English

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen.’

Zemlinsky LS partituur

It is very hard to believe, but the first post-war performance of the Lyrische Symphonie dates from the late 1970s. This absolute masterpiece was composed between 1922-23 and premiered in Prague on 4 June 1924. Like Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, it is a kind of cross between an orchestral song cycle and a symphony.

Zemmlinsky Rabindranath-Tagore+Der-Gärtner

Zemlinsky wrote the work on the text of the Bengal poet Rabindranath Tagore ‘The Gardener’, in a German translation by Hans Effenberger. The seven love poems are cast in the form of a dialogue between a prince (baritone) and a girl in love (soprano). Many musicologists consider the work to be autobiographical and there is certainly an element of truth in that.

Or was it the (still?) raw break with Alma Schindler, as some critics would have us believe? I don’t think so, I’m much more inclined to believe Antony Beaumont (the Zemlinsky connoisseur and biographer) that the work was about his relationship with Louise Sachsel, which had just begun at the time.

Zemlinsky Berg en Fuchs

Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs

Seen in this context, it is perhaps interesting to know that Alban Berg quoted the third movement of the symphony (‘Du bist mein Eigen’) in the ‘Adagio Apassionato’ of his Lyrical Suite for string quartet. As you know, Berg had a secret love affair at the time with Hanna Fuchs, for whom he composed the work.

Below is the Adagio appassionato performed by the Galimir String Quartet. The recording dates from 1935:

There are quite a few performances of Zemlinsky’s once so mercilessly forgotten but now best-known and most frequently performed work. Two by James Conlon and Riccardo Chailly immediately stand out.

Zemlinsky LS Chailly

Chailly wins, mainly because of the unparalleled sound of the RCO, but in the fourth movement Conlon manages to elicit such sweet tones from the orchestra that I am totally won over by his performance.

Recording under Riccardo Chaillly:


Zemlinsky LS Conlon

The soloists are also better for Conlon. Bo Skovhus convinces me much more than Håkan Hagegård. The latter has a warm, round baritone with something soothing in his timbre and I find that a disadvantage here. The restlessness in the voice of Skovhus gives his words more impact.

I also find Skovhus’s interpretation more transparent and his pronunciation better. Listen how he sings the words “Du bist mein Eigen, mein Eigen, du, die meinen endlosen Träumen wohnt”… !

Soile Isokoski is also preferable to Chailly’s soprano, Alexandra Marc, however beautifully she sings.

Recording with James Conlon:


Bo Skovhus has always been an artist with a more than warm heart for ‘Entartete Musik’. He showed this by, among other things, the choices he made for the works he sang.

Lyrische Symphonie was often featured in his concert programmes all over the world, including in Amsterdam (March 2007, with Hillevi Martinpelto and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles). In addition to the EMI recording with Conlon, Skovhus recorded the work also for RCA, this time with the incredibly beautiful lyrical soprano Luba Orgonasova.

Zemlinsky LS Flor

The conducting of Claus Peter Flor is a bit unbalanced, but the six extra songs, sung by Skovhus and beautifully accompanied on the piano by Helmut Deutsch, make up for a lot.

Below is a recording with Bo Skovhus, Maria Bengtsson and the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Kirill Petrenko, recorded in the Berlin Philharmonic on 30 December 2011:

In the recording on BBC Classics from 1996 the vocal parts are sung with great understanding and even more nuances by Thomas Allen and Elisabeth Söderström. Michael Gielen shows an enormous affinity for the score.

Zemlinsky LS Allen

In Dutch: EINE (AUTO)BIOGRAFISCHE TRAGÖDIE: ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Deel 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen’

ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Part 1: The Man

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Hans Gál and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: How could we forget them?

Castelnuovo Tedesco en Gal

I regularly hear cellists complain that the repertoire for their instrument is not that large, which is why they (have to) play and/or record more or less the same pieces over and over again. But is this really true?

Well, only if you limit yourself to the more or less well-known composers. And certainly if you still ‘forget’ to look back at the black period in history, when books went up in flames and art, including their creators, was declared ‘entartet’. Fortunately, we still have enough musicians who do everything in their power to ensure that the once forbidden works are not forgotten.

In 2016, Raphael Wallfisch, one of the greatest advocates of the ‘forgotten repertoire’, recorded two previously unknown cello concertos: those by Hans Gál, originally from Austria-Hungary, and the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Both composers survived the war: Castelnuovo-Tedesco in Hollywood and Gál in Scotland. Both are barely being played, although it is impossible for a serious guitarist to ignore the Italian’s oeuvre.

Castelnuovo Gal

Hans Gál

Things are worse with Hans Gál’s compositions, which are still rare on concert stages. His cello concerto, composed in 1944, is not easy to dissect. Or, in other words: you don’t get it automatically ‘under your skin’. I had to listen to it a few times before I surrendered to it. Gál’s language seems rigid and even though the work is not atonal anywhere, you really have to make an effort. But maybe that’s the way it should be? Because you don’t forget it easily!

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Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

No greater contrast than with Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s predominantly virtuoso composition! The composer wrote his cello concerto for the great cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, the premiere took place in 1935, Arturo Toscanini conducted the New York Philharmonic. And that was it. Since then, the concerto has been totally forgotten for eighty years. Until Raphael Wallfisch took care of it.

Raphael Wallfisch gives an excellent interpretation of both concertos, with sufficient attention to the various writing styles of the composers. Gál’s concerto sounds almost classicistic in his hands; for Castelnuoco-Tedesco he has enough virtuosity and romance to enthuse the listener.

Hans Gál: Cello concerto in b, op. 67
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Cello concerto in F
Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Konzerthausorchester Berlin conducted by Nicholas Milton
CPO 555 074-2

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

Voice in the Wilderness: music as salvation

Channa Malkin and Izhar Elias in ‘Songs of Love and Exile, a Sephardic Journey’

ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Part 1: The Man

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Alexander Zemlinsky at his desk

The women

Zemlinsky Alma Mahler

Alma Schindler in 1900

On the 11th of February 1900, during the world premiere of the Frühlingsbegräbnis, a cantata in memory of Brahms, Alexander Zemlinsky and Alma Schindler met for the first time.

She thought his appearance was terrible (in her autobiography she talks about a ‘hideous gnome’), but as a future composer she was only too eager to meet him: Zemlinsky was not only admired for his compositions, he also had the reputation of being the best composition and harmony teacher. By the end of that year Schindler was not only his pupil but also his lover.

Zemlinsky portret

It was not an obvious choice, as Zemlinsky was not really what we could call an attractive man. He himself felt quite badly about it: “Short and skinny (weak points: inadequate). Face and nose: impossible; every other part of the face: ditto. Hair too long, but something can be done about that. I looked more closely at myself in the bath ( with your permission!!): no excesses or deformities, muscles not too weak, amazingly well developed potential! Everything else as mentioned above. Hence the conclusion: hideous.”*

Does the description remind you of Der Zwerg, the ugly, deformed person from the opera of the same name who does not recognise his own reflection?

And yet Zemlinsky had the reputation of a real womaniser and his many mistresses cannot be counted. In 1907 he married Ida Guttmann, the younger sister of his former fiancée Melanie. It was not a happy marriage, Zemlinsky was a passionate philanderer.

Zemlinsky Luise Sachsel

Louise Sachsel

Around 1914 he met the then fourteen-year-old Louise Sachsel. A twenty-nine year younger girl, who was not only an aspiring singer but also a gifted painter, came to him to take singing lessons. Six years later they became lovers and in 1930, one year after Ida’s death, they got married.

Multicultural background

Alexander Zemlinsky was born in Vienna in 1871 into a highly multicultural family. His Slovakian grandfather and the Austrian grandmother on his father’s side were both Roman Catholics. His other grandmother was a Bosnian Muslim and his grandfather a Sephardic Jew. When his parents married the whole family converted to the Jewish faith. Alexander was born as a Jew and was raised as such, he also played the organ in his synagogue.  In 1884 he started his studies at the Conservatory of Vienna. He studied piano with Anton Door, music theory with Robert Fuchs and composition with Johann Nepomuk Fuchs and Anton Bruckner. It was also at that time that he began to compose.

In addition to being a composer, Zemlinsky was also appreciated as one of the best conductors of his time, and his remarkable interpretations of Mozart were widely praised.

