Bayerische Staatsoper's 2008-2009 Season

October 2 2008- July 24 2009: Macbeth
October 4-11 2008: Das Gehege / Salome
October 5 2008- July 13 2009: Norma
October 19-25 2008: Die Bassariden
October 23- November 2 2008: Eugene Onegin
November 1-6 2008: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
November 8 2008- May 21 2009: Der fliegende Holländer
November 10 2008- January 31 2009: Wozzeck
November 22 2008- March 27 2009: Tamerlano
November 24 2008- July 26 2009: Luisa Miller
November 28 2008- July 7 2009: Werther
December 9-14 2008: Doktor Faustus
December 13-18 2008: Hänsel und Gretel
December 17 2008- May 31 2009: La Bohème
December 21-28 2008: Die Zauberflöte
December 23 2008- June 15 2009: La Traviata
December 31 2008- February 24 2009: Die Fledermaus
January 4-10 2009: Carmen
January 19- July 14 2009: Palestrina
February 2-18 2009: Elektra
February 7- July 22 2009: Nabucco
February 20-26 2009: La Calisto
February 23- July 6 2009: Lucrezia Borgia
March 1- July 31 2009: Falstaff
March 14- July 30 2009: Otello
April 8- July 9 2009: Jenůfa
April 9-12 2009: Parsifal
April 26- May 2 2009: Così fan tutte
May 13-15 2009: Madama Butterfly
May 16-23 2009: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 8-30 2009: Aida
July 5-19 2009: Lohengrin
July 13-20 2009: Ariadne auf Naxos
June 14- July 30 2009: Idomeneo

Nicola Luisotti is conducting a new production of Macbeth next season at the Bavarian State Opera. Željko Lučić sings the title role, Nadja Michael sings Lady Macbeth, and Dimitri Pittas is Macduff. Anna Netrebko sings in the May performances of La Bohème, with Joseph Calleja as her Rodolfo. John Relyea sings Colline. Relyea is also singing the title role in Le Nozze di Figaro, with Lucas Meachem as the Count. Angela Gheorghiu is Violetta Valéry in the June performances of La Traviata, singing opposite Jonas Kaufmann. Simon Keenlyside is Germont. Paolo Gavanelli sings the title role of Nabucco during the Münchner Opernfestspiele 2009. Earlier in the year he also sings Sharpless in Madama Butterfly.

New Productions for 2008-2009 | Official Site

Paris Opera's 2008-2009 Season

September 6-11 2008: Eugene Onegin
September 24- November 2 2008: Rigoletto
October 11- November 2 2008: The Bartered Bride
October 13- November 12 2008: Cunning Little Vixen
October 30- December 3 2008: Tristan und Isolde
November 17- December 23 2008: Die Zauberflöte
November 25- December 21 2008: Fidelio
January 17-30 2009: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk
January 24- February 8 2009: Yvonne, princesse de Bourgogne
January 29- March 4 2009: Madama Butterfly
February 27- March 22 2009: Idomeneo
February 28- March 26 2009: Werther
April 4- May 8 2009: Macbeth
April 10- May 23 2009: Un ballo in maschera
May 4-18 2009: The Makropulos Affair
May 20- June 5 2009: Tosca
June 13-21 2009: Demofoonte
June 18- July 2009: King Roger

Riccardo Muti conducts Demofoonte. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde opposite of Clifton Forbis. Paul Groves sings the title role of Idomeneo, with Joyce DiDonato as Idamante and Camilla Tilling as Ilia. Rolando Villazon shares the role of Werther with Marcus Haddock. Deborah Voigt shares the role of Amelia with Angela Brown and Ulrica Elena Manistina.

2008-2009 Schedule | Official Site

Macbeth Live in HD Met Simulcast

Metmacbeth* Notes *
The Met's simulcast of Macbeth aired today. The production, by Adrian Noble, is new to the Met and opened October 22, 2007. Set after World War II, Mark Thompson's set and costumes are dark, lots of black, grey, olive, khaki. There were many leather jackets and machine guns, Banquo, for example, seemed to be dressed as Rambo for most of Act I. The witches were based on Diane Arbus, each witch wore some sort of hat and smeared lipstick. The purses of the witches were much too loud in Act I, it sounded like coins were dropping on the stage. There were a few supernumeraries used in this group, including three female children. A low point of the opera was the beginning of Act III, when a witches brew was created from little girl vomit, the three had to eat bread and spit it out in an over-sized chalice. I never imagined I would see simulated bulimia onstage at the Met. Sue Lefton's choreography was a little vulgar for the witches, a lot of hip thrusts and such, though when the witches set out chairs for Lady Macbeth to walk on just before she sings in her mad scene worked well.

