La Scala formally announced its 2013-14 season today, confirming last month's leak.
A full calendar and cast details are now available on the La Scala website.
Another important announcement may be made by La Scala later today.
As Opera Australia prepare their new Ring Cycle, they celebrated Wagner's 200th birthday earlier today via the traditional medium of cake. A specially-commissioned life-sized Valkyrie helmet, full of chocolatey goodness, was taken on a tour of the building before the ritual demolition.
A Wagner documentary without Howard Goodall or Stephen Fry? Yes, it can be done.
Here's the earliest effort: Carl Fröhlich's 1913 silent movie The Life and Works of Richard Wagner. The series of reverential vignettes was put together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Ideally it would have been accompanied by an orchestra playing Wagner's music at each showing, but the makers didn't want to stump up the required royalties. So they commissioned Giuseppe Becce to craft a Wagner-like score; close enough to sound like the real thing, but different enough to avoid legal retaliation. Becce bore such an uncanny resemblance to Wagner that he was drafted in to act the part of the composer as well.
There's no sound on the video above, so feel free to slam on some Daft Punk.
Finally, here's an oddity from 1982: Petr Ruttner's more fartsy than artsy Wagner e Venezia, with Orson Welles voicing the composer:
As you may have already spotted, the Guardian is streaming all six of this season's Glyndebourne productions on its website this summer. Three are live (including the two new productions, Ariadne auf Naxos and Hippolyte et Aricie) and three are recorded. Here are the times:
Kasper Holten has kindly spared the time to make a lengthy and constructive comment addressing some of the criticism of La donna del lago and the more general issues raised. You can read it on the post itself, or below:
I think this discussion is in fact very good to have (about productions and tastes, that is..), and I think it is maybe time for me to add my voice to it. I would encourage that we can have a lively and open debate about what makes opera exciting and what we like and do not like about productions, and I follow all comments with interest.
First of all, let me say that I don't think that [link] is actually what I said, I think I said: "Part of our audience clearly do not like to be challenged. But we are just going to have to continue doing it." I cannot completely rule out that I might have said "teach them" instead, but if I did I want to apologise, because that would indeed be an arrogant comment. And actually not what I mean.
What I mean is - and what I think has never been a secret, that this is what I stood for in Copenhagen and want to stand for here - that I think it is important to continuously challenge audiences as well as ourselves, in order to move opera forward. This means taking risks. This means having something to say with what we do. And this mean presenting different production styles (in other words, I am certainly not advocating just doing one kind of productions, I think the mix of different types of voices is precisely the point). This - the mix as well as the risk-taking - inevitably means sometimes failing (not that I am suggesting this is what happened in the case of Onegin and Lago). And sometimes upsetting audiences. And this is why I think - in spite of it naturally being hurtful for the creative team to feel the audience not liking their work, I hate getting booed, it stings very hard every time it happens (not sure I should give this away, might give too much pleasure to some of the booers ;-) ) - it is important to say that we must keep challenging ourselves and audiences, not just trying to play on what feels like 'safe bets', which in my view is ultimately the biggest risk and equals artistic death.
This is certainly not the same as wanting to teach audiences to share my taste, and as mentioned, if I did indeed use the word 'teach', then that was arrogant and uncalled for and I apologise.
I totally understand what SJT says [link]. But I can assure you that the stage directors are probably the ones who carries the biggest doubt around, always doubting, questioning, searching and living with the fact that it is so unpredictable what we do. You search honestly for a response to each piece, in my experience you never set out to shock or provoke but try to find a way you can make this piece come alive in the strongest possible way, and you always want to be courageous - but equally hopes that the audience will be moved by it, will love it. I really don't think I know any of my colleagues who - however confident or even arrogant we or our work might seem - are not basically always doubting, always questioning their own work. You set out on a journey with a piece, and you just hope it will be good. You know you will fail if you try to please or figure it out, but of course you hope it will work. And then so often it is surprising: I have done productions that were really popular with everyone, productions that were widely hated by everyone, and others - even more difficult - where opinion is completely divided. The one thing they have in common is that I could never really foresee what the reaction would be. And that if I think too much about it, it becomes about my personal vanity rather than about trying to do an honest piece of work.
