Saturday, 29 November 2014

Received in the mail this Saturday morning : program book for Mathis Nitschke's 'Happy Happy' from Montpellier

This Saturday morning, I have received the program book published by Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier for the world première performance of Mathis Nitschke's Happy, Happy.

The 48 pages book contains :
- complete cast ;
- bilingual synopsis (English and French) ;
- a 7 pages article on the composer and his works ;
- the original libretto (in French, English and German) and its translation in French ;
- biographies of the artists.

Today : world première of Jüri Reinvere's opera 'Peer Gynt' in Oslo

Today, Jüri Reinvere's new opera, Peer Gynt, with a libretto (in German) by the composer after Henrik Ibsen's play will be performed in Oslo.

It is Reinvere's second opera after Puhdistus (Purge), first performed in Helsinki in 2012. It is the second opera after Ibsen's play. The first was composed by Werner Egk in 1938.
«Who are you?» That is the question Peer Gynt asks the Bøyg, the Mountain King and the Sphinx, receiving only the answer, «Myself». But who is that, and who is Peer Gynt? What does it mean to be Norwegian in 2014, 200 years after we gained our first written constitution? What or where is the core, the seed? Is there one at all ? This work is a commentary on the position of the Peer Gynt phenomenon as a national and international Norwegian symbol. It is the story of the search for an identity that constantly escapes us. Our past and our memories, on the other hand, we carry with us whether we want to or not. The story of the evasive Peer Gynt shows that we have to face them in order to better understand ourselves.(reproduced from
There are 8 singers, all of them singing several parts, except Peer Gynt : Nils Harald Sødal (tenor, Peer Gynt), Marita Sølberg (soprano, Young Solveig), Ingebjørg Kosmo (mezzo, Elderly Solveig), Kari Ulfsnes Kleiven (soprano, Ingrid / Anitra), David Hansen (countertenor, Bogey / Cheshire Cat), Thor Inge Falch (tenor, Smith / Huhu), Ketil Hugaas (bass baritone, Troll King / von Eberkopf / Professor Begriffenfeldt) and Johannes Weisser (baritone, Priest / Executioner, Minister Hussein). John Helmer Fiore will conduct the chorus and the orchestra of the Norwegian Opera. Sigrid Strøm Reibo will direct.

The orchestra is the following :
- 3 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons
- 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 tuba
- timpani and 4 percussionists
- 2 harps, piano, synthesizer, celesta
- tape
- strings

The opera should last about 2 hours and 20 minutes, with one interval. The first act consists of 3 'images' and the second of 4. Though the libretto has been written in German, the Norwegian National Opera will perform this new opera in Norwegian. There is no broadcast planned yet.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Today : world première of 'Das schwarze Blut' by François Fayt in Erfurt

Today, François Fayt's third opera, Das schwarze Blut (literally Black Blood, but usually translated as Bitter Victory), with a libretto (in German) by Marcel Maréchal after Louis Guilloux will be performed for the first time in Erfurt.


It is the composer's third opera, after L'Arbre de Mai (1993) and Le Dernier repas (1997). The original 1935 novel concentrates on the psychological alienation of an individual. It is based in Guilloux's memories of his philosophy tutor, Georges Palante, an anarchist thinker who eventually killed himself in 1925.
One day in 1917 an aging philosophy tutor, nicknamed Cripure (contraction of Critique of Pure Reason), feels unable to give advice to a student who is departing for the front in World War I. Amidst the horror of the war, he feels increasing disgust at life. He remembers how, years ago, he lost his wife. He is now living alone, supported only by Maia, his lazy housekeeper. His youthful promise as a writer and thinker has long since evaporated, and his body is becoming disturbingly abnormal as his feet become excessively large due to an illness. He hates himself, his colleagues and his students. He takes a class at which the students play up. In the afternoon he consoles himself with drink.
As the evening wears on he learns about disasters and local tragedies, deaths, robberies and betrayals which convince him of the irredeemable corruption of humanity. French soldiers are becoming mutinous as the war continues without hope of an end. Cripure becomes involved in an altercation at the railway station as disaffected soldiers riot. He hits a jingoistic "patriot" and is challenged to a duel, which he accepts. Convinced that he will be killed, he writes a will. To his surprise local people rally round to support him, including his housekeeper and old friends. Cripure's challenger is discovered to be a hypocrite and is forced to back off.
Saved from death, Cripure is more disturbed by the new evidence of human solidarity than he was by the consolation of despair. Unable to imagine a new life, he shoots himself. (from wikipedia)

