Saturday, December 30, 2017

December 30, 2010: Tosca in Oslo

2010-12-30 Tosca (G. Puccini), Den Norske Opera & Ballett

Floria Tosca = Maria Guleghina
Mario Cavaradossi = Miroslav Dvorsky
Scarpia = Greer Grimsley
Sakristanen = Ketil Hugaas
Angelotti = Yngve André Søberg
Sciarrone = Andreas Franzén
Spoletta = David Fielder
Fangevokter = Øystein Skre
Gjetergutt = Henrik Enger Holm
Dommer = Steinar Zahl
Roberti = Øivind Solberg4

John Helmer Fiore, conductor

Regie - Paul Curran
Scenography / costumes - Kevin Knight
Light design - David Jacques
Cooperation with Canadian Opera Company

Music Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa og Luici Illica

This production premiered by Canadian Opera Company 26. January 2008, Norwegian National Opera 26. August 2010.

Almost New Year's Eve in the Opera. Tosca is one of my favorite operas, and Maria Guleghina is one of my favorite opera singers. I sat in 3rd Balcony almost in the middle. I could see the whole stage all the time.

Paul Curran had the Regie for this Tosca. It was a traditional production with much attention to the details. Puccini's music had already decided much of the timing and the action. Naturally it is hard to get all the details right in every performance. But for the first time I noticed that Puccini had put Angelotti's heavy breathing when he finally was in the church and could relax, when he composed it. It is unfortunately that many directors seem to overlook these clues in the music when they make their "regie". What we now often call Regie-Theater is neither Regie nor Theater, it is a director creating his own play while ignoring most of what would make the opera or theater a living breathing truth appearing before our eyes. So this Tosca production proves that a tradional setting of an opera, where one put it in context and in its own time need not be Old and Boring.

Attention to detail made Tosca real and interesting. From the beginning when Angelotti came in exhausted and till Tosca leapt to her death it was all believable and interesting. And the music was excellent, singers, orchestra was all together to make it opera-magic. Not one person on stage was un-real. But only in the movies could you make sure that everything would happen on the right Puccini note. This was real theater, no editing of false moves was possible. I think it must be absolutely impossible in a theater to close the door at the precise time at the cantata in act 2. Impossible! But it was so close that I would say that the impossible was achieved.

It is seldom one really feel that Cavaradossi and the Sagrestano is really preparing the colors when Cavaradossi sings "Recondita armonia" but of course here one knows it. Miroslav Dvorsky was a Cavaradossi who was really a painter, a revolutionary, a lover of Tosca, a smart man. The interaction of Cavaradossi with Angelotti was also interesting with Angelotti recognizing Cavaradossi and hugs him, but the painter does not recognized him and rejects him to the floor. So real... But then Cavaradossi understands that it is Angelotti who has escaped prison and promise to help him even it can mean his death, which in the end it does.

Mario Cavaradossi still has his head with him even if Angelotti looses his wits and his bags of women's cloths. He picks the bag up but misses the fan. Again something we seldom see so clearly as in this production. Tosca comes. Maria Guleghina is Tosca and one does fall for her spell. Paul Curran had made his choices in how to portray the relation of Cavaradossi and Tosca. I might disagree about making Tosca a little too fickle but when it works and really has foundation in the opera, then it can be true, too. This production is the first production I have seen where Tosca not only comes with flowers but also lays jewels at the Madonna. Attention to details is everywhere in this production. How happy I am to see a Tosca performance where the timing of when Tosca notices la Marchesa Attavanti is the Maddalena that Cavaradossi is painting, is correct.

It was a lovely love duet between Miroslav Dvorsky and Maria Guleghina.

The situation that Angelotti is in, is grave. It is serious business, and when Tosca has left and Angelotti and Cavaradossi meets again, Cavaradossi is taking care of things not like it is only theater but as a life and death situation. They leave. The Sagrestano comes in with a lot of people. And there is a Baccano in chiesa. As a lively scene play out with children, priests, nuns, men and women, the stage is prepared for the Te Deum with women taking the paper bits that Tosca teared up the Cavaradossi drawing of Attavanti, and priests takes away the painter's things. Everything that happens on the stage seem natural and organic... Then Scarpia and his minions appears. It is true as the opera says that this Scapia is feared by Rome's inhabitants. Even the children knows that this is a dangerous man. His minions is also recognized as unfriendly and to be feared. They are all relieved to be allowed to go. But the poor Sagrestano must stay. When Scarpia seem to forget him for a moment, he tries to escape, but the Scarpia's minion's punished the Sagrestano with violence in a corner of the church. Scarpia care not for him. Then Tosca comes in looking for Cavaradossi and the Sagrestano mocks her and is seized by Scarpia's men and pulled away. Scarpia stalks her, pretending to want to offer her Holy Water. Scarpia had planned this since he understood that Cavaradossi, Tosca's lover, was involved in the Angelotti affair. Tosca's jealousy was roused by Attavanti's fan that Scarpia supposedly found with the painter's things. When Tosca leaves Scarpia arrange for 3 spies and one vehicle to follow Tosca. The Te Deum is in progress, an impressive affair. This Scarpia leaves then by almost crashing the whole procession.

Act 2. The best Vissi d'arte ever.

Act 3. A wonderful E lucevan le stelle and a perfect Love Duet by Miroslav Dvorsky and Maria Guleghina.

What can I say? It was perfect.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29, 1990: La Boheme in Oslo

1990-12-29 La Boheme (Puccini), Den Norske Opera (Oslo)

Mimi = Katia Ricciarelli
Musetta = Ingjerd Oda Mantor
Rodolfo = Richard Greaer
Marcello = Trond Halstein Moe
Schaunard = Stein Arild Thorsen
Colline = Svein Carlsen
Benoit/Alcindor = Eivind Bøksle

Antonio Pappano, conductor

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 28, 2010: Tosca in Oslo

2010-12-28 Tosca (G. Puccini), Den Norske Opera & Ballett

Floria Tosca = Maria Guleghina
Mario Cavaradossi = Miroslav Dvorsky
Scarpia = Greer Grimsley
Sakristanen = Ketil Hugaas
Angelotti = Yngve André Søberg
Sciarrone = Andreas Franzén
Spoletta = David Fielder
Fangevokter = Øystein Skre
Gjetergutt = Henrik Enger Holm
Dommer = Steinar Zahl
Roberti = Øivind Solberg

John Helmer Fiore, conductor

Regie - Paul Curran
Scenography / costumes - Kevin Knight
Light design - David Jacques
Cooperation with Canadian Opera Company

Music Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa og Luici Illica

Cooperation with Canadian Opera Company.

