Thursday, November 23, 2017

November 23, 2007: Tosca in Vienna

2007-11-23 Tosca (G.Puccini), Wiener Staatsoper

Mario Cavaradossi = José Cura
Floria Tosca = Amarilli Nizza
Baron Scarpia = Marco Vratogna
Cesare Angelotti = Boaz Daniel
Der Mesner = Lars Woldt
Spoletta = Benedikt Kobel
Sciarrone = Clemens Unterreiner
Ein Schließer = Goran Simic

Paolo Carignani, conductor

Tosca with José Cura as Mario Cavaradossi.

Tosca no 517:
Inszenierung Margarethe Wallmann
Bühnenbild und Kostüme: Nicola Benois

I missed a great Scarpia, Ruggero Raimondi is always great as Scarpia. Amarilli Nizza was Ok as Tosca. Liked her Vissi d'arte. José Cura and the conductor was not always in agreement. Cura wanted to be faster. He was also acting in a way inconsistent with the times, Neapolitan time. This was a very traditional Tosca with beautiful settings. It was a beautiful E lucevan le stelle. The end duet Tosca/Cavaradossi was great (good). But Nizza could not help herself when she leaped from the castle one might have thought this was one of the first Tosca's in this production, very old fashioned (at least from the -50s). One arm raised....

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November 22, 2011: Otello in Zurich

2011-11-22 Otello (Verdi), Opernhaus Zurich

Otello = José Cura
Desdemona = Fiorenza Cedolins
Jago = Thomas Hampson
Cassio = Stefan Pop
Emilia = Stefania Kaluza
Roderigo = Benjamin Bernheim
Lodovico = Pavel Daniluk
Montano = Tomasz Slawinski
Un arraldo = Evgeny Sevastyanov

Daniele Gatti, conductor

Producer/production - Graham Vick
Set design - Paul Brown
Costumes - Paul Brown
Lighting - Jürgen Hoffmann
Choir rehearsal - Jürg Hämmerli

I am thoroughly offended by Graham Vick's Otello

It is not just the most heavyhanded regie of all heavyhanded regie. It is not Giuseppe Verdi's Otello anymore, even as the singing and music was beautiful, it was just too racist. If Vick wanted to say that racism was bad, why all the racist imaginery and no outrage.

From the moment I saw the desk on stage and understood that Otello would be onstage during the chorus singing during the "storm" that they see the sail of Otello's ship I knew it would be bad. But I still did not think it that bad. Then as Otello was seated at his desk, he blackened his face in a military vein, but the chorus found themselves suddenly blackened from the palm of their hands too so they went mad. All this happened while singing Verdi's music and Boito's text that certainly was about something else, stupid and offensive in so many ways... "Esultate! L'orgoglio musulmano" when Otello walking from the desk and to the microphone and of course a text window the words "Esultate l'orgoglio musulmano sepolto in mar" repeated over and over again. Then it is Jago and Rodrigo talking. Of course offensive posters come and go during the whole opera... "Fuoco di gioia" the people sing it naturally with video of fire destroying oil fields, houses etc, planes with deadly cargo and white people singing about the joys of fire (destruction). And we are still just a few minutes into the opera... I wanted off this madness, but it had just begun.

So "Roderigo, beviam" starts with a tanks coming onstage. New idea, not. The tanks has Cassio and Monna Bianca making out. And naturally almost all the other people onstage is engaged in something slightly sexual. Old idea, yes. Rodrigo makes Cassio drunk with a drinking competion. OK. Then of course Montano comes and Cassio is goaded into fighting. Then Otello comes out and stops it. One thing that was good in this production and with Thomas Hampson as Jago was that one could see why Otello trusts Jago. Hampson makes Jago a man who on the surface is a friendly man, and of course Otello can see only skin deep. Except one thing that hampers this production is that no matter how great an Otello Jose Cura is in this production he is a white man so why do people call him a moor?

Desdemona comes out still in her white wedding dress. But everybody is dressed in white except Cassio, Rodrigo and other military men, Otello wears white too. Finally it is time for the love duet. Fiorenza Cedolins is Desdemona, but although she is Italian and the opera is in Italian it is very hard to understand what she is singing. All the others poses no such problem. Cedolins is a fine actress but I don't feel she is a Desdemona yet.