The opera will be conducted by Jean-Paul Penin and directed by Marc Adam. The cast includes Maté Solyom-Nagy (Cripure), Jörg Rathmann (Nabucet), Katja Bildt, Marwan Shamiyeh, Daniela Gerstenmeyer, Juri Bakutov and Nils Stäfe.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Today : world première of 'Happy Happy' by Mathis Nitschke in Montpellier

Today, Mathis Nitschke's second opera, Happy Happy, will be performed at the Opéra Comédie in Montpellier. This opera is described by the composer as an 'operatic song cycle with party', and is written for soprano and chorus, chamber orchestra and electronics.

Mathis Nitschke 

It is Nitschke's second opera after Jetzt, first performed in Montpellier in November 2012. The composer wrote his own libretto.
There is no alternative. The public debate is under the seal of fatalism. There is no other objective than that of universal restrictions. The economy, the climate, overpopulation – the next catastrophe lies in wait at every bend. Minute by minute, the modern media feed us bad news. We know we should act but we feel powerless. We reduce our sphere of activity. We cease asking for anything whatsoever. We retreat into our shells. The link that would constitute values other than economic ones is missing. What might we do ?
Happy Happy shows us a society in which efficacity has become the determining value. It is a matter of favouring the formation of synapses as early as possible. Schooling is shortened, studies must be useful, work better organized. Music and the muses have lost their freedom of mind as well as their playful innocence and find themselves reduced to the simple functions to fulfil : they serve for learning more efficiently, communicating more efficiently, relaxing more efficiently, and procuring a real life more efficiently. Music has lost its self-worth. Life, too, perhaps.
Happy Happy brings together, in a sort of cabinet of wonders, impressions, quotations and scenes to become the plea for autonomy and co-humanity. Going back to the origins of Greek theatre, the play, written for a singer and a chorus, explores, in so doing, the connection between individual and crowd. It turns out that the person’s singing gets lost in the hot-tempered aspiration of the multitude at the celebration. And life goes on, ‘Happy Happy’. (reproduced from the composer's website)
Soprano Karen Vourc'h will be joined by the chorus of the Opéra national Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon and the Orchestre national Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon. It will be conducted by Arno Waschk and directed by Urs Schönebaum.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

My collection of catalogues of works by contemporary composers

In the 1990s, I visited regularly the Musicora music fair in Paris. Every year, I collected all composer's catalogue of works I could find there, from publishers or Music information centers. I also wrote to several companies to receive more by mail.
Unfortunately, since the internet has appeared, it is more difficult to receive these catalogues in a paper version. Most of them can be downloaded.

I now have about 835 different catalogues of 650 different composers. I have scanned their covers and uploaded them to a flickr folder :

The last four digits of the file name gives the date of publication of the catalogue. If the number is 0000, it means no date is available.

Among the publishers are : Alphonse Leduc, Bärenreiter, Boosey & Hawkes, Breitkopf and Härtel, Durand, Edition Peters, Edizioni Suvini Zerboni (ESZ), G. Schirmer, Gérard Billaudot, Ricordi, Salabert, Schott Mainz, Sikorski, Universal Edition, Wilhelm Hansen, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Music Information Centers.

CD and DVD : Philip Glass, 'Spuren der Verirrten' ('The Lost'), Orange Mountain Music

A little more than a year after the world première performance of Philip Glass' last opera, Spuren der Verirrten (The Lost) in Linz (Austria), Orange Mountain Music, the label entirely dedicated to the composer's works, publishes a CD and a DVD of the same performance.

The cast includes Bram de Beul (A), Sophy Ribrault (B), Jacques Le Roux (C), Karen Robertson (D), Gotho Griesmeier (E), Martin Achrainer (F), Martha Hirschmann (G), Matthäus Schmidlechner (H), Dominik Nekel (J), Elisabeth Breuer (K), Christa Ratzenböck (Third Person), Lutz Zeidler (Spectator) and Peter Pertusini (Protagonist). The chorus, Children's and Youth chorus, actors and extras of the Landestheater Linz and the Bruckner Orchester Linz are conducted by Dennis Russel Davies.

