Thursday, September 21, 2017
On September 16, 1977 Maria Callas died in Paris at 53. That same day the San Francisco Opera presented a reigning prima donna in an opera based on the life of a legendary French actress who died at an even younger age. This fascinating confluence prompts “Trove Thursday” to present that performance from 40 years ago: an inspired Renata Scotto as Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur with superb colleagues Elena Obraztsova, Giacomo Aragall and Giuseppe Taddei. In addition to Adriana (her first on any stage, I think) and her first US Norma in Cincinnati (can’t believe I didn’t go but I did listen to the live broadcast), 1977 was a banner year for Scotto. She appeared with the Met over 50 times in the house and on tour including her loopy Berthe in Le Prophète, Cio-Cio-San and Leonora in Il Trovatore, the beginning of a ubiquity there which displeased more than a few. Most memorably though she starred that year with Luciano Pavarotti in the first live Met PBS telecast. Not a big lover of La Bohème at the time, I watched it in my dorm room and was destroyed by the end and grateful that my roommate was out studying at the library and didn’t catch me tearstained throughout. Adriana’s been a guilty pleasure of mine since a tape of this broadcast seduced me; it was also the opera in which I saw Scotto for the first time. From the nosebleed seats at the Cincinnati Opera in 1979, she was magical even with a less-than-ideal cast that included Harry Theyard and Beverly Wolff. I hadn’t realized how much Scotto’s interpretation had imprinted on me until I went to see Mirella Freni in Adriana in the 1994 Met production. I’d always been a big Freni fan but there was scarcely a moment the entire evening when I wasn’t missing Scotto. While Freni died beautifully in act IV, she lacked the grandezza, the verbal specificity, the mesmerizing intensity of her near-exact contemporary: they were born just a year and three days apart. Recently a friend was aghast when I ventured that I preferred this performance to the fabled 1959 Naples Madga Olivero-Giulietta Simionato-Franco Corelli-Ettore Bastianini performance. So I re-listened to it and while I’m usually a big Olivero-fan I find her worst mannerisms on display there, and the conducting is as slow and indulgent as the audience is impatient and rowdy. Gianandrea Gavazzeni’s work in San Francisco while exceptionally supportive of his singers also manages a vivid dramatic energy. Cilea’s 1902 masterpiece is based on an 1849 play by Ernest Legouvé and Eugène Scribe, the celebrated librettist of many of Meyerbeer’s grandest operas. Although now virtually ignored compared to the opera, the play, like Victorien Sardou’s Tosca, became a celebrated vehicle for Sarah Bernhardt. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhGP8SSeaU0 There surely aren’t many roles that have been shared among Bernhardt, Joan Crawford who starred in the widely unseen 1928 silent Dream of Love, and Yvonne Printemps, whose Adrienne is the centerpiece of a film by the great Marcel L’Herbier. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=4iIPoUEdZhA Nearly 300 years after her death, Lecouvreur continues to fascinate. Twenty years ago Mariusz Trelinksi, director of the Met’s recent Tristan und Isolde, made an intriguing film for Polish television of a pared-down version of the Scribe-Legouvé play. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UJdrK6RRbo And Cilea’s opera now must be more popular than ever. Anna Netrebko, who sang her first Adriana in St. Petersburg earlier this summer, repeats it in Vienna in November, next year in Baden-Baden and eventually at the Met. During the 2017-18 season Monte Carlo mounts a new staging with Barbara Frittoli and Roberto Alagna while the Angelas Gheorghiu and Meade perform it in Palermo and Frankfurt respectively. Although he’s principally known for Adriana, Cilea did write four other operas including L’Arlesiana which I heard beautifully done by Giuseppe Filianoti, Latonia Moore and Marianne Cornetti with Opera Orchestra of New York ten years ago. Next year Joseph Calleja and Dolora Zajick take on Federico and his mom in concert performances of it in Berlin. Cilea: Adriana Lecouveur San Francisco Opera 16 September 1977 Broadcast Renata Scotto — Adriana Lecouvreur Elena Obraztsova — Princesse de Bouillon Pamela South — Mlle Jouvenot Mildred Tyree — Mlle Dangeville Giacomo Aragall — Maurizio Giuseppe Taddei — Michonnet Robert Johnson – Poisson John Davies — Quinault Joseph Frank — Abbé de Chazeuil Gianandrea Gavazzeni – Conductor To mark its second anniversary, three more reminders of notable past “Trove Thursday” podcasts: Supplementing the recent run of New York City Opera performances of La Fanciulla del West Olivero embodies Minnie in her own inimitable way . Georg Solti has a great time with Falstaff and brings along Katia Ricciarelli, Kathleen Battle, Christa Ludwig, Wolfgang Brendel and Guillermo Sarabia. Thrilling early Mozart happens when Edita Gruberova, Ann Murray, Jill Gomez, Rachel Yakar and Philip Langridge square off in Lucio Silla under Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Adriana and last week’s Attila can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. More than 90 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts also remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader .
I see flags, I hear bells, there’s a parade in Memphis. Photo: Scott Suchman The reasoning behind putting on Aida over any other Verdi opera must be that if you put ancient Egypt onstage, sooner or later you’ll find Tutankhamen’s tomb. It has name recognition value and is a surefire box office reward, but now carries a promise of luxury and extravagance onstage that other operas allegedly don’t have. (Evidence: the man behind be who, before the performance started, asked “Is this the opera about the elephant?”) But Aida certainly has its longueurs, it’s no more poignant or universal in its messages than any of Giuseppe Verdi’s other middle period or mature works, and he certainly wrote more interesting characters. So, how do you pry Aida away from its Aïda-ness, especially if that Aida-ness is untenable? WNO provides, if not an inconsistent one, an answer. In a well-contrasting pair of casts and an aesthetically-driven production that counts as one of the more successful by American opera’s most prominent jack (jill?) of all trades, Francesca Zambello, WNO opened its season on Saturday with a new-to-DC production of Verdi’s sandiest opera previously seen in San Francisco last fall with 2016 Richard Tucker Music Foundation award winner Tamara Wilson headlining as the titular “prisoner” (as the dreadful, sanitized translations would have it.) In her first DC Aidas, Wilson brings her characteristic sharp-edged voice and delicacy of attack to a part she’s sung for several years. She sings the role, including both her arias, with visible introspection, thoughtful phrasing and dynamic, and gorgeously floated high notes, and she’s an earnest, if exclusively gloomy in this role, actress. But her ample voice promises further rewards. Her excursions into heavier Verdi and Strauss have been well-received and she’ll take on Sieglinde under Gergiev in Paris next year. It’s a career to watch, but we knew that already. This milestone stands as an interesting counterpoint to Leah Crocetto’s highly communicative and more varied reading seen the following day. Though Crocetto was more physically engaged onstage and the role gives opportunity to showcase her vocal thrust and dramatic urgency, especially in the two emotionally wrought arias, I got the impression that there wasn’t much more to see. We’ll see more of her vocal arsenal when she returns in the spring for Don Carlo, but if Wilson is going to titillate DC audiences with the promise of more and then not give it to them, then Crocetto ought to get a gimmick. The pair of Radami each presented their own strengths and limitations. Wilson’s Radames, Yonghoon Lee, totes a large, forceful voice, but has grown staid as an actor, lost in squillo since my last hearing, and become increasingly mannered. During “Celeste Aida,” he’d scoop up to every phrase-ending f-note, the tone would go dull, and the vowel would completely flatten. Not too different was Carl Tanner’s capable but leathery-sounding Radames on the second night. What’s worse, though, was that he blustered his way through the part looking like a dead-ringer for Mussolini in Anita Yavich’s almost uniformly unflattering costumes. The Aidas found themselves well contrasted at every turn by their Amnerises, though. Ekaterina Semenchuk’s woolier voice stood in stark contrast to Wilson’s, though she declaimed practically the whole role and disappointingly appeared less engaged in every aspect than she does in her most recent turn in the role opposite Netrebko in Salzburg. But while Semenchuk was mere petulance, Sunday’s Marina Prudenskaya was pure decadence and cruelty tethered to a true emotional arc. Prudenskaya’s distant, seductively dark voice and superior, slinky bearing onstage complemented Crocetto’s do-gooder Aida, and her relentless conviction elevated her every scene. In the smaller parts, Morris Robinson was neither intelligible nor stylish as Ramfis, Gordon Hawkins cajoled with a sound more burnished than weathered as Amonasro, and Soloman Howard was authoritative and incisive as the King. In the pit, Evan Rogister consistently struck a balance between communicating the characteristic sweep of the score, maintaining propulsive tempi, and drawing some luxurious playing from the WNO Orchestra in conjunction with the WNO Chorus. In an inspired move, Zambello drew in collaborating artists outside of opera and the results are mostly impressive. The calligraphic production designs, inspired by street artist Retna, are vaguely suggestive of a north-African locale and graciously frame Mark McCollough’s sensuous lighting and Michael Yeargan’s utilitarian sets. Jessica Lang’s thoughtful choreography (especially for the children) makes every one of the ballets just that. Only the costumes, military uniforms for the men and racks of tie-dye caftans for the women, fall flat. And though the production, boasting over 100 people onstage, sometimes suffers from traffic control problems, Zambello is more hands-off on the storytelling of the piece than usual and the singers’ experience shines through as a consequence. I’m not sure if my neighbor who started the afternoon in search of ivory was pleased with what he came back with, but the weekend yielded an earnest and thoughtfully considered reevaluation of Aida that didn’t sell it for spectacle and took every opportunity to be meaningfully provocative. And after two performances of Aida in 24 hours, I count that as a ritorno vincitor.
This new recording titled “Romanza: Anna Netrebko” features a whole lot of music performed by Ms. Netrebko and her husband, Tenor Yusuf Eyvnzov. The selections are as follows: Bellini: Eccomi in lieta vesta…Oh! quante volte (from I Capuleti e I Montecchi) Dvorak: Mesícku na nebi hlubokém ‘Song to the Moon’ (from Rusalka) Songs My Mother Taught Me, Op. 55 No. 4 Grieg: Peer Gynt: Solveig’s Song Kalman: Heia, in den Bergen from Die Csárdásfürstin Krutoy: Forse non fu Cantami Mi fa male Credo L’amour Russe Gioia Il nastro blu La fantasia Odna Lyubov Ricomincero Tango mio Pioggia d’aprile Se tu almeno fossi qui Seguire me Unico L’istante prima dell’amore Angels pass away Musica con noi Session Orchestra London, Ben Foster Lehár: Meine Lippen sie Kussen so heiss (from Giuditta) Mozart: La ci darem la mano (from Don Giovanni) Offenbach: Barcarolle (from Les Contes d’Hoffmann ) Puccini: O mio babbino caro (from Gianni Schicchi) Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado Si, mi chiamano Mimi (from La Bohème) Un bel di vedremo (from Madama Butterfly) Vissi d’arte (from Tosca) Rachmaninov: How fair this spot, Op. 21 No. 7 Strauss, R: Wiegenlied, Op. 41 No. 1 Tchaikovsky: Octgo eto prezde ne znala ni toski ya (from Iolanta) Verdi: Follie! Follie! Delirio vano è questo…Sempre libera (from La traviata) Saimir Pirgu (tenor) Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado Oh ben s’addice questo torbido cielo … Sempre all’alba ed alla sera (from Giovanna d’Arco) All performed by Anna Netrebko (soprano), and Yusif Eyvazov (tenor). Anna Netrebko and her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, released a new duet album of love songs, Romanza, on September 1, 2017. Eighteen original romantic love songs were written and composed specially for the couple by Russian producer Igor Krutoy. Romanza is not only Anna Netrebko’s first duet album with husband Yusif, but also her first foray out of the realm of traditional core repertoire. Producer Igor Krutoy wrote all 18 album tracks with Anna and Yusif in mind. Many years of working together closely and a one of a kind friendship that stems from his collaboration with Anna and Yusif allowed Igor to write love songs that not only perfectly match their voices, but also are an homage to love in general. Anna met her husband, tenor Yusif Eyvazov, when they starred together in Manon Lescaut at the Rome Opera in March 2014. Since their wedding in December 2015, the couple has appeared in concert and on the opera stage together worldwide. She and Yusif open La Scala’s season on December 7, 2017 in Andrea Chénier; it will be her role debut as Maddalena. Here are Ms. Neterebko and her husband in an extended trailer from this recording:
In addition to her first Met Aida performances next season , forthcoming projects for the one and only Anna Netrebko just keep gushing out. According to an interview in Classica magazine (as quoted on the website Revopéra ) the diva’s plans include her first Lisa in Pikovaya dama at Salzburg in 2018, conducted by Mariss Jansons; a debut at Bayreuth as Elsa in 2019; the previously mentioned Salome; and, oh did I mention two new Verdi roles, Amelia in Ballo and Leonora in Forza?
A spokesman for Anna Netrebko informs parterre box that the diva is scheduled to sing Aïda at the Met during the 2018-2019 season in the existing production by Sonja Frisell. She will reprise the role in 2020-2021 in a new production of the Verdi opera by a director TBA, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=aB2Sf6rPvHY
Michael Cooper sees Peter Gelb lunching with William Kentridge, Riccardo Muti at a reception for his new vinyl LP (yes, in 2017), the classical chief for Apple Music listening to Daniil Trifonov play, and Anna Netrebko on the front page of the newspapers (even the tabloids).
Great opera singers