Posts Tagged ‘Munich’

Houston Has No Problem

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Andrés Orozco Estrada and the Houston Symphony Orchestra at work in Jones Hall

Published: March 20, 2018

MUNICH — Judging from reports around the country here, the Houston Symphony Orchestra today returns to Texas mission-accomplished. The clarity of its tone colors, the exuberance of its brass section, the articulate luster of its strings — all have been remarked upon during an eleven-day tour to busy German cities (plus Brussels, Vienna and Warsaw) already awash in art music. Last night’s concert in the Gasteig certified the plaudits, although the advance acclaim had not filled every seat. Stronger programming might have helped. Music director Andrés Orozco Estrada opened with the so-called Overture to West Side Story (1956), “a compilation of tunes not made by [Bernstein]” (Jack Gottlieb), when he could have chosen the work’s tense and authentic Prologue and thrown a cleverer light on his musicians. A heavily pregnant Hilary Hahn then meandered in good taste and with pure intonation through the same composer’s conceited Serenade after Plato’s Symposium (1954), unable to do much about its weak structure but sensitively supported by harpist Megan Conley and six astute percussionists. Dvořák’s D-Minor Seventh Symphony (1885) received a brilliantly flowing, sunny performance, with smooth work from the Houston horns and much soft, detailed playing. The Vienna-based, Colombian-Austrian maestro, who learned music at a school next to the rainforest east of Medellín, and first conducted there, will be with the 105-year-old HSO until at least 2022. An ideal appointment, on the evidence.

Photo © Anthony Rathbun

Related posts:
Flitting Thru Prokofiev
Nazi Document Center Opens
Concert Price Check
Pintscher Conducts New Music
Season of Concessions

Dorny, Jurowski to Staatsoper

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Vladimir Jurowski photographed by Simon Pauly in Berlin

Published: March 6, 2018

MUNICH — The rumor emerged last fall, lingered, and today became fact during a Free State of Bavaria cabinet meeting: Serge Dorny, 56, and Vladimir Jurowski, 45, will in Sept. 2021 take over as Intendant and Generalmusikdirektor, respectively, at Bavarian State Opera. So said a statement from Bavaria’s Kultusminister Ludwig Spaenle, listing the appointments in that sequence. No contract term was disclosed, and no salary. The opera company will go without a GMD in the preceding season, after incumbent Kirill Petrenko steps down.

Lyon-based Dorny and Berlin-based Jurowski have been colleagues before, if not salaried together, notably by way of the London Philharmonic and the Glyndebourne Festival. Presumably they will get along, as have Petrenko and outgoing Intendant Nikolaus Bachler. Bavaria’s Culture Ministry did not answer questions about the joint nature of the new hiring.

Dorny drew attention around Germany when in 2014 he sued Dresden’s Semperoper for wrongful termination. He had been appointed Intendant of that company for five years, to start that fall, but was peremptorily fired in February, midway through an agreed preparative season, and suffered the further indignity of a Saxon minister’s televised description that he had behaved “like the Sun King.” He won the case, and pay and damages to the tune of a reported €1.5 million, and in July 2016 fended off the Free State of Saxony’s appeal.

Dorny grew up in a Flemish-speaking family on western Belgium’s French border. He began his career in 1983 as a dramaturge working for Gerard Mortier at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie. Four years later he was heading the Festival van Vlaanderen. From 1996 to 2003 he served as chief executive and artistic director of the London Philharmonic, a post that took him yearly to Glyndebourne, before he started in his present, acclaimed role as directeur général of the Opéra de Lyon.

The Moscow-born conductor, whose family emigrated to Germany in 1990, promises high standards and a slightly freer approach to music direction than Petrenko. His theater work has centered on projects at Glyndebourne, where between 2003 and 2013 he filmed operas by all three of BStO’s so-called “house gods”: Mozart, Wagner and Strauss.

Janowski debuted with BStO in Nov. 2015 leading an adrenaline-charged Akademiekonzert program of Liszt, Hindemith and Prokofiev, and weeks later presided over a musically and dramatically successful new Ognenny angel (Огненный ангел). Although he did return for one performance of that opera the next summer, he has not appeared with the company since.

Andris Nelsons’ name was also floated for the GMD position. He moved to Munich in 2015 and had seemingly been interested in vitalizing the thinnish opera side of his career at Germany’s biggest opera company. However, as Munich’s Merkur newspaper has reported, his schedule was deemed too full to take on all the GMD duties — a fair assessment but one that could equally apply to Jurowski, who today heads orchestras* in London, Berlin and Moscow. Four performances of Rusalka last June have been Nelsons’ only BStO assignment.

