Swithin

Opera!

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Attended San Diego Opera's La Boheme earlier this evening, done for the most part quite well by a young but experienced cast. These tickets were bought last April when it was learned that the San Diego Opera was not going to fold after all and that a new season, albeit an abbreviated one, was in the offing. I went with my sister who recently retired and has become enthusiastic about opera and this was her first ever opera. Imagine if you will what if felt like as a child waking up Christmas morning, unbridled joy! That was my sister tonight at the opera, it was as much fun seeing her reaction to the proceedings than the proceedings itself. We gave Upper Loge seats all the way down front, we are along the side wall and elevated, seeming to hover stage right just above the orchestra and stage, wonderful for hearing and seeing. In three weeks, it's Don Giovanni, rather a contrast to Boheme, looking forward to it. The third (and last) opera of the season will be Nixon in China,, which I remember seeing on TV in 1987 when it got it's World Premiere by the Houston Opera.

What a delight to read about your sister's delight!  I often went to the San Diego Opera with my mother and your post made me feel so nostalgic for those Sunday afternoons.  I'm happy it didn't fold and hope it can carry on.

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What a delight to read about your sister's delight!  I often went to the San Diego Opera with my mother and your post made me feel so nostalgic for those Sunday afternoons.  I'm happy it didn't fold and hope it can carry on.

 

They are carrying on but there's a compromised feel to it. They only do three operas now (as opposed to anywhere from four to six) and next year the schedule is a bit quirky, doing two operas by the same composer. The two operas are Tosca and Madame Butterfly, warhorses of the highest to be sure and great treats but nevertheless an oddity. It has always been the custom of the SDO to include a lesser known, usually modern opera and they have continued that with Nixon in China later on this year and still another next year, the name of which escapes me at the moment (see, I told you it was not well known, ha!) All of this mere quibble, at least we have the opera, and maybe it will get stronger as the years pass.

 

GayD, thanks for responding. That's interesting that you have attended operas by SDO, do you have a favorite that especially sticks in your mind?

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They are carrying on but there's a compromised feel to it. They only do three operas now (as opposed to anywhere from four to six) and next year the schedule is a bit quirky, doing two operas by the same composer. The two operas are Tosca and Madame Butterfly, warhorses of the highest to be sure and great treats but nevertheless an oddity. It has always been the custom of the SDO to include a lesser known, usually modern opera and they have continued that with Nixon in China later on this year and still another next year, the name of which escapes me at the moment (see, I told you it was not well known, ha!) All of this mere quibble, at least we have the opera, and maybe it will get stronger as the years pass.

 

GayD, thanks for responding. That's interesting that you have attended operas by SDO, do you have a favorite that especially sticks in your mind?

I really hope it's able to survive.  I think I remember the SD Symphony going through a rough patch as well, and hope they're on solid footing.

 

My mother went from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s or so.  I remember Aida, also Madame ButterflyCarmen, The Barber of Seville.  We saw Joan Sutherland, but I think she performed with the Symphony, maybe a farewell tour.  The seats were on the side near the back, and I always remember feeling a little giddy with my fear of heights.  

 

I especially miss the Old Globe.  The outdoor plays were magical in the summertime, with the zoo animals sometimes adding their voice to Shakespeare's.  I'm getting very nostalgic!

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I love catching the Saturday Met stream on my local PBS radio station when I work at home.

 

What did you think of the TV broadcast of the new version of Wagner's Ring? I understand many were upset with the crazy moving sets, but I found it a very inventive update adding to the fantasy of the story. (it kind of reminded me of the "update" of Richard III in The Goodbye Girl-some people just like things "traditional")

 

I just heard an interview with a soprano on "Q" who is going to play Brunhilda next year and she said something to the effect, "Everyone knows the music...the spear & magic helmet" I choked on my coffee!

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I never took to opera.  Although I do enjoy classical music, opera never caught my fancy.  MAYBE some of the overtures, but not the full operas.

 

And, judging by the scant number of replies to a thread started WAY back in JULY, I'm NOT ALONE in this assesment!  :lol:

 

But, hey!  Don't mind ME!  There IS far worse music you COULD be liking, so................. ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

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Amira Willighagen - O Mio Babbino Caro - for English-speaking viewers

 

This girl has a remarkable voice for age 9.

