Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Compositions that are less frequently performed need to be explored further. Such is the case with this music: Verdi and Dvorak: String Quartets Dvorak: String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 51 (B92) Performed by Yura Lee (violin), Katharine Gowers (violin), Florian Donderer (viola), Frans Helmerson (cello) Verdi: String Quartet in E minor Performed by Christian Tetzlaff (violin), Florian Donderer (violin), Hartmut Rohde (viola), Maximilian Hornung (cello) Today we have the privilege of counting these masterpieces among the crown jewels of the late 1800’s. In 1873, Verdi wrote a string quartet – the only work of chamber music in his entire output. It was intended to serve as a pastime during a long stay in Naples. Only later did he make clear to the world that he was not indifferent to this work’s quality. Six years later, Dvořák wrote his 10th String Quartet. Thus, this CD juxtaposes the Romantic styles of Central Europe and the Mediterranean. Here is the Verdi string quartet:
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
The view from the main stage Orchestra Pit at the Royal Opera House © ROH/Sim Canetty-Clarke, 2014 Eight Royal Opera productions will be broadcast over the coming months on BBC Radio 3 . Each broadcast will be available on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after broadcast. Details are as follows: Il barbiere di Siviglia LIVE - 17 September 2016 (6.30pm BST) Il barbiere di Siviglia, The Royal Opera © ROH / Mike Hoban 2011 Rossini ’s Il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) has a score that fizzes with musical brilliance, from Figaro’s famous entrance aria ‘Largo al factotum’ to the frenzy of the Act I finale, when the five principal voices all pile on top of each other. Werther - 15 October 2016 (6.30pm BST) Joyce DiDonato as Charlotte and Vittorio Grigòlo as Werther in Werther, Royal Opera House © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper Werther's excellent libretto, written by Edouard Blau and Paul Milliet , distills Goethe ’s Romantic masterpiece and intensifies Goethe’s depiction of two passionate people, each intent on hurting the other. The score displays Massenet ’s gift for melody, with the ‘Clair de lune’, ‘Lied d’Ossian’ and Charlotte’s ‘Prière’ now some of the composer's most loved music. This broadcast offers another chance to hear two of the finest performances at Covent Garden last Season from Joyce DiDonato and Vittorio Grigòlo . Il trovatore - 22 October 2016 (6.30pm BST) Željko Lučić as Count di Luna in Il trovatore, The Royal Opera © 2016 ROH. Photograph by Clive Barda Verdi ’s Il trovatore is probably best known for its ‘gypsy’ music: the Anvil Chorus , Azucena’s ‘Stride la vampa’ and Manrico’s heroic ‘Di quella pira’ are key examples. But Verdi wrote wonderful music for all four of his leads and the score boasts a host of thrilling ensembles and chorus numbers including the Count's aristocratic aria ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ and Leonora’s prayer. Norma - 5 November 2016 (6.30pm GMT) Norma. The Royal Opera 2016/17 Season Bellini ’s bel canto masterpiece Norma is perhaps most acclaimed as a vehicle for the lead soprano – key arias include ‘Casta diva’, Norma’s Act I hymn to the chaste moon; and Act II’s ‘Dormono entrambi’, as she contemplates the unthinkable act of killing her children. But the opera’s dramatic potency rests in its breathtaking ensembles, most strikingly in Norma’s duets with Pollione and Adalgisa, the Act I trio ‘Vanne, sì: mi lascia, indegno’ and the blistering Act II finale. Così fan tutte - 12 November 2016 (6.30pm GMT) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, posthumous portrait by Barbara Kraft, 1819 Mozart ’s final collaboration with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte followed Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni and exemplifies the heights opera can reach when the skills of composer and librettist are perfectly matched. But Così’s reception has always been more complex than that of the other Mozart/Da Ponte operas, with the opera variously considered immoral, unfinished, cruel or simply odd since its 1790 premiere. Now finally accepted as one of Mozart’s masterpieces, it is celebrated as much for its nuanced depiction of love as for its glorious music. Der Rosenkavalier LIVE - 14 January 2017 (5.45pm GMT) Richard Strauss conducts at the Royal Albert Hall, 1947 © Philharmonia Orchestra Der Rosenkavalier was Richard Strauss ’s first original collaboration with the playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal , following quickly on the heels of Strauss’s adaption of Hofmannsthal’s play Elektra . It marked the start of one of 20th century opera’s most important artistic partnerships. Renée Fleming takes on the role of Marschallin in this new production, one of the great soprano roles in the repertory. The Nose and Les Contes d'Hoffmann will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the coming months. Details of these broadcasts will be released shortly. The Royal Opera House and the BBC are partners . Please note broadcast schedules are subject to change.
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.'”
Buenos Aires Lírica presented Verdi´s "Ernani" in 2006 and it was an excellent idea, for it is one of the best of Verdi´s First Period operas, and the Colón incredibly presented it only in 1965. Ten years later the Colón seems uninterested to program it, so it is quite justified to bring it back. The 2006 occasion had been convincing in two key roles: Gustavo López Manzitti as a stalwart Ernani and Omar Carrión as a noble Carlo. Svetlana Volosenko was a good Elvira and Homero Pérez-Miranda a dramatic though rather woolly Silva. The sure hands of Carlos Vieu led the orchestra and Mario Perusso did an acceptable staging. This time the strongest link in what may be called a Mercosur cast was the powerful Brazilian bass Sávio Sperandio and the weakest the Platense Lisandro Guinis as Carlo: he lacks presence and a fluid vocal line. Elvira was interpreted by the Paraguayan soprano Monserrat Maldonado with a sense of drama though little refinement and Ernani by the Uruguayan Nazareth Aufe, expressive and correct; however, he needs more metal in the timbre. Juan Casasbellas was the very musical conductor, and the American Crystal Manich did the traditional staging, blessedly not changed to the present century but according to the libretto, placed in 1519-20. The stage designs of Noelia González Svoboda were good in the initial two acts but the chapel is poor, and the last act isn´t "a terrace"; the use of the same woody drop of the First Tableau was a mistake. Good costumes by María Emilia Tambutti and adequate lighting (Rubén Conde). In my early teens I read in French Victor Hugo´s "Hernani" along with its famous Prologue, and I understood why it provoked a scandal at the time of its première in 1830. As Claudio Ratier writes in his excellent comments (I wish the Colón were as thorough as he is) it is "the banner of French Romanticism, a proclamation in defense of freedom". Hugo´s theatre has long been considered old hat, but his intense belief in values that are now forgotten appealed to me, and they still do. And they persist in the libretto of Francesco Maria Piave for Verdi, although for some reason Hugo didn´t like it. Later in my teens I had two experiences that convinced me of the quality of Verdi´s opera. One was the Cetra recording, with the magisterial Carlo of Giuseppe Taddei. The other was the viewing of "Ernani" at the beautiful old Met ("The Golden Horseshoe") in New York, with a fantastic masculine cast: Leonard Warren, Mario Del Monaco, Cesare Siepi; only Zinka Milanov was in decline by then. The 1965 Colón performances also had admirable singers: Cornell MacNeil´s magnificent Carlo, and the very good Ernani of Flaviano Labò and Silva of Jerome Hines; Margherita Roberti was a step below but still good; and Previtali was a convinced Verdian. The French have always been interested in Spain and you may remember Corneille´s "Le Cid" as a basic reference. I read an article about "Ernani" that calls Silva the villain: he isn´t, Carlo is until the Third Act. Carlo is no less than Charles I of Spain, crowned Charles V of the Sacred Roman Germanic Empire precisely in the Third Act, at Charlemagne´s Chapel at Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen now), in 1520. Remember: Spain in 1519 (first two acts) is a country of extremes: in 1492 Columbus discovers America but both the Moors and the Jews are chased out of Spain; Torquemada is the terrible chief of the Inquisition. A unified Spain from then on, but one with frequent abuses. Charles was born in Ghent; crowned Charles I in 1516 when he was only 16, he knew almost no Spanish. Son of Juana la Loca, grandson of the Catholic Kings (Ferdinand and Isabel), he had to mature fast, but it was only after 1522 and a bloody purge of the revolt of the "comuneros" that Spain began to accept him. Before then, however, he took lands of noblemen. And that´s when Hugo´s Ernani comes in, for he is of noble family, but Carlo runs him into exile by a "bando"(edict); he becomes a "bandit" (that´s the real sense of the word). Three men love Elvira but she only loves Ernani; Silva (her uncle) and the young King are the other pretenders. When Ernani disguised as a pilgrim is accepted in Silva´s castle by the laws of hospìtality he learns that Silva will marry Elvira (she thinks Ernani is dead); Ernani reveals himself and both are about to duel when the King´s arrival is announced; Silva shows an hidalgo´s loyalty and he hides Ernani. Carlo claims the bandit but Silva has given his word to save him. Honor is above all, "the Silvas don´t lie". The King takes Elvira as hostage; the others plan revenge. But the conspirators lose in the Third Act, and the new Emperor, invoking Charlemagne, pardons them. In the Fourth Act Silva accomplishes his revenge: he has warned Ernani that if he hears three horn calls he must commit suicide; Ernani fools himself into believing that Silva would pardon him, but the old man is inexorable and Ernani obeys (he had given his word: values again). All this with music that boasts several splendid arias, duets, trios and concertantes, plus a chorus, "Si ridesti il Leon di Castiglia", that Italians took as a call to independence. For Buenos Aires Herald
From 2014/15 Deutsche Bühnenverein statistics, just released: 1 La Traviata (Verdi) 31 productions, 286 performances 2 Die Zauberflöte (Mozart) 30 productions, 285 performances 3 Carmen (Bizet) 26 productions, 247 performances 4 Hansel und Gretel (Humperdinck) 207 performances Magic Flute and H&G are targeted at children and Christmas audiences. So, no surprises here. Among more recent works, Peter Grimes (Britten) had 35 performances and The Rake’s Progress (Stravinsky) 30.
Giuseppe Verdi (10 October 1813 - 27 January 1901) was an Italian Romantic composer, mainly of opera. He was one of the most influential composers of the 19th century. His works are frequently performed in opera houses throughout the world and, transcending the boundaries of the genre, some of his themes have long since taken root in popular culture - such as "La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto, "Va, pensiero" (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco, "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" (The Drinking Song) from La traviata and the "Grand March" from Aida. Although his work was sometimes criticized for using a generally diatonic rather than a chromatic musical idiom and having a tendency toward melodrama, Verdis masterworks dominate the standard repertoire a century and a half after their composition.
Great composers of classical music