This production premiered by Canadian Opera Company 26. January 2008, Norwegian National Opera 26. August 2010.

Both Greer Grimsley (Scarpia) and Miroslav Dvorsky (Cavaradossi) seemed to have been affected by the cold weather but Maria Guleghina (Tosca) was as her usual self. I was sitting on 3rd balcony on the right side. I could see more of the stage than on December 19 when I sat on Parkett right. From the beginning I could hear that Miroslav Dvorsky was not in his best form but that did but that did not hinder him from singing a fine Recondita armonia and an exceptional E lucevan le stelle. Only in the last duet it happened he lost his voice painfully. Luckily at his side a great collegue, Maria Guleghina who grasped his hands and comforted the tenor with her presence and her big voice and as a miracle the tenor found his voice back and that made the last duet even more moving. Tenor and soprano make it part of the opera. It was a happy opera night for Maria Guleghina who sang one of he finest Vissi d'arte. Maria Guleghina's interpretation of Tosca is always something to admire. She put her heart and soul into every part she sings. At this moment it is her Tosca and her Abigaille that I most admire.

After the opera I found the stage entrance and I went in to wait for my idol. I was alone, people left the opera house and there she was, the Diva with her beautiful assistant. Maria Guleghina and I are friends on Facebook but I never thought the Diva would look at me and say "it is your birthday, isn't it?". And then she sang me Happy Birthday in a natural, un-operatic way. And her assistant took a photo of me with Maria on my Birthday. O lucky day!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

December 27, 2014: Luisa Miller in Zurich

2014-12-27 Luisa Miller (G. Verdi), Opernhaus Zurich

Graf von Walter = Vitalij Kowaljow
Rodolfo = Ivan Magri
Federica = Judith Schmid
Wurm = Wenwei Zhang
Miller = Leo Nucci
Luisa Miller = Elena Mosuc
Laura = Hamida Kristoffersen

Carlo Rizzi, conductor
Philharmonia Zürich
Chor der Oper Zürich​ 

Musikalische Leitung - Carlo Rizzi
Inszenierung - Damiano Michieletto
Bühnenbild - Paolo Fantin
Kostüme - Carla Teti
Lichtgestaltung - Hans-Rudolf Kunz
Choreinstudierung - Jürg Hämmerli

Carlo Rizzi conducted. He had now more gray hair but as most vigor as before. Last time, and first time I saw this opera was in 2000 (March 4th) also in Zurich and with the same soprano as Luisa Miller. Elena Mosuc was great as Luisa, even better than in 2000, and she was great in 2000 also. Ivan Magri was a just as wonderful as Rodolfo just like Elena Mosuc as Luisa. Such beautiful voices and acting beautifully too. Leo Nucci was a powerful Miller. The most surprisingly beautiful voice was the voice of Vitalij Kowaljow. Conte di Walter was just so pleasing dressed in beautiful white cloths and such a beautiful voice one could almost forget that he is one of the villains. Judith Schmid was Frederica and she was all and more that one could wish for as Frederica. 

The use of revolving stage was overused and the chorus was treated more like props. And then we had Wurm sung beautifully by Wenwei Zhang. Maybe I should call him Wormtongue. A villain is Wurm there is now doubt that it is true. So the director makes him look and act as a villain in all times. There is now need to make him move his neek and head in strange ways just to make him villainous the director should have been much more subtle. Other than the overuse of revolving stage, using chorus as props and setting Wurm up as just villainous it was a wonderful production of Luisa Miller.

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December 27, 2011: Macbeth in Oslo, Norway

2011-12-27 Macbeth (Verdi), Den Norske Opera & Ballet (Oslo)

Macbeth = Claudio Sgura
Lady Macbeth = Itziar Martinez Galdos
Banquo = Magne Fremmerlid
Macduff = Daniel Johansson
Malcolm = Brenden Gunnell
Kammerdame = Christel Elisabeth Smith
Lege = Jens-Erik Aasbø
Macbeths tjener = Natanael Vasile Uifalean
En morder = Østein Skre
Duncan = Roald Nygård
Fleance, Banquos sønn = Sondre Paalgaard

John Helmer Fiore, conductor
Den Norske Opera & Ballet

Director - Stein Winge
Scenography and costumes - Tine Schwab
Lighting design - Frank Evin

The director was Stein Winge with scenography and costumes by Tine Schwab. This production of Macbeth by Verdi was neither a scandal nor a dramatic tragedy. Neither, a sad word. It was good but not great. It was a production that managed the scenes with the witches well but did not manage to make us (or at least me) care about the characters.

The magnificent bass Magne Fremmerlid was Banquo and did a superb job. The young Italian baritone Claudio Sgura was Macbeth. The singing of Sgura was great, his acting too, but he was not given a big palette to draw from. Stein Winge's idea made Macbeth from first note a flawed and weak man, and so he was from beginning to end. Lady Macbeth was sung by Itziar M. Galdos, who started weak but ended with a breathtaking sleepwalking scene. Brava!! But in the first aria of Lady Macbeth Stein Winge made her go from one side of the stage to the other aimlessly, so against the music and the words, not wonder Itziar M. Galdos even sounded unfocused. Luckily from the first aria she was simply better and better. The whole house should have stood up and cheered after the sleep walking scene but then Claudio Sgura was onstage and it was in so many ways Claudio's show. Daniel Johansson was Macduff and his rendition of Macduff's aria was one the best I have ever heard.

What is the problem with Macbeth, the opera of Verdi? Usually one talks of the supernational elements, the witches, and that Verdi was not his best in this elements. But in this production those scenes worked well. Some critics disliked the fact that it was just women in anoraks, but I disliked the laughter of the witches. The main thing was that it worked. The way Stein Winge incorporated the witches and some symbolic in the rest of the opera was exciting. He made us think that some of the women (all) of the royal court was also witches.

