Saturday's Broadcast:

opera & life, life & opera

Posts tagged met opera

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life. opera. way too many similarities.

The summer has morphed into a running total of Sundays of opera. Down here, where I am, our local PBS station is broadcasting the Met’s just-ended season, and I’m gobbling up the opera broadcasts like candy on Easter morning. So far, we’ve enjoyed Aida, Tosca, Falstaff, and La bohème. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Werther will appear in the summer Sunday evening line-up eventually!!!!!

These Sunday evening broadcasts have been brilliant, enjoyable, blissful. It’s my favorite art form, and it’s also summer—what’s not to love about this formula? Opera + Summer = Bliss! 

If you really start to examine the operas, though, the one common theme that runs through all of them is “absurd situation.” Each opera that’s been broadcast so far this summer has, as its base, an absurd situation. The absurdity of the opera usually makes it all the more enjoyable. Life, at its most absurd, seems to be the only way we see the truth (sometimes). 

Recently, I found myself in an utterly absurd situation. Too absurd to describe. During the evening of absurdity as I am now describing it, all I could think was “this is as good as an opera or better” and “right now, my life is an opera.” While I’m glad that absurdity lasted only an hour or so, opera’s absurdity may last as long as it wishes. I’ll watch and listen and thoroughly enjoy myself. After all, it’s opera; and opera is supposed to be absurd and big and over the top. 

Filed under Met Opera pbs aida tosca falstaff la boheme

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Die Frau ohne Schatten—please, someone, find this woman her shadow.

Yeah, about this opera. I should clarify for everyone reading that I am not a fan of Richard Strauss’ operas. Not at all. I don’t understand them musically, can’t seem to find an entry point into them; in other words, what he was trying to do with opera, trying to say, the point he was trying to make, simply eludes me. 

Last weekend, the Met’s Saturday broadcast was a recording of a Fall 2013 (I believe) performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten. I tried to like it. Really, I did. The singing was expertly done. The Met Orchestra was alert and alive. The problem was me. Or, I should say, the problem was R. Strauss and me. 

From Der Rosenkavalier to Ariadne auf Naxos to Capriccio to Elektra to Die Frau, R. Strauss and I don’t speak each other’s musical language.

I really felt frustrated by my lack of musical understanding of Die Frau last Saturday, so I undertook to listen to another recording of Die Frau this week, while recovering,at home, from the flu. I will admit that this recording of Die Frau, conducted by Solti, was more to my taste.  Then again, I’m of the opinion that Solti could have conducted an orchestral arrangement of the phone book, and I would be happy to listen. So, it may have something to do with interpretation and my ears. Still, the opera’s core essence escapes me; and I find this frustrating.

Usually … typically … opera’s meaning comes easily to me. I get it. R. Strauss, not so much. I can’t get past the noise he wrote (forgive me, R. Strauss enthusiasts) to discover where he was going with the noise. 

What opera(s) frustrates you? 

Filed under Richard Strauss Die Frau ohne Schatten Georg Solti Met Opera

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A magical Magic Flute

Last Saturday, the Met’s broadcast was Mozart’s The Magic Flutein English. It was truly The Magic Flute, not Die Zauberflöte.

Granted, the Met did this for a reason. The Magic Flute was produced particularly for families, to give children an introduction to the world of opera, in a venue that is very much an adult space. I can’t fault the plan. I love the idea of introducing children to opera, classical music, etc. 

I can’t fault the production, either. The broadcast was very good, with excellent singing and diction!  I understood the English text via radio, and THAT is an accomplishment!!!! 

Last Saturday’s broadcast was pleasant—the opera clocked in right at 2 hours; and the live audience really seemed to enjoy themselves. I could hear laughter coming over the speakers. Live audience participation is always something I enjoy hearing as an auditory-only participant in the Met’s Saturday operas.

Well done, Met. Well done!

Filed under met opera mozart Magic Flute

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Parsifal, what you do to me …

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.

Filed under Parsifal jonas kaufmann rene pape Met Opera

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Verdi in Las Vegas?

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!

For more info: Rigoletto synopsis; Rigoletto videos


Filed under rigoletto Diana Damrau zeljko lucic stefan kocan Met Opera michael mayer

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Wotan, Brunnhilde, Siegmund …

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. 

Filed under Wagner Met Opera Das Rheingold Die Walkure Eric Owens

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Handel’s Cesare


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!

Filed under Giulio Cesare David Daniels Natalie Dessay Alice Coote Handel Harry Bicket MET Orchestra Met Opera

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Otello redux

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.

Filed under Otello Jose Cura Met Opera

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The re-appearing question?!

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.

Filed under Zandonai Eva-Maria Westbroek Marcello Giordani Verdi La forza del destino Leontyne Price Francesca da Rimini Met Opera