Saturday 30 August 2008
Forza del Destino, Paris Bastille Opera
LIVE OPERA REVIEWS 2010-11 SEASON:
Cosi fan tutte, Salzburg
Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Salzburg
LIVE OPERA REVIEWS 2009-10 SEASON:
Eugene Onegin, Royal Danish Opera
Rake´s Progress, Royal Danish Opera (in Danish)
LIVE OPERA REVIEWS 2008-9 SEASON:
Boris Godunov - London ENO
Don Carlo - Norwegian Opera, Oslo
Don Carlo - Royal Danish Opera
Elektra - London Royal Opera
Eugen Onegin - Berlin State Opera
Fidelio - Berlin State Opera
Jenufa, Bavarian State Opera
Les Contes d´Hoffmann - London Royal Opera
Lohengrin - Berlin State Opera
Rosenkavalier - Royal Danish Opera
Partenope - Royal Danish Opera
Partenope 2 - Royal Danish Opera
Tosca - Zurich Opera House
Tristan and Isolde - Paris Bastille Opera
Turandot - Berlin Deutsche Oper
Walküre - Hamburg State Opera
LIVE OPERA REVIEWS 2007-8 SEASON:
Aida - Berlin State Opera
Capriccio - Vienna State Opera
Contes d´Hoffmann - Royal Danish Opera
Death in Venice - Barcelona Liceu
Doktor Faust - Berlin State Opera
Don Carlo - Berlin State Opera
Don Carlo - Copenhagen Royal Opera
Don Carlo - Vienna State Opera
Don Carlos - Vienna State Opera
Don Giovanni 1 - Berlin State Opera
Don Giovanni 2 - Berlin State Opera
Don Giovanni 3,4 - Berlin State Opera
Don Giovanni - Salzburg
Duke Bluebeard´s Castle - Salzburg
Elektra - Berlin Deutsche Opera
Eugene Onegin - Bavarian State Opera
Faust - Choregies d´Organge
Flying Dutchman - Bavarian State Opera
Forza del Destino - Vienna State Opera
Hänsel and Gretel - Berlin Deutsche Oper
Lucio Silla - Royal Danish Opera
L´Incoronazione di Poppea - Royal Danish Opera
Magic Flute - Berlin Subway
Magic Flute - Salzburg
Meistersinger - Berlin Deutsche Oper
Meistersinger 1 - Berlin State Opera
Meistersinger 2 - Berlin State Opera
Otello - Salzburg
Parsifal - Bayreuth
Parsifal - Dresden Semperoper
Parsifal - Paris Bastille Opera
Parsifal - Vienna State Opera
Pélleas and Mélisande - Berlin State Opera
Pique Dame - Vienna State Opera
Ring des Nibelungen (complete cycle) - Royal Opera, Covent Garden
Rosenkavalier - Berlin Deutsche Oper
Rusalka - Royal Danish Opera
Rusalka - Salzburg
Salome - Malmö Opera
Tannhäuser - Berlin State Opera
The Gambler - Berlin State Opera
Tristan and Isolde - Bayreuth
Tristan and Isolde - Berlin State Opera
Tristan and Isolde - La Scala, Milan
Tristan and Isolde - Teatro Real, Madrid
Tristan and Isolde - Bavarian State Opera
Walküre (concert) - Barcelona Liceu
OPERA REVIEWS 2006-7 SEASON:
Arabella - Vienna State Opera
Alcina - Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Ballo di Maschera - Paris Bastille Opera
Boris Godunov - Berlin State Opera
Boris Godunov - Vienna State Opera
Die Frau ohne Schatten - Dresden Semperoper
Don Carlo - Berlin State Opera
Elektra - Royal Danish Opera
Fidelio - Royal Opera, London
Fidelio - Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Khovanshchina - Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Lohengrin - Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen
Lohengrin - Paris Bastille Opera
Lohengrin - Vienna State Opera
Macbeth - Dresden Semperoper
Manon - Berlin State Opera
Maskarade - Royal Danish Opera
Meistersinger - Bayreuth Festival
Otello - Vienna State Opera
Parsifal - Bayreuth Festival
Parsifal - Berlin State Opera
Parsifal - Bavarian State Opera
Parsifal - Vienna State Opera
Parsifal - Zurich Opera
Ring des Nibelungen (complete cycle) - Bayreuth Festival
Ring des Nibelungen (complete cycle) - Berlin Deutsche Oper
Salome - Berlin State Opera
Simone Boccanegra - Paris Bastille Opera
Thaïs (concert performance) - Royal Opera, London
Walküre - Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm
Walküre 1st act concert - Bavarian State Opera, Munich
Thursday 28 August 2008
Eugene Onegin. Salzburg Festival 2007. Director: Andrea Breth. Cast: Peter Mattei (Eugene Onegin), Anna Samuil (Tatiana), Ekaterina Gubanova (Olga), Joseph Kaiser (Lenski), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Gremin). Conductor: Daniel Barenboim with the Vienna Philharmonics. Further information here.
