Cher Public

The wrong box

Take a breather, cher public, and join in the general interest and off-topic conversation in this week’s intermission feature.

  • The Superconductor elves (OK, elf. There’s only one elf. And it’s me!) have been busy lately, standing on the Peter Clark Rush Line to write (finally) about the astonishing Pretty Yende in this year’s revival of Le Comte Ory. You know where the link is going….

  • “Silla is Rolando Villazón, who has surmounted vocal problems but can’t seem to accept that his less than voluminous tenor voice will never qualify him for the heartthrob roles he once seemed destined for. If he wants to sing Mozart, he must give up his macho ways, which almost comically exaggerate Silla’s volatility, and cultivate elegance. He adds a long, ungainly cadenza to the J.C. Bach aria that Mr. Minkowski, who surely knows better, should have vetoed.”

  • Ben Heppner scored a huge triumph last night and finally broke the so-called “Toronto curse”. His Tristan was magnificently sung and he immersed himself in the role utterly. As expected, he grew in strength as the evening progressed. Act I was fine but the real goods came in Act II which he sang with an unfailing legato and brilliant top notes. His third act was shattering. It is amazing that singer who some had written off has made such a comeback. His command of his voice was extraordinary. There wasn’t a single crack (even when I saw him at the Met a few years ago, he cracked a couple of times in Act III).

    He was complemented by Melanie Diener’s elegant Isolde, Franz-Josef Selig’s devastating Marke and Alan Held’s vibrant Kurwenal. The COC orchestra was a in superb form under music director Johannes Debus (who stepped in this, his first Tristan, only a couple of months ago). The production by Peter Sellars and Bill Viola is both moving and illuminating. Viola’s videos features some unforgettable images and Sellars’ coup de theatre at the end of Act I had me shaking — an experience I will always remember.

    • Camille

      Bravo, Big Ben, Bravissimo!

      i am SO happy for him and big kiss to kashania reporting in to us.

      Big Ben, you rule as Tristan!

      • I can’t tell you have relieved I was, Camille. Ben has had bad luck in Toronto (at times when he was singing fine elsewhere). And he sang so well at the dress rehearsal that I was worried about the old “good dress, bad opening” saying. But he came through splendidly and even sang better than at the dress.

        • Here’s a sentence Toronto has been waiting to read for 17 years.

          Ben Heppner was magnificent Tuesday night on the stage of the Canadian Opera Company. Stunning, open-hearted, in robust and thrilling voice, creating a dramatic homecoming that banished all worrisome thoughts anyone might have had about this remarkable performer.

        • Camille

          Yes, I’ll admit I was also worried about the good dress, bad prima bit, as well.
          Wonderful, wonderful news. I am very happy for his success and happy for you that you are able to witness it in the Viola production.

          Sometimes the nice guy does finish first.

    • Feldmarschallin

      What is an ‘elegant Isolde’? This to me says absolutely nothing about her singing. Now Anny Konetzni was probably the furtherst one could get from an ‘elegant Isolde’ but also sang the role for many years. I never thought that Diener would sing Isolde but then again other singer have sung roles which I never would have thought possible either. Seems like maybe she wasnt even half bad. I was certainly pleasantly surprised at her recent Sieglinde which was very good and better than an Elsa which I heard about 13 years ago in Bayreuth which was not good at all.

      • oedipe

        “Elegant singing” is an example of a phrase that is foreign to the vocabulary of the Reformation tradition.

      • Feldmarschallin: I need to disclose (though most already know this) that I work for the COC. So my reviews will focus on the positives and not always go into the nitty gritty. Having said that, Diener was elegant in bearing and in her smooth voice and delivery.

        I do remember reading some negative things about her here when she was announced as Isolde. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard her myself. It’s not a huge voice and gets covered by the orchestra sometimes (especially in the lower parts) but she handled the role quite well.

        Next week, the other Isolde in the cast, Margaret Jane Wray will get her first shot at the role and I look forward do it. She has a warm, rich voice that I quite like.

        • Feldmarschallin

          Thanks Kaschania and I admit I had my doubts as well. But like I said she was quite good as Sieglinde in Nov so perhaps she is having a good phase.

          • Ha! I love your German spelling of my moniker! :)

          • Feldmarschallin

            Sorry I didn’t look closly and just spelled it who I thought it sounded.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Born on this day in 1862 conductor and composer Walter Damrosch

    Born on this day in 1897 bass Georg Hann

    Born on this day in 1916 bass-baritone Benno Kusche

    Born on this day in 1918 conductor Jaroslav Krombholc

    Happy 85th birthday composer Mitch Leigh

    Happy 75th birthday tenor Ernesto Veronelli

    Happy 62nd birthday soprano Mara Zampieri

    Happy 59th birthday countertenor Jochen Kowalski

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Born on this day in 1788 opera librettist Felice Romani

    Born on this day in 1797 composer Franz Schubert

    Happy 76 birthday composer Philip Glass

  • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

    “Not taking risks could be the biggest risk ever”. The headline in today’s Times is a quote from Kasper Holten, ROH director of opera, in an interview with Neil Fisher.

    He believes that opera belongs to both entertainment and to intellectual life, seeing the UK press embedded firmly in the former camp, the Europeans in the latter. “When you go to opera, it’s not just about a fun night. It should also challenge you.”

    Holding no truck with ENO’s “dress as you please” approach… “When I say dress up I’m saying opera is special… I don’t mean you have to have an Armani tux. Dress up for you.”

    And finally: “The biggest obstacle facing opera is prejudice -- people who haven’t seen it having opinions about what it is and why it isn’t for them. I can imagine people in Scandinavia saying ‘I don’t want to go to opera as it’s too expensive’, but I can’t imagine anyone saying it wouldn’t be for the because it’s not their class. That sits deep in British people.”

    Interested about the ‘expense’ argument. I have friends who say they didn’t go to Tristan and Isolde in Dublin citing ticket prices. Yet they brought friends to Leonard Cohen and he cost more than half as much again, ticket for ticket!

    • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

      corr. “wouldn’t be for THEM as it is not their class”.

      • semira mide

        I’ve not read the review with Kasper, but he left opera in Copenhagen in shambles.

        The solid core of the opera going public is staying away not because of the ticket prices which are not Kasper’s fault -- but due to the foolish need to get a “world class” opera house which the public can’t afford to fill with “world class” singers.

        No, what turned that public away is the crap productions mounted during his watch which apparently are Holten’s idea of a “challenge”.

        Unfortunately this decline is reenforced by an “entertainment” press which gave poor reviews to the just completed fiasco run of Semiramide. To summarize the criticisms included “the tenor was too short, the piece too long, and why isn’t it funny like the Barber of Seville”? This would NOT have happened before KH took the helm of the opera( well, actually his predecessor wasn’t so great either)

        Nothing personal against KH,but he paved the way for a disastrous Semiramide, and of course that makes me furious.

    • Rory Williams

      But, not to be obnoxious, Balt, isn’t Leonard Cohen sort of special? Unique, around for however long, but not a long time? I might spring on my tiny budget for L Cohen before some well-upholstered opera nite. Esp. since no one on Parterre would tell me How Wrong I Was! ;)

  • Wonderful broadcast today by Radio Orfey of the closing concert of the III Moscow Rozhdestvensky Festival of Sacred Music. The first half seemed to have Georgian-Russian reconciliation as its theme. The 80-year-old Patriarch Ilia II of all Georgia was in attendance and three of his (!) sacred compositions closed out the first half. A sample:

    A little saccharine for my taste, but quite an accomplishment for a national church leader and scholar. The first half also featured some Georgian musicians (I couldn’t quite make out who) performing some of the tremendous folk polyphony of the region.

    Second half of the concert featured Alemdar Karamanov’s Requiem. Karamanov (1934-2007) was a member of the same generation that produced Schnittke, Gubaidulina, Part, etc. Schnittke thought him enormously talented, at once modern and conservative. Not long after graduation, Karamanov returned to his native Symferopol and composed in an electic symphonic style. His many religiously-themed works made him more-or-less non-grata with the Soviets and he was sometimes called the “Hermit of the Crimea”. Only a fraction of his work has been recorded -- a couple of reording projects in the 90s barely got off the ground. The Requiem is a fantastically hybrid work, bits of Shostakovich, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, Mahler, Orff, Musorgsky and you-name-it whirl off in unexpected directions.

    A sample:

    • (yikes -- the concert performance of the Requiem sounded much better than this CD excerpt……)

      • Well that was quick, the Karamanov folks have already put Spivakov’s January 24 concert up on the web. The sound appears to come from a handheld-cam and is pretty harsh, but the performance is much better than the one released a few years back on CD. The Stravinskian Dies Irae (at 8:15) will knock your socks off. The many Rachmaninoff/Gershwin bits are alluring.

        Alemdar Karamanov led a very difficult life. I hope this successful concert leads to more performances of idiosyncratic, but attractive work.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Born on this day in 1859 composer Victor Herbert

    Born on this day in 1874 librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal

    Born on this day in 1890 soprano Germaine Lubin

    Born on this day in 1891 bass Alexander Kipnis

    Born on this day in 1922 soprano Renata Tebaldi

    Born on this day in 1927 tenor Flaviano Labò

    Born on this day in 1944 bass Aage Haugland

    Happy 67th birthday soprano Carol Neblett

  • zinka

    Think of this “kid” being accidentally jabbed in the ribs at the A natural at the end of this Butterfly Scene at the Met!!! I almost fell to the standing room floor.(and I may have interrupted something!!)
    For my darling Renata,who made our lives so happy on and off stage….on your birthday, Feb.1 I wish you all my love. You made our young lives so happy…and the memories never go away. Carlos*

    * Her English was like my Italian in the early days,so I communicated in Spanish..and thus “Carlos” is what she always called me.

  • zinka

    Feb. 1, 1873..I adore Clara Butt……The word “MOTHER” on the register break would be called “camp” today..I love her so much!!!!!!!

  • Review of the first (and so far, only) Lincoln Center performance of Lalla Roukh with Opera Lafayette. On Superconductor.

  • zinka

    Gelb…Why didn’t you do it like this?????????????????

  • oedipe

    For those who were wondering: the uncertainty about the Hoffmann in SF has been lifted, it seems. Dessay will only sing Antonia. The Olympia, Giulietta and Stella will be sung by complete unknowns (to me at least): Hye Jung Lee, Irene Roberts and Jennifer Cherest, respectively.

    • SF Guy

      Hye Jung Lee’s Madame Mao was the best thing about SFO’s Nixon in China last year (she certainly got the biggest ovation at the performance I attended); the others are unknown to me as well.

      On the positive side, this greatly increases the odds that Dessay will actually show up.

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        Let’s see if La Dizzy actually goes through with her committment to that production when it opens in Barcelona at the Liceu on Feb 4th.

        • Quanto Painy Fakor

          But then, why shouldn’t she warble for 20 minutes, get a big fee and all the tapas she can eat.

          • oedipe

            It remains to be seen whether “2C” showing up is a positive or a negative…

            On the positive side, all the tapas she can eat will not go a long way. I can think of others (no names) who would likely consume many many more tapas than Dessay.

  • Camille

    Gnädige Feldmarschallin,

    An elegant Isolde—I do so hope it comes through as I have been trying ro post it all dau, to no avail.

    • Camille

      To post it all day, that is. Damn keyboard flipped to AZERTY keyboard all of a sudden. Oh goody, I see it finally came through.

      I too was stumped by the expression “an elegant Isolde”, as frankly, I could not think of one! Then I happened to notice it was the birthday of the GREATEST Germaine Lubin, et voilà!

      • Camille
      • Feldmarschallin

        Thank you Camille and speaking of Lubin, I just bought a new CD of hers about 2 months ago which is a must. It is on Andromeda and has of course many Wagner highlights but also Wolf, Weber, Gounod, Schubert, Puccini, Chopin, Debussy and Reyer. There are two Liebestods including the one from Bayreuth under de Sabata.

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Born on this day in 1813 composer Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomïzhsky

    Born on this day in 1873 composer Leo Fall

    Born on this day in 1901 baritone Gerhard Hüsch

    Born on this day in 1919 soprano Lisa Della Casa

    Happy 84th birthday tenor Waldemar Kmentt

    Happy 77th birthday soprano Martina Arroyo

    Happy 75th birthday bass-baritone Simon Estes

    Happy 69th birthday conductor Andrew Davis

  • Operavore, starting now on WQXR!

  • Buster

    Operetta earworm. There are lovely versions of this by Hilde Gueden (on a generous highlights disc with Martha Mödl!), and a moving one by Rothenberger (on the complete set that has Renate Holm as Postchristel). Holm is just fabulous here:

  • zinka


  • zinka

    Second try on our new STAR!!!!! Pretty great!