The cast was impressive, everyone sang at a high level. Baritone Željko Lučić was a fine Macbeth, with much emotional range, going from mournful, to afraid, to defiantly angry with ease. Maria Guleghina was incredible as Lady Macbeth, her voice sounded almost angelic at times, but also could be crystalline and downright frightening. She had good control of her vibrato, for the most part, though she did have a tendency to have an occasional wobbling gasp, especially at the beginning of the brindisi in Act II. Dimitri Pittas (Macduff) sounded a little reedy to me at first, but he was incredible in his Act IV aria, singing well and even shedding tears. He was somewhat difficult to hear over the movements of the chorus and the playing of the orchestra toward the end of the opera. Bass-baritone John Relyea also had a few inaudible moments after the discovery of Duncan's body, but sang his Act II aria "Come dal ciel precipita" quite beautifully. I was most moved by the choral parts at the end of Act II and IV, everyone sounded together and James Levine had the orchestra well in hand.

I do find the May performances of Macbeth tempting, for René Pape will be singing Banquo, and Joseph Calleja sings Macduff. As for the lead roles, I have never heard baritone Carlos Alvarez, but I do avoid Andrea Gruber, whom I find grating. It might be fine, given that Lady Macbeth is supposed to be unpleasant to the ear. 

* Tattling *
The line to enter the Century San Francisco Centre 9 formed before 9:30 am, and Theater 4 was pretty full. Lado Ataneli was listed online as Macbeth today, and his name also appeared on the program I was given at the theater. Apparently he took ill, and Lucic replaced him. The picture at this theater was clearer than at Bay Street, though I did get a headache by the second half. The image did go fuzzy or slowed down at least four times, once in the first chorus, another during "Mi si affaccia un pugnal," once again in "Ah, la paterna mano," and a last time at the last scene. These were minor, more unfortunate were the disturbances in sound, one lasted half a second near the end of Banquo's last aria, the other was during Macbeth's "Pietà, rispetto, amore," in which we were treated to three brief but loud sounds. A shame, considering these are two great moments of the opera. They also did not cut the sound from backstage fast enough for the beginning of Act IV, and we could hear stage directions with the orchestra.

The host today was Peter Gelb himself, the General Director of the Met. He gave a brief interview of James Levine just before the conductor went out to the orchestra pit. The cameras moved around quite a bit, and I was better able to appreciate this by sitting a bit further back this time. It gave me a headache, but for the most part it wasn't too bad. The worst was when Banquo's ghost appeared, it was difficult to make sense of how he appeared or what exactly was going on, because there were so many close-ups. Again, I would have preferred not to see the young supernumeraries regurgitate bread up close or see John Relyea's fillings. I did enjoy Mary Jo Heath's interviewing the two leads at the beginning of intermission. Lučić told us he is a Verdi fan, and Guleghina stated "I am becoming crazy" of her character, not herself.

Penultimate Performance of Macbeth

Act IV, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
I wasn't going to bore you with yet another review of Macbeth, but I had some thoughts about OperaVision and also wanted to pose a question. Thank goodness for OperaVision, or else one would never be able to see the large hole in the ceiling! Generally, I did not look at the screens too much, and they were only distracting during Lady Macbeth's Act IV mad scene, as the stage is dark except for the box. For certain parts of that scene, the cameras were focused on the bright white of the box, so it was slightly blinding and difficult to avoid. I noticed that the close-ups brought to light certain stage mishaps that would ordinarily only be seen by a fraction of the audience. For example, Duncan's crown fell off at the end of Act I, when he was being passed around by Banquo, Malcolm, and Macbeth. Elza van den Heever discreetly put it back on his head, and it was not really a problem. More absurdly, during Lady Macbeth's mad scene, Georgina Lukács did not manage to extinguish the candle precisely when the lights in the box went out.

In the last season, I have been hearing a lot of high-pitched squeaks. These noises are not the doors, which also squeak, at least in the back of the balcony, for I am able to localize exactly where the door squeaks are coming from. I am pretty sure they are not hearing aids, because the squeals seem too loud for that. I have heard squeaking in every performance I have been to at SF Opera in the last week, except for The Rake's Progress on Wednesday. I know I'm not entirely alone, for my friend noticed squeals during Tannhäuser. I appeal to you, gentle reader, have you noticed these high-pitched sounds? I've been trying my best not to notice them, but it is quite an exercise.

