Thursday, February 28, 2013

Another day, another Parsifal post

Another quick word about conductor Daniele Gatti.

Whether or not you're sympathetic to his shaping of the piece, it's clear that the Met Orchestra is with him closely throughout. The sound he gets from the strings has a depth and sheen not often heard from non-Levine conductors here, and though Gatti is happy to discard/reset continuity of motion to build that patina of spontaneity, the orchestra maintains the continuity of sound for him unabated. Perhaps the players are in fact encouraged by the extraordinary efforts required to hold this contrast: after almost six hours of long slow concentration in the pit, they actually stayed therein for curtain call, returning to Gatti some of the applause he of course was giving them. (This rarely happens after the first night of a run, and with no moviecast cameras present it wasn't for that either.)

And no coordination issues this time. As much as I've previously admired the more straightforward work of Asher Fisch, I wonder if next week's performances can match these first weeks of the run.

More on the production, perhaps, in the next post.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Another Parsifal post

... before seeing tonight's performance.

More remarkable even than the tenor lead is, I think, Peter Mattei. Amfortas has not been neglected by the Met: it was just 2006 when Thomas Hampson stole the show in this same part opposite Heppner, Meier, and Pape. But Hampson, like most of his predecessors, used the grit in his voice -- and, for Hampson, the contrast of that with his younger unblemished sound -- to convey the full scope of the wounded leader's torment. Mattei remains commandingly mellifluous throughout, and it's testament to his intensity of phrase and physical acting that Amfortas and his struggle are nevertheless so vivid.

Rene Pape is on a similar level: gone are the days when he seemed stretched too thin over a part that was just too long for him. With the maturation of his voice, Pape is now just as strong over the course of a long sing like Gurnemanz as he is in the one/two-showoff-aria parts with which he exploded onto the scene in the 90s. Unfortunately on opening night some coordination difficulties with the pit got in the way of his Act I work... we'll see how it comes out tonight.

And in fact Daniele Gatti's conducting has been the performance element that has not drawn near-universal praise. But as much as I like to complain that a Wagner show would have been better with Levine in the pit, Gatti's idiosyncratic approach is really interesting in this. His aesthetic aim seems to be to allow every development to unfold as if spontaneously improvised, and though this involves drawing some of the passages out more than is common and may cause coordination issues of the sort we saw opening night, the cumulative effect over the course of, e.g., Act III is pretty uncanny. And if Gatti's way may trip up singers in monologues, it nudges singers in the really, really long-form dialogues of Act II to their own sort of spontaneity, putting focus on the unfolding dramatic crux rather than the set-piece structural form.

Katarina Dalayman, a dramatic soprano in manner as well as sound, took huge advantage of this emphasis at the opener. As well and as strongly as Jonas Kaufmann sang in that second Act, that was basically him (or, as the director successfully drew forth, the divine emptiness within him) responding to and keeping up with Dalayman/Kundry's surges of vocal and (im)moral force.

The 2013-14 Met season announcement, annotated

There are a lot of really strange choices throughout (the solo recital -- not listed -- is probably the strangest), but any season with three Strauss shows including a revival of Wernicke's FroSch is one to look forward to. And, oh yes, James Levine returns. We hope.

Shows are listed, as ever, in order of first appearance. Single-show casts are omitted, though some are mentioned in the text. Moviecast casts are highlighted in bold.

Eugene Onegin (new Deborah Warner production)
Kwiecien, Netrebko, Volkova, Beczala, Kwiecien, Tanovitsky / Gergiev (September-October)
Kwiecien, Netrebko, Volkova, Beczala, Tanovitsky / Smelkov (October)
Mattei, Poplavskaya, Maximova, Villazón, Kocán / Vedernikov (November)
This opening night, a real director! Though Robert Carsen's great production will be missed, it did sort of reach its apex in its last incarnations. I'm not sure who in the administration keeps erroneously headlining Mariusz Kwiecien instead of Peter Mattei, but the former is perhaps a more plausible cold fish. I find it hard to believe that the patchwork voice I heard in October is going to sing much of a Lensky this November, but I'm sure there's some sort of backup plan.

