Monday, October 31, 2011

La Forza del Destino on DVD

Verdi: La forza del destinoIt has been confirmed that La Forza del Destini with the late Salvatore Licitra, Nina Stemme and Carlos Alvarez will be released on DVD. The opera also stars Nadia Krasteva and Alastair Miles and conducted by the extraordinary Zubin Mehta.

C major will release this DVD.

Hoffman at Munich Opera

I just finishing listening to the new production of L'Contes d'Hoffman with Rolando Villazon, Diana Damrau and John Relyea. Today was the opening night and is slated to be filmed for a future DVD release. The production is by Richard Jones.

From what I heard this is yet another new edition with music that I have never heard and omissions. The singers all sounded terrific and it should be a pleasure to see when it is filmed.

Here is a trailer and Olympias aria

Friday, October 28, 2011

Morris in Lehman out

It has been announced that Jay Hunter Morris, who recently took over for Gary Lehman in this month's run of Siegfried, will also step in for Lehman in January's run of Gotterdammerung. Sources say that Lehman had a viral infection that will make him unable to sing in January's performances. 

I will speculate that some of this has to do with the fact that Morris is singing Siegfried's HD performance and Lehman was supposed to sing Gotterdammerung's HD. If the Met were to release the DVD (as I am assuming they hope to do), there would be a lack of continuity in the role of Siegfried, possibly making the set difficult to market. Who do you market in the title role without favoring one over the other? Again this is PURE SPECULATION on my part, but how can someone cancel a performance for three months from now with the excuse of a viral infection. Also a coincidence that the announcement was made the day AFTER Morris triumphed in the production's premiere with rave reviews. 

Nonetheless I wish Lehman the best in his recovery so that he can sing the Ring Cycles at the end of the season. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Siegfried video

The Met has just released the first video of Siegfried which opens tomorrow October 27th. Enjoy. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Angela Meade as Anna Bolena

In this Oct. 21, 2011 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Angela Meade performs in the title role of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl)In this Oct. 21, 2011 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Angela Meade performs in the title role of Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Opera, Marty Sohl)Angela Meade took over the role of Anna Bolena for three performances last Friday. She will sing the final performance of the run this Friday October 28th. For those of you who have yet to see this production it is well worth going to see this wonderful rising star sing in the role. Here are some pictures, links to reviews and audio clips.

Met Opera: Il Barbiere Di Sivilgia Review

By David Salazar (for 10/22/11 performance)

Saturday's matinee performance of Rossini's famed "Barber" was nothing short of splendid in every possible way. The production, by Met's veteran director Bartlett Sher has continuously made it's return since its triumphant debut in 2006 and has cemented itself as one of the most successful productions to make its debut under the management of Peter Gelb. Sher's approach to his opera productions is vibrant and energetic (with a touch of the mystical and magical), regardless of the source material (dopplegangers in Offenbach's "Hoffmann," an endless bed in Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette," etc.). The "Barber" production was no exception. The staging's dominant feature is a series of doorways that constantly move about the stage to create a vast array of environments and locations. The staging is mainly minimalist in concept, but the coordination and positioning of the doorways enables the audience enough depth to be able to recreate the environment in his or her head. Sher litters the environment with enough furniture to strengthen his concept and it is clear that his actors know exactly where they are in each given set up and environment. The only problem that I have with Sher's production is the extended walkway that that wraps around the orchestra all the way to the audience. The problem with this walkway is not necessarily aesthetic (though people tend to lean forward to see it, causing difficulty for those seated behind). It does have some intriguing moments and tends to bring the singers closer to the audience. However, it tends to drown out/muffle the orchestra's sound.

