FRANZ SHREKER ON CD

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Music is its own language, and therefore it is unnecessary to attach adjectives to describe it. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and what one may describe as beautiful may sound positively ugly to someone else. Thus adverbs are preferable, for they are safer and more accurately objective. It’s simpler to say that Jo Ann Falletta conducts the music of Franz Schreker passionately than it is to call the music of the 20th century German composer ‘passionate’.

Given all that it’s easier to write Maestra Falletta conducts the music of the Austro-German post-Romantic composer with appropriate passion. Of course who know knows Ms. Falletta was feeling from June 19 to 23, 2017! I doubt that even she herself would not remember. One can only subjectively say how wonderfully satisfying the sounds she elicited from the members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra in Berlin’s GrosseSendesaal a year plus ago are to this listener’s heart and brain a year plus later.

Passionate? Sure!

Most of us know little or nothing about how Franz Shreker was feeling in 1914 when he composed Vorspiel zu einem Drama, or six years earlier when he wrote The Birthday of the Infanta (English title), after Oscar Wilde’s novella, or a year before that, when he penned his Opus 14, Romantische Suite. One can only surmise from the excellent liner notes attached to this NAXOS CD by Paul Conway and Chris Possiac that the hapless Shreker was none too happy with the cool reception the critics of his time were according his works, given the inevitable rise of the Dodecaphonists, and the large shadows cast by the rising Richard Strauss and the by then consecrated Gustav Mahler.

None of the three compositions included in this CD were conceived for the lyric stage, as much of Shreker’s work is. But theatrical they are, and framed not in the traditional forms of overture and symphony, but as concert pieces that may be used, if desired, in other ways, as was the case with The Birthday of the Infanta, which premiered as a balletic pantomime with sets by Gustav Klimt, no less. The music for this composition in particular reflects the largely gentler sentiments of love and heartbreak that the dwarf at the center of the story experiences during his all too-brief life in the Spanish Court of the 1600’s so colorfully depicted in Diego Velazquez Las Meninas.

Shreker’s complex music reflects the personal and professional vicissitudes that led to his premature death from a stroke at age 56. At times lyrical, at others dramatic, yet ever melodic this music is quintessentially post-Romantic and modern for its time.

The Nazi specter was rising in Germany, and already much of the music of Shreker’s contemporaries, Jewish or not, was being labeled Entertete (Contaminated) and kept out of German radio and concert halls. Paralyzed and embittered by circumstance, the composer’s death at age 55 spared him the exile that Kurt Weill and Ernest Krenek and Arnold Schoenberg chose, or an even worse fate suffered by Krasa, Ullmann, Haas, and others among the many European artists and musicians who perished during the Holocaust.

Rafael de Acha

GUYS AND DOLLS AT CCM

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Let me put it in a few words. Kimberly and I just got back from GUYS AND DOLLS at CCM. I could wait and write a proper review and post it and then a few of you would see it now and a few more tomorrow, and so on. But I will tell you now to make it a point to go on line to the CCM box office or go to CCM Info on Facebook or phone the box office, but whatever you do please do not miss this wonderful show.

Set in Damon Runyon’s mythical New York City, Guys and Dolls is the perfect musical comedy. Nathan Detroit is a gambler trying to find the cash to set up the biggest craps game in town while the authorities breathe down his neck. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and nightclub performer, Adelaide, laments that they’ve been engaged for 14 years. Nathan turns to fellow gambler Sky Masterson for the dough, and Sky ends up chasing straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown as a result. Guys and Dolls takes us from the heart of Times Square to the cafés of Havana, Cuba and even into the sewers of New York City, but eventually everyone ends up right where they belong.

Single tickets are on sale now; prices start at $32. Student discounts are also available. For more information or to purchase tickets online go to boxoff@uc.edu. OR visit ccm.uc.edu/boxoffice/mainstage. To order tickets call the CCM Box Office at 513-556-4183 GUYS AND DOLLS IS ON STAGE NOW THROUGH OCTOBER 27TH.

A GREAT WAGNER PRODUCTION

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Two things about this DVD make it a must-have: first is the extraordinarily good ensemble assembled for this live recording of a Salzburg performance last year. The second is the fact that this a revival of the1967 production designed by Günther Schneider-Simssen.