Would the second act be better? No. Instead of a tank on stage now it is an burnt-out car and a few palm trees for the garden of Desdemona. Jago talks to Cassio, and then Jago's Credo. Naturally with children, 6 boys, possibly muslem boys. Why? Modern directors distrusts monologues. Stupid and offensive use of children, and it does not even make sense why they are so obedient and how do they know what to do. Then naturally everything goes as Jago plans, even Otello comes in the right moment. Desdemona with children and adults singing her praise, while Emilia takes photos of Desdemona with various muslem people, they are behind barbed wire. Are we in Iraq or in Cyprus? Vick seems to be in Iraq, Verdi in Cyprus. I choose Verdi and declare that Vick does not make sense. Luckily the interaction between Jago and Otello is believable and the quartet between Otello, Desdemona, Jago, Emilia is also great interaction and singing. Jago manages to make Otello believe in Desdemona's guilt.

After the interval back to Vick's Otello. Act 3 a video camera, different big flags, and a tribune for the people to sit on. A table with wine and glasses, a white sofa, a white chair. Otello in white military suit. Jago in a very formal and black militar suit, he almost looks like a general. The camera man is dismissed when Desdemona comes in, Desdemona and Otello each gets their playing with the camera. Desdemona playful in the beginning of the duet, Otello sinister later on. I think this was good acting.

Then "that awful word". The stage hands brought in a big poster of two white hands clasping, peace. The poster of peace was there to hide Otello so that he could see and listen to Jago and Cassio without Cassio noticing. Then the back was turned to Otello, in this production a White Man, on that space it said "nigger". Not only was it there, but it was only reacted on by Otello and for such a short time. Nobody on stage reacted. Jago did not blink, the stage hands. Had Graham Vick taken all the other offensive ideas and posters and left that word, still that word sinks the whole work. Why such an offense without at least some outrage about the racism? Why? If Vick wanted to make a statement and making Otello anti-racist he managed just the opposite.

Then the stage is set for videotaping of Lodovico giving Otello the letter from the Venetian Doge. So Otello's nasty asides to Desdemona while he on microphone, it makes sense? And then "A terra e piangi" where Desdemona instead of walking nobly and firmly to the indicated spot Cedolins chooses to almost faint. Otello sits on the sofa and eats the letter from the Doge, yes he is now mad. Then he shouts " all out" and Jago can gloat who will prevent me from killing him. Ecco il leone, indeed.

4 act is really mostly like all Otello's except there is no bed.

Offensive and stupid I am glad I never have to see this again. To all who was offended by this production I say I AM SO SORRY. This
 was racist shit but it was not Shakespeare, Verdi or Boito's fault. You know who I blame. 

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November 22, 2008: Juanjo Cura in Berlin

2008-11-22 Juanjo Cura, Kammermusiksaal Philharmonie (Berlin)

Juanjo Cura, tenor
Javier Tucat Moreno, piano
Malys Im, double bass
Guillermo Destaillats, bandoneon
??, percussion

First impressions of Juanjo Cura in Berlin

It was cold in Berlin. And it was even a bit cold in Kammermusiksaal Philharmonie Berlin. It is a special concert room with a small plattform in the middle, just the right size for a small group of people with instruments. For 5 people, it was perfect.

Juanjo Cura seems to have more than just Argentinians on his side as fans of him and of tango, it was quite a lot of Germans there too. The concert hall was not full but it seemed to be more more than half full. I sat in the front row, in the best seat of the room. I bought my 3rd Juanjo Cura CD there, Pasional. He talked in German during the concert and we had no program, all our information was from Juanjo himself in his German. Since I am not German myself but understand German and speak a little myself I still had a little problem since his German was good but it was an Argentinian speaking German... But it was still very impressive to do that.

My other disadvantage is my not knowing too much about Argentinian Tango. For so many there they knew the music already and loved it already. I am more of the classical person. Juanjo Cura is more approaching the music like a Jazz singer would, being very free with the notes. But Juanjo Cura's voice is a true tenor voice. Personally I will always regret that he did not choose the more classical path but Juanjo seem to enjoy more the explosive passion of the tango. And he really acts it out. Nobody can say that he just sings because he doesn't just sing he is every tango and song he sings. But sadly it reminds me of why I "hate" Jazz and LOVE Classical music. I will always love more the correct attack to the notes that are the Classical way and dislike most of the loose attack that is Jazz. But I don't regret using my money to go to Berlin just for this concert. I don't regret that at all. I loved his singing "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns. His singing My Way in German. And some of the tangos/boleros/songs that he sang as nicely as he does on his CD's.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

