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  • High-tech Opera Videos (5/21/2019) by Flamand

    Video has evolved with new and better? techniques in recent years.
    There is now opera on Blu-ray disc even in 4K resolution.
    The 3D fad has faded but there are still some three dimensional operas available.
    You need a TV which supports 3D.

    AIDA from Verona is a classic performance and 3D adds some new dimensions to it.

    CARMEN from Royal Opera House London is a well known and well worn staging. You can view it in 3D now.

    UHD (Ultra High Definition) short 4K provides you with a very high quality image provided you have the TV and BD player which supports it.

    There are quite many operas available on 4K BD. I will give you my personal favorites here:

    Le nozze di Figaro Salzburg 2015 with Pisaroni and Fritsch

    Die Walküre Salzburg 2017 with Seiffert, Harteros and Kampe, Thielemann conducting

    I due Foscari La Scala Milan 2016 with Placido Domingo

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  • Massenet Manon Zürich Opera April 7, 2019 – A Review (4/8/2019) by Flamand

    This review was published by Opera Gazet on April 8. 2019

    Fotos (Foto: T+T Fotografie Toni Suter)

    Manon, opéra in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, based on the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost. It was first performed at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 19 January 1884. Première in the Zürich Opera House on 7 April 2019.

    Manon Lescaut: Elsa Dreisig
    Le Chevalier des Grieux: Piotr Beczala
    Lescaut: Yuriy Yurchuk
    Le Comte des Grieux: Alastair Miles
    Guillot de Morfontaine: Eric Huchet
    De Brétigny: Marc Scoffoni
    Poussette: Yuliia Zasimova
    Javotte: Natalia Tanasii
    Rosette: Deniz Uzun
    L’Hôtelier: Cheyne Davidson
    Philharmonia Zürich
    Chor der Oper Zürich
    Conductor: Marco Armiliato
    Director: Floris Visser

    When Abbé Prevost’s L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut was published in 1731 it was a scandal. The book was forbidden in France but became a huge success anyway. At the time of the premiere of Massenet’s opera in 1884, Manon was still frivolous and scandalous. But what does Manon mean to us today, when society and morals have changed so much? Well, today we would say “let the girl have some fun”. And she would become an It.girl, be famous on Facebook and make a lot of money as an influencer.

    I think the director Floris Visser realized that and resisted the temptation of situating the story in the present. He did move it, but only to the Belle Epoque of Massenet’s time, when the prevalent morals and society could still give meaning to the Histoire de Manon.

    Floris Visser renders a fairly traditional staging at the Zürich Opera. He tells the story as intended by Massenet. The only faux pas is a naked Madonna/Manon double at the end of the St. Sulpice scene. Visser’s direction is very detailed and impressive. The story flows continuously, all characters are drawn exquisitely and he pays great attention to detail.

    The stage is set as a sort of peepshow box. It is completely enclosed and only open to the auditorium. This makes us feel like voyeurs having a peep at the scandalous Manon. The stage changes only when different props are added. The back opens with huge sliding doors to expand the scene when necessary. The back then becomes a huge mirror.
    The scenery and the costumes are designed by Dieuweke von Reij, another member of this successful Dutch creative team. The costumes are appropriate for the staging.

    All singers of the ensemble except Piotr Beczala are debuting in their roles. The ensemble as a whole performs with great conviction and without insecurity.

    Lescaut is portrayed by Yuriy Yurchuk, who is very experienced playing supporting roles, mainly at Covent Garden. And minor supporting roles is what he should continue doing. His acting is good though sometimes over the top. But what he completely lacks is vocal characterization. How that should be done in a supporting role is something he could learn from the stalwart Alistair Miles, who sings le Comte des Grieux with great success. Even Mark Scoffoni as de Bretigny shows more vocal individuality although his acting is very dull.

    Now for the principals:
    Piotr Beczala is almost an institution at Zürich Opera where he made his debut over 20 years ago. Indeed, he sings here so frequently that he feels at home in Zürich. He even took Swiss citizenship in 2012. His debut as Des Grieux goes back to 2012 at the Met.
    His voice and character are ideal for Des Grieux. He is very believable as the romantic and weak idealist. His “Ah! fuyez, douce image” in St. Sulpice is extremely beautiful and very touching at the same time. The only wish I have is that he would temper his often loud volume and show a bit more variation.

