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Academy of St. Martin in the Fields at SFS

Marriner* Notes *
Yesterday Sir Neville Marriner conducted the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in a program of Mozart's Symphony No. 31, Paris, Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1, Mendelssohn's Sinfonia No. 10, and Haydn's Symphony No. 104, London. The Mozart was played crisply and with spirit. Yuja Wang was the soloist for the piano concerto, she played with precision, but not robotically. The trumpets were slightly brash, but otherwise the ensemble was wonderful, and Ms. Wang did not seem utterly bored as she waited to play, as is sometimes the case for young soloists. The second half of the performance was beautiful, both the second Mendelssohn piece and the Haydn symphony were lovely, and were played distinctly in the appropriate style. The musicians were certainly together. The evening ended with three encores.

* Tattling *
The audience was quiet, there was a minor candy unwrapping incident during the second movement of the piano concerto and a slammed door during the first movement of the Haydn. Yuja Wang looked pretty in her sleeveless apple red gown. She did seem slightly nervous and kept brushing her hair off her face.

Redeemer Reborn Talk at WSNC

Notes *
Yesterday afternoon Paul Schofield gave a talk on his book The Redeemer Reborn: Parsifal as the Fifth Opera of Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Wagner Society of Northern California
. It was the second time he had talked on this subject at WSNC, so his talk was slightly incoherent for someone who had not heard the previous one. Schofield spent most of the time going into the history of the grail legends, emphasizing they are not "fairy tales," as he put it, slightly scornfully. Strong attention was paid to the similarity of such stories across Indo-European cultures, though the same could be said of many folk tales as well.

Schofield compared the protagonists of Der Ring des Nibelungen and Parsifal convincingly, but the parallels between Siegfried, Tannhäuser, der Holländer, Tristan, and Parsifal are all clear. I am not sure that it was proved Parsifal was part of the Ring anymore than Tristan und Isolde is. Perhaps I must simply read the book, as one can hardly expect someone to condense a 324 page book into a 90 minute talk.

* Tattling *
This WSNC event was the most crowded one I have attended, more chairs had to be brought in, and every chair was taken. Quite entertainingly, during the Q&A the speaker called the libretto for Turandot absurd, and mocked the opera as having "some nice music." Note this opera is based on an Indo-European fairy tale. Is it not interesting that Wagnerians are not satisfied with their composer being so great and glorious, but must also make humiliating remarks about other composers whenever possible?


"On Saturday, after Act II of his production of La Bohème, the Met will celebrate Mr. Zeffirelli onstage, gathering singers associated with his productions and presenting him with a plaque. Plaques honoring him will also be permanently affixed on both sides of the proscenium, at eye level for anyone entering or leaving the stage."

NY Times Article | Met Interview

Elza van den Heever's Salon at the Rex

Elza * Notes *
The lovely
Elza van den Heever gave a recital of various songs for the Salons at the Rex series yesterday evening. Van den Heever began with five Brahms Lieder. She skipped a verse in "Die Mainacht," and was somewhat loud as she sang the word "Morgenrot." Her German diction was nearly perfect, only the vowel in "strahlt" was possibly off. She sang three Richard Strauss songs quite beautifully, "Morgen" was particularly fine. Next came three Debussy songs, two from Fêtes Galantes and "Green" from Ariettes oubliées. These she sang nicely, with good control of her volume. The last three songs on the program were in English, and Elza has a fine grasp of this language as well. She was cute singing Gershwin's "By Strauss" and was quite nearly sassy. Her voice was a bit too operatic for "I Will Follow My Secret Heart" and "I Am a Stranger Here Myself," and I was relieved she did not sing Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy," though it was on the program. Elza's encore, a song in Afrikaans, was gorgeous.

* Tattling *
The recital was sold out, possibly a first for this performance series. The audience was well-behaved, and there was only one watch alarm at 7pm during "Von ewiger Liebe," right after the words "Redet so viel und so mancherlei."

Elza's floral black and white dress and black patent leather heels were both elegant and sweet.

Turandot Reappropriated

Beijingturandot"Indeed, Turandot was considered so suspect that when it was first performed in Beijing in 1995 the setting was changed to an unnamed location in Central Asia."

A new production of Turandot was performed from March 21-26 at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Hao Weiya wrote a new ending to Puccini's unfinished work and the production is to tour China and Europe later this year.

Amusingly, the name Turandot or Turandokht is Persian, meaning "Daughter of Turan." In turn, Turan means "the land of the Tur," and refers to Central Asia.

IHT Article | WSJ Article | NY Times Article |  Official Site 

Amusingly, the name Turandot or Turandokht is Persian, meaning "Daughter of Turan." In turn, Turan means "the land of the Tur," and refers to Central Asia.

IHT Article | WSJ Article | NY Times Article |  Official Site

Israeli Opera's 2008-2009 Season

November 2008: Salome
December 2008: A Journey to the End of the Millennium
January - February 2009: Mefistofele
February- March 2009: Cunning Little Vixen
March- April 2009: La Bohème
April- May 2009: Tosca
May- June 2009: Carmen
July 2009: Aida

Barenboim will conduct the Zeffirelli production of Aida from La Scala. The productions of La Bohème and Carmen are also by Zeffirelli.

Jerusalem Post | Official Site

Moby-Dick Interview

"You know, the thing that's really remarkable about that book for the time period in which it was written is the improvisational, free-flowing nature of it. He goes from straight prose to something like love poetry to setting up scenes as though this were a play--and then, back again!"

I particularly like that this interview with Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer is prefaced (at least, at the time of writing, one assumes it will be corrected at some point) "A discussion with composer Jake Heggie and librettist Jake Heggie about the upcoming world-premiere production of Moby-Dick for The Dallas Opera." Personally, my favorite part of Melville's text is Chapter 55, "Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales," in which mistakes in depicting whales are discussed. Chapter 56, "Of the Less Erroneous Pictures of Whales, and the True Pictures of Whaling Scenes," is slightly less amusing. Doubtless these chapters will not appear in the opera, but one can live in hope.

Heggie/Scheer Interview | Dallas Opera | Moby-Dick Online

Tristan und Isolde Live in HD Met Simulcast

Mettristan * Notes *
The Dieter Dorn/
Jürgen Rose production of Tristan und Isolde was shown as a simulcast yesterday. I tried my best not to worry too much about the set and staging, as I did not find the Dorn/Rose Le Nozze or Così at Bayerische Staatsoper particularly interesting, though their Don Carlo was not bad. However, I found myself liking the production, especially Max Keller's lighting. Naturally, in Act III, there were ridiculous props on stage to signify we were in Kareol, including a number of toy knights in armor.

James Levine conducted well, the orchestra and singers were all synchronized. Deborah Voigt (Isolde) was in fine form, she only had one small gasp before she put the torch out in Act II. She sang the "Liebestod" beautifully. Robert Dean Smith's debut as Tristan at the Met seemed to go smoothly, especially considering he was in Berlin a few days ago and was flown in just for this performance. There were a few times when the orchestra overwhelmed him, and when he didn't exactly know where to be on stage. Michelle DeYoung was lovely as Brangäne, her high notes are fine and her voice is strong without being ugly. Matti Salminen embodied King Marke, he looked and sounded the part.

* Tattling *
Susan Graham was a fine host, I never noticed how expressive her eyebrows are. Her interviews with Levine and Voigt were especially charming. There was only one time the sound went out this time, for a few seconds when Kurwenal was singing in Act III. From the simulcast, it was quite clear that both Voigt and DeYoung have perfect teeth, and that Voigt's eyes are a most brilliant blue.