November 21, 1988: Madama Butterfly in Oslo

1988-11-21 Madama Butterfly (Puccini), Den Norske Opera (Oslo)

Cio-Cio-San = Keiko Kamegawa
Suzuki = Marit Osnes Aambø
Kate Pinkerton = Gro Hundvin
B.F. Pinkerton = Caj Ehrstedt
Sharpless = Jan Sødal
Goro = Rorald Rørvik
Prince Yamadori = Knut Gullerud
Uncle Bonzo = Svein Carlsen

Per Åke Andersson, conductor

How irritating it is to hear/see this heart-wrenching opera and to have people sitting there finding it ludicrous the marriage contract for 999 years. But poor Butterfly she is going to die because she takes it seriously love, marriage but Pinkerton see every thing Japanese as a joke as this custom of leasing houses for 999 years. The clash West/East.

That bloody Pinkerton. Even the American consul who is normally quite cold-blooded tries to warn Pinkerton.

This is a great opera!

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Monday, November 20, 2017

November 20, 2004: Jose Cura interview in Vienna

Many members of JCx (José Cura Connexion) were in Vienna for Stiffelio already and so when Marlene told us about the public interview in Theater Akzent we got our tickets.

First the technical problems. And José had to take a photo of that:

And then on the left we see the translator, José Cura, and on the right the interviewer.
In the end it needed a technichian.

It was interesting to hear Cura explain his views about this and that in opera. And a point in the interview he got visibly red after too many compliments.

That was cute.

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November 20, 2010: La Fanciulla del West in Zurich

2010-11-20 La Fanciulla del West (G. Puccini), Opernhaus Zurich

Dick Johnson (Ramirez) = José Cura
Minnie = Emily Magee
Jack Rance = Ruggero Raimondi
Harry = Shinya Kitajma
Jake Wallace = Davide Fersini
Nick = Martin Zysset
Ashby = Daniel Henriks
Sonora = Cheyne Davidson
Sid = Tomasz Slawinsky
Trin = Pablo Ricardo Bemsch
Bello = Kresimir Strazanac
Joe = Boguslaw Bidzinski
Happy = Thomas Tatzl
José Castro = Valeriy Murga
Larkens = Aaron Agulay
Billy Jackrabbit = Thomas Forde
Wowkle = Bettina Schneebeli
Un Postilione = Simon Wallfisch

Massimo Zanetti, conductor

Inszeniering - David Poutney
Spielleitung - Aglaja Nicolet
Bühnenbild - Stefanos Lazaridis
Kostüme - Sue Wilmington
Lichtgestaltung - Jürgen Hoffmann

This David Pountney production of La Fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini is growing old and is no longer inspiring. Once upon a time the use of movie was innovating like in 2004 when I first saw this production I found it pure genius. But the times has changed and it is after all my 10th Fanciulla.

It is nothing new here. The Girl of the Golden West (LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST) is the Spaghetti Western as opera. Was it necessary to make the stage so steep and did the screen really have to be hung in a slope. It just seemed so sloppy. Every time the movie was playing or the backdrop was changed to another photo reminding us about the time of gold digging in California it was like the director took the audience as utter fools. It is the usual story of opera directors not daring to let the opera speak for it self.

When I compare to the other Fanciulla productions that I have seen at Royal Opera House (London), Deutsche Oper Berlin, Den Norske Opera (Oslo) then Opernhaus Zürich production seem to be the oldest and dullest one.

The cast was incredible. Still I was bored and not really tuned into the action. I just know that Emily Magee was the perfect Minnie and José Cura was perfect as Dick Johnson. Ruggero Raimondi was also great. But the production let this opera down.