Zemlinski conducts the overture from Don Giovanni. The recording probably dates from 1926:

He was a great advocate of the compositions of Gustav Mahler and his brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and was regarded as a champion of contemporary music. His compositions can best be regarded as a kind of bridge between late romanticism and modernism.

Zemlinsky 1912 Mahler 8 met Sch en Sch

Philharmonic Chorus in 1912 in Praag tijdens de uitvoering van de achtste symfonie van Mahler. Zemlinsky, Schönberg en Schreker staan vooraan links op de foto

Zemlinsky-Schoenberg-Schreker 1912 -

 

Zemlinsky was also a great lover and connoisseur of literature. That his origins and upbringing influenced him in this is quite obvious: both his grandfather and his father were journalists and his mother’s family counted several publishers. His father had written the history of the Sephardic community in Vienna. Zemlinsky based many of his compositions on literary works, which resulted in Der König Kandaules after André Gide and in Eine florentinische Tragödie and Der Zwerg after Oscar Wilde.

Entartet

After the rise of the Nazis in 1933, Alexander Zemlinsky was declared ‘Entartet’ and his works were banned and forbidden. In 1936 he fled Berlin: first to Vienna and after the Anschluss in 1938 on to the United States, where he had great difficulty assimilating. He died on March 15, 1942 near New York, and no one paid any attention to his death.

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Zemlinsky’s Memorial at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna

And then he was forgotten, a fate he shared with most of the Jewish composers who were banned by the Nazis. His music disappeared from the concert and opera programs, and his name dissolved in the fog, as if he had never existed. It was only at the end of the 1980s that it became clear that Korngold was more than a composer of Hollywood scores; that without Schreker and Zemlinski there would probably not have been a Strauss either, and that Boulez and Stockhausen were not the first to experiment with serialism.

After a brief renaissance in the nineties, mainly thanks to James Conlon and Riccardo Chailly, things have become a little quiet around one of the greatest Jugendstil composers of the fin de siècle. Just ask the average music lover: he won’t get any further than the Lyrical Symphony. If he knows the name Zemlinsky at all.

Zemlinsky en Schönberg

But: who knows? His brother-in-law, friend and colleague Arnold Schönberg already said “Zemlinsky can wait.” In recent years, it seems as if Schönberg is gradually starting to prove himself right in this assertion.

*This quote is taken from the article by Ronald Van Kerckhoven in Erfgoedklassiek.

In Dutch: EINE (AUTO)BIOGRAFISCHE TRAGÖDIE: ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Deel 1: de man

Channa Malkin and Izhar Elias in ‘Songs of Love and Exile, a Sephardic Journey’

Channa.jpg

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (Florence, 3 April 1895 – Beverly Hills, 16 March 1968) was born into a Jewish family of Sephardic origin (Jews who were expelled from Spain in 1492). He was extraordinarily creative, and has numerous compositions to his name: piano works, concerts, opera’s…. His compositions were played by the greatest: Gieseking, Piatigorski, Heifetz, Casella. Nowadays we mainly know him from his guitar works, almost a hundred in total, mostly written for Andres Segovia.

In the early 1930s, the composer began to discover his ‘Jewish roots’, something that was reinforced by the rise of fascism and racial laws. His music was no longer performed. With the help of Arturo Toscanini, Castelnuovo-Tedesco and his family managed to leave Italy just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Like most of the Jewish composers who fled Europe, Castelnuovo-Tedesco ended up in Hollywood. Thanks to Jascha Heifetz he was hired by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as a composer of film music. At that time he also composed new opera’s and vocal works inspired by American poetry, Jewish liturgy and the Bible.

Castelnuovo-Tedesco: “In my life I have written many melodies for the voice and published 150 of them (many remained in my drawer) on texts in all the languages I know: Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Latin. My ambition and indeed, my deep motivation has always been to unite my music with poetic texts that stimulated my interest and feelings, to express their lyricism”.

In 1966 he composed The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra. It is a setting of nineteen poems by, Rabbi Moses ben Jacob ibn Ezra also known as Ha-Sallaḥ (‘writer of penitential prayers’). Ibn Ezra was born in Granada around 1055 – 1060, and died after 1138 and is considered one of the greatest poets in Spain. He also had an enormous influence on Arabic literature. Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed the ‘divan’ (poems) on the modern English translation.

