Wednesday, August 24, 2016
My dual goal of posting at least one performance of every opera in today’s standard repertoire as well as the complete operas of several composers gets one step closer this week with Falstaff, Verdi’s totally unexpected, final, great comedic roar. While many performances were available, I chose one from Teatro Colón in 1965 with an amazing ensemble led by Geraint Evans, Raina Kabaivanska, Sesto Bruscantini, Oralia Domínguez, Jeanette Scovotti, and Luigi Alva. Evans was my first Falstaff, making his Met debut in the fifth performance of the now-legendary 1964 Franco Zeffirelli production. In eight seasons, he proved his versatility by alternating performances as Verdi’s fat knight with Mozart’s Figaro, Don Pizarro with Leporello, Captain Balstrode with Beckmesser, and a few Wozzecks thrown in for good measure. He is also the star of George Solti’s magnificent RCA recording of Falstaff, notable for many reasons including then-unknown kids named Mirella Freni and Alfredo Kraus. Kabaivanska, who also sang Alice Ford in the Zeffirelli production, is one of your alte Jungfer’s favorites, and was introduced to my Mixcloud site as Desdemona in a Solti-led Covent Garden Otello with Mario Del Monaco and Tito Gobbi. Bruscantini had a long career, eventually settling comfortably into the basso buffo repertoire, making an overdue Met debut at the age of 61 in L’italiana in Algeri in 1981. His other Met appearances included Dr. Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Dulcamara, which he sang in a telecast performance of L’elisir d’amore with Luciano Pavarotti and Kathleen Battle. Domínguez became – and remains – a sensation with her show-stealing, smoldering Amneris in the infamous 1951 Mexico City Aida with Maria Meneghini Callas and Del Monaco. A little known – and totally amazing – fact is that she was just 25 when she gave that legendary performance, and had made her operatic debut only one year before. An incredibly versatile artist, she was as comfortable in all the great Verdi mezzo roles including the Requiem (check out the 1954 EMI recording led by Victor de Sabata with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf) as she was in Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach, Rossini, Brahms, Mahler, Stravinsky, and, rather surprisingly, was Herbert von Karajan’s Erda in his Osterfestspiele Salzburg Ring Cycle and the subsequent DG recordings. Another surprise was her Covent Garden debut in 1955 as Madame Sosostris in the world premiere of Michael Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage, learned by rote (she spoke no English), alongside the 28-year-old Joan Sutherland. Performing until 1982, she died in Milano less than three years ago at age 88. Our Nannetta and Fenton, who also appeared together in the Zeffirelli production, are still with us. Scovotti, Zerbinetta in my Mixcloud upload of a 1967 Wiener Staatsoper Ariadne auf Naxos, sang over 80 Met performances covering the coloratura/soubrette repertoire. Alva, who sang over 100 Met performances in a decade, was as close to a true tenore di grazia as was to be heard in the 1960s and 1970s (post-Cesare Valletti), specializing in lighter repertoire which prolonged his career into his mid-60s. Maestro Fernando Previtali, a pupil of Franco Alfano and Vittorio Gui, was known as a Verdi specialist and led a cycle of the composer’s operas in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. Among his many recordings is the beloved RCA La traviata with Anna Moffo, Richard Tucker, and Robert Merrill. While he held various positions in his native Italy, he was music director of the Teatro Colón in the 1960s, and later at the Teatro Regio in Torino and the Teatro Comunale in Genova. At the risk of being jumped on, I’d like to posit one of my rhetorical questions: has any other opera composer concluded a lengthy career with such a quicksilver masterpiece, so full of light and joy? Giuseppe Verdi: Falstaff Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires Fernando Previtali, conductor Sir John Falstaff – Geraint Evans Alice Ford – Raina Kabaivanska Ford – Sesto Bruscantini Dame Quickly – Oralia Domínguez Nannetta – Jeanette Scovotti Fenton – Luigi Alva Meg Page – Carmen Burelio Dottore Cajus – Italo Pasini Bardolfo – Nino Falzetti Pistola – Andres Huc-Santana
