Tag Archives: Alice Coote

Top five most read blog posts of 2012

29 Dec

Top FiveIn the spirit of end of year lists, I thought I’d pull together a list of the five most read posts on this blog. If you’ve landed on this page from Google or a third party it may be a good introduction to what George’s Musings/OperaCreep was all about.

1. My little investigative report telling the story of a fantasist that survived on his wits and telling interminable lies, attracted a lot of interest and made it the most read item on the blog by a wide margin.

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/a-story-of-deception-paul-j-guest/

2. A little post on the queen of the UK popera scene, Katherine Jenkins was very popular. It seems her fans and foes like  to search for articles about her latest foray in light entertainment.

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/katherine-jenkins-is-steppin-out/

3. Was very lucky to be at the world première by Birmingham Opera of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch Aus Light. It was an extraordinary, near indescribable evening. The whole proposition of a Cultural Olympiad seemed just a  polite empty gesture by the government. But I am delighted the Olympic cash made this ambitious production possible. During such a deep recession and with an anti-arts government it was the most pleasant surprise of the year!

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/mittwoch-aus-licht/

4. The collaboration with Claire Pendleton was a source of jollity and insight. Was delighted to work with her and it seems a lot of people were happy to read them.

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/heres-claire/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/beginning-of-rehearsals/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/sitzprobe-eno-julietta-blog/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/stage-rehearsals-eno-julietta-blog/

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/dress-rehearsal-eno-julietta-blog/

5. Alice Coote’s return to sing Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall was undeniably one of the early highlights of musical London in 2012. This performance cemented her reputation as one of the foremost mezzos singing today. It seems a lot of people wanted to read about it, which gladdens my heart! Now I wish the Wigmore would release the recording very soon.

Update: The CD and download is available from 8 April 2013, here’s the link to the Amazon UK page.

https://operacreep.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/winterreise-alice-coote/

My Top 12 of 2012

20 Dec

2012 graphicThe end of the year and we all give in to the convention of going through the draws of our minds and paying tribute to the most entertaining and uplifting events of the year. I published a top 11 list last year and thought I’d avoid innovation and go for a top 12 for this year. I am only hoping I will not be blogging in the year 2040 as the list will become too long.

Mittwoch aus Licht

Was a cross-disciplinary spectacular. Thought as unstagable but somehow Graham Vick managed to take us all on a journey. It was cooky, it was extravagant and above all a memory to last a lifetime. Cue in helicopters, cosmic camels and a trombonist in a paddling pool. Here’s my post on the experience.
Click here to read the post.

Alice Coote

Her interpretation of Winterreise was one of the most moving performances of the year. Her programme in honour of  Kathleen Ferrier was a joy to listen to. Her concentrated deeply tragic version of Britten’s cantata Phaedra was also wonderful. We are very lucky to have her and delighted the Wigmore Hall thinks so too.
The CD and download of her Wigmore Hall Winterreise is available to buy from 8 April 2013, here’s the link to the Amazon UK page.

Click here to read the post.

Calixto Bieito’s Carmen

English National Opera were so right to bring to London this extraordinary directorial tour de force. One of the few times when a very strong directorial concept marries with an opera so deeply they become one. The production was an earthy manifestation of Bizet’s masterpiece with such assurance and self-containment that enthralled.
Click here to read the post.

Anja Harteros in Otello

That was a night of wonderment and astounding depth. Even the creaky fusty old production didn’t matter. It was impossible to avert one’s eyes from the purposeful, intense Desdemona underpinned by a complexity so inspiring. Harteros may have a lot of detractors and her record at showing up for shows may not be the most consistent. This performance left me tingling and wanting to see her again soon.
Click here to read the post.

McVicar’s Rosenkavalier at ENO

What a beautiful, non-fussy production with a great cast that understood what Strauss is all about. John Tomlison, Sarah Connolly, Sophie Bevan and Amanda Roocroft had a wonderful chemistry on stage with Edward Gardner creating a most dense gold coloured sound from the pit that made it a very special evening.
Click here to read the post.

Scottish Opera’s Magic Flute

A beautiful steam punk inspired production by Thomas Allen made by a singer for the singers. Showed Scottish Opera in a great light despite the recent financial and organisational ups and downs. It was well cast and the sure-fire hit they need to help them stay relevant and afloat.
Click here to read the post.

Opera North’s Giulio Cesare

With the great sets of Leslie Travers and pacey direction of Tim Albery. The performance was built around the radiant and alert performance of Sarah Tynan who was an ideal Cleopatra and Pamela Helen Stephen’s earthy Caesar was the compete opposite all battlefield mud and conflict. The production was tightly knit and beautifully sung throughout. The Royal Opera may stay away from any baroque opera but thank heavens that regional companies are not as apathetic towards the interpretation possibilities of it. And are willing to tour it across the country to thousands of people in the regions.

Ailyn Pérez

I still remember the buzz before her unexpected recital in March (she took over for an indisposed Giuseppe Filianoti) rushed to grab some tickets to see her and was not disappointed. Her creamy delivery and melting honesty was such a potent blend. She is an artist to watch and can’t wait to see her return to London very soon.
Click here to read the post.

Véronique Gens

She is  firm favourite of mine and had the chance to see her in action twice in the last few months at the Wigmore Hall. Her delivery of mélodies was exemplary, fusing a breezy natural style with a warm stage presence. Her singing manages to look effortless and yet is full of innate good taste and finesse. 
Click here to read the post.

Royal Opera’s Les Troyens

The production was overall hit and miss, but the incredibly vibrant,  Cassandre of a real tragedienne like Anna Caterina Antonacci the butch Enee of Bryan Hymel,  the variable but very regal Eva-Maria Westbroek and the sparkling tenor of  Ed Lyon made for a very memorable musical evening. So much so, that I snapped up another ticket and made my way to the very gods of the lower slips of the Amphitheatre not phased by the uncomfortable sitting arrangements over the over five hours duration. 
Click here to read the post.

Magical Ravel double bill at Glyndebourne

It was my first visit to Glyndebourne and it was everything I hope for and even more. Both productions were simply magical. Especially the brand new L’enfant et les sortilèges was as joyful to watch as it was to listen. The London Philharmonic played with such distinction and style that left us buzzing. Also the long interval was very welcome and our restaurant meal was expensive but also utterly delicious. Laurent Pelly was clearly at home in the whimsical and magical worlds of the two jewel like operas.
Click here to read the post.

Sarah Connolly

Another firm favourite and one singer I can not have enough of. Saw her sing Elgar, French baroque and Strauss. All of them distinctive all of them spectacular in their own right. Her upcoming Charpentier Medea with McVicar directing for ENO will be a great start for 2013 and her appearance as Phèdre in Hippolyte et Aricie at Glyndebourne will have me booking for a return trip to East Sussex in August. 
Click here to read the posts.

So many more entries could have made it here but the above are a quick distillation of some great evenings out and being present for some music making of great quality and variety. 2013 will hopefully be as full and interesting, maybe even bringing with it some surprises and new discoveries. A big thanks is owed to all my readers for putting up with my meandering blog posts. Have written this blog based on my belief that opera is alive and constantly changing and as a way to inspire others to give it a go. If just a single reader was inspired or intrigued to go to an opera or classical performance in the last year, it would make writing this blog all the more enjoyable and purposeful. 

Mezzogasm / Winterreise / Alice Coote + Julius Drake / Wigmore Hall – 26 January 2012

27 Jan

Winterreise is such a canon and a true challenge for vocal recitalists interested in German Lied. This return to it by Alice Coote after her 2008 first attempt at the same venue was an evening of deep intellectual engagement and a journey of the heart. Surely a cycle that benefits from a woman’s warm touch.

Her appearance on stage with eyes as moist as the poet Wilhelm Muller describes, was a perfect match for Elena Gerhardt’s famous quote on the work ‘You have to be haunted by this cycle to be able to sing it’. The first bleak introduction into Gute Nacht/Good night to the departure of the man from the house of his beloved was played with butch conviction by Drake and a thin thread of voice by Coote that snarled the last Schnee/snow of the first verse in a piercing cry, pre-figuring what was to come next.

Her visceral turn of phrase chasing the piano throughout the circle created a sense of tension which paired with her unwavering, sustained emotional engagement was a perfect amalgamation of text, music and subject matter. She sang Wenn meine Schmerzen schweigen, Wer sagt mir damn von ihr? / Who, when my grief is silent, will speak to me of her?  in Erstarrung/Numbness with a devastated search for life amongst the snow on a background of rapidly played triplets was a marvel.

