Opera

Barenboim’s Tristan at the Met with Dalayman and Seiffert

A Weekend at the Opera, Part II: Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde Metropolitan Opera Company, November 28, 2008 Tristan……………..Peter Seiffert Isolde………………Katarina Dalayman Kurwenal…………….Gerd Grochowski [Debut] Brangäne…………….Michelle DeYoung King Marke…………..René Pape Melot……………….Stephen Gaertner Sailor’s Voice……….Matthew Plenk Shepherd…………….Mark Schowalter Steersman……………James Courtney English…
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Hector Berlioz, La Damnation de Faust, Metropolitan Opera, November 7, 2008

Faust – Marcello Giordani Marguerite – Susan Graham Méphistophélès – John Relyea Brander – Patrick Carfizzi Conductor – James Levine Production – Robert Lepage [Debut] Associate Director – Neilson Vignola [Debut] Set Designer – Carl Fillion.[Debut] Costume Designer – Karin…
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Richard Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

What better way to anticipate the Fourth of July than spending time with Richard Strauss, who fiddled while the Nazis burned Europe? He languished in apparent dotage as the Yanks stormed the beach at Normandy. Suddenly the first oboist of the Philadelphia Orchestra showed up at Strauss’s mountain retreat in Bavaria. Then a uniformed GI, the oboist commissioned a concerto from the snowy-haired, stork-like composer, and a minor masterpiece was born.

Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor

Les Troyens is so widely accepted as Berlioz’s greatest work, that the progress of the Berlioz Renaissance is punctuated by performances of it in the opera house and in concert, beginning, arguably, with Sir Thomas Beecham’s moderately abridged 1947 BBC broadcast. Now Boston music-lovers may consider the Berlioz Renaissance to be something of a noble fiction, since his music has had its own secure place in the Boston Symphony repertoire for many years, maturing with Charles Munch’s arrival in 1949. During his tenure he and the BSO performed and recorded several of Berlioz’s most important works, and the recordingsare still considered among the best. Later, both Jean Martinon and Seiji Ozawa continued the tradition most capably, and Berlioz has been one of James Levine’s great enthusiasms since early in his career. Expertise in Berlioz seems to be a prerequisite for the job. Yet, this is the first complete performance of Les Troyens by the foremost Berlioz orchestra in America, which in the past has only played brief excerpts, above all the “Royal Hunt and Storm” from Act IV. Hence these concert performances of Parts I and II on following weeks, culminating in a complete performance on Sunday May 4, are in fact landmarks.

Gary Lehman and Janice Baird Sing Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera

Tristan and Isolde at the Met.

About twenty minutes into Act II, Deborah Voigt became ill, left the stage, and the curtain was lowered. After a fifteen-minute delay, the act resumed at “Sehr lebhaft” with Janice Baird singing the role of Isolde.
The evening began with Peter Gelb’s suave announcement that Ben Heppner was ill and recovering at home in Canada. He reminded the audience that only perhaps five tenors in the world were able to sing Tristan, but a replacement had been found, a tenor named Gary Lehman, who would be singing the role for the first time in public. Great promises he did not make.

Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen: Siegfried, Royal Opera House Covent Garden under Antonio Pappano with John Tomlinson as Wotan

When, in my review of his recent performance to Haydn’s Creation, I was reflecting on Sir Colin Davis’ career, I mentioned the Ring Cycle he conducted at Covent Garden in 1976. I thought that Siegfried was the most successful of the performances, because Sir Colin seemed to have fallen in love with its spectacular score. In no other work are the beauties of Wagner’s composition so constantly and so openly present. As I sat raptly in my seat, the orchestra and all the wonderful qualities Sir Colin could reveal in it were without a doubt the focus of my attention. And so it is for most of us in most performances, past or present, whether it is Furtwängler, Knappertsbusch, Solti, Böhm (whose splendid Bayreuth performances, available on Philips, should be better remembered), Boulez, or Levine. The orchestra functions as storyteller—a surpassingly eloquent one, with all the resources of Wagner’s musical imagination.

Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Metropolitan Opera: Morris, Hei-Kyung Hong, Polenzani

[caption id="attachment_1593" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Kyung Hong as Eva and James Morris as Hans Sachs, photo: Beatriz Schiller/Metropolitan Opera"]Kyung Hong as Eva and James Morris as Hans Sachs, photo: Beatriz Schiller/Metropolitan Opera[/caption]

The Metropolitan Opera, New York, March 10, 2007, 12
pm

Eva: Hei-Kyung Hong
Magdalene: Maria

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