Saturday, December 5, 2015

Live Broadcast: Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco - Teatro alla Scala di Milano

Just as every single year, the opening of Scala's new season on December 7 will be broadcast live. Riccardo Chailly's first official season as the chief conductor of Scala will be opened with him conducting Verdi's Giovanna d'Arco. Quite a rarely performed work by itself, the opera received quite a revival during summer 2013 in Salzburg. Anna Netrebko, who sang the title role in the concert performance back then, will reprise the role in Milan with Francesco Meli as Carlo and Carlos Álvarez as Giacomo. Judging from the photos alone, I think this current production by Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier will be quite stunning. Not every day you got to see Netrebko in an armor suit.


The TV broadcast list as announced on their official site is below.
RAI 5: Italy
ARTE CHANNEL: France and francophone European countries, francophone Overseas countries (Guadeloupe, Polynesia, Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, French Guiana)
ZDF: Germany, Austria, Svizzera di lingua tedesca
VGTRK: Russia 
For more info, you can visit this page.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Donizetti's La Favorite - Deutsche Oper Berlin

The third premiere in Deutsche Oper Berlin this season comes in concert format. The opera La Favorite by Gaetano Donizetti is quite rare to be played nowadays. Thanks to Elīna Garanča star power and her 2012 album Romantique, which contains the mezzo solo aria Oh! Mon Fernand from the opera, it got quite a worthy revival in Salzburg during the summer festival in 2013. So it's quite logical to repeat the success in Berlin with Garanča herself as Leonor and Joseph Calleja as Fernand. 
Two days before the premiere Calleja cancelled his performance due to sickness (or lack of interest? We may never know), so the Belgian tenor Marc Laho jumped in as replacement.
Vocally Laho did a good job portraying the role. The charisma and drama might be missing here and there, but it wasn't not a big problem, considering the nature of concert performance. It might although be very interesting to look closer and realize that only Laho seemed to be the only one on stage who didn't try that much to "act" compared to all other singers.
Florian Sempey, a young French bariton, who portrayed King Alphonse, has a very strong and deep voice, so deep it really fits the roles of king or older men, instead of lighter bariton roles like Figaro. It may not fit his young age very well, but he sure has a bright future ahead of him. His monologues are performed with charisma and his voice really filled the room. 
Elena Tsallagova gave a beautiful Ines interpretation, sadly the role is just too minor for her.  
Ante Jerkunica and Matthew Newlin were fit and suited the roles.
The center of the attention was of course Elīna Garanča. Her voice and charisma suit the role very well, it would be very interesting to see her interpreting this role in a stage production - although it may never happen due to the low popularity of this piece. Her solo aria Oh! Mon Fernand was heavenly perfect. It always a delight for me personally, every time I saw her live or heard her album, to hear her high notes. It's really smooth like silk and compared to her earlier recordings, her high range is definitely better (a thing she also realized after her second pregnancy). So in short, Viva Garanča!
Pietro Rizzo and the whole orchestra and chorus was a great support, but because the opera itself doesn't offer much of a spectacle for them (in my opinion), let's just say it's rather a night for the soloists. 

The whole performance of La Favorite from Salzburg 2013 with Elīna Garanča,  Juan Diego Flórez, and Ludovic Tezier is (still) available on Youtube.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Puccini's Manon Lescaut - Deutsche Oper Berlin

Two great evenings on a row is seldom in my life, but it did happen this weekend. My God, let's embrace this divine performance of Manon Lescaut.
The production itself is a revival , done by Gilbert Deflo. The stage and costumes looked like a cheaper simplified version of the more classic productions we see at the Met or Royal Opera House. Nothing impressive. But we're not here for that, instead for the diva: Sondra Radvanovsky.

Sondra Radvanovsky, a regular guest at the Met in NYC (a  new production of Roberto Devereux is planned for her next April), visited Berlin and performed the title role of Puccini's Manon Lescaut in Deutsche Oper Berlin. It was a night to be remembered. The range of her vocal is astonishing, her high register is really stable and strong, that means (according to my laymen vocab): no screaming. Her Sola perduta, abbandonata pierced the hearts, a genuine emotion display combined with the most beautiful voice. BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!! BRAVO!!! The applause for her at the end brought her to tears and it was indeed quite overwhelming for her.

Thank God, Stefano La Colla, our Des Grieux, could balance this amazing performance. Although seemed quite stiff on stage, I wouldn't complain a lot in the vocal department.
The rest of the cast is solid. The chorus displayed a fascinating performance - bravo!