Cosi fan Tutte
Phillips, Leonard, de Niese, Polenzani, Pogossov, Muraro / Levine (September-October, April)
Yu, Leonard, de Niese, Polenzani, Pogossov, Muraro / Levine (May)
No pressure, folks, but the last Levine run (with Polenzani!) of this may have been his best performances at the Met -- ever. Excellent youthful cast: Leonard and de Neise impressed even in the less intensely sincere revival a few seasons back.

The Nose
Szot, Popov, Lewis / Gergiev (September-October)
Szot, Popov, Lewis / Smelkov (October)
What a great show this was. Szot, Popov, and the conductors return from the first time.

Radvanovsky, Aldrich, Antonenko, Morris / Frizza (September-November)
Meade, Barton, Antonenko, Orlov/Morris (October 24/28)
No, seriously, when's the last season that opened with four really promising shows? Sondra Radvanovsky finally scales Mt. Norma -- with a pretty good supporting cast, though a new production would have been good for her on the dramatic stuff. In the alternate cast, Angela Meade goes for it as well... with a rather shorter career run-up. Meade's Adalgisa is fellow 2007 Met Council Finals winner (and "The Audition" co-star) Jamie Barton. I was really unimpressed by Barton on the day, but she seems to have turned into a heck of a no-holds-barred mezzo honker in the classic American style. This is, unfortunately, exactly the wrong casting for the lyric-soprano ingenue role of Adalgisa, but given that Dolora Zajick is the only Adalgisa this production has seen, it's also the exact mistake the Met loves making.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Kim, Wall, DeShong, Davies, Kaiser, Simpson, Rose / Conlon (October)
Nice cast, though as far as this story goes I prefer the brevity of Ashton's dance version...

Two Boys (new Nico Muhly opera)
Zetlan, Lynch, Coote, Eddy, Forst, Appleby, Bolduc, Miller / Robertson (October-November)
After an apparently-succesful out-of-town tryout at ENO two seasons ago, Muhly and librettist Craig Lucas' opera hits the Met stage. Bart Sher and his usual crew are doing the production... for better or worse. I assume conductor David Robertson will be in the good form he showed in 2012's Billy Budd, not the very, very bad form he demonstrated in (on) Figaro.

Racette, Alagna, Gagnidze / Frizza (October-November)
Radvanovsky, Giordani, Gagnidze / Armiliato (December)
Would you believe a second moviecast of this originally-reviled show? Alagna and Gagnidze aren't quite Kaufmann and Terfel, but they're good in this, as is Racette the natural Puccinian. I'm not sure I'm ready to go see Marcelo Giordani again, but it's a nice regular run for Radvanovsky after Norma. Three one-off casts: TBA as Tosca November 16, Ricardo Tamura making his Met debut as Cavaradossi December 17 and Elisabete Matos as Tosca December 20.

Die Frau ohne Schatten
Schwanewilms, Goerke, Komlósi, Kerl, Reuter / Jurowski (November)
Meagan Miller (who sang Danae pretty well at Bard) has one performance as the Empress (November 16). The cast isn't really one to conjure with, but frankly, who cares? Vladimir Jurowski has a magnificent score in a magnificently sincere production and oh, that orchestra and its soloists (which his characteristic lyrical approach has, in the past, empowered)... The opportunity for huge success is all in his hands -- good decision not to entrust Luisi with this.
The bad news, for the public: no moviecast. The good news, for the public at the house: none of the moviecast-accomodating lighting changes that damaged Carsen's Onegin (in that show they were never reverted after the moviecast season). And yes, beg borrow or steal to be at the house for one or more of these -- especially if you haven't seen Herbert Wernicke's production masterpiece yet (though a lot of the striking stuff has since been cribbed by lesser shows).

Hvorostovsky, Kurzak, Polenzani, Volkova, Kocan / Heras-Casado (November-December)
The Met debut of young Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado, who already has a NYC connection as principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's. The title part is a bit of a stretch for Hvoro... especially with the ugly sweater he'll have to wear in this production. Between Aleksandra Kurzak and Polenzani, this revival will also feature probably the nicest Gilda and Duke combo ever.

Der Rosenkavalier
Serafin, Garanca, Erdmann, Cutler, Ketelsen, Rose / Gardner (November)
Serafin, Sindram, Erdmann, Cutler, Ketelsen, Rose / Gardner (December)
Two one-off casts: Erin Morley as Sophie and Mario Chang as the Italian Singer on December 3, and TBA as Octavian on December 13. But more to the point... are Martina Serafin and Daniela Sindram going to carry off the show? (Serafin being Viennese is nice but hardly sufficient.) I suppose we'll get some hint when the former debuts as Sieglinde in this spring's Ring. Mojca Erdmann was good as Zerlina and not good as Susanna, but finally gets more of a high chirper's part to chew on (though yes, Sophie doesn't actually go that high).

Falstaff (new Robert Carsen production)
Maestri, Oropesa, Meade, Blythe, Johnson Cano, Fanale, Vassallo / Levine (December-January)
Alaimo, Oropesa, Meade, Blythe, Johnson Cano, Fanale, Vassallo / Levine (December)
One Carsen show (Onegin) departs, another appears... this time replacing an old Zef show. (Will there be protest booing? How about we just skip that this time...) This is pretty significant given how underappreciated that Onegin was to start.
The musical story is, if things go well (knock on wood), another re-visit by Levine to his 2005 glory. Of course, he had Bryn Terfel then, and neither Ambrogio Maestri nor Nicola Alaimo are likely to provide that scale of presence in the title role. Still, the female side of the cast is quite strong, and it's Levine... we hope.

The Magic Flute (holiday version)
Stober, Shagimuratova, Shrader, Gunn, Shenyang, Owens / Glover (December)
Stober, Lewek, Shrader, Gunn, Shenyang, Owens / Glover (December-January)
Jane Glover in the pit for this holiday kids' version in English.

Die Fledermaus (new Jeremy Sams production)
Phillips, Schäfer, Maltman, Fabiano, Szot, Costanzo / Fischer (New Year's Eve-January)
Phillips, Archibald, Maltman, Lewis, Szot, Costanzo / Fischer (February)
Phillips, Archibald, Maltman, Fabiano, Szot, Costanzo / Fischer (February)
The long, leaden, wit-free, barely-literate hash of politically correct tropes that was "The Enchanted Island" should have ended the Met careers of every person involved on its production (note: I don't mean the singers, who did what they could). Jeremy Sams -- the writer and principal offender in that wreck -- unfortunately managed to fail upward into directing this new Fledermaus. (Well, at least it isn't Shakespeare.) The cast -- featuring, for the second show of this season, Susanna Phillips -- is pretty good, though I fear Christine Schäfer plans to play Adele as bizarrely glumly as she did Cherubino, in which case she should be run out of town during rehearsals. I'm sure her alternate, Canadian soprano Jane Archibald, can do chirpy maid.

L'Elisir d'Amore
Netrebko, Vargas, Alaimo, Schrott / Benini (January-February 1)
One would have hoped that Netrebko's season-opening Tatyana could signal the end of the pretense that she's a bel canto soprano these days. Unfortunately not. Though if she must... this is pretty good company to do it in.

La Boheme
Kovalevska, Lungu, Calleja, Markov, Hopkins, Van Horn, Maxwell / Ranzani (January)
Hartig, Rowley, Grigolo, Cavalletti, Carfizzi, Testé, Cokorinos / Ranzani (March)
Hartig, Phillips, Grigolo, Cavalletti, Carfizzi, Testé, Cokorinos / Ranzani (April)
Frittoli, Rowley, Grigolo, Cavalletti, Carfizzi, Gradus, Maxwell / Ranzani (April)
So on the one hand you have the greatest lyric tenor in the world. On the other you have a former pop singer who fizzled badly in his first go at this long-perfected show. Which one do you put on the air?
Yeah, that's what I'd have thought too. Perhaps debuting soprano Anita Hartig is as great a Mimi as Maija Kovalevska was in 2008... perhaps Grigolo has even learned to phrase and engage with his peers. I'm certainly curious about Hartig, but -- especially since these are the only Joseph Calleja appearances of the season -- it's the first cast that holds the most interest. Conductor Stefano Ranzani has done pretty well here with Puccini, so he at least shouldn't wreck the show.