    Which brings us to Manon. There was a great deal of expectation regarding Elsa Dreisig’s debut. She was an Operalia winner in 2016. She is a permanent member of the ensemble of the Berlin Staatsoper, where she has sung Pamina, Euridice and Traviata among others. She has been labeled as a young singer (28 years) on the rise to stardom. I was especially curious as I had never heard her perform before.

    Miss Dreisig has a rather small voice with a very beautiful timbre in the middle and higher range. This makes her very believable as the 16-year-old Manon in the first act. But the first duet with Des Grieux already raises questions about her voice’s suitability. This is put to a severe test in Manon’s two key scenes. First is her big scene at the Cours-la-Rein ewhere she is supposed to dominate the scene and the crowd with her charms and sexuality. Miss Dreisig comes nowhere near doing so: neither her characterization nor her voice is up to the task. The second test is the St. Sulpice duet. She starts “n’est-ce plus ma main” quietly, which is extremely beautiful and very touching. But then she lifts her voice to a louder volume for more dramatic effect. This sounds forced and unnatural.

    At no point during this opera is Miss Dreisig a femme fatale. Only her 16-year-old girl is believable. Although she does a very nice and professional job with this role I think she was ill-advised to attempt Manon at this point in her career. But I would love to hear her as Pamina.

    Marco Armiliato in the pit is his usual highly professional self. He conducts with great aplomb and romanticism without providing any deep new insights.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this evening which had so many positive sides even though I missed Manon and got Pamina instead

    .

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  • Operas with a special place in my heart (2/13/2019) by Flamand

    Sure I love all opera and I love some more than others but there are a few operas which occupy a very special place in my heart.
    Well, you say how can one choose between great masterworks and prefer one over the other? Is La Traviata better than La Boheme? Do you prefer Otello over Falstaff? Is Der Rosenkavalier a greater work than Salome? These comparisons are futile. It is always a matter of personal taste and preferences and very different for different people.

    Why these operas hold a special place is very personal. These operas bowl me over each time I see them. The reasons are very personal emotions. Other people have such operas too but they are different because of different personal emotions.  What is common to these operas? First there may be a special personal experience connected to it. What all have is what I call magic moments: These are moments in the opera which could be a spot in the libretto, a great melody or a chorus.. But although I know these magic spots so well each time I experience one it sends warm shivers through my body. Have you experienced this?

    Here are my operas with a special place in my heart (in historical order without any preference):

     

    Le nozze di Figaro

    This opera has an almost perfect plot and libretto and it is about very real people. I think it is so great because it was the first Mozart/Daponte cooperation and you can feel how much fun those guys had in creating it. And it is based on a very successful play.
    I virtually grew up in Vienna with Figaro and that formed a livelong relationship. The arias and ensembles are so great that not only Vienna sang and played them but it was the popular music of the time in the whole of Europe.

    Now about the magic moments: two of them are really silence: that is when the Count discovers Cherubino in the chair and the second when the Count finds Susanna instead of Cherubino in his wife’s closet. The greatest magic is right at the end with the Countess entrance and the Counts “Contessa perdono”.

     

    Un ballo in maschera

    As you know the original Ballo told the story of the murder of king Gustav III at the Stockholm opera. And with Stockholm and the Royal Opera I have a very personal special relationship.
    I have seen Ballo more often than any other Verdi opera (including La Traviata) and it is one of the two operas which I have experienced with all of the three tenors. The other one is Tosca.
    The magic starts in the overture when the melody is interrupted by the conspirators theme. The next magic occurs with Riccardo’s La rivedrà nell’estasi. È scherzo od è follia is true magic especially when Pavarotti sang it. And the second act aria and duet are truly great.

     

    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

    Meistersinger? and not Tristan some will say. True also Tristan has magic moments but also very lengthy passages. Meistersinger has a special place with me and even though it runs for four and a half hours I never find it boring. Like Figaro it has a great plot and real people with real emotions. And it has a certain subtlety which otherwise is not very present in Wagner’s operas. Although I have seen Meistersinger many, many times I am still waiting for the perfect performance.
    Magic starts with the overture which always bowls me over. The next magic moment comes with Am stillen Herd. Magic continues with Dem Vogel, der heut sang  in the Flieder-Monolog and Mein Freund, in holder Jugendzeit. The glorious conclusion comes in the third act with the Prize Song in all it’s permutations from the Schusterstube to the Festwiese.

     

    Pagliacci

    Pagliacci is Verismo at it’s greatest. What a story, such emotions, love, adultery and murder mixed with commedia dell’arte. And glorious music.
    I have seen it with Domingo in Vienna and I will never forget.
    Magic starts in the prologue with Un nido di memorie. The duet Nedda/Silvio is magic for me. As fine as Vesti la giubba is, for me No! Pagliaccio non son! is the real magic.

    Turandot

    Turandot is a perfect fairy tale. It is a pity that Puccini did not finish it himself.
    The magic starts with the moonlight chorus. The riddle scene is great but my magic always occurs before. The march which connects the scene of the the three masks to the chorus is magic for me. It starts pianissimo almost in the background and rises gradually to a resounding fortissimo. I saw Lorin Maazel’s last performance as director of Wiener Staatsoper (Marton was Turandot) in 1984. The Vienna Philharmonic played this superbly. Unforgettable.
    And last but not least Nessun dorma can provide great magic if sung by a great tenor. With lesser tenors it can be annoying.

     

    Arabella

    Again some of you will lift their eyebrows and say Arabella, why not Der Rosenkavalier. Yes, Rosenkavalier is a truly great opera but it took me many performances and quite some time before I started to appreciate it fully. On the other hand my first Arabella ever (Vienna with Lisa della Casa, Rothenberger and Wächter) just bowled me over. I have seen many Arabellas after but no one came near Lisa della Casa. The other best ones were Renee Fleming and Kiri Te Kanawa.
    Not surprisingly the magic starts with Aber der Richtige and the following duet. In the second act magic continues with Ich habe eine Frau gehabt and Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein. And it reaches a glorious conclusion in the final Arabella/Mandryka.

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  • Opera Movies – an historical overview (2/9/2019) by Flamand

    At Opera on Video we distinguish between live performances, opera movies and concert performances. There are hybrids such as semi-staged performances and live performances in a studio.

    Opera movies are operas filmed in studio and on location to a previously recorded soundtrack. Directors are often quite liberal with music und libretto and cut or add to it. Some movies replace the singers with professsional movie actors. That is why Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida feature in opera movies.

    Movies can add new dimensions to the opera interpretation which are just not possible in the theater. That can be a positive addition if well done. Some purist may argue that one should stick to the composers original intention – but who does that nowadays in the theater anyway.

    Thus there are great opera movies and fairly poor ones. I will try to give you an overview and point out some personal favourites.

    Opera Movies were first.
    In the beginning filming was the only technical means available. Filming in the theater was technically virtually impossible. TV started first in the 1950s. Live recordings began to appear from the 1960s onward.

    One of the earliest opera movies is Dreigroschenoper from 1931 – well if you consider it an opera rather than a play with songs.

    In the 1930s there were many movies predominately in Germany which featured opera singers such as Gigli and Joseph Schmidt. And there were many filmed operettas. All not really opera movies.

    In 1939 Luise (Charpentier) was filmed with Moore and Thill in France.

    The first real opera movies appeared in Italy in the 1940s . Tito Gobbi featured in L’elisir d’amore, Il  Barbiere di Siviglia, La Forza del Destino, Rigoletto and Pagliacci with Lollobrigida. That trend continued with more Italian opera movies in the 1950s and 1960. There are recordings of Corelli in Carmen, Pagliacci, Tosca and Turandot. Anna Moffo recorded several operas too. Sophia Loren recorded Aida with Tebaldi singing in 1953 and La Favorite the same year. Mario del Monaco appeared in many movies such as Otello. Some of these movies are really staged performances filmed in a studio.

    A famous early opera movie is Les Contes d’Hoffmann by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with Beecham conducting. There are BBC movies of Billy Budd (1966) Peter Grimes (1969) King Priam (1985) Owen Wingrave (1971) The Beggar’s Opera (1963)

    Opernfilme as it is called in Germany started in the 1950s and reached their height in the 1970s. There are many of them such as Zar und Zimmermann (1956 and 1969), Hoffmann by Felsenstein and several recordings from Hamburg. Karajan filmed Otello, Carmen, Butterfly and Rheingold. Böhm conducted in Cosi, Elektra, Salome, Fidelio, Le nozze di Figaro. Solti conducted Hansel and Gretel, Arabella, Falstaff and Bluebeard’s Castle.
    There were also many operetta movies which I will not cover here.

