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Fairy tale

In his memoirs Richard Strauss had the foresight to put down what he called his “10 Golden Rules for Young Conductors.” It’s a fairly comprehensive list in spite of being so short with pithy comments like, “Never look encouragingly at the brass.” Number three has always been the one that’s fascinated me most: “Conduct Salome and Elektra as if they were by Mendelssohn: Fairy music.” Seriously, how often has that happened? The average performance of Strauss’ Elektra reaches a decibel level akin to the landing deck of a fully functional aircraft carrier. I’ve even heard rumors that the John Culshaw produced ‘sonic-stage’ spectacular Decca recording with Georg Solti conducting and Birgit Nilsson’s all-out assault on the title role can be heard from space. Read more »

Gelt trip

With the help of our friends at ArtHaus Musik, the Deutsche Oper Berlin have really been emptying out their archives and that’s certainly all for the good. What we have here is a real curate’s egg however in a DVD of Boris Blacher’s opera 200 000 Taler. Blacher, who was born in 1903, initially studied architecture and mathematics before turning his attentions to composition and teaching. He lost his first professorship in Dresden after being pronounced a composer of “degenerate” music by the National Socialist Party (damn those Nazis!) He took up teaching again after the war in 1945 as the Director of the Music Academy of Berlin. Read more »

Als wären Sie die Statue auf Ihrer eigenen Gruft

I am certain that we Parterrians are a very literate, even literary, group. Naturally, when a great singer finally takes her ease and sets down her thoughts on the grand and glorious pageant that is called life, we all take notice and appreciate the insight it affords us into the life of one whose intellect and artistry we have admired.  We long to share her struggles and her passions, to understand the circumstances of her early life that bore the fruit of her creativity and in particular, dare I say it, her genius.

These tomes come in many varieties as you, I’m certain, are aware. There’s the memoir written in the golden years, post-career, when the many triumphs and frustrations can be viewed with the distance of time and equanimity to allow for equal amounts of self-revelation and awareness. Astrid Varnay, Rosa Ponselle, Régine Crespin, Eileen Farrell and Shirley Verrett all gave us balanced, mature, and often bittersweet accounts of their lives on and off the stage. Read more »

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Stairway to heaven

Once again, beloveds, we approach the Milanese shrine that simultaneously attempted to  cultivate and destroy the career of Maria Meneghini Callas.

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No business like snow business

Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is his masterwork and its themes of social convention and unrequited longing surely struck a deep chord in a composer who, in late 19th century Russia, was gay and had to conduct himself carefully.

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The cup runneth over

I am grateful to Sony for this new release of the Metropolitan Opera’s latest production of Parsifal and I hope I’m not the only one who discovers what a rich experience this opera can be because of it.

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New faces

Mr. Ian Rosenblatt is a London solicitor and patron of charitable causes in Britain primarily focused on classical music.

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Habit, forming

I’ve always had a fondness for Giacomo Puccini’s Suor Angelica and apparently so did he since he often referred to it as, “among the finest of my children.”

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Le jazz tiède

The crossover album: a hint that that an artist has either exhausted all the repertory at her command and owes her record label a new release or that her waning vocal resources really shouldn’t be taxed much further than an octave.

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Bowled over

I never thought I’d see the day when Giuseppe Verdi and Benjamin Britten would battle it out for musical superiority but that’s exactly what happened in Los Angeles this year.

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