Monday 29 August 2011

Outdoor opera in Bergen - Cavalleria / Villi

In the splendid setting of Bergenhus fortress two operas were performed with a new Regie than the usual. Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni did not agree with the Regie although there were some interesting, new, exciting moments with this Regie. On the other hand the Regie of Le Villi by Giacomo Puccini worked in all moments.

August 28, 2011


Santuzza - Elena Zelenskaya
Turriddu - Eduardo Villa
Mamma Lucia - Tone Kvam Thorsen
Alfio - Anooshah Golesorkhi
Lola - Sylvia Skeie Vik

The crisp, clear sounds of Cavalleria Rusticana had never sounded more beautiful and true than the orchestra of Opera Bergen played it under its leader Anne Randine Øverby. Beatiful and clear it sounded at the same time it served the drama.

Musically the low-point for me was the Siciliana sung Eduardo Villa. It sounded like it was sung by an old tenor at the end of his career. Is it that the Siciliana (O Lola, ch'ai di latti la cammisa) is so difficult to sing right, or is it just that it is the beginning of the opera. I don't know. I just know that Eduardo Villa convinced me vocally and dramatically later in the evening, especially in the duet between Turriddu and Santuzza.

The evening was an evening of old, seasoned opera singers. They all warmed up or maybe it was me who warmed up to them. But then it was the Regie of young director Rocc that almost ruined Cavalleria Rusticana singelhandedly.

The chorus, who was they supposed to be in this production. Was they drunken teen-agers from a graduation party? Lola and Mamma Lucia seemed to work in this "High School". I imagined Mamma Lucia as the rector. Lola as just one of the teachers. Alfio, her husband, instead of being one of the prominent men of the village seemed to be a traveling beggar.

I mistook Mamma Lucia for Santuzza since she was the first of the principals to present herself and she was even praying. Both Santuzza and Mamma Lucia was had black hair and same age (so it seemed) and they were the only ones who in this production were sincere. In many ways Cavalleria Rusticana was here the story of hypocrites against sincerity. Turriddu was no hypocrite, or was he. And Alfio...

Most of what the chorus did not help the story forward, it confused rather than explain. Was that intentional from director Rocc? But one point was rather good: Instead of the tradional horrendous screaming "Hanno mazzato compare Turriddu" , one of the chorists was given a note and said in the most strange voice this message twice. I think it was THE PROOF of Hypocrisy if we needed it.

Given the material they were given I cannot imagine the principals and chorus could have improved it more. Eduardo Villa was really Turriddu, Elena Zelenskaya was truly Santuzza, I loved Tone Kvam Thorsen's Mamma Lucia (elegant, and so moving), Anooshah Golesorkhi was a solid Alfi, and I disliked Sylvia Skeie Vik (I always dislike LOLA, always, no matter who sings it and especially when they are believable.

And naturally it started to rain in the middle of the opera. Even the weather gods was not loving this opera completely.

Puccini: LE VILLI

Anna - Elena Zelenskaya
Roberto - Eduardo Villa
Guglielmo Wulf - Anooshah Golesorkhi

As I saw Anooshah Golesorckhi dancing to the stage at the notes of Puccini's Le Villi I thought I would also be disappointed by Regie. But this time the opera let itself willingly into Rocc's Regie.

The first part of Le Villi was played as an old play with big gestures and with all having masks. The chorus started out as audience to the play with Guglielmo Wulf  as their favorite actor. Then as Anna came onstage, the "audience" fell asleep. Luckily we, the real audience got Anna's wonderful aria "Se come voi piccina io fossi", and then Roberto came and it was a wonderful duet. Suddenly "the audience" woke up at the sound clocks and Roberto was sung off. White cloths for this part by the principals.

As Roberto is off, the chorus is transformed from "audience" to acting Villis. Just as Anna dies of sorrow since it takes so long for Roberto to come back (I know this because I knew the opera from before, for others good luck it getting it from just seeing this production),  the audience dies to become Villis. The unhappy father curses Roberto and then asks God of forgiving for invoking the Villis. But they are already ready for Roberto. Gran Scena and Aria for Eduardo Villa. BRAVO!!! Then Anna, the undead, new Villi and the other Villis "dance" Roberto to his death. LOVED IT!!!

For reviews from my travels, see

Saturday 27 August 2011

A new Porgy and Bess vs THE HELP

Two big controversies. Sondheim is against the new Porgy at hands of 3 women. Is it a case of a male being against women? One thing is certain, he is definetely against the revision of this "beloved" classic. PORGY AND BESS is the work of White Men (Heyward and Gershwin) but is about the lives of Black People. Surely this must mean that a revision of such a work "must" be needed. The case against this opera is that it is an opera (or is it) and such in need of making it accessable to the people of today. This the gravest insult for Sondheim and other purists. Besides they are making it a musical for Broadway but still calling it Gerswin's Porgy and Bess but the text is revised and some of the action altered, and a new Happy End. Can one really trust 3 highly competent women with a CLASSIC?

THE HELP is a novel by a White Women that should supposedly be about 2 Black Women that work as Domestic Help for White Women. White Women love it so much that they cannot stand hearing other voices, mainly Black voices, complaining of its inaccuracy and racist framework. "No, you are all wrong, I had a Black Help, and she did love ME more than her own children". It is set in early 1960s before the author was born but she still felt competent to write the story with very little research and no real conversation with some of the Black Women that lived that life in Jackson. Just because the author lived her childhood in Jackson in 1970s and had a Black Help, she feels she can write about the pivotal time of the Civil Rights Movement with almost no research. The novel was rejected 60 times before it was accepted but it contains so many wrongs that a a website is on its tale, with so many profe of cringeworthy wrongs so why, oh why, can so many White Women not see it as the travesty it is.

I guess White People just want to believed that we are GOOD PEOPLE without ever having to look hard at our many privileges and work to overcome our biases, and then WORK for JUSTICE for ALL. We expect praise just for seeing ourselves in the mirror and see what we wish to see. THE HELP is no help to see the ugly realities since it intends to hide it.

The battle is not won. Still domestic worker is abused, sexually and with working hours that never ends for little or no money. THIS HAS TO STOP. Still racism puts people in slums and otherwise in dangerous situation. STOP RACISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA etc!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday 19 August 2011

Stefano Ranzani conducts Cavalleria/Bajadser

“Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci are pure Italian passion, both in music and drama.” Kasper Holten, director

Tempers flare under the blazing sun of Southern Italy in two popular operas dealing with hypocrisy and murder. Both are musically and dramatically in tune with Puccini’s Tosca and La bohème and feature such operatic highlights as the ‘Easter Hymn’ in Cavalleria rusticana and the tenor aria in Pagliacci.

One of the world’s leading and highly sought-after opera stars, tenor José Cura, will appear in the first four performances of both operas.

Critically acclaimed designer Mia Stensgaard has creates the captivating sets that invite audiences on a journey to hot-blooded Sicily and its world of seduction and jealousy.

Cavalleria rusticana/I pagliacci is performed in Italian with Danish supertitles | Co-production with Den Norske Opera | José Curas participation is made possible with support from OAK Foundation Denmark | Nykredit is the exclusive sponsor for Cavalleria Rusticana/I pagliacci.

Show dates

DIRECTOR: Kasper Holten | DIRECTOR: Paul Curran | SET DESIGNER: Mia Stensgaard | COSTUME DESIGNER: Anja Vang Kragh | LIGHTING DESIGNER: Bruno Poet

And just some days before I finally got my ticket for Cavalleria/Bajadser in Copenhagen I got the video of Opernhaus Zürich production of Cav/Pag with Stefano Ranzani (conductor) and José Cura (Turriddu/Canio).

It was such a pain and a wait till finally the website was ready to put my ticket in the basket, because for a long time I chose and got nothing in my basket. Really, it was another example of do not try to get into the buying process on the day and time as it is supposed to open, but wait... Naturally one doesn't get the front row or maybe not even a ticket if you wait too long. To make matters worse it took ages for the website to react, ages..., and then suddenly you have extra costs even if you are buying the most expensive ticket, just at the end, an extra cost of 2 times DKK 48,70, so instead of DKK 1250, it is almost 1350. That was the bad surprise, and I am not happy about it. :-(

Stefano Ranzani conducts Mascagni & Leoncavallo
Live Recording from The Zurich Opera, 2009


I Pagliacci

José Cura, Fiorenza Cedolins & Carlo Guelfi


Cavalleria Rusticana

José Cura, Paoletta Marrocu & Liliana Nikiteanu

Zurich Opera House, Stefano Ranzani (conductor) & Grischa Asagaroff (director)

Set Design by Luigi Perego.

Two timeless stories of love, honour, justice and violence, captured on just one DVD – a highlight for every opera lover.

Pietro Mascagni‘s “Cavalleria rusticana” and Ruggero Leoncavallo‘s “Pagliacci” speak to one‘s heart and soul. They are regarded as the most absorbing tragedies of Italian music theater. Adultery, jealousy and betrayal are leading to passionate conflicts that jointly connect both operas. The impressively embellished stage waives exaggerated decoration to underline the unflattering realistic brutality. Both operas are supported by a musical variety of great arias, short duets and amazing choir passages that add to the unveiled expression of feelings. As a special guest the Argentinian Tenor José Cura stands out with his fascinating singing and acting performance. Besides him Soprano Paoletta Marrocu with her expressive interpretation of Santuzza, Carlo Guelfi as Tonio or Fiorenza Cedolins as Nedda can convince the audience with their great voices. These atmospheric performances directed by Grischa Asagaroff and conducted by Stefano Ranzani are capable to fascinate every opera lover.

Sound Format: PCM STEREO, DD 5.1

Picture Format: 16:9

DVD Format: DVD 9, NTSC

Subtitle Languages: IT, GB, DE, FR, ES, JP

Running Time: 151 mins

FSK: 0

For reviews from my travels, see

Sunday 14 August 2011

La Favorite, by Gaetano Donizetti

LA FAVORITA (in Italian) or LA FAVORITE (in French) by Gaetano Donizetti is about Leonor de Guzman, mistress (favorite) of King Alphonse XI of Castille.

The LESSON from this OPERA is most HISTORY in Opera is mostly bogus.

Leonor de Guzman was a widow before she met King Alphone. They had 10 children together. 10 !!! Ten children!! The Queen naturally hated the situation but she could not do anything about it until the King died and she was free to kill her rival. But Leonor still won. In the end her son became King Henry II of Castille. He became king after killing his half-brother. And that is the true history!!!

2 times La Favorite 2003-03-11, 2006-03-23
2003-03-11 La Favorite (G. Donizetti),Wiener Staatsoper

Léonor de Guzman = Violeta Urmana
Fernand = Giuseppe Sabbatini
Alphonse XI = Carlos Alvarez
Balthazar = Giacomo Prestia
Don Gaspar = John Dickie
Inès = Genia Kühmeier

Fabio Luisi, conductor

Inszenierung - John Dew
Bühnenbild - Thomas Gruber
Kostüme -José-Manuel Vazquez

2006-03-23 La Favorite (Donizetti),Opernhaus Zurich

Leonor de Guzman = Vesselina Kasarova
Fernand = Fabio Sartori
Inez = Jaël Azzaretti
Alphonse = Roberto Servile
Balthazar = Carlo Colombara
Don Gaspar = Eric Huchet

Marc Minkowski, conductor

Inszenierung - Philippe Sireuil
Bühnenbild - Vincent Lemaire
Kostüme - Jorge Jara
Choreographie - Avi Kaiser

  For reviews from my travels, see

L'Elisir d'Amore, by Gaetano Donizetti

Live 4 times L'Elisir d'Amore 1988-09-29, 1998-05-21, 1999-05-15, 2001-10-21
Nemorino in 1988 was Kjell Magnus Sandve (Oslo), in 1998 Vincenzo La Scola (Zürich), in 1999 Ramon Vargas (Vienna), in 2001 Niels Harald Sødahl (Nordfjordeid, Norway).

So what lesson can we take from this opera? Maybe something can be learned from the who is who list.

Nemorino, a simple peasant
Adina, a wealthy landowner
Belcore, a sergeant
Dulcamara, an itinerant medicine man
Giannetta, Adina's friend

Nemorino is in love with Adina. As he listens to Adina reading about Tristan and Isolde, he wants an Elixir of Love to win Adina's heart, and he gets one from Dulcamara. But it isn't an Elixir, it is a bottle of Bordeaux wine. He gets intoxicated and wins Adina because as the news of the death of Nemorino's uncle (Nemorino is the heir, gets lots of money). The inheritance news, unknown to both Nemorino and Adina, makes a lot of women want Nemorino and that makes Adina realize that she loves him. LESSONS? Things aren't always as it seems...

Belcore thinks he is Paris, the most handsome man on earth, and that all women must love him. He is wrong. LESSON: Believing you are someone all should love does not make it so.

Dulcamara is smart enough to milk all he can out of any situation. LESSON: Be aware of advertisement that sound too good.

Adina thinks she can just go from man to man, promise but never give. But all the time it was Nemorino she really wanted. LESSON: No, in reality it is OK to be single (not in Opera, of course).

Poor Giannetta - Rich Adina won again.

For reviews from my travels, see

Bias, Compassion and Truth

Many people think they have no bias. But we all have  bias because we are human. Some people think that only people belonging to a group have bias. They talk about Gay Bias, or about the Non-White Bias. But we all have our own biases because we all belong to several groups of people and because we all have our own Ideas. Our biggest and most persistent bias is the Confirmation Bias. We all like our beliefs confirmed and are willing to search for a long time to get any kind of confirmation and the Internet will likely find a place where you will get your confirmation. But it still does not make our BIAS = TRUTH.

We are not likely to find our biases unless we are searching for them. We don't search because we like to believe we are above bias.

Why should we work to unearth our biases? Because our BIAS makes it hard to come to the place of COMPASSION and TRUTH. Unfortunately there is no way to automate this process. You have to be on the Alert of Bias, and be willing to do the work towards Compassion and Truth.

Be willing to understand that you can be wrong even if you believe strongly in it. Remember Compassion, cultivate compassion and Empathy inside you. Open your eyes... Search for the Truth, even when it scares you because it might just tell you that you have many more big, bad biases that you still need to work on.

Do not search only confirmation for your ideas and meanings, search for evidence that you are wrong, too. When you meet a person and think you know so much about that person, ask yourself "what did I really see, and how did I interprete it?". Remember empathy, don't ask that person too intimate questions just because you are curious. Most of this work should be done inside your brain first.

  For more reviews from my travels, see

Sunday 7 August 2011

Carmen, by Bizet

18 times Carmen 1985-05-03, 1991-05-06, 1992-11-07, 1998-10-21, 2000-02-05, 2000-06-25, 2002-05-15, 2002-06-22, 2002-06-23, 2002-06-26, 2002-09-29, 2003-06-27, 2003-06-30, 2003-07-29, 2003-08-23, 2004-09-25, 2008-05-24, 2009-10-10

So what can one possible say about this one of the most popular operas. Georges Bizet's CARMEN. Almost no note of the opera has not been played on the radio even if we are just talking about pieces of opera played. Every note is so famous that one hardly know which tune is when in the opera. Carmen is so much the standard opera that it is hard to say something new. It is based on CARMEN by Prosper Mérimée. In the novella it is all told by Don José to the writer.

Anyone who knows me would not be surprised that I recommend the DVD from Met (also Deutsche Grammophon) with Agnes Baltsa and José Carreras, and the CD box set from Deutsche Grammophon with Agnes Baltsa and José Carreras. The highlight version from DG is also great for any one who has too many Carmen's already.

I vaguely remember that I have another CD boxset with Carmen, also Deutsche Grammophon, with Teresa Berganza and Plácido Domingo, and not to forget the DVD of the movie with Plácido Domingo and Julia Migenes. Also a DVD from Wiener Staatsoper with Domingo and Elena Obratszova, I have it but I still haven't watched it from beginning to end.

A point that is often overlooked when one talk about the opera Carmen is that it is different versions of the dialogues and recitatives. I am on the fence in regard of whether I prefer dialogue to recitatives. But often the dialogue are cut so much that it is harder to understand the action if one did not know the whole dialogue from before. Then there is the cut in the duel duet between Don José and Escamillo, I don't like the cut.

LESSON FROM THE OPERA: I think one has to be careful not think that one knows what Spain and Andalucia is about from this opera. Even more care must be taken in thinking you know what "Gipsy" life is about in Spain and elsewhere. We are too ignorant as it is about the truth of that people. Much has been done to romanticize the reality and too make them seem dangerous. More truth is needed not more fantasy.

Read more:

For more reviews from my travels, see

Mefistofele, by Boito

1997-06-24 Mefistofele (Boito), Wiener Staatsoper

Mefistofele = Egils Silins
Faust = Keith Ikaia-Purdy
Margherita/Elena = Michele Crider
Marta/Pantalis = Nelly Boschkowa
Wagner/Nerèo = Ruben Broitman

Michael Halász, conductor

Spielleitung - Lorenza Cantini, Diana Kienast
Choreographie - Antonella Agati
Choreinstudierung - Dietrich D. Gerpheide

So in 1997 I saw this opera in Wiener Staatsoper. This opera is just like Gounod's Faust taking its story from Goethe's Faust. The problem with Boito's opera is that it tries to take everything, it has a Prologue, Opera and Epilogue. It is too much and so it does not have the same strong focus as Gounod's opera has. And therefore we don't care so much. Plus Gounod has better tunes. On my "review" I mention that it has some glorious music, but I don't remember anything from it.

From my iTunes:
MEFISTOFELE - Giunto sul passo estremo 3:03 José Cura 6 av 12 Aurora : opera arias - José Cura BOITO, Arrigo (1842 - 1918) 2002
MEFISTOFELE - Dai campi, dai prati 2:33 Rolando Villazon 4 av 15 Cielo e mar - Rolando Villazon BOITO, Arrigo (1842 - 1918) 2008
MEFISTOFELE - Giunto sul passo estremo 2:38 Rolando Villazon 12 av 15 Cielo e mar - Rolando Villazon BOITO, Arrigo (1842 - 1918) 2008
MEFISTOFELE - Giunto sul passo estremo 2:44 Plácido Domingo 4 av 10 Domingo conducts Milnes, Milnes conducts Domingo BOITO, Arrigo (1842 - 1918) 1972
MEFISTOFELE - Dai campi, dai prati 2:09 José Carreras 13 En Romanza Final - Julian Gayarre BOITO, Arrigo (1842 - 1918) 1986

Dai campi, dai prati from Act 1 Scene 2
Giunto sul passo estremo from the Epilogue

LESSONS FROM THE OPERA: Better focus = the better opera. And naturally don't believe the devil.

Possible reading: Goethe's Faust, or just biograhies of Goethe.

For more reviews from my travels, see

I Puritani, by Bellini

My Puritani dates 1995-09-022004-02-282005-06-22.

All 3 in the same production, 2 in Wiener Staatsoper and one in Deutsche Oper Berlin.

Regie - John Dew
Scenography - Heinz Balthes
Costumes - Jose Manuel Vasquez

Video from another production with Edita Gruberova as Elvira

Place: England during the English Civil War
Time: 1640s

Queen Henrietta Maria, 1609-69 (In the opera Enrichetta ´di Francia) was married to King Charles the First 1600-1649 who was beheaded on 30 January 1649 (he was sentenced to death on 27 January 1649)

Wikipedia article on Charles I
Biography on the official website of the British monarchy
King Charles' speech from the scaffold
The Death Warrant of King Charles I - House of Lords Record Office

The role of Enrichetta ´di Francia is a small one but important for the story. Lord Arthur Talbot is a follower of Charles I and wants to save the Queen (Henrietta Maria, known as Queen Mary in England) from the same end as her husband. So as he is about to marry his love of his life, he instead helps Enrichetta to escape England. This is in a way a double treason, treason to Elvira and to his country. Then he comes back some months later he comes back. Little does he understand how she has suffered and that she has "gone mad". The stupid man with some glorious singing, that's Arturo.

The opera could have had an happy ending but Sir Riccardo Forth, the Puritan leader in love with Elvira, did not want that so he kills Arturo, even as Arturo has been pardoned by Oliver Cromwell. At least, that is what happened in the Puritani production I have seen.

When I first saw the opera in 1995 I had big problems in finding out who is who and where is the tenor, and what happens here and there. And it could have been Plácido Domingo who was conducting as he was the original conductor to this production. It is hard to know who to cheer when they are both men in dark cloths, one in dark green, the other in dark blue, and the stage is darkly lit and one does not even know how the tenor or baritone look like. But I think I enjoyed it even in 1995.

In 2004 and 2005 I knew the story and I really wanted a happy end. In 2004 in Vienna it was Stefania Bonfadelli who sang Elvira, in 2005 in Berlin it was Edita Gruberova. Both with tenor Joseph Calleja as Arturo.

I don't have any complete recording of I Puritani myself so I can't recommend any, but on my ITUNES I have this.

I PURITANI - Son salvo, alfin son salvo 15:38 Marcelo Alvarez, Ying Huang 6 av 10 Bel Canto - Marcelo Alvarez BELLINI, Vincenzo (1801 - 1835) 1998
I PURITANI - Introduzione 3:25 Conductor Plácido Domingo 1 av 10 Domingo Live - Recordings 1967-1999 (Wiener Staatsoper) BELLINI, Vincenzo (1801 - 1835) 1994
I PURITANI - A te, o cara, amor talora 3:33 Marcelo Alvarez 13 av 16 The Tenor's Passion - Marcelo Alvarez BELLINI, Vincenzo (1801 - 1835) 2004

LESSONS from the opera: Never leave a bride at the altar and think you can come back and that nothing has changed.

HISTORY: Read about The English Civil War (1642–1651)

For more reviews from my travels, see

Wednesday 3 August 2011

I Capuleti ed i Montecchi, by Bellini

I have experienced this opera live, but only in concert. That was in Oslo Concert House in 2001. I recommend the opera on CD with Edita Gruberova as Giulietta and Agnes Baltsa as Romeo.

Both the video from Youtube and the CD recording is from The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (London) 1984. The singing is superb!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lessons from the opera: Don't try to get your daughter to marry the one you like in stead of the one she LOVES. If the daughter's lover is the son of your enemy you should try to get to know him....  And naturally the final lesson ONLY IN OPERA is Death Beautiful and with wonderful singing.

You should buy the CD. The music is great.

For more reviews from my travels, see

Monday 1 August 2011

Norway - A narcissist attacks on 22.07-2011

Norway, Friday 2011-07-22. A man with a bomb to crush the Norwegian democracy in Oslo and with guns to kill the young generation of politicians. He wants a crusade against Islam in Europe.

But most of all he wants to be known as a hero. What a coward!! A 1500 pages long manifest, mostly copy and past eitt some of his own words inserted. But more than politics, it is mostly about himself how smart etc he is. Everywhere lies to make himself look better.


HEROES: all that survived Utøya killings or the Oslo bombings. All the helpers are also Heroes.

Rest In Peace, all our dead heroes, may you always inspire us to be better persons and to make Norway even better, more open and even more democratic and a warmer place!!!!!!!!