Tuesday, November 29, 2005

May the Yuletide be Alternately Joyful and Severely Depressed!

A: are you going to write about La Boheme?
J: nah
J: it was such a non event
J: Ruth Ann Swenson had some lovely moments
J: but otherwise it was boring
A: understood
J: There was one very adorable thing where this little boy was leading the parade at the end of act 2--and he was like TINY
J: like maybe 3
A: ha
J: and he kept stumbling down the stairs
J: but never stopped waving the French flag
A: haha
J: and the adult choristers kept picking him up
J: it was very sweet
J: the Rodolfo was boring, the Marcello was boring...Musetta....boring
J: Ruth-dawg was sort of all it had going for it
A: (PS, bluegrass station currently playing banjo rendition of god rest you merry gentleman)
J: haha
J: I bet that is pretty
A: it really is
A: oh...verse two is fiddle
J: that is one my my favorite Christmas Carols
A: word
J: when I used to dress up in Dickensian costume and sing with that group I always liked that
A: haha
J: also O Come O Come Emmanuel
J: I find very haunting
A: um...I knew about the P-Groove caroling, but I didn't know about the Dickensian costuming
J: oh yes
J: I will find some pictures
J: "The Joyful Tidings Caroling Company"
A: yeah, I think you really need to do that
A: haha
J: our fearless leader Janice had a snow queen costume
A: Is that Dickensian?
J: also
J: she had bipolar disorder

FYI, Die Meistersinger is not about incest

A: nice burn on Tommassini here
J: I can't believe how these Rigolettos are selling out
A: Prague photos here
J: yeah I read that--and love it, because he is a tool
A: for reals
A: I like the mention of a review where he said that Eva is Hans Sachs daughter in Die Meistersinger
J: I mean, what a memory
A: As the point of like the entire opera is that Sachs forgoes marrying her so that she can be with Walther
J: hah
A: It's like the kind of thing you would never forget if you listened to it once
J: right much less sit thru it
J: he's all "I forgot to turn my Met titles on"
A: hahaha
A: Has he been the opera critic since we've been here?
J: I am not sure
J: I think so
A: lame
A: what a funny thing it would be to open up the premiere newspaper in the country if not the world and read something actually interesting about opera
A: Perhaps now that they've purged Judy Miller they will clean house at the culture desk
J: whoa
J: I just read this random personal essay he wrote about a friend dying of AIDS
A: Tommasini?
J: yeah
J: more like musings
A: where?
J: here
J: is that a nuclear reactor?
A: yes
A: wow...that is very good
J: whoa
J: it is nice
A: doesn't necessarily make me retract my comments about his opera criticism, but certainly made me teary
J: agreed.
J: I was like "this is making me emotional. and his criticism is still crap"
A: check
A: the blurry statue is Janacek
J: oh cool
J: I like the graffiti
A: Brno...where that was, is Janacek's hometown
A: it's in this very snooty part of town, but during communism there was a John Lennon picutre on it, and it became this big anti-communist wall, so they let it stay
J: oh that is neat
A: the middle theatre is where we saw the Brno Philharmonic
A: which janacek started
J: I need to get into some Janacek
A: yeah...Jenufa is on the shortlist
J: hmm
J: maybe I will download from itunes
J: downloading now

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Prague Aida

Primo first balcony tickets for you and your mother to Aida at Prague's National Theatre (Narodni Divadlo): $72

Program book with full libretto, life of Verdi, production sketches, and photo gallery of great Czech Aidas past: $2.50

Glass of wine at intermission: $1.60 (!)

Pharoah's army comprised of 50 pale, skinny Central European guys looking very uncomfortable with their shirts off: F'n priceless...

Good show Wednesday at Prague's National Theatre (pictures forthcoming)--Aida was Olga Romanko, a delightful Russian soprano who my mother thinks she's seen at Lyric before. Vocally, she was probably a cut above the other principles, with a big elegant sound and vocal money moments to spare. In the opposite corner, local girl Jolana Fogasova to' it up as Amneris. Early on, it seemed like she was getting lost in the orchestra, and I wondered if she could cut it in a bigger space. But this was largely forgotten by Act 4--her exchange with Radames COOKED. All requisite surl and bitterness was vivdly rendered, no doubt helped by the fact that she let the slavic vowels fly when letting someone have it.

Chilean Jose Azocar was a hit or miss Radames--at his best, he demonstrated a rich melting tone and strong top (thankfully moreso near the end), but at other times his vibrato was a little too wide and he sounded harsh. Among the supporting cast, the standout had to be Vladimir Chmelo (another Czech) who brought a lovely, effortless lyric baritone to Amonsaro. Production wise, there was something of an Aida-in-a-box quality, but no doubt grand enough. The choreography, it should be noted, came off much as expected, i.e. like an Eastern bloc remake of the "Walk like an Egyptian" video.

Of the three houses that present opera in Prague, the National Theatre takes on the really big shows--besides Aida, their Ring cycle happens here as well. The dress code is somewhat more formal than in America, probably 85% of the men in coat and tie, including some in formal military dress, and some for reals dresses on the floor. There was quite a mix of old, young, and middle aged patrons, which just might have something to do with the fact that upper balcony seats can be had for 3 dollars...mercy.

Best of all (besides the inexpensive intermission drinks of course), at the final curtain calls, no one bailed and there was no gratuitous standing ovation...instead the entire audience applauded vigorously through 3 ensemble bows and recognition for all the principles. I don't know why so many people at American opera feel they can bolt after the last note, but it is a much more satisfying end when ALL of the audience takes the 5 lousy minutes to show some appreciation for the artists onstage.

More to come...

P.S. In Czech, Smetana also means "cream," i.e., "leave some room for smetana in my coffee," or, "smell this smetana and tell me if you think it's ok." That means his name is like "Bedrich Cream". For his sake, let's hope high school wasn't so cruel back then.

The National Theatre from the other side of the Vltava.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Back in Action

Whew. Turkey cooked and eaten--back home from a brief jaunt to visit my sister in DC (who gave us a sweet tour of the Pentagon...though due to the holiday, she wasn't able to fully deliver on the previoulsy promised throngs of Air Force boys in flight suits. Still, pretty damn neat.)

Alex returns from Prague tomorrow (Sunday) evening. And you have heard about as much from him as I have, so we can together wait anxiously for a report on Don Giovanni, Vienna(?), etc. Boy, we have to get our act together for the coming weeks. The definites so far:

An American Tragedy on 12/2
Manon Lescaut in Chicago on 12/3 (Karita!)
Rigoletto chez Met on 12/10.

Then in January we're looking at some Berg, a little Alfano, and a bit more Mozart...

