Cher Public

My name is Barbara

On this day in 1966 The Apple Tree opened at the Shubert Theater, starring Barbara Harris, won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.  

Born on this day in 1706 composer Baldassare Galuppi

Born on this day in 1898 actress and singer Lotte Lenya

Born on this day in 1909 conductor Otto Ackermann

Born on this day in 1920 tenor Alexander Young

Born on this day in 1922 soprano Camilla Williams

Happy 85th birthday baritone Barry McDaniel

Happy 81st birthday soprano Berit Lindholm

Happy 78th birthday soprano Catarina Ligendza

Happy 70th birthday tenor Henry Price

Happy 68th birthday soprano Margarita Castro Alberty

  • grimoaldo

    I was told this now serves as the off topic thread so happy birthday to all listed above and here is my final note from Berlin.
    I was glad to see there is a chain of coffee shops here called “Cafe Meyerbeer”. I wonder if the people who work in them know who they are named for. They should be proud of Meyerbeer here, an international figure who composed operas for Italy, France and Germany and was the official court composer for the Prussian monarchy and the first Kaiser.
    On Friday I went to see”Lucia di Lammermoor” at the Deutsche Oper. When the curtain went up I couldn’t believe my eyes.
    Painted scenery! Period costumes!*Footlights*, for crying out loud. I spent about thirty minutes wondering if it was somehow supposed to be ironic, or sarcastic, or something, but no, looking on the cast sheet I see it is a production by Fillipo Sanjust they have been doing here since 1980. I thought this sort of thing had been wiped out here in Germany, I was expecting something along the lines of the Lucia I saw about eleven years ago, I guess, in London, with Enrico’s search party in the first scene composed of jackbooted fascists, Lucia’s companion Alisa a hefty lady like a woman prison officer who obviously had a crush on Lucia,leather clad choristers flagellating each other with riding crops during the wedding party before the mad scene…………but no, this was a production that would have been absurdly old fashioned even when it was new in 1980, it looked exactly like Victor Book of the Opera 1932, in fact it might have been rather old-fashioned even then.
    Choristers standing and singing lined up in neat rows behind the principals, who sing their music with appropriate gestures just behind the footlights……..and yet the German audience sat quietly, they did not hoot in derision or throw things or all get up and leave.
    It was also very very old fashioned in the version performed, it was more or less the same as the severely truncated old recording with Callas, di Stefano and Gobbi,with about a third of the score cut out.
    No duet with Lucia and Bide-the-Bent, the stretta of the ensemble that includes the famous sextet cut to shreds,no Wolf’s Crag Scene, an ordinary flute, not a glass harmonica, in the mad scene.
    The aptly named Pretty Yende is a very pretty woman with a very pretty voice. She sings very prettily, even when soaring up into altissimo territory with apparent ease for stress free and crowd pleasing super high notes, which still sound pretty, quite an achievement. Her stage deportment, you couldn’t really call it “acting” in this production, is very pretty too. The audience loved her and I enjoyed her performance very much too, though I wondered what she could do in a production which found more of the darkness in this drama which after all is about a woman driven by male manipulation to murder, insanity and physical collapse. She has a light voice which you cannot hear very well if she turns upstage and is sometimes drowned out by big choral or orchestral effects, which is not a big deal to me, though it might be to others.
    The baritone was quite good, gruff and effective.
    People always think of this as a prima donna opera, but the final scene for the tenor is really my favourite part, especially the heavenly final aria when he commits suicide, one of the most beautiful tenor arias in opera. Yosep Kang (never heard of him before)is a marvelous singer and did the music full justice, wonderful voice, very moving to me in that scene.
    “Lucia” on Friday and “Vasco da Gama” today were both packed out, just a few empty seats that I could see. All four performances at the Deutsche Oper I went to were acclaimed with rapture by the audience, they really love their opera here it seems. I’m afraid it is very striking, the difference between audiences here and in the US, or the UK,at least when I was living there. Not such a preponderance of people very advanced in age, it is mostly a middle aged prosperous audience, with quite a few young people, hip types in jeans or whatever, and yes, lots of gay men (maybe lots of gay women too, I am not so good at recognising those). The prices are much cheaper, for “Vasco da Gama” I treated myself to exactly where I would choose to sit, in the middle of the first row of the first balcony so the sound will rise up and you get a good view of the stage, and the tickets were 130 euros each, which is very reasonable I think compared to the Met or the astronomical price which would be charged for the equivalent seat at the ROH with such a starry cast.
