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Met 2014-15 Season Predictions- Part 1

Opening night at the Met is one of my favorite days of the year. A new season connotes discovery, excitement, and a whole other slew of exciting performances to look forward to. Especially after the Met’s unusually long summer break, a new season brings back that sense of currency and anticipation to the opera community. Since my season predictions are unusually late this year, let’s jump right in!

Le Nozze di Figaro (Opening Night): Richard Eyre, who directed a sleepy “Werther” last season, returns to the Met on what was a short-notice takeover from Michael Grandage. Fortunately, I’m not sure it’s possible to have a Figaro that looks sleepier than the recently-retired Jonathan Miller one. I’m especially looking forward to the lauded American soprano Amanda Majeski’s opening night debut, as well as the formidable bass/baritone duo of Ildar Abdrazakov and Peter Mattei. Am I the only person who’s tired of Isabel Leonard? The production returns later in the season with Danielle DeNiese, who should sparkle as Susanna, as well as Mariusz Kweicien and Erwin Schrott. It’s nice to have Levine back in the pit on a more regular schedule to conduct the first run of performances, with Edo de Waart takin over later. September 22- December 20

La Bohème: The Met must have set aside whatever feud it has with Angela Gheorghiu, because the notoriously-difficult Romanian soprano is back at the Met for the first time in over a year. Later in the season, Kristine Opolais makes a scheduled return to the role she sang on short-notice last spring. While a hugely convincing performer, Opolais’ voice lacks the sweetness and fluidity of many famous Mimis, like Gheorghiu. Met renor-of-the-moment Bryan Hymel and Ramon Vargas share Rodolfo and Riccardo Frizza conducts. September 23- January 24.

Macbeth: Anna Netrebko’s Lady Macbeth has arrived, and sooner than expected. Netrebko takes her second stab(pun very much intended) at the intense Verdi heroine in a cast for the ages. Zeljko Lucic is Macbeth, Joseph Calleja is Macduff, and Rene Pape is Banquo(can you say “luxury casting”?) in Adrian Noble’s WWII setting of the classic play-turned-opera. Fabio Lusis conducts. September 24-October 18

Carmen: In what must be the year of Richard Eyre, one of the more successful productions of Gelb’s tenure(Eyre’s 2012 Carmen) returns. Anita Rachvelishvili(you know that you’re getting good at what you do when you can spell that without looking at anything) and Elina Garanca present their two different interpretations of the eponymous gypsy. Their Don Joses are Aleksandrs Antonenko(a future met Otello, if the gossip is to believed), Roberto Alagna, and Jonas Kaufmann. Anita Hartig(a positively magnificent Mimi in Boheme last season) and Richard Tucker Award Winner Ailyn Perez makes her long-awaited Met debut in a mostly thankless role as Micaela. Massimo Cavaletti, Ildar Abdrazakov, and Gabor Bretz share Escamillo and Pablo Heras-Casado and Loius Langree share conducting responsibilities. September 30-March 7

Die Zauberflote: Julie Taymor’s puppet-full production returns to the Met in it’s original German for the first time in a few seasons. Most notably, Pretty Yende returns to the Met after her overnight success in “Le Comte Ory” last season to sing Pamina. Also in the cast are Marcus Werba and Toby Spence as Papageno and Tamino. Kathryn Lewek makes her MEt debut as the Queen of the Night later in the run. Adam Fischer conducts. October 6- November 8.

The Death of Klinghoffer: While Peter Gelb’s idea of new productions is important, it’s new, attention-getting works that will keep opera thriving in the 21st century. The Met’s programming of Klinghoffer, I believe, is the best artistic decision of Gelb’s tenure. A landmark opera by an American composer about a controversial topic can and will stimulate public discussion about opera the way it hasn’t in quite a long time and embodies everything the Met should stand for. Paolo Szot, a treat in any performance, is the captain of the Achile Lauro. Leon Klinghoffer is played by Alan Opie, and Micaela Martens plays Marilyn Klinghoffer. David Robertson conducts in an English National Opera co-production by Tom Morris. Here’s to putting opera back into the public eye! October 20- November 15.

