Showing posts from 2010

Il Tabarro DVD Review

Last night I watched the Met's DVD of Iltabarro (based on Didier Gold's play La houppelande). While it has been a trend to perform Puccini's entire Il trittico of Il tabarro, Suor angelica, and Gianni schicchi together, this DVD pairs Pagliacci and Il tabarro, so I can only review the one. You work with what you've got, eh?

This particular recording of Il tabarro features Juan Pons as Michele, Teresa Stratas as Giorgetta, and Plácido Domingo as Luigi. The supporting roles are sung by members unlisted except on the DVD and I have no access to them. However, this is okay, as I will explain. Overall, the production seems a bit stagnant. I could hope for a little more life, a little more imagination, and a bit more liveliness. I think part of this suffers from either Puccini's writing of the piece, or from the fact that had I seen all three pieces of Il trittico together, as intended, I might feel differently.

The set is fairly simplistic, and built much in the way of …

La fille du regiment DVD Review

I watched this rendition of La fille du regiment with the excellent Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez a few weeks ago and I am now getting around to my review of it. All in all, it was an excellent production. The leads did great jobs with just a few small foibles, and the supporting cast was superb in both acting and voice.

The acting overall is quite good. Florez, for his part, has some rote gestures that he does again and again (particularly turning away and turning back before starting a phrase). However, he does a good job of acting the part with a sincerity that has been unusual until recently for tenors in particular. That said, there have been exceptions in the past and there are a wide variety of tenors with acting ability currently on the stages. Florez isn't an exquisite actor above the rest, but he's good enough without a doubt. The supporting singers all play their roles well, especially Felicity Palmer (except not so well when she's singing).…

La donna è mobile

No, this post is not about Rigoletto. In fact, this is a review of the Met's rebroadcast of last year's Carmen. I was, all in all, blown away by the production. I will supply this caveat to that statement however: the last time I attended Carmen the production was overall abhorrent. The woman playing Carmen, Jossie Pérez, in addition to being gorgeous, did an excellent job (as she did playing Maddalena in Rigoletto, on which occasion I had the honor of meeting her). Overall however, the rest of the cast was uninspired and vocally troubled, the production didn't have a lot of pizazz, and the choice to reset the show in Cuba didn't really succeed.

Thus, I'm predisposed to find this performance better. However, Elīna Garanča far surpassed even Jossie Pérez in her interpretation of the title role. Overall, this performance can best be described as having incredible presence. The character's came to life, the emotions were in your face, the sultriness of the whole s…

Review: Madama Butterfly Met In HD Encore

Just days after having the wonderful opportunity to see Ben Heppner in recital in Stratford I was offered a free ticket to attend an encore screening of the Met's 2009-2010 production of MadamaButterly. Though the production was certainly not flawless, I was quite impressed by what I saw.Anthony Minghella crafted the beautiful production (more on that later) Puccini’s opera. I will start with my general impressions, and then review some roles/places specifically.

The roles:
Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) - Patricia Racette
B. F. Pinkerton - Marcello Giordani
Maria Zifchak - Suzuki
Dwayne Croft - Sharpless

The big theme that I found while viewing this production was the "slow getting started" feel. I will make the caveat upfront that part of this could well be attributed to the writing of Puccini, Luigi Illica, or Giuseppe Giacosa (the two librettists). Though of course all opera lovers are familiar with MadamaButterfly, I will confess that I have not seen or listened to a…

A Portrait of Ben Heppner: Review

This review is going to be interested for a couple of reasons. First of all - I have pictures!! Second, it's the first review I'll have done about something I've actually witnessed. Finally, a lot of the reviewing I plan to leave to someone else, as it turns out, because they say almost exactly what I would have.

So first off, I'll explain the event. This is part of a tour Ben Heppner is doing of 4 locations (which will be listed on the program photo later). We were lucky in some ways as the location here was a very small church and quite an intimate venue. This allowed both audience members and performers to relax and feel a lighthearted connection that would have been difficult to establish in a larger hall. Heppner's Repertoire was interesting, consisting of Six Songs, Op. 48 by Edvard Grieg, 7 songs by Jean Sibelius, and 6 songs by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Finally, Heppner finished the program with opera arias he announced. These were "O souverain, o jug…

Sacrificium: The Art of the Castrati (A Cinematographic Vision by Olivier Simonnet) Review

Ah! Now, as I return to posting regularly, I thought I would do something I have long intended to do (as mentioned in an earlier post). I will be reviewing the DVD based on Cecilia Bartoli's popular album Sacrificium. I would have reviewed the album, but it came out long before my blog began. This DVD is both more recent, and, I think, more interesting.

The idea to make a concert DVD not just in any concert venue (though many of the classical music and opera venues are beautiful in their own right) but in the breathtaking Royal Palace of Caserta was brilliant. The location is simply stunning. Whether the place Bartoli sings is the exquisite Baroque theatre within the palace, in its rooms (near the windows), within the grand foyer, on its stairs, or among the grand cedars of the garden, each location lends itself to the particular aria being performed and provides a stunning backdrop.

The setting is not the only part of the DVD that is well crafted visually. The outfits are period…

Where the Fach Did They Go?

A fellow voice major here at Lawrence caused me to recall an interesting trend in vocal classification among singers over the past century.  Theoretically, beyond Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, (the rare) Alto, Baritone, and Bass, voice types are governed by fächer a term hailing from Germany that describes a group of different fach(s) that further divide these voice types. Note that there are other terms that are used in countries that don't speak German, but by far fach is the most common word used to describe the idea. Rather than list fächer here, as that isn't the point of this article, I will direct you to look them up here on Wikipedia (note this list is not entirely accurate, as there are some omissions (such as absence of the leggiero tenor) and the terms are not clearly defined even among experts).

All the great singers that opera lovers enjoy thinking about and listening to should technically be able to be classified by these fächer. However, save for a few exceptions (whi…

La musica di dolore

Forgive the tardiness of this post. It is my intention that, while here at school, I post at least once a week. Once I'm off for the summer, I hope to post more often. However, this past week I experienced a painful breakup that somewhat delayed my ability to keep up with my schedule. Nonetheless, I'm back, and using that situation as inspiration for this post. The title, for those less familiar with Italian, means "the music of pain." This post will focus on opera music that deals with the loss of love and the exquisite, unique pain that brings.

First of all, I would like to address what may become a perceived inequality in this post. There seem to be a lot more arias of this type for certain voice types than for others.  Tenors, in particular seem to come in at first place, followed by sopranos. The bias here is due, first and foremost, to the way roles are assigned. Basses and baritones tend to be villains, father-figures, or older men in positions of power. Thus,…

Icy Princesses and Bartered Brides

This weekend I had the opportunity to listen to two excellent recordings. The first was the 1964 recording of Puccini's Turandot conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni featuring Birgit Nilsson, Franco Corelli, Renata Scotto, Nicola Zaccaria, and the La scala orchestra and chorus. Later, a friend brought over the 1982 recording of Smetana's The Bartered Bride featuringGabriela Beňačková, Peter Dvorský, Miroslav Kopp, and Richard Novák, backed by Zdenek Kosler and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Both were excellent recordings. Turandot is, of course, a standard of late romantic repertoire and The Bartered Bride particularly interests me as the piece will be performed by my colleagues here at Lawrence University next year.
I will begin with a review of the disc of Turandot. The opera itself is classic Puccini, grand in style, big musically, and preoccupied with exotic culture.  In terms of review, I will start from the small upward. The chorus does a good job playing its role in a la…