After La Bohème and The Last Savage I continued my operatic program here in Santa Fe with the Apprentice Scenes on Sunday evening. The Apprentice Program is one of the most prestigious in North America and attracts a number of the most talented young singers each year. As I had missed their auditions earlier this month I was happy to see them see fully staged scenes with piano from The Cunning Little Vixen, Lee Hoiby's Summer and Smoke, John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles, Semele, Carmen, Idomeneo, Porgy and Bess and Italiana in Algeri. It was quite amazing to see how these young artists inhabited their roles and there was some substantial future star material to watch. What I hadn't known is that the program isn't for singers only, it is also open to young stage technicians. What an opportunity for all of them to learn their craft here.
We Germans have a difficult relationship with Charles Gounod's Faust. The reduction of Goethe's famous play to a simple love story between Faust and Marguerite leaves a bit too much to be desired. In fact, for a long time the opera was performed as Margarethe in Germany to obscure the connection with Goethe. For more succesful treatments of the same subject I would rather go to Berlioz, Boito or Busoni. All that said there is some terrific music in Gounod's score. Who could resists the magic of the Garden Scene or the Final Trio, especially when they are as sylishly performed as by Frédéric Chaslin in the pit and Bryan Hymel (our Pinkerton and Don José in 2009/10), Ailyn Pérez and Mark S. Doss (our Thoas in Iphigénie en Tauride this coming September and October). I'm still humming.
Alban Berg's Wozzeck might contain a few less hummable melodies, but the performance I heard here on Wesnesday evening was outstanding. A great cast inculding Richard Paul Fink in the title role (his last role with the COC was the Water Goblin in Rusalka), Nicola Beller Carbone as Marie (our Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk) and Eric Owens as the Doctor (I'm very happy that he will perform with the COC in the future) and David Robertson in the pit made Berg's great score sound like the kind of music Mahler might have written had he lived for another twenty years. Don't think I am trying to take away any of Berg's merits as a composer with this remark. To me, Wozzeck is one of the very few perfect operas and I feel very lucky that after the brilliant performance at the Met in April I got to hear this wonderful piece performed so brilliantly a second time just a few months later.
Vivaldi's Griselda will be my last Santa Fe Opera tonight.
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After having seen two of the five operas in Santa Fe, I'm really impressed with the excellence of this year's casting.
It isn't easy to blow fresh life into an all-time favourite like La Bohème. It's an opera about young people and in order to be credible it needs to be sung by young singers, but young singers with grown-up voices. The cast assembled by my colleagues here in Santa Fe lived up to these requirements and gave a freshness and emotional immediacy to Puccini's opera that's lacking from so many repertoire performances elsewhere. Santa Fe's Rodolfo, David Lomelí, will soon be with us to share performances with Dimitri Pittas as the Duke in Rigoletto. He's a very special singer to me and I'm glad he's coming to the COC for this and other projects in the future.
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Giancarlo Menotti's music, but yesterday's performance of The Last Savage was as good as it gets. Conducted by (sadly) former New York City Opera Music Director George Manahan the piece was a sparkling fit for a mild Santa Fe summer night and a huge success with the audience. Canadian baritone Daniel Okulitch was the Savage and I was thrilled to see three members of the COC Orchestra enter the stage to perform at the party scene in the second act. I'd like to mention two more members of the cast, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as the Maharanee, who was our Emilia in Otello a few seasons back and whom I would love to see back at the COC, and American coloratura Anna Christy as the anthropologist Kitty, who will come to the COC in a major bel canto part soon.
My next date at Sante Fe Opera will be the Apprentice Scenes on Sunday evening.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (1) / permalink
Hello from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just arrived here to see this year's productions at Santa Fe Opera, and for some time off. Finally, I have the time to catch up on the blog after a few quite intense weeks.
After my return from San Francisco I went to Germany for a few days with my parents and from there to Salzburg. As you know I started my opera career in Salzburg and going there always feels like coming home. This year marks my old friend and mentor Evamaria Wieser's last summer with the festival and it was important for me to be there. To me, it won't be quite the same any more when she's gone. But I was happy to make contact with a few old friends who are with the festival now, the former head of the costume department is running the same department in Salzburg and our former technical director from Paris just took over the technical department. Opera is a small world, indeed.
During the week of my stay I was lucky enough to attend rehearsals and performances of Macbeth, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Le nozze di Figaro, a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic and Pierre Boulez, and had a chance to meet with colleagues, managers and artists. What a privilege to see Riccardo Muti conduct Macbeth, giving care to every single note and showing how deep and important this music can be if it is taken that seriously. Or Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Frau ohne Schatten with such a natural flow that the more than five hours of Strauss's marvelous score (performed without cuts) seemed to be just the right length. Or Claus Guth's witty and intelligent production of Figaro, a true folle journée at the Almavivas, with Genia Kühmeier's utterly moving Countess (the best I've heard live). I could go on and on.
Unfortunately, I missed Gerald Finley's Don Giovanni which will only open later in August, but got to meet with him for a very nice lunch. Of Così fan tutte I only saw parts of the piano dress and of the new production of The Makropoulos Case only Anna Viebrock's most impressive set. But of what I've seen Salzburg 2011 felt like the best festival in almost ten years.
Before leaving for Santa Fe I went to Quebec City for a day to see Johannes conduct The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. It is always a pleasure to see Robert Lepage's beautiful show again. It is very special and enchanted the audience in Robert's hometown as much as anywhere else.
Soon, I will start posting my reports of the Santa Fe operas here.
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