Friday 30 December 2011

OperaDuetsTravel Year 2011

The statistics, from 1981 till 2011, I have seen 267 different performances of Opera, Operetta etc (excluding concerts etc.) of 27 different composers and of 73 different Operas, operettas etc.

Giordano: Andrea Chenier I
Verdi: Stiffelio I
Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana IV
Leoncavallo: Pagliacci III
Puccini: Boheme I
Janacek: Jenufa I
Verdi: Nabucco I
Saint-Saens: Samson et Dalila I
Verdi: Corsaro I
Puccini: Villi I
Puccini: La Fanciulla del West I
Puccini: Madama Butterfly
José Carreras Concert I
Verdi: Oberto I
Verdi: Forza del Destino I
Verdi: Otello I
Verdi: Macbeth

7 Verdi Operas: Corsaro, Forza del Destino, Macbeth, Nabucco, Oberto, Otello, Stiffelio.
4 Puccini Operas: Boheme, Fanciulla del West, Madama Butterfly, Villi.

I have seen Agnes Baltsa 2 times, Josep Carreras 1 time, José Cura 10 times, Maria Guleghina 4 times.

In all a happy year for me, even if I was in hospital a few times.

For reviews from my travels, see

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Vien, Macbetto! (2011-12-27)

Today is my birthday, and yesterday I was in our wonderful opera house in Oslo. Since it is Christmas Holidays I at my parents home so it was just a bus trip (almost 2 hrs) to Oslo.

The director was Stein Winge with scenography and costumes by Tine Schwab. This production of Macbeth by Verdi was neither a scandal nor a dramatic tragedy. Neither, a sad word. It was good but not great. It was a production that managed the scenes with the witches well but did not manage to make us (or at least me) care about the characters.

The magnificent bass Magne Fremmerlid was Banquo and did a superb job. The young Italian baritone Claudio Sgura was Macbeth. The singing of Sgura was great, his acting too, but he was not given a big palette to draw from. Stein Winge's idea made Macbeth from first note a flawed and weak man, and so he was from beginning to end. Lady Macbeth was sung by Itziar M. Galdos, who started weak but ended with a breathtaking sleepwalking scene. Brava!! But in the first aria of Lady Macbeth Stein Winge made her go from one side of the stage to the other aimlessly, so against the music and the words, not wonder Itziar M. Galdos even sounded unfocused. Luckily from the first aria she was simply better and better. The whole house should have stood up and cheered after the sleep walking scene but then Claudio Sgura was onstage and it was in so many ways Claudio's show. Daniel Johansson was Macduff and his rendition of Macduff's aria was one the best I have ever heard.

What is the problem with Macbeth, the opera of Verdi? Usually one talks of the supernational elements, the witches, and that Verdi was not his best in this elements. But in this production those scenes worked well. Some critics disliked the fact that it was just women in anoraks, but I disliked the laughter of the witches. The main thing was that it worked. The way Stein Winge incorporated the witches and some symbolic in the rest of the opera was exciting. He made us think that some of the women (all) of the royal court was also witches.

The King Duncan is no virtuos man if one is going by the way he imposes himself on the Lady Macbeth and jovially "Macbetto!!"  to Macbeth and gives Macbeth a medaille. As all goes to the party, Macbeth remains alone. Why? Because in this production Macbeth is essentially a loner? Or just because the opera has to go on. Macbeth has many of these loner moments, or just laying down passively, or fainting. Who can care for this man? Does the Lady? Is she really the strong one of the two? Who is Lady Macbeth and what is her motivation? The portraits of Macbeth and his Lady are just skin deep, so the opera is boring but the music is glorious. The scene from Macduff comes to wake up the King, the murder and procession of the dead body of Duncan is just glorious. A highlight.

It is sad to see so many opera dirctor is doing the same thing, in Macbeth a refugee choir with their photos of loved ones. I started to think about copyright, whose photos and was permission given to use these photos in this way. Frankly I found it disrespectful. And was there even a need to use photos, no, I think we would have understood the plight of refugees without it.

When I was back again it was already December 28th, and my birthday!!

For reviews from my travels, see

Sunday 18 December 2011

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark in December. COLD, freezing, too many students also going "Home for Christmas".

The night bus was full. The night bus was full. Really full. So with 2 buses and some maxi taxis all got their chance to come home. Wonderful. I was lucky to find a seat in the first bus. Even luckier in actually getting some sleep there, sitting upright in my sleep. Luck, luck, luck in a really full bus but at least I was not freezing and I got some sleep, how many minutes, hours that I don't know. From Oslo airport bus to Gardermoen airport. Everything went well. And I could have some breakfast there. And it was the normal breakfast, Pizza Vegetar with Pepsi Max. Oh, I meant unnormal, because normally I don't eat.

I had plans beyond going to the new opera house in Copenhagen that I would also eat, I mean eat out, in restaurants. Well, unfortunately my quest for food started at the BurgerKing in Copenhagen Airport. I thought I was saying CHICKEN BURGER and Pepsi Light, she interpreted it as Cheeseburger Menu. Tiny, tiny cheese burger with a very BLAND taste. And the pommes frites, depressing. Pepsi Light was OK, but I wanted FOOD. I was in the wrong place of course and I am sure if only I had corrected the mistake at once, but I was sleep-deprived, or so I tell myself. The only good thing that happened at Burger King was that I decided to stay at Hilton Hotel in Copenhagen Airport. Then my Quest for Food dozed off while I slept for 2 hrs in my wonderful Hotel Hotel bed.

After buying the 24 hrs tickets for train, metro, buses in the Copenhagen area (70DKK) I took the train to Copenhagen Main Train Station and bus 66 to the Opera. Alas, too early, the opera house was not open yet, so I could not have my dinner there. My phone was almost empty, my mother wanted the phone number for my hotel. So I decided to go back. I took bus 66 back but at the wrong station I was off. Then I took another bus thinking that would take me to the train station but that was a misunderstanding. The bus was slow, the lights turned to red all the time. I asked the driver and he pointed me to another bus. But then I saw a sign that indicated that I could take the metro to the airport. So I did. But the strike made the train stop longer at the Main Train Station, so I had time to get a bit nervous. And the train was so slow. But at least I had a seat unlike on the bus. Then back to hotel room. Just to turn back. Another train to Main Train Station, but TAXI to the opera. NOT CHEAP. Almost the double as the 24 hrs ticket. But I was in time. Luckily I had enough money to buy the program. Met a lot of friends, some new. But my Quest for Food, had been reduced to some tiny, but delicious Chicken Burger at McDonalds. McDonalds, your friend in need.

Thanks to my high (or) minimal survival skills I managed to enjoy the operas.

I enjoyed Cavalleria Rusticana. I actually did enjoy it. Irene Theorin was Santuzza in this production by director Kasper Holten with set designs by Mia Stensgaard and costumes by Anja Vang Kragh. She was on the stage during the whole opera with just a few seconds off. The director was really good in how the actions of Turriddu, Santuzza, Lola, Mamma Lucia and Alfio really reflected the persons' reality. The chorus did not get the individuel treatment. Here the chorus are mostly just a crowd, a menacing group, that acts with cruelty almost all the time. The director is really using the chorus to hammer us with the cruelty of the situation of Santuzza. This is the modern way of opera production: nothing is allowed to be nuanced, not if one can just hammer it down. Still. I enjoyed it. The music was beautifully played. Irene Theorin was close to an ideal Santuzza, even if one could still notice a wide vibrato. José Cura sang one of his best Turriddus. Hanne Fischer was a joy as Lola, what a voice, lush, beautiful, and full. One could actually believe Turriddu to fall for her, and to be so blind to Lola just being so totally self-sentered. Randi Stene was wonderful as Mamma Lucia. The role doesn't give her much to work on, sadly this production makes her even more invisible. Mamma Lucia is here reduced to a woman who almosts begs the people to buy her wine. Fredrik Zetterström was Alfio. Either he had a cold and could not sing out, or the role was simply beyond his vocal means, but as an actor he owned the role.

I also enjoyed Pagliacci. Yes. José Cura was Canio in this production by director Paul Curran with set designs by Mia Stensgaard and costumes by Anja Vang Kragh. There was so much to enjoy in this production but then there was the bafflements. The Church and the church step with the Virgen Mary statue from Cavalleria Rusticana was now bombed and American flags was everywhere. A depressed Italy? after a the war with nurses, wounded soldats (American?) is present but what are they doing to this Pagliacci production? It is just a blackdrop and it is not utilized in any way that I could see. The cast was wonderful with José Cura being the best Canio ever, Sine Bundgaard was a magnificent Nedda, and Michael Kristensen as Beppe and Palle Knudsen as Silvio was two additional beautiful voices. The prologue with Tonio, Fredrik Zetterström was met with a thunderous applause. The poor guy was so close to losing his voice several times during the prologue, but he was so good an actor one could forget almost everything.

When the prologue started we are looking at a stage curtain of the church and churh steps with the Maria statue and Silvio is painting on it. Then they come on the stage, Beppe, Tonio, Canio and Nedda. They are carrying their stuff. Here we see what a life Nedda is suffering. Always asked to carry more than the rest of the guys. Not respected by Canio or really anyone. She is on the bottom in this troupe.  It is not Tonio who is last and least important, but Nedda. (But without her who would come to see them.) For the first time I could really feel for Nedda and the duet between her and Silvio made even more on Nedda's side. And then there is her voice.... magic. A great Vesti la giubba by Cura, his whole performance was simply gold. In the end Canio kills Nedda by slicing her throat or something, but it is opera so she could still say SILVIO. Then Silvio is killed by the same method. In the end LA COMMEDIA E FINITA, and Canio kills himself too. 3 deaths, and almost an Otello ending.

José Cura came out after the performance I gave him my photobook of my best Cura photos. He seemed to like it. He complimented me on it. I was totally happy. "I'm in heaven".

Then it was going back again. Tired, hungry, waiting for bus 66, but luckily not alone. Oh happiness, oh friendship. Finally the bus comes. We can sit, be warm, and talk. We both loved it. We both wanted food. So naturally at Main Train Station we found some food. Not an restaurant not really great decent food, actually I missed to have another, or 2 or 3 chicken burgers. Took a bite at my hotel, and no more. 0030 in the hotel.  Then up at 0600. Paying. Security, food?. 0815 SAS flight to Oslo. Then finally eating the muffins from Copenhagen Airport's Starbucks. Tried to drink up all the cola zero before Security again. Finally Vegetar Pizza (1 slice) and Pepsi Max in PizzaHut. Then wait. Until 1230. Going to gate. The Take off time 1335 was 1415 then they tell us that most airports are almost impossible to land because of snow. So it could be an round trip to Oslo. But we landed after a few trial rounds at 1515.  So now I think I am tired.

Tomorrow is work day with a LONG meeting and up early, travel... SLEEP...

For more reviews from my travels, see
If you want to see more photos from my OperaDuets Travels, go to

Sunday 11 December 2011

Anna Bolena with Katia Ricciarelli 
Anna Bolena - Katia Ricciarelli
Enrico - Evgeny Nesterenko
Giovanna - Stefania Toczyska
Percy - Francisco Araiza
Rochefort - Riccardo Lombardi
Smeton - Elena Zilio
Hervey - Jorge Pita
 Conductor - Giuseppe Patane
Orchestra - Wiener Symphoniker
Chorus - Bregenz Festival Chorus
For reviews from my travels, see

Sunday 4 December 2011

Amazing grace

About Amazing Grace.

For reviews from my travels, see

Adeste fideles


O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant!
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of Angels:

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God,
Light of Light,
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb;
Very God,
Begotten, not created:

Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of Heaven above!
Glory to God
In the highest:

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!

The following verses are generally attributed to Wade and correspond to the English verses given above.

Adeste fideles laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte Regem angelorum.
Venite adoremus (ter)

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,
Gestant puellae viscera.
Deum verum, genitum non factum.
Venite adoremus (ter)

Cantet nunc 'Io', chorus angelorum;
Cantet nunc aula caelestium,
Gloria! Soli Deo Gloria!
Venite adoremus (ter)

Ergo qui natus die hodierna.
Jesu, tibi sit gloria,
Patris aeterni Verbum caro factum.
Venite adoremus (ter)

There are additional Latin verses in various sources. For example:

En grege relicto, humiles ad cunas,
Vocati pastores adproperant:
Et nos ovanti gradu festinemus,
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
Venite adoremus Dominum.

(From Wikipedia)

For reviews from my travels, see

Andrea Chenier by Umberto Giordano

I have seen Andrea Chenier 4 times: 1998-10-18, 2004-02-13, 2007-10-17, 2011-01-29.

4 different productions, 4 cities.

Andrea Chenier is a historical person who died during the times of the French Revolution or rather during the terror reign of Robespierre. The love story is fiction, Carlo Gerard is a person that could have existed. 

The opera cannot be so easily set in another because it is set so firmly on historical ground. The last Andrea Chenier that I saw in Berlin (2011) was good but making Carlo Gerard to only pretend to be wounded was bad and stupid. From Barcelon (2007) a I remember der whiteness of the scenography and costumes and the falling of the guilliotine after each act. Vienna had a beautiful production very true to history or so it seem, my only regret is that I did not have a better camera. From Zurich (1998) I do not remember much but certainly it was a straight-forward telling of the story and I loved Gabriele Lechner as Maddalena.

For reviews from my travels, see

Saturday 3 December 2011

The Question of Regie??

Regietheater (German for director's theater or producer's theater) is a term that refers to the modern (mainly post-World War II) practice of allowing a director (or producer) freedom in devising the way a given opera (or play) is staged so that the composer's original, specific stage directions (where supplied) can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. (From Wikipedia)
Sometimes called Modern Opera Productions. But what does one really want from an opera production?

Who creates an opera? We have the composer and the librettist, of course. Then we have the singers, the orchestra and the conductor. The we have the theatre director, the costume designer, the scenographer. Then it all has be backed up by the opera house or theatre and its management.

I have often thought that the perfect opera is when one does not notice the conductor because the music flows so naturally and when one does not notice the director because it all happens so real and natural onstage. And it is perfect when one just simply accept how the stage is without realizing there have to be someone behind it (the scenographer). And the same about the costumes it all seems to be right for the persons and situations.

That idea is simply more for the Tradional Opera Production.

What about the Modern Opera Productions? Does it have to be crap? Offensive?

Crap: Opera directors that superimpose their own ideas unto the opera so that the opera and the actions in the opera are even more stupid than ever. Offensive: Opera director puts a lot of sex, rape, racism etc. into the opera without much thought of how it effects the understanding of the opera. Sometimes too much thought has been on the offensive elements and too little on the rest. Sometime it is just too much, too often.

Does the opera director analyze the opera first? A thorough analysis of the work could have made opera productions even better. Modern of Tradional, who cares? I just want it to be good (??). There are so many elements in an opera. It is really different than straight theatre, but it is THEATRE even if it is OPERA. The text needs to be analyzed, who are the persons, their relation to each other, the time and expectations of that time. The music needs to be analyzed, eg. what does that clarinet solo mean before the tenor sings... Scenography, what needs to be present in that scene so that it can play out. The action in the opera plays out in what time in history, what is important to know in order to be true to the time and the opera.

Updating the opera? How and when, and what time would it be appropriate to put it in? Lazy thinking here, and the opera might just fall flat. Deep thinking and maybe it could be the Greatest Opera Production. Partially updating the opera? Just put modern cloths on, it is cheaper than an 1500th century extravaganza. Could work.

For reviews from my travels, see