[*He is concurrently principal conductor of the London Philharmonic, chief conductor and artistic director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin and artistic director of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia (in Moscow, formerly the USSR State Symphony Orchestra) … as well as principal artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, in London, and artistic director of the George Enescu Festival, in Bucharest.]

Photo © Simon Pauly

Related posts:
Candidate Nelsons?
Berlin’s Dark Horse
MPhil Bosses Want Continuity
Die Fledermaus Returns
All Eyes On the Maestro

Margaine, Tézier Find Favor

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

La Favorite at Bavarian State Opera in Munich

Published: February 27, 2018

MUNICH — Sometimes the revival has the better cast. So it was for La Favorite at Bavarian State Opera on Sunday, when Giacomo Sagripanti, Clémentine Margaine and Ludovic Tézier made more sense of the music than their counterparts in the 2016 production’s first run (a Deutsche Grammophon DVD) — conductor Sagripanti instilling new urgency and sweep, Margaine singing magnificently as Léonor, Tézier’s Alphonse resonant and incisive. Matthew Polenzani and Mika Kares reprised their monastic duties as Fernand and Balthazar, Kares with impressive control of line. Much applause. It was, though, a night to listen rather than look because Amélie Niermeyer’s morally confused, for-the-camera staging serves neither the historical characters nor Donizetti’s.

Photo © Wilfried Hösl

Related posts:
Voix and Cav
Plácido Premium
All Eyes On the Maestro
Candidate Nelsons?
Die Fledermaus Returns

Five More Years

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

Munich’s City Council, or Stadtrat, in January 2018

Published: February 21, 2018

MUNICH — Putting box-office steadiness ahead of artistic achievement, the city council here voted this morning to extend by five years Valery Gergiev’s contract as Chefdirigent of the civically run Munich Philharmonic, as requested by the orchestra’s managers. The move doubles the Russian’s tenure, to encompass the seasons 2020–25. No salary was disclosed, as usual, but past reports have shown €800,000 as an annual figure.

Matthias Ambrosius, spokesman for the musicians, and clarinetist, noted in writing that the “vast majority” of MPhil players had wanted to lengthen the collaboration with Gergiev. Nonetheless it is widely understood that the managers’ request stemmed from a desire to ease dislocation of the orchestra in 2020, when a massive project to reconfigure its Gasteig home begins. Gergiev will in this sense be doing the city a favor, gamely cooperating for seasons at a temporary concert hall.

Photo © Landeshauptstadt München

Related posts:
MPhil Bosses Want Continuity
Bruckner’s First, Twice
Flitting Thru Prokofiev
Netrebko, Barcellona in Aida
Honeck Honors Strauss

MPhil Bosses Want Continuity

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

Valery Gergiev and Munich Philharmonic Intendant Paul Müller in 2017

Published: January 31, 2018

MUNICH — Contrary to a London blog report yesterday, nothing has been “locked down” with regard to a contract extension for Valery Gergiev at the Munich Philharmonic, though things are indeed moving in that direction, for practical more than artistic reasons.

What has happened is that Hans-Georg Küppers, Kulturreferent of the City of Munich, which operates the orchestra, has gone public with his resolve to recommend a full five-year renewal for the Russian maestro to the city council at its scheduled Feb. 21 meeting. Any contract-signing would naturally take place later.

Küppers, MPhil Intendant Paul Müller (pictured last year with Gergiev), and Munich Bürgermeister Dieter Reiter are all inclined on continuity because 2020, when the present contract expires, heralds the lengthy and probably tortuous closure of the MPhil’s Gasteig home for gutting — at which time the musicians must decamp for a temporary wooden hall next to a power plant up the Isar River.

Gergiev has been no more of a musical success here than anyone predicted, but the high tensions around his friendship with Vladimir Putin — at fever pitch in 2013 when he was hired — have abated, and artistic decision-making since he began his tenure 29 months ago has gone smoothly.

Regarding other jobs around town, rumors persist that Vladimir Jurowski has joined Andris Nelsons im Gespräch for Kirill Petrenko’s position as Generalmusikdirektor at Bavarian State Opera. Petrenko steps down in fall 2020 after an unprecedented single season as head both of Germany’s largest opera company and of the Berlin Philharmonic. No rumors are yet floating about a successor to, or a renewal for, Mariss Jansons, whose contract at the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is up one year after Gergiev’s.

