Monday, January 26, 2009

"Orfeo ed Euridice" Last Saturday, Renee Fleming on the Sundance Channel this Wednesday, and Verdi's "Rigoletto" From The Met This Saturday!

I think all of us who owe our leisure hours to opera ought to consider ourselves extremely blessed with all of the things that we can access every year in the opera world at any given moment. Examine what the advent of YouTube has done for those of us who have little or no opportunity to see or hear opera in their lives, let alone from the comfort of their own home. For those of you who were able to see Christoph Willibald von Gluck's telling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and his lovely bride Eurydice in the underworld in his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, let me say that there was not a better opera for peole to see who are new to the art form. At around two hours in length, it is comparable to seeing a movie, and for those of you who saw it as part of the Met's Live in HD series, it was indeed akin to viewing a movie, only much more dramatic, I personally think. The radio broadcast was just as nice as the performance shown in cinemas since the music alone is quite soothing. I like to imagine that Gluck's masterpiece still agrees musically, if not altogether vocally, with the Baroque operas it sought to replace. We still see many of the Baroque mannerisms of music in the opera alongside some of the ideas that would later emerge in the pieces of the Bel Canto and later still in the operas that would come from what is known as the Romantic period. The dance music, especially that lilting melodic phrase of the Ballet des Ombres in Act II. One is reminded of the similarities between the music of this and Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel. There are those who might think me out of my wits, but I feel it is a viable juxtaposition within the mind. I personally prefer the the EMI Classics release of the opera with Anne Sofie von Otter and Barbara Hendricks in Gluck's French version of Orphee et Eurydice over other editions, and is it just me, or was the Ballet des Ombres shortened in the Met's broadcast on Saturday, the 24th? It may well be that I was not paying as much attention to the broadcast as I should have been, but I thought that the Ballet seemed short. The performance was a good one, one I shall not soon forget. Stephanie Blythe sang the role nicely, and I was happy to hear Danielle DeNiese sing the role of Euridice. Many critics and people who fancy themselves to be critics dislike her voice, but I find nothing really wrong with it. Heidi Grant Murphy, who, it may be recalled, replaced Lorraine Hunt Leiberson in the role of Euridice last year in the premier of this production of Orfeo last season at the Met after her untimely death at the hands of cancer, sang the role of Amor, the god[dess] of love. I must disagree with SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment in her liking of a mezzo-soprano in the role of Orfeo better than a countertenor; I enjoy countertenors most in the role. David Daniels sang the role beautifully last season. I hope we may hear more of him at the Met soon.

Here I put on display, for all of the world to judge, my knowledge of opera and what I have come to realize the voice the voices of opera to be. There are many who would think that I have never heard of the great artists like Pons, Bjoerling, Tucker, Caruso, Sayao, Callas, Price, Del Monaco, Di Stefano, and others besides, yet I must assure them that I have. I own some recordings of these great singers of the past, but I understand that they are from the past. We must accept that there are new singers to inhabit the roles they once commanded. In any event, I belive that the fact is undebatable that the vocalists of today have a decided advantage over those of the golden age of recorded opera, the advent of better technology to record their albums and performances. Older recordings are filled with an ample amount of distracting noise on the records or other form of media, and CD's do not always correct these shortcomings faced by the originals. In summation, the old and the new can be embraced evenly.

As to Renee Fleming's appearance on the Sundance Channel, she performs on a show entitled Spectacle with Elvis Costello. I hope she manges to fit an opera aria in there somewhere. I may not be allowed to view it, so I hope that there will be videos of it on YouTube (Yes, I know I trust YouTube too much to satisfy my opera viewing habit.). It airs on Wednesday here in Oklahoma, so check your local listings.

This Saturday we are treated to Verdi's masterpiece Rigoletto from the Met. The cast is scheduled to be Aleksandra Kurzak, Victoria Vizin, Giuseppe Filianotti, George Gagnidze, and Mikhail Petrenko. I shall have to revisit my recording of the opera with Sumi Jo and Marcelo Alvarez before Saturday to reacquaint myself with it. I love this opera; it is one of those that really incorporates all of the characters. Their music is also not too difficult to sing either (Well, at least the Duke's is not), and it is all beautiful. I cannot wait to hear it! Speaking of Sumi Jo's wonderful voice, when will we hear it at the Met again, or has she retired? Her voice is beautiful; if the Met is planning to revive their production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor any time soon, they ought to get her to sing Lucia.

I hope that I have not rambled on needlessly to waste your time, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed composing it for your continued enjoyment. Thanks for reading!

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