The opera is directed by David Pountney, with sets by Robert Israel, costumes by Anne Marie Legenstein and choreography by Amir Hosseinpour.

The DVD includes a 40 minutes bonus feature film, showing rehearsals of the show planned for the opening of the new theater in Linz. The audio is a mix of English and German, with English and German subtitles, and it is not particularly easy to follow, considering the switching languages. The DVD also has some music of the opera being played on the menu page and during the closing credits, which is very unfortunate.

The tracking of both items are not identical : 11, 10 and 5 tracks for the 3 acts on the DVD, 10, 10 and 2 on the CD. One might wonder on what basis the tracking has been made. The DVD has no booklet included. The bilingual (English and German) CD booklet is rather complete, with complete cast, an article on the work, the complete libretto and biographies of the artists. They could have used the same booklet for the DVD !

The 'New releases' page of the Orange Mountain Music website is just a gateway to The Philip Glass website is more interesting : there, we can find some articles on recordings and works. But this recording has not been added yet.

New recordings of contemporary operas in my collection

I have recently acquired the following recordings of contemporary operas :

- Dominick Argento : Casanova's Homecoming, conducted by Peter Jacoby, Newport Classic, NPD 85673/2
- Gerald Barry : The Importance of Being Earnest, conducted by Thomas Adès, NMC D197
- Harold Blumenfeld : Seasons in Hell, conducted by Gerhard Samuel, Albany, Troy 262/63

- Michael Ching : A Midsummer Night's Dream, conducted by Curtis Tucker, Albany, Troy 1507/08
- Daniel Crozier : With Blood, With Ink, conducted by Timothy Myers, Albany, Troy 1513/14
- Scott Everly : The House of the Seven Gables, conducted by David Gilbert, Albany, Troy 447

- Lorenzo Ferrero : Mare Nostro, conducted by Gianfranco Masini, Ricordi, RFCD 2016
- Ricky Ian Gordon : A Coffin in Egypt, conducted by Timothy Myers, Albany, Troy 1500
- Lee Hoiby : A Month in the Country, conducted by Steven Osgood, Albany, Troy 747-748

- James MacMillan : Clemency, conducted by David Angus, Bis, Bis-2129
- Nico Muhly : Two Boys, conducted by David Robertson, Nonesuch, 7539-79560-2
- Thea Musgrave : An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, conducted by the composer, NMC D167

- Richard Owen : Rain, conducted by Richard Owen Jr., Albany, Troy 623/24
- Krzysztof Penderecki : Ubu Rex, conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk, Accord, ACD 133-2
- William Grant Still : Highway One, USA, conducted by Philip Brunelle, Visionary Records, Vis 734

- Tan Dun : Marco Polo, conducted by Tan Dun, Sony, S2K 62912
- Judith Weir : The Vanishing Bridegroom, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, NMC D196
- Barbara White : Weakness, conducted by Michael Pratt, Albany, Troy 1441

It is a shame that the Albany company doesn't provide precise datas about the whereabouts of the recordings they publish (date, location, live or studio). I assume most recordings are from the first run of performances of these operas, but in several years, it might not be so easy to find information about that.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Received in the mail this Friday morning : program book for 'Le Petit Prince' by Michaël Levinas

This Friday morning, I have received the program book published by the Opéra de Lausanne for the world première performance of the new opera by Michaël Levinas, Le Petit Prince, after Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

It is a 16 pages booklet, entirely in French. It contains :
- the synopsis,
- the complete cast,
- interview with Michaël Levinas, reproduced from the November 2014 issue of Opéra Magazine,
- the artists' biographies.

Today : World première of 'Glare' by Søren Nils Eichberg in London

Today, the first opera by Danish composer Søren Nils Eichberg, Glare, with a libretto by German poet Hannah Dübgen, will be performed in the Linbury Studio Theatre, at the Royal Opera House.