* Tattling *
The house was not totally full, anyone in standing room who wanted to sit could have. I had the misfortune of being behind a pair of women who moved into the center at the last moment, almost directly in front of me but not quite. They wanted to sit behind some empty chairs, which makes perfect sense given that in balcony rear, if the person in front of you leans forward, it blocks your view. Too bad these women were somewhat noisy, they whispered when there was no singing, so during the overture and such. I first sighed, then coughed, and then I hushed them and they were quiet for most of the first half.

I considered moving for the second half, but since they were silenced, I figured they would be quiet for the second half, especially as it has proved most soporific, despite its great beauty. In fact, one of the women was asleep for most of the last two acts. She only woke up during the applause, when she would make demands of her companion, as she was rather cold. She spoke during Macduff's aria, a shame considering that Alfredo Portilla was sounding the best he has.

By the end of the opera I was sniffling a great deal, and it occurred to me that I was allergic to the vast quantities of perfume the two women were wearing. At least I didn't have a coughing fit. I am happy to report that the sleeping woman clapped excessively, and screamed at the top of her lungs. Interestingly, after hearing others bravo, she switched to that instead.

Actually, it was not as bad as I've made it out to be, they were quiet for Thomas Hampson, so I shouldn't complain. The most amusing thing was they were both quite cold, kept putting on layers and layers of clothing during the performance, and had to snuggle up to one another. On the other hand, I was overheated, and had to bundle up my hair and roll up the sleeves of my fake Bavarian outfit:

Opera Tattler Fake Bavarian

5th Performance of Macbeth

Thomas Hampson, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
Last night I was invited at the last minute to hear Macbeth again, from box seats, so I gave the opera another try. Of course there was no booing this time, so I did laugh a good deal less. From Box O, I was able to see the green slime on Duncan after his murder. Also, I could see an entire shoe trying-on scene with Lady Macbeth and some witches that I missed the other times, in Act II Scene 2. One of the problems with the production is that Lady Macbeth is just so crazy from the get-go, chained at the top of the box. By the time she has her mad scene, Lady Macbeth is fairly subdued, she doesn't seem much crazier at this point than at the beginning.

The set still had problems with its loudness. Again I heard some stage directions just before the upstage curtain started moving, this is after Macbeth's "Mi si affaccia un pugnal?" in Act I Scene 2.

The singing was consistent, Thomas Hampson sounded especially great in "Pietà, rispetto, amore." The only person who was notably better was Alfredo Portilla as Macduff. This could be because of acoustics, some voices are dampened in the rear of the orchestra, or it could be that Portilla has been working hard. He did withdrawal from the role of Pinkerton he was supposed to sing next week. Portilla did have one note near the end of his big aria that wasn't quite right.   

* Tattling *
Most of the patrons of Box O were very quiet, none of them had mobile phones that rang nor watch alarms during the hour. However, the women in seats 1 and 2 whispered and giggled a great deal in the first half. The staging is so loud, I didn't feel right about hushing them. Plus, I was someone else's guest, and I wanted to be at least somewhat gracious. Unfortunately, by the second half, which this pair of women were slightly late for, they were speaking aloud during the music. Thankfully they did become more and more silent as the night wore on, I believe one of them might have fallen asleep.

Additionally, my companion noted that I was wearing blue jeans to the opera, and she had never seen me wear such apparel, even when we were at university. I promised I would tattle on myself, and now I have. I have no real excuse, it was just what I was wearing that day.

Opening of Macbeth

Thomas Hampson and Georgina Lukács, Photo by Terrence McCarthy* Notes *
It was as expected, the audience at the Macbeth opening was, on the whole, discontent with the production and even booed the members of production team that dared to take bows. That is quite a feat, the last time I heard Americans boo at a production was five years ago at Alcina. Personally I found Alcina to be more offensive than this Macbeth, since the former is more inaccessible to a general audience and an alienating staging just makes matters worse. Additionally, David Pountney's Macbeth production has a lot of intentionally absurd elements, and somehow the earnestness of the Alcina was particularly grating. Incidentally, both of these productions are on DVD (
Alcina and Macbeth), should you want to view them.

Despite the silliness of Marie Jeanne Lecca's fashion don'ts (pink and red witch costumes, Lady Macbeth's S & M dress, the Star Trek outfits on the murderers), the hula hooping, paper mummies, and drag queens, it was all a little boring. The person in front of me fell asleep at one point. The set, designed by Stefanos Lazaridis, was not terribly fascinating, just one round room with huge gash in the ceiling and a box with doors that got shoved about. It was too noisy, of course moving the box around wasn't at all quiet, but particularly in the parts in which curtains were drawn over the back wall. The first time this happened, during a scene change in Act II, I was able to hear some stage directions.

