Friday, July 21, 2017
For those who fall prey to the sin of Pride this week, penance may follow. Thus “Trove Thursday” appropriately provides a live broadcast of Mozart’s rarely performed cantata Davide Penitente by Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie with Sandrine Piau, Véronique Gens and Howard Crook. Although I adore nearly all of Mozart’s vocal compositions, I’ve always been less enamored of his choral works. I’d take Haydn’s masses over Mozart’s any day although I am very fond of his unfinished “Great” Mass in C, K.427 which includes the exquisite soprano aria “Et incarnatus est.” //www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsYHAS36pC8 Two years after its premiere in 1783, Mozart needed to fulfill a commission from the Wiener Tonkünstler-Sozietät so he recycled movements from the mass for Davide whose text is based on the Davidic Psalms. The composer did, however, add new long arias for the soprano and tenor, performed at the premiere by Caterina Cavalieri and Johann Valentin Adamberger, the first Konstanze and Belmonte in his Die Entführung aus dem Serail. I believe this may the only time Les Arts Florissants performed Davide although the group later recorded the “Great” Mass for Erato. (Sorry about the short drop-out during the final movement). An American, Crook made his career mostly in Europe where he was Christie’s go-to tenor for French baroque music until the “British Invasion” brought Paul Agnew and Mark Padmore. However, his finest performance in that repertoire may not be with Christie but with John Eliot Gardiner on his magnificent recording of Leclair’s Scylla et Glaucus. The first time I heard Crook was during the magical 1989 tour of Lully’s Atys at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He didn’t sing the title role in the Harmonia Mundi recording but happily his marvelous Atys is preserved in a 1987 telecast of that superlative production. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLmUCFc5b5Y //www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6h9uaERvrg //www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TWyEFc78BE Gens shows up in two small parts in that Atys; she was just 22 at the time. She toured often to New York with Les Arts Florissants in the 90s but she hasn’t been heard here in over 20 years. Her career continues to flourish primarily in France where she just sang Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre in concert. I have a hard time imagining this cool and elegant soprano as Hanna Glawari in Die Lustige Witwe, a role she sings this fall at the Paris Opéra. The eternally youthful Piau, on the other hand, has been a slightly more frequent US visitor sounding nearly as fresh last year as Despina in Così fan Tutte as when she sang Charpentier with LAF in 1991 at BAM. Her Dalinda was reportedly a delight in Cecilia Bartoli‘s debut production of Ariodante earlier this month in Salzburg. Too bad though she’s never had a trill. Those wanting more Psalms after Davide, Lincoln Center has just announced that its White Light Festival this fall will feature performances of all 150 Psalms set by 150 different composers! Mozart: Davide Penitente Aix-en-Provence Festival July 1991 Broadcast Sandrine Piau Veronique Gens Howard Crook Les Arts Florissants Conductor William Christie To download Davide Penitente, just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. In addition, nearly 80 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts are available free from iTunes or via any RSS reader.
This week we dig deep into the mature works of Richard Strauss: his 1924 Intermezzo, labeled a “bürgerliche Komödie mit sinfonischen Zwischenspielen.” The glorious and beloved Elisabeth Söderström tackles the fiendishly difficult role of Christine in a 1974 performance from Glyndebourne conducted by John Pritchard sung in English. Strauss himself wrote the libretto based on real events in his life. The story is a fluffy drawing room comedy about a shrewish wife’s jealousy over an affair by her husband, who happens to be a composer with the initials R.S., Robert Storch. It is eventually revealed that in a simple case of mistaken identity the damning correspondence was meant for another musician with the similar surname of Stroh. The opera ends with renewed vows of love by the couple. Lotte Lehmann, who created Christine, is reported to have congratulated Strauss’ notoriously bitchy wife, Pauline, on receiving such a gift, to which she replied, “I don’t give a damn.” Remembered mainly for its orchestral interludes, it is rarely performed, chalking up a mere 31 performances by Wiener Staatsoper between 1927 and 1963. Lehmann sang it 16 times, and in the post-war performances, all of which were given at Theater an der Wien, the role belonged to Hilde Zadek and Hanny Steffek It is in that smaller house where I had my only encounter with the opera in 2008. Soile Isokowski withdrew from the production in early rehearsals, and soon Regisseur Christof Loy walked out. On opening night, the theater’s director, Roland Geyer, stepped before the curtain to thank Carola Glaser for jumping in at short notice: the theater had been able to locate only two women in all of Europe who knew the role, and only one was available. Robert Storch was sung by Bo Skovhus. Kirill Petrenko presided over the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien. Söderström is one of those unforgettable singers who had a strange Met career: a debut in 1959 and a farewell to opera 40 years later, but with absences of 20 years and then another decade in the middle. She debuted as Mozart’s Susanna and was soon assigned Marguerite in Faust, Musetta, Adina, Sophie, Rosalinda, and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, the last two of which were sung in English (until 1970, the Met gave the Prolog to Ariadne in English and the Oper auf Deutsch). Between 1964 and her return as the Marschallin on the Met’s 1983 annual spring tour, her voice and reputation grew and she established herself as one of Sweden’s greatest exports throughout the opera world. She became known as a Janá?ek specialist, and her Decca recordings as Jenufa, Kát’a, and Emily Marty under Charles Mackerras all won Gramophone Awards. Her first performances in the now-not-quite-so-new house at Lincoln Center were as Ellen Orford opposite Jon Vickers, many of which I attended. She also sang the Marschallin in the Rosenkavalier trio at the Met’s Centennial Gala with Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle. She was a member of that rare handful of singers who sang, in chronological order, Sophie, Octavian, and the Marschallin. She then repriesed Le nozze di Figaro, this time as the Contessa, brought her Marschallin to the house with Brigitte Fassbaender and Barbara Hendricks, and then disappeared again for a dozen years. In 1990, I nabbed a subscription for a vocal recital series at Alice Tully Hall to assure a ticket to hear sensational newcomer Cecilia Bartoli. Another recitalist – I can’t remember who – withdrew at short notice and Söderström jumped in. It was 12 May 1991, Mothers’ Day, and she ingenuously cobbled together a glorious program of songs and arias in a multitude of languages that all dealt with some aspect of motherhood. Shortly before her 72nd birthday, she rejoined the Met for her farewell to the stage: seven shows as the Countess in Pique Dame with Plácido Domingo and Galina Gorchakova. The final performance of the run was telecast and preserved for posterity. She died in Stockholm at the age of 82 in 2009. Post scriuptum: last Monday’s upload was derailed by an Internet outage, but I did manage to post the München Tannhäuser with Klaus Florian Vogt and Anja Harteros. You can catch it here: h
Happy 51st birthday mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WvYa1rH2ns Born on this day in 1903 bass-baritone Joel Berglund. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=bdJ7sTUlQLo Born on this day in 1910 tenor Anton Dermota. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh23kopPvXw Born on this day in 1917 baritone Robert Merrill. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgeJetz_rt8 Born on this day in 1919 bass Manfred Jungwirth. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_hMa07Q6p4 Born on this day in 1920 mezzo-soprano Fedora Barbieri. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQV_mJe1mq4 Born on this day in 1926 tenor Ivo Zídek. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyFWdkAdU_E
Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro, K492 The singers are: John Tomlinson (Figaro), Joan Rodgers (Susanna), Andreas Schmidt (Il Conte Almaviva), Lella Cuberli (La Contessa Almaviva), Luisa Bartoletti (Cherubino), Phyllis Pancella (Marcellina), Günter von Kannen (Bartolo), Graham Clark (Basilio), Richard Brunner (Curzio), Peter Rose (Antonio), Hilde Leidland (Barbarina) And the orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker and the RIAS Kammerchor, Daniel Barenboim conducting. “Mozart brings out the best in Daniel Barenboim,” wrote Opera magazine, also describing him as “a Mozartian of deep conviction”. For his recordings of the three Mozart-da Ponte operas, Barenboim created a hand-picked company of singers, including the charismatic John Tomlinson, here assuming the role of Figaro, and Cecilia Bartoli, who makes an irresistibly palpitating Cherubino. “Everything that Barenboim does provides some sort of illumination of the drama,” said Gramophone of this Figaro; “It has something to say, something that arises from deep and serious musical perception.” Here is the opening music, just 3 minutes, from this charming opera:
Earlier this year John Yohalem ruminated here on the paucity of Vivaldi operas in the US. “Trove Thursday” attempts a bit of a remedy with a live Motezuma (not a typo) I attended in Paris ten years ago conducted by Alan Curtis with Karina Gauvin, Sonia Prina, Mary-Ellen Nesi, Vito Priante and Ann Hallenberg (as Hernán Cortés!). Before Marilyn Horne and Victoria de los Angeles recorded Orlando Furioso in the 1970s, I wonder how many were aware that Vivaldi wrote operas much less had heard one. Matters have changed dramatically since then, particularly due to the “Vivaldi Edition” on Naïve; sadly it’s apparently now defunct before having completed its superb opera series. Although he claimed to have written many more, scholars have documented around 50 Vivaldi opera, but unfortunately only a small percentage of that oeuvre has survived. Until recently Motezuma was thought to be among the missing; however an incomplete score was exhumed from a Berlin library in 2002. Violinist and Vivaldi expert Alessandro Ciccolini composed new recitatives and adapted existing arias to arrive at the full edition Curtis recorded in 2005. The Paris concert performance posted here features a cast altogether different from that Archiv CD except for the apparently indispensable Priante in the title role. Prina, who sang so poorly this past weekend in Ariodante, is in much better form here as Mitrena, the Mexican emperor’s wife, a role composed for Vivaldi’s muse (and possible mistress) Anna Girò. Gauvin, Hallenberg and Nesi (who sings Mitrena on the Curtis Motezuma DVD ) also shine; for me the only weak link is Laura Aikin’s Asprano. A brief baroque fascination about the Spanish invasion produced Vivaldi’s opera although Montezuma’s tragic fate was of course replaced by the required lieto fine (happy ending). My first exposure to an 18th century vision of Mexico came from Richard Bonynge’s LP of highlights from Carl Heinrich Graun’s version which features one of Joan Sutherland’s greatest achievements—the da capo is simply mind-boggling! //www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KggJwiHm9o A Motezuma by Czech composer Josef Myslive?ek was also recently revived. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivaB5xe_jUw I’ve experienced just five Vivaldi operas live including Opera Lafayette’s excellent staging of the two surviving acts of Catone in Utica, but I’m curious to see more. Later this month the Spoleto Festival in Charleston mounts Farnace with Anthony Roth Costanzo. The fine Czech group Collegium 1704 is currently touring Europe with a production of Arsilda, Regina di Ponto with a cast that includes hilarious Cecilia Bartoli impersonator Kangmin Justin Kim and dreamy bass Lisandro Abadie. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnLM2QhCPPs Although they don’t usually provide laughs, Vivaldi’s operas sometimes offer thrills and chills thanks to great singers conquering his near-superhuman vocal demands. //www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIg77lSRnPg Vivaldi: Motezuma Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris 10 October 2007 Karina Gauvin –Teutile Sonia Prina — Mitrena Mary Ellen Nesi — Ramiro Laura Aikin — Asprano Ann Hallenberg — Fernando Cortes Vito Priante — Motezuma Il Complesso Barocco Alan Curtis — conductor To download Motezuma, just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. In addition, more than 60 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts remain available from iTunes (for free!) or via any RSS reader.
Great opera singers