Monday, 17 March 2008

5. Travel to Vienna /Florence: Florence in February


So I am going to Florence, Italy, at last. I have managed to get to Oslo in time for my flight to Vienna on friday (22 February) and then see a wonderful NABUCCO with the great Maria Guleghina on the same day. And on Saturday (23 February) I saw Cav/Pag with Jose Cura as Canio and as the Prologue and I got some great photos of him at the stage door. And now Sunday (24 February) I am going to Florence via Venice by train.

I have already my train ticket so on Sunday all I have to do is to get up early since my train leaves at 0630. And since the train leaves from Wien Südbahnhof I have a hotel near to the train station. Everything goes as planned. I just did a longer stop at the train station in Venice, Italy and took a later train. But I am still arriving in Florence in time to maybe get a ticket for Elektra at Teatro Comunale di Firenze. But I am too tired.

So that was Sunday, a long train trip and no energy to try to get a ticket for Elektra on February 24th.

On Monday 25 February Jose Cura is in Istanbul for a concert, but I am still in Florence and not impressed by hotel Majestic or the city itself. It is February and it is cold and the buildings seem just gray and unappealing. I took a long walk trying to see the Duomo or the Teatro and managed to miss them both. But I found a cafe and had a nice rest there and later I found out how close I was to the Teatro from there and that it really was not that far from my hotel had I just walked in the right direction. Later in the evening I try some Italian food at an Italian restaurant. Wow, that really makes me believe that only ones that can make Italian food (spaghetti, pizza) really tasty and good are Norwegian. (As you can guess this was not a Michelin restaurant).

Finally, Tuesday 26 February Agnes Baltsa sings Klytämnestra in Teatro Comunale di Firenze and I have a ticket. Or rather I had a paper that I could make into a ticket at the Teatro. So I went there. Instead of yesterdays 2,5 hours walk, it was just 30 minutes to go from my Hotel to the Teatro. OK, after a long wait standing there after a few others, finally my time. But no I must wait in the office too. And when she is finally ready for me it takes her ages to find my ticket. FINALLY! And as bonus I meet another Baltsa fan there, she is from Germany and last time we saw each other was in Miskolc, Hungary where Agnes Baltsa sang in the Verismo Gala (2006).

2008-02-26 Elektra (R.Strauss), Teatro Comunale di Firenze

Klytämnestra = Agnes Baltsa
Elektra = Susan Bullock
Chrysothemis = Christine Goerke
Aegisth = Stanford Olsen
Orest = Matthias Goerne
Der Pfleger des Orest = Uwe Griem
Die Vertraute = Marcella Polidori
Die Schleppträgerin = Cinzia Rizzone
Ein junger Diener = Saverio Fiore
Ein alter Diener = Franco Boscolo
Die Aufseherin = Stefannia Kybalova
Erste Magd = Manuela Bress
Zweite Magd = Silvia Mazzoni
Dritte Magd = Larissa Schmidt
Vierte Magd = Sabrina Testa
Fünfte Magd = Daniela SchiIllaci

Seiji Osawa, conductor

Later that evening we find out that we sit side-by-side even if I ordered my ticket from Norway and she from Germany. She loved it all. I was bored. Agnes Baltsa was great and the production was very good. But unfortunately I do not love Richard Strauss' ELEKTRA. Elektra has some wonderful tunes here and there but a thoroughly depressing libretto, and it is in 1 act and last 1 hours and at least 40 minutes, in Florence 1 hrs and 50 minutes. And even I love Agnes Baltsa but now I have seen her in Klytämnestra in 3 different productions, so I do not think I will go to Munich for that production there.

Florence: boring and I met a friend but managed to loose her. How? Just from going to get my jacket and going to the WC and she was nearby, but suddenly she wasn't. I was worried that she might be inside the building as they started to close it. And no luck in seeing Agnes Baltsa at the stage door. I tried to wait, but I was tired too. So I went to my hotel.

On Wednesday 27 february, I am going back home. To get home I have to take the train to Roma Termini and there take the airport train to Rome Airport and there I take Norwegian Air to Oslo. Eurostar Italia 9391 Firenze S. M. Novella 08:25 - Roma Termini 10:03 (train) & DY1873 Roma-Fiumicino 1350- 1710 Oslo (Norwegian Air). I had originally a ticket back from Milan to Oslo. But I found out that going to Milan would be a great hassle from Florence. So my trip got even more expensive.

End conclusion: I should just have gone to Vienna. It would have been a cheaper air ticket and the cold, boring time in Florence would have been avoided. BUT: I love Agnes Baltsa.

AND I would just love to be in Athens, Greece now. Agnes Baltsa is singing Isabella in Italiana in Algeri by Rossini. It could have been money reasons for not going, but really it is a matter of health. New country and more stress than I can handle right now. But really I want to be there....

THE END of my February Travel to Vienna/Florence

For more reviews from my travels, see

4 Travel to Vienna/Florence: 23 February Cav/Pag


After seeing a great Nabucco on Friday (2008-02-22) and talking (briefly) with Maria Guleghina at the stage door in Vienna. Saturday was a great day spent waiting for Cav/Pag (Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci). I was a it uncertain would they have Pagliacci before CavRust as they did in Genoa. But no, it was Cavalleria before Pagliacci as usual. Almost same cast as in Berlin in 2005:
Santuzza = Georgina Lukács
Turiddu = Peter Seiffert
Alfio = Alberto Mastromarino

different from Berlin
Mamma Lucia = Daniela Denschlag
Lola = Roxana Constantinescu

Marco Armiliato, conductor

Off course this was the old production of Jean Pierre Ponnelle. It was almost too painful to see in such detail the rejection of Santuzza by the Sicilian society. Unbearable. No comic relief. Lukacz was a magnificent Santuzza.

Then Finally Pagliacci. With Jose Cura as Canio. GREAT
2008-02-23 Pagliacci (R. Leoncavallo), Wiener Staatsoper

Canio (Pagliaccio) = José Cura
Nedda (Colombina) = Tamar Iveri
Tonio (Taddeo) = Georg Tichy
Beppe (Arlecchino) = Ho-yoon Chung
Silvio = Morten Frank Larsen
Erster Bauer = Jens Musger
Zweiter Bauer = Wolfgang Igor Dentl

Marco Armiliato, conductor

Production: Jean Pierre Ponnelle. It was so good, great acting, singing that it is almost impossible to say something about it. Except that Jose Cura also sang the Prologue and he did it wonderfully. Tamar Iveri was fantastic as Nedda.

End of PART 4

For more reviews from my travels, see

Saturday, 8 March 2008

3 Travel to Vienna/Florence: Nabucco with Guleghina


My favorite opera: Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi. My favorite soprano: Maria Guleghina.

It was a great cast:
2008-02-22 Nabucco (G. Verdi), Wiener Staatsoper

Nabucco = Alberto Gazale
Ismaele = Marian Talaba
Zaccaria = Giacomo Prestia
Abigaille = Maria Guleghina
Fenena = Elisabeth Kulman*
Il Gran Sacerdote di Belo = Goran Simic
Abdallo = Benedikt Kobel
Anna = Caroline Wenborne*

Pier Giorgio Morandi, conductor

Two * role-debuts in Vienna State Opera. My sympathy lies with Abigaille. One could play her as just a power-hungry bitch. But then she is incomplete and you would oversee vital clues. She is Nabucco's daughter, or so she believes. She loves her father who all the time shows his affections is only for Fenena. Abigaille want to be loved. But even her love-interest love Fenena. But Abigaille is the daughter who really steps in Nabucco's shoes. For both Nabucco and Ismaele (the man she loves) she is willing to let go of power and instead of being Queen/Princess to be loved and love. If you really listen to what Abigaille says to Ismaele and Nabucco then you can hear a lot of compassion and love. But naturally Abigaille is really a complicated woman.

In the duet between Nabucco and Abigaille when Nabucco longs for Fenena, she says "You have another daughter" and runs towards him, and he rewards her with you are just a slave's daughter. Later he tries to save Fenena but Nabucco misses vital clues. Had he listened he would have understood to try to give Abigaille the kingdom (You shall be the Queen) is the wrong move, had he offered her "give me my daughter Fenena back and then then you too will be my daughter, and I will be you father) then I think things would be different. But he only sees the power-hungry woman and not a woman who wants her father's affection.

I see all the other characters in Nabucco as more fanatical and dangerous. Nabucco is a blood-hungry lion and so is Zaccaria even if Zaccaria is more religious. Ismaele and Fenena is also hard-hearted towards Abigaille and a bit fanatical. Of course the high-priest of Belo is fanatical. So Abigaille is the only one that is human and when Maria Guleghina sings Abigaille who cannot love her...

The Vienna production of Nabucco:
Inszenierung: Günter Krämer
Bühne: Petra Buchholz
Bühne: Manfred Voss
Kostüme: Falk Bauer
Licht: Manfred Voss
Musikalische Studienleitung: Jendrik Springer

I never quite liked it.
1- During the ouverture children acted like they were Abigaille, Fenena, Ismaele and Zaccaria in the children's room. That play did not give me anything.

