La Scena Musicale

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: June 28 (Hampson, Joachim)

1955 - Thomas Hampson, Elkhart, Indiana; opera and recital baritone

Wiki entry
Biography & pictures
Interview (1998)

Thomas Hampson sings "Die zwei blauen Augen" from Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)

1831 - Joseph Joachim, Kittsee, Hungary; violinist, conductor, composer

Wiki entry

Joseph Joachim plays his Romance in C major

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: June 27 (Moffo, dal Monte)

1932 - Anna Moffo, Wayne, U.S.A.; opera and recital soprano

Wiki entry
Obituary (The Independent, London, March 2006)

Anna Moffo sings "Un bel di" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly

1893 - Toti dal Monte, Mogliano Veneto, Italy; opera soprano

Wiki entry

Toti dal Monte sings "Caro Nome" from Verdi's Rigoletto (1924)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Candide camera

The most striking feature of English National opera's new production of Leonard Bernstein's Candide is the drop-curtain.

It has been made up to look like a 1950s television test-card and it takes us instantly back to that era.

The card melts, as the music strikes up, into newsreel clips of Middle America, McCarthyism, gas guzzlers and the rise of the Kennedys. I won't review the show - Fiona Maddocks gets it bang to rights in the Evening Standard - except to say that Robert Carsen's co-pro with Paris and La Scala seemed to appeal more to under-30s in the audience than to over-40s.

Carsen's supposedly controversial caricature of Bush, Blair, Putin & Co in flag-design swim pants was silly rather than provocative and the Eurotrash anti-American tone of the show grew tedious after the first ten gags.

What bothered me most, though, was what I had liked best.

When the test card became an active screen for moving images, it completely distracted attention from the Overture which, in my view, is the most concentrated and exciting piece of music that Bernstein ever wrote. I missed the Overture and it may have blighted my evening.

There is a growing tendency for directors to use Overture time to do clever things beneath the proscenium. Some have actors wandering the footlights, others project movie clips. They miss the point.

There is a reason composers write overtures, and it's not just to allow latecomers to find their seats. The Overture sets the mood of a show. Overlay it with visual peripheria and you risk going into the performance without the courtesy of foreplay.

I'm setting up an Overture Protection Society. Sign up in Comments, below.

Source: Artsjournal

Today's Birthdays in Music: June 26 (Abbado, Taddei)

1933 - Claudio Abbado, Milan, Italy; conductor

Wiki entry
Biography & photos

Claudio Abbado conducts an excerpt from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet (Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg)

1916 - Giuseppe Taddei, Genoa, Italy; opera baritone

Wiki entry

Giuseppe Taddei sings "Udite, udite o rustici" from Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore"

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Canadian Opera Company announces new Director

A long awaited announcement of the directorship of the Canadian Opera Company will take place at 10:30 am this morning, from the stage of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. I will be attending the press conference. You can be there also since the event will be webcast!

Go to the COC website at and follow the instructions on the homepage.

Update: Unanimous choice - casting director at the Paris opera under Mortier for the past four years. It is 34 year old Alexander Neef, a native of Ebersbach an der Fils near Stuttgart, Germany. He did his internship at Salzburg Festival. He has worked with many Canadians - Robert Lepage, Robert Carsen, Michael Levine, Russell Braun, Ben Heppner, Adrianne Pieczonka. He forsees more coproductions with other companies in North America. His English is impeccable. In response to questions about repertoire, he mentions looking at producing operas that has not been produced before, like Parsifal. Measha Brueggergosman was in attendance, as were a few other singers. Neef mentions he has a project with Measha and Mortier at NYCO - he did not elaborate. Could it be Measha singing her first Valentine in Les Huguenots?

> Official Press Release

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Today's Birthday in Music: June 25 (Charpentier)

1860 - Gustave Charpentier, Dieuze, France; composer (Louise)

Wiki entry

Renee Fleming sings "Depuis le jour" from Louise (Thèatre du Chàtelet Paris, 2002)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: June 24 (Fournier)

1906 - Pierre Fournier, Paris, France; cellist

Wiki entry
Brief biography

Pierre Fournier plays Schumann's Cello Concerto Op. 129 (ORTF National Orchestra, conducted by Jean Martinon)

Pierre Fournier and Jean Fonda play Chopin's Introduction and Polonaise Brillante for cello and piano, Op. 3 (Paris, 1965)

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: June 23 (Levine)

1943 - James Levine, Cincinnati, U.S.A.; conductor and pianist

Wiki entry
Biography & photos
Boston Globe profile, 2004

James Levine conducts the overture to Mozart's Don Giovanni

James Levine rehearsing Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at the Metropolitan Opera (with Jessye Norman and others)

Luciano Pavarotti and James Levine perform Tosti's "Marechiare" (Lincoln Center recital, 1988)

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: June 22 (Pears, Tourel)

1910 - Peter Pears, Farnham, England; opera and recital tenor

Wiki entry

Peter Pears (as Grimes) sings "To hell with all your mercy" from the final act of Britten's Peter Grimes; Heather Harper as Ellen Orford (1969 TV production, London Symphony Orchestra and Ambrosian Chorus, conducted by Benjamin Britten)

1900 - Jennie Tourel, Vitebskt, Russia; opera and recital mezzo-soprano

Biography & photos

Jennie Tourel sings "O sleep why dost thou leave me" from Handel's Semele

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