Thursday, January 31, 2008

More J-tube

The opera blogosphere is a little bit of a La DiDo lovefest right now and...I'm kind of fine with that. Listen, if you like this following clip and it comes out on DVD, please do the right thing, Spike Lee, and buy it. Because folks gotta make a living, and youtube is great but shouldn't stop that from happening. Anyway, without further ado, here is Joyce DiDonato managing to look happy and tiara-worthy while petting NIGHTMARISH GIANT HUMANOID MICE in a costume the word "shmatte" was invented for. Wait, one piece of further ado: if the timing on this is such as I understand it to be, she's singing this through a nasty sore throat. I mean jeez.

I've always imagined that pair of descending 2 octave runs to be a real terror.

A commenter on another clip says "Pero canta de p*** madre" (right before using the crazyhead vosotros's like if "y'all" had its own separate verb forms) which means, literally, well nevermind, but it's a compliment even though it doesn't sound like one.

Hat tip to Coloraturafan for posting this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moar! or: if loving Leyla is wrong, I don't want to be right!

Here's another review (including a travel-piquing rumor of Mattila-Isolde) and a hint of one, and meanwhile, I, myself, got a review in comments at Parterre I can't help but be amused, maybe even pleased by: "I don't think Maury is right, ever." Well, marks for consistency, no demipygon I.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Did you hear the one about the cell phone in the desert?

I think I'd like to have triplets so I could name them Sola, Perduta, and Abandonnata (Donna for short.) That's the thing, though. It seems like naming kids is the fun part and that lasts about a minute and then the rest of your life is basically terror and debt, so maybe I won't, after all.

Yes, I have gone back to the opera. A thousand times, yes. That must be my longest absence since, well, just summer I suppose, nothing all that dramatic. It was a fine welcome home, though, as long as one was willing to be a flexible listener.

I mean, golly, can you imagine trying to cast Puccini from the roster of stars currently on the boards in New York? We have some stellar talent, I don't need to say, but there are gaps, and the second biggest one is shaped like a Puccini soprano. The funny thing is Netrebko might have made something of it (hat/broach/pterodactyl) but the problem would have been in the last act: simultaneously portraying terrible weakness and yet somehow coming up with the strength for a twenty yard dash to the orchestra pit to dangle her locks in it. Wouldn't have been logical and god knows Manon Lescaut is a work of sobering rationality. Okay, or not.

I think actually there was no choice but Karita Mattila, despite the fact that she possesses almost objectively the wrong instrument for the job. Am I making any sense if I say it's not malleable enough? And in the climaxes, it cuts where it should billow? Certainly viable, but not ideal. But then on the other hand what else can you do when you need someone who can both give a physical suggestion of exposure and dehydration and perform a sarcastic minuet? Furthermore who else has the instinct in the second act to circumvent the irredeemable and fully unlikeable powder-my-wig-some-more banality of the character by going in for full-on camp? Also, though she surprisingly didn't demonstrate this as Salome, it appears she can do splits. Why was this in there? Why not. I am tempted to use the word kooky to describe her Act II Manon. You think I am knocking her, but I'm not.

I'd actually kind of like to know what the crowd that constantly bewails the golden age think about the Divine Miss M, Nordic edition. The thing is she's never done anything shabby, though it's hard to love her equally in everything. As far as I'm concerned, since she made an exit, quite expectedly, stark naked (in Salome) she's been a star, a true star, and never will be anything less. Yes, that's partly an excuse to paraphrase All About Eve (what isn't? you would be excused for asking), but it's also partly the truth. I'd never been at an operatic event where that kind of expectation hung in the air. That doesn't happen unless you're legit, by virtue of cords or by presence or both.

And though I've focused on her presence, it's not that the big numbers were wanting, through a vocal lense. "Sola, perduta" was rather wild, and sister, her chest voice is from the wrong side of the tracks. I guess I didn't love "In quelle trine morbide" but life's like that. On the whole, let's say, sometimes it wasn't great Puccini but it was every minute great opera. Very good opera, at least.

When KM was singing with Signor Giordani, it was a curious blend, but mostly in a good way. I've never heard Giordani sound quite so much in his element. There was some warming up that got done in front of us, but by "Tu, tu, piccolo iddio oh wait I'm in the wrong opera I mean amore, tu?" the rehearsal was over and he was taking it out and chopping it up. Slancio. Squillo. Oh I just thought I'd say those words because I'm talking about an Italian tenor and it's required by the laws of the universe. Did you think you were on opera-l for a minute? No, but they also happen to be appropriate, those words. Marcello Giordani is, how can I put this, what Franco Farina would sound like if he weren't awful. The top kicks your ass, and the rest at least slaps you around a little, or anyway calls you mean names. It's 1 am, you wanted normal compliments? Anyway, in this rep, in particular, there are moments of grandeur, and (thank you, jesus) abandon.

Croft, too, pleased me more than in recent memory. The hollow tone that sometimes haunts him at this stage of his career was not in evidence, nor was the line-breaking syllabic punch that, for me, makes his Germont like a ride with someone new to driving stick. Dale Travis was fine in the thankless role of Geronte, and debutant Sean Panikkar, though stylistically a little green, has a lot to work with and probably, down the road, a lot to offer.

If I can be a total killjoy for a minute, I'm actually getting a little tired of the lovefest that greets Levine at his first entrance to the pit--not because it's not deserved, you understand, but save some for the end, right? It starts to look like the reflexive standing O that happens at everything I ever go to on Broadway. think for a moment of future generations of Sirius broadcast listeners, folks. They're going to think audiences in the early 00's were coming to the theater drunk or something, which is actually my plan for Peter Grimes, but that's another story. I guess what I'm trying to speak of here is a cheapening effect. It's not the end of the world but it's just not my favorite audience phenomenon.

So yeah, of course, I'm going back Friday. I don't know that I'll have anything new to say then, but my season is back in gear. Wednesday week I'm at Die, Walkurie, Die!

Bonus: Carnegie Hall '08-'09. Upon cursory review, I can report that they're doing all the Mahler symphonies!! Probably not including the 10th because, um, he didn't write it. Featured in this morass of Mahler: bunch of Quasthoff and Roschmann!!! Hm, what else for voice fiends, Damnation of Faust with Kozena and Quast, Mentzer in L'enfant et les Sortileges, Measha Bruggergossman does Wesendoncks. Exciting in a "never gonna happen" way, non-vocal, Martha Argerich is scheduled to cancel the Prokofiev and Shostakovich concertos. JSU points out also a show in which Madame DiDonato will lose her marbles over and over again for our listening pleasure. Collecting her marbles and giving them back to her between numbers, presumably, will be Les Talens Lyriques. Anyway, this is not exhaustive. Check it out.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Figlio impuro

Not even a hint of relevance, but I do love a good hatchet job and I know some of you do, too. If you haven't already heard about it, you absolutely have to read the NYT endorsement of McCain, not for anything having to do with McCain (because who cares, Edith) but for the deeply satisfying thrashing of Giuliani in the middle. I guess if everything must relate to you-know-what, you're welcome to imagine it translated into Italian and delivered by the great Gencer. The clause "then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign" would contain a high D and at least three glottal attacks.

In another moment of local relevance to Met audiences, John Edwards, who is working the "little old me from the country" angle so hard we will not be surprised to see him on Tim Russert wearing a straw hat, has in some ill-thought-out misprisal* of disdain for things urban for progressive class politics, made Masa Takayama his unlikely Sistah Souljah.

If it wasn't obvious, the coveted endorsement of MFI goes to Senator Obama.

Hi to anyone who made his unlikely way here from the mention in the NYRB, about which I am unseemlily** amused. This is usually about opera.

*almost certainly not a word
**even more certainly not a word

By the way, I return to the 'politan next week and should resume writing about that mysterious art form I once upon a time used to write about, the one where people don wigs and speak on pitches.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


...has announced for 2008-2009.

I find the tone of the article a little gloomy...there are at least three things on there that sound like must-sees, Trebs or no Trebs.