The King Duncan is no virtuos man if one is going by the way he imposes himself on the Lady Macbeth and jovially "Macbetto!!"  to Macbeth and gives Macbeth a medaille. As all goes to the party, Macbeth remains alone. Why? Because in this production Macbeth is essentially a loner? Or just because the opera has to go on. Macbeth has many of these loner moments, or just laying down passively, or fainting. Who can care for this man? Does the Lady? Is she really the strong one of the two? Who is Lady Macbeth and what is her motivation? The portraits of Macbeth and his Lady are just skin deep, so the opera is boring but the music is glorious. The scene from Macduff comes to wake up the King, the murder and procession of the dead body of Duncan is just glorious. A highlight.

It is sad to see so many opera dirctor is doing the same thing, in Macbeth a refugee choir with their photos of loved ones. I started to think about copyright, whose photos and was permission given to use these photos in this way. Frankly I found it disrespectful. And was there even a need to use photos, no, I think we would have understood the plight of refugees without it.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

December 19, 2010: Tosca in Oslo

2010-12-19 Tosca (G. Puccini), Den Norske Opera & Ballett

Floria Tosca = Maria Guleghina
Mario Cavaradossi = Miroslav Dvorsky
Scarpia = Greer Grimsley
Sakristanen = Ketil Hugaas
Angelotti = Yngve André Søberg
Sciarrone = Andreas Franzén
Spoletta = David Fielder
Fangevokter = Øystein Skre
Gjetergutt = Henrik Enger Holm
Dommer = Steinar Zahl
Roberti = Øivind Solberg

John Helmer Fiore, conductor

Regie - Paul Curran
Scenography / costumes - Kevin Knight
Light design - David Jacques
Cooperation with Canadian Opera Company

Music Giacomo Puccini
Libretto: Giuseppe Giacosa og Luici Illica

Cooperation with Canadian Opera Company.

This production premiered by Canadian Opera Company 26. January 2008, Norwegian National Opera 26. August 2010.

On December 19th, 2010 it was matinee at 1500. It was Maria Guleghina first time as Tosca at Norwegian National Opera, Oslo. It was the fourth time for me since I have earlier seen her as Tosca at Vienna State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Opernhaus Zurich.

I loved the production by regisseur Paul Curran. It was as historical as an opera can be. I sat on right so I could not seen the whole stage but that did not prevent me from enjoying this Tosca. Paul Curran used minor characters and statists to liven up things but never at the expense of the opera.

Maria Guleghina was the perfect Tosca even though she sometimes sang too quietly but I always felt she did it to be true to the person she acted. Miroslav Dvorsky sang and acted a fine Cavaradossi. It was sad that the conductor only stopped the music for applause for the aria in the first act and not for the 3rd act bacause his E lucevan le stelle was really great where Recondita armornia he was more like he was still warming up a bit. The audience really yearned to applaud so it applauded Maria Guleghina and Miroslav Dvorsky in the middle of their 3rd act duet.

The applause for Recondita armonia seemed to be an automatic response to the conductor pausing the orchestra. The act 1 duet applause came more from the heart of the audience. But the applause after Vissi d'arte had the feeling of the audience going wild for Maria Guleghina, and the applause after the opera was "endless".

Greer Grimsley was Baron Scarpia. Just perfect. Maybe too perfect. Or maybe I have seen too many Tosca performance. The chorus, orchestra, statists and the other singers were also wonderful. Paul Curran must be so proud. Maria Guleghina clearly loved the production and Paul Curran.

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December 19, 2006: Agnes Baltsa in Vienna

2006-12-19 Opera Concert, Konzerthaus Wien

Agnes Baltsa, mezzo
Münchner Symphoniker
Nikos Athinäos, conductor

Agnes Baltsa Gala-Konzert
Dienstag, 19. Dezember 2006, 19:30 Uhr Großer Saal

Agnes Baltsa, Mezzosopran
Dirigent: Nikos Athinäos
Münchner Symphoniker

Stimmen der Welt Konzerte GmbH.

Verdi: Ouvertüre, „La forza del destino“

Verdi: La canzone del velo, „Don Carlo“

Massenet: Prelude1. Akt, „Werther“
Massenet: Va! Laisse couler mes larmes, „Werther“

Bizet: Entr'acte Akt 4, „Carmen“
Bizet: Carreau, pique... la mort!, „Carmen“

Berlioz: Ouvertüre, „Les Troyens“
Berlioz: Ah! Ah! Je vais mourir, „Les Troyens“

Rossini: Ouvertüre, „Italiana in Algieri“
Rossini: Cruda sorte, „Italiana in Algieri“

Saint-Säens: Bacchanale, „Samson et Dalila“
Saint-Säens: Amour, vienne, „Samson et Dalila“

Mascagni: Intermezzo, „Cavalleria rusticana“
Mascagni: Voi lo sapete, o mamma, „Cavalleria rusticana“

Puccini: O mio babbino caro, "Gianni Schicchi"
Bizet: Habanera & Seguidilla, „Carmen“

Agnes Baltsa in her blue dress, famous from many great concerts.

Exactly the same concert as in Munich. But of course, no concert is really like, not completely. Another audience, both enthusiastic, but in Munich there were more "come more often to us". Vienna is simply a Baltsa city where she visit often. As Carmen, Herodiade, Küsterin, Isabella.

Baltsa seemed fresher in Munich, took more often applause. The Orchestra played better in Vienna, giving the music full opera treatment. A bit tired maybe or with a hint of cold, her Eboli aria (La canzone del velo) was a joy, even better than in Munich. Her Charlotte aria (Vas, laisse couler mes larmes) was also a earth-chattering experience. Always the great Carmen (Carreau, pique) was are there enough words to find the right praise. And Didon (Je vais mourir), even if I would have loved more happy tunes with Baltsa, I would not think about Baltsa and death in the same sentence, but the Berlioz aria was so heavenly beautiful.