First things first: the men in the cast stand out. Vitalij Kowaljov is vocally and dramatically a magnificent Wotan: sullen, henpecked by Fricka, heartbroken by Brunhilde’s disobedience, prescient of what awaits him, at times taciturn, at others towering with rage. The Ukrainian bass gives a memorable performance in a role with a long history of interpreters.

Georg Zeppenfeld impresses in the role of Hunding – a potentially thankless part that appears and vanishes in the first act of the opera, but which this German bass turns into a key player, exceling with solid vocalism and intelligent acting.

Tenor Peter Zeiffert is a very fine Siegmund – moving in his Winterstürme, stentorian when extricating the magic Nothung from the tree, oozing carnal desire in his O süsseste Wonne, loving and tender with Sieglinde at all times, and dramatically and visually convincing throughout.

Anja Harteros is lovely to look at and listen to. But beyond that Harteros is a superb singing actress playing Sieglinde as a woman abused by a brute, swept off her feet by a stranger who walks into her life one fateful night and absolutely convinces her that her only way out of her loveless marriage lies in fleeing with him even after revealing that he is her long lost brother.

Anja Kampe plays Brunhilde as a coltish and spoiled young girl fond of talking back to her elders and ever ready (or so she thinks) to make her own decisions. Kampe is an extremely fine singer who here leaves no doubt as to her inexhaustible vocal resources, never better than in the Ride of the Valkyries.

Christa Mayer makes a strong impression as an aging, manipulative Fricka, fully aware that all she has let from her failed marriage is power over lesser mortals.

Johanna Winkel, Brit-Tone Müllerts, Christina Bock, Katherine Magiera, Alexandra Petersamer, Stepanka Pucelkova, Katrin Wundsam, and Simone Schröder are the Valkyries and all eight are very good singing actresses.

The 1967 production designed by Schneider-Simssen has been revived and largely respected by its current team: Vera Nemirova, its director and Jens Kilian, its costume designer.

The good news (first) is that the expansive vision of Schneider-Simssen is still evident in the “eye of God” image, the gigantic tree that functions as Hunding’s hut, the magic fire depicted as torches hand-held by a body of guards, and the circular ring upon which most of the action is played. The rear-projections and the appropriately murky lighting by Olaf Freese enhance the production’s wintery look.

The not-so-good news is the come-as-you-are look of the costumes, a Regietheater cliché that robs the characters of their dignity: Fricka’s fake-fur schmatte being but one case in point. Brunhilde’s helmet and those of her sisters look Aztec rather than Nordic. Wotan’s black eye is no substitute for the eyepatch Wotan must have, making the singer look like he was involved in a bar brawl the night before. What gives?

The choice of some of the props is strange, or just plain tacky. Wotan’s throne looks like a plastic armchair his wife found on sale at Ikea. Then there’s Siegmund, who carries a nice Land’s End blanket which he struggles to get out of a backpack he could have bought at any sporting goods store. Nitpicking, I know, but the devil’s in the details.

Christian Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden with forward sweep and precision, always supporting the singers, ever attentive to the minutest detail of orchestration. His musicians respond in kind, delivering a superb performance.

It is a gift to see and hear a Wagner opera staged largely devoid of the gimmickry that ruins so many Wagnerian productions these days. And, of course, it is immensely gratifying to be reminded that there are a good number of singing actors out there with Wagnerian voices and capable of delivering extraordinary performances. Just watch this Unitel C Major DVD and you will surely agree.

Rafael de Acha

AN OPERATIC RARITY FROM THE PEN OF ERICH KORNGOLD

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Erich Wolfgang Korngold became one of the busiest film composers of all time, once he moved to the United States one step ahead of the Nazis, who immediately declared his music Enterte (contaminated) because of Korngold’s Jewish blood.