Barbara Willis Sweete's filming of the simulcast was extremely irritating. She employed the use of multiple images, which in and of itself could have been useful, but since the perspective kept changing and the images moved around, tracking a certain character, it was simply headache-inducing. Often the field of vision was constricted, so that there was just one small box on the screen with a bunch of empty black space around it. It was also quite annoying when the images would show either exactly the same image (the image of the flame trebled, for example), or the same person in different views. The constant motion was at odds with the production and with the work itself.

The Wagnerians were out in full force, the movie theater was sold-out. One couple arrived late and sat in front of me, they spoke at full volume a few times. The female half of the couple received a phone call during Act III, as the male half kept falling asleep and snoring.

SF Opera's Annual Meeting 2008

* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Annual Meeting was held yesterday afternoon. Board of Directors President George H. Hume, General Director David Gockley, and CFO Michael Simpson all gave reports. Things seem to be going well, the endowment is up to $125 million from $45 million in 2002-2003, and though subscriptions are slightly down from the previous year, single ticket sales are up. There was a great emphasis on growing a new, younger audience through radio broadcasts, live simulcasts, and the new cinemacasts. A 10 minute clip of the cinemacast for La Rondine was shown. It featured, of course, "Che il bel sogno" from Act I, and the Act II quartet involving Magda, Ruggero, Lisette, and Prunier. Certainly many details are revealed in this medium, and the cameras did not seem to move as wildly as in the Met simulcasts.

Best of all was the short performance of mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, tenor Andrew Bidlack, and pianist Lara Bolton. Mack sang "Tu Preparati a Morire" from Ariodante beautifully, although with a bit too much vibrato, but at least not the annoying sort. Bidlack sang "De'miei Bolenti Spiriti" from Act II of La Traviata with his usual aplomb. They finished off with a very pretty rendition of the duet "C'est le Ciel qui M'envoie" from La Belle Hélène.

* Tattling *
A cellular phone rang just before the film clip was shown, the ring tone was "Für Elise." A watch alarm signaled the hour during Prunier's part of "Che il bel sogno."

David Gockley did not like the dancing in Tannhäuser. During the Q&A, two people asked about not getting responses for their missives. We also learned that casting for Porgy and Bess is coming along. Karen Slack is to sing Serena, Laquita Mitchell is Clara, and Gregg Baker is Crown.

ROH's 2008-2009 Season

September 8- October 4 2008: Don Giovanni
September 16-29 2008: La fanciulla del West
September 23- October 10 2008: La Calisto
October 11-18 2008: La Bohème
October 23- November 11 2008: Matilde di Shabran
November 9-24 2008: Elektra
November 25- December 13 2008: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
December 9 2008- January 1 2009: Hänsel und Gretel
December 22- January 23 2008: Turandot
January 20-31 2009: The Beggar's Opera
January 27- February 17 2009: Die Tote Stadt
February 10 -25 2009: Rigoletto
February 23- March 10 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
March 2- April 11 2009: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
March 31- April 20 2009: Dido and Aeneas/Acis and Galatea
April 13- May 7 2009: Il trovatore
April 27- May 16 2009: Lohengrin
May 12-25 2009: L'elisir d'Amore
June 4-20 2009: Lulu
June 19- July 6 2009: La Traviata
June 26- July 18 2009: Un Ballo en Maschera
July 7-18 2009: Il barbiere di Siviglia
July 9-18 2009: Tosca

Simon Keenlyside and Mariusz Kwiecien share the role of Don Giovanni, and Keenlyside also sings Figaro in Il barbiere. David Alden has his ROH debut directing a production of La Calisto from Bayerische Staatsoper. Bryn Terfel is singing in Holländer and Tosca, while Deborah Voigt sings the title role of the latter. Renée Fleming is singing opposite Joseph Calleja in La Traviata and Thomas Hampson sings Germont. Die Tote Stadt has its UK premiere, Ingo Metzmacher will conduct. The production is from Salzburg and is the one that will be at San Francisco Opera this September. Lucas Meachem will be singing Aeneas in his ROH debut.

Bloomberg Article | Press Release [PDF] |Official Site