Aida: If there’s anything that needs replacing at the Met, it’s that tired Sonja Frisell Aida. However, it’s back and the casts are notably excellent. Liudmyla Monastyrska, Tamara Wilson(making her debut replacing a pregnant Latonia Moore), and Oksana Dyka, a shimmering soprano who made met Met debut last season, share the title role. Olga Borodina and Violeta Urmana, who has sung the title role multiple times at the Met, sing Amneris. Marcello Giordani and Marco Berti share the role of Radames and Marco Armiliato and Placido Domingo conduct.

Lady Macbeth of Mtensk: You could say that I’m most excited to see the Lady Macbeths this upcoming season, and you’d be correct. Coming out of the mothballs is Graham Vick’s production and Eva-Maria Westbroek, a personal favorite, is ready to bring her most famous role to the Met. Brandon Jovanovich is Katerina Izmailova’s paramour, Sergey. James Conlon conducts the score that got Shostakovich in trouble with Stalin. November 11-29

Il Barbiere di Siviglia: Bart Sher’s best Met production(and that’s saying something) is back again, this time starring Isabel Leonard(feigned surprise) and Lawence Brownlee as Rosina and the Count. Christopher Maltman plays Figaro and Michele Mariotti conducts.

Die Meistersinger von Nuremberg: Otto Schenk’s picturesque production breaks the Met’s season-long Wagner fast with a case headed by Johan Botha as Walther, Annette Dasch as Eva, and James Morris and Michael Volle as Hans Sachs, taking over for Johan Reuter. Get ready for 6 hours of fun with James Levine conducting. December 2- 23

La Traviata: Marina Rebeka and Marina Poplavskaya(You can never have too many Marinas, can you?) share the central role of Violetta in Willy Decker’s production that has overstayed its welcome on the stages of the world. Stephen Costello and Francesco Demuro share Alfredo, and Ludovic Tezier sings Alfredo’s father. Since Poplavskaya cancelled her scheduled Countesses in Figaro at the Met and has not been in the best vocal health as of late, it is open for speculation whether or not she will cancel and, if she does, who will take her spot. Marco Armiliato conducts. December 11- January 24

Hansel and Gretel: The Met’s haunt-your-dreams frightening production FOR FAMILIES returns for the holidays. Christine Rice and Aleksandra Kurzak are the siblings and Robert Brubaker will do wonderfully as the Witch. Sir Andrew Davis conducts. December 18- January 8

Stay tuned for Part 2 in a few hours!

Photo: Unknown

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New York State of Mind: Ariadne auf Naxos and An American Tragedy at the Glimmerglass Festival

I’m always amused by the fact that Cooperstown, NY, a small, random, classically American town situated over four hours north of New York City, can support a world-renown summer opera festival as well as the Baseball Hall of Fame. Resting on Otsego Lake, the Glimmerglass Opera Festival provides a welcome escape for opera fans who flock to the beautiful and practically constructed Alice Busch Opera Theater to see three operas and one musical be performed in repertory every summer. It’s always a little baffling how an opera festival draws so many people to the rural, baseball themed Cooperstown every year, but breaking even budgets and a sense of community integration and enthusiasm for the performances being presented must be what keeps the festival an opera destination every year.

This was my second year up at Glimmerglass, after having seen Camelot and King for a Day last year. Recently, under the artistic leadership of Francesca Zambello, the festival has been re-branded and rejuvenated with young-artist lead performances, audience-accessible events(weekly free tours of the opera house, free pre-performance lectures, and myriad recitals and concerts).

This year, the four presentations at the Glimmerglass Festival were Ariadne auf Naxos, An American Tragedy, Madama Butterfly, and Carousel. I was up at Cooperstown over the weekend of August 8th and saw all four performances. This first half will discuss Ariadne and American Tragedy, with reviews of the other two productions which will follow later this week.

