EVANS MIRAGEAS CASTS THE BEST

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Evans Mirageas

Evans Mirageas casts the best of the best. He must have a sizeable Rolodex, lots of sky miles, and many professional contacts all over the world. Witness what happens in the upcoming Cincinnati Opera production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos with dramatic tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven in the killer role of Bacchus, mezzo-soprano Olivia Vote, singing the pants off the pants role of the Composer, coloratura soprano Liv Redpath dispensing high E’s and F’s by the dozen, and the Mexican baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco summersaulting his way as Harlequin. These are all four red-hot talents, they  are young, good looking, and they are making their mark as singers-to- watch.

Getting ready for the opening of the Cincinnati Opera’s 99th season, which kicks off next week with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, I am looking at the names of the singers starring in Mozart’s masterpiece and of those featured in the upcoming Romeo et Juliette, and in The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess just around the corner… Again I am again reminded of what an uncanny knack Evans Mirageas has for discovering new talent, and for tapping into wonderful veteran artists.

The Cincinnati Opera’s Artistic Director has pleased quite a few other opera fans of my acquaintance again and again by bringing back to Cincinnati seasoned artists the likes of fast rising bass Morris Robinson and the silvery voiced soprano Nicole Cabell, nurturing them into Cincinnati favorites. That process takes time – just ask Robinson, who began singing here a few years ago as the Watchman keeping time for Wagner’s sleeping Meistersingers. This year the booming basso stars in the title male role in Porgy and Bess.

In the recent past we have celebrated rising young talents like the wonderful lyric baritone Joseph Lattanzi, one of the leads in last year’s Fellow Travelers and now starring as Count Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. In 2015, Andrea Mastroni, a young Italian bass impressed everyone within earshot in his both Cincinnati and American debut in the key role of Timur in Puccini’s Turandot. Within a year Mastroni was checking off in his calendar debuts at the MET and all over the map of Europe…

Cincinnati beats everyone to the punch time and again, as when it gave soprano Aileen Perez the starring role of Violetta in La Traviata before her warp-speed rise to international stardom at the MET and in Europe.

Evans Mirageas is also loyal to veteran artists who reside in Cincinnati. Witness his casting of the versatile bass-baritone Kenneth Shaw, a professor of voice at CCM, a busy singer, and a creative stage director, in the important part of Friar Laurence in Romeo et Juliette. Also note if you will the appearance of the multi-faceted bass-baritone Tom Hammons in the speaking role of the Majordomo in Ariadne auf Naxos. That’s a casting coup!

This mix of generations enriches the artistic product that is a hallmark of the Cincinnati Opera, something that Evans Mirageas does season after season by casting his artistic nets far and wide for his and our beloved Cincinnati Opera.

Rafael de Acha              http://www.RafaelMusicNotes,com

Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra in an all-Spanish program starring Pepe Romero

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Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra / Eckart Preu (conductor). MayersonTheatre (SCPA) Cincinnati, OH 17.8.2019 (RDA)

During the dog days of August, the fully blossomed Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra brings to Cincinnati’s music lovers in Summermusik a plentiful supply of world class soloists, up and coming young artists, and the playing of a cohesive, disciplined, and fluent ensemble made up of some of the best musicians in the area.

Led by the never predictable, yet ever reliable Eckart Preu the CCO has carved a unique place in the Queen City’s musical landscape with off-the-beaten path programs that surprise and stimulate both brain and heart.

On Saturday, Pepe Romero won the hearts of the capacity audience with his patrician musicianship, at first tossing off, then intensely digging into, and finally bringing the house down with a composition of Celedonio Romero, patriarch of the famous family of guitarists, to which Pepe belongs. Arranged and orchestrated by Celedonio Romero, Federico Moreno Torroba’s Concierto de Málaga received a memorable reading by Pepe Romero, who would not be allowed to leave the stage until he exquisitely played two encores: a lovely Malagueña written by the elder Romero for Pepe’s mother, and Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

The Summermusik August 17th Viva España also featured selections from Ritmo Jondo, a 1953 ballet by the late Catalan-American composer Carlos Surinach, from which sections were magically played by members of the orchestra with the untranslatable Spanish noun-adjective duende.