Detail of Rehearsal on Stage, Edgar Degas, 1874 Musée d'Orsay, Paris Painting dance is an almost impossible feat. How do you capture movement in a brush stroke that will, inevitably, lie still? How do you hear music through a canvas? For centuries artists have felt compelled to try. Here are our favourite dance paintings of ballet and beyond: Manet The Spanish Ballet (1862) The Spanish Ballet by Édouard Manet, 1862 Édouard Manet captured Marioano Camprubi’s Royal Spanish dance troupe before a performance at the Hippodrome in Paris. The group, which included the famous dancer Lola Melea, toured Paris during 1862. Degas Ballet Rehearsal (1873) Ballet Rehearsal, Edgar Degas, 1873, The Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts During the 1870s, Edgar Degas spent hours at the Paris Opera , chronicling rehearsals and performances and capturing intimate backstage moments – both quiet and flustered. A part of the Impressionist movement , Degas wanted to paint ‘the now’, capturing the characters of his contemporary Paris. He painted dancers true to life – strong and sweltering under layers of tulle. Sargent El Jaleo (1882) El Jaleo, John Singer Sargent, 1882 American Artist John Singer Sargent ’s El Jaleo depicts a Spanish Gypsy dancer performing with a group of musicians and is one of his most theatrical. The enlarged shadow creates a dramatic light effect that evokes a sense of intensity at the performance. Knight Ballet (1936) Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), The Ballet Shoe c1932, Courtesy of The Laura Knight Estate / Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove British artist Dame Laura Knight captures the Bolshoi Ballet in rehearsal at the Royal Opera House, the first time the company performed in London since the Russian Revolution. In 1919, she chose the Russian prima ballerina Lydia Lopokova to sit for her, an image which became one of Knight's defiant images of strong women. Griselda Pollock , Professor of the Social & Critical Histories of Art at The University of Leeds , argues that Knight's portrayal of women presented a significant shift in the ways in which women were seen during the century, saying 'The trained and tuned body of the adult ballet dancer exerted a different kind of fascination for many artist-women seeking to represent the bodies of women in non-erotic but not asexual modes. The dancer shows a woman’s body as athletic, strong, creative and capable of expressing emotion by powerful movement and delicate gesture.' Oppler Les Sylphides (1915) Les Sylphides (Hinter den Kulissen) by Ernst Oppler, 1915 German artist Ernst Oppler created many sketches and paintings for various companies around the world. In 1912, he spent time at Covent Garden drawing ballerina Anna Pavlova . In the 1920s Oppler began depicting the Swedish Ballet as well as working on a large publication, 36 etchings of The Russian Ballet. Fini Le Palais du Cristal (1952) Design for Le Palais du Cristal, Watercolor & Ink on Paper, 1952 by Leonor Fini © The Estate of Leonor Fini, CFM Gallery, New York Argentine Surrealist Leonor Fini was known for her strong portrayals of women. 'Fini used her fluent and pure line to emphasize a muscular form of the dancer’s body in her work,' explains Pollock. She designed for the Paris Opera, George Balanchine ’s ballet Palais de Crystal and for Maria Callas at the La Scala theater in Milan. In 1949 Frederick Ashton choreographed a ballet conceptualized by Fini, Le Rêve de Leonor (Leonor's Dream) with music by Benjamin Britten . Longhi The Dancing Lesson (1741) La lezione di danza (The Dancing Lesson), ca 1741 by Pietro Longhi, Venezia, Gallerie dell'Accademia For centuries dance has been an integral part of society, a key element of ceremonies, rituals and celebrations in all cultures. Jane Austen writes in Pride and Prejudice : ‘To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love’. The dance scenes in her novel are pivotal for the love to bloom, where couples could snatch intimate moments and enact longing gazes across crowded rooms. Pietro Longhi ’s The Dancing Lesson shows a young girl practising dancing in preparation to attend such social occasions. Titian Bacchus and Ariadne (1520-3) Titian, Bacchus and Ariadne, about 1520-3 © The National Gallery, London Painting also captures dance in a broader sense, as a key part of the language of being human. Dr Minna Moore Ede, Associate Curator (Renaissance Painting) at The National Gallery , explains that 'Paintings can be full of movement and dance even if this is not their subject. Take Titian ’s Bacchus and Ariadne for example, in which Bacchus leaps most balletically out of his chariot, having fallen in love with Ariadne on sight, followed by his retinue of drunken, dancing revellers.’ Matisse La danse (1909) La danse (first version) by Henri Matisse, 1909 The human impulse to dance has been distilled by many artists throughout time. Take Henri Matisse ’s La danse (1909) Despite its simplicity, there is a rhythm implied through the continuous succession of the figures, which evoke a sense of the liberating effects of dance. Brown Proscenium Works (1979-2011) Trisha Brown, Floor Drawing/Performance, 2008 © Gene Pittman for Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Taking dance paintings to new mediums is choreographer and artist Trisha Brown . Brown creates work as performance, using her body to create the painting. In this way, her artwork embodies dancing as its subject and inception. Above she performs her work Proscenium Works 1979–2011 in 2014. Do you have a favourite dance painting? Let us know in the comments below.
