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Norma at Unter den Linden

Berlinerstaatsopernorma* Notes *
The Opernphrenologe went to Berlin for work, and managed to see this evening's performance of Norma at the Staatsoper. Annegret Ritzel's production was awful from the very beginning when the female chorus first pretended to be rocks and then proceded to crawl to a tree stump in the center. The choreography was poorly motivated, at one point in Act I, all of the members of the women's chorus took off their overshirts, showed off their arms, sang a bit, and then put their overshirts back on. Then in Act II, the men did essentially the same thing, but they just wore trouser straps. Katharina Eberstein's costumes were mostly of a dark palette, with the exception of the priestesses in white, who wore headdresses that were reminiscent of bloody tampons.

Paolo Arrivabeni's conducting was unimaginative, and the orchestra seemed did not seem engaged. The drums were off in the screeching overture. The Opernphrenologe particularly loathed soprano Silvana Dussmann in the title role, though she was much beloved by a majority of the audience. She sounded like cracked porcelain, and was flat a good deal of the time. Carmen Oprisanu, however, was pretty good as Adalgisa. Tenor Andrew Richards' voice proved to be nice and warm once he got over a rough start.

After tormenting the Opernphrenologe all about the details of the opera performance, I finally commented that she must have liked it. Apparently she did and was moved most by the narrative rather than Bellini's music.

* Tattling *
The house was filled with young people, and our Opernphrenologe was right next to a young lady (Seat 14 Row 3 in the middle of the second balcony) who insisted on instant messaging on her cellphone, until the man behind her told her to stop. After that she kept on fidgeting and whispering, but at least she moved elsewhere for the second half.

Den Norske Opera's 2008-2009 Season


April 26- May 5 2008: Operafest
May 29- June 13 2008: Orfeo
June 16-24 2008: Det Store Bankranet
August 9-29 2008: Porgy and Bess
September 20- October 20 2008: Don Carlo
October 1-5 2008: Melancholia
October 17-23 2008: Dead Beat Escapement
October 18- November 20 2008: La Clemenza di Tito
November 6-8 2008: Jenny
November 22-24 2008: Thora på Rimol
December 19 2008- January 19 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 7-22 2009: Walküre
March 9-26 2009: Peter Grimes
April 18-June 20 2009: Carmen
May 20-28 2009: Pollicino
May 29- June 18 2009: Elektra

The Norwegian National Opera was to perform Gisle Kverndokk's Around the World in 80 Days as the first opera in the new house on April 26. Unfortunately, the stage control system for the new house was delivered late, and there was not enough time to train the appropriate parties. Instead they will be presenting a recital with works from various operas, which they have dubbed "Operafest." The opening gala is still set for April 12.

René Pape is singing Philip II in Don Carlo, and the Carmen production is the one from Covent Garden that is opening at Opera Australia tomorrow.

2008-2009 Season | New Opera House | Aftenposten Article

Jodhaa Akbar

Jodhaa * Notes *
Ashutosh Gowariker's historical epic Jodhaa Akbar was finally released on February 15, after being pushed back four times. The film is doing well at the box office, grossing $2,505,703 so far in North America. Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan give restrained and elegant performances as Mughal emperor and Rajput princess, respectively.

Filmed in Karjat, the scenes are all rather lavish, like Mughal miniatures come to life. A. R. Rahman's music tended to be heavy-handed and overly-dramatic, though "Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah" was suitably grand, and the choreography was impressive. The battle scenes were considerably less magnificent, though the shots of cannon fire were remarkable. Overall, the movie was extremely beautiful to look at, but the overt moralizing was a bit tiresome. However, it was nice to see a Muslim portrayed in a positive light for a change.

* Tattling *
There were quite a lot of people in the theater for a weeknight showing. Many cellular phones rang and were answered. Some children next to me would not stop moving for the 213 minutes of the film, they ran around, fidgeted, and whispered the whole time.

Jodhaa Akbar was not released in Rajasthan, as some Rajputs protested against the film's historical inaccuracies.

