Andreas Scholl

PBO's 2015-2016 Season

PBO_byRandiBeachOctober 4-10 2015: Scarlatti's La gloria di primavera
November 12-15 2015: Bach's Brandenburgs with Richard Egarr
December 2-6 2015: Händel's Ode for St. Cecilia's Day and "Tra amplessi innocenti" and Purcell's Te Deum and Jubilate in D and Suite from Distressed Innocence
December 19 2015: Händel's Messiah
February 3-7 2016: Mozart's Concerto for Fortepiano No. 23 with Kristian Bezuidenhout, Symphonies No. 27 and 39
February 11 2016: Arias from Ariodante and Xerxes with Susan Graham
March 2-6 2016: Vivaldi's Concerto in D major and Rameau's Suite from Les Fêtes de L'Hymen et de L'Amour
April 27- May 1 2016: Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3, Elegiac Song, and Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage and Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2, Hymn of Praise

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2015-2016 season was announced today. The soloists for the Scarlatti are Suzana Ograjensek, Diana Moore, Clint van der Linde, Nicholas Phan, and Douglas Williams. The soloists for Messiah are Amanda Forsythe, Meg Bragle, Isaiah Bell, and Tyler Duncan. PBO will also tour major North American concert halls in Spring 2016 with guest artists Anne-Sofie von Otter and Andreas Scholl.

Official Site


Rodelinda at the Met

Met-rodelinda-2011* 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.


Andreas Scholl at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Andreas-scholl-credit-james-mcmillan-and-decca* Notes * 
The English Concert,
lead by Harry Bicket, played at Walt Disney Concert Hall last night as part of a tour that goes on to Chicago, Boston, Toronto, and New York. The program consisted of entirely Baroque music and started with Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber's Sonata No. 6 for trumpet, strings, and continuo. The trumpet soloist was Mark Bennett, who played the difficult instrument fairly accurately. The ensemble plays with emphatic (and undoubtedly informed) historicity. In any case, there was very little legato. The violist had a few harsh notes, but this was more textural than it was annoying.

After the Biber came several pieces by Henry Purcell. Countertenor Andreas Scholl (pictured above, photograph by James McMillan courtesy of Decca) sang "Sweeter than roses," "Music for a while," and "An evening hymn." The acoustic of Frank Gehry's building is much more flattering to Scholl's voice than Herbst Theatre or Zellerbach Hall. The overall effect was that of warmth and effortlessness. The ensemble went on to play scenes from Purcell's King Arthur, out of order, it seems, starting with the Chaccone. Scholl sang "O solitude, my sweetest choice," "What power art thou," and "Fairest isle." The percussiveness of "What power art thou" was striking.

Following the intermission, The English Concert played Georg Muffat's Passacaglia from Sonata V. The program returned to Purcell, with scenes from The Fairy Queen. This was interspersed with Scholl singing "One charming night" (from Act II of the aforementioned opera), the song "If music be the food of love," and "When I am laid in earth" (from Dido and Aeneas). The encore was "Music for a while."

* Tattling * 
The audience was the most attentive I have observed in any of the Music Center venues. There was some quiet whispering, but never when Scholl was singing. Scholl himself stopped his first piece for the latecomers getting in their seats. He was very good-natured about waiting.

A watch alarm sounded at 10pm, during the encore.


Les Arts Florissants' 2nd Performance of Giulio Cesare

Scholl2010 * Notes *
The second performance of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel came together better than the first. Les Arts Florissants sounded more cohesive. The concertmaster did not break any strings this time, and her intonation was more accurate, but her playing for "Se in fiorito ameno prato" was still screechy and not beautiful. The horn soloist still hit many unpleasant notes in "Va tacito e nascosto" but her mistakes were less grating than on Tuesday. However, the three horns in the March of the last scene were awful, and were laughed at by various audience members.

The singing was consistent, the cast is extraordinary. Philippe Jaroussky (Sesto) and Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) were definitely at their best in their duet at the end of Act I. Cecilia Bartoli was delicate and sweet in "Vadoro pupille." She also sang "Piangero la sorte mia" exquistely. Andreas Scholl seemed less tense than before, his voice came out more, though he was difficult to hear during "Al lampo dell' armi." He did cough twice during the concert. Scholl sang "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà" with particular elegance.

