Sunday, November 30, 2014

Great Singer of the Week: Gianni Poggi

I discovered a mid-20th century tenor I hadn't known before--Gianni Poggi. A very nice voice indeed. He sang with Callas and Tebaldi (not at the same time, of course!), and he sang at the Met. Here is his rather brief Wikipedia bio-blurb, and following are some YouTube clips. Alas, most are audio only.

To the left is a blatantly ganked photo of Sr. Poggi in Ballo.

Following is the Siciliana from Cavalleria Rusticana, rather more brisk than I'm accustomed to, but I like the tempo. Orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Ugo Rapalo, conductor

Mamma, quel vino è generoso from the same performance, apparently.

Des Grieux's aria from act 3 of Puccini's Manon Lescaut. Live Piacenza 1967 (no conductor credit given).

La Bohème, Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Legendary mezzo-soprano Grace Bumbry leads the way in Celebrating a King

On January 17 and January 19, 2015 at 7:00 p.m. Courtney’s Stars of Tomorrow: Celebrating a King presents legendary mezzo-soprano and 2009 Kennedy Center honoree Grace Bumbry. “We are thrilled to be able to present these concerts commemorating the life and singular achievement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” said CST Founder/Artistic Director Courtney Carey. “We are equally excited about the opportunity to present a living legend, icon, humanitarian, and extraordinary artist--Grace Bumbry.” 

Grace Bumbry will sing Johannes Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody (Op. 53) with alumni members of the Morehouse College Glee Club, members of the Ephesus Seventh Day Adventist Church Chancel Choir, and the Brooklyn Ecumenical Choir of Bedford Stuyvesant. The program will also include spiritual classics sung by Ms. Bumbry and a roster of ingénue operatic talents including Marquita Raley, Kali Wilder, and Martin Woods, led by conductors Ted Taylor and Ramon Bryant. 

About Courtney’s Stars of Tomorrow 
Courtney's Stars of Tomorrow is an arts conduit organization committed to promoting and presenting classical musicians of the highest caliber, featuring them in concert, recital, and opera. Courtney's Stars of Tomorrow's targets a multi-generational, ethnically diverse audience of both classical music lovers and those who have never been exposed to the medium. Through education initiatives and partnerships, Courtney’s Stars of Tomorrow will also extend opportunities to school-age children to study, create, present, and attend classical music performances.  

Our mission is to: Educate, Cultivate, Present, and Inspire! 

In which Taminophile again proves himself a bel canto bear

I've shared how I loved this, with Joyce Didonato and Elza van den Heever from the Met's production:

A video made the rounds shortly after JDD sang Maria Stuarda at the Met integrating her Maria Stuarda with her Elisabetta for a very interesting confrontation scene indeed, but of course, I can't find it today. If you can, please send me the link!

I stumbled upon this clip this week, with dear Beverly Sills and Eileen Farrell (audio only, alas):

Monterrat Caballe, Bianca Berini, Armando Gatto conductor. Teatro del Liceo de Barcelona. January 6, 1979

As a great admirer of both Leyla Gencer and Shirley Verrett I couldn't leave this out:

Dear Coloraturafan's "Choose your favorite Vil Bastarda"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Shabby Little Shocker at Merkin Concert Hall

On Tuesday evening, The Martha Cardona Theater presented Mr. Puccini's Tosca in concert at Merkin Concert Hall, a very ambitious undertaking. Daniel Cardona deserves kudos for producing this concert. Aside from a few technical glitches and a ragged orchestra, it was mostly a successful evening.

Tosca is based on Victorien Sardou’s play, La Tosca, with libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppa Giacosa. It is a story of political intrigue, murder, lust, and a jealous soprano. A Parisian critic wrote in 1900 that Tosca “is coarsely puerile, pretentious and vapid.” (The phrase “shabby little shocker” comes from musicologist Joseph Kerman’s 1956 book Opera as Drama, not from Puccini’s time.) Puerile or not, Tosca can always be counted on to sell tickets, and audiences leave humming its melodies. When done well, Tosca can be devastating.

And devastating it was. Soprano Stella Zambalis was 100% committed to Tosca from beginning to end. Her Tosca was both regal and childish, loving and self absorbed. Ms. Zambalis has had a long and distinguished career, and Tuesday's performance left little doubt of the reasons behind her success. Jason Stearns was an equally passionate Scarpia. Large of voice and commanding of presence, Mr. Stearns was every bit the equal of Ms. Zambalis in stage presence and commitment. Ta'u Pupu'a was a virile and ardent Cavaradossi.