Second part gave us Isabella (Cruda sorte), Dalila (Samson, recherchant ma présence - Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse!) and the Santuzza aria. And as she is the perfect Isabella, Dalila and Santuzza it was just simply the best arias. And this time she sang Dalila's aria so well that even Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix was not so missed.

And the extra number, long time since they were any surprise was a wonderful O mio babbino caro and Habanera and Seguedilla.

Conclusion: I would so like to see Baltsa onstage as Eboli in Don Carlo or Didon as Les Troyens, and as Charlotte in Werther or Dalila in Samson et Dalila. And Isabella in Italiana or Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. Do I need to see Agnes Baltsa as Carmen for the 10th time, I believe that I do need that too, but Eboli and Dalila would mean more to me.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

December 18, 2006: Don Carlo in Vienna

2006-12-18 Don Carlo (Giuseppe Verdi), Wiener Staatsoper

Philipp II. = Matti Salminen
Don Carlo = José Cura
Rodrigo = Simon Keenlyside
Elisabeth von Valois = Olga Guryakova
Prinzessin Eboli = Luciana D´Intino
Großinquisitor = Kurt Rydl
Mönch = Goran Simic
Tebaldo = Laura Tatulescu
Lerma = Vladimir Moroz
Herold = Vladimir Moroz
Stimme vom Himmel = Ileana Tonca

Marco Armiliato, conductor

Don Carlo (it.)

Dirigent Marco Armiliato

Deputierte aus Flandern:
Hannes Lichtenberger
Karl Nebenführ
Friedrich Springer
Hacik Bayvertian
Gerhard Panzenböck
Josef Stangl
Mario Steller
Hermann Thyringer

I liked this traditional production very well. And they are all singing and acting very well. That Jose Cura was booed on the first night (December 8th) was strange to hear. He certainly sang very well tonight. The trio was also wonderful. Cura does not always have the beautiful sound that Jose Carreras used in the Salzburg production (DVD), but he was still a very good Don Carlo in Vienna. Luciana d'Intino was herself as Eboli, wonderful, but no Baltsa. Olga Guryakova had a wonderful voice and was a good actress. Simon Keenlyside was a really good Posa, I just wish he could have his hands still for longer periods, they were really distracting. Matti Salminen was even better as Filip this time compared to Zurich 25.11.06.

But then there was a conductor, Marco Armiliato, who was slowing the tempi at the most curious times. But Olga Guryakova was such a strong singer she could sing this SLOW "non pianger, mia compagna", many sopranos would been out of breath for this one. Wonderful orchestra, of course, and really great those time the conductor was not slowing the tempi.

Great opera but Jose Cura was not at the stage door, he had just slipped away... But I still got; Luciana, Olga, Simon and Matti.

Marco Armiliato (Dirigent),
José Cura (Don Carlo),
Simon Keenlyside (Marquis von Posa),
Olga Guryakova (Elisabeth),
Luciana D´Intino (Eboli)
in Don Carlo
am 8. Dezember 2006

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

December 17, 2011: Pagliacci in Copenhagen

2011-12-17 Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), The Royal Danish Theatre (Copenhagen)

Canio = José Cura
Nedda = Sine Bundgaard
Tonio = Fredrik Zetterström
Beppe = Michael Kristensen
Silvio = Palle Knudsen

Stefano Ranzani, Conductor
Director - Paul Curran
Set design - Mia Stensgaard
Costume design - Anja Vang Kragh
Light design - Bruno Poet

I also enjoyed Pagliacci. Yes. José Cura was Canio in this production by director Paul Curran with set designs by Mia Stensgaard and costumes by Anja Vang Kragh. There was so much to enjoy in this production but then there was the bafflements. The Church and the church step with the Virgen Mary statue from Cavalleria Rusticana was now bombed and American flags was everywhere. A depressed Italy? after a the war with nurses, wounded soldats (American?) is present but what are they doing to this Pagliacci production? It is just a blackdrop and it is not utilized in any way that I could see. The cast was wonderful with José Cura being the best Canio ever, Sine Bundgaard was a magnificent Nedda, and Michael Kristensen as Beppe and Palle Knudsen as Silvio was two additional beautiful voices. The prologue with Tonio, Fredrik Zetterström was met with a thunderous applause. The poor guy was so close to losing his voice several times during the prologue, but he was so good an actor one could forget almost everything.

When the prologue started we are looking at a stage curtain of the church and churh steps with the Maria statue and Silvio is painting on it. Then they come on the stage, Beppe, Tonio, Canio and Nedda. They are carrying their stuff. Here we see what a life Nedda is suffering. Always asked to carry more than the rest of the guys. Not respected by Canio or really anyone. She is on the bottom in this troupe.  It is not Tonio who is last and least important, but Nedda. (But without her who would come to see them.) For the first time I could really feel for Nedda and the duet between her and Silvio made even more on Nedda's side. And then there is her voice.... magic. A great Vesti la giubba by Cura, his whole performance was simply gold. In the end Canio kills Nedda by slicing her throat or something, but it is opera so she could still say SILVIO. Then Silvio is killed by the same method. In the end LA COMMEDIA E FINITA, and Canio kills himself too. 3 deaths, and almost an Otello ending.

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December 17, 2011: Cavalleria Rusticana in Copenhagen

2011-12-17 Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni), The Royal Danish Theatre (Copenhagen)

Santuzza = Irene Theorin
Turiddu = José Cura
Alfio = Fredrik Zetterström
Mamma Lucia = Randi Stene
Lola = Hanne Fischer

Stefano Ranzani, Conductor
Director - Kasper Holten
Set design - Mia Stensgaard
Costume design - Anja Vang Kragh
Light design - Bruno Poet

I enjoyed Cavalleria Rusticana. I actually did enjoy it. Irene Theorin was Santuzza in this production by director Kasper Holten with set designs by Mia Stensgaard and costumes by Anja Vang Kragh. She was on the stage during the whole opera with just a few seconds off. The director was really good in how the actions of Turriddu, Santuzza, Lola, Mamma Lucia and Alfio really reflected the persons' reality. The chorus did not get the individuel treatment. Here the chorus are mostly just a crowd, a menacing group, that acts with cruelty almost all the time. The director is really using the chorus to hammer us with the cruelty of the situation of Santuzza. This is the modern way of opera production: nothing is allowed to be nuanced, not if one can just hammer it down. Still. I enjoyed it. The music was beautifully played. Irene Theorin was close to an ideal Santuzza, even if one could still notice a wide vibrato. José Cura sang one of his best Turriddus. Hanne Fischer was a joy as Lola, what a voice, lush, beautiful, and full. One could actually believe Turriddu to fall for her, and to be so blind to Lola just being so totally self-sentered. Randi Stene was wonderful as Mamma Lucia. The role doesn't give her much to work on, sadly this production makes her even more invisible. Mamma Lucia is here reduced to a woman who almosts begs the people to buy her wine. Fredrik Zetterström was Alfio. Either he had a cold and could not sing out, or the role was simply beyond his vocal means, but as an actor he owned the role.

