Saturday, May 27, 2017
On the assumption that Beethoven’s Fifth might be too heavy for the US President, the Filarmonica della Scala has changed next Friday’s programme to scoops of gelato . Andrew Powell has sent us this rundown: Puccini – Madama Butterfly: Act III Sunrise Rossini – Overture to L’italiana in Algeri Rossini – Overture to Guillaume Tell Verdi – La traviata: Act I Prelude Verdi – Overture to La forza del destino Mascagni – Cavalleria rusticana: Intermezzo
Alessandro Corbelli as Sulpice in La fille du régiment © ROH/Bill Cooper Italian opera is all doom and gloom, ill-starred lovers and gruesome deaths: La traviata , La bohème , Tosca … Or is it? From 18th-century opera buffa to a late Puccini masterpiece, Italian opera also contains some of the repertory’s most light-hearted and joyous works. Few Italian composers can resist a ridiculous disguise, or the humorous music that goes with them. In Verdi ’s Falstaff , Ford, as ‘Signor Fontana’ (Mr Fountain), attempts to discover if Falstaff has seduced his wife with hilariously exaggerated, through-his-teeth courtesy. Puccini ’s Gianni Schicchi wittily impersonates the deceased Buoso Donati in piping nasal tones, while Norina in Donizetti ’s Don Pasquale adopts the persona of the shrill spendthrift Sofronia with flamboyant coloratura. Disguise provides comic relief even in Mozart ’s predominantly serious Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte , through Leporello’s impersonation of his master, and Guglielmo and Ferrando’s preposterous appearance as a pair of heavily moustached ‘Albanians’. And Rossini extracts every drop of comic potential from concealed identity, be it in Almaviva’s impersonations of an uncouth soldier and unctuous music master in Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), or the chaos of Il turco in Italia ’s fancy-dress ball. Then there’s the wealth of absurd misunderstandings. Nemorino and Dulcamara’s duet in L’elisir d’amore is as amusing as it is poignant, with Nemorino ecstatically hailing the quack doctor’s ‘elixir of love’ as Dulcamara chuckles at his foolishness (the elixir in fact being nothing more than a cheap bottle of Bordeaux). The comic confusion of Act III of Le nozze di Figaro – when Figaro nearly marries his mother – results in one of opera’s most remarkable musical ensembles . Romantic misunderstandings abound in Il turco in Italia, when Fiorilla’s rendezvous with Selim ends in a cat-fight after his former beloved Zaida turns up. Most absurd of all is Falstaff’s farcical Act II finale, where Ford’s frantic attempts to prove his innocent wife Alice’s infidelity end in Sir John Falstaff’s ignominious dunking in the Thames. Larger-than-life male characters make a major contribution to Italian opera’s humour: indeed, the buffo bass voice type, noted for fast patter-singing, was invented for the genre. These men can amuse through their foolishness – like Il barbiere’s Doctor Bartolo with his pompous aria ‘A un dottor della mia sorte’ (For a doctor of my standing) or Donizetti’s overbearing Don Pasquale. But they can also entertain us for more positive reasons. In Don Giovanni, Leporello’s humorous pragmatism is a welcome contrast to the lofty passions of Anna, Elvira and Ottavio, while the aforementioned Dulcamara's wit and cunning never fail to delight. And while Verdi’s greedy Falstaff may have an endless proclivity for getting into silly scrapes, his zest for life and ability to laugh at himself make him perhaps opera’s most loveable rogue. And don’t forget the comic value of sheer silliness. Nemorino’s drunken conviction of the power of his elixir leads first to his feigned indifference to his sweetheart Adina and later to his farcical flirtation with an entire bevy of village girls. There’s also Falstaff’s Act III adventure in the guise of Herne the Hunter, and the chaotic music lesson in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Finally, Italian comic opera excels at tackling serious subjects with a light touch. Ford’s melodramatic monologue in Act II of Falstaff reminds us that jealousy can be as ridiculous as it is destructive – particularly when its grand climax is interrupted by Falstaff’s swaggering return in his glad-rags. And anyone who’s ever had to deal with cantankerous relatives (or, heaven forbid, an inheritance dispute) will surely relish Gianni Schicchi’s clever outwitting of the bickering Donati family. Italian opera composers may excel at tragedy – but there’s no doubt that their comic genius is equally strong. L’elisir d’amore runs 27 May–22 June 2017. Tickets are still available. The production is a co-production with Opéra National de Paris .