* Tattling * 
The clapping did not start as early as it had on Tuesday, and people even managed to applaud after the music was done. The audience whispered a little, and there were two very noisy watch alarms on separate occasions. There was a medical emergency in the center terrace during "Da tempeste il legno infranto." As Cecilia Bartoli sang, an older woman lost consciousness, perhaps she fainted or had a seizure. The people around her checked her pulse and tried shaking her awake, but had to fetch medical help. The woman was able to walk out of the hall, but there was a noticeable pause between Cleopatra's aria and the recitative between Cornelia and Sesto that followed.


Les Arts Florissants' Giulio Cesare

Cecilia * Notes *
The Tuesday opening of Giulio Cesare at Salle Pleyel was stunning. For one thing, most of the singing was breathtaking. Both low voices were lovely, these being Andreas Wolf (Curio) and Umberto Chiummo (Achilla). The latter enunciated particularly well, and his aria "Se a me non sei crudele" was strong. Rachid Ben Abdeslam seemed quite excited to be on stage as Nireno, as did Christophe Dumaux as Tolomeo. Dumaux is such a clown, perhaps a touch too much for the villain in an unstaged concert version of this work. On the other hand, our tragic Sesto, Philippe Jaroussky, was pitch-perfect. His voice is bright, warm, and light, gleaming above the orchestra. Nathalie Stutzmann (Cornelia) was a fine foil, her voice seemed bottomless.

In the title role, Andreas Scholl, started off quietly, and was overwhelmed by the orchestra at more than one point. His voice warmed up after the night wore on, and the second half went more smoothly than the first. Scholl did crack on one note near the end of "Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà," though he sang the rest sublimely. Cecilia Bartoli sang with beauty, she was coy when pretending to be Lidia, and imperious as Cleopatra. There were a few times when Bartoli had too much vibrato, and this wobbling had an unpleasant quality to it. However, overall the singers were wonderful.

Les Arts Florissants had a few mishaps. William Christie did keep the musicians together and his tempi seemed appropriate. In general the playing was clear and fine. However, the concertmaster broke her E string in Act I, and it took a long time for everything to get back in place. It was interesting to watch how she traded her violin with her stand mate, someone from behind passed up a good E string, and the stand mate restrung the concertmaster's violin, trying to get it in tune without disrupting the music. Unfortunately, some of the violin solos were out of tune and squeaky, though this is understandable, given the circumstances. The horn soloist also had some intonation issues, she hit a score of sour notes in "Va tacito e nascosto."

* Tattling * 
The audience was quiet, though the men behind me in the second balcony did talk during the first chorus, were hushed, and snorted derisively at the suggestion that they should be silent. Nonetheless, they did not speak again during the music. The clapping was vehement, and although we were asked to not applaud after each number, somehow our enthusiasm got the better of us. It was a shame that some of us could not wait until after the orchestra stopped playing to cheer and clap.


Andreas Scholl at Zellerbach

Andreas-scholl * Notes * 
The Australian Chamber Orchestra played at Zellerbach Hall this afternoon in Berkeley. Lead by the disarming violinist Richard Tognetti, the orchestra navigated the rather disparate program very well. The energy of Haydn's Symphony No. 44 was strong, the piece was grave and even strident. This was followed by the violently lush Footwork by Roger Smalley. This United States premiere showed how tightly-knit the group is, the various dance-like figures were impressively played. The cello parts were of particular interest.

Before the intermission came three Händel arias, from Rodelinda, Giustino, and Giulio Cesare. The soloist, Andreas Scholl, started off a bit rough and thin in "Dove sei, amato bene?," but recovered quickly. His voice is incredibly sweet and warm, and his volume was fine throughout. The horn in "Va tacito e nascosto" was the best I have heard in some time, at least for this work. There were only about half a dozen notes that were off.

After the break Scholl sang three more arias, these from Saul, Giulio Cesare, and Rodelinda. The pure, effortless sound was beautiful. Pavel Haas' From the Monkey Mountain Suite, in contrast, was a disappointment. Though the musicians played gamely, the cinematic work was oddly pentatonic at times, and jazzy at other points. The percussion played by slapping the double bass and the cello was entertaining. The encore, an overture by Rameau, was dizzying and almost sounded on the verge of becoming unhinged.

* Tattling * 
The hall did not look full, but someone was quite audibly just as the concert was to start. Tognetti joked that the person might just talk a little louder so that we could all hear. The house was silent, except for an unhappy child, and a man behind me commented that it was not suitable for children to be there. Oddly enough, a small child was in front of me, but he was not troublesome. He was taken home after the first half.

