Les Troyens

Troyens

Imagine an empty stage apron with a black curtain behind it on which a beautiful woman with flowing blond air, all in white, is kneeling and pouring out expressive, rich sound, her words filled with an exquisite and resigned acceptance of fate, and you will have some idea of how Susan Graham realized the section of Berlioz Les Troyens that begins with “Je vais mourir” and concludes with “Adieu, … [Read more...]

BAD BREAKFAST

Breakfast

I have been reviewing opera at least since 1947 when I first realized that every singer was not perfect. On that occasion the Violetta tried for the high E-flat at the end of Act I of La Traviata and spectacularly missed it. Ten years and some two hundred performances later the Dallas Morning News published my first critique--of the Metropolitan Opera's Samson et Dalila, with Rise Stevens. I loved … [Read more...]

A Great Artist

Dido

The first great opera artist I experienced live was Rise Stevens as Octavian in a 1946 performance of Der Rosenkavalier by the touring Metropolitan Opera in Dallas. I had no idea at  the age of nine that she was a great artist, but she certainly impressed me. Since then I have had lots of opportunities to hear many of those who have been called great--and over the past three decades to present … [Read more...]

AN AMAZING COMPOSER IN SEATTLE

Photo: Alan Alabastro

Inappropriate as it may be for me to comment on the Ariadne auf Naxos that I planned and cast for Seattle Opera, my only justification is that I had nothing to do with its preparation as I retired last August. I am writing about it because of one truly astonishing performance, that of Kate Lindsey as the Composer. The level of this artist's singing and acting is always high; in this Composer she … [Read more...]

A NEW HELDENTENOR

Photo: Rozarii Lynch

  Three years ago in auditioning for the International Wagner Competition of 2014, which took place last August at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, my colleague, Aren Der Hacopian, and I scoured the world for young dramatic singers between 25 and 40. It was the third such competition. In our New York auditions in the fall of 2012 we heard a tenor named Issachah Savage. A very … [Read more...]

Theatre in London and New York

Carmen Disruption

Recently I attended several plays in New York and London. The most thought provoking, creative and arresting was the Carmen Disruption at the Almeida Theater in London. Written by Simon Stephens after suggestions by the director Sebastian Nuebling and the mezzo-soprano Rinat Shaham (who, according to the program, had played Bizet’s heroine 400 times), the piece received its premiere at the Hamburg … [Read more...]

AN OPERATIC ADVENTURE

Font-de-Gaume

On October 12 my wife and I went to a small city in France’s Dordogne region called Montignac, which is in close proximity to the Lascaux and other ancient caves. One of the most interesting is the Font de Gaume, to which tickets must be bought, usually before 8 AM for that day as it is very popular and allows only less than a hundred people to visit in a whole day. Of the three caves we visited … [Read more...]

BIRGIT NILSSON’S LEGACY

Birgit

  No artist I have ever known had more professional dedication than the great Swedish dramatic soprano, Birgit Nilsson. I had the good fortune to hear her prior to her Metropolitan Opera debut as both Isolde and the Walküre Brünnhilde. The Tristan performance in the summer of 1959 at the Bayreuth Festival influenced my whole life. I had never heard anything like her voice or her commitment … [Read more...]

INVESTIGATING WEIMAR

Weimar and its environs illuminate the complex history of Germany. I went last weekend with my wife and some friends to Weimar, the home of the great German artist, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, his contemporary, Friedrich Schiller, and for many years the domain of Franz Liszt. When we first arrived, we left the city, full of remarkable eighteenth and nineteenth century houses and buildings, and … [Read more...]

THEATER IN BERLIN

Crazy Blood

Intensity, imagination, and brilliant acting characterized a new German-Turkish play and a version of Hamlet that I attended in Berlin in the last two weeks. Shermin Langhoff, the General Director of the Maxim Gorki Theater and Turkish by birth, has made her name engaging Turkish actors and presenting significant dramas involving the German-Turkish relationship (The Turkish community in Berlin … [Read more...]