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“The all-male cast… is excellent from top to bottom.”

Yes. Yes, that is what the review of Los Angeles Opera’s Billy Budd actually said. And what’s more, the company’s press office used it as a pullquote.

72 comments

  • 1
    Regina delle fate says:

    Could be a review of L’inconnu du lac!

  • 2
    Hanna says:

    Ouch. You NEVER EVER grab the ratlines with your hands. Feet on the ratlines, hands on shrouds.

  • 3
    williams says:

    Would grabbing the ratlines result in an in your face standout?

  • 4
    Grane says:

    “You can practically smell the salt of the sea.” I’m sure!

  • 5
    Will says:

    When my cursor ran over the picture, a little tag that read “seamen” appeared. My mind being properly in the gutter most times, I had to read it again to see that the “a” was actually there, particularly given the look of the guys improperly grasping grasping the ratlines!

  • 6
    A. Poggia Turra says:

    Radio/streaming note: This Sunday 03-03-14 at 20:00 CET, Radio RAI-3 will carry the new production of The Tsar’s Bride (Peretyatko, Kotscherga, Kränzle, Tomowa-Sintow under Barenboin)

    • 6.1
      A. Poggia Turra says:

      Make that Sunday 02 March (not 03 March)

      • 6.1.1
        semira mide says:

        Thanks for posting this. Now we just have to get Rai-3 to be more like the BBC and do “on-demand” for a week after the original. It would be a wonderful service to non-European opera lovers!

        • 6.1.1.1
          Kilian says:

          semira mide, the opera you are looking for is not (yet) among these choices, but here you can find opera broadcasts of the past few weeks of other operas.
          http://ntroperalive.radio4.nl/uitzendingen/22-02-2014.html
          Click on the button ‘Vorige vijf uitzendingen’ (5 previous broadcasts) bottom left to go even further back in time. These are the full broadcasts, so they include talks in Dutch. As I said, not what you are immediately looking for, but in a few weeks The Tzar’s Bride will be added to this list.

    • 6.2
      ML says:

      … remembering of course that the principal roles are taken by Rachvelishvili and ?ernoch, along with Peretyatko and Kränzle, but not Tomowa-Sintow and Kotcherga.

      • 6.2.1
        ML says:

        Sorry, that’s Cernoch, with a thing on top of the C. He’s no slouch.

        @ Semira Mide, about the coverage, I think Mezzo TV might carry it for viewers in the U.K.

        • 6.2.1.1
          semira mide says:

          Thanks for the tip about Mezzo although it won’t help me. I can’t be the only one who is frustrated by the lack of interest by broadcasters in the US audience. Very frustrating.

          • oedipe says:

            I can’t be the only one who is frustrated by the lack of interest by broadcasters in the US audience.

            It goes both ways: there are lots of broadcasters and broadcasts that the US audience doesn’t give a damn about.

            A propos of broadcasts: for those who may have an interest, here is the link to see Donizetti’s La Favorite from the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, with Kate Aldrich (replacing Sophie Koch, who cancelled because she is singing Charlotte at the Met), Yijie Shi (a very up-and-coming Chinese tenor) and Ludovic Tézier (who some Americans may consider substandard):

            http://culturebox.francetvinfo.fr/la-favorite-de-donizetti-au-theatre-du-capitole-de-toulouse-148205

            • armerjacquino says:

              Who considers Tezier substandard? I’ve only ever heard praise for him.

            • ML says:

              @ Armer, I think Oedipe was being drole.

              He’s not happy with the level of respect for the French tradition and French artists — and I agree with his point of view.

            • Poison Ivy says:

              This is how oedipe would introduce a Rodin exhibit: “The exhibit includes Rodin’s The Kiss. Some in the American-Ango-Germanic- continental-Europe except for France world may consider the sculptor substandard.”

            • grimoaldo says:

              Thank you very much for the link oedipe, I look forward to watching it, I love that opera.

            • oedipe says:

              That’s right, ML. Only yesterday (How quickly they forget!) I pointed out that Tézier has sung at the Met, on average, in one production every 3 years: since the start of 2009, he has sung Almaviva in the Fall of that year and Enrico in the Spring of 2011; he will next “debut” as Germont in Dec-Jan 2015. Although this does not exactly make him a “fixture”, it was suggested to me that was good enough for Tézier (presumably compared to preferable, superior Met Enricos, Germonts and other Escamillos: Lucic, Kwiecien, Hvorostovski, etc.).

            • oedipe says:

              Welcome, Grim.

            • fletcher says:

              It was really too bad Tézier wasn’t Chorèbe last season at the Met -- it’s a smallish role for someone like him but he’s very good in it and I found Dwayne Croft very disappointing. That “Mais le ciel et la terre” passage is so wonderful.

            • armerjacquino says:

              oedipe: I said that the roles that Tezier has sung at the Met were a decent haul for anyone. Can it be you’re attempting to twist that into something else? Surely not.

              So, who has said that Tezier is substandard?

            • kashania says:

              Tezier has sung Enrico at the Met, opposite Dessay in an HD broadcast no less.

              I agree with AJ that he’s had some good engagements at the Met. And it’s no as if his career is over! I look forward to seeing more of him at the Met. He’s a very fine artist and I prefer him to the overused Kwiecen (who’s good but not great).

              Fletcher: Yes, a Tezier Chorèbe would’ve been wonderful.

            • ML says:

              @ Fletcher, I’d say Chorèbe, along with Narbal and Anna, if I have those names right, is a principal role — for a total of 6 principals in the long opera — and yes, Tézier would sing it well.

              Capitanucci, if I have that name right, sang Chorèbe magnificently in London a couple of years ago! He has a fine voice and phrases handsomely.

            • fletcher says:

              Proof -- Tézier as Chorèbe:

            • grimoaldo says:

              Such a great pleasure to enjoy that wonderful performance of La Favorite! Tézier was magnificent,Shi impressive and moving,Aldrich very good, a simple and uncluttered production, stylish and colourful costumes by no less than Christian Lacroix!
              How much beautiful music there is in that great opera, why it is not more popular I have always wondered but although things like that used to bother me, now I don’t really care much any more, I’m glad they put it on in Toulouse anyway and very grateful to them for sharing it with us and to you oedipe for telling us about it.

            • oedipe says:

              Glad you liked it, Grim. Actually, La Favorite is becoming quite fashionable, all of a sudden. It’s one of those things…
              There will be a dynamite concert version in Salzburg this Summer, with Garanca, JDF and Tézier.

            • MontyNostry says:

              My immediate instinct on seeing that Favorite line-up for Salzburg is that JDF is going to be outgunned by his partners.

            • oedipe says:

              I heard JDF sing the role in Paris in a concert version and I think you are probably right.

            • grimoaldo says:

              I’m glad La Favorite is being performed more often but it has never been done at Covent Garden or the Met. Covent Garden had a visit from Welsh National Opera in the 90’s when they did La Favorita twice and the Met has done a few performances of La Favorita, the last in 1978, but much more (imo) than Don Carlos or the Sicilian Vespers, Favorite really suffers from the Italian translation, for instance the mezzo’s showstopper O mon Fernard


              becomes O mi-o Fer-nan-do

              adding more notes to the vocal line, totally altering the melody and not for the better, turning it into something completely different and things like that happen all the way through.
              The French version is not the same as the Italian at all, it is much more pleasurable to me to hear this work in French than Italian.

            • MontyNostry says:

              Maybe Calleja would have been a better choice.

            • kashania says:

              I like JDF a lot but La favorite?!

  • 7
    operaassport says:

    Truth in advertising!

  • 8
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Funny that this is Zambello’s month for great ships at sea, with Billy in LA and the big Dick in DC for which she is the Intendantin

  • 9
    Melot's Younger Brother says:

    “When it was first seen here, The Times was bombarded with letters (all from men) of outrage at the directorial license of the production and for stylizing a late 18th century British warship not accommodating the ship’s hierarchy.” — Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

  • 10
    fletcher says:

    The marketing for Billy Budd has been eye-roll inducing (lots of shirtless men), as has been pointed out several times here, but it seemed to work: on opening night there was a good crowd with lots of young gay couples (my date wondered if they were running a bus from WeHo to the Dot). What’s more, unlike last year’s semi-staged performance of Eötvös’s Angels in America at LA Phil, which also attracted a young gay crowd, almost everyone seemed to enjoy the show and stay past the interval.