The original libretto explores a tense web of human relationships and leaves the audience startled and questioning its own observation of the world, and, according to the Royal Opera House website, contains 'adult themes, including sexual violence'.
Glare is a psycho-drama chamber-play with elements of science-fiction which focuses on the relationships between four protagonists. As doubts surface about whether one of the characters is an artificial human, the opera debates reality and its perception, the authenticity of experience, and emotion. It asks what is real and how we can really know who we are. (reproduced from the Music Sales Classical website)
The opera will be performed by the Chroma chamber orchestra, conducted by Geoffrey Paterson, and directed by Thaddeus Strassberger. The cast is the following : Sky Ingram (Lea, a young woman, soprano), Amar Muchhala (Alex, a man in his prime, tenor), Clare Presland (Christina, Alex's ex-girlfriend, mezzo), and Ashley Riches (Michael, Alex's older-brother-like friend, baritone).
The orchestra consists of 1 flute, 1 bass clarinet, 1 contrabassoon, 1horn, 1 trombone, percussion, synthesizer and strings (1 violin, 1 viola, 1 cello, 1 doublebass). The opera should last about 75 minutes.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Received in the mail this Thursday morning : Program book for 'Gesualdo Shadows' by Bo Holten

This Thursday morning, I have received the program book published by The Royal Theater in Copenhagen for the world première performance of Bo Holten's opera Gesualdo - Shadows.

It is a 16 pages booklet, entirely in Danish. It contains :
- the complete cast and crew,
- the synopsis, by Eva Sommestad Holten,
- a biography of Carlo Gesualdo,
- an article on 'the opera's libretto and the libretto role',
- three acts, three cities : Napoli, Ferrara, Gesualdo,
- color photos of rehearsals,
- biographies of composer, librettist, choreographer and singers.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Received in the mail this Wednesday morning : Program book for 'The Trial' by Philip Glass

This Wednesday morning, I have received the program book published by Music Theatre Wales for the world première performance of Philip Glass' opera The Trial in London last month.

It is a 16 pages brochure unusually large (24 by 34 cm). It is bilingual (Welsh / English). It contains :
- the complete cast and crew,
- the synopsis, with a detailed description of the settings for all scenes,
- a 'profile of Philip Glass',
- an article on the relationship between Kafka and Glass,
- a few pictures of rehearsals and drawing of costumes,
- biographies,
- history of Music Theatre Wales and its involvement with Philip Glass' works,
- dates of the UK Tour 2014, with performances in 8 different locations.

The recording of the opera will be released by Orange Mountain Music.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Today : World première of 'Gesualdo Shadows' by Bo Holten in Copenhagen

Today, Bo Holten's new opera, Gesualdo - Shadows, with a libretto by Eva Sommestad Holten, will be performed for the first time in Copenhagen, on the small stage of the Opera House, the 'black box' theater, also known as Takkelloftet.

It is the composer's third opera after Maria Paradis (the story of a pianist child prodigy, contemporary of Mozart, who became blind at the age of four and was treated by Doctor Mesmer and his magnetism), and The Visit of the Royal Physician (published on DVD by Dacapo). It seems to be a new version of the 2003 work Gesualdo - Fyrste - Musiker - Morder.
We follow Carlo Gesualdo from his emotional youth in Naples to a time of artistic fervour in Ferrara and an old age of hardships, beauty, mystery and melancholy, confined to his princely palace on a mountaintop in the town of Gesualdo in Southern Italy. The story is a psychological drama about a time when art flourished, while society was scourged by reckless violence. (reproduced from the Danish Royal Theater's website)

The opera has been composed for a baroque orchestra consisting of oboe, 2 trombones, lute (theorbo), harpsichord (organ) and strings. It should last about 2 hours. It will be performed by Gert Henning-Jensen (Gesualdo), Ann-Christine Wesser Ingels (Léonora d'Este), Guido Paevatalu (Duke Alfonso of Ferrara), Jesper Buhl (Alfonso Fontanelli), Tor Lind (Shadow) and Hanna Kappelin (Maria D'Avalos). The composer will conduct the vocal ensemble Musica Ficta and the Concerto Copenhagen. Deda Cristina Colonna will direct.

It is at least the third opera to be composed after the famous Renaissance composer, after Alfred Schnittke's Gesualdo first performed at the Vienna State Opera in May 1995 and Marc-André Dalbavie's opera with the same title first performed in Zurich in October 2010.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

World première of 'Le Petit Prince' by Michaël Levinas in Lausanne

Yesterday, Le Petit Prince, new opera composed by Michaël Levinas, with a libretto by the composer after the novel by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was performed for the first time in Lausanne.

© Marc Vanappelghem
I wrote a lyrical piece addressed to children and adults from all cultures, which puts into song the story and message of the Little Prince, an extraordinary being from another place, a luminous and enigmatic child that Saint-Exupéry happens upon in the desert. The theatrical myth of the Little Prince takes on a near Mozart-like dimension. It expresses both wonder and grace, but also ultimate frailty and the sense of gravity experienced when faced with the ruthlessness of human reality: therein lies its paradoxical strength.
(Michaël Levinas, reproduced from the Opéra de Lausanne website)
The opera has been designed for audiences from 7 to 77 years. It should last about 75 minutes. It is the composer's fourth vocal work for the stage, after Go-gol (1996), Les Nègres (2003) and La Métamorphose (2010).

The cast includes Jeanne Crousaud (Le Petit Prince), Vincent Lièvre-Picard (The Aviator), Catherine Trottmann (Rose), Rodrigo Ferreira, Benoit Capt, Alexandre Diakoff and Céline Soudain. The Chamber Orchestra of Geneva is conducted by Arie van Beek. The director is Lilo Baur. The opera is a coproduction between several Swiss and French opera houses. It will be performed in Lille in December, in Geneva in January 2015 and in Paris in February.

Monday, 3 November 2014

CD and DVD : David Alagna - Le Dernier jour d'un condamné

I have recently acquired the DVD recording of David Alagna's opera Le Dernier jour d'un condamné published by Deutsche Grammophon. I already had the CD recording.

        CD        DVD
Le condamné Roberto Alagna Roberto Alagna
La condamnée Indra Thomas Adina Aaron
Le Geôlier Jean-Philippe Lafont Philippe Ermelier
Le 1er forçat Jean-Philippe Lafont Xavier Seince
Le 2e forçcat Richard Rittelmann Patrice Laulan
Le Guichetier de garde Richard Rittelmann Carl Ghazarossian
Le Directeur Jean-Philippe Lafont Yann Toussaint
Le Prêtre Jean-Philippe Lafont Jean-Marie Frémeau
L'Huissier de justice Jean-Philippe Lafont Jean-Marie Delpas
Un Friauche Richard Rittelmann Christian Helmer
L'Aumônier Jean-Philippe Lafont Eric Martin-Bonnet
Le Bourreau Jean-Philippe Lafont Luc Bertin-Hugault
Le Procureur général Richard Rittelmann Alain Gabriel

The CD is a live recording of the world première concert performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, in July 2007. The DVD is a live recording of the staged French première performance in Avignon in March 2014.

The concert made possible to perform the opera with only 4 singers. For the video, all 13 characters had to be played by a different singer.

Here are some facts about the DVD :
Duration : 106:53, no bonus material
The back cover indicates "Region/code : Pal", which means nothing. It is impossible to find a region code.
The opera is sung in French. There are no subtitles.
Act 1 is divided into 28 tracks, and act 2 into 13 tracks.

Unfortunately, like many other publishers, DG has decided to have music from the opera to be played on all the title pages, and that is an absolute shame : why should the viewer listen to music before the performance starts, or after it is over ?

There is no 'introduction' to the performance when the programm starts : the opening credits are given during the overture of the opera. The pit and the orchestra are briefly showed during the intermezzo between the two acts (no applause at that point). The audience and the hall are visible during the curtain calls, at the end of the performance. When the director appears, the final credits start, as if the director had no importance !
Well, it is true that, for this performance, she (Nadine Duffaut) could have been replaced by almost any other, to produce such a boring staging. The stage is divided in two parts : on the left side, the cell for the 1828 episodes, with Roberto Alagna, on the rght side, a cell with tiled floor and walls with Adina Aaron.

The booklet includes the following information :
- dates of first performances,
- complete cast and crew,
- tracklisting (that is the only word in English in the whole booklet, as if there was not Franch word available),
- two quotes from Victor Hugo and Nelson Mandela, as a 'note de mise en scène' signed by the director, showing how clueless she was,
- the synopsis,
- a speech by Robert Badinter (French Attorney General when the death penalty was abolished in France in 1981), given before the world première in Paris,
- the complete libretto
- a few picture from the staging.
- no biographies of singers.

This is a very disappointing DVD, with only information that is absolutely necessary. No one seems to have been the least concerned about the story of the opera and all issues related to it. It is only designed to sell as many copies as possible, without spending to much money on it.