Dec 21, 2009

The Opéra de Lyon on Arte Live Web

Photo Opéra de Lyon

Arte Live Web will broadcast the performance of Chostakovitch's Cheryomushki on Dec.29 (from 8 pm) from the Opéra de Lyon.

Dec 19, 2009

Great: Schubert's 9th by Muti

Riccardo Muti
Berliner Philarmoniker
Teatro S.Carlo di Napoli
Mezzo broadcast, May 1st, 2009
"Concert Europa 2009"

Symphony #9 in C Major, "The Great", D944


Perfect Muti, in a nutshell.

Dec 18, 2009

A love story

Riccardo Muti explaining how he fell in love with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Also: Muti's acceptance speech for 2010 Musician of the year Award (a showcase of Muti's sense of humor) - how to conduct Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.

As suggested by a reader...

Dec 6, 2009

Concert éducatif Haydn - Pleyel

Orchestre Les Siècles
Conduction - François-Xavier Roth
Host - Pierre Charvet
Giovanni von Essen

Joseph Haydn
Symphonie n°8 "Le Soir" (extrait)
Symphonie n°45 "Les Adieux" (extrait)
Symphonie n°88 (extrait)
Concerto pour violoncelle n°2 en ré Majeur (extrait)
Trio de Londres, 2 flûtes et violoncelle (extrait)
Libre adaptation de l'hymne allemand

W.A. Mozart
Réduction pour 2 flûtes de la Flûte Enchantée

Salle Pleyel, Dec. 6, 2009
Program here
Concert available for the next two months on Arte Live Web.

A "concert éducatif" at the Salle Pleyel in Paris is not something I would normally attend, but I jumped on the opportunity to watch it via Arte Live Web, and I did enjoy this hour of music very much.

The concert was centered around Joseph Haydn's music, with extracts from symphonies, concerti, chamber music, with two Mozart extracts and even a traditional Irish piece, all that played in a casual, friendly and joyful manner by the orchestra and conductor.

Such concerts are commendable and necessary, to educate children about the beauty and depth of classical music (even if Haydn is not really the master of multi-layered scores, but his music is simple enough to be understood by children). It shows them how fun it really is, and how easy it is to get caught into it - an experience they'll hopefully never forget.

That Arte decided to broadcast is yet another brilliant idea, because broadening the audience of such quality learning experiences is also broadening the accessibility of classical music, and hopefully engraved these emotions into even more children of all ages.

Orphée aux Enfers - Aix 2009

Orphée aux Enfers

opéra-bouffe en 2 actes et 4 tableaux de Jacques Offenbach
livret d'Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy

Eurydice - Pauline Courtin
Orphée - Julien Behr
Aristée/Pluton - Mathias Vidal
Jupiter - Vincent Deliau
L'Opinion Publique - Marie Gautrot
John Styx - Jerome Billy
Mercure - Paul Cremazy
Cupidon - Emmanuelle de Negri
Diane - Soula Parassidis
Vénus - Marie Kalinine
Minerve - Estelle Kaique
Junon - Sabine Revault d'Allonnes

Choeur du Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
Camerata Salzburg
Conductor - Alain Altinoglu

Director - Yves Baunesne
Aix, Théâtre de l'Archevêché
Arte broadcast, July 16, 2009

Acte 2, Jupiter

I'm afraid the production of Yves Baunesne leaves me with yet another bad taste in the mouth.
The music of Offenbach is already cliché as it is, as well as the libretto, and addind every other vaudevillesque cliché there is quite quickly disconnected by from the performance.
The facts that every cast member (Julien Behr as Orphée excepted)has such a limited stage presence and that the actors' direction is so rough sure amplifies the mediocrity of the production.

Acte 2, 3e tableau, l'Olympe

"Ce formidable bordel!" (to use Ionesco's words) is what this production really is, constantly shifting between boring tricks alla Scribe and boring grotesque tricks (Jupiter metamorphosis into a fly in Act 2, the choice of the director to have Eurydice say the spoken dialogues with a strong "Titi"-Parisian accent - quite absurd considering the gap with the music, ...).

Both the sets, the lights and the costumes are also a disappointment, beeing anything but original, edgy, smart or enlightning.

Acte 2, 4e tableau

The musical interpretation is equally as bad, singers, orchestra and conductor included.
Most of these young singers haven't developed yet, and their technique is lacking some basics (intensity and projection mainly); the conduction of Alain Altinoglu I also disliked, lacking emotion, color and brightness (the strings were especially to blame), and the overall tempo did remind me more of military marches than of Offenbach's usual spiciness.

Overall a production to forget.

Dec 5, 2009

Carmen - Scala - Dec.4

Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen

Renaud Machart, the very trustworthy musical critic of Le Monde, was yesterday evening attending the performance of Carmen at La Scala for journalists and under-30 audiences (read: the general rehearsal opened to the public).

He is definitely not happy.

The French diction ranges from mediocre to unbearable, he says, and the cast is overall pretty weak (he especially has tough critics for Erwin Schrott (Escamillo) and Adriana Damato (Micaëla). But he's forgiving with young Riccardo Massi (Don José) that had to step in yesterday when Kaufmann cancelled, supposedly to keep his strength for the real prima on Dec.7.

Machart is not kind also for both Barenboim - uneven and therefore having a bad understanding of the score (with sometimes a feel of Wagner to the music, that Machart dismisses as heresy).

And finally, Machart has also some criticisms for director Emma Dante - and is left wandering whether she was eaten by tradition or managed to play with it.

Dec 3, 2009

Scala Opening Night on Arte

Once again, Arte will broadcast the Opening Night at La Scala on Dec.7 (8:45 pm Paris time).

This year of course Carmen opens the season, directed by Emma Dante, and conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

Dec 2, 2009


" Tu me dis de la suivre
pour que toi, tu puisses courir
après ton nouvel amant!
Non! non vraiment!
Dût-il m'en coûter la vie,
non, Carmen, je ne partirai pas
et la chaîne qui nous lie
nous liera jusqu'au trépas


Je te tiens, fille damnée
je te tiens, et je te forcerai bien
à subir la destinée
qui rive ton sort au mien! "

Final 3e acte
Carmen, EMI 1964 (2e CD, #14, 2e moitié)
Georges Prêtre, Nicolai Gedda, Maria Callas

Carmen - Barenboim / Kusej - 2006

Georges Bizet (1875)

Carmen - Marina Domashenko
Don José - Rolando Villazón
Escamillo - Alexander Vinogradov
Micaëla - Norah Amsellem

Conduction - Daniel Barenboim
Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra, Staatsopernchor

Direction - Martin Kusej
Coproduction Berlin Staatsoper / Théâtre du Chatelet

Berlin Staatsoper Under den Linden
July 1st 2006
ZDF broadcast

An all-dark and heavy atmosphere for this production of Carmen.
Lust and violence are the two axis Kusej chose to emphasize - and he did push his concept to the extreme, since not only Carmen, but also Don José and Micaëla turn out dead at the end of it.

But since the libretto didn't convey to such an extend the intentions Kusej wanted to showcase, he also took the liberty of rewriting the spoken dialogues, and in a very poorly manner.

All and all, I think this production is a failure.
Somewhere during its genesis, the concept became poisoned by its essence, Kusej lost all sense of balance, and the production became a mix of zombies and psychopaths (the zombies do appear quite litteraly during the children chorus "Avec la garde montante" in Act I, and are so disconnected from the music you can hardly escape the images of mediocre horror movies).

The other huge issue with this production is the cast.
Villazon is supposed to portray a dark, violent and nihilist Don José, but the result on stage is a disaster. There's no way he can identify with such a character, and he also has the tendency to forget his stage presence when singing a solo; "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" is the quintessential example of such a tendency; after a while, he wants so much to showcase his voice he enters the [wild-and-ridiculous gestures]-mode, that obviously fails even more the concept of Kusej.

Domashenko's Carmen is also a disaster.
She has no sex-appeal whatsoever and her stage presence is so cold and distant it's hard to see any inch of Carmen in her. The singing is also disappointing: bad projection, ugly high notes, and no modulation (between none and too much like Villazon, I'm afraid I can't pick one over the other).

Norah Ansellem's Micaëla and Alexander Vinogradov's Escamillo are also vocally weak, and the only ray of light comes from the chorus, though its performance is not flawless as well.

I'm also very critical of Barenboim's conduction; I understand his view, I just don't agree with it, and I think he doesn't serve the score as well as he could be.
Barenboim's idea is to shape the rhythmn of the score to display all the colors Bizet injected in each individual instrumental score but, in doing so, he loses the cohesive rhythm of the score as a whole - and the opera itself.

The result is a performance in which you can distinctly hear all the instruments, but that is overall quite feeble, lacking brightness and intensity.

I wonder if he'll keep this idea when Barenboim conducts Carmen in a few days for the Opening Night at La Scala...

Further reading : Mostly Opera's review