Sunday, December 30, 2012

Maria Stuarda opens Tomorrow

The Met opens its first production of Maria Stuarda on New Year's Eve starring Joyce Didonato. Matthew Polenzani and Elza Van Den Heever also star with Maurizio Benini in the podium. David McVicar directs the second Tudor opera. 

For more information on Maria Stuarda click here 
For more information on Joyce Didonato read our The Enchanted Island review.
For more information on Matthew Polenzani read our L'Elisir d'Amore review

Maria Stuarda Preview 2012-2013

Joyce Didonato sings the towering role of Maria Stuarda in David McVicar's new production. Elza Van Den Heever and Matthew Polenzani also star.  

The Production
After directing the opening night of last season in Anna Bolena, David McVicar continues the Tudor trilogy with Maria Stuarda. The director which took Bolena literally has stated in interviews that he plans on taking some liberties with Stuarda. He stated that he wants to blend both fantasy and realism. He stated that his set designer john Macfarlane will bring painterly perspective to the sets. For example the writings on the wall of Act Three will represent the letters that Maria Stuarda wrote while in prison. While Anna Bolena was unimpressive, Maria Stuarda is a more theatrical opera and could give David McVicar an opportunity to shine. The opera will be part of the Met's HD performances.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Met Opera Review: Graham triumphs in revival of Les Trojans

By Francisco Salazar
(For performance of December 21, 2012)

It has been nearly 20 years since the Metropolitan Opera has presented Berlioz's masterpiece Les Troyens. The work which was written in fives acts spans a lengthy running time of 4 hours of music and five hours in the theater. It is not only a long night but also a difficult opera to cast as their are a number of solo roles and a number of ballets. On December 21, the Met's Francesca Zambello production demonstrated that Berlioz's work should be performed more often and a staple of the repertoire.

Susan Graham sang the role of Didone for the first time in more than ten years. She previously sang the role in 2002 at the Bastille and never returned to it. Ten years have passed and Graham's voice has changed but her  artistry was in full display throughout the performance. At the beginning of act three Graham sang her first aria "Chers Tyriens" with with softness and gentleness. The voice gleamed in the top notes and even though it sometimes sounded like she was overpowered by the orchestra, Graham's Didone was a a righteous and cheerful queen. Her subsequent duet with her sister Anna (played by Karen Cargill), was also sung with an extended legato lines and tender phrasing. However the highlight of the evening was during her duet with Enee and her mad scene at the end of Act five. During Nuit d'ivrese Graham gave off purity without any force. It also helped that she moved around the stage as if she glided without any effort. Graham gave each praise a lovely character and one was convinced that her love for Enee was sincere. Her transformation in the following act was complete. During her mad scene Graham's smile and and delicate gestures were transformed into harsh and quick movements. Her voice opened up and even soared through the orchestra. Her phrasing was no longer as delicate and instead it was filled with intensity, and passion. As she remembered her time with Enee, Graham brought back the delicacy giving us a sense of Didone's suffering. All in all Graham demonstrated that this is a role that fits her voice and one that should remain in her repertoire.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wish everyone a Happy Christmas filled with joy and love.

Attached I have put a video of Rolando Villazon's new L'Elisir d'Amore. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Olga Peretyatko to sing Puritani in 2013-2014 Met Season

The rising star Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko will sing the role of Elvira in I Puritani in 2013-2014. Previously when I wrote about the complete 2013-2014 season their was no confirmed Elvira. According to Olga Peretyatko's website, she will sing the role in the Met's current production in April 2014.

The cast also includes Lawrence Brownlee and Mariusz Kwiecien.

Marcello Giordani withdraws from Les Troyens

The Met press department just announced: “Tenor Marcello Giordani has decided to withdraw from the remaining four performances of Berlioz’s Les Troyens, permanently retiring the role of Aeneas from his repertory. In his place, American tenor Bryan Hymel will make his Met debut, singing the role on December 26, December 29 matinee, January 1, and January 5 matinee (the date of the global HD transmission).”