Now, I don't want to get into a specific discussion about Onegin or Lago. I heard from a lot of people who said they had been deeply moved by Onegin, and from others who said they hated it. I even met a couple at a dinner for donors, where the man said it was one of the best things he had seen in years and his wife fiercely rejected the production! I response to John above [link], I can say that John Fulljames certainly did have very difficult working conditions, but that should never serve as an excuse or even explanation. What we put on, is what we put on. And that is what we stand by, of course.
But it is equally important for me to say that we live in a time, where short term success seems so important to us. Of course, we want to be successful. But for me, the ability to stay courageous and curious is even more important, because it is honest. This is why I think it is more important for us to keep challenging audiences - and ourselves - if we want to be successful on another level. This was what was behind my comment, and this is my philosophy for the job I do. I hope you don't perceive that as arrogant. I hope we will put on success after success, but I hope we will be able to do it not just because we tried to figure out in advance what you would all like, but because we had the courage to be honest (whether I then have the necessary talent as a stage director, that is of course another discussion and not one for me to lead, and in any case of course we often end up with a discussion of taste).
Best wishes - and in the hope of many engaging discussions about productions over the years,Kasper
Scots are fuming over their haggis at John Fulljames's portrayal of Highlanders in La donna del lagoreports the Herald. The director shows them as kilted thugs with matted hair and filthy clothes, going round raping and disembowelling everything in their path in between 21/2 octave coloratura runs.
"Turning Highlanders into savages is the clear choice of an author; that's what Rossini and Scott are saying," he claims. "If you look at those films [like Highlander and Braveheart], the Highlanders are hairy. You do imagine they'd be smelly."
But Professor David Purdie, the chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club, dismisses that interpretation as "bollocks".
"Scott was a great admirer of the courage and characteristics of the Highlanders and lamented the fact they had been separated for so long from southern Scotland by geography, language, politics and religion. Scott more than anybody else helped to unite the Highlands and Lowlands. His great aim in life was the promotion of Scotland as a unity within the United Kingdom."
La donna del lago - Royal Opera House, 17 May 2013 (first night)
The Royal Opera House has pulled together the most perfect cast imaginable for this new production. They more than lived up to expectations, with line after line of the most thrillingly spectacular Rossini singing I've ever heard. Even a production that rivals the recent Nabucco for sheer ineptness couldn't dim their brilliance.
Juan Diego Flórez gave us, as usual, the sort of perfectly even and secure singing that makes his fiendish coloratura and pinging top Cs seem almost thrown away. Like the equally stunning Joyce DiDonato, the titular donna, he didn't establish character clearly, but this is a fault that lies with the director. The robust, plummy mezzo of Daniela Barcellona as Joyce's paramour Malcom is well-known to continental audiences but a first for Covent Garden's, who rewarded her with a huge ovation for her faultless performance. Braveheartedly outfitted in traditional tartan, she made an eerily convincing man.
The biggest surprise was Michael Spyres, who stood in for an indisposed Colin Lee as as Joyce's unwelcome fiance Rodrigo, a role he was due to assume later in the run in any case. This is one of the toughest parts in all of operadom, encompassing a range from low F to top D. Spyres has a natural advantage with the low notes, having initially trained as a baritone. His notes were not quite as secure as Juan Diego's (whose are?), but every single one was clean. A rich and full lower register compensated for thinness at the very top. His sweetness of tone is matched by a naturally affable stage presence (rather like Calleja's), which made him a curiously sympathetic villain. He's due back at Covent Garden the season after next in the title role of Idomeneo, but you can catch him earlier at ENO in next season's Benvenuto Cellini, a role he seems perfect for at this stage in his career.
Michele Mariotti led the ROH orchestra in adequate if unsparkling support. The intonation of the onstage band (especially piccolo) was the only real disappointment.
Scenery applauders will find plenty to ovate in Dick Bird's stylish sets and the exquisite heather-paletted Harris Tweed costumes designed by Yannis Thavoris. But everything else about the production is a mess.
John Fulljames has framed Rossini's tale in a 19th century library where, presumably, Sir Walter Scott is reading his poem, on which the opera is based. The minor character of Serano (Robin Leggate) is got up as Scott, and helps release Joyce from the vitrine which encases her in the opening scene. He pops up later to hand over props. The concept appears to be a reading brought to life - sort of Night at the Museum meets Brigadoon.
