Wednesday 24 September 2008

This month's Opera

Rather later than usual, here are some gleaning from this month's Opera magazine.

The interview is with Lucio Gallo who, remarkably, started out as a professional pop singer; he sang on cruise ships and even sang Sinatra songs. Quite a training for a distinguished baritone. He then went on to train as a carabiniere and did his first operatic role whilst still doing his carabiniere training.

It is interesting to see that Gallo sings a reasonable amount of Wagner, something which is still relatively rare with Italian singers; Wagner performances in Italy are often cast from non-Italians. Over in Austria, John Treleaven has made his belated role debut as Parsifal. And Ben Heppner has sung his first Siegfried in Aix en Provence. Both are roles I'd like to see the singers in, but as usual I'm not holding my breath for London performances.

In Paris, Anna Netrebko sang Juliet in I Capuletti e I Montecchi before going off to have her (and Erwin Schrott's) baby. I trust that she was not showing too much, as the thought of a pregnant Juliet lends an entirely new premise to the opera. (I saw Rossini's Italiana in Algeri at Buxton with a very pregnant Jean Rigby, which did make sense in terms of the plot). Hugh Canning's review of the Netrebko/Joyce di Donato pairing likened it to the stellar performances by Gruberova and Baltsa at Covent Garden in 1981.

In Strasbourg, Nicholas Snowman has been doing something I've always wanted to do, if I ran an opera house. He's themed the last 2 seasons around the Trojans so that earlier this year you could compare and contrast Elektra with Iphigenie en Aulide.

Stewart Wallace is best known to me for his Harvey Milk opera. His new piece is The Bonesetter's Daughter based on Amy Tan's book. Remarkably the principals consist of mezzos and baritones, no sopranos and no tenors. I'll be interested to find out what the piece sounds like, but it's premièring in San Francisco and the new generation American operas are not making their way across the Atlantic very often.

Frederica von Stade will close her career in 2010, which will mark her 40th anniversary in the business - it hardly seems possible. And in another impossible date, it seems that Dame Joan Sutherland is 81. It seems like yesterday that I saw her in concert in Manchester when I was a student (in the late 1970's), when she seemed to be dressed in a lime green dressing gown.

Further distinguished older singers appeared in Henze's The Bassarids in Munich, where Reiner Goldberg and Hanna Schwarz defied the years to evidently give strong performances.

Then in Houston, 70 year old Gwynne Howell made his role debut (!) as Benoit in La Boheme.

Interesting fact, Puccini's Il Trittico had not been given in its entirety at La Scala since 1983. The new production there in March sounded unconvincing, alas. Lorin Maazel's 1984 finally fetched up at La Scala, but does not seem to have been any better received there than it was in London.

In Turin, they've been digging even further back; their first performance of Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia since 1919. They've also just done Salome (the link in my mind between the two being, of course, Caballe who was strong in both operas). Robert Carsen set the action in a Las Vegas night club. Hmmm.

Michael Berkeley's new opera For You, having been cancelled for its Welsh premiere will now be given by Music Theatre Wales in the Linbury Studio in Covent Garden in May. Next year looks like a good time for new UK opera as David Sawyer's new piece will receive its London premiere at Sadlers Wells. Both pieces use well known writers, Berkeley working with Ian McEwan and Sawyer with comic writer Armando Ianucci. Not surprisingly Sawyer and Ianucci's new piece is that rare thing, a comedy!

St. Louis have done Walton's Troilus and Cressia and like Opera North they have given the role to a soprano. But, also like Opera North, they more or less adhere to the cuts Walton made when staging the opera for Janet Baker. I'd love, just the once, to hear the original longer version of the opera. This sounds an ideal scheme for an opera festival or even a concert performance.

Patrick O'Connor's review of ENO's recent Candide makes a similar plea for Lillian Helman's orginal libretto for Candide. O'Connor implies that it might be just as stageable as the more recent cut and paste jobs. Lets try it!

Finally, some juicy morsels from the We Hear That... column.
William Christie and Jonathan Kent are doing a new Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne next year. One wonders what, if anything, they are using for the book?
Divine Joyce (DiDonato) is doing Cendrillon at Covent Garden in 2011
Jonas Kauffman will be singing with Angela Georghiu in Adriana Lecouvreur at Covent Garden in 2009/10. I first heard the opera at the San Carlo in Naples with Marid Chiara and look forward to the London outing with bated breath.
Stephen Medcalf is reported to be directing Capriccio with Susan Gritton at Grange Park next year. I think they've got the year wrong as next year's GPO programme has no Capriccio in it. Perhaps we have that to look forward to in 2010.
ENO are doing L'Amour du Loin in July with Joan Rodgers.
And Covent Garden are getting rid of their dodgy Tristan und Isolde to replace it with one by Christoph Loy. No, I'm not holding my breath either, but if it has the right Isolde.... The production, new next season, will include Matti Salminen as King Marke appearing at Covent Garden for the first time in 30 years.

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