Monday 29 November 2010

Manon Lescaut in Vienna 2010-11-27

It was José Cura's role debut as Des Grieux in Wiener Staatsoper. He was a wonderful Des Grieux. Olga Guryakova sang Manon.

This Manon Lescaut was updated to our times. The director, Robert Carson is a clever man that respects opera, but the production is too clever for its own good. This was the 29th performance of this production but the first with José Cura as Des Grieux, Olga Guryakova as Manon, Sorin Coliban as Geronte de Ravoir and Ho-yoon Chung as Edmondo. So it was the night of 4 role debuts at the opera.

José Cura was the real event here. He was the one that made sense of it all. And he was in glorious voice, too. Olga Guryakova was a good Manon Lescaut but then it was the production. The production seemed be more about the society that is vain and cruel than about the love story between Manon and Des Grieux. Edmondo's role has been expanded. I am sure every Edmondo would love to be more onstage and sing more, and that opera houses are happy to employ one person and not 3.

Act 1. In Amiens. A *****Hotel, an avenue with glass windows of model dolls wearing expensive women's dress. Students with beer bottles. Both men and women. Edmondo is photographing the students. Then they all dance the typical MTV type dance. (gosh, that is so stupid, I am getting embarrassed as I sit and see). JOSE CURA, good-looking in black. Finally a human being. This Des Grieux is a bit naive, but can bite back, in good humor, with "Tra voi, belle, brune, bionde". Edmondo acts almost like he is Des Grieux' friend but during the performance we see that this Edmondo is no one's friend.

Then the stage coach arrives in Amiens. In this updated version it must be a train and what else people dressed up and with mobile phones. It is getting old this theme of using mobile phones to say it is our century. Old, not edgy. Manon is dressed as a young girl. Too young to be "Donna non vidi mai". Lescaut her brother (Ejiro Kai) dressed as a soldier, obviously much older than Manon. Then it was Geronte de Ravoir and his handlers. So here he is the "old man" but he does not look old. That does not make good sense. Actually we see no old people in this production. It is a new world, of course, only young people may apply. Naturally the horses in the opera has become cars. A Lexus drives the young couple to Paris. Edmondo, naturally, informs Geronte of this. In a traditional production he does it because he is a clever students who loves pranks but here Edmondo is a more sinister person. The opera is updated but the action of people is not. Would it really be possible that Geronte, the very rich man would have no other car or no other means to get a car? No.

Act 2. Paris. Geronte's penthouse apartment.  Manon has many dresses and many people to help her get dressed. She is drinking champagne. Lescaut is still drinking from beer cans. Then Madrigal singers appears with naturally the videographer, sound mixer etc. Manon is making a MTV video of "Sulla vetta tu del monte". Naturally in this world of today any rich man would not only want Manon as his mistress but also to become a star. Manon is the lead singer here with the madrigalists and her back choir. It works in this production. Then Edmondo appears (the traditional Manon Lescaut's dance master is replaced with Edmondo, the photographer). Geronte has decided Manon is to be a star. So he and his friends is there to see Manon having her publicity photos shot. Good! Then they all leave and Des Grieux arrives. Wonderful duet!!! Then Geronte arrives (Edmondo took photos in secret of Manon & Des Grieux). He exists after promising to come back soon. Then Lescaut alerts them of Geronte's plan. Naturally Manon cannot leave without all her stuff. Her servant rush out with several suitcases and try to fill them with all the jewelery and dresses. Then Geronte and the "police" sergeant come. Des Grieux is detained by some of Geronte's men and Geronte sardonic with Manon. And what new opera production does not have a little rape or sexualt assault. The female servants of Manon is assaulted by "the police". O crudel mondo = showing not really necessary violence (especially towards women).  No like for that!