And as promised, don't forget to check back here regularly as we lead up to the very exciting 12 DAYS OF BERG (Dec. 13th-24th) which will be our own little Wellsung-style commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the composer's death on Christmas Eve, 1935. It's going to be pretty sweet, so get ready.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ah, Europe

Hello from behind the former iron curtain. While J's parents are giving some delightful insight into the SF Forza, I'm getting this:

M: Aaaaah!
D: What?
M: The plug!
D: What?
M: Aaaaah! The guy said he knew what kind of plugs the Czech republic would have!
D: They have two.
M: This has 3!
D: What?
M: Here! This one has 3!
D: I'm looking at one in here that has two. They have two.
M: David, they have 3, this one has 3.
D: I don't know what you're talking about. These plugs have 2.
M: Come look at this! Come here!
A: ...
D: That's a screw.

Monday, November 21, 2005

La Forza Be With You -or- JF's Parents Guest Blog

So, in Alex's absence this week, I decided it was time to get creative. A few guest IM's, reports on Alex's European whereabouts, Thanksgiving Dinner Background Music tips, etc. (tho I will just get this out on the table now: Thanksgiving dinner--the opera is turned off and the Carpenters Christmas Portrait is turned ON).

I grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, in northern California. My parents, Sal and Carol, still live in the house where my sisters and I grew up. Enthusiastic and critical opera buffs, their nearest "international level" opera house is in San Francisco, about two hours to the north. Yesterday they attended the new SF Opera production of Verdi's La Forza del Destino (though the San Francisco Opera continually insists on using opera's English titles in most publications and on the web). I asked them to send me their reviews...which they did, and promptly at that!

I told them I planned to post them and they suggested I edit at my discretion. However, I found I quite like them as they are. So here, in their entirety, are Carol and Sal Ferrantelli's reviews (in that order) of San Francisco Opera's La Forza del Destino.

Ok, call me old and old fashioned, but it drives me nuts when we can’t quite make up our minds to stage an opera in the original period or in a modern setting. The opening set design was by far the best of the afternoon at the SF production of La Forza del Destino. It consisted of a small table and chair and one gigantic window. The SF Opera magazine states, “Our new production – sleek and arresting – propels the central characters inexorably to an unforgettable end.” I’m not sure, but sleek and arresting may be artsy fartsy speak for virtually non-existent sets during the remainder of the production…lots of army camouflage.

Here is another thorn in my opera-going side.…Preziosilla’s costuming was a big distraction for me. It was an Ethel Merman meets Cyndi Lauper look. Hot pink hair, vinyl coat and a figure-hugging bright fuchsia ensemble. This modern-day meets period costuming doesn’t work for me. I miss what is happening on stage stifling laughter and trying to figure out “what were they thinking?” Again, later in the production two of the main characters, Don Alvaro and Carlo, are seen in period costumes wielding swords while their fellow soldiers are on stage decked out in ‘Desert Storm’ uniforms complete with boots and packs??? In Act II Preziosilla’s cadre of prostitutes are dressed in grey, with what appeared to be ‘enhanced’ breasts that did not have the pleasure of lift and separation, but were sadly sagging under snug t-shirts along with cargo pants and long coats. Again, “what were they thinking?” The singers more than made up for the lapse in artistic direction. Apparently three and a half hours wasn’t quite enough forza because upon returning home we promptly popped in the DVD of the 1984 Metropolitan Opera production and viewed the magnificent overture and all the tenor arias.

FYI – The cough-a-rama is not exclusive to the Family Circle – there was a whole lot of coughin’ goin’ on in the Dress Circle at the War Memorial Opera House Sunday afternoon. Perhaps cough drops should be mandatory before one can be seated. (Mom)

It was a rare treat to hear a dramatic tenor of tremendous power and ring whose voice production seemed, at the same time, effortless. He matched up well with the Leonora (Andrea Gruber), but totally out muscled the baritone and bass soloists who, though they sang intelligently, simply couldn’t match the tenor for size and presence. The result, dramatically, was that their characters seemed to lose some authority by comparison. The orchestra (and the conductor) performed competently and the opera was paced well, but they didn’t have dramatic fire like that of the Met production of 1984 with James Levine (with Leontyne Price, Giuseppe Giacomini, Leo Nucci).

The tenor’s voice had a fine tone as well as power. I would have wished that either the tenor or the conductor had gloried in the climactic moments of a number of the well-known phrases (i.e., in “O tu che in seno degli angeli”, “solenne in quest’ ora”). The tenor would often approach the http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifclimactic note and just as quickly leave it, never really having established it’s dramatic effect.

Andrea Gruber was at her best in high lyric passages. In these moments her vibrato was faster and well within the pitch. The happy result was: you knew what the pitch was supposed to be. In her middle and upper middle register, especially in more dramatic passages, the vibrato covered nearly a minor third. The melody became unintelligible.

The acting was, on the whole, convincing, although the tenor moved somewhat in the mold of 1930’s Beniamino Gigli. That is to say, being portly, he tended to waddle a bit from position to position. A funny thing happened while Leonora was putting on her monk’s robe to live her life as a hermit in a cave. The music created an atmosphere of solemnity. All was hushed in the audience and on stage. And then, the robe somehow got caught on Leonora’s head. She couldn’t find the hole for her head and she seemed to panic, flailing her arms underneath the robe. The audience snickered. So much for solemnity. In spite of some flaws, this was still a good performance over all. (Dad)

Sounds like an enjoyable evening overall. Makes me all the more curious to see the Met's production in the Spring with Debbie Voigt (who I think is really quite well suited for this role). Thanks to mom and dad for their thoughts! Expect more next week after they attend Opera San Jose's production of Un Ballo in Maschera!

Sunday, November 20, 2005


So, I am stuck in stupid Heathrow because my connecting flight was cancelled and I most likely will have to sit here until evening. Boo!

On a more positive note, I am LOVING this Norma recording with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne that has been on the headphones for the last several hours. Sweet god is Joan Sutherland spectacular. Her voice drives me to distraction and makes me worry I am accidentally making weird faces at the British people.

Earlier, over the Atlantic, it was the opening of Solti's Gotterdammerung. That Birgit Nilsson gives some great dawn scene.