Madama Butterfly
Echalaz, DeShong, Hymel, Hendricks / Auguin (January-February)
Opolais, Zifchak, Valenti, Croft / Armiliato (April)
He, Zifchak, Hughes Jones, Croft / Luisi (May)
I don't suggest seeing Butterfly for the Pinkerton, but look, a Bryan Hymel sighting! Gwyn Hughes Jones, too. This is the debut of South-African-by-way-of-England soprano Amanda Echalaz. Also, not that it matters as much as, say, FroSch (in the first revival of which, incidentally, Philippe Auguin didn't impress), but the conducting lineup for this is really sort of bizarre.

Fleming, Zajick, Beczala, Relyea, Magee / Nézet-Séguin (January-February)
Yup, "Yannick"'s Met show this season is the Dvorak masterpiece. Renee Fleming showed some vocal decline in the 2009 revival, though the standard of her 2004 shows was ridiculously high. Love the production, and of course hearing Nézet-Séguin's pit work should be a treat.

Prince Igor (new Dmitri Tcherniakov production)
Abdrazakov, Rachvelishvili, Dyka, Semishkur, Petrenko, Kocán / Noseda (February-March)
The Met again taps its east-European cornucopia to cast the Borodin opera that hasn't been done by the company in nearly a hundred years. It has been done in the house, though, by the visiting Kirov/Mariinsky in 1998 (back when Anna Netrebko was a great young bel canto singer -- read the Betrothal in a Monastery and Ruslan & Lyudmila notices from then). That show, in a rather odd production of what was presumably the cutting-edge in musicological restoration then, was supposed to feature Ildar Abdrazakov's now-wife (Olga Borodina) as Konchakovna (she withdrew, but Larissa Diadkova impressed) and did feature his elder brother (Askar) as Konchak. This time the younger Abdrazakov has the title part, Met Carmen-for-life Anita Rachvelishvili gets the big mezzo aria, and the edition is yet a new recutting/restoration by the hands of the director Tcherniakov and the conductors (both Gergiev proteges) Gianandrea Noseda and Pavel Smelkov (who's in the pit February 21).

Werther (new Richard Eyre production)
Kaufmann, Garanca, Oropesa, Bizic, Summers / Altinoglu (February-March)
Eyre, the director of one of the current administration's rare unequivocal successes, returns with a rather different French piece. I have my doubts that Garanca will be a convincing object of domestic desire, but after Parsifal I'm certain a good director can shape Kaufmann's fragmentary seeking into a heck of a wounded tenor hero.

The Enchanted Island
de Niese, Chuchman, Graham, Daniels, Costanzo, Domingo, Pisaroni / Summers (February-March)
I'll repeat what I wrote above:
The long, leaden, wit-free, barely-literate hash of politically correct tropes that was "The Enchanted Island" should have ended the Met careers of every person involved on its production (note: I don't mean the singers, who did what they could).
DiDonato couldn't save the show the first time, and Graham isn't going to do it now. Avoid like crazy, especially if you like Shakespeare.

Hampson, Voigt, O'Neill, Hoare / Levine (March)
The third of Levine's planned return engagements. Thomas Hampson as Wozzeck!? The strange thing is that it's not a completely mind-boggling idea now. (But it mostly still is.)

La Sonnambula
Damrau, Camarena, Pertusi / Armiliato (March-April)
Too much to hope for a major recut of the offensive up-yours finale? Though the whole show is, thanks perhaps to Dessay's veto of a traditional setting, half-baked. In any case, what's missing in Diana Damrau's Gilda is also a fatal absence for an Amina: goodness.

Andrea Chenier
Álvarez, Racette, Lucic / Noseda (March-April)
Marcelo Alvarez -- despite good singing -- was rather too clever/committed for his own good this season in making his Gustavo so thoroughly unkingly, but this show and production should present no such off-the-rails temptations.

Byström, Kühmeier, Saccà, Volle, Del Carlo / Auguin (April)
The third Strauss revival of the season features Swedish sort-of-a-soprano Malin Byström and Austrian really-a-soprano Genia Kühmeier as the lead sisters, with debuting tenor Roberto Saccà as Matteo and debuting baritone Michael Volle as Waldner. I have the least faith in this Strauss offering: it takes more from the conductor than one might think, and Auguin has never at the Met shown himself able/willing to carry things along. But if Byström and Volle get the moral side of it, that should be something.