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November 20, 2011: La Forza del Destino in Paris

2011-11-20 La Forza del Destino (Verdi), Opera National de Paris (Opera Bastille)

Il Marchese di Calatrava = Mario Luperi
Donna Leonora = Violeta Urmana
Don Carlo di Vargas = Vladimir Stoyanov
Don Alvaro  = Marcelo Alvarez
Preziosilla = Nadia Krasteva
Padre Guardiano = Kwangchul Youn
Fra Melitone = Nicola Alaimo
Curra = Nona Javakhidze
Mastro Trabuco = Rodolphe Briand

Philippe Jordan, conductor

Stage director - Jean-Claude Auvray
Sets - Alain Chambon
Costumes - Maria Chiara Donato
Lighting - Laurent Castaingt
Choreography - Terry John Bates
Chorus master - Patrick Marie Aubert
Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

If only La forza del destino at Opera Bastille started in the evening then I could have time to play the tourist in Paris. But the opera started 1430. I had read a review of it so I was prepared for a minimalistic version. I was surprised it was very colourful and vivid. I was also prepared for perhaps Marcelo Alvarez would not be singing. But he sang. And he was great as Don Alvaro. I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Violeta Urmana as Leonora, but she was amazing. Vladimir Stoyanov was also much better as Don Carlo di Vargas than the review said.

The production had a lot that was good. The biggest surprise was that it did not start with the ouverture this time the opera started in the Calatrava castle. After this scene came the ouverture, one of the best performances of the iconic piece. The only thing I would critize Urmana is her use of her arm to show despair, 3 times the same gesture and it gets old. Nadia Krasteva was a wondeful Preziosilla but unfortunately her role was vulgarized by the director. That Preziosilla would walk off with "Pereda" after the scene in the taberna, was not to my liking and not how I understood Preziosilla. Nicola Alaimo was Fra Melitone, too comic and extreme, maybe. Kwangchul Youn was simply wonderful as Padre Guardiano. Mario Luperi was a fine Marchese di Calatrava.

I loved it, even if it had some weakness. After the opera I waited at the stage door, and I saw Kwangchul Youn, Violeta Urmana, Marcelo Alvarez and Nadia Krasteva.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

November 19, 2011: Oberto in Paris, France

2011-11-19 Oberto (Verdi), Theatre des Champs-Elysees (Paris)

Riccardo = Valter Borin
Cuniza = Ekaterina Gubanova
Leonora = Maria Guleghina
Oberto = Michele Pertusi
Imelda = Sophie Podjiclis

Carlo Rizzi, conductor

Orchestre National de France
Chœur de Radio France
direction Kalman Strausz

Oberto by Verdi in Theatre des Champs-Elysee. Concert version. From the first notes of the ouverture it was definitely Verdi. The first opera by Giuseppe Verdi, so of course it was young Verdi that some times sounded a bit like the older opera composers. Valter Borin sang Riccardo as Fabio Sartori was unwell. He sang Riccardo's two arias beautifully. In Oberto the tenor (Riccardo) is the villain and the bass (Oberto) is the hero.

Maria Guleghina with blond hair and glasses, she looked wonderful. Unfortately she was not well so sometimes the planned execution of notes did succed, but she was still able to make this Leonora a special treat. For those that simply does not like Maria Guleghina even tried to pin the the cutting of caballettas to the soprano, but it was more Radio France etc.

Ekaterina Gubanova sang the role of Princess Cuniza. The mezzo-soprano was in great shape and showed the noble Cuniza in all her glory.

Michele Pertusi was Oberto, father of Leonora and the enemy of Riccardo. Oberto is obsessed with honour. For modern eyes Oberto is too into himself and his own feelings to think what actions would mean for his daughter. Riccardo on the other hand only realize how wrong he has acted after he kills Oberto. Michele Pertusi was wonderful as Oberto, naturally.

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November 19, 2004: Stiffelio in Vienna

2004-11-19 Stiffelio (Verdi), Wiener Staatsoper

Stiffelio = José Cura
Lina = Hui He
Stankar = Renato Bruson
Raffaele = Cosmin Ifrim
Jorg = Johannes Wiedecke
Federico = Peter Jelosits
Dorotea = Ǻsa Elmgren

Marco Armiliato, conductor

Breakfast. Free time in Berlin. Afternoon-flight to Vienna. Just an hour before the opera started was I in the Staatsoper, naturally I had skipped visiting my hotel first. So all my luggage in Staatsoper. Relaxing and meeting friends before the opera started. I had bought the Viennese newspapers on the airport Schwechat and
looked through it on the train to Vienna City. I usually am quite drowsy when I get into the opera houses after my traveling, not this time. Unfortunately it didn't get that much interesting on the stage.

The ouverture was well played with the orchestra conducted by Marco Armiliato. And the young bass as Jorg was quite good. But he was a young man playing an older man, not utterly convincing. I was ready to admire the soprano Hui He as Lina first I was a bit put off by the painting of her face as too white, reminded me of Chinese opera, it was a visual disturbance that I would have learned to live with. But this very beautiful large voice was simply too weak in the piano. You need the hear the voice even it should sound piano.

Cosmin Ifrim as Raffaele was charming. And Hui He and Cosmin Ifrim was a nice couple of singers. Renato Bruson (Stankar) was not, in my opinion, in great form. Even though Jose Cura acted the role very well, I felt that even he was not in such a great form. The Moshinsky production is wonderful but without a great Stiffelio,
Lina & Stankar it could not stand on it own. How I longed for Leo Nucci as Stankar and Emily Magee as Lina, they sang so well in Zurich I wished they came to Vienna too. Really, the test for this opera is the ending of it. "Allor Gesu..." and PERDONATA!!, the adulteress is forgiven in the Bible and in Opera, and I felt
nothing. Big applause to Hui He and Renato Bruson from the house but not from me. I really wished that I could feel that Jose Cura did another great performance. ´Maybe it was the weather?

Anyway, after the performance, applause and backstage, I found my hotel pension Haydn and had another good nights sleep.

PS. I feel like I disagree with myself now 4 years later. That Jose Cura sang well, and that Hui He was a great Lina. But I still let it say this. It was what I felt that time.DS

(32. Aufführung in dieser Inszenierung)

Dirigent: Marco Armiliato
Inszenierung: Elijah Moshinsky
Bühnenbild: Michael Yeargan
Kostüme: Peter J. Hall
Lichtregie: Paul Pyant
Choreinstudierung: Ernst Dunshirn

Stiffelio: José Cura
Lina: Hui He

Beginn: 20.00

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November 19, 2001: Italiana in Algeri, Vienna

2001-11-19 L'Italiana in Algeri (G. Rossini), Wiener Staatsoper

Mustafà = Simone Alaimo
Elvira = Milagros Poblador
Zulma = Stella Grigoriau
Haly = István Gáti
Lindoro = Robert Nagy
Isabella = Agnes Baltsa
Taddeo = Alfred Sramek

Frédéric Chaslin, conductor

On November 19th, I saw Agnes Baltsa when she came to the Vienna State Opera, and when she went from the State Opera. And naturally I was there when she sang Isabella in Italiana in Algeri.

To wait for Agnes Baltsa just inside the Operahouse in the room before the Portier at the stage entrance. It was freezing outside. Meeting people who are equally admirers of Agnes Baltsa and talking to them while waiting. Other people was outside with flowers and waiting and freezing. At last she came. Her arms became soon full with flowers and goodwishes, I tried to give her the Gift for the fanclub (the list of good wishes for her birthday), she had to take the flowers inside, but she promised to come out after the performance in the same room.

Italiana in Algeri. Nobody does Isabella better than her. I think she was not completely recovered form the bronchitis that prevented her from singing at the Aidsgala in Berlin earlier this month. But still she communicated enjoyment and it was wonderful. Maybe the others get a more vocally competent Agnes Baltsa, but to be there when She is singing her favorite role on her Birthday was soo special that I wont regret it no matter what.

AND in the end of the performance the Chorus sang HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Agnes Baltsa, and the house almost fell down.

Then I waited for her after the event, and she was sitting in the portiers signing and I could at last give her the GIFT. And I must say Agnes Baltsa looked wonderful. I wish I could have stayed to see the rest of her Italianas.


Wiener Staatsoper
montag, 19. november 2001
49. Aufführung in dieser Inszenierung

L' I taliana in AIgeri
Drama giocoso per musica in zwei Akten von Angelo Anelli
Musik von Gioachino Rossini

Musikalische Leitung Frédéric Chaslin
Nach einer Inszenierung
und in der Ausstattung von Jean-Pierre Ponnelle
Chorleitung Ernst Dunshirn

Lindoro, ein junger Italiener,
Lieblingssklave des Mustafà Robert Nagy*

Ort der Handlung Algerien
Orchester und Chor der Wiener Staatsoper

Die Aufführung basiert auf Azio Corghis kritischer Ausgabe
der Fondazione Rossini Pesaro in Zusammenarbeit mit G Ricordi, SPA Milano

* Rollendebüt i1n der Wiener Staatsoper

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