Wednesday, August 31, 2016
This "Tosca" isn´t one more: Marcelo Álvarez was back after 19 years; in his Colón debut he had sung very well the Duke of Mantua in "Rigoletto". He had been flanked by Sumi Jo and Leo Nucci; also there was the revelation of Erwin Schrott as Monterone! And then, no more: our tenor, born in Córdoba, developed a splendid career in Europe and the USA, but no Colón Director either showed interest or managed to come to terms with Álvarez. I won´t speculate about the reasons of this sorry state of affairs; Álvarez is an international star and demands to be treated as one. He says that he called Lopérfido and found him receptive. He is now 54 and feels that he is at the top of his form; he hopes to make the Colón one of his favorite theatres along with the Met and the Covent Garden. There are further reasons to welcome this "Tosca": foremost, that it is the first decent international cast in an Italian repertoire opera in a long time. In other words, one that could be seen in the mentioned houses, where they have that privilege very often. So it is one step (just one!) in the uphill recuperation of the Colón´s prestige. The other main reason is the homage to Roberto Oswald: his longtime collaborators, Aníbal Lápiz and Christian Prego, have presented with great care the production that had been seen in 1992, 1993, 1998 and 2003, with some changes along the way. For in these sad days to see a production that respects the libretto is a rare pleasure after so many disasters. The costumes designed by Lápiz are admirable and fully in accord with the Rome of the early Nineteenth Century. And the Te Deum that closes the First Act is stunning. "Tosca" must happen in the places specified by librettrists Illica and Giacosa; First Act, the Church Sant´Andrea della Valle; Second, the Farnese Palace; Third, Terrace of the Castel Sant´Angelo. Oswald´s conception of the Church is very beautiful and well distributed; the only reservation is that the supposed painting looks like a fresco. The Farnese is impeccable and functional. But the Castel as imagined by Oswald, dominated by a spectacular statue, doesn´t have a nook in the wall that should serve for Tosca´s suicide jump, as has been traditional. The solution he initially found wasn´t liked by the audience: breaking with the realistic style of all the rest, she didn´t jump and a luminous halo surrounded her. On the following season he found an alternative, the one we saw now: she jumps, yes, but into a big hole on the terrace. And a final reason for the interest of this "Tosca" was the debut of an important Dutch soprano: Eva-Maria Westbroek. She sings Wagner, Puccini, Shostakovich, Janácek, Berlioz, Verdi, Strauss, in all the great theatres and with major conductors. How did this "Tosca" come out in its first performance (Gran Abono) on a Saturday? First the singers. Obviously this was a very special day for Marcelo Álvarez. He has measured up to big challenges during all these years and feels quite sure of his means, but there was a surcharge of emotion being in front of the Colón audience after so many years. However, he is a seasoned professional and showed no hesitation. First Act: he took no chances: his singing was extrovert, his gestures were expansive. The voice sounded firm and healthy, the musical phrasing attempted no subtleties. The good applause after his aria was reassuring.. Second Act: his Cavaradossi grew in intensity and there were some interesting details; e.g., after his frank attack on "Vittoria!" he had the stamina for the following denunciation of tyrants. Third Act: a very good "E lucevan le stelle" (great applause) and a duet with Tosca where he knew how to subdue his voice and find the soft shades that enrich an interpretation. He had won the battle. A personal reaction: I don´t find his timbre distinctive in the sense of being easily recognisable, as happens with Domingo or Björling or Pavarotti. Westbroek: I knew her from DVDs in which the big voice and strong presence made an impact. The same factors were there in her live performance of Tosca, but she was more uneven than I remembered: too much vibrato at certain points, and particularly two high notes that went awry (especially in that dangerous attack on "Io quella lama" when she narrates how she killed. It raised eyebrows of preoccupation as to her current vocal condition. But make no mistake, she is an artist of quality. There was another Álvarez, Carlos, the efficient Spanish baritone that had sung Iago with Cura some years ago. His Scarpia was well sung and acted though short on volume and dramatic projection. The seasoned Sacristan of Luis Gaeta was as good as ever; Mario de Salvo was correct as the fugitive Angelotti; Sergio Spina was properly slimy as the bailiff Spoletta; and there were fine voices even for Sciarrone (Fernando Grassi) and the Jailer (Carlos Esquivel). Julieta Unrein sang prettily as the offstage Shepherdess. Carlos Vieu conducted with the firmness and knowledge that make of him a guarantee of style; the Orchestra responded well, and both Choirs (adults and children) sang with ease and character. There will be a promising second cast with Eiko Senda, Enrique Folger and Fabián Veloz. For Buenos Aires Herald
Fred Plotkin: “How could she sing in such a wide range of styles, from Mozart to bel canto (she sang Norma, Maria Stuarda and rare Rossini) to Verdi, Puccini and the verismo composers? She liked to say, ‘you sing using technique and your brain and the voice responds.'”