    I enjoyed “Vasco da Gama” today much more than I did when I saw it on Thursday, I don’t know why, maybe because I had been so knocked out by “Nabucco” on Wednesday, or because I knew what to expect and the music had grown on me. I was not really that familiar with this opera, I had seen the video of “L’Africaine” with Doming and Verrett a few times and had watched the Venice performance,which I think was the first of the original score as “Vasco da Gama”, with the awesome Gregory Kunde, and that was about it. Of course I knew the famous tenor aria “O Paradis” well. Today there were not any patches of rather dull bits of recitative for me, I loved every moment.
    No ballet though, I’m sure there would have originally been a long ballet in Act Four. Then we would have had the pleasure of listening and watching for five and a half hours instead of five.
    Act Three in this production is just about the damndest thing I have ever seen. During a short prelude the gorgeous Nino Machaidze, in a slip,is embraced by the dishy baritone, or bass maybe,in a bathrobe, who she is being forced to marry, though she doesn’t want to. This act is on a ship,the rival of Vasco da Gama is leading the expedition and marrying the girl he wanted to. Then on come all forty of the womens’ chorus, dressed in identical black and white 1950’s style checked dresses with petticoats, wearing white gloves and pink berets or cardies. They are drinking tea from a trolley they have wheeled on or champagne. They sing a lovely barcarole about how much they are enjoying the voyage. They leave, a sailor comes on to a side stage and rat-tat-tats on a snare drum with another snare drum answering him in the orchestra, on come all the male chorus for a big chorus of sailors and their officers. The ladies come back with Nino M and the baritone, huge impressive mixed chorus of a wedding prayer, wonderful to hear. The women leave,a sailor sings a drinking song, another big male chorus, lots of sexy male dancers cavorting about. The lead baritone,Nelusko, sings his big perky and quirky number about the King of the Sea while having sex with a nun (at least she was wearing a nun’s habit until he ripped it off and then she is revealed to have been wearing sexy underwear and red fishnet stockings) in a variety of positions while holding a knife to her throat. All leave and Alagna comes on for a fabulous big duet with his rival, the other baritone who is marrying the girl he wants. Great heroic ringing high notes from Alagna all the way through this duet which ends in a fight. A storm whips up on stage and in the orchestra, the ship is wrecked on a reef, amazing visual and lighting effects, the ship is stormed by loads of Hindus or whatever they are all dressed in black wielding big black sticks who sing a wild war dance. The ladies in 1950’s dresses and the sailors have all come back, huge sail things on the stage whirling around, back lighting,there are hundreds of people on the stage, the “Hindus” have soldiers with them with machine guns who mow down the “Europeans”, frenzied music from the huge forces on the stage and in the pit.
    Good Lord Almighty.
    I wonder what they are going to do with this production, which is simply stunning and must have cost a fantastic sum of money, once this run is over. It’s not the sort of opera they can keep in rep and do a few times every other season or so for 35 years as they have with their “Lucia”. Is it? Maybe they can loan it to other companies but there would be no point in doing that unless they were able to assemble a top notch cast like this one, which would be hard to do as there is not a weak link in it.
    Truly excellent baritone Marcus Bruck, who seems to sing mostly here or in other German houses,was Nelusko and did a great job. I had heard Nino Machaidze on some broadcasts and recordings and had thought of her as a would-be “dazzling coloratura” who did not dazzle me. But here she was marvelous all the way through a long long role, yes there are lots of high notes and some florid passages for her, but this character is suffering all the way through the piece, they are not “look what I can do” bits but express sorrow and anguish and she was very compelling, wonderful in both her stage action and her beautiful singing.
    I just can’t believe that any Golden Age singers could have been better than Alagna and Sophie Koch in the two star parts, it is not possible, no one could be better than they were, as good in a different way maybe, but better is not possible. Being in the same room as Alagna when he sings “O Paradis” is one of the greatest joys my life has afforded me. Sophie Koch combines a beautiful rich voice with grandeur of utterance, perfect poise on the stage and a gorgeous appearance. Every moment of her performance was utterly magnificent, her long closing solo scene so beautifully sung.
    I am so grateful to Deutsche Oper for putting this on and thankful that I was able to be here and see it twice.

