E-mails from one of the local opera companies pointed me to Everyday Opera. It's on another networking site called Ning and appears to be a lot like Facebook. I don't want to be spread out across different networking sites, but Everyday might be another avenue for companies and fans to get the word out. An initial comparison: My Facebook networking emphasizes the local scene in the performing arts and connects to a myriad of other interests. When I log onto Everyday Opera, I'm on something that sticks more or less to opera and seems to show me what regional companies are doing in other locations without me making an effort to navigate and explore.
Last June, I posted on the occasion of tenor Hugues Cuenod's 107th birthday and remarked on a review of his fabled protrayal of the nymph Linfea in recording. A reader recently posted a comment there with recollection of experiencing Cuenod as Linfea at Wolf Trap 30 years ago. (And thanks for the comment!)
After making a cute operatically inclined joke about my condominium's board meeting in a recent post, I now feel obligated to report about what a productive meeting it turned out to be. We invited attorney Craig Zaller of Nagle & Zaller to come over and talk to us about updating by-laws and other community issues. Zaller's specialty is community association law, and he himself was born and raised in Columbia. I will avoid details, but we had our eyes opened about how some long-standing issues should be handled if we want resolution.
I was all keen on going to a certain concert in Baltimore last night. I even made it to the location (one of my favorite places) after a marvelous dinner at City Cafe. But something happened -- I was just too tired after the rush hour drive into the city, and I headed for home. I have to come up with a way to enjoy the mid-week concert scene and still be primed for my day job (or enjoy my day job and still be primed for the concert scene), but sometimes I wonder if it's time for me to stick to a weekend agenda for going to performances. Or maybe it was just the timing this time and on another evening I would have been fine and would have stayed for the concert...
Any way, I've been lounging at home in the evenings to surf the CD collection and enjoy George London in American spirituals (supported by German forces on a vintage DG recording)...Boris Christoff in sublime renditions of Tchaikovsky songs...Dmitri Hvorostovsky in one of his first Phillips discs of Russian folk songs...Rita Streich in mostly German folk songs but doing a nice idiomatic turn in the Russian song, "Chubchik" (with some of the same forces that supported George London)...
There are some newly added blogs in my blog roll: Brian Dickie, director of Chicago Opera Theater; Joseph Horowitz's new blog (found courtesy of Alex Ross); and the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Weather blog, which is more interesting than it might seem. And we opera goers need to keep tabs on the weather. I haven't forgotten missing the Mariinsky Opera's "Boris Godunov" at the Kennedy a few years ago. I had ticket in hand, but a heavy snowfall prevented me from going. The show still went on, because snow won't stop a Russian opera company.
a twist on "Carmen" ~~ Opera Vivente Academy ~~ accompanist's masterclass ~~ Club OV's Valentine cabaret ~~ American opera at Peabody
Look here for more details, events and links to the companies concerned, but I'm posting some additional information or things that might get missed:
~~ American Opera Theater's "Le Tragedie de Carmen" opens tonight at the Baltimore Theatre Project. Word has been circulated that if you're on BaltimoreOpera.com's e-mail list, you can contact AOT's director for a heavy discount on tickets.
~~ Opera Vivente has extended the application deadline for the new Opera Vivente Academy. OV also just announced through Facebook channels that the company will host a MASTER CLASS BY MARK MARKHAM, "Jessye Norman's pianist of choice", on the afternoon of February 27. Apparently this is open to anyone interested but will be of special interest to singers and accompanists alike.
~~ I bought my tickets for Opera Vivente's Valentine cabaret on February 12 and OV's next stage production, "Impressions of Pelleas", based on Debussy's opera. The cabaret is actually an event organized under Opera Vivente's avatar, Club OV.
~~ While I've been harping about performing American or English-language opera, I forgot that PEABODY CHAMBER OPERA of the Peabody Conservatory often goes this route in an annual production at the Baltimore Theatre Project. This year's work is "Transformations" by Conrad Susa. To say that it's based on the Brothers Grimm would be oversimplifying, but I'm making an initial note here and marking the dates of February 18-21 on my calendar.
~~ After harping about the Mariinsky's fully staged "War and Peace" and concert performances of other Russian operas coming up at the Kennedy Center, I might miss the opportunity. I bought a ticket to something else instead, but we'll see.