I Puritani
Peretyatko, Brownlee, Kwiecien, Pertusi / Mariotti (April-May)
I'm irrationally thrilled at the prospect of this revival. I have no idea whether debuting Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko will be any good (she's married to Mariotti, who of course is conducting) and the production will remain as bland as ever, but I somehow suspect that an actual bel canto soprano (which she may be) and a barnstorming tenor (which I'm pretty sure Brownlee is) can make much of this show in a way their predecessors certainly did not.

La Cenerentola
DiDonato, Flórez, Spagnoli, Corbelli, Pisaroni / Luisi
An all-star group is brought together for another moviecast. Only appearances for DiDonato and Florez this season.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The week in NY opera (February 25-March 3)

Parsifal is on the air, rumors are in the air... we'll see about both.

Metropolitan Opera
Don Carlo (M/Th), Carmen (T/F), Parsifal (W*/SM)
No Saturday night performance as the Parsifal moviecast consumes the whole day's resources. Carmen wraps its run this Friday. Official season announcement is tomorrow.

* Wednesday's (starred) Parsifal is the one just before this Saturday's matinee moviecast, which means that the camera equipment and lights will be out in force. Do not sit in side orchestra, front orchestra, or side parterre -- the house is not interested in optimizing patron experience on these nights, but in making the eventual broadcast go well.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
New York City Opera The Turn of the Screw (Th/SE)
Second and final week of the run.

Morgan Library
George London Foundation competition finals (Friday 4pm)
The event is currently sold out, but significant. The Met's competition finals is nine days later.

New York Philharmonic Carousel (W/Th/F/SM/SE)
I'm not much for musicals-as-opera, but opposite Broadway's Kelli O'Hara in this are Nathan Gunn and Stephanie Blythe (!!!).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

The hero

Les Troyens - Metropolitan Opera, 12/13/2012 & 1/5/2013
Giordani/Hymel, Voigt, Graham, Bernstein, Croft, Boulianne, Cargill, Cutler, Appleby, Youn / Luisi

Everyone who ended up seeing this show with Marcelo Giordani as Enee (Aeneas) instead of Bryan Hymel deserves a refund. From the former one expected solid if not particularly fluid vocalism and a decent enough stock presence... unfortunately neither delivered here. The singing, on opening night, ranged from strained to -- in, unfortunately, the final climactic scene -- dire, but the real damage was done phrase by phrase. All the curves and turns of Berlioz's music were turned into dead straight lines, with particularly devastating effect in the climactic Act IV love duet. Here Aeneas has finally been seduced into accord with Dido's endless dilation of the moment: Giordani's inability, even at this height of his character's rapture, to trace the satisfied full course of his line made their relationship, Dido's love, and indeed the audience's engagement in the above sadly implausible. There must be some piece of Aeneas that shares Dido's desire to ignore (or at least put off) fate... not only does the libretto say as much, it's the echo of Virgil's own contribution to epic -- that inner hesitation and doubt of a melancholic pastoral poet put in harness as apologist for fate's (probably, for the time) least-worst but nevertheless hard & bloody outcome (the triumph of Rome over the world and Augustus over Rome). Stock Italian tenor-heroisms (Giordani's physical presentation was basically the same as for his Calaf in November) encompass none of this.

In truth, of course, the dramatic tenor with true poetic sensibility, lurking or overt, is very much the exception -- for which Ben Heppner got too little credit in the premiere run of this production. And in fact Bryan Hymel isn't Heppner or Klaus Florian Vogt or anyone in that vein.

In fact there's really nothing easy about Hymel's singing: the irreducible baseline effort one notices is, I suspect, why he wasn't the first choice Enee to begin with. But as the part moves from conversation to declamation and passion, Hymel's singing follows easily, the effortful part of it becoming both insignificant and (in any case) in accord with the moment. The huge long cries of "Italie" that capped off both his final solo and, perhaps even more impressively, the ensemble finale thereafter (for which he could well have receded into the massed sound) were thrills perhaps unmatched in the Met's history of the opera. And if his stage presence wasn't a poet's, it was complementary to his full-dynamic presentation, energetic and responsive to all the bewildering things around him.