    • antikitschychick

      Indeed thanks Grimoaldo; so glad to hear you enjoyed the performances so much in Berlin! There are lots of clips of Vasco de Gama on Youtube and here’s a trailer:

      It looks like a great performance.

    • Buster

      Thanks again, grimoaldo, very interesting! Will you go back next year for Stefan Herheim’s Huguenots?

  • Fluffy-net

    Thank you, Grimoaldo, for your extended review. The enthusiasm is infectious. I wanted to be in Berlin for this, but couldn’t. I, too, think it great that they are giving the full treatment to Meyerbeer.

    I did not read the German reviews with care, but they seemed snide about the production--referring to Bollywood numbers and the like. I am glad, instead, to read of your enthusiasm.

    Unless I am wrong, the dishy “baritone, or maybe bass, in a bathrobe” was Seth Carico. Seth was recently nominated for “Der Faust,” the German theater award, for his portrayal of Kassandra in Iannis Xenakis‘ ORESTEIA. He is from Chattanooga. The DO is all proud.

    How was the Hustlaball? But I fear I am the only one here who wants to know….

    • grimoaldo

      Yes you are correct it was Seth Carico. I did not read any of the reviews or look at youtube clips of the production before I came, I wanted to go to the performances without any preconceived ideas. Alagna was announced on the first night as indisposed, he must have improved a lot since then.Maybe the female leads did too, mixed reviews of Machaidze and Koch. Probably it was the first time for both of them singing this little performed music and they are improving during the run.
      I can see why this production was not everyone’s cup of tea, it is full of rather bizarre effects but it really stunned me.
      The review I agree with the most is
      although it captions a picture of Machaidze as Koch.
      The Hustlaball was very crowded, very wild and a lot of fun although I have now said farewell to attending events where even though you already have a ticket you have to queue for ages outside in the cold and rain to get in. I used to do that for events in London, but now there is nothing I want to go to that much to go through that anymore so it was nice to retire from such festivities on a high note, as it were.

      • grimoaldo

        A new production of Meyerbeer’s “Le Prophete” opened in Karlsruhe last night --

      • grimoaldo

        Excellent article on Vasco da Gama and Meyerbeer in general in the NYT by the same critic who wrote the review linked to above --

        • Krunoslav

          Speaking of NYT critics, did anyone here venture to the Padmore Schubert marathon? The Local Booster said exactly what it says in the NY TIMES files-- that Padmore is ‘brilliant’, how transfixing he was in the Sellars ST MATTHEW, etc- exactly what you’d expect him to say. My spies that went spoke of shameless hamming, over-enunciated text and wildly flat singing-- exactly what *I* would expect.

          Any witnesses here to what actually went on?

          • armerjacquino

            Why ruin it by asking the question? If everyone heard what he expected to hear, everyone’s satisfied. It’s not as if you’ll agree with anyone who liked it.

            • Krunoslav

              I asked, ducks, because I in fact did not go, which you might have realized had you not been in such a snark-rush.

              And I am interested in what other people perceive, even if I feel the object of perception in this case-- at least in the rep and at this time-- has attained a fraudulent iconic status.

            • Krunoslav
            • armerjacquino

              I did realise, ‘ducks’- not sure what in my post suggested that I didn’t. And I promise I wasn’t snarking, it was a genuine observation. If people you trust said a singer you dislike was bad, what good does it do you if someone else liked it?

