I am safely in Italy and had a wonderful trip to Parma from Bologna yesterday with Valerio Tura, a friend and colleague from many years of experience together in this crazy opera world of ours.
Being in Emilia-Romagna meant a stop on the way for lunch - in the charming little town of Rubiera where there is a wonderful restaurant worth a detour and more. This is the Clinica Gastronomica! This is just the place to be if you are on a pilgrimage to the land of Rossini and Verdi........
The rest of the day was hectic and demands a longer description the I have time for just now. I have to rush now to the Opera back here in Bologna for a rehearsal of Barbiere, then auditions, then a trip to Lugo. I hope to get more time before the end of the day to bring this up to date.....and hoping for a faster internet connection!
I am off to Italy on a 6:50 am flight out of Gatwick - so up at 3:30 ready to get the bus to Victoria and then the train..........I will be in Bologna, Parma, and Lugo during the next 72 hours.......
Lots of news and pictures to come no doubt!
I had a good walk on Tuesday on a glorious day - and made my way to the recently reopened Rodin Museum on the Rue de Varenne, just south of Les Invalides. The lovely gardens are a peaceful pleasure on such a day - here is another jewel in an already richly adorned array of attractions in the "City of Light". This was really just a good way to relax and clear my mind for the concert at the Théâtre des Champs Élysées that same evening. If you are in Paris do not overlook it......
Douglas Boyd, Garsington Opera's artistic director is music director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris - an ensemble with a gratifyingly good number of young players who play with just the freshness of spirit and warmth of heart that Schubert requires. So we had two delightful performances of his symphonies 4 and 8. And the filling in the sandwich was a substantial performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto from the as ever remarkable Viktoria Mullova - really good stuff. The orchestra divides its time between the central, and extremely convenient, Théâtre des Champs Élysées, and the more topographically challenged Philharmonie de Paris with the superb acoustics. Take your pick!
I am now back in London of course but on the road again next Tuesday with a short visit to Bologna, Parma, and Lugo......meanwhile much admin work to catch up on!
Paris has Frank Ghery in the shape of the Louis Vuitton Foundation building which opened 18 months ago to an enthusiastic welcome. I saw it yesterday in a rather modified form as it prepared for the Daniel Buren exhibition which opens on May 11. Buren has introduced coloured filters which seriously change the character of the building. I assume that Ghery is ok with it......! In any event the building, whether in mono or coloured versions, is spectacular - an exhibit in itself whatever the nature of the special exhibitions which it houses.
There is an excellent recital room which will should present exciting opportunities for musical events - yesterday a string quartet from the Seiji Ozawa International Academy was rehearsing a Mendelssohn (I think) string quartet - an impressive group of young players.
It was a swiftly changing day - sun-rain-sun........but a good afternoon of discovery. This evening I am looking forward to seeing Dougie Boyd for dinner - he is here for a concert tomorrow evening at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées.
I am back in London! And here we have a spectacular exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery off Duke of York's Square in Chelsea - an exhibition called Exhibitionism!
I guess I don't have to explain who the Rolling Stones are! They started out their professional lives the same year as I started out on mine - 1962. We are all still going but their energy remains remarkable, almost it seems undiminished. If only......!
This is a totally excellent show, superbly curated and mounted, and you HAVE to see it if you are in London. The best bit is at the end - Room 9 - mind blowing!
I was up in Evanston yesterday, home of Northwestern University, to see around the amazing new building (above) which opened last September - the Ryan Center for the Musical Arts. Northwestern have this gorgeous new building crammed with teaching studios, practice rooms, some admin offices of course, and three performance spaces, the crown jewel of which is the Galvin Recital Hall.
The location of the building by the shores of Lake Michigan with a fine view of the distant Chicago skyline makes the experience of working there hugely refreshing I would have thought. And the back wall of the recital hall is all window looking out on to the lake with that splendid skyline view.
We had some excellent recruits from Northwestern's voice program over the years at Chicago Opera Theater - most notably Paul Corona and Amanda Majeski. I hope that the school continues to turn out fine singers - if they measure up to the quality of the facilities they enjoy they will be fine indeed. Of course it does not always work out quite like that!
Of course there is much more to Northwestern than music. They have a very strong theatre programme and the world renowned Kellogg business school. Their medical and law schools are as elite as it gets - and it seems that their is non stop building of infrastructure to ensure that Northwestern leads the pack.
In the distance you see a new building for Kellogg under construction - what a location!
We have a "Happy Hour" reunion of COT veterans this evening. It is always so good to be here with old friends and colleagues!
