Posts tagged met opera
Posts tagged met opera
Oh, Parsifal, what you do to me just isn’t right. On a very deep, soul-stirring level, Parsifal gets to me—musically, metaphorically …
A couple of evenings ago, PBS broadcast the Met’s Parsifal from the season that just ended. You know … that Parsifal … the one with Jonas Kaufmann and Rene Pape.
It was just as gorgeous on screen as it had been on the radio a couple of months ago. I was enraptured by the whole thing—the imagery, the singing, the music.
If you don’t believe me, watch this and believe:
Parsifal videos from the Met Opera website.
Yes, Verdi in Las Vegas. The Met’s new production of Rigoletto had me worried. I listened to Rigoletto several times this past season via online stream and thought it sounded wonderful, but I had not seen the new production; so Michael Mayer’s re-conceptualization of Rigoletto’s world was lost to me. Until now.
I have to hand it to Mayer. His ideas for Rigoletto—planting this opera in the Las Vegas of the 1950s/1960s allowed me to see parts of the characters that I’ve never seen before. I saw the lounge-lizard qualities of each man that I might not see in a more traditional staging. Let’s face it, each male character in Rigoletto is a player; every man on stage is playing—playing a part with and against all of the other men, playing with/toying with/manipulating the women. This opera is really all about manipulation to the ultimate limits. I’ve never doubted Rigoletto’s love for Gilda, but there’s a strong undercurrent of manipulation there, as well. The Duke? He’s the ultimate manipulator. Ceprano? He’s hiding behind a facade, just like every other guy who sings in Rigoletto …
Perhaps the one character who stays true to his character from the beginning of the story is Sparafucile, and that is a shuddering thought.
So, yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Mayer’s conceptualization of Rigoletto. I saw things this time around that were new and enlightening. It’s always a joy to find something new in an “old” opera!
Of course, Lucic and Damrau were brilliant. Personally, I thought Štefan Kocán sang a beautiful Sparafucile! His voice is so resonant, and he acted the part stupendously!
Well done, Met! Well done!
We are halfway through the Met’s Saturday broadcasts of the Ring Cycle. Two Saturdays ago, the Met broadcasted Das Rheingold, and yesterday, the Met broadcasted Die Walkure. Such glorious performances—both of them!
I’m always stunned at the brevity of Das Rheingold and the power of Die Walkure. Das Rheingold makes me want more, and Die Walkure reduces me to nothing. Nothing, I tell you.
Yesterday, Die Walkure was a notable performance mainly because Simon O’Neill, singing the part of Siegmund, went out in the middle of Act 1 with allergies, and his cover, Andrew Sritheran, stepped in … The New York Times didn’t seem too impressed with Sritheran’s singing, but his voice wasn’t too displeasing to the ears.
Of course, I’m biased. Die Walkure is one of my favorite operas, so for me, it was a good broadcast. And last week’s Das Rheingold was equally impressive—Eric Owens positively owned the part of Alberich. Quite frankly, I was disappointed when Das Rheingold ended … the performance felt so short, and I really wanted more.
In the opera’s final scene, Cesare proclaims Cleopatra sole queen of Egypt.
Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera
On April 4th, the Met broadcasted, online, Handel’s Giulio Cesare, with David Daniels, Natalie Dessay, Alice Coote, Patricia Bardon, and Christophe Dumaux. Harry Bicket led the Met orchestra.
I must admit … this opera should be viewed. I can’t fault the singing, but I do admit to finding myself lost during the opera, simply because I don’t know the opera and did not have the libretto at hand with which to follow the singing. While the sketch of the opera’s action is fairly clear to me, so much of the nuance is missed. Let’s face it, some operas are best seen to be thoroughly enjoyed. Giulio Cesare might be one of them.
But, let’s discuss the singing. Shall I admit to being something of a sucker for Baroque opera?! Well, I am. Baroque opera and those who sing it overwhelm me. Geez … Baroque specialists make me feel just a wee bit inferior. They are so terribly good at what they do. David Daniels as Cesare! He’s more than just a Baroque specialist. He’s brilliant. And stays brilliant. Daniels sings angelically, passionately, and with intelligence. I love his phrasing. He does for operatic phrasing what Frank Sinatra did for pop music phrasing.