Update, 1100 GMT: Why are British people so confused by their hair? It's like an entire nation with the hair sense of Indiana. Ladies: 1) You can either have bangs or not have bangs. In-between choices are not acceptable. 2) Split ends aren't a problem, up to a point. Many of you are exceeding this point. 3) A ponytail is a convenience, it is not a strategy. 4) Explain to me why you think shag haircuts look good on anyone that wants one?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Wake up and Smell the Manon

J: oh no! did you hear that the bed in R&J will no longer float?
A: I know
A: i'm posting something soon
J: damn it
A: it fucking sucks
J: I am pissed! tho perhaps Dessay demanded it
A: that the bed break?
J: haha
J: no no
J: that because of the cable issue that it remain on the ground for the remainder of the run
A: right
A: I guess I would do the same
J: "Je demande that le cable snap and break le bed!"
A: I mean, it was so high
A: that is good french
J: well I did take those two hour lessons last year with that freaky grad student
A: that paid off a lot
J: I wonder if my neighbors mind that it is 2AM and I am blasting some cheap ass recording of Manon Lescaut
A: whatever
A: f their moms
J: yeah I don't complain when they play THEIR gay music (read: Madonna)
A: I maintain you are doing them a favor
J: well there certainly is plenty of Man on Manon action in this building, anyway

Leavin on a jet plane

First things first: a moment of silence for that sweet-ass flying bed. Gravity can bite me.

So, I'm heading to Prague to see my schwester who is on study abroad, and will, as J mentioned, be checking the Don Giovanni in the house where Mozart conducted it, which I imagine runs nearly year round because that is just very cool. While there, I am tempted to see the Rusalka playing elsewhere in town, but don't know it. Worth it?

The real temptation, though, which gives me that warm feeling in the midsection which only unrequited opera can give, is hopping a train to the Vienna Staatsoper and checking out either the Flieglende Hollander, Ariadne, or Lohengrin (hopefully not still this one) playing next week. Lordy, it burns. I'm told its only like 3 or 4 or 5 hours on the train. There has to be somewhere to crash in Vienna right? Right?

In other news. A.C. Douglas reopens an old wound about whether classical music is 'elitist' or not, based on this latest Sandow missive.

Oddly enough, I'm going to turn to our friends in the vast right wing conspiracy for some enlightenment on this troubled word 'elitist'. There, of course, the project of many years has been to extract the economics from the 'elite', in a ploy to get the angry and red state based to turn their fury on the great coastal yuppie enclaves, thereby ignoring the corporatist oppressors who happen to also benefit from their votes--i.e., the shorter Thomas Frank.

While it is a devious strategy that all right thinking people should call out, there's an undeniable kernel of truth there. In modern industrialized democracies, high culture has grown unhinged from high wealth. And this is a big, freaking change with which we have yet to come to terms.

But what hasn't changed are the qualities of the elite past that made it suitable for a particular kind of high culture: education, leisure time, the inclination to intellectually engage with a tradition, and in many cases an eagerness to engage the craft itself as an amateur.

I would challenge anyone to describe how classical music, as we know it today can survive or thrive without an audience built on these principles. When you think about it for a minute it becomes clear that this is absurd on its face. A classical audience entirely composed of people who like Mozart's tunes and no more would mean a radically different, if not altogether unrecognizable culture supporting classical music.

Now, by saying that I don't mean that everything has to be Mozart. Far, far from it (personally I am slightly dreading the year of Mozart). This isn't a distinction about content, per se, but rather a distinction about process. The process and dialogue that are necessary to sustain high culture are just fundamentally different than that needed to sustain popular culture.

Is that elitist? Not in the way that word has been used before. Classical music, if it could be cheaper in some instances, is not a luxury good in the sense that couture clothing is a luxury good. A cheap seat at the Met is the cost of two CDs. And honestly, except for a few nights in a few cities each year, its claim to fame as an exclusive status symbol is a sorry shell of what it was in Edith Wharton's time.

We're going to have to start confronting the fact that the qualities which define cultural 'elites' today aren't tainted with the stink of wealth and privelege they once were. Are the better off still more likely to engage with high culture? Of course. But I think its safe to say the average listener has grown closer to the middle. That means 1) we have to revise our notions of exclusion and 2) we have to reconsider the values associated with 'populist' culture. (By that token, its worth mentioning that the 'people's music' isn't being driven by some pure demand, but by the profit motives of multinational corporations.)

It's a little too late to do all the steps in between, but I'll finish with the basic conclusion all this leads me to. Capitalist democracies must nurture and encourage the values and content of a robust liberal culture, as promoted through a mix of public education, government support, and civic spirit. This is where classical music belongs in the United States, at least partly sheltered from market incentives that have no patience for the values and process which a tradition such as classical music entails. So thinking that this problem can be solved by appealing to that market is a war of attrition that will only end up debasing the tradition.

Right now, the United States obviously has a strong bulwark of liberal culture in place, but it is too dependent on holdovers from an earlier time and constantly in jeopardy. And it's not just classical music either. The fact that the biggest story in science education of the last half decade has been whether or not we should make science compete with not-science is perhaps the best example.

As far as I can see, there is no other way to slice it. The cold fact is that the classical tradition as we know it will, in rough terms, rise and fall on the success of liberal values at large in this country. In sum, we can deal with that and the long-term project it implies or we can fuck around with marketing plans.

End rant. Good night.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Guilty Pleasures -or- Contact Your Travel Agent

So, I have decided I cannot wait until Fidelio in March or Lohengrin in April. I need me some Karita Mattila STAT!

So, I am getting on a plane (Southwest, no less..) and heading to Chicago, just for the evening of Dec. 3rd, to see the final performance of Manon Lescaut at the Chicago Lyric Opera.

I promised myself I'd cool it on the Puccini this year--because seriously folks, enough is enough. But what is a boy to do when faced with the likes of Mattila singing Manon Lescaut, Deborah Voigt in the Met's Tosca this Spring and Aprile Millo (read: Millo's cover) singing the final performance of the same opera? And Ruth Ann Swenson, who remains a personal favorite, is Boheme-ing it up at the Met the next couple of weeks...

I'll tell you what a boy does. Buys a cheap ticket and gets his ass in there to enjoy some f-ing Puccini.

Also on the traveling for opera front, Alex will be seeing a production of Don Giovanni next week at The Estates Theatre in Prague. Needless to say, he will not be flying Southwest. Beyond that, I will leave the fun of filling us in on that particular adventure to him. AFTER he completes the GRE, which the poor boy is taking precisely as I type this.

Truth is, we are both visiting family/friends and happen to be doing so in cities with attendance-worthy operatic events. Lucky us!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Evening music

Thirteen minutes that forever shattered what I thought I knew about my woodwind loyalties. Goodbye, oboe! It's the first movement of Brahms B Minor Clarinet Quintet (mp3).

Reader CR writes...

J: hah my sister must be on because there is a pentagon.mil on the "who's on"
A: haha
A: great
A: a special shout out to wellsung readers in the defense establishment
J: haha
J: totally
J: D.O.D. salutes the Metropolitan Opera
A: ha
A: maybe our fame will spread to State and Condi will notice
J: oh!
J: haha
J: that would be hilarious
J: if we see whitehouse.gov
J: we'll know
J: cut to us at Das Rheingold hangin with her
J: being like "well we have our differences you buck toothed bitch, but boy THIS is something we can rally around"
A: haha
A: What do you think of the a-cast for the DC Cosi? And why do you lie to the Senate so much?