I very much regret that the duo Channa Malkin (soprano) and Izhar Elias only recorded six songs of the cycle. Not only because they have almost no competition (I only know two complete recordings of the songs myself), but also because their performance is really beautiful. Malkin’s lyrical soprano: girlish yet very focused fits the songs like a glove. She was born in Amsterdam, but her Jewish roots lie in Moldova, Russia and the Ukraine.

The guitarist Izhar Elias was also born in the Netherlands, but his roots lie in Iraq and India. And in Israel. What they have in common is the restlessness and the strong urge to do something with their own past. And you can hear that. You can hear that in the thirteen Sephardic folk songs that are presented here in arrangements by Joaquin Rodrigo and Daniel Akiva, among others.

What makes the CD stand out is the really excellent booklet with lots of information and all the lyrics.

Songs of Love & Exile – A Sephardic Journey
Channa Malkin (soprano), Izhar Elias (guitar)
Brilliant Classics 95652

https://www.channamalkin.com

In Dutch: Songs of Love & Exile – A Sephardic Journey

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

Castellucci’s Salome from Salzburg released on DVD and Blu-ray

Salome Asmik coverBy Peter Franken

Romeo Castelluci’s production of Salome was a remarkable success at the Salzburg Festival in 2018. Not least because of the phenomenal interpretation of the title role by Asmik Grigorian. The premiere was broadcast live on TV and, supplemented with material recorded during two subsequent performances, recently released on DVD and Blu-ray. Last summer, the production was repeated three times, again with great success, after which the visitors could have their previously purchased copies signed by Frau Grigorian.

A production by Romeo Castelluci is in fact a Gesamtkunstwerk. He directs and designs the costumes and the scenery. Only for the choreography does he allow someone else into his world. Castellucci is said to be not so much a director of persons as one who stages the entire space. His Salome therefore does not lend itself very well to wide-ranging interpretations, but can best be experienced as it is.

The broad, shallow stage of the Felsenreitschule is used in its entirety. The arches in the back wall have been closed, so that the audience is looking at a closed, greyish back wall, which contributes to the oppressive atmosphere. The stage is empty, with the exception of a number of gold-coloured objects, which sometimes play a role in the action, sometimes not.

The floor is shiny gold, making the light reflect in such a way that the players seem to be standing behind a transparent curtain. This is a small disadvantage of a recording in HD, the public in the auditorium did not notice it, as I know from my own experience. A large opening in the floor gives access to the cistern where Jochanaan is kept prisoner.

The costumes are fairly uniform: men in dark suits with faces partially painted in red. It is difficult to distinguish between the different characters; all of them are merely secondary figures in the drama that takes place between the three protagonists. Herodias, with green makeup, is also emphatically kept in the background.

Salome appears in a white dress holding a royal white cloak with a crown in her hand.  A red spot suggests that she is menstruating, emphasizing that although she is unmarried, she has more than reached the age of marriage. Moreover, this makes her extra untouchable for the prophet; she is in all respects an impure woman. When Narroboth gives in and has the Prophet brought up, he remains largely shrouded in darkness. We only see a black shadow. Salome speaks to him, he answers and curses her.

So far, the libretto is followed fairly closely. But after Jochanaan has retreated to his dungeon, the action takes a remarkable turn. During the overwhelming musical interlude, Salome lies on her back and performs a complex, erotically tinted ballet with her legs. Cindy van Acker’s choreography is sublime and the mastery with which Grigorian performs this ballet is phenomenal. The eroticism of course relates to the excitement generated by the encounter with the prophet. He grossly rejected her and even cursed her, an entirely new experience for this luxurious creature. At the same time, a horse wanders around the cistern, a reference to the fascination of young girls with large animals. A bit of a cliché, but very effective.

Sallome asmik-grigorian-r-castellucci-rezisuotoje-salomejoje-5b6078eedf35d

Salzburgerfestspiele © ruth waltz

On the front curtain the text “Te Saxo Loquuator” was written, meaning “what the stones may say to you”. Castellucci uses this reference to the supposed strenghth and power of stones to give a different meaning to Salome’s dance. At the beginning she is hidden from view by a group of extras and suddenly appears lying almost naked in a fetal position on a golden block, on which SAXO is written in large letters.