Her rendition of Der Lindenbaum/The linden tree was one of such simplicity and softness that was winning and intensifying the emotional core of the work. Ich träumt in seinem Schatten. So manchen süßen Traum/I used to dream in its shade, so many a sweet dream ,was lustful with her production of glorious round tone. Her deep breaths before the last verse brought us further in this world of romantic suffering. The repetition of the last line was as hushed as a lullaby contrasting with the high dramatic delivery of the next song Wasserflut/Flood which was much more imposing in character and darker in delivery.

For Auf dem Flusse/On the river we were treated to a description of the scene painted with beautiful colours Coote’s voice finishing with a fierce Ob’s unter seiner Rinde.Wohl auch so reißend schwillt?/Is there such a raging torrent beneath its surface too? The fast-moving Rückblick/A backward glance added urgency and spring to the step.

She concluded Irrlicht/Will-o’-the-wisp with a simple and serious repeat of Wind’ ich ruhig mich hinab,Jeder Strom wird’s Meer gewinnen,Jedes Leiden auch sein Grab./I calmly make my way down – every river will reach the sea, every sorrow find its grave. She then gave a relieved and at the same time restless delivery of Rast/Rest.

Frühlingstraum/Dream of spring was a captivating interplay of steely vocal delivery for all the morbid thoughts at the start that turned in to a feeling of wistful remembrance and helplessness. She followed in the same mood with Einsamkeit/Loneliness culminating in her projection of the word licht/light straight upwards to the ceiling of the Hall almost physically going against that natural tormentor of the hero. A subtle but telling way of all the small details that she brought to the evening and made this song cycle a lived experience that was narrated back with those world-weary limps and eyes welling up.

Die Post/The mail-coach was a wonderful merge of piano and voice, Drake created the intricate, playful  backdrop for Coote’s heart-broken delivery. That led to Der greise Kopf/The hoary head where she used her warm chest voice to describe the wish to find succour in death. The plucked motifs of Die Krähe/The crow ended with a fierce, bitter wish to come closer to death. That gave way to the contained, quiet reverie of Letzte Hoffnung/Last hope with her voice describing the trembling leaf with a fluctuating middle register.

Her steely gliding tone in Im Dorfe/In the village gave an interesting textural richness that prepared us for the quick-moving, almost breathless Der stürmische Morgen/The stormy morning which she navigated with urgency.

Täuschung/Delusion took us back to the heart of the character, a desperate description of unattainable happiness. The dynamic shaping of the phrases was soft and effortless.

Der Wegweiser/The signpost was a combination of silky delivery in the first half and crushing grief and a sense of inevitability in the last few lines. Das Wirtshaus/The inn opened with lustful, lush piano and Coote moving from weariness to an accusing frenzy. Almost a condensed mad scene in four minutes, a stunning moment where she took a risk and added visceral engagement and dramatic vigour that thankfully did not make the scene seem ridiculously soppy. Her Nun weiter denn, nur weiter, mein treuer Wanderstab!/On,then.ever onwards, my trusty staff! was an impassioned conclusion.

The last three songs allowed her to conclude in the most fierce manner possible. Mut!/Courage! was a last rallying cry of the inner voice of the hero with the proclamation Will kein Gott auf Erden sein, Sind wir selber Götter!/If there’s no god on earth, then we ourselves are gods. Her intoxicating delivery of Die Nebensonnen/Phantom suns was the personification of disillusionment in a dream-like scenario. The concluding Der Leiermann/The organ-grinder was dramatic and still subtle. She looked out in search for that other wretched soul that would accompany the hero into the underworld. After the final  Willst zu meinen Liedern deine Leier drehn?/Will you grind your hurdy-gurdy to my songs? ,almost a minute of silence followed as she stood immobile in suspended animation. Alike a figurehead in the bow of this Schubertian ship.

It was this rare beast of a recital when venue, work and performers created a unified whole that was stunning. The performance tugged at the heart-strings like nothing else I’ve seen in months. A master-class in marriage of stage magnetism, great singing and truth. Alice Coote and Julius Drake should be truly proud on delving deep and offering us an insight into this song cycle that very few artists can do. We were all very lucky tonight and the memory of it will be with me for a very long time.

The performance was recorded for future release on cd…so look out for it!

2013 Update

The CD and download is available from 8 April 2013, here’s the link to the Amazon UK page.

Some tweets from the evening

My top 11 discoveries / realisations of 2011

19 Dec

This was a pretty intense year and thought it would be good to make a list of inspirational mainly operatic highs of 2011

1 Twitter

It was the first full year that I’ve used the network as a great resource for news and also as direct communication on matters operatic and not. Met some great people through it and started some very interesting conversations.

2 Beverly Sills

This year I immersed myself in the recorded output of the diva from Brooklyn. A great artist with an intriguing personality to boot. Surely one of the finest coloratura sopranos of the 20th century and worth going back to her for renewal and inspiration.

3 Veronique Gens

The year (almost) started with her magisterial Niobe at Covent Garden and finished with her fantastic  recital at Wigmore Hall. A diva cut off the old cloth of greatness.

4 Allan Clayton

First noticed him this year in a small part in Britten’s Dream, then I saw him triumph in Castor and Pollux and L’Enfance du Christ. A loud voice for the future, hope ENO and RO will give him more substantial roles to sink his teeth into.

5 Iestyn Davis

Never one for countertenors, but his performance in Britten’s Dream was magnetic and his Niobe contribution very substantial. A young British voice to shake up the world of opera and early music.

6 LSO

Have always loved the London Symphony Orchestra but this year they have been stunning. Also one of the most adept to Twitter orchestras on the planet. A band all Londoners should be proud of and should patronise with frequency.

7 Anne Sophie von Otter

Like a well aged Claret, ASvO is a European treasure. Her captivating Wigmore Hall recital was intoxicating to the max. Greatness without the hollow diva attitude. Looking forward to her LSO collaboration early in  February 2012.

8 Alice Coote

Listened to her sing Les nuits d’été years ago at the Proms and was terribly impressed, her triumphantly sulky Prince Charmant in Cendrillon was breathtaking. Her upcoming Winterreise  at Wigmore Hall will be an early highlight of 2012 (there are still a few tickets left, grab them quickly!)

9 Joyce DiDonato

The Yankeediva is a charismatic performer that elevated Cendrillon to stratospheric heights, her Ariodante was to die for, despite the awful orchestra and still a fun Twitter person to have disagreements and banter with.

10 Mark-Anthony Turnage

He gave us Anna Nicole, which was plethoric in its gay abandon and a great showcase for the considerable gifts of Eva Maria Westbroek, the darkness of Twice Through the Heart with the excellent Sarah Connolly and his remarkable music for Undance.

11 Sylvie Guillem

Managed to see her new mixed bill evening at Sadler’s Wells in its two outings back in early July and late September. She was absolutely wonderful both times. A rare dance treat. She continues to be the measure of all dancers, a standard for excellence.

If you had an epiphany of an artistic nature in 2011, feel free to add your top whatever in the comment section and Merry Xmas 😉

That was an incredible performance! One of those perfect, once in a lifetime perfect. Thank you!* / Cendrillon / Royal Opera House, Covent Garden – 11 July 2011

12 Jul

What a night it was!

Writing my impressions on the fourth performance may seem late to many but ask any opera singer and they will confess that three shows in they feel much more relaxed in the character and the first night nerves are a thing of the past. I want to see a production at its best and not just to be there on opening to do it first, that is frankly the job of so many much more experienced professional reviewers. In this instance it seems that Joyce DiDonato was not in her best singing voice in a couple of performances owing to a cold. So glad to have missed those earlier manifestations of this glorious romp.

Arriving in the auditorium and you’re faced with a row of closed doors, walls papered with Charles Perrault’s book. The set itself (designed by Barbara De Limburg) and its interior world of the book itself is such a clever and expandable device that Laurent Pelly used to a great effect. The whole set is a big concertina construction that opens and closes to create from the intimate bedroom of Lucette (Cendrillon’s real name) to the grand salon of the palace. Extra mobile constructions are adding a balcony, a smoky rooftop and a pile of appropriately red books is the outcrop that the fairy godmother makes her final triumphant appearance on.

Who said that productions can’t be fun and effective without moving the action into a Parisian brothel or any other unrelated location so beloved of a number of European directors? Laurent Pelly directed the action with aplomb and with great comic timing.

The fact he also designed the costumes added another layer of fun (his odd and silly costumes for the various princesses are just hilarious) and they were used to give it a total look that helps the work all the way. For instance Ewa Podleś Madame de la Haltiere was defined by her comic timing but also by the absurd padding and restrictive nature of her costuming. Though he couldn’t resist an early bit of furniture abuse by Cendrillon’s father Pandolfe, which was not necessary.   But it was little thoughtful, intelligent touches that made it so much fun to watch, such as:  the army of look-a-likes, women dressed like Cendrillon (being the helpers of the fairy godmother) and men looking like prince charming in the forest/roof top sequence. Added extra visual interest and quirkiness. The grand palace gates turn into a clock counting down the minutes for Cendrillon’s departure at the end of Act Two…you get the idea!

Our Cendrillon, Joyce DiDonato was in incredible vocal form. She glided through the trickiest passages with smoothness and character. And there was none of the obvious tightness on the radio broadcast from last Saturday. Whatever she did on Sunday, we’re thankful for, as she was amazing. Her first aria was warm and heartfelt and right on the money. And there was an interesting trajectory through her performance. She started at a lowish piano sound and escalated the volume of the voice towards the last two acts. In effect giving extra depth to her interpretation from a young resigned but good-hearted girl to the belle of the ball. Her Third Act aria (Seule, je partirai, mon pere) was incredible with such warmth and humanity, we had no second thoughts Cendrillon was thinking of her mother. Of course the obvious highlights of the night were the duets with Prince Charmant, Coote and DiDonato were a beautiful all round couple, rising the emotional temperature to the maximum.

Alice Coote as the Prince Charmant was exemplary, with powerful projection and impressive male mannerisms convinced straight away as the prince of the tale. She acted the part top to toe and her intensity was an absolute joy. Hope the Royal Opera will entrust her big roles in the future as she was an awesome sight.

Ewa Podleś as Madame de Haltiere was the comedic core of the evening, whatever she did on stage everyone laughed out loud! Her beautiful contralto echoed to the roof of the auditorium. In my mind she was almost channelling Hyacinth Bucket which made her adorably silly. She was one of the main reasons I booked to see it and she surely delivered! Such elegance and flair alongside her crazily dressed daughters. Pure genius!

Jean-Philippe Lafont was again as funny as Podleś  but he was having obvious problems in the upper register of his voice, but given the role, it all added to a very sympathetic portrayal of the character. A great contribution to the overall team work.

Eglise Gutiérrez as the Fairy Godmother was a treat, a sugar-coated treat! She ornamented and relished her trills and staccati. She gave us a rather louche Godmother that lightened up proceedings further and added the frosting on this french fancy of an opera. Surely looking forward to her Amina next season!

The orchestra under the direction of Bertrand De Billy sounded fresh and bouncy. A total equal to the world-class singing on stage.

A lot of opera goers would still associate the title role with Frederica von Stade. She performed it for decades and also made the famous recording of the role in 1979 under Julius Rudel. But judging on the recording it’s time we forgot about her and realised that the Cendrillon of our time is Joyce DiDonato, who sounded not only an equal to Flicka but surely surpassed her last night.

Steal, beg or borrow and get some tickets to see the final two performances or rush to one of the open air venues that host the live telecast this Wednesday. If the weather permits I’ll surely be doing the latter. Possibly the most enjoyable night at Covent Garden for me since 2003. Cross your fingers for a very possible DVD release of the telecast. A total joy, an operatic fairytale, what more can anyone ask for?

*My Tweet after being awestruck by such a brilliant performance by Joyce DiDonato and the rest of the excellent cast.

Details of the outdoor screenings can be found here

Teased and roaring to go to the ball

10 Jul

Listening to the live broadcast from the Royal Opera House last night was a total treat…especially when I’ll be there tomorrow evening. Surely a great antithesis to the dull and simply nonsensical Two Boys on Friday night (more on that soon!). The duets between Alice Coote and Joyce Didonato (who sang superbly despite a cold) were effervescent and simply beguiling.  Ewa Podleś was hilarious over the radio I can only imagine how funny she will be on stage.

Roll on Monday night.

Listen again:

Till July 16th you can listen on BBC’s iPlayer and judge for yourselves!

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