David Gvinianidze According to Google Translate, the Russian foundation “Talents of the World ” (ФондТаланты мира) aims for nothing less than to “develop the intellectual and spiritual potential of Man, restore and promote the lost traditions of Russian vocal art, pay attention to a wide audience to the inexhaustible treasury of world opera classics through the development of cultural values, to implement the program of democracy and moral solidarity of mankind, which is reflected in the motto of the fund “From the world of culture to the world peace.” What that means for Bostonians is that we are invited to a vocal gala of operetta, opera and Broadway at the Newton City Hall auditorium on Saturday, July 16th constituting the New England début of one of the largest Eastern European concert organizations. Ticket link here . For this promising event, the artistic director of the foundation David Gvinianidze invited Adam Klein, tenor (Metropolitan Opera); Zhanna Alkhazova, soprano (Des Moines Opera); Olga Lisovskaya, soprano (Commonwealth Lyric Theater) and himself as director and baritone to mount a mélange of arias, operetta and Broadway tunes and ensembles. Apparently replete with “creative stage direction, and great voices,” the show concludes with “delicious refreshments.” Commonwealth Lyric Theater’s singer/producer Liskova tells BMInt more about Talents of the World Foundation. Founded in 2002, the organization’s motto is “From the World’s Culture to Peace on Planet Earth,” its main mission is to popularize classical vocal repertoire. The Foundation’s president and founder, David Gvinianidze, a world-renowned singer, has won several prestigious competitions, produces many unique concert projects, and is famed as a TV persona. During the 2006 “Valsesia Musica” international competition, the famous mezzo-soprano Fiorenza Cossotto compared Gvinianidze to the young Placido Domingo. While David admires many great opera singers like Maria Callas, Feodor Chaliapin and Luciano Pavarotti, it was Mario Lanza, who influenced David’s vision for his future, for it was Lanzo, who, possessing a truly beautiful voice, made the high art of classical vocalism accessible to millions through his shows and movies. David’s personal mission is to make this royal art form more popular throughout the world, and to promote classical music in the young generation’s education. Talents of the World has produced over 80 concert projects in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, Israel and Azerbajdzjan, and David’s project “Royal Tournament” was chosen to be presented at the Presidential Summit in Astana. Talents of the World not only produces concerts, but also leads an educational outreach and charitable concerts. All this activity earned Gvinianidze a United Nations medal for promoting art and culture. Adam Klein and David Gvinianidze (photo A. Maslov) Opera, Operetta, Broadway July 16th at 7:00, Newton City Hall 1000 Commonwealth Avenue, Newton For more information about the concert, please call (857) 919-4832 . Tickets: $40 at the door or $35 online here . The post Foundation Mounts Vocal Gala appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .
August 18, 1991. First performance at the Colón of the revival of Mozart´s "The Marriage of Figaro" in a new production by Sergio Renán. An Argentine-Spanish cast except for the Countess: a beautiful young American called Renée Fleming at the start of her international career. With a crystalline lyric soprano timbre and impeccable line, she proved to be a charming actress as well. Unfortunately, that was her only operatic role in BA. We missed her in such operas as Massenet´s "Thaïs" and Dvorák´s "Rusalka", but especially in Straussian parts (the Marschallin in "Der Rosenkavalier", Arabella, the Countess in "Capriccio"), for she was a leading interpreter of all the mentioned operas. It´s useless to speculate about the reasons, but the Colón has had strong ups and downs and established artists want reliable theatres. After two decades, she finally came back during the García Caffi years; however, it was for a recital. It was quite successful and varied, and the voice was still in good condition. And now she came back, inaugurating the so-called Abono Verde. This time the charm and the savvy are still there, but her career has entered the autumnal phase, as demonstrated by what´s happening at New York´s Met, her home for so many years: last season she didn´t sing a difficult opera but an operetta, Lehár´s "The Merry Widow"; and now she has announced her goodbye to opera, with May 2017 performances at the Met of "Der Rosenkavalier" (fortunately it will be seen here on the Met´s direct transmissions at the Teatro El Nacional organized by the Fundación Beethoven). In this recital she was admirably accompanied by Gerald Martin Moore (debut), an expert singing teacher who has worked with Fleming for many years (and with several other famous artists) and has prepared operas for the Met, Covent Garden, Opéra Bastille, La Scala, and such festivals as Glyndebourne and Aix-en-Provence. What a coincidence that his first name and his surname should be the same as those of the ultra-famous Gerald Moore, the greatest accompanist during golden decades. Anyway, G.M.M. gave precious support during the Colón evening. I have my reservations about some of the choices in the programme. First, I was sorry that there were no Lieder, not even from Richard Strauss. Second, I believe that singers in recitals should stick to their sexes: a woman should sing texts clearly designed for women, and a man those that are evidently masculine; self-evident, the reader may think, but often disregarded by artists; and there were several instances in this case. Third, she is a singer for joyful or melancholy music, but not for stark drama: the terrible content of "L´altra notte in fondo al mare", from Boito´s "Mefistofele", in which the mad Margherita , imprisoned, says that she was wrongly accused of killing her baby and her mother, needs a true tragedian such as Callas was. Finally, there was a bit too much Broadway in her gestures on certain pieces, in themselves rather crossover. A moot point is whether you like or not that artists should speak to the audience; I think it is a wrong trend, concerts are just that, music played or sung. She talked a good deal in a very American way (like Joyce Di Donato). She started with, yes, "Porgi amor", the initial aria of the Countess in "The Marriage of Figaro", in evident reminiscence of her Colón debut; the result was tasteful but the voice was not settled yet. Two Händel arias followed: a fast, humoristic one from "Agrippina", early and Venetian-influenced; and the lovely "V´adoro pupille" sung by Cleopatra in "Giulio Cesare in Egitto"; she did well in both. Then, two welcome Massenet items: "C´est Thaïs, l´idole fragile" from the homonymous opera (neglected by the Colón since 1952), and the sad "Adieu, notrre petite table" (with its previous recitative) from "Manon". She felt quite comfortable in both. Saint-Saëns wrote 120 songs but they are little-known; "Soirée en mer", strophic, on a Victor Hugo text, seemed to me beautiful and fluid; both artists were fine. And then, a tribute to that delicious 1930s singer, Yvonne Printemps: the sensual "Je t´aime quand même" from the operetta "Les trois valses"; in it Fleming waltzed, singing with abandon. The pithiest part of the night was the fine selection of Neo-Romantic songs by Rachmaninov, who deserve wider recognition; of the five songs I mention three: "Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair", an orientalised melody (I have the recording of tenor John McCormack); "Lilac" contrasts a fast