I won´t mince words: the most important tenor chamber recital in more than four decades. Jonas Kaufmann, a week after the ill-planned ending of the Barenboim Festival, came back for a song session (mainly Lieder) with his longtime accompanist, Helmut Deutsch. And this time he sang a perfect programme with groups of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Duparc, Liszt and Richard Strauss. This was at the Colón on last Sunday´s afternoon and for the Abono Verde. He had the support from the beginning of an anxious, knowledgeable and packed audience, who grew more and more enthusiastic. What happened after the last note of Strauss was an euphoric delirium as an incredible string of seven encores, proof not only of generosity but also of joy and gratitude, allowed us to hear him in opera and operetta. Kaufmann had conquered Buenos Aires with the highest vocal art; he demonstrated that, here as in Europe, the audience discriminates and not only reacts to tenors with splendid high Cs. Kaufmann is a linguist: Munich-born, his Italian is quite good and his French admirable. His memory is faultless: I followed with a score the majority of the songs and his always clear diction never missed a syllable; and, like that ideal baritone, the young Fischer-Dieskau, he gives dramatic sense to all he sings without ever going overboard, and the musical values are exact, following carefully every nuance indicated by the composer. By the way, if you are intrigued by who sang an impeccable recital more than forty years ago, he was Nicolai Gedda, but he did it at the Metro, not the Colón. His stance is revealing: he stands close to the piano and he concentrates totally in the song, scarcely moving, giving occasionally emphasis with the hands with sober gestures. His timbre is particular, hardly the typical tenor; it is never totally open. Don´t expect from him the stratospheric highs of Alfredo Kraus, he of the purest bel canto. But Kaufmann is the consumate master of the chiaroscuro, his breath control is amazing, and no other tenor in my experience has his ability to sing "piano-pianissimo" a "normal" high note and grow it to "forte". A special paragraph on the Viennese Helmut Deutsch, the veteran and still wonderful accompanist, whose work throughout was simply ideal. Mind you, he was the accompanist for twelve years of Hermann Prey, the only baritone that could match Fischer-Dieskau. Later, at Munich, he was professor of vocal interpretation for 28 years and taught and accompanied not only Kaufmann but first-rate artists as Diana Damrau and Michael Volle. He has recorded over a hundred CDs. Nobody has told me but I have no doubt that the programme was designed by both singer and pianist. It was unfailingly right. The Schubert started with two joyful pieces: "Der Musensohn" ("The Son of the Muses", on a Goethe text), all merry jumping, and the famous "Die Forelle" ("The Trout"). Then, the delightful watery "Der Jüngling an der Quelle" ("The young man at the source"), sung subtly and softly (but his projection is such that you hear him well if you are in the Gallery). And that "Lindenbaum" ( "Linden tree") whose melody seems folkish but is part of the stark "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter Voyage"). Then came the Schumann group, a selection of the "Twelve poems by Justinus Kerner" Op.35, very attractive and with the best schumannesque style. Of the chosen five I would single out the dramatic power of "Lust der Sturmnacht" ("Lust of the stormy night") and the Romantic impulse of "Stille Tränen" ("Silent tears"). Kaufmann gave us each mood with moving sensibility. And then, the so special case of Henri Duparc, born in 1848 and by 1885 no longer a composer after having produced some of the most exquisite "chansons d´art"; a strange mental condition cut off his creativity until his death in 1933. The four sung by our tenor are gems: the exquisite "L´invitation au voyage" ("The invitation to travel") on that often quoted text by Baudelaire that includes "order and beauty, luxury, calm and lust"; the dramatic "Le manoir de Rosemonde" ("Rosemonde´s country house"); the "Chanson triste" ("Sad song"), which mirrors that feeling admirably; and "Phidylé", a love song. I have long believed that these songs had their definitive interpretations by baritone Gérard Souzay; now I realize that a German tenor can be just as persuasive. But the best was yet to come. Most know Liszt´s "Petrarch Sonnets" in their piano transcription, but they were born as elaborate, refined songs. You will never hear them in such subjugating interpretations as Kaufmann gave us: with unbelievable feats of subtle vocality he went higher and sweeter, and higher...until you were convinced that this was an unmatched experience. And then, the Strauss group, in which I have my sole complaint: "Ich liebe dich" and "Freundliche vision" were changed and we were not told. Anyway, the expansive writing let him free his voice in "Heimliche Aufforderung" ("Secret Invitation") and the final "Cäcilie", and the composer´s humour came forward on two Von Schack songs, Op.19, where the tenor showed that he had also mastered that style. The encores were a separate recital and destroyed any doubt that might be left. For once in your life you heard the final phrase of Bizet´s "Flower aria" from "Carmen" and the Verdian "Celeste Aida" as they are written, ascending to a pianissimo; but his Radames lacked no power. Then, Verista expression in "L´anima ho stanca" from Cilea´s "Adriana Lecouvreur"; a Refice song, "Ombra di nube". "Nessun dorma" from Puccini´s "Turandot", where the tenor showed the solidity of his means and the audience officiated admirably as choir in the fragment where Calaf doesn´t sing. Then, like a born Neapolitan, "Core ´ngrato" ("Catarí") by Cardillo. And finally, that glorious Lehár aria from "The Land of Smiles", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" ("Yours is my whole heart"), as beautifully sung as Tauber. Please come back with an operatic recital with the Colón´s Orquesta Estable! For Buenos Aires Herald
Top Opera House Instagrams to follow © (Left to right) Bolshoi Theatre, Royal Opera House, Lincoln Centre, Sydney Opera House, Kungliga Operan and Teatro alla Scala 'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players', so said William Shakespeare over 400 years ago. It's a saying that still rings true – the art of performance, whether on stage or off, has entranced people for centuries. And while the artistry of the performers should never be called into question, there's undoubtedly something special about these stages. Beautiful structures inside and out, set in the heart of cities across the world, let's take a look at the world's most breathtaking opera house Instagram accounts: La Scala - Milan, Italy Built in 1778, La Scala is one of the oldest opera houses in the world. The auditorium was originally illuminated with 84 oil lamps, with another thousand lighting the rest of the theatre. With pre-electric technology however, came increased risk of fire and so buckets full of water were hung on the walls around the auditorium. Aspettando la prova antegenerale de/waiting for the pre-dress rehearsal of #LafanciulladelWest in scena dal/on stage from 3 al/to 28 maggio/May #riccardochailly #opera #puccini #lascala #teatroallascala #robertcarsen A photo posted by Teatro alla Scala (@teatroallascala) on Apr 27, 2016 at 9:23am PDT Kungliga Operan - Stockholm, Sweden King Gustave III turned away the French Opera Troupe in the years before The Royal Swedish Opera was built because he wanted to create an opera house that could perform Swedish productions. The Kungliga Operan was constructed next to the Royal Palace on the Norrström River and so the national home of opera and ballet was born. In a cruel twist, the king was actually murdered at his beloved opera house; he was shot at a masked ball in 1792. The assassination would later inspire Verdi's Un ballo in maschera . Knappt två veckor till säsongsstart och det ska fejas och det ska fixas. Nu har stora ljuskronan kommit ner för sin årliga upp-piffning! Den 19 augusti har vi nypremiär på Carmen! //Roy, guide & gästpostare på Operan #kungligaoperan #livetpåoperan #lifeattheopera #sommarpåoperan A photo posted by Kungliga Operan (@kungligaoperan) on Aug 7, 2015 at 12:35am PDT Teatro Colón - Buenos Aires, Argentina Teatro Colón was built in 1857 as a performance venue for overseas companies stopping in the Argentine capital. It was nearly 70 years before the theatre saw its resident opera and ballet companies established. The interior design echoes the European style, but the ceiling was repainted by Argentinian landscape painter Raúl Soldi in the 1960s. His inspiration was the South American sky. Cúpula A photo posted by Teatro Colón (@teatrocolon) on Jun 23, 2016 at 10:20am PDT Lincoln Center - New York City, USA Philanthropist John D. Rockefeller III was part of the 1950s initiative to create a new cultural hub in New York. He reportedly raised more than half of the $185 million need to build the complex. The center features a huge variety of dance, music and film performances and is home to The Metropolitan Opera and the New York City Ballet . The #blizzard begins. Stay safe and warm, East Coasters. #snow #lincolncenter #nyc #newyork #blizzardof2015 #architecture A photo posted by Lincoln Center (@lincolncenter) on Jan 26, 2015 at 5:14pm PST The Bolshoi - Moscow, Russia Surviving both revolution and fire, the Bolshoi Theatre has been rebuilt several time during its history. Its iconic facade can be seen on the Russian 100 ruble banknote. The theatre was closed for six years in 2005 for some serious renovation work that was said to have cost upward of 25.5 billion rubles (£650 million) and during this period, performances were held at the Great Kremlin Palace. The Bolshoi Ballet regularly perform at Covent Garden as part of their London Seasons . Большой театр сегодня празднует свое 240-летие! Спасибо, что остаетесь с нами! The Bolshoi celebrates the 240th anniversary today! Thank you for staying with us! #большойтеатр #большой #балет #большойбалет #опера #юбилей #bolshoi #bolshoitheatre #ballet #bolshoiballet #opera #anniversary #happybirthday