    Russia has a rich history of opera movies: Boris Godunov, Iolanta, Khovanshchina, Mozart and Salieri, Otello, Pagliacci, Pique Dame, Prince Igor (1951 & 1969), The Miserly Knight, The Tsar’s Bride, Aleko, Bluebeard’s Castle, Rigoletto, The Demon, The Gambler, Cheryomushki and more.

    Hungary filmed quite a number of operas too: Bank ban, Hunyadi Laszlo, König Stephan, Unnamed heroes, Mozart and Salieri, Gianni Schicchi, Cosi fan tutte, Fidelio

    The really great opera movies were all by famous film directors and came in the 1970s and 80s.
    One of the most famous is Die Zauberflöte by Ingmar Bergman (1975).
    Otello (1986), La Traviata (1982),  Pagliacci and Cavalleria (1982) by Zefirelli
    Don Giovanni by Joseph Losey (1979)
    Carmen by Francesco Rosi (1984)
    La Boheme by Luigi Comencini (1987)
    Macbeth by Claude D’Anna (1987)
    Parsifal By Syberberg (1981)

    Jean-Pierre Ponnelle filmed Barbiere (1972), Carmina Burana (1975), La Clemenza di Tito (1980), La Cenerentola (1981) Rigoletto (1982), Cosi fan Tutte (1988), Le nozze di Figaro (1976), Madama Butterfly (1974), Mitridate re di Ponto (1986).

    And then there is the famous Harnoncourt/Ponnelle Monteverdi cycle (1978/79) which is filmed in the opera house and studio applying many movie techniques. All Ponnelle’s movies are very good.

    Petr Weigl shot mainly movies with professional actors using a previous opera audio recording: Eugene Onegin (1988), Lets make an opera, Lady Macbeth of Mtensk, Maria Stuarda, Rusalka (1977), Werther, A Village Romeo and Juliet, The Turn of the Screw.

    Another famous director is Peter Sellars the enfant terrible of opera movies. He filmed the Daponte Mozart operas 1990 which caused quite some stir. Figaro is set in Trump tower, Cosi in Despina’s seaside diner in Florida and Don Giovanni depicts Leporello and Giovanni as two coloured twins. There is also a Giulio Cesare by him.

    Then there appeared some very good movies in the 1990s and in the new century for example Porgy and Bess with Rattle, La Boheme with Netrebko and Villazon.

    A special case are opera movies which have been filmed on original places: There are two Toscas from Rome with Domingo, La Traviata from Paris and Rigoletto from Mantua again with Domingo (as baritone).

    But in recent years opera movies have become much scarcer. What could the reason be?? Is the market saturated because there are already so many movies available? Or has the public preference been shifted towards live HD transmission (Met, Vienna, London etc.)? I feel it would be great if we could get the occasional opera movie from a great film director. Woody Allen made an attempt to direct in the theater – but alas no movie. There are so many excellent movie directors – please have a go at opera.

    Which are my personal choices for best opera movie?
    I love Ingmar Bergman’s Zauberflöte. Some people may be turned off by Swedish – not me I am fluent in that language.
    Ponnelle’s movies are all very good. Except for the Butterfly which I do not like. Ponnelle’s Monteverdi Cycle is superb.
    Zefirelli’s controversial Otello (cuts), Cavalleria/Pagliaccio and Traviata are all very impressive.
    Don Giovanni by Losey with excellent singers is great too.
    Salome by Götz Friedrich with Teresa Stratas and Carmen by Rosi with Domingo and Migenes are opera movies I can enjoy watching over and over again.

    I did not provide you with direct links for all movies because there are so many. Please use the search to find them.
    You can browse all opera movies on operaonvideo.com here. (including operettas)
    Take your time and enjoy a good movie.

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  • Nudity in Opera (2/2/2019) by Flamand

    In my youth when I started going to the opera (1950s) topless girls were taboo in newspapers, magazines and even movies. Nudity in opera was quite unthinkable. But things changed very quickly in the 1960s and 70s. With flower power and women’s lib female breasts became quite ubiquitous in all media. It was just a matter of time until opera followed the common trend.

    I do not know which opera performance first staged nudes. One of the earliest ones I found is surprisingly from Bayreuth: in Tannhäuser 1978 Gwyneth Jones as Venus shows her breasts under a transparent costume. Barbara Bonney appeared as Pamina in a similar costume in Die Zauberflöte, Geneva 1985. I remember a very upset critic who called it a scandal that a leading soprano reveals her breasts.