Photo: Andrew Crowley
Yesterday afternoon a full Chicago Orchestra Hall was treated to some thrilling music making from Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, Canadian violinist James Ehnes, German violist Tabea Zimmerman, and Austrian cellist Clemens Hagen. They were immersed as one in the three remarkable piano quartets of Brahms.
Four deeply serious musicians in complete harmony produces extraordinary results - a memorable afternoon.
© Opera Omaha
Opera Omaha's Semele production opened last night to a full house and an enthusiastic reception from the amazing audience that this company and city have managed to assemble for something that would not normally be regarded as mainstream operatic repertoire - certainly outside the world's major metropolitan areas. So here is evidence of extremely successful audience cultivation and development.
Of course it helps to have an absolute gem of a theatre which is a pleasure to visit by any standards. (Click picture to enlarge). This is the Creighton Orpheum, maintained in beautiful condition and with generous public spaces and a fine acoustic. Whilst in an ideal world it is on the large side, especially for repertoire of this kind, it is an enormously attractive auditorium on which much love and care has been lavished, as well as cash from this extraordinary community in Omaha.
The enthusiastic reception for Semele was earned and thoroughly deserved. James Darrah has had another success with this production which will enhance his reputation further, and it will be seen in due course in Philadelphia, reworked no doubt for the much smaller Perelman Theatre where Opera Philadelphia perform the smaller scale titles in their repertory. And the music was presided over by Stephen Stubbs, an experienced and authoritative presence in this repertoire - as he had been in the excellent Opera Omaha Agrippina in 2014.
Roger Weitz, Opera Omaha's young General Director, has with his team assembled an excellent cast with Mary Feminear in the title role (seen above with the Opera Omaha's splendid chorus), a standout singer and performer, delivering the no less than nine varied and difficult arias with aplomb and some remarkable vocal fireworks.
She was matched by Peabody Southwell's Juno - and she also took on Ino, singing the role from the pit with a dancer playing the character - a bit of directorial license which may work better in a smaller space then the Orpheum. Peabody is an exceptional singer and actress not afraid to break any conventional rule the might get in the way of her artistic goals - this marks her out as someone to watch for she takes no prisoners, and this pays off such is her ability and thoughtfulness artistically.
A debutante Iris, Liz Lang, is quite a find - to be watched, a very good voice. There were polished and elegant contributions from William Ferguson (Jupiter), Aubrey Allicock (Cadmus/Somnus) and Ray Chenez (Athamas). To have assembled such a cast is an achievement. But they specialise in that - the Cosi fan tutte next season will have Amanda Majeski singing her first Fiordiligi, and Emily Fons as Dorabella. That will be worth the trip!
And this a worth the trip as well - I return to Chicago this afternoon, and will be back in London on Wednesday evening. Meanwhile there are some nice activities coming up!
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune
This year everyone is marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in April 1616. Yesterday evening it was the turn of the CSO with their music director, Riccardo Muti, giving a leisurely account of Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette complete. The chorus, the key protagonists of this symphony dramatique, were in superb form as is pretty well the norm under their splendid director Duain Wolfe. There was a more than respectable trio of distinguished soloists with Ekaterina Gubanova, Paul Groves, and Dmitry Belosselskiy, two Russians and an American - but it is so difficult to cast the French repertoire authentically. And of course the CSO is one of the great orchestras. So the ingredients were first rate - two more performances tonight and tomorrow with a preconcert "conversation" with Gerard McBurney at 7pm.
I am now in Omaha looking forward to this evening's opening performance of Semele. More about that after the event!
Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
After seeing Purcell's masterpiece in Birmingham, in the Graham Vick production, arriving in Chicago to find a very different version was stimulating - and such a fine confirmation of the enduring and indestructible quality of the piece.
Mark Morris' exploration and revelation of Dido and Aeneas, created in Brussels in 1989, is a modern classic. The performance at the Harris yesterday evening was "adopted" by Chicago Opera Theater and added to the company's austerity offering for the current season. But of course this is a dance show primarily - the chorus and principal singers are all in the pit. This makes for a terrific ensemble while however putting the focus of the audience on the quite wonderful Mark Morris dance creation. Now Morris is a consummate musician as well as a choreographer of genius. So it was intriguing to find him on the podium - a complete success I must say. Good for him!
It was a show of considerable beauty and eloquence and is a valuable addition to our experience of this piece. But I am an operatic animal so rather hankered after having the singers enmeshed in the performance - and then of course one needs the finest singers and for a nationwide tour of this production it is a matter of decisions, decisions, decisions........and priorities.
The house was completely full and the cheers were long and loud! It was so good to see so many old friends com Chicago days there. And this evening it is the CSO.
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