A message to my fans and friends
Many of you may already know of my decision to withdraw from the last four performances of Les Troyens. The decision was made in mutual agreement with the administration of The Met and, in order to counteract any misunderstanding which leads to erroneous assumptions and unpleasant conclusions, I want to say that it is with profound regret that I give up one of the most interesting roles in the entire operatic repertoire. I realize that, in spite of the success of my last performance on Friday, my voice is no longer suited to the role of Aeneas and because of this, I cannot give my best interpretation to a role so complex both musically and dramatically. To continue to keep it in my repertory would be unfair to all those who have followed and supported me throughout my career. I thank you wholeheartedly, and hope to see many of you when I return to The Met in February as Paolo il Bello in Francesca da Rimini. I take this opportunity to wish you all, together my Wilma, a very Happy Holiday Season.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nino Machaidze is out of Le Comte Ory, Pretty Yende makes Met Debut

Pretty Yende will make her Met debut as Countess Adèle in this season’s performances of Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, replacing Nino Machaidze, who is ill. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Barber of Seville Opens Today

Isabel Leonard and Alek Shrader lead the new English translation of The Barber of Seville. Yves Abel Conducts the Met Orchestra in Bartlett Sher's hit production

For more information on the Barber of Seville Click here to read our preview
For more on Isabel Leonard and Rodion Pogossov's Barber of Seville read last years review linked here.
For more on Alek Shrader click here for our Tempest Review.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Barber of Seville Preview 2012-2013

Isabel Leonard leads the cast of The Barber of Seville in Bartlett Sher's hit production. The production part of the Met's Holiday season presentations. 

The Production
Bartlett Sher's production of Il Barbiere di Siviglia returns to the Met. The production which premiered in 2006 has become one the Met's best new productions since the inception of the Gelb era. The production was revived last year and continues to be refreshing. It is made up of doorways, trees and an anvil. It has a walkway in front of the orchestra which can sometimes get in the way of the acoustics but helps to bring some intimate moments Critics have called delightful and one of the highlights of Peter Gelb.The revival this year may be one of the least interesting revivals but what is intriguing is what cuts will be made for the English version. The production which flows so well will most likely be reworked for the cuts and for the new text.     

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Les Troyens Opens Tomorrow

Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham and Marcello Giordani lead the cast to Berlioz's extraordinary Les Troyens. The opera conducted by Fabio Luisi is a revival of the Francesca Zambello production and will transmitted through HD.  

For more information click on our preview linked here.
For more information of Deborah Voigt read our Gotterdammerung review.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Garanca cancels Last Sesto

“French mezzo-soprano Géraldine Chauvet will make her Met debut as Sesto in this evening’s performance of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito, replacing  Garanca, who is ill.” (Met press release.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Notable DVD and CD releases for the month of December and some gifts for the holiday season

December brings the holiday season and everyone most look for a gift for a special person. So what is out on the market and what is coming, here is a list of the following DVD coming out and what you should get for the holiday season.

The first release is Anna Netrebko's new christmas Boheme. Netrebko's harrowing and raw interpretation was one of the highlights of the Salzburg festival this past summer and is one that should not be missed by Netrebko fans or fans of the opera. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

San Francisco Opera 2013-2014 season announced

The San Francisco Opera has announced their 2013-2014 season. Patricia Racette will lead the season opening with Mefistofele as well as with Showboat and Madama Butterfly. Ramon Vargas, Dolora Zajick, Ildar Abdrazakov, Isabel Leonard, and Bryn Terfel also make up the lineup.

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!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Turandot cancelled tonight

The Met has canceled Turandot tonight but will continue tomorrow night with The Tempest. For more information click here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy forces the Met to Cancel performance

The Metropolitan Opera will cancel tomorrow nights performance of Le Nozze di Figaro due to Hurricane Sandy. The Met will be refunding or exchanging tickets for ticket holders. For more information click here.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Le Nozze di Figaro opens Tomorrow!

Tomorrow Jonathon Miller's hit production returns to the Met in Mozart classic masterpiece Le Nozze di Figaro. Ildar Abdrazakov leads an all star cast that also includes Mojca Erdmann, Christine Schaefer, Gerald Finley, and Maija Kovalevska. Maestro David Robertson leads the Met Orchestra.

