Sunday 24 July 2011

Elisabeth de Valois - Isabel de la Paz

Who was Elisabeth de Valois?

From Wikipedia: Elisabeth of Valois (also known as Elizabeth of Valois; French: Élisabeth de France or Élisabeth de Valois, Spanish: Isabel de Valois; 2 April 1545 – 3 October 1568) was the eldest daughter of Henry II of France and Catherine de' Medici.

From Verdi's opera Don Carlos she is the unhappy wife of King Philip II of Spain, and in love with Don Carlos, Infante of Spain, their heir of the Spanish throne. It is true that it was initially Don Carlos who was to be her husband, but then the King decided to marry her himself. For a political marriage it was a happy one. Philip loved his young wife and doted on her. He who usually was a stern man, hard to please, was as transformed when with Isabella. 

The love story between Don Carlos and Elisabeth de Valois is not true. No faithful daughter of France would act so unworthy. The wild child Don Carlos was someone who would like sometimes to rebel against his father, but towards his stepmother only tenderness. Carlos and Elisabeth was the same age and died in the same year. Elisabeth de Valois who was of a tender nature naturally felt tender and rather motherly feelings towards the unhappy Don Carlos. 

In the opera Elisabeth de Valois is portrayed as someone opposed to the harsh politics in the Netherlands but in reality she was as Catholic as Philip II and wanted to crush the rebels of the faith as much as the king. Don Carlos on the other hand, would be willing to question faith and to be sympathetic to the Protestant movement something that to Philip and Elisabeth was nothing less than treason, treason to Faith and to Monarchy. 

No ordinary prison cell for the Prince of Asturias (Don Carlos) but his bedroom void of all dangerous materials. Guarded by Philips chosen men. Philip II did not kill his son as it became popular to tell in the Protestant countries, but he was perhaps helped to die earlier. That was made easier by the fact that the Prince was prone to excesses. When he ate, it was in excess and when he fasted it was also done in excess. Such things would make the frail condition of a young man come to an early end. To the King the Prince death came with the Prince acting as a true believer of the Catholic Faith. This comforted the conflicted King. 

But then a few months later also his Queen, the beloved Isabel de la Paz of the Spanish people, also died from childbirth together with their newborn son.

To read a Great Historian telling all about Philip II, Elisabeth de Valois, Don Carlos:

History of the Reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain, Vols. 1 and 2 [Kindle Edition]

William Hickling Prescott 
For more reviews from my travels, see

Tuesday 19 July 2011

CAV/PAG in Zurich 2011-06-19

2011-06-19 Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni), Opernhaus Zurich

Santuzza = Agnes Baltsa
Turiddu = José Cura
Alfio = Cheyne Davidson
Mamma Lucia = Cornelia Kallisch
Lola = Katharina Peetz

In 2009 it was Paoletta Marrocu who sang Santuzza. This production paints a detailed portrait of Santuzza and her surroundings. The acting was in fine detail. But now 2 years later the details are more fuzzy. Still Agnes Baltsa made a wonderful Santuzza. As the singer is now over 60 it is not suprising that she has lost something in her voice, it is no longer so agile. Much praise has been heeped on the young conductor Daniele Callegari but I found him lacking in looking after for the chorus and the soloists. That did not help Agnes Baltsa who still managed to act and sing a Santuzza that one cared for. Jose Cura as Turriddu was wonderfully played and sung. He came out as almost sympathetic this time. Lola was sung and acted by young Katharina Peetz, a delight as Lola just as her character is a really vamp of a woman. Cornelia Kallisch as Mamma Lucia was also great and a sympathetic character. Cheyne Davidson was like always a solid Alfio.

2011-06-19 Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), Opernhaus Zurich

Canio (Pagliaccio) = José Cura
Nedda (Colombina) = Myrtò Papatanasiu
Tonio (Taddeo) = Carlo Guelfi
Beppe (Arlecchino) = Boiko Zvetanov
Silvio = Gabriel Bermudez

Unlike 2009 when the prologue with Carlo Guelfo was a disappointment I now enjoyed it. In 2009 the Italian soprano Fiorenza Cedolins sang the role of Nedda, now we had the Greek soprano Myrto Paptanasiu as Nedda. Now I could almost root for the unfaithful Nedda. Beppe was another role sung by another singer, instead of big Martin Zysset, a Swiss favorite, we had Boiko Zvetanov, the little, round tenor with a Great Voice and personality that fitted his voice. He fitted right into the show.

Sloppily conducted by Daniele Callegari, the singers with Jose Cura (Canio) and Gabriel Bermudez (Silvio) as the routine tenors, it still was a great Pagliacci. I still don't like the blue in Pagliaccio's face, but that is minor.

Daniele Callegari, conductor
Zurich Opera House Orchestra
Zurich Opera House Choir
Producer/production Grischa Asagaroff
Set and costume design Luigi Perego
Lighting Hans-Rudolf Kunz
Choir rehearsal Jürg Hämmerli
Choreography Tetsu Taoshita

For more reviews from my travels, see

IL CORSARO in Dortmund 2011-06-10

Ruhr Nachrichten 13.06.2011 14:18 Uhr: "Il Corsaro" im Konzerthaus
Man spürt die Gischt im Gesicht (Der Westen, Kultur, 13.06.2011, Simon Tönies)

I agree completely with Ruhr Nachrichten review:

It was a very powerful, dynamic borderline tour de force through the music. Little room left to get some air for Montanaro and the two main soloists to the public. The Bulgarian tenor Zvetan Michailov had stepped in and sang as captain of the Corsairs in the first two acts of his lungs. At times, his voice sounding but a bit tight in the upper registers.

Dramatic Guleghina.

Eager were the friends of the opera on the role debut of the Russian dramatic soprano Maria Guleghina as Gulnara, the woman who tries to love, to mediate between enemies.Two years ago she had a terrific debut in the concert hall as Turandot. And although at that time the musical powerhouse Gergiev stood at the pulpit, which was a more sophisticated design, as they heard of the singer, now much changed visually. Still- this was high drama at debut of the soprano who has the appropriate role for the sharp metallic sound in her voice, hard to beat.

Elena Mosuc fine singing as beloved, Medora, if she had only omitted the mannered gestures. Great as were bassist Sebastian Catana as >Pascha with the chorus of young voices from Minsk. The WDR Radio Orchestra followed Montanaros passionate interpretation. It will be interesting to see how the performance will sound on the recorded CD, the 2012 Verdi's 200th Birthday 2013th.
>(Translated by Google and me)

2011-06-10 Il Corsaro (Verdi),Konzerthaus Dortmund

Medora = Elena Mosuc

Gulnara = Maria Guleghina

Corrado = Zvetan Michailov

Seid = Sebastian Catana

Giovanni = Adrian Sampetrean

Selimo / Un Eunuco Negro / Schiavo = Florian Simson

Carlo Montanaro, conductor

Chor der staatlichen Musikakademie Minsk, WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln

Maria Guleghina and Elena Mosuc impressed in Dortmund. Zvetan Michailov substituted for Giuseppe Varano.

The conductor Carlo Montanaro made the WDR radio orchestra play with love this vigorous music of Young Verdi.  One could see how the orchestra members really enjoyed themselves.  The smaller roles Seid (Sebastian Catana), Giovanni (Adrian Sampetrean), Selimo / Un Eunuco Negro / Schiavo (Florian Simson) was sung and acted  brilliantly. 

The older Bulgarian tenor Zvetan Michailov sang, not the younger Italian tenor Giuseppe Varano. To see Michailov sing was like you were in a recording studio. He looked at the notes and used his arms to force music out in the right moments. His voice was always a bit special, a dry voice and also a voice that you not easily would believe another tenor to be master of. His acting was more a singer struggling for perfection than acting as Corrado.  I have a DVD with Michailov as Corrado from Parma opera. He was older now, but still a good Corrado.

Then it was Elena Mosuc. Elena Mosuc was a super delicate Medora. This was another mannerism than Zvetanov. Where Zvetanov went deep to find voice and a perfect attack to the notes, Elena Mosuc went deep into herself to find the intepretetative depth for Medora.

Finally it was Maria Guleghina as Gulnara. The dramatic powerhouse of a diva. She played two roles: one as Maria Guleghina DIVA, another as Gulnara, the favorite slave of Pascha Seid. In an newspaper it was commented that this duality was a little bit ironic but I believe that Maria Guleghina was completely aware of this and played that game  also. A powerhouse as Gulnara, yes, that is the right approach. Gulnara is maybe a slave but she is still not subdued. She can stand on her own feet against the powerful pascha. She is fierce, just like Maria Guleghina's voice and appearance. No helpless heroine like Medora but as powerful as Corrado. In a way she got more guts and intelligence than Corrado. She takes her oppurtunities. No need to fear that Gulnara will choose death and not life after the death of Medora and Corrado.

It was Maria Guleghina and Elena Mosuc who won. BRAVA, Maria! BRAVA, Elena! So different and both so perfect in each of their roles.

For more reviews from my travels, see

Monday 4 July 2011

2 concerts in July becomes October and November

I have decided not to go to the Berlin concert with José Cura on July 8th. And not to go to Paralada for a concert version of Nabucco with Juan Pons, Maria Guleghina. I am sad but I save a lot of money this way.

So I have changed the concert with Cura with a concert in Vienna with Josep Carreras on October 14. And I have changed Nabucco concert with another Verdi opera Oberto in Paris with Maria Guleghina on November 19th.

I just booked my ticket for Opera Bergen's CavRust/Le Villi in August

For more reviews from my travels, see

DSK and A History of Rape

Read this book before you go out of your way to defend a Rich, White Man and before you go out of your way to blame a Poor, Black Woman.

If you are able of compassion you will only be able to read small sections at one time.

This book shows the Human Race at its ugliest.

Then there is this book. I haven't read that one yet. And the book about rape: I read a page and could not go further that day.

For more reviews from my travels, see

Saturday 2 July 2011

The Summer Knows: Zurich in June

It is time that I tell of my Zurich trip to see Cavalleria Rusticana with Agnes Baltsa & José Cura and Pagliacci with Cura.

But I have a problem. My time in hospital just after the travel have almost erased all my memories of it.

First it was Saturday 18th of June and the third Birthday party for my mother and then in the evening off to Oslo and landing in Zurich Airport. There I found the curtesy bus to my hotel Hotel Park Inn By Radisson Zurich Airport * * * * . Nice hotel loved it. By midnight I was asleep in my big nice bed.

Second, it was Sunday 19th of June and the day of the performance which started at 1400. I used the curtesy bus to the airport and from there a train to Main Train Station. Eating brezels and going to McDonald's before the opera. Then it was Cavalleria Rusticana first with Agnes Baltsa as Santuzza and José Cura as Turriddu. Agnes Baltsa was wonderful as Santuzza but not always on the same page as the conductor. I fault the conductor. I had the feeling that Die Baltsa was combining to different productions the Ponelle production in Vienna and this one. In short, she was different than Paoletta Marrocu (this production's original Santuzza). José Cura was just perfect in singing and acting Turriddu.

Pagliacci with José Cura as Canio. Perfect.

After the opera I almost got a photo of Agnes Baltsa but I was in the place and was feeling tired. Then came José Cura. It was not really a crowd this time. So it did not take too long. Then I found a restaurant close to the Main Train Station and had a chicken sweet sour. Too much food on my plate, but was really good. Finally back to the airport and then curtesy bus to my hotel. I was looking through all my photos in my IPad. I was sure that tomorrow I would just writing a blog post on my travel so I just listened to music and got to bed.

Third, it was Monday 20th of June. My flight to Oslo is already at 0700. I must be up by 5 and take the curtesy bus to the airport. Naturally pay the bill first. No problem waking up early, the night was not that great. I had been walking inside the airport (the day before) to make it easy to find the best path for today. Soon I had my boarding card and my luggage was sent through. Then I went to the Gates. It was a quiet and closed for most of the shops. When the cafe close to Gate A opened I bought 2 Brezels (Bier Brezel). Then I went to the security of Gates A and walked a long distance until I came to my gate. I bought a cola light or zero. Off to Oslo. Waiting for my luggage. Got it. Eating. Going through the security line to get my flight home. Tired. And sick. Back from hospital on Friday 24th of June after 4 days of lack of sleep. Worked normally Monday 27th to Friday 1st when I got a big HEADACHE.

For more reviews from my travels, see