This performance of Giulio Cesare was my introduction to Alice Coote (as Sesto). May I have more of that gorgeous instrument of hers, please? Wow! She sang with such power, such force.
Natalie Dessay has never been one of my favorite sopranos, but she seemed to acquit herself well as Cleopatra. The commentators mentioned that there was quite a bit of dancing and singing simultaneously for Dessay. Singers who dance while they sing have my admiration.
I’m thinking of buying a ticket to the HD broadcast of Giulio Cesare later in April. It would be nice to know what’s happening during this opera and when!
I’m listening to Otello … again, via the Met’s online streaming broadcast service. This is my 2nd time this season to hear Otello this way. The first time, Botha was singing Otello; tonight, we get Jose Cura in the role. Cura is doing quite well …
Right now, we’re in the midst of Act II—Otello’s heart has to change towards Desdemona in this act. I’m anxious to see how Cura pulls it off vocally.
Eva-Maria Westbroek and Marcello Giordani
Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera
Life keeps handing me this question in one of several variations: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”, “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”, “what would you do if you knew you would succeed?”
You might not think so, but that’s a fairly big question. And it won’t go away. Maybe it’s time I think about answering it.
Last Saturday, the Met broadcasted Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Marcello Giordani. This season was my first to hear Zandonai’s utterly gorgeous creation, and the pure passion of the story astounded me. I’ve read Dante’s Inferno, but it’s been a while; and the character of Francesca da Rimini has slipped from my memory of Inferno. I should do a re-read … add that to my Trello list. Anyway, the love story of Francesca and Paolo explodes from the music; and Westbroek and Giordani served the music well vocally. These two characters seemed to answer the question that just won’t go away, not really minding the consequences, although they did consider them. “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Let’s see, according to Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini, Francesca and Paolo chose forbidden love even though they knew death was the most likely ending for both of them. What a way to go … although dying at the end of a sword seems a bit brutal to my way of thinking. Zandonai’s opera left nothing to halves. His characters are fully-embodied musically. Each character is “done brown” as it were. And I loved every minute of this looooooong opera. To be truthful, I would like to listen to it again, because I know I missed something (even after two broadcasts—one in the evening the week prior).
Now that you know the kind of force this question carries with it and the kind of answer it might require, I suppose I should answer a bit of it for myself.
Hmmm …where to start.
What would I do if I weren’t afraid?
Wear glasses that please me and not everyone else. (that’s the easy one, but then again, it’s not so easy—after all, you have to face the world in your glasses.)
Sing more. More loudly, for more people, more often.
Stop apologizing. I need to shed that southern-bred instinct of mine to say “I’m sorry” when someone else fouls up grandly.
Be brave enough to walk through a door that isn’t quite locked but then again, it isn’t quite unlocked, either. Test the doorknob to see if it turns.
Know my worth, and embrace my value. Refuse to be pigeon-holed or stifled.
Accept nothing less than the absolute best for my life.
Today’s broadcast is an archived recording of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino with Leontyne Price. While she sings, I’m going to contemplate this question. Somehow, I have a feeling that Leontyne Price has answered this question during her lifetime. I can learn something from her today.
Are you familiar with that song from The Troggs? You know? That one? “Love is all around”? Yes, I knew you knew that song …
December is such an incredibly busy month—end of the semester stuff happens; finding the perfect Christmas gifts; cooking, baking, cleaning, and decorating for the holidays; and the inevitable traveling to be with family for Christmas/New Year’s. This December has been harder than the average December. We all know why, and I’ve been a bit gloomy for the past few days. Who wouldn’t be? Personally, I think each of us grieves in our own particular ways, even when it is communal grief.
But then, today came along, introduced by a massive storm last night and blustery winds all day. Today has been, very much, a day in which ”love is all around.” I spent the day with friends and those I consider my family away from family. You know exactly what I mean—people who become family simply through mutual bonds of love and affection. Right now, my heart is full to bursting. I am incredibly thankful for today. I’ve shared breakfast with a friend who imparts Godly wisdom; I’ve laughed with dear, dear friends as we watched the antics of their 1-year-old; and I’ve been at home with people whom I treasure close to my heart, as I held my honorary nephew and played with the dog. Today, there were hugs all around, and sometimes, a hug is a prayer.
I’ve spent more time in prayer this week than I can remember doing in a while. I’ve prayed for the teachers, professors, and librarians (school, public, and academic) in my life; I’ve prayed for the parents I know. I’ve prayed for all of us to have more grace than we could possibly hold as we live and work. Grace is the only thing that keeps us knit together when everything else falls apart.
On Tuesday night, as I listened to the Met broadcast of the English version of Barber of Seville (Rossini), it amazed me that in spite of the sorrow in my heart, I could laugh at the timeless and ageless humor in this most delightful of operas. Is there any end to the depth of the human heart—to know sorrow and happiness simultaneously? Rodion Pogossov, Alek Shrader, and Isabel Leonard were charming—delightful, I should say—in this English version; and while I continued to expect Italian to roll off of everyone’s tongues, the English text was both well-written by the translating librettist and well-executed by the singers. English is a most difficult language to sing.
This evening, as I returned home from trekking to and fro, the Cambridge Singers, directed by John Rutter, were caroling in my car. Christmas is coming—that is the promise of Advent. But, Christmas is already here in my heart—along with all the love, joy, and hope that comes with Christmas. And I get to listen to The Barber of Seville again this Saturday as part of the Met’s Saturday broadcast series.
It’s been a good day.
Who among us knew that December was going to be this hard? If only some oracle could have risen, a la Erde, and told us that our hearts would be ripped out of our chests a couple of days ago, then perhaps we could have prepared ourselves for the inevitable, communal pain and grief for lives lost too soon, too quickly.
Instead, we sit with this communal suffering and hold those we love and even perfect strangers a little bit closer because life is too fragile to miss even the most minute gestures of love now.
Last weekend, a couple of my dearest friends gave me such a beautiful gesture of friendship and love. I felt spoiled, treasured, and blessed beyond measure. They invited me over for an evening of dinner, Christmas gift exchanging, and film watching; and the dinner was completely gluten-free. If you have never lived with a food issue of any kind, then you probably won’t understand why this meal touched me to my core. These friends of mine purposefully cooked gluten-free, just so that I could eat food in their home that would not make me ill. Even thinking about it now makes me think, “Wow. That was sweet of them. And amazingly kind.”
And while we’re on the subject of beautiful things (I’m trying to give you something beautiful to think about), the Met’s first radio broadcast of the season, heard on Saturday, Dec. 8, was stunning. They chose Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera to kick off the radio broadcast season; and it seemed to be a good choice, gauging the house audience’s reaction. Sondra Radvanovsky and Dmitri Hvorostovsky sang the opera out of the ballpark, as I totally expected. Stephanie Blythe was her stunning, mezzo self (I’m biased), and I just wish I could have seen this opera in HD earlier this fall. Drat! Since I’m not overly familiar with the plot of Un Ballo, it would have been nice to see the action happening on stage. I’ll have to remedy this problem soon—maybe there’s a DVD production of Un Ballo???
Yesterday’s broadcast was Verdi’s Aida, but we’ll save that for another day.
We’re in the midst of Advent season, and I’m listening to a lot of John Rutter and his Cambridge Singers. The cat isn’t objecting, so I guess she likes a little Rutter now and then, as well.
Peace and joy to you this Advent season.
I’m not a big fan of Black Friday. In fact, I’ve never really understood the point of Black Friday. I’m almost positive that there is nothing in my life or in the lives of those close to me that HAS to be acquired on Black Friday.
However, while some people have the tradition of shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, I have another tradition. I start my slow creep to Christmas. Today is the day when I bring out the boxes of ornaments and decorate my handed-down Christmas tree as I drink soy eggnog and listen to my rather impressive collection of Christmas music—carols and sacred and secular songs.
Today’s a day of quiet rest and contemplation for the season that is approaching. Christmas is coming and, with it, lots of family and friend time. I’m looking forward to all of the noise, noise, noise (referencing Dr. Seuss here); but for today, I’m savoring the quietude and tranquility of this little life of mine.
Tonight, opera happens again … the Met is live-streaming Aida. Who would want to miss Aida? Not me! Last week’s La Clemenza di Tito was brilliant, and I’ll talk more about it in another post.
For today, it’s enough to decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music and opera, and enjoy the lull between holidays. Have a happy lull!