The choreography was likewise loud, Vivienne Newport has a witch hula hooping, paper mummies tearing themselves, Birnam Wood banging on the box, and the chorus inexplicably taping up the side of box at the end. The hula hooping and the Wood were, at best, cute, but the mummies and tape were obnoxious. The choreography for the witches was overly busy, but the chorus did well. As did Georgina Lukács as Lady Macbeth, her movements were terrifying, very predatory and slightly revolting.

The Adlers in this production were all great: Noah Stewart (Malcolm), Jeremy Galyon (A Doctor), and Elza van den Heever (A Lady in Waiting) had small roles but sang well. Raymond Aceto sang Banquo with good volume, but his voice is somewhat thin. Tenor Alfredo Portilla was a mournful and suitable Macduff, his aria in the beginning of Act IV was fine though a few of his high notes toward the end were strained. The Lady Macbeth, Georgina Lukács, had impressive acting, but lacked control of her voice. She sounded lovely in her lower range, but her higher notes wobbled a great deal. Thomas Hampson has suitable gravity and pathos for the role of Macbeth, and sang well. His fine volume and rich tone were pleasing. 

* Tattling *
The turnout was poor for an opening night, but perhaps it was because of the
Obama rally that took place nearby or possibly fatigue from last week's opening of La Rondine. Many people were late because streets were closed for the rally, but they were seated during the short pause between Acts I and II. Standing room only had a few dozen people, I was all alone at the box office until 9:10 am, when a small line started forming for the rush tickets. Too bad there weren't any available, and no sign indicating so. It was odd given that I saw many open seats, most standees found seats without a problem.

The audience was subdued during the performance, as the aforementioned sleeping will attest to. A pair of men in Y 18 and 20 of the orchestra were very upset by the production, and I kept laughing at this, because it was so darling. I laughed so much at the booing I could not manage to boo myself.

Macbeth Final Dress Rehearsal

Macbeth* Notes *
Verdi's Macbeth opens tonight at San Francisco Opera, with
Thomas Hampson in the title role. I was fortunate enough to attend the final dress rehearsal last Sunday, and was at least impressed with Hampson. David Pountney's production, directed by Nicola Raab, is the consummate Regieoper that San Francisco seems to dislike so. I overheard it called "alienating" and "weird." It reminded me a bit of that misquote of Tolstoy in Nabokov's Ada, except substitute "opera production" for "family." I felt I had seen many of the same devices before, and I'll try to keep just how rather general so it won't be spoilt for you, gentle reader. The camouflage fatigues, unexplained props, odd projections, sets that look worse for wear, meandering child supernumeraries, noisy choreography, fake breasts, paper, and drunken staggering all gave me a sense of déjà vu. I was just waiting for my friend Chattering Teeth Head and a few couches suspended from the ceiling to show up. It is not surprising at all that the production is from Oper Zürich.

* Tattling *
There were a gaggle of high school students at the dress rehearsal, but they were well-behaved. I sat next to a pair of rather loud women speaking Russian, but I did not silence them as it seemed futile, given that the production team obviously spoke during the performance. Somehow I managed to dress in a manner not unlike the witches and overheard someone comment on that as I left the opera house.

Das Märchen eines armen Narren

MacbethoteyA new production of Verdi's Macbeth opened at Seattle Opera on May 6th. The director was Bernard Uzan, his work on Tosca at San Francisco certainly was different. The Tosca production was pretty, but somewhat boring. This Macbeth is both ugly and boring.

Robert Israel's set was a silver room with three doors and a balcony that could be hidden. There were various ruins strewn about, and these were manipulated by the witches. The stupidest part of the opera was when blood started dripping from one of the panels of the room, predictably, for Lady Macbeth's mad scene. Mats had been carefully placed on the floor where the blood dripped, so when one panel started dripping, the audience could see just where the next blood streams would appear. Israel's costumes were pretty dull, a lot of tartan, except for the witches, who seemed to be dressed as either brides or widows from different eras, with some red shoes or gloves for good measure.

Gordon Hawkins was adequate in the lead role, he had sung the night before and Louis Otey was set to sing for our particular performance, but he took ill and was replaced at the last moment. Elena Zelenskaya was a cold Lady Macbeth, her voice is icy. The cast was all fine, but not particularly exciting, with the exception of tenor Joseph Calleja as Macduff. He was the only voice that stood out and his brief aria in Act III was the high point of the performance.

It was a bit surreal to hear the famous lines of Shakespeare being sung in Italian, for some reason Otello doesn't bother me as much as Macbeth as an opera. Also, much of the music in Act I and II struck me as inappropriately gleeful.