    The singing and playing, if anyone cares, was first rate, I thought, particularly Liam Bonner, who gets little love around here, but who I thought sang very well indeed.

    • 10.1
      armerjacquino says:

      Bonner was one of the saving graces in Abbas Kiarostami’s dull, oatmeal production of COSI for ENO. Smashing as both actor and singer.

      • 10.1.1
        MontyNostry says:

        But aj, was he a necessary import?

        • 10.1.1.1
          Krunoslav says:

          I sure as hell wouldn’t think so. I hope to hear this BUDD so I can change my mind, but he has disappointed me every time I have heard him these last few years, including as Ned Keene and the Heerufer.

          Good Guglielmos are not hard to find, after all. Where were Jacques Imbrailo, Roland Wood, Roderick Williams, George Von Bergen, Leigh Melrose, Marcus Farnsworth and David Kempster?

          • MontyNostry says:

            Or Troy Cook, who was cast at the ROH as Guglielmo a few years ago and has not been seen again …
            Actually, I would have thought Kempster would be natural casting for Guglielmo -- his voice is a bit heavier than that.

          • Cocky Kurwenal says:

            George Von Bergen? Really? I thought his Belcore at Holland Park last summer was atrocious -- core-less, woolly bluster unfortunately.

            • Krunoslav says:

              Well, I missed Holland Park last summer. Scratch him off the list and substitute Gary Griffiths.

            • Regina delle fate says:

              Kruno’s scattergun approach lumping perfectly good singers such Williams and Kempster -- who hardly sings Mozart any more (last see. As Lescaut in the Welsh Manon L) -- with mediocrities such as von Bergen (promising once. But he’s blown it) and Wood reveals his prejudice time and again. If they are Brits they must be crap.

            • Cocky Kurwenal says:

              Pity about Von Bergen isn’t it Regina. I was in the chorus for his BYO Onegin in 2006, and apart from being terribly promising as you say, he was also incredibly sexy (which explains how he got to lip-synch for his life in that Trebs/Villazon Boheme DVD). I didn’t hear him again until Francesca da Rimini in which he was only OK, and then as I say this Belcore last year which was quite shocking.

            • Krunoslav says:

              “If they are Brits they must be crap.”

              Regina, you evidently can’t read in context and are so attuned to dismissing what I say as disrespectful of the greatness of Lizzie Bainbridge that you didn’t realize I was dead serious: I am sorry to learn that Von Bergen has deteriorated, but I really would rather hear any of the good to excellent UK-based baritones I mentioned as Guglielmo than the mediocre Liam Bonner.

              Maybe Kempster has indeed moved on from Guglielmo, but he did sing Don Giovanni in 2011 at the WNO.

            • grimoaldo says:

              “disrespectful of the greatness of Lizzie Bainbridge”

              I just don’t understand the point of digging up names like that and making fun of them. Who the hell even knows who that was except those of us who saw her in numerous supporting roles at Covent Garden, when she was always very good? Who is it that is rhapsodising about the greatness of Elizabeth Bainbridge? What harm did she ever do you that you have to mock her all these years after any damage she may have inflicted on the world, or whatever you think her fault was?
              We were not fortunate enough back then to bask in the glory of such fabulous opera artistes as Susanna Phillips and John Relyea, for instance.

            • Krunoslav says:

              John Relyea, who is presumably more likely to access and read your comments about him, is Canadian.

              Still waiting for Regina to check in on this post.

          • CarlottaBorromeo says:

            The Kirostami Cosi was five years ago!! A quick check reveals that at that time Leigh Melrose was singing in Grimes and Roddy Williams in L’Amour de loin both at ENO, Roland Wood was singing in Fidelio in the Netherlands, George von Bergen was singing Marcello at Opera Holland Park, David Kempster had completed a run of Iagos for WNO, and Marcus Farnsworth was still in music college. And Jacues Imbrailo? Well he was singing Guglielmo in Denver… Maybe he was a necessary import…

            • Krunoslav says:

              Proving what exactly? Those plans, including the hiring of Bonner, had been made before that. I never get the “A couldn’t possibly have been hired for this because he was doing X at Y” thing. Lead time was needed in all cases; Farnsworth still in college, fine, discount him.