Each year at Glimmerglass, Francesca Zambello has made it her mission to have an “artist in residence” every summer. In the past, it has been singers like Deborah Voigt and Nathan Gunn. The artist in residence usually performs in one production and a recital, with smaller concerts and mentor-ship roles throughout. The artist in residence this year was the dramatic soprano Christine Goerke.

Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival. (L to R): Beth Lytwynec as Dryad, Jeni Houser as Naiad, Jacqueline Echols as Echo, Christine Goerke as Prima Donna, Adam Cioffari as Agent, John Kapusta as Dance Captain, Catherine Martin as Composer, Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D'Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate.

Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.
(L to R): Beth Lytwynec as Dryad, Jeni Houser as Naiad, Jacqueline Echols as Echo, Christine Goerke as Prima Donna, Adam Cioffari as Agent, John Kapusta as Dance Captain, Catherine Martin as Composer, Carlton Ford as Harlequin, Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Rachele Gilmore as Zerbinetta, Gerard Michael D’Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Wynn Harmon as Manager of the Estate.

This year, the mammoth-voiced Goerke returned to her Glimmerglass roots as the Prima Donna in Richard StraussAriadne auf Naxos. Ariadne has always been a fascinating work for me. The opera itself is a masterpiece. While musically it’s mostly quite compelling and entertaining, the psychological aspect of the piece is my favorite part. The creation of these mostly-nameless characters is thought provoking beyond belief when the squabbling opera troupe and raucous comedians come together to form the “opera” portion. I’ve always found the prologue more musically interesting, and after picking my brain about it, I realized why. The prologue is written by Strauss. The opera is written by the Komponist who dominates so much of the prologue. It is a first venture into opera, for this young composer, so of course it is flawed. The Ariadne/Bacchus duet always manages to feel long, but Strauss really understood the cycle of composition for a young composer. The two vitally important pieces of the piece could not exist without each other. Strauss asks more questions than he answers with Ariadne, but isn’t that what good theatre is about? This is just my personal analysis of the piece, so feel free to leave your impressions in the comments.

The “mostly-nameless” characters whom I brought up in the first paragraph are the members of the two rivaling factions slated to perform at the home of the “richest man in Vienna” or, as Zambello’s production would have it, upstate New York. Zambello sets the production in a barn in upstate New York, decked-out with goats, chickens, and tractors. Part of what makes Glimmerglass so special is its surroundings, which were referenced in this production. The production was mostly funny and created some pleasant stage pictures. The crowd scenes were stimulating, but a lack of clear blocking in the opera portion made a scene that can easily feel long feel endless. Too bad Strauss didn’t write a part for the “direktor” that we can stick the blame on. Also, in the beginning, Zambello had the characters enter from the house, chattering and running throughout the theater as the prelude was going, drowning out some of Strauss’ lovely music, conducted with almost too much delicacy and lightness by Kathleen Kelly.

Christine Goerke is a thrilling singer. She has emerged with power, brilliance, and sensitivity  as a dramatic soprano whose Faberin at the Met last season was the highlight, for me, of 2013. Her voice is almost too huge for the intimate Alice Busch Opera Theater, but she commands the stage with thrilling low notes, intelligent use of text,  and real comic timing. Also, it looked like she, like the rest of the cast, was having a great time onstage, which is one of my favorite reasons to be at Glimmerglass.

Rachele Gilmore’s birdlike voice soared with sensitivity as Zerbinetta, gliding over high notes during a sassy and expressive “Grossmachtige Prinzessin”. Katherine Martin’s Komponist was marred by mushy diction(which really matters when the production is partially-performed in an intelligent English translation by Kelly Rourke) and a jagged upper voice. Fortunately, her aria was performed nicely and she has a pleasant, if not indistinctive, middle voice. Corex Bix was expressive, if not a little underpowered as Bacchus.

Clockwise from top: Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Christine Goerke as Ariadne, Gerard Michael D'Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Carlton Ford as Harlequin in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2014 production of Strauss' "Ariadne in Naxos." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Clockwise from top: Brian Ross Yeakley as Brighella, Christine Goerke as Ariadne, Gerard Michael D’Emilio as Truffaldino, Andrew Penning as Scaramuccio and Carlton Ford as Harlequin in The Glimmerglass Festival’s 2014 production of Strauss’ “Ariadne in Naxos.” Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Of the supporting cast, Carlton Ford, Jacqueline Echols, and Matthew Scollin, all members of the Young Artists Program, were very pleasantly voiced as Harlequin, Echo, and the Farmhand.  Troy Hourie’s sets were fun to look at, with a map of New York state painted on the barn door, and Erik Teague’s costumes were fun to look at. Mark McCollough‘s fantastic lighting delivered the much-discussed firework finale of the opera with simplicity.

The (unionized, if anyone’s interested, considering the recent events at the Met)Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra was in lovely form, with special props to the clarinet section.

Saturday afternoon presented a drastically different work from Ariadne. Tobias Picker’s 2005 opera, An American Tragedy, based off the Theodore Dreiser novel and surges with emotion. Picker and librettist Gene Scheer take on the ultimate challenge of cutting an over-one-million word novel down into a 3 hour opera and pull it off with attention to detail and a variety of musical colors. While Scheer’s character development can sometimes come off a little heavy-handed, Picker’s intense and evocative musical storytelling more than make up for it.

The story of class conflict that eventually brings Clyde Griffiths, the central character and accused-murderer of Roberta Alden, to the electric chair, is effectively and deliberately illustrated in Peter Kazaras’ production. While the stage may be dominated by a large, metal scaffold, it very rarely impedes the performers and in the final scene, makes for a moving and symbolic stage picture. Also, the staging of the boat-flip was pulled off in an extremely intelligent way, as seen below.

As Clyde Griffiths, Christian Bowers evoked memories of Nathan Gunn in his earthy, sensitive performance. As Roberta Alden, Vanessa Isiguen won the most applause of the afternoon. With a beautiful smile and a warm, colorful voice, she was intensely believeable and extremely sympathetic as Clyde’s first “love”. At the other end of the economic spectrum, Cynthia Cook’s sumptuous, earthy voice swelled with vibrato and earnestness as Sondra Finchley, the second woman with whom Clyde falls in love.

Cynthia Cook as Sondra Finchley, Christian Bowers as Clyde Griffiths and Vanessa Isiguen as Roberta Alden in The Glimmerglass Festival's new production of Tobias Picker's "An American Tragedy." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Cynthia Cook as Sondra Finchley, Christian Bowers as Clyde Griffiths and Vanessa Isiguen as Roberta Alden in The Glimmerglass Festival’s new production of Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy.” Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

Amongst the supporting cast, Meredith Lustig’s Bella was punctuated with great low notes and Aleksey Bogdanov delivered an authoritative, snarling baritone as Samuel Griffiths. George Manahan gave an intense, brooding, and evocative reading of Picker’s lush score. The Glimmerglass Festival Orchestra and Chorus both delivered passionate performances, with the children’s chorus as a welcome presence in the Church Scene in the second act. Anya Klepikov and Robert Wierzel’s costumes and lighting complemented each other well in light of the story. Alexander Dodge’s sets moved on and off the stage with ease, expertly linking together the many smaller, more intimate scenes in the opera with the bigger ones.

Stay tuned for reviews of Madama Bufferfly and Carousel to follow later this week!

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It’s Jest a Hunch: Caramoor’s “Rigoletto” in Review

After a hugely successful initial performance and an even more polished second performance of their first opera of the season, “Lucrezia Borgia”, Caramoor had big shoes to fill with their second and final opera of the 2014 Summer Festival season, “Rigoletto”. While the bar was set high, “Rigoletto” had trouble measuring up in a few places, leaving Verdi’s highly sentimental tragedy of paternal love with a few holes.

The second of what Caramoor’s director of opera, Will Crutchfield, has called the “Victor Hugo operas” because of their textual inspirations, both stories surround parental love and it’s damning or redeeming nature. In “Rigoletto”, the titular jester struggles with revenge after the Duke of Mantua seduces his innocent daughter, believing all the misfortune to have been caused by a curse.

Stephen Powell as Rigoletto at Baltimore Lyric Opera

That jester was played in top form by Stephen Powell. The American baritone inhabited the stage from the second he entered. His vocally secure, linguistically confident interpretation makes it clear why Rigoletto has become such a calling card role for him. His authoritative voice was able to make the quicksilver changes from fuming anger to depression to bloodthirsty revenge and it was embodied in both his expressive voice and physicality. While his dramatic interpretation tended towards depression or nervousness, he still created a full character in a setting where staging was limited.

As the Duke of Mantua, John Osborn was unremarkable. His voice isn’t beautiful or distinctive enough in the center range. One of his characteristic skills is his ability to reach stratospherically high notes, which is impressive. However, the voice gets thinner and more strained the higher you go. Unable to be truly distinctive, the crowd-pleasing high notes and a pretty rousing ‘La Donna è Mobile’ were enough to win over the Venetian Theatre’s audience.

As Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, Georgia Jarman has a lot to offer. She has a well-sized, seductive and expressive voice, coupled with a full range of physical gestures that helped her develop her characterization. However, she was inconsistent at establishing a basic legato line and mushy diction obscured much of Francesco Maria Piave’s so well-constructed text. Her ‘Caro Nome’ was impressive, if not in a “check all the boxes” sort of way, with nicely executed trills, some reedy high(but not too high) notes, topped with a pleasant and creative, if not very risky, cadenza.

Jeffrey Beruan, a singer who was fantastic when he was last at Caramoor in “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” two years ago, sang an authoritative Sparafucile with a very attractive voice. As his sister, Maddalena, Nicole Piccolomini’s distinctive, slightly acidic mezzo begs to be heard in bigger parts that would allow her to develop her vocal line establishment, in addition to showcasing her crystalline diction. She was definitely the standout voice during the third act’s quartet.

As for the smaller roles, Hsin-Mei Tracy Chang was a sweet-voiced Countess Ceprano, Zachary Altman was a stern but good-natured Marullo, and Yunnie Park had trouble making herself heard over the orchestra as Giovanna.

It took Will Crutchfield and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s a while to settle into their groove, with some incoherent orchestral coloring towards the beginning, but the problem was soon fixed and the orchestra played beautifully for the rest of the evening, shining especially bright curing the storm scene in the final act. Special props to bassist John Feeney, who played through all of Verdi’s difficult bass music with vigor and aplomb. The Caramoor Festival Chorus was, once again, in top form.

This season at Caramoor was a true treat for opera fans. Next year’s operas promise to be just at stimulating, with Rossini’s Otello (July 11, 2015) starring Michael Spyres of “Ciro in Babilonia” fame, as well as “The Dialogues of the Carmelites”(July 25, 2015), with Ewa Podles as the Old Prioress. With fond memories of this year’s summer opera season behind us, I can guarantee that it will be worth the wait.

The Caramoor festival continues through August 3rd with performances of jazz, classical, and roots music on Thursday through Sunday nights. The grounds are open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 3 and the grounds pass is free with a ticket for an upcoming Caramoor performance.

Photo: Rich Higgins


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Special Opera Ticket Offer from Caramoor

Caramoor has a special offer just for Opera Teen readers, and it’s pretty hard to resist! The summer music festival in Katonah, New York is offering a discount of 20% off of the ticket price for both of this weekend’s operas. All you need to do is enter the promotional code “POTD” at checkout under “Use Discount Coupons” at checkout.

Lucrezia pic

This weekend’s performances are a repeat performance of Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia” with Angela Meade on Friday, as well as a performance of “Rigoletto” starring John Osborn on Saturday. You definitely don’t want to miss these shows, as my review of “Lucrezia” and Caramoor’s strong reputation for musical excellence can tell you.

I hope you all jump at the opportunity to see these sure-to-be fantastic performances!

Photo: Gabe Palacio


Like Mother Likes Son: “Lucrezia Borgia” at Caramoor in Review

For a New York opera fan, the summer months can seem long and boring. Between May and October, there aren’t many places to hear great music without having to travel far. Fortunately, Caramoor, a music festival situated in Katonah, only about an hour from New York City, can be counted on to provide a well-appreciated respite from the monotony of New York’s summer opera season.

Through the “Bel Canto at Caramoor” program, conductor Will Crutchfield has brought typically neglected bel-canto works to audiences, performing two operas in a semi-staged format every summer since 1997.

This year, the first opera in the “Bel Canto at Caramoor” series was Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia”. The uncomfortably incestuous opera, written in 1833, is notable for having been a vehicle for Joan Sutherland. More or less based on actual history blended with the Victor Hugo play “Lucrèce Borgia”, the opera is a complicated episode in the life(and death…?) of one of history’s most famous “femme fatales” and a pawn in the political games of the (in)famous Borgia family in Renaissance Italy.

The opera itself is unmistakably Donizetti. From the first bars of the overture, played ominously in the horns and echoed by the percussion, it’s no surprise that this is the same composer who would write “Lucia di Lammermoor” two years later.

In the title role and making her role debut, Angela Meade was warmly received back in Caramoor’s Venetian Theatre. This is her fourth performance at Caramoor, including what some have called a “star making” performance as Norma in 2009. Part of what’s so enjoyable about watching Meade as a performer, especially after having seen her perform before, is the improvement. Each performance builds on a lacking aspect of the previous one. While this type of improvement should be a given for any singer, it’s a particular pleasure to witness her continue to develop her craft.

A picture of a woman traditionally assumed to be Lucrezia Borgia by Veneto

Lucrezia Borgia is a difficult role. The singer has to have command of the difficult coloratura passage-work, while simultaneously supporting Felice Romani’s complex libretto and working to make one of those classically unfeasible Bel Canto opera plots work. For her first outing with the role, Meade did a fantastic job. Her establishment and architecture of the uninterrupted bel canto vocal line is infallible and her coloratura faculties continue to improve. In the notably impossible final aria, ‘Era desso il figlio mio’, Meade negotiated the many trills and tricks, all the while supporting the text and maintaining the vocal elegance that she had brought to the performance. Her high notes were numerous and high-flying(though she didn’t take the optional e-flat at the end of the final aria) and she sang with authority and intelligence. This is definitely the type of role she can go far in, and now opera houses finally have a diva worthy of a production of “Lucrezia”.

As Gennaro, Lucrezia’s illegitimate son, Michele Angelini delivered an interesting interpretation. The role of Gennaro is difficult and written high for the male voice, which explains why it has attracted singers like Alfredo Kraus, Giuseppe Fillianoti, and Vittorio Grigolo. Angelini isn’t a singer with a particularly distinctive voice, but as he sings higher in his range, the top notes sound clearer as opposed to strained and grating. The voice brings an elegance to each well-phrased line, which makes up for some of his histrionic acting. This is definitely a singer I would be interested in hearing in other repertoire.

Alfonso I d’Este- Attributed to Bastianino

As Alfonso I d’Este, the duke of Ferrara and Lucrezia’s fourth husband, bass Christophoros Stamboglis brought a deep, refined bass voice to the part of the villain. His deep low notes matched Meade in their intense duet. Unfortunately, he was pretty wooden onstage and stayed in about one position for the entire show.

Tamara Mumford has a lot going for her. She’s tall, elegant, and has a fascinating voice. The middle of her range, while having a worn-sounding timbre, is still extremely and inexplicably pleasing. In addition to that, she has a huge lower extension that sounds equally satisfying and could probably, and hopefully will, cross over into singing some alto repertoire. In the part of Maffio Orsini, her entire range and arsenal of vocal techniques was tested. Despite some mild discomfort with the coloratura, she had a beautiful, weighty vibrato and was one of the few convincing actresses of the evening. I hope she ends up singing Lola in the Met’s new “Cavalleria” next season, because she has the perfect voice for it.

In the smaller roles, SungWook Kim was a well-sung Liverotto, Will Hearn’s Vitellozzo suffered from nerves, and Zachary Altman was an authoritative Alfonso, though it’s hard to single out only a few of the very talented group of Caramoor’s “Bel Canto Young Artists”. The Caramoor Festival Chorus maintained its usual standard of excellence with importance and crystalline diction.

Will Crutchfield is a real singer’s conductor. He managed to find a balance between the singers and the orchestra and made sure that the orchestra never overpowered the vocalists, even at such close proximity. He elicited wonderful sounds from the always-wonderful Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Special props to the harp playerSara Cutler, who added the perfect touch to Lucrezia’s first aria, ‘Come e’ bello’.

There are many reasons why operas fall into neglect over the years. In many cases, the music as drama just cannot stand on its own. While “Lucrezia” is by no means a bad opera and definitely one of the more remarkable operas of the Bel Canto era, it needs some propulsion from the stage direction to drive the action along. In fact, it probably requires a big production to fully convey the piece, with all of its campiness, so it makes sense. The semi-staged production omitted a lot of action that would have been helpful to see(SPOILER ALERT! Six characters die from drinking poisoned wine, and there was no indication of that onstage) as well as including a lot of “implied deaths” and getting rid of any props.

Caramoor will present a repeat performance of “Lucrezia Borgia” on Friday, July 18th. Tickets can be purchased here or through the box office by calling 9142321252.

On Saturday, July 19th, Caramoor will present Verdi’s “Rigoletto”. Each opera at Caramoor is preceded by a full day of lectures and young-artist performances in the Spanish Courtyard starting at 3:00.

Photo: Gabe Palacio


Sony Classical Plans New Recording of La Traviata with Peretyatko, Alagna, Hvorostovsky, and Domingo

New York- Sony Classical to release new complete recording of Verdi’s original, first edition of La Traviata with Olga Peretyatko, Roberto Alagna, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Placido Domingo.

Sony Classical plans the release of the first commercial recording of La Traviata before Verdi’s edits after the 1853 premiere. Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko will sing Violetta for the first time. Alfredo Germont will be sung by Roberto Alagna and Dmitri Hvorostovsky will sing Germont Père. Star tenor Placido Domingo will continue to add to his ever-expanding repertory as Flora Bervoix, Barone Duphol, and Flora’s dinner-announcing servant.

After a disastrous premiere in Venice in 1953, Verdi substantially reworked the opera after its premiere, and it opened two years later to great acclaim in Vienna. The 1953 version is rarely shown in opera houses, even though there is an abundance of music Verdi, himself, called “Splendid… Possibly the best music I have ever written.”

Peretyatko will be singing Violetta for the first time in theaters in 2015, but she feels ready to take on the part now. “I am very excited to sing Violetta. For me, it is one of the great parts ever written in any opera, ever.”

Alagna and Hvorostovsky are also excited to participate in this unearthing of La Traviata, with each adding, respectively, “I am very excited.” and “I cannot wait to start recording.”

After over forty years of singing some of opera’s most challenging roles on the main stages of the world, Placido Domingo is excited to take on new roles in this recording. “It is a great joy to sing these roles. I have always found Flora and her cast of characters very interesting to the story. To have the chance to bring them to life is a blessing. I have been working very intensely with my voice coach to access the upper falsetto register required for this part, and I think the public will be very pleased with the result. They will not recognize my voice!”

The recording will feature the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House under the baton of Placido Domingo. The planned release date is April 1st, 2015.

For more details, contact Gretzl and Shears Public Relations



Parts of Their World: Rusalka at the Metropolitan Opera in Review

The Met is frequently criticized as a repertory house, unadventurous and conservative in its programming and casting. There are definitely aspects of that which are true(And were particularly prevalent during Joseph Volpe’s management.), but during Volpe’s management, the Met championed a rus_2434avery select number of non-standard repertory operas. Among these are Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini”, Giordano’s “Fedora”, Dvořák’s “Rusalka”,and “Ernani”(Arguably standard rep, but have you seen any other opera house that does Ernani more than the Met?). The first three are all diva vehicles, while the fourth was a Pavarotti vehicle. While the original stars of those productions (Scotto, Freni, and Beňačková) are no longer singing the way they used to and some of these productions are yet to find singers to match the iconic performances of the original singers, the Met has filled the Rusalka void with Renée Fleming since 1997, and it’s become one of her signature parts. The role is definitely one of the iconic Fleming roles, along with the Figaro Contessa, Marschallin, and Desdemona, and it’s safe to assume that Saturday night was her final outing with the Little Mermaid-esque water nymph(Her Covent Garden farewell is in 2016, and she sang her final Desdemona in 2012, so it’s logical that this would be her final Rusalka.).

