Monday, May 10, 2010

If I Were In Europe This Summer,...

... I would attend the festival that receives the pleasure of hearing what shall probably be the last Violetta that Renee Fleming will ever sing. I am not sure, but I believe that Zurich is the European city to host this performance, and she also sings a Strauss opera there later this summer; moreover, if anyone could record this, I would be elated to peuse such a recording. The other continental festivals look rather enticing also, and for example I inform my readers that Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, and Anne Sofie von Otter are all scheduled to sing in Europe over the summer months. Reading about all of this in the latest issue of Opera News has made me wish that I had some sort of festival near me such as the ones in Europe to which we all long to make our pilgrimage.

In other news Diana Damrau has withdrawn herself from performances of Ades's Hamlet because of pregnancy. Naturally, one wonders if she will be singing this role at the Met soon, for I read a comment on YouTube about how Diana Damrau forever seems to sing a role the year after Natalie Dessay is given it. It would be nice to see Damrau get to perform it first for once.

Philip Langridge, who is perhaps most recently known as the biennial Witch Regina Lickspittle in the Met's abridged, English language production of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, died on March the 5th. This is a veritable shock to anyone who heard his vibrant performances as the Witch, for they were so recent to us this season. Langridge was an artist of incredible longevity, and he ought to be a model for all future singers who aspire to perform professionally, for at seventy-one he was yet performing with great constancy and vigor. Having sung several world premiere works and been a noted interpreter of Benjamin Britten, he was scheduled to give yet another world premiere in 2011. He won an Olivier Award for his performances, and he was in the world premiere of Ades's The Tempest. I am sure that he shall be sorely missed by opera audiences.

When I listened to the Met's broadcast of La Traviata, I must admit that I was rather disappointed. My greatest loss of faith in the performance came form Angela Gheorghiu during her rendition of Sempre Libera. At the end of the aria, she let the orchestra preced her, and she missed a phrase; however, the mortifying part was that the audience seemed to applaud as if nothing had happened. Gheorghiu's singing that afternoon was full of problems for me, and there were times when she sounded as if she was marking, for there were instances in which she sounded very quiet in the first act and the second scene of the second act. Despite the prima donna's failings, Jmes Valenti sounded excellent in his Metropolitan Opera debut, and Thomas Hampson provided depth and intelligent insight to the character of Germont.

On the first of May, which turnoed out to be a most splendid afternoon insofar as the weather is concerned, I was blessed to go to my local cinema to see the Met's Live in HD simulcast of Rossini's Armida starring Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee. Though I thought Mary Zimmerman might have utilized the full potential of the Met's extensive technical resources a little better, I must say that I was pleased with the outcome of the production. Renee Fleming amazed me to the fullest extent with her singing for the afternoon, and her acting, which I have heard criticized by some people I know, left little to be desired, for I thought she provided an excellent interpretaion of her character. Lawrence Brownlee, whom I had never heard before this broadcast, proved to be every bit as marvelous a singer as I had heard him lauded to be by so many. His colleagues, sopranos Fleming and Sarah Coburn not least among them, praise his instrument when they work with him, and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. His high notes did indeed sound effortless, and when one considers that he is yet a relatively young singer, it sets the imagination to dreaming about his future performances. Fleming and Brownlee, however, were not the only stars of the afternoon; the cast also included Kobie van Rensburg, Barry Banks, and John Osborn, and I must confess that I heard so many high notes that I was unsure if I would ever be considered an opera singer. I thought that it was rather hilarious that Mary Jo Heath claimed that there must not be any other Bel canto operas being performed that Saturday because of the fact that the Bel Canto tenors seemed to all be in the cast of Armida. John Osborn quickly pointed out that Joyce DiDonato was singing a Rossini opera in Europe that day. I am anxious to see this production next season at the Met. As an aside, does anyone have any idea as to what that Bel Canto opera was that Renee Fleming referenced when she promised that she was going to sing another one in a couple of years?

Thank you for continuing to read my posts, and I pray that my readers are all well and that God continues to grant you the desires of your heart.
-Tyler.

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