Friday, August 02, 2013

Peter Grimes on KDFC

San Francisco Opera's latest labor agreements allow the radio broadcast of older performances, and to start, we've got Peter Grimes from 1976, with Jon Vickers, Heather Harper, and Geraint Evans. It'll be on at 8 p.m., Sunday, August 4, on KDFC.

In a rare blog posting, Joshua Kosman is quite rightly cranky that this is about all we'll get from San Francisco Opera in celebrating the Britten centenary, although there was Rape of Lucretia from the Merola program last month. He doesn't take note of the lavish attention being paid Britten, including a beautifully-cast, semi-staged Grimes across the street at San Francisco Symphony, but I will.

What I'm cranky about is that I just can't stand Vickers in anything I've heard him in so far, so I'm going to have to pass on this one.

8 comments:

Joshua Kosman said...

Well,

1) many people are feting Britten this year, which is great, and makes me happy, but doesn't get SFO off the hook;
2) I'm very excited about the SFS Grimes but more so about the War Requiem in November, because
2a) I have no idea whether MTT can conduct Britten, whereas Bychkov is, y'know, Bychkov, and
2b) they're celebrating the Britten centennial in 2014.

Also, 3) I'm cranky. It's how I roll.

Lisa Hirsch said...

You are cranky! I was trying to agree with you. There's plenty to be cranky about. I do not think you exceed me in crankery, either.

Re Bychkov, I've never heard him conduct, so no opinion, though I am familiar with his reputation.

I hope MTT can conduct Britten. I'm trying to think whether I've heard him do any, but y'know, I think every SFS Britten performance I've heard has been conducted by someone else. Violin concerto, double concerto, what else have they done in the last ten years?

Michael Strickland said...

I heard MTT conduct excerpts from the Britten ballet, "Prince of the Pagodas," about a decade ago and it was one of the best things he's ever done. In fact, they are playing it again later this season, and I'd recommend the concert highly.

As for not being able to stand Vickers, that's a bit like saying you can't stand the sound of Callas. Defensible in terms of personal taste and sound, but really, he was one of the greats. Those 1976 SFO performances of "Grimes," with a production directed by Geraint Evans himself, was a transcendent moment that turned me into a lifelong opera fan as a young person. I attended at least four or five times, and Vickers singing "Now the Great Bear and Pleiades" aria just about destroyed me and everyone else in the house every time. It will be interesting to hear how the performance holds up over the space/time continuum on the radio.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is exactly the problem. I cannot stand what he does to vowels and the effects on his sound. I have heard him mangle German, French, and Italian, and I cannot imagine he sings English any differently.

Yes, everybody and his uncle has raved to me about Vickers. Maybe you had to be there.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is exactly the problem. I cannot stand what he does to vowels and the effects on his sound. I have heard him mangle German, French, and Italian, and I cannot imagine he sings English any differently.

Yes, everybody and his uncle has raved to me about Vickers. Maybe you had to be there.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I don't dislike Vickers, but I also can't say I really "get" why so many are devoted fans; his voice always sounds a bit oddly strained and metallic to me, and I've wondered as you say if you had to be there, to soak in the intensity of his live portrayal.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The weird sounds coming out of Vickers's mouth usually have to do with how he pronounces vowels, in my experience. A great roaring sound will be going and then he gets to an e or i and the whole thing shuts down.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Gang: I guess you had to be there. Saw him as Peter Grimes and Florestan at SF Opera and maybe even as Siegmund in "Die Walkure" but I didn't much like Wagner then (and am still ambivalent) so I could have cared less about the latter.

There are a few, special voices that have resounded in that opera house as if they owned the air and the walls and his was one of them, but he could also croon in the softest, most delicate way imaginable, and he did both kinds of singing while completely inhabiting a character to an almost frightening degree. He was one of the few performers where I walked out of the opera house feeling completely humbled and not worthy. And on top of it all, from plenty of biographical accounts, he was half batshit crazy, and that came through too, an unpredictability that made each individual performance different, unpredictable and special.

Now do listen up to the broadcast tomorrow evening with all that in the back of your mind. It was a bit of important San Francisco Opera history.