Friday, February 23, 2007

Renee Fleming at the Kaplan Penthouse; Norma at Tanglewood in '08

The big news: Renee will debut Norma in a concert version with James Levine at Tanglewood in 2008. She mentioned that Levine said, "You have to do this role because you have to do it." While dramatic sopranos have been singing Norma recently, this will be a lyric Norma. Renee added, "It's a huge risk. But, what? I should never take a risk?"

This was an especially informative interview, and any time spent with the charming soprano is time well spent.

More later.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What I've been doing in the last week

Well, I can't say I've been doing nothing. What I won't be doing tonight is attending Angela Gheorghiu's interview at the Kaplan Penthouse, becaused she canceled. When I called around noon to inquire about a duplicate (yes, with all this traveling, I do misplace a ticket here and there), I was told that they'd just gotten word that Gheorghiu has taken ill and canceled her appearance tonight. Ah, the drama.

Last Tuesday, I attended the Bastille's Les Contes d'Hoffmann with Rolando Villazon and Patricia Petibon. I arrived in New York on Friday for three Met revivals: the Met's last Jenufa this season (Karita Mattila and Anja Silja in a shattering performance); two performances of Eugene Onegin (Renee Fleming, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ramon Vargas); and the season premiere of Simon Boccanegra (Thomas Hampson, Angela Gheorghiu, Marcello Giordani, Ferrucio Furlanetto). I will also attend the Guild's interview with Renee Fleming on Thursday.

Also of note: I spotted Susan Graham at Jenufa and Boccanegra. The back of her head appears in several of my photos of the Boccanegra ovations. It's always exciting to see opera stars in the audience; they're fans too!

More to come.

Monday, February 12, 2007

This is what I get to read for work

Tagged, I transcribe:

À mon âge, aucun intérêt ne me distrayait le cœur, aucune ambition ne traversait le cours de ce sentiment déchaîné comme un torrent et qui faisait onde de tout ce qu’il emportait. Oui, plus tard, nous aimons la femme dans une femme ; tandis que de la première femme aimée, nous aimons tout : ses enfants sont les nôtres, sa maison est la nôtre, ses intérêts sont nos intérêts, son malheur est notre plus grand malheur ; nous aimons sa robe et ses meubles ; nous sommes plus fâchés de voir ses blés verses que de savoir notre argent perdu ; nous sommes prêts à gronder le visiteur qui dérange nos curiosités sur la cheminée. Ce saint amour nous fait vivre dans un autre, tandis que plus tard, hélas ! nous attirons une autre vie en nous-mêmes, en demandant à la femme d’enrichir de ses jeunes sentiments nos facultés appauvries.

Balzac, Le Lys dans la vallée (1836)

My life isn't so bad.

I tag Sarah, litwit and Matthias. (Instructions, via tsr: "find the nearest book, turn to page 123, post the fifth, sixth and seventh sentences"; "tag three folks")

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Parsifal at the Staatsoper unter den Linden

Everyone seems to be in Berlin at the moment. I didn't learn of the Berlinale until a few days ago when I tried booking a hotel room. (Apparently, festival's opening night is the busiest night of the year for Berlin hotels.) I almost canceled this trip, but I didn't want to pass up the chance to hear Parsifal with Rene Pape under Daniel Barenboim. When I bought the ticket a few months ago, Waltraud Meier was scheduled to sing Kundry. I heard both Pape and Meier in this opera at the Met last May, with Ben Heppner and Thomas Hampson, who were making role debuts. Despite such stellar casting, excellent playing from the orchestra, and a beautiful production, the opera failed to move me. I even fell asleep during Act II (one of Meier's top notes awoke me, and I was rather embarrassed to discover that I had nodded off). But I had loved every Wagner opera I'd heard, and I knew I had to give this, considered the ne plus ultra of Wagner's art, another chance. I mean, I started Wagner with nothing less than the full Ring at the Met during a week in New York in the spring of '04. And it's hard to top the Met's Lohengrin last season. (I remember Renee Fleming mentioned she saw it and it made her "a convert!")

While reading the libretto this afternoon at a restaurant just down the street from the Staatsoper, I found myself profoundly moved, and I knew things would be different this time around. Sitting in the house (a beautiful one it is), it took only the opening chords of the prelude to move me to tears. Weird, huh? For the next few hours, nothing came close to the purity and promise of that moment, but that's not the point. Moments like that don't happen at every performance.

Rene Pape. First, that gorgeous voice thrills you with its size, tone and sheer power. It's a beautiful, resonant sound. And it emerges from a physique that's no less commanding. Pape makes every word, note and gesture count, bathing every moment with subtely.

Michelle DeYoung wasn't in top form vocally, but she sounded splendid nonetheless. Few artists I have seen can command a stage like Waltraud Meier, whose Kundry was so compelling that she owned my gaze whenever on stage, even all of Act III. But DeYoung has a lot to offer in this part. I'd like to see her in a less irritating production.

What's so moving about Parsifal? In a word, for me it's the longing for peace. Healing. Wounds, sins, whatever. And when it happens, well, that's just magic.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Daniela Barcellona and Juan Diego Florez at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

I'm not sure why Barcellona received top billing, as she's not a megastar, but she did. Both singers were somewhat uneven tonight, but the concert was pure fun. The singers showed much charm during ovations, and I wish they could have brought some more personality to their performances.

Florez seemed nervous at times. I wonder how much of this music might be new to him. His "Il mio tesoro" was especially unsuccessful; he stumbled in one of the early runs, and he carried the long lines only with much effort. In general, Florez was often detached and thinking a great deal about what he was singing. Only in the Pasquale aria did he really command the stage.

Barcellona possesses a powerful dark voice. Sometimes it veers towards hootiness. I wouldn't say it's a beautiful voice. It's big. It seems unusual for bel canto. Still, her coloratura sparkles and her performance of "O mio Fernando" pretty much brought the house down.

Rolando Villazon, in town for Les Contes d'Hoffman at the Paris Opera (which I will see next week), sat in the first row of center corbeille. During intermission he signed quite a few autographs and cameras throughout the auditorium flashed incessantly.

I have photos and videos to share. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My week in Karita Mattila and Anja Silja; Deborah Voigt sings Beethoven; Esa-Pekka Salonen's piano concerto

Anja Silja and Karita Mattila at the Kaplan Penthouse on Thursday evening

On Monday night I attended opening night of the Met's revival of Jenufa starring Karita Mattila and Anja Silja. Met a new friend waiting at the stage door. Waited two full hours, as the cast members were at a party! It was worth it. Silja exited earlier than Mattila. Both women were warm and in great spirits after a successful performance, and they signed my program.

On Thursday evening I attended an interview with Mattila and Silja at the Kaplan Penthouse. I took copious notes. The big news is that Kaija Saariaho is currently writing an opera for Mattila, who was worried that she might get in trouble for making the announcement. She asked, "Are there any journalists in here?"

There was some tension between the two, who clearly admire each other but are so different. I'll write more on this later (hopefully).

Sarah had received two tickets to the New York Philharmonic's Thursday night concert. After the interview we walked across the Lincoln Center campus and entered Avery Fisher Hall in time to hear the world premiere of Esa-Pekka Salonen's piano concerto, written for an dedicated to Yefim Bronfman. I thoroughly enjoyed this extraordinarily dynamic and exciting piece.

On Wednesday evening, in Boston, I attended the Boston Symphony's open rehearsal of its latest Beethoven/Schoenberg program. Two Beethoven pieces were rehearsed that night: Ah! perfido and the eighth symphony. James Levine, who said he was trying something new in using a microphone that would allow us to hear him, started with the vocal piece. Deborah Voigt was, as he said, "in great form." What a thrilling sound. I was glad to attend the rehearsal, because travel plans prevent me from attending one of the concerts.

More later, if I get a chance.