Monday 28 November 2011

Roberto Devereux by Donizetti

I saw Roberto Devereux twice: 2001-05-12, 2002-09-30. And I have seen the video with Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras. I love the music. It is a "historical" opera with historical persons. But how historical correct is it? Was Queen Elizabeth I of England and Robert Devereux, the 2nd Earl of Essex really as portrayed in this opera? Usually the answer is no because historical opera is seldom historical correct.

I have read Treason In Tudor England by Lacey Baldwin Smith
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 771 KB
Print Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Vintage Digital (July 8, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English
First published 1986.

"Treason in Tudor England" is an interesting book. It is easy to read, yet scholarly. As I was half way into the book I started to feel deceived and thought it would never get to Robert Devereux. The chapters has great titles but nothing in the beginning of the book indicated when is it going to be about Robert Devereux even if approx. half the book is about him. It starts with the story of treason in Tudor England but then suddenly it is about the education system, religion and politics. The subtitle is Politics and Paranoia. And it does show that Tudor England was a paranoid society. Only after reading about education, religion and politics at the court can one start to understand why so many who tried treason did it in such a stupid and backhanded way. Then it is all about Robert Devereux. He became a favorite of Elizabeth because of his fresh way of being. But he was too honest for the court life and his narcistic traits with his evergrowing paranoia made him his own enemy.

Of course the opera is quite another thing. In the opera the downfall of Devereux is more about love. Roberto and Sara was in love. Then came the Irish expedition that Devereux lead. When he came back Sara had become the wife of the Duke of Nottingham (that marriage was willed by the Queen). When Nottingham got suspicious of his friend and wife he suddenly was willing to make the Queen execute Devereux when she was inclined to pardon him.

Historical persons
Queen Elizabeth I of England (Elisabetta)
Charles Howard, 1st Earl of Nottingham (The Duke of Nottingham)
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex (Roberto Devereux)
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury (Lord Cecil)
Walter Raleigh (Sir Gualtiero Raleigh)
For reviews from my travels, see

Wednesday 23 November 2011

I am thoroughly offended by Graham Vick's Otello

It is not just the most heavyhanded regie of all heavyhanded regie. It is not Giuseppe Verdi's Otello anymore, even as the singing and music was beautiful, it was just too racist. If Vick wanted to say that racism was bad, why all the racist imaginery and no outrage.

From the moment I saw the desk on stage and understood that Otello would be onstage during the chorus singing during the "storm" that they see the sail of Otello's ship I knew it would be bad. But I still did not think it that bad. Then as Otello was seated at his desk, he blackened his face in a military vein, but the chorus found themselves suddenly blackened from the palm of their hands too so they went mad. All this happened while singing Verdi's music and Boito's text that certainly was about something else, stupid and offensive in so many ways... "Esultate! L'orgoglio musulmano" when Otello walking from the desk and to the microphone and of course a text window the words "Esultate l'orgoglio musulmano sepolto in mar" repeated over and over again. Then it is Jago and Rodrigo talking. Of course offensive posters come and go during the whole opera... "Fuoco di gioia" the people sing it naturally with video of fire destroying oil fields, houses etc, planes with deadly cargo and white people singing about the joys of fire (destruction). And we are still just a few minutes into the opera... I wanted off this madness, but it had just begun.

So "Roderigo, beviam" starts with a tanks coming onstage. New idea, not. The tanks has Cassio and Monna Bianca making out. And naturally almost all the other people onstage is engaged in something slightly sexual. Old idea, yes. Rodrigo makes Cassio drunk with a drinking competion. OK. Then of course Montano comes and Cassio is goaded into fighting. Then Otello comes out and stops it. One thing that was good in this production and with Thomas Hampson as Jago was that one could see why Otello trusts Jago. Hampson makes Jago a man who on the surface is a friendly man, and of course Otello can see only skin deep. Except one thing that hampers this production is that no matter how great an Otello Jose Cura is in this production he is a white man so why do people call him a moor?

Desdemona comes out still in her white wedding dress. But everybody is dressed in white except Cassio, Rodrigo and other military men, Otello wears white too. Finally it is time for the love duet. Fiorenza Cedolins is Desdemona, but although she is Italian and the opera is in Italian it is very hard to understand what she is singing. All the others poses no such problem. Cedolins is a fine actress but I don't feel she is a Desdemona yet.

Would the second act be better? No. Instead of a tank on stage now it is an burnt-out car and a few palm trees for the garden of Desdemona. Jago talks to Cassio, and then Jago's Credo. Naturally with children, 6 boys, possibly muslem boys. Why? Modern directors distrusts monologues. Stupid and offensive use of children, and it does not even make sense why they are so obedient and how do they know what to do. Then naturally everything goes as Jago plans, even Otello comes in the right moment. Desdemona with children and adults singing her praise, while Emilia takes photos of Desdemona with various muslem people, they are behind barbed wire. Are we in Iraq or in Cyprus? Vick seems to be in Iraq, Verdi in Cyprus. I choose Verdi and declare that Vick does not make sense. Luckily the interaction between Jago and Otello is believable and the quartet between Otello, Desdemona, Jago, Emilia is also great interaction and singing. Jago manages to make Otello believe in Desdemona's guilt.

After the interval back to Vick's Otello. Act 3 a video camera, different big flags, and a tribune for the people to sit on. A table with wine and glasses, a white sofa, a white chair. Otello in white military suit. Jago in a very formal and black militar suit, he almost looks like a general. The camera man is dismissed when Desdemona comes in, Desdemona and Otello each gets their playing with the camera. Desdemona playful in the beginning of the duet, Otello sinister later on. I think this was good acting.

Then "that awful word". The stage hands brought in a big poster of two white hands clasping, peace. The poster of peace was there to hide Otello so that he could see and listen to Jago and Cassio without Cassio noticing. Then the back was turned to Otello, in this production a White Man, on that space it said "nigger". Not only was it there, but it was only reacted on by Otello and for such a short time. Nobody on stage reacted. Jago did not blink, the stage hands. Had Graham Vick taken all the other offensive ideas and posters and left that word, still that word sinks the whole work. Why such an offense without at least some outrage about the racism? Why? If Vick wanted to make a statement and making Otello anti-racist he managed just the opposite.

Then the stage is set for videotaping of Lodovico giving Otello the letter from the Venetian Doge. So Otello's nasty asides to Desdemona while he on microphone, it makes sense? And then "A terra e piangi" where Desdemona instead of walking nobly and firmly to the indicated spot Cedolins chooses to almost faint. Otello sits on the sofa and eats the letter from the Doge, yes he is now mad. Then he shouts " all out" and Jago can gloat who will prevent me from killing him. Ecco il leone, indeed.

4 act is really mostly like all Otello's except there is no bed.

Offensive and stupid I am glad I never have to see this again. To all who was offended by this production I say I AM SO SORRY. This was racist shit but it was not Shakespeare, Verdi or Boito's fault. You know who I blame.

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Tuesday 22 November 2011

Parigi, o cara, noi lasceremo

How was Paris? I saw the Eiffel tower from afar, so don't tell me I was no tourist.
Downloaded the Paris Metro app, so how did you like it? I liked it, after all I was down into St. Lazaire metro station, but I went up again because my French was lacking. I love Paris Taxis, spent my money on them.
So, only opera, did not see much then? I walked in Paris for 3 hrs at one time. I walked down Rue de Rome many times, and I found Hotel Westin where I managed to give the concierge the photobook so that he could give it to Maria Guleghina. So my stay was not uneventful, but to say it was the usual tourist stay in Paris would be wrong.

I like Paris so I think I will come back. Next time I hope I will have better time to play the tourist. I saw the Louvre from one of my taxi rides, and that was enough. Since I love Verdi's Don Carlos I would love to see Fontainebleu.

And now the full story of my Paris stay.

