Dec 23, 2012

Lohengrin, Scala opening night

Lohengrin, Richard Wagner

Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Claus Guth, staging
Christian Schmidt, sets and costumes
Olaf Winter, lights
Ronny Dietrich, dramaturgy
Jonas Kaufmann, Lohengrin
Ann Petersen, Elsa von Brabant
René Pape, Heinrich der Vogler
Tómas Tómasson, Friedrich von Telramund
Evelyn Herlitzius, Ortrud
Zeljko Lucic, Der Heerrufer des Königs

I may not have understood everything in Claus Guth's interpretation of Lohengrin (especially the entrance of Lohengrin and his initial behavior) but overall, as usual, I was transported in his unique world, full of grace, subtility, humor and childhood references.

The only disruptive image was the half-swan/half-child costume, not quite the same standard, I thought, as everything else.

Ann Petersen, a last minute replacement for the role of Elsa was phenomenal, both on the acting and singing part: she portrayed uniquely the madness Guth put in Elsa and to be able to apprehend the staging in less than 24 hour was a miracle in itself. 
Her singing, moreover, was a joy to listen to.

René Pape and Tómas Tómasson both sang admirably; Tómasson's stage presence really sold his character in a level I had rarely seen before (especially for Telramund).

 Evelyn Herlitzius portrayed a demoniac Ortrud but her singing was a bit of a let down.

And Jonas Kaufmann was, of course, to no surprise, the king of the night.
His singing is exquisite, and the role of Lohengrin is perfect for his voice, because the darkness he has is the first perfect step toward seeing Lohengrin as anything but the white knight on his gigantic swan.

Several mistakes were heard in the orchestra pit, especially a lack of unisson at times.
The interpretation of Daniel Barenboim was anything but flamboyant (a quality he deeply lacks, I think), but decent enough not to get in the way of the singers.

A word on the Scala chorus: I must say it does not live up to the standards the Scala name is synonym with.
Their diction was quite awful (and if I, whose german is anything but fluent, can hear it, I can only imagine what native german speakers endured there) and there was something missing in their stage presence: discipline is the first word that comes to mind.

 Overall, a very good evening.

Personal ratings
Singers : A
Staging : A
Conductor: B
Orchestra: B-
Chorus : C
All photographs Foto Ufficio Stampa

Jul 13, 2011

Cosi fan tutte - Lyon streaming

On Saturday, July 16, the Opera de Lyon will bring Cosi fan tutte to all Lyonnais (outside screen, place des Terreaux and elsewhere 9pm) and also to all internet fans, wherever they might be (streaming starts at 9:35pm on the Opera de Lyon's website).

May 21, 2011

Ah! Lève toi Soleil!

The Librabry of Congress has put online some Victor recordings from the early XXth century in a section called National Jukebox. The Opera section contains, to date, more than 1000 extracts.

This is indeed a good way to re-discover famous operas and famous names from the past, long since forgotten. In the French section, this includes extracts from

Other Gounod's extracts:

Extracts from Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles:
    And I haven't even started the italian section...

    Apr 5, 2011

    [Les Pêcheurs de Perles] 2011-12 performances

    Leïla, Sonya Yoncheva
    Nadir, Dmitry Korchak
    Zurga, André Heyboer
    Nourabad, Nicolas Testé
    Direction musicale, Leo Hussain
    Mise en scène, Yoshi Oïda
    Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France

    Jan 25, 2011

    Werther, Villazon directing

    Jules Massenet
    Drame lyrique en quatre actes
    Livret de Edouard Blau, Paul Millet et Georges Hartmann, d'après Les Souffrances du jeune Werther (Goethe)

    Opéra de Lyon
    Jan. 24, 2011 - premiere
    Last performance of this run: Feb. 7

    When you have been especially careless with your voice, the time comes rather quickly when you have to find a new way of earning money, and hope to find a new career besides singing - directing, in the case of Rolando Villazon.
    Well, I don't think he's yet ready, and if he'll ever be ready for that new job of directing an opera.

    Having sung the role of Werther many times clearly didn't provide him with any kind of a deeper insight of the opera, as he tried - and failed - to give it a Regietheater twist that only resulted in a disaster.

    All the components of the Regitheater are present, from the white and almost empty stage, the bright, colorful and ugly costumes, to some "grand" ideas that completely disrupt the dramatic moments of the opera and to some frankly very naive views on the whole story.

    First of all, I think the way to core concept of Villazon is very wrong.
    Werther is not one of those operas you can twist into a circus-like idea, or if you can, you completely loose all it's interest; maybe the idea of all the characters living in a world of fate and thus being clowns of their own lives could have had a chance, if Villazon could have been constrained to be less explicit and more subtile.

    Subtility, here's what's clearly missing from this.
    For instance, the first time Werther enters the stage, it's not enough that this child double is dressed in the same horrific color as he is (chick yellow), Villazon trusts himself (or the audience) so much that, just to make sure everyone gets it, they have the exact same gesture. Really useful? I sure don't think so, but I'm also sure this example is pretty much the quintessential way to describe this production.

    It all seems terribly immature, almost childish, and this is clearly not the way to emphasize the dramatic quest of Werther.

    Yet another example at the end of Act II, moments after Werther bids farewell to Charlotte in a very dramatic way (basically telling her he's going to kill himself): a giant pillow fight on stage orchestrated by the clowns and the children.
    Again, was that really useful?

    As far as the conducting by Leopold Hager was concerned, nothing extraordinary there, but rather a blend and forgettable reading of the score.

    The singer clearly on top of the cast is Karine Deshayes (Charlotte) whose interpretation was indeed very convincing and quite well-sung.
    Arturo Chacon-Cruz (Werther) struggled with his high notes (or rather has to learn how to sing a high note without yelling) and seemed like a clone of Villazon on stage: too much movements for such little effects... his stage presence, in other words, was all but sincere and credible.

    Lionel Lhote (Albert) and Alain Vernhes (le Balli) both had a good performance, as well as Anne-Catherine Gillet (Sophie).

    All pictures on this page from the Opéra de Lyon.

    Video extract here.

    Links to the Opéra de Lyon website:
    - presentation of the production
    - programme (incl. libretto)

    Press reviews:

    - "Un Werther "clownesque" à Lyon pour la première mise en scène de Rolando Villazon", AFP
    - "Werther à l'Opéra de Lyon - rencontre avec Rolando Villazon", Le Progrès
    - "Pas tout à fait la Bohème", Le Progrès, Antonio Mafra
    - "Werther, Opera de Lyon, review", The Telegraph, Rupert Christiansen
    - "Des danseuses et des clowns", La Libre Belgique, Nicolas Blanmont

    Jan 3, 2011

    Ernest Blanc is dead

    Just a few days before Christmas, on Dec. 22, the great French baritone Ernest Blanc died at the age of 87.
    He was, as stated here, probably the baritone I loved most.

    Reviews in French:
    - "Ernest Blanc s'est tu pour toujours", Sud-Ouest
    - "Ernest Blanc est mort", Qobuz

    Nov 28, 2010

    Evelino Pido: Otello / La Sonnambula - 2010

    Otello ossia Il Moro di Venezia
    Giaocchino Rossini

    John Osborn : Otello
    Anna Caterina Antonacci : Desdémone
    Marco Vinco : Elmiro
    Dmitry Korchak : Rodrigo
    José Manuel Zapata : Iago

    Orchestre et Chœurs de l'Opéra de Lyon
    Evelino Pidò, conductor

    Nov.7, 2010 - Concert version

    La Sonnambula
    Vincenzo Bellini

    Michele Pertusi - Il Conte Rodolfo
    Cornelia Oncioiu - Teresa
    Natalie Dessay - Amina
    Javier Camarena - Elvino

    Orchestre et choeur de l'Opéra national de Paris
    Evelino Pidò, conductor

    Opéra National de Paris
    Feb.15, 2010 - Mezzo broadcast

    Sep 30, 2010

    Récital Joyce DiDonato

    Bis: "Parto, parto", La Clemenza di Tito, Mozart

    Joyce DiDonato ended her 10-day recording session with the Orchestra of the Opéra de Lyon by providing us Lyonnais with a glimpse of this new album, whose highlight was, for me, her exquisite rendering of Gluck's da capo aria from La Clemenza di Tito, "Se mai senti sporarti sul volto". She was here able to fully express the desperation of Sesto on his way to death. The aria in itself is beautifully written to start with (the oboe is literally to die for), but her interpretation was really mesmorizing.

