Wednesday, September 30, 2009

If You Were Wondering...

...about the six-day gap between S. F. Opera Tritto performances, here's the reason: the leading lady was one of the hosts of the Metropolitan Opera's opening night. The Times has a nice photo posted of Patricia Racette outside the Met with her partner Beth Clayton and director/designer Julie Taymore.

KDFCization of WQXR?

Today's Times has an article about programming changes expected at New York City's WQXR. Read it and weep: they're keeping the Met broadcasts, but expect less vocal music and (ahem) less music that might be deemed challenging. Here are a few paragraphs:
A mission statement prepared by WQXR’s new programmers said, “There may indeed be times when the more radical and unfamiliar pieces work, but we will not favor them over the work that speaks directly to the needs of uplift, beauty and contemplation.”

The programmers also provided a sample list of “core composers” and the works that would most likely play on the radio versus the Internet. They stressed that the list was but a guideline.

Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner were there. So were Copland, Janacek, Gershwin, Satie, Sibelius and the ever-popular Vivaldi. Mahler was missing.

Schubert symphonies were deemed radio-worthy but not the piano trios or songs, which were reserved for Q2. Radio received Ravel orchestra music but not solo piano works; Sibelius’s symphonies but not his tone poems; Janacek chamber works but not operas; Brahms symphonies but not choral works; Beethoven symphonies and piano concertos but not the late piano sonatas, songs or chamber works.

Vivaldi had sweeping approval. Except for “shorter sacred works.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This Cast Change Only Looks Like a Typo

From San Francisco Opera comes the news that the role of Desdemona, in the upcoming run of Verdi's Otello, will not be sung by Svetla Vassileva. Instead, Zvetelina Vassileva will take the part.
They're not the same soprano. Really.
  • Svetla Vassileva previously appeared at S.F. Opera as Liu in Turandot during the 1998-99 season.
  • Zvetelina Vassileva previously appeared at S.F Opera as Leonora during the 1994 run of Il Trovatore, as Gorislava during the 1995 run of Ruslan y Lyudmila, and as Drusilla in the 1998 Poppea.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Polanski Arrest

There's quite a bit of outrage in the arts world at the arrest and possible extradition of Roman Polanski, who has been a fugitive since he left the United States in 1978 to avoid a possible prison sentence. The latest NY Times article discusses the crime he pleaded guilty to:
Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1978 to unlawful sex with the girl whom he had lured to the home of Jack Nicholson on the pretext of a photo shoot and plied with Quaaludes and Champagne. But when a plea bargain deal appeared to founder, raising the prospect of a prison term, he fled the United States just before his sentencing.
Note the circumstances. The girl in question was 13; she was lured under false pretenses, then given drugs and alcohol and raped. Really, I have no problem with him going to jail for a while for this crime. The victim, now an adult, has reportedly forgiven him. That doesn't make him less guilty. It does seem weird that he has been in and out of Switzerland for many years without being arrested, and I'm curious that. Still.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Il Trovatore, San Francisco Opera

So, I made a mistake. I went to see Il Trovatore Friday night, the day after seeing Il Trittico for the second time. After the incredible brilliance of Trittico, which I swear to actually post about, Trovatore was a big letdown. I expect I would have liked it better if I'd seen it before going to Trittico for the first time. A word of advice to readers: if you're only going to attend one opera this fall, go see Trittico, not Trovatore. SF Opera last performed the trio in 1952 and who knows when they'll revive this great production or cast it so fabulously well? And I can promise you that you'll recognize a couple of the tunes, too, even if you've never heard a note of Tabarro.

But, here's my take on Trovatore.

The sets are workable and unexpectionable, working fine in the house, not overdone or underdone. The direction, not so good - there is too much unmotivated wandering around the stage; sometimes it would be better if they just stood and sang. Patrick notes that no Spanish nobleman would have manhandled Leonora - and a nun - the way di Luna is directed to in this production. Uh-huh.

Luisotti is conducting, and he's great; the chorus sounds terrific and so does the orchestra. The performance was not quite note-complete; Leonora's cabalettas ("Di tale amor" and "Tu vedrai") both lost a verse and so did "Di quella pira."

The singing? Semi-modified rapture. Let's go from the bottom up.

Marco Berti, singing Manrico, is loud and graceless, shouts too often, interrupts the line constantly, aspirates, can't trill, and has an ugly voice. He had a couple of good moments, when he bothers to sing softly and pay attention to the words. He's an undistinguished actor and without either a great voice, great looks, or great presence, it's really hard to tell what Leonora would see in him.

Especially when the di Luna is the gorgeous Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Take a look at photos of the pair of them, and you'll see what I mean - I realize that everybody wants Hvorostovsky's striking white hair to show, but can you believe for a second that these guys (SPOILER WARNING) are brothers??

That said, I continue to be amazed that Hvorostovsky gets cast in Verdi dramatic baritone roles. He sounded out of sorts Friday night and I thought he would fall apart in the high register toward the end of Act I (which combines Verdi's Acts I and II). He doesn't have that big upward extension you need for Verdi baritone roles; he also shouts or barks for emphasis. It's a
beautiful voice, but he is a dullish singer and inert actor. I wish they'd just use him in Russian operas, not that we're likely to have many of those under Gockley.

Stephanie Blythe has an enormous voice and terrific technique, able to bring off Azucena's trills with suitable brilliance. She seems somehow wrong anyway, in timbre and in temperament, even though she is definitely observing all the score markings, has the dynamic and vocal range, etc. I'm reminded of something Marilyn Horne once said: "I tried Azucena and her money notes are just off mine. Not a good fit." Maybe the same is true here. I also didn't get much a sense of the character; she seemed too sane to me. Also, that outfit in the last act? Oy.

Best of all was certainly Sondra Radvanovsky, whom Brian at Out West Arts described as "freaking amazing." I'll drink to that: a beautiful, plangent, vibrant voice, big, focussed, with a slightly reedy edge that I find very appealing; she has the upward and downward range for the role, a gorgeous legato, wonderful sense of the line, and the ability to sing the full dynamic range required. Her trill is unreliable and her high pianissimos could have more body, but, really, she was wonderful. I seriously never thought I'd hear this music sung so well live. (S.F. Opera has clips of Marina Mesheriakova, the last Leonora here, on their web site, and she is embarrassing, especially next to S. Rad.)

It's true that there was a noticable coordination problem in "D'amor sull'ali rosee," her last-act aria; she and Luisotti just could not get together, despite valiant efforts on his part. (I was standing in the orch. section and could see those efforts!)

Oh, and the Ferrando, Burak Biligi? Eh. Nice voice, better in the house than at the ballpark, but again, too much aspirating, not enough attention to the line. I don't understand why they didn't get Philip Skinner or Kirk Eichelberger for this one; Skinner, especially, would have sung it better. And why was Biligi made up to look so much younger than Blythe when Ferrando is supposed to recognize her from however many years ago Azucena's mother was burned at the stake?

Overall, I came out the opera feeling kind of blah. At the ballpark broadcast, one of the features had Luisotti saying that this is one of the best casts in the world for Trovatore. Really? I am sure that there are better tenors, better baritones, better basses, and more suitable mezzos than SFO came up with. Yes, it was a big improvement over the last, awful production and cast, but there's a long way to go before we have a cast resembling, say, the famous Salzburg production (HvK/Price, Simionato, Corelli, Bastianini) or Mehta's 1969 recording (Price, Cossotto, Domingo, Milnes).

Friday, September 25, 2009

What was He Thinking??

Solti, following in the footsteps of von Karajan, or something, from an article in the Guardian:
In the 90s, the late Sir Georg Solti asked American soprano Renée Fleming if she would sing [Isolde] for a production he was planning. Fleming looked at the score, decided that her voice would never be the same, and refused.
Renée Fleming? Honestly? A singer with a smallish voice*, no depth in her low register, and not much thrust on the top? Was he planning to do Tristan with an orchestra of 50, or what?

* I heard her live on a gala some years ago, along with a range of other sopranos and mezzos. Bigger than Janet Williams, a very light soprano, but noticeably smaller than Swenson, and nobody's asking her to sing Isolde.

"Now is the Right Time for Me to Focus on the Next Chapter of My Career"

That's what Jehudah Reinharz said in the email announcing his resignation from the presidency of Brandeis Univeristy. I'd say that after the amount of criticism he has gotten this year over the dumbass decision to close the Rose Art Museum and sell off part or all of its collection, yes, this would be a good time to leave. The Globe article I link to has this, which makes me roll on the floor laughing:

Reinharz dismissed suggestions that he is resigning under pressure arising from the museum controversy, saying he strongly considered stepping down in summer 2008 before signing a five-year contract extension. At 65, Reinharz said he felt the time had come to move on.
Honestly! He was willing to stay until 2013 but he's leaving ASAP? And this has nothing to do with what's actually going on at the University??

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Ought to be Fun

Andrea Silvestrelli will sing the role of Osmin in The Abduction from the Seraglio in San Francisco Opera's September 29 performance; Peter Rose, who sings the performances of September 23 and 26 and October 2, 11, 17, and 23, has withdrawn from the September 29 performance for personal/family reasons.

Peter Rose is a good singer, but Silvestrelli seems about perfect for Osmin!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Keeping Score on KQED

KQED once more demonstrates its commitment to supporting the Bay Area's musical institutions by putting the Keeping Score shows at the following dates and times:

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
Ives: Holidays Symphony
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5
Thu, Oct 15, 2009 10:00pm
Thu, Oct 22, 2009 10:00pm
Thu, Oct 29, 2009 10:00pm

Ten p.m. on Thursday nights: that'll attract new audiences, I'm sure.

San Francisco Ring, 2011

San Francisco Opera has announced full casting for the 2011 Ring performances. Here's the scoop, with thanks to Opera Tattler for creating the lists from the press release.

Conductor: Donald Donald Donald, of course.
Director: Francesca Zambello
Sets: Michael Yeargan
Costumes: Catherine Zuber
Lighting: Mark McCullough
Projection Designer: Jan Hartley (I suppose this is the person to blame for the ridiculous projection during the Rheingold prelude.)

Das Rheingold
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Loge: Stefan Margita
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Fricka: Larissa Diadkova
Erda: Ronnita Miller
Mime: David Cangelosi
Fasolt: Andrea Silvestrelli
Fafner: Daniel Sumegi
Freia: Melissa Citro

Die Walküre
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Siegmund: Brandon Jovanovich
Sieglinde: Anja Kampe, Heidi Melton (6/29)
Fricka: Larissa Diadkova
Hunding: Daniel Sumegi

Siegfried: Ian Storey
Mime: David Cangelosi
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Erda: Ronnita Miller
Fafner: Daniel Sumegi
Forest Bird: Stacey Tappan

Siegfried: Ian Storey
Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Gunther: Gerd Grochowski
Hagen: Andrea Silvestrelli
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Waltraute: Daveda Karanas
First Norn: Ronnita Miller
Second Norn: Daveda Karanas
Third Norn: Heidi Melton
Woglinde: Stacey Tappan

My commentary on the above:

I don't know Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) at all but Richard Paul Fink was great in Seattle in 2001 and last year in Rheingold, so I'm sorry about that. Ian Storey has gotten mixed reviews elsewhere in heavy Wagner roles. Brandon Jovanovich as Siegmund!!! I will have to see Walkuere twice because I must see Heidi Melton's Sieglinde. I'm sorry more of the bass roles are not assigned to Andrea Silvestrelli; I wish he were singing the Siegfried Fafner and Hunding. For that matter, I wish the magnificent Stefan Margita were singing the Siegfried Mime.

No announcement of the Rheinmaidens; perhaps they'll be whichever Adler Fellows are available and suitable?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Next Week: Carlsbad Music Festival

Here's a great event for those of you within hailing distance of Carlsbad, California: the Sixth Annual Carlsbad Music Festival. It might as well be called the Carlsbad New Music Festival, given the lineup, which includes Fred Frith, the Calder Quartet, the California E.A.R. Unit, festival founder Matt McBane, and sundry other new music luminaries, performing a tasty range of contemporary music.
Most of the concerts take place at the Schulman Auditorium of Dove Library, in Carlsbad. If you can't make the main festival but you're in L.A., there's a program at Zipper Hall, conveniently located just across the street from Disney Concert Hall.