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December 17, 2009: Jose Cura in Oslo

2009-12-17 Recital - José Cura & Giulio Laguzzi, Den Norske Opera, Oslo

José Cura, tenor
Giulio Laguzzi, piano

Magic and reality hand in hand.

The Lights were Out. Then:

The recital started with a Norwegian actor reading one of Pablo Neruda's poem in Norwegian.

It was still dark when Jose Cura came out singing Hilda Herrera's Desde el fondo de ti.

And still in the dark when Giulio Laguzzi sat down to play the piano and Cura found his seat to sing Maria Elena Walsh' Postal de guerra. Then Jose Cura true to his personality asked for light to see the people. It was not the first time he has done that. Not new, but still endearing is his total willingness to show his gratitude to the multitude of people making this recital possible. So applause to the actor that we heard, the people behind the curtain. Naturally the pianist and later the the note-reader too. Cura was singing quietly, passionately and in full voice whatever the songs needed. He talked in the between quietly. In the second half he said in full voice he was sorry that some of the people had not been able to hear but still be was reserving his voice for singing.

I was most eager to hear him singing his self-composed sonetas by Pablo Neruda. For this part he wanted us to sit in the dark with lights on him and the pianist and the note-reader. I loved it.

Hilda Herrera:
Desde el fondo de ti
Maria Elena Walsh:
Postal de guerra
Serenata para la tierra de uno
Alberto Ginastera:
Canción del árbol del olvido
Pablo Neruda / José Cura:

Carlos Lopez Buchardo:
Canción del carretero
Carlos Guastavino:
La rosa y el sauce
Se equivocó la paloma
El único camino
Elegía para un gorrión
Soneto IV
Héctor Panizza:
Canción a la bandera

The extras was 3 Children's songs from Argentina, and Stille Nacht in French, English, German, Spanish and Norwegian. Jose Cura sang Stille Nacht (in the languages) with the audience, the Norwegian version (Glade jul, hellige jul) was sung by the Norwegian Audience without Cura. I think it the audience did a good job. Last extra: ANHELO. He explained the lyric to a light in day when nobody sees and it the night where it is seen by those in need. A beautiful sentiment that we should all follow...

And so did Jose Cura say Merry Christmas to us in the New Opera House of Oslo, Norway. Magic!! and MERRY CHRISTMAS, God jul!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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December 17, 1993: Josep Carreras in Oslo

1993-12-17 Christmas Opera Galla, Oslo Spektrum

Josep Carreras, tenor
Karita Mattila, soprano
Norwegian Radio Orchestra
Enrique Ricci, conductor

Jose Carreras
in concert
with Norwegian Radio Orchestra
Conductor: Enrique Ricci
Karita Mattila
Friday 17 December 1993
Oslo Spektrum
Dato: 1993-12-17 Utgave: Aften
"Kong Carreras' ariekarriére"

Dato: 1993-12-19 Utgave: Morgen
"Intim sangkunst i et stort rom"

Dato: 1993-12-18 Utgave: Morgen
"Supertenor på podiet"

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

December 16, 2006: Werther in Munich

2006-12-16 Werther (Massenet), Bayerische Staatsoper, Munich

Werther = Marcelo Alvarez
Albert = Christopher Maltman
Le Bailli = Christoph Stephinger
Schmidt = Kevin Conners
Johann = Franz-Josef Kapellmann
Brühlmann = Marc Pujol
Charlotte = Sophie Koch
Sophie = Adriana Kucerova
Käthchen = Anaik Morel

Daniel Oren, conductor

Jules Massenet
Edouard Blau, Paul Milliet,
Georges Hartmann after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Conductor Daniel Oren
Production, Set, Lighting Concept
and Costumes Jürgen Rose
Production Staff Franziska Severin
Lighting Michael Bauer
Children Chorus Stellario Fagone
Dramaturgy Ingrid Zellner

Werther Marcelo Alvarez

The Bavarian State Orchestra

And then in the evening another Premiere with Marcelo Alvarez, in 2004 I was in Bayerische Staatsoper for the premiere of Romeo et Juliette... What can I say? Sophie Koch has a beautiful mezzo soprano voice and was wonderful as Charlotte. Marcelo Alvarez was a passionate Werther. The production that I had heard was wonderful, I did not like it. Luckily act 3 and 4 was great enough. Not that the production was bad, it was just not good enough, it made me yearn for the Vienna production which had better ideas. Sophie was in this production just a silly girl, I though we had evolved from that. Sophie is much better, more relevant if she is near Charlotte in age (almost said height) and light-hearted but not silly... The scenography, why update Werther, silly...

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Friday, December 15, 2017

December 15, 2012: Carmen in Berlin

2012-12-15 Carmen (G. Bizet), 

Carmen = Anita Rachvelishvili
Don José José Cura
Escamillo = Bastiaan Everink
Micaëla = Martina Welschenbach
Zuniga = Seth Carico
Moralès = Zheng Zhong Zhou
Dancairo = Jörg Schörner
Remendado = Matthew Pena
Frasquita = Hulkar Sabirova
Mercédès = Rachel Hauge

Jacques Lacombe, conductor

Regie (Søren Schuhmacher)
nach der Inszenierung von Peter Beauvais
Bühne, Kostüme - Pier Luigi Samaritani
Überarbeitung der Ausstattung - Norbert Bellen
Chöre - William Spaulding
Kinderchor - Dagmar Fiebach

I just saw my 19th Carmen in theatre. I loved it. And I just realized that this was my first and only Cura performance this year. That was unsuspected. But it was also my 99th to see José Cura. It was the 4th time I saw José Cura as Don José. First time at all with Anita Rachvelishvili. This CARMEN was special mostly because of her. Cura sang well, too. And I liked the old production.

12 years ago, or closer to 13 years ago I saw this production with Agnes Baltsa, Alberto Cupido, Michaela Kaune and Ludovic Tezier. It was a better production then without the new addiction.

The children is fighting as they singing in their angelic voices the soldiers coming and going. Now that is stupid and completely against the words they are singing. The children steals the hat from Don Jose and he has to play and plead to get it back. Now what are that about? And in the 4th act Carmen is now dress like a female matador and Frasquita and Mercedes has black dresses with wings. Black wings like death or something.  The stets for Act 3 was from another Carmen production but that was unnoticeable.

Other than that it was great. It was a lot more dialogue than usual and in what I believe to be superb French.

I saw Carmen in Berlin in 2004 too, with Agnes Baltsa, Julian Gavin, Michaela Kaune and Laurent Naouri.

Anita Rachvellishvili was the perfect Carmen. Huge voice, great personality and great actress. José Cura did his best Don José ever. Then it was the question of Escamillo (Bastiaan Everink) and Micaëla (Martina Welschenbach). Bastiaan Everink looked the part but his singing was stiff. Martina Welschenbach looked very young, very thin, the first Micaela that looks 17. Great voice but I wanted more, not sure what.


December 15, 2006: Agnes Baltsa in Munich

2006-12-15 Opera Concert, Munich Herkulessaal der Residenz

Agnes Baltsa, mezzo
Münchner Symphoniker
Nikos Athinäos, conductor

Verdi: Ouvertüre zu „La forza del destino“
The concert started in a grand way with the ouverture from the opera La Forza del Destino by Giuseppe Verdi. Wonderfully played by the orchestra.

Verdi: La canzone del velo aus „Don Carlo“
Agnes Baltsa had the most thunderous applause from the audience even before a single note was sung. To start with the Veil Song from Don Carlo was a bold decision. What a coloratura!! Unfortunately the part of the aria that Eboli sings with Tebaldo was not so glorious sung but that is what sometime happen when an opera aria becomes a concert piece. If Baltsa had sung Tebaldos line it would
have sounded better, I think. Major applause for Agnes Baltsa. BRAVA!!!

Massenet: Vorspiel zum 1. Akt aus „Werther“
Massenet: Va! Laisse couler mes larmes aus „Werther“
The orchestra plays the Prelude very well. And when Baltsa sings Charlotte's aria, we just love it, it is Agnes Baltsa at her best. But we want more of Charlotte, The music stops too sudden, "Sudden death". It just takes us with total surprise. Please do a better work when opera arias are to be changed to concert pieces. BRAVA, Agnes!!!!

Bizet: Zwischenspiel zum letzten Akt aus „Carmen“
Bizet: Carreau, pique... la mort! aus „Carmen“
Too much "sudden death", Entr'acte to 4th act of Bizet's Carmen, would have loved to hear a bit A dos cuartos, too.
Agnes Baltsa sang a wonderful Carreau, pique! but it ends too abruptly why not a bit of the ending with Mercedes and Frasquita in the orchestra. BRAVA, Baltsa!!

Berlioz: Ouvertüre zu „Die Trojaner“
Berlioz: Ah! Ah! Je vais mourir aus „Die Trojaner“
For the first I hear the ouverture to Berlioz Les Troyens and quite frankly that made me want to hear the whole opera (on CD first, naturally). And finally a piece that stands on it own. Makes it the perfect ending for the first part of this concert. Again Agnes Baltsa is absolutely wonderful, again totally in role and of course the audience just can't have enough of her. BRAVA!!!!

Rossini: Ouvertüre zu „Italiana in Algieri“
Rossini: Cruda sorte aus „Italiana in Algieri“
Another very well known ouverture as opening, this time it is L'Italiana in Algeri by Gioacchino Rossini. The orchestra is very good but it sound better in an opera house with an orchestra who really get into the part that this is a comic opera. As a concert piece they played it well. I wished I were at an opera house... Agnes Baltsa on the other hand was totally Isabella. There are other arias I would also have liked her to sing, but the singing was too glorious to have any complains like that. BRAVA, Bravissima!!

Saint-Säens: Bacchanale aus „Samson und Dalida“
Saint-Säens: Amour, vienne aus „Samson und Dalida“
Wonderful played and sung. A very good bacchanale from Samson et Dalila. Agnes Baltsa is super as Dalila but I don't think anyone will think badly of me for wishing she sang Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix. That said, she sang it with all her heart and passion. And we just loved her. BRAVA!!

Mascagni: Intermezzo aus „Cavalleria rusticana“
Mascagni: Voi lo sapete, o mamma aus „Cavalleria rusticana“
The Intermezzo was wonderful. And it was really one of the best Voi lo sapete, o mamma I had ever heard. Stupendous! Baltsa is the best Santuzza ever!!!

Puccini: O mio babbino caro aus "Gianni Schicchi"
Bizet: Habanera & Seguidilla aus „Carmen“
No shock this time that Die Baltsa would choose O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi. I am not even surprised that she sings it better than most if not all sopranos. And as "always" Habanera and Sequidilla from Carmen as encores. And this time I really got it, why Agnes Baltsa would sing the Seguidilla as last encore. She just absolutely adores to sing it. Agnes Baltsa's happiness was just echoed in the house. How we applauded, wanting even more!! Myself was really wishing for O don fatale from Don Carlo... But even if that never happened it was just a remarkable opera evening with Agnes Baltsa!!!!!
BRAVA! Bravissima!!! more more more.

