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Cher Public

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Campus radical

Photo: Cory Weaver“In the forest scene, when, according to the libretto, Adolar is suddenly ambushed by a giant serpent, Mr. Newberry had a gnarled treelike structure slowly lowered onto the stage. Mr. Burden did his best to wrestle with what looked like a disused Dale Chihuly chandelier, but the effect brought to mind Bela Lugosi’s battle with the rubber octopus in Ed Wood’s film Bride of the Monster.” [New York Observer]

52 comments

  • Cicciabella says:

    Why not do a production of Lohengrin using a live swan? Because swans can’t be house-trained, and if you starve them a) it’s cruel and b) they will bite Gurnemanz.

    Sorry to read JJ wasn’t swept away by Euryanthe, but it sounds like there was much to enjoy anyway. I’ve always wanted to see an opera with zombies. I hope La Zombiata crosses the Atlantic and enters the repertoire.

    • Ilka Saro says:

      “they will bite Gurnemanz”. It is the latest in regie to add Gurnemanz to the dramatis personae in Lohengrin. Never mind that he has no music. His music from Parsifal is projected with lasers onto the live swan, at great expense.

      • Cicciabella says:

        Ha ha! That ought to teach me to while away time on parterre late at night, when I should be sleeping. Of course the live swan can’t bite Gurnemanz: it’s already dead when they meet!

        • Ilka Saro says:

          True, true. Unless it’s a ZOMBIE swan!

          Wasn’t there a Marchner opera about that?

          • Cicciabella says:

            Sounds like something Marschner would write. Any forgotten opera experts who can link Marschner to zombie swans?

          • Cicciabella says:

            Oh, I see. You were joking. Obviously I’m no good deprived of sleep.

          • wotanzeus says:

            He wrote DER VAMPYR which New Orleans Opera produced last season and now we know why no one else does it. The music was not bad at all
            but the story is awful even by operatic standards.

    • Bill says:

      Quanto -- One is taken with the beauty of the score
      of much of Euryanthe as seen in the first performance
      of the opera at Bard on July 25. I have no recording of this opera but had heard it once
      quite a few years ago when it was done in concert
      form at Philharmonic (now Avery Fisher) Hall -
      sos welcomed a chance to see a stage performance
      (I believe the Dresden Opera did it a few years ago).
      First one can say that Der Freischuetz, Weber’s
      operatic masterpiece, is a better opera, tauter and
      filled with glorious melodies. I have seen Oberon staged in Hannover and Die Drei Pintos (arranged by Mahler) at the Vienna Volksoper and numerous productions of Freischuetz in Munich, Hamburg, the
      Met, 3 in Vienna, in Budapest, in Prague etc.

      This up-dated (to the Victorian Era) production at
      Bard is not offensive, rather handsome actually in an understated manner. The text is not complicated,
      the story not difficult to understand but perhaps
      quite old fashioned in the manner of the early
      19th century when good and evil were often intertwined in literature and musical works.

      Right of the bat, there was some disappointment tht the orchestra did not have a richer sound in the overture, practically the only known portion of the opera and sometimes played with sonorous richness
      by such orchestras as the Vienna Philharmonic, or Berlin, or the Dresden forces as an opener in an orchestra concert. But then I like full orchestras
      even in Mozart Operas (Boehm, Krips, von Karajan,
      Furtwaengler, Levine). But the tinniest sound first noted, disappeared once the curtain rose
      with a lovely chorus and the main singers were introduced. There is much loveliness in the orchestration of the work -- passages of great beauty.
      The Chorus of about 45 was extraordinarly good, sounding youthful with no wobbly sopranos as normally at the Met. The dialogue is at times a bit naive and caused some titters in the audience as the English subtitles (projected above the stage) at times with the sharp changes in plot. Costumes and sets were handsome -- no dragon but these things are hard to bring off (the Wolf Glen scene in Freischuetz is not always so fiercesomely presented on stage either in the largest of opera houses).

      The singing was uniformly good -- not a weak member of the cast. William Burden sports one of the most attractive lyric tenor voices of any American tenor I have heard -- plangent, pure, even in tone. His line is not always on the same high level but it is always a joy to hear him. Ellie Dehn, remembered
      dearly for a somewhat understated Musetta (not too brashy) has an attractive voice, evenly produced though without forceful high notes -- kind of ideal
      casting and ravishing in the lyrical passages of the title role. Wendy Bryn Harmer as Eglantine can sing a bit more forcefully in a part which foreshadows
      Ortrud -- the role turns from sympathetic lyrical vocalism to evil sounds
      very suddenly -- none of the roles are probed in the text as subtlely as in Lohengrin nor really in the music but it is very clear in this production what
      is going on even with the sudden changes of mood and storyline. Ryan Kuster as Lysiart cuts a handsome figure on the stage, has a lyrical baritone sound slightly weak in the lowest register (but sings Colline which is usually assumed by basses), moves very well and was a pleasure. The King Ludwig, Peter Volpe has a sonorous bass sound and even the small role of Bertha was cast with a soprano with a free lyrical and attractive voice, Margaret Dudley. There was prolonged applause after the opera finished -- the Sosnoff Theater was almost completely full and the opera with applause lasted some 3 and a half hours with two intermissions. Some in the audience were
      dressed up, others in Bermudas and summer attire.
      The trip to Bard from the West Side of Manhattan took some 2 1/2 hours in late Friday afternoon traffic, and perhaps 2 hours back. So a chance to see and hear a flawed but melodious opera in a well sung production. I am sorry JJ did not like it more but perhaps he is more enamoured with many of the obscure bel canto operas which crop up which I find
      musically and orchestrally , far less interesting
      to the ear than Euryanthe of Weber. Dramatically operas such as Cherubini’s Medee far surpass Euryanthe and it is a pity we do not get to hear
      Medee very frequently at all anywhere these days.
      Hint, Hint. Euryanthe is hardly a masterpiece but sertainly was worth hearing. Der Freischuetz is assuredly a masterpiece but at least in the USA these last 75 years is almost as rare to find performed as Euryanthe has been.

      • Cicciabella says:

        Thank you for this report, Bill. I love Euryanthe’s music. It’s certainly worth more performances than it’s given, despite the problems with the libretto.

        The Chorus…sounding youthful with no wobbly sopranos as normally at the Met. Now you’ve done it!

    • Jamie01 says:

      These reviews are all interesting, but I need someone to do my deciding for me -- thumbs up or thumbs down on the Trip Up to Annandale?

  • Flora del Rio Grande says:

    Hey coloratura fan, good work!
    Weren’t you the Parterrian who said he organized
    his CD collection on the shelf ‘according to degree
    of fabulousness?’ Hee haw; I always loved that!
    Good man.
    Flora del Rio Grande

  • Krunoslav says:

    Opening night Kuster, though undeniably dishy to see, sounded in danger of losing his voice is a short few years: the timbre sounded prematurely old and distressed a lot of the time, and he was unable to crank out volume except when singing unaccompanied. Just a not so good night?

    He seems the singer the above reviewers and others I’ve seen are most divided on. What did others think?

    • DeCaffarrelli says:

      Exactly, Krunoslav! As I wrote here on Monday:

      “…this strong cast was let down by an over-parted Ryan Kuster as Lysiart. Tackling a role well beyond his current abilities, the young singer forced his still-developing baritone, sounding old and sometimes hoarsely barking his demanding music, particularly “Schweigt, glüh’nden Sehnens wilde Triebe,” his baleful scene at the beginning of the second act. Like Harmer, he, too, was stymied by the coloratura at the conclusion of his aria. One hopes he will not wade into this kind of dramatic music again for quite a few years.”

      • Krunoslav says:

        As always, De Caff, you hit the nail on the head. He sounded like a Valentin trying to will himself into a Pizarro or Telramund.

        • Bill says:

          Krunoslav -- well yes, Lysiart does require a Paul Schoeffler timbre -- Ryan Kuster sang it well enough except the lowest notes but he does have a gentle timbre and Lysiart is evil.
          the problem is that when an opera company such as at Bard is doing an obscure opera wherein the singers have to sing from memory (not a concert performance) not every bass-baritone would be available to learn a part they may never have a chance to sing again with an opera company which probably has minimal salaries available to pay their artists who must spend time rehearsing both musically and dramatically. I found
          Ryan Kuster very serviceable with a pleasant
          baritone timbre -- a singer who moved well on the stage. When singing Weber in parts of the opera for most of the roles a certain agility
          is occasionally called for (Leise Leise for example) which may not be readily available to every singer who is otherwise suitable for the role. Kuster was certainly not a detriment to the performance if not perfection itself -- but even in Der Freischuetz one does not always get a perfect Agathe, Aennchen, Kaspar or Max in
          performance (or on disc). We must be grateful
          that we have had the rare opportunity to see and hear Euryanthe.

          • Gualtier M says:

            Kuster has good basic vocal material but I don’t think he is really a bass-baritone, let alone a heldenbariton Schoeffler type. He sounds like a light Count Almaviva-type baritone who is covering and artificially darkening his sound like crazy. Since he is young he is getting away with it. The tone lacks bright overtones (“upper partial”)and he pushes at the top.

            So I agree with Kruno, watch out kid.

  • rommie says:

    How did JJ enjoy the bus ride?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    In the elevator after the premiere, a Chinese woman apparently moved by Euryanthe’s reversal of fortune, broke the silence in the packed device shrieking “happy ending! happy ending!”

  • DeepSouthSenior says:

    I’m encouraged reading the positive comments about William Burden.

    Burden is scheduled to sing Edgardo in “Lucia” at the New Orleans Opera next March. (The Mahalia Jackson Theater is about 1 hr. 50 mins. from my house.) Does anyone know Laura Claycomb, who’s singing Lucia?