During the musical intermezzo, a large block slowly descends from above and threatens to crush her. Instead, however, Salome is enveloped by the descending block, hidden from view. She has turned to stone, a gem, but still. The enormity of what she intends to do has made her an undead in advance.

Dramaturge Piesandra di Matteo gives the following explanation:  „In ihrer Eigenschaft als Objekt verweigert sich die Figur“, so erlischt der Trieb, wodurch sich neues Potenzial erschließt.“  Be that as it may, the above mentioned ‘ballet’ clearly ends with the suggestion of an orgasm, so ‘Trieb’ will play less of a role by now. There is no longer any question of revenge sex with the head, it is now about the revenge of ‘a woman scorned’.

Opera singer Grigorian performs during a dress rehearsal of Richard Strauss' opera "Salome" in Salzburg

Opera singer Asmik Grigorian performs as Salome during a dress rehearsal of Richard Strauss’ opera “Salome” in Salzburg, Austria July 24, 2018. Picture taken July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

While Herod wringing his hands tries to get Salome to change her mind, she bathes in a large puddle of milk. He gives in, but instead of Jochanaan’s head Salome does not unexpectedly first receive a horse’s head and only later the body of the dead prophet. Salome’s final monologue is directed at Jochanaan’s torso. She also briefly puts the horse’s head on it. Finally she goes down into a second cistern and we only see her head when Herod gives the order to kill her.

Salome really is an orgy of sound and visuals, an overwhelming theatre play. And it only really comes into its own when there is a Salome on stage who is in charge of everything and everyone, including the huge orchestra, no matter how loud they play. This makes Asmik Grigorian the ideal Salome. She has a large voice, with which she is able to cut through the orchestra at any moment, without forcing it for a single moment. A Salome should have everything: an Isolde, but also a Chrysothemis and a Zdenka. With her clear, agile voice, Grigorian can convincingly perform these different types. What makes her a unique interpreter of the famous title character, however, is her ability to make singing and acting an organic whole.

John Daszak is vocally a strong Herod, but cannot make much of an impression: it’s all about Salome here. Even Jochanaan remains, literally, in her shadow. Bass-baritone Gabor Bretz is above all a strongly singing shadow. The only time he appears is when he is sprayed clean with a garden hose by a couple of helpers.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the house orchestra of the Salzburger Festspiele, under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, provides a hugely successful musical support, claiming the leading role here and there during the interludes.

This recording by (C-major 801704) is an absolute must for lovers of this masterpiece by Richard Strauss.

Trailer of the production:

Asmik Grigorian, John Daszak, Anna Maria Chiuri, Gábor Bretz, Julian Prégardien
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst
Directed by: Romeo Castelluci

In Dutch:
Castellucci’s Salome op dvd en Bluray uitgebracht

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

Verismo at the Amstel: we missed Sicily but we had voices!

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Brandon Jovanovich (Canio) (© The National Opera / photo BAUS

Let’s clear up a misunderstanding: Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni and Pagliacci by Leoncavallo have almost always and almost everywhere been billed as a diptych but they are certainly not that. It was just a convenient solution: two short operas that matched each other in terms of musical language and emotions could easily be programmed on one evening. The fact that the composers were more or less the same age and that their operas were created at the same time was also a bonus. But to say that they belong together and that they should always stay together? No.

Also the order: first Cavalleria and then Pagliacci is not really fixed. That too, after more than a hundred years just became tradition. A tradition that no longer has been strictly followed for years. So there is nothing revolutionary about changing the order. Personally, I’ve seen several performances that started with the ‘Prologo.’ Something that seems quite logical to me.

Robert Carsen is one of the greatest opera directors in the world. His theatre-in-theatre vision is still valuable, after all he became famous for it, but with this staging he went back, as it were, to his early years in Antwerp. Everything that worked as an eye-opener at the time now looks quite old-fashioned and second hand. How many times before have we seen rows of empty chairs? Sigh.