The dates are Wednesday, Sept. 23 through Sunday, Sept. 27, 2009. Ticket prices are insanely low, with a top price of $25.

AVE: Kirchenabendmusik

The excellent professional chorus Artists' Vocal Ensemble (AVE), directed by Jonathan Dimmock, is putting on what sounds like a thoroughly lovely concert in a few weeks. Called Kirchenabendmusik - Evening Church Music, or, more commonly, Vespers - the program consists of music by Mozart, Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Schubert. I expect it will be quite wonderful, having sung plenty of choral music by the four. AVE also notes the following:
As usual AVE pairs its programs with charity and social action organizations; and this concert is no exception. With the country focused on health care, we will share our East Bay concerts with two nonprofits, both housed at Oakland’s new, magnificent cathedral: Christ the Light. The first of these, The Order of Malta’s Medical Clinic, offers free medical services for uninsured children and adults; the second is the Legal Justice Center which offers free access to justice through preventive education, community advocacy, and the operation of a free legal clinic. Materials about both of these groups will be available at the Friday and Saturday concerts.
And here's concert info:

Friday, October 9 at 8 p.m.:
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704, phone – (510)848-5107

Saturday, October 10 at 8 p.m.:
Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland, 94612, phone – (510)271-1935

Sunday, October 11 at 4 p.m.:
The Walt Disney Family Museum Exhibition Space, 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio of
San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94129, Phone - (415) 345 6800

$20 – General Admission; $10 – Students and Seniors

You can purchase tickets at the door or at AVE's web site.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Trittico Sopranos

Readers contribute the following additions, in comments, to my list of Stratas, Sills, Scotto, and Racette:
  • Cheryl Barker at Opera Australia in 2007
  • Diana Soviero at Dallas
  • Catherine Malfitano at Chicago

Monday, September 14, 2009

Soprano Trio

Patricia Racette opens tomorrow night in SF Opera's new production of Il Trittico. She's singing all three soprano leads, and following in different ways in the footsteps of various soprano giants.
Only a few sopranos have sung all three, very different leads. The ones I know about are Renata Scotto and Teresa Stratas, at the Met, and Beverly Sills - bet you weren't expecting that name - at NYCO. If you know of others, please tell me.

Along with those three towering singers are the three who originated the roles at the Met premiere of Trittico in 1918: Claudia Muzio was the first Giorgetta, Geraldine Farrar the first Suor Angelica, and Florence Easton the first Lauretta.

As I told Racette a couple of weeks ago during our talk, the dramatic intensity of her last Butterfly here killed me. The Trittico soprano leads are a tour-de-force of a different kind. From the looks of the video preview at the Trittico page at SF Opera, I think she might be about to do it again.

Henry Kravis, Patron of the Arts

The NY Times reports that billionaire Henry Kravis has donated $10 million to fund the New York Philharmonic's composer-in-residence program; the donation stipulates that the composer-in-residence will compose a piece for the Phil. In addition, there's money for a cool $250,000 grant in alternate years "to a working composer."
Watch this carefully: will the NYPO get important pieces with legs for their money? Will the composers-in-residence be big names? Will the grants go to the already-established or to younger or less-known composers?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

All the Electronic Music You Want

From email I received -

San Francisco Electronic Music Festival 2009
Wednesday, September 16th 2009 through Saturday, September 19, 2009
Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St, San Francisco, CA
Doors at 7:30 PM, performance at 8:00 PM
Further Information:
Purchase advance tickets

The 10th Annual San Francisco Electronic Music Festival consists of four evenings of stimulating performances by internationally recognized artists and musicians in the electronic music field.

This year's lineup includes a wide array of electronic music pioneers, modern innovators, and emerging artists, ranging in diverse styles and methods from contemporary classical, glitch, music concrete, sound art, free improvisation and experimental pop. The technology represented will range from old school synthesizers to laptop computer patches, including exploration of interactions between acoustic and electronic instruments and charting the artistic evolution of several of the festival’s founders. In celebration of it’s 10th Anniversary, SFEMF 2009 will feature four of the festival’s founding organizers – Miya Masaoka, Pamela Z, Ed Osborn, and Donald Swearingen – one on each of its four evenings.