    My first confrontation with nudity in the opera house was in Paris 1979 in Die Frau ohne Schatten. And it was not female but male nudity when Die Färberin is presented with a naked young man as a gift.

    What do I think about nudity in the opera house? Well, I am not a prude so I think it depends. There are operas where nudity fits naturally with the plot and characters. Examples of this are the Dance of the Seven Veils in Salome, the Venusberg in Tannhäuser or the Bacchanale in Samson et Dalila. In Lulu sex is such a predominant part of the story that nudity fits well in. Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare is quite a sexy beast too. And the list could go on ….
    Nudity can be a pleasing experience in the theater if is staged with care and good taste

    On the other hand if the director employs nudity out of character and plot. Or even presents nudity in order to shock or to create attention – then I am rather against it. Could you imagine Suor Angelica or Dialogues des Carmelites with nudes?

    Speaking of Salome – Maria Ewing did the full strip in her London 1992 performance and Karita Mattila did the same at the Met 2004. There are so many Salome recordings with a nude Dance of the Seven Veils – because it makes sense!


    In Vivaldi’s Ercole su’l Termodonte Spoleto 2007 the hero Hercules is nude except for the skin of the lion he has slain. This is quite a challenge for the tenor (and the other singers), but it makes sense and fits into the overall context.

    This Venusberg Scene in Tannhäuser Munich 2017 is a little bit harder to understand.


    I find it quite unnecessary to present the Marschallin naked in bath at the beginning of Der Rosenkavalier as in Glyndebourne 2014.

    There have been some very shocking or inappropriate stagings in recent years.
    Why are there nude people in Turandot, Turin 2018 ?
    Brussels went to the extreme with Parsifal 2011 almost being pornographic.
    Calixto Beito is infamous for often applying nudity out of context. Have a look at his Entführung – what do you think.

    In recent years opera stagings with nudity have been numerous. It is not my objective to provide a lengthy or complete listing of all these recordings.

    I am sure nudity will continue to be used in opera staging.
    But please do it with taste and where it is in line with the story and characters….

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  • Opera in South-East Asia ?? (1/29/2019) by Flamand

    When opera in Asia is mentioned most think of the numerous glorious performances of visiting companies in Japan starting with del Monaco and Tebaldi. View these here.

    Or you might think of the many excellent performances in South Korea by very good local artists. View here.
    And China has many excellent singers too: View videos here.

    But opera in South-East Asia?
    Well, you probably be surprised. Recently I was on a cruise from Hong Kong via Vietnam to Singapore. So I thought that was a good opportunity to look into the state of opera in this area. Let us start with Hong Kong.

    Opera Hong Kong was founded 2003 by Hong Kong tenor Warren Mok. Since then it stages all the great operas regularily mostly at the Hong Kong Cultural Center with a mix of local and international artists. Opera Hong Kong has published videos of some of their performances which you can view here

    Vietnam has three grand opera houses built by the French in Hanoi, Saigon and Haiphong.

    Hanoi Opera House opened 1911 and played French and Italian repertoire with touring artists to the predominately French audience. After the colonial period there was an occasional visit by a Russian company. The Opera also saw world premieres of operas and musicals by Vietnamese composers. Today the house is used mostly for cultural events and sometimes for ballet.
    The Saigon Municipal Opera House (or Municipal Theatre of Ho Chi Minh City) was built 1897 by the French. There were occasional opera performances by touring companies. But the theatre declined steadily and was even bombed in 1945. In 1955 it was restored but the decline continued and the building is in very poor condition today.

    Singapore Lyric Opera opened 1991 with Die Zauberflöte and has staged one major opera each year since. It performs at the Esplanade Theatre with a mix of local and international artists. 2018 Aida was performed with Nancy Yuen from Singapore in the title role. There is a second opera company in Singapore – New Opera Singapore Founded in 2011 it has performed Die Fledermaus, The Turn of the Screw and others.

    Indonesia Opera Society was founded 2006 and staged mainly shorter works such as La Serva Padrona, Bastien und Bastienne, The Telephone, Der Schauspieldirektor. The society is based in Djakarta and employs mainly local singers. There is of course Javanese Opera (Wayang Orang) being performed in Indonesia but that is a different story…

    Cambodia did not have any western opera performances until 2018 when Die Zauberflöte was staged in Phnom Penh. It was a staging which included Cambodian folk tale, ballet and even Cambodian music. Papageno is playing a local instrument not a Glockenspiel. There were no local singers available so the cast was Asian. There are plans in place to stage this Magic Flute at the temple of Angkor Vat this or next year.

    The Cambodian Ministry of Fine Arts has endorsed the “Cambodia Opera Project” which launched with a performance of “Cavalleria Rusticana” September 2018. The event was televised on National Television.
    It seems that although Cambodia started very late there might be a bright future for opera.

    Laos: It seems that there has never been an opera performance in Laos even during the French colonial time. And I was unable to find any reference for any plans.
    Laos is one of the last white spots on the map of opera.

    Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur City Opera (KLCO) stages western opera. It was established 2012 to promote opera in Malaysia. Performances are at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. It mainly employs local artists with occasional international guests. 2018 performances were: Madama Butterfly, Hansel & Gretel, Eugene Onegin.
    Rheingold Opera Siam
    Thailand: Opera Siam (formerly Bangkok Opera) was founded 2001 for the purpose to stage “Madana” the first full-length opera by Thai composer S.P.Somtow. Later performances include Turandot, Die Zauberflöte, La Boheme. S.P.Somtow is the artistic director of the company and several of his other operas were staged by Opera Siam. He also started a project for Wagner’s Ring. Performances are mostly at the Thailand Cultural Centre with a blend of local singers and international guests. Several of Opera Siam’s performances have been recorded on video for you to watch

    As you can see opera is thriving in South-East Asia (more or less). On your next visit to any of these countries why don’t you plan to attend an opera performance…

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  • When opera goes wrong… (1/12/2019) by Flamand

    I am sure it happened to you too – something went completely wrong during an opera performance.
    I have experienced myself a few incidents and collected others.
    Here for you to enjoy:

    A glitch in the machinery can be fateful – Mefistofele Theatre Antique Orange 2018
    The usually so safe and reliant stage machinery goes totally wrong in this performance of Mefistofele Theatre Antique Orange 2018. Faust and Mefistofele climb into a basket that raises over the stage. But the basket starts to lean to the left. Faust (Jean-François Borras) and Mefistofele (Erwin Schrott) have to move around to keep the balance. Then the basket starts to wobble. The singers hold on best they can trying to keep the balance. The audience is starting to get really worried. After a long time the basket is balanced again and lowered down.
    You can watch the whole scene here.

    The tale of the missing soprano – Tosca Vienna 2016 Jonas Kaufmann
    Jonas Kaufmann sang “e lucevan le stelle” so splendidly that a da capo was demanded. And Jonas sang the aria once more which is very unusual in Vienna as it is against the house rules. After finishing the aria a second time the duet with Tosca Angela Gheorghiu should have begun. But to Jonas and everyone surprise Tosca did not show up on stage. But Jonas started to sing anyway: “non abbiamo il soprano” ( we do not have the soprano). After some pause Angela Gheorghiu finally showed up and the performance continued.
    Was it the bis which angered Angela Gheoghiu or ….? Nobody knows….
    Watch it here

    The case of the disappearing soprano – Ballo in maschera London 1981, Montserrat Caballe and Luciano Pavarotti
    This ballo was going to be a highlight of the season. After an auspicious beginning there came one of the highlights- the big duet of Pavarotti and Caballe. But to everyone’s astonishment La Diva walked off scene right in the middle of the duet and left a dumbfunded Luciano alone on stage. The orchestra stopped and the curtain was drawn. Then a speaker announced that madame was not well and she is trying to recover and will try to continue shortly. After a while which seemed like an age Montserrat Caballe appeared again and the duet was resumed where she broke off. Later she sang a glorious “Morro, ma prima in grazia” with her high floating pianissimo. Certainly it was not the voice which was indisposed. After the performance there came rumours that there were other funnies ongoing backstage with Pavarotti being very difficult about something. Never mind it still was a great performance and I was in the audience.

    The Heldentenor who could not move and barely sing – Götterdämmerung Vienna 1986 Hans Beirer
    At his 75th birthday Hans Beirer was offered a birthday present by the Wiener Staatsoper: an opera performance of his choice. And what did he choose? No, not Salome where Herodes would have been fine – No he had to sing the hero Siegfried in Götterdämmerung. To make things even worse he broke his leg in the days before and was unable to walk. It was a curious performance I attended: A 75 year old Siegfried who could not move at all and barely sing – it was awesome to watch and listen to. I hope he was happy with his birthday present. Otherwise the performance had some great singers: Gwyneth Jones, Walter Berry, Christa Ludwig …

    The handicapped Rosina in the wheelchair – Il Barbiere di Sivigla London 2009 Joyce DiDonato
    Quote from The Telegraph:
    She did so days after breaking her leg during the premier of a five-performance run at the venue in Covent Garden in central London.
    DiDonato, 39, thought she had just twisted her ankle when she slipped on stage while playing the female lead role of Rosina during the 100-minute first act of Rossini’s opera on Saturday evening.
    She gamely carried on until the interval with nothing more than a stick to support her.
    Returning on stage with a crutch, she was applauded when she sang the line – with added comic effect – “I’ve a cramp in my foot”.
    After the curtain fell – to a standing ovation – she was taken to hospital where doctors discovered she had actually fractured her right fibula, the thinner of the two lower leg bones.

    An unforgettable night at the opera 07 Jul 2009
    Joyce DiDonato breaks leg during Barber of Seville opera 07 Jul 2009
    They wrapped her leg in plaster and told her to take it easy, warning her not to put any weight on it.
    Before the second performance, on Tuesday night, all talk was of whether she would perform.
    But DiDonato, who is world renowned for her performances in operas by Rossini, Handel and Mozart, made good her pledge that the show must go on.
    Between performances she had written on her blog that she planned to sing from a wheelchair, promising to give it “everything I have”.
    She also joked: “From here on out, I declare that no one (please!) ever ever ever wish me again, in the American fashion (despite it being Independence Day), to: ‘BREAK A LEG’.”
    A source at the Royal Opera House said Tuesday’s production had been re-choreographed “very carefully” so that the other singers, who included Juan Diego Flórez, the Peruvian tenor, did not have to relearn their positions.

    Watch it here

    Have you experienced an operatic mishap or funny incident?
    Please let me and our readers know.
    Please add it in a comment below (you have to be logged-in)

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  • My most unforgettable experiences in the opera
    (1/10/2019) by Flamand

     

    You may know that I have been attending live opera performances for almost 70 years now.
    The number of exceptional performances I have seen is huge.
    People always ask me to name the most unforgettable extra-ordinary experiences I had over the many years.
    Well here is a try at my personal list of  my very subjective all-time bests:

    Lisa della Casa and Anneliese Rothenberger in “Aber der Richtige” and 1.Act duet of Richard Strauss Arabella (Vienna 1970)
    ..the most beautiful female voices in a perfect duet
    Edita Gruberova in “Grossmächtige Prinzessin” Richard Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos (Vienna 1984)
    … I have heard many Zerbinettas but none came even near to this performance
    Jose Carreras in “Recondita armonia” Tosca (Stockholm 1981)
    … Carreras at his best voice – warm and very emotional (with Katia Ricciarelli as Tosca)
    Luciano Pavarotti “Quando le sere al placido” Luisa Miller, Verdi (Vienna 1984)
    … the second verse was at pianissimo – out of this world
    Piero Cappuccilli “Nemico della patria” Andrea Chenier (Vienna 1983)
    … after this fantastic performance he sang it once more da capo
    Placido Domingo 2.Act of Les Contes d’Hoffmann (London 1981)
    ... the most beautiful tenor voice with an extraordinary legato cantilena
    Cecilia Bartoli in the  Final scene of La Cenerentola (Zurich 2014)
    … and its not only the coloratura but the beautiful warmth of the voice

    I have included links to the operas mentioned (some even with the right singer and location)  – Enjoy !!

    Flamand

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  • Cecilia Bartoli 30 years on stage at Zurich Opera
    (1/10/2019) by Flamand

     

    In 1989 a virtually unknown singer made her debut as Cherubino at the Zurich opera with Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting. It was the start of an incredible career for Cecilia Bartoli. I was in the audience 1989 and although her costume was less than ideal her singing was superb. After that a world-wide career started immediately but Cecilia always regarded Zurich as her home theater. You may know that she lives here and married here.

    She launched many of her new and great roles in Zurich which I had the great pleasure to see most of them: Fiordiligi, Donna Elvira, Cenerentola, Desdemona (Rossini), Nina, Semele, Count Ory, Norma.

    She performed at most Silvester-performances (31.December). I saw all of them and her final scene of La Cenerentola is unforgettable.

    She was honored for her 30 year jubilee at the recent performance of Handels Semele  and with a Jubilee-concert shortly after.

    I hope she will perform many times more in Zurich where everybody loves her.

    Here are Bartoli’s video recordings

    Flamand

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