Sunday, July 18, 2010

Over the Summer

As most of my regular readers can probably deduce for themselves without my recognizing the fact, summer is not the best time of year for me to blog. There are two reasons for this, and the first one is that I am usually involved in some theatrical pursuit, and, therefore have little or no time to post anything of relevance. Second, I have learned that there is not much to report on opera during the summer, which is something of a blessing considering the other reason for my lack of regular posts during this hectic time of the year.

Be that as it may, I have some time to myself at present, and I have a few things to say about opera, so this is the perfect time for a post, which may turn into something of a long affair, but I beseech your indulgence in advance, and you are forewarned.

First, I must admit that I am not enjoying High School Musical as much as I have enjoyed other productions of which I have been an humble part, and I am anxiously anticipating our production og Guys and Dolls in November. For those who have been blessed enough not to have seen the Disney movie of our show, let me just reassure you that all of those comments you have heard about High School Musical and its unbelievable amounts of cheese or fluff, whichever you care to insert, are not exaggerating in any way. The music for this musical is such that you wonder that it required so many people to compose it and write it. There are at least ten different names credited to the creation of this show, and they somehow managed to create this. We have a cast of fifty-five or so, and we are a talented group of performers, but we can only do so much with this show until we become disengaged from it.

As for opera, which I have longed to discuss with someone who has a love for the subject for a while now, I heard what may be the best contemporary broadcast of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro that we have ever had. It came to me over the radio courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the cast was assembled of an almost superstar roster including Danielle De Niese as Susanna, Nicole Cabell as the Countess, Joyce DiDonato as Cherubino, Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count, Keith Jameson as Basilio, and Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro. The performance was from the Lyric Opera of Chicago's last season, and it was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. This broadcast sounded very nearly flawless, and I was grateful for the wonderful afternoon I had because of it. I was surprised at how much of the opera I remebered from my previous encounters with it; neverthelss, there were several new gems that I gleamed from the broadcast. One of these was noticing that the tenor does actually have a decent amount to sing, which I had somehow overlooked in my other forays into this opera. Nicole Cabell sounded very much like Renee Fleming in the role of the countess, a fact for which I was most ingratiated, and I should very much like to find a broadcast of one of Renee's performance of the Countess. It is still difficult for me to think that Danielle De Niese has been singing at the Met for ten years, for her voice yet sounds so young and fresh, and she plays all of the Mozart roles such as Susanna and Despina. On that afternoon I thought that I enjoyed Mozart almost as much as Kim does. I am of the opinion that it is one of the definitive broadcasts of the opera, especially for the modern aficionado.

In other areas of opera, it should be mentioned that the summer festivals are well under way in Europe, and Renee Fleming recently finished what she considers to be her final run of Verdi's La Traviata. On her Twitter feed she had this to say after the last performance:

"Champagne afterwards with Tom Hampson and friends… Very happy to celebrate six wonderful years with Violetta."
3:47 PM Jul 6th via web

"Now it’s for another generation to put their stamp on Violetta…"
3:45 PM Jul 6th via web

"I tried to enable the audience to forget that I’m singing, and ultimately express the words and the story."
3:45 PM Jul 6th via web

"Which is why this opera is so popular. It is most definitely for three different voices -- three different temperaments and sensibilities."
3:44 PM Jul 6th via web

"An extraordinarily challenging role, but worth the effort; grateful. People are moved by the story and Violetta's plight..."
3:43 PM Jul 6th via web
I must confess that I was rather saddened to hear her say as much because I consider her 2004 Metropolitan Opera broadcast of the opera with Ramon Vargas and Dmitri Hvorostovsky conducted by Valery Gergiev to be among the best broadcasts of the opera one could ever hear. The broadcast of the 2007 run of performances on Sirius conducted by Marco Armiliato pair her with Thomas Hampson, who needs no introduction and Matthew Polenzani, who won the first Beverly Sills Award, does not sound quite so good as the formerly mentioned one, but it is acceptable. Polenzani does sound young and vibrant, but he lacks the musical maturity of Ramon Vargas, and, when Polenzani opens act two with his aria, he sounds rather less than secure when he goes for the high note at the end, which is something Vargas refrains from doing; however, Vargas's tone is beautiful, and it flows smoothly. One does not want to hear anything else when he is singing, and Vargas and Fleming's voices sound perfect together. In the 2004 broadcast Fleming's rendition of Sempre Libera is full of energy and life, and she is on top of every note controlling every rhythm, but in the 2007 broadcast on Sirius, where Margaret Juntwait announces that this is probably Fleming's last appointment with Violetta for the Met, some of the tempi seem to slip away from her, which can be attributed to a lesser rapport with Marco Armiliato than she had with Maestro Valery Gergiev.

These are a few of the things that I have been doing over the summer months, and I almost wish that I have done more so that I might tell you something of greater relevance, but I have been consumed by so much  that it has been difficult to maintain my following of opera.

Of late I have tried to learn some new compositions for piano, and I have succeeded in acquiring Enya's To Go Beyond to my repertoire of selections to provide at gatherings. I should very much like to add other selections to my knowledge of pieces, but I do not have the time at present. I desire to learn Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings, and I think that is a goal that is easily attained for me. I need to sit down to my keyboard at home and learn some of my beloved music by Liz Story and Enya's gorgeous Amarantine, which I believe to be her best album thus far.

Thank you for continuing to peruse my posts, and I pray that God continues to bless you.


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