For this year's festival, SFEMF has invited a diverse group of artists from across the field of electronic music, including critically- acclaimed symphonic and electronic composer Mason Bates, Berlin-based analog audio/video pointillist Frank Bretschneide, avant-cabaret electro-diva Amy X Neuburg, music and new media pioneer and professor Mark Trayle, improvisational New York turntablist Maria Chavez, composer and pioneer of extended vocal techniques Joan La Barbara, electronic experimental pop artist Preshish Moments, installation and media artist Ed Osborn, multimedia and sound artist [ruidobello] aka Jorge Bachmann, composer and interface innovator Donald Swearingen, poly-rhythmic composer Lukas Ligeti, Bay Area percussionist and improviser Gino Robair, and the entire festival will be bookended with a debut of new work by the festival's founder Miya Masaoka on Wednesday evening and an intermedia performance by the festival's longest standing organizerPamela Z on Saturday evening. In addition, there will be a sound installation every evening in the theater lobby by Dokuro, the artistic maelstrom formed by the duo of Agnes Szelag and The Norman Conquest, and there will be a pre-show panel discussion/talk in the theater before Friday evening's concert featuring several of the festival artists.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Dear Mr. President:

Why are you calling for a consensus on health care reform? No agreement is possible with most of the people opposed to reform. Stop with the bipartisanship. Have you learned nothing about what's happened in this country since 1992? You're smarter than this. Please study LBJ's career for a while. And remember, you hired Rahm Emmanuel for a reason.


Voted for You

Undermining NYC's Middle Class

At the height of the real estate bubble, a year or so before the shit hit the fan, the giant NYC apartment complexes Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town were sold for a large fortune to Tischman-Speyer and BlackRockRealty. I was semi-enraged because of the prospect of soaring rents in these solidly middle-class, rent-stabilized apartments.

And guess what? The bubble burst and the partners are about to default on their loans.

Batting a Thousand

This is the one-thousandth posting on this blog. It's taken me just under five years to get here. I am temporarily adding a gadget showing the labels and number of postings attached to each label. Now, I've been both erratic and inconsistent about labeling, so take the numbers with a grain of salt. Still, I'm sure no one will be surprised that opera and politics are major areas of interest.

Here's the distribution of postings by year:

October 31, 2004 to December 31, 2004: 24
2005: 86
2006: 98
2007: 238
2008: 267
2009: 285

Accelerated posting rate!

Met HD Broadcasts, 2009-10

Here's the lineup for the upcoming season of Met HD broadcasts. To find theaters, go to the HD broadcast home page and click the appropriate link for your country.

I've never seen the gargantuan Aida or Turandot productions and might go just for fun. I think Mattila will be an interesting Tosca even though she doesn't sound the slightest bit Italian. Hamlet has about 15 minutes of good music in it, so unless you're looking for a novelty...I saw it with Hampson and prime Swenson. Armida is another serious rarity and likely worth seeing. The casting for the other productions is generally strong, and I definitely won't miss an opportunity to hear the world's greatest living tenor singing the baritone role of Simon Boccanegra. Morris must be singing Fiesco, and I hope he's well and sounding better than in last year's local Mahler 8.

Saturday, October 10, 2009 TOSCA (1:00 p.m. EDT / 12:00 p.m. CDT / 11:00 a.m. MDT / 10:00 a.m. PDT/ 17:00 p.m. UTC / 18:00 p.m. BST / 19:00 CEST) – A new production of Puccini’s Tosca by Luc Bondy in his house debut, starring Karita Mattila in her first performance of the title role outside her native Finland, and Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi. Juha Uusitalo sings the role of Scarpia. James Levine conducts.

HD host: Susan Graham NEW PRODUCTION

Saturday, October 24, 2009 AIDA (1:00 p.m. EDT / 12:00 p.m. CDT / 11:00 a.m. MDT / 10:00 a.m. PDT/ 17:00 p.m. UTC / 18:00 p.m. BST / 19:00 CEST) – Daniele Gatti returns for the first time in 14 years to conduct a cast of powerful voices in Verdi’s Aida. Violeta Urmana sings the title role, while Dolora Zajick returns in one of her most acclaimed portrayals as the Egyptian princess Amneris. Johan Botha is Radamès and Carlo Guelfi sings Amonasro. HD host: Renee Fleming

Saturday, November 7, 2009 TURANDOT (1:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 p.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. MST / 10:00 a.m. PST/ 18:00 p.m. UTC / 19:00 CET) – Franco Zeffirelli’s classic production of Puccini’s Turandot features the Met role debuts of Maria Guleghina in the title role, Marcello Giordani as Calàf, Samuel Ramey as Timur, and Marina Poplavskaya as Liù. Conductor Andris Nelsons makes his Met debut.

Saturday, December 19, 2009 LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN (1:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 p.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. MST / 10:00 a.m. PST/ 18:00 p.m. UTC / 19:00 CET) – Bartlett Sher, whose staging of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia was a hit two seasons ago, returns to direct his second Met production: Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, conducted by James Levine. Joseph Calleja stars as Hoffmann, with Anna Netrebko as Antonia, Ekaterina Gubanova as Giulietta, Kate Lindsey as Nicklausse, Kathleen Kim as Olympia, and Alan Held as the four villains. NEW PRODUCTION

Saturday, January 9, 2009 DER ROSENKAVALIER (1:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 p.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. MST / 10:00 a.m. PST/ 18:00 p.m. UTC / 19:00 CET) – James Levine conducts a stellar cast led by Renée Fleming as the Marschallin and Susan Graham as Octavian. Eric Cutler is the Italian Singer, Kristinn Sigmundsson sings the role of Baron Ochs, and Christine Schäfer is Sophie. HD host: Plácido Domingo

Saturday, January 16, 2010 CARMEN (1:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 p.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. MST / 10:00 a.m. PST/ 18:00 p.m. UTC / 19:00 CET) – The new Carmen, starring Elīna Garanča, who sang the title role of La Cenerentola at the Met last spring to great acclaim, will also feature the debuts of director Richard Eyre and conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Roberto Alagna is the soldier Don José, Barbara Frittoli is Micaëla, and Mariusz Kwiecien is the bullfighter Escamillo. HD host: Renée Fleming


Saturday, February 6, 2010 SIMON BOCCANEGRA (1:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 p.m. CST / 11:00 a.m. MST / 10:00 a.m. PST/ 18:00 p.m. UTC / 19:00 CET) – Four decades into a legendary Met career, Plácido Domingo makes history by singing the baritone title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, conducted by James Levine. Adrianne Pieczonka, Marcello Giordani, and James Morris co-star. HD host: Renée Fleming

Saturday, March 27, 2010 HAMLET (1:00 p.m. EDT / 12:00 p.m. CDT / 11:00 a.m. MDT / 10:00 a.m. PDT/ 17:00 p.m. UTC / 18:00 CET) – Last performed at the Met in 1897, Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet will be seen in a new production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser, conducted by Louis Langrée and starring Simon Keenlyside in the title role and Natalie Dessay as Ophélie. With Jennifer Larmore as Gertrude, Toby Spence as Laërtes and James Morris as Claudius. HD host: Renée Fleming


Saturday, May 1, 2010 ARMIDA (1:00 p.m. EDT / 12:00 p.m. CDT / 11:00 a.m. MDT / 10:00 a.m. PDT/ 17:00 p.m. UTC / 18:00 p.m. BST / 19:00 CEST) - The season’s final new production features Renée Fleming in Rossini’s bel canto tour de force Armida, directed by Mary Zimmerman and conducted by Riccardo Frizza. Also starring Lawrence Brownlee, Bruce Ford, José Manuel Zapata, Barry Banks, and Kobie van Rensburg. HD host: Deborah Voigt


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bayreuth Festival Competition

The fine web site is holding a contest. Here's what the editors have to say about it; sounds like fun to me:

Join's Bayreuth Festival competition and win Enrico Nawrath's book "Bayreuth Backstage". The book is loaded with great photographs from the mysterious life backstage.

Write an article - short or long - (in English) about one or several of your experiences from the Bayreuth Festival. It could be a travel letter, your favourite Bayreuth operatic experience, your worst Bayreuth operatic experience, a production you liked or disliked, a Wahnfried experience - you make the rules, as long as the article is related to the Bayreuth Festival.

Short or long? You decide. All entries will be published on

Deadline is 31 November 2009.

The winner of the book "Bayreuth Backstage" will be drawn in December.

Send your entry to

Monday, September 07, 2009

Left Hand, Meet Right Hand, BBC Edition

Last week, I wrote about an upcoming theater broadcast of the Last Night of the Proms. It occurred to me that perhaps there were other broadcast locations in the U.S., so I started to do some research. What followed was...well...Here's what happened.
  1. I started by looking at the Proms web site, where I couldn't find anything about the dates and times of the broadcasts, though I did find a press release about the broadcast. If you read the press release, you'll see that there are no dates or locations listed.
  2. I looked for a Contact Us page with press contact information, but never found it.
  3. I did find a Contact Us page with a form on it, which I filled out with my query. I identified myself as an Oakland-based music journalist and blogger.
  4. A member of the Proms press office responded on their next business day. This was fine; I sent my query long after London closing hours.
  5. However, she told me the Proms press office didn't know anything about the scheduling of the broadcast - BBC Worldwide handles such events, you see. Her email included a list of the U.S. and London offices for BBC Worldwide, with phone numbers and street addresses for each.
  6. In reply, I asked if there were email addresses for any of the offices.
  7. She was able to provide one email address.
  8. I phoned the Hollywood, CA office of BBC Worldwide. The person answering the phone didn't know what the Proms were. She transferred me to someone she thought might know. That person sounded like a deer in the headlights and suggested I try the NYC office.
  9. I phoned the NYC office, where the person I spoke to knew what the Proms were, but didn't know anything about U.S. broadcasts. She suggested I talk to someone else.
  10. I phoned the other person and left a phone message asking her to call me back. This was on Thursday, September 2. I haven't heard back yet, but that's okay; very possibly she stretched her three-day weekend to four days.
  11. Simultaneously, I phoned the Elmwood Theater in CA, where a very nice person in the business office suggested I send email, which the right person would respond to.
  12. I did this and got a timely response from the right person. She told me she knew of the Berkeley and Santa Rosa Rialto Theaters showings, plus one in Los Angeles. She knew who the U.S. distributor was and told me that name. She also knew that there are many Canadian venues, which I had discovered independently. (I can't recall exactly when I tried using Google, finding nothing useful about the United State, but turning up the Canadian list.)
  13. This morning I found email from my original contact at the Proms press office, confirming that there are only three U.S. venues this year. (The third is Mann Chinese Theater in Hollywood.) Evidently, there was interest from other theaters and chains, but scheduling issues....very likely the Last Night will be more widely broadcast in the states next year.
The BBC has had sundry notorious failures in the past. There was the year they had to ask the fan base for home copies of some episodes of Dr. Who, the wildly popular TV series. The Beeb had somehow lost or erased those episodes. There are the many opera and other musical broadcasts recorded and then trashed - I know of a famous collector who swooped down on the BBC office when one of these purges was taking place, rescuing a few priceless items from oblivion.

I can't think of any publicity principle more central than "Make it easy for people to find out when and where your events are happening." The Proms press office should not be the last to have accurate information about where their most famous single event is being telecast worldwide, and it should be easy to find that information with a simple web search. Instead...well, see the above.

Universal Health Care

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich reviews The Heart of Power, by David Blumenthal and James A., Morone, which covers the 75-year story of how U.S. Presidents have tried to get universal health care. Read it, and read the book, and weep.

Interview: Patricia Racette

Ten days ago, I spent an hour with Patricia Racette, who stars in the upcoming run of Puccini's Il Trittico at San Francisco Opera. She will become one of the very, very few sopranos to sing all three soprano leads in the same performance, a feat she will be repeating at the Met later this year with Stephanie Blythe singing the three mezzo leads.

The interview is now up at SFCV. That URL might change tomorrow when this week's issue is published.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Something Wrong

Sometimes I hate this country. Compare and contrast these Times headlines:

Friday, September 04, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Available Alto

I will not be singing with Chora Nova this year, largely because of the repertory, which doesn't interest me. I'm looking for irregular singing opportunities, as it were, especially to read through unfamiliar or unusual repertory, which could range from the 13th century to completely new music. My sight-reading is rusty compared to where it has been at various times, but comes up to snuff pretty quickly. Email me or post here if you hear of any such possibilities.

New to the Blogroll

I have not updated my blogroll in some time, but this week I'm made four additions:
  • Magnificat Baroque's blog. If you live in the Bay Area and care about early music and early opera, you'll want to start attending Magnificat's programs. I loved director Warren Stewart's programming at Cal Bach, and he continues to put together fantastic programs at Magnificat. Their opening program this year is something, an early opera written by a woman and staged with puppets.
  • Flutin' High, the blog of flutist Helen Bledsoe, with a hat-tip to Ken Woods for the link.
  • Classical Iconoclast, a blog of deep, long, and intricate postings by Doundou Tchl, who blogs on a wide range of musical subjects.
  • From the Orchestra Library, written by Karen Schnackenberg, the librarian of the Dallas Symphony. This is great stuff, especially if you are interested in the nuts and bolts of running an orchestra.


I would not fly to London for a Donizetti opera, not even one that hasn't been performed at Covent Garden since 1887 (was that with Melba or Patti?), but if you're close by, you might want to check out the company's upcoming concert performances of Linda di Chamonix:
7th and 14th September 2009, 7 p.m.
Eglise Guttierez, Stephen Costello, Alessandro Corbelli, Mariana Pizzolato/Mark Elder
Tickets are 4 to 95 pounds

Is there any good music in it besides "O luce di quest'anima," favorite of coloratura sopranos everywhere?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Presumably He Didn't Marry Her For Her Name

Mr. Kunzel is survived by his wife of 33 years, Brunhilde.

News from the Met

Odd ends from recent press releases.
  • Free tickets to the final dress rehearsal for opening night are again available. This year, it's Tosca, starring Karita Mattila, Marcelo Alvarez, and Juha Uusitala. I've seen Mattila sing Puccini, and she was...interesting. She's a great singer, beyond doubt, but that cool Nordic tone doesn't sound any more right in Puccini than Birgit Nilsson's did. Uusitala was a decent Dutchman and an inaudible Pizarro in San Francisco (I missed his last appearance, as the High Priest of Dagon). Still, free! tickets! You can get them in person only at the Met box office, starting at noon on September 13. The dress rehearsal itself is on Thursday, Sept. 17, at 11 a.m.; doors open that day at 10:30.
  • The new Tosca production, by Luc Bondy, can be seen on HD broadcast on Saturday, Oct. 10.
  • There will be two additional open dress rehearsals later this year: for Tales of Hoffman on Monday, November 30 (with Joseph Calleja, Alan Held, and Anna Netrebko) and for Rossini's Armida on Friday, April 9 (a new Mary Zimmerman production with Renee Fleming).
  • On October 24, the Met HD telecast of Aida will star Violetta Urmana, Dolora Zajick, and Johan Botha, conducted by Daniele Gatti. It's the long-running, turquoise and white, double-decker Sonja Frisell production, a real spectacle and lots of fun.

Next Time You're Thinking of a Nice Scoop of Ice Cream... Ben & Jerry's, which temporarily renamed the flavor Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby in honor of and support of marriage equality.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Happy Birthday, RAS!

Ruth Ann Swenson, who is one of my divas, had a birthday last week. I'm lucky to have seen all of her San Francisco Opera appearances over the last fifteen years, and a couple in the 1980s, not that I remember those, though I would love to remember her Nanetta. She was a great Gilda, Lucia, Semele, and Violetta, in the latter role the best of the several I've seen, in a "she killed me" way. I have also never heard a more purely beautiful soprano voice, though I've heard equally beautiful soprano voices. I hope she'll be singing at San Francisco Opera again; she was terrific in last year's Ariodante.

If you have any doubts about either the beauty of her voice or her technique in florid music, take a look at this, a performance of "O luce di quest'anima" from Linda di Chamonix: