Monday, September 26, 2011

Nabucco Opens Tomorrow

Tomorrow September 27 is the premiere of Nabucco starring Maria Guleghina. For more information go to my Nabucco Preview. The link is below. Enjoy a clip from the dress rehearsal.

Friday, September 23, 2011

First pictures of Anna Bolena

Here are first pictures of Anna Bolena courtesy of Vogue magazine

Vogue Daily —

Anna Netrebko and Ildar Abdrazakov during the finale of act 1

Vogue Daily —

Anna Netrebko, Ildar Abdrazakov and Stephen Costello in the Act 2 trio

Vogue Daily —

Anna Netrebko in Scene 1 of Act 2

Vogue Daily — Vogue Daily —

Anna Netrebko in her Mad Scene 

Anna Bolena rehearsal reactions

Yesterday September 22 I attended the dress rehearsal to the new production of Anna Bolena. I must say I thoroughly impressed by the cast and their commitment to the work.

This is in no way a review as I will be reviewing the opera on October 6th. However I want to share my thoughts on what i saw today. The first thing I want to address is the production as I promised. David McVicar's new production is an uneven traditional production made up of  two ornate walls that resemble the palaces and dungeons of England. Both of these walls move around throughout the production to help change the scene. However these scene changes eventually become monotonous and repetitive. Its important to add that like previous Met productions such as the New Ring, McVicar's latest production malfunctioned as they were shifting to the mad scene. The elevator stopped mid way and they had to go to a third intermission to fix the problem. Hopefully this does not happen on opening night. McVicar who I considered a risk taker and who usually adds dark textures to the opera seemed to being playing it safe as he gave very little direction to his actors and most of the time they were standing and singing (parking and barking). In addition as the opera traversed McVicar seemed to be less and less interested in the opera. For example the last scene of the opera, Netrebko's costume was exactly that of the Vienna Production and she was directed in the exact way with the same gestures and direction (or maybe she because of lack of direction, she reverted to what she did in Vienna). However there are some positives out of this productions. Jenny Tiramani's costumes are both simple but luxurious as well as gorgeous to look at. Like in the Vienna production, Netrebko is given five costume changes that show off her elegance and beauty. In addition to the costumes, McVicar was clever in dividing the stage into two levels for the final scene. One recalls Aida's final scene. When Netrebko finishes singing she goes to black and the guillotine is revealed on the top level. Finally when the music stops a red curtain falls representing the beheading. Whether it may be an obvious or overdone trick it was definitely the most effective if not the best direction on McVicar's part. Overall the production is too safe, repetitive and lacks concise direction. However Met audiences will most likely enjoy it.

As for the singers. Anna Netrebko repeated her success in the role. Like in Vienna she sounded nervous and uncomfortable at the beginning. However as she continued throughout she got more comfortable and climaxed with a memorable mad scene. Netrebko sang with beautiful phrasing, pure legatos and impressive high notes. Her acting was impressive especially in the mad scene. However at times I felt like she wanted to do more but was restricted by McVicar's direction. Like critics stated Netrebko needs a director who is willing to take risks and help her discover the role to the full extent so she can fully develop the role. McVicar's is definitely not that director.

Ildar Abdrazakov was an impressively dashing Enrico. Like Netrebko, he sang with warmth and beautiful phrasing. His presence was imposing as he convinced that he was truly an unscrupulous king.

Stephen Costello was okay in the role of Percy. He was neither impressive nor bad. He sang with a warm tone at times but at other times with a nervous shrill and uneven tone. His high notes at times sounded wonderful and at other times sounded strained. Costello has a lot to work on before Monday nights opening.

Tamara Mumford was in my opinion the surprise of the afternoon. Known for singing secondary roles at the Met, Mumford finally had the pleasure of singing a key role. Her Smenton was sung with purity as the character himself. Mumford convinced in this short but crucial role.

