Since everybody loved so much the quite adorable photos of baby Tiago, here's historical evidence of la Netrebka herself in her baby period -- before she took the opera world by storm after the famous middle period as a janitor.
One of the many great things that make Giuseppe Filianoti's singing so special -- ignoring for a moment the vocal difficulties that troubled him and that we really hope are a thing of the past -- is that he is that rare being: a passionate reader. His love for the written text is an integral part of what makes his presence on stage so compelling: when so many of his colleagues -- regardless of their vocal abilities -- sometimes do not really seem to understand the meaning of the words they're singing -- Filianoti instead is always about the text, its meaning, the dramatic weight of each sentence.
Rolando Villazón has withdrawn from the title role in the Met’s new production of Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, scheduled for December 3, 2009 through January 2, 2010. He announced today that he is undergoing throat surgery and expects to return to the stage in 2010. The Metropolitan Opera looks forward to his return in future seasons.
A replacement for the role of Hoffmann will be announced at a later date.
Rolando's management early hopes -- that he could be back around the end of the year -- do not seem to be realistic.
Obama's opening to Cuba: you are one of the very few unrepentant "castristi"...
«I think certain aspects of their system are admirable and that many critics don't know the facts. In Cuba, for example, the educational system is admirable, a model for all. But nobody says this. Do you know that medicine is one of Cuba's biggest exports? And many go to Africa, free of charge. But no one writes about this».
But there's a flip side of the coin, the human rights violations, the gulags...
«Ma dove? Quali? But where? What?».
Now say what you want about Claudione's politics -- personally Opera Chic doesn't care one bit, really, what musicians think about stuff, and for the record her views on the Cuba matter are that despite Castro's obviously inexcusable policies the US embargo is even worse than silly, it's ineffective, and she fully supports President Obama's very welcome policy change, and then some -- but Maestro Abbado at least didn't stop in the middle of a concert to express his views (views that by the way seem to go against the grain of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others -- not simply against those of the Wall Street Journal's editorial board) between movements of a Mahler symphony.
Claudione understands that the podium is not a bully pulpit; he certainly has more brains -- and better manners.
Gustavo Dudamel will lead the Filarmonica della Scala next week in Milan with a Mendelssohn/Mahler program (Felix and Gustav's Fourth symphonies); but all the cool kids should go instead, this coming Sunday, May 3, to the general rehearsal for the concert. It will be open to the public, with reasonably priced (for la Scala's standards) tickets, all for the benefit of a really good cause, the Casa della Carità that helps the homeless and the less fortunate among us.
More information at Casa della Carità's website, click here.
Riccardo Muti, in this 2004 video, explains to a bunch of students why the tempest that opens Salieri's L'Europa Riconosciuta is so cool, talks about its similarities to Gluck's Ifigenia in Tauride, jokes about why the late great Antonino Votto's teacher at Conservatorio taught young Antonino (who later became Muti's own teacher) that the score for Guillaume Tell contains everything you need to know about music (and about weather, too).
Muti also speaks a few lines in Neapolitan dialect.
Milan's Orchestra Verdi introduced today to the public their 2009-2010 season (.pdf file of the program here) and their new Music Director, American conductor Xian Zhang, former associate conductor of the NY Phil.
Buon lavoro to Maestra Zhang -- she's now leading an orchestra that experienced his first steps under Carlo Maria Giulini's benevolent direction -- Giulini climbed for the very last time on the podium for a rehearsal with La Verdi, and his first violin is kept on display at the orchestra's Auditorium -- and was later conducted by Riccardo Chailly, Riccardo Muti, Lorin Maazel. It's a young, talented orchestra passionately followed by a faithful Milanese audience: Opera Chic is sure we will experience many wonderful concerts.
Today we hear that lead Reinaldo Arenas will be portrayed by the young American baritone, Wes Mason (yummy headshot above).
Cuban-American composer Jorge Martín's new opera is based on the autobiography of Reinaldo Arenas, and was fabulously portrayed by Javier Bardem in Julian Schnabel's 2000 movie, "Before Night Falls". The opera will premiere in late May, 2010.
Opera Chic is seldom interested in what rich celebrities (especially the tax exiles who merrily settled in Switzerland or Monte Carlo) have to say about their audiences personal ethics or, heaven forbid, their politics.
She, for example, would consider quite appalling to learn that a prominent American pianist had interrupted a recital in Warsaw to ask the older members of the audience if they were part of the crowds cheering as the Jewish ghetto burned, orwhether or not they're baffled by the fact that only a few thousand Jews still feel safe enough to live in Poland (there were more than 3 million of them living in Poland in 1939, 90% of whom had been murdered by 1945, and survivors had actually been lynched after their return from the camps -- reminding Poles of this historical fact might land you in jail, by the way, and the local Catholic clergy will call you a liar); asking the audience if they're part of the one million Poles who faithfully tune in to Radio Maryia's racist sermons would be in equally bad taste, just like polling the Polish audience to figure out how many of them collaborated with the Polish Communist regime during its long rule over the country -- to sum it up, one is free to play in the countries one wants, and manners are manners, everywhere you go.
Not to mention, no one cares what performing artists think about stuff.
It would be equally appalling to learn, for example, that a concert pianist had shamefully cracked jokes about gold teeth and safety deposit boxes during a Swiss recital, for example. wtf?
Before playing the final work on his recital, Karol Szymanowski’s
"Variations on a Polish Folk Theme," Zimerman sat silently at the piano
for a moment, almost began to play, but then turned to the audience. In
a quiet but angry voice that did not project well, he indicated that he
could no longer play in a country whose military wants to control the
“Get your hands off of my country,” he said. He also made reference
to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
About 30 or 40 people in the audience walked out, some shouting
obscenities. “Yes,” he answered, “some people when they hear the word
military start marching.”
Now, this being L.A. and not, say, the beautiful State of Texas, the audience's reaction doesn't seem to have been bad at all, with quite a lot of cheers (in San Francisco he'd have been elected Mayor the next day); but the plea to "get your hands off of my country" -- is Zimerman Iraqi, by the way? Because we sure as hell haven't invaded Switzerland -- should probably have been sent, via mail, to President Obama and not yelled to the powerless audience of a classical music concert.
But it all boils down to one fact, and it's not even about manners: for all of Zimerman's talent, and his years of study, and his work, people pay him because they just want to hear him play, not talk -- if that makes him feel like a trained monkey, that's his problem, and he should do what Glenn Gould, a much better pianist and a much better man, did in his time: retire to the recording studio and give up public performances. Gould didn't lecture his paying audiences about Polar bears, either -- he did that on the radio. Daniel Barenboim, a much more serious man than Zimerman, has created an orchestra where Jews play with Arabs, devotes a lot of money and time and effort to his causes -- whatever you think of the man -- and writes books that are actual best-sellers.
Zimerman should find himself a book publisher, if he can. Or start broadcasting a talk radio show on Radio Mariya about the evils of America.
But onstage, he should really shut up and play his American piano.
Before touching down in Milan for last night's la prima, Robert Lepage's production of The Rake's Progress touts an almost rock 'n' roll world tour rider stemming through Brussels, London, Lyon, and San Francisco. It's five co-production backers range from Covent Garden to Opéra National de Lyon to Teatro Real. Which is why we're surprised that with such prestige, this production was such a huge miss.
French Canadian Lepage's new(ish) direction [seen last year @ Covent Garden, Rupert Christiansen reviewed it here] is one that's bursting with clever ideas and cinematic allusions, but disjointedness blights every idea from the narrative to the blocking. The continuity has been destroyed, and the production is a whirlwind of tricks. Through the course of Stravinsky's 1951 opera -- based on William Hogarth's series of eight, 18th century paintings -- we find allusions to Cheever & Hockney & Andrew Wyeth, as well as classic American cinematic triumphs like Psycho and Sunset Blvd, but there's too much gimmick and too little profundity. The individual direction fell flat and static, while characters were woodenly blocked and thoughtlessly anchored -- it's cool that Lepage has a nice library and a tasty collection of old DVDs, but still.
Lepage fast-forwards the libretto about 200 years, and the opera begins in homage to the idealized, American-West landscapes from the post-war era of the late 40s and 50s. Lepage employed broad swaths of video projections splashed across a flat-screen backdrop, showing us star-filled evenings (replete with shooting stars) to golden sunsets over the ocean (complete with undulating clouds). But these projections, at best, looked like expensive, snazzy computer screen-savers, especially when props crossed the projection, breaking the illusion. The reality of the video landscapes jarred with the idealized props (like the helium balloon Silver Streak trailer, and the cartoonish Texas saloon). It was all too pastiche to be harmonious. Lepage's tribute to the American landscape was earnest, but misguided. There was no clever commentary on the era that he so ardently tried to emulate; just a hollow and gimmick-filled production. The worst offense is that the singers were painted in such a homogeneous & monochromatic spectrum, that it was difficult to find any resonance. And while his characters were flat, and the lighting was even darker, Lepage had to balance the lack of spark with garishly-colored costumes
in purples and magentas, and pulsating neon signs for Vegas's
Daniel Barenboim discussed a number of issues with the Wall Street Journal -- an interview well worth reading, and Opera Chic's favorite quote by the Wagner-loving honorary -Palestinian conductor came when he sent a well-deserved shoutout to Herr Doktor Wilhelm Furtwängler, the mentor of DB's youth and a man whose recordings, judging by Barenboim's own performances, must still be played quite often by DB.
Mr. Barenboim: Wilhelm Furtwängler for me represents
all that is good about music-making, because he was a very cultured
person. He was extremely well read, had many interests -- he saw music
in that context. He saw the connection between Beethoven's slow
movements and Greek philosophy. And that's what is missing from
music-making today. Because of the influence of the movies, music is
descriptive of other things now. Or else it's something completely
outside the real world, something for a small number of very
enthusiastic people who play it, and for a very small number of people
who are passionate about listening to it. Furtwängler's music-making
was based on the fact that music was really part of humanity, that it
has human value.
In the photo above, via the Lebrecht Collection, Wilhelm Furtwängler and Adolf Hitler.
Maestro of cinematography Jack Cardiff, the man who -- among many masterpieces -- illuminated Black Narcissus and The Life and Death Of Colonel Blimp and A Matter Of Life And Death and -- of course, because this is a classical music blog -- The Red Shoes, has passed away at the age of 94.
The best way to remember this great man, this genius of Technicolor (who later in his career became a director), is, simply, to watch once again, in awe, the stunning perfection of the work he did in The Red Shoes.
We're sending teddy bears and tabloids to Maestro Levine, who canceled -- at the last minute -- last night's Metropolitan Opera Das Rheingold. Gelb sent in relief pitcher John Keenan, who was warming up in the bullpen.
Opera Chic is lucky to have so many well-connected friends from all around Europe who keep her in-the-loop of so many wonderful, operatic happenings. So it is from a lovely friend from Switzerland that OC heard the first report of Anna Netrebko's Violetta premiere for Opernhaus Zürich, and she is gracious to pass on the report. Pictures above and below also provided by her thoughtful friend.
Anna's return to the Opernhaus Zürich was "a gathering of local and international celebrities", and our source tells us that, inevitably, spotted among the crowds were retired bank magnates & moguls, and well-heeled (and well-plastic-surgeried) socialites. And continuing:
"In a performance more mature than her 2005 Salzburg Violetta, there were high expectations, and those expectations were fully met. Anna Netrebko's immaculate singing paired with fine acting made her Violetta very natural and convincing."
"Piotr Beczala as Alfredo also was very fine , although a bit tense in the top notes. He has a wonderful vocal tone which matches very well with Anna's, hence their duets were nothing short of gorgeous."
"Marco Armiliato led a rousing (if here and there a bit wobbly) orchestra with ample pace and fervor."
But the best bit:
"The evening was sponsored by Chopard where Anna Netrebko, as we know, is under contract. So in the lounge you could admire the latest jewelery collection presented in glass showcases guarded by security men, and in Act II Scene 2 Violetta showed off a six figure necklace and matching earrings - recognizably one of the pieces on display in the lounge."
American bass baritone Eric Owens, fresh from his premiere recital at The Schubert Club's International Artist Series, is back in the 212/646/917 for both his NYC and Carnegie Hall recital premiere.
Blessing the East Coast with his sumptuous, boomin (and in the words of Tommasini, "husky" looool) bass, the Philly boy's concert at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall this Friday night will cover Hugo Wolf Lieder, Sechs Gesänge. Op. 3 by Brahms, and works by Saint-Saëns & Elgar, John Ireland & Roger Quilter.
Here's a behind-the-scenes clip of a giggling Anna Netrebko rehearsing with Piotr Beczala shot by SF1, Switzerland's national TV. The two took the stage last night as Violetta & Alfredo in Anna's Opernhaus Zürich Traviata premiere.
Anna talks, rocking a pair of Gucci sunglasses and a beaded Escada top. And we're mentally making out with the camerman for zooming in on her iced-out, Swarovski-covered BlackBerry flip on top of her Traviata manuscript. ~Living the dream~ Someone needs to introduce her to Christian Audigier/Ed Hardy already.