achtergrondartikelen

A few words about Mara Zampieri, one of the greatest soprano’s of the last thirty years of the 20th century

© Tamino autographs

IL GIURAMENTO


Some forty years ago, I paid a real fortune for those two badly copied cassette tapes of Saverio Mercadante’s Il Giuramento, recorded live in Vienna on September 9, 1979. And now that the Austrian broadcaster ORF is digging up one after the other live recorded opera from their archives and transferring them to CDs, this splendid opera also came on the market – for little money and in an excellent sound quality (Orfeo C 6800621).

Il Giuramento is, just like La Gioconda, based on Victor Hugo’s play ‘Angelo, Tyrant de Padoue’, but there is a world of difference between the two works. La Gioconda is a very passionate, at times overwhelming, opera and contains a selection of (over)famous arias. Think of ‘Suicidio’ or ‘Cielo e mare’. Il Giuramento is smaller and more intimate. Think of Bellini with a touch of early Verdi.

The whole opera is really nothing but a succession of the most beautiful melodies, which force you to listen without even wanting to sing along. Or it must be ‘Compita è ormai la giusta e terribil vendetta’, a beautiful aria sung with much melancholy and elan by Domingo.



Domingo rehearsed the role, which was completely new to him, in four days (!) and stepped in – after only one rehearsal – for the sick Peter Dvorsky. Who else would be capable of pulling this off?

Mara Zampieri, unlike many of her contemporary colleagues, had a very individual sound that you may or may not like, but you cannot not possibly confuse her with anyone else. Her silver-coloured, sensuous soprano blends in beautifully with the golden velvet of Agnes Baltsa (then still without the ugly register break that marred her later performances so much) and in ‘Oh! Qual nome pronunziaste’ their voices melt together into a wonderful unity that is so beautiful it hurts.


ATTILA



There are those performances where everything is just in perfect harmony and you get the feeling that it could not be any better. People keep talking about them and they become legends.

Verdi’s Attila was such a performance, at the Vienna State Opera on 21 December 1980. It was Giuseppe Sinopoli’s debut in the house, his name was still virtually unknown, but the initial reluctance of the audience turned into frenzied enthusiasm from the very first bars. Verdi’s score – not the strongest – has never been heard before with such warmth, fervour and tenderness.

Nicolai Ghiaurov was a great Attila. With his sonorous bass, he gave the character not only the allure of a general but also the gentleness of a loving man.

In her role as Odabella, Mara Zampieri proved that she is not only a fantastic singer with a radiant height and a dramatic attack, but also a great actress.

The stretta ‘E gettata la mia sorte’ in the second act requires the baritone to sing the high b flat. Piero Cappuccilli hit it with ease and suppleness, and then was forced to encore by the frenzied audience, something one seldom experiences in opera. A rare occurrence.



Met Plácido Domingo in La Fanciulla del West

Mara Zampieri sings verismo

And try to find this one, You can’t live without this recording, believe me!
Just  few examples



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3H_xnGJemW8

About ‘Knoxville, Summer of 1915’ by Samuel Barber

‘Knoxville, Summer of 1915’, is, apart from Adagio, perhaps the best-known work by the American tone poet Samuel Barber, who is still being blatantly and infamously neglected in the Netherlands.



Barber composed the piece after James Agee’s prose poem in 1947, when his father was on his deathbed. The nostalgia and wistfulness, the longing for the old days, for the time when you were a child and everything was taken for granted, all that immediately appealed to him. But there was more. Agee, who was more or less a peer of Barber’s, wrote the poem in memory of his own father who had died in a car accident in 1916, after which the family left Knoxville, never to return.



‘Knoxville, Summer of 1915’ was first performed by Eleanor Steber in 1948, after which the song would remain attached to her name for a long time, despite renditions – brilliant at times – by many leading sopranos such as Leontyne Price, Dawn Upshaw and Roberta Alexander.

Eleanor Steber:


Leontyne Price


Renée Fleming also has included the song in her repertoire.  She recorded it in 2016 for Decca, with the Stockholm Philharmonic Orchest onder hun Finse dirigent Sakari Oram

Basiaconfuoco’s  top tien 2022. Addendum

Toen ik mijn top tien lijstje maakte was ik een viertal geweldige uitgaven totaal vergeten. Waarom? Wie het weet maak het zeggen. Blackout? Of gewoon onnadenkendheid?
Maar nu komen ze alsnog aan bod. En, geloof mij, deze vier uitgaven mag niemand missen!

