Monday, January 11, 2010

One of the Best Weekends of My Life

The title of my post is rather exclusive, and, thus, my readers shall probably expect something truly grand that I have to relate, and this is a correct assumption depending upon one's definition of the adjective 'grand'.

To commence quickly, for a perceived brevity is most attractive among authors, I was afforded the pleasurable opportunity of going to a local cinema to view the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD presentation of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. I had desired to see it ever since I learned of Renee Fleming and Susan Graham's collaboration on this production, and my anticipations for this performance were high. From earlier reviews, I knew that this Saturday matinee broadcast would be most excellent from Fleming and Graham's perspective, but I had nothing to fear in regards of the performances of Eric Cutler, Christine Schafer, and Kristinn Sigmundsson. Susan Graham's offstage personality, which I have had the prior pleasure of witnessing from her hosting of Great Performances: Live @ the Met on television, easily matches her onstage charisma, and I have rarely seen a performer who exudes such a personality and imbues their characters with such vivacity. Her portrayal of Octavian is energetic, comical, and amorous. Renee Fleming's Marschallin is such a pleasure to watch, for she tempers all of the role with a knowledge of the character and a little improvisation from her natural intuition. One of my favorite moments came from one of the intermission interviews when she spoke concerning her and Susan Graham's relation to each other in these opposing gender roles saying, and I paraphrase, "Susan and I had a joke for a long time that we were the only people we had kissed. That was during a sad time in life." I cannot wait to see Renee's interpretation of Rossini's Armida in May, and it is also presented Live in HD. The acting in this production was pretty good, and if you possess any preconceived notions about how opera singers act on stage, you ought to reward yourself to this production with Fleming and Graham. Yes, I know that I continue rambling about Fleming and Graham, but they were my introduction to opera, so I have a predilection towards them.

The other portion of my excellent weekend occurred Sunday evening with the commencement of the new season of Masterpiece Classic on PBS. They initiated the season with Return to Cranford, which is a Victorian-era tlae of life in the small, country village of Cranford, and it stars Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Dillon, and many other admirable actors. I viewed the first miniseries last year, and I was enthralled by the quality of the acting and the depths of the characters that the actors and actresses explored. My favorites were the portrayals of Miss Mary Smith by Lisa Dillon and Miss Matilda "Matty" Jenkyns by Judi Dench. Except in the case of David Suchet's turn as Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot last year on Masterpiece Mystery!, I cannot say that I have ever been more elated by the continuance of a story produced for television. If you are afforded the opportunity of seeing this excellent narrative of the elegance of Victorian England at its very best, for I cannot see it being better provided for an audience's pleasure elsewhere than in this series and perhaps in Masterpiece Classic's retelling of Jane Austen's Emma later this season, I would highly recommend that you exploit it.

In other news concerning opera, It should be mentioned that this Saturday we are granted another Metropolitan Opera Live in HD presentation, and it is Bizet's Carmen. The cast promises to amaze us since it is made up of Elina Garanca, Barbara Frittoli, and Roberto Alagna. I shall not go see it in the theater because I must work, but I shall hear it and record it on my mp3 player. My employers cannot deprive me of all of my enjoyment on a Saturday afternoon.

I should mention that I received two gifts for Christmas that are worthy of note here for their relation to my content within this blog. I was given the Metropolitan Opera 2010 wall calendar and The 5 Browns's autobiography, entitled Life Between the Keys: The (Mis)Adventures of The 5 Browns. I anticipate filling my calendar full of dates, and I shall never miss a Met broadcast in 2010 because they are all marked on the specific days that they occur. Of course, it is also filled with many important dates of debuts of singers and such things, which makes it ideal for the opera aficionado. In their surprisingly entertaining autobiography, which also includes a CD of The 5 Browns's 'hits', the virtuoso siblings, who made history by attending Juilliard simultaneously, reveal anecdotal and moving episodes from their lives of childhood, through their years at Juilliard, to the present. One would never believe that Gregory was such a comical writer. Ryan, as might be expected from his personality and his absence from their blog on their website, contibutes the least to the volume, but being a busy concert pianist is probably taxing. The best revelation in the book came when I learned that Desirae Brown not only knows who Renee Fleming is, but she aspires to be the kind of performer that Fleming is known to be, which is amicable and respectful towards the audience. How could life be any better?

To those who noticed, and I certainly did, I have another follower of my blog. Whoever you are "c-ireland", thank you for evidencing your interest in my writings, and I hope you enjoy what you read. Feel free to comment often, and that goes for everyone!

With that I leave you, and I pray that God continues to bless all of you beyond measure, and I hope that you are all well. Thank you for reading!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Now I Am 20, or At the End of the Day

I am sure that it is to the delight of all of my readers that I have attained twenty years of age since my last post to you. My birthday was upon the twenty-seventh of December, and I spent it with my family celebrating Christmas Eve, for our original schedule for this event was altered due to a blizzard that presented itself to us on Christmas Eve afternoon. I am rather nervous about growing older, for it seems that life does pass me by in so many ways, but I remain content lest my readers should consider me an ungrateful wretch.

I do not wish to bore my readers with news of myself when I have so much that I could say in other matters, so I shall not, and I will proceed. In the world of opera, I must say that I greatly anticipate the Met's Live in HD presentation of Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, and I hope to be in attendance of it at my local cinema. Renee Fleming and Susan Graham are my two greatest reasons for seeing it, but the whole cast make this a performance not to be missed. How did I ever become so obsessed with opera? I could think of many other obsessions that would be less fortunate for me to possess, so I continue with my adoration of such an elegant form of art. This production exposes such elegance splendidly.

I understand from Opera News magazine's website that tenor Rolando Villazon will be performing again in March. He is scheduled to perform in Vienna in a staging of Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore, which offers us an excellent opportunity to see if he still retains his voice. If he does, and why should he venture a return to opera if he did not, do my readers think that he and Anna Netrebko will reunite as stage partners and opera's preferred stage couple again populate the stages of Europe? I wonder what the Met has scheduled for him in the near future.

Yesterday I unfortunately found another insult to the classification of classical vocal music, and the name of this newfound perpetrator is Filippa Giordano. I listened to her rendition of O mio babbino caro, and I was appalled at the aria. She ruined it. I need say no more than that, for I have sufficient faith in my opinion of this singer at least, and I offer my additional critique of her sound as a merit of my knowledge of this subject. Giordano sounds much like Sarah Brightman upon one's first acquaintance with her, but one quickly removes this first opinion when one delves deeper into the recording. At some points she belts the phrases for dramatic emphasis, and these sound more like screams than anything else, and at other times her voice sounds filled with too much air. If we are to treat her voice as that of a classical opera singer, which is a delineation that she has not refused to embrace, we must also include that her voice lacks body, and the orchestral arrangements that accompany her selections are infused with elements of popular music. Her setting of the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen easily comes to mind at the mention of this, and it is most despicable, but I dwell on this for far too great a length of time, and I shall remove myself from it.

Finally, I wish all of my readers a belated Happy New Year, and I pray that God blesses them with all of the desires of their hearts. I thank all of you for reading and for making my first year of blogging a memorable one!