Thursday, August 11, 2016

Innsbruck, of all places!

By now most of my fellow fans of the Bulgarian - Swiss operatic mezzo soprano Vesselina Kasarova would probably have heard of her run in, a few days ago, with a couple of muggers in Innsbruck ahead of her scheduled performances as Fidalma in Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto. Frau Kasarova is one tough cookie and operatically screamed off her attackers, but not before getting roughed up enough to require the cancellation of her appearance and a return home to recuperate.

She is reportedly recovering okay, considering the circumstances. We fans are still quite shocked by the incident, of course! (Honestly... of all places for this to happen!) I'm personally in awe as to how well she handled the whole experience. Shame on the two perpetrators and may they never forget her voice.

Sending the White Shirt Republic's favorite dame all the best of wishes for a complete and speedy recovery. Gute Besserung, Frau Kasarova!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Guest Review: Vesselina Kasarova in Verdi's Rigoletto at Opera Bastille

The following review of the current run of Verdi's Rigoletto (with particular attention on our mutual favorite singer, Vesselina Kasarova) in Paris is guest-posted here courtesy of John Carnegie of Scotland. Thanks very much, John!


Through shuffling round work assignments, I managed to attend the second performance of the Opéra National de Paris’s new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto at their unlovely Opéra Bastille venue – a vast and gloomy barn of a building that makes the New York MET seem almost intimate by comparison. 

Vesselina Kasarova was billed to play the comparatively minor role of Maddalena, the assassin’s sister/accomplice who causes the downfall of the title character and his daughter by succumbing to the charms of the opera’s philandering baddie, the Duke.  Given that Maddalena does not show up on stage until the very last scene of a long evening and that VK had cancelled her announced appearances on the two previous occasions that I had booked to see her, there was always a doubt in my mind as to whether she would turn up this time for a task that might seem somewhat beneath her.  On the other hand, the fact that Maddalena is a prominent participant in the Quartet (for my money, the single most sublime passage of music in the whole history of opera) made for a compelling reason to hope against hope that VK might actually appear.  Well, she did and to great effect.

Before one got through to her eventual entrance, however, one had to surmount the hurdles of the visuals on offer.  Claus Guth was on directing duties and his typically high concept piece of “regie-theater” proved to be a very mixed blessing.  The curtain rose at the start to reveal the figure of “Rigoletto’s Double”, a mimed role who represented Rigoletto looking back retrospectively on the events of the opera by mourning over the contents of a brown cardboard box he carried: his ex-jester’s costume and the blood-stained robe of his deceased daughter.  This distracting figure was onstage throughout the evening and his non-stop gurning succeeded in constantly pulling the focus from Quinn Kelsey’s portrayal of the singing version of the title character.

As the set unfurled around the “Double”, it quickly became evident that it represented a gigantic sideways version of the cardboard box he carried.  Brown cardboard is a very drab surface indeed and (combined with mostly monochrome costumes) made for a visually dull experience.  However, that proved to VK’s great benefit.  When she made her entrance in sparkling black thigh-high boots, a tight-fitting jump suit surmounted by a top hat a la Marlene Dietrich and carrying off a choreographed Las Vegas-inspired routine backed by a bevy of half-naked showgirls, this was the first visual excitement of the evening and the audience rose to the spectacle and VK’s panache in accomplishing it.  This compensated for the fact that she was having to deal with the inconsiderate accompaniment of Nicola Luisotti – one of the breed of conductors whose head is mostly in the score and rarely paying attention to the performers on the stage.  He spent much of the evening drowning out the singers with his vast orchestra.  Fortunately, VK managed to gradually overcome this unwarranted competition – first in a very telling contribution to the Quartet and then in her successful attempt to put some backbone into Rafał Siwek’s dour assassin.  Her portrayal could definitely be counted as a success and was richly rewarded with the audience’s applause at the curtain call.

As for the three principal roles, Quinn Kelsey made for a touching Rigoletto and often managed to command the stage (despite the distractions of his “Double”).  Michael Fabiano’s Duke was a less compelling assumption and was the singer who suffered most from being swamped by the orchestra.  Still, he perked up greatly in the last act – spurred on perhaps by the attentions of VK and the dancing showgirls.  The star of the evening though was Olga Peretyatko’s Gilda: pin-sharp in her coloratura and hugely affecting throughout.  Her final appearance was particularly moving.  In one of Herr Guth’s happier inventions, Gilda does not spend her last minutes onstage in a sack but as a disembodied spirit diagonally traversing the stage as she disappears from her father into eternity.  It was not just Ms Peretyatko’s nationality, talent and looks but also her manner that brought to mind a young Anna Netrebko.  The packed audience took her to their collective hearts and gave her a huge round of applause at the curtain call.  It was notable that VK (who has always been demonstrably appreciative of her fellow performers onstage) was particularly enthusiastic in her applause for Ms Peretyatko.

The current run of performances of Rigoletto in Paris is playing through to the end of May and VK (unlike her fellow principals) is scheduled to appear in all of them.  If you go on the 14th and 30th of May, you will not get the benefit of Ms Peretyatko’s Gilda but you will at least be spared Mr Luisotti’s conducting.  So, is it worth braving the travails of getting through the oppressive security arrangements of contemporary Paris (post Charlie Hebdo, the most militarised city in the western world) and enduring some of the vagaries of Herr Guth’s production?  On the whole (and particularly for VK and Olga Peretyatko), I would say yes.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Guest Announcement: San Diego Opera Listening Tour Series

San Diego Opera Announces Listening Tour Series
Tour will see San Diego Opera’s General Director, David Bennett, engaging the community to explore how the Company can best serve San Diegans
San Diego, CA – San Diego Opera is proud to announce a listening tour series that will bring the Company’s General Director, David Bennett, out into the community to explore how the Company can best serve its citizens as it looks towards its next 50 years. These interactive conversations will take place in four different regions of San Diego County – Central (at the Natural History Museum in Balboa Park), North County (at the Museum of Making Music), La Jolla (at The Scripps Institute Research Center) and South Bay (at the Chula Vista Masonic Temple). Using smartphone technology, these multi-media conversations will allow participants to respond to questions in real time and drive the conversation about the future of San Diego Opera.
“What is opera? What do you like about opera? What might you want to see different? Is opera too long? Too expensive?  If you were General Director of San Diego Opera, what would you do to ensure the Company was thriving fifty year from now? These are just some of the questions I will engage the community in during this listening tour,” shares David Bennett. “What made San Diego so attractive to me is that the community had taken an active role in the opera’s future, having saved it in 2014. The diversity of San Diego is what makes this city so wonderful, and it is my goal to make San Diego Opera an organization that serves the community. To do this, we are going to do something the Company has never done before: listen to you.”
The listening tours are free and open to the public but registration is required and can be made at: Refreshments and wine will be served. Participants can also win opera tickets and other prizes. Participants should attend the listening tour with a fully charged smartphone, tablet, or laptop capable of internet access through a cellular network to interact with the questions and real time polls that will be part of the program. In order to better evaluate aggregated responses, participants will be sent a short, confidential questionnaire from our market research partner Q2 Insights to be completed before attending the event.
Dates and locations for the San Diego Opera Listening Tour are:
Central: Thursday, March 31, 2016 at 6 PM – The Nat (in the Charmaine and Maurice Kaplan Theater). 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101.
La Jolla: Thursday, April 28 at 6 PM – The Auditorium at The Scripps Research Institute.  10620 John J Hopkins Dr., San Diego, CA 92121.
North County: Thursday, May 19 at 6 PM - The Museum of Making Music. 5790 Armada Dr, Carlsbad, CA 92008
South Bay: Thursday, June 16, at 6 PM – The Chula Vista Masonic Lodge. 732 3rd Ave, Chula Vista, CA 91910
The San Diego Opera Listening Tour is made possible with support from Q2 Insights. For more information visit us online at:
The 2015-2016 International Season
René Barbera in Recital                                                                    September 19, 2015
Patricia Racette “Diva on Detour”                                                   November 14, 2015
Tosca                                                   Giacomo Puccini                  February 13, 16, 19 and 21 (mat), 2016
Ferruccio Furlanetto in Concert                                                       March 5, 2016
Madama Butterfly                                Giacomo Puccini                  April 16, 19, 22 and 24 (mat), 2016
Great Scott                                          Jake Heggie                          May 7, 10, 15 and 15 (mat), 2016

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Happy New Year (a bit late)

I'm afraid this past holiday season was rather hellish for yours truly, and really isn't something to talk about. I finally made it back home on Tuesday, though, and spent a lot of time since reacquainting myself with my own bed while trying to excise a nasty strand of virus and a whole lot of tracheal lining... and sort of scaring my roommate to death with the associated noises.

Anyhow, I think it's safe to say now that I'll probably live, since I've been able to spend more than an hour upright today and even found me a rather nice surprise on Youtube that I think fellow lovers of classical music and the fiddling ability of one Lisa Batiashvili would enjoy. Here it is!

Happy New Year, one and all. Look ahead and brave new world!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Je voudrais des frites francaise, s'il vous plait...

Sometimes I wish I'm French...

France had the moral backbone to say no when we (the USA) tried to bully her into joining us to invade Iraq for the WMD that Iraq didn't have (tho, to be honest, it wasn't really about the WMD, was it? It was W's misguided notion of revenge... and still aimed at the wrong party). We know, of course, how that invasion ended and what ill was released from that SNAFU's pandora's box. And even after France got hit by ISIS last week, she still resolves to not blame the easy-to-pick-on innocents for the action of others, but to keep doing the right thing and accepting refugees from war-torn Syria. And even those French who lost loved ones during that attack responded like this:

“I won’t give you the gift of hating you” – Antoine Leiris’ powerful tribute to his wife, who died in the Bataclan during the #ParisAttacks
Posted by BBC News on Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It takes strong moral fiber to stay true to one's values even when the going gets rough.

In the meanwhile, here in America, irrational xenophobia is the prevailing rage to which I say, give me French fries over 'freedom fries' any day. Vive liberté, fraternité, et egalité. 

I'm afraid hinged people tend to be less loud than unhinged ones... though please know that many Americans stand with you and don't share the view of those selfish bigots... And we will vote at the next election!