    Of course she excelled with her collatura in pieces such as "Non più mesta" from La Cenerentola, or "Amour, viens rendre à mon âme" from Orphée et Eurydice (adapted by Berlioz) - she can, indeed, "braver le trépas" with strength and determination.

    It was no surprise either that she ignited the audience with her wonderful spirit, and her obvious love and devotion to the music. She took a few minutes before the last aria to share with us the impressions she had of her stay - and it seems she has discover the hidden treasure of Lyon - its food. She praised Maestro Ono for his musicality and attention to details, and I quite agree with her.

    The orchestra sounded quite improved and much more focused than before Ono arrived two years ago. 
    Sure there were some slight issues (the cellos and double bass were sometimes a bit off), but the musicality of the orchestra has grown tremendously, and they were able to convey nuances and a vitality that were indeed refreshing.
    Poulenc's Sinfonietta was vibrant and exciting under the baton of Ono, but the overture of Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride was for me, the highlight of the orchestra. It started a bit heavy with the strings, but after the first few bars, the music really came to life and illuminated the whole opera house.

    Overall a wonderful evening.

    Aug 2, 2010

    L'étranger, D'Indy

    Action musicale in two acts (1898-1901), Op. 53
    Vincent d'Indy, see also here for a very detailed biography in French

    Texte de Vincent d'Indy, d'après Brant d'Henrik Ibsen
    Création: Bruxelles, Théâtre de la Monnaie, 7 Janvier 1903

    France Musique live broadcast
    Montpellier, July 26, 2010

    Synopsis & analysis, by Michel Fleury :
    " Despite his goodness, the Stranger, who has settled in a fishing village, keeps out of the way of the inhabitants who fear him. A Christian hero fulfilling a divine mission of charity on earth, he must leave in order not to give in to human love shared with Vita, the fiancée of a dry, hard-hearted customs officer. During a tempest, the Stranger is the only one to go to the rescue of a sinking boat. Vita jumps into the dinghy to accompany him, and both perish in the fury of the waves.

    This controversial libretto, sacrificing action to the symbol, has weighed heavily on the destiny of the work. Its religious resonance (is divine love compatible with human love?) is accentuated by the recourse to Gregorian themes. On the other hand, the richness and beauty of the music explain Debussy’s enthusiasm and admiration: clarified and totally transfigured, the Wagnerian heritage is resolved in a miraculous balance between vocal line and orchestra, harmonic colour and polyphony, realism and Impressionism, Germanic complexity and Mediterranean clarity. At a time of re-evaluating one of our finest musicians, the rediscovery of this great and beautiful work imposed itself. "

    Despite the comments above, the score is rather uninteresting, especially if one knows and appreciates Puccini. The Germanic influence is also quite clear, but I reckon Edouard Lalo with Le roi d'Ys and Ernest Reyer with Sigurd have done a much better job of integrating it with the French knowledge of melodies and the Italian sense of passion.

    Overall a forgettable score - but I could never have had this opinion if the Montpellier's festival hadn't had the great idea to exhume this work.

    Jul 28, 2010

    Thielemann's view on Schubert's 9th

    Franz Schubert
    Symphony No. 9 in C major D944

    Munchner Philharmoniker
    Conductor: Christian Thielemann

    Live Recording (Bayern 4)
    Philharmonie am Gasteig, München
    January 2006

    I did not enjoy Thielemann's view, which I find heavy, solemn and military at times.
    Schubert's madness is buried under a Spartan tempo, rigorous and inexpressive, and all the lightness the score often contains is hidden behind a lifeless and constrained performance that does not represent, for me, Schubert's music.

    Apr 10, 2010

    Luthier lyonnais

    4 rue Terraille, Lyon