Oh, here's the press release from the horse's mouth, as a pdf.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

almost inexhaustibly amusing

I keep looking back at this line from the notes to the Price/Bergonzi/Merrill/Verrett/Grist Ballo and laughing:

"The large crowd of citizens already there is in a state of considerable excitement, for the sorceress is expecting an immediate call from her good friend the Devil."

That is among the funnier sentences ever written.

Also why did I not know there was a Ballo with such a perfect cast until it made a lunge for my wallet at Academy?

Monday, January 21, 2008


Ok, I did hesitate to link to this's not 100% clear what the source is, but there seems to be no commercial release. So, crossing my fingers and hoping it isn't dripping with bad karma, I thank the original youtube poster, er, hotazzoperastud, and present to you some formidable music-making, courtesy of Joyce DiDonato and Eric Cutler. p.s. not to be a boring high note queen but check out the B at the end. Srsly.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pronounce it "Lou-a-vul" please

Picture your host as a young man, driving around on a Saturday with a broadcast of Rosenkavalier (with, like, Mechtild Gessendorf) on the radio of his 1983 Tercel, and you must perforce picture Kentucky, where this took place. Well, picturing it is better than growing up there, but it's hard to find an unkind word about Louisville, the state's smartest and most progressive corner. Home to the Humana Festival, the elegant Seelbach (mentioned in passing, under a nom de plume in The Great Gatsby), and my high school friend Michelle who probably had a personality disorder but was very funny, Louisville is the faint praise that damns the rest of the state. Wait, that came out all wrong. Seriously a lovely town. And here's what they're seeing next season at the opera.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What's left?

So mostly now one is curious about Houston and Chicago. (This is not to slight the many fine houses not yet mentioned.) Anyone heard rumblings thereof, therefrom? Me, I also keep clicking on Caramoor's site because I think they announced pretty early last year and of course they have been something of a Podles Festspielhaus the last couple of years. Also, even with the indispensible augury of the Met Futures Page, surely the official reveal from the Big House will have a casting surprise or two.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

News from the North

...or: When it Rains, it Snows

Here's what they'll be seeing in the land of socialized medicine and a suspiciously forward placement of the /o/ vowel. P'chonkadonk is now officially sneaking up on ubiquity, is it not so? From my limited experience of her vocalism, that could be a welcome development.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Tipped off by Henry Holland, I can report that San Fran has announced.


Wow, the Opera Tattler has all the dirt on next season.

Of particular interest there, Seattle's '08-'09, including Joyce Castle in Figaro. I assume she's playing Cherubino. Well I don't assume that of course but it's fun to try and picture. Blythe's first (?) Amneris: intriguing. Also, is LePage's Erwartung the one with crazy wall=floor tricks we saw in Cincinnati maybe five years ago?

ETA: Burns, who gets some sort of lifetime achievement award for correcting my incorrectnesses, points out that Ms. Blythe will first sing Amneris closer to home (well, my home)--in Baltimore, I'm assuming. Baltimore has in fact posted the titles of their next season with no casting information I can find, but anyway: Aida, Norma, Barbiere, Porgy & Bess.

More hat tips to Jessica, this time for pointing us to the details for Baltimore.. I know at least one person who is likely to faint from joy at the prospect of a lyric rather than a mezzo singing the 'gisa.

Pleasant, unpleasant surprise

Cynthia Lawrence is, I understand, a stalwart cover at the 'politan. I've heard her once, only, as Rosalinde, so all I really knew about her was that she wasn't proficient at delivering treacly shtick. Imagine my surprise, then, to tune in last night and hear her sing, no, not a perfect Lady M. but in any case rings around the (relatively) name brand star given the prima and the HD movie-cast. A lot of what you'd want was there, if the microphones were fair: unabashed chest voice, at least on air an ample and solid sound, acuti that were here serviceable, there good (as opposed to the other singer's weird half-air sound of song in collapse...and do bear in mind, again, I loved her in Tabarro, just, please folks, don't sing what you can't sing) and even a certain degree of abandon that puts the lady's delicious malevolence over. Was she convincingly beastly onstage, can anyone tell me? La luce, usually a better test than the thorny gauntlet of the letter scene, hit the nail on the head.

I note this partly because the good performance of a cover is a special thing and should not go untrumpeted. But also it's enough to entice me back into the hall to hear it again, mixed-to-negative feelings about the production notwithstanding. I should look to see if she's in the last performances where Alvarez will presumably ease painful memories of Ataneli's pitch problems, and though I found Pittas more committed and stylish than earlier, far more worthy of the roar that greeted him at curtain, I'm positively mad to hear Calleja sing it. And Pape, well, it is boring to heap garlands on those who are already a greenhouse, but...

Incidentally, I meant to write up something about Fiona Shaw as the Fonze at BAM, but it seemed not to want to be written, so just: yeah, go.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oh, look! Actual content!

Here's an article about Washington's next season. As per the Facts of Life theme song, we have Radvanovsky as the B-cast Lucrezia Borgia (though SR is nobody's second fiddle) and Guleghina singing Turandot, otherwise known as "the role wherein 50% of the notes are ones she can't sing."

Oh, hey, it's January! What other news can we dig up?

Dallas is fulfilling a lot of people's dream by putting on Roberto Devereux. The linked article doesn't provide casting info, though the photo suggests local favorite/local source of virulent backlash skepticism Stephen Costello will be on hand. Other good news: Dallas' last season at the Fairgrounds Music Hall.

And it gets better: they've already announced 2009-2010 (that's a PDF, btw, if it's going to crash your browser or tie things up) in the new house. There's an opera of Moby Dick by Jake Heggie starring Ben Heppner, which is exciting if you look at it from a certain angle. Then if you scroll down you get more casting info on both seasons, for instance promising young tenor James Valenti is in the Boheme, and Manuela Custer about whom I heard excited rumblings a year or two back is in Italiana. Also Hasmik "Will Travel" Papian is Elisabetta or Cunegonde or Flosshilde or whatever the lead in Roberto Devereux is. The way I function, as usual, the main character in Roberto Devereux is Beverly Sills.

There's a little info here about L.A. They're getting Wilson's Butterfly, which aren't you a little bit curious at least?

More news as it breaks. Probably after everyone else has already reported it, but you get what you pay for.

Are you there, god? It's me, Maurgret

Dear god,

Yeah, I know, I have a lot of nerve addressing a blog entry to you, all things considered.

But, say, listen, big guy. Here's my bargain basement version of Pascal's Wager: I pretend you exist just in case; you maybe do me a favor. After that, seriously, other than Mike Huckabee not winning the election, I'll never ask you for another you-damn thing.

What I'd like, god, old buddy, old pal, is for Patricia Racette to expand her Puccini rep and cover for Karita Mattila in February, and for KM to have a cold or something not particularly unpleasant but momentarily incapacitating like that, because then Racette would go on instead and in addition to the pleasure of hearing her sing it, I could use the subject line "Manon Lesbo" for my review. In a loving way, you understand. Because it's 2008* and we can kid each other about that kind of thing. I think.

Ok, I'm gonna let you go in case you're busy coming up with more fascinating tokens of your affection like AIDS and famine and, not to reuse a punchline, but Mike Huckabee, in your infinite benevolence. But consider it, alright?

Fondly as ever,
Maurizio Q. D'Annato


Yes, eventually I'm going back to the opera so I can stop posting crap like this. Promise.

*Thanks, Gert. You win the "Maury is a Simpleton" award for this week.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

...and a happy Sweet 16 (or thereabouts) to B.

Monday, January 07, 2008

God(s) I've missed Wagner

Just tuned in halfway through "Du bist der Lenz...nein, nein, du bist der Lenz, Nein, wirklich, DU bist der Lenz, ich insistiere." I think Upstate Julie Brown is liveblogging, so maybe I will, too. So far I'm just really pleased with Adrienne Pieczonka, who has a pretty solid sound with some vulnerability to it, and who also just did the Rysanek scream at the, er, unsheathing. Forbis, while lacking some of the suavity we've gotten used to with Domingo has a very gratifying virility. This is going well. More as it unfolds.