But prior to that hasty escape from Germany Korngold was a respected composer, whose opera, Das Wunder der Heliane (The Miracle of Heliane) was first performed in Hamburg in 1927. Before its premiere in 1927 Korngold proclaimed that this would be his masterwork. But the critics thought otherwise, finding the music much too melodic and not dissonant enough for their taste. Too bad, for had the critical reception be different Das Wunder der Heliane could have enjoyed a much different stage life – its music being writ large and the large-scale writing just perfect for European singers weaned on Wagner and R. Strauss. Lotte Lenya called the title role of this opera, her favorite, and the Bulgarian Wagnerian Anna Tomowa-Simtow performed it in her prime.

Neither Korngold nor his librettist, Hans Mueller give proper names to the male characters, naming them instead: The Ruler, The Stranger and so forth, which tends to make them cipher-like rather than flesh and blood beings. The plot is fantastical, full of supernatural events, twists and turns, and the kind of symbolism much in vogue in the Germany of the first quarter of the twentieth century, including a last minute rise from the dead that affords both the tenor and soprano to ascend to the heavens for an eternal union.

Aris Argiris is a true-blue Heldenbariton with the endurance of a thoroughbred and a stentorian sound. Soprano, Annemaria Kremer sings a lovely Heliane, frequently spinning out ethereal sounds when needed. Tenor, Ian Storey delivers a convincing performance as The Stranger, holding up just fine in a part that sounds at times as if it were written for a Heldentenor. The supporting cast of mostly male singers satisfactorily fulfills its duties.

But it is the Philharmonic Orchestra Freiburg, the massive choral forces and Fabrice Bollon, their conductor who are the heart and soul of this three-CD Naxos release. The score is huge, densely orchestrated and replete with climactic moments. Maestro Bolton leads a nicely-paced reading, beautifully balancing all the artists at his command in a most satisfying performance worthy of a place in the libraries of opera connoisseurs.

Rafael de Acha

UPSTANDING CELLIST PLAYS STAND UP CELLO

Jeffrey Zeigler Presents: Mike Block Solo Show

His name is Mike Block and he plays the cello that hangs from his neck while he is standing up. He plays with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble and he plays by himself in concert.

In his CD MIKE BLOCK ECHOES OF BACH recently issued by Bright Shiny Things Block establishes from the get go that he is a musician to the core, playing the G Major Prelude from the Cello Suite No. 1 of J.S. Bach with assurance and sober emotion.

Over the next eleven tracks Block travels back and forth between Gabrielli’s 17th century and Bach’s 18th century and on to the current one, felicitously juxtaposing with their Baroque predecessors pieces by the late Austrian composer György Ligeti, the 20th century Turkish composer Ahmet Adnan Saygun, and the contemporary Italian Giovanni Sollima.

Seven of the tracks feature Preludes, Allemandes, Courantes, Sarabandes, Gigues and Bourrées that can test the mettle and technique of lesser players, but here allow Block to establish himself as a flawless technician.

But Bach to show off dexterity is soulless Bach, and Block injects into his playing of these test pieces the same intensity of feeling and unceasing energy that he brings to his reading of the fourth movement of Saygun’s Eastern-inflected Partita for solo Cello and to Giovanni Solima’s percussively dance-like Citarruni, from The Taranta Project.

Engineered by Dan Cardinal, this outside-of-the standard-repertory box CD is a delight. Would Bright Shiny Things please consider more Block?

Rafael de Acha

A SUPERB WAGNER RECORDING

 

In the theatre the connecting tissue between set piece and set piece in an opera is indispensable, as it serves to keep the audience focused on the dramatic action. In a recording of an opera the same connecting tissue keeps the listener on track while waiting for the next “big moment” to come.

Listening to the superb reading of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung by the Hong Kong Philharmonic led by Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden and just recently released by NAXOS in a four CD set just recorded live this past January this listener found himself not waiting for the next familiar moment, but wanting to linger at every minute of the 3 ½ hour musical journey.

The sound, engineered by Phil Rowlands, James Clark and Roy Cheung is crystalline at both extremes of the dynamic range, and evenhandedly faithful to Wagner’s massive orchestration. The insightfully and succinctly written accompanying booklet annotated by Keith Anderson is perfect as well.

And then there is the Bamberg Symphony Chorus and the Latvian State Choir, both doing sterling work in key moments: Hagen’s call to the vassals being one of the many goose-bump inducing ones.