Het lijstje is alfabetisch opgesteld, naar de componist, titel of de uitvoerende

Celebrating Woman

Hoeveel vrouwelijke componisten kent u?  […] The Hague Stringtrio, een ensemble die mij eerder al meer dan prettig verrast had met een pleidooi voor (veelal vergeten) werken van ‘Entartete componisten’, heeft nu een cd opgenomen die vrouwelijk componisten in the picture zet. Op hun cd met de titel Celebrating Women! hebben ze strijktrio’s van vrouwelijke componisten uit de tweede helft van de negentiende en eerste helft van de twintigste eeuw vastgelegd. Alle vier de componisten zijn zo verschillend als het maar kan. Ze komen niet alleen uit vier verschillende landen (en drie werelddelen), ook hun culturele en sociale achtergrond kan niet diverser zijn […]

Ik hoop zo dat deze CD een navolging krijgt en dat de vrouwelijke componisten steeds vaker uitgevoerd en opgenomen gaan worden. Het zijn veelal echte juweeltjes die de vergetelheid niet verdienen

In English

Luigi Concone

Zowel de Israëlische harpiste Rachel Talitman als de Grieks-Cypriotische fagottist Mavroudes Troullos zijn meer dan voortreffelijk. Echte vakmensen, virtuoos en inspirerend. […]


Ooit hadden we zoiets als huismuziek. Iets wat inmiddels vervangen is door house music (nomen omen?). Of zoiets. Niemand die nog luistert, het gaat om de alles verhullende herrie. Maar, als ik goed nadenk, is er eigenlijk iets veranderd, behalve de decibellen? Hebben de mensen van toen daadwerkelijk geluisterd? […]

Een paar weken geleden werd er een cd ten doop gehouden met zes sonates voor harp en fagot van ene Luigi Comencini. Niet alleen is de combinatie bijzonder, de componist zelf is het ook.

Dick Kattenburg

Vierentwintig is hij geworden. Vierentwintig. Meer mocht het niet van de nazi’s. Wie weet, wat hij nog meer in zijn mars had? Welke opera’s hadden we van hem kunnen verwachten? Wie weet was hij nu Wagner voorbijgestreefd, de componist die het niet zo op Joden op had? Maar misschien was hij een totaal andere richting opgegaan en werd hij een jazz gigant? […]

Hoe hij opgepakt is, is niet helemaal duidelijk, vermoed wordt dat hij tijdens een razzia werd opgepakt en kort daarop naar Westerbork werd gedeporteerd. Op 14 mei 1944  werd hij op transport gesteld naar Auschwitz. Een op 30 september 1944 gedateerde overlijdensakte vermeldt dat hij in Midden-Europa is gestorven. Daar kunnen we het mee doen. […]

De ‘Ouverture voor twee piano’s’ uit 1936 is het enige werk dat Kattenburg schreef voor twee piano’s (dus niet voor piano vierhandig). Hij was toen 17. Uit dezelfde periode stamt ook  ‘Tap dance’ waar ook echt een tapdanser aan te pas moest komen.

Kattenburg maakt zelfs een zeer geslaagde tekening van de tapdanser in het manuscript. Op deze nieuwe album is deze bijzondere rol Tonio Geugelin werkelijk perfect aangemeten.

In English:

https://basiaconfuoco.com/2022/03/30/stolen-melodies-by-dick-kattenburg-as-a-kind-of-metaphor-for-his-short-life/

Origin door Delta stringtrio

Onvoorstelbaar eigenlijk hoe veel geweldige musici ons klein landje telt! […]
De pianiste Vera Kooper, de violist Gerard Sponk en de celliste Irene Enzlin hebben elkaar in 2013 in Salzburg ontmoet, waar ze alle drie toen studeerden […]

Origin is al de derde cd die ze samen hebben opgenomen, […] de titel slaat op de afkomst van de muziek waar de componisten uit putten: de onvervalste folklore als leidraad [,,,]

Delta Piano Trio: “Drie componisten drie verschillende culturen en drie verschillende tijdperken, maar met één overeenkomst: een zoektocht naar de muzikale oorsprong”.

Plácido Domingo in his lesser-known recordings

Isaac Albéniz Merlin

The present recording offers a great opportunity for a musical game. The composer came from Spain, the orchestral sound is Wagnerian and the sung text is in (Old) English: who, oh who?

Isaac Albéniz (because this is about him) lived for quite some time in London where he befriended Lord Francis Burdett Money-Coutts, a wealthy banker with great ambitions and literary aspirations. His greatest dream was creation of an English counterpart to the Ring of the Nibelungen, and the story of King Arthur lent itself perfectly to that.

Albéniz received all possible support from the librettist/commissioner and in 1897 Merlin was created, which should have been the first part of the trilogy. The opera was never performed in its entirety and the score lay scattered between Madrid and London. That it was found and restored is thanks to conductor José De Eusebio, who, bolstered by a star-studded cast, was also allowed to record it for Decca.

The truly great cast is led by Plácido Domingo at his best as Arthur. As Merlin, we hear Carlos Álvarez: a dream of a baritone, warm, round and blessed with an almost old-fashioned morbidezza

https://open.spotify.com/album/40MeVLGOC3RuN7hwsQd441?si=aNCEPU5NQKuZan3eGiAJXQ

Beethoven Fidelio

If you want thunder and lightning in your Fidelio: choose for Daniel Barenboim’s

recording. Here, not only is the orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) of almost Wagnerian proportions, so are the singers: Waltraud Meier (Leonore), Plácido Domingo (Florestan), Falk Struckman (Don Pizarrro), René Pape (Rocco), Kwangchul Youn (Don Fernando).


On the other hand the roles of Jaquino (Werner Güra) and Marzelline (Soile Isokoski) are wonderfully lyrical (although more heavily cast than usual). The tempi are solid but never punishing, and Barenboim conducts with verve.

Bretón La Dolores

I know Tomas Bretón as one of the best zarzuela composers and his La Verbena de la Paloma regularly ends up in my CD player. From La Dolores, I knew – until not so long ago – only one aria and a single duet, as those belong to my Domingo collection.

Plácido Domingo sings ‘Jota’ from La Dolores:



This CD was a very exciting and very pleasant first encounter with the complete work and I sat up straight at the very first notes. The beautiful colours that the orchestra here displayed could only be the work of an important maestro.

The prelude strongly reminded me of Cavalleria Rusticana, which was only reinforced by the choral part that followed. But just when I thought I had heard it all before (besides the already mentioned ‘Cavalleria’, I also thought I recognised ‘Carmen’), it took a totally different turn.

Yes, it is unmistakably Spanish and often I was also reminded of El Gato Montés by Manuel Penella Moreno, especially in the brilliant scenes preceding the bullfight. But what most surprised me: why was La Dolores not recorded earlier? The first performance in 1895 was a huge success and the opera was even filmed.

Manuel Lanza (no relation) has a beautiful baritone voice that reminded me strongly of Carlos Álvarez.

Tito Beltrán has recorded a few solo CDs since 1993, when he won the Cardiff Competition, and it felt good to hear him in a complete opera recording.

And Plácido Domingo is, as (almost) always, superior.

Alberto Ginastera



The music of Alberto Ginastera, arguably the most important Argentine composer, is still terra incognita for most of us. Warner Classics has collected several of his vocal works on a new CD, with shining contributions from Plácido Domingo and Virginia Tola.
The scenes from ‘Don Rodrigo’ are no less than a gift, but: why only these two scenes? There is still no official recording of the opera, which is best described – in terms of musical structure – as the Argentine Wozzeck.

Plácido Domingo already sang the lead role at the opera’s US premiere in 1966 (!), at the New York City Opera. It is hard to compare his voice then and now, but his great aria “Señor del Perdón”, still rings as clear as a bell.

Domingo sings”Señor del Perdón”, recording from 22 February 1966:



In 1966, the role of Rodrigo’s beloved Florinda was sung by Jeannine Crader, an American soprano who was also the first to record Ginestera’s cantata Milena.

In the new recording, Domingo is joined by the brilliant Argentine soprano Virginia Tola. Her voice is childlike naïve and dramatic at the same time. Her last words after Rodrigo’s death will continue to haunt you.




Händel Tamerlano




A production directed by Graham Vick and conducted by Paul McCreesh was recorded at the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2008 (Opus Arte OA Bd7022 D). The cast was undoubtedly good, with Sara Mingardo leading the way as an outstanding Andronico.

Plácido Domingo (Bajazet) was making his debut in a baroque opera, but even he, my great idol, could not prevent me from falling asleep all the time. At his ‘Figlia mia non pianger’, I woke up and was momentarily moved, but that was it.

Much of the boredom is undoubtedly down to the director. Vick’s production is bare, bleak and (I assume?) aesthetically pleasing.


Below, Domingo in ‘Figlia mia non pianger’

Mare Nostrum: Plácido Domingo honours the Mediterranean Sea


Plácido Domingo recorded this CD in 2016. The ‘Mar’ in this case is the Mediterranean Sea. The singer who never takes a break, as Domingo is widely known, has collected songs from numerous Mediterranean countries. A surprising selection…

The Romans called the Mediterranean Sea ‘Mare Nostrum’, our sea. And that is true: the sea belongs to all of us. Domingo states on the album: “I bow before your grandeur. I am deeply grateful for the privilege of having been born in Spain, the land that is always caressed by your waters. I honour you in the only way I can: by singing your songs.”

The countries that surround the sea are all different and you can hear that in their songs. Domingo’s choice is surprising. Besides the not very exciting ‘Torna a Surriento’ and ‘Plaisir d’Amour’ (both in a new arrangement by Robert Sadin), he sings, among others, the Spanish classic ‘Del Cabello Más Sutil’ by Fernando Obradors, one of the most beautiful songs ever.

Very exciting and surprising are the Corsican polyphonic ‘Anghjulina’, sung with Barbara Fortuna and ‘Potho Reposare’, a beautiful love song from Sardinia.

I am less happy with ‘Aranjuez’, which in my opinion has already been completely milked dry, although the arrangement here is very refreshing. In its place I would have liked to hear something from Greece, because the traditional Cypriot song ‘To Yasemi’ certainly tastes like more.

There are more things of beauty on the CD. ‘Adio Kerida’ for example, sung in Ladino, one of the best known songs of the Spanish Jews.

Or the Israeli ‘Layla Layla’ by poet Natan Alterman, sung in perfect Ivrit. Or ‘Lamma Bada Yatathana’, a ‘muwashshah’ from Arab Andalusia, from the 12th century, with a typical North African rhythm (samai thaqil).

Trailer:






Mozart Idomeneo



In 1996, Deutsche Grammophon (4477372) recorded the opera conducted by Maestro James Levine with just about the Metropolitan Opera’s biggest stars of the time. No idea if it is idiomatic, but I find it HUGE!

Levine’s muscular conducting brings out hidden treasures and in no other performance can you hear how progressive the music is! The tempi are obviously brisk, but nowhere rushed, and most of the voices are overwhelming.