Donald Runnicles conducted the orchestra in a grand manner, they sounded really good on the loud parts, as well as on the more lyrical ones. The music for this opera itself is a pure joy for me, it's a beautiful opera from the very first note until its very last. No wonder, it became Puccini first international breakthrough. After this third Manon, I could safely say that this is definitely one of my Italian opera.
Conclusion: viva Radvanovsky!

Review: Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro - Staatsoper Berlin

 Did you see it live on arte? I was there in Schiller Theatre, the night they recorded the production live in Berlin.

Jürgen Flimm, the director of Staatsoper Berlin directs his third Figaro, his favorite opera of all in a very good manner. The production is set in Cuba (or a place kind of looks like Cuba), precisely in a vacation house near the beach, where the Count Almaviva and his whole companions take vacation. The stage is nothing spectacular, a room with decaying white wooden walls and a huge cabinet that moves left and right as a supporting prop for many scenes in the opera. In the third act, a little green hill to represent the garden comes in as the setting. The direction of the singers and the supernumeraries are very detailed, many actions take time simultaneously and they're executed brilliantly without too much cheeky comedy or gestures. The prodcution offers nothing new, except solid entertaining night for audience of all ages.

Gustavo Dudamel conducted the music in the right tempo with high energy from the beginning until the end. Pauses for the monologue/dialogue were included and blended perfectly in timing with the actions on stage.

Lauri Vasar made a very convincing Figaro especially with his acting, even though the spontaneity and humor were missing in the voice. Anna Prohaska was a very energetic Susanna on stage, portrayed this role with passion and good humor. Her voice is full of expression and its range fits the role.

Ildebrando D'Arcangelo knows the role of the Count inside out, simply a master on stage with a good amount of charisma and charm that became the main attraction of humor and joy the whole night. Dorothea Röschmann is also a Countess par excellence, very mature and deep charismatic voice completed her great stage presence.

Now our Cherubino, Marianne Crebassa. How should I put it...? THE BEST of the whole world. Dressed as a school boy (a la Japanese anime?), she sang her solo Non so più cosa son brilliantly; effortless and strong as a pure out pour of emotions. Ever since Christine Schäfer 10 years ago in Salzburg, the international public has defnitely never seen a Cherubino this solid. BRAVA!!!

The rest of the cast, epecially Katharina Kammerloher as Marcellina, are solid and make a very great ensemble.
Conclusion: Diamond-solid production with great cast. You can't ask for more than this, actually.

Go to this arte site to see the whole production in HD, available until mid February 2015.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Salzburger Festspiele 2016

It's official: The Salzburg Festival will be held from 22 July until 31 August 2016. Once again, the festival has a lot to offer just as any other summer.
The festival will be opened with yet another performance of Haydn's The Creation, this time played  by Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The first opera premiere is a contemporary festival-commissioned work by Thomas Adès, The Exterminating Angel. Two new productions as the highlights of the upcoming summer are Strauss' Die Liebe der Danae and Gounod's Faust. All the recent productions of Mozart-Da Ponte's operas by Sven-Eric Bechtolf will be revived, some with new cast also a venue change. Cecilia Bartoli gives Salzburg a Broadway treat with Bernstein's West Side Story. Anna Netrebko will be singing the title role in Puccini's Manon Lescaut with future husband Yusif Eyvasov in concert format. Joyce Didonato & Juan Diego Flórez will join Wiener Philharmoniker on the journey to rediscover Il Templario, an italian opera written by German composer Otto Nicolai. Plácido Domingo & Sonya Yoncheva will go french with Massenet's Thaïs.
The Wiener Philharmoniker will perform in various concerts conducted by Daniel Harding, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, and Mariss Jansons. Many distinguished guest orchestras will revisit Salzburg, such as Concentus Musicus Wien, Berliner Philharmoniker, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, and Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam.
The Landestheater Salzburg will host several new theater productions, including Beckett's Endspiel and Shakespeare's The Storm, and just as every single year, Hofmannsthal's Jedermann will be performed in Domplatz with Cornelius Obonya portraying the title role for the fourth year in a row.
Go to for more details.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: Eugen Onegin in Wiener Staatsoper

So, this past week I got a chance to visit Vienna. Beside stuffing my stomach with cakes and watching the concert of Wiener Virtuosen with Thomas Hampson & Klaus Florian Vogt in Musikverein, I also went to Wiener Staatsoper. Yes, Vienna State Opera. Netrebko is in town and as usual, all hell breaks loose. All tickets are sold out since day one of ticket sale and the last minute ones are super expensive. So I went for the standing places. In Parterre. The price is 4 Euro. Equally the same experience as the loge seats that cost 200 Euro. You only need more muscles, because of the standing part.

First of all, Falk Richter's 6-year-old production is a catastrophe. It's neither romantic nor innovative. A regietheater-labeled product that actually provided no further insight into the story or its characters. If it wasn't for the singers, who succeeded to sing and pour out their emotions, this production would end in the garbage. Such a shame that they waste a huge amount of fake snow on this production.

The star of the night was Netrebko. Her dark sopran voice may not be the most suitable one for the young & innocent Tatjana in the first two acts, but she really convinced the audience through great acting and stage presence (as usual). The drastic change in Tatjana's figure in the third act was quite astonishing; here comes the independent young woman which perfectly fits Netrebko's voice and huge charisma. It's definitely a perfect role for Netrebko, she has waited for years to sing Tatjana (her Russian Album was released 10 years ago, she started to sing this role since 2 years ago). It's really sad, that the production doesn't give much "accent" to Tatjana, it made Netrebko's huge effort ended visually halfway. Final note: the brief scene was simply gorgeous. Viva Netrebko.

Christopher Maltman gave a solid Onegin, although I think the russian operas are still not his main strength. Perhaps he should only sing this role more often in the future. Also celebrated that night was Dmitry Korchak, who sang the brilliant Lenski's aria "Kuda, kuda". Ferruccio Furlanetto, an austrian chamber singer, made a short, but quite impressive appearance as Furst Gremin. Patrick Lange conducted in the right tempo, although the fireworks and passion were missing.

Because it was a revival and Netrebko has also appeared on this role in the very same boring production with "better ensemble" two years ago, the "festive" mood was a little bit low. But there was still a lot of bravos shouted out loud.
I'm coming back for another Netrebko feast in this house in June. Manon Lescaut for 4 Euro plus 8 hours waiting in line & standing, here I come.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro from Staatsoper Berlin

On the 7th of November 2015 Staatsoper Berlin will celebrate another big premiere of the current season: W. A. Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel and a new production by Jürgen Flimm. The cast is superb: Lauri Vasar as Figaro, Anna Prohaska as Susanna, Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as Graf Almaviva, Dorothea Röschmann as Graefin, and Marianne Crebassa as Cherubino among others.
On November 13 the performance will be live transmissioned (with delay) on ARTE and at 8.15 p.m. (Germany time).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kiril Petrenko: dual chief positions in Berlin & Munich starts 2019 until 2021

From Berliner Philharmoniker's official statement:

Kirill Petrenko will take up office as chief conductor and artistic director of the Berliner Philharmoniker in the 2019/2020 season. In the 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 seasons, Kirill Petrenko will appear as a guest conductor with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and in 2018/2019 he will conduct several concert programmes both in Berlin and on tour. With respect to his obligations with Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Kirill Petrenko will initially take on only a limited number of concerts during his first season as chief conductor in Berlin.
Ulrich Knörzer, member of the orchestra board: “The response in the music world to the election of Kirill Petrenko as successor to Sir Simon Rattle was overwhelming, so we are delighted that we now have a timetable for his taking office, and that we can present our future chief conductor to the Berlin public in all future seasons.” Martin Hoffmann, general manager of the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation: “All of us at the Berliner Philharmoniker Foundation are looking forward to Kirill Petrenko. Special thanks go to the management of Bavarian State Opera, with whom we were able to reach an amicable agreement on all scheduling issues.”

This means the 2018/2019 will be the one official season for the Berliner Philharmoniker without principal conductor, since Simon Rattle will leave at the end of 2017/2018 season.
Until the end of August 2021 Petrenko will keep his position in Munich. In his last Munich season he will serve as guest conductor.
So much future plan, please let us not forget now is still 2015. Well, it's gonna be 2016 soon.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Live from New Yorker Met: Verdi's OTELLO


The second Live in HD transmission from New York Metropolitan Opera is on this weekend. Bartlett Sher directs the new Otello production, that opened the Met's new 2015/2016 season. Aleksandrs Antonenko portrays the title role, Sonya Yoncheva is Desdemona and Željko Lučić is Iago. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts.  Visit for more information.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Review: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg - Staatsoper Berlin


So, Wagner. Barenboim. Berlin. Always a successful combination. At least commercially. The fact that Andrea Moses directed this Meistersinger production just adds up the excitement. In the past years the director has accomplished exciting new and solid ways approaching Wagner operas in Oper Stuttgart. And what a production this time.
This Meistersinger doesn't offer something new. No, it's neither radical serious like Katharina Wagner's in Bayreuth nor classic colorful- quite cheery Stephan Herheim's Salzburg production 2 years ago. It's simply a solid modern production.

The first act is set in a room, a church turn into the Meistersinger hall to be precise - which perfectly fits the original story. The master singers, who originally are ordinary craftsmen, are portrayed as modern-day businessmen. because all the old handwork traditional industry in Germany, well, they're big companies now. Hans Sachs is quite a different master, ressembling Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski, looks a bit like a drunkard. Julia Kleiter's Eva is a modern woman in a black revealing dress, instead a traditional Bavarian dirndl. The Lehrbuben resemble waiters, serving their masters. Not much fantasy in the visual. It's good and fit.

The second act is set on the rooftop of Sachs' house (or office? Factory?) next to Pogner's with huge light signs displaying their names on the background. Markus Werba and Wolfgang Koch are really brilliant in thier dialogue scene. The outburst that closes the act is wonderfully staged: the hipster, the football fans, the LGBT supporters waving the rainbow flags, the punk kids - mainly everyone you meet during a long walk through Berlin-Mitte disctrict are on the stage.

The third act begins in Sachs' library and ends in front of the (future) Schloss Berlin. Klaus Florian Vogt is brilliant in singing the Stolzing's song. Entering the second part, the doors of the hall are opened to let a parade come in and march into the stage. During the Sachs' (sadly after WWII rather infamous) closing monologue, a few Pegida flags rise up during the line "...Uns draeuen ueble Streich...(Evil threatens us)". Hans Sachs immediately hush them away. The whole cast turns their backs on the audience and stare the blue sky upon the green prairies. May there be a good future for Germany.

It's quite funny that I like a production that actually offers nothing new like this. An explanation for that is, maybe because Moses is able to keep this opera as a a comedy opera (as Wagner intended to) without being too cheeky or embarrassing.  Every element is in place and in the right proportion.

The premiere in the euphoria of the 25th anniversary of Germany reunification was a huge success.Klaus Florian Vogt and Wolfgang Koch received the biggest applause. Daniel Barenboim, who has conducted several "Meistersinger" in the past, has once again proved himself to be one of the leading Wagnerian conductors of our time.

It's a triumph for all Wagnerians, also for all opera fans. Yes, including those who usually can't stand the long duration of Wagner operas - they may also enjoy this one.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Opernwelt Critics' Survey 2015: The result is out!

Some may care and some may call it a bullshit: The magazine Opernwelt announced the result of their critics' survey to sum up the season 2014/2015. The awards are considered quite important, especially in Germany, where most of the opera productions are "judged". The survey sums up the results gathered from around 50 professional critics in Germany and Europe. With the results sometimes considered as bias and unfair by some, I personally find the award quite representing the good and the best of the past season.
Drum rolls, please.

Opera House(s) of The Year:  Nationaltheater Mannheim und an der Oper Frankfurt

 World Premiere of The Year: Lucia Ronchetti's Esame di mezzanotte (Nationaltheater Mannheim)

 Rediscovery of The Year: Niccolò Jommelli's Berenike, Königin von Armenien/Il Vologeso (Staatsoper Stuttgart)

Production of The Year: Wolfgang Rihm's Jakob Lenz (Director: Andrea Breth / Staatsoper Stuttgart)

Director of The Year: Hans Neuenfels (Manon Lescaut / Bayerische Staasoper Munich and Ariadne auf Naxos / Staatsoper Berlin)

Stage of The Year: Philipp Stölzl (Cavalleria rusticana & Pagliacci / Salzburg Easter Festival 2015) 

 Male Singer of The Year: Georg Nigl (Title role in Jakob Lenz / Staatsoper Stuttgart)

 Female Singer of The Year: Marlis Petersen (Title role in Lulu / Bayerische Staatsoper)

Newcomer of The Year:  Elena Sancho Pereg (as Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos / Rheinoper Düsseldorf/ Duisburg)

 Conductor of The Year: Kirill Petrenko (2 years in a row)

Orchestra of The Year: Bayerisches Staatsorchester (2 years in a row)

Chorus of The Year: Chorus of Komische Oper Berlin (on Schoenberg's Aaron & Moses)

CD of The Year: W. A. Mozart's Cosi fan tutte (Conductor: Theodor Currentzis / Label: Sony Classical)

Book of The Year: Christian Gerhaher / Vera Baue "Halb Worte sind’s, halb Melodie" (Henschel/Bärenreiter)

Nuisance of The Year: the chain of intrigues in Bayreuth this past summer.

Opernwelt official site offers a short essay and past reviews to the winners of each category.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Premiere: Staatsoper Berlin - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

To celebrate the Germany's 25th anniversary of unification, Staatsoper Berlin premieres the (arguably) most German opera of all, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg from Richard Wagner on the 3rd and 4th of October 2015. 
The director is Andrea Moses, who gained much experience doing Wagner operas in Stuttgart. Daniel Barenboim conducts. The singers are Wolfgang Koch, Kwangchul Youn, Siegfried Jerusalem, Markus Werba, Klaus Florian Vogt and Julia Kleiter among others. Here are some of the production photos:


Bayerische Staasoper Munich: complete schedule for 2015/2016 live stream


This week Bayerische Staatsoper/Bavarian State Opera Munich released their confirmed schedule for STAATSOPER.TV live streams this season. Six opera (five are new productions) and one ballet performances are going to be live streamed through their official website.
All six opera events are in my opinion very interesting. Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros would be very delighted - they appear on two new productions (unfortunately) separately. The Munich GMD and future chief conductor of Berlin Philharmonic, Kirill Petrenko, will conduct two productions. Zubin Mehta returns to conduct Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. René Pape makes his role debut in Boito's Mefistofele and Evelyn Herlitizus too in Prokofjew's Der feurige Engel. Kristine Opolais, who since her move to Munich decided to split her time only performing in Munich and New York's Met, could be seen in two new productions. The directors are mostly young new talents or emerging names in German opera houses. As usual, expect non traditional & extreme "Regietheater/euro trash" of the house.

The complete schedule:

23rd Oktober 2015
Richard Strauss
Ariadne auf Naxos 
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Inszenierung: Robert Carsen
With Amber Wagner, Brenda Rae, Alice Coote, Peter Seiffert etc.

15th November 2015
Arrigo Boito
Mefistofele (New production)
Conductor: Omer Meir Wellber
Production: Roland Schwab
With René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais etc.

12th Dezember 2015
Sergej Prokofjew
Der feurige Engel (New production)
Conductor: Vladimir Jurowski
Production: Barrie Kosky
With Evgeny Nikitin, Evelyn Herlitzius, Elena Manistina etc.

19th März 2016
Giuseppe Verdi
Un ballo in maschera (New production)
Conductor: Zubin Mehta
Production: Johannes Erath
With Piotr Beczala, Simon Keenlyside, Anja Harteros etc.

26th Juni 2016
Fromental Halévy
La Juive (New production)
Conductor: Bertrand de Billy
Production: Calixto Bieito
With Kristine Opolais, Roberto Alagna, John Osborn, Aleksandra Kurzak etc.

31st Juli 2016
Richard Wagner
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (New production)
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Production: David Bösch
With Wolfgang Koch, Christof Fischesser, Jonas Kaufmann, Sara Jakubiak etc.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Anna Netrebko opens The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD Season 2015/2016

After its Berlin premiere and 2 summer stations in Salzburg, Netrebko's Leonora in Il Trovatore finally arrives in New York. The production runs with Netrebko from the 25th September to 17th October plus another run in February with different cast members. On the 3rd of October, the David McVicar production will also open the new season of Met's Live in HD. The production is Goya-inspired and quite a classic already, the DVD for the production is available in stores.

Yonghoon Lee is Manrico and Dmitry Hvorostovsky, recently recovered from his brain tumor treatment, is Conte di Luna. Marco Armiliato conducts.

As a little preview, the video below shows Netrebko and Hvorostovsky's Trovatore duet "Udesti? Comme albeggi..." from their Red Square Concert in Moscow 2 summers ago. Its quite LQ, so pardon me.
Check for more information. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

NDR Sinfonieorchester Opening Night: C. M. v. Weber - Der Freischütz

It's the opening night for the future orchestra of Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg: NDR Sinfonieorchester. The chief conductor of the orchestra, Thomas Hengelbrock, has chosen Carl Maria von Weber's groundbreaking opera "Der Freischütz" and replace (almost) all the dialogues with Steffen Kopetzky-written Samiel's monologue. An artistic decision that is actually a downer, because it put the singers and musicals interlude of the opera to the background. The text itself is magnificent, but the presence of Graham Valentine as Samiel overcame the other elements of the performance. Hengelbrock's conducting is fit with less folklore-feel in the music.

NDR Sinfonieorchester played in top form, both chorus WDR Rundfunkchor and NDR Chor as well. Nikolai Schukoff is a convincing Max with his warm and melancholic tenor voice, Dimitry Ivanshchenko sang a smooth sounded Kaspar. Christina Landhamer and Véronique Gens are brilliant in the female roles, displaying a good contrast between the characters of the young Annchen and the bride-to-be Agathe. 

Conclusion: Musically a good one, but the concept was quite a failure. Loud applause with only a few standing ovations.