 

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I love catching the Saturday Met stream on my local PBS radio station when I work at home.

 

What did you think of the TV broadcast of the new version of Wagner's Ring? 

 

Was that on recently? I'll have to look for it.   The more dramatic the better, I say!

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This girl looks like a young Drew Barrymore

1zwlppj.jpg

 

On December 28, 2013, Ms. Willighagen won the finals of the talent show with her interpretation "Nessun dorma", an aria fortenor from Puccini's opera Turandot .

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And here's an interesting rendition of the "Queen of the Night" aria from The Magic Flute:

 

 

 

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Amira Willighagen - O Mio Babbino Caro - for English-speaking viewers

 

This girl has a remarkable voice for age 9.

 

...

 

Nice job.

 

It’d be interesting to hear what she could do with Ach, ich fühl's.

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And here's an interesting rendition of the "Queen of the Night" aria from The Magic Flute:

 

...

 

Not many guys can add coloratura soprano to their CVs.

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I never took to opera.  Although I do enjoy classical music, opera never caught my fancy.  MAYBE some of the overtures, but not the full operas.

 

And, judging by the scant number of replies to a thread started WAY back in JULY, I'm NOT ALONE in this assesment!  :lol:

 

But, hey!  Don't mind ME!  There IS far worse music you COULD be liking, so................. ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

I'll go you one better (or worse). Despite the prodding of my mother, who loved both, I never took to either opera OR classical music. I even find country and western preferable.

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On Saturday (January 31st), my mum and I went to see "Tales of Hoffman", which was being streamed live from the Met in NYC.

We had great seats, and it only cost us a total of $44.00.

This was because we did not actually travel to New York City and go to the Met, but instead, attended our local Silver City Cineplex. As I mentioned earlier on this thread, the Met has some kind of agreement with certain movie theatres to stream selected performances to the cinema. You get sub-titles and everything. (You can even munch on popcorn if you want, although this seems a little declasse for opera, even if it's only in a movie theatre...)

Anyway, it did not disappoint. This opera has some recognizable "hits", and its three stories within a "frame" works as an engaging narrative structure.

The singers were all fabulous. I"ll give special mention to the three leads:

Vittorio Grigolo was perfect as Hoffman, what a great voice, and lots of opportunity for what they call "colour" in this role (he's quite pleasing to look at, too.)

Thomas Hampson in the 4-in-one role of the sinister character who constantly thwarts Hoffman's love affairs has a great baritone voice, and clearly relishes his diabolical part as a kind of nemesis to Hoffman.

But perhaps the most intriguing character and memorable performance was provided by Kate Lindsay as Hoffmans' Muse. She plays a kind of double role as the Muse and also Hoffman's friend Nicklausse. It's not only her voice that impresses, it's her acting - she often has to look both glad that Hoffman's losing his love, and sorry that he's unhappy about it.

 

By the way, part of what made "Tales of Hoffman" (Les Contes d' Hoffman) so much fun to watch were the spectacular costumes and sets. Looks as though the designer and crew had a great time coming up with them.

 

I realize this has turned into a sort of mini-review - it took on a kind of "review-ish" sound to it. Sorry about that, I was just trying to summarize my impressions of the production.

 

Anyway, it was a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable show.

 

If anyone's interested, here's the famous clockwork doll, Olympia, and her wind-up song: (There's an explanation for the squeaky ultra-high notes; the singer is supposed to be a mechanical doll who can't quite sound human when she hits those upper tones.)

 

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What's wrong with sounding like a review? Gosh, missw, don't apologize ... lovely post.

 

Soon as I get some time, I'm going to do some catch up on this thread ... I want to comment on the Met's recent Ring cycle that a poster brought up and I'll have a few choice words about the "contraption" ... as well as a certain Queen of the Night offering ...