As mentioned below, a shout out to Sieglinde for highlighting the sheer absurdity of what were easily the ten most worthless paragraphs I've read all week. It's like some mindfuck assignment from a college rhetoric class where you have to deploy all the language associated with criticism while being careful not to express a single substantive point. Except here the 'A' papers get published in the New York Freaking Times. Arg.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Romeo Review Watch: The Truth Hurts


Here is the AP Review of the Met's new Romeo and Juliette, which was posted a couple of hours ago on the NY Times Website. It's remarkably accurate, though awfully restrained in its assessment of O'Flynn.

Update: And here is Tommasini's review, in which he says very little about anything.

Further Update: Using her powerful sleuthing capabilities, Sieglinde brilliantly decodes the Tommasini review!

Another one in: Variety reviewer Robert Hofler was having a better night than the rest of us.

Red states like him too

Random listening

It is 4:09ish on a Tuesday. If you are in NYC it is very grey outside and it will soon be dark. Why not spare nine minutes for the 5th movement from Messaien's Quartet for the End of Time?

A spinny stage doth not a good production make

Let me second J's comments about events at the Met last night. I thought Vargas delivered the goods, but for the most part he was the only enjoyable voice onstage. O'Flynn wasn't unpleasant to listen to, and less so as the evening went on, but her voice has a creeping shrillness, and she resolutely refused to sing through her lines to any appreciable effect. Shout outs to Tybalt, Stephano, and the Nurse, for at least raising the bar for the secondary cast.

The staging was clumsy overall and one couldn't shake the feeling that the director was counting on the spinny stage to hide the fact--one example being the attempt at wit and cutesiness in the lovers' scenes in Acts I&II that mostly fell flat. The exceptions were legitimately well-choreographed fight scenes. Here and only here did you really get the sense that the characters had a good idea about where they should be going.

The set was a textbook example of building a concept before you think it all the way through. "Spacey Gallileoness" is a theme for a bar mitzvah, not a piece of theatre. As J said on the subway afterwards, it's not like they are actually in space. It's a little alarming, as one could imagine this kind of shallow compromise emerging again from the tension between not wanting to do another straight-up production while being unwilling to do too something too far out. The designers know they want something A) elegant n' pretty cuz we're not in the business of offending; B) that at least references elements of the actual setting; but C) doesn't have to be so literal. It may sound like a strategy, but without a clear vision it just adds up to theatrical mush.

The flying bed, however, was freaking cool.

Update: Says Sieglinde: "...so amorphous it was like watching a Greyhound bus trip unfold."

Later update: JSU thinks it was just an off night, remains optimistic. Flying bed/stars cool, but possibly played out.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Carl Sagan presents: Romeo and Understudy

Despite the slightly unfair title of this post, I do applaud the efforts of Maureen O'Flynn, who, as Natalie Dessay's cover, stepped in relatively at the last minute this evening as Juliet in the Met's new production of Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. Seriously, brava. Sadly, despite these efforts, it was not a great performance of the role, especially when paired with Ramon Vargas--who turned in a very vocally assured if not particularly thrilling Romeo. I will definitely need to see this production again with Dessay in the role. Especially because I inadvertently already bought tickets.

The production itself is sort of like a Griffin and Sabine book meets a Nova episode meets a bad dream of Galileo's. There are massive projections of stars, moons, eclipses...inlaid wood. Not to say it isn't pleasant to look at...but what the hell is it? OK, the story is timeless, themes are universal blah blah WE GET IT. Though I will say it was ALL worth it for the opening of act IV...the bedroom scene. The curtain opens on Juliet's bed floating in a small pool of light amidst stars and a largely dark stage. It was truly lovely and was certainly the most (only?) truly affecting moment unique to this production. Regardless, this is not an opera I know very well, so I was certainly glad for this re-introduction. There are some truly spectacular moments. If anyone has recording suggestions, do let me know.

Surprise standout: Dimitri Pittas' glorious Tybalt. Bravo!

Update: The AP Review is in...ouch (the truth hurts).

Met Ring

So, I'm sure the Met's Gotterdammerung video is very old news to most, but I've been trying to check out the different Ring DVD sets and its on the brain. Also I was like 10 when it came out, so its new to me.

The first viewing during this kick was the Met Rheingold, which I found decidedly underwhelming. While getting to know the opera was a joy, the production does its very best to smother that with stodgy and uninteresting staging, tempos of death from the pit (despite a lovely sound, to be sure), and acting in certain quarters (read James Morris) that comes off like a deity on powerful sedatives. If this is what a traditional staging feels like, I'll take my Wotan in a wifebeater, thank you very much. Since Das Rheingold can't rest on mind-blowing music like the other parts of the Ring, it stands to reason that a production if anything has to have tighter and more focused storytelling.

Thankfully, a lot of this seems to improve in the Gotterdammerung (I haven't see the Walkure or Siegfried yet), which on the whole is a good show. First things first: 20 years later, it's amusing to note that the cultural touchstones of this production's aesthetic have less to do with 'timelessness' than another spectacle filling houses a little further down Broadway at the time. I speak, of course, of "Cats." So before giving this too much credit as "how Wagner woulda done it" let's note that the sparkly cloaks and elaborate headgear are borne of their historical moment (the 80s megamusical) as much as anything.

Moving on...I thought Hildegard Behrens' Brunnhilde was wonderful--afterwards one feels the full journey of the character has really been expressed, from the bliss of the first act, to abject despair in the second, to the wisdom and sacrifice discovered in the third. Vocally, the dawn duet is brilliant, but she gets a little rough in the Act II accusation and revenge sequence. Perhaps she's just doing us a favor and resting up for the end though, where she gives an immolation scene that pulls no punches.

Siegfried Jerusalem I am less enamored of. He sounds fine at the beginning I suppose, but its not so much captivating as boisterous, and after the wear and tear starts to show halfway through Act II he never really recovers, including one especially brutal miss during his tod, which is only really forgiveable if we take major spear trauma into account. Also, I find myself wanting a bit more shading than his happy go-lucky Siegfried delivers. It certainly works in some ways, but its hard to shake the dying puppy feeling during his death, which, while sad, seems a bit small for the moment.

Save for Christa Ludwig's Waltraute, I found the rest of the cast simply dominated by Matti Salminen's Hagen. His voice and stage presence (not to mention the xtreme closeups on his huge melon) exert a sort of gravitational pull on the proceedings that suggests something far richer than the "Hagen is a total asshole" reading. The full weight of what Wagner seems to have wanted for this character comes into startling focus. Hagen after all, can't just be the person who screws Brunnhilde over and makes her jump in the fire. He has to present a whole world for rejection, an inescapable logic of human affairs that Brunnhilde awakens to and chooses to abandon. And Salminen seems to really get this in all its grandeur and dread.

I like Levine's conducting a lot more here than Rheingold, although of course, he has a lot more to work with. His reading of the funeral march is especially searing. However, something left me a tad reserved about his immolation scene. You want the orchestra to just go for it as its never gone for it before, and I'm just not sure if that happened.

As to the spectactular spectacular that's happening onstage at this point, I can imagine it is quite a thing to behold. For anyone who's seen it, do they remove the masking from the top of the Met proscenium for it? You can't quite tell on the DVD but if so that is very very cool. Still, I'm not sure if its really so different than the tire launching Grizabella up to cat heaven down the block. Impressive yes, but not really an earth shattering piece of stagecraft.

Oh, and I don't know where they get the white orb of redemption from or whatever it is projected on the scrim at the end, but it is weak and uncalled for. In short, its another good argument for the Julie Taymor Ring idea I think Alex Ross threw out in his review of her Magic Flute last year. Now that would be some world-ending to remember.

Are you ready???

A: btw, did you see the great filianoti appreciation here?
J: good stuff
J: I need to get some vodka before the opera because I will want a cocktail after the opera
A: I heard that
A: k
A: later
J: oh PS 7:40ish in the lobby?
A: great
J: I am getting excited
A: me too!
A: opera!
A: woo-hoo!
J: yeah opera!
J: Yeah Joyce
J: bring it!
A: do it!


A: Natalie dessay is out of the perf tonight!
J: what!!?
J: wow
J: I just saw on parterre
J: is ND someone we would have been excited about?
A: not actually sure, but seems like she is a lot of places, so it would have been nice to see
J: hmm
J: LOVE the drama!
A: for sure...
J: I wonder if she is sick or what
J: or if this dude is just some mean French conductor who keeps firing people
A: yeah...is it like she would bail on the premiere of something just because she wasn't in top form? Or is it actually being unable to take the stage?
A: or a nasty frenchman
J: exactly
J: hah
A: which is often a synonym for illness
J: or "illness" is a euphemism for "fired by the frenchy"
J: This evening's production will now be titled "Romeo et Juliette or Au Revoir Everyone Who was Actually Cast"
A: ha
J: or "Romeo et Juliette or Natalie and Jossie Go to Rosa Mexicana"
A: hahaha

Wagner ist Nicht Hier. Warum?

Alex and I discussed a few weeks back whether Wagner would ever be a possibility at NYCO. A astutely pointed out that, even with some modification, the orchestral needs could probably not be met for most, if any of Wagner's works.

I did some browsing on the topic, just to see what others had to say about it, and found this interview with Paul Kellogg from August of 1997--the eve of his debut season with NYCO.

It's fun in retrospect: his lamenting that they cannot do Strauss' Capriccio, which they did just this season (The ever terrirfic Alex Ross sums it up brilliantly in this article). And of course having some perspective 8 years later on the Glimmerglass/NYCO relationship makes it entertaining.

The Wagner issue comes up--and while not ruling it out entirely, Kellogg basically confirms the orchestral personnel problem. Anyway, take a look at the interview--it's fun from our 2005 POV.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Adieu, Notre Petite Comforter

A: nice
J: which?
A: sieglinde
A: also your figaro post
A: so you weren't as taken with it as Cosi?
J: no
J: tho
J: the production is great
A: def
J: and Wing Chang Gong was outstanding
J: and Joyce DiDonato was wonderful
J: like, the perfect Cherubino
A: dope
J: it'll be fun to see her in R&J
A: as far as the staging, did you feel it was more like conventional not actually funny Mozart staging?
J: yes but it was smart in that it essentially shrinks the stage to make more sense in relation to the scope of the opera
A: indeed
J: and it was very sweet
J: and Luca P has like crazy energy
A: nice
J: man that act III aria for the countess is off the hook
J: so lovely
A: word
A: PS, cat is doing some serious mid-afternoon humping
A: I think he has sexual problems
J: but he hath not balls!
A: well, that probably doesn't help
A: he needs some kind of "Being Sexually Healthy..Without Balls!" book
J: haha
J: "Cat Edition"
A: haha
A:: maybe its a phase
A: its like the cat version of getting addicted to porno for a while
J: haha totally
J: or opera
A: opera for cats: making sweet love to my comforter
J: hahah
J: Adieu, Notre Petite Comforter
A: hehe
A: If I were des Grieux in a rehearsal, I would totally throw in "that we have been doing it on"
J: hahaha
J: but en Francais
J: R&J?
A: if I do it, i might have to bail on choir
J: even better!
A: ok
A: I'm down
J: sweet. I think we will be glad
J: I already have tix so we're good. My treat considering the peer pressure
A: you are sweet
J: you'll like DiDonato...ok time for Math/Gym
A: Adieu, le table sur que nous avons faire du sexe
A: fait du sexe is the closest I can get to "do it"
J: hahaha
J: "do the sex?"
A: "make the sex"

Hello, My Name is Luca

There is a lot to love about the Met's production of Le Nozze di Figaro. It's an elegant, relatively simple, perfectly conceived prodution that really keeps the focus on the music. On the evening of 11/12, the cast was, on the whole, in fine form. In particular, Hei-Kyung Hong's Countess and Joyce DiDonato's Cherubino stand-out. Hong's Act III aria was breathtaking. She delivered it with such effortless melancholy--truly beautiful work. And DiDonato's voice is a rarity. Pure, glassy--so perfectly pitch-centered it made me feel like I forgot pitch could be so dead-on. I am definitely psyched to see her as the 11th hour replacement for Jossie Perez in Monday evening's Romeo et Juliette premeire.

OK, I really need to mention the evening's leading man. Luca Pisaroni has a very focused, pleasing voice. Particularly for a 30 year old baritone...by the time he is in his 40's this voice will be something with which to reckon. He is a fun actor; his Figaro is likeable and he seems to have a terrific time with the text.

What I have to ask is, with all this buzzing going on about (the admittedly adorable) Stephen Costello and his role in Guillaume Tell this weekend...why has there been so little talk about Luca?

I have never really thought of Figaro as being wildly sexy. Until tonight. Luca is about 10 feet tall, ridiculously handsome, an incredibly charming performer, and sings well to boot. He also seems to be in *awfully* good shape for an opera singer. And...he's 30 and singing major baritone roles at the Met! This guy is a catch, folks.

Definitely one to watch...in a couple ways.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Antonyms can suck it

A: antonyms now:
A: Phlegmatic
A: A: apathetic
A: B: rustic
A:C: excitable
A: D: banal
A: E: erudite
J: lemme guess
J: is it A?
A: no
J: boo
A: tell me about it
A: I was all for E
A: it is C!!!
A: wtf?
J: heh
J: hmm
J: I think I want cookies
J: Turandot has really nice choral passages


Dear NYCO:

Why you gotta treat me so bad? Seriously.

I really need to pinpoint what I am trying to express...you come so close now and then. Ariane, for example. It wasn't good. But it was ALMOST good and the problems (namely, the Ariane and her mezzo sidekick...oh, and the spinning wall) were so obvious. Why didn't anyone step in and tweak it? Could they not have been replaced? Cast differently? Could the WALL have stopped spinning?

But I am not talking about Ariane tonight. I decided it was time I see the NYCO production of Turandot. OK, I know many of you bitches are saying, "that was your first mistake." Understood. But this season's incarnation got a nice review in the Times last week, and the opera has enough nice moments when performed well that I figured it was worth the trip.

On the whole, it was perfectly enjoyable. The production has many serviceable elements: The NYCO orchestra and chorus (under George Manahan) were truly at their finest. Lori Phillips, Philip Webb and Guylaine Girard as Turandot, Calaf and Liu respectively all turned in very listenable if predictable performances. Nothing to write home about, but perfectly pleasant.

Here's my real gripe: The production has some nice things but OH I wouldn't really know because the ENTIRE opera is performed behind a painted scrim. Yes, that's right. The scrim doesn't come up for three acts. Was it stuck? Was the scrim-raisers union on strike? I mean, seriously. Bring it up, kids. Let us see the princess' face. There's enough fog and dim "autumnal" light to hide whatever you're hiding.

Speaking of which, the whole thing looked vaguely gilded and foggy. And the backdrops resemble the Peoria Community Players' production of Into the Woods.

OK, I think I am coming to my point. NYCO is a place that has the freedom to push the envelope, to find exciting young talent, and to bring out the provocative elements of the standard repetoire. So why do I feel like I just opened a "Do-It-Yourself Turandot" kit? And when they DO push the envelope, why do they so often miss the mark (Their wonderful Mines of Sulphur, notwithstanding.)?

Then again, it's freaking Turandot, so whatever.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Places we wish we'd been last night.

F the Police

J: $310 in parking tix today
A: holy shit
J: I brought the car down so fred could take it to pick up his gf
J: but this morn someone had hit me I think and the front license plate fell off
J: and I put it in the window
J: so at one point we were late for the meter
J: Fred was running up as she was giving the ticket
J: and she gave the meter ticket AND an incorrectly displayed license plate ticket
J: then later
J: the spot became No Parking altogether
J: which we didn't realize
J: and I got a NO STANDING ticket
J:: for $115
J: and ANOTHER mid-displayed license plate ticket
J: so four tickets
J: 65+65+65+115
A: christ jesus
J:: aka 13 opera tickets

The Circ

J: I was thinking it would be funny to change the name of the Fam Circ
J: to the Circle de Faim
A: ha
A: good one
A: who the hell ever though of Family Circle in the first place?
J: seriously
J: like
J: I think they'd sell those seats more
J: if they called it 2nd Balcony
J: or upper balcony
J: something about family circle
A: besides, all the children I see there are in orchestra with their rich ass parents
J: that's a fine point
J: I mean
J: Po' People Pavillion?
A: "Single Guys and Cheap Tourists"
J: seriously tho who can we talk to about this?
J: I think "Upper Balcony" would be lovely
J: "Rear Balcony"
J: "The Sky"
A: haha
A: you are the guild member
J: good point
A: use your leverage


J: so I wonder why Rigoletto is selling so crazy
A: I think because it is so awesome
J: oh really?
J: I really don't know it at all
A: I think it is considered the thinking man's Verdi blockbuster
A: Before the Wagner came along, I think I would have called it my favorite opera
J: interesting...well that Tuesday night is gonna totally sell out
A: I'll see if I can round up both halves of my set and hook it up
J: schweet
J: oh I just saw your IM about it being formerly your fav opera
J: wow
A: it is true
J: sweet now I am excited
J: and it'll be the season premiere with opera hot Netrebko and villazon
A: the story is completely devastating, but done in top form tight Verdi operatelling
A: and there are a few ensemble numbers that may just be the best of their sort ever written
J: wow
J: what is the recording you have?
A: this 80s all star thing with Pav, Leo Nucci, and June Anderson
A: BTW, a fun diversion is the arkiv music opera index page, where you can see what operas have been recorded the most
A: thunder
A: cat mildly concerned
J: yeah Andrew is so concerned he is licking his ass like there is no tomorrow
A: hahaha
J: ohh lightning
J: this is good thunder
A: it has been a while since thunder
J: interesting, Tosca has been recorded a lot more than Boheme
A: right?
A: granted, its far from definitive, but the question of what is in print is an interesting twist as well
J: and only 13 Gianni Schicchi's?
A: huh
J: yeah...
J: I want this
A: shiznit
J: hah
A: hm...no humping tonight
J: !
J: big thunder
A: cat: WTF?
J: heh
A: cleaning oneself with one's tongue seems so calming
J: well
J: you could try
J: and let me know
A: perhaps posting the pics at www.icleanedmyself.com
J: hah
J: wait you made that up right?
A: yes
A: dear god I hope it doesn't click through to anything

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Music of the Future

There's a lot to chew on in this first working chapter of Greg Sandow's book, and I'm looking forward to the rest. But at the same time, there's a lot that makes me uncomfortable, and some assumptions that would seem to shed more dark than light on the future of classical music.

Chief among these is a sense that Sandow is defining the issue too narrowly as a set of things that the current world of classical music has to confront about itself, and change. He comes very close to painting "classical music" as an entity with a sort of institutional culture and output that can be shaped and redirected to ensure its own survival. Yet this is a very poor way to start thinking about the classical music tradition per se. What he's really talking about is the future of critical elements of that tradition in the environment of a mass-media marketplace and shrinking non-market support. The intersection is key, but the categorical differences should be explicit--"classical music" can't be understood as a canny player for mass affection like television or popular film.

Now, perhaps Sandow would respond that that's the kind of thinking that will ensure the death of classical music. But the point is that there isn't really a choice. Being an artistic tradition with all that entails means there isn't much that can be done to ensure the tradition's survival outside its natural mechanisms, which are necessarily slow-working. This is too broad, but honestly, some of Sandow's suggestions sound like he expects "classical music" will somehow get together and "put on a show" to save itself by wowing all the casually interested listeners Sandow profiles.

And about those casually interested listeners. Instead of starting with the question, what can we do to ensure classical music survives? It seems wiser to me to start with a different question: what kind of future for the classical tradition do we want? And honestly, I don't think the listseners who could take it or leave it should be the centerpiece of our answer.

Which isn't to say they should be actively turned off, and I would certainly entertain the notion that this is a dangerous and present tendency. But the relationship between those who consume and those who produce classical music is predicated upon a deeper commitment. Sandow seems to want to get us to believe that the nature of that relationship is too elitist, or intimidating or stuffy. In the first place, I would ask how many music lovers you actually know who fit this be-monocled aesthete stereotype. Second, I would argue that keeping the tradition alive by cherry picking the mildly interested is a position for a marketing department, not those really engaged with the art.

And ultimately, I think that's the test Sandow has laid out for himself. If he wants to write a how to for classical music public relations, with discourse on better album covers and press releases, then that's a worthy endevour. But it is a fundamentally different project than asking the very real question of what the classical tradition should look like in 50 years and what debate should exist now to promote that future. And the former should not masquerade as a substitute for the latter.

More to come, I hope, including opera's peculiar place in all of this and the trouble with looking to classical music's past for clues about its future...

Ticket Fetish: Confirmed

In response to the Sunday evening post: Show Me on the Ticket Where He Touched You, my mom sent me a nice email jogging my memory a bit regarding the culmination of several weeks of Jessye Norman ticket hiding:

"I was debating whether or not to respond. Dad and I are enjoying your banter. Have you touched your tix today?

I remember well the trip to San Francisco. The festivities began even before we left home with the aquarium housing three not necessarily prized, but well loved, goldfish ended up on the floor in Vanessa's room with fish flopping about in the nasty old green shag carpet. I believe Grandma Missy was going to babysit and she took care of it with the help of the three of you trying to gingerly pick up the fish all the while screaming that they were going to die. A delightful and relaxing start to the evening.

We were impressed and touched by the gift and the tickets were indeed in the nosebleed section of the old War Memorial Opera House. Jessye Norman sang so flat that it was difficult for even moi to handle it....and you know it has to be pretty flat for me to be bothered. We departed the concert and went to the newly opened Max's Opera Cafe where we heard some incredible singer/waiters singing arias from the Pearl Fishers. We returned home to find all sound asleep and the fish alive and well back in the aquarium."

Perpetual anticipation is good for the soul but it's bad for the cat

A: It's Bryn Terfel's birthday!
A: so says WNYC
A: they are about to play his nozze di figaro
A: oh! It is John Eliot Gardner
J: oh!!
A: at 1
A: so corzine won
A: which is nice
J: that is nice
A: and Kaine in Virginia as well
J: yeah that is terrific
A: it makes one excited about 2006
A: methinks that could be a really shitty night for many republicans
J: let us pray
A: oh man
A: that would be so satisfying
A: the last two election nights have been such bummers
J: um
J: WHAT is this music on WNYC?
A: I know
J: hahaha
J: it is making the cat anxious
A: haha
A: we are being prepared to fully recieve the overture to nozze
J: in 45 mins?
A: fuck
A: I don't know...they said it was at one but that this would only be a "quarter hour"
A: the math doesn't work but I want it to stop
J: well there may be something else at 12:30
A: hm
A: 8 min to go
A: its funny
A: I am very into engaging with contemporary music live
A: but not so much recorded/on the radio
J: and not so much THIS
A: well yes
A: ach
J: it's like if you got me drunk and gave me a kazoo and a stick
A: hahhaha
A: sorry 20th century
A: wow...Bush is nearly a campaign liability in a state election now
A: that is pretty sweet
A: even better
J: excuse me? "In An Autumn Garden"?
J: More like "In a Wok With Zamfir"
A: better now
A: oh nice Hindemith
A: JCU did some choral piece of his...it is supposed to be awesome
J: yeah When Lilacs Bloomed or something
A: ah right
A: need to look for that
A: uh
A: I want it to come on
J: haha
A: nice Samuel Barber
A: oooh
A: Saint Saens
J: I posted Bryn's bday
J: hahaha
J: peanut butter and jelly
A: excellent!
A: good one
A: it is coming!
A: oh fuck...I want it so bad
J: give it to me!
A: do iiiiit!
A: (nice link to the HS)
J: fuck me!!
J: oh!
J: I mean
J: sing!!
J: what is this "Tayrevul"
A: ?
J: the way the announcer says Terfel
A: meh
A: dumbass
A: I love that Vagabond CD
A: he does those beautiful Butterworth songs!
J: yes!
J: so wonderful
A: you know he died in WWI after burning most of his scores
J: and turning his beloved wife into a talking bottle of syrup.
A: this guy needs to shut the FU and play the CD
A: um...we know WTF happens
A: play it!!!!
J: haha
J: this is like when my Korean friend used to describe movies blow by blow
A: I hate it oh god stop and play the music
A: !!!!75862
J: what??
A: you're a dick turn it on
J: hah
J: we're all gonna pass away before he presses play
J: Barrrrtolo
A: it is on!!!!
J: oh I am streaming
J: so a few secs behind
A: bryn approaches
J: cinque!
J: dieci!
J: venti!
J: trenta!

Happy Birthday, You Big Lug

As I am certain he *must* be an avid reader, wellsung would like to wish a very happy birthday to everyone's favorite Welsh Bass-Baritone, Bryn Terfel. According to his Unofficial Fan Site, the Financial Times is quoted as claiming he has "the agility of a wrestler and the sexual charisma of a rock star."

I mean...happy birthday and all, but let's not get carried away.

Wrestler-like agility notwithstanding, I find myself frequently returning to the first recording of his I heard (when I was in High School) as one of my all time favorites: The Vagabond.

It's a collection of 20th century English songs (Vaughan Williams, et al) and is right up this wrestler/rock star's alley. Definitely worth a listen.

A Bryntastic 40th bday to you and yours.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Who doesn't?

A: PS, I am listening to some very nice Poulenc choral music
J: oh! what is it?
A: a compilation of secular choral suites...un soir de neige
A: figure humaine
A: chansons Francaises
A: petites voix
A: and sept chansons
A: are the names
A: (hilarious)
A: it would be so great to do these sometime
J: totally
J: I love Poulenc

Update: Listening! The very pretty last song in Figure Humaine (mp3) and Pilons L'Orge (mp3)...

The sickness in action

J: I am going to go back with Karen tomorrow to Mines of Suphur
A: oh cool
A: a matinee?
J: we'll just get the $16 student tix
J: yeah if you have any interest in seeing Act 1!
A: ur...I do very much
A: but should probably do stuff instead
J: can you swing it?
J: boo
A: if I change my mind i know where to find you...
J: boo to acknowledging reality
A: seri-fucking-ously
J: my ticket fetish was so satisfied yesterday
J: I opened the mail
J: and there were tickets for:
J: La Traviata, Rodelinda, Tosca, La Forza del Destino, Luisa Miller, Mazeppa, Don Pasquale, Fidelio, and Samson et Dalila
J: which were added to the pile of:
J: Wozzeck, Die Zauberflote, Marriage of Figaro, American Tragedy, La Boheme, Turandot, Acis and Galatea, Don Giovanni, Most Happy Fella, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Romeo et Juliette, Cyrano de Bergerac
A: You're all "So, I came while checking my mail today."
J: oh and Lysistrata
J: haha
J: I mean
J: basically

Bach Fantasy Camp

A: this is very nice about Bach
J: it goes pretty far in the direction of Bach fantasy camp
A: haha
J: Bach yelled at you. In fact, he despises you. He despises your children. You play the violin but you have no talent. Good fucking luck. Here's a cantata. Get outta town.
A: haha
A: thank you Bach, may I have another?
J: hah
A: you pay $5000 for you and a friend to punish little German children and hang out playing continuo for a week
J: and make lanyards

Monday, November 07, 2005


J: Whoa did you know Berg only lived to be 50?
J: oh and he died on Christmas eve 1935. NOT a Fröhliche Weinachten der Alban.
J: oh so that makes this December 24th the 79th anniversary of his death.
J: I mean 70th
A: haha
J: We should do something.
J: something...not totally tonal
A: Maybe a blog special called "A Very Berg Christams Eve"
A: "Rudolph is a Whore: Christmas with Alban Berg"
J:: hahah
J: we could do "The Twelve Days of Berg" and come up with something for each day
A: Ending with the anniversary of his early death...brilliant
J: "On the first day of Alban, my true love gave to me...a whore living in misery"

Movie night

So, J, myself, and the better half of a bottle of Svedka took in the conclusion of this 1991 Lohengrin video from the Vienna Staatsoper over the weekend. It's Claudio Abbado at the podium, with Placido Domingo and Cheryl Studer as the swan knight and his special lady, Robert Lloyd as the Fowler, Dunja Vejzovic as Ortrud, and Hartmut Welker as Friedrich.

First off, when confronted with a "traditional" production this stodgy and unimaginative, it's kind of hard NOT to wish that Lohengrin would turn into a robot or Elsa would take her shirt off. And its not just boring, its not even trying. Ortrud's Act II frock totally abandons "medievalish" and goes straight to "dumpy lady on the subway". The various "castles" in that Act looked like they had been built by not very creative kindergartners set loose with a case of gray spraypaint. Hopefully most Vienna productions aren't in this "faux grand" vein. Because it is very, very lame.

That said, the rest of the show was pretty good. Domingo does his "Lohengrin, by Domingo" which is of course wonderful and thrilling. I wouldn't want him to be every Lohengrin, as there are subtleties lost in his 24/7 lusty knight. And apparently his diction blows. But that voice singing this music is just so delicious every time. Should be noted though, that Placido sports the king of all mullets in this production. Business in the front and like the millenium New Years' Eve in Paris in the back.

Cheryl Studer makes a very nice Elsa, if her shooting for the back of the house expressions are a little funny to watch in closeup. The Act III duet is definitely a highlight here, she flips out to full satisfaction while maintaining a lovely tone and stunning blend with Domingo.

Dunja Vejzovic's Ortrud is fine (minus the aforementioned outfit), though I may have been partially underwhelmed since I have been listening to Astrid Varnay's Ortrud on the 1962 Sawallisch recording from Bayreuth recently. If I may:

Astrid Varnay. When that woman opens her mouth it's like a glimpse into another dimension where all sound is just a little bit louder and richer. She's like Sega Genesis vs. the original Ninetndo. Like 800 count sheets vs. the K-mart stuff. There's just so much more "there" there. Good thing Ortrud doesn't show up in more of the opera, because it probably would steal the entire recording. (If you want a hit right now, check her Brunnhilde in the 3rd act of the '51 Karajan Walkure La Cieca posted a while back.)

But I digress. Long story short, a solid Lohengrin video minus how it actually looks, which, come to think of it, actually went quite amusingly with four (five?) Svedka and sodas. Recommended.

A Bit More Mines...

Karen further illuminates the potentially interesting connections between Lulu and The Mines of Sulphur in her comment to The Sweet Smell of Sulphur.

Speaking of Berg, I am particularly excited for my first ever live viewing of Wozzeck at the Met in January. Though I find it questionable that this is a Mark Lamos joint. I am sure it's fine...but as a friend and I discussed the other evening, are we the only ones who feel like his aesthetic is perpetually a bit 1991?

Show Me on the Ticket Where He Touched You

I'm going to use a slow news Sunday evening for a bit of a personal but informative digression. As you get to know me, you'll learn of one of my greatest fetishes:


I don't just mean the knowledge of potentially titillating and/or disastrous operatic evenings to come. I mean the PHYSICAL tickets themselves.

Here's how this started. When I was about eleven years old, I decided I wanted to give my parents a very grown-up Anniversary present. I asked my babysitter Jamie to drive me to the BASS Ticket outlet in a now defunct chain CD/Video store in downtown Monterey, CA. I asked the friendly drop-out behind the counter (who at the time I assumed must be THE authority on all things artistic) if there was any sort of "classical music" happening in San Francisco. She flipped through her booklet and half-heartedly suggested a Jessye Norman recital at Davies Hall. She assured she was famous and "very good". Sounded fine to me and I used my allowance (my sisters chipped in as well) to buy a pair of tickets at $13 apiece in the very back row. They were a deep orange color and to my eyes, just about the most beautiful tickets I had ever set eyes on. For the next two weeks I kept these tickets hidden in the back of my closet (*insert your favorite "in the closet" joke here*). Periodically, I would check on them. Just to make sure they were safe/comfortable. I was quite literally obsessed with them and simply could not cpmprehend what I had achieved. At one point, even my little sister, who was only 7 at the time, made fun of me for referring to them as "the precious tickets".

I was almost sad to give them to my parents--I really loved having them (and whatever sort of glimpse of adulthood they represented) completely under my care.

From that moment forward, I have maintained a very particular affinity for event tickets. My tickets for the remainder of the 2005-06 Met season have urged me to examine this phenomenon.

I have them all in one very full envelope.

I like to keep them in a little pile and re-sort them now and then by date. I'll even flip through them on occasion and look up the seat locations on that terrific flash w/pdf details seating chart on the Met website. I have also, now and then, decided I should keep these little treasures on a different shelf or surface...and will pick up the envelope just so I can feel the weight of it for a moment. Ultimately, the sacred package lives on the top level of my crowded Ikea bookcase. And there it will remain. The need to check on this little bundle of joy relates directly to the excitement and independence I associated with my first thrilling purchase of those nosebleed seats to Jessye Norman.

Beyond that, I don't totally understand it. Nor do I care to, necessarily. Some eccentricities are best left alone. Besides, those little buggers may be out of date order, and god forbid I go to sleep without at least checking...just to be sure. Goodnight!