The soloists form a wonderful mix of veteran Wagnerians and up-and-coming stars integrated, thanks to Van Zweden into as good an ensemble as ever heard in a Wagner opera by this listener – every leading and supporting role is flawlessly cast.

The three Norns that open the Prologue: Sarah Castle, Stephanie Houtzeel, Jenufa Gleich, and the three Rhine Maidens that bring the opera to its close: Eri Nakamura, Aurthelia Varak, and Hermine Haselböck are cast with first-tier singers, several of them young Wagnerians on the rise.

Gun-Brit Barkmin is a sensational Brunhilde, an expressive singer endowed with unending energy and a ringing top voice that never turns shrill. The American tenor Daniel Brenna holds his own in this cast, impressively singing the impossibly demanding part of Siegfried.

The young American soprano Amanda Majeski delivers a sensitively sung Gutrune, and Michelle De Young brings her ample dramatic mezzo-soprano to the part of Waltraute with great success. The basses and bass-baritones are exemplary: Chinese bass-baritone Shenyang makes his mark as Gunther. Eric Halfvarson is riveting as Hagen, pouring out a torrent of pitch-black sound in the iconic Watch and earlier in the scene with the sinister Alberich of Peter Kálmán, a Hungarian bass who matches his colleague decibel for decibel.

There are plenty of recordings of both the Ring cycle and its components, but with Wagner and the Ring it’s never too many. Recorded live with no room for retakes and mistakes, this is a superb addition to the collection of any opera fan, whether Wagnerian or not.

Rafael de Acha

BARBER AND COPLAND PLAYED TO PERFECTION

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DELOS has just released a nicely assembled collection of Barber and Copland piano pieces impeccably played with fierce commitment and intensity by the American pianist Sean Kennard.

Titled American Classics Barber and Copland the Delos release (DE 3554) is good to look at and pleasurable to the ear. Kennard is an impressive technician, fleet and agile, yet capable of obtaining massive climaxes from his instrument with steely gravitas.

The choice of repertory is interesting, avoiding the tried and true, and revealing a darker aspect of Samuel Barber as shown in the composer’s Sonata for Piano, Op.26, written in 1949 by the then mature Barber and given its world premiere by Vladinir Horowitz, no less, who asked for a flashy fourth movement and got it. The Sonata for Piano and the 1977 Ballade are both complex works that open up to the musical language of dodecaphony.

With both those two works, written three decades apart their composer turned the corner into a world of dissonance where he remained well into the latter part of his career. With his earlier opus, Excursions Barber seems to be more at ease in a distinctly laid-back and utterly charming American musical landscape.

Copland’s Piano Variations dates back to 1930 and clearly show the influence of Paris-based composers whom Nadia Boulanger encouraged Copland not to imitate but study, which the composer proceeded to do with a vengeance. Massive cluster chords and a martellato use of the lower and upper registers alternate with moments of delicate lyricism in this composition.

The Four Piano Blues are miniatures dedicated to or else inspired by friends of the composer are brought to life with their bluesy, jazzy, vaporous sound by Sean Kennard’s at times delicate at others commandingly sonorous playing.

Typical of DELOS, the engineering is spot on, the accompanying notes succinct and insightful and the packaging simple and well designed.

Rafael de Acha

NOVEMBER’S MUSIC IN CINCINNATI

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS: NOVEMBER
These are just a few of the many musical events that crowd the month of November right up to Thanksgiving week. Why so early with this post? Tickets go fast!
CCM remains the largest presenter of performing arts events in the State of Ohio as will be evident by the number of CCM events highlighted here. Many of these concerts, musicals and recitals are free, and those that are not are reasonably priced.
Let this serve as a guide for you to go and explore further… Visit the websites of these organizations… bone up on the music ahead of time… Whatever you do, please enjoy all the music that the City of Cincinnati has to offer.

NOVEMBER 1, THURSDAY, 8 PM – CCM – BERNSTEIN FESTIVAL – PIANOPALOOZA
MEMBERS OF THE CCM PIANO AND CONDUCTING FACULTY JOIN FORCES TO HONOR LENNY’S 100TH BY PLAYING HIS DANCES FROM WEST SIDE STORY AND HIS ARRANGEMENT OF AARON COPLAND’S EL SALON MEXICO, ALONG WITH OTHER WORKS.
TKTS: $15 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 556 4183

NOVEMBER 2, FRIDAY – CCM – BERNSTEIN FESTIVAL – ORCHESTRA
BERNSTEIN’S SONGFEST JOINS HIS FANCY FREE IN ALL-LENNY PROGRAM, WITH MARK GIBSON LEADING THE CCM PHILHARMONIA AND VOCAL SOLOISTS.
TKTS: $15 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 556 4183

NOVEMBER 3, SATURDAY AT 8 PMCORO VOLANTE
A NEW CHORAL ENSEMBLE GIVES MEANING TO ITS WINGED NAME BY TAKING FLIGHT WITH THE LOCAL PREMIERE OF THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION. THE HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN STORY SET TO MUSIC BY PULITZER-PRIZE WINNER DAVID LANG WILL ALIGHT AT THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF THE REDEEMER ON EERIE AVENUE IN HYDE PARK.
FREE AND OPEN WITH NO NEED FOR RESERVATIONS.

NOVEMBER 4, SUNDAY – CCM PRESTIGE SERIES – BERNSTEIN FESTIVAL AT CCM
THE CCM JAZZ ORCHESTRA IN CORBETT AUDITORIUM WITH A JAZZED UP WEST SIDE STORY, PRECEDED BY A TALK WITH STAN KENTON SCHOLAR AND CONDUCTOR VAUGHN WIESTER.
TKTS: $20 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 513 556 4183

NOVEMBER 4 AND 5, SUNDAY AND MONDAYBLACK ANGELS
concert:nova GIVES THE LOCAL PREMIERE OF GEORGE CRUMB’S 1970 MUSICAL COMMENTARY ABOUT A WORLD AT WAR.
CHECK OUT TIMES AND LOCATION BY PHONE (513 – 739 6682)

NOVEMBER 8-10, THURSDAY THROUGH SATURDAY – CCM – GODSPELL
THE 1971 OFF-BROADWAY HIT IS ON STAGE IN THE INTIMATE COHEN FAMILY STUDIO THEATRE AT 8 PM THIS WEEKEND WITH AN ADDITIONAL 2 PM MATINEE ON SATURDAY. TKTS ARE FREE.
PHONE CCM’S BOX OFFICE ON MONDAY NOVEMBER 5 AT 12:30 PM – 513 513 556 4183

NOVEMBER 11, AT 3 PM AT WYOMING’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH – THE AGE OF WAGNER
CINCINNATI SONG INITIATIVE AND WAGNER SOCIETY OF CINCINNATI JOINTLY PRESENT SOPRANO LATOYA LAIN AND TENOR DANIEL WEEKS WITH PIANISTS DONNA LOEWY AND CASEY ROBARDS, IN A PROGRAM OF LIEDER BY LISZT, MAHLER, WOLF AND, OF COURSE, WAGNER.
TKTS: $20 (www.cincinnatisonginitiative.org)

NOVEMBER 11 AT 4 PM AND NOVEMBER 12 AT 7:30 PM – LINTON MUSIC
ANNA POLONSKY, ILYA FINKELSTEIN, STEFANI COLLINS MATSUO, CHRISTIAN COLBERG, DWIGHT PARRY, AND WILLIAM WINSTEAD PLAY POULENC, MOZART AND DVORAK.
TKTS AND INFO: 513 381 6868

NOVEMBER 15-18, CCM – THURSDAY THROUGH SUNDAY AT 8 PM, SUNDAY AT 2 PM ONLY – THE TURN OF THE SCREW
BENJAMIN BRITTEN’S CHAMBER OPERA ABOUT CHILDREN HAUNTED BY GHOSTS IN AN ENGLISH ESTATE IS STAGED FOR CCM AT THE PATRICIA CORBETT THEATRE BY VINCE DE GEORGE, WITH AIK KHAI PUNG LEADING THE ORCHESTRA.
TKTS: $32-$36 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 556 4183

