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Weekend opera

On Friday, Nicolas McGegan opened his penultimate season at the venerable Händel Festival in Göttingen (rather unexcitingly, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau) with "Tamerlano." But La Scala's planned opening of "Rheingold" under Barenboim -- the start of the company's first Ring since 1963, according to Opera Chic -- was delayed until Sunday by a strike. While Barenboim was away, Simon Rattle made a (relatively rare) opera appearance in Berlin, conducting Chabrier's "L'Etoile" at the Staatsoper with his wife, Magdalena Kozena, and Jean-Paul Fouchecourt. It's the last premiere of the season, after which the theater will be shuttered for three and a half years of renovations. (The Staatsoper will camp out in the premises of the defunct Schiller Theater in the interim.) Stay tuned for reviews.

Edited to add: Opera Chic posts some of the first feedback on the Scala Rheingold: withering criticism from the Corriere della Sera. Germany's Die Welt, however, praised it, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung loved it (sorry, no link).

By Anne Midgette  |  May 17, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  international , opera  
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Meanwhile, at the Met I saw Lulu on Saturday. The good news was the conducting of Fabio Luisi, which I thought of being a routiner, but here showed a remarcable sense of color and he also provided good pacing and support. The cast was adequate, sometimes more than so. Indeed, perhaps Dr. Schon is one role that James Morris can sing without embarassment at this point of his career (my joke is that the role has Theo Adam written all ovewr it.) Petersen was OK, the vocal standout being, unsurprisingly, Anne Sofie von Otter as the Countess Geschwitz. I would not call John Dexter's production "minimalist" but it certainly was smaller scale than what we see in other nights at the Met.

Next door the New York Philharmonic was conducted by Kurt Masur in bread-and-butter repertoire for him: Beethoven's 1st symphony and Bruckner's 7th.

I mentioned before that, regardless of my reservations about the interpretations, I found the Philharmonic in terrific shape when playing for Alan Gilbert, and there is no doubt that it also played brilliantly for Maazel, whatever other doubts one may have about him. Yet ultimately, it was Masur's philharmonic the one that I enjoyed most. During his directorship, the strings had a velvety sound that even the conductor was not able to re-create during his guest conducting stints that followed his tenure. Yet the concert still gave us a glimpse of what once was. The strings were rich, the woodwinds burnished (let's not forget that many of the players were appointed by Zubin Mehta) and even the brass was not as loud as in other evenings. The interpretation of Bruckner's 7th symphony was on the slow side, but not lethargic, and allowed us to savor the magnificence of the orchestra.

Posted by: cicciofrancolando | May 17, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Closer to home, on Saturday May 15, Classical WETA-FM took a plunge and broadcast in the 1 PM afternoon opera time-slot the beautiful, recently sold-out February performance, at the Kennedy Center, of Ryan Brown’s Opera Lafayette semi-staged production of Gluck’s Armide, of 1777, featuring Dominique Labelle in the lead role.

However, the broadcast consisted of the WGMS-legacy host simply pushing the play button at a little after 1 PM for the first two acts, and then, following self-advertising, the play button again at 2 PM for the final three acts. Listeners were given no synopsis of the action whatsoever and were left completely lost at sea, unlike during MET broadcasts. Lost listeners might have thought that at the end they were listening to the furies trying to intimidate Orpheus, rather than a furious Armide.

Tonight May 17, Classical WETA-FM again tries to rejoin living culture by broadcasting, at 9 PM, the Vocal Arts Society’s recent presentation, recorded live in concert at the Embassy of Austria, of Gerald Finley (baritone) and Julius Drake (piano) performing Robert Schumann Heine Lieder, Maurice Ravel Histoires naturelles, Samuel Barber Four Songs, Charles Ives Four Songs, Maurice Ravel
Don Quichotte a Dulcinee: Chanson a boire, Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky None but the Lonely Heart, and perhaps a lagniappe (hopefully, not an oily one).

Will Classical WETA-FM and the NSO take the plunge and broadcast, perhaps on Wednesday May 25, the full, unedited John Adams/NSO/Leila Josefowicz program of this week? Or an edited, all John Adams/NSO/Leila Josefowicz/Eric Owens program that week or the following week?

Posted by: snaketime1 | May 17, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

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