Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Met Opera Review: Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera is David Alden's Trash Can!

By Francisco Salazar
(for November 27, 2012 performance)

Over the last few weeks since the Met premiered it's new Un Ballo in Maschera I have heard wonders about how amazing David Alden was as a director. Therefore I went into last night's performance of the Verdi work with high expectations. The result was no where near it. What I saw was a travesty trying to take it self seriously.

The Met opened its season to a new production of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore that elicited boredom because it tried to take the light-hearted work as a drama and ultimately failed to do so. David Alden attempted the opposite. He tried to treat Verdi's dramatic work Un Ballo in Maschera as an operetta but ultimately made the work numb of any drama. Yes Verdi's work has some comic elements but so do many other dramas such Adriana Lecouvreuer and Il Tabarro. I don't mean to compare these minor works to Verdi's masterpiece but no one ever attempted to approach these as operettas. The comparison of Verdi to operetta is an incredibly pretentious analysis because the title Un Ballo in Maschera does not only pertain to the final act, it pertains to the complete opera as every character hides behind a mask. The music equally demonstrates this with its sarcasm. The finale to the first scene is music of a cynical king who takes Ulrica as a joke. The act 2 conspirator chorus couldn't be more sarcastic and Gustavo's "Scherzo di folie" could be interpreted as a fearful king trying to calm his people down and trying to ignore what Ulrica has told him of his impending death. The Masked Ball is probably the only place where the music can be taken lightheartedly but in that circumstance David Alden does the opposite; he gives us a demonic dance that with a rugged and laughable choreography.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don Giovanni Opens Tomorrow

Ildar  Abdrazakov and Erwin Schrott lead a new cast in Michael Grandage's dull production of Don Giovanni. Edward Gardner leads the Metropolitan Orchestra. 

For information on Don Giovanni read our preview linked here.
For more information on Ildar Abdrazkov in Mozart read our Le Nozze di Figaro review.
For more on Don Giovanni production read our review to last year's run.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Marco Berti Cancels second Aida

In Tonight's performance of Aida  the extraordinary tenor Carl Tanner will sing the role of Radames replacing Marco Berti who is ill. For more on Carl Tanner read our review.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Met Opera Review: Two powerhouse Divas triumph in the Met's riveting Aida

By Francisco Salazar 
(For 11/23/2012 performance)

In the last few years the Met has suffered subpar casting choices and routine conductors for Verdi's Aida making for some of the most forgettable nights at the opera. On Friday the opposite occurred. Sonja Frisell's beloved 1988 production of Aida returned to the Met with an outstanding cast and incredible conducting. 

On this night rising star Ukranian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska made her Met debut. Already a superstar in her native country, Monastyrska came to worldwide acclaim after an unforgettable Lady Macbeth at the Royal Opera House. She made her US debut at the Richard Tucker gala a few days before opening night singing an aria from Macbeth and stole the show. Therefore the expectations for Monastyrska were high on this night. Monstyrska more than superseded expectations making her Aida one for the ages and one that will be difficult to top. Monatyrska possesses an agile and huge voice that easily rang through Verdi's huge orchestra and massive choruses. She was also able to sing beautiful phrases and immaculate pianissimos. During her first aria "Ritorna Vincitor," Monastyrska easily brought to life Aida's confusion and remorse. Each phrase was sung with power and yet with delicacy demonstrating her suffering and her pleas to her Gods. At the end of the aria when Aida states "Numi Pieta" (God have pity), Monastyrska gave each line a sense of yearning. This was once again repeated at the end of the Amneris-Aida duet. In her second aria "O Patria Mia" Monastyrska's brought nostalgia to each line she sang. At the climax of the aria, her high C was sung not just as a showstopper but as a cry for her country.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Aida Preview 2012-2013

Sonja Frisell's legendary Aida production with Rising star sensation Lyudmila Monastryska, Robert Alagna and Olga Borodina.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Met Opera Review: Mozart's Clemenza Satisfies with Stellar Cast

By Francisco Salazar
(For 11/20/12 performance)

La Clemenza di Tito, Mozart's last opera, is rarely performed due to its convoluted plot line, difficult roles and most importantly because it is one opera many consider to be one of his weaker works. However for this year's revival the Met has assembled an incredible ensemble of singers both up and comers and superstars.

The opera tells the story of Vitellia who out of rage decides to take revenge on Tito for not choosing her as his wife. Vitellia asks Sesto, who is in love with her to kill Tito. Once Tito discovers the plot he must decide whether to bring the conspirators to death or forgive them.

The opera was first performed at the Met in 1984 in the current Jean-Pierre Ponnelle production and since has been sporadically performed with the last revival in 2008. The Ponnelle production while traditional still holds up quite well with its lavish backdrops, 18th century costumes and its outstanding lighting effects particularly during the Roman fire. The lights flicker at the beginning as if a fire is about to start and then when the quintet at the end of Act 1 climaxes the lighting gives off the effect that there is a real fire occurring. Another interesting effect is during Vitellia's final aria when the light gives off a chiaroscuro effect where she is confused about the right path to take. Overall there is nothing revolutionary about the production but it does well in telling the story without any distractions and allowing the audience to see the performers' raw emotions.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Piotr Beczala joins Deutshce Grammphon

Yesterday Polish tenor Piotr Beczala signed an exlcusive contract with Deustche Grammophon. His first album will be a tribute to the great tenor Richard Tauber and will be filled with many of operetta's greatest hits. Beczala stated that “It is an honour for me to follow in the footsteps of so many artists, past and present, and join the Yellow Label. Taking this music to a wider audience is one of my dreams, as I hope to do justice to the wonderful memory of one of the greatest voices of all time.” Beczala joins Rolando Villazon and Roberto Alagna as exclusive artists for Deustche Grammphon.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

La Clemenza di Tito opens Tomorrow

Elina Garanca returns to the Met in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's legendary production of La Clemenza di Tito. Giuseppe Fillianoti and Barbara Frittoli join the cast and Harry Bicket conducts Mozart's last opera seria. 

For more information view our preview linked here. 
For more information on Barbara Frittoli see our Don Giovanni Review linked here.
To see Frittoli and Fillianoti sing in Mozart's Don Giovanni click here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Elina Garanca gets interviewed by the Met

La Clemenza di Tito opens on Friday starring Latvian superstar Elina Garanca. The Met recently caught with her and interviewed regarding the role of Sesto. Garanca revealed that this will be her last performances of the role that she is happy to play a pants role for the first time at the Met. For the whole interview click here. For more on La Clemenza di Tito check our preview linked here. 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Met Opera Review: Robert Lepage and an Incredible Cast Ignite The Tempest's Monotonous Score

by Francisco Salazar

(For the November 6, 2012 Performance)

Shakespeare has been the subject of many composers' masterpieces from Verdi with Macbeth, Otello, Falstaff, Rossini with Otello, Britten with Midsummer Night's Dream and Wagner with Measure for Measure (one of his earlier operas). In 2004 Thomas Ades joined this circle with an adaptation of The Tempest, Shakespeare's 1611 play. Meredith Oakes adapted the work and according to Ades used modern English to be all the more faithful and concentrate on the drama. The work tells the story of Prospero who has been exiled from Naples by his brother Antonio and seeks revenge.

According to Ades, he set the music to be faithful and sought to give each character a different palette of music in order to fully flesh the multi-faced aspects of the drama. While I don't mean to criticize his score because it has lots of merit, the music did not do much for me. Going into the opera I knew the music was difficult to follow and could get a little austere at times. However I thought that seeing it live would be a better experience than on recording. The result was the opposite. Ades' score never really builds and while it has some ravishing moments such as the opening Storm (a tumult of strings and winds that creates the effect of unbridled fury) and the Miranda and Ferdinand duet at the end of act two (which builds to ecstasy with the strings and winds crescendo to one of the more memorable melodies), The Tempest's music is rather bland and forgettable. I commend Ades for giving each character a specific type of music. For example the spirit Ariel is characterized through her high tessitura and eeriness in color. Ariel never descends from high D's, E's, F's and even G's and has some of the more energetic music in the work. Prospero on the other hand never has any sort of melody and music is characterized by the gruff orchestration. The two lovers Miranda and Ferdinand get the most romantic music with some lush melodies and the most legato singing. All these features enhance the score but the biggest problem is that you never really feel a climatic moment in the opera as the music becomes monotonous by the end of the work and the audience is never given an opportunity to feel the cathartic moments that Prospero or any of the characters feel.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Un Ballo in Maschera opens tonight

Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera opens tonight starring Marcelo Alvarez, Sondra Radvanovsky, Dimitri Hvorotsovsky, and Dolora Zajick. Fabio Luisi conducts David Alden's new production 

For more information click here to read our preview.
For more on Dimitri Hvorostovsky read our Ernani Preview.
For more on Dolora Zajick read our Il Trovatore Review

Un Ballo in Maschera Preview 2012-2013

Marcelo Alvarez, Dimitri Hvorostovsky and Sondra Radvanovsky lead the cast in David Alden's new Un Ballo in Maschera.

The Production 
The last time Un Ballo in Maschera had a new production was in 1990 with Piero Faggioni's traditional production. The production was lavish with many striking images but many complained over Ulrica's lair and the fact that many of the sets were too similar. For example Renato and Gustavo's palaces were the same stage with different furniture. Twenty two years later Peter Gelb has commissioned a new production by one today's most acclaimed director's David Alden. Alden made his Met debut in 1980 as the stage director to Otto Schenk's production of Fidelio and since then became famed for his post-modern direction. For his Un Ballo in Maschera Alden has decided to bring the action to the early 20th century in a Film Noir setting. According to Alden the piece has a nightmarish quality and as a result has decided to set all the action in King Gustavo's room. Images change in the background and a painting of the fallen Icarus predominates throughout representing the fall of the king. The production designers is Paul Steinberg and the costume designer is Brigitte Reiffenstuel. It will be interesting to see how audiences respond to this concept considering it will be the first modern production of Un Ballo in Maschera at the Met. One only hopes David Alden will be as successful as he is in Europe. The HD transmission represents the third recording of Un Ballo in Maschera for the Met.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Salzburg 2013 schedule

Today the official 2013 Salzburg summer season was announced. As previously rumored Don Carlos, Der Meistersingers, Nabucco, Rienzi and Cosi Fan Tutte will for part of the line up. The new season will also include Lucio Silla, Falstaff, Norma, Gawain and Giovanna d'Arco. Among the rosters include Jonas Kaufmann (Don Carlo), Anna Netrebko (Giovanna d'Arco), Placido Domingo  (Giovanna d'Arco), Rolando Villazon (Lucio Silla),  Cecilia Bartoli (Norma), Thomas Hampson (Don Carlo), Anja Harteros (Don Carlo), Edita Gruberova (Recital) and many more.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Met Opera Review: "Le Nozze di Figaro is Elevated by Strong Casting"

(for October  26,2012 performance) 

I have always felt that a Mozart opera does not work unless it is well sung and well staged. Most would argue that this is the case with any opera, but for me Mozart’s work demand all its players to step up their game all the more significantly. This case could not be more evident than in an opera such as Nozze di Figaro where a flat staging and poor acting can make the complex drama slow and mundane.

Fortunately, the Met Opera has chosen a strong cast and adequate director for the proceedings. While I did find a few flaws in the way the opera was put together, I can not help but feel satisfied by how the evening went. I usually refrain from mentioning other critics, but I could not help but notice how loathing they were toward stage director Gregory Keller’s revival of Jonathon Miller’s production. Keller had a few rough patches here and there, but I found his direction sufficient and compelling at times. This Nozze was surely filled with sexual innuendo, then again isn’t that the main thrust of the opera’s conflict? Those complaining that Keller cares little for the ambiguity of the work should take a look at his final direction after the Countess forgives the Count and they prepare for a reconciliatory kiss. It is a moment of pure tension and the fact that he never gives us the cathartic release suggests deeper issues in this marriage.

To suggest this was a perfect directorial turn would be wrong. During Cherubino’s escape in Act 2, Mojca Ermann’s Susanna and Christine Schafer’s Cherubino stood frozen on stage looking quite uncomfortable. It took a great deal of energy from the proceedings and looked rather under rehearsed. Aside from that I did not really experience any overwhelmingly poor choices that would degenerate Mozart’s great opera to vulgarity. Susanna and Marcellina engage in a cat fight to end the second Act, but I think it was comic in execution. I was also thrilled at the choice to cut the Act 4 arias of Basilio and Marcellina as it helped move the drama forward rather than killing its momentum.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Anna Netrebko to sing Macbeth

According to La Cieca from Parterre Anna Netrebko is now schedule to sing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth in Munich. Parterre is rumoring that she will sing it in 2016-2017 when she makes her role debut in Norma at the Royal Opera, however nothing confirmed. In the meantime, Netrebko's new album, the Verdi album is schedule to be released next year in January and will feature the three arias by Lady Macbeth. 

In the meantime here is my dream cast: Dimtri Hvorostovsky, Anna Netrebko, Erwin Schrott, Rolando Villazon

Let us know what you would want!