All three principals had sung their roles at least once before, which was quite evident in watching and hearing them. Show pieces from the opera--Vissi d'arte, the Te Deum, Cavaradossi's two arias--as well as moments such as "Vittoria! Vittoria" and "O dolci mani"--were all sung and acted beautifully. All three singers had many truly stunning moments vocally, but all three also had one or two moments when fatigue or wear had a subtle effect on the most difficult vocal passages.

Smaller roles were filled with younger singers. The Angelotti of Matthew Curran and the Sacristan of Kian Freitas were particular favorites.

Brian Holman conducted a pick-up orchestra of very young-looking players. Their playing was a bit ragged--synchronization issues, missed entrances, intonation issues, balance issues with the cast--but Mr. Holman dealt with the apparent inexperience of the group and kept everything together.

The opera was semi-staged on Merkin's Concert Hall's stage. No program credit was given for a director, but I suspect it was Mr. Cardona himself. The size of the stage and the number of people on it at times made this a bit problematic. I feared the close proximity of cast to orchestra might interfere with the orchestra's playing. All three acts ended with someone on the floor, including Scarpia on one knee at the end of the Act I Te Deum, and it seemed awkward when they got up and walked off stage either with or after the conductor.

Quibbles aside, overall I call this concert a success. The rest of the audience certainly agreed with that opinion, generous with applause and shouts of "Bravo!"

Jason Stearns  Stella Zambalis Ta'u Pupu'a

Monday, November 3, 2014

Profile: Martha Cardona Theatre

Daniel Cardona never saw an opera before 2006. He fell so in love with the art form, just three years later he formed his own opera company. The Martha Cardona Theatre was formed in part to keep the memory of Daniel's mother, her love of music, and her generous nature alive, and in part to spread his love opera. (Mrs. Cardona died in 2005.) The company started small in 2009, with staged scenes and one-act operas, but by the next year was presenting concert performances of full operas like La Boheme and L'Elisir d'Amore. "We want to show everyone that opera is accessible and a thing of beauty and happiness," says Mr. Cardona. "All you need to enjoy it is your heart."

The Martha Cardona Theater will present a concert performance of Tosca November 18 at Merkin Concert Hall. Featured cast member include Metropolitan Opera veterans Jason Stearns and Stella Zambalis, and NFL star-turned-opera star Ta'u Pupu'a.

Jason Stearns  Stella Zambalis Ta'u Pupu'a

Other upcoming events:

January, TBA:   
Massenet's Werther
Featuring Ola Rafalo (Opera Carolina, Syracuse Opera) as Charlotte

January 28 at the National Opera Center
Quintessential Quintiliani, an Evening with Barbara Quintiliani
Ms. Quintiliani has been compared to such iconic singers as Leyla Gencer, Montserrat Caballe, and Rosa Ponselle, and has appeared with Washington National Opera (Elettra in Idomeneo, opposite Placido Domingo).
Musical Director/Pianist - Sean Kelly (Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Fort Worth Opera)

February, TBA, at the National Opera Center
An Evening with Sandra Lopez de Haro
Ms. Lopez de Haro has performed internationally on tour with Andrea Bocelli, and with such companies as The Metropolitan Opera, Fort Worth Opera and Florida Grand Opera.
Musical Director/Pianist - Howard Watkins (Metropolitan Opera, Tanglewood Music Center, Washington National Opera)


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Taminophile revisits the wonder that is Dame Janet Baker

I know this interview by dear Joyce DiDonato with Dame Janet Baker has been posted across the blogosphere many times since August, 2013, but I just now watched it again, and I am both remarkably inspired and in tears. Two very wise women get to talk in front of a camera.

Of course, this leads us to amazing recordings:

I've shared this amazing clip before--Dido at Glyndebourne, 1966, cond. Charles Mackerras:

Brahms Alto Rhapsody, 1979, Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra under János Ferencsik

This one is a surprise, but then again, maybe not (cond. Raymond Leppard, English Chamber Orchestra, 1972):

By contrast, not a surprise at all to hear this in Dame Janet's repertoire, or to hear it sung so beautifully (cond. Sir Neville Mariner, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields):