Monday, March 31, 2014

Claire Rutter

A friend of mine has sent me a couple links of a soprano I had not previously heard. They were so good I uploaded them to soundcloud.

Here's La Mamma Morta:

Her voice sounds very "right" in this music, very dark and rich. She also manages the climactic top B without any screaming. In contrast with the off-pitch, wobbly screaming of Patricia Racette in the current Met run of Andrea Chenier, every note seems completely centered and secure.

Here's her in some very different music, the act one finale of La Traviata:

Again, note the richness of the timbre, along with the surprising flexibility she has while negotiating the rapid coloratura of "Sempre libera." The high C's pose no problems for her, and she even caps it off with an old-fashioned interpolated E-flat.

This is Rutter in the final duet of Thais:

This opera isn't really done very often and the often treacly music of this duet kind of explains it, but I think Rutter sounds heavenly, with a totally easy negotiation up to top D, as well as a feeling of the voice "leaving the body" as Thais's soul leaves her body.

Finally, Caro nome:

Love this. Hard to believe someone who can sing "La mamma morta" can lighten her voice so much to negotiate "Caro nome." There's just the right amount of portamento to avoid making the aria sound mechanical, but every note is hit with accuracy.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!!!

Tonight as a birthday present to myself I went and saw La Boheme at the Met. I reviewed the performance for Parterre box but the after-show was even more fun!

Here are some of the pictures:

Me and the absolutely lovely Mimi, Anita Hartig. She's been singing in Vienna for several years but run, don't walk, to see her Mimi in HD on April 5th:

The delightful Musetta, Jennifer Rowley:

And when Vittorio found out it was my birthday look what he did, how sweet:

Happy birthday to me!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Paul Taylor Dance Company's Trip Down Memory Lane

I made two trips this weekend to see Paul Taylor Dance Company, currently making their annual stop in New York. On Friday the program consisted of the evergreen Arden Court, the grim war-time drama Banquet of Vultures, and the sexy tango-inspired favorite Piazzolla Caldera. It was a typical Paul Taylor program -- eclectic, a mix of the very light (Arden Court), the very dark (Banquet), and the sexy (Piazzolla).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

La Sonnambula

Bellini's La Sonnambula has that unfortunate combination of boasting one of the most melodically inspired scores of all time with one of the most insipid, insufferable librettos. Imagine a rustic comedy, but without the comedy. That's La Sonnambula. The story's main point hinges on the fact that the engaged Amina is a sleepwalker, and thus sleepwalks into the presence of a man not her fiance. When this shocking development happens, here is the village's reaction:

Il tuo nero tradimento 
È palese e chiaro assai. 
In qual cor fidar più mai, 
Se quel cor fu mentitor? 

Which translates approximately into:

Your black betrayal 
is obvious and very clear. 
What if this innocent girl,
in her heart was liar? 

In the opera, people constantly speak about "the church," "the castle," "the priest," "the innocent girl," and "sin." It's probably prim and prissy enough to make even The Duggars sick. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A talk with Jean-François Borras

On a cold March night, the lobby of Lincoln Center was chock-full of people trying to sell tickets. The star tenor of Werther, Jonas Kaufmann, had unexpectedly cancelled, and many said they hadn't heard of Jean-François Borras, his replacement. I had rushed to hear Borras after listening to him the day before in some youtube clips of Sonya Yoncheva. I had no idea that Borras was making both his Met debut AND his role debut in one night! Talk about pressure!

But once Borras crossed the bridge that served as Werther's entrance in the opera, and opened his mouth, jaws around the auditorium dropped. This was no "serviceable cover," this was a beautiful, pure, major-league tenor voice. I wrote my review of the performance here. At the end of the night, the Met audience (which can be cool to unfamiliar names) gave Borras a huge, heartfelt ovation. 

Almost two weeks later, I'm still reeling at this beautiful tenor, and also dismayed at the lack of information available online about him. I've found a few youtube clips, but that's it. So I decided to ask Jean-François to talk more about his amazing debut, his career, his future, and why Werther is such a special role for him. Thank you so much Jean-François! (And thank you to a special someone who translated Jean-François's answers from French to English!)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Final Werther of the Season

I went to the final Werther of the season. I think I've already said enough about the singers, the production, the opera. Needless to say the team saved the best for last. It was just a beautiful performance and I'm so honored to have seen it. I just want to squee that I did the stage door thing today and got pictures with these awesome singers, and finally got to meet Alain Altinoglu in person!

The Albert, David Bizic, who, by the way, has a GORGEOUS wife!

The adorable Sophie, Lisette Oropesa!

The conductor, Alain Altinogru, who had to haul ass to Philly to make an 8:00 PM concert:

The regal Charlotte, Sophie Koch:

And finally, OH.MY.GOD. Let me repeat: OH.MY.GOD. What a cutie, and what a singer, and he was soooo gracious! I had always idolized his singing so much I was almost afraid to meet him because if he was mean, then I think I would have been heartbroken. But look at the picture and you'll see one happy ending!!!

And to top it off I got my Werther DVD booklet from Paris signed by both Koch and Kaufmann!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Chat With Alain Altinoglu

The Met's recent new production of Werther boasted a rarity -- a French opera conducted by a French conductor. That conductor is 38-year old Alain Altinoglu, who made his debut at the Met in 2010 conducting Carmen and has returned for Faust, Otello, and this year, Werther. This has been a busy season for Altinoglu, who also has an upcoming Salome in Zurich and had assignments in Vienna and Paris. Nevertheless, the conductor took time out of his busy schedule (and preparations for the upcoming HD of Werther on March 15) to talk to me about his career, views on opera, orchestras, productions, and various other topics. Thank you Alain!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Vittorio Grigolo

A friend gave me a ticket to Vittorio Grigolo's recital today and I expected nothing and came out grinning ear to ear. My full review can be found at parterre box. Needless to say, it was a very fun afternoon, made even more enjoyable by Grigolo's manic, "you like me, you really really like me" antics. And he has a set of pipes too!

He's singing a run of Bohemes soon. Here's a preview:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Wozzeck - another cancellation!

Last night I attended the Met's premiere of Wozzeck in which Matthias Goerne stepped in for an ailing Thomas Hampson. Here is my review at parterre box. If Goerne subs for Hampson again, I highly suggest buying a ticket!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jean-Francois Borras and the Last Minute Werther Debut

Most times when a star singer gets sick at the last minute and the cover is sent onstage, audiences groan. They don't wish for greatness, just competence. Get through the role, don't make the ticket-buyers too disappointed, that's what general managers hope.

Last night, uber-tenor Jonas Kaufmann fell ill, and his cover Jean-Francois Borras was sent onstage to sing Werther, one of the most demanding tenor vehicles in the repertoire. Borras also happened to be making his house debut. Before the performance began I saw dozens of people trying to sell their tickets.

Monday, March 3, 2014

John Travolta can't read

No explanation needed. Except notice the massive, unattractive wig he's sporting. And I THINK he says "Adele Dazeem" although it's hard to tell considering he also said it in this weird faux-Middle Eastern accent.

Balanchine's Nutcracker pops up ... everywhere

It's December 2020 and the world is going through a furious, deadly second wave of the covid pandemic. Most performances have been cance...