NOVEMBER 18, A CCM PRESENTATION IN THE WILKS STUDIO AT MUSIC HALL, SUNDAY AT 7 PM
COMPOSER MATTHEW AUCOIN AND SARAH RUHL, HIS LIBRETIST, TEST THE OPERATIC WATERS WITH A WORKSHOP READING OF THEIR EURYDICE, WITH UP AND COMING SINGERS FROM THE RANKS OF CCM LED BY ROBIN GUARINO.
TKTS ARE FREE BY PHONING 513 – 241 2742 ON MONDAY NOVEMBER 5 AFTER 10:00 AM

NOVEMBER 20, TUESDAY AT 8 PM – THE CCM CONCERT ORCHESTRA AT CCM
AIK KHAI PUNG LEADS THE ENSEMBLE IN HAYDN’S “CLOCK” SYMPHONY, LISZT’S LES PRELUDES AND SCRIABIN’S THE POEM OF ECSTASY.
FREE ADMISSION

NOVEMBER 30, FRIDAY AT 8 PM – THE CCM PHILHARMONIA AT CCM
WITH MARK GIBSON AT THE HELM THE CCM PHILHARMONIA OPENS THEIR CONCERT WITH A VERDI OVERTURE FROM I VESPRI SICILIANI, FOLLOWS IT WITH BRITTEN’S SINFONIA DA REQUIEM AND WRAPS IT ALL UP WITH RACHMANINOFF’S SYMPHONIC DANCES.
TKTS: $15 CCM’S BOX OFFICE – 513 556 4183

HAPPY LISTENING!

THE NEW MET SEASON

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The MET has just announced its 2018-2019 Season and I am, frankly, puzzled by the safe choices of repertory and underwhelmed by some of the selection of casts and directors. Old wine in new bottles or vice-versa?

One would imagine that the sudden removal of James Levine from his position as Music Director helped create a crisis of artistic planning, but it is common knowledge that the MET lines up its roster of artists and choices of repertory years in advance. Thus we have to look at the current MET season as a brainchild of one man: Peter Gelb.

But to give everyone his or her due, there’s a production of Boito’s Mefistofele, an opera not seen in NYC since 2000, and that’s great news. In the central title role, the fast-rising American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn is stepping into the bass role of all bass roles and in so doing following the steps of Samuel Ramey and Norman Treigle, both of whom are fondly remembered by those of us old enough to have heard them.

The casting of Bel Canto specialist Angela Meade in the essentially spinto role of Margerita is surprising at best, as is the choice of lyric tenor Michael Fabiano for the hefty part of Faust. But time will tell and hopefully prove my doubts and concerns unfounded.

Anna Netrebko as Aida? Maybe, but I am not so sure of a singer whose ravishing sound has so perfectly suited her Tatiana in Eugene Onegin and some of the lighter Verdi roles should be taking on the Egyptian Princess. Listen to her “O Patria Mia”, easily available on You Tube and see what you think.

Samson et Dalila in a new production gives us a surprisingly smoldering Dalila from the ever-cool Elīna Garanča and a light-weight Samson from Roberto Alagna. It will be interesting to see and hear what kind of heat the pairing of Anita Rashhvelishvili and Aleksandrs Antonenko can bring to this work.

I salute the commitment of the MET to contemporary opera and refrain from commenting until Nico Muhly’s Marnie is seen LIVE IN HD on November 10th. Two wonderful singing actors: Isabel Leonard and Christopher Maltman make the project sound very promising.

A new Michael Mayer production of La Traviata with Diana Damrau as Violetta, Juan Diego Florez as Alfredo, and Quinn Kelsey as Germont will replace the controversial old one with the unisex chorus in rented tuxes and all the clocks.

Another new production, tAdriana Lecouvreur featuring Anna Netrebko in the title role and Piotr Beczala as Maurizio sounds like a winner. If you miss it at the MET you might be able to catch it in London, in Barcelona, in Vienna, in Paris, or stateside in San Francisco, as the opera companies of each one of those cities are named as co-producers of this revival of Cilea’s melodrama.

From the French world there’s a revival of Pélleas et Mélisande with the lovely Isabel Leonard as the lost princess and Paul Appleby as her secret love. There’s another revival of the Richard Eyre’s production of Carmen with French mezzo-soprano Clementine Margaine as the Gypsy enchantress and Roberto Alagna as Don José.