Act 3 Le Havre. Geronte's apartment is suddenly a prison, or is it. Des Grieux and Lescaut is plotting Manon's release. Edmondo, the photographer, is singing the night watch song ("O, Kate ripose al re"). He is with Geronte. Manon and Des Grieux cannot hide from Edmondo who photographs them and so the attempt of getting Manon free is foiled. Geronte talks to the man that Lescaut has bribed and then shoots him in the back. This happens just behind the back of Des Grieux and Lescaut so it makes no sense that they have no idea what happens. Stupid production. At the role call for women exiled to America a crowd is gathering, it is Geronte's friends and some photographers. Then they come Rosetta, etc. The exiled women is dressed as models, walk like models but are handcuffed. Geronte's friends who are there for the entertainment and the photographer are taking photos of the model/prisoners. Then Manon is there, and are we really to believe that Geronte's friends does not know her and could have pity for her and believe that Des Grieux is her husband. NO. There is no sign of a harbour in this production and no ship. And the sergeant is now is captain, or. Geronte is in this production singing some of the captains lines, or so it seemed to me. Naturally Des Grieux and Manon is threatened with death by Geronte's gun. Then Manon's handcuff is off and Des Grieux can follow Manon to America....

Act 4. Near New Orleans. But in this production we are back to another avenues. They are alone except the window with model dolls is expensive dresses. Manon dies after great singing of José Cura and Olga Guryakova.

Olga Guryakova sang and acted well. "In quelle trine morbide" and "Sola, perduta, abbandonata" were very good. But the gold goes to José Cura who made it all worth while.

Manon Lescaut is a great opera. It is really hard to kill this one.

For more reviews from my travels, see

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Romanian Soprano Roxana Briban Dead In Suicide

As I was in Zürich to see La Fanciulla del West Roxana Briban died in her home in Bucuresti. Her husband said the soprano had attempted suicide in the past and had been following treatment (

Obituary Roxana Briban with Guestbook to share memories, condolence...

For more reviews from my travels, see

Monday 22 November 2010

2010-11-20 La Fanciulla del West in Zurich

2010-11-20 La Fanciulla del West (G. Puccini), Opernhaus Zurich

Dick Johnson (Ramirez) = José Cura
Minnie = Emily Magee
Jack Rance = Ruggero Raimondi
Harry = Shinya Kitajma
Jake Wallace = Davide Fersini
Nick = Martin Zysset
Ashby = Daniel Henriks
Sonora = Cheyne Davidson
Sid = Tomasz Slawinsky
Trin = Pablo Ricardo Bemsch
Bello = Kresimir Strazanac
Joe = Boguslaw Bidzinski
Happy = Thomas Tatzl
José Castro = Valeriy Murga
Larkens = Aaron Agulay
Billy Jackrabbit = Thomas Forde
Wowkle = Bettina Schneebeli
Un Postilione = Simon Wallfisch

Massimo Zanetti, conductor

This David Pountney production of La Fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini is growing old and is no longer inspiring. Once upon a time the use of movie was innovating like in 2004 when I first saw this production I found it pure genius. But the times has changed and it is after all my 10th Fanciulla.

It is nothing new here. The Girl of the Golden West (LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST) is the Spaghetti Western as opera. Was it necessary to make the stage so steep and did the screen really have to be hung in a slope. It just seemed so sloppy. Every time the movie was playing or the backdrop was changed to another photo reminding us about the time of gold digging in California it was like the director took the audience as utter fools. It is the usual story of opera directors not daring to let the opera speak for it self.

When I compare to the other Fanciulla productions that I have seen at Royal Opera House (London), Deutsche Oper Berlin, Den Norske Opera (Oslo) then Opernhaus Zürich production seem to be the oldest and dullest one.

The cast was incredible. Still I was bored and not really tuned into the action. I just know that Emily Magee was the perfect Minnie and José Cura was perfect as Dick Johnson. Ruggero Raimondi was also great. But the production let this opera down.

For more reviews from my travels, see

Thursday 18 November 2010

Soon off to my 10th Fanciulla del West

LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST by Giacomo Puccini Photos

Opernhaus Zurich 2004-05-07
Sylvie Valayre / José Cura

Opernhaus Zurich 2004-05-09
Sylvie Valayre / José Cura

Royal Opera House 2005-09-15
Andrea Gruber / José Cura

Royal Opera House 2005-09-18
Andrea Gruber / José Cura

Deutsche Oper Berlin 2006-09-24
Sylvie Valayre / José Cura

Royal Opera House 2008-09-26
Eva-Maria Westbroek / José Cura

Royal Opera House 2008-09-29
Eva-Maria Westbroek / José Cura

Den Norske Opera & Ballett (Oslo) 2009-12-12
Paoletta Marrocu / José Cura

Den Norske Opera & Ballett (Oslo) 2009-12-14
Paoletta Marrocu / José Cura

It is less than 1 year since my last Fanciulla del West but it is approx. 6,5 years since I saw this production in Zürich. As you can see all my previous Dick Johnson has been José Cura and now I am off to see him in this role for the 10th time.

In May 2004 Juan Pons was Jack Rance, Sylvie Valayre was Minnie. I loved it. I wonder how I feel about it now. Then in 2005 (London) Mark Delavan was Jack Rance, Andrea Gruber was Minnie. That was the classic Fanciulla in Royal Opera House. Then the updated version in 2006 (Berlin) with Sylvie Valayre as Minnie, Marco Chingari as Jack Rance. In 2008 back in London with the classic Fanciulla and Eva-Marie Westbroek as Minnie and Silvano Carroli/Claudio Sgura. And last year, 2009, in Oslo with Paoletta Marrocu as Minnie and Jason Stearns as Jack Rance.

And now it will be JOSE CURA as Dick Johnson, EMILY MAGEE as Minnie and RUGGERO RAIMONDI as Jack Rance. And I can't wait....

For more reviews from my travels, see

Sunday 14 November 2010

On my shelf - DVDs

1. Farvel til en legende - Luciano Pavarotti 1935-2007 (A legend says goodbye) Luciano Pavarotti: The most successful classical artist in the history of the recording industry [DVD Video]

2. Great Composers - Tchaikovsky, Puccini (with José Cura), Mahler Great Composers - Vol. 3 - Mahler / Tchaikovsky / Puccini [DVD] [1997]

3. Duetto - Marcelo Alvarez, Salvatore Licitra Duetto: The Concert at the Roman Colosseum

4. Lesley Garrett - live at Christmas (with José Cura, Guy Barker, Sibongile Khumalo) Lesley Garrett Live At Christmas / Guy Barker, Sibongile Khumalo, Jose Cura

5. José Cura in concert Budapest 2000 Jose Cura: In Concert Budapest 2000

6. José Cura - Palm Sunday Concert In Passione Domini: Sacred Concert / Jose Cura

7. Great Stars of Opera - live in concert (Agnes Baltsa, Neil Shicoff, Lucia Aliberti, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Kurt Rydl) Great Stars of Opera / Shicoff, Aliberti, Baltsa, Tomowa-Sintow, Rydl, Barcellona, Sasson, Emmerlich, Schwarzhaupt, La Scola

8. Gala Concert 50 anniversary of the Reopening of the Vienna State Opera (Baltsa, Domingo, Gruberova etc.) Vienna State Opera Gala Concert / Domingo, Terfel, Gruberova, Urmana, Hampson, Baltsa, Kirchschlager, Polaski, Struckmann, Schade, Furlanetto

9. The Original Three Tenors Concert (Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti, Mehta) The Original Three Tenors Concert

10. The 3 Tenors Paris 1998 (Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti, Levine) The 3 Tenors: Paris 1998

11. The Three Tenors Christmas (Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti) The Three Tenors Christmas

12. Operahits - music from Madama Butterfly, The Barber of Seville, La Traviata, La Boheme, Carmen & more (featuring José Carreras, Placido Domingo, Shirley Verrett, Jon Vickers & more) Opera Hits / Domingo, Carreras, Vickers, Ewing

13. Concerto di Natale / Christmas Concert - José Carreras Concerto di Natale Christmas Concert with Jose Carreras

14. Johann Strauss Gala (Andrea Rost, José Carreras, Zubin Mehta) Johann Strauss Gala - An Evening of Polka, Waltz, and Operetta

15. José Carreras Around the  World Jose Carreras: Around the World

16. Plácido Domingo - Hommage a Sevilla Placido Domingo: Hommage a Sevilla [DVD Video]

17. European Concert 1992 - Plácido Domingo, Daniel Barenboim European Concert Volume 1: 1991-1995

18. Placido Domingo - My Greatest Roles, the documentary  MY GREATEST ROLES-THE DOCUMENTARY

19. Placido Domingo - My Greatest Roles Volume 1 Puccini Placido Domingo Vol. 1: Puccini - Tosca / Manon Lescaut / La Fanciulla Del West

20. Placido Domingo - My Greatest Roles Volume 2 Verdi Placido Domingo: My Greatest Roles, Vol. 2 - Verdi (Otello / Il Trovatore / Ernani)

21. Bizet: Carmen, Metropolitan Opera (Agnes Baltsa, José Carrreras) Bizet - Carmen / Levine, Baltsa, Carreras, Metropolitan Opera

22. Bizet: Carmen - Francesco Rosi (Julia Migenes, Plácido Domingo, Ruggero Raimondi) Bizet - Carmen / Maazel, Migenes, Domingo

23. Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor (Stefania Bonfadelli, Marcelo Alvarez) Donizetti - Lucia di Lammermoor / Bonfadelli, Alvarez, Frontali, Olivieri, Palazzi, Fournillier, Genoa Opera

24. Giordano: Andrea Chenier (José Cura, Maria Guleghina) Giordano - Andrea Chenier / Jose Cura, Maria Guleghina, Carlo Guelfi, Giacinta Nicotra, Cinzia De Mola, Carlo Rizzi, Bologna Opera

25. Giordano: Andrea Chenier (José Carreras, Eva Marton) Giordano - Andrea Chenier / Jose Carreras, Eva Marton, Piero Cappuccilli, Silvana Mazzieri, Riccardo Chailly, La Scala Opera

26. Massenet: Werther (Marcelo Alvarez, Elina Garanca) Massenet - Werther / Marcelo Alvarez, Elina Garanca, Adrian Erod, Ileana Tonca, Peter Jelosits, Philippe Jordan, Vienna Opera

27. Mozart: Cosi fan tutte (Cecilia Bartoli, Agnes Baltsa, Liliana Nikiteanu) Mozart - Cosi Fan Tutte / Harnoncourt, Bartoli, Nikiteanu, Zurich Opera

28. Don Giovanni - Mozart, Losey (Ruggero Raimondi, Kiri Te Kanawa, Teresa Berganza) Mozart - Don Giovanni / Maazel, Raimondi, Te Kanawa, Paris Opera

29. Mozart - Don Giovanni (Herbert von Karajan) Herbert Von Karajan - His Legacy for Home Video - Mozart - Don Giovanni

30. Mozart: Le  Nozze di Figaro (Agnes Baltsa, Bernd Weikl, Lucia Popp)

31. Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Plácido Domingo, Agnes Baltsa) Offenbach - Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) / Pretre, Domingo, Royal Opera Covent Garden

32. Puccini: La Boheme (Teresa Stratas, José Carreras) Giacomo Puccini - La Bohème / Franco Zeffirelli · James Levine - T. Stratas · R. Scotto · J. Carreras · MET

33. Puccini: Edgar (José Cura, Amarilli Nizza, Julia Gertseva) Edgar

34. Puccini: La Fanciulla del West (Plácido Domingo, Carol Neblett) Puccini - La Fanciulla del West / Santi, Domingo, Neblett, Royal Opera Covent Garden

35. Puccini - La Fanciulla del West / Daniels, Domingo, Milnes, Croft, Laciura, Fitch, Slatkin, Metropolitan Opera

36. Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Plácido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa) Puccini - Manon Lescaut / Sinopoli, Domingo, Te Kanawa, Allen, Royal Opera Covent Garden

37. Puccini: Manon Lescaut (Maria Guleghina, José Cura) Puccini - Manon Lescaut / Cura, Guleghina, Gallo, Roni, Berti, Banditelli, Mori, Bolognesi, Muti, La Scala Opera

38. Puccini: Tosca (Maria Guleghina, Salvatore Licitra, Leo Nucci) Puccini - Tosca / Guleghina, Licitra, Nucci, Mariotti, Gavazzi, Parodi, Muti, La Scala

39. Puccini: Tosca (Fiorenza Cedolins, Marcelo Alvarez, Ruggero Raimondi) Puccini - Tosca

40. Puccini: Tosca (Francesca Patane, José Cura, Renato Bruson) Puccini - Tosca / Morandi, Patane, Cura

41. Puccini: Il Trittico - Riccardo Chailly (Il TABARRO with José Cura)

42. Puccini: Turandot (Eva Marton, José Carreras, Katia Ricciarelli) Puccini: Turandot [DVD Video]

43. Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila (Plácido Domingo, Olga Borodina) Saint-Saens - Samson et Dalila / Domingo, Borodina, Leiferkus, Fink, Levine, Metropolitan Opera

44. Richard Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa) Richard Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier / Tomowa-Sintow, Baltsa, Perry, Moll, Herbert Von Karajan- Wiener Philharmoniker, Salzburg Opera

45. José Cura - Verismo (DVD audio) Verismo [DVD Audio]

46. Verdi Gala 1991 (Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, José Cura, Marcelo Alvarez) Verdi Gala / Placido Domingo,Jose Carreras,Jose Cura,Marcelo Alvarez

47. Verdi Gala 2004 (Cura, Nucci, Borin, Damato...) Verdi Gala 2004 / Cura, Nucci, Canettieri, Damato, Fabbricini, Rezza, Borin, Casalin, De Grandia, Michailov, Sacchi, Stoyanov, Zanellato, Palumbo, Parma

48. A Passion for Verdi with José Cura and Daniela Dessi Jose Cura - A Passion for Verdi

49. Verdi: Aroldo (Gustavo Porta, Adriana Damato) Verdi - Aroldo

50. Verdi: Il Corsaro (Michailov, Bruson, Damato)

51. Verdi: Don Carlo (Luciano Pavarotti, Samuel Ramey, Daniela Dessi) Verdi - Don Carlo / Pavarotti, Dessi, Ramey, d'Intino, Coni, Muti, La Scala Opera

52. Verdi: Don Carlo (José Carreras, Agnes Baltsa) Verdi - Don Carlo / von Karajan, Carreras, Baltsa, Furlanetto, d'Amico, Cappuccilli, Salminen, Salzburg

53. Verdi: I Lombardi (José Carreras, Ghena Dimitrova) Verdi - I Lombardi / Carreras, Dimitrova, Carroli, Bini, Gavazzeni, La Scala Opera

54. Verdi: Macbeth (Carlos Alvarez, Maria Guleghina) Verdi - Macbeth / Alvarez, Guleghina, Scandiuzzi, Berti, Alberdi, Campanella, Barcelona Opera

55. Verdi: Nabucco (Nucci, Guleghina, Colombara, Sartori)

56. Verdi: Nabucco (Nucci, Guleghina, Dvorsky) Verdi - Nabucco / Leo Nucci, Maria Guleghina, Giacomo Prestia, Miroslav Dvorsky, Marina Domashenko, Goran Simic, Fabio Luisi, Vienna Opera
57. Verdi: Nabucco (Juan Pons, Maria Guleghina) Verdi: Nabucco

58. Verdi: Otello (José Cura, Krassimira Stoyanova) Verdi - Otello

59. Verdi: Requiem (Margaret Price, Jessye Norman, José Carreras, Ruggero Raimondi)
  Verdi - Requiem / London Symphony Orchestra

60. Verdi: Requiem (Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, José van Dam) Verdi - Requiem / Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Jose Carreras, Agnes Baltsa, Jose van Dam, Herbert von Karajan, Vienna Philharmonic

61. Verdi: Il Trovatore (José Cura, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Yvonne Naef, Veronica Villarroel) Verdi - Il Trovatore / Cura, Hovorostovsky, Villarroel, Naef, Rizzi, Covent Garden

62. Verdi: La Traviata (José Cura, Eteri Gvazava)

63. Verdi: Stiffelio (José Carreras, Catherine Malfitano) Verdi - Stiffelio / Downes, Carreras, Malfitano, Royal Opera Covent Garden

64. José Carreras Collection

65. Plácido Domingo - My Greatest Roles Volume 3 French Opera

66. Puccini: Tosca (Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Ruggero Raimondi) Puccini - Tosca / Gheorghiu, Alagna, Raimondi, Muraro, Cangelosi, Pappano, Royal Opera (2000 film)

67. Cecilia and Bryn at Glyndebourne - Arias and Duets / Opus Arte, Bryn Terfel, Cecilia Bartoli

67. The 3 Tenors In Concert 1994 with The Vision: Making of the Concert (Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti, Mehta)

68. Plácido Domingo - Great Scenes
For more reviews from my travels, see