Maybe you slept through the weekend and missed out on a monumental drop from DG? Which one, you ask? Oooooh, that 2-disc drop where Anna Netrebko and Elīna Garanča are getting rather cozy on the cover. Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi has been given the old dust-off by the marketing wizards.
With Anna Netrebko as Juliet and Elīna Garanča as Romeo (and Joseph Calleja as Tebaldo), the 2-CD set is from a live April 2008 recording at Vienna's Konzerthaus conducted by Fabio Luisi, doing his thang with the Wiener Symphoniker.
DG describes on their website "Anna's and Elīna's voices match like pearls from one oyster". Gross.
Opera Chic took some screenshots, but you can go here for the secksiness yourselves.
~*O.C.*~ is rawking exclusive pictures from the final dress rehearsal of Vincenzo Bellini's La Sonnambula at The Metropolitan Opera. Opening Monday, March 2, 2009, the production has our most favorite singers cutting up the stage: Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez and French soprano Natalie Dessay, who will be doing anything but sleepwalking through the new Mary Zimmerman production.
OC is proud to share with you a cache of images from last night's Dessay/Flórez round-table: "Moonlight Becomes You: Dessay, Flórez and Sonnambula" at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House, Elena Park with omg Margaret Juntwait as the moderator. The two petite superstars were on hand to answer questions and discuss their upcoming performance of Bellini's La Sonnambula, opening Monday, March 2. The Mary Zimmerman production will be conducted by Evelino Pidò. Pictures have been graciously provided by two of OC's dearest East Coast collaborators! ♥ ♥
Proudly unwilling to let the gathering financial storm that will hit the world of heavily-subsidized Italian opera ruin their plans, Teatro Comunale di Bologna simply rawks. It's premiere night time this coming Thursday at Teatro Comunale under the baton of the new "direttore principale", 29-year-old Michele Mariotti: it's opening night time for Pier’Alli's new staging of I Puritani that will see, as Arturo Talbo -- a role written for Giovan Battista Rubini, by0tches! -- el mejor tenor ligero del mundo, aka Juan Diego Florez, aka the lamby prince of opera.
Ildebrando D’Arcangelo aka Our Dear Brandolino will be Sir Giorgio, Netrebko wannabe Nino Machaidze -- who does not deserve a nickname yet -- will be Elvira.
For you armchair musicologists out there, Mariotti has decided to use the Della Seta edition of the score, that reinstates three passages that had been later cut -- Bellini died shortly after the premiere -- because the constant requests for encores slowed down the action too much. Della Seta reinstates a Terzetto (Act I, scene X) for Arturo, Enrichetta & Riccardo called "Se il destino a te m’invola"; a part of the Elvira-Arturo duet (Act III, scene II) from "Ah! Perdona … ell’era misera" and the cabaletta a due for Elvira and Arturo (Act III, scene III) in the Finale ultimo, "Ah! sento, o mio bell’angelo".
Besides that, there's also a bunch of high notes. And JDF. And Brandolino.
It's druid fever up in ~casa O.C.~, as we snagged another edition of the "Passione Lirica - La Musica di Repubblica/L'espresso" series, now spinning the DVD of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna's Norma production from April 2008.
OC was lucky enough to be in the audience for the opening night 7 months ago in Bologna, not wanting to miss Daniela Dessì's first crack at Norma. Accompanied by husband Fabio Armiliato's Pollione & Kate Aldrich's Adalgisa, the entire cast did justice to the Bellini dream.
We were curious to see just how the post-production would excise the nasty sabotage of a rogue cell phone during the opening phrases of "Casta Diva", and we're happy to report that no trace of the shill mechanical ring can be heard. Bravo to the (lol) back-end team, and of course, la Dessì for her elegant grace under fire.
Next up, Fab & Dani are preparing for a NYC ^Gala Pucciniano^ with the Dicapo Opera Theatre, and soloists & members of The Opera Orchestra of New York.
Monday, December 22, 2008 will find the dy-no-mite Italian duo at Rose Theater for a Puccini 150th Anniversary Gala, celebrating the 150th birthday of the dead maestro.
Hosted by Renata Scotto, with appearances by Francisco Casanova, Aprile Millo, Francesca Patané (and others T.B.A.), the evening will boast excerpts from every single Puccini opera. Fo'realio? We humbly request that fake, self-adhesive Puccini-esque mustaches are passed out at the front door and worn by *everyone* in attendance, homage to that famous ladykiller!
Giuditta Pasta, Giuseppina Ronzi De Begnis, Maria Malibran, Giulia
Grisi, Antonietta Fricci, Jenny Lind, Teresa Tietjens, Maria Vilda,
Euphrosyne Parepa, Maria Peri, Eugenia Burzio, Giannina Russ, Ester
Mazzoleni, Bianca Scacciati, Gina Cigna, Maria Caniglia, Maria Callas,
Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, & Montserrat Caballé.