...and the crowd misses Wagner, too. I've heard the end of the act sound a bit more ecstatic but [he added later] some of the melancholic stuff with Brunnhilde & Pops is rewardingly rich and pensive.

I'm not going to go on about James Morris, I guess, because that wouldn't be sporting.

Gasteen is a singer I enjoyed immensely as Elektra, with the caveat that the top is a mess. It's still a mess, though starting with hojotoho is nobody's idea of a good time. So far, I'd still rather hear her than Eaglen, for the reason that probably goes without saying: she's singing a role, not notes.

Excellent role for Blythe, who is very word-attentive. Ok, more in a bit.

Oh, sorry. It appears people are reading and commenting and I'm half nodding despite a terrific performance, including (who always admits when he's wrong? Maury does) some very committed, if woolly, sounds from Morris. It's just, as I was saying not three minutes ago, "act ii of walkuere is interminable, like a cheap uruguayan pinot noir." I know, that doesn't make ANY sense at all, but in context, it did, as much as anything I say.

Longeurs: a word invented for Wotan's monologues. And I can't say Morris was thrilling there, but it's wordy stuff, in the worst way. Yeah, Wagner, gift horse, whatever, the outer acts are much more thrilling, aren't they? Or am I just missing something? I bought the Andrew Porter translation to listen along with sometime because I figure a singing translation (while sometimes embarrassing) at least removes the dilemma of which kind of mediation you want, to some extent: read the German and understand not enough, or read the English and it doesn't fit. Anyway the great thing about Wagner as librettist is that enough of it is WTF-inducing that you can sort of indulge in willing suspension of serious-taking, and just say "either this bit sucked in the original or it is translated in a clumsy way, and I shall never know."

A Furtwangler-mad friend of mine used to grow positively livid about Levine's Wagner, referring to his style as "curatorial," but whatever you may think of that, he's certainly made this an orchestra that plays Wagner as if it were the Haydn "Surprise!" Symphony. (Exclamation point, mine, and ironic. It's actually not that surprising.) Some gratitude is due to the universe for that. Ok, back to active listening. It gets exciting again here I think.

Ok wow, I didn't know it was Margaret Juntwait DDS, but she is sure as hell pulling teeth in this interview. This lady is doubtless wonderful at her job, but I think at the point that we were reduced to her critiquing MJ's pronunciation of the Valkyries' names, perhaps they could have yanked someone out of the audience. p.s. operas she'd like to hear more? Die Freschutz, huh? Yeah, wow that would be terrific, call me when that happens. I'll be picking out what magazines to bring and possibly programming playlists on my ipod. See now at this point Die Freischutz always turns out to be someone's favorite and I feel like a cad, but...I'm having a hard time believing Die Freischutz is anyone's favorite opera.

Did I mention I like the outer acts much, much better than Act II? Probably. Did I also mention Satan or someone made me stay up 'ti 2 watching Valley of the Dolls which I don't even really love? So I'm actually going to bed after a little bit of this act. But it looks a bit like you guys went to bed, too, so it's probably alright.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Lark of the Border

I've heard several epithets applied to Tejano songstress Lydia Mendoza, who died just a few days ago at 91, among them "the lark of the border" and "la reina de la musica ranchera"--the kind of intentionally iconic labels people attach to a certain, bewitching kind of art, in this instance music that sounds as lost the past to us now (and which therefore of course draws us in the more) as the Carter Family or McCormack singing old sentimental songs on a '78. Nobody could write (or perform, I think) a new Lydia Mendoza song idiomatically in the present any more than they could write a new Mozart symphony. In both cases, not a matter just of a stilled voice, but a language with no native speakers left. Here is the song I think of as iconic.

[Note: I read somewhere today that she took the plotwise pulpy words for Mal Hombre from a story printed on candy wrappers! I can't help but find them poetic just the same: "tan ruin es tu alma que no tiene nombre"!]

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Hey does anyone want a very adorable orange tabby I found wandering on 35th Street on New Year's Eve? I named him Nellie before I realized he had the wrong parts. Off chance here, but I don't want to take him to animal control and there ain't room in these parts for two cats. Very friendly, about six months old.