~~ My condominium's board meeting, January 28. It's almost like one of Rossini's ensemble scenes. They should charge admission.
My shopping list now includes soprano Joan Rodgers' new Hyperion album of "Pushkin Romances" and Dmitri Hvorostovsky's new Delos album of "Tchaikovsky Romances". I'm still enjoying some recent acquisitions meanwhile, and the other night I pulled out some older albums to hear some historical Russian singers. Reviews of the new collections by Rodgers and Hvorostovsky mention the great mezzo-soprano (contralto) Irina Arkhipova and the great baritone Pavel Lisitsian. I have one track of Arkhipova singing Dalila's aria from Saint-Saens' opera in a BMG/Melodiya collection of "Greatest Voices of Bolshoi". Rifling through some old programs saved from my fall 1981 college semester in Moscow revealed that I even heard Arkhipova as Marina Mnishek in "Boris Godunov" one Saturday that September, though I scarcely remember her. (She would have been singing next to star bass Aleksandr Vedernikov, who sticks in my mind because I heard him in several different performances that fall and because he was an impressive performer himself.)
As for the magnificent Lisitsian -- he is also in the BMG collection in an aria from "The Queen of Spades", and I have him singing the Venetian Merchant's song from Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sadko" in one of the Record of Singing sets. These are two tracks that I often put on the player when I'm roving through favorite operatic selections, and I could listen to them over and over and sometimes I do. Lisitsian had a fabulous voice, one that's so distinctive and recognizable.
I'm afraid that my previous post seems preachy or presumptuous now when I read through it, but I have some ideas concerning "Anglophone opera", and I hope to post more about that subject before too long.
There was some buzz going on tonight at An die Musik about pianist Till Fellner. He will give an An die Musik recital (but note that it's at the Baltimore Museum of Art) on Saturday, February 6, the day before he plays in the National Gallery of Art's Sunday series. Program consists of five Beethoven sonatas. An die Musik's February calendar is here.
I also note that the brilliant young guitarist, Benjamin Beirs, will have his own recital at An die Musik in February. Beirs is part of the Duo Transatlantique guitar duo with Maud Laforest, and the duo will be back this spring, too.
I'm going to try to get back to AdM next week [no--the week after that] for the Evolution Contemporary Music series recital. Focus will be on some noted Finnish composers.
And now I'm wondering if I have another summer opera road trip in the works. Two summers ago, I saw Szymanowski's "King Roger" at Bard College's Summerscape festival in the Hudson Valley. There was a card in the mail box when I got home this evening. This summer, the featured opera will be "The Distant Sound" by Franz Schreker. I have not heard any Schreker yet, but the word is that he is another underrated composer who deserves more publicity.
I'm just back from Baltimore after another fine chamber music recital at An die Musik. I thought violinist Eugene Kaler really shone in this work by Martinon. It looked beastly to play and it sounded thrilling.
Kaler was accompanied very sensitively in the rest of the program by pianist Li-Tan Hsu. They performed Wieniawski's Faust Fantasy (based on Gounod's opera), Brahms's Sonata No. 3, Rachmaninov's Romance and Waxman's Carmen Fantasy (from Bizet's opera, and that's the same Franz Waxman who composed potent movie scores like "The Bride of Frankenstein").
Well, I'm excited, and I think that Mr. Downey is spot on about WNO managing to come up with an interesting season in spite of severe cut backs. Meanwhile, we still have the rest of a current season to enjoy: "Marriage of Figaro"...reprise of stunning "Porgy and Bess" production...and WNO's premiere of a rarity, "Hamlet" by Ambroise Thomas.
Tenor Nicholas Phan has sung in our area in recent years (though I missed him), and his blog, Grecchinois, is in my blog roll. Phan travels a lot, as do most opera singers and musicians, and the Internet must be a boon to such people. Here he vents about trying to get by in Dusseldorf without ready access to the web. His misadventures off line while trying to stay in touch are good travel writing, too.
My compliments to Michael Blair for developing the BaltimoreOpera.com site, which has been looking better and better since its inception around September 2009. I have been navigating there this morning as I fill in my calendar with upcoming opera dates, and I'm feeling spoiled for choices. Opera New Jersey will bring a fully staged production of "Carmen" to the Lyric Opera House on February 14, and earlier in January we will have American Opera Theater's avant garde version of that opera. I didn't see AOT's first production run of this show in 2008, admittedly being nervous about the concept, but reviewing the Baltimore Sun's review, written by Mary Carole McCauley, is making me feel more courageous. I've also heard that for the new production run there will be a new baritone in town, and he'll be in AOT and the Handel Choir of Baltimore's joint production of Handel's "Jephtha" later this season.
Bizet's "Carmen" is some standard repertoire which it wouldn't hurt me to revisit. Besides reading that Bizet's score earned the admiration of other composers, I was impressed when "Carmen" was included in a list of only five operas which an acquaintance said he loved. (His other favorites were unusual repertoire like Busoni's "Doktor Faust" and Mussorgsky's "Khovanshchina".)
Opera Vivente's next production is also a reinterpretation of a larger stage work, although not heard as often as "Carmen": "Impressions of Pelleas" is based on Debussy's huge opera, "Pelleas et Melisande". I've traversed my set from EMI's Great Recordings of the Century only once -- a vintage recording with surprisingly good sound and beautiful singing by French performers. The conductor in this recording, Roger Desormiere, turns up as the conductor of Georges Auric's highly charged romantic score for Cocteau's film version of "Beauty and the Beast".
I also have my eye on the Mariinsky Opera's return to the Kennedy Center with Prokofiev's "War and Peace". Conductor Valery Gergiev was the featured speaker on the Gramophone magazine's CD in November. A few spare issues remained on the rack at Borders last weekend, so I bought one just to hear Gergiev himself talking about Tchaikovsky. We've had several performances of "Eugene Onegin" in this area in recent years (including the Mariinsky's on a previous visit to the Kennedy), and we've even had "The Maid of Orleans" done by Washington National Opera and a concert performance of "Iolanta" by Temirkanov and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I also caught the Mariinsky's "Mazeppa" at the Kennedy. Gergiev makes a strong case for "The Queen of Spades" and mentions some lesser known operas by the composer which deserve more circulation, but most especially "The Queen of Spades", he seems to stress (another huge opera of which I have a set, the one conducted by Rostropovich.)
Meanwhile, there's plenty happening operatically in the Baltimore-Washington area already, and I'll be watching BaltimoreOpera.com.
Harpist Jacqueline Pollauf's new "Bouquet" album -- thanks to the artist for a free copy of this lovely CD of some rare repertoire that is not only off the beaten track but glittering somewhere in secluded forest glades. It's available at An die Musik in Baltimore....Pianist Joel Fan's two albums on the References label featuring mostly recent piano works, also available at An die Musik....Joan Sutherland and Fritz Wunderlich in a reissue from DG of Handel's "Alcina" conducted by Ferdinand Leitner. Maybe not quite as HIP as we like to hear today, but you'd be missing Sutherland's ravishing sorceress, an interesting contralto named Norma Procter and Wunderlich's intelligent and bright handling of Ruggiero, which we usually hear sung by mezzo or maybe countertenor these days. Leitner's orchestra features a bass kind of lute identified here as a chitarrone (perhaps aka theorbo). (DG has reissued a similar set of Handel's "Serse" which I'd like to get.)....Beverly Sills as Cleopatra in Handel's "Giulio Cesare" with conductor Julius Rudel and the NYCO. Contralto Maureen Forrester is in this cast and in the previously mentioned "Serse"....Cecilia Bartoli's sensational and sensationalist homage to the castrati, "Sacrificium"....Mezzo Elina Garanca's Bel Canto album....Tenor Mark Padmore's Handel album, found at Daedalus Books in Columbia (and his new Schubert album is on my wish list)....Mezzo Joyce DiDonato's Rossini collection, "Colbran, the Muse". Tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who we heard as Almaviva in Washington National Opera's Barber this season, makes an appearance on this disc....etc.
Much of this is listed in a review of the best of 2009 in "Opera News". I couldn't resist. I'll be busy at home during this lull in the local opera season.
...Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Elisha Cook, Jr. (in a comprimario role) shooting off psychological rockets in Sam Spade's (Bogart) cramped apartment while trying to close the deal on the Maltese Falcon. And we sit back and proclaim the appropriate "oo"s and "ah"s.
Would that we could get through 2010 and beyond without so many rockets.