Marco Berti as Calaf in Turandot © ROH/Tristram Kenton, 2013 Operas left unfinished by their composers present a fascinating conundrum. Can anyone else bring them to a satisfactory conclusion? For David Murphy , the completer of Ravi Shankar ’s unfinished opera Sukanya , the answer is ‘yes’ – Shankar had completed his opera in outline, so, as his long-term collaborator, Murphy primarily needed to ‘fill in the gaps’. But it’s rarely so straightforward… Both Schoenberg ’s Moses und Aron and Debussy ’s Rodrigue et Chimène have proved unfinishable. Schoenberg created a three-act libretto for Moses und Aron, but only wrote music for Acts I and II. His sketches for Act III are too slight to convey any sense of his intentions, so the Act III text is usually left unperformed. Debussy’s messy sketches for Acts I to III of Rodrigue et Chimène have been reconstructed, orchestrated and performed, but nothing can be done about Act IV, for which text and music are lost. The only solution in such cases is for new music to be added – as Robert Orledge did for Debussy’s La Chute de la maison Usher , composing from scratch more than half the score. Critics praised Orledge for capturing Debussy’s idiom – but others have been less fortunate. Philipp Jarnach ’s conclusion to his teacher Busoni ’s Doktor Faust was criticized for its brevity, and has periodically been replaced by Antony Beaumont ’s more expansive one. When Rimsky-Korsakov completed his friend Musorgsky ’s Khovanshchina , his fellow musicians criticized him for over-lush orchestration and for softening Musorgsky’s distinctive harmonic style. Shostakovich ’s bleaker 1959 completion, based on Musorgsky’s vocal score, has now become the standard version. Fortunately, Rimsky-Korsakov and his pupil Glazunov had greater success completing and orchestrating Borodin ’s epic Prince Igor – perhaps because they found his idiom easier to imitate. Turandot must have been a particularly terrifying project, as Puccini had invested so much in the Act III finale left unfinished at his death – he intended it to have the intensity of Tristan und Isolde ’s love duet. No wonder Franco Alfano found finishing Turandot a struggle! His version is more than competent, but lacks Puccini’s striking harmonic language. By contrast, Luciano Berio ’s longer alternative ending experiments with daring modernist harmonies and colourful scoring, and has a pensive rather than festive conclusion. Time will tell if audiences come to prefer one version over another. Operas left closer to completion can also cause headaches. Offenbach had finished most of Les Contes d’Hoffmann (bar sections of the ‘Giulietta’ act) at his death four months before the premiere. But he left no definite performing instructions, so Hoffmann has been performed in various versions, particularly since missing manuscript sources have been re-discovered. Friedrich Cerha had a relatively easy task to complete Berg ’s Lulu – Berg had finished Acts I and II, and most of Act III in short score – but Berg’s widow remained adamant that it was unfinishable, even claiming her dead husband had told her so from beyond the grave. The completed three-act Lulu was only performed in 1979, after her death. And although it was much praised, the fact that two recent productions (Welsh National Opera’s in 2013; Hamburg State Opera’s in 2017) use new versions of Act III suggests that Cerha’s expert completion has still not been universally accepted. Even a completed score doesn’t mean the end of the story. Bizet ’s Carmen exists in several versions, as Bizet died too soon after the premiere to make a clear performing edition. And Janáček ’s pupils Břetislav Bakala and Osvald Chlubna filled out the stark, chamber-like orchestration of From the House of the Dead and even tacked on an up-beat choral finale, as they believed these would have been Janáček’s intentions had he survived to rehearse the opera’s premiere. In this case, however, musicians found they preferred Janáček’s original, which was definitively restored through Charles Mackerras and John Tyrrell ’s 1980 edition and recording. In the contentious history of incomplete – and allegedly incomplete – operas, this is a rare example where a composer’s intentions can (almost) definitely be said to have been honoured. Turandot runs 5–16 July 2017. Tickets are still available.