2- This production uses the Holocaust in a way that I really don't think fits, not to the opera, and not at all, it seem like abuse of that great tragedy.

3- And the Holocaust reference would not be universally understood unless you have seen photos of jews waiting with their luggage at the train station and read enough to understand what terrible places they were really going to.

Otherwise the production works very well.


Maria Guleghina was a wonderful Abigaille. Her singing and acting was superb. She showed all the nuances of Abigaille. GREAT!

Alberto Gazale was really coming to be a Nabucco to be listening too. A bit weak in the beginning but then he really found his voice and was from that point on a Nabucco to be counted on. Leo Nucci, Renato Bruson, Juan Pons was great as Nabucco and now a new Nabucco has arrived. And I loved it how he when Abigaille came in dying to the stage I saw compassion in this last scene of the opera. GREAT!

Elisabeth Kulman sang Fenena. A beatiful voice, did her part wonderfully, one really hopes she gets a role she can shine into. Fenena is a small part. But she did it well!!

Marian Talaba was Ismaele. He really did sing and act well. A great part for Marian Talaba!

Goran Simic as the Great Priest of Belo (Baal) was really impressing this time. Full-bearded and full-voices. Great!!

Abdallo = Benedikt Kobel (did well)

Caroline Wenborne as Anna was a disappointment. Such a small role and she managed to be so very late in her most important moment "Oh fratelli, perdonate! Un'Ebrea salvato egli ha."

Giacomo Prestia as Zaccaria was really impressing. Rich voiced and acting well. GREAT!!

And after the opera: Maria Guleghina talked to her fans in fluent Italian and was the sweetest person. I even got to talk to her. WOW, I got even more a fan of her after that encounter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


End of PART 3

For more reviews from my travels, see

Friday, 7 March 2008

2 Travel to Vienna/Florence: I love Maria Guleghina


After a boring day in Oslo Airport, finally the hour has come: OS336 Oslo-Vienna 1340-1610. Wonderful. Loved the food. Relaxing.

And in Vienna... Found my hotel, easy enough: Hotel Beim Theresianum.
OK, the realities of travel to Vienna by air. Arriving at Airport Schwechat, and it is not difficult finding the way out, it is easy, just follow the signs... and there you go. Best way to come to the city is CAT. City Airport train. GREEN signs. Not to hard there are ticketing machines several places, you can pay cach or by credit card. Euros are great to have but if you only have big money or not enough coins or 10 or 20 euros bills... So there you are just relaxing for 16 minutes or such and you are ... at Wien Mitte. From this location you take the U-Bahn, unless your hotel is nearby.

OK. So you need to take the right U-Bahn in the right direction. You need to know where your hotel is. So Maps. Google Maps helped me. Of course it helps if when you choose your hotel and see the details you get to know that U-Bahn station named so and so is ... meters from your hotel. Then you can get more out of Google maps. I am sure I could have made things easier for my self by doing more research before leaving. But anyway, for me the right thing was take the U4 to Karlplatz/Oper and then U1 to Taubstummengasse).

What I should have done, Checked out the hotel homepage:
And on the net, had I searched for it I would have found the U-Bahn map for Vienna:

For more reviews from my travels, see

And I thought I was so smart. Well, I might remember it for my next visit in Vienna. Anyway, so I found my hotel. And how to get to the Opera House, and in the evening I saw a wonderful Nabucco. With Maria Guleghina, my favorite soprano, and fav person after talking to her, she was sooooo Gracious. I felt double lucky.

End of PART 2

To travel to Vienna and Florence in February

The start:
February is the month of weather, often winterly and in Norway it can mean having to think hard about taking the bus for 7 hrs or try the airport. I decided to go by plane so I bought a ticket. Luckily it was the full flex ticket. So when I took the bus, after phoning the airport trying to prod them for advise. So bus. Night-bus 7 hrs normally to Oslo, 1hr and 45 mins delayed. But my plane for Vienna was later in the day so I had plenty of time.

I arrived in Oslo about 30 minutes before the plane was leaving from my city. So I phoned the airport and was relieved, really, about the plane not being there, meaning I had made the right decision. And so I asked if she could reverse the ticket from a to Oslo on friday morning ticket to a from Oslo on Wednesday evening. OK. So on my way back to home and work I might not need taking the night bus and arriving at home 0530 and going to work 0745. GREAT.

Oslo Airport is OK. But I had way too much Pepsi/Coke so I had to work hard to empty the bottle. Yes, I could just have thrown it in a bin, of course. Right. Security line was OK. Too much eletronic devices meant that my bag had to throught the machine twice. But worse, was the I almost forgot my money in there (or was that on my way back home)...
End of PART 1

For more reviews from my travels, see