Saturday November 19, 2011

Arrive in Aeroporte d'Orly. It was close to 11 when finally the baggage came. Never have it been so confusing to find the baggage reclaim. Walking, walking, stairs, and then where? Finally there. After finding my baggage, I found me a taxi and so soon I was in my hotel. And before 12 I was in my hotel room. It was lovely. I rested in my room. 1430-1730 walking in Paris, found Hotel Westin and the concierge could give my book to Maria Guleghina.

Soon it was time for Oberto by Verdi in Theatre des Champs-Elysee. Concert version. From the first notes of the ouverture it was definitely Verdi. The first opera by Giuseppe Verdi, so of course it was young Verdi that some times sounded a bit like the older opera composers. Valter Borin sang Riccardo as Fabio Sartori was unwell. He sang Riccardo's two arias beautifully. In Oberto the tenor (Riccardo) is the villain and the bass (Oberto) is the hero.

Maria Guleghina with blond hair and glasses, she looked wonderful. Unfortately she was not well so sometimes the planned execution of notes did succed, but she was still able to make this Leonora a special treat. For those that simply does not like Maria Guleghina even tried to pin the the cutting of caballettas to the soprano, but it was more Radio France etc.

Ekaterina Gubanova sang the role of Princess Cuniza. The mezzo-soprano was in great shape and showed the noble Cuniza in all her glory.

Michele Pertusi was Oberto, father of Leonora and the enemy of Riccardo. Oberto is obsessed with honour. For modern eyes Oberto is too into himself and his own feelings to think what actions would mean for his daughter. Riccardo on the other hand only realize how wrong he has acted after he kills Oberto. Michele Pertusi was wonderful as Oberto, naturally.

After the concert I was invited backstage to the artists room. I was too starstrucked to speak two words with Maria Guleghina, but she liked the photobook so I was more than content.

Before midnight I was back in my hotel.

Sunday November 20, 2011

Il Marchese di Calatrava = Mario Luperi
Donna Leonora = Violeta Urmana
Don Carlo di Vargas = Vladimir Stoyanov
Don Alvaro = Marcelo Alvarez
Preziosilla = Nadia Krasteva
Padre Guardiano = Kwangchul Youn
Fra Melitone = Nicola Alaimo
Curra = Nona Javakhidze
Mastro Trabuco = Rodolphe Briand

Philippe Jordan, conductor

Stage director - Jean-Claude Auvray
Sets - Alain Chambon
Costumes - Maria Chiara Donato
Lighting - Laurent Castaingt
Choreography - Terry John Bates
Chorus master - Patrick Marie Aubert
Paris Opera Orchestra and Chorus

If only La forza del destino at Opera Bastille started in the evening then I could have time to play the tourist in Paris. But the opera started 1430. I had read a review of it so I was prepared for a minimalistic version. I was surprised it was very colourful and vivid. I was also prepared for perhaps Marcelo Alvarez would not be singing. But he sang. And he was great as Don Alvaro. I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Violeta Urmana as Leonora, but she was amazing. Vladimir Stoyanov was also much better as Don Carlo di Vargas than the review said.

The production had a lot that was good. The biggest surprise was that it did not start with the ouverture this time the opera started in the Calatrava castle. After this scene came the ouverture, one of the best performances of the iconic piece. The only thing I would critize Urmana is her use of her arm to show despair, 3 times the same gesture and it gets old. Nadia Krasteva was a wondeful Preziosilla but unfortunately her role was vulgarized by the director. That Preziosilla would walk off with "Pereda" after the scene in the taberna, was not to my liking and not how I understood Preziosilla. Nicola Alaimo was Fra Melitone, too comic and extreme, maybe. Kwangchul Youn was simply wonderful as Padre Guardiano. Mario Luperi was a fine Marchese di Calatrava.

I loved it, even if it had some weakness. After the opera I waited at the stage door, and I saw Kwangchul Youn, Violeta Urmana, Marcelo Alvarez and Nadia Krasteva.

After the opera I was hungry and so I made a mistake of choosing American Atelier near Opera Bastille and ordered a cheese burger. I should have chosen the Italian restaurant near my hotel, Hotel Opera Batagnolles.

Next day off to Zurich.

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Saturday 19 November 2011

My first Oberto by Verdi

Oberto is a great opera by Verdi. A bit confusing with its honour, duels, and becoming a nun in stead of marrying the man one loves. Valter Borin sang the two great tenor arias beautifully and with passion. The first aria comes right after the ouverture, the second almost ends it. The last aria was breath-taking. Maria Guleghina sang Leonora, her arias are grest, difficult, but did a wonderful job. Both Borin and Guleghina suffers from coughs, both in the audience (loud) and their own (discrete). Michele Pertusi was great as Oberto. The two mezzo-sopranos Ekaterina Gubanova (Cuniza) and Sophie Pondjiclis (Imelda) was also briliant. Carlo Rizzi was a great conductor. - and now I have a head ache. November 19, 2011 Paris.

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Friday 18 November 2011

30 years OperaDuets Travel 1981-2011

On May 22, 2011 it was 30 years since my first OperaDuets Travel. I was not yet OperaDuets because no internet. But it was still Travel because we, my parents and I, had to travel to Oslo to see Die Csardasfürstin, operetta by Emmerich Kálmán, in Den Norske Opera (The National Opera of Norway, sic). Den Norske Opera lived in the Opera Passage and was a former cinema became theatre and then Opera.

From 1981 I went regularly in the opera. First it was mostly once in a year. Then it became more often. I was 13 years in 1981. So in the beginning I needed my parents to go with me, and they did. Already in 1982 we went to Stockholm on a small holiday travel and used the opportunity to see Der Rosenkavalier in the Opera House there. In 1985 we went to Vienna for our summer holiday and saw two operettas. In 1987 I insisted that we should go to Bad Ischl, Austria, because it had a Franz Lehar Operetta Festival, so we saw Der Graf von Luxemburg.

1989 was my first big opera year with 12 performances and my dad and I went to Edinburgh because of the Edinburgh Festival to see zarzuela and Montserrat Caballé. 1990 was the first time I saw Josep Carreras live. In 1992 my parents and I went to St.Johann in Tirol, Austria for our summer holiday and while we were there I managed to get a ticket for a concert with Josep Carreras in Innsbruck. My mother got real stressed out but I got a wonderful concert on my own. In 1993 I lived in Bergen, so I got 2 operas there, and a Christmas Concert with Carreras in Oslo. In 1995 I Carreras 3 times, 2 concerts and 1 opera.

Although 1996 only had 3 performance it was one of the best years because I got Samson et Dalila with Baltsa and Carreras, and 2 three tenors concerts. In 1997 there was disappointment during summer holiday in Vienna since Carreras did not sing Stiffelio, a wonderful opera gala in Hamburg with Agnes Baltsa, Josep Carreras and Isabel Rey, then the opera Fedora with Agnes Baltsa and new tenor José Cura where my choice of a cheap seat will alway be a regret.

With 1998 I really do OperaDuets Travel. May 1998 weekend travel to Zurich for  Carreras, to Vienna for Agnes Baltsa and Plácido Domingo. October 1998 a whole week in Zurich with  a short visit to Vienna in order to get 2 times Fedora with Agnes Baltsa, José Cura is Loris in Vienna, Carreras is Loris in Zurich. In 1999 it was to travel in May for Agnes Baltsa in Fledermaus, in November Agnes Baltsa sang Fides in Le Prophete.

From the year 2000 my years are so filled with wonderful memories. Samson et Dalila with Agnes Baltsa and José Cura on June 10, 2000 is a special memory. Carreras Gala in Vienna 2004 + Verdi Gala in Parma 2004. Agnes Baltsa in operas like Carmen, José Cura as Stiffelio etc. Maria Guleghina as Abigaille, Tosca, Turandot etc.

For reviews from my travels, see

Monday 14 November 2011

Soon off to... Paris

Paris, France, a new city for me...

What do I need to know?
Mostly where, when and how...

Aeroports de Paris
Paris by train
WikiTravel - Paris

Wow, I am starting to feel overwhelmed already.

OrlyVal to Paris ...

Metro Map...

Opera Bastille

Opéra Bastille

120 Rue de Lyon, 75012 Paris, France

+33 1 43 47 13 22 ‎

Theatre des Champs-Elysees

Théâtre des Champs-Elysees

15 Avenue Montaigne, 75 008 Paris, France

+33 1 53 23 99 19 ‎ ·

For reviews from my travels, see

Saturday 5 November 2011

New biographies: Katia Ricciarelli & José Carreras

I read Katia Ricciarelli's self-biography first. It is in Italian but I could still understand most of it. My understanding of the Italian text was made easy by having a subject I knew something about, opera, and by my reading of the libretti alongside listening to operas (I would read the English, French, German and Italian text side by side and get some insight from that). 

"Altro di me non saprei narrare" starts with Katia Ricciarelli's musings about how to write an honest biography about oneself. She is very honest in her book but it is not a gossip biography. She tells how she met José Carreras and that they had a relationship but that it ended, she is sad, but accepts it and still hold José Carreras in high regard. Similarly her marriage with Pippo Baudo and their divorce is not opened for the gossiper, she has too much respect for herself and her ex and family to do that. Still this is a very open person telling herself as far as she can just like the title promises.

"Aus vollem Herzen" is a biography of José Carreras with Marius Carol. The text shifts from Carreras talking to Marius Carol telling the stories. Unfortunately Marius Carol seem to be too much of a fan of the man Carreras to give deep insight into Carreras. But then Carreras had probably veto right on what stays in the book. Carreras is a very private man so the affair with Katia Ricciarelli is not there, not even in one sentence. Nothing about Mercedes, his first wife, except what a great mother she was and how supportive of Carreras. Nothing about the divorce, one sentence maybe. And about Jutta, his wife today, not much about her except she is a wonderful person, wonderful wife, mother. I understand, it is private. His mother is the only woman who gets a more full treatment. But Katia Ricciarelli, Montserrat Caballé & Agnes Baltsa: Katia is mostly ignored, Caballé and Baltsa both gets his lack of approval in being temperamental diva. And they are the three most important operatic partners for Carreras. He does adore Montserrat Caballé, she gets her own chapter almost, except that her brother Carlos Caballé get in it, too.  Did I learn more of Carreras from this new book? Yes, but I prefere the old self-biography: "Singing with from the soul"

For reviews from my travels, see

Thursday 3 November 2011

Back to work, blog and interests

I am feeling better and finally back on my blog.

you are probably not surprised this is one of my chief interests.

I love reading, and I love the idea of books as learning pools. Academic books are important but so is fiction books. Above all is important word QUALITY. Neither type of books should use facts lightly, it should never falsely claim to know something if you have not studied it or lived it.

I am a librarian, and I think libraries are important. Why? Because knowledge is important. Although I work in an academic library I think that public libraries are even more important because to be able to get real knowledge is (or should be) a human right. Public libraries are important because there all sort of people can get knowledge. So it must be free to use the public libraries, easy access to a public library for all, and the public libraries need to have all sorts of books and today it is important to have an internet connection. All libraries around the world should participate in making it possible to get the book or information wanted whether the request is from Soweto or Oslo.

I am a human, I have rights. But I have also privileges. The privileges that I have are mine because not all get their human rights as they should. In a just world all would have their human rights (like freedom, nutrition, schools, possibilities) and no one would have privileges that are not shared with the rest of world. Yes, I am a dreamer, but wouldn't it be wonderful? It would be hard for the privileged people but great for the rest.

I watch Animal Planet. The program is diverse but I don't agree with all of it. Why should people think it is OK to own Exotic Animals as Pets, it is not OK, it is almost as bad as EcoCrime. We rob the animals of habitats, we create dog and cats that would die if they were to give birth by themselves. Ego drives us. Animals are animals, not human babies. You don't really become the animals mother, father or sibling. They are not human, but they still need your understanding their real needs. They don't need human food, they need food that are right for that particular species etc. If you own animals you must understand that you must go to a veterinatian when they are hurt. If you don't have money to care proper care to your pets, then you should not have them. Don't just kill them but see if you can find someone that can give them a real home.

For reviews from my travels, see