Cher Public

  • antikitschychick: not ‘an app’ but several in fact. 3:33 PM
  • antikitschychick: They now have an app for the on Demand. I downloaded it yesterday :-D. 3:33 PM
  • armerjacquino: Yep. I’m quite an advocate for Met on Demand- it’s really very good value for the library you get access to. 3:27 PM
  • Patrick Mack: The only reason the Met spreads out some of their telecasts to two dvd’s is so the bit rate his high and the they get... 3:24 PM
  • Signor Bruschino: I never thought that Madagascar was such an opera loving locale! The things you learn! Kidding aside, La Cieca’s... 3:11 PM
  • antikitschychick: thank you DDS :-). I appreciate your kind words and the fact that you read my post(s) (long doesn’t quite cut it... 2:57 PM
  • armerjacquino: Muffins with marmite and a coffee. 2:53 PM
  • La Cieca: I don’t think anyone is selling opera DVDs at $50. A lot of the Met new releases are done on two discs because of the... 2:52 PM

Intermission feature

Has the week really gone by so quickly? Yes, it is Sunday, and so La Cieca (not pictured) invites the cher public (left to right) to enjoy an intermission feature brimming with off-topic and general interest conversations.


  • adina says:

    This is meant to be a response to the original post of the video of Cossotto as Amneris. Is this entire production available on video? If so, how can I obtain it?

  • Straussmonster says:

    Short Houston Don Carlos version report: opening with the Woodcutter’s Chorus; no scene for Eboli and Elisabeth switching masks; no Lachrymosa duet for Phillipe and Carlos; extended condemnation of Carlos at the end, leading into the quiet ending of the opera. An all-around excellent experience, and I think it’ll be radiocast next week or so.

    • manou says:

      Is this the Twitter version of your review Straussmonster?

      • Straussmonster says:

        Yes. It is as short as the five-act version is long, even without the ballet.

        • manou says:

          Brevity is the soul of wit.

          Reminds me of the short version of all the Jewish holidays : “They tried to kill us, they failed. Let’s eat”.

    • Camille says:

      I’d really like to hear that radio transmission--can you please let us know when it will take place? Thank you and do not neglect your Gluck!
      Best wishes

    • derschatzgabber says:

      Hi Straussmonster. Thanks for the report on the Don Carlos version used in Houston. If I don’t know what’s in or out beforehand, I tend to focus on the version issues ad nauseum, and that gets in my way of focusing on the performance (I so wish my brain didn’t work that way). So your report is going to enhance my enjoyment this Saturday night.

      While most of Verdi’s revisions of his operas strike me as improvements (e.g., La Luce Langue, Counsel Chamber Scene in Boccanegra, the final trio in Forza), I’ve always been baffled by his removal of the Eboli/Elizabeth mask switching scene (even though the music of the new opening of the scene is beautiful). It can be difficult to make Carlos appear sympathetic (Flanders is dying, but I’m in a heart broken funk, excuse me while I stalk my stepmother like a lost puppy) and without the mask changing scene, he comes across as especially dense when he mistakes Eboli for Elizabeth. I know the switch is more important if the ballet is done, since Elizabeth has a walk on at the end of the ballet. It’s my understanding that, in the original Paris production, everyone saw Eboli dressed in Elizabeth’s mask at the end of the ballet. I’ve been to several performances of Don Carlos without the mask switching scene in which many people in the audience have laughed out loud when Don Carlos realizes that he is singing to Eboli. Did the direction in Houston find a way to keep that from happening?

      I also really miss Eboli’s little refrain of the veil song after Elizabeth trades masks with her. It helps integrate the veil song into the plot.

      Please give us an extended review if you have the time.

      • Camille says:

        I am certainly relieved to know there is another human soul worrying about these things. The walk on of Elisabeth is before the ballet commences, however, since after a mad search around the house I cannot locate my Don Carlo scores, I cannot see if she reappears, and now I am confused--please help to clarify.

        As the first Eboli and Elisabeth hated one another, well it is perhaps for the best their scene was broken up but, really girls, can’t we all grow uP now and have some of the masque swapping put back in, as it helps the storyline immeasureably, not to mention the credibility of that poor putz, Carlos.

        I love Don Carlos more than any other Verdi opera, even more than Otello. I am obsessed with hearing a complete version and almost went to Houston, bot had to return to NYC instead. Please, all Don Carlos lovers, let’s keep a watch out for this upcoming broadcast. Perhaps we may gather @ La Casa della Cieca

        In fede

        • derschatzgabber says:

          Hi Camille of the true Don Carlo Fede.

          The Abbado recording of the revised French version (the first commercial recording in French, but not a single native french speaker among the principals, go figure), had a very nice set of program notes. Many of which were written by Andrew Porter, I believe. Most of CD four contained the music cut before opening night, as well as the ballet music.

          The notes included the full scenario for the ballet, which is one of those royal butt kissing exercises familiar to us from the prologues of operas by Lully.

          As I recall, the ballet is set underwater and features 3 solo balerinas, each of them representing a famous pearl. After each of the “pearls” gets a solo variation, an emissary arrives from Philip II in search of a pearl worthy of being featured on Philip’s crown. After a dance of inspection, none of the three pearls is found worthy of a spot in Philip’s crown, so it is decided to combine the three pearls into a single pearl that will pass muster. The three pearls dance into large oyster shell in which they are to be combined. When the shell re-opens, Elizabeth walks out of the shell, since she is the pearl worthy of gracing Philip’s crown.

          I’m pretty sure that the mask changing happened prior to the ballet. So at the end of the ballet it would be Eboli in Elizabeth’s mask emerging from the giant oyster shell (If I’m wrong, someone please jump in with the correct original order of Act III, Scene i). Since Don Carlo would have been present for the ballet, his confusion later in the act would have been understandable. If I’m not mistaken, Verdi’s revision states that the mask changing should be included whenever the ballet is included (which is pretty much never).

          P.S. When I was younger, I preferred Otello to Don Carlo. The older I get, the more a prize Don Carlo.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Darn, that should read teh “the more I prize Don Carlo”.

          • armerjacquino says:

            I know what you mean about the Abbado, but it would have been quite difficult, if not impossible, to assemble a comparably starry Francophone cast in 1984.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Yes, AJ you are correct about the casting options in 1984. And in 1984 I was just happy to get a recording in French (even French as sung by Domingo). Especially with the appendices Abbado had included. After reading about the rediscovery of all of that music in the conductor’s score in the archive of the Paris Opera, I was desparate to finally hear it. I was in graduate school back then. After making sure that a 4-CD set wouldn’t compromise my ability to feed myself that month, I rushed to the closest Tower Store, rushed home, and wents straight to the appendices on disc 4.

            I wondered at the time if I would ever hear any of that music live. And only two years later SF Opera mounted its first French Don Carlos, with about half of those cuts restored. Since then I’ve heard everyhing but the ballet and the short, Act IV Eboli/Elizabeth duet in live performances.

            Just checked the archives. In 1986, the solo woodsman in the restored first scene was Mark Delavan and the celestial voice was Deborah Voigt.

          • grimoaldo says:

            “The notes included the full scenario for the ballet, which is one of those royal butt kissing exercises familiar to us from the prologues of operas by Lully.”

            Except that in the case of Lully’s operas, the real king would have been sitting right there watching the premiere and Don Carlos is very critical, to say the least, of aspects of the Spanish monarchy.

            “As I recall, the ballet is set underwater and features 3 solo balerinas, each of them representing a famous pearl.”

            This is correct except that I think only one ballerina is supposed to represent a famous pearl, “La Pérégrina”


            a real pearl which belonged to the real Phillip II, was given by him to Mary Tudor on their marriage, returned to Spain after her death and was in the Spanish crown jewels,taken out of Spain after the Napoleonic wars, sold to the Marquess of Abercorn, and in 1969 bought by Richard Burton and given to Elizabeth Taylor, one of whose puppies nearly swallowed it as she relates:
            “At one point I reached down to touch La Peregrina and it wasn’t there! I glanced over at Richard and thank God he wasn’t looking at me, and I went into the bedroom (of their suite in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas)and threw myself on the bed, buried my head into the pillow and screamed. Very slowly and very carefully, I retraced all my steps in the bedroom. I took my slippers off, took my socks off, and got down on my hands and knees, looking everywhere for the pearl. Nothing. I thought, “It’s got to be in the living room in front of Richard. What am I going to do. He’ll kill me! Because he loved the piece.”
            She looked at their puppies and noticed one was chewing on something:
            “I just casually opened the puppy’s mouth and inside his mouth was the most perfect pearl in the world. It was—thank God—not scratched.”

          • Camille says:


            I spent a long time writing a response which I somehow eliminated while in the final stages. Sigh.

            Yes, it is Eboli as Elisabeth that reappears, that was my understanding.

            The ballet, “Ballo della Regina” I had the great thrill of seeing with its role creatrix, Merrill Ashley, at least ten years ago. A recreation by George Balanchine and I must say, she was quite something even though these were her final performances of the part. “La Peregrina”, I see Grim has furnished the information on, so I needn’t go into that. Quite a fascinating trajectory that storied pearl has!

            About recordings: there exists a BBC transmission of the Don Carlos, ehich I have been debating about buying for five years or more. I have a similar one, again from BBC, of Les Vêpres Siciliennes, it is on Opera Rara and handsomely packaged, too. The advantage is that there are more francophone singers. If you look on Arkivmusic, there is a review and the singers’ names.

            In vera fede,

            We should all meet in La Cieca’s Casa and swear a congiura

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Grimoaldo, have you ever encountered any writings on how the monarchy responded to the “you are so great” musical entertainments? Many years ago, I attended a performance of Albinoni’s Il Nascimento dell’Aurora”. It’s an enjoyable serenata on the mythical birth of dawn, but in the last couple of numbers the allegorical characters stop their esoteric dialogue to announce, “you know what’s even more resplendent than the dawn? It’s the lastest Hapsburg princess to show up in town.” How did the monarchs handle all of this over-the-top praise with a straight face? Were these musical entertainments a secular counterpart to the Mass? A way of reinforcing the legitimacy of the monarchy in the same way that the mass reminded the faithful of the allegiance that was owed to god (and, by extension, the church). Do we have surviving letters in which any of the objects of adulation reviewed the pieces prepared in their honor?

          • grimoaldo says:

            derschatzgabber says:

            “Many years ago, I attended a performance of Albinoni’s Il Nascimento dell’Aurora””

            Would that by any chance have been at the Rotunda in Vicenza, with a Certain Soprano of whom I am rather fond and of which quite glorious performance there was a commercial CD issued?
            With regard to your other questions -- I do not pretend to have read all surviving letters of royalties and noble personages, but I do not know of any that remark on the fulsome praise contained in compositions dedicated to them or presented in their honour. That Albinoni serenata was written to celebrate an empress’s birthday, so it is full of what seems to us quite ridiculous adulatory praise. Yes, there is definitely a propaganda element in it -- our rulers who God has given us are great, and wise and just, aren’t we lucky, we should be thankful -- but even for pieces written for private enjoyment of monarchs, the “butt kissing” is very prominent.
            Purcell’s ode for the birthday of Queen Mary 1691, which was really for the Queen and her court only, not a big public event, is written to a text which starts:
            “Welcome, welcome, glorious Morn,
            Nature smiles at thy return.
            At thy return the joyful Earth
            Renews the Blessings of Maria’s Birth.
            The busy Sun prolongs his Race
            The youthful year his earliest Tribute pays
            And Frosts forsake his head and Tears his face.”

            Sort of comparable to the Good Friday passage in “Parsifal” when nature rejoices as its redemption by the Saviour.
            But as far as I know all these royalties and noble personages took such fulsome tributes as their due, in most cases they were paying for it and it was what they expected. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, whose duties necessitated many dealings with Queen Victoria and other crowned heads, remarked “Everyone likes flattery; and when you come to Royalty you should lay it on with a trowel.”

          • CruzSF says:

            derschatz- wrote:

            you know what’s even more resplendent than the dawn? It’s the lastest Hapsburg princess to show up in town

            I hope you continue to offer translations for us. The above made me laugh out loud.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Grimoaldo, alas no Rotunda in Vicenza for me. It was First Congregational Church in San Francisco. I knew a conducting student who managed to put on two concert performances a year of obscure operas or serenatas for about 3 or 4 years. I used to volunteer to do odd jobs and be a gopher. In exchange I got exposed to music I would have otherwise missed (Il Trionfo Del Tempo etc. by Handel, Weise Rose by Zimmerman, L’Isola Disabitata by Haydn, and Le Vin Herbe by Martin).

            Thanks for the examples/commentary on royal flattery. The Disraeli quote is great.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Thanks CruzSF. Do you have your tickets for Nixon, Attila, and Flute yet?

          • CruzSF says:

            Hi derschatz-

            Yes, I’ve had them since ordered since Mar 2011. Hahaha. I’m not a big fan of Flute, but my need for opera is greater than my dislike of that work, so I’m going. I’m much more interested in the other 2 operas, as these will be my first live exposure to them.

          • CruzSF says:

            How many of the SFO’s summer offerings are you attending?

          • CruzSF says:

            Ooops. Too much since, not enough I.

          • derschatzgabber says:

            Hi CruzSF, I’ve got my tix for all 3 on Tuesday nights. Looking forward to Attila and Nixon. It’s my first chance to see Nixon live. And I haven’t seen Attila since Samuel Ramey and the late Elizabeth Connell sang it in SF in the production rented from the late NYCO. Back in those days, Ramely still took his shirt off on a regular basis. I asked a friend who was a supernumerary how Ramey’s chest looked up close. He said Ramey was using lots of black make-up to give the illusion of abs and pecs.

            I’m Hoping I enjoy Flute in the new production. I love the music, but not the libretto. I once posted here that I thought Flute was the opposite of children. It should be heard and not seen.

          • louannd says:

            I don’t want to “horn-in” here (I am not worthy),
            but I just found out I am getting paid to go to San Fran that weekend for a conference. Will wonders never cease? I love the Magic Flute as much as I love any and all opera, so I am planning on attending Father’s Day weekend! I can’t wait; I haven’t been to San Francisco in awhile.

          • CruzSF says:

            louannd, note that these performances are being done in ENGLISH. In case that affects your decision to go…

          • CruzSF says:

            derschatzgabber, my dates are all Thursdays. :-( June 14/21/28

          • CruzSF says:

            BTW, derschatzgabber, I might agree with you about Flute and children. I’m waiting for a staging to change my mind, so I’ll go in case this is the one. I’m hoping for an experience similar to the one I had with Faust: I hated the opera after the first production I saw, but was merely skeptical of its value after a second, different production.

          • louannd says:

            Thanks for the heads up, SFCruz, I am not so much in love with the opera in English, but it depends on how bad/good the translation might be, though I am keen to hear Alex Shrader again as Tamino.

          • CruzSF says:

            Unfortunately, louannd, this summer’s Flute will use a new translation, it seems, so there’s no way to know if it’ll be good or crap until show time.

          • louannd says:

            @SFCruz -- Going to hear a new English translation might be an adventure, I have to admit. Besides Nathan Gunn is in it, isn’t he? And I will correct myself -- it’s ALEK Shrader.

            And, speaking of Die Zäuberflöte, I am wondering if it or any of the operas from Salzburg will be web streamed this year. I would love to see my newest secret husband, Bernard Richter, as Tamino.

          • CruzSF says:

            Yes, Gunn, Shradr, Sigmundsson, Stober (I liked her very much in Xerxes). I’m hoping the Englsih won’t get too much in the way as I want to hear those singers.

            Bernard Richter! Some of us were just talking about him the other day… I don’t know when he’ll come out this way, I’m afraid.

          • ducadiposa says:

            We had the Houston production in Toronto 3 or 4 seasons back…and it originates from the Welsh National Opera. I am quite certain we had the lachrymosa in that iteration. Certainly the first scene was very full with all the extra choral bits before Elizabeth’s entrance etc. No ballet though! I adore the original version of this opera and love all the extra music. And in refernce to Camille, I own that BBC recording (there’s a more recent expensive version available through Opera Rara I think, but the one I have was cheap on ebay or from somewhere like that) and although the voices aren’t top of the line for the most part, there is tons to enjoy…all the extra materials, and a francophone cast which makes a huge difference. I would take it over the Abbado any day. The live Paris version from a few years back with Alagna/Mattila/Hampson etc. is also good, but I still think the BBC version makes a better case for a more complete, French version.

          • oedipe says:

            Question: how many Parterrians think the Met will get to produce Don Carlos (maybe even with a couple of francophone singers) before most of us here are dead ?

          • kashania says:

            I saw that Toronto Don Carlos. Definitely included the lacrymosa but I’m not sure that it included the switching of the masks. What I do recall is some extra before “O don fatal”. And I quite enjoyed the extra music in the final scene of the opera as it made the ending less abrupt.

  • brooklynpunk says:

    Just a “head’s up” link , from Minnesota Public Radio, to a complete performance of the recent Pulitzer Prize -awarded Opera, “Silent Night”

  • efrayer says:

    Did everyone hear that Jim J. Bullock lives??? Will he be assisting Rick Santorum in taking over as general manager of the Met is THE question, though!

    • bobsnsane says:

      How I wish that would have been funny -
      or even clever -- but it’not…no --
      not even remotely…


      in ‘fairness’

      that epic Obama standard for 2012 -

      at least give Santorum credit 4
      the best one liner of the campaign -- so far….”Are you better off than you were

      4 trillion dollars ago?” *

      …* soon approaching *gasp*
      five (5).

      • whatever says:

        what a myopic load of crap that line is …

        it’s not like obama came into office at zero, and immediately drove the country 4 trillion into the red; or like he could have slammed on the brakes in the middle of the Great Recession in order to bring WHAT WAS ALREADY GOING ON to a screeching halt. i seem to recall reading in the history books just how fabulously that worked herbert hoover …

        sure, you go on and feel all smug in your hypocritical neo-con one liners … the fact incredible, counter-intuitive, almost surreal truth is that i AM better off now than i was $4 trillion ago — the whole country is. the incontrovertible fact is that barack obama inherited a big stinking pile of shit from santorum’s old boss, and he’s done a damned decent job with the bucket and mop.

        • bobsnsane says:

          “[W]hat a myopic load of crap that line is …”

          Well if you insist, ‘whatever’, let’s be civil, why don’t we?

          You write “[s]ure, you go on all smug in your hypocritical neo-con one liners …”

          Well, thank you for allowing me that because boy I am smug…
          …and I do mean ‘boy’.

          Leaving your apparent childishness aside let’s look at your reasoning.

          “It’s not like Obama came into office at zero”…

          Yes it is, he came into the White House --
          day one -- at zero dollars spent.

          According to the Treasury’s Bureau of Public Debt Obama has spent close to 5 trillion dollars in 3.25 dismal years –

          G. W. Bush spent 4.8 in eight years and when he left office unemployment was at 6%.

          IMHO the whole country is not in better shape it is 16 trillion dollars in debt with over 1 million Americans who have STOPPED even looking for work, thus yielding an 8.3% unemployment record down from 9.3%.

          The stimuli were worse than useless – there are fewer people working now 132.7 than when Obama took office 133.6 (million).

          As president he gambled on ObamaCare
          rather than turning his full attention to the economy and WE lost.

          ObamaCare went down in flames in front of the SCOTUS– 75% of the country wants it repealed. It will not reduce premiums; it will not allow citizens to keep their existing coverage nor will it reduce the deficit.

          You labeled a ‘GREAT Recession’ -- perhaps you are referring to Jimmy Carter in the late ‘70’s – remember ‘stagflation’ – the Democrat Party’s other dismal 4 years – with both double-digit unemployment AND inflation.

          Your language betrays the identity of our current misery index --
          given how you refer to your own answer as an “incredible, counter-intuitive, almost surreal truth”…hey, you said it.

          After over 3 years time claims that Barack Obama inherited this just doesn’t wash.

          It is no longer somebody else’s fault.

          Therefore, may I ask does Obama’s “damned decent job” include the following?

          All those green energy jobs (recall Solyndra and the other boondoggle investment bankruptcies,

          the multiple missteps with Iran -- the failure to protest their stolen election, and their unchecked ambition for nuclear weapons,

          the strained Israeli relationship,

          the flip-flops on Guantanamo and civilian trials for terrorists,

          the Buffet rule and its abuse of the tax code for fairness sake rather than as source for long-term incentive and revenue,

          the failure of auto companies (GM and Chrysler only) to repay their loans.

          The Treasury Department’s latest report to Congress noted that nearly $24 billion of their bailout money is gone forever.
          $17 billion of it was a gift to the UAW while the bondholders got hosed.

          The EPA and its regulatory nightmares include just a few examples from his resume.

          That said, may I ask one final question?

          Are you the individual Mrs. John Claggart cautioned us about on Opera-L.

          Are you “the one who doesn’t use caps”?

          If you are,
          may I humbly ask
          that you borrow Obama’s “bucket and mop”
          to clean up your language,
          your sentence structure,
          your reasoning,
          your math,
          and your own good character?

  • A. Poggia Turra says:

    The opera Peru Twitter account user is announcing the death of Veriano Luchetti in Rome at age 73. Wikipedia confirms:

    • aulus agerius says:

      I was just listening to him (Luchetti) the other night in a Forza with Price and Talvela in SF in ’79 I think. I attended a couple of those performances. Not bad -- and LP is priceless.

    • Camille says:

      I remember him. A rather handsome looking man as I recall; it was that too late in the day reprise of Agnese von Hohenstaufer in Rome, 1986, with Caballe. He was married to Mietta Sighele, the soprano, with whom he sang on occasion. May he rest in peace

  • Ilka Saro says:

    I was doing a bit of youtube study on Eric Cutler, since he will be singing the part of Iopas in the upcoming Met revival of Les Troyens. I have never heard the man before and I was curious, because Polenzani gave such a radiant and charming performance 8 years ago.

    From youtube, Cutler sounds lovely. But I was very distracted by the wigs from this 2009 Venice Romeo et Juliette. Romeo as a Rastafarian, dying for the love of a character from 1969 Star Trek.

    • kashania says:

      He was also Arturo opposite Netrebko’s Elvira in the Met Puritani (including HD broadcast).

      • aulus agerius says:

        He’s in Maria Stuarda in Houston this weekend. I wish he would cancel like he did last year for Elisir.

  • Nerva Nelli says:


    Metropolitan Opera House
    October 22, 1883
    Opening Night {1}
    Metropolitan Opera Premiere
    FAUST {1}
    Faust……………….Italo Campanini [Debut]
    Marguerite…………..Christine Nilsson [Debut]
    Mephistopheles……….Franco Novara [Debut]

    Metropolitan Opera House
    February 23, 1894
    FAUST {60}
    Faust……………….Jean de Reszke
    Marguerite…………..Nellie Melba
    Mephistopheles……….Edouard de Reszke

    Metropolitan Opera House
    November 11, 1957
    FAUST {546}
    Faust……………….Nicolai Gedda
    Marguerite…………..Victoria de los Angeles
    Mephistopheles……….Jerome Hines

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:00 pm:
    Central Park SummerStage, Manhattan
    Danielle de Niese, soprano
    Dimitri Pittas, tenor
    John Del Carlo, bass-baritone

    • Camille says:

      NERVA! You arejoking, aren’t you?

      • brooklynpunk says:



        I saw this posted in the MET playbill, when i was in the House , last week…and thought it might have already been posted here, so didn’t mention it…..

        • Camille says:

          Well, it may be FREE but that’s not good enuf—they’ll have to pay me to go to that noisy, crowded, sweaty place and hear THAT!!! Or Basta, Roberti!!!

          • ianw2 says:

            I stick up for DdN quite a bit but DdN in Faust (an opera I loathe, no less)…? No. Just no.

        • brooklynpunk says:



          Nerva might be a little mis-leading , in her last posting…

          This trio of singers is NOT singing “Faust”-- it seems that the MET has totally given up on presenting a full Opera , in the Parks anymore..

          DdN et Co will be doing a song recital.

          • ianw2 says:

            Well, thank god for that.

          • Nerva Nelli says:

            It is NOT a song recital. It is a “concert with piano”. I attended the Gelb regime’s first “cheap for the paupers” Parks event, involving Nathan Gunn, Susanna Phillips and Michael Fabiano: they sang music theatre and opera excerpts.