 

:)

 

 

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I hope to get to the Tales of Hoffman at the Met. I love the opera and have seen two wonderful performances of it: one with Beverly Sills doing the three roles at the New York City Opera; then with Joan Sutherland in those roles at the Met. I like the recording with three different women in the roles -- D'Angelo, de los Angeles, and Schwarzkopf, and would like to see the current version because it's done that way.

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I went to see the Met’s “Live in HD” presentations of “Cav and Pag” today -- yesterday, now. Did anyone else see them, or this season’s productions of them?

 

The only productions I have previously seen of these two operas were on DVD or video, all of which involved Franco Zeffirelli. One was the Met’s 1994 production of I Pagliacci with Pavarotti, Stratas, and Pons, James Levine conducting, and then the two 1982 Zeffirelli films of Cavalleria Rusticana, and I Pagliacci, with Domingo, Obraztsova, Bruson, Prêtre.

 

I suspect the 1994 Met and 1982 Zeffirelli productions may have set the bar extremely high for these operas and subsequently spoiled me.

 

Today’s production, with Alvarez, Westbroek, Racette, and Gagnidze, Fabio Luisi conducting, seemed to significantly pale in comparison.

 

I thought the staging of Cavalleria Rusticana was far too sparse, to the point of almost being confusing. I assume the raising and lowering of the table in the rotating stage was meant to indicate the tavern and piazza respectively, but I didn’t find it to be very effective. Except for a few moved chairs, and once some market props, everything else stayed the same. I didn’t quite get the whole point of the dancers, either. I’m no expert, but the choreography seemed fairly weak as well.

 

With the sparse stage, and the long musical passages, the beginning of the first act almost put me to sleep. Santuzza wandered around the stage wringing her hands and looking worried the whole time, first the chorus sat in a circle, then it moved the chairs around a bit, some of them left the stage, others gathered in small groups, appeared to talk among themselves, dispersed, some left, others came back on, moved the chairs around a little more, the stage rotated, and none of it furthered the story.

 

Alvarez, Westbroek, and Gagnidze all sang well enough, but they were fighting an uphill battle with the wandering, confusing staging.

 

For some reason, the theatre had the volume way too loud for Cavalleria Rusticana. I even saw a few folks holding their ears. The theatre turned it down to a reasonable level for I Pagliacci though.

 

The staging for I Pagliacci was far better. The costumes were far better, too, but with the subject matter of I Pagliacci (a travelling clown troupe, etc.) compared to Cavalleria Rusticana, one would expect that. Again, Alvarez, Racette, and Gagnidze all sang well. I thought Racette’s second act outshined her first act. The guy who sang Arlecchino’s aria (sorry; don’t know his name) did a nice job, too.

 

However, there were many missed opportunities in this production. The whole drama of the play within the play (Canio slipping in and out of the comedic character of Pagliaccio, how Nedda deals with it and finally comes out of her comedic character, Colombina, and Tonio/Taddeo, never really out of character, pulling both the dramatic and comedic strings) was fairly indistinct. Even Canio stabbing Nedda and Silvio was so perfunctory that, unless one were paying close attention, one could have very easily missed it. At first it looked like Canio was choking her. Only when he stepped back did one briefly see the knife. Part of this could have been the fault of the director for the “Live in HD” production, but I would say that most of it was a failure in the acting.

 

One bright spot in the picture, though, was that the final line, “La commedia è finita!” was given to Tonio rather than Canio, but even that was rushed and perfunctory.

 

All of that said, though, I’ll probably go see more “Live in HD” productions. The local opera companies don’t always stage productions I am interested in, and “Live in HD” is certainly a lot less expensive.

 

Here are the Met/Zeffierlli productions I mentioned above. I Pagliacci isn't complete, but I think what there is of it is great:

 

I Pagliacci

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUe2OnXIBEg

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeQBY_ZpejI

 

 

 

 

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Battle%20Rosina%20smaller.jpg

 

Oh, Kathleen (may i call you that). Why, oh why (did you do that).

 

The lesser parts of what we understand to be Prima Donna took hold of colorutura soprano Kathleen Battle sometime in the early 90s when she behaved like a perfect pill during rehearsals and was fired by the Metropolitan Opera. When it was announced that she had  been dismissed, members of the cast applauded. They were fed up too, with Miss Battle, who went so far as to forbid anyone to look at her if she should cross their path. That may not have been the worst of it and it probably wasn't.

 

Getting fired by Met is as bad as it may get for opera singer. She never performed in a live-staged opera again (she has done concerts and made appearances at Galas). She was around 40, a mere kid. This is when opera singers approach their prime. Everything was before her. Whether she was virtually blacklisted from other opera companies, or perhaps took this step herself is not known to me. I have always been reluctant to actually research this as I consider it a sad subject.

 

Her onscreen persona on stage, Rosina from The Barber of Seville, or Adina from The Elixer of Love (to name a couple), would seem to belie any possibility that she could possibly exhibit the behaviors of the spoiled pima donna. These are sweet girls and she embodied their persons as if they were a part of her very self.

 

Many have an aversion to opera (I'm not pointing fingers, I hate where others love too, RR and much of the popular genre). In these areas which have immense popularity, I am totally ****. (Behold the unseen in imagination, the ottosenselessor scanning it's database to see if this word is permissible, I'm guessing not, and I haven't tested it.) If a desire should come to wet your feet in something new, either of the two operas mentioned above might make a good start. They are opera bouffa. Miss Battle has done each on DVD, both done at the Met in happier days, and the second mentioned also features Luciano Pavarotti, if that cuts any ice.

 

Here she is singing "Una Voce Poco Fa" from Barbiere in a concert version. This is also available live from the Met but the sound is a little shrill (not her fault) which may not be amenable to newbie ears. This concert version sounds better and she looks wonderful. If you find that you cannot tolerate the notes (excuse me for talking down to you, you know what snobs are us opera freaks), then simply turn on the mute and simply gaze upon her person, there is something quite wonderful in just doing that.

 

This is the same aria that the music teacher was trying to teach poor Susan Alexander in Citizen Kane ("...no, no, no, no. no-no-no..."). Clearly beyond Miss Alexander, but not Miss Battle.

 

 

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I'm not entirely convinced that she was as horrible as her reputation. There are a lot of competing egos in the world of opera, it's all part of the fun. But, maybe I have a blind spot because I love her singing so much.

 

I'm a Diva! (I'm good, and I know it), so get out of the way. Wonderful.

 

Of course, one can push this 'Diva' bull$hit only so far before becoming an insufferable pain in the a$$. The trick is to know how far.

 

...still

 

Michael Praetorius - Es ist ein Ros`entsprungen (Kathleen Battle)

 

Shigeru Umebayashi - Lovers - Mei and Jin (Kathleen Battle)

 

Best wishes
Metairie Road

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A friend of mine worked in opera,  I met many wonderful artists through him, all lovely people: Renata Scotto, Victoria de los Angeles, Sherrill Milnes, Regina Resnik, Phyllis Curtin, etc.

 

He told me an amusing story about Battle: She was out west, in a limo. It was cold in the back seat. She phoned her manager in NY, instructing him to phone the driver in the front seat, to tell him to turn off the a/c. 

 

Battle had a nice voice, but not on the level of the greats, IMHO. 

 

I've been listening to Sutherland recently. Now there was a great voice!
 

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A friend of mine worked in opera, I met many wonderful artists through him, all lovely people: Renata Scotto, Victoria de los Angeles, Sherrill Milnes, Regina Resnik, Phyllis Curtin, etc.

 

He told me an amusing story about Battle: She was out west, in a limo. It was cold in the back seat. She phoned her manager in NY, instructing him to phone the driver in the front seat, to tell him to turn off the a/c.

 

Battle had a nice voice, but not on the level of the greats, IMHO.

 

I've been listening to Sutherland recently. Now there was a great voice!

 

Swithin--

 

I came across this and it looks very interesting to me.

 

FYI-- I have collected operatic recordings for a number of years.

 

And I have to tell you that I went to the recital of a soprano at the Chicago Opera House who was greater than your Joan Sutherland-- Leontyne Price.

 

Did you ever get a chance to hear her sing? She was God's gift to Verdi.

 

Her recording of Carmen with Franco Corelli is my favorite.

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