Featured throughout the first half of the concert the brilliant flamenco dancer Arleen Hurtado seized the day, elegant in her supple upper torso moves, poetic in the use of her hands, a mantilla, a fan, virtuosic in her use of toe, heel, and ball footwork, and all the while adopting the complexly syncopated rhythmic patterns of the music. She all but set the theatre on fire, reminding us that this is music for dancing. And dance she did, embodying with her sinuous movement everything from the lustily comic, flirtatious but ultimately faithful wife in Falla’s The Three-cornered Hat, to the darker hues of much of the music in the program.

The percussion section of the CCO played up a storm, augmented by the compelling vocalist Gabriel Osuna, and also including Mike Culligan, Matt Hawkins, and timpanist Scott Lang, all four leading a musical onslaught of gypsy-inflected rhythms.

In much of the brooding, Moorish-inflected music the woodwinds shone with the soulful playing of Rebecca Tryon Andres on flute, John Kurokawa’s on clarinet, Christopher Philpotts on oboe, Mark Ostoich on English horn, and Hugh Michie on bassoon, all five virtuosi reminding us that, as the Spanish say, Africa begins in the Pyrenees.

Italian-born, Spanish resident for a good portion of his life as a court composer, Luigi Boccherini authored La Musica Notturna delle Strade di Madrid, an homage to the nocturnal street sounds of his adopted hometown. In seven brief movements, Boccherini’s tone painting is assigned to the strings, which are called to depict church bells, marching soldiers, the singing of beggars, prayers, raucously singing drunks stumbling home, and the quiet that comes with the midnight curfew. String players Celeste Golden Boyer, Manami White, Heidi L. Yenney, Tom Guth, Nat Chaitkin, and Debbie Taylor brilliantly took over the piece, with Binford and Chaitkin gamely obeying Boccherini’s instructions to strum their instruments on their knees, as if they were guitars.

The Rumanian composer Ioan Dobrinescu arranged Isaac Albéniz’s piano masterpiece Leyenda de Asturias (Legend of Asturias) for orchestra, which the CCO played with mucho  gusto in the first half of the program, and then followed with selections from Manuel de Falla’s ballet El Sombrero de Tres Picos (The Three-Cornered Hat.) The rank and file of the orchestra shone both as members of an ensemble and as soloists, with the string and brass sections pulling off quantities of red hot playing in Falla’s 1919 masterpiece.

Later the orchestra took on Falla’s Ritual Fire Dance from his other well-known ballet Love, the Sorcerer. Here again Eckart Preu squeezed out every drop of Romani juice out of his ensemble, proving once more that he is a past master of just about all styles one can think of, Spanish music being but one.

Following Saturday night’s concert at the SCPA’s Mayerson Theatre, Maestro Romero will appear again on Sunday afternoon in the auditorium of the Cincinnati Art Museum for Spanish Dances, a recital of short pieces of music ranging from the Renaissance through the 20th century by Sanz, Arriaga, Tarrega, Granados, Albeniz and Boccherini, with Romero as its heart and soul, and the additional participation of Arleen Hurtado and percussionist Gabriel Osuna.

Can’t wait.

Rafael de Acha       http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

A BLOODY GOOD OPERATIC TALE

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A BLOODY GOOD OPERATIC TALE

It is a good thing that the Opéra Comique can still summon, as in its glory days, the forces required to take on some of the big operas of Charles Gounod. La Nonne Sanglante now released in an attractive Naxos DVD of a Fra/Opéra Comique co-production is a case in point.

Gounod did not have much of a success with this gothic yarn with a jerry rigged Scribe libretto when it premiered in 1854 Paris in the midst of backstage intrigues at the Opéra’s Salle Pelletier, from which it vanished after a handful of performances. The Opéra Comique brought it back a couple of years ago, when it had the good fortune to snag Michael Spyres for the tenor role of Rodolphe.

The role of the young scion of the Ludorf’s, one of the two warring families that drive with their antagonisms the convoluted plot of The Bleeding Nun calls for the quintessentially French hybrid dramatic-lyric-heroic tenor, a rare breed at the top of which American tenor Michael Spyres reigns.

And by top I also mean high-lying top. The part was conceived by Gounod for the French star tenor Louis Guéymard who built a career singing the unreasonably difficult roles of Arnold in William Tell, Jean de Leyde in Le prophète, and the title role in Robert le diable.

The other singers in this cast are good too, with standouts soprano Vannina Santoni pretty of voice and looks in the role of Agnés, soprano Jodie Devos a vocal and comic charmer in the pants role of Arthur, lyric bass Jean Teitgen eerily recalling in elegance and timbre the great Pol Plançon as the Hermit, and mezzo-soprano Marion Lebègue sonorous as the ghostly nun of the title.

The staging by David Bobée is mercifully unmannered, generally sticking to the point of the gothic ghostly tale with any unnecessary conceptual superimposing, save for a squirm-inducing group-grope in the third act.

The visual aspects of the production are uniformly somber and monochromatic with the men dressed in vaguely 20th century military fatigues and the women clad in neutral garb that places their outfits in a no-man’s/no woman’s land and time.

Laurence Equilbey conducts the Insula Orchestra and the choral ensemble accentus with panache, squeezing every musical ounce of fire and brimstone drama out of some of Gounod’s finest though neglected music.

Rafael de Acha                http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

 

El día del juicio final

My friend and fellow blogger and music critic Sebastian Spreng spotted this in its former English version on my Music for All Seasons page on Facebook and asked if I had it in Spanish. Here it goes first in Spanish, then in English:

Los escándalos que involucran a hombres poderosos en el negocio de la música siguen siendo noticia.

Hace unos años, hubo acusaciones contra los directores Danielle Gatti y Charles Dutoit. Ambos perdieron algo de trabajo pero aún están activos.

Más recientemente, James Levine fue despedido del MET (Metropolitan Opera) cuando se hicieron acusaciones de acoso sexual contra él. También en el MET, se le pidió al director de escena inglés John Copley que se fuera por razones similares.

El año pasado, William Preucil de la Cleveland Symphony, su maestro de conciertos de 23 años, y el trombonista principal Massimo La Rosa fueron despedidos.

Bernard Uzan, de Florida Grand Opera, casado con la soprano Diana Soviero, anunció su retiro el año pasado después de que el Washington Post revelase sus actividades extramatrimoniales.

Y ahora, la semana pasada, Plácido Domingo ha sido acusado por varias artistas femeninas de acoso sexual.

Los hombres poderosos que pueden haberse valido de su influencia en el mundo de la música para salirse con la suya están siendo acusados. Algunos ya han perdido más que su reputación, convirtiéndose en intocables tóxicos debido a su comportamiento, ya sea reciente o en el pasado distante. Y bien, deberían hacerlo si de hecho son culpables de usar su poder para forzar a miembros de su sexo o al opuesto.

Pero una cosa que a menudo queda enterrada debajo de las alfombras rojas de las salas de concierto y los teatros de ópera es la complicidad silenciosa de las orquestas y compañías de ópera que contratan y luego emplean a estos hombres sabiendo muy bien en muchos casos lo que sucedía detrás de las puertas cerradas de los camerinos y optan por mirar hacia el otro lado.

Esto ha estado sucediendo no solo en el mundo profesional de directores e instrumentistas y cantantes, sino también en los augustos pasillos de los conservatorios.

Se espera que AGMA (el Gremio Americano de Artistas Musicales) que abarca los instrumentistas clásicos y los cantantes de ópera, tanto como los sindicatos de músicos de orquesta adopten una posición más firme cuando surjan estos asuntos.

El movimiento #MeToo ha provocado un cambio mundial, y finalmente vamos llegando al día del juicio final.

Rafael de Acha         http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

THE DAY OF RECKONING

The scandals involving powerful men in the music business continue to make headlines. A few years ago, there were accusations made against conductors Danielle Gatti and Charles Dutoit. Both lost some work but are still active.

More recently James Levine was fired from the MET when accusations of sexual harassment were made against him. Also at the MET, English stage director John Copley was asked to leave for similar reasons.

Last year the Cleveland Orchestra’s William Preucil, its concertmaster of 23 years, and the orchestra’s principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa were both let go.

Florida Grand Opera’s Bernard Uzan, married to Opera singer Diana Soviero announced his retirement last year after a Washington Post exposé about his extra-marital philandering.

And now, just this past week, Placido Domingo has been charged by several female artists of sexual harassment.

Powerful men who may have used their positions of influence in the music world to have their way sexually are being brought up on charges. Some have already lost more than just their reputation, becoming toxic untouchables because of their behavior whether recent or in the distant past. And well they should if indeed they are guilty of using their power to force themselves on members of their sex or the opposite one.

But one thing that often gets buried under the concert hall’s and opera houses’ red carpets is the silent complicity of the orchestras and opera companies that hired and then employed these men knowing full well in many cases what was going on behind the dressing rooms’ closed doors and chose to look the other way.

This has been happening not only in the professional world of conductors and instrumentalists and singers, but in the hallowed halls of Academia as well.

It is hoped that the American Guild of Musical Artists – the Classical instrumentalists and Opera Singer’s union, and the Orchestral Musicians unions will take a stronger stand when these matters come up. The #MeToo movement has brought about a world-wide change, and finally the day of reckoning is here.

Rafael de Acha           http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

 

DUPLE’s DARKER THINGS

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Even before the old Dulcian, aka as fagotto in Italy and as curtail to the Brits, became the now know to us as a bassoon, composers had begun to write for it.

Vivaldi wrote a couple of concerti for it. Mozart put it to work a few times. Later Grovlez, Hummel, Smalys, Jolivet, and Elgar composed sonatas and divertimenti for the bassoon. Hindemith wrote a showpiece sonata for it in 1938.

Shostakovich gave it a haunting passage in his ninth symphony, Ravel assigned a dreamy passage to it in the midst of his Alborada del Gracioso, and Stravinsky gave it a famously exposed solo in the opening of The Rite of Spring.

With its huge range and flexibility and its mellow bass-baritone timbre the bassoon anchors the woodwind family, and it often gets its up-close and personal moments in music for woodwind quintet. But here’s a CD of music for not one but two bassoons.

The music in the Bright Shiny Things (BSTC-0129) CD Tuple Darker Things comes from sources far and wide: with two Americans each represented by compositions that reflect a post-Adams/Glass/Reich aesthetic that has variously been labeled post-minimalism or totalism: Marc Mellits’ Black, a consonant duo for two bassoons, and Michael Daugherty’s Bounce, a playfully canon-like duet using echoing statements and answers.

Dutch composer Chiel Meijering’s Nocturnal Residents is a nervously humorous study in diverse parallel tempi and rhythms. Sofia Gubaidulina’s 1977 Duo Sonata is substantial in scope and duration, and infused with the Russian gravitas we have come to expect from this composer. Dutch composer Louis Andriessen wrote the award-winning Lacrimosa in 1991, depicting in its music a desolate landscape that calls for the two bassoons to seek each other’s tonality often using quarter-tone tuning.

Tuple is the name for the bassoonist duo of Lynn Hilman and Rachael Elliott: two accomplished and enterprising musicians who make their mark with this intriguing album, their first CD, excellently engineered by David Schall and produced by the artists and Louis Levitt.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Songs by Jules Massenet

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It would usually be very hard to sit through a recital of twenty five songs by any one composer in a foreign language with almost all of the twenty five sung by one singer.

But in the case of the SOMM (somm cd O600) 2017 release of La vie d’une rose featuring songs by Jules Masenet, we deal with a varied selection of lyric gems superbly sung by the late lyric soprano Sally Silver, an exceptionally accomplished English artist who was accompanied in this recording by Richard Bonynge, and joined in several instances by mezzo-soprano Christine Tucci in duets.

Familiar as we all are with the operatic Massenet – Manon, Werther, Hérodiade, Thaïs, Cendrillon, Le Cid, Don Quichotte, we are surprised by the richness of the creations of the other Massenet: a composer of delightfully delicate songs, many for two voices, some belonging to groups and mini-cycles: Expressions lyriques, Poème d’amour, Poème d’avril

In one instance, the dramatic, partially-declaimed La dernière lettre de Werther à Charlotte utilizes some of the melodic and harmonic traits of Charlotte’s Air des Lettres from Massenet’s opera Werther. For the most part though the poetry belongs to the Romantic period of French literature spearheaded by Victor Hugo, whose Etre aimée and Le coffret d’ébène are compellingly adapted by Massenet.

Not all of the songs are lyrical in nature: there are dramatically stunners like Le petit Jésus and lively ditties like the Spanish inflected Nuit d’Espagne and Chanson pour Elle.

Ideally suited to supple voiced sopranos with a good command of French diction, these songs are well worth exploring by enterprising singers and deserving of listening by lovers of French music. The much missed Sally Silver and her vocal collaborator Christine Tocci are impeccably accompanied here by the masterful Richard Bonynge, elegantly wearing the mantle of collaborative pianist with the same stylishness with which he is known as a master conductor.

Producer Jeremy Silver and recording engineer Anthony Philpott deliver a CD the French would label haut de gamme.

Rafael de Acha       http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Baltimore Consort’s Shakespearean Music

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Listening to the Baltimore Consort’s CD The Food of Love (Sono Luminus DSL-92234) made me feel musically deprived by the absence of any similarly accomplished ensemble dedicated to Early Music near our vicinity.

The consolation comes for me by listening to The Food of Love, a treasure trove of Elizabethan music performed by six superb specialists on an array of exotic instruments that include treble and bass viols, cittern, recorders, crumhorn, fifes, and bagpipes, in addition to the more familiar lute and flute.

The players are Mary Anne Ballard, Mark Cudek, Larry Lipkis, Ronn McFarlane. Mindy Rosenfeld, and soprano Danielle Svonavec. All six of these artists brilliantly bring to life the music of several contemporaries of Shakespeare, notably Thomas Morley, Richard Edwards, Robert Jones, Robert Johnson, attached to Shakespeare’s The King’s Men as composer in residence,  Anthony Holborne, and John Dowland.

The music is richly varied, with a number of familiar tunes revisited: It was a Lover and his Lass… O Mistress Mine… Bonny Sweet Robin… Greensleeves…Where the Bee Sucks…Willow Song… The less familiar but eminently accessible includes among other lively instrumentals: Heart’s Ease… The Buffens… and Kemp’s Jig, the tune that actor Will Kemp famously and uninterruptedly danced to for one hundred miles between London and Norwich.

Here’s a short sampler of the Baltimore Consort’s music-making: Tarleton’s Jighttps://youtu.be/G49NMFIK-2Y

Melancholy turns abound as in My Lady Carey’s Dompe, a charmer that hints in 1525 at the early arrival of the Baroque over half a century away.

Then one encounters early examples of incidental music such as the haunting Fortune my Foe that Shakespeare must have used to underpin key moments in his tragedies and comedies, in addition to the familiarly ubiquitous dance interludes and songs.

The presence of bouncy syncopation in Hollborne’s 1599 instrumental dance Fairie Rownde is both amusing and nothing short of surprising, belying the false conceit that much Elizabethan music is all laidback sameness. Far from it, this gem of an album played with Historical Performance accuracy and 21st century pizzazz is a revealing and often toe-tapping thing to treasure.

Kudos to Mark Cudek and Larry Lipkis for the scholarly and insightful booklet notes. The engineering by Daniel Shores and the producing by Dan Merceruio help place the Sono Luminus release of the Baltimore Consort’s CD The Food of Love at the very top of my list of 2019 favorites.

Rafael de Acha        http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Mesmerizing Music from Buenos Aires

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Composer, Bass Player, Conductor Daniel Tarrab and I recently became friends on Facebook and the likelihood of us remaining Facebook friends for as long as we both walk the earth is pretty good. Daniel lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I live smack in the center of the USA, so it is more than likely that we will never meet in person.

But that does not sadden me: I can get all the sadness, or, better, melancholy by listening to Daniel’s music again and again.

His is quintessentially Argentine music, or even more specifically: Buenos Aires music. Tangos of the sort I used to hear sung by Carlos Gardel on the radio growing up in Cuba.

But there’s been a lot of tango music flowing on the waters of the River Plate since Gardel went to the place where all the great music-makers go and where I hope to meet up with Daniel Tarrab some day, if I get lucky and I am admitted.

But meanwhile I have Tarrab’s music that I am playing on my Bose as I write this. The eight tracks on Tarrab’s CD Otra Mirada (Another Glance) could be danced to, I suppose.

Certainly La Lamparita (The Little Lantern) lacks the steadily syncopated one/ two/ three/ AND rhythm of many of the good danceable tangos, but it has plenty of melody to linger in the memory. Others, like Encuentro (Encounter) begin with preludes that portend passionately rhythmic outbursts ahead.

Still others, like El Quinto, Entrelineas and En la Cornisa have titles that even in Spanish do not give away what the mood of the music might be, not until Tarrab’s string orchestra and its spectacular soloists cut loose.

The music with which Tarrab mesmerizes the listener straddles genres, a DNA which this listener welcomes, as hints of jazzy riffs, classical cadenzas, and improvisatory flights of fancy bounce off each other seamlessly.

One hesitates to single out players in such company but I succumb to temptation and name Nestor Marconi one of the best bandoneon players I have ever heard. Violinist Pablo Agri brilliantly leads the strings and solos throughout, doing much of the melodic heavy-lifting on the CD.

And then there’s Daniel Tarrab on the piano, Daniel Tarrab on the string bass, Daniel Tarrab revealing his soul in every bar of every tango of every track of this memorable CD.

Otra Mirada is available from Silva Screen Records and Times Square Records.

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

Strauss’ Salome and Salzburg’s Salami

hires-04_salome_2018_asmikgrigorian_c_sf_ruthwalzThe first stage direction we encounter in the libretto of Richard Strauss’ mercifully brief one act opera Salome is succinct: “A large terrace in the Palace of Herod, which sits by a banquet hall. Some soldiers lean over a parapet. On the right, an imposing staircase, on the left in the background an old cistern with a green bronze frame. The moon shines very brightly.”

Later Salome says to Herod: “I’m ready, Tetrarch” and the stage direction says: “Salome dances”

… and later… “A huge black executioner’s arm, stretches out of the cistern, holding the head of Jochanaan on a silver shield. Salome seizes it …”

And still later, at the very end of the opera, there’s a crucial stage direction implied in Herod’s last line screamed at his guards: “Kill this woman”

Follow those four key stage directions and you get a roadmap for staging Richard Strauss’ Salome, which the German composer arranged after Oscar Wilde’s same-titled play.

But in Romeo Castellucci’s train-wreck of a production for the 2018 Salzburg Festival, now available on DVD from UNITEL we get neither much of a palace nor a Dance of the Seven Veils nor the cathartic killing of the monstrous Salome. Not a chance.

Instead we get a creepy mono-chromatic set much resembling the basement of a mortuary establishment where the voice of John the Baptist seems to come from a gigantic hole in the ground. Later out of it comes the Prophet’s hairy naked body minus his missing head seated on a chair all set for Salome to do some kinky washing of his lower extremities.

We get no dance, just Salome doing nothing in a fetal pose next to a black stone. And at the end, Salome sinks into the hole in the ground like a crocodile before anyone can get to her. All this courtesy of director Castellucci.

The staging, if one can call it that, is horrendous but neither it nor the so-so singing of Strauss-Lite Lithuanian soprano Asmik Grigorian deters the well-heeled 1% of Salzburg clad in tuxes and gowns from giving the show a self-congratulatory ovation celebrating High Kulture. Oh for the days of Teresa Stratas or Karita Mattila!

Others in the large cast are OK in their small supporting roles but the off-the-rack suits the men wear look like the remnants of a close out sale at Barney’s. The hapless singer of the role of Herodias is clad in a 1910 full length gown and hat belonging to yet another part of the come as you are costume design by none other the director Castellucci, who for some inexplicable reason has everyone but Salome sporting red or black make up that covers the face from the nose down.

Among the principals in the cast Hungarian bass-baritone Gabor Bretz delivers a stentorian Jochanaan, Julian Prégardien presents a nicely sung Narraboth, and John Daszak and AnnaMaria Chiuri scream their heads off as Herod and Herodias.

But too bad they could not hire another director so we could get Strauss’ Salome, not Castellucci’s Salami.

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

CARMEN CATASTROPHE & TOSCA TRAVESTY

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A friend sent me links to two recent productions: the Covent Garden/Barry Kosky Carmen catastrophe and the Aix-en-Provence Tosca travesty with Catherine Malfitano…

Here’s what I sent my friend by email and below it the links so that you can judge for yourselves:

Thank you for sending the opera package, which I would like to say I enjoyed but did not. Instead I sat in front of my computer screen thinking about a modified version of a great one-liner “After this, the deluge!”

Never a fan of Eurotrash opera I remain an unchanging traditionalist that loathes all the claptrap that passes for new ideas in the staging of opera. Watching the acting in both the Covent Garden Carmen and the Aix-en-Provence Tosca does nothing to dispel my conviction that most opera singers can’t act their way out of a paper bag. And this kind of directing does nothing to help the singing actor.

All the directorial idiocies in the world are no substitute for disciplined and intellectually grounded dramaturgical homework, and in both these cases we get a mishmash of superficial ideas and plain bad taste that betrays the intent of both composer and librettist.

Barry Kosky, the director of the Covent Garden Carmen reveals his trendy aesthetic when, in an interview part of the video he says (and I paraphrase) his Carmen uses a bit of Paris 1930’s, a bit of Weimar decadence, and so on…

Listening to and watching both these productions (partially I admit) reveals one recurring symptom of this kind of opera production: the singers are not all that good because the really good Carmens and Don Josés and Escamillos and Toscas and Cavaradossis and Scarpias in the business would not be caught dead singing in this kind of staging.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzsbN1BXvao

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5xwuLRrsOk

Tosca Complete Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEu55qres6A&t=2979s

Rafael de Acha     http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com

WARM MUSIC FROM ICELAND

Protected by International CopyrightIn Southbound of the Circle (SONO LUMINUS 92232), a superb string quartet takes the listener on a journey into the far reaches of Icelandic music by award-winning composers Daniel Bjarnason, Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, Valgeir Sigurðsson, Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir, and Haukur Tómasson.

Una Sveinbjarnardóttir, Helga Dóra Björgvinsdóttir, Þórunn Ósk Marinósdóttir, and Sigurdur Bjarki Gunarsson are the members of the Siggi String Quartet. Each and every one of them virtuoso soloists on their own, here they place their precise, focused, quintessentially honest, elegant, intensely emotional, and intellectually compelling playing to the service of the music.

In Daniel Bjarnason’s Stillshot the music begrudgingly stands still but for a moment to capture in sound one instance of stasis out of many fragments of reality depicted in restless snippets of melody that appear and evanesce like memories that leave no trace behind.

The quartet’s uncanny ability to flesh out in sound the ineffable is present in Una Sveinbjarnardóttir’s Opacity a four-movement string quartet that juxtaposes different soli for each of the quartet’s members allowing them only towards the end to just barely intertwine.

Valgeir Sigurðsson offers in his Nebraska a commentary on the similarity between his birthplace’s isolation and geographical vastness and Nebraska’s similar physical characteristics, utilizing sweeping, long lined melodic statements from the cello against ostinato broken chords in the upper strings that evoke aspects of nature, some rugged and unforgiving, some beneficent.

Mamiko Dís Ragnarsdóttir bucolic Fair Flowers celebrates the starkness of Iceland’s Tröllaskagi peninsula and the improbable survival and resiliency of its multicolored flora in a miniature polytonal tone poem.

Haukur Tómasson Serimonia is a study in motion in which pizzicato strings alternate with sforzando attacks that create a landscape of tonal and rhythmic uncertainty that does not go away but simply and gradually does a decrescendo that gently fades away .

SONO LUMINUS has created an excellent sampler of music far off the beaten path lovingly engineered by Daniel Shores and flawlessly produced by Dan Merceruio. To each and every one involved in this worthy project here is a hearty Icelandic Hamingjuóskir!

Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com