    • phoenix says:


    • DeepSouthSenior says:

      Thanks for those links, phoenix. I’m listening to her “Caro Nome” on YouTube right now.

      To my ears at least, the acoustics of the Mahalia Jackson Theater are not friendly to unamplified voices. Bryan Hymel, who is known for a strong voice, didn’t project well as Pinkerton, though he may have been holding back in deference to a weaker-voiced Butterfly.

      • Milady DeWinter says:

        Claycomb is outstanding -- and does (or used to) a VERY unusual (but effective) cadenza to the Mad Scene from Lucia.
        Happy listening!

    • DeepSouthSenior says:

      Bryan Hymel will be singing Don Jose with Geraldine Chauvet as Carmen in New Orleans this October. They should be well-matched in that theater.

      • ML says:

        The man was *superb* as Arnold. Superb!

        I can’t get his singing out of my head, and I can’t listen again to my damn Gedda set!

        And beautiful French too.

        • DeepSouthSenior says:

          I too was tremendously impressed with Hymel in the Met “Les Troyens” Live in HD. That’s why I was surprised at his Pinkerton in New Orleans a couple of months later. Only once did he “open up” (in the big solo) and find the right voice for that hall.

          • ML says:

            Well, I don’t mind it if a singer doesn’t always fully “open up”; it’s more of a problem when they can *only* sing that way!

            I also enjoyed his Énée, but in London. Have you seen the Carmen DVD from 2010?

            • DeepSouthSenior says:

              I know I shouldn’t admit this, but after Elina Garanca as Carmen on Live in HD in January 2010, there is no other Carmen.

              (All right, I’m hopelessly smitten. Mrs. DeepSouth knows about this, and also about my crush on Helen Mirren for over thirty years.)

              The scariest thing is that Elina Garanca is ten days younger than my daughter.

          • MontyNostry says:

            I think Hymel is a terrific singer, but -- if I were a casting director -- I wouldn’t ‘waste’ him on a role like Pinkerton. Lots of tenors can do a decent Pinkerton, but he is really exceptional in those early-Romantic roles. If I’m not mistaken, he has also sung Max in Freischuetz.

            • La Cieca says:

              The Pinkerton at the Met I think was a “last-minute” casting change; that is, after his big success in Troyens, the company wanted him to make a quick return in whatever role was handy.

            • MontyNostry says:

              … and he had sung Pinkerton at ENO in London. (Another of those talented North Americans depriving British and Commonwealth artists of work at the Coliseum.)

            • armerjacquino says:

              Ha, Monty. The word ‘Commonwealth’ is one I only usually ever see on here, so for the last couple of weeks while the Commonwealth Games have been on, I’ve kept expecting Clare Powell or Jonathan Lemalu to turn up in the 200m backstroke.

            • MontyNostry says:

              But at the Commonwealth Games, armer, it is only Canadians who can be deprived of glory when it comes to citizens of North America.

            • Krunoslav says:

              Hymel sang a bang-up Max at AVA opposite Angela Meade in 2007.

              Tell you what, Monty, you keep Gwyn Hughes Jones at home to sing Pinkerton, and we’ll hold onto Hymel.
              ……………………..
              OPERA, Dec 2009, p 30

              Rupert Christiansen reviews the Gilbert ENO book:

              “Despite the rotten conditions offered by the theatre, Sadler’s Wells Opera had flourished artistically in the mid 1960s under Stephen Arlen’s direction. Colin Davis and Mackerras conducted; Commonwealth singers such as Marie Collier, Patricia Kern and Ronald Dowd made it their home”

            • MontyNostry says:

              I sometimes think Christiansen does it on purpose, Kruno -- he is a kind of Eeyore among critics.

            • Krunoslav says:

              Gilbert herself uses the term “Commonwealth singing talent” in her book.

          • Clita del Toro says:

            Well, Kaufmann barely “opened up” in Act I of Parsifal, and I found it a bit annoying. But that was his interpretation.

            • ML says:

              Kaufmann routinely does not “open up” fully. He can be quite sparing, like Angela Gheorghiu.

              Incidentally, the Dichterliebe was a summer highlight, pace FM. He is at his finest in Lieder, and would be a great artist if he did nothing else.

            • Bill says:

              Well Kaufmann is singing Florestan in
              Salzburg next summer (Welser-Moest
              conducting) and if he does not “open up”
              when Florestan first appears, the role be
              finished before Kaufmann gets into the part.

              Welser-Moest does Liebe der Danae Salzburg
              2016 -- no soprano named

            • Feldmarschallin says:

              Pieczonka is the Leonore.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor says:

    Can anyone here please find a link to an online edition of the source material for the libretto to Euryanthe, entitled “L’Histoire du très-noble et chevalereux prince Gérard, comte de Nevers et la très-virtueuse et très chaste princesse Euriant de Savoye, sa mye”? Many thanks in advance.