            • Krunoslav

              Well ( to de-escalate) because there are [people on this site whose judgments I value, including yours, and the immense lionization of what seem to me Padmore’s very partial gifts here in America is something I just don’t get, even seen as an extension of the American Anglophilia that wrapped us for years in Kirkby and Bostridge. Again. each has some ( narrow) turf in which they excel, but…

              Padmore’s Captain Vere at BAM in the Glyndebourne staging was monochrome and underpowered; the ‘Aren’t I sensitive?” acting did not compensate. Not a patch on Rolfe Johnson or Langridge! ( Or *Our* Own Richard Croft, for that matter…)

            • armerjacquino

              Hurray for de-escalation!

              I think sometimes we all just have to accept either (a) that others see things we don’t or that (b) are prepared to overlook things that annoy us. I’ve certainly got a list of singers that I’m not mad about and I’m not sure that someone saying ‘but he was really good the other night, honest!’ would persuade me otherwise, especially if I’d already heard opinions which matched my prejudice.

              Padmore I don’t really know about: saw him as Tito at ENO and he was fine, it’s not much of a part. I wouldn’t say he has the kind of reputation here that you describe for him over there, though. (Bostridge and Kirkby are both singers I love, FWIW, although both of them have made some odd decisions).

          • Jungfer Marianne Leitmetzerin

            Having had the privilege of hearing him many times, I confess to being an ardent Padmore fan, with one of the highlights of the past few years his traversal of the three Schubert song cycles at Theater an der Wien (from the third row; it was like having him in my living room). I have to say he is one of the greatest communicators I have encountered in recital.

            If you want a taste, please listen to what is, for me, an emotionally paralyzing “Winterreise” at Schwarzenberg:


            I fully realize that his voice is not for everyone, but the same could be said of Callas or so many others. If you haven’t heard him please give him a chance.

        • Milady DeWinter

          Marvelous review, Grim- looks like thinks are improving for Meyerbeer fans with Prophete too, and a forthcoming Huguenots.
          The staging of the shipwreck sounded fantastic -- just what you need to pull Meyerbeer off. That, plus fabulous singing, which also did not seem in short supply. Machaidze has irritated me before in the flat-out coloratura roles like Lucia or Puritani, but Ines is really a true lyric-coloratura role, and it sounds like she was in her element.
          And also good to hear that Pretty Yende’s Lucia was a hit.

          • grimoaldo

            Blogger’s review of the Karlsruhe Prophete which opened last night:
            In German, here are a few extracts translated with the help of google --
            “Meyerbeer’s Grand Operas were once so popular that when they were being performed the streets would be empty because everyone would be at the opera house enjoying the performance. In the 20th century these works fell into the shadows for various reasons. Now a revival of these works and this important composer seems to be under way -- and that’s a good thing. The Baden State Theatre in Karlsruhe has made an enormously important contribution to this process with the premiere yesterday, rightly vigorously applauded and cheered.
            (A spectacular production,updated to the present, natch, with a revolving stage showing an entire city block of the Banlieu of a French city. Effusive praise for the Fides of Ewa Wolak. They do the ballets to Meyerbeer’s music but with contemporary dance, extra chorus, a boys’ choir, video projections, suicide bombers….)
            “The Badische State Theater was packed for the premiere. Hopefully the run will be such a success that the streets will be empty while Meyerbeer’s opera is being played once more!”

            • Milady DeWinter

              Danke, Grimoaldo! Mein Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut!
              I have never heard of the any of the singers in the Prophete cast, but it seems like they delivered the goods and within a (naturally) regie production that nonetheless did not stint on the visuals or grand scale.
              You can’t stage Meyerbeer in a trailer park over a picnic table.
              Although the one Meyerbeer I’ve seen so far, years ago, was the Met’s Prophete, which did sort of look like lawn or picnic furniture!
              Maybe there is hope for some Meyerbeer on this side of the Atlantic soon.

            • Krunoslav

              The Jean. Marc Heller, is an American- very musical and with a penetrating high-placed voice. He did a few Met shows-- he was Paul Groves’ alternate in THE FIRST EMPEROR and also sang a run of Tybalts in the 2007 ROMÉO revival.

              Ewa Wolak is a fine singer, a contralto with agility and like a less grand Podles. She dings a wide rep, Handel to Wagner, and has appeared on some Naxos recordings.

            • Batty Masetto
  • Batty Masetto

    This sounds like a whale of a good time, Grimmy. Here’s a trailer: