Posts Tagged ‘Anja Harteros’

Fall Discs

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Recommended CDs and DVDs

Published: November 26, 2017

MUNICH — Post is under revision.

Photos © Arthaus, BelAir Classiques, Querstand, Supraphon, Warner Classics

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Chénier Due in Video-Stream

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann in Andrea Chénier in Munich

Published: March 13, 2017

MUNICH — Philipp Stölzl’s new and relatively sane production of Andrea Chénier will be video-streamed Saturday by Bavarian State Opera as part of a regular free service.

— when: 2 p.m. EDT (11 a.m. PDT), March 18, 2017
— where:

Omer Meir Wellber brings his inimitable visceral leadership to Giordano’s verismo score. Anja Harteros and Luca Salsi make role debuts as Maddalena di Coigny and Carlo Gérard, while Jonas Kaufmann sings the conflicted poet.

At yesterday’s premiere, Harteros’ Mediterranean temperament and absorbing, opulent tones recalled the work of Renata Tebaldi.

Photo © Wilfried Hösl

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The Opening Night “Train Wreck” This Weekend

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

By: Frank Cadenhead

Where is Stephen Colbert when you need him? He certainly could do a comedy routine about the train wreck that is the opening of the musical season in Paris this year. The goofiness of multiple openings of world-class events on the same day would get lots of laughs. In his absence I will try to fill in.

The French go on holiday in August. On September 1 they all arrive home and start unpacking and restocking their refrigerators. For those who work in opera or orchestras, after some days they are off to rehearsals to prepare for opening night. This year, “opening night” is all on one night, September 16. That night is the remarkable opening of internationally important season at the Opéra National de Paris. Their daring risk is to open with an almost unknown opera, Eliogabalo of Francesco Cavalli (composed in 1667). This effort is part of a recent laudable effort to revive interest in lesser known opera composers and return their works to the stage. The audience at the Palais Garnier will hear a much anticipated local debut of Leonardo Garcia Alarcon in the pit with Franco Fagioli in the title role. Young Thomas Jolly will stage this work and it is expected to raise the artistic bar for the whole season (which will include productions staged by Calixto Bieito and Dmitri Tcherniakov.)

But wait! On that very same night, the Orchestre de Paris is having a flashy opening in their glamorous new home at the Philharmonie de Paris with their exciting new music director, Daniel Harding. The opening program is the entirety of Scenes from Goethe’s Faust by Schumann. This spotlight makes a statement about the work, a magnificent and little-played masterpiece with soloists and chorus and will feature the masterful baritone Christian Gerhaher as Faust. Harding has been particularly engaged by this opus and has featured it in broadcasts when he appeared with the Berlin Philharmonic and has recorded it with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. How could this singularly important event be scheduled on the same night as the opening Eliogabalo?

Easy… A complete lack of management. Here is Norman Lebrecht’s writing about the Orchestre de Paris on his website Slipped Disc on September 12:

“There was widespread discontent when the Orchestre de Paris sacked Didier de Cottignies ahead of the arrival of its new music director, Daniel Harding.
No-one in the music world has a bigger contacts book than Didier and few know more about music.
However, Didier went and Daniel was said to be considering an English mate for the job. Apparently, that was greeted by the French like a Brexit-burger with HP sauce.
So the French establishment chose one of its own.
The new Délégué Artistique at the OdP is Edouard Fouré Caul-Futy, a producer at France-Musique. His experience is entirely with baroque music. He has a lot to learn.
He also happens to be the son-in-law of Martine Aubry, former presidential candidate and still a power-broker in the Socialist Party.
Aubry’s daughter, Clémentine, is Administrator of the auditorium at the Musée du Louvre.”

Edouard Foure Caul-Futy

Edouard Foure Caul-Futy

Googling the name Edouard Foure Caul-Futy today, September 13, made it absolutely clear that there is no current information in the French language about any such appointment on any French site. Are all the culture reporters still unpacking? Scrolling down his personal Facebook page, we see that he is just 35 and entered a note that he has left Radio France at the end of August. “Délégué Artistique, Orchestre de Paris,” is now shown as his current title. The Facebook page of the Orchestre de Paris shows nothing. Neither does their website and the only press contact listed on that site is for the excellent Annick Boccon-Gibod, who let us all know, on June 27, that she had left the orchestra. The speculation of Mr. Lebrecht, that this was an insider favor, seems more and more believable when the slim career of the new artistic director is more visible. It would be hard to image a serious job search resulting in the selection of someone with such a light CV, concentrated almost entirely in the early music scene.

But wait again! That same evening’s vital openings are not finished. September 16 has yet another important opening night, that of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in the auditorium at Radio France. Conductor Mikko Franck, starting his second year as music director, has recharged this orchestra and every concert shows the new excitement. This opening night has Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Lapsimessu (Children’s Mass). Rautavaara died just seven weeks ago and Franck, a fellow countryman of the composer, will conduct this work with the Maîtrise de Radio France, the children’s chorus. The Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 is to be played by France’s most renowned violin virtuoso, Renaud Capuçon, and Franck, a well-appreciated interpreter of Richard Strauss, will finish with the Alpine Symphony. It would be hard to imagine a music lover willing to pass on that concert.

There is good news. With the new halls, the Philharmonie and the Radio France Auditorium, both with outstanding acoustics, the possibility of scheduling all opening nights on the same day is easier. Also, when you look at seat availability for all those events on the 16th, you will see that all will be full. The Parisian audience is ever-expanding and it is clear that the new halls, particularly the Philharmonie, have attracted new ticket buyers.

But the bad news is the failure of management to understand the need for more public notice about what the classical music community offers the public. Since newspapers everywhere have been giving more space and notice to more popular music-making, classical music has seen a sag in their amount of space in the media. While Parisian concert reviews are still a feature in major publications and newspapers, the fact that editors and journalists have to choose events to cover and exclude others would be totally unnecessary if there was a reasonable consideration, by managers, of how to space your major events to achieve the maximum notice.

Here is my concert and opera schedule for the next few days. Thursday is the opening concert of the new season for the Orchestre National de France. With Daniele Gatti taking over the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam this season, we are awaiting performances by the new Music Director, Emmanuel Krivine. Since any decision takes a great deal of time bouncing around the long halls of Radio France, his appointment was only announced in June, long after the schedule was fixed. Opening night will be conducted by the French conductor Stéphane Denève (who some imagine might have been a better choice than Maestro Krivine.) The all-French program features Ibert, Saint-Saëns, Ravel and Florent Schmitt’s La Tragédie de Salomé. The next night, the famous “train-wreck” Friday, I will be again at the Radio France Auditorium for the opening concert of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, already noted. I was forced to make that choice because this concert, unlike the other events on the same night, will not be repeated. Saturday night was free and I will see the revival of Tosca as the first opera at Bastille (with Anja Harteros, Marcelo Alvarez and Bryn Terfel) because after the previous night’s multiple openings, nothing was repeated the next night. It is Sunday afternoon for the Harding debut with the Orchestre de Paris. The Monday night ticket is for the second performance of Eliogabalo at Palais Garnier. I might write again after the experience is over but the concentration of delights is even now a bit numbing. Music critics cannot write about every event and editors will not consider making space for such a concentration of events. In almost any other city, managers would work together to fashion a two to four week opening so that all events get the attention they deserve. This idea has yet to occur to the musical establishment in Paris.

Harteros Warms to Tosca

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Anja Harteros and Bryn Terfel

Published: July 17, 2016

MUNICH — When Anja Harteros was singing her first Toscas three seasons ago, it was clear she had the vocal resources for the role, and the Mediterranean temperament. Even so, the portrayal didn’t quite compute.

Enter Bryn Terfel, a Scarpia to rattle the aloofest, longest-legged of prima donnas. And Jonas Kaufmann, trusted stage buddy, sweet Cavaradossi. Now the diva’s doubt, fear, passion and rage turn on the instant, her slashing knife grip extending a ferrous will.

Harteros fairly lived the part July 1 here at the National Theater, teamed as she must have wanted and apparently undeterred by Luc Bondy’s clunky 2009 stage conception. Warm chest tones and creamy highs, floated or hurled, came into thrilling dramatic focus this time around. Illica and Giacosa’s words made inexorable sense, the Attavanti canvas and Terfel’s guts sure targets.

The tenor, too, had a great night: astutely colored phrases, gleaming top notes, a clarion but unexaggerated Vittoria! For once, E lucevan le stelle emerged as spontaneous thought, always in Kaufmann’s wonderfully lucid Italian.

If the mighty Welshman sounded a smidgen less opulent of voice than in previous Munich Scarpias, his characterization was as potent as ever, and his savoring of Puccini’s lines most enjoyable.

The snag, alas, was Kirill Petrenko’s conducting. Forceful and weighty, it never felt rooted in the language it was supposedly driving. Still, a terrific night for the Munich Opera Festival, and nowhere more refined than during Io de’ sospiri as sung by the Tölzer Knabenchor’s uncredited soloist.

Photo © Wilfried Hösl

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Honeck Honors Strauss

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Manfred Honeck

Published: April 11, 2014

MUNICH — Watching Manfred Honeck lead the Munich Philharmonic in Strauss last Sunday (April 6), a question came to mind. Why isn’t this the man replacing Lorin Maazel next year?

With refreshing conviction and broad arm gestures à la Carlos Kleiber, Honeck drew polished performances from the orchestra in three contrasted scores; the horns played dazzlingly. He waltzed with shrewd abandon through the 1944 Rosenkavalier-Suite, injecting drama and nailing Artur Rodziński’s (or is it really Strauss’s?) hearty coda. He elegantly accompanied in the Vier letzte Lieder (1948) as Anja Harteros painted the words and sent ravishing soprano tones around the acoustically deficient Gasteig hall. Perfect flute trills graced Im Abendrot. If her consonants did not always project, blame the architect. After the break, the Pittsburgh-based conductor richly indulged the melodies of Ein Heldenleben (1898), a work he played in Vienna under Kleiber 21 years ago, and he managed its counterpoint to gripping effect. Sreten Krstič’s sweet and poised but light-bodied solo violin fit in neatly. The MPhil will repeat the program tomorrow in New York, where Fabio Luisi conducts.

Photo © Felix Broede

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Kušej Saps Verdi’s Forza

Friday, December 27th, 2013

La forza del destino at Bavarian State Opera in December 2013

Published: December 27, 2013

MUNICH — Martin Kušej’s new staging of La forza del destino for Bavarian State Opera opened Dec. 22 and is due for streaming tomorrow. Well cast, it alas trivializes the feud and the questions of honor and destiny that excited Verdi and his librettist Piave, despite being the busy company’s second try in eight years at this jumpy work.

At the second performance (Dec. 25), Anja Harteros soared as Leonora, her voice radiant and expressive. Nadia Krasteva’s Preziosilla sounded firmer than four years ago in Vienna, where she operated as a cowgirl. Jonas Kaufmann simulated tenorial heroics as Alvaro, but leaden tempos in Act III audibly strained him. Ludovic Tézier introduced a solid, resonant Carlo, Vitalij Kowaljow a menacing Guardiano (and Calatrava). Renato Girolami savored brief humor as a foam-container-meal-doling Melitone.

Though reportedly booed on opening night, conductor Asher Fisch ably commanded the structure and balances (as he had done for Don Carlo here in January 2012). His clinical discipline recalls the Verdi of Karajan without the orchestral megalomania, but also without Karajan’s flair in cantabile lines. Chorus and orchestra sounded splendid.

Kušej does not sustain the pace of Piave’s conception or inform its twists of fate. Instead he weakens the opera with banal settings and a political agenda all his own. Much of the time, we are on the premises of what appears to be a poor (American) evangelical church; Leonora gets a head-to-toe dunking in baptismal water. Visual references to Guantánamo and an Act III detour to Abu Ghraib, rather than propelling a feud, suggest anti-Americanism.

The production follows Verdi’s 1869 Milan score, modified in Act III according to a Franz Werfel scheme used for the 1926 Munich premiere of La forza del destino (under a 31-year-old Karl Böhm).

Photo © Wilfried Hösl

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In Your Face, Astrid

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Astrid Varnay by Maurizio Anzeri

Published: October 17, 2013

MUNICH — Spirograph needlemaniac defaces legendary (and conveniently deceased) Brünnhilde. And so on.

Bavarian State Opera’s anticipated additions to its portrait gallery went public yesterday, their twenty-one victims — er, honored subjects — being depicted in various media by twenty-one visual artists. Scattered docent notes:

• Anja Harteros – toner light
• Astrid Varnay – best in person
• Brigitte Fassbaender – high treason
• Christian Gerhaher – sun shines out of his … mouth
• Diana Damrau – per pietà
• Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – cluster analysis
• Edita Gruberová – background material
• Fritz Wunderlich – for Hasselblad‎
• Hermann Prey – about to …
• Hildegard Behrens – Dietrich? Garbo? both?
• Jonas Kaufmann – David? Cellini? finished?
• Júlia Várady – ready for her close-up
• Klaus Florian Vogt – Brabant H.S.
• Kurt Moll – a wash
• Lucia Popp – monochrome Sophie
• Margaret Price – unmasked!
• Peter Seiffert – got THaT rigHt!
• René Kollo – eye, nose, mouth, eye
• Waltraud Meier – Broadway-bound
• Wolfgang Brendel – every inch the Bavarian
• Wolfgang Koch – unhappy camper

The needleman in question is Maurizio Anzeri, a London-based Italian whose stock-in-trade is embroidered photography, much of it stunning though not usually intended to depict a specific person.

Anzeri likes to cover a face, spurred on perhaps by its energy. It is unclear why, but the Freunde des Nationaltheaters München e.V. chose him to portray soprano Astrid Varnay, and he has overcome the obvious hurdle by recourse to a diptych (shown). Whether he listened to her work for inspiration or direction, or has sensed what she achieved, is anyone’s guess.

Raised in New Jersey, Varnay debuted at the Metropolitan Opera at the age of 23 singing Wagner’s Sieglinde and, days later, Brünnhilde. After successes in the 1950s at Bavaria’s Bayreuth Festival as well as at Bavarian State Opera, she settled in Munich and is buried here.

Photo © Bayerische Staatsoper

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Portraits For a Theater

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

National Theater in Munich

Published: October 13, 2013

MUNICH — Next Wednesday (Oct. 16) new portraits go on display in Bavarian State Opera’s lobby. Twenty-one new portraits.

Astrid Varnay, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Kurt Moll, Brigitte Fassbaender, Lucia Popp, Edita Gruberová, René Kollo, Hildegard Behrens and Waltraud Meier are among the worthy singing subjects, company troopers all.

But theatergoers expecting traditional oils on canvas in pretty frames may be in for a shock.

The new dauerhaft pieces embrace painting, drawing, tapestry, photography, hot wax, and at least one video requiring its own flat-panel display, to be hung in a hall that once serenely separated our electronic world from the madness on stage.

To create space in the company’s 114-year-old portrait collection, fifteen tired canvasses recently disappeared into das Lager des Theatermuseums, a.k.a. deep storage, leaving bare walls.

Safe, at least for now, are well-varnished depictions of such epoch-defining Munich musicians as Heinrich Vogl and Therese Thoma, Wagner’s first Loge (1869) and first Sieglinde (1870).

But 21 new faces? The growth spurt — involving the same number of visual artists and two years’ gestation — is intended to correct a lull. Apparently only conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch and impresario Peter Jonas have been added to the collection since the 1960s.

And it serves another purpose. Fifty years have passed since Bavarian State Opera resumed operations at Munich’s National Theater, on Nov. 21, 1963, long after the house was cratered by Allied bombs. Rebuilding cost: 60 million Deutschmarks, or thereabouts.

Friends of the company (Freunde des Nationaltheaters München e.V.) wanted to seize the occasion to acknowledge the work of singers in each subsequent decade.

The result is portrait commissions that are a little front-loaded. Hermann Prey, for instance, who sang leading roles starting in the 1960s, is honored alongside salad-green contributors such as Klaus Florian Vogt, who began in the 2000s and may or may not prove to be a singer of lasting artistry.

At any rate, the collection is made current, and presumably hipper, by this large initiative.

Other subjects of the commissions include Munich favorites Margaret Price, Júlia Várady, Wolfgang Brendel and the still-active, though wobbly, Peter Seiffert.

An odd choice is Fritz Wunderlich, the honey-toned Mozart tenor who died young. He went through the company’s apprentice program before the house reopened, but then bolted for a career contract in rival Vienna.

Today’s singers in the lineup, besides Vogt, are Anja Harteros, Diana Damrau, Jonas Kaufmann, Christian Gerhaher and Wolfgang Koch.

Administrative enthusiasm and the sheer scale of the effort have led to at least one creaky assignment, its outcome already made public, that for Damrau. The soprano gets photography-based treatment that manages to degrade and marginalize her without giving the viewer a sense of who she is.

With luck, this will be the qualitative exception.

Bronze busts of the company’s music directors, meanwhile, comprise another facet of the theater’s art. At present this series is complete through Zubin Mehta, who left in 2006.

As it happens, a new Generalmusikdirektor, Kirill Petrenko, took over last month on a five-year contract, and so the just-departed Kent Nagano will likely soon be commemorated in three-dimensional metal.

Print and online material related to the company’s 2013–14 season, not incidentally, showcases black-and-white photographs of the bombed-out house as well as 1963 crowds after the reopening.

Soberly its slogan taps Nietzsche: Wie man wird, was man ist.

How One Becomes What One Is — a smooth segue to a bleaker side of the retrospective. Official research has at last begun into correspondence between the Nazi Party and two former Bavarian State Opera GMDs, Richard Strauss (tenure 1894–1896) and Clemens Krauss (1937–1944).

Petrenko, looking forward, gives his first concert next month, a freebie with Nina Stemme, Kaufmann, and the virtuosic Bavarian State Orchestra.

A few days later, on the anniversary itself, he leads a new staging of Die Frau ohne Schatten, the opera that reopened the National Theater under GMD Joseph Keilberth one day before Kennedy was shot.

Some of Petrenko’s initial work will be streamed at Die Frau ohne Schatten (directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski) on Dec. 1; La clemenza di Tito (Jan Bosse) on Feb. 15, 2014; and Die Soldaten (Andreas Kriegenburg) on May 31.

Here’s hoping the new portraits, in the aggregate, adequately reflect the virtues of this remarkable institution!

Photo © Wilfried Hösl

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Kaufmann Sings Manrico

Friday, June 28th, 2013

Jonas Kaufmann singing in Munich in June 2013

Published: June 28, 2013

MUNICH — It helps when two of Caruso’s “four greatest singers” live nearby, the more so when they act as capably as they sing. That was the edge enjoyed by Bavarian State Opera in restaging Verdi’s Il trovatore to open its 138-year-old Munich Opera Festival yesterday, one of no fewer than 17 operas by Verdi and Wagner to be given here in the next 35 days. But leave it to Nikolaus Bachler — gifted narrator, sometime actor, and guiding light at this, Germany’s richest and busiest opera company — to OK a staging scheme that substitutes Age of Steam vaudeville and farce for 15th-century Aragón and Vascongadas melodrama, black-on-black sets and glaring white-neon slashes for Latin color, rootless stand-ins for impassioned characters.

French régisseur Olivier Py “focuses on the darkness, nightmare and horror of the story,” making use of a rotating four-level unit set, with add-ons and modular subtractions as events unfold. Engaging for a while, the unit unavoidably out-twirls its welcome and by Parts III and IV, bereft of sufficient new dramaturgical thought, it is largely shunted aside. Sooner than that, however, Py’s translocation trivializes the tale. Ferrando’s story-setting — the sleeping babies, the gypsy hag and all — plays on a vaudeville stage-within-the-stage to men in suits and ties. After an Anvil Chorus sparked by hammerings on a steam locomotive, all depart, leaving Azucena to wail her own backgrounder (Stride la vampa!) with no audience. Leonora’s rescue from a convent future misfires as a result of action split onto two non-competing levels, and Manrico’s execution confounds all situational logic. Ah well, at least there is Azucena’s nude mom-ghost as constant company.

Those locals, Anja Harteros* and Jonas Kaufmann, made their scenic role debuts amid this nonsense. It was her night, not so much the troubadour’s, but both sang with consistent beauty of tone and expressive point. Aided by conductor Paolo Carignani, the Greek-German soprano delivered a luxuriant, pleasingly inflected Tacea la notte placida and later fairly milked D’amor sull’ali rosee, bringing down the house. Then Carignani, otherwise robust of purpose, failed to inject tension for the Miserere and Leonora’s ensuing stretta fell flat. Kaufmann traversed his seventh Verdi role with power to spare. Ah sì, ben mio, sung against a reflecting board, drew best use of his bronzed timbre and deft messa di voce. On the phrase O teco almeno he mustered (to these ears**) a high B‑flat and held it without strain for four seconds. He refused to push for volume in the All’armi! — a smart Manrico, no mad thriller.

Caruso’s quartet found completion in relative veterans Elena Manistina and Alexey Markov, an Azucena and Conte di Luna pairing at the Met this past January. She unquestionably has the chops for the gypsy — contralto with an extended top, more than mezzo-soprano as marketed — but she did not yesterday convey terror, horror or motherhood. After an impeccable Il balen del suo sorriso, Markov’s unified, rich baritone seemed to fade. He came nowhere near to matching Harteros in the sexually charged sequence Mira, di acerbe lagrime … Vivrà! contende il giubilo, the evening’s one serious musical setback. Years of Bayreuth duty have sadly lodged a beat in Kwangchul Youn’s warm and solidly trained bass. Still, as Ferrando on that vaudeville stage, he gamely and vividly introduced the story (Di due figli vivea padre beato) to Py’s implausible audience.

Carignani lifted Verdi’s lines and mostly kept the rhythms alive and taut. He favored light textures, kindly supporting the voices but depriving the string sound of bottom and resonance. The Bavarian State Orchestra played well for him; the chorus sang in unclear Italian with fair discipline. During intermission, Manistina and Kaufmann silently indulged the director in an onstage magic-trick box-sawing of the tenor’s body. Fortuitously, maybe, this passed with little notice, as the well-dressed premiere throngs were still out sipping wine, munching canapés and spooning Rote Grütze mit Vanillesoße.

[*Munich is artistic home for the soprano. She lives in Bergneustadt.]

[**For Associated Press, Mike Silverman reports a B-natural in his interview-cum-review. Annika Täuschel, reporting for BR Klassik, claims Kaufmann actually sang a high C yesterday: “Er singt es, das hohe C!”]

Still image from video © Bayerische Staatsoper

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