            The FAUST trio-- which used to embody the company, note its placement at the 1966 Old Met farewell-- is just a (scared) guess.

  • guy pacifica says:

    We returned last night from four days in Houston where we saw performances of Don Carlos (Thursday) and Mary Stuart (Saturday, opening night). It was my first time attending opera in Houston — the hall has lively acoustics, though I was a little surprised at the number of open seats. I know from buying tickets in February that the opening night of Mary Stuart was almost completely sold out way back then, but in the first balcony on Saturday evening probably a quarter of the seats were empty. And what’s with turning the entire main foyer into a buffet line?

    Don Carlos was very well sung, but the costuming was extremely silly and the staging worse — most of the stage was taken up with a U-Shaped set of bleachers, so the actual stage area available to the performers was very small — a major problem for the big scenes, such as the auto-de-fe, when the tiny stage was jam packed with singers but no sense of spectacle. This on-the-cheap production would have been tolerable for a university performance but at Houston GRAND Opera it was big disappointment.

    The lack of coherent staging also seemed to limit the commitment of the singers to act, particularly Brandon Jovanovich (Don Carlos) and Tamara Wilson (Elisabetta) who had little on-stage chemistry (particularly in the Foutainebleau scene). They both wandered around the stage in a kind of torpor until the final scene, when both revved up their vocal performances (Jovanovich particularly). The evening belonged to Christine Georke as Eboli, who sang beautifully and with the kind of coiled force that was electrifying. She definitely has the timbre and the commanding presence for Lady Macbeth. I had never seen Don Carlos performed in the original French, and I was startled by some of the cuts — particularly the mask scene, which was so curtailed as to serve little to no dramatic function (as discussed higher up in this thread).

    Mary Stuart drew a much more engaged set of performances from its singers, particularly the dueling queens. I had never heard Katie Van Kooten before and I came away very impressed: she has a big, limpid voice that’s agile enough to make easy work of Elizabeth’s coloratura, with a malevolent snarl tossed in for effect. Joyce DiDonato’s voice didn’t quite the same heft as Van Kooten’s but she sang gloriously and with such an incredible range (it was nice to hear those deep chest notes really ring). The confrontation scene was truly dramatic, and I had to smother a sob during the prayer scene (but then, I always do shed a tear when I hear it). The final scene spared us the executioner and the axe, and instead the opera ended with Mary’s arms raised to a back-lit cut-out of a cross. It was fine, but I do like the over-the-top melodrama of the all-but-head-severing as seen in the La Scala DVD with Devia. Leicester is one of those thankless Donizetti tenor roles (like Percy in Anna Bolena) and Eric Cutler didn’t do much more than stand there and sing. That’s fine, but like Stephen Costello as Percy, his lack of alertness on stage actually kind of distracted me.

    So, all in all, a good weekend for singing. I’m happy to have finally seen these operas, two of my favorites but rarely performed in the US.

  • derschatzgabber says:

    Hi Louannd, congratulations on being sent to San Francisco on Father’s day weekend. If Flute in English isn’t your cup of tea, Attila and Nixon are also being performed that weekend in the original languages.

    Have you checked out the set designs for Flute on the SF Opera website? Looks like lots of drops and projections. They may be pretty, but they won’t do Nathan Gunn any favors. His voice tends to sound underpowered in the War Memorial Opera House, unless he has a solid surface behind him to act as an acoustic shell. During his last run of Billy Budd in SF, he sounded best in the “Billy in the Darbys” scene, in which he was laying face down on the stage, propped up on his elbows. I think his voice sounded larger because he could get the acoustic bounce off of the stage floor.

    But Paapageno may work fine for him in this house. It’s not a tough sing. And he’s got the stage presence for the role.

  • ianw2 says:

    Something a bit unusual.

    Damon Albarn (of The Gorillaz) wrote a recent ‘Afro-Pastoral Folk Opera’ called Dr Dee, which The Guardian is streaming audio of.

    This is Albarn’s second foray into more operatic forms, and like “Monkey: Journey to the West”, was generally warmly received by audiences and critics.

    • ianw2 says:

      “The Gorillaz”. I read about them on The Facebook. I am turning into an old man.