For more information on Le Nozze di Figaro check out our preview linked here.
For more on Mojca Erdmann read our Don Giovanni review.
For more on Ildar Abdrazakov read our Anna Bolena Review.
For more on Mozart read our La Clemenza di Tito and Don Giovanni previews. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Tempest opens tomorrow

The Metropolitan Opera premiere of The Tempest opens tomorrow starring Simon Keenlyside. Isabel Leonard, Alek Shrader and Audrey Luna join the all star cast led by Thomas Ades in the podium in Robert Lepage new production. 

For more information view our preview linked here.
For more information on Isabel Leonard view our barber of Seville review.
For more on Robert Lepage view our Gotterdammerung, Siegfried and Rheingold reviews  

Nixon in China to be released

John Adams: "Nixon in China" [Blu-ray/DVD] [cover]Nonesuch has just announced the release of the Met's Nixon in China. The opera which stars James Maddalena, Kathleen Kim and is conducted by John Adams will be released on November 19th. To pre-order go to Nonesuch records. It will be released in DVD Blu-ray combo.

The complete 2013-2014 Met operas (These are Rumors)

Last we revealed the HDs on my post Rumor article and today  Parterre has revealed the complete 2013-2014 Met Opera season which includes some of the casts and all the new productions. 

As it stands there will only be 6 new productions as I Puritani will be a revival. There is no soprano attached to the role. Other mystery casting is Wozzeck which was rumored to include Karita Mattila and Thomas Hampson but at the moment nothing is confirmed. And a surprise is that L'Elisir d'Amore will be revived with Netrebko and Ramon Vargas. Enjoy the list!

The Tempest Preview 2012-2013

Simon Keenlyside leads an outstanding cast in Thomas Ades contemporary work in a new production by Ring director Robert Lepage.

The Production
The Tempest makes its New York Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House on October 23. The opera which was composed by living composer Thomas Ades was first staged at the Royal Opera House. It later received a premiere in the US at the Santa Fe Opera and then was premiered in Canada in the Robert Lepage production that will now come to the Met. Lepage who made his debut in 2008 in La Damnation de Faust has been repeatedly accused of playing with his productions to create visuals and never really focusing on the text nor the story. For example his Ring cycle at the Met became one of the most polarizing productions to date as many criticized the lack of inventiveness in the production. Critics stated that it was a bunch of repetitive projections, none of which really exhibit technological advance that is leaps and bounds ahead of more traditional theatrical tricks? Where were the flashy images that would make us feel truly immersed in the environment created by these expensive, heavy, and even dangerous planks? Were a bunch of zebra stripes between scene changes because lack of imagination the most abstract LePage could come up with? Not to mention the different combinations of imagines portraying wood. Or all that running water time and again. Where were the plethora of shapes that these planks would form as previewed by the original Ring trailer? Was a spinning wheel really all it could come up with? For all the critiques, Lepage has obtained another chance with the Met. For his new production, he has decided to bring the action to the 18th century inside the original La Scala theater. He stated that La Scala was a magical place in the 18th century and because the opera is magical, he thought it would be interesting to subvert the action within the theater. The production premiered this past summer in Quebec where critics were mixed about it as they complained that production simply isolates the audience with its effects. Certain elements that bothered included Prospero overhearing Miranda and Ferdinand in a prompters box and Ariel manipulating a clunky spotlight. They also did not like the whole concept as it took away from the magic of Shakespeare's play. However on a good note they stated that the opening storm was inventive. Usually after first runs directors look back at their missteps and try and fix them as they did with Gotterdammerung and even Tosca. Working with a new cast Lepage will most likely find new territory  to cover that could make his vision more understandable and hopefully enjoyable. The Tempest marks Lepage fourth HD transmission

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Met Opera Review: "Otello's Drama Never Unfolds with Disastrous Conducting and Subpar Cast"

  In this Friday, Oct. 5 2012 photo, Renee Fleming performs as Desdemona during the final dress rehearsal of Guiseppe Verdi's "Otello" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)  By Francisco Salazar
(For the October 16, 2012 performance)

It's been four years since they presented Otello at the Met, Verdi's penultimate opera. The opera known for it's daunting title role is rarely performed due to the lack of tenors singing the role in the world. On this night the originally scheduled Johan Botha cancelled due to illness. In came Avgust Amonov, a Russian tenor who made his Met debut on the previous Saturday the 13th. Amonov proved to be a mixed bag. He took a little while to warm up in the role as was seen with his entrance Esultate  which sounded tentative, lacked the volume and when he was forced to hit the daunting B natural; Amonov held the note too long and eventually screamed the end of it. This was no heroic entrance. Then came his second entrance in which he must restore order after the chaos that Cassio has formed. The character should be angry and should be the main focus of the scene. But Amonov lacked any imposing force. Amonov's Abbado le spade was once again tentative and was hard to understand or hear as he was upstage. At the end of the first act Amonov sang some tender lines during his act one duet with his Desdemona. Here he shared some tender exchanges with Renee Fleming. He sang some ringing pianissmi when the un bacio moment that made you feel that he was really in love. However it was a shame that the orchestra did not build that moment (more on that later). The second act proved a disappointment after such a solid duet. Amonov's Ora per sempre was a rushed mishmash. Then came his duet with Jago which is supposed to a climax demonstrating Otello's rage and swearing Vengeance against Desdemona's infidelity. I could have been fooled as Amonov showed no such anger. His singing was pretty but it seemed that he was not really invested in this act. His acting was relegated to standing around or sitting at his desk. The third act brought a complete turnaround. He sang his duet with Desdemona with fury and command. One felt that he was on the verge of madness. It was shame that Ms. Fleming was not exacting on par with him or else the scene would have been perfect. Then came his Dio mi Potevi which was sung with incredible phrases. Amonov had brought the tragic qualities of Otello bringing frailty as he sang his B flat in a ringing pianissimo and then anger at the end with a powerful O Gioa. And at the end of the act three Amonov had finally come into the part as he was completely believable in a defining mad scene. If only he would have kept that same energy going in the fourth act. As Amonov attempted to kill Desdemona, Fleming brought herself to Amonov and basically asked him to kill her. It was not genuine and lacked any tension. Then there was the Niun mi tema Otello's final aria. Amonov sang for the most part with conviction but by this time it was hard to believe his suffering. All in all Amonov may have these stiff moments due the lack of rehearsal time with his cast mates. If he does sing the last two performances there will be more room for improvement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Met Opera Review: "Splendid Cast Salvages Routine Staging"

(For October 12, 2012 performance)

For years, Il Trovatore was absent from the Met repertoire due to poor productions. But over the last few years, the opera has been one of the Met’s most popular repertory staples. The David McVicar production was inaugurated on February 16, 2009 to rave reviews. Critics clamored over how the production maintained the steady pace of this fast moving melodrama. But the greatest praise that McVicar received was for finally giving the Met an appropriate Trovatore Production.

Three years later, the appeal is still there, but it has certainly faded. Gone is the energy that had carried it through its first season. Back then, the sets were vibrant with mood and tone. Now their minimalism looks dull and bland. The one scene that still packs a punch is the gypsy encampment at the start of Act 2. The activity of the famous Anvil Chorus and the bright colors add stark contrast to the muted and gray colors of the other scenes. Obviously Trovatore is a dark drama and an appropriate palette is necessary, but many of the sets feel tacked on and unfinished. Act one’s castle is passable if only because the soldiers and narration of Ferrando help the cause. But the second scene which sets up the main conflict between Di Luna and Manrico for Leonora’s love is bare and lacking in any dynamism. The rotating set does help speed up the proceedings, but does not necessarily enlighten or refresh them.

It is completely unfair to blame McVicar’s sets for the routine vibe that the set gave off last Friday. Trovatore is undoubtedly a hard sing for all those involved, but stage director Paula Williams was either rushed to direct anything or ultimately had no ideas and was disinterested in the material. When there was some staged action it lacked authenticity and felt tacked on. It would immediately be easy to blame the actors, but I don’t honestly believe it was their fault. The direction seemed disinterested and lacked the energy of the drama unfolding onstage

Monday, October 15, 2012

Notable DVD and CD releases for the month of October

The month of October sees the release of many new DVDs and CDs including two Toscas and more early Verdi to celebrate his 199th birthday.