Soprano Anna Netrebko is one of my favorite singers, because of her fine voice, her great stage presence, and her sense of humor. Now… have a look at a fine recording in which she stars: Puccini: Manon Lescaut With the following singers: Anna Netrebko (Manon Lescaut), Yusif Eyvazov (Des Grieux), Armando Piña (Lescaut), Carlos Chausson (Geronte), Benjamin Bernheim (Edmondo), and the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor, Marco Armiliato conducting. This outstanding concert performance of Manon Lescaut with Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov was the absolute highlight of the 2016 Salzburg Festival – a moment of operatic glory, captured live for this unique release. Anna Netrebko excelled with the perfection of her exceptional voice, her unrivaled interpretation and her devotion to this very part – she is the Manon Lescaut of our time. While Verismo already features the aria “In quelle trine morbide” and the fourth act of Manon Lescaut in a breathtaking studio-version, documenting her great passion to this work, the complete recording of Manon Lescaut will be a great addition to Anna’s fans and opera lovers alike. It has also been a matter of personal importance and dedication for Anna Netrebko to document this work in its entirety. BBC Music Magazine wrote the following: “Netrebko’s Manon soars over the rest of the cast, framed attentively, eloquently and imaginatively by Marco Armiliato and the Munich Radio Orchestra. It’s a riveting, sometimes wayward performance that fails to sound remotely girlish in Act I but captures perfectly the greed, impetuousness, self-destructiveness and lust for life in Acts II and III, with a full-throated, full-hearted account of ‘Sola, perduta, abbandonata’” Here is Anna Netrebko in a brief scene from Manon Lescaut:
Last week´s Buenos Aires Philharmonic´s concert was outside the norm, for symphonic repertoire was left aside and the orchestra, under our seasoned operatic conductor Mario Perusso, accompanied the brilliant debut of German soprano Diana Damrau and her husband, French bass baritone Nicolas Testé. She has a splendid twenty-year career and is a rarity: a soprano of enormous range (strong lows, stratospheric perfect highs), histrionic at all times, equally convincing in drama and comedy. She was imaginative as Rossini´s Rosina, florid and light in Meyerbeer (so rarely heard here), dramatic as Gounod´s Juliet, heart-rending in Bellini´s mad scene from "I Puritani". Testé was a surprise for many; not as famous as his wife, he is certainly one the best bass baritones nowadays, with a firm beautiful voice capable of fine shading but also of stark drama: from the cunning of Basilio´s "La Calunnia" (Rossini), to the comic bravado of "Pif, paf" (Meyerbeer´s "The huguenots"), the noble line from the French version of Verdi´s "Don Carlos"(clumsily not announced), the intense aria from Antonio Gomes´ interesting "Salvator Rosa" and the sinister Alvise in Ponchielli´s "La Gioconda". As contained as his wife is adrenalic, nevertheless the two combined admirably in the closing "Bess, you is my woman now" (Gershwin). In the encores, Puccini arias from both and a lovely duet from Bernstein´s "West Side Story". Perusso and the orchestra shone in orchestral pieces of Rossini, Gounod, Saint-Saëns and Bernstein. For Buenos Aires Herald
This Summer is filled with interesting musical evenings for me, beginning with a recital for the newly launched Amici della Lirica di Città Delle Pieve and its founder, Raffaella Franci, figlia d’arte, because yes she is the granddaughter of Italian great Benvenuto Franci and the daughter of Maestro Carlo Franci. A highly acclaimed photographer with many expositions of her evocative photographs, she has begun this most worthy group and has invited me to the glorious city of Città delle Pieve to give a recital. So my summer begins in recital among the sunflowers with great friends, Vincenzo Scalera who is to be my “orchestra” and he is without a doubt one of the great piano collaborators in the world today and I am really thrilled to make music with him…… I also am so proud to present two extraordinary young singers, the lush velvet voice of a true Italian beauty by way of Canada, Maria Vetere and the handsome honey-colored tenor of Joel Ricci. They are singing the way I like it, full bodied, involved text and beauty of sound. It promises to be very special….. More announcements coming later about several other lovely evenings, but I heartedly recommend not to miss this one…. The beautiful theater ……Teatro degli Avvaloranti My favorite flower, with of course, red roses….. so much of my early time in Italy I would speak to these beautiful flowers and absorb their sunny friendship. the one and only, Vincenzo Scalera, cannot wait to make music with him. “The ideal Mimi” is what no less than the granddaughter of Maestro Giacomo Puccini, Dottoressa Simonetta Puccini said of this amazing young soprano, Maria Vetere. I have high hopes for her as a superb Desdemona, Mimí, Leonora, and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra among many roles…..the tone has great beauty and projection and a haunting quality… In a recent Opera Gala in Philadelphia, the critics wrote, ” a dead ringer for Elizabeth Taylor, with a voice of stunning quality…. she stole the show!” Mr. Joel Ricci is the throwback to tenors when they sang with grace and style, a beautiful, honey color…. recently won the Benvenuto Franci Opera Pienza competition with Adua Veroni as president who adored greatly his beautiful tone. One of my favorite young voices….. And then on the sixth of July…..I celebrate my beloved sister Grace’s birthday, who is coming with me to share in the beauty of this place, our friends and the great music. Brava Gracie…..
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