Photo © Florian Emanuel Schwarz

Related posts:
MPhil Asserts Bruckner Legacy
Flitting Thru Prokofiev
Berlin’s Dark Horse
Gergiev, Munich’s Mistake
Horses for Mozartwoche

Jansons Turns 75

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Mariss Jansons and Martin Angerer in rehearsal in Munich’s Gasteig in January 2018

Published: January 12, 2018

MUNICH — Against the medical odds, perhaps, Mariss Jansons turns seventy-five on Sunday, still adored by his favorite orchestra. Bavarian Broadcasting marks the occasion with a 44-minute video portrait, Im Zeichen der Musik, or In the Music’s Character, freely watchable. Last evening here at the Gasteig, a subscription concert of the Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks paraded contrasting sides of the musicians’ long union with Jansons, and everyone’s versatility. Martin Angerer navigated the elegant byways and tricky trills of Hummel’s Concerto a trombe principale (1803) with apparent ease in its original key of E, tidily accompanied. In an interview, the section principal distinguished this “godly” tonality from the “mundane” feel of E-flat, taken often in a convenience edition of the Hummel he deems a “stab in the heart,” but he stopped short of chancing the performance with the kind of Klappen-Trompete used originally, preferring the luxuries of a modern American piston instrument. (Soloist and conductor are pictured midweek.) Genia Kühmeier, Gerhild Romberger, Maximilian Schmitt and Luca Pisaroni made an impeccable quartet for the program’s main work, after the break, Beethoven’s C-Major Mass (1807), although the bass for some reason sang half-voice. The BR Chor glowingly intoned its lines yet struggled to focus the words in the acoustically poor venue. Jansons led supportively but as always from the ground up, never from the bowels of the Earth, and showing no inquirer’s zeal for the imaginative score. His clinical manner and the Bavarian players’ skill found their most persuasive outlet in an episodic exercise in chromatic unrest at the top of the evening: the Symphony in Three Movements (1945) of Stravinsky. Here, structure reigned, details sparkled, and the con moto third movement sounded (suitably) die-cast. It was in 2003 that this celebrated partnership began, since when the demanding and fussy but personable Latvian maestro’s contract has been renewed with accelerating commitment: for three years in 2013, and for three more years less than two years later — right after he sounded receptive to a theoretical, but as it turned out imagined, offer in Berlin. Which takes us up to 2021, past several happy birthday returns.

Photo © Bayerischer Rundfunk

Related posts:
Zimerman Plays Munich
Busy Week
MPhil Bosses Want Continuity
Manon, Let’s Go
Time for Schwetzingen

Staatsoper Imposes Queue-it

Thursday, December 28th, 2017


Published: December 28, 2017

MUNICH — Post is under revision.

Illustration © Queue-it and Bayerische Staatsoper

Related posts:
Staatsoper Favors Local Fans
See-Through Lulu
Ettinger Drives Aida
U.S. Orchestras on Travel Ban
Time for Schwetzingen

Gärtnerplatztheater Reopens

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

Die lustige Witwe at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich in October 2017

Published: November 4, 2017

MUNICH — With a shrill, pretty Hanna, a shriller, pretty Valencienne, a Camille of uneven tone, but a tight, fluent chorus and much charming orchestral work, Die lustige Witwe ended six years of darkness at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz Oct. 19. This city’s second opera company, of the same name, had been homeless all that time while painfully slow laborers spiffed up the 1,000-seat venue’s front-of-house and essentially rebuilt its backstage.

Both of the bosses were on duty for the return: Anthony Bramall, the company’s new Chefdirigent, buoyant of rhythm and propulsive in Lehár’s 1905 score; and Josef Köpplinger, the Staatstheater’s Intendant, who took it upon himself to stage Victor Léon and Leo Stein’s bubbly book within a tragic frame, adding a dark-angel mime (Adam Cooper) to lace the action and sustain his “concept” as if unaware that living without anxiety had been the authors’ message.

Pontevedro’s assets had been secure from the start in Danilo’s love for Hanna, but the alliance of Bramall and Köpplinger going forward could prove far from secure. For Gärtnerplatz remains all about the “show,” not so much the singing, just as before the years of closure. The embassy, the garden, the animated pavilion, the “Maxim’s” theme-party in Hanna’s ballroom looked terrific, while only Daniel Prohaska’s nuanced Danilo, of the principals, sounded worthy.

Photo © Marie-Laure Briane

Related posts:
Die Fledermaus Returns
Manon, Let’s Go
Chung to Conduct for Trump
Kaufmann, Wife Separate
Time for Schwetzingen

Concert Hall Design Chosen

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Architectural design winner for Munich’s future Konzerthaus

Published: October 27, 2017

MUNICH — Though it will be built on the wrong side of the wrong train station, Munich’s much-debated, much-delayed new concert hall crept toward reality today with the announcement of a winning design. Bregenz-based Cukrowicz Nachbaur Architekten secured first place in the competition for the venue, now dubbed “Münchner Konzerthaus” (instead of “Konzertsaal München” or “Neues Odeon”), said Bavaria’s Interior Ministry. A 25-person jury reviewed thirty-odd designs yesterday and this morning at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater before reaching its decision. Details will be given tomorrow at a news conference; seating capacity may be stated as 1,800 with project cost at €300 million.

All being well, which is saying a lot in this city on this subject, a bulbous glassy prism with its top planed off will as early as 2019 start to rise just east of Munich East train station on blighted land long home to a Knödel factory. In it symphonic music will be played to audiences larger than at the Herkulessaal and with better acoustics than at the Gasteig, Munich’s two problematic existing halls. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra will for the first time in its seven-decade history have a home.

But things going smoothly won’t change the location. Questions that have been asked since the site was announced two years ago — out of the blue, in a political about-face after it seemed the whole new-hall idea had been killed by Bürgermeister Dieter Reiter and Bavaria’s Minister-Präsident Horst Seehofer, and following twenty years of consideration of some half-dozen other sites — are stark and tinged with disbelief that a prime location was not feasible. Will people want to travel outside Munich’s historic core for art music? Will concertgoers coming into town from the suburbs want to change trains at Munich Central Station, ride five stops to Munich East, another hub, and then walk 200 meters further east? One would think not. The very benefit of siting the new hall in this drab place, that it could be built expeditiously, may limit its success.

Illustrations © Hans-Joachim Wuthenow

Related posts:
MPhil Bosses Want Continuity
New Hall for Munich?
Chung to Conduct for Trump
Nézet-Séguin: Hit, Miss
Bretz’s Dutchman, Alas Miked

Poulenc DVD Back On Market

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Dialogues des Carmélites on DVD and Blu-ray from BelAir Classiques

Published: August 18, 2017

MUNICH — BelAir Classiques and Mezzo TV have succeeded in getting a ban overturned on their sale and airing, respectively, of a 2010 filmed staging of Dialogues des Carmélites made here at Bavarian State Opera.

The ban, or arrêt, had been imposed in 2015 by the Cour d’appel in Paris following a complaint by heirs of Francis Poulenc and the opera’s source novelist Georges Bernanos.

In that court’s judgment, “the staging by Dmitri Tcherniakov realizes in its final scene a dénaturation of the [opera] and thus infringes the moral rights of authors attached to it.” Dénaturation translates as adulteration or falsification.

Indeed the Russian director substitutes in the climactic scene a deadly gas blast and one self-sacrifice for the serial guillotining of the titular nuns laid out graphically in Poulenc’s music.

But France’s higher Cour de cassation saw the case differently in its June 27 ruling, according to BelAir and Mezzo attorney Judith Adam-Caumeil of Cabinet Adam-Caumeil, a law firm specialized in Franco-German business.

It overturned the ban, she said, because no alteration had been made to libretto or score and the Cour d’appel had admitted that the opera’s essential themes, such as hope, martyrdom, grace, and the communion of saints, dear to Bernanos and Poulenc, had been respected.

Declaring the case a “landmark” with regard to “artistic freedom of staging in French law,” she suggested the ruling would apply equally to “theater, ballet or cinema.”

Not at issue was copyright, even with Dialogues remaining rights-protected in Europe and America, although this status kept BStO and its director from tampering with the words and music.

Adam-Caumeil: “Tcherniakov certainly brought his own vision to the original work by altering the final scene, but the music and text remained unchanged. The essential themes … were respected because the nuns were ready to die … . Thus, no dénaturation of the primary work can be blamed on Tcherniakov.”

BStO joined in appealing the ban. Dialogues most recently appeared on the company’s National Theater stage early last year, in defiance of a letter from the heirs (but not of the ban), and will in 2020 return, said BelAir distributor Naxos in an Aug. 4 statement.

BelAir and Mezzo can now profit from the content as before, and Naxos early this month relaunched BelAir’s DVD along with a new Blu-ray edition.

Illustration © BelAir Classiques

Related posts:
Poulenc Heirs v. Staatsoper
Ettinger Drives Aida
Mélisande as Hotel Clerk
Return of the Troubadour
Kušej Saps Verdi’s Forza