This alone improved the effect of Susan Graham's performance. Where Giordani was basically a wall, Hymel provided a real partner in their arc of stolen time and doomed love, and so the personal arc was well and movingly carried off. As a queen, though... Graham's Dido seemed to make no distinction from the start between public and private, appearing in her personal free self at the ceremonies kicking off Part II as naturally as in her grief-wracked incarnation at the end. It's a legitimate interpretation, and certainly her singing was beautiful and moving, but Graham's downplaying of Dido's regal side and role -- her burden, parallel to Aeneas' -- left something important out. This part was, as many will remember, the first and last great triumph of Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson's Met career -- the opening night of this production a validation that few singers experience in such concentrated form -- and so perhaps it's unfair to invoke the comparison (not least because the subsequent performances in the run were very good but not at the same level)... but it's irresistible nonetheless. LHL as Dido contrasted stillness with motion, outer firmness (composed for her people and position) with inner pure feeling, and when the latter of each broke the former, at first tenderly in the love sequence and then in the violence of her footlight soliliquy the effect was overpowering. For Graham there was no such contrasting compulsion to measure and highlight her Dido's flow of feeling.

But Graham didn't architect the entire evening. In a rather strange turn, Francesca Zambello's revival stage direction of her own production actually seemed to have sabotaged what had in its original incarnation been a brilliantly-directed whole. Perhaps it was Giordani's presence through these new rehearsals, perhaps simply the passage of time, but for some reason the deft and well-proportioned bits of direction then became, at every turn -- the overwrought Andromache, the bizarre apparent consummation of the romance before the Royal Hunt, the jarringly violent anger of Narbal in Act IV -- overdirected cliche now. So it's hard to blame even Karen Cargill's overly earthy wink-wink-nudge-nudge panderer of an Anna on the debuting mezzo herself... but she didn't help things either.

*     *     *

The other principal reprise -- Deborah Voigt, Cassandra again as in 2003 -- and conductor Fabio Luisi had, I thought, surprisingly analogous flaws and virtues. For Voigt it was a huge reversal: 2003's Troyens was one of the last appearances of that original "fat Voigt", full and luxuriant of sound but similarly un-angular in character, the stimmdiva par excellence. Her Cassandra then was all wrong in its basics -- alienation, hysteria and desperation come out full blast in the score, but found no outlets in Voigt's fate-favored, well-grounded person or voice. Now, she can almost no longer sing the part -- the tone isn't great, and bottom notes are particularly lacking -- but is nevertheless a much better Cassandra. Harassed in her way by fate, having ended the long original cooperation with her body's size and glorious strength, and having run headlong and repeatedly into the limitations of her new form and voice, 2013's Voigt can show desperate, can look ruin in the face, lose patience with her fiancee, and generally get the basic moment-to-moment expression of Cassandra's dramatic position right... but the sonic limitations kick in and limit the force of what should be climactic expression.

Luisi's orchestra sounds good -- which I'd thought would always be the case, but Aida showed otherwise. And his constant characteristic attention to texture and detail and shape in the moment is basically just what the essential time-defying expansiveness of Berlioz in this opera demands. But, even if this achieved and thematized neo-classical courtly patience is the unique feature of the piece, it's not the exclusive one: in the end, Troy burns, Carthage sees its doom, and the lovers' idyll is broken. None of these climactic outcomes quite get their due from Luisi, who as we'll recall found ways to be coolly classical even in Forza, Elektra, and Lulu... It's not (unlike for Voigt) physical limitation that hampers these climaxes, but Luisi's choice.

Still, the basic fit between these roles and their players counted for much, and with Hymel's fire the whole show worked.

*     *     *

The supporting cast was, as usual for the Met, strong. Grossly under-appreciated American bass-baritone Richard Bernstein was probably the most impressive (as Panthus), though Julie Boulianne (Ascanius) and Paul Appleby (Hylas) also made for a strong Trojan contingent. Among the Cartheginians Youn (Narbal), despite the jarring character direction/portrayal, was the strongest vocally, though it's probably unfair to tenor Eric Cutler that his predecessor Matthew Polenzani was a perfect Iopas. For what's a court without an official dreamer?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The week in NY opera (February 18-24)

Pardon the holiday delay.