A second DVD of Un Giorno di Regno is released with a cast that includes Anna Caterina Antonacci, Bruno 
Practico, Paolo Coni, and Cecilia Gasdia.The production from 1997 is directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi and conudcted by Maurizio Benini.   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Botha cancels!

After a suffering from allergies on opening night Johan Botha has decided to cancel the next performance of Otello. The Met Press ofice released the following: Avgust Amonov will make his Met debut in the title role of tomorrow evening’s performance of Verdi’sOtello, replacing Johan Botha, who is ill.

James Levine Returns

Yesterday the Met released a statement that James Levine will return to the Met podium. He will return May 19 to lead the Met orchestra in the final Carnegie Hall concert. Gelb also confirmed that he will conduct Cosi Fan Tutte, Wozzeck and the new production of Faust.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Verdi

Happy 199th birthday to Giuseppe Verdi!

In celebration we want to know which is your favorite Verdi opera and which is your favorite aria. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Otello Opens Tomorrow

Johan Botha and Renee Fleming return to Otello conducted by Semyon Byhkov. Faulk Struckmann and Michael Fabiano makes his role debut as Cassio.

For more information read our Preview linked here.
For more information on Renee Fleming click here on our Rodelinda preview. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Met Rumors 2013-2014

Courtesy of La Cieca from Parterre, here are the HD operas rumored to be scheduled for the 2013-2014 season.

There are seven new productions scheduled of which Two Boys by Nicol Muhly is rumored to not be HD material. A projected new staging of I puritani will almost certainly not happen, with Natalie Dessay presumably relieved of all further bel canto duties, and the men in the cast—Lawrence Brownlee, Mariusz Kwiecien and Michele Pertusi—rolled over into other projects in spring 2014.

 Here are new productions scehduled:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Otello Preview 2012-2013

Johan Botha and Renee Fleming reprise their roles in Elijah Moshensky's production of Otello. Jose Cura and Thomas Hampson take on the second run.

The Production
The elegant 1994 production by Elijah Moshinsky returns for its final run. Moshinsky who made his Met debut in 1980 directing Un Ballo in Maschera first mounted this Otello in honor of Placido Domingo's 25th anniversary with the Met. The production was sung by him in the late 90s and then was taken over by other lesser known Otellos who lacked the same vigor that Domingo had. As for the production, it has the same lavish grandeur of a Zeffirelli production. The sets are made up of huge marble pillars, and mythic paintings. There is a huge plaza at the end of the third act and a huge bedroom at the end of the fourth act. It is in all sense the monumental production one expects from Otello. Nevertheless critics have complained about Moshinksy lack of direction and his placement of the chorus, and overwhelming sets. They have also complained about the first scene which they say looks like a construction sight rather than a dock and a castle. Regardless of all the complaints it is a production that presents the action without any superficiality and dumb concepts. It will be the second time this production is recorded and the first live in HD transmission for it.

Met Opera Review: The Elixir is a dose of Charmless Mediocrity

By Francisco Salazar
(For the October 5, 2012 Performance)

When one goes to see Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, audiences expect laughs, fun and to feel good. On this evening the opposite was seen. There were occasional laughs stirred by Donizetti and Felice Romani's incredible text and a few by Bartlett Sher's uninspired direction. And of course there were the final routine curtain call applause.

What the evening lacked was a real show stopping moment. Instead what was seen were singers who moved around without any direction upstage and downstage and lots of "parking and barking," the term that refers to standing around. There was also uninspired singing and languid playing by the orchestra. Not to mention the production felt as if it was 20 years old.

Bartlett Sher's new production of L'Elisir is beautiful on the outside but ugly and messy on the inside. Sher's production opened the season of September 24 to mixed reviews as it replaced John Copley's colorful production. I had seen the dress rehearsal on 20th and while I wasn't thrilled I still had high hopes.