Just as it seemed the Metropolitan Opera had released the ultimate Eugene Onegin DVD earlier this year, it is seriously challanged by the release of Andrea Breth´s production from last years Salzburg Festival conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
The enourmous stage of the Grosse Festspielhaus in Salzburg is utilized to the maximum with a revolving circular stage and in fact, I find Andrea Breth´s glittering-dark staging near-ideal.
Updated to the middle of this century, Eugene Onegin is set on an estate in an unspecified location with more than an added touch of psychoanalysis. The opening is bizarre: Male workers submissively queue up to have their heads shaved by Madame Larina on the estate. This pattern continues: In Andrea Breth´s Eugene Onegin, the women are in charge: Olga is the one taking the initiatives with Lenski and surely she won’t suffer long after his death. And though Onegin initially rejects Tatiana, he is clearly the weaker character of the two. A playboy at heart, he is pushed around and she is right to finally reject him as he is bad news. Even the old nurse Filipevna pops up eerily in the corner from time to time. The changing images of woods and interiors made possible by the circular stage are simply superb and futhermore Andrea Breth´s individual characterizations are excellent.
Anna Samuil has a very distinct and immediately recognizable clear soprano and though she may occasionally seem slightly limited in expression, both vocally and dramatically, as this Tatiana she is very convincing, not least in the letter scene.
Peter Mattei is the modern Onegin, in splendid voice and fittingly cool acting. Ekaterina Gubanova is a rich-voiced Olga compared to whom Joseph Kaiser is more anonymous, but nevertheless more than adequate Lenski. Ferruccio Furlanetto convincingly delivers his one aria.
Daniel Barenboim with the Vienna Philharmonics is even better than Gergiev at the MET, in a far more subtle, yet sumptuous reading. But make no mistake: Daniel Barenboim is fully capable of pulling all the stops when required as well. Though he doesn´t quite reach the expected intensity in his rather slow approach to the final scene.
Peter Mattei with Onegin´s aria:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Peter Mattei: 5
Anna Samuil: 4
Ekaterina Gubanova: 5
Joseph Kaiser: 4
Ferruccio Furlanetto: 4
Daniel Barenboim: 5
Andrea Breth´s production: 5
Overall impression: 5
The venues: Haus für Mozart - information and photographs
Backstage photographs from Haus für Mozart
The venues: Felsenreitschule - information and photographs
Salzburg Festival tickets - practical information on buying tickets for the Salzburg Festival
Salzburg Festival audiences - dress code and audience photographs
Salzburg - the city
Zauberflöte 2006 (d: Audi, c: Muti)
Nozze di Figaro 2006 (d: Guth, c: Harnoncourt)
Entführung aus dem Serail 2006 (d: Herheim, c: Bolton)
Eugene Onegin 2007 (d: Breth, c: Barenboim)
SALZBURG FESTIVAL- LIVE PERFORMANCES REVIEWED BY MOSTLY OPERA
Don Giovanni 2008 (d: Guth, c: de Billy)
Rusalka 2008 (d: Wieler/Morabito, c: Welser-Möst)
Duke Bluebeard´s Castle 2008 (d: Simons, c: Eötvös)
Otello 2008 (d: Langridge, c: Muti)
Zauberflöte 2008 (d: Audi, c: Muti)
West-Eastern Divan Orchestra 2007 with Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez
Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra 2008 with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustavo Dudamel
Beethoven: Symphony no. 9, Mariss Jansons with Bayerische Rundfunkorchester 2007
Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Riccardo Muti with the Vienna Philharmonics 2008
Maurizio Pollini recital 2007
SALZBURG FESTIVAL - LINKS
SALZBURG FESTIVAL - GENERAL INFORMATION
Wednesday 27 August 2008
Where Riccardo Muti´s operatives in Brahms seemed to be piano, forte and fortissimo, for his Otello he skipped the piano and immediately pushed everyone back in their seats with the initial chords. I don´t remember having ever heard such loud orchestra playing. And he is impeccably precise as well. Which, of course is vastly preferably to being vague, restrained and imprecise. But what about all the details and subtleness in Verdi´s score? With Riccardo Muti I failed to hear them, though I did not think he overpowered the singers to an unreasonable degree. After all this is not exclusively a singers opera.
Upon repeated listening or listening to the radio broadcasts, I am not surprised that some find the conducting loud, square and to a certain extent, superficial. But in the theater you were blown away by the sheer force and intensity.
Riccardo Muti allegedly was in charge of all aspects of this production including the hiring of the singers. And despite a commendable effort Aleksandr Antonenko is vastly overchallenged as Otello, despite a fine start. His top notes gradually disappeared through the acts, though he keeps up his acting until the end. The problem, of course, is that a great performance of Otello ultimately depends on a great Otello..
Carlos Àlvarez is solid as Iago, if ultimately not particularly memorable. Maria Luigia Borsi, previously unknown to me, was Desdemona in her only scheduled performance (the rest were sung by Marina Poplavskaya). She was simply superb, with excellent floating high notes and pianissimi as well as engaged acting and deservedly recieved the biggest ovation from the audience. Stephen Costello both looked and sang exactly as I imagine Cassio would have done.
Of Stephen Langridge´s staging I am not so uniformly negative as the majority of reviewers seem to have been. While the detailed personal instruction and ultimately the drama is rather absent, I find the sets entirely adequate for a quasi-modern Otello - wooden, square and simple, thematically based on fire and water (photographs here). An appropriately neutral background to allow the music to shine. The not unlikely reason Riccardo Muti hired him, after all he is the star conductor of Salzburg this season, is he not?
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):
Aleksandrs Antonenko: 3
Maria Luigia Borsi: 4
Carlos Àlvarez: 3
Stephen Costello: 3-4
Stephen Langridge´s production: 3
Riccardo Muti with the Vienna Philharmonics: 4
Overall impression: 3
Glossy brochures and exhibitions as well as champagne receptions, coupled with hysterical and entirely uncritical applause is what met this orchestra in residence the Salzburg Festival.
I must confess to feeling more than a bit uneasy about the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra - or rather about the way this orchestra is marketed. Or, truth be told, mainly about the way the underlying musical system of Venezuela from which this orchestra is created is praised by seemingly uncriticial journalists and audiences alike.
Having traveled extensively in South America including Venezuela, I have learned that things are rarely what they appear on the surface and I am honestly appalled at the apparent lack of critical journalism relating to the coverage of this orchestra.
Unless, of course, the ravishing praise is indeed a result of in-depth, independent research done in Venezuela by journalists chosing not to mention this fact in their articles..
I will reserve my unconditional praise for the musical-educational system of Venezuela until after I´ve read such reports meeting minimum standards of critical journalism.
Musically, however, I have only positive things to say about the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra. Especially since the orchestra had skipped the self-promotional Venezuelan national flags and costumes for this television-recorded semi-rehearsal with Nikolaus Harnoncourt at the University Aula in Salzburg.
The enthusiasm of the players is contageous. Opposed to the increasingly professionalism of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Símon Bolívar Youth Orchestra is clearly still a youth orchestra complete with numerous wrong notes, false entries and unnuanced playing. But the sheer enthusiasm seems virtually unbeatable.
A 2-hour rehearsal of Beethoven´s 5th symphony with Nikolaus Harnoncourt was on the programme. Gustavo Dudamel sat next to Harnoncourt translating his English instructions to Spanish for the orchestra members. The overall title of these sessions are (translated) "School of listening" and we basically heard Harnoncourt repeatedly rehearse relatively few phrases demonstrating what difference rather simple suggestions may do to the audience perception of the work.
By the way - since Harnoncourt apparently is in town, may I suggest he walk 100 meter, cross the road and conduct Claus Guth´s new production of Don Giovanni at the Haus für Mozart?
However, almost all tickets are outrageously expensive in Salzburg ranging from 70-360 Euro. The 360 Euro tickets may always be had. The difficulty is to get the ~70-100 Euro seats, but this is not impossible. Curiously, several people still pay outrageous amounts such as 1000 Euros for tickets for the most popular operas via ebay, which is completely unnecessary.
Within the city of Salzburg, several ticket agents may be found, obviously adding a varying commission to the official rate - entirely legal it seems as they operate in the open. Exactly how much above the offical price they charge depends on the show – I saw a Japanese-looking gentleman with a 450 Euro ticket take an originally priced 150 Euro seat at the Riccardo Muti Brahms Requiem, while another agency “only” charged a 50 Euro commission on Otello tickets. Not to mention the 1200 Euro asked for most opera tickets on ebay..
A section of the audience (~20 %) arrive in glitzy evening dresses, matinée performances or not. 40% wear less glitzy (read: relatively old-fashioned) dresses. ~10% wear informal clothing. The rest wear something in-between.
Grosses Festspielhaus is the biggest of the three operatic venues of the Salzburg Festival (the others being Felsenreitschule and Haus für Mozart) with 2179 seats (no standing room). 100 meters wide, the stage is one of the biggest in the world. Hewn into the surrounding Mönchsberg rock it was opened in 1960 (with a Herbert von Karajan-conducted Rosenkavalier). The cheapest seats (for the most expensive productions) are located behind pillars and cost about 20 Euro. Visibility is fine from virtually every seat in the house.
Located immediately next door to the Grosses Festspielhaus and in the same building as the Felsenreitschule, the Haus für Mozart has 1.495 seats and 85 standing room places. Apart from the standing room tickets (which are sold in advance exactly like all the other seats), the cheapest seats are on the 2nd balcony, with fine view. Beware, the slope of the parterre is almonst non-existent, so small people may well risk spending 360 Euro for a ticket and see almost nothing of the stage. Apart from the balcony, the Karl-Böhm-Saal serves as the main location during intermissions.
The backstage (just before Claus Guth´s Don Giovanni):
Located in the same building as Haus Für Mozart, the Karl-Böhm-Saal serves as the main venue during intermissions.
Selected previous productions from Felsenreitschule on DVD: Clemenza di Tito (2003, Kusej), Die Gezeichneten (2005, Lehnhoff), La Damnation de Faust (2000, Fura Del Baus), Mozart Gala 2006, Romeo et Juliette (2008, Machaidze/Villazon).