piano segment with an airy soprano tune, and "Spring waters" is expansive and better-known as a Russian miniballet. Fleming was really good in all this group, her voice firm and brilliant. Apart from the Boito, the Italian pieces were light and though agreeably sung not idiomatic: "O del mio amato ben" (Donaudy), "Aprile" (Tosti) and "Mattinata" (Leoncavallo). I liked Fleming in the famous song "Estrellita" by the Mexican Manuel Ponce (the tune fits her like a glove) but she was over the top in "La morena de mi copla" by Carlos Castellano Gómez. Encores: lovely in the "Moon aria" from Dvorák´s "Rusalka" and melting in "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini´s "Gianni Schicchi", but not convincing in "I could have danced all night" from Loewe´s "My fair lady" (Julie Andrews was the right one for this). A nice sweet evening. For Buenos Aires Herald
The first opera commission by Tanglewood was Peter Grimes. The second was Elephant Steps, with music by Stanley Silverman and libretto by Richard Foreman, who also directed the premiere in Tanglewood’s Shed on 7 August 1968. The production transferred in 1970 to Hunter Playhouse in New York City (where it won an Obie Award) and the Lake George Opera. Subtitled by its creators as “A Fearful Radio Show,” it reminded Jerome Robbins of Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. A critic for New York called it “The best piece of new music I’ve heard all year.” Another critic advised “not to ask what it is about; it is no more centered than life itself.” Silverman’s music, influenced by Händel, Purcell, Schoenberg, Django Reinhardt, Rodgers and Hart, and Cuban charanga, has been performed by musicians ranging from Pierre Boulez to Sting. His second opera with Foreman, Dr Selavy’s Magic Theatre, led the New York Times to describe him as “the brightest talent in this medium to come along since Leonard Bernstein.” Foreman, founder of the legendary Ontological-Hysteric Theater, creates a type of avant-garde, post-dramatic theater that unsettles and disorients received ideas and opens the doors for alternative models of perception, organization, and understanding. His more-than-60 plays, operas, films, and videos include titles such as Rhoda in Potatoland and Blvd. de Paris (I’ve Got the Shakes). Between 1968 and 1990, Silverman and Foreman further collaborated on Hotel for Criminals, American Imagination, Africanus Instructus, and Love & Science. Their one act opera Madame Adare was commissioned by New York City Opera and presented at New York State Theater as part of the 1980 American Trilogy project. It concerns a diva who has difficulty in deciding whether she should become a singer in the fashion of Barbra Streisand or Maria Callas, resolving to have a career in both styles after shooting her psychiatrist. They also joined forces—Silverman as music director and a band member, Foreman as director—of the New York Shakespeare Festival production of The Threepenny Opera starring Raul Julia and Ellen Greene which opened in 1976 at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater and transferred to the Delacorte Theater in Central Park the following summer. The production was nominated for Tony, Drama Desk, and Grammy Awards In Elephant Steps, Hartman is looking for enlightenment. He has a mysterious guru named Reinhardt. The reactionary forces keep warning him to stop seeing Reinhardt, but Reinhardt persists After visiting Nighttown, and then being abducted and grilled in a radio station, where he dreams of returning to his childhood, he finally climbs a ladder, looks in the window of Reinhardt’s house, and what he sees brings him illumination. The work was eventually recorded by CBS Masterworks and released as a two-LP set in 1974. Some 30 years after the premiere, I found myself in conversation with theater, film, and television actress Marilyn Sokol at a Broadway opening night party. When I mentioned that I first discovered her as the Ragtime Lady in Elephant Steps, without missing a beat she launched into her big number, “Watch Me Put My Right Foot through the Door,” delivering the entire song complete with high notes. Elephant Steps has been described as “stupendous, multi-sensory, original, diffuse, overwhelming, faintly frightening and always surprising.” To that, I’d like to add “unforgettable!” Stanley Silverman/Richard Foreman: Elephant Steps A Fearful Radio Show With Pop Singers, Opera Singers, Orchestra, Rock Band, Electronic Tape, Raga Group, Tape Recorder, Gypsy Ensemble, and Elephants ALL under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas Recorded 1973 in New York City Hartman – Philip Steele Max – Luther Enstad Otto – Larry Marshall Doctor – Roland Gagnon Rock Singer – Luther Rix Archangel – Michael Tilson Thomas Hannah – Susan Belling Ragtime Lady – Marilyn Sokol Scrubwoman – Karen Altman Post scriptum: If you missed my upload on Thursday of that evening’s Wiener Staatsoper performance of Manon Lescaut with Anna Netrebko and Marcello Giordani, you can find it here: https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/
It’s time to add more legends to my Mixcloud site: Mario Del Monaco, Raina Kabaivanska, and Tito Gobbi star in this 1962 performance of Otello from Covent Garden led by Georg Solti. Del Monaco, never one for subtlety, enters at full speed with perhaps the most secure “Esultate!” I’ve ever heard. His career spanned the globe, singing often with the greatest divas of his time such as Zinka Milanov, Renata Tebaldi (both were signed to Decca Records, for which they made several recordings), and Maria Callas (he was her Pollione when they opened La Scala in 1955 and at her Met debut). Between 1950 and 1959 he chalked up nearly 150 Met performances in the dramatic tenor repertoire. It is said he sang Otello 457 times in his career, which lasted till 1975. Kabaivanska, unfortunately, made few commercial recordings (there were a few recital discs released on RCA LPs which apparently never made it to the digital domain), but was a regular visitor to the Met from 1964 (debuting as Nedda) till a final Tatiana in Eugene Onegin in 1978. A personal highlight for me was her Lisa in the company’s first Russian-language performances of Pique Dame opposite Nicolai Gedda in 1972. A stunning woman known for her committed acting, she also possesses one of those unique voices, recognizable in a single phrase, of which both aspects are preserved on a DVD of Tosca with Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes from 1976. She specialized in Puccini and verismo works such as Francesca da Rimini. In 2001, at the age of 66, her career took a twist with a new role: Liza Elliott in Kurt Weill’s Lady in the Dark at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo (sung in something resembling English: “Uxley vants to make his buk on me”). Gobbi is likely the most significant Scarpia of the 20th century and claimed to have sung the role nearly 1,000 times, recording it twice with Callas, a close friend and frequent collaborator. It served as his Met debut in 1956 with Milanov and Giuseppe Di Stefano, as well as his farewell to the company as a singer in 1975 with Dorothy Kirsten and John Alexander; he returned in 1978 to restage Otto Schenk’s 1968 production of Tosca. His career actually began in the early 1930s in Italy’s provincial houses. Over the next three decades he would graduate to the world’s main stages in roles as diverse as Don Giovanni, Simon BOccanegra, and Wozzeck (sung in Italian). In addition to Scarpia, his later career focused on Jago and Falstaff. Gobbi appeared in about 25 Italian films in both singing and dramatic roles, and began his third career as a stage director in the 1960s. At the time of this performance, Solti, as music director of the Covent Garden Opera Company, was instrumental in having the company renamed the Royal Opera and gradually did away with the practice of all performances being sung in English. A little-known fact about the maestro is his presence in the Guinness Book of World Records: he holds the record for the most Grammy Awards won (31 out of 74 nominations, plus a special lifetime achievement award). Giuseppe Verdi: Otello Royal Opera, Covent Garden Georg Solti, conductor 30 June 1962 Otello – Mario Del Monaco Desdemona – Raina Kabaivanska Jago – Tito Gobbi Emilia – Josephine Veasey Cassio – John Lanigan Roderigo – John Dobson Lodovico – David Ward Montano – Forbes Robinson Un aroldo – Glynne Thomas If you’re not in the mood for Shakespearean tragedy, you may enjoy a charming, fun performance of L’elisir d’amore from a broadcast last week from Wiener Staatsoper starring Stephen Costello, Valentina Nafortina, and Erwin Schrott as a scenery-chewing Dulcamara. I know Costello has had his detractors at Parterre, but within an hour after I posted the performance, someone left the comment, “It’s so good to hear Stephen Costello back in form as he was at the last Tucker Gala.” As always, click on: https://www.mixcloud.com/Jungfer_Marianne_Leizmetzerin/
Great opera singers