Why Rossini (Justina Gringyte as another minor character, Albina) should be present too is anybody's guess. Both hang around almost throughout. Unlike Herheim's Manon Lescaut, which introduces the composer as a character in order to explore the whole notion of creativity, here there seems to be no intellectual basis for the intrusion, other than to point out that the story is a story and not a history - which is surely obvious.
The greater problem is the lack of direction of individual characters. The underlying ideas may be sound, but stock gestures abound. We never find out who these people are. The chorus are stuck there long after they've finished singing, obstructing the view and diffusing the focus. Anyone unfamilar with the opera is going to wonder just wtf is going on.
What's more, Fulljames introduces a mass rape scene not even remotely indicated in text or music. Was there really no other way to highlight the brutality of the Scottish Highlanders? Rossini, who created some of the most feisty and independent heroines in the history of opera, would have deplored reducing women to mere punching-bags. To top it off, the Lady of the Lake herself compliments King Uberto on his gentilezza (kindness) straight after he's shoved her around. No wonder Juan Diego looked nonplussed. I've encountered far more graphic scenes from Calixto Bieito and other directors in my European travels, but I can't recall anything quite as gratuitous as this. Animal lovers should also be warned about an unconvincing but nevertheless gory slaughtering scene.
It is clear that Covent Garden needed an alternative to "Lluis Pasqual’s laughable staging", which they had previously intended to borrow from the Paris Opera, but is this picturesque nonsense really any better?
The production is a must-see for the casting alone. But if you manage to snag a restricted-view ticket, count yourself lucky.
production photos (above) Bill Cooper
curtain call photos (below) intermezzo.typepad.com
At the 2013 European Culture Prize gala to be held in Leipzig on 21 May, the theme is local boy made good Richard Wagner, whose 200th birthday is of course celebrated on the next day.
Klaus Florian Vogt (winner of the Music prize) will sing from Lohengrin, and guests will tuck into what were allegedly Wagner's favourite dishes. The menu comes from a book of family recipes handed down to the composer's great-granddaughter, Daphne Wagner.
He was supposedly fond of rustic dishes from Bavaria and Saxony. Gala guests will be served Bayrisch Creme mit Baumkuchen, which looks more like a Masterchef entry:
Anyone sweet-toothed enough for more can round off the evening with Schoko-Zwieback, originally baked by Mathilde Wesendonck for the composer:
The Boston Symphony Orchestra have just announced that Andris Nelsons is to become their next Music Director, beginning as Music Director Designate in the 2013-14 season. He takes on the full role in the following season on a five-year contract that commits him to up to 12 weeks of performances each year. The full press release is below.
The CBSO have confirmed Andris will stay with them until "at least 2014/15 on a rolling contract"; they will make an announcement about future seasons later this year.
While it's possible for one conductor to handle two orchestras, this makes it less likely that Nelsons will be available for the Berlin Philharmonic opening in 2018.
BSO press release:
Andris Nelsons has been appointed the 15th Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since its founding in 1881. The announcement was made today by Chairman of the BSO Board of Trustees Ted Kelly, BSO Board of Trustees Vice Chairs Stephen B. Kay and Robert O'Block, and BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe, following a meeting of the orchestra's Board of Trustees earlier in the day at Symphony Hall. At 34 years old, Andris Nelsons is the youngest music director to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra in over 100 years; he is also the first Latvian-born conductor to take on the post.
"It is absolutely thrilling for us to announce the appointment of Andris Nelsons as the next Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Director," said Ted Kelly. "Sought after by the top orchestras and opera houses of the world, Maestro Nelsons, at age 34, is already considered one of the most brilliant conductors of our time. We are very fortunate that Mr. Nelsons, as the BSO's next music director, will bring his extraordinary ability to lead powerfully moving and insightful performances to the next chapter in the orchestra's storied history. As the BSO continues to realize its mission of bringing the highest standards of music making to an ever-growing live and online audience, I believe Andris Nelsons' unique creativity and visionary instincts will bring a remarkable inspiration to all the BSO's endeavors."
"I am deeply honored and touched that the Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed me its next music director, as it is one of the highest achievements a conductor could hope for in his lifetime," said Andris Nelsons. "Each time I have worked with the BSO I have been inspired by how effectively it gets to the heart of the music, always leaving its audience with a great wealth of emotions. So it is with great joy that I truly look forward to joining this wonderful musical family and getting to know the beautiful city of Boston and the community that so clearly loves its great orchestra. As I consider my future with the Boston Symphony, I imagine us working closely together to bring the deepest passion and love that we all share for music to ever greater numbers of music fans in Boston, at Tanglewood, and throughout the world."
ANDRIS NELSONS TO VISIT BOSTON IN LATE JUNE
Mr. Nelson's will make his first visit to Boston since being appointed the next Ray and Maria Stata Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in late June, with an exact date and further information about the visit to be announced in a few weeks. Prior to his Boston visit in June, Mr. Nelsons will guest conduct Amsterdam's Concertgebouw Orchestra, Munich's Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Leipzig's Gewandhaus Orchestra, as well as lead concerts with his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Birmingham and on tour in seven cities in Germany, Belgium, and France.
DETAILS OF BSO AGREEMENT WITH ANDRIS NELSONS Andris Nelsons will take on the title of BSO Music Director in the 2014-15 season for an initial five year commitment, leading 8-10 weeks of programs during the BSO’s 2014-15 subscription season in Symphony Hall in Boston; he will lead 12 weeks of programs each subsequent year of the five-year contract. Mr. Nelsons will also lead several programs each season at Tanglewood, the orchestra’s summer music festival in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts. Maestro Nelsons will act as BSO Music Director Designate for the BSO's 2013-14 season, making his first appearance in that official capacity October 17-19, leading Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 25 in C, with soloist Paul Lewis, and Brahms's Symphony No. 3; he returns to the BSO podium on March 6, 2014 to lead a performance of Strauss's Salome. Prior to his Symphony Hall engagements as BSO Music Director Designate next fall and winter, Mr. Nelsons will make an appearance at Tanglewood on July 27, leading the BSO, a quartet of internationally acclaimed singers, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in a performance of Verdi's monumental Requiem. Mr. Nelsons succeeds James Levine, who was music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2011. Mr. Nelsons is the third youngest conductor to be appointed BSO music director since the orchestra's founding in 1881: Georg Henschel was 31 when he became the orchestra's first music director in 1881, and Arthur Nikisch was 33 when he opened his first season with the orchestra in 1889.
"All of us at the BSO are incredibly proud to be part of this landmark moment in the BSO's 132-year history, as we announce the appointment of Andris Nelsons as the next Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra," said Mark Volpe. "With the appointment of such legendary leaders as Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Erich Leinsdorf, Seiji Ozawa, and James Levine, the BSO has always drawn the world's top conductors to lead its orchestra and inspire its audiences. We believe that Andris Nelsons will further the BSO's proud standing as one of the world's greatest orchestras and bring his singular musical gifts to the orchestra and its countless fans in Boston, across the nation, and around the globe."
"I am thrilled that Andris Nelsons is being appointed as our new Music Director," said BSO Concertmaster Malcolm Lowe. "On behalf of the musicians of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, I want to express our excitement and anticipation of working closely with Andris Nelsons to bring great music and performances to our audiences in Boston and around the world. Maestro Nelsons has an acute awareness and appreciation of the tremendous legacy of the Boston Symphony and he is passionately intent on expanding, focusing, and energizing our future. It is clear that the joy and love of music is at the heart of Maestro Nelsons' music making. His musical center, knowledge, and artistically searching human spirit, along with his youthful exuberance, will inspire that future. I think the appointment of Maestro Nelsons will be a great celebration of music."
BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA MUSIC DIRECTOR SEARCH COMMITTEE
The Boston Symphony Orchestra's Music Director Search Committee is made up of members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, BSO Board of Trustees, and management leadership team. The committee is co-chaired by BSO Board of Trustees Vice Chairs Stephen B. Kay and Robert O'Block, with other trustee members including Ted Kelly (BSO Chairman of the Board) and Paul Buttenwieser and Joyce Linde (trustees). Other members of the committee include orchestra members Edward Gazouleas (viola), Jason Horowitz (violin), Malcolm Lowe (concertmaster), Robert Sheena (English horn), and James Sommerville (principal horn); and management staff members Mark Volpe (BSO Managing Director) and Anthony Fogg (BSO Artistic Administrator).
Here, with thanks to reader James, it is possible to answer an question that has no doubt pressed many a mind - what does Jonas Kaufmann look like with straight hair? Mozart fans may wish to turn the sound down.
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