            • CarlottaBorromeo says:

              Proving nothing except that in the case of Melrose and Williams the company wanted them for (or they preferred) something else. But it’s hard to imagine ALL those engagements were made after Bonner was booked especially as ENO is hardly famous for booking artists long in advance…

    • 10.2
      Henry Holland says:

      Considering the last time I saw this production Rod(ney) Gilfrey cracked on “Billy Budd, king of the birds!”, it’s nice to hear that Liam Bonner did well.

      I just wish they were doing the 4-act version….

      • 10.2.1
        Regina delle fate says:

        Henry -- no-one does the 4-act version, and you know it! When was it last done? St Louis in the 1990s?

        • 10.2.1.1
          Henry Holland says:

          Sure they do, I’m looking at my ticket to the Wiener Staatsoper dated 2/17/11 (or 17/2/11), it was the 4 act version. Great performance, too.

          The Deutsche Oper did it in Dusseldorf this past November, there might have been one other production too. It’s not done as often as the two-act version, but I’ve seen the 4-act version twice (St. Louis and Vienna), it simply works better because the only major difference --Captain Vere’s scene at the end of “Act I”-- really adds to the opera, it better underlines why the crew follows him.

          • Regina delle fate says:

            Oh dear -- I knew I’d offered a hostage to fortune as soon as I’d hit the post button! :)

  • 11
    kashania says:

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that sex sells, so all the power to LAO marketing folks for doing what they can to sell an opera (including the shirtless men). I like the cheekiness of the quote and LAO’s decision to use it.

  • 12
    Signor Bruschino says:

    Whenever there is a ‘show us your tits’ Billy Budd production, I always wonder if the novella made any references to what time of year the story takes place. If its a summer cruise, ok, but any other time of year, the waters off the British coast are a cold, windy place- Any Melville scholars out there with the answer?

    • 12.1
      bluecabochon says:

      I suppose that if the text refers to the “ruddy-tipped daisies” on Billy, we ought to get a proper look at them!

    • 12.2
      Henry Holland says:

      Not a Melville scholar, but there are two mutinies he references: Spithead, which lasted from April to May 1797 and the Nore which was in May as well (there were other mutinies around that time too). Vere in the opera, of course, says “the summer of 1797, during the French Wars…” and from an online copy of Melville’s book:

      It was a hot noon in July; and his face, lustrous with perspiration, beamed with barbaric good humor

      The window for Billy and the crew to be shirtless is a pretty small one!

      • 12.2.1
        tiger1dk says:

        Does it really matter if a sailor was likely to be shirtless on a naval ship around 1800? I doubt that anybody goes to the opera for a naval history lesson. Of course, I could be wrong -- there is, after all, no way to account for taste or preferences.
        For what is worth, I found http://bobrowen.com/nymas/warof1812paper/506332.jpg

        • 12.2.1.1
          Krunoslav says:

          “Does it really matter if a sailor was likely to be shirtless on a naval ship around 1800?”

          One would like to think it mattered to many of his fellow sailors.

          • tiger1dk says:

            Kruno, this might come as a shock to you but we are talking about an opera based on a work of fiction….

            • FragendeFrau82 says:

              tiger, can we transfer this comment over to the Werther thread and the complaints about costume, sets, etc..? ;-) And this from people who are thrilled with any bizarre set, nudity, etc etc suddenly become nit-picky about the height of a ceiling…

            • kashania says:

              FragendeFrau: With due respect, this kind of observation is not helpful. Are the people who are “hrilled with any bizarre set, nudity, etc” the same ones nit-picking about the height of a ceiling? The opinions on parterre vary greatly, yet some participants insists on randomly lumping arguments together to try to demonstrate some kind of hypocrisy that doesn’t exist.

            • kashania says:

              “hrilled” as well as “thrilled”

            • Krunoslav says:

              Not really, since I read “Billy Budd, Sailor” in graduate school and have taught it as well.

              Or maybe you didn’t see that the point of my comment was Parterre queershchina and hardly to insist on realism?

  • 13
    NPW-Paris says:

    One of F. Zambello’s better jobs. I’d be very happy to see it back in Paris.

  • 14
    Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    I just glanced over on the left, to the ad for the Combatimento. Ticket’s $175?
    Who pays such money for such things?