Münchner Symphoniker
Nikos Athinäos LEITUNG
Freitag, 15. Dezember 2006
20 Uhr, Herkulessaal Abo

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December 15, 2002: Samson et Dalila in London

2002-12-15 Samson et Dalila (C. Saint-Saëns), Barbican (London)

Samson = José Cura
Dalila = Marina Domashenko
Grand Pretre de Dagon = Juha Uusitalo
Abimelech = John Relyea
Un Vielliard Hebreu = Robert Lloyd
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

Saint-Saëns Samson and Delilah

This was just the concert version of the opera. And the Barbican Hall is air-conditioned, something that I think contributed to the drier sound of the singers than on the dress-rehearsal Dec13th.

This time the hall was full and the chorus was onstage also on the second act, even though they had nothing to sing, but they probably just wanted to see José Cura, Marina Domashenko and Juha Uusitalo sing the wonderful act 2 of Samson et Dalila.

The soloists was all dressed in black except Marina Domashenko who was in a shimmering grey dress. Even more acting in this premiere-night than on the dress-rehearsal, especially as it concerns José Cura and Marina Domashenko. Both have sung their roles in opera houses, so they knew exactly what was happening.

It was a wonderful opera-night, even if only a concert. Unfortunately I got real sick when I came back to my hotel, I was nearly not well enough to get to Heathrow and to take my plane back to Norway. Then in Norway I found out that I naturally had gotten a cold, presumably in London.

So a wonderful concert turns into a blues, but not because of the soloists, the chorus, the orchestra and the conductor.


SAMSON = Jose Cura, tenor
DALILA = Marina Domashenko, mezzo-soprano
(replaces Carolyn Sebron, mezzo-soprano)
(replaces Olga Borodina)
The High Priest of Dagon = Juha Uusitalo, baritone
Abimelech = John Relyea, bass
And Old Hebrew = Robert Lloyd, bass
London Symphony Chorus

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

December 14, 2009: La Fanciulla del West in Oslo

2009-12-14 La Fanciulla del West (Puccini), Den Norske Opera, Oslo

Minnie = Paoletta Marrocu
Dick Johnson (Ramirez) = José Cura
Jack Rance = Jason Stearns
Nick = Svein Erik Sagbråten
Ashby = Magne Fremmerlid
Jake Wallace = Njål Sparbo
Sonora = Ole Jørgen Kristiansen
Bello = Mads Wighus
Happy = Eirik Roland Egeberg-Jensen
Joe = David Fielder
Jim Larkens = Ketil Hugaas
Trin = Kjell Magnus Sandve
Harry = Henrik Engelsviken
Sid = Espen Langvik
José Castro = Carsten Stabell
Wowkle = Sigrid Ohlsson
Billy Jackrabbit = Bo Elley
Postiglione = Paul Kirkby

Joseph Colaneri, conductor

Monday I had a scare. I heard a woman exclaim "You will love it, I assure you, the Brazilian Helden-Tenor is singing. He is great!!!" Oh, no, I thought, it is not Cura who will sing. But it was the Argentine Tenor who sang.

He was great, Paoletta Marrocu was great. They were all great. I just had a tall man seating in front of me so my seat and view was not too great. But I enjoyed it. People was saying he was even better on Monday 14th than on Saturday 12th. But I had the wrong seat. Viva Argentina!!!!!!!!!!!!

Don't cry for me Argentina! for I will go to Oslo to be there when JC sings his Agentine songs. I am really looking forward to listen to his own songs. Pablo Neruda poems composed by Jose Cura, sung by the composer. And the other songs. Will it be extra songs. I hope for a full house for the Argentine songs with Jose Cura.

Magic will happen again on December 17th. Tomorrow!!!

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December 14, 2002: La Traviata in London

2002-12-14 La Traviata (G. Verdi), Royal Opera House (London)

Violetta Valéry = Inva Mula
Flora Bervoix = Ekaterina Gubanova
Marquis d'Obigny = Graeme Danby
Baron Douphol = Darren Jeffery
Doctor Grenvil = Graeme Broadbent
Gastone de Letorières = Elliot Goldie
Alfredo Germont = Edgaras Montvidas
Annina = Gillian Knight
Giuseppe = Neil Gillespie
Giorgio Germont = Paolo Gavanelli
Messenger = Thomas Barnard
Servant = Jonathan Coad

Paolo Carignani, conductor

Worth hearing for Gavanelli, Carignani and Montvidas
17 Dec 2002 Guardian Unlimited
Youth is wasted on the old
16 Dec 2002 The Times

The Times critized the production, which I truly liked.
Edgaras Montevidas was cited as "one of the best things about the evening" I also found him good, maybe even better in the role than The Times Reviewer Robert Thicknesse, but the criticism on Inva Mula, the Violetta of the evening, who I found nothing less than perfect as singer and actress. He also say that the chorus did not follow the beat of the conductor, I did not hear that, nor that the chorus turned "the two parties into funerals". Truly the parties was like parties, high spirit. (The Times gave 3 stars out of 5)

The Guardian and I agreed on the tenor Edgaras Montvidas:
"His voice, reedy and elegant, is on the small side, though he sings with an instinctive feel for the inner pulse of Verdi's music. He is a convincing actor, too, first approaching Violetta with a combination of gauche desire and the stiff-backed wariness of someone tentatively breaking away from the legacy of a morally rigid upbringing. When he publicly denounces her, he is ambivalent and wretched rather than blind with rage. "
But on Inva Mula, the Albanian soprano I disagree.
"In fact, he is better than Violetta, the Albanian soprano Inva Mula. She can sing and act, though not always at the same time: she delivers the bulk of her vocal utterances straight to the audience, then follows them up with the requisite dramatic gesture aimed at whichever character she is with on stage. She abandons this habit when she gets to the final scenes, by which time one's sympathy is wearing thin. Her voice has a dramatic tang, though she is over-fond of hanging on to high notes, slowing the score whenever she does so. "

About Paolo Gavanelli as Giorgio Germont, I will just say that he is more mellow in tone than Renato Bruson, but this Germont père was not symphatic enough, not even in the last act. His remorse seemed superficial.

BRAVA, Inva Mula!!!

(would have been an absolutely perfect evening, if the people had not coughed so much, I think it must have been 10 or 12 people coughing) Violetta almost didn't have a change against that.

