La Scena Musicale

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: November 15 (Barenboim)

1942 - Daniel Barenboim, Buenos Aires, Argentina; pianist, conductor

Official website

Daniel Barenboim plays the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, 3rd mvt. (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Simon Rattle; Athens, 2004)

Daniel Barenboim conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in "Nimrod" from Elgar's Enigma Variations (Carnegie Hall, 1997)

Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim play Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3, 2nd mvt. (1960s)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Todays's Birthdays in Music: November 14 (Copland, Mendelssohn-Hensel)

1900 - Aaron Copland, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.; composer, pianist


"Hoedown" from the ballet Rodeo, arranged for piano by Copland (James Tocco, piano)

Andante from Copland's Clarinet Concerto (Richard Stolzman, clarinet; London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas)

1805 - Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, Hamburg, Germany; composer, pianist

Life and Music

Klavierstücke for four hands (Duo Vela, Barcelona)

Diana Damrau sings Bergeslust

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: November 13 (Richards, Kokkonen)

1921 - Joonas Kokkonen, Iisalmi, Finland; composer

Wikipedia (birthdate incorrect)
Obituary (The Independent, London, Oct. 1996)

1817 - Brinley Richards, Camarthen, Wales; composer


Philip Sear plays "Evening" (Nocturne) by Brinley Richards

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: November 12 (Borodin, Papineau-Couture)

1833 - Alexander Borodin, St. Petersburg, Russia; composer


Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor (Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Seiji Ozawa)

1916 - Jean Papineau-Couture, Montreal, Canada; composer, educator, administrator

Biography (Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: November 11 (J. Simons, Ansermet)

1925 - Jan Simons, Düsseldorf, Germany; baritone, teacher, administrator

Biography (Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)
Winner of 2005 prix Hommage (La Scena Musicale, Feb. 2005)
Remembering Jan Simons (La Scena Musicale, May 2006)

1883 - Ernest Ansermet, Vevey, Switzerland; conductor

Biography and pictures

Ernest Ansermet conducts L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande in Haydn's Symphony No. 90, 4th mvt. (1965 recording)

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Austin Lyric Opera Goes Hollywood!

Classical Travels with Paul E. Robinson

Austin Lyric Opera may not be able to afford the most famous singers but it invariably provides first-class entertainment. They’ve done it again with the current production of Rossini’s comic opera La Cenerentola which opened this past Saturday at the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

Garnett Bruce is the stage director and he created this production for Lyric Opera of Kansas City in 2004. It moves the well-known Cinderella story from Italy to 1930s Hollywood and the world of movie-making. From beginning to end in this production we are immersed in the fantasy world of fame and fortune. The fairy tale search for a royal wife becomes a search for a new leading lady in this updated telling of the story. With surprisingly little doctoring of the libretto and none at all of the glorious music, Rossini’s classic romp comes to life once again, and I think the greatest operatic showman of them all would have loved it.

The gist of the revised story line is acted out in mime while the orchestra plays the overture. Without any contrived additional dialogue we get the idea and the opera unfolds in pretty much its usual fashion. Musically, the production was well in hand with Robert Tweten wielding the baton. This young man has a remarkable flair for Rossini, invariably finding the right balance between singers and orchestra and capturing all the wit and sparkle in the score. He also had the courage and the skill to ‘press the pedal to the metal,’ as it were, with some blazing fast tempos. This fine cast and orchestra had apparently been rehearsed within an inch of their lives and in this opening night performance, they responded to Tweten’s beat with enthusiasm and musicality.

But there can be no La Cenerentola without a great leading lady. The role of Cinderella requires a great comedienne and a mezzo-soprano with mastery of bel canto lyricism and virtuosity. Sandra Piques Eddy may not have erased my personal memories of Cecilia Bartoli’s Cinderella in the near-legendary Houston Grand Opera production of a few years back; nevertheless, she was superb. Her voice is rich and full from top to bottom and she knocked off the technical stuff with almost effortless mastery. Her acting was somewhat less impressive. She handled the transformation from servant to star with conviction, but often seemed less involved than her colleagues. Perhaps director Garnett Bruce simply didn’t give her enough bits of business.

Not that the production wasn’t ‘busy’ enough! Bruce’s direction created a convincing illusion that the backstage lot at “Palace Pictures” was teeming with a ‘cast of thousands,’ and each person who showed up on the ‘set’ came to life as a distinctive character. While the inclusion of a couple of Marx brothers was fun, however, Bruce might have worked a little harder to make them more like the people they were supposed to be. Harpo could have been busier annoying people or blowing his horn and Groucho could have at least walked like Groucho. In the dance rehearsal scene – choreographed a la Busby Berkeley - the costumes of the chorus-line girls were appropriately ‘over the top’ and the dancing of the male group was amusingly inept.

Amongst the cast I would single out Cara Johnston and Liz Cass as Cinderella’s sisters, for both their vocal and histrionic efforts. They sang beautifully, their antics were hilarious, and their zany attire certainly added to the fun! Steven Condy as their father, Mr. Magnifico, practically cornered the market on the funny business in this production with endless mugging and all sorts of physical comedy. Tenor Michele Angelini as film director Don Ramiro looked every inch a 1930s Hollywood star with enough grease on his hair to lubricate a fleet of eighteen-wheelers. He was light on his feet too, sang with control, and his exposed top notes were generally ‘spot-on.’ John Boehr as Dandini – Ramiro’s chauffeur in this version – was funny and appealing and Kristopher Irmiter as the film producer Alidoro looked the part and sang with authority.

General Director Kevin Patterson never forgets that he is in the entertainment business; his Austin-oriented Die Fledermaus from last season was a great triumph and this fresh and funny version of La Cenerentola was not far behind.

Paul E. Robinson is the author of Herbert von Karajan: the Maestro as Superstar and Sir Georg Solti: his Life and Music, both available at For more about Paul E. Robinson please visit his website at

Blog Photos: Mark Matson

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Today's Birthdays in Music: November 10 (Couperin, Scholl)

1688 - François Couperin, Paris, France; composer, organist, harpsichordist


Tierce en Taille from "Messe des Couvents" (Jean-Baptiste Robin, organ; Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, Poitiers, France)

1967 - Andreas Scholl, Eltville, Germany; opera and concert countertenor


Andreas Scholl sings "Sicut erat in principio" and "Amen" from Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus (Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, conducted by Paul Dyer)

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: November 9 (Alarie, Terfel)

1921 - Pierrette Alarie, Montreal, Canada; opera soprano, teacher

Biography (Encyclopedia of Music in Canada)

Pierrette Alarie sings "Voi che sapete" from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro

Pierrette Alarie and Léopold Simoneau sing "Cara, non dubitar" from Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto

1965 - Bryn Terfel, Pantglas, Wales; opera and concert bass-baritone


Bryn Terfel sings:

 "Leb Wohl" from Wagner's Die Walküre (with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest Holland, conducted by Edo De Waart)

"Oh What a Beautiful Morning" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma

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