Cher Public

The upper depths

perles-amazonPity poor Georges Bizet. After winning the Prix de Rome at 19 years old he worked on, in part or completed, 10 operas. The last of them, Carmen, he was convinced was a failure. He succumbed to a heart attack three months after its premiere at 37. His widow, having no concept of the musical legacy she had inherited, gave away or lost many of her husband’s autographed manuscripts.

But what of those other efforts of Bizet? Other than La jolie fille de Perth, which is almost akin to spotting a unicorn, only his Les pêcheurs de perles has managed to be fished from the sea of obscurity and plated on the rare occasion. The Met made a big deal about presenting it for the first time in a hundred years recently but failed to mention that 1916 only saw three performances with the renowned Caruso, Giuseppe de Luca and Frieda Hempel.  Read more »

I saw three ships

nilsson-isolde“Never in my life having enjoyed the true happiness of love I shall erect a memorial to this loveliest of all dreams in which, from the first to the last, love shall, for once, find utter repletion. I have devised in my mind a Tristan und Isolde, the simplest, yet most full-blooded musical conception imaginable, and with the ‘black flag’ that waves at the end I shall cover myself over–to die.”  Read more »

Bella come un tramonto

boheme-amazonTwo recent DVD issues of Italian operas by Puccini are both set in Paris, both have second acts in cafes/nightclubs, and both have stellar performances in crucial leading soprano roles. La Bohème, first seen in 1896 in Turin, has been since its premiere one of the world’s most popular operas, with its  tale of love, highjinks and tragedy among young artists and working girls. This performance was filmed at the Puccini festival at Torre del Lago, an outdoor venue, in 2014. Ettore Scola, veteran Italian film director, who died earlier this year, had directed only one opera before in his life, but was chosen for this production which also features real life partners and lovers tenor Fabio Armiliato and late, lamented Daniela Dessì, both very famous in their native Italy due not only for their operatic work but for television appearances as well. Read more »

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Mourning Wood

Sometimes when you find the club that will have you as a member, you do not easily give up your spot.

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No contest

Richard Wagner viewed dance as an essential element of art, though he used it sparingly in his operas.

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Cross purposes

“Has anyone ever seen a truly great production of this opera?”

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Shooting in low light

What we really need, some seem to believe, is fuller representation of the 19th century.

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Site unseen

Giuseppe Verdi was so unhappy with the first production of his Giovanna d’Arco at La Scala in 1845 that he swore an oath to himself that he would never entrust that theatre with a prima again.

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Sybil, shepherd

The original conductor of Nielsen’s opera summed the piece up well I think…

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Jonas in Fanciulla

Hello from the other side

A woman reads from the Bible. There is a dance scene in a tavern. The discovery of blood gives away the protagonist.

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