Ekaterina Gubanova however was a mess in the role of Seymour. Known for her dramatic repertoire Gubanova showed that she is uncomfortable with the bel canto repertoire. From the beginining to the end of the opera she sounded shrill and stilted. Her voice was uneven and lacked balance. Her low point came in the act 1 finale as she was unable to reach her high register.Gubanova sang an acceptable second act if only tolerable.
 Marco Armiliato conducted with charisma but the orchestra seemed uncomfortable with a lot of the music. One of their iffy moments was the finale "Coppia Iniqua". The orchestra did not follow Netrebko and as a result it felt as if there were two different pieces being performed.. In addition there were some very awkward cuts that are not part of the standard cuts that sounded messy and contrived.

Overall because this a dress rehearsal there can still be work done before opening night.

For more information go to my Anna Bolena Preview

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Capriccio DVD

The Met will release Renee Fleming's acclaimed interpretation of Capriccio on DVD. The performance recorded in April of 2011 of conducted by the esteemed Andrew Davis.  The cast includes Joseph Kaiser and Peter Rose

Anna Bolena DVD and Pictures

I have been covering the premiere of Anna Bolena for the last few days. Today we receive the cover of the latest DVD of Anna Bolena which will be released on November 1, 2011.

In addition we just received the first images of the David McVicar production which will open the Metropolitan opera this season. 

<i>Anna Bolena</i> Opens the Season Monday!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Anna Bolena on DVD

Anna Netrebko's hailed performance of Anna Bolena will be released on DVD for the first time. The performance which was recorded in April from Vienna marks Anna Netrebko's role debut. She will open the new Met season this year in the role. The cast also includes the extraordinary Elina Garanca and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. The DVD will be released on Deustche Grammphon and is expected to be released November 1.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Anna Netrebko at the Met

Over the past ten seasons Anna Netrebko has lured audiences with her charisma and beauty. She has had five HD performances of which three were released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon.This year as Netrebko returns to headline the Opening Night gala at the Met and two HD performances. Before the Met season opens I would like to take a look at Netrebko's trajectory.

Netrebko made her Met Debut in the role of Natasha in War and Peace, a performance that immortalized her in the role and that opened the door for her to sing regularly at the Met and other great theaters. However she was far from becoming a superstar. A year later Netrebko returned to sing the role of Zerlina, a role I was fortunate enough to see. She was memorizing and unforgettable in a role that would generally not be a standout. In 2004 she would sing Musetta in La Boheme, stealing the show from the principals. In the 2005-2006 Netrebko's big break came as she took on the roles of Gilda in Rigoletto with Rolando Villazon and Norina in Don Pasquale. In Rigoletto Netrebko and Villazon solidified their status as the golden couple of Opera and in Don Pasquale Netrebko solidified herself as the star of the Metropolitan Opera.

In 2007 she would return in the roles of Mimi in La Boheme, Elvira in I Puritani and the 40th Anniversary Gala. Villazon and Netrebko once again dazzled in an exclusive one night performance of La Boheme that was sold out in hours and where legendary tenor Placido Domingo was booed for his conducting. In I Puritani, her first HD, (Below) Netrebko surprised audiences during the mad scene when she lied on her back and her head and arms dangled over the edge of the orchestra pit. Though Netrebko's Elvira lacked the discipline in the Coloratura runs and high notes, Netrebko demonstrated that she could carry an opera on her own. The 40th Anniversary Gala once again joined Villazon and Netrebko in an unforgettable evening of selections for La Boheme, Manon and L'Elisir D'Amore.        

In 2008 Netrebko finally conquered the critics as she astounded critics for her tragic but youthful portrayal of Juliette in Romeo et Juliette (Below). Her poison scene was the most memorable of the scenes as she demonstrated her capacities as a dramatic actress. In this run she had four Romeos, Roberto Alagna, Joesph Kaiser, Marcello Giordani and Matthew Polenzani all replacing Rolando Villazon.

In 2008-2009 Netrebko surprised audiences with her pregnancy and as a result she canceled her first run of a highly anticipated Lucia di Lammermoor and La Boheme. In Februrary 2009 she returned to the Met to what may be her most controversial performances at the Met. Netrebko was to prepare a new cadenza written for her by Phillip Gosset but opted out as her voice was no longer the lyric coloratura everyone knew. Her voice had become darker and heavier. In addition Netrebko and Villazon had never rehearsed the opera so the opening night would be a more or less a rehearsal. On Opening night Netrebko returned with her frequent on stage partner Rolando Villazon to a very disappointing performance of Lucia di Lammermoor (below) that was met with criticism. Critics noted that Netrebko's high notes were flat and her acting was too discipline and calm. In addition, they noted that her singing lacked any charisma audiences were used to. Villazon cracked during the sextet at the end of act two and as a result cancelled the last two performances. This would be the last time Villazon and Netrebko would ever sing together. Giuseppe Filianoti and Piotr Beczala would take over the run.

A year later in 2009-2010 Netrebko would sing Antonia in L'Contes d'Hoffman and Mimi in La Boheme. Netrebko who was originally scheduled to sing all four heroines opted out of Giuletta and Olympia. She only sang Antonia (below) and Stella. Her Antonia was hailed by critics but I still found her singing lackluster and unusually stilted and uneven. Still she returned back to form in the acting department. However her Mimi in La Boheme originally scheduled with Villazon proved to be one of the highlights of the season. Her lush voice proved well suited for the role and her acting was exceptional.

Last year Netrebko originally scheduled to sing La Traviata and Don Pasquale opted out of Traviata because she believed the production was too specific and she did not want to compete with her Salzburg performance. However she returned to the role that made her a star at the Met, Norina in Don Pasquale (Below). She once again dazzled audiences with her comic timing and beautiful phrasing. Though many complained that her voice is not well suited for this role, Netrebko proved that she was more than up to the task.

Ten years have passed and this year she will add two more roles to her Met repertoire, Anna Bolena and Manon. Deustche Grammphon celebrates her tenth anniversary with a new CD entitled "Live from the Met" with some never before released selections from her Met performances.

I will release my preview of Anna Bolena shortly after this retrospective.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Anna Bolena Preview 2011-12

Anna Netrebko brings her acclaimed Anna Bolena to the Met for the first time.

The Production
The production by David McVicar is the first production of Anna Bolena at the Met. When Rudolph Bing was general manager at the Met Maria Callas proposed to make a production of Bolena for her. However Bing immediately shrugged it off and stated that he was not about to put a boring show at the Met. Callas' plans of performing the role quickly dissipated. Since then many sopranos have taken on the role but the Met's general managers have not taken the opera seriously. When Peter Gelb stepped into the position he vied to expand the already large repertoire. He signed a contract with David McVicar to direct all three Donizetti queens, Anna Bolena, Roberto Devereux, and Maria Stuarda. He also had plans for Anna Netrebko to sing all three roles. However Netrebko decided to only take on Anna Bolena as she felt her voice was not right for the other two roles. 

McVicar who is a versatile director is known for staging his productions in traditional settings. However he always adds a minimalist taste to the production. His sets are spare and crude. His color palettes are always made of dark grays and beige and he rarely ever uses bright colors. This will be his first staging of this opera and after a huge success in Il Trovatore, McVicar is bound to please the Met audience.       

The Cast 
Anna Netrebko takes the role of Anna Bolena for the first time at the Met. Last year she dazzled audiences in another Donizetti role, Norina in Don Pasquale. She was hailed for her comic timing and her spectacular vocals. However this year she goes from a light role to Anna Bolena, a role many have considered as difficult or even more difficult than Norma. Netrebko has the challenge of singing the role in the Met premiere and following in the footsteps of greats like la Callas. Anna Bolena became part of the soprano repertoire after Maria Callas premiered it at La Scala di Milan. Since then the role has become a staple in the coloratura canon. Great sopranos have been compared to the incomparable Callas and with a doubt Ms. Netrebko will be also. In April, Netrebko made her role debut in Vienna to successful reviews. Critics called her interpretation her greatest success since the 2005 Salzburg Traviata. Opera News said that her interpretation of Anna Bolena brought her closer to becoming the "Diva assoluta del mondo." However they did note that Netrebko still has a lot of work to do with the role. Critics complained that her phrasing while beautiful was too safe and therefore lacked the emotion that Bolena needs. In addition critics also stated that she was disciplined, pretty and accurate. Its hard to think these are complaints but Netrebko is known for being charismatic and wild on stage. She lets go in some of the most dramatic roles as well as the comic roles. While her first outing was a success, singing at the Met in an iconic role is a daunting task. Netrebko will have to get more comfortable with the role letting go of the discipline and instead creating a more three dimensional character. Fortunately Netrebko is blessed with a huge instrument that fills the hall easily and is able to convey a wide range of emotions. Since her pregnancy Netrebko's voice has become darker and her lower notes have become richer. Her technique has become even more solid but her high notes have become weaker. Quickly Netrebko is going from a lyric to a spinto. As a result Netrebko is able to sing the role of Anna Bolena without having to bring the role an octave higher as most sopranos have done in the past. Its hard to ignore why Netrebko is one of today's most sought out singers. She is glamorous and charismatic, making her a perfect fit for Bolena. However she will have to improve upon her first performances in order to make her mark on this role.      

Ekaterina Gubanova replaces the beloved Elina Garanca in the role of Jane Syemour. Gubanova who
made her role debut as Eboli in the Met Japan tour takes on a role which in my opinion is too light for voice. Gubanova, whose voice is dark and heavy has sang Fricka and numerous dramatic roles to success. However she has not fared well in the lighter fare. In 2009 when Gubanova sang the role of Giuletta in L'Contes d'Hoffman critics called her singing stilted and uneven. Giuletta which is a short role is lower in range then Seymour. Seymour requires many high notes, stability and lots of coloratura. Gubanova is not known for her Bel canto interpretations and as a result it is hard to imagine what her Seymour could sound like.

Ildar Abdrazakov joins the cast as Enrico, making his role debut. Having already plenty of bel canto roles under his belt, Abdrazakov should make a great Enrico. As I noted in my Khovanschina preview, an opera he sings later this season, Abdrazakov has a dark hued bass which allows him to sing lyrically, an important element for the bel canto repertoire. Abdrazakov who is a wonderful actor will also be able to  show the many facets of Enrico making him both compassionate and perverse. In addition, this production will reunite Abdrazakov and Netrebko on stage. It will be pleasant to see the their wonderful chemistry onstage since their appearance together in Lucia di Lammermoor.    

Steven Costello gets the opportunity to shine in the role of Percy as well as an opportunity to become a star at the Met. Its been years since Costello is billed in a leading role at the Met. The Last time he sang in a leading role was in Lucia di Lammermoor along with Annick Massis. Costello who made his debut in an opening night at the Met in the role of Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor has the challenge of taking the first production of Anna Bolena. Costello whose timbre is light and frail should make for an elegant Percy.    

This will be a challenge for the whole cast as Netrebko will have to prove if she is really capable of taking on heavier roles and Costello will finally get the opportunity to show if he has what it takes to be a leading opera star. Abdrazakov and Gubanova have the challenge solidifying their status at the Met. In addition because this is the first production of Anna Bolena, it will be interesting if this opera will stick with audiences and finally be part of the standard repertoire.

I will be going to the rehearsal of this opera so I will be able to preview the production better once I see the rehearsal.

This is the first live in HD presentation at the Met this year.

Le Nozze di Figaro with Diana Damrau

MOZARTIt looks like DVD companies have realized that they are with holding treasures from recent years. Diana Damrau just announced that her enchanting performance of Le Nozze Di Figaro from 2002 will be released for the first time on DVD. The cast includes the charismatic Ildebrando D'Arcangelo and Pietro Spangoli. Its wonderful to see Damrau in what used to be her specialty, Mozart.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Ring Cycle Preview 2011-12

Robert Lepages New Ring receives the first complete cycle in the 2011-12 season.

The Production
This post is the first to talk about the new productions and as a result, I won't be able to provide more than what has been revealed, speculated, or presented by the Met. Fortunately, half of this production has already been revealed as last year we saw "Das Rheingold" and "Die Walkure." Last year, this production was Gelb's centerpiece for the new season and the production (which apparently cost $16 million plus and consists of 24 planks that weigh 90,000 pounds) was generally met with derision. Robert LePage had hyped the technology that was made up of the aforementioned 24 planks, that not only revolve around the stage to create new shapes and locations, but also project video imagery. His Damnation of Faust Production a few seasons ago was an admirable success and the increasing show of video technology used on the opera stage around the world only added to the anticipation. Add in the price tag and there was great reason to believe that we would be seeing the future of opera and theater in the making.

But everyone now knows how it turned out. The opening night was a laughable failure in which the planks failed to project the intended rainbow effect. The night was salvaged by the tremendous singing, but there were critiques of LePage's lack of direction and vision. When I saw the production in October, I was disappointed to see the full extent of the machine's capabilities. There were a few inspired moments (the descent into Niebelheim), but most of the imagery that comes to mind are the hours of cloud projections which probably would have been equally effective had it been a  traditional set. Then in April, "Die Walkure" premiered to more moderate success. Again the singers saved the day, but the production proved not only that it was still in its experimental infancy, but that it could potentially be dangerous. I will never forget being at the premiere and watching Deborah Voigt fall off the planks as she tried to mount them or Stephanie Blythe almost slipping off the planks. Later in the run, one of the Walkures slid off the plank a little bit earlier than the machine anticipated and fell off the contraption. Fortunately nothing serious happened to her, but it is this kind of event that can distract and potentially frighten an audience. All in all, danger aside, the production was nothing to marvel about either and in many cases hindered the singers. LePage continued to prove that the machine and the tests he could run on it were his priorities. The singers were left without any sense of direction and looked lost throughout the performance. Gelb constantly harps on new "theatrical experiences" being at the forefront of bringing in new productions, but this is one example where that does not ring true.

But fortunately for LePage, he still has two operas left with which he can salvage not only this cycle's legacy, but his own image as a theater director. There has already been a great deal of talk regarding 3D technology for the November premiere of Siegfried (something which I still can't get my mind around; afterall, theater is already performed in three dimensions, so what more could we expect from the technology?). Not much else has been said about Gotterdammerung (which premieres in January). The Met has released a plethora of trailers regarding this new production, which have included fantastical images that have yet to surface in the first two productions, leaving me hoping that they were come to fruition in the next two productions. If this comes true, we could be in for some truly fantastical experiences.

The Cast

Taking on the leading role of Siegfried in both "Siegfried" and "Gotterdammerung" is Wagnerian Gary Lehman in what is his first true star turn at the Met. He of course sang in the infamous run of Tristan und Isolde a few seasons back (he was the tenor who fell into the prompter's box when the production technology malfunctioned. He has the Wagnerian heft and strength, though he sacrifices the smoothness and elegance of his legato line.

Stephen Gould will be taking over other performances of Siegfried and in many ways is the complete opposite of Lehman. Where Lehman lacks subtlety and polish, Gould lacks heft and power. He on the other hand is a Wagnerian tenor who is notable for his sweeping lyricism. He sang "Die Flieglende Hollander" a few season ago and I was truly memorized by the ease and beauty with which he sang Erich. Both should successfully overcome the tantalizing difficulties of these two roles.

Deborah Voigt returns to the role of Brunhilde after a success debut in Die Walkure. She was hailed for her rhythmic accuracy and verbal clarity. This time her role is a bit shorter in Siegfried (she sang for about 3 hours in Walkure but only shows up in the final 20 minutes of Siegfried) but still challenging nonetheless. Gotterdammerung is a different story altogether. Though Brunhilde gets significant breaks throughout the opera, she essentially carries the operas for long periods of time, most notably the famous immolation scene which is a notable test for great Brunhilde, both past and present. Voigt showed great confidence in her first Brunhilde and though the challenges will rise, there is no reason to doubt her success in the subsequent roles.

The Met's other Brunhilde is Katarina Dalmayan, a notable Wagnerian who has already sung the role of Brunhilde at the Met. Last time the Met had a full cycle, Dalmayan sang Gotterdammerung to tremendous success. She is an assured singer who quite clearly conquers not only the vocal, but dramatic demands of the role. I have not heard her sing the "Walkure" or "Siegfried" Brunhilde, though it should pose no great difficulties for her. Both singers bring different qualities and levels of experience, making them both exciting prospects for the role of Brunhilde.

Bryn Terfel returns as the only Wotan to sing all three operas. Last year, he made his Met role debut on opening night to tremendous praise. In April, he continued to gain supporters in another triumphant performance of "Die Walkure." Terfel is a tremendous actor with an expressive voice. It may have a coarse sound in certain areas, but Terfel's vocal capacity and range is a diamond in the rough. In a world where most bass-baritones belt, shout, and groan their way through Wagner's imposing vocal obstacles, Terfel's purity of line or color which enables him to create a truly complex portrait of Wotan that is not only refreshing to listen to, but also moving and enrapturing. Layer that with his incomparable acting abilities (I will never forget watching Terfel's grief as he held Siegmund in his hand and then the ensuing rage that builds up in him). The Wanderer/Wotan in "Siegfried" is far less complex than in "Die Walkure," but it should be no surprise to see Terfel turn in another compelling performance in this role.

Hans Peter Konig and his imposing, booming voice return in the three roles of Fasolt ("Das Rheingold"), Hunding ("Die Walkure"), and Hagen ("Gotterdammerung"). He was immensely impressive in the first two operas of the cycle with the clarity and power of his gorgeous voice. This year, he adds Hagen, which is arguably the most complete and interesting of those three roles. It should truly be a treat to hear the great villain performed with the appropriate strength that is so uncommon.

The wonderful Waltraude Meier returns to the Met to sing Waltraute in "Gotterdammerung" for what is likely to be an extraordinary cameo. Hearing her at the Met has become a rarity these days (she sang a brief run of Wozzeck last year). I had the pleasure of hearing her a few seasons ago step in at Barenboim's request for an unforgettable performance of her legendary Isolde. She has a truly penetrating voice coupled with assured stage presence. Meier is one of the greatest singers in the world and it is going to be a treat to see her ever briefly in this run.

Jonas Kaufmann returns to his youthful Sigmund. Last year when Jonas Kaufmann sang Sigmund for the very first time at the Met he provided a rare youthfulness and flexibility. Kaufmann commands a voice that allows him great control of his pianissimo allowing him to sing delicately a trait Wagnerian singers struggle to do. Critics praised him for this delicacy as he was able to create radiance and poetry in the music  If Kaufmann sings and acts as great as he did in the last run of Die Walkure, he should easily steal the show from the lead singers.

Eva Maria Westbroek reprises the role of Sigliende, a role she has been hailed for allover the world. Unfortunately when I went to see her, she only sang the first act due to illness. Its hard to judge a singer based on one act especially when Sieglinde's great moment comes in the last act of the opera. However from what she did sing, she was marvelous. Her performance was hailed by critics for her having a richly developed Sieglinde. If Westbroek adds the same intensity to her performance, it should be a joy to see her sing this role again.

Stephanie Blythe returns to her acclaimed portrayal of Fricka. Last year when Blythe came out on stage she immediately froze the audience as her imposing presence and her lush voice created a distressed Fricka many hadn't heard in years. Her short roles in both Rheingold and Walkure were some of the standouts in the operas. She was hailed for her radiant voice and her effortless singing. As I stated in my Aida preview Blythe is an artist who sings with such intensity that is hard to turn away from her.

The superb cast of all stars is joined by an incredible supporting cast of Wagnerians including Robert Brubaker, Eric Owens, Gerhard Siegel, Iain Patterson and Wendy Bryn Harmer,

Due to his latest injury, James Levine will not be conducting Siegfried this fall, instead being replaced by Fabio Luisi. As a result Mr. Luisi's interpretation will be recorded on the Live in HD series. Levine is scehduled to conduct Gotterdammrung and the three Ring cycles in the spring

The Ring Cycle will be one of the most exciting events of the year no matter what production is used.

My website

Aside from being an opera fan I am a cellist who plays in a trio named the Hardwick trio. We play weddings, concerts and teach. Our website is up and running. Here is the link hope you all enjoy it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Renee Fleming gets married

Renee Fleming and Tim Jessell were married on September 3. Congratulations to the people's diva

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Salvatore Licitra's Funeral

Salvatore Licitra's funeral will take place on Friday, September 9, at 2PM at the Santo Stefano Protomartire church in San Vedano al Lambro, Monza, on the outskirts of Milan.

We will never forget the great tenor and we will truly miss him. 

Pavarotti's Andrea Chenier on DVD

A few weeks ago I published an article about performances that were televised but never published. News comes that after 20 years of waiting Pavarotti's acclaimed portrayal of Andrea Chenier will be released internationally on October 3. The cast includes Jun Pons and the radiant Maria Guleghina.

For information click here

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Khovanshchina Preview 2011-12

Olga Borodina stars in the role of Marfa in the Mussorgsky's masterpiece Khovanshchina

The Production
August Everding's 1985 production returns after a  12 year absence. When the production opened the New York Magazine commented that "August Everding's incisive direction clearly delineates the opera's three basic themes, divisive forces that were tearing Russia apart in the 1680s, just before Peter the Great took over the throne and established his New Order." They stated that "Everding's keen perception of how the characters clash, and Mussorgsky's disturbing insights into political conflicts dictated by human stupidity-it all strikes home hard, and as a result the opera has never seemed so relevant." Unfortunately I have not seen this production so it is hard for me to comment on what the production looks like.

Russian soprano Olga Borodina
The Cast
The imposing mezzo soprano Olga Borodina brings her acclaimed portrayl of Marfa to the Met. Borodina who is known for being difficult has one of the most imposing stage presences in opera today. While not the most talented of actresses she has the capability of bringing the audience to her and making the rest of the cast on stage be forgotten. In the past years Borodina's voice has grown in size. A few years ago she would be able to sing Rossini with success but today her voice is dark and heavy, almost like a contralto. The most impressive part of her voice are her low notes which are vibrant and dark as well as her mezza voce which she is able to express and phrase with perfection. Her technique is impeccable and she makes everything sound easy even if she is on an off day. Borodina is one of the most radiant and exciting mezzo's singing today. Below is a clip of what audiences will be hearing of her interpretation of Marfa which she sang a few years ago at the Marinsky theater.

Ildar Abdrazakov shares the stage with his wife, Olga Borodina for the fourth time at the Met. Previously they sang Damnation of Faust and Carmen as well as in the Joseph Volpe Gala. This year Abdrazakov takes on the role of Dosifei, a role that like Ms. Borodina, he has sang at the Marinsky theater. Abdrazakov who has a dark hued voice bass has been praised for his suave lyricism and for his nice dark rolling tone. Abdrazakov is a multifaceted actor who is capable of portraying evil, suffering and even comedy. With Mussorsky's music it is the first time we see Abdrazakov take on one of his native works and it should be a pleasure to hear him sing Russian for the first time at the Met.

Vladimir Galouzine returns to the Russian repertoire after a highly praised Queen of Spades. Galouzine has been praised for his "intense, stylistically astute singing that draws audiences in." Galouzine, Russia's leading tenor has a dramatic spinto voice. The voice has heft and like Borodina and Abdrazakov's voices, is dark hued. His acting is incredible as he adds deft to each of his characters.

Rounding out the cast in the Gregorian baritone George Gagnidze who sings his first russian role at the Met. As I mention in my Tosca preview Gagnidze who made is Met debut in 2008 in the role of Rigoletto has a voice that sounds old and wobbly. The sound is mostly forced and he generally overacted. We will see how he fares with Mussorgsky's commanding music. 

Mussorgsky's music is difficult and complex. At times not atonal and at time melodic. His operas are lengthy and they involve many characters that are hard to follow. While the cast is wonderful it will hard to bring newcomers to this opera. This opera is for the experienced opera fans and those who love Russian music.     


BREAKING NEWS: James Levine withdraws from all Met performances

It has just been reported that James Levine "has withdrawn from all performances at the Met for the rest of the year after falling while on vacation in Vermont and damaging a vertebra, the house said on Tuesday. Mr. Levine had emergency surgery on Thursday and was to have begun rehearsals on Monday. The injury comes on top of a series of back operations followed by periods of rehabilitation to correct a painful spinal condition, called stenosis."

As a result Fabio Luisi was named principal conductor and was handed most of Levine's engagements for the fall. James Levine remains music director. Mr. Levine said he “hopes to recover in time to return to the Met in January, for the new production of Wagner’s “Götterdämmerung,” which opens on Jan. 27, and for the complete “Ring” cycles in April and May.

We wish him well and hope he has a fast recovery.

Monday, September 5, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Salvatore Licitra dies 1968-2011

Nine days after being in a Coma the great tenor Salvatore Licitra dies at the age of 42. Licitra suffered serious injuries to his head and chest in a road accident while on a scooter in Sicily, Italia. The Swiss Tenor was not wearing a helmet and suffered a brain hemorrhage. This morning the doctors proclaimed him brain dead and his family gave permission to donate his organs. 

Licitra was the prime example of a great spinto tenor. One only need listen to his gorgeous "Ah si ben mio" from Il Trovatore.  Most tenors, in preparation for the force demanded in "Di Quella Pira," tend to bark their way through the delicate and poetic "Ah Si Ben Mio." Not Licitra. His great talent was to combine finesse and elegance of line with passion in not only Verdi's operas, but in all the spinto repertoire that he conquered. His international career took off after replacing an ill Pavarotti in Tosca at the Met in 2002. After that he became a household name in at the Met and throughout the international theaters. He became a favorite of the great conductors such as Riccardo Muti who handpicked him for the first Trovatore at La Scala in 22 years. He would also perform La Forza del Destino, Tosca, and Un Ballo in Maschera amongst others under the great conductor. The great Renata Tebaldi, upon hearing him perform, once stated that "he was a real tenor who fills the Hall."

Salvatore Licitra was to sing Ernani this year at the Met but cancelled without any explanation. Thankfully Licitra gave some of the most memorable performances with an extensive repertoire that included Tosca, Aida, Un Ballo in Maschera, Il Tabarro, La Forza del Destino, Turandot, Pagliacci. I am happy to have experienced this great tenor's art in Aida, Pagliacci, Il Tabbarro and La Forza del Destino.   

Licitra will be remembered for his charisma, his joy, and love for music. He was truly a captivating and engrossing artist. 

For more information click here 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Salvatore Licitra update

Salvatore Licitra the swedish-Italian tenor remains in a coma. As of yesterday Wednesday, August 31, Licitra remains the same and their are no changes in his health.

Licitra suffered an Accident on Saturday August 27 and suffered a cerebral  hemorrhage as well as serious injuries in his chest.

For information in Italian click here