The 1993 Otto Schenck Rusalka is the only production of the opera the Met has ever seen, and it’s gorgeous. The Günther Schneider-Siemssen sets are hyper-realistic and detailed down to the tiniest flower on the forest floor. The era of regietheater is undeniably beneficial for the perpetuation of opera, but that shouldn’t mean that that we should write off every production that isn’t edgy or thought provoking. Sometimes, very rarely, pretty is good enough. It may not fly for any standard-rep piece, but it works to an extent here, and it works well. Fortunately, Laurie Feldman’s revival direction brings the mystery of the forest to the forefront of the drama, which makes the intensity of the spirit world’s rus_4303aconfrontations with the mortal world all the more jarring, making this production even more than a pretty stage picture. Sylvia Strahamer’s costumes are, in accordance with the production, very pretty.

Renée Fleming carries a distinct gravitas as a performer, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons why she’s found so much success. She may not be the most exhilarating singer, and her characterization in this run may have been lacking, but vocally, Fleming is still a perfect fit for the part. Her creamy voice lends well to the part’s lyrical demands, and her high notes, which take on different, more metallic characteristics from her middle register, cut through the orchestra. Her “Song to the Moon” plodded on at a glacial pace, causing tempo idiosyncrasies at times, but if a singer should be able to indulge anywhere, it’s at their last performance of a signature role.

While the evening was a milestone for Fleming, it was Piotr Beczala as the Prince who was definitely the most consistently stellar singer. Like Fleming, the role is a great fit for him. His diction was perfect and his high notes soared, even when he was contorted on the stage. His palpable character shifts matched the excitement in his gleaming tone and he consistently made himself heard over the orchestra(more on that later), sometimes making him the only person you could hear onstage.

John Relyea delivered a well-sung Water Goblin, but did little to make the part at all interesting. His numerous monologues provided minimal insight into an obviously complex character, cheapening his portrayal.

Emily Magee sang a cold, intense, and perfectly audible Foreign Princess, but, as a matter of personal preference, I found her distant-sounding timbre distracting.rus_1419a

Before the performance, the Met announced that Dolora Zajick, original to this production when it premiered, was recovering from an illness, but wished to sing. Every singer should wish to “recover from illness” the way Dolora Zajick does. As Jezhibaba, she shook the rafters with her low notes and she brought comedy to a mostly depressing storyline. Her incantations of “Čury mury fuk” were as well sung as they were entertaining.

In the smaller roles, Dísella Làrusdóttir, Renée Tatum, and Maya Lahyani, were vocally rus_2632afantastic as the three water sprites. Especially in the lower voices (Lahyani and Tatum), the voices created a beautiful texture, making their scene-to-scene banter high points of the entire night. Julie Boulianne was a vocally colorful and boyish “Kitchen Boy” and Vladimir Chmelo matched her with good singing and characterization as the Gamekeeper. Tyler Duncan, who made his Met debut on Saturday filling in for Alexey Lavrov, was in good voice in the small part of the hunter.

The rest of the run was conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, but Saturday’s performance was conducted by Paul Nadler. I heard an earlier performance in this run, and I can attest to the superior quality of the former’s conducting. Unfortunately, Nadler’s conducting didn’t measure up. He extracted good sounds from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, but during the first act, more often than not, it was hard to hear the singers over the orchestra, creating a bad balance. This problem improved throughout the night, but the first act is where a lot of the opera’s best music comes from.

It’s a good thing this Rusalka got an HD transmission a week before, as it’s probably the final run of this production. A clip can be seen below:

Photos/Ken Howard


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