Seattle Opera announced the 2012-2013 season today. Noticed that one of the Bohème casts has Nadine Sierra and Michael Fabiano as Mimì and Rodolfo.
Maestro James Levine has canceled his conducting assignments at the Metropolitan Opera for the remainder of this season and next. Fabio Luisi will conduct the cycles of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen this coming April and May, except for two performances of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung on May 9 and May 12, 2012.
* Notes *
The third recital of the 2011-2012 vocal series at San Francisco Performances featured soprano Karita Mattila (pictured left, photograph by Lauri Eriksson) accompanied by pianist Martin Katz. Yesterday evening's performance started with Poulenc's Banalités, a set of five songs using texts by Apollinaire. The pieces did not readily relate to one another. Mattila sang them with a sense of humor, "Hôtel" and "Voyage à Paris" were particularly charming. Next we heard Debussy's Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire, which were a good deal more disturbing, especially the fourth one, "Recueillement." Mattila has a strong, beautifully supported voice and was complemented by Katz's tasteful playing. The singer exudes a serene confidence and was completely unruffled by the various small snags of the performance, which included sheet music forgotten backstage, untimely applause, and electronic noise.
After the intermission came Neljä laulua unesta (Four Dream Songs) from Sallinen. It was exciting to hear Mattila sing in her native language. The pieces were rather dark and strange. The program ended with five songs in German by Joseph Marx. Mattila coughed before "Waldseligkeit" and even after singing the first half, but one was never in doubt that her sound would still be perfectly gorgeous. Katz was able to show more bravura in these songs. The first encore was a highly idiosyncratic version of "I Could Have Danced All Night," complete with dancing. The second encore was a Finnish folk song, "Minun kultani kaunis on," arranged by Ralf Gothóni. Mattila ended the evening by singing the last verse of "Tonight" without accompaniment.
* Tattling *
The audience was rather quiet, no talking was noted. Unfortunately, someone's mobile phone rang at the end of "Le jet d'eau," while Mattila sang the very last line.
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Over the weekend Esa-Pekka Salonen conducted Los Angeles Philharmonic in the world premiere of Shostakovich's Prologue to Orango. The piece was orchestrated by Gerard McBurney, based on surviving piano sketches. There was relatively little singing in the 40 minutes of music, as the 11 parts included an overture and three dances. Some of the singers were difficult to hear. The Entertainer, bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, blended into the sound of the large orchestra. Timur Bekbosunov (Paul Mâche) sang to Salonen, instead of to us. While humorous, this did not serve the music well. Yulia Van Doren was convincing as Susanna, and her vibrato seemed appropriate and controlled. Michael Fabiano sounded sweet and sufficiently loud as the Zoologist. Eugene Brancoveanu gave a committed performance in the title role. Though he sang rather little, it was obvious how beautiful his voice is.
The concepts behind Peter Sellars' staging looked like they had been pulled together in less than five minutes. We were shown images of Occupy Wall Street, a Rhesus monkey with pins in its skull, fighter planes, citrus fruits, and so on and so forth. Members of the chorus (the Los Angeles Master Chorale) were dressed in orange, disregarding the fact that the words orange and orangutan are not related. The fruit (and color) are from Sanskrit via Arabic and the first half of the animal name comes from Malay for "man." There were moments of the production that were interesting, especially when Orango jumps from his pedestal and attacks Susanna, who was seated in the first row of the Orchestra Level. Overall the proceedings were not cohesive, and a concert version of the work would have been less insulting to the intelligence of even this audience.
The second half of the evening was devoted to Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4. Salonen made sharp distinctions between the parts of the piece, but kept the music moving. The differences in tempi and volume were all clear. The orchestra did sound a bit muddy, but there were no egregious errors. The symphony ended gorgeously, melting into silence.
* Tattling *
The audience in the terrace was appallingly ill-behaved. Of 10 people in our immediate vicinity, 9 spoke during the music. More than one person fell asleep during the second piece. My companion tapped the knee of someone snoring in Row P to wake him up, and the offending person was irate, asking the person with him repeatedly if he had been making noise. After the performance there was rather ridiculous confrontation between awakener and woken.
* Notes *
The latest revival of Satyagraha closed Thursday night at the Metropolitan Opera. Phelim McDermott's tasteful production coheres beautifully: the set, lighting, video projections, and direction all come together to intensify the effect of the music. The transitions were skillfully handled, the projections never looked trite, and the choreography always seemed motivated and purposeful. An entire world was evoked, without the least bit of mawkishness. The stilt walking, elaborate puppetry, and tableaux were delightful, never competing with the music itself.
Both the orchestra and chorus achieved a nearly perfect transparency and were impressively synchronized. Most of the singing was also quite strong, including vocal fine contributions Alfred Walker (Parsi Rustomji) and Kim Josephson (Mr. Kallenbach). Rachelle Durkin's notes soared. Molly Fillmore and Maria Zifchak blended their voices nicely in their duet. Only Mary Phillips sounded shrill as Mrs. Alexander. As Gandhi, Richard Croft (pictured above, photograph by Ken Howard) sounded exceedingly lovely, especially in his last aria at the end of the opera.
* Tattling *
The audience for Philip Glass tends to be rather distinct from the one typically seen at the Met. Most audience members seemed engrossed in the performance, but unfortunately, there was a lot of electronic noise. Cellular telephones rang in every act. Oddly, no watch alarms were heard. As always, the Met audience was vocal about condemning other people's poor behavior. A woman with her illuminated mobile screen was asked twice to turn it off, as was a person whose phone would not stop ringing.
A woman rearranged her purse at the back of a balcony aisle. When the lights went down, she was unable to find her seat, and asked me, at full volume during the music, to help her. I could only shrug in dismay, and she took an empty seat in Row K.
Glass himself was present for the bows, before joining the Occupy Wall Street protesters just outside of Lincoln Center Plaza.
* Notes *
A revival of Rodelinda (Act II pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) is currently underway at the Metropolitan Opera. Since I saw this opera in 2006, I opted to hear this at a score desk on Wednesday. The acoustics are quite flattering to voices at Score Desk 3, and everyone could be easily heard. The orchestra sounded neat and tidy under Harry Bicket, everything seemed in place and rather angular. The chorus was appealing in the last act and sang with clarity.
The singing was fairly lackluster. Joseph Kaiser (Grimoaldo) sang with much vibrato. Shenyang's Garibaldo had richness but was imprecise. Iestyn Davies showed promise as Unulfo, his voice is bright and pretty. Andreas Scholl (Bertarido) was slightly quiet, but also has a sweet, beautiful voice. There was "a small technical difficulty" with the set before Scholl's "Vivi tiranno," which unfortunately interrupted the flow of the music.
As Eduige, Stephanie Blythe gave a strong, steely performance. Renée Fleming seemed more committed to this title role than her recent turn as Lucrezia Borgia in San Francisco. Though her vocal line had a fine legato, her intonation is lacking and her coloratura is not impressive. Fleming did not follow any of the da capo or dal segno markings in Act I.
* Tattling *
Besides the aforementioned mishap in the last scene, there seemed to be other struggles with the set. The first intermission ran even longer than the allotted 40 minutes, as putting together that elaborate Baroque library in Act II must present a significant challenge. The cues to the lighting booth were loud, and as the music is not, they were all too audible.
The incoming 2012 Adler Fellows are Marina Boudart Harris, Laura Krumm, Renée Rapier, Joo Won Kang, and Robert Mollicone. They join current Adlers (pictured left, photograph by Scott Wall) Nadine Sierra, Brian Jadge, Ao Li, Ryan Kuster, and David Hanlon. Outgoing 2011 Adler Fellows are sopranos Leah Crocetto, Susannah Biller, Sara Gartland; mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani; countertenor Ryan Belongie; tenor Daniel Montenegro; and apprentice coach Tamara Sanikidze.