Music Director Antonio Pappano
Director of Opera Elaine Padmore
Opera in three acts
Music Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto Francesco Maria Piave
after Alexandre Dumas fils's play La Dame aux camélias
Conductor Paolo Carignani
Original Production Richard Eyre Directed by Daniel Dooner Designs Bob Crowley Director 0f Movement J ane Gibson Lighting Jean KaIman
The Royal Opera Chorus Chorus Director Terry Edwards
The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Concert Master Peter Manning
Saturday 14 December 2002 The 384th performance at the Royal Opera Hause
Sponsored (1994) by The Jean Sainsbury Royal Opera House Fund
Ladies and gentlemen, friends 0/ Violetta and Flora,
guests, servants

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

December 13, 2014: Los Diamantes de la Corona in Madrid

2014-12-13 Los diamantes de la corona (Francisco Asenjo Barbieri), Teatro de la Zarzuela (Madrid)

CATALINA - María José Moreno
DIANA - Marina Pardo
REBOLLEDO - Fernando Latorre
DON SEBASTIÁN - Gerardo Bullón
ANTONIO - Joseba Pinela
CRIADO - Antonio Gómiz
UJIER - Xavi Montesinos

Oliver Díaz, conductor
Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid
Coro del Teatro de La Zarzuela
Antonio Fauró

Music director - Oliver Díaz
Stage director - José Carlos Plaza
Sets and lights - Francisco Leal
Costumes - Pedro Moreno
Stage assistant - Jorge Torres
Costumes assistant - Carmen Mancebo
Lights assistant - Pedro Yagüe

Beautiful singing and lovely production. Great fun and surtitling in Spanish and English. A full theatre. Lots of Bravos. A lovely theater night but not something I needed to go to see more times not like La Chulapona by Moreno Torroba.

Queen Maria of Portugal (Catalina) is about to come of age; in the meanwhile, the Conde de Campomayor acts as the regent. Aware of the poverty of her people, and that there are many jewels in the royal jewelry box, the queen decides to convert them into money, replacing the real jewels with false ones without anyone knowing.

The Crown Diamonds
Approximate duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Zarzuela in three acts by Francisco Camprodón
Worldpremiered at Teatro del Circo in Madrid, September 15, 1854
Production of the Teatro de la Zarzuela (2010)

December 13, 2002: Samson et Dalila in London

2002-12-13 Samson et Dalila (C. Saint-Saëns), Barbican London

Samson = José Cura
Dalila = Marina Domashenko
Grand Pretre de Dagon = Juha Uusitalo
Abimelech = John Relyea
Un Vielliard Hebreu = Robert Lloyd
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis, conductor

Samson = Jose Cura, tenor
Dalila = Marina Domashenko, mezzo-soprano
Grand Pretre de Dagon = Juha Uusitalo, baritone
Abimelech = John Relyea, bass
Un Vielliard Hebreu = Robert Lloyd, bass
Mark Stone, baritone
London Symphony Chorus

Saint-Saens Samson and Delilah

Dress Rehearsal, Barbican Hall in the Barbican Centre

It started at 1900 (London Time), I was on Norwegian Time 2000.
Concert version of the opera. They were all in casual wear, nobody more so than José Cura. It was an orchestra and chorus in great form, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, who also conducted Cura's recording of Samson et Dalila on Erato. Marina Domashenko replaced Olga Borodina, who had partnered Cura on the CD. Her voice was rich and she was in role all the time. José Cura sang Samson in a way that showed that this role was also his onstage in an opera house. Of the deep voices Robert Lloyd, the old Hebrew was the most impressive on, but the Great Priest (Juha Uusitalo) and Abimelech was also very good. The sound of the chorus was crystal-clear. On only really missed the stage when the Danse of the Priestesses, or the Bacchanal was played. Or, should I say, that was the time on REALLY missed it.

The "staging" of the concert. Chorus and orchestra all dressed formally in black. The chorus was behind the orchestra, soloists was standing next to the conductor, but closer to the audience than the conductor. In the beginning of "Dieu d'Israel", the chorus is sitting (since this opera starts with almost a whisper), and then they stand of (all at the same time) when the music reaches a higher level of anger/despair. Cura walks casually in, and starts singing "Arretez, o mes freres" while walking and not looking at his score. Then he turns towards the chorus and quietly put his glasses on. They are very discreet , but one can see the reflection from them. Then Abimelech comes in, put his score on the stand and sings, and go out after singing his part (as a dead man, since Samson has just killed him). One needs one's phantasy when the opera is a concert..

Then The Great Priest of Dagon arrived with the 1 Philistine (Alasdair Elliot, tenor) and the 2. Philistine (Mark Stone, baritone) and the Messager (Peter Auty, tenor). Great singing. In the "Hymne de joie", the lower male voices of the chorus stood up, with Robert Lloyd as the old Hebrew. Wow, can that man sing!!! Then it was the female singers turn for "Voici le printemps", marvelously sung. And then Dalila came, at last, Marina Domashenko, "Je viens celebrer la victoire". Dalila came from the left door, Cura & Lloyd from the right. Wonderfully sung, all. Cura & Lloyd left for the Danse of the priestesses, Samson seemed to want to stay on. Dalila, Marina Domashenko, stood there, in role, seeming to almost wanting to danse with all her allure on. Then Dalila sang "Printemps qui commence" and the Old Hebrew tried to dissuade Samson from listening, since it was a concert Cura was not there.
2nd act, my favorite.
The Chorus does not sing in act 2, so they were not there. But Dalila and Great Priest and then José Cura, Samson they all sung and conquered us. Not only singing, but they also acting their part as far as it was possible in a concert, and the limited space. When Dalila exclaims "I hate you", she walks off, Samson is distraught, but the he is off. The orchestra is in fervor. Marina Domashenko walking out the door " A moi, philistines!!", José Cura: "TRAHISON!"
3rd act.
José Cura and the chorus in emotional "Vois ma misere, helas!" Both orchestra and chorus did well in all their parts, and I must say that this chorus really sang so that one heard the words. Great Priest of Dagon and Dalila came onto stage, it was really touching what Cura did with his tormented Samson, soft-voiced in his reproaches to himself, passionate in his defense for God.


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