Metropolitan Opera
Parsifal (M/Th), Rigoletto (T/SE), Carmen (W/SM), Don Carlo (F)
A week after the premiere of the stupendously-cast and mostly successful new Parsifal (more posts to follow) comes the return of 2010's Hytner Don Carlo. As in its first run, the cast is more interesting than the serviceable if garish production, though this time wunderkind Yannick Nezet-Seguin has been replaced in the pit by moral midget Lorin Maazel. Saturday's Rigoletto is the last with the current cast.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
New York City Opera Powder Her Face (Th/SE)
New York City Opera The Turn of the Screw (Su)

City-Opera-in-exile turns from one British chamber opera to another over the weekend.

Carnegie Hall
Magdalena Kožená recital (SE)
English Concert Radamisto (Sunday 2pm)

Yefim Bronfman is Kozena's celebrity accompanist. David Daniels stars in the Handel opera-in-concert. The Nathan Gunn recital scheduled for tonight has been postponed.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A short post on Parsifal

Wow, that was great. Unbelievably so.

There are many, many things I could say in elaboration and clarification, but instead of -- as has been my practice -- trying to put them all into one long post, I'll write just one now:

The fragmentary way in which Jonas Kaufmann's singing presents also appears to be characteristic of his stage person in general. Valkyrie didn't tap into that element, so his success therein was limited. Faust even more so. But Parsifal, this Parsifal, is so thoroughly built around the fragmentary, incomplete, striving-towards-(without realizing)-coherence quality in Kaufmann that it shows him -- and perhaps the opera -- in a blazing new light. The purity in his fool isn't that straightforward or even eerie positive quality of goodness one might have seen in others: it's an absence, usually straightforwardly an absence of the impure & the ground therefor, but occasionally and memorably an absence that speaks with sacred command. In accord is not only the amazing personal direction, but the visual language for the redemption this Parsifal brings.

In other words, nothing like Schenk's glorious field of flowers appears, for better and for worse -- but for Kaufmann, it's better, much better.

And he's not even the greatest star of the show! But that's for next time.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The week in NY opera (February 11-17)

Good Friday comes early this year, or something. UPDATE (9pm): meanwhile, an opera company that hopes everyone else in NYC isn't as forgetful as I am kicks off its season.

Metropolitan Opera
Rigoletto (T/SM), Carmen (W/SE), Parsifal (F)
Elisir has left the building, but the season's most anticipated new show arrives with Francois Girard's Parsifal. On the one hand, the last Quebecois director in Wagner (Lepage) blew a huge sum of money for not much; on the other hand, the last film director to debut (Minghella) had a great success. So... the cast, of course, is remarkable.

Brooklyn Academy of Music
New York City Opera Power Her Face (F/SuM)
If you didn't get enough Thomas Ades this season with his Met premiere Tempest, City-Opera-in-exile revives his first operatic attempt.

Peter Jay Sharp Theater
Juilliard Opera Don Pasquale (W/F/SuM)
Stars soprano Deanna Breiwick, who was a Met Council Finalist in 2011 (when I couldn't go myself).

Endellion Quartet (F/SE/SuM)
The English group offers the first half of their full Beethoven cycle at the Met Museum. Second half is next week.

Monday, February 04, 2013

The week in NY opera (February 4-10)

Pardon this week's delay. As I said last time, I'm on opera hiatus for a few weeks (yes, yes, Parsifal soon).

Metropolitan Opera
Rigoletto (M/F), Comte Ory (T), Elisir (W/SM), Carmen (S)
Comte Ory closes tomorrow, so it's your last chance to catch Pretty Yende this season. Saturday's Carmen brings the debuts of Ekaterina Scherbachenko (Micaela) and Nikolai Schukoff (Don Jose), along with Teddy Tahu Rhodes as Escamillo and Michele Mariotti on the two-shows-at-once schedule.

Carnegie Hall
Susanna Phillips recital (F)
The American soprano (last seen as Donna Anna) essays German, French, Spanish, and English songs in one event in Carnegie's smallest space.