Pretty Yende, Javier Camarena and Mariusz Kwiecien are the love triangle at the center of Georges Bizet’s Les pêcheurs de perles. There’s also the old Dialogue des Carmelites production by John Dexter that will close the season with the ubiquitous Isabel Leonard, in her third leading role this season as Blanche, and the formidable Karita Mattila as Madame de Croisy, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducting.

La Fille du Régiment, not a French opera but a Donizetti opera in French will allow Javier Camarena to unpack his bag of high C’s and Pretty Yende to clown around and sing prettily as Marie.

The entire Ring Cycle is brought back in the multi-million Robert Lepage production, featuring “The Machine” and starring Wagnerians Greer Grimsley as Wotan, Christine Goerke as Brunhilde, Jamie Barton as Fricka, Eva-Maria Westbrock as Sieglinde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, Tomasz Konieczny as Alberich, and Phillipe Jordan helming the MET orchestra.

From the pens of Verdi and Puccini, the MET will bring us the Robert Carsen 1950’ish Falstaff, Tosca with Jennifer Rowley, Joseph Calleja and Wolfgang Koch, a Trittico with Placido Domingo as Gianni Schichi, Otello with Sony Yoncheva, Stuart Skelton and Željko Lučić in the key roles and Gustavo Dudamel making his MET debut at the podium.

La Fanciulla del West with I-hope-he-won’t-cancel Jonas Kaufmann as the unfortunately-named Dick Johnson and Eva-Maria Westbrock as Minnie, is slated for a LIVE IN HD October 27 offering and a December 22 radio broadcast. Keep your fingers crossed.

A Mozart semi-rarity: La Clemenza di Tito will come late in the season with Matthew Polenzani in the title role and Joyce Di Donato as Sesto, in the old but still gorgeous Jean Pierre Ponnelle production. Don Giovanni will see a great Leporello: Luca Pisaroni switching from servant to master in the title role.

Time will tell how Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Met’s Music Director creates an imprint on the repertory and how much say he will have on the subject of casting and choice of creative teams, in addition to the selection of guest conductors. For now we wait and hope for the best.

Rafael de Acha

A Lost World of Schubert rarities

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Out of Schubert’s 1500 compositions, 600 are Lieder (songs) for solo voices. There are a handful of duets, trios, quartets and choral numbers of various levels of quality. But, by and large, if one is mining for gold one better dig into the Schubert treasure trove of song cycles and his many stand-alone songs.

That said, the Delos CD A Lost World is a welcome gift culled from the Schubert mother lode and a nice item to have in one’s collection of vocal rarities.

Neither Ganymede nor perhaps Elysium are all that rare. They are sung here with delicacy and limpidity by soprano Susanna Phillips with the ever flexible and supportive Brian Zeger at the piano, providing  a welcome relief from the ponderousness and unremittingly somber moods of most of the other selections on the CD, even when sung impressively by bass-baritone Shenyang.

Odious as comparisons can be, I unhesitatingly place Ms. Phillips rendition of these two Schubert songs in the company of the similarly-voiced Ely Ameling and Barbara Bonney. Phillips’ honestly uncomplicated vocalism brings the poetry of Schiller and Goethe to life in flawless German.

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Shenyang, a young bass-baritone impresses this listener with his committed delivery of An die Dioskuren, in which he succeeds in scaling down his massive sound to the intimacy of a sailor’s prayer to the stars. Elsewhere, he unleashes a torrent of sound in the grimly descriptive Gruppe aus dem Tartarus and follows it with the equally infernal Fahrt zum Hades. Shenyang delivers Grenzen dee Menscheit with gravitas, dipping assuredly and repeatedly into his lower range.

Both singers sing to rather than with each other in two songs with operatic ambitions: Hektor’s Abschied and Antigone und Oedip. More like operatic scenes than duets, these two pieces sadly never allow for the soprano and bass-baritone in this CD to unite their voices in song.

It would have been nice to hear Phillips and Shenyang to undertake Schubert’s setting of Goethe’s Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt. The forgiven omission will hopefully allow for many of us to have these two fast-rising artists back in an album of Schubert, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schumann duets. If only Delos cooperates…

Rafael de Acha