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The long dark intermission feature of the soul

As we fall back to standard time, La Cieca invites to to while away all those hours of darkness with discussion of off-topic and general interest subjects.


  • Batty Masetto says:

    It appears that dear Betsy had a hand in the recent election after all:

    • Camille says:

      BAB will get mileage for days outta this one, Batty dear

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Here is the Swan Lake with male swans

  • louannd says:

    I am sure everyone will find David Alden’s production of “Ballo” quite refreshing after watching the new “Lulu” at La Monnaie:


    It will be available online for the next four weeks.

  • Buster says:

    Netrebko had a lot of fun with Iolanta yesterday. It was a concert performance, but without music stands, and quite a bit of acting, especially from Anna, who must have practiced at home with a blindfold. She was in great shape -- the voice of a stunning beauty, of course, sounding innocent and light at first, then unfolding in the big duet, and growing even a bit more for the finale, where you could hear her perfectly well over everyone else, and the orchestra. She wore her prettiest princess dress, and waved energetically at the audience, which did the foot stamping/yelling/whisteling thing -- great night! The Met idea to couple Iolanta with an other opera is nuts, I think -- it is really long enough in itself, and with Netrebko surely nobody will feel cheated in the end. It is impossible to digest first Bluebeard, and then concentrate after the intermission for this.

    • Cocky Kurwenal says:

      I saw Iolanta at Holland Park a few years ago and loved it -- such a lovely piece and perfect for Netrebko.

      • Krunoslav says:

        I’ve seen IOLANTA at the Armenian National Opera, the Maliy theater in Petersburg, in concert with Vishnevskaya and Gedda at Carnegie and at DiCapo in NYC. A wonderful piece which stands on its own, as has been said.

      • Buster says:

        We all agreed last night, Cocky:

    • semira mide says:

      Here is an example of why this opera is fabulous

      I saw it in Moscow in 1966, and there was also a Soviet film of this opera. It is wonderful and I can’t wait to hear Netrebko sing it. It is a much better fit than some of the things she has sung.

    • Camille says:

      Dank U, dear Buster.

      I just love this work and wish it would hurry its way to the Met as I feel it would be not only an ideal vehicle for Netrebko but also serve to introduce it as a semi-regular repertory staple.

      Huie en Dhuie

  • Bill says:

    Buster -- the only time I saw Iolanta on the stage
    was a guest performance of the Bolshoi at the
    Budapest Opera. There it was performed in
    combination with Rimski-Korsakow’s “Mozart and
    Salieri” with Nesterenko which was done after Iolanta. If Iolanta was done with a big star such
    as Netrebko it might be able to stand alone. If not,
    another opera might be appropriate but I cannot see
    it being done AFTER Bluebeard’s Castle in the same
    evening. Remember, in my youth, the Met combined
    Salome (with Welitsch no less) with Gianni Schicchi and then later (with Goltz) with a ballet named
    Vittoria or something like that made up of ballet
    music from Verdi operas. Neither combination was
    satisfactory -- Salome with Welitsch or Goltz could
    certainly stand on its own.

    • Buster says:

      Thanks Bill -- these old Met double feautures are very amusing. I saw Bluebeard being followed by Erwartung once, but George Tabori saw that as one performance, with the woman from Erwartung taking the stage immediately after Bluebeard, and staying there for the entire intermission. One of the most devastating evenings out I remember.

  • WindyCityOperaman says:

    Born on this day in 1921 soprano Pierrette Alarie

    Born on this day in 1929 baritone Piero Cappuccilli

    Happy 47th birthday bass-baritone Bryn Terfel

  • Rory Williams says:

    Not sure where this will land, but … Rory is beginning a Siegfried on Sirius with Melchior & Flagstad, plus Schorr. Wish me luck (the Mime, have to go look him up, is already fab). Zzzinka, were you there?

  • Batty Masetto says:

    In the “shutting the barn door after the heldentenor has run off” category of reporting, we were at Lohengrin in San Francisco last night.

    The less said about Daniel Slater’s witless production, the better. Except I will, anyway. After seeing pictures of the setting in a largely vacant, vaguely Eastern European library, I was looking forward to something unusual and insightful, maybe about the role of the individual in a collectivist, militarist society. But Slater apparently wasn’t up to it. Just conventional stand ‘n blast, and the setting served only to leach out the traditional romance and glamor, with nothing added in return. Imagine me saying this, but the leaden blocking would have been better off amid conventional pseudo-medieval kitsch. At least we could have looked at the pretty frocks. What a come-down after Neuenfels’ brilliant regie.

    I liked Brandon Jovanovich immensely all around and wish he’d had a better setting. It’s a true tenor sound, not baritonal; the voice has lots of ring at fortissimo, and if the piano singing was a bit careful, it was still sensitively conceived. I think he’s a potentially great Lohengrin. Camilla Nylund was OK vocally – sort of a cut-rate Mattila – but dramatically she’s a lump, apparently needs to face forward at almost all times no matter who she’s talking to or what about; no physical responsiveness at all. Hubby and I wound up really disliking the character (why all this kerfuffle over a woman who makes Lindsey Lohan look like the epitome of intellect and emotional depth?) and sort of wished she’d been executed in the first act. Only that would have left the field to Gerd Grochowski – not a bad voice, but he has no real power, and is possibly an even worse actor than Nylund. What a dweeb, can’t even wear a uniform without slouching. He has to pull his chin back into his neck to produce the voice, which makes him look like Beaker from the Muppets, except that Beaker is more expressive.

    Petra Lang does not have a pretty voice but you have to give her credit for cranking it out with energy, and the top is solid. I’ve heard worse sounds from Leonie in the role. She and Jovanovich provided the only significant acting of the evening, especially considering how little the director gave them to work with. Kristinn Sigmundsson has a big, beautiful bass, but the years are showing: the top and bottom are not quite there any more. Brian Mulligan was a resonant Herald, though for some reason he sang his second-act proclamations as though he’d got lost and thought he was singing Puccini.

    Luisotti’s conducting was the mixed bag that I’m coming to expect from him. The Act III prelude was symptomatic. It kicked off brilliantly, with lots of dash and verve, but bogged down in the middle section, which lost bounce and forward movement. The return of the first section brought back the dazzle. The same held through throughout: some good, some draggy. Jovanovich’s otherwise beautiful “In fernem Land” was marred by missed coordination between stage and pit on the climactic final cadence.

    So, not a production worth seeing again, but keep you ear out for Jovanovich in this repertory. Mellifluous, handsome, convincing Siegmund/Lohengrins are not exactly thick on the ground these days.

    • phoenix says:

      A detailed review -- and, as you wrote: “Imagine me saying this” -- yes, it doesn’t sound like you, but one’s tastes can change over the years…
      - What courage you have for correctly identifying Rysanek’s very late career Ortrud at the Met as the record low benchmark for the role! ‘High notes’ (were they on pitch?) aside, how was the rest of La Lang’s vocal delivery? It is always a tribute to a great interpreter that one doesn’t remember exactly how well they sang -- only how well they ‘acted’! Nice work -- you should be writing for the NY Times!

      • Batty Masetto says:

        Thanks Phoenix, but I’d have to say the crack about traditional kitsch wasn’t so much a reflection of changing taste as an indication of how seriously the direction scraped the bottom of the barrel. :D If anything, my taste has actually gravitated toward the more experimental end of the scale with age, though I’m still happy to be caught up in a really well-directed conventional production. But those have never been common, either.

        Lang actually sounded better than I remembered her from the Bayreuth webcast. The sound is large, there’s no wobble, the pitch is good, and the voice expresses what she wants it to. It’s not a pretty timbre, but it’s an effective instrument. Alas, though she’s a good actress, she’s not quite abandoned enough to qualify as a “Stimm” diva in my book.

        Oh, also, I just noticed it should be “held *true* throughout.”

        • SF Guy says:

          Batty--Sorry to have missed you last night; I ducked out after Act 2, unable to take any more of the production. It was bad enough when the male chorus carried Lohengrin around on their shoulders in Act 1 as though he’d just scored the winning touchdown in a Knute Rockne biopic, but I reached my limit when Telramund garroted a guard during the musical interlude between Ortrud and Elsa’s exit and the line “Thus Evil enters the house,” then exited dragging the unfortunate extra’s corpse behind him. I don’t think I fully appreciated Zambello’s Ring until that moment.

          • Batty Masetto says:

            SFGuy, you really should have hung around to see Telmarund get killed. Fight choreography by the Tonawanda Amateur Exhibition Wrestlers’ Guild class for precocious third-graders, after which Grochowsky bled like a stuck pig from a blood sack obviously wrapped around his middle.

          • SF Guy says:

            Batty--Well, I hope Mr. T put up a better fight than he did in Act 1, where after a couple of thrusts he just dropped his sword for no particular reason I could make out. Perhaps the fact that the chorus was obstructing the view of the orchestra patrons made him forget the fight was fully visible to those of us upstairs.

          • Batty Masetto says:

            No, what you saw was the full Douglas Fairbanks treatment. The Act I fight was a Frazier-Ali affair compared to the Act III fracas:

            Telramund flings shabby door open, holding knife high to stab Lohengrin. Lohengrin grabs knife hand, twists it around and pokes knife into blood bag. Telramund flops onto bed squirting blood. End of fight.

            Scary, huh?

          • SF Guy says:

            Not nearly as scary as the fact that director Daniel Slater continues to get work. From his comments in the program: “You can certainly set Lohengrin in the tenth century, but it’s extremely unlikely that such a far-away period--when coupled with the distance at which we usually experience opera productions, as opposed to film or television--will allow for the kind of emotional engagement and clarity of character presentation that was our aim.” Huh?

            Actually, I found that plunking the action in a specific historical period then making no effort to find connections with that period, while ignoring the Christianity vs. Paganism conflict that drives the story, was a much greater impediment to my own emotional engagement.

          • Batty Masetto says:

            You and I have both been going to opera long enough to know that hacks have always far outnumbered the directors with real skill and understanding.

    • bluecabochon says:

      I agree with Batty’s review completely. I saw this exactly a week ago and the singing was mostly very good, especially Jovanovich, despite being announced as “unwell” for Act 3. I can’t wait to hear hom again in this role somewhere else. He worked to sell this production, but it’s impossible. Everyone deserved better, especially Wagner.

  • phoenix says:

    “held *true* throughout” or not, your syntax beats mine any day -- enjoy yourself in San Francisco!