A cellular phone rang during "Se parla nel mio cor," but was silenced immediately. Another cellular phone or rogue hearing aid was heard at the end of "Va tacito."


Partenope at Det Kongelige Teater

Here is the promised review from the Opernphrenologe. I must say that I'm quite jealous that she got to attend a performance of this production. However, I hear there is to be a DVD release, so at least there is that to look forward to.

   * Notes *
The recent production of Händel's Partenope at Copenhagen's Royal Theatre was wonderful! No, really! It was really that good! I traveled all the way to Copenhagen for this one measly opera, and it was worth it.

Andreas Scholl as Arsace was so exceedingly funny! He had these marvelous comic facial expressions as he vacillated between two women. At one point, he crawls after the queen on his knees, then on his stomach, then he lifts his leg as if urinating. It was so silly! He made grunting sounds when the women abused him, and they were so utterly absurd that I kept on laughing aloud.

Then there was the Barbie doll of the queen. Armindo first fondles the Barbie doll as he sings about his true love for the queen. Later, Arsace got into what appeared to be a fist fight with the queen Barbie, and it seemed as if the Barbie was winning.

During the "fight scene", the two sides first played musical chairs, then rock-paper-scissors. Fight scenes are usually dumb in the opera, and I enjoyed how this one poked fun at itself!

As for the singing, Andreas Scholl (Arsace) was a bit weak at first but then sang beautifully. Inger Dam-Jensen (Partenope) and Christophe Dumaux (Armindo) were spectacularly good. Only Tuva Semmingsen (Rosmira) was not too good, but considering that she was too sick to sing and that some mysterious woman in black was singing for her in the orchestra pit, it is not that surprising. On the other hand, her acting was good.

Indeed, the opera cast has been plagued with the cold since opening night. When I saw it, Andreas Scholl had recovered but poor Tuva Semmingsen was in no shape to sing. According to some others, the opera director Francisco Negrin was the origin of the cold (according to himself in an interview). Very naughty, Mr. Negrin!

The stage was a simple rotating stage with what appeared to be tilework. I found it quite dull, until it rotated and exposed an octopus and seven fish, all done up in fake tilework. It was lovely! But that was it, it became boring after that.

During a discussion with some people with a Scholl Problem (tm), it was noted that Negrin made some hefty changes to Acts 2 and 3. The Arsace-Rosmira duet "E vuoi con dure tempre" from the 4th scene in Act 2 is missing, perhaps because Rosmira couldn't sing. Ormonte sings "La gloria in nobil alma" at the beginning of Act 3, which was originally sung by Emilio earlier in Act 2. When Arsace dreams, he is not awakened by Rosmira (this has been cut) but instead sings the terzetto in his sleep. It may be possible that Arsace's aria "Fatto è Amor un dio d'inferno" in Act 3 was also cut.

* Tattling * 
The audience was reasonably well-behaved. In fact, they would probably tattle on me, since I kept on cackling with laughter (though I tried to be quiet, but is quiet shaking from laughter much better?). I suspect that there were a lot of nutty opera people there. The woman on my left talked about how she was going to travel to London to see Partenope performed there (with mezzo-sopranos, though, she discovered that I was a Scholl fan and looked down upon me I think). The woman on my right kept on clicking her eyeglasses and sighing. Perhaps she was bored. She also dropped things twice, with a loud clang.


Giulio Cesare in Lausanne

Giuliocesarelausanne* Notes *
A production of Giulio Cesare opened at Opéra de Lausanne last Friday. The opera was cut down, and the performance was only three hours long. Emilio Sagi's production was on the traditional side, the setting looked like a Baroque take on the Roman and Ancient Egyptian worlds. In that sense it was not unlike the Metropolitan Opera production that was in San Francisco and San Diego. The costumes, the work of Jesús Ruiz Moreno, were pretty, though the beading was a bit loud. The costumes of Cornelia and Sesto looked medieval, but the Egyptian costumes and the other Roman costumes were what one would expect, though all of the former wore white, and all of the latter black. Eduardo Bravo's lighting was at times too stark, rendering the singers unnaturally purple.

There were some silly aspects to the staging, notably the giant statue head used as the severed head of Pompeo and the fight scene between the Egyptians and Romans in Act III Scene 1. Several ropes were hanging from the ceiling and instead of attacking each other, the dancers batted at ropes under strange lighting. I must admit, I laughed a lot at this part and barely contained myself.

Yannis François and Florin-Cezar Ouatu acted and sang well as Curio and Nireno, respectively. Bass Riccardo Novaro was quite brutal as Achilla, he had fine volume, at least from the second row of the house. Christophe Dumaux is great as a buffoon, I remember him as Unulfo in the Met's Rodelinda. He was amusing as Tolomeo, and though his voice has a light prettiness, his control is imperfect. He was rather quiet in his falsetto and much too loud when notes fell into his actual range. On the other hand, Max Emanuel Cencic (Sesto) had both volume and brightness. He did, however, lack precision in diction and intonation. Charlotte Hellekant (Cornelia) looked far too young to be Cencic's mother, but was convincing in her beauty, as she is wooed by Curio, Achilla, and Tolomeo. Her diction was good, but her tone lacked richness. In contrast, Elena de la Merced could have been singing in Finnish, I could barely make out a word. She looked absolutely stunning as Cleopatra, but when she sang the word piangerò, it sounded like "kangigo." She sang "Piangerò la sorte mia" especially well, despite her diction. Generally her intonation was good, but her higher notes were terribly strained, both loud and harsh.

The highlight of the evening was definitely Andreas Scholl in the titular role. He was amazing, with beautiful control in volume and tone. He made some hilarious faces as Giulio Cesare, but is more convincing than David Daniels or Ewa Podleś. He was overwhelmed in one aria by the orchestra, and he also completely showed off holding the first note of "Aure, deh per pietà."

I was not much impressed by the orchestra, under the direction of Ottavio Dantone. The nadir was the horn solo in "Va tacito e nascosto" that had many sour notes, and just kept going badly.

* Tattling *
The audience distinguished itself by being one of the worst I've ever encountered. There were no cellular phones or watch alarms, but people could not stop speaking. Especially at the beginning, whenever there was no singing, people would immediately start conversing. The pair of women in Box A on the orchestra level were particularly rude. During the overture, they deliberated for several minutes on whether or not they should move to the center as the box was quite off to the right side of the house. They stomped to the middle during the music. Of course, the patrons who had those seats arrived during Act I and the two women had to stomp back to their box.
After they settled down, the men in Row A Seats 26 and 28 felt the need to speak during "Dall' ondoso." Then a woman in Row C Seat 26 spoke at full volume during "Io fra l'onde."

The audience clapped with great gusto at the end, and there were about 10 curtain calls. I was glad to note that the Swiss have the same habit as I've noted among Bavarians and Hungarians of clapping all together.

There was a funny moment in the staging, at the beginning of Act II Scene 7, Nireno spells out Cleopatra in large blocks of Greek letters. The dancers wrap them up in cloth and take them away except for the "K." Tolomeo later comes by and is supposed to stab the block letter, but he must have missed, for everyone in the audience laughed.


Regina de' Longobardi

RodalindaactiiWadsworth production of Händel's Rodelinda opened at the Met on Tuesday, May 2, 2006. I was surprised that Thomas Lynch's set was so beautiful, since his Lohengrin was reminiscent of IKEA, though admittedly, his Ring set for Seattle was gorgeous. The library set was particularly impressive to the audience, which gasped when it was revealed in Act II. Act II also featured a horse, this device being a perennial favorite. The scenes changed flawlessly, the set moved both left and right and up and down. It was a bit much though, one did feel that things were always in motion, if not in the set itself, then in the choreography. The singers frenetically dashed around, seemingly without purpose. It was as if they believed the music was just so boring that it was necessary to fidget and fumble all over the stage as a method of distraction.

As for the singing, the lead, Renée Fleming, was somewhat flat, her voice is thin and she seems distant even though her volume is fine. Her voice has not a trace of sensuality, though I am not convinced that is necessary for Baroque music. Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Blythe (Eduige) had more emotion in her voice, though she can be harsh. Tenor Kobie van Rensburg (Grimoaldo) also had passion, though his arpeggios and trills were weak and muddy. Bass John Relyea was a suitable villain as Garibaldo, the role does not show off how beautiful his voice is. Countertenor Christophe Dumaux (Unulfo) has an exceedingly girlish voice, light and slightly quiet. Andreas Scholl certainly was the star of the show, though his Bertarido was slightly stiff and awkward, vocally he was amazing. He has incredible power and control. His transitions between head voice and chest voice were perfect.