Monday 18 November 2013

My 3rd Verdi in Visir in Hamburg: I Lombardi (2013-11-17)

The opera evening ended well enough with meeting stars at the Backstage: Bühneeingang of Hamburg Staatsoper. Here a photo of the beautiful tenor Massilliano Pisipia who sang Arvino.

2013-11-17 I Lombardi alla prima Crociata (Verdi), Hamburgische Staatsoper

Arvino = Massimiliano Pisapia
Papano = John Relyea
Viclinda = Cristina Damian
Giselda = Elza van den Heever
Pirro = Szymon Kobylinski
Un Priore = Dovlet Nurgeldiyev
Acciano = Wilhelm Schwinghammer
Oronte = Dimitri Pittas
Sofia = Solen Mainguené

Simone Young, conductor
Philharmoniker Hamburg
Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper

Inszenierung - David Alden
Bühnenbild - Charles Edwards
Kostüme - Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Licht - Adam Silverman
Chor - Eberhard Friedrich

Third time did not have the charm. First I saw La Battaglia in Legnano that was a good enough production. Then I Due Foscari also OK, but. And now I LOMBARDI ALLA PRIMA CROCIATA. Where to begin?

I can start with the positive. Two great tenors, Massiliano Pisipia and Dimitri Pittas, as Arvino and Oronte. Loved also Vicinda, Gisenda and Sofia: Cristina Damian, Elza van den Heever and Sofia Mainguené. I was sorry not to see Viclinda and Sofia take their place at the end of the opera to get their very much deserved applause. John Relya was Papano and as the opera progressed he became more imposing by the minute.

The problem with I LOMBARDI lies with the words ALLA PRIMA CROCIATA. Was it any reason to update it in this way. It did not give anything to the story if it did anything it would be taking away. Then there is the opera itself, the text. It is no way to avoid the racist way Muslems are portrayed. I felt this production made it worse which is totally avoidable. To be a Christian and white means it is too easy just two say it was only 2 scenes so who cares. People who want to malign Muslims will find justifiing causes here. A Muslem wanting to be radicalezed will also find just cause here. Then there is the portraits of Christians, whether one choose to play them as nicer than the reality of the crusades, that would be wrong and as this production as a rather murderous horde, sadly more historically true, still not a good idea. 

I LOMBARDI is a musical gem from Giuseppe Verdi, but it is not something that one should put onstage without any cultural awareness. Can we afford to create a wider gap between Christians and Muslems? NO. Should I LOMBARDI ALLA PRIMA CROCIATA be staged, at all? 

Sunday 17 November 2013

My second Verdi in Visir in Hamburg (I due Foscari 2013-11-16)

Again my trio started with me worried about even coming there. This time it was the weather. Stormy weather of more extreme type than usually: landslide and closed mountain roads. Lots of rain creating bigger rivers or possible overswimming of roads. Finally a fierce storm with higher than normal waves.

I brushed it off at first. Then I decided to fly to Oslo and stay at a hotel. From work and suddenly off again. My flight was late. But I could still get my night in hotel before off to Hamburg via Munich. My hotel was Preuss. but when I came to the hotel I found out it was in the 4th floor and it seemed like a lot of bother and it was only a 3 star hotel so I cancelled that and chose the same hotel I stayed in to see La Battaglia di Legnano, Hotel Quality Ambassador which is a hotel that I can recommend to others.

The train S1 stopped in Hasselbreek because of work on the line so we had to take a bus to Berliner Tor, S1 extrabus. So I took the S21 to Dammtor and found Preuss. Gave that up. Back to Berliner Tor and then the familiar route to my new hotel.

Rested a bit and then back to Dammtor and to the Restaurant Opera. I was there a long time before my pizza arrived. Too many people had asked for pizza at the same time. Then finally to the opera, I Due Foscari.

2013-11-16 I due Foscari (Verdi), Hamburgische Staatsoper

Francesco Foscari = Andrzej Dobber
Jacopo Foscari = Giuseppe Filianoti
Lucrezia Contarini = Amarilli Nizza
Jacopo Loredano = Ziyan Atfeh
Barbarigo = Dovlet Nurgeldiyev
Pisana = Maria Markina
Fante del Consiglio = Sergiu Saplacan

Simone Young, conductor
Philharmoniker Hamburg
Chor der Hamburgischen Staatsoper

Inszenierung: David Alden
Bühnenbild: Charles Edwards
Kostüme: Brigitte Reiffenstuel
Licht: Adam Silverman
Choreografie: Maxine Braham
Chor: Eberhard Friedrich

This Due Foscari did not impress me immediately as La Battaglia di Legnano did. I did not warm up at once Giuseppe Filianoti and Amarilli Nizza. Andrzej Dobber was from the first moment on worth the whole trip himself. He is impressive as Doge Francesco Foscari. Amarilli Nizza may be a small woman off stage but she was a gigant onstage. Impressive singing that won me over from Amarilli Nizza. Was it my ear that deceived me or was she a bit hesitant in the beginning, who knows? Pyrotechnics she has. False notes seemed to come off Giuseppe Filianoti in his first scene but from those small misteps he climbed up to the top places.

The production was much like La Battaglia di Legnano. But. Yes, I know, BUT is not a full sentence and barely conceive any meaning still I must leave it like that. 

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Again Otello with Jose Cura, this time in Berlin (2013-11-09)

I almost did not get there. First I had a head-ache so severe that I had to go early from work and then straight to bed. So it did not seem to be a good idea to travel to Berlin this week-end. Two hours sleep and rest and then I could not be in my bedroom anymore. I was starting to feel much better.

Thinking about my travel to Berlin I realised that since I was taking an early flight with Air Berlin I would be able to get some sleep in my hotel before even going out on Saturday. I phoned Hotel an der Oper for some information and they were positive. So I dined and then made my last preparations and off I went.

Night bus to Gardermoen. 7 hrs and some sleep. Then fast through security and soon off to Berlin. It was just a bit over 8 in the morning when I arrived in Tegel airport, building C. I had some difficulty at first to find my bus. After asking for directions I quickly found the bus. I had naturally looked it up in Google maps but still I missed the nearest stop which was Bismarckstrasse I thought the end stop Zoologischer Garten was my stop.

At Zoologischer Garten U-Bahn station close to McDonald's was where I realised my error. But I was not lost. I had my Iphone with Google Maps and I turned on the 3g and then I could just go. Google Maps was good but I got lost at Ernst-Reuter-Platz. Then I was unlost again but not after going almost the whole circle. Then, finally at 10 in the morning, I was inside Hotel an der Opera and I got a big, nice room in the 4. floor. Internet was free and I got 2 vouchers but it was a very on and off experience. Mostly internet was off and unavailable so I had to be on 3g if I wanted some internet access. Not bad but it is not free to go roaming on 3g. 

Nice to be in Berlin. To be able to collect my ticket by walking over the street. Bismarckstrasse, lots of cars. It took me 10 minutes just to cross the lanes. Later I learnt how to make lights go green faster. I was in Berlin doing nothing. Just relaxing in my bed. Finding out where my bus stop was and how long time it would take to go there. The bus was going to Tegel airport every 10 minutes from Bismarckstrasse bus stop. Then I found a shopping centre and gave that up. I found the restaurant to have my dinner on this walk to. It opened at 16 it said. After more rest, listening to music, I was there 1645 and they were open but still vaccuming. So yes, they said, I was early but I was given a seat and the menu. 

The Don Giovanni restaurant was just what I wanted. The background music was not too bad. The service excellent and I loved my Don Ottavio pizza. The perfect pizza for me. I drank Cola light, naturally. And it was just perfect. I realised then that although I had just changed my stoma plate and pouch it was leaking. So I had just pay NOW. Then I paid and went with unseemly haste. Now I was even more carefull to make sure that my opera evening would not end like my dinner did. This time I must have done it right so I was saved, at last....

2013-11-09 Otello (Verdi), Deutsche Oper Berlin

Otello = José Cura
Desdemona = Barbara Frittoli
Jago = Marco Vratogna
Emilia = Katarina Bradic
Cassio = Matthew Newlin
Rodrigo = Clemens Bieber
Lodovico = Seth Carico
Ein Herald = Andrew Harris

Donald Runnicles, conductor

Director - Andreas Kriegenburg
Stage-design - Harald Thor
Costume-design - Andrea Schraad
Dramaturgie - Katharina John
Choir Conductor - William Spaulding
Children's Choir - Christian Lindhorst
Choreography - Zenta Haerter

I had forgotten how much I disliked this production when I saw it at the premiere, 30.05.2010. I felt no outrage this time just boredom. It was the female ballet dancer in the back of the stage that annoyed me. The dancing was as a comment to Jago's narration of the Cassio's dream. In one way a good idea. But the placement of the dancer in the stage room meant that I could either watch the dancer or the singers, and that made it a bad execution of an idea that could have been good. I wanted to see and understand the dynamics between Jago and Cassio but the movement of the dancer forced my eyes away from my goal. Putting distractions onstage is not good theatre. And do untimately this is the failing of the director Andreas Kriegenburg, the production itself works as a distraction against Verdi's Otello.

In midst of it all, here comes Otello, Jose Cura. Placido Domingo used to be the ultimate Otello, now we have Cura. From the moment Jose Cura comes in it becomes a better show, finally it is possible to throw oneself into the work. I have seem him several times as Otello before and in different productions but this was the best performance with the most beautiful and sublime phrased singing and a overwhelming acting. He was good before too but here is the matured Otello, the excellence that comes from being Otello in so many different productions. 

In one way we could say Cura singlehandedly a dull production to an exciting experience. To be fair I must say that Donald Runnicles conducting was a great part of the success. Marco Vratogna was singing and acting as if the role of Jago was tailormade for him. Barbara Frittoli was excellent as Desdemona, so warm. The vibrato was heavy in the first minutes but then the nervousness left and the lush, warm tones shone from Barbara Frittoli. Katarina Bradic sang and acted Emilia wonderfully. She made fine portrait of her role. Matthew Newlin made an excellent debut as Cassio. He was a joy to see and listen to.

After such a fine opera evening what can be better than to meet afterwards "backstage" with fans from  the Nordic Countries, Germany, Austria, Hungary, France, USA to name a few places. I guess Marco Vratogna was the MC-guy, Barbara Frittoli was also soon off. Jose Cura talked to his fans while the photos was flashing.

Then Saturday ended on this happy tune. After a good night sleep, breakfast alone and with friends it was time to go home. Bus to Tegel airport. Building C, gate 47, and then off to Norway. In Oslo it was airport train to Oslo main station, then bus back home. Home and it is 10 in the evening, 22.

Home! Home! Home!


Monday 4 November 2013

To Paris for a Golden and vapid Aida (2013-11-02)

The King = Carlo Cigni
Amneris = Luciana D’intino
Aida = Oksana Dyka
Radamès = Marcelo Alvarez
Ramfis = Roberto Scandiuzzi
Amonasro Sergey Murzaev
A messenger = Oleksiy Palchykov
High Priestess = Elodie Hache

Philippe Jordan, conductor 

Stage director - Olivier Py
Sets and costumes - Pierre-André Weitz
Lighting - Bertrand Killy
Chorus master - Patrick Marie Aubert

In the night bus to Oslo Airport Gardermoen and everything is going well. Just 40 minutes from the airport and the road is blocked because of an accident. Luckily 1,5 hours later it opens and so I am in time for my flight to Paris.

For the first time at Charles de Gaulle airport. My hotel is close to Opera Bastille and to Gare de Lyon so I took Les Cars de Air France ligne 4 to Gare de Lyon. The dreaded Charles de Gaulle airport was not so daunting, I liked Terminal 1. It took the bus almost 30 minutes just to go throught the airport stops and then 30 minutes to Gare de Lyon. The traffic machine of the CDG airport was a maze... I was worried if we weren't to stop at Gare de Lyon but going directly to Gare Montparnasse. But at last, Gare de Lyon. I recognised it all and could quickly walk in the right direction. Soon I was at my hotel, Hotel Luxor Bastille. And yes, this was one of those times when the room would not be ready until 1330 as the website said. So I went to my restaurant in Paris, Les Ateliers Americain and there I enjoyed a Pizza Vegetarienne and Cola light. 

50 Euro for a 2 star hotel. Hotel Luxor Bastille was OK for that prize, I guess. But no way would I use that elevator even as my room was on the 4th floor. It was just enough room for one person and perhaps some luggage but then it would crowded. So up I went. Slept a few hours. Went to my restaurant and had a wonderful calzone and Cola light. Then to the opera.

So Opera Bastille and Marcelo Alvarez as Radames in Verdi's AIDA. The sets was in gold. The costumes was black or golden or camouflage. We all know that Verdi was an Italian patriot and that his name was used to say discreetly that they wanted Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia. Etiopia became Italy, and Egypt became Austria and that did not make sense here. The director improvements of Aida was distractions and in bad taste. 

The singing was glorious, the conductor magnificent. I was happy in the beginning, no blackface. Alas, that was not to last... 

The opera started with man waiving a big, Italian flag behind the big golden building. Then soldiers dressed in camouflage caught him and beat him severely. Aida in black dress and blonde whig tried to help him. Amneris was also in a black dress with sparkly spots and blonde whig. Blond and white was name of Amneris followers. Aida rebelled and soon the whig was off. Radames was dressed in black as a general with gold streaks. Ramfis and his men was dressed as Catholic priests and monks. Ramfis was dressed in gold as Archbishop or Pope. 

Soldiers in camouflage, some times off with shirt, flexing muscles, eager always to use machines against anyone. OK. We get it, Austria was bad to Italians. Ballet meant a chance for bad taste to unfold. The blackest blackface to one of the dancers and then a red "egypt hat" with black, curly hair AND dancing in a kind of monkeytype dance AND beating of two camouflage soldiers. I had to look over the stage towards Amneris and friends and just avoid the stage floor. And what did it do for the opera NOTHING except BAD TASTE in whole body. Then there was the Holocaust looking like scene with lots of Dead, White Bodies and Radames strolling there with his water bottle. Also something in Bad Taste and Not Necessary.

This production was distracting when it should not be and it did not speak to me. All that wonderful musical talent and then we got a Golden, but Empty AIDA. Oksana Dyka was wonderful!!! Marcelo Alvarez wonderful!!!

When I left Opera Bastille I was SOOO happy I did not have to see it again. My number 10 Aida and sadly not one of the good ones. The Aida in Verona this summer does not seem so bad now.

It gave me a headache. Sunday off to Paris Charles de Gaulle and then bus home. The whole day just coming home again.