Thursday, January 19, 2017
Whenever I watch any opera by Mascagni and Leoncavallo other than ‘Cav’ and ‘Pag’ I have no trouble understanding why the two composers went down in history as one-hit wonders. True, there are those who make claims for Leoncavallo’s La Boheme (Mahler deemed it vastly inferior to Puccini’s) and others are thrilled by Mascagni’s sex-slave Iris, but neither work has struck me as more than a barrel-scraping of the short-lived 1890s verismo craze, deservedly occupying the fringes of musical memory…. Now read on here or here.
Angela Gheorgiu as Adriana Lecouvreur in Adriana Lecouvreur © ROH / Catherine Ashmore 2011 The story begins… Count Maurizio and the beautiful actress Adriana Lecouvreur fall passionately in love. But their affair is threatened not only by their mutual preoccupation with their respective careers, but by the furious jealousy of the Princesse de Bouillon, Maurizio’s cast-off mistress. The real story of Adriana The title role of Cilea ’s opera Adriana Lecouvreur is inspired by the 18th-century French actress Adrienne Lecouvreur , one of the greatest tragic actresses of her era, particularly known for her interpretations of Racine ’s heroines. While Adrienne did indeed have a long-term love affair with Maurice of Saxony (who had also attracted the attention of the young Duchesse de Bouillon) it is thought that her early death – despite rumours of poisoning – was from natural causes. Cilea’s greatest hit Adriana Lecouvreur was the only successful opera by Francesco Cilea, a contemporary of Puccini who, unlike many Italian composers of his generation, was not particularly drawn to verismo opera . Adriana’s premiere in November 1902 at the Teatro Lirico, Milan , met with acclaim from public and press alike, not least because the great tenor Enrico Caruso was singing Maurizio. The opera soon toured internationally, and in recent years has re-entered the regular repertory. Worlds within worlds The world of the theatre permeates the drama of Adriana Lecouvreur. In Act I, Cilea captures the pre-performance bustle of the Comédie-Française , while Adriana’s first aria ‘Io son l’umile ancella’ is a paean to emotional truth in art. In Act III, the subject of the ballet – the choice of Paris – reflects Maurizo’s choice between Adriana and the Princesse, while Adriana uses a speech from Racine’s Phèdre – moving chillingly from song into speech – to denounce her rival. Setting the stage The importance of the theatre for Adriana is reflected David McVicar ’s production, with intricate sets by Charles Edwards . Act I’s set – a replica of an 18th-century theatre – returns in different guises in each act, making theatre’s presence keenly felt. In Act IV, the gaunt shell of the theatre conveys Adriana’s desolation at Maurizio’s supposed betrayal. Adriana Lecouvreur runs 7 February–2 March 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona , Vienna State Opera , San Francisco Opera and Opéra National de Paris , and is given with generous philanthropic support from The Friends of Covent Garden .
The two principal private opera seasons have announced their programmes for 2017. Buenos Aires Lírica (BAL) innovates: only two titles will be presented at their tradiitional venue, the Avenida; two will be at the Teatro Picadero, and one will be done jointly with Nuova Harmonia at the Coliseo (coproduced with the Teatro Regional de Rancagua, Chile). Juventus Lyrica will stick to the Avenida and will stage just three operas. At the Coliseo: Monteverdi´s "L´incoronazione di Poppea" (produced by Marcelo Lombardero). April 22 and 23. At the Avenida: not an opera but incidental music to plays: Beethoven´s "Egmont" and Mendelssohn´s "A Midsummer Night´s Dream". June 4, 8 and 10. Picadero: Rossini´s "La scala di seta". Mondays: June 12, 19 and 26; July 3, 10 and 17. Avenida: Puccini´s "La Bohème", coproduction with Rosario´s El Círculo. August 11, 13, 17 and 19. Picadero: Offenbach, Ba-Ta-Clan. Mondays: October 16, 23 and 30; November 6, 13 and 20. Juventus Lyrica (JL). Bellini´s "Norma". May 12, 14, 18 and 20. Conductor (C): Hernán Sánchez Arteaga. Producer: Florencia Sanguinetti. Puccini´s "Turandot". September 1, 3, 7 and 9. C: Antonio María Russo. P: Ana D´Anna. Rossini´s "Le Comte Ory". November 3, 5, 9 and 11. C: Hernán Schvartzman. P: María Jaunarena. Comments on BAL: two coproductions; Picadero on Mondays; inclusion of an operetta. Applied to both BAL and JL: Puccini´s orchestra has to be strongly reduced due to the Avenida´s small pit. Suggestion: if BAL and JL can work with the Coliseo, in the future they should take advantage of that theatre´s big pit. For Buenos Aires Herald
We regret to report the death of Georges Pretre, an elegant French conductor who was popular wherever he went – nowhere more so than Vienna, which adored him. He died this afternoon, at home in France. Raised in northern France, Georges was director of the Opéra-Comique in Paris from 1955 to 1959. He was a stalwart of Chicago’s Lyric Opera, 1959 to 1971, and was music director of the Paris Opéra for one season, 1970-71. He was principal conductor of the Wiener Symphoniker from 1986 to 1991. He was a regular at La Scala (see below). Mostly he freelanced around the world’s leading opera houses, giving fun and having it. He was the acme of French style in all that he did, with an infallible sense of rhythm. In terms of leaving a mark on music history, he gave the world premiere of Poulenc’s La Voix humaine. His farewell performance: From La Scala: Georges Pretre, one of the greatest conductors of our time, had a fifty-year relationship with La Scala. He made his debute in 1966 conducting a legendary production of Gounod’s Faust with Mirella Freni, Nicolai Gedda and Nicolai Ghiaurov, directed by Jean-Louis Barrault. Two years later he led Turandot directed by Margherita Wallmann, and, a few days later, Die Walküre with Régine Crespin and James King. In 1969, Roméo et Juliette by Berlioz with Liliana Cosi in the choreography of George Skibine, in 1970 Sanson et Dalila in Saint-Saëns with Shirley Verrett and Pier Miranda Ferraro in 1972 with Carmen Fiorenza Cossotto, in 1973 and 1977 Pelléas et Mélisande by Debussy directed by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1975 in Puccini’s La bohème, directed by Franco Zeffirelli with Luciano Pavarotti and Ileana Cotrubaş, in 1976 Massenet’s Werther with Alfredo Kraus and Elena Obraztsova, Madama Butterfly in 1978 and immediately after Manon Lescaut by Puccini with Sylvia Sass and Plácido Domingo in a direction of Piero Faggioni. In 1978 Ravel L’enfant et les sortileges and L’heure espagnole; back in 1981 for Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci, directed by Zeffirelli with Domingo and Obraztsova and in 1982 for Les Troyens by Berlioz in the direction of Luca Ronconi. The last operatic commitments of Prêtre at La Scala were Turandot directed by Keita Asari in 2001 and Pelleas et Melisande directed by Pierre Médecin, but he continued to give countless concerts with the orchestra. His last, triumphant concert took place on 22 February 2016. Georges Pretre was due to return to the podium for the Symphonic Season of the Teatro alla Scala on 13, 15 and 17 March 2017.
Vittorio Grigòlo as Werther and Joyce DiDonato as Charlotte in Werther, Royal Opera House © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper As the curtain comes down on an eventful year, we're taking a look back at your highlights from a year of performances on the Royal Opera House stage. Perhaps you were tickled by Shostakovich's wonderfully wacky opera, The Nose , on stage in the autumn? Maybe you were bowled over by the much-discussed production of Lucia di Lammermoor back in April/May, or did you fall in love with Puccini 's operatic tryptich, Il trittico ? Did you discover a new composer, or an opera you'd never seen before? Whether you were wowed by Werther or bowled over by Boris Godunov , we'd love to hear your favourite moments of 2016. Anyone who comments on this blog or shares their thoughts via Twitter using the hashtag #ROHreview2016 will be entered into a prize draw to win two tickets to George Benjamin's highly acclaimed opera Written on Skin . If you're a ballet fan too, we're also looking for your favourite Royal Ballet moments. What were your Royal Opera highlights of 2016? Let us know via the comments below. Competition terms and conditions: The 2016 Royal Opera review competition prize is two tickets to Written on Skin on 30 January 2017 . Closing date for entry is 4 January 2017. The winner will be notified by 6 January 2017. All aspects of the prize are non-refundable, non-transferable and cannot be exchanged for another date. Travel or accommodation costs are not included in the prize. This prize draw can only be entered by tweeting with #ROHreview2016 or by commenting on this blog post.
Puccini Madama Butterfly at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, but not in the famous version, but the original so reviled at its premiere that it was immediately revised by its composer for a second premiere four months later on 28 May 1904, in Brescia, not Milan, the modern "standard" being the score published in 1907. The original Madama has never been lost, but has remained in the archives of Ricordi ever since. Puccini continued revising the opera until 1920 : Riccardo Chailly included parts of that last revision when he conducted the opera ar La Scala in 1996. The February 1904 version, which Chailly conducted this month at La Scala with Bryan Hymel, the Pinkerton of choice these days, was broadcast live all over the world. Alas! I missed it having endured the appallingly awful Magic Flute (Adam Fischer/Peter Stein) but this "new" Madama Butterfly is available audio only on BR Klassik HERE. Hymel is, of course, outstanding, especially since, in the original, Pinkerton is unsympathetic, a callous cad, with no "regret" aria to redeem him and soften the narrative. He also mocks the locals and calls them scum. The beauty of Hymel's singing underlines the venality of the character he portrays. The "love duet" is thoroughly creepy. Such glorious music, such depraved morals. This is infinitely closer to the way things were in an era when imperialism and racism went unchallenged. All the more respect to Puccini for seeing past the "romantic" surface and through to the fundamental brutality in the story. Please read my other pieces on Madama Butterfly, on Asian stereotypes and race issues by using the buttons at right and below. Maria José Siri sings Cio-cio San. (Full cast list here)
Great composers of classical music