Wednesday, July 17, 2013

La Donna del Lago at the Santa Fe Opera

My wife and I had the marvelous pleasure of enjoying a performance of Rossini's La Donna Del Lago (Lady of the Lake) at the Santa Fe Opera this past Saturday night.  It is a beautiful venue and had a stellar cast of Joyce DiDonato, Lawrence Brownlee and Marianna Pizzolato.  While I thought Lawrence Brownlee was a little light or weak in the first act, he rose to the occasion in Act 2.  The surprise for me was the mezzo, Marianna Pizzolato who sang with depth, color and confidence.  The only other time I had the pleasure of listening to her was on the Pergolesi Stabat Mater with Anna Netrebko.  The opera was full of drama, passion and fantastic bel canto singing.  Joyce Di Donato had previously performed the same opera at the Royal Opera House in London with Juan Diego Florez and Daniela Barcelona to great acclaim.  Having seen the DVD of the latter production, I found the sets at Santa Fe to be spartan and it let you concentrate on the fabulous singing.  Ms. DiDonato did not disapppoint and had the audience in the palm of her hand for her fiery final aria.  She took encore and standing ovations graciously and invited the rest of the cast to join her. 

A Mysterious Beauty With a Secret Identity.

La Donna del Lago is Rossini’s most romantic masterpiece. Why is it so infrequently seen? One reason: the formidable demands of the title role. Fortunately, Santa Fe audiences will see it performed by the fabulous mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato — who has earned acclaim for it in world opera capitals including Milan and Paris. Leading bel canto specialist Marianna Pizzolato sings Malcolm, and sought-after coloratura tenor Lawrence Brownlee sings Uberto. Stephen Lord conducts.

In Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, the heroine is introduced as “a monument of Grecian art . . .  the guardian Naiad of the strand” – an un-clichéd portrait of Scottish beauty. In the Royal Opera’s new version of the “melodramma” Rossini based on Scott’s poem, she is first glimpsed as an exhibition frieze in a glass box. No cliché there either. That opening scene tells us we are witnessing a case study in cultural archaeology, as related by Scott (aka Serano, a minor character) to a chorus of early 19th-century academicians.

Scott’s popularisation of Scotland as a romantic place, locked in a semi-fictional past, was as misleading as the current image of a nation hell-bent on independence – but his massaging of reality was exactly what Rossini needed. It gave the composer a suitably mythical backdrop against which to profile the pyrotechnical vocalism his Neapolitan public craved.

This is a gorgeous venue that we have visited before to see Natalie Dessay in Bellini's La Sonambula and Handel's Aggripina both in outstanding productions.  In fact, we preferred the Santa Fe La Sonambula to the confusing Mary Zimmerman La Sonambula at the MET.

Peter Gelb, the general manager of the MET was in the audience and has promised to bring this opera to the MET in 2014-15 season.  Let's hope that he will live up to his word, as this rarely performed Rossini opera in a gem.  As you can see from my photo, this is a covered venue that is open to the environment.  One frequently saw heat lightning in the distance.  The orchestra and chorus was robust and supportive.
Marianna Pizzolato (L), Lawrence Brownlee (Center) and Joyce DiDonato (R)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Joyce DiDonato Drama Queens


This is a fabulous CD of Baroque music.  Joyce, a mezzo soprano from Kansas is celebrating her accomplishments and will be performing the music from the album in Kansas City’s Harriman-Jewell Center (November 16th), NYC’s Carnegie Hall (November 18th) and Sonoma California’s Green Music Center (November 20th).  We are thrilled to attend this recital at Carnegie Hall.

We last saw her in Marie Stuarda in Houston which she will perform at the Metropolitan opera later this year.  It is of interest that she is choosing to follow the same path as Cecilia Bartoli in uncovering old and rarely performed music.

Brava Joyce!  Your CD is wonderful

Monday, November 5, 2012

What a great performance at MET of Elisir D'Amore with Netrebko, Kwiecen and Polenzani.  We were fortunate to have been there while this was being broadcast around the world.

Monday, October 22, 2012

L'Elisir D'Amore at the Metropolitan Opera

We had a grand time this performance.  Polenzani was wonderful and sang an eloquent Una Furtiva Lagrima which really was sung well and he seemed to float the high notes with just elegance.  Mariusz Kweicen was his jocular self and suited well to this role.  Anna Netrebko simply fills the hall with a lustrous voice that has risen in stature, color and timber.  She moves effortlessly and sings radiantly.  This was simply a great cast that worked well together.  This was a new and controversial production by Bartlett Sher which kept many of the opera's main venues intact.  This was radically different from last year's production which featured Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez in a production that could only be characterized as a set full of pink cutouts.  

The new production made great use of a proscenium which seemed to make the stage space small and more confined which may have helped the artists.  Since this was a live HD performance broadcast to many theaters in the US and Europe and elsewhere it had to meet its great challenge.  From many comments from my facebook friends, it simply was a remarkable event.  The orchestra was conducted by Benini who is no stranger to the MET.  He seemed to keep the music in line with the artists in a rather seamless effort.  

Netrebko is no stranger to this role having previously sung this with Rolando Villazon at the Wien Statsopera and St. Petersburg.  She has recently said that she will abandon her "Ina" roles such as Norina in E'Lisir, to concentrate on more dramatic and heavier roles such as Leonora in Il Trovatore.  We all await her upcoming DG Verdi album. 

We had the opportunity to meet another Facebook friend at the gift shop during intermission and share stories about our love of opera and the remarkable persona and voice of Anna Netrebko.  Anna is very gracious and generous to her fans snapping pictures and signing autographs at the stage door. 

We met Matthew Polenzani last year after a lackluster performance of Wily Deckker's La Traviata at the MET with an ailing Natalie Dessay.  He did not appear to be engaged in that role, but it is clear that he has now developed both the mental focus and ardor required of a great tenor.  Polenzani was engaged in E'Lisir and judging from the intermission interview it appears that he adores Netrebko as an artist an person.  From his bookings at the MET, he is now becoming a "regular" something that will surely raise his exposure and ability to sing new roles with high level casts.  

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Barber of Seville at the MET

On Saturday October 1, my wife Paula and I headed off to the MET for what proves to be an excitinng season.  We were so pleased to see a sold out performance with many young people in attendence.  It was quite a diverse audience with the aged, physically challenged and occasional young children in attendence.  We had seen this production previously with Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez who always charm the New York fans.  To our glorious surprise, the mezzo-soprano Isobel Leonard and the Swedish bartone, Peter Mattei stole show.  Leonard as Rosina and Mattei as Figaro brought the house down with beautiful singing, humor and assurance in this utter frace by Rossini. 

This production by Bartlette Sher is well known at the MET and features moving dooors, a cart, orange trees (a la Seville) and complete with the docile and well behaving donkey. 

The ensemble consisted of: 
Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Rosina: Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva: Javier Camarena
Figaro: Peter Mattei
Dr. Bartolo: Maurizio Muraro
Don Basilio: Paata Burchuladze

If there was a breakout star here it was Leonard who amply filled the shoes of Diana Damrau and Elina Garanca in preceding years.  The MET has had to scramble to have the orchestra led by a cadre of conductors.  Benini did an ample job and has not had the harsh criticism launched at him similar to that of Marco Armillato, an Italian expert who led the opening night of Anna Bolena starring Anna Netrebko. 

We were pleasantly surpised to meet a young couple seated next to us in the balcony.  She a chemist at Boehringer Ingelheim and he working at Agios in Central Square in Cambridge, MA.  This was his first opera and a great choice at that.  She was from Denmark and told us of the beautiful new opera house in Copenhagen that we had seen on a tour.  She suggested that the foyer is exquisite and worth a visit. 

These two clips demonstrate the vitality and life in this production.

On the way home, we watched the DVD of the Salzburg 2005 Marriage of Figaro starring the allstar cast of Actors: Anna Netrebko, Dorothea Roschmann, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, Bo Skovhus, and Christine Schafer
The conductor was  Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the somwhat avante garde production was directted by  Claus Guth.  On the DVD are bonus segments that reveal the artistry and committment of the artists to this production.  I refer specifically to the comments made by Anna Netrebko in her efforts to get inside the character, be responsive to the conductor and inclinations of the director. 

I would highly recommend this to any fan of updated operas.

Of course we are looking forward to Anna Bolena with Netrebko as well as her solo recital at Carnegie Hall with a series of lieder of Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov , and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Norma at Tanglewood

Last Friday, July 8, 2011 we had the wonderful opportunity to witness part of "Norma" given at Tanglewood. the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Lenox, MA.  There were several heroes that night including Charles Dutoit who led the ensemble with great assurance.  For Angela Meade, a rising soprano star this was a major breakthrough in her career.  Despite having sung small roles at Caramoor and sing Ernani at the MET, she has largely been overshadowed by regning divas. 

Opening Night at Tanglewood 2011 (Excerpts) from Larry Murray on Vimeo.

The concert begins with extended excerpts from Act I of Bellini’s Norma featuring the young American soprano Angela Meade and Sicilian tenor Roberto De Biasio, both debutting with the BSO, young American mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson and internationally renowned American bass-baritone James Morris.  One could feel the palpable energy of Dutoit as he guided the singers and orchestra through the difficult bel canto phrasing.  Their were notable highlights from all of the solists, with the chorus providing a beautiful color and shading to the choruses.  Despite the dismal weather this was an evening to celebrate both opera and the performers.  Meade received her training at the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts  and was a finalist at the MET competition.  While her singing was quite elegant, it appear to change over time into a forced vibrato which bordered on pushing it too much.

We have seen Ms. Meade at Carnegie Hall as a soloist in the Rossini Stabat Mater and at last year's Richard Tucker Gala.  She definately has sufficient technical skills, but only the future will be able to judge her ability to act and convey emotion.  I was quite impressed with the mezzo and tenor and this made for a joyous evening.  The legacy of James Levine was palpable in that this was his type of concert.  Only in recent years has this venue performed operatic excerpts.  Dutoit deserves hearty accolades as a last minute replacement for the ailing Levine.  His zeal and energy were quite evident from our birds-eye view from the 1st row. 

John Oliver, the longstanding leader of the Tanglewood Musical Festival Chorus was stunning in his ability to direct the chorus to support to the singers.  You owe it to yourself to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Tanglewood.  It has the ability to drwan you in for a joyous ride into sheer blis.