I first heard Piotr Beczala as Tamino in San Francisco back in 2007, which was not a particularly noteworthy performance. He was fine, he sang very well, and if he walked his way through a 20-year-old staging with little care for motivation, he was also slathered in white face paint and a crimson wig. A Boheme the following year was much more impressive, and by the time he had rescued the Met’s first HD broadcast of Lucia after Rolando Villazon went down in what seemed like career-ending flames, I was fully a fan. Read more »
It’s kind of shocking, when you really think about it, that the kind of international operatic model that the Royal Opera now operates on barely existed only 50 years ago. Until around 1960 most of the performances at the Covent Garden were given in English and the casting choices were enough to make the Vicar of Wakefield hyperventilate with glee. Read more »
Deutsche Grammophon has a new hunk on the market, ignoring the fact that he’s been around for twenty years. Ildebrando d’Arcangelo has been steadily building a career since the early 90s, getting a reputation as a reliable, intelligent artist with a supple bass-baritone. He has a lengthy career of singing with the greats under his belt, not to mention several high-profile recordings of full-length operas. Read more »
Directors love directing Wagner, or rather, they love directing their versions of Wagner. They don’t seem to like the operas very much. We all know what we’re going to see if we travel to Bayreuth or Berlin or Stuttgart for an evening: the regietheater world of concept grafted over concept grafted over concept with the seeming intent of showing how smart the director is: A Meistersinger where Beckmesser (or Sachs) is clearly Hitler, or a Parsifal where the grail is turned into a Happy Meal ™, for prime Capitalistic satire, or a Lohengrin where everyone is some form of rodent.
Ioan Holender was General Manager of the Wiener Staatsoper for nineteen years, the longest anyone has held this post, and the august institution honored him with the gala to end all galas in the final days of his administration. With the goal of commemorating each of the 40 new productions premiered at the Staatsoper during Holender’s tenure, the sprawling concert lasts over three hours and is spread over two very full DVDs. With over 40 separate selections from most of the world’s great and near great artists, the end result is a little variable but on the whole an evening [...]
First-time novelist Matthew Gallaway’s ardent love for Tristan and Isolde gushes through every page of The Metropolis Case. According to Gallaway, Tristan is the highest expression of human art, and the book functions effectively as the ultimate initiator in the cult of Wagner. The novel opens with a lengthy discussion of the opera in the format of an email from an opera lover to a less-enlightened friend, and characters are forever discussing the opera, saying things like “You don’t ‘check out’ Tristan. You become it.”
This review was not going to be primarily about Shirley Verrett. She is not a singer I am all that familiar with and when I was sent this DVD of Tosca to review a week ago, I focused more on the director of the production, baritone-turned-producer Tito Gobbi, than on the singers. But sometimes life is very unfair, and just as I was beginning to really discover Verrett as an artist, she is gone. So I hope no one will be offended if I take advantage of this truly unfortunate timing of events to turn the review I was writing [...]
These days, when James Levine is mostly in the news due to his back ailments, it is somewhat shocking to see this performance of Le nozze di Figaro begin with the Maestro fairly dancing around on the podium as he conducts a sparkling rendition of the overture. It starts off a classic performance of Mozart’s masterpiece that is almost always excellent.