The other plus of Sher's productions is that it tends to bring out the best from his cast. Nowhere was this better displayed than in this "Barber" performance. Over the last few years, this production has been a calling card for the leading Rosinas in the world. At it's debut, soprano Diana Damrau had a breakout run of performances to establish herself as a rising Met star. The following spring, Mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato did the same. A few seasons later, Latvian mezzo soprano Elina Garanca made her Met debut in this role and continues to be one of the Met's most promising stars. This year, the task came to young mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard, who is a different kind of singer. It has become custom for Rosina to be sung either by a light soprano or a mezzo soprano with an extended range despite that Rossini did not write this role for any of the three. Isabel Leonard's performance is likely the closest one can find to the original intentions of Rossini, still filled with tremendous coloratura flourishes, but without the stratospheric high notes that have become tradition. The beauty of the performance was that it proved that this role has so much texture and complexity with or without the high notes. Leonard's voice, which specializes (at the moment) in Mozart, Handel, and Rossini, seemed completely at home with the difficult coloratura passages that the role tasks its leading lady with. But it wasn't all about the rapid flourishes, as Leonard's voice added elegance and delicacy to the rare intimate moments of the opera. A prime example would be the trio at the end of the opera in which Rosina and Almaviva declare their love for one another. It also did not hurt that Leonard is a tremendous actress filled with versatility and energy. Her Rosina could be the flirtatious, adventurous, scheming Viper that she describes in her first aria "Una Voce Poco Fa"and still be the young girl clinging to the dream of love.

Tenor Javier Camarena had huge shoes to fill for me. I don't generally like to compare singers, but it is difficult to overlook the fact that Tenor Juan Diego Florez has essentially owned not only this role, but this repertoire for the last few years and has done it not only with his great voice, but also his tremendous acting ability. Few tenors have the two qualities able to match him. It was great to see a tenor who has that potential in Camarena who not only has the great (and young) voice, but strong control over character and acting. Camarena's Almaviva seems to hint more at the character that Count eventually becomes in Beaumarchais sequel "The Marriage of Figaro" (famously made into an earlier opera by Mozart) rather than the ideal hero that is usually played on stage. He was aggressive and impatient toward the townspeople in the opening scene, he was manipulative with Figaro and Basilio at the necessary moments. There seemed to be hints that this man could be violent, which made him all the more interesting. Camarena's agile, nuanced voice only added to the thrill of the performance. The final aria "Cessa Di Piu Resistere" had been left out of the repertoire for a long time, but has since been reinstated. It remains too difficult for many tenors today, but Camarena was more than up to the task, bringing every passage to life of this extended aria with depth and refinement. Rossini's coloratura demands for the tenor are unrivaled in the entire repertoire. They are long, fast, push the singer's range, and at times seem never ending. Camarena didn't seem the least bit troubled by their demands on breath control and tessitura.

Rodion Pogossov was a solid Figaro. He seemed a bit tentative vocally as he started his afternoon. Of course, he had to start with the massive task that is "Largo al Factotum" the opera's most famous aria. After that however, he swept through the performance with security, strength, and tremendous comic timing. His Figaro was an overconfident, greedy schemer, but still tremendously likable at the same time. Maurizio Muraro was a solid Dr. Bartolo tackling the difficult "A un dottor della mia sorte" with ease and agility. Samuel Ramey, here as Don Basilio, has already passed his best years and his voice has taken a wobbly nature that is not pleasant for some repertoire. However, Ramey was an imposing prescence as Basilio and despite the wobbly nature of his voice, its volume and strength remain incomparable. It is also essential to mention, that nobody is more familiar with the acting demands of Rossini's repetoire and Ramey reminds us why he was a major Rossini bass for so long. Jennifer Check was a also solid as Berta in her brief appearances. For this production Sher has added a silent character Ambrogio (played here by Rob Besserer) for comic relief. Besserer was simply splendid throughout, giving the audience some formidable gags (getting hit by trees, oranges, trying uselessly to stop and anvil, etc.).

Conductor Maurizio Benini had a strong performance. However, as aforementioned, the orchestra (a reduced one at that) lacked the potency and vibrancy that one is accustomed to, presumably because of the production itself.