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© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

And yet… He is and remains perfect at Personenregie. His mise en scène, although sometimes I don’t care for it it, is certainly of the highest level. Above all, his staging of Pagliacci is nothing less than phenomenal. The fact that the stage is almost bare doesn’t matter, because that magnifies the emotions of the characters, also because Carsen allows the singers to play out the ‘veristic’ aspects which really works very well. So good, in fact, that at the intermission I left the auditorium with a tearful face.

Compared to the first half, Cavalleria Rusticana was a cold shower. Here, all emotions were degraded to below zero, as people were only rehearsing for the performance of – how do you guess? – Cavalleria Rusticana. Interesting, though, but haven’t we seen that a thousand times before? Think of Carsens Don Giovanni for La Scala. Or his Hoffmann for Paris. So second-hand.

The story itself was mutilated so terribly that at a certain moment I lost my mind and thought that Santuzza’s aria was cut in half. It wasn’t, but it reflects the confusion. I’m not going to complain about it anymore, but forget about Sicily, forget about Easter Sunday. ‘A te la mala Pascua’, for me the key to the opera, was translated as ‘I wish you a miserable day.’  It felt just as strange as Puccini would be played by a small baroque ensemble with Emma Kirkby as Tosca. Every period has its own rules and verismo is about raw reality.

Pagl Lorenzo

Lorenzo Viotti © Ron Jacobi

With this ‘diptych’ Lorenzo Viotti, our new chief conductor, made his debut with the National Opera almost two years earlier than scheduled. It was more than exciting: for us, for the orchestra but most of all for Viotti himself. I have to say that the acquaintance made me quite happy. Not that everything went so fantastically and flawlessly, that wasn’t possible either.  Imagine standing in his shoes!

I think Viotti has more affinity with Pagliacci than with Cavalleria and that was audible. His Pagliacci was extremely exciting. He did not shy away from big outbreaks but also took the time for moments of reflection. All these emotions were audible in the orchestra pit, which reinforced the sensation.

For ‘Cavalleria’ the music was on a low heat and the famous Intermezzo was played so faintly that nobody applauded, despite the small break, meant for the applause that did not come. But perhaps it also had to do with the concept of Carsen? Hard to say.

Anyway, enough complaining, because the most important thing in the opera is the singing, which was simply terrific! What we got was no less than the ‘sternstunde’ you’ve been experiencing so rarely these days. And to think that the most protagonists made their debut in their roles!

First and foremost: kudos to the chorus of the National Opera. They carried the opera on their shoulders (sometimes literally). They played, they acted, they walked in and out of the auditorium, and in Pagliacci they even became the spectators: as it should be. And ‘in between’ they sang, and how! I really do take my hat off to that.

PAGLIACCI

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Brandon Jovanovich (Canio) (© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS)

Brandon Jovanovich made his double debut: it was his first Canio and it was the first time he sang with the DNO. Why did we have to wait so long to hear this great American tenor in real life? His portrayal of the clown who does not want to be a clown was of the highest level. And, let me tell you: I cried at his ‘ Vesti la giubba. ‘ I really cried. And that’s what the opera is about, isn’t it? Thanks Brandon!

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© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

His Nedda was sung by a now major star on the opera firmament: Ailyn Pérez. What can I say? That her fame is not undeserved and that it has not come out of the blue? Her quicksilver coloraturas were a delight to the ear and her performance worthy of a movie star.

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© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

Mattia Olivieri was a beautiful, sensual Silvio. With his creamy baritone he managed to convey his feelings for Nedda. Although I personally think it was more lust than anything else (don’t tell! #metoo listens in!).

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(© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS)(© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS)

I was very pleased to be introduced to the young tenor Marco Ciaponi (Beppe). His role was small, but I heard great potential!

And then we arrive at Tonio/Taddeo/prologo: Roman Burdenko. I am not often lost for words, but this time I was really speechless after the performance of this baritone. It was even more impressive because after intermission he continued as Alfio, in:

CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA

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Roman Burdenko (© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS)

And if you list all the roles he sang in one evening without a break, you can’t help but bow your head in admiration.

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Brian Jagde (Turiddu) and Anita Rachvelishvili (Santuzza) (© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

I had heard Brian Jagde (his name is pronounced the German way) twice before. Once live, in Verdi’s Requiem. The second time was on the DVD recording of Das Wunder der Heliane by Korngold, where he performed about the best Stranger in history. I was more than anxiously awaiting his debut as Turiddu. Not in vain. Jagde was the Turiddu of many girl’s dreams: attractive, seductive, macho, but with a small heart. Wonderful.

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Rihab Chaieb (Lola) and Brian Jagde (Turiddu) © De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

Rihab Chaieb was a Lola as we remember from old Italian films. Her dress, her hairstyle, her presence resembled none other than Gina Lollobrigida. Very sensual and provocative, as it should be. We’ll hear more of her.

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(© De Nationale Opera / photo BAUS

Elena Zilio (mama Lucia) sang incredibly well, but her character didn’t really come into its own. Actually she was totally left to her own devices by Carsen and that’s a pity.

But the real star of the evening was the Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili. My God, how wonderful she was! I would have liked to hear her in a different, more realistic staging of the opera. One, where she can let go of all her emotions – and she has them all ready – without the armour of ‘the rehearsal’.

All in all: don’t miss it. Even if it is only because of the singers!

Trailer of the production:

Final applause (© Ron Jacobi)

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci
Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana
Brandon Jovanovich, Ailyn Pérez, Roman Burdenko, Mattia Olivieri, Anita Rachvelishvili, Brian Jagde, Elena Zilio, Rihab Chaieb
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir of the National Opera (rehearsal Ching-Lien Wu) conducted by Lorenzo Viotti.
Directed by Robert Carsen

Seen on 5 September 2019

In Dutch:
Verisme aan de Amstel mist Sicilië, maar de zangers maken alles meer dan goed

About Cavalleria Rusticana:
Is verismo dead? Part 1: Cavalleria Rusticana

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

“Ich möcht so gern nach Haus!”: Anne Sofie von Otter sings songs by ‘Theresienstadt composers.’

terezin-von otter

The songs Anne Sofie von Otter, assisted by baritone Christian Gerhaher, sings on the CD Terezín – Theresienstadt, released in 2008 on Deutsche Gramophon (DG 4776546), belong to a variety of music genres. They have one thing in common: all of them were composed in the Terezín concentration camp and their creators who were deported there were later murdered in Auschwitz.

The initiative came from von Otter herself: for the Holocaust commemoration in Stockholm she collected a wide selection of the ‘Terezín songs’ and compiled a recital of them.  This programme was then recorded for CD, ” because we must never forget. “

terezin ilse weber

Ilse Weber

It is a CD you really need to listen to from start to finish even though many of the songs come from the lighter genre. Most moving are the songs by Ilse Weber.

terezin wiegala

Try to keep a dry eye when listening to ‘Wiegala,’ the lullaby that Weber sang to the children in the gas chambers. Or the terrifying words “I want to go home so badly” from Weber’s ‘Ich wandre durch Theresienstadt.’

Below ‘Wiegala’ by Ilse Weber, sung by Anne Sofie von Otter:

terezin schulhoff

Erwin Schulhoff

The beautiful violin solo sonata by Erwin Schulhoff does not really belong here, Schulhoff has never been to Terezín. He was arrested in Prague on 23 June 1941 and deported to the Würzburg concentration camp, where he died of tuberculosis in 1942. You can hear that Daniel Hope has been devoted to Schulhoff’s music for many years, as he interprets the work in an inimitable way.

Below Daniel Hope plays ‘Andante Cantabile’, the second movement of Schulhoff’s sonata. It is a recording from the CD ‘Forbidden Music’, released by Nimbus:


Ilse Weber, Hans Krása, Viktor Ullmann, Pavel Haas, Karel Svenk, Erwin Schulhoff
Terezín – Theresienstadt
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano), Christian Gerhaher (baritone), Daniel Hope (violin), Bengt Forsberg (piano), Bebe Risengf (accordion, guitar and double bass) and others.

In Dutch: “Ich möcht so gern nach Haus!”: Anne Sofie von Otter zingt liederen van ‘Theresienstadt componisten’

Entartete Musik, Teresienstadt and Channel Classics

PAVEL HAAS door het Kocian Quartet

MUSIC OF ANOTHER WORLD: SZYMON LAKS

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator