Saturday, August 27, 2011

Golden Age Singer of the Week--Virginia Zeani

I've written before about the divine Virginia Zeani. (See tag below for link to other posts.) I just came upon this clip of her performance in the Italian premiere of Mr. Menotti's The Consul (Il Console) at Spoleto in 1972, so how could I resist posting it?

The YouTube link is here. It contains more information from dear CharlotteinWeimar, a wonderful lady and great source of Zeani clips. I quote some of the information below. There is also the original English text and clips of English performances by other singers.

[This] was the first time Zeani had been seen dressed in drab clothes and flat shoes as an unglamorous heroine, However, having lived in a Communist regime, from which she had escaped to political asylum in Italy, she identified herself completely with the role and portrayed it with penetrating intensity.

She plays a refugee desperately trying to get her husband released from captivity. But she comes up against an implacable, totalitarian bureaucracy. Faced with endless form filling and never able to satisfy their demands she breaks down and cries out "Papers, papers, papers" ("carte, carte, carte")....

Zeani sang the role for Menotti in the Spoleto Festival in 1972 and again in the Maggio Musicale in Florence. She received ecstatic reviews and it was one of the greatest triumphs of her career.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Golden Age Singer of the Week--Gertrude Grob-Prandl

Forgotten Austrian soprano Gertrude Grob-Prandl (1917-1995) sings Ho-jo-to-ho from some opera or other. No date or other information given for the recording.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Guest blogger/spy RW reports on Mansfield Park at Grimeborn Festival, London

MANSFIELD PARK by Jonathan Dove and Alasdair Middleton
Performed by Heritage Opera at the Arcola Theatre, Grimeborn Festival, Dalston, East London on Monday August 15th 2011

It has often occurred to me that the classic novels of Jane Austen would lend themselves particularly well to an operatic setting, her pale-faced heroines wrestling with their inner emotional turmoils in much the same way as the protagonists of Puccini, Strauss, and Verdi. The same thought has occurred to that most prolific and successful of British contemporary composers, Jonathan Dove, who along with regular collaborator, librettist Alasdair Middleton, has created a most enchanting and audience-friendly adaptation of one of Austen's best-loved works, Mansfield Park.

The work is conceived as a chamber opera given in two acts, scored for ten soloists and two pianos.
The northern-UK based company, Heritage Opera, who in the last few years has successfully toured a number of small-scale productions of core repertoire works, often in reduced orchestral or pianoforte arrangements, to stately homes and heritage buildings in the north of England, has commissioned Dove to write the opera, and now present the London premiere of the work following a short UK tour earlier this month. In fact, London audiences only got their chance to see this work at very short notice, due to a last-minute cancellation in the small but enterprising Grimeborn Festival in Dalston, which just over a week ago was the scene of violent rioting in the capital. They were rewarded with an outstanding new masterpiece of lyrical and emotional beauty, at once accessible, tuneful and beautifully staged and presented by Heritage Opera, who in turn were rewarded with a well-deserved ovation from a full to bursting capacity audience and much critical acclaim.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The God Why Don't You Love Me Blues

Another operatic road trip! A day trip to Cooperstown with my constant opera-going companion and BFF BS. Really, those are his initials. I wouldn't presume to comment on them. We saw the August 13 matinee of Carmen at the Glimmerglass Festival. Having been there two weeks ago and reporting on some amazing shows that weekend, we expected a terrific Carmen.

We all know about Carmen. Soldier falls for gypsy girl who herself falls in and out of love with the regularity of an M60 bus. It doesn't end happily for anyone except the bullfighter. Then again, operas aren't often written about happy people.

Mr. Bizet's opera was first performed in 1875 at the Opéra Comique, and kept with the opera-comique tradition of spoken dialogue rather than sung recitative. The initial run in Paris was a failure, largely because it strayed from opéra-comique convention in many other ways, but in other cities where such conventions were not expected by the audience and critics, the opera was a great success. In the years since 1875 various composers have attempted to replace the spoken dialogue with recitative, and nowadays we commonly have Carmen performances both with and without spoken dialogue. Glimmerglass gave us the version with the spoken dialogue.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Golden Age Singer of the Week--Tito Gobbi

Tito Gobbi singing "Va, Tosca!" from Mr. Puccini's masterpiece, Tosca.  Apparently an excerpt on a French TV show.

This is an excerpt from the 1964 ROH Covent Garden production Tosca Act II that was televised on the BBC.

Now that's a Scarpia!

Here is Gobbi's Wikipedia bio-blurb.

(I'm in a Tosca mood because I participated in a Tosca sing-through yesterday.  As Spoletta.)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Medea at Glimmerglass

My review on of Medea at Glimmerglass:
I love Mozart and Donizetti for the clarity, order and passion in their music. In my own blog, I call myself a bel canto bear in a verismo world. I thought upon these things as the melodic and ordered strains of the Medea overture struck my soul in the way that Wagner strikes those of some of my friends. Medea was first performed in 1797, a few years after Mozart’s death, and one can easily hear that Luigi Cherubini was of the same generation as Mozart–although he lived long enough to see Wagner’s and Verdi’s works performed. The story is based on the play of Euripides. Jason has met and married Medea on his travels in search of the golden fleece, but upon return to Greece is given the hand of King Creon’s daughter, Glauce. They say Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Medea could well be the woman they had in mind when that truism was first uttered.

Read the full review here.

Can’t Swim in the Sea if You Can’t Reach the Water

My review on of the double bill of one-act operas at Glimmerglass:

The weekend of July 29 and 30 I ventured to the Glimmerglass Festival near Cooperstown, NY, for the first time. I saw four shows in two days, and left wanting even more. I was happy to see the two shows I discuss here for Opera Pulse. I reported on the other two shows I saw in my blog.
First up was a double bill of new one-act operas on Friday evening.

Read the full review here.