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Bayerische Staatsoper's 2009-2010 Season

September 19 2009- July 20 2010: Ariadne auf Naxos
September 20 2009- July 6 2010: Lucrezia Borgia
October 4 2009- June 12 2010: Carmen
October 11 2009- July 9 2010: Jenůfa
October 15 2009- July 29 2010: Lohengrin
October 31 2009- July 8 2010: Don Giovanni
November 1-8 2009: Eugene Onegin
November 13-25 2009: Il turco in Italia
November 27- December 25 2009: Hänsel und Gretel
December 1 2009- July 27 2010: L'elisir d'amore
December 2-12 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
December 6-20 2009: Die Zauberflöte
December 15-30 2009: La bohème
December 29 2009- January 9 2010: La Traviata
December 31 2009- February 16 2010: Die Fledermaus
January 6- July 22 2010: Don Carlo
January 13- July 31 2010: Tannhäuser
January 15- July 26 2010: Così fan tutte
January 22- February 2 2010: Madama Butterfly
January 31- February 7 2010: Salome
February 3- July 24 2010: Macbeth
February 21- July 4 2010: Roberto Devereux
February 22- July 12 2010: Die Tragödie des Teufels
March 7- July 17 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
March 10-21 2010: Il barbiere di Siviglia
March 28- July 13 2010: Les dialogues des Carmélites
April 4-18 2010: Palestrina
April 16-24 2010: Wozzeck
May 12-23 2010: Aida
May 22- June 2 2010: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
June 7-29 2010: Medea in Corinto
June 28- July 19 2010: Tosca
July 20-30 2010: Die schweigsame Frau

Mariusz Kwiecien and Erwin Schrott share the role of Don Giovanni. Kwiecien also sings Almaviva in Figaro. Nadja Michael stars opposite Ramón Vargas in Medea in Corinto, current Adler Alek Shrader has the role of Egeo. Shrader also sings Almaviva in Il Barbiere. Mattila sings Tosca opposite Jonas Kaufmann, with Juha Uusitalo as Scarpia.

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season

The Birds at LA Opera

Dievoegel * Notes *
Walter Braunfels' Die Vögel opened at LA Opera last night. Unfortunately, the production did not cohere. Good Hope and Loyal Friend were dressed in a nondescript early twentieth century manner, they looked more American than Athenian. The Birds, on the other hand, were garishly dressed, some were adorned with Isis Wings, invoking Vegas showgirls. The set involved a steep rake shaped like a cloud with several cut-out clouds atop it. It was not clear where the earth was in this scenario, or how exactly the Athenians made it up to the clouds. The choreography fit the singers and dancers, nothing looked terribly uncomfortable, though the incline was clearly something to contend with. During the ballet, it looked like one of the dancers skinned her right knee. The lighting, for the most part, held together. The various flower projections in the Act II love scene were campy, but the bird-shaped ones that appeared a few times were appealing.

The musicians of the orchestra sounded as if they were still trying to get their bearings. James Conlon did get a lush, pleasing quality out of them, but they were often not with the singers and the brass was hazy. The singers fared better, for one thing, the chorus was delightful. Désirée Rancatore had some lovely moments as the Nightingale, her bright voice is especially beautiful in her lower range, though her higher notes feel a bit precarious. Tenor Brandon Jovanovich certainly was loud as Good Hope, but thankfully his voice is tempered with warmth. James Johnson (Loyal Friend) had less volume than Jovanovich, but he did well in his comedic role. Baritone Martin Gantner's voice has a certain heft and richness, he was also quite amusing as the Hoopoe. The other baritone, Brian Mulligan, turned out a fine performance as Prometheus. His commanding presence and luminous voice were the highlight of the evening.

* Tattling * 
In the pre-opera interview of James Conlon, he spoke about the story of Procne and Tereus, saying that the former was turned into a nightingale, and the latter into a hoopoe. I felt very confused, as I thought it was Philomela, Procne's sister, that was turned into a nightingale, as retribution for having her tongue cut out by Tereus. Evidently, it is Procne that is turned into a nightingale in Aristophanes, but in Ovid, she is turned into a swallow.

The Loge looked rather empty, and the people around me were rather good during the first half. Naturally, after the intermission, a rather annoying couple sat behind me in D 10 and 11. They unwrapped candies, ate them noisily and unceasingly, spoke aloud a few times, and kicked my seat. At least it was just them, and they were easily ignored.

After the performance, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Brian of Out West Arts. At Kendall's Brasserie we were seated right next to many of the dancers and the production crew, who seemed to be having a jolly time.

Berkeley Symphony's 2009-2010 Season

October 15 2009:
John Adams, The Chairman Dances
Gabriela Lena Frank, Peregrinos (West Coast premiere)
Béla Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra

December 3 2009:
Steven Stucky, Radical Light
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 7
Steven Stucky, "Lament" from the oratorio August 4, 1964 (West Coast premiere)
Igor Stravinsky, The Firebird Suite (1919 version)

February 11 2010:
Paul Dresher, Cornucopia
Esa-Pekka Salonen, Five Images After Sappho
Beethoven, Symphony No. 3, "Eroica"

April 1 2010:
Jörg Widmann, Con brio (West Coast premiere)
Samuel Barber, Knoxville, Summer of 1915
Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 1

Official Site | 2009-2010 Season

Salonen conducts Beethoven's 5th

Salonen * Notes *
Esa-Pekka Salonen is currently conducting LA Phil in a program which includes his own Violin Concerto, Ligeti's Clocks and Clouds, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. Today's 11am performance was quite packed, since it is a part of a three-week celebration that marks the end of Salonen's tenure as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The festivities this morning started with a short film on Salonen's career in LA, followed by the Ligeti. Clocks and Clouds had a particular sort sustained droning, a pretty shimmering sound. The piece seems scored with female voices instead of violins, and the ghostly sounds the women of the Los Angeles Master Chorale produced were absolutely lovely. At other times they sounded like a flock of unidentifiable beasts, each intoning calls to one another. The effect was strangely arresting.

The soloist for the Salonen, Leila Josefowicz, appeared grounded and played with great intensity. The first movement had a folkish aspect, but with a certain etherealness as well. Movement III - Pulse II was the most fun, it involves a drum kit and a good deal of flirtiness. In contrast, the ending was rather forlorn.

Beethoven's 5th was played with relative restraint, without unnecessary bombast. The orchestra sounded bright here, and Salonen sense of phrasing comes out distinctly. The horns never blared, and only had a few brief moments of wooliness. The woodwinds did have a few seconds of incohesiveness in the slow movement. The last movement was suitably triumphant.

* Tattling * 
After a five hour drive to get to this performance, the box office could not find my ticket. Apparently I need use the NATO phonetic alphabet when spelling out my name over the phone. Then I managed to sit the terrace instead of the front orchestra, and had to scramble around to find the correct seat. Thankfully everyone involved was very nice to a rather harried and sleep-deprived Tattler.

The acoustics of Walt Disney Concert Hall are such that not only can one hear every sound of the musicians, but also of the audience members. This is especially terrible in the case of quiet music, in the Ligeti there was a veritable chorus of coughs from every direction. It seemed to me that if one person was to unwrap a candy in quite far away from where one was sitting, it could sit be heard and was not buffered by the presence other people or by the structure of the seating. Acoustically, everyone is exposed.

The audience was fairly good, impatient at the Ligeti but still quiet, attentive to the Salonen, and more relaxed with Beethoven. Either someone's hearing aid or some recording device made rather loud, high-pitched sounds during the loudest parts of the Beethoven.

Cantori Domino: Matthäuspassion

* Notes *
Cantori Domino gave a performance of the Passion According to St. Matthew last Sunday in Santa Monica. Though the musicians and singers were not entirely together under the direction of Maurita Phillips-Thornburgh, the overall effect was good, as the music is so incredible. Indeed, many of the soloists, whether they were violinists or sopranos, were not technically brilliant. For example, the female vocalists were not particularly strong. Tenor Jeff Greif was a bit frail as the Evangelist, but bass-baritone Leroy Villanueva (Christus) sang with warmth and beauty. The Amadeus Choir of the Los Robles Children's Choir had rather angelic voices and did well when singing at the beginning and end of Part I.

* Tattling * 
There was quite a line to get into First United Methodist Church, and indeed had we not left Motezuma early, it was quite likely we would not have heard St. Matthew Passion at all. Many proud parents were in attendance, at least for the first half. Some of them had video cameras, but at least none of these made noise. Texting during the performance was noted. One person even was going over her lines in a script.

At one point in the middle of the first half, the violinists and violist of one of the orchestras was singing along. This was clearly intentional, as they had the music, but was pleasantly surreal anyway.

Motezuma at Long Beach Opera

* Notes *
Long Beach Opera just gave the American premiere of Vivaldi's Motezuma at the end of March. I attended yesterday's second and final performance of this run, over at Santa Monica High School. From the very beginning things went awry, the overture was not played well under the direction of conductor Andreas Mitisek. The horn and trumpet were ridiculously out of tune, the trills were unclear, and it was almost as if they were goading the audience into booing. As the afternoon progressed, the brass players did not redeem themselves, though at least there were brief gorgeous moments between the harpsichord and the strings.

Likewise, the singing was, for the most part, not impressive. Motezuma (Roberto Gomez) himself sounded fairly strong in the recitative, with a warm resonance, but his sound was notably dampened during his arias, when the full orchestra played. Though louder, Cynthia Jansen as Mitrena either gulped or cracked during the recitatives more than once, she was rather out of tune at times. Charles Maxwell was a husky and shrill Fernando, he even managed to shriek out of tune in a completely unmusical manner that rivaled the problems of the brass section. The trio between these three at the end of the first half was a disaster. At least they were good actors, Maxwell in particular was graceful in his various leaps and somersaults. The other singers were less offensive musically. Neither Courtney Huffman (Teutile) nor Caroline Worra (Asprano) were bad, they did have too much vibrato for this piece. Worra's movements were more solid than Huffmann's, but in general the choreography did not sit well on the body. Peabody Southwell as Ramiro, on the other hand, did well, her first aria displayed a warm, beautiful voice and one could at least get the gist of the fineness of Vivaldi's music. She also acted well, and was not unconvincing as a male.

The post-modern production set the opera in an ethnographic museum, and involved many clips of anthropological topics dealing with Mexico. Many of the images used were arresting, however, there lacked a cohesiveness overall. The effect was rather surreal, the people wore contemporary clothing at first, but took on period accouterments over time. This could have been compelling but somehow it just missed the mark. Also, having the recitatives in English, but the arias and ensemble parts in Italian was jarring and unexpected. Again, the immediacy of being able to understand the plot as it is being sung is a good idea, it is an interesting compromise to not translate the other text into English, but it just was weird in this case.

* Tattling * 
Somehow the tickets I had ordered online for this opera did not make it to the box office, but the kind people there sorted it out quickly, and we were even given an upgrade. The performance started 20 minutes late, due to traffic, it was said. We were read a letter from "Vivaldi," which asked us to donate money to Long Beach Opera, to turn off our cellular phones, and to locate the nearest exit door in case of an emergency. Patrons were seated after the music began, and one of these latecomers had a cellular phone that rang during the performance. People seemed to speak aloud throughout. I admit that I could hardly contain my laughter at the various intonation issues, as they were so numerous and embarrassing.

My companion had also planned for us to go to a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in Santa Monica at 7pm, and was a bit delighted that he was to make the Opera Tattler late for said event, as Motezuma was to end just then. Unfortunately, by intermission we decided to leave early from the opera instead, as it was going so poorly. We heard three arias in the second half and high-tailed it over to First United Methodist Church. It is such a shame, Vivaldi deserves better treatment. One really does want a community-based opera like Long Beach Opera to do well, especially since they make exciting choices in repertoire, so this performance was disappointing.

SFCM's Orpheus in the Underworld

* Notes *
SFCM Opera Theatre presented Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld this weekend. Bruno Ferrandis conducted with lightness and cheer, but there were several moments that were not synchronous. This seems to be a common problem at Cowell Theater, perhaps owing to some awkwardness of the pit, which is very narrow. The singing likewise was not always with the orchestra, some of the tempi were overly ambitious. The chorus was especially not together when they were made to sing on either side of the audience in the first half of the performance.

That aside, it was a delightful evening, and some of the singing was quite good. The music is likeable, and the can-can is certainly fun. The opera was set in 1960s San Francisco, which worked perfectly well and was entertaining. It was particularly amusing that Mount Olympus was the War Memorial Opera House, suggested by a projection of the proscenium. The choreography was strong, the students were able to pull it off to hilarious effect. The costumes were of good quality and were convincing.

* Tattling * 
There was a fair amount of talking aloud during the beginning of the evening, but this relented after the intermission. Public Opinion's pink suit looked smart, but could have used one good once over with an iron, at least on the skirt.

Leila Josefowicz at SFS

Leilajosefowicz1 * Notes * 
James Gaffigan is conducting San Francisco Symphony in a program of Haydn, Thomas Adès, and Mozart this week. Gaffigan is a tiny sprite of a person, brimming with energy from the beginning in the Allegro assai con brio of Haydn's Symphony No. 52 in C minor. The woodwinds sounded slightly squeaky in their entrance for the Andante, and the horns were not clear, though the playing improved as the movement progressed. The strings were a little sloppy in the third movement, a minuet. The finale was oddly not very presto, it was not particularly played particularly fast, though vigorously.

Adès' Violin Concerto (Concentric Paths), Opus 24 has an outer space sensibility and is oddly tactile. I found some of the music rather evocative, though for the most part it seemed both difficult to produce and to listen to. The syncopation at the beginning of the third movement was perhaps the least baffling. The soloist, pert violinist Leila Josefowicz, certainly seemed on the ball and very focused.

The concert ended a delightful rendition of Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat Major. The flute and clarinets sounded lovely in the Andante con moto, and the Allegro was played with particular zest.

* Tattling * 
There were some vague murmurs from the audience, but hardly any other noise.

Gaffigan and Josefowicz answered questions during the post-concert Off the Podium talk. The former is articulate and funny, the latter is endearingly awkward. Josefowicz even good-naturedly explained where she had gotten her striking outfit for the performance.