Sher's production is based on both the works of Oliver Messel from the 50s and the original design of the opera from 1840. He brings an arid and old fashion look to the work. It recalls the traditional sets of legendary directors Otto Schenk, Franco Zeffirelli and Del Monaco.  When the curtain opens, there is a nice village elaborately set up with trees, houses, tables and beautiful costumes. It looks as if this production will be played straight out with its usual comic flair. Except it starts to fall apart the moment Sher infuses his ideas of the Risorgimento (a time period when the political and social movement that agglomerated different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of Italy in the 19th century). Sher introduces Belcore, Seargent of the regiment,  and his soldiers as aggressive and violent. Belcore will do anything to get the love of Adina, even throwing her to the ground and even dueling with her.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Met Opera Review: Rachvelishvili and Lee give fresh new life to Eyre's production

By Francisco Salazar
In this Sept. 22, 2012 photo provided by the Metropolitan Opera, Anita Rachvelishvili performs in the title role in Bizet's "Carmen," during a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Photo: Metropolitan Opera, Ken Howard / AP
(For the September 28, 2012 performance)

The Met revived Carmen on Friday night in an unforgettable fusion of cast and production.

Richard Eyre’s production is one of the better ones to premiere during the Gelb era. The curtain is a black one with one red stripe through it. This red stripe opens up during the first and third acts to reveal ballet dancers that simulate the passion and intensity of Carmen and Jose’s romance. In the opera’s prelude the dance is set against the dark and fateful music, emphasizing the destruction of the main heroine while in the third act, the ballet is set against the tender intermezzo that serves as the cinematic equivalent of montage to show the brief beauty of the romance between Carmen and Jose.

Carmen, like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, is a tragic-comedy. The opera premiered at the Opera Comique and in a sick way (like Don Giovanni) has a happy ending in which the main character, also an anti-hero of sorts, dies. Whereas the happy ending celebrates the death of the Don in Mozart’s masterwork, the “happy” ending in Carmen celebrates the heroine’s independence and liberty until the very end of her days. Even Bizet is content to delight in this double personality of his work. The prelude starts off with the gallant toreador’s march before being taken over by the aforementioned fateful theme. During Act 3, Carmen sings a fateful lament upon reading the fateful hand of cards she has been dealt while Frasquita and Mercedes sing a joyful theme. This same technique is employed in possibly the most incredible display of dramatic counterpoint in the final act when Jose kills Carmen while the crowd cheers Escamillo’s goring of the bull.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Guanqun Yu makes her Met debut earlier!

The Met has just announced that: Guanqun Yu will make her Met debut as Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore on September 29 matinee, replacing Carmen Giannattasio who is ill.”

Il Trovatore opens tomorrow!

The Celebrated soprano Carmen Giannattasio makes her long awaited Met debut in the role of Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore. Veteran mezzo Dolora Zajick returns to her signature role as Azucena, Gwyn Hughes Jones sings the title role of Manrico and Franco Vassallo sings the Count. Danielle Callegari conducts the acclaimed David McVicar production. 

For more information on Il Trovatore check out our preview linked here.
To find out more about Il Trovatore DVD click here.
To find out more on Carmen Giannattasio click here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Polenzani opens the New Year in Maria Stuarda

The Met has just announced that Francesco Meli will no longer sing the role of Leicester in Maria Stuarda. Matthew Polenzani who just opened the season in L'Elisir d'Amore will take over every single performance joining Joyce Didonato.

Official press center: “Matthew Polenzani will sing the role of Leicester in all performances of the Met’s new production of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda this season, replacing Francesco Meli, who has withdrawn the role from his repertoire.”

Anna Netrebko's La Boheme to be released on DVD!

The Salzburg production of La Boheme will be released this November by Deutsche Grammphon. The production stars Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczala, Nino Machaidze and Massimo Cavalleti and is conducted by Danielle Gatti. The production was by Damiano Michielleto

Carmen Opens Tomorrow!

Anita Rachvelishvili reprises the role of Carmen with a a rising star cast that includes Yonghoon Lee, Kate Royal, and Kyle Ketelson. Michele Mariotti conducts Richard Eyre's striking production.

For more information check our preview here 
For more information on Yonghoon Lee click on our review of Nabucco.