die, and save Tannhäuser’s soul by her intercession from Heaven. Haas and Jon Fosse ’s treatment of death in Morgen und Abend is different from all of these. Their protagonist Johannes does not meet a violent death; he neither longs to die (despite his widowed state) nor fears death – in fact, he isn’t even aware that he is dying. Instead, he passes almost unconsciously from one state to another, leaving behind his beloved daughter Signe, but re-united with his dead wife Erna and best friend Peter, who gradually guide him to the next life. ‘Morgen und Abend is a standard opera: it’s a man, singing, dying’, explains Graham Vick , who directs the production. ‘Half the repertoire goes like that. But it’s a much more sophisticated version because it’s looked at from the point of view of not leaving life but of arriving at death. You know the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s looked at from the other end. It’s a fantastically ambitious score from that point of view.’ Out of the many operas that deal with death, this extraordinary work is perhaps the only one to examine the state of dying – and what might happen afterwards. Morgen und Abend runs 13–28 November 2015. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-commission and co-production with Deutsche Oper Berlin , and is generously supported by Stefan Sten Olsson, Cockayne – Grants for the Arts via The London Community Foundation, Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and The John S. Cohen Foundation.
Youth Opera Company at A Gala Celebration – Life Reimagined: Life Reimagined ©2015. Photograph by Brian Slater This month, The Royal Opera’s youngest group of singers will take to the stage in Bizet's opera Carmen . These talented nine-to-13-year-olds are part of the Youth Opera Company and in the upcoming run will sing alongside some of opera's biggest stars, including Bryan Hymel , Jonas Kaufmann and Sonya Yoncheva . The Youth Opera Company was established in 2010 and currently has over fifty members from across London and the South East of England. Every child in the Company is chosen for their passion and potential to sing and act, and they learn all of their roles without needing to read music. ‘I wanted to join the Youth Opera Company because I thought it would be a great opportunity to take part in something I really enjoyed and also to make friends and meet new people,’ says Freya, one of the young singers involved. The Company meets every two weeks at the Royal Opera House for a full day of workshops and rehearsals. They work towards one dedicated major performance each Season as part of our Learning and Participation programme, and have the opportunity to audition for main-stage productions with The Royal Opera. The Youth Opera Company holds annual auditions by invitation only, through schools already part of the ROH's ongoing Learning and Participation programme. Just like the ROH's adult chorus members, the young singers have attended several weeks of studio and stage rehearsals, before embarking on the run of 13 performances. ‘When you’re singing with the Royal Opera House Chorus it makes you want to achieve more because they have such great voices,’ says another young singer, Blaize. ‘It makes you want to do your best when you’re with them. We aspire to sing like them one day.’ The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie The Youth Opera Company in rehearsals for The Royal Opera's Carmen © ROH 2015. Photograph by Neil Gillespie Over the last few weeks, the Children's Chorus have been working with the conductor on the music, the director on staging, and language coaches in order to master singing in French lyrics; and they have done all this while keeping on top of their school work. ‘Our coaches teach us quite complex stuff but they teach it in a way that is kid-friendly and fun,’ says Oscar. ‘At first I found learning the French language hard for Carmen because although I’ve done it at school it’s nothing like this. I’m getting used to it now though and through muscle memory, it’s becoming easier.’ Carmen runs 19 Oct-30 Nov 2015. Tickets are still available. Youth Opera Company is generously supported by Bjarne and Yvonne Rieber.
The new box set released by Opus Arte includes the 2013 Jonathan Kent Royal Opera House Tosca, starring Angela Gheorghiu (Floria Tosca), Jonas Kaufmann (Mario Cavaradoss) and Bryn Terfel (Baron Scarpia).Antonio Pappano is conducting The Royal Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Available on DVD and Blu-ray on: Amazon.co.uk Presto Classical MDT and many others
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