SF Opera's Cinemacasts Spring 2008

March 8-11 2008: La Rondine
March 29- April 1 2008: Samson et Dalila
April 12-15 2008: Don Giovanni 
April 19-22 2008: Madama Butterfly

West Coast Locations (North to South):

1 Galaxy Way
Monroe, WA 98272

Carmike 12
1331 N. Center Parkway
Kennewick, WA 99336

Carmike 12
750 NE Circle Boulevard
Corvalis, OR 97330

Cinema West
1241 Main Street
Fortuna, CA 95540

Cinema West
6868 McKinley Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Cinema West
Fiesta Plaza Shopping Center
200 Siesta Way
Sonoma, CA 95476 

Cinema West
Petaluma Blvd. at C Street
Petaluma, CA 94952

Cinema West
1228 S. Main Street
Angels Camp, CA 95222

Cinema West
9 Broadway Boulevard
Fairfax, CA 94930

2525 Patterson Road
Riverbank, CA 95367

Cinema West
2490 First Street
Livermore, CA 94550

UltraStar Flower Hill
2630 Via De La Valle
Del Mar, CA 92014

UltraStar Mission Valley
7510 Hazard Center Drive #100
San Diego, CA 92108

The 120 locations do not include Los Angeles, Portland, or Seattle.

Press Release [PDF] | SF Opera at the Movies | Schedule

Lucas Meachem's Schwabacher Debut Recital

Lucasmeachem_2* Notes *
The Schwabacher Debut Recital Series continued yesterday with baritone Lucas Meachem singing selections from Dvořák's Zigeunermelodien, Poulenc's Chansons Gaillardes, Schumann's Zwölf Lieder, and Copland's Old American Songs. Meachem certainly is amiable, talking to the audience before each set of songs. His singing is vigorous enough to fill a small hall like the Martin Meyer quite well. The recital showed Meachem's dramatic range, he sang each composer's music distinctly, and did not sound like an opera singer when he sang a piece from Disney's Beauty and the Beast as an encore. For the most part his diction was good, though there were a few small missteps. His voice is strong, but perhaps lacks beauty, except in his rendition of Copland's "Long Time Ago," which was lovely.

* Tattling *
This time the Schwabacher Recital was competing against the Academy Awards, and the turn out was still good, even General Director David Gockley deigned to attend. Somehow I was recruited to usher in the balcony, where I sat a total of three people, but the main floor looked full. The audience in the balcony certainly was well-behaved. There is definitely something humming in that hall, it is either the lights or the climate control system.

Lucas Meachem was rather more formally dressed than Philippe Castagner was for the last recital. Meachem wore a black suit with vest and tie, but alarmingly, seemed to keep shedding layers as the evening wore on. Meachem is also an amusing raconteur, the best story was an account of how he met Susan Graham. Paul Groves introduced Meachem to Graham in Paris, and they went out to karaoke. Later when Simon Keenleyside withdrew from Lyric's production of Iphigénie en Tauride, Graham convinced William Mason to hire Meachem, saying she had heard him sing "American contemporary."

Blomstedt Conducts Mozart at SFS

Mozart1789 * Notes *
Herbert Blomstedt, conductor laureate and former music director of the San Francisco Symphony, is currently conducting an all Mozart program, which includes Divertimento in D major, K.251, Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K.482, and Symphony No. 38 in D Major, K.504, Prague. The last performance is tonight over at Davies Hall. 

The Divertimento is perfectly light and the orchestra played well. The oboist sounded especially good. Unfortunately, the audience was strikingly ill-behaved, whispering after each movement with absolute voraciousness. They also clapped after the second and fifth movements.

At least they calmed down for the piano concerto, something about an accomplished soloist was able to command their attention. Jonathan Biss certainly proved virtuosic, his agility is incredible, as his control. He looked a bit bored when waiting to play, as he was fidgeting. When he did come in, he seemed to be racing the orchestra, and at times they were not together. Biss was somewhat theatrical in his movements, but not as extravagant as some. The allegro of the last movement was quite fun, the violins and timpani played particularly well.

The symphony gave a respectable performance of the Prague. There were a couple times when either the trumpets or horns sounded harsh, but otherwise the playing was fine. The tempi were consistent, and the contrasts between dynamics were not dramatic.

* Tattling *
As mentioned before, the audience was uncharacteristically rude, and there were whispers and coughs between every pause. The coughing was flagrant, the worst I have ever heard, but for the most part it was only between movements.
At these times, woman behind me also made some reptilian sounds, I am not sure if these signified disgust or were involuntary tics.

I heard a watch alarm in the First Tier for the first half of the performance, at the beginning of the first piece, and in the last movement of the second piece. Instead of being the typical two beeps, this alarm just had one sustained note.

People were enamored by the youth of Mr. Biss, and I overheard more than one person gush about how impressive he is and how very, very young.

Hugh Wolff at Berkeley Symphony

Hughwolff* Notes *
Kent Nagano's 30th season as music director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra will be his last, and the search for his replacement is on. Over this season and the next there will be a total of six guest conductors, one of which may emerge as the next music director. The first of these conductors is Hugh Wolff, who presented a program of Kernis' Overture of Feet and Meters, Osvaldo Golijov's Night of the Flying Horses, Shostakovich's From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92.

The Kernis work is influenced by Baroque dance suites, we were told the wry title refers to "dancing feet and shifting meters." Perhaps this is why the piece sounds a little like Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, both new and old at the same time. It had a cinematic feel, sometimes sweeping and other times very busy. I felt as if I should be seeing something with the music but wasn't.

Of the first half, I was most moved by Golijov. The soloist, Heidi Melton, sang well, she was not shrill and had seems to have gained more control of her voice. There was not a trace of strain or roughness, as when she sang Diane last summer at San Francisco Opera. The orchestra sounded lovely as well, the interplay of violas, second violins, celli, and winds was particularly beautiful.

Shostakovich's songs were presented in Yiddish rather than Russian, and this seemed to work just fine. Again, Melton sang well, though at times she overpowered Katharine Tier and Thomas Glenn. Tier's voice has a certain delicacy, she had one breath in the second song that was a bit too audible, but otherwise was good. I could hear Glenn much better in this than when I heard him last as Robert Wilson at Lyric Opera, but he was occasionally masked by the orchestra. He also seemed to be rushing during his first two songs, the fourth and sixth in the cycle. He does have a sweet voice, and sounded better for the rest of the performance.

The evening ended with a playful rendition of Beethoven's 7th, starting off with a rather stately slowness and finishing at a breakneck speed. The musicians played with suitable crispness, striking nice a balance in articulation.

This performance will be broadcast by KALW 91.7 FM on Sunday, April 27th at 4pm. Wolff will be conducting new music this Sunday evening at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley.

* Tattling *
Hugh Wolff broke his left leg and is still in a cast, so his antics getting around the stage were pretty entertaining. The pre-concert interview revealed that he is an affable and funny person. Apparently he does not compose, despite studying under Messiaen.

A trio of women behind me must have included some singers, for their speaking voices carried well. One told a hilarious story about Stephanie Blythe singing Messiah at NY Philharmonic last December. When she finished singing the B section of "He was despised," and went back to the A section, a man in the front row muttered "Jesus Christ" out of exasperation.

A couple brought their grade school child to the symphony, and he was not enjoying himself, he fidgeted constantly, and quietly whispered to his mum more than once. He was not distracting me, but he kicked the person in front of many times. Finally this person got fed up and angry admonished him during the fifth song of the Shostakovich.

Arizona Opera's 2008-2009 Season

October 11-19 2008: Rigoletto
November 15-23 2008:
The Mikado
January 17-25 2009: L'Elisir d'Amore
February 21- March 1 2009: Don Giovanni
March 26- April 5 2009: Tosca

Stephanie Blythe sings in The Mikado and Twyla Robinson sings Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.

2008-2009 Season Site | Official Site