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In memoriam Mike Richter

Serious opera fan and internet pioneer Mike Richter died earlier this week. One of his many exhaustive projects was the mastering and encoding of hundreds of outstanding live opera performances onto CD-ROMs. Following the jump, a tribute to Mike in the form of an excerpt from his “Audio Encyclopedia.”

The following performance was one of 15 complete operas included on Mike’s disc “Italian Opera from the Teatro Colón.”

Giuseppe Verdi: Il trovatore
Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, June 5, 1969

  • Manrico: Carlo Bergonzi
  • Leonora: Leontyne Price
  • Azucena: Fiorenza Cossotto
  • Il Conte di Luna: Piero Cappuccilli
  • Ferrando: Ivo Vinco
  • Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Colón; Oliverio de Fabritiis.

If you’re interested, cher public, La Cieca can upload and stream a selection from the Richter archives each Thursday. There’s enough material in Mike’s treasury to last us many years!

115 comments

  • Maury D says:

    It seems it might be time to take a “don’t feed the trolls” approach with basso, as many people have done with other commenters who add nothing but unpleasantness to the site.

    • operaassport says:

      I agree, Maury, but in a thread about such a nice man as Mike Richter he was first out of the box with dime store psychoanalyzing and nastiness and I wasnt letting that go by. I should have. I apologize. At least I’m man enough to do so. He still can’t bring himself to even recognize how offensive he was. Sad, really.

  • pasavant says:

    To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

    • DonCarloFanatic says:

      To see an opera based on the writer of that immortal line and not laugh or sigh constantly at the wit and truth of every line was a sad bore, something Oscar Wilde himself never was.

      • operaassport says:

        On last week’s Downton episode was this exchange:

        Lady Violet: I’m afraid Tom’s small talk is very small.
        Lord Grantham: We can’t all be Oscar Wilde, mamma.
        Lady Violet: well, that’s a relief.

  • Satisfied says:

    Requesting help from fellow Parterrians!!

    Planning a VERY last minute trip to Europe over the winter, and need advice about what/where to be and when. It’s my honeymoon and though my husband enjoys opera, he don’t love it. That said, he’s given me some license to chose an opera city or two. We will be in Europe from December 24 until January 5.

    I’m leaning heavily toward Oslo for the Bieito “Hoffmann” (opera base doesn’t indicate, but is this a new production? That would seem to be the case from research) but otherwise open to any and all suggestions! Also interested to hear from anyone who’s been to the Grand Ball in Vienna….looks a little cheesy, but also like a lot of fun.

    HELP!

    • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

      Vienna’s Opernball – which is not cheesy! it’s the social event of the year! – is always on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday. You are probably thinking of the annual New Year’s Eve “Fledermaus” at Staatsoper or the Philharmoniker’s New Year’s Day concert at Musikverin, which can be extremely cheesy. Both of these are long sold out – the New Year’s Day concert is one of the hardest tickets all year, every year.

      Check out the schedules at Vienna’s three major opera houses. It’s also worth checking the schedules for Musikverein and Konzerthaus for vocal recitals, plus Konzerthaus has a spectacular opera-in-concert series (I will hear the complete “Les Troyens” with Gergev and the Mariinksy there on Saturday).

      http://www.wiener-staatsoper.at/

      http://www.theater-wien.at/

      http://www.volksoper.at/

      http://konzerthaus.at/

      http://www.musikverein.at/

      Staatsoper has a decent production (new last season; set in the 1950s) of “La Cenerentola” with Vivica Genaux and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (avoid the ancient “Fidelio” with a lousy cast; I assume you’re not interested in “Nutcracker,” although it’s a gorgeous production with Nureyev’s choreography).

      Too bad you’re not around on 23 December: that’s the last performance of Claus Guth’s new staging of Schubert’s oratorio “Lazarus” at Theater an der Wien; a nice alternative to “Fledermaus” for New Year’s Eve might be the silent film (1926) of “Der Rosenkavalier” with live accompaniment by the RSO-Wien at Theater an der Wien.

      Volksoper has “Fledermaus,” too, and a lot of crap like an ancient “Hänsel und Gretel,” “My Fair Lady” in German, and a bunch of operettas.

      Konzerthaus has mostly holiday programming, but has another nice annual event on New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day: the Symphoniker does Beethoven IX., this year with Louis Langrée leading Susan Gritton, Serena Malfi, Pavol Breslik, and Luca Pisaroni. Maybe this is something your husband might enjoy, too.

      Musikverin looks pretty dead.

      Please remember that we Austrians take our holidays very seriously (tomorrow is Nationalfeiertag, and next Friday is Allerheiligen, followed the next day by Allerseelen), and that basically everything is closed from 24-26 December, 31 December-01 January, and 06 January is Heilige drei Könige.

      Let me know if you have any questions.

    • DharmaBray says:

      Satisfied, Oslo at that time of year is pretty cold and dark and Christmas is very much family time so apart from the opera (which DOES look intriguing) you might be scratching around for things to do and its not the best time of year to appreciate Oslo and Norway’s natural beauty/outdoors (plus Norway is really expensive for a tourist!). I’d opt for Berlin where you get opera (lots of choices incl. Kosky’s Rusalka at the Komische) and a bit more social activity (and Berlin IS cheap for a visitor I think) or perhaps Frankfurt for the rarely seen Ensecu Oedipe, Munich for Forza with Kampe and Kaufmann if you can get tickets, Zurich for Christoph Marthaler Handel with Anne Sofie Otter. Hope its a great trip!

      • A. Poggia Turra says:

        Of course, not everyone “celebrates” christmas (my family honors traditions around the U.S. thanksgiving holiday, and ignores the (seeming omnipresent commercial aspects of the December event, but I digress…..

        I for one actually enjoy visiting European cities during the winter -- not only are arts seasons fully active, the cities are not awash with tourists.

        One possibility is to combine Oslo with Hamburg -- the Bieito Hoffmann on the 27th, travel day on the 28th and the classic Konwitschny “schoolhouse” Lohengrin on the 29th.

        If you go to Oslo, be sure to see Munch’s ‘The Scream’ at the National Gallery (admission free).

        • havfruen says:

          Remember that Oslo DOES celebrate “December events” and be careful about assuming that the time between Christmas and New Year’s is business as usual. Remember,too, that being so far North, it is dark in December although that does add to the atmosphere. Oslo is a wonderful city. Summer is better, though.

          • MontyNostry says:

            Oslo is an attractive city, and the opera house is impressive, but bear in mind that food and drink is scarily expensive there. Back in 2009 I paid about $20 for a very plain prawn sandwich in a very ordinary café and nearly $60 for a plate of reindeer meat with vegetables. Even in a 7/11 store, a packet of cookies can run to $5. You will find Vienna much better value!

      • Satisfied says:

        Dharma:

        Now that I have selected Berlin, any thoughts on what to see (unfortunately, I will miss the Rusulka as I’m arriving on the 28th)? I’m leaning heavily towards the Falstaff at the Deutsche and maybe the Magic Flute at the Staatsopera to catch Pape. Otherwise kinda of Blah about opera in Berlin this trip. This is the first time I felt that way, and it’s my third trip to the city.

        • DharmaBray says:

          Falstaff looks to be a new production from Christof Loy -- that would be my choice! And just based on curiosity, I’d go to the Kosky West Side Story at the Komische, and because Daniel Harding is conducting, Fliegende Hollander at the Staatsoper. And the Berliner Philharmoniker are doing concerts with Rattle and Lang Lang so I’d try and get to that too. Berlin has a lively theatre scene. You might want to check out the following for what other things might be on stages in Berlin:
          http://berlin-buehnen.de/de_DE/calendar/29.12.2013/29.12.2013

          Whatever you end up deciding, congratulations and don’t forget it’s a honeymoon, so hopefully there will be lots of other romantic and memorable things on your itinerary!

    • Buster says:

      Or start in Amsterdam with the The Gambler (26th, excellent cast and conductor, and a new production by Andrea Breth), then take the train to Antwerp for the Christoph Waltz Rosenkavalier (28th), which has a really fine cast. Then off to Cologne for the Simone Kermes Fledermaus (31st), which might be fun after a lot of of Glühbeer.