A photo posted by Большой Театр (@bolshoi_theatre) on Mar 28, 2016 at 8:05am PDT Glyndebourne - Sussex, UK Glyndebourne Opera House is in the grounds of an English country house beside the South Downs in East Sussex. Its famous summer festival has happened every year since 1934 – apart from a brief closure during World War II. Works are performed in the purpose-built opera house (rebuilt in 1994), but much of the day is spent outside, where audiences are encouraged to dress up in black-tie and bring a picnic to enjoy in the garden. @whitecubeofficial at Glyndebourne opens this weekend - to celebrate our Shop have collaborated with White Cube artist Raqib Shaw in developing this beautiful organic wool blanket - perfect for a Glyndebourne #picnic or to use as a luxurious throw. Ps Don’t forget to visit the Shop for all your picnicking needs! Product details: Limited edition blanket featuring the print: Phileas and I Under the Full Moon - A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016) is on sale now. Link in profile Sam Stephenson A photo posted by Glyndebourne (@glyndebourne) on May 18, 2016 at 6:50am PDT Sydney Opera House - Sydney, Australia Inspired by the ship sails that sail Sydney Harbour, the city's famous opera house is one of the most iconic buildings in the world. More than 8 million people visit the theatre to marvel at the concrete shells designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon - visitors can even climb them on a tour. Following a dispute with other stakeholders during the build, Utzon left Australia never to return. He famously never saw his masterpiece in its completed state. We have our head in the clouds this morning! #sydneyskies #sydneyoperahouse A photo posted by Sydney Opera House (@sydneyoperahouse) on Jun 26, 2016 at 3:51pm PDT Paris Opéra - Paris, France The Paris Opéra perform in two very different spaces in the French capital. Built in the 19th century, the Palais Garnier is the older of the company's two theatres, and has become an important landmark in the city alongside the Notre Dame and the Louvre . The second site Opéra Bastille , now the main facility of the Paris National Opera , was designed to provide a ‘populace and modern’ space for audiences. Incontournable : le Grand Foyer du Palais Garnier. #art #architecture #visite #mustsee #PalaisGarnier #PaulBaudry ©Jean-Pierre Delagarde/OnP A photo posted by Opéra national de Paris (@operadeparis) on Jul 27, 2016 at 5:09am PDT Opéra de Monte Carlo - Monaco The Salle Garnier was designed by the same architect who created the Palais Garnier in Paris. Monaco’s version is much smaller, seating only 524 compared to the Parisian version which can seat an audience of over 2,000. The Salle Garnier was used to celebrate the centenary of Monte Carlo by King Rainier III and his American film star wife, Grace Kelly . Lieu de création depuis 1879, l'Opéra de Monte-Carlo baigné par la mer méditerranée rejoint l'aventure instagram. Photo: Jean Grisoni #opera #operademontecarlo #montecarlo #principautedemonaco #monaco #garnier #sallegarnier #igers #igersfrance A photo posted by Opéra de Monte-Carlo (@opera_de_monte_carlo) on Oct 28, 2014 at 5:29am PDT Teatro San Carlo - Naples, Italy Said to be the oldest ‘continuously active’ public opera house still in existance, Naples is home to the oldest horseshoe shaped auditorium in the world. Rossini , Donizetti , Verdi were all composers in residence here. The interior inspired subsequent opera houses around Europe and includes gold decoration, sumptuous blue upholstery and 184 boxes. Che programmi avete per il prossimo #weekend? A #Pasqua e #Pasquetta vi aspettiamo al #TeatroSanCarlo per dei turni speciali di #visiteguidate ! Tutte le info sul nostro sito nella sezione #News...#guidedtour #tour #Napoli #Naples #Italia #Italy #Feste #effettosancarlo A photo posted by Teatro San Carlo (@teatrosancarlo) on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:03am PDT Royal Opera House - London, UK Home to The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet, the auditorium of the Royal Opera House has been relatively untouched since it was completely rebuilt after a fire in 1858 (caused by a cannon misfiring on stage). The ROH will be getting some big improvements to its front of house spaces over the next two years, thanks to the Open Up project, so expect plenty of stunning photos of our new surroundings. We also hosted the first ballet-inspired Instameet, #BalletBeauty . Welcome to Instagram, ROH supporters @Rolex #101031 A photo posted by Royal Opera House (@royaloperahouse) on Nov 28, 2015 at 2:10am PST Which opera houses are you following on Instagram? Let us know in the comments below.
The GOP presidential nominee used to use Pavarotti’s famous recording of “Nessun dorma” from Turandot at rallies (until the tenor’s heirs told him to stop). It’s unclear how much Trump really knows about Turandot, but there certainly are scholars convinced that the work has Fascist overtones, and Puccini himself was an admirer of Mussolini (to whom Trump is sometimes compared).
Great composers of classical music