Plácido Domingo’s Idomeneo is exactly what we expect from him: with his beautiful, warm tenor, his regal recitation and his commitment, he makes Idomeneo a very emotional and mostly very humane king.

Rossini Barbiere di Sevilglia



In 1992, Deutsche Grammophon (4357632) presented a very special recording of the work: in fact, the role of Figaro was sung by none other than Plácido Domingo.

He does it very convincingly, proving that he has not only a beautiful voice but also a comical talent.



Arias by Verdi, but now as a baritone



The Domingo phenomenon …. No, I am not going to bombard you with facts and trivia, all of which you will have known for a long time because the press can’t get enough of them.

It so happens that, besides being a real fan, I am also a critical listener and I do my best not to let my ratio and my anima get in each other’s way. Whether I succeed is up to you, my reader, to judge.

Shaking my head, I read what some of my colleagues write about Domingo. He is blamed for singing baritone roles when he is not a real baritone. No, he is not (do I hear anything about Ramon Vinay?), but what bothers me most is that those are the same critics who have never even considered Domingo to be a real tenor. Everything, and certainly a human voice is mostly a matter of taste. But how you construct your criticism (or not) is more than that, it’s also about decency.
And now back to what this is all about: CD of baritone-Verdi arias by tenor/baritone Plácido Domingo.

Domingo has a Verdi curriculum to match, so he had already sung live in most of Verdi’s operas. But there is more, as he has also recorded all his major tenor arias.

It is a bit of an unreal experience to hear him now; singing his former rivals or the fathers in the same operas. His advantage: he knows the operas inside out. Your advantage as a listener: a totally different approach to those roles than you are used to. He understands the other side too!

That his Simon Boccanegra makes the most impression is not surprising: he has had that role in his repertoire for a few years now and has performed it all over the world (no, not in the Netherlands, somehow the Netherlands no longer count as part of “the world”).

Domingo sings ‘Plebe! Patrizi’ from Simon Boccanegra (Met 2010):



‘Ecco la spada’ is of such intensity that it renders me breathless. In this, he is assisted by (among others) Angel Joy Blue, a soprano who also partnered him at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. We are going to hear more from that lady.

His father Germont (La Traviata) and Rigoletto also betray a his powerful experience of the stage: in ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’ he sounds no less than heartbreaking.
He has also made Luna (Il Trovatore) his own by now. ‘Il balen’ already sounds impressive, but in ‘Qual suono’, with the more than excellent contribution of the Valencia choir, he lets himself go all the way and the result is stunning.

The Orquesta de la Comunitat Valenciana conducted by Pablo Heras-Casado sounds very competent and it gives the star all the space he needs to shine, which he amply does.
The making of:

Bonus

Plácido Domingo in “The Enchanted Island” (2011): “Who dares to call me? – Gone forever”


One more bonus:

Entartete Music and Berthold Goldschmidt

Korngold, Braunfels, Goldschmidt, Zemlinsky, Ullmann, Schreker, Schoenberg, Toch, Weill, Krenek, Spoliansky, Holländer, Grosz, Waxman, Haas, Krasa, Schulhoff, Klein… a litany of names. Labelled “entartet” and banned by the Nazis, vilified, driven away, murdered. The composers who survived the war were forgotten, just like those who were murdered. Has this all really been the fault of the Nazis?

Today I want to tell you more about Berthold Goldschmidt, as it is his 120-th Birthday.
Goldschmidt was born in Hamburg in 1903.  He studied philosophy and art history, as well as composition (with Schreker) and conducting.  He served as Erich Kleiber’s assistant for the premiere of Berg’s Wozzeck in 1925. His musical career began in earnest during the heyday of the Weimar Republic.

In 1925, Goldschmidt achieved his first major success with his Passacaglia which earned him the prestigious Mendelssohn Prize. Hailed as one of the brightest hopes of a generation of young composers, Goldschmidt reached the premature climax of his career with the premiere of his opera Der gewaltige Hahnrei in Mannheim in 1932.

And then…. And then the Nazi’s came to power and he became “Entartet. In 1935 Berthold Goldschmidt left Germany and travelled to London. During World War II, Goldschmidt worked for the BBC and served as the Music Director of its German Service in 1944-47. While taking jobs in conducting, Against his better judgement he kept composing, but his works remained unperformed. In 1951 Goldschmidt won an opera composition contest with Beatrice Cenci, which had to wait until 1988 for its first concert performance.

In the 1980s, stimulated by the renewed interest in his work, Goldschmidt started to compose again. His Rondeau from 1995, written for and performed by Chantal Juilliet,  was recorded by Decca, together with his beautiful Ciaccona Sinfonica from 1936. This CD has been out of print for years now, and the composer’s works have all but disappeared from the concert platform.



An absolute must is the DVD entitled ‘Verbotene Klange. Komponisten in Exil’ (Capriccio 93506). It is a documentary on German and Austrian composers who, as the commentator puts it, “instead of being revered, were despised”. And who, thanks to emigration, survived. With interviews with, among others, Ernst Krenek and Berthold Goldschmidt: the latter we meet at the very first recording (after 50 years!) of his string quartets. And the almost centenarian Krenek says something that could be called typical for that generation: “I am caught between continents. In America I don’t really feel ‘heimisch’, but I would never consider going back to Europe. There is no home for me anywhere. Not anymore.

Music by Goldschmidt on Spotify:

For soprano Corinne Winters 2022 was a stellar year

Text: Peter Franken

A recording of Halka from the Theater an der Wien was released on DVD in January 2022. In the title role American soprano Corinne Winters, who had been steadily gaining fame in Europe in previous years. The recording dated from 2019 and Winters’ career had been at a low ebb since then as a result of the Covid epidemic. But 2022 was going to be a great year for her.  For those not yet really familiar with Corinne Winters, now first a retrospective.



Born in 1983, she first performed in a professional production in ….. 2011. That was a late career start and this fill-in for a pregnant Mélisande in St.Louis turned out to be the starting point for a real catch-up. Winters was advised to audition for ENO and in 2013 she sang Violetta there in Konwitschny’s production of La traviata. There seem to have been quite a few casting directors and intendants in the premiere audience, including reportedly Sophie de Lint. Be that as it may, her performance attracted strong attention. Bachtrack wrote about it: ‘Corinne Winters was an outstanding Violetta, who proved capable of controlling the various aspects of vocal technique demanded by Verdi’s operatic tour de force.’ And on the Planet Hugill blog we read: ‘Winters is a lyric soprano, but one with the resources to not only sing La traviata without an interval but to take her through Act 3 with flying colours. She did everything asked of her and more, and was simply mesmerising. She has quite a bright voice, without excessive vibrato so that it was a beautifully clean expressive performance. I do hope that we hear her again soon in the UK.’



Winters with Michael Spyers in Benvenuto Cellinii in the ENO

The wait didn’t last too long: in 2014 Winters sang in that madcap production Terry Gilliam made of Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini. Bachtrack: ‘Corinne Winters, returning to the Coliseum after her spectacular debut as Violetta last season, wowed us once again as Teresa. Her Act I aria “Hearts full of love” was wonderfully sung, but the cabaletta which followed treated us to a cascade of coloratura, glittering with diamonds. Winters displayed bags of personality, including a knack for comedy.’

Interest in Winters was piqued among European casting directors and engagements at Opera Vlaanderen followed as Donna Anna and Desdemona, and then also the role she had already performed in America: Mélisande. A recording of that performance in Zurich has been released on DVD. Soon after, she made her debut at the Royal Opera House as a brilliant Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, also released on DVD. From then on, she has definitely managed to add Europe and the very best opera houses to her field of activity.

Of course, there were also performances in the United States, including, in 2017, her role debut in Seattle as Katia in Janáček’s Katia Kabanova, which would become her signature role. A review said: ‘Maryland soprano Corinne Winters was vocally secure and dramatically intense, in the challenging role of Katya. Winters conveyed the soul-searing turmoil of a woman with deeply-held religious belief that extra-marital sexual thoughtsare mortal sins, yet who accedes to a liaison with Boris while her husband is away.’ ‘

© Opera Ballet Vlaanderen

My first meeting with Corinne Winters dates from 2019 when I saw her as Rachel in Halevy’s La Juive. It was a production by Konwitschny which I saw in Gent. I wrote about it:  ‘In the big scene with her rival Eudoxie, Rachel sings from the auditorium. This creates a literal rift between the two. Soprano Corinne Winters used the parterre row 6 and was immediately in front of me. She had a very big voice, never forced herself and was always in control, with her wonderful timbre and no trace of any vibrato. In the revealing scene her acting was also very strong, she was truly convincing the audience of her disbelieve and I got the impression that she was on the verge of berating Léopold in a very ranting Italian.’

La Juive:



Shortly afterwards came Halka and what immediately stands out in that production is her great range. She initially ‘was’ a mezzo and decided to make the transition to the soprano profession. But this has not come at the expense of the low register. Most of the time, as Halka, she is just a real mezzo who can also handle the heights effortlessly. And, what I find so important: she can sing very softly in all registers

I have never heard and seen her as Butterfly but I can hardly imagine her Cio-Cio-San cutting through the soul even more than Halka does. It is the most moving performance I know of her to date.


Meanwhile, we are back in that stellar year 2022 when I got to experience Corinne Winters as Giorgetta and Suor Angelica. This was a production of Il trittico at La Monnaie Brussels. Due to the Covid epidemic the premiere was sung by a colleague but fortunately I was in the audience for the last performance and she totally lived up to my expectations.


Those Puccini heroines were all role debuts and right after followed another: Jenufa in the opera of the same name. This was a production by Tatjana Gürbaca in Geneva, where Winters would return later in the year for Gürbaca’s Katia Kabanova. That it would become her signature role has been proven by now, especially after her debut as Katia at the Salzburg Festival where she was so very successful. We will surely see her there more often in the future, be it not in 202

Kat’a Kabanóva:

Jenufa:

:



The year ended with Les dialogues des Carmélites in Rome. She sang Blanche de la Force there in a production by Emma Dante, and with great success. Jenufa is scheduled for januari 2023 in Valencia but since she was already there she had to jump in last minute as Mimi in La Bohème at the end of December ’22. This lady is a real jack of all trades and although Katia has become her calling card, I hope that in the future she will give us many more performances of all the other roles in her repertoire: Yolanthe, Tatjana, Fiordiligi, Desdemona and so on.

Les dialogues des Carmélites;



When asked, she was able to tell on her fanpage that a DVD of Katia in Salzburg will probably be released in due course: ‘stay tuned’. That is something to look forward to and in the meantime, of course, there are those recordings with her Mélisande, Fiordiligi and Halka. Corinne Winters has made it all the way and that is worth some heartfelt congratulations.

Dreams don’t come true

Imagine: you are young, beautiful and secretly in love with a revolutionary, who unfortunately is on his deathbed. Your relationship is “not done” and marriage is out of the question. You live in a small town, where there is no future for you.

One day, a prince presents himself. It is true: he is old and worn out. His beard and moustache are false, he wears a wig and he is a bit childish. But he is rich and actually quite nice. With his money you will be able to afford sending your lover to the Spanish sun, where he will definitely get better. And when the prince dies, there is nothing stopping you from marrying whoever you want. For this you are quite willing to sacrifice yourself, aren’t you?

Marja Alexandrowna is a cunning woman. She knows how to get her daughter Sina to agree to her little plan to hook the prince (albeit reluctantly). The prince is served a substantial meal, liberally sprinkled with wine. Sina sings an aria, the prince gets another liqueur, and yes: he asks for Sina’s hand. Alas, everything goes haywire.

Both Paul, a distant relative of the prince and in love with Sina, and Nastassja, a poor relative of Maria Alexandrowna and herself interested in the prince, throw a spanner in the works.

When the prince awakens from his nap, he readily accepts Paul’s explanation that his proposal only took place in a dream. Meanwhile, Nastasia makes sure that all the ladies of the town are informed of the incident. Mother and daughter are laughed at, Sina confesses the premeditated plan, the prince forgives her and leaves. And meanwhile, Sina’s lover dies.

Verlobung im Traum is an unusual opera. The action is captured within a frame narrative. The story is told to us by an archivist of Mordasov. In the prologue, he introduces the main characters to us; in the epilogue, we hear how things continue with Sina and her mother.


The story, literally after Dostoevsky’s “Uncle’s Dream” was adapted into a libretto by Rudolf Fuchs and Rudolf Thomas.

Trailer from Karlsruhe in 2014:



Verlobung im Traum was awarded the State Prize for Composition in 1933 and in the same year it was also performed: first for the Prague Radio and a few months later at the German Theatre in Prague. Georg Szell conducted and Hilde Konetzny sang Sina. The success was great, but further performances were out of the question. After all, it was already 1933.

The music is nowhere atonal, one detects strong influences of Poulenc, but Mahler is also quite close.

Krása sprinkles liberally with jazz influences and the saxophone takes a prominent place in the orchestra. Perhaps most remarkable is the “revenge duet” at the end of the first act: an ironic replacement for the usual “love duet”?

Anda-Luise Bogsa sings Sina:



And then we come to “Casta Diva”: Sina, in her attempt to seduce the prince, sings the beautiful aria from Bellini’s “Norma”. Instead of the original chorus, we get a quartet: the mother, the prince and, behind-the-scene, the eavesdropping Nastassja and Paul are each commenting on Sina’s singing….

Hans Krása in Teresienstadt


Born in 1899, the composer was a true “bon-vivant”. He spent his days at the coffee house, at the opera or playing chess with his friend Thomas. Little time was left for composing.

Krása spent a short time in Paris (at the invitation of his kindred spirits from “Les Six”), but nostalgia for Prague was stronger and so he returned to his homeland, just in time to be sent to Teresienstadt. On 17 October 1944, he was gassed in Auschwitz, along with Ullmann, Haas and Klein.

 “Das schönste sind im Leben diese Träume, die erfüllen, was unerfüllbar ist”


Hans Krása
Verlobung im Traum
Christianne Berggold, Charlotte Hellekant, Juanita Lascarro, Jane Henschel, Albert Dohmen
Ernst Senff Chor Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin olv Lothar Zagrosek
Decca 4555872

Mado Robin: the eighth world wonder?

The French coloratura soprano, born on 29 December 1918 in Yzeures=sur-Creuse  could actually be considered the eighth world wonder.
Her voice was of the soubrette type with a very pleasant girlish timbre and her coloratura technique more than sublime, but there was more: her high notes were extremely high. With her voice she not only reached the F4, but even had the C4 within her reach without any problems, one of the highest notes ever sung by a human voice

.

All her high notes in a row, with the description:

She was star of television and radio in the 1950s the fifties,  was a very celebrated radio and TV star in France, but her fame reached far beyond her national borders. She celebrated her greatest triumphs as Lakmé and Leïla (Pearl Fishers), but her Lucia and Olympia were also proverbial.

Mado Robin hits C7 Lucia di Lammermoor:

Gounod’s Mireille is not really a role we would expect from her, but it fits wonderfully well with her childishly naive timbre. I enjoyed these fragments the most, much more than her Lucia and Bellinis.

TOP TIEN van Neil van der Linden

1 Moby Dick, or, The Whale Een draaikolk van totaaltheater, – muziek, -beeldende kunst, – film waarin alle thema’s in Herman Melvilles klassieker uit de opkomende industriële maatschappij van de negentiende eeuw die nog steeds een rol spelen, uitbuiting, verpaupering en racisme, maar ook obsessiviteit en queer-erotiek aan bod komen. Muziek Caroline Shaw, Andrew Yee, Asma Maroof, regie Wu Tsang, tekst Sophia Al-Maria, dirigent Kevin Griffiths.

EMA8WG Extreme Close-Up Eye Of Baby Sperm Whale (Physeter Macrocephalus) Captive D1940

2 Widmann eclectische en toch geheel eigen Arche NTR ZaterdagMatinee totaaltheater en toch concertante op het podium van het Concertgebouw.

3 And here I am/a Lonely Woman van Huba de Graaff. Het unieke werk en leven van de Iraanse dichteres Foroukh Foroukhzad verklankt in punk-rock band stijl, verweven met met beelden uit Foroukhzads indringende experimentele film The House is Black over een lepra-oord.

4 NOMAD Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui eigenlijk al een voorstelling van drie jaar ervoor, maar door corona opgehouden. Ik heb nooit mooiere woestijnen, donderwolken, stortbuien en vloedgolven gezien op het toneel, realistisch en toch theatraal, in een meeslepende voorstelling over mensen op drift

5 Le Vin Herbé Ulrike Quade Capella Amsterdam Emio Greco. Frank Martins indringende versie van Tristan und Isolde, op het toneel zo eenzaam gemaakt als ze in Frank Martins opera zijn, midden in Corona tijd in verplicht halflege zalen, verbeeld als tragikomische poppenopera. Wanneer komt Ulrike Quade iets uitvoeren bij De Nationale Opera?

6 Ex aequo twee nieuwe Amerikaanse opera’s bij DNO, waartussen ik niet kan kiezen; gelukkig maar. Blue met muziek van Jeanine Tesori, libretto Tazewell Thompson, dirigent Kwamé Ryan. Barber meets Ellington meets Puccini meets Grant Still in een overtuigend verklankt en verbeeld eigentijds drama over raciale thema’s die niet alleen in de VS actueel zijn. En Denis en Katya, muziek Philip Venables, libretto en regie Ted Huffmann, over twee jeugdige Russen die na dood en verderf te hebben gezaaid zelf de dood verkiezen. Kwam bij toeval uit kort na de Russische inval in Oekraïne, en de somberte van het werk kreeg daardoor een huiveringwekkend actualiteit. Michael Wilmering en Inna Demenkova vulden met hun tweeën het hele immense toneel van de Stopera.

7 Een nog kleinere productie van DNO, Boekman Michiel de Regt, Erik van der Horst DNO, over de vooroorlogse socialistische wethouder cultuur Emanuel Boekman, die, zelf geboren in arme Joodse familie in de Pijp, in zijn functie bij de gemeente dagelijks van zijn huis in Zuid door de Waterloopleinbuurt naar het toenmalige gemeentehuis aan de OZ Voorburgwal fietste, en toen al de wens had Amsterdam van een operagebouw te voorzien. Alleen niet op de plek waar het nu staat, op de plaats van de oude Joodse buurt. Ik zal nooit meer vergeten dat onder elke stap die je in en rond het Stadhuis en het Operagebouw zet de tragische geschiedenis van de Joodse gemeenschap in Amsterdam te vinden is.

Boekman, Nationale Opera, Spel en tekst: Harpert Michielsen, Muziek en Spel: Erik van der Horst, Regie: Michiel de Regt, Dramaturgie: Wout van Tongeren, Oorspronkelijke muziek (versie2021): Bart Sietsema

8 Der Ring Necati Öziri HF Een hilarische, maar tegelijkertijd oprecht betrokken kijk op Wagners Ring binnen de context van moderne sociale verhoudingen, man-vrouw, patriarchaat, matriarchaat en Wagners ideeën over een nationalistisch ‘wij’ en wie daar dan wel en niet bij mogen horen.

Ik had uit het Holland Festival ook Kein Licht op van teksten Elfriede Jelinek, muziek Philippe Manoury en regie Nicolas Stemann kunnen kiezen, voor mij het derde hoogtepunt van het afgelopen Holland festival.

9 Katia Kabanova Janacek NTR ZaterdagMatinee ook fraai semi-geënsceneerde uitvoering van het werk. Ik had ook L’Italiana in Algeri kunnen kiezen, idem uitgevoerd, maar Janacek is gewoon een stuk substantiëler. Of de Rheingold in authentieke bezetting. Ik vind een goede Wagner altijd geweldig, maar vond het concept voor een deel ook lood om oud ijzer; Boulez’ aanpak was verhelderender. Maar Die Walküre komt er ook aan en daar zal het idee zich echt kunnen bewijzen.

10 Königskinder Humperdinck DNO Half in de vergetelheid geraakt bijna-meesterwerk met een fascinerende ontstaansgeschiedenis en een fascinerend vervolg (Joods Duitsland ontmoet antisemitisch Duitsland), op een overtuigende manier afgestoft, in muzikale aanpak en enscenering.

Er was helaas geen plaats meer The Book of Water Michel van der Aa met Amsterdam Sinfonietta

en Het Barre Land van Sinfonietta/ISH, Layegh, Stravinsky, Berg, Džajkovski, Nyman, Dessner, Avison, Ronner, Karaindrou, Casals, Pärt, Say & Sylvestrov, allebei ook fraai.

Het kan zijn de ingrepen in of eigenlijk juist het weglaten uit Turandot in de productie van DNO de voorstelling in de herinnering zullen doen rijpen. In de nawerking overtuigt het idee dat de voorstelling moest stoppen waar Puccini moest stoppen meer en meer.

Ik heb CDs en concerten buiten beschouwing gelaten, anders had ik het zeker ook moeten hebben over de motetten van Vicente Lusitano op CD door het Marian Consort, kippenvel bij Graindelavoix en het Huelgas Ensemble in het Festival Oude Muziek, klankpracht en sensualiteit met Dallapicola, Respighi en Rick van Veldhuizen bij het KCO en het NedPho, en, een beetje in de lijn van het kerstverhaal zelf, is er ook geen plaats voor het verpletterende kerstconcert als drama met Vox Luminis in de Matinee.

TOP TIEN 2022 van Peter Franken

Hoewel de eerste maanden van 2022 nog sterk bepaald werden door de gebruikelijke ‘corona beperkingen’ kon ik het recenseren van live voorstellingen het voorbije jaar gelukkig weer aardig oppakken. Mijn top tien van 2022 voor Basia con fuoco bestaat dan ook voornamelijk uit theaterrecensies. Maar wel aangevuld met andere artikelen die ik beslist in het rijtje wilde opnemen.

1 Giulio Cesare

De Reisopera kwam begin dit jaar met een zeer geslaagde productie van Giulio Cesare. Het gezelschap zette door ondanks dat er aanvankelijk sprake was van een zeer beperkte zaalbezetting. Dankzij de versoepeling van de maatregelen kon ik op de valreep nog de voorstelling in Amare bijwonen, in een goed gevulde zaal. De voorstelling staat op nummer 1 zowel vanwege de productie zelf als de durf en het doorzettingsvermogen van de Reisopera in die moeilijke tijd. De herinnering vervaagt snel, ik kan me nauwelijks nog voorstellen hoe het er toen aan toeging. Gelukkig maar.  

2 Il trittico

Il trittico in De Munt werd geplaagd door corona besmettingen waardoor sopraan Corinne Winters de première moest missen. Gelukkig kon ik naar de dernière waar ik haar zag en hoorde als Suor Angelica en Giorgetta.

3 Halka

Diezelfde Corinne Winters zong de titelrol in Moniuszko’s opera Halka, een productie uit Theater an der Wien. Daarvan kwam dit jaar een opname op dvd uit. Naar verwachting zal komende zomer een opname verschijnen van haar Katia Kabanova, de rol die ze in 2022 zong tijdens de Salzburger Festspiele. Iets om naar uit te kijken.

4 Hamlet

Live from the Met zag ik Hamlet, een nieuwe opera van Brett Dean. Het werk ging in 2017 in première in Glyndebourne in dezelfde productie en met grotendeels dezelfde cast. Alan Clayton gaf een zeer verdienstelijke vertolking van de titelrol. ‘Een speciale vermelding verdient hier “movement director” Denni Sayers voor de wijze waarop hij Hamlet als een bijna ongeleid projectiel liet rond stuiteren maar vooral voor de choreografie van Ophelia’s madscene. Fenomenaal wat hij met Brenda Rae ervan had weten te maken. Zij zong met het gemak van een Zerbinetta en bewoog als Rosalba Torres Guerrero, de danseres die door Warlikowski in meerdere opera’s werd gecast (The BassaridsLulu).’

5 Der Freischütz

Scènes uit Der Freischütz van DNO was natuurlijk geen ‘echte’ Freischütz maar niettemin een zeer vermakelijke voorstelling die artistiek en muzikaal beslist geslaagd kon worden genoemd.

6 Bruid te koop

Iets dergelijks gold Bruid te koop van de Reisopera. Het arme kind had twee jaar lang staan kleumen in een winkelwagentje maar dit voorjaar was het eindelijk zo ver. Smetana’s opera werd muzikaal conform het origineel uitgevoerd maar de soms wat zwaar aangezette Nederlandse teksten maakten er een heel ander werk van. Leuke voorstelling.

7 Operettaland

DNO wist uit te pakken met een voorstelling voor het gehele gezin: Operettaland was weliswaar geen echte operette maar een leuke pastiche van alle denkbare clichés die het genre zo aantrekkelijk maken. De bordkartonnen decors stalen de show.

8 Lady in the dark

Opera Zuid bleef hier niet bij achter en kwam eveneens met een spetterende voorstelling. Ditmaal een musical in Broadway stijl: Kurt Weill’s Lady in the dark met een glansrol van Maartje Rammeloo.

9 Mahagonny

Kurt Weill stond ook bij Opera Vlaanderen in de belangstelling met een nieuwe productie van Mahagonny. Aardig om die twee te kunnen vergelijken: de Duitse versus de Amerikaanse Weill.

10 Maria Ewing

Ik sluit af met een afwijkend item. Naar aanleiding van haar overlijden schreef ik een ‘in memoriam’ gewijd aan Maria Ewing. Zou er in het verleden al een top tien als deze hebben bestaan dan had ik daar meerdere van haar voorstellingen in opgenomen, zoveel is zeker. RIP ‘jaargenoot’ Maria.