[not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt, Kate Summers Stratton, Edna Garrett, Dolly Parton, Golda Meir, Paris Hilton, Angela Merkel, & ur mom.]
Now that the list of "All The Divas In The Universe Who Have Done The Best Norma Evar" (And Remember: UR Favorite Norma Sucks) is more or less out there (feel free to add whomever you want to the list), let's keep that garlic wreath handy to exorcise the various "Ghosts Of Normas Past" and let's move on to last night's Norma at Teatro Comunale di Bologna.
Opera Chic tackled the high-drama night, Daniela Dessì's first Norma, decked out in the girl equivalent of a bulletproof vest -- a vintage Chanel black cashmere shell, Diane von Furstenberg black puff skirt (with pockets...omg how we <3 that skirt!!). With classic Valentino black Mary Janes and the trusty midollino vintage Gucci bag. A shiny black Fay windbreaker to protect us from the naughty, chilly weather (it's still mild, fall-like weather around here, no summer for Italy yet).
The big drama of the night of course is that Norma is the Mount Everest for sopranos, and it's a merciless, merciless role that offers one very thin air to breathe, if at all -- it puts your voice (and your acting skills) under a microscope and shines a huge spotlight and then examines everything, blowing-up every problem, every blemish up like 10x -- coloratura, firm tops, phrasing, agility, and of course, teh powah. All in a role that's incredibly demanding emotionally, too. We won't even get into Bellini's reckless disregard for the physical limitations of the human vocal range and his own near-sadistic score markings: "con tutta la forza"; "con tutta la passione"; "così forte che scoppia una vena nel collo" -- omg lol well, we actually invented that last one, which translates in Italian as, "So loud as to bust a vein in your neck" -- but, I swear, the rest are indeed true.
Not to mention that the part of Norma is, in fact, quite low, with incredibly tough acuti. And every difficult moment of Bellini's style is there, blown up the the extreme.
It's unsurprising that Dessì -- wisely, we think -- waited until she was fifty-years-old to tackle the monstah (she mentioned in an interview in the Italian press the need for "vocal and emotional stability" if you hope to do Norma, that she called "la opera delle opere", the "opera of operas", justice).
Dessì won the game, yes -- not without difficulty, tho'...because OC had witnessed her sing effortlessly through other roles -- singing Adriana Lecouvreur,Manon Lescaut, & Tosca, which are roles that she owns completely, much more than other sopranos with bigger brand names and fatter record contracts could even dream about-- and we she is certainly the best Cio Cio San of the last 15 years, easily, at least since Madame Kabaivanska retired Butterfly from her repertory.
But her Norma, while very good, even excellent at times, did not not achieve anything like the effortlessness of her marquee roles. We never thought we'd see la Dessì sweat under her costume, but we did. Oh my! The result -- cell-phone sabotaged "Casta Diva" included (see post below) -- was vocally convincing and emotionally very touching last night (hers is a heartbroken, betrayed Norma who behaves with quiet dignity, not exactly the unhinged diva other sopranos have attempted in a vain attempt to portray you know who, la Maria) but this is a role that may be too taxing for anybody to do so often. She didn't really push only because she has all the experience and the technique to negotiate the hairpin turns of the role.
Obviously, to speak of the recent Normas Past, we all heard the Guleghina disaster and Fleming admitted she coulnd't do it in the unforeseeable future, and the sheer thought of Netrebko (whom we otherwise really, really like) doing a Norma production sends us clutching our cans of Citrosodina; La Ceci Bartoli is a mezzo who only did "Casta Diva" in the studio as, more or less, a vanity project, and is too smart to do more than that; Mariella Devia herself, the goddess of a flawless singing technique, one of the most roundly, well-prepared sopranos of recorded history, can do choice Norma bits in concert, but the whole enchilada -- even with the traditional cuts of da capos, etc -- on stage is a wilder, untamed beast.
And last night was only Dessì's absolute debut, she'll certainly grow more into the role -- but she avoided all the horrible traps, and ended up victorious.
(above: lobby of Teatro Comunale di Bologna)
Of Dessì's Pollione, super-sweet boyfriend Fabio Armiliato, a wonderful tenor with a seriously cool repertoire, we only have good things to say -- he did push a bit too hard at times, but in tune with the romantic, heart-broken Norma, he gave the interesting portrait of a puppyish, if immature, Pollione -- someone you can easily believe falling for both women, more an indecisive romantic than a thuggish cad (Opera Chic has already admitted last night in her instant teaser review that she prefers her Pollione more thuggish, but maybe it's just her).
As Adalgisa, we rilly rilly liked American mezzo Kate Aldrich so much we're posting about her tomorrow separately, to give her the space she deserves, because this is Dessì's post -- she earned the right, in a way.
Daniela & Fabio played on their home turf, with a very loving audience, so their repeated ovations must be considered in the light of that, too, but there is no doubt that they gave us a beautiful night of singing and acting, without silly fears of the ghosts of the past, because they know that history is now, and even the biggest fan (Dessì has a huge Callas poster hung in her own living room) must know that the world, here & now, belongs to the living.
We don't know whether conductor Evelino Pidò opted for the traditional cuts of Bellini's score or this was an agreement with the singers (even a ruthless "come scritto" conductor such as Riccardo Muti opted for the cuts in his 1994 Norma at Maggio Musicale, btw, for the record -- Opera Chic, when it comes to Norma and many other things, is a Marinuzzi girl).
No, the real problem we had with Pidò's work is that he should have known that in a very small theater such as Bologna, in a Bellini score, the brass drowns out the strings incredibly quick, and even if you cannot mute the brass (the great, unsung Bruno Campanella even does away with trumpets and trombones in Capuleti), you really have to be more careful than he was -- the too-brassy moments ruined so much of his otherwise nice, stable work. And the pacing must also be controlled with incredible care -- the occasional, too-sudden increases in speed should have been handled with more care. To be blunt: if his orchestra couldn't adhere to his markings, he should have relented instead of slightly (but audibly) ruining the phrasing on so many occasions -- you go to the opera with the orchestra you have, not with the orchestra you *wish* you had.
We loved -- unlike some other spectators -- the scenery, which were paintings by the late Mario Schifano. The originals had burned down with Teatro Petruzzelli back in the 1990s (the irony, Norma sets that burn down) so these were replicas from the maestro's original sketches. But the staging by Federico Tiezzi was incredibly static, the neon tree in Act I was just lame and stingy, and some of the sets looked like they had been recycled from some other production (we did like the Romans in Napoleonic uniform and the white, 2001 Kubrickian effect of Norma's 18th Century sparse furniture...but the otherwise adorable, big-haired kids playing with a toy train, not so much).
At the end of the taxing night, racing home towards Milan, realizing that as tired as OC was from the long drive, while suffering through the unseasonably chilly air, there was no way anyone could have been half as exhausted as la Dessì...who ran like the Iron Man marathon equivalent of a soprano role. Since Norma is like the wii of the opera world, OC will be perfectly content playing with her xbox & ps3 for the next decade.
First things first, because this is just a very late night teaser pawst -- OC is tired and after the day trip & excitement she needs her 16 hours of beauty sleep now, full review coming tomorrow -- we witnessed a case of sabotage that's so sneakily evil we hadn't really thought possible.
Bravely tackling for the first time that throat-busting role, Dessì -- who tonight gave us a sensitive, interesting, beautiful portrait of Norma, with just a few little caveats we'll tell you about in the full review tomorrow -- had to tackle an appalling case of sabotage.
Just a few bars into Casta Diva, literally moments before Dessì was about to start singing the first Norma of her life, a cell phone started ringing from a box, stage right.
The electronic replica of an old skool European telephone, a loud, echoing -- and we quote here:
Actually, after the second ring, in a surreal atmosphere where the audience sat in shock, with some spectators grumbling their disbelief, the conductor, Evelino Pidò, we clearly saw from our position, completely ashen-faced, and suddendly looking about 40 years older, desperately eyeballed Dessì, silently asking her if she wanted him to stop the music.
Dessì -- to her eternal credit -- quickly shook her head no, barged ahead and immediately began singing.
She basically sang her first
"Casta Diva, che inargenti Queste sacre antiche piante"
while glaring in the general direction of the offender, essentially killing the cell phone with a Bluetooth burning glare.
After six, I repeat, six ringtones (another element that makes it quite clear it was a form of sabotage, who -- in good faith -- would actually leave their cell phone on for an eternity like that), the noise -- that at that point blared through the opera house so much it felt louder than the orchestra -- finally stopped.
And Dessì finished her aria, bringing the house down in a monster ovation.
More tomorrow about Dessì, who -- heroism in the face of obvious sabotage aside -- gave an excellent performance in a nightmarishly hard role. About her boytoy Fabio Armiliato, a very good Pollione (he sang with great precision and drive, even if his acting was, for our taste, a bit too sweet, even puppylike at times -- OC likes her Pollione to be a bit more thuggish). And about the revelation of the night, young American mezzo Kate Aldrich, a sensitive Adalgisa with beautiful colors, really enviable Italian diction (without overcompensating her "R"s with chainsaw-like gusto the way so many singers whose native language is English regularly do when singing in Italian) and pitch-perfect acting skills.
We'll also write moah about the not-so-great parts of our night at the Bologna opera -- Evelino Pidò's problems with shaping those sneakily difficult Bellini melodic lines, the very static staging (not saved by the late Mario Schifano's big trees frequently looming over the action) and Rafael Siwek's Oroveso, blessed with huge volume but at present it actually amplifies his shaky technique, at least in this role.
All of this, amd moah, tomorrow.
OC spaketh. Now sing along with her,
I Can't Stand It I Know You Planned It But I'm Gonna Set It Straight, This Watergate I Can't Stand Rocking When I'm In Here Because Your Crystal Ball Ain't So Crystal Clear So While You Sit Back and Wonder Why I Got This Fu*#ing Thorn In My Side Oh My, It's A Mirage I'm Tellin' Y'all It's a Sabotage
Just fifteen minutes from the pastel-stained waterfront of Miami’s Collins Avenue…in a vacant, concrete sprawl of a South Beach after-thought, awaits a promising contender: The Florida Grand Opera. Florida? Grand opera house? Oh yes. Yes indeed.
At Miami’s newly-erected Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Chic heard something quite sublime at last night's breathtaking la prima of the Renata Scotto-directed, Richard Bonynge-conducted Bellini's La Sonnambula.
Upon exiting the busy loops of highway that circle Miami, an auspicious auditorium beckons impressively: the façade is a gorgeous mix of clean, green-blue glass, white slabs of pure concrete, luminous and warm marble, and kinetic, golden fountains. The lobby promises even more: stark-white, exposed skeletal structures of the towering construction gleam and entwine towards the enormous ceiling. Unfortunately, after the mind wraps around it all, the interior morphs into that of a giant cruise-ship, and you can’t help but feel like you are embarking on an adventure aboard the Norwegian Cruise Line.
(all aboard! The interior of the Florida Opera House: Miami, Florida, USA.)
The interior auditorium is well thought-out, with clear visibility from all areas, including spatial “partial view” balcony boxes (which officially hold four seats, but you could easily crowd a family of twenty). The only problem is that I seriously think the interior auditorium was designed by the same guy who did the monolith McMansion Manhattan Mormon Templein Columbus Circle(this heathen visited a few summers ago before it was ordained). It’s covered in ersatz cherry-wood paneling, and then covered again in swaths of coffee-colored, patterned fabric...like a giant Marriot conference room or something. The centered ceiling design resembles giant snow peas (pics coming).
(More interior of the Florida Opera House.)
Luckily, the performance was strong enough to ferry me away from the nouveau riche interior: Mr. Dame Joan Sutherland's conducting was lovely and with excellent structure, providing the perfect accompaniment for the excellent bel canto of soprano Leah Partridge’s Amina. Her clear, sweet, and precise voice strongly reflected the practiced, skilled tone of the entire cast (go Renata go)! Her coloratura and legato stayed warm and beautiful, even through to her last aria, "Ah, non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore," (which is also carved on Bellini’s tomb – and btw, Rossini and Cherubini both held the funeral shroud at the death of the beloved 33-year-old composer in Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery.)
Bruce Sledge's Elvino was well-matched to Partridge's gorgeous color – and although he is no JDF – his tenor was a pleasure. David Pittsinger’s Count Rodolfo was also well-executed, with great coherence and anchoring.
The pint-sized Renata Scotto (who sat front row center, and was all smiles during the final curtain call *pictures coming tomorrow*) teamed with Carlo Diappi for sets and costume production, which were minimal, however perfect.
A papier-mâché-esque, giant apple tree was the only scenery for the opening act, to suggest the bucolic, idyllic Swiss village square. Later, it was swapped with a huge, limbed tree for the final sleepwalking scene, where Amina’s stunt double (i saw what u did there) precariously walked the high limb above the stage. A sweet touch during the final wedding scene was confetti released from cavities in the ceiling...showering the audience with bits of colored paper.
It was a flawless evening, and will remain wedged as one of the most memorable opera events. This jaded girl (who rubs shoulders with old European snobbery at La Scala almost weekly) found something quite transcendent in the provincial suburbs of Miami, with super-titles above the stage flashing in both English and Spanish.
(exterior of the Ziff Ballet Opera House in Miami, Florida, USA.)
Now Opera Chic must return to the lush beds of her South Beach hotel, so tomorrow she can enjoying her last morning of splayed palm trees, warm February sun (ok ok today was a little overcast and tomorrow is supposed to drizzle but whatevs I'm golden), and café cubano before heading back to NYC. Tomorrow OC also promises exciting additional images from the La Sonnambula la prima.