Nonetheless, this "Barber" was exactly what one expects from a night at the Met. A creative production, great singing, great acting, lots of fun.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Anna Netrebko Cancels Carnegie Hall Debut

Anna Netrebko has cancelled her Carnegie Hall Debut. This is rather unfortunate as I was looking forward to being there. When I met Ms. Netrebko at the CD signing a few weeks ago, I had a brief exchange about the recital, which she seemed very excited to perform in. According to Carnegie Hall's website and Netrebko's facebook accounts:

Anna Netrebko, with great regret, has cancelled this performance. After singing seven performances of the extremely taxing title role in Donizetti's Anna Bolena at The Metropolitan Opera, she has been ordered to go on 10 days of vocal rest by her doctor. 

This is not the first time this happens. Back in 2006, Netrebko cancelled her debut, stating that she did not feel completely ready as an artist to perform. If you bought tickets, you will be refunded.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anna Bolena HD Videos

Courtesy of Coloraturafan here are some videos of October 15th HD performance of Anna Bolena.

Enjoy there surprisingly very good!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Another Met Casting Casualty

The Metropolitan Opera has just announced that Gary Lehman has dropped out of the new production of Siegfried. Jay Hunter Morris will takeover the three performances in October 27, November 1, and 5.

Jay Hunter Morris sang the role of Siegfried in Francesca Zambello's acclaimed San Francisco Production.

The Met has already suffered casting problems from the start of the season with cancellations from the late Salvatore Licitra, Elina Garanca, Angela Gheorghiu and Mariusz Kwiecien.

The question now lies is will Gary Lehman sing the role for Gotterdamrung and how will this affect the potential DVD release of the new complete cycle.

First Don Giovanni Video

Last Saturday was the first HD performance of the Metropolitan Opera. During the intermission of Anna Bolena, Renee Fleming took some time to interview Barbara Frittoli, Mariusz Kwiecien and Luca Pisaroni about the new production of Don Giovanni.

Here is a link to the interview

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Met Opera: Nabucco Review

By David Salazar (for the 10/15/11 performance)
Considering it's popularity in the Verdi canon, it remains unbelievable that "Nabucco," the great composer's first masterpiece, has not established its presence as a Met repertory staple. The opera was first performed at the Met opera in the 1960-61 season and did not make a return until 2001 when director Elijah Moshinsky and Met artistic director James Levine erected it from its extended absence. Since then, the Moshinsky production has been performed in three separate seasons and the opera has only seen a little over 50 performances to date and it seems that the opera is establishing its importance on the Met stage.

The October 15 performance definitely presented a strong argument for the opera's importance to the Met repertory. The Moshinsky production may be one of the "untheatrical" and "gratuitous" representations of what Met general manager Peter Gelb has been trying to weed out of the Met stage, but unlike some "theatrical" productions that Gelb has brought onto the stage in recent years, it has a clarity of vision among the visual splendor of the scenery. To be clear, Moshinsky's staging is a far cry from the luxurious sets of Zeffirelli. It is conformed of a two sets on a rotating turntable. One side represents the simplicity and barren nature of the Hebrew temple while the other side represents the opulence of the Babylonian palace. The rotating set enables for greater connectivity between the scenes without awkward curtains falling and rising that would normally occur in a different production. Most critics would argue that there isn't much in the way of acting, and the truth is that without a few exceptions (more on them later), there is "parking and barking" throughout the performance. Even though it is likely that more could have been done by the stage direction to obtain more visual kinetics from the actors, it is unfair to place complete blame on the stage directions. Unfortunately, most of the action takes place between the scenes and the majority of the action onstage depicts the characters expressing their emotions from the events that have just transpired (and that we have yet to see). Verdi composed Nabucco in the vein of an oratorio and for better or worse, the performance has this feel. However, to balance this sense of stillness and stagnation, the production places a great emphasis on painterly images and the diverse lighting effects, placement of characters on different levels of the staging, and other visual juxtaposition remind the viewer of the great paintings. When Nabucco is struck by God for his blasphemy, everyone falls to the ground and stillness ensues as Nabucco sings plea. The lighting goes red and the entire image has the look and feel of Eugene Delacroix's "Death of Sardanapalus." The staging of the famous "Va Pensiero" in which the chorus (and the diversely colored costumes) is spread on different layers against a beige rubble that has a semblance of a Rafael painting. It may not have the energy and constant flux that Gelb has been asking for from modern directors, but the vision is concise, direct, and often times powerful. 

As refreshing as the production was, it was the cast that truly carried the performance. Leading the charge was soprano Maria Guleghina, the leading Abigaile of the current generation. Guleghina played the power hungry daughter of slaves with snarl and tremendous vocal presence. Guleghina has never had an inspiring upper range. In fact, it often fills you with dread that she may miss the note or that it will come off shrill. For good measure, she did have a few of those spotty moments during the performance, but this could not opaque the powerful impact and exhilaration that her singing brings to the audience. One particular moment is during the Act 1 trio with Fenena and Ismaele. As she held an upper note, she RAN across the stage over to her beloved, all the while sustaining the note immaculately. It was an inspiring moment to be sure and certainly a feat few singers today (or in the past for that manner) could accomplish.  Additionally, Guleghina gave Abigaile tragic dimension and delicacy that most singers omit in favor of giving the villain heft, power, and control. Not the case with Guleghina who has some of the most piercingly beautiful piannissimi of any singer today. It also helped, that Guleghina was one of few that attempted to interact physically with not only her partners, but her surroundings. 

Zeljko Lucic was a surprisingly thrilling Nabucco. I have heard him struggle through other Verdi roles such as Rigoletto and Conte di Luna in "Il Trovatore," but there was no sense of insecurity in his Nabucco. Lucic's performance was an example of what we see so little of today on the opera stage: Verdi Baritone singing that is both technically sound and musically diverse. 

Carlo Colombara played the priest Zaccaria and had an inconsistent night. He sounded insecure during his entrance aria, often rushing ahead of the orchestra and sounding like he was running out of breath. His voice sounded overwhelmed by the orchestra during the ensuing cabaletta, with audible strain. However, his Act 2 prayer was easily one of the most moving moments of the entire night. Aided by a light orchestral accompaniment, Colombara was able to weave elegant and rich phrases without great difficulty. It was a winning moment for him. 

Tenor Yonghoon Lee, here as Ishmaele, proved why he is one of the up and coming tenors to keep an eye on. His tenor is not only potent, but filled with security and great expressive depth. Renne Tatum had a solid night as Abigaile's rival sister Fenena. 

Conductor Paolo Carignani started off the night with a lethargic rendition of the opera's famed overture. However, the rest of the performance was a different manner as Carignani put the muscularity and rich delicacy of Verdi's score on full display. More importantly, Carignani proved to be a tremendous accompanist for his singers, accommodating accordingly when certain singers seemed uncomfortable or unsteady. 

But Nabucco, more so than any other opera in the entire canon, belongs to the chorus. The chorus dominates the work from start to finish and plays essential roles musically in every solo. Most notably is the famous and glorious "Va Pensiero," the opera's centerpiece and likely Verdi's most famous chorus from any of his operas. The Met's chorus was more than up to the task and gave a riveting performance not only of the "Va Pensiero" but at every other choral moment in the work. The Met chorus is usually great in any opera performed on the illustrious stage, but illustrated how much of a force it could be given the ample opportunity to shine. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mariusz Kwiecien returns to Don Giovanni

According to the blog Parterre it is was just announced that the originally scheduled Don Giovanni Mariusz Kwieicien will sing the October 25 and 29th performances previously scheduled as TBA. In addition he will sing the remaining performances through November 11th.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don Giovanni premieres tonight

Tonight October 13th is the premiere of Michael Grandage's new production of Don Giovanni

Mariusz Kwiecien, left, Stefan Kocan in a dress rehearsal of the Metropolitan Opera’s “Don Giovanni” on Monday. He injured his back at rehearsal and was scratched from Thursday’s opening night.

For more information  click here 
In addition here is a link to my Don Giovanni preview

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Peter Mattei is the new Don Giovanni

Yesterday it was reported that Mariusz Kwiecien had been injured during the dress rehearsal of Don Giovanni and that he would have to miss the first performance of the highly anticipated New Production. He was still scheduled for the consecutive performances. However the Met is now reporting that Peter Mattei will take the lead role of Don Giovanni for the October 17 and 22 performances. Rodion Pogossov will take the lead role of Il Barbiere di Siviglia for the October 14, and 22 performances. There is still no word on who will take the role of Don Giovanni on the 25 and 29 of October. The 29 is the HD performance leading me to believe that Peter Mattei will end up taking the role. 

Peter Mattei last sang Don Giovanni in 2009 to acclaim. He was hailed for his charisma, acting prowess and for his vocalism.

In addition to this change it was just announced that the rising star tenor Roberto De Biasio will sing the role of Pinkerton in a one night only performance of Madama Butterfly on February 17. De Biasio made his met debut last year replacing an ill Ramon Vargas and will sing the role of Ernani alongside Angela Meade this year.

Anna Netrebko at the Met Opera Shop

Today at the Met Opera Shop Anna Netrebko held the first CD signing of the year. Hundreds of people lined up to get their CDs, DVDs and programs signed by the reigning Diva of the opera. Netrebko greeted fans with a smile and spoke with them answering questions. She is currently celebrating her 10th year at the Met singing the role of Anna Bolena and promoting her new album Live from the Met.

Below there are a couple of pictures of Anna Netrebko and the crowd.

Anna Netrebko signing my copy of Don Pasquale as I converse with her

The crowd on line anxious to meet the Diva

This was truly an unforgettable moment that I will never forget. 

To see more pictures visit my facebook page at:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Another Setback at the Metropolitan Opera

After a subpar opening at the Met with David McVicar's new routine production of Anna Bolena and high profile cancellations by Elina Garanca and Angela Gheorghiu the Metropolitan Opera reported that Mariusz Kwiecien, the Met's new Don Giovanni will not sing the first performance due to a back injury he suffered during the dress rehearsal. Peter Mattei will sing the opening night on October 13. Rodion Poggossov will sing the next two performances of Barber of Seville.

There is still no word on whether Kwiecien will sing any of the shows. Dwayne Croft, Kwiecien's cover is rehearsing in case he must step in for the next performances.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Salazar's Opera Family Circle on Twitter!

We are officially on twitter as Salazarfamilycircle.

If you want to follow this blog you now have the option of twitter or facebook.

Thank you again for all the support and readership.

Here are the links to our facebook and twitter pages!/SalazarfamilyCi

Met Opera: Anna Bolena Review

By David Salazar

A few weeks ago, the Met opened Gaetano Donizetti's first major hit opera Anna Bolena for the first time on it's stage. I attended the October 6th performance starring opera's brightest star Anna Netrebko in addition to some other notable cast members.

The most notable of the performance's components is its new production by one of the Met's superstar directors, David McVicar who made his debut in a successful Trovatore a few seasons ago. His success was so great that Peter Gelb, ever the enthusiast not only signed McVicar up to direct the Met premiere of Anna Bolena, but also the other two Donizettis operas that comprise the "Queens" trilogy and Handel's Giulio Cesare. McVicar's directing style is essentially conservative in its stance, respecting the composer and librettists intentions, but often adding some interesting theatrical devices to energize the works. In Trovatore, it was a turntable on which the scenery rotated, enabling the opera's propulsive tempo to flow without disruption. Before the opening of Bolena, McVicar promised a traditional approach to Donizetti's work, and there is no doubt that for the most part, he came through. As far as the wardrobe (the production's finest element) is concerned. And also as far as the setting is concerned (the opera is still set in a palace, albeit one that is made up of gray squared walls). And he also delivers as far as the "traditional" outlook on opera staging is concerned. This final point is likely the most important considering Peter Gelb's constant emphasis in interviews on his attempts to make his new productions "more theatrical experiences." Ever since he has taken the helm as general manager, I have constantly asked myself what he means by this? Acting is often the point of contention in this matter. Gelb and other proponents of the "theatrical opera" movement, have often been quick to assert that in the past, opera was a bunch of singer's standing around on lavish productions. If this be the case, then what exactly makes McVicar's production a theatrical production? What makes it different enough that Gelb would open his wallet and give McVicar a blank check to make his new Anna Bolena? 

I won't give a definitive answer, until I have described a few points about the production. As the opera opens, we are introduced to a dark scene where a lot of chorus members stand around in a clutter. They pretty much stay locked in their spot, with the occasional person coming in and out at seemingly random moments for the remainder of the scene. The lone exception is Anna Bolena. During the pezzo concertato at the end of the Act, the set is split in two halves by a wall, during which the massive chorus clutters the back and sides of the stage (with the occasional person coming on and off stage) and the principles all stand firmly at the footlights. The lone exception is Anna Bolena who moves around looking for an escape. Act 2, really doesn't change much, as the majority of the cast and chorus spend the majority of the time locked in place. Again, the only exception is Anna Bolena. It would be easy to criticize McVicar's inefficient, bored use of the chorus, but he is not the only theater-turned-opera director who doesn't know what to do with a chorus. Last year's Don Carlo, directed by Nicholas Hytner was plagued by a chorus standing around looking lost on stage. A few years ago, the Met's Peter Grimes suffered from the same deficiency. I am not stating that all directors are inefficient in this regard, but McVicar's Bolena is a prime example of unoriginal work. What makes the matter worse is that the set lacks any sense of depth. It is a single flat surface, decorated by large flats and some representations of windows and torches. Aside from that, the entire stage is lacking in any form of furniture or elaboration. This lack of elaboration makes it difficult to truly get a grasp on the world of the story and the inconsistent use of space (Seymour being able to walk around the wall that blocks off Bolena's room at the end of Act 1), makes the set come off as unfinished and lazy work. It is no wonder that the chorus looks lost throughout and that the movements are almost non-existent, making any sense of character or story mute, save for the text that they are singing. Is this really the theatricality that Gelb is spending his money on? Is it really better than those elaborate Zeffirelli productions (which are at the forefront of criticism of "traditional" productions) that place too much importance on the visuals and none on the characters? If I recall correctly, his Boheme production, with it's beautiful rendition of a Parisian street in Act two, is built on multiple levels with elaborate furniture and perceptible locations as to add dimension to the world of the story. Furthermore, this depth and detail is not only limited to scenery as it is clear viewing said production that every single person on stage is alive as a character. The counterargument would be that minimalist theater enables the audience to work their imagination. However, there is no desire to work the imagination for the viewer, when it is clear that the performers onstage are not fully engaged with their world as is the case with McVicar's production. 

All this rambling about inefficient use of chorus and set design would be pointless if not for the fact that it leads to a dull, uneventful performance. Donizetti's music is inconsistent and the libretto meanders a bit, particularly at the start of the opera, and this production's lack of life both in the acting and scenery (and lighting which is flat throughout, instead of the sharp contrast the poster hints at) only serves to emphasizes its deficiencies (conductor Marco Armiliato doesn't help, but more on that later). 

I have yet to make mentions about the principles, though I have constantly referenced Anna Bolena as the lone sense of movement and energy in the performance. Anna Netrebko, who performed the iconic soprano role, has long been a fixture of the opera world as not only a strong singer, but an electrifying actress. It is rare to see her give a performance lacking in both of these elements, but last night happened to be one of them. Her singing was riveting and sublime for most of the night as she swept through the mountainous difficulties of this role with ease and fluidity. Even when she seemed to run out of breath on a top note, she was able to recuperate with no sign of fatigue or insecurity. It was thrilling and chilling performance. However, her acting, which is generally her strong suit, was not on full display here, but to no fault of her own. She constantly looked for an outlet onto which she could pour her pent up energy, moving around the staging attempting to interact with her surroundings and cast members, but there was no one there for her. That isn't to say that the other principles were not engaged (some of them weren't), but they too seemed lost and reverted to familiar/stock operatic arm gestures (raising the arm in a fistlike manner to denote strength, raising arms to the heavens, etc) to "act" their way through the night. King Enrico, played/sung by Ildar Abadrazakov and his coarse and suprisingly bored bass,  reverted to the arm gestures a bit too often to denote his strength and control. Stephen Costello and his beautiful, but inconsistent tenor also looked lost, often taking Netrebko's lead to get through their scenes together. His upper range seems to lack any sort of stability often sound shrill and uneasy. His mid/lower range however is another matter completely. It is suave, elegant, and potent. His saving grace is that he is still young and may be able to stabilize his upper range in years to come. Ekaterina Gubanova was an inconsistent Giovanna Seymour though she was announced as suffering from illness. Her singing in the first act was labored, with her upper notes coming off as wobbly and insecure. Her second act duet with Bolena was another manner, introducing a Gubanova that was not only in control vocally, but was able to deliver a strong sense of emotion in her singing. Aside from Netrebko, Tamara Mumford was the night's best performance. Mumford has a gorgeous, steady, and delicate mezzo that never sounded uncomfortable or strained. She is a singer to look out for in coming seasons. Eduardo Valdes, Sir Hervey, and Keith Miller, Lord Rochefort, were serviceable in their minor roles. 

Marco Armiliato proved to be the night's biggest disappointment. I have stated the blandness of the production, but nothing sounded more uninterested than the Met orchestra on this night. There was no sense of energy or commitment in the music making, with the tempi being either overly slow and labored, or excessively fast and inconsiderate with the singers. This inconsistency only lessened the effect of the score adding to the aforementioned lack of dramatic force and propulsion. I was never awed by the variety of colors in Donizetti's score, as they were rarely explored or emphasized. 

Save for some heroics from a few cast members, this performance, which should have been monumental and historic, felt routine. Rather than being the evolution of "traditional" opera productions toward greater theatricality, this production felt like an amateur production by a smaller company who tried to protect its funds rather than its artistic integrity.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Don Giovanni Preview 2011-12

Don Giovanni receives a new production starring two the most acclaimed baritones Mariusz Kwiecien and Gerald Finley.

The Production
Michael Grandage makes his met debut in a highly stylized but traditional production. From the pictures Grandage's production consists of doors staked on top of each other with staircases. Grandage states "that Don Giovanni is a dark, complex individual and that Mozart takes us to a play about of life." The sets and costumes are by Christopher Oram and the lighting is by Paule Constable. More on the production when we review it.

The Cast 
Mariusz Kwiecien makes his Met role debut in Don Giovanni a role he has triumphed in over the past few years. Kwiecien has a lyric voice which allows him the flexibility to sing coloratura and fast notes. However over the past years he has sung roles too heavy for his voice. Last year he return to the role of Malatesta, a role that suits him well and which he triumphed in. While the role of Don Giovanni is a bit heavy Kwiecien has proved that he is up to the challenge. When he last sang the role at the Covent Garden he was hailed for his excellent singing. In addition when he sang the role at Seatle he was hailed for commanding the stage. Kwiecien is truly a great actor who has the ability of seducing his colleagues and the audience alike. Kwiecien has the ability of becoming the next great Don Giovanni following a list of legendary singers.

Gerald Finley returns to the Met after a successful Pelleas et Melisande. Finley who is well known for his Giovanni as he has sang it all over the world including at the Met in 2005. His Giovanni interpretation was just release by EMI, so this will give audiences the opportunity to see his interpretation before they go to the Met. When he sang the role last in 2005 he was hailed for his physicality and his well cultured voice. Finley will most likely be as great as he was 6 years as his voice and artistry have grown.

Marina Rebeka makes her Met debut in the role of Donna Anna. Rebeka has a light lyric coloratura voice that is capable of dispatching some of the hardest coloratura arias. As a result it is with no surprise that she will be suitable to Anna. I have never heard any her on stage but from recordings her voice has an amazing range with a flexibility like no other working today. We will see how she is received on the 13th of October.

Barbara Frittoli returns to the role of Donna Elvira, a role she sang in 2009 at the Met when she made her role debut. Frittoli's voice in recent years has become darker and wobblier. She possesses a lyric voice that is able to produce beautiful colors. However as she reaches her high range she tends to go flat and wobble. Elvira is a heavy role that requires heft. When she made her Role debut critics became concerned that she became pitchy and harsh. In addition when I saw her she sounded nervous and her voice was unstable. However having settled into the role and two years passing, Frittoli could possibly have resolved some of the vocal issues she had when she first sang the role.

Ramon Vargas and Matthew Polezani share the role of Don Ottavio. Both tenors possess lyric voices that specialize in the bel canto repertoire. However Vargas has slowly turned from the lyric repertoire to the heavier spinto roles, a choice that has weakened his voice. He stills retains the finesse and technique but his voice has become smaller and more fragile. Polenzani on the other hand has remained in the lyric repertoire and triumphing in roles such as Ernesto in Don Pasquale. His voice is more beautiful than ever and his phrasing is better than ever. Both should make for appealing Ottavios.

Luca Pisaroni, an enticing young Bass-baritone has triumphed as Leporelli all over the world. Most recently he recorded the role in Baden Baden with Rolando Villazon and he is in the EMI recording with Gerald Finley. When he sang at Glyndebourne he was hailed for his stage presence and personality. They raved about his expansive and big voice. After a series of smaller Mozart roles this should be his breakout role at the Met.  

Mojca Erdmann and Isabel Leonard take on the role of Zerlina. Both have specialized in Mozart and will have different take on this role. Erdmann who has been hailed in the role of Zerlina and who also recorded the role with Rolando Villazon, has a light lyric voice and a big range. In her most recent Opera News interview she states that Zerlina's arias are simple but very true and deep. "She is very honest." Leonard has already sang the role at the Met and the last time she sang it, she was hailed for her innocence, fresh and lovely singing. After having made her role debut of Rosina in the Barber of Seville this year, her voice has gained more flexibility and heft. This is should make for even more power and volume in the role of Zerlina. Both young singers should be appealing choices in the role of Zerlina.      

James Morris should add star power to the cast and Joshua Bloom returns to the role of Massetto.

A good production with a youthful cast could make for one of the most memorable evenings at the Met this year.

This is part of the live in HD performances.    

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Un Ballo in Maschera 2012-2013

It has been confirmed that Marcelo Alvarez will be singing the role of Riccardo/ Gustavo at the Met in Un Ballo in Maschera in the 2012-2013 season. According to Alvarez's schedule the opera will be performed in October of 2012.

Notable CD and DVD releases for the month of October

This month many exciting releases come our way from the top stars in Opera.

One of the curious releases is from the Netherlands opera. They release their first Vespri Siciliani in french. The production by Christof Loy is modern and therefore many used to the Parma and La Scala productions may be dissuaded to purchase it. However the cast is incredible and deserves a look at.  

Anna Nterebko's tragic take on Anna Bolena is released. The cast also includes the spellbinding Elina Garanca and Ildebrando d'Arcangelo. The performance from April 2011 features Netrebko in her role debut conducted by Bel canto specialist Evelino Pido. 

Twenty years have passed since this memorable performance of Andrea Chenier which includes Pavarotti, a youthful Guleghina and an imposing Pons. A must have in all DVD collections.

Diva Angela Gheorghiu brings homage to Maria Callas in an album that includes some of Callas' favorite works and Gheorghiu's. The CD conducted by Marco Armiliato includes works by Puccini and Verdi as well as others. 

Homage to Maria Callas

The Met releases four more legendary performances of L'Contes d'Hoffman, La Fille du Regiment, Carmen and Mignon featuring some of the greatest singers including Lily Pons, Richard Tucker, Rise Stevens, and Enzo Pinza.  

CarmenLes Contes D'Hoffmann
Fille Du Regiment

Anna Bolena comparisons

After a thrilling opening night at the Met, I want to pose the inevitable question, which performance is better, the Vienna or the Met performance? And which really deserved the DVD release?

Here are some videos to make your opinions.

Please comment. I would really love to hear what you think in terms of cast, production and of course Ms. Netrebko

Sunday, October 2, 2011