    • armerjacquino says:

      Congratulations!

      Why not try New Year in London? Antonacci and Alagna in CARMEN at the ROH on New Year’s Day. A dead cert for someone who’s not a huge opera lover, and plenty more to do in and around the city…

      • Satisfied says:

        WOW! What a response! Thank you all! I have to look into each of these suggestions: they all sound fabulous!

        Just a few follow-up questions to Jungfer:

        I was actually referring to this New Years Ball and not the Opera Ball:
        http://www.worldwideticketing.com/balls/kaiser-ball.htm. Any thoughts?

        Also, whats the secondary market like for Vienna Phil on New Years? How exorbitant would tickets be?

        Thanks again all for the help!

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          I’d actually never heard of the Kaiser Ball till you offered the link. On the plus side, it turns out that I know the CEO who gives the description, so I can vouch for the food and wine. However, I imagine that it will basically attract an older, totally heterosexual crowd, with women in ball gowns and men in Frack (tail coats) or at least Smoking (tuxedo) who want to waltz in the New Year. My initial impression is that it’s highly likely you may feel rather out of place.

          As for the Philharmoniker concerts through ticket agencies, I had a look online and they are going for €250-€450 for seats with no view of the stage to €3,390. New Year’s Eve is somewhat cheaper than New Year’s Day, with the top price at €1,690. Is your husband rich?

          If you do consider Wien, I would suggest “Cenerentola,” “Nutcracker,” and “Fledermaus” at Staatsoper spread out over the course of your stay (“Nutcracker” and “Fledermaus” are the only things on in late December/early January; the “Fidelio” – the 1970 Otto Schenk production which originally had Bernstein, Gwyneth Jones and James King – has Ricarda Merbeth, Peter Seiffert, Tomas Konieczny, and Matti Salminen with Franz Welser-Möst conducting, but I really can’t recommend it), New Year’s Eve at Theater an der Wien (film of “Der Rosenkavalier” with RSO-Wien), and the Symphoniker Beethoven IX. at Konzerthaus on New Year’s Day.

          If you’ve never been to Wien before, there is certainly plenty to do! New Year’s Eve is really the biggest holiday of the year, and the whole city is one big party. There are stages set up in all of the squares in the First District playing all kinds of music with dancing in the streets, and at midnight, the whole city sets off fireworks for about an hour.

          The timing of your visit is really bad for music performances as it is the height of the holiday season (Wien really doesn’t stop celebrating from 24 December through 06 January), and “holiday fare” dominates all the stages. As I mentioned, you are just missing the new “Lazarus” at Theater an der Wien, and Krassimira Stoyanova gives a recital at Staatsoper the day after you leave, and then a Mozart festival starts with some excellent casting. But the museums, the restaurants, the Christmas markets set up in every corner of the city (lots of hot Glühwein on a cold day!) and just the city itself have so much to offer.

          • Camille says:

            Jungferissima!
            Grüss aus dem Grösser Apfel!

            I thought of you yesterday as I trotted in to the theatre (NY State) to purchase mon billet for Les Sylphides, next month, with ABT. I will let you hear about it.

            Meine Lippen sie küssen so heiss!

            Kamillentee

            Allerseelen is soon upon us! Nicht vergessen.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              No fear, Hot Lips: it is marked on my calendar, 02 November. We have back-to-back holidays (actually, today is Nationalfeiertag): 01 November is Allerheiligen, and 02 November is Allerseelen. I live right next to the train that goes directly to Zentralfriedhof, so getting there is easy. Hell, when I die they can just wheel me out to Margaretengürtel and load me on the number 6 Straßenbahn! I look forward to your report on “Les Sylphides” (or is it “La Sylphide?”), although I am far more an NYCB fan. I miss New York State Theater. I saw a photo of the auditorium after the renovations and the aisles they dug into that gorgeous Parkett were like slashes across my heart! I was last there exactly 10 years ago, for the NYVB Winter Gala.

            • Camille says:

              Oh, I am a NYCB fan, too, completely over the ABT but I want to see Les Sylphides. (Pretty sure they are giving the Les, and not the La).

              With ABT I always feel a little bit like I’m at a track meet! They are so good technically and leaping and jumping about, but I prefer the Balanchine Thing, I guess. My husband used to attend ballet there when Balanchine was still alive, and was so fascinated by him and what he did. It has changed a lot since, I needless tell you…..

              Kuessies!

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              Kamillentee, I used to go to NYCB when Mr B was still making ballets! I have seen every extant Balanchine ballet but one, plus a few that no longer exist. I have a framed photo of Mr. B in my living room, and a huge poster (autographed) of Peter Boal as Apollo in my office. There’s a virtual NYCB gallery of small photos hanging above my desk: Tanaquil LeClercq, Maria Tallchief, Darci Kistler, Jennifer Ringer and James Fayette, etc. I was still going to NYCB at least twice a week through the spring of 2001 (until I moved over here).

          • Satisfied says:

            Thanks again, Jungfer!

            I have been to Vienna four times and enjoyed my time there immensely! The last was a Spring Trip that included a lovely evening with my (then) partner of Luisi conducting the Vienna Symphony at the Musikverein followed by a fantastic meal at Steirereck…a night I still cherish.

            Another reason I thought about Vienna as a last minute choice was because, as a college student, I was in Vienna just before Christmas and was in awe of the lights and festivals! That said, my interests are very different now than they were ten years ago. (I was more concerned about the indie-rock scene just outside of Vienna than I was about attending a performance at the Staatsoper!)

            As it seems that the New Year concert is not in the cards (especially at 450 Euro and no view of the stage…sheesh!) I will likely hold-off on Vienna as a primary choice. I thank you SOO much for your help in reaching this decision.

            If you don’t mind, one more question: should I want to attend the New Years Day concert in the future, how early should one book? Is this a first come first serve system, lotto, or more of a Bayreuth situation?

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              Tickets for the Philharmoniker’s New Year’s concerts are awarded by lottery if you enter a year in advance. Check out the orchestra’s Web site for details. Here is the gist:

              “Due to extremely high demand, tickets for the three traditional end of year concerts of the Vienna Philharmonic are drawn by lot over this website at the beginning of each year. In this way, music lovers from all over the world have an equal chance to purchase these highly desired tickets. Between January 2 and 23, 2014, applications will be accepted to take part in the drawing for tickets to the end of year concerts 2014/15.go on sale.”

              Good luck!

              I, too, am into indie rock, but the scene here is pitiful (same for jazz). I had to go to Kobenhavn last year to hear Andrew Bird. We do have a small festival here in the spring, but not in Wien – over in Krems or someplace in Niederösterreich. I usually wind up going to London or some other country to get my fix of rock. The best we get here are big stadium tours in the summer, but it’s really the most mainstream stuff (although I love me some Sringsteen and he has a particular affinity for Wien).

        • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

          Satisfied: I had an afterthought. If there is not enough going on for you in Wien, we are very close to Budapest (three hours by train) and Praha (about four and half hours). I looked at the schedules and (surprise) Budapest is dominated by “Nutcracker” and “Fledermaus!” There is, however, an OK traditional “Nabucco,” but also the 1938 (not a typo) production of “La bohème” which is a masterpiece of stage design, and the old opera house is stunning. Praha (which has three opera houses) has “Rusalka,” “Aida,” “Don Carlo,” a new “Boccanegra” from David Pountey, “Zauberflöte,” “The Bartered Bride,” “Die Entführung,” “Carmen,” and “Don Giovanni” in the theater in which it had its world premiere. I can recommend cheap-and-cheerful place to stay in both cities. And since it’s your honeymoon (congratulations, by the way!) Praha is also very romantic…

          • Satisfied says:

            So funny that you mentioned Prague…that was where I had just started to look after hearing everyone’s suggestions. I understand the Rusalka there is to die for…have you seen the production? Also, I can’t seem to find the Boccanegra on operabase, where is that playing?

            I have been to Prague, but it’s been years (and it’s where I saw my first Janá?ek opera!) What a great opportunity to return! And you’re right: incredibly romantic!

            • DonCarloFanatic says:

              You all are making me long to go to Europe again.

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              The opera scene in Praha is complicated, especially since government cutbacks led to the unification of all three opera houses under one management (which has had a revolving door since the policy began). This has resulted in two companies – Národní divadlo (National Theatre) and Státní opera (State Opera) – having the same operas in their repertoires in different productions. I have seen the current productions of “Rusalka” in both houses. The one that’s on in December is at the Státní opera, and it’s OK (lots of video effects), but not nearly as good as Jirí Herman’s production at Národní divadlo. The new “Boccanegra” is also at Národní divadlo. Things have a tendency to change at the last minute there, so the most reliable source is the official site at: http://www.narodni-divadlo.cz/en And note there that a number of performances are maked as “cancelled.” Let me know if you need any more help.

              Oh! If you see “The Makropulos Case” on the program at Stavovské divadlo (the “Mozart theater”), it’s the play, not the opera, although it does star Sona Cervená (a somewhat famous mezzo from the 1950s and 1960s, now 88 years old) and the production is by Robert Wilson!

            • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin says:

              I forgot to mention that “The Makropulos Case” has English supertitles, so it may be worth seeing. The theater wing of Národní divadlo has a superb reputation, and I have seen excellent productions (in Czech, without titles) of plays by Becket and Stoppard.

  • papopera says:

    Since we are not all Americans or Newyorkers, who was Richter? (the only Richter I find on the net is a retired hockey player!) What did he do ? Owned a record company or all pirated albums ? His repertoire is impressive.
    I remember some recordings published by one EJS obviously not the same person.

    • operaassport says:

      Sviatoslav Richter? Karl Richter? Mike Richter?

    • bluecabochon says:

      Can’t you read?

  • LittleMasterMiles says:

    I share in the sadness at the early (by my lights) death of a fellow opera fan. However, as other posters have acknowledged, Richter’s collection of recordings was largely (or entirely?) pirated, that is, stolen. As people who care about musicians getting paid for their work, are we OK with this?

    • armerjacquino says:

      My take would be that there is a place for that discussion, but an obituary isn’t it.

      • bassoprofundo says:

        I don’t see anything written above about Mike Richter’s love for baseball, his dachshund, his favorite meal, etc etc. The only reason he is mentioned here is because of his opera recordings. Many people we know die every day, and yet we don’t see a daily obit on Parterre in memory of, say, armer’s neighbor next door and what a lovely lady she was and so on and so forth. Mike’s passing was mentioned here inherently because of his collection of opera recordings, in fact it’s the only thing mentioned in La Cieca’s original post in the thread.

        So if the only reason his passing was mentioned is something that in fact might not be worthy of praise to some people, then why is this “not the place” to discuss it? I would agree with you if it were a general obit praising Mike’s life in general; it would out of place to nitpick about the opera recordings. But given that the essence of why he is being mentioned is something that some people may find fraudulent and thus potentially not worthy of being praised in the first place, then it would seem that it’s absolutely the right place to talk about it.

        It would sort of be like writing an obit in an explorer’s magazine upon the death of the first person to climb Mt. Everest and how he revolutionized mountain climbing. Well, if Edmund Hillary actually took a helicopter up to the summit, then presumably he would not be worthy of having his death framed as a function of his conquering Mt. Everest. His life surely would be remembered positively for many other things, but to quash discussion of the only reason the article is written in the first place seems peculiar, to say the least. “We are writing Hillary’s obit in Explorer’s Monthly because he was the first person to climb Mt. Everest; even though we are aware he may have taken a helicopter to the summit, we will not allow discussion of it and will continue instead to assume it is true even if we are not sure it is.” etc etc.

        In any event, considering that the only reason Mike’s passing is related to Parterre is because of his opera recordings, it is indeed the right place to talk about whether or not some of them were pirated. After all, if they were all pirated, and we somehow arrive at a consensus that pirating is not to be praised, then his obituary should not be here, at least not in reference to his CD-ROM collection.

        So let’s address it briefly. First, it is not even remotely true that ALL, or even the vast majority were pirated. Mike had permission from a number of authorities to compile his collections. Of course there were some, mostly those outside of his CD-ROM collection, that were recorded from live streams, but the recording of live streams within the public domain for dissemination is much different from, say, the same process with studio recordings, and considering the fact that his recordings took place over many decades, across many countries, it would be impossible to pin a single, unifying legal framework either way to cover all of the recordings for which he did not have explicit permission to record and distribute.

        So, I for one am eternally grateful to Mike, and I would have done exactly what he did if I had been in his place.

        RIP Mike Richter

      • LittleMasterMiles says:

        AJ, I respect that opinion. Perhaps I’ll repost the question in an off-topic thread.

    • operaassport says:

      Yes, Master Miles, completely okay with it. Some of us, many actually, believe in filesharing and are against the corporate copyright monopoly scheme. Absolutely.

      • Hippolyte says:

        Actually, the San Francisco Opera objected to Richter’s 3 CD-ROMs documenting the Adler years and they were withdrawn from sale.

    • La Cieca says:

      Since these recordings are documents of live performances, the musicians were presumably paid for their work at the time of the original performances. Richter’s CD-ROMs were not a for-profit enterprise (he distributed them for what amounted to the cost of postage and a blank disc) so it’s not like there was money to spread around in the form of royalties anyway.

      In fact, one of Richter’s stated objectives in releasing these performances in low-bitrate versions was to increase public awareness of the archival material and thus to motivate companies like the San Francisco Opera to restore their archival tapes and then to release them commercially in the best sound possible. In response, SFO’s lawyers forced Richter to take the discs out of circulation and then the company did nothing with the material.

      So nobody was going to get paid (or paid more than what they were originally paid) anyway. Richter’s way, the performances are heard by people who appreciate them; SFO’s way, the tapes sit in a closet until they rot.

      I don’t think it is at all fanciful to state that the existence of “pirate” releases like Richter’s and some others did serve to prove that there was a market for live archival recordings, which in turn convinced companies like the Met and the Vienna State Opera to start making some of these documents commercially available in cleaned-up sound and even arranging to pay some honoraria, if not to the individual artists, to the organizations that represented them.

  • Leonora di Vargas says:

    I was very sad to hear that Mike Richter died. He had a prolonged illness and many years of very poor health, and was not always able to enjoy the things he loved.

    I followed his web site from beginning to end, I think. Mike was very gracious to me (novice opera lover) when I sent him e-mails with questions; and I appreciated that he allowed people to make up their own minds about the singers and singing. He did not make pronouncements, but simply posted items for people to make their own decisions. I think in this way he showed his scientific background and training.

    As for the charge that he posted pirated work, don’t know in general how much of his material was pirated. However, I believe that the release of work from Bulgarian radio was officially permitted. The DVD’s he released were of material that was not generally commercially available at the time. It seemed to me that his intent was to make people aware of material that was not easy to obtain, not simply to bypass commercial sources.

    I do know that this web site has uploaded many pirated items (it was even a theme for a season, I believe). I have purchased many recordings after having first heard the artist or the work on Mike’s site or from other clips (You-tube, web streams, and other web sites, including this one).

    Rest in peace, Mike.

    • Leonora di Vargas says:

      Sorry, typo in paragraph 3. It should have said: “…I don’t know how much of his material was pirated.”

      I think Basso Profundo is right on this one, that he had permission.

  • operaassport says:

    Basso really likes to drone on. Loves the sound of his own voice, apparently, but still can’t utter the phrase “I’m sorry.”

  • Satisfied says:

    Alright, Jungfer: SOLD! Praha it is!

    Thank you so VERY much for your help! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! And thank you to all who commented…looks like its London, Amsterdam, Praha and Oslo (…If I can stomach the cold)!

  • Satisfied says:

    Jungfer, et al:

    Thank you all for your help! We are now booked for a flight into Stockholm and out of Prague. I already booked a performance of Salome with my current favorite soprano, Nina Stemme, and am looking into some fascinating productions/casts in Berlin and Prague. Oh! And as Berlin Phil doesn’t sell New Years tickets until December, I have a chance of getting in! The program is fabulous and Rattle is conducting, Anyone know how difficult if will be to get tickets when they go on sale?

    Can’t thank you all enough! If anyone has suggestions as to particular operas in these cities while I’m there: please advise!! The Falstaff at the Deutsche Opera looks like it has lots of potential!