Friday, 24 April 2015

New DVDs : 'Claude' by Thierry Escaich (BelAir) and 'Lear' by Aribert Reimann (ArtHaus)

Two contemporary operas have been recently released on DVD : Claude by Thierry Escaich, first performed in Lyon in May 2013 (BelAir Classiques) and Lear by Aribert Reimann (first performed in Munich in July 1978, ArtHaus Musik).

Both DVDs unfortunately present the same ridiculous defect : the main menu is not silent. Therefore, you hear repeatedly a short excerpt of the opera while you stay on the title page. Worse, when you have watched the whole performance, including applause, bows and final credits and patiently waited for the very end of the recording, you are immediately brought back to the noisy title menu, and that is very unfortunate. There is absolutely no reason to have any music there. Imagine a few bars of the coming act being played through loudspeakers to call the audience back to their seats after an interval, or the most famous tune being broadcast in the theater when the audience leaves. Nonsense !

The opening credits of the French opera are already accompanied by music. Considering there is no image of the conductor or the audience before the performance, it is quite impossible to know whether this music is the prelude of the opera, or just a bright idea of the editor.
The seconday menus (chapters, subtitles and bonus) are silent. Subtitles are available in English and French.
There are about 6 minutes of closing images, after the final note is played : applause, bows, with credits starting before the conductor appears on stage, followed by the director. But the composer remains out of sight.
On the other hand, the composer has been recorded in a discussion with librettist Robert Badinter (who was Minister of Justice when death penalty was abolished in France) and television interviewer Anne Sinclair. Strangely enough, the clock doesn't work during the bonus, which is supposed to last about 26 minutes.

The beginning of the Lear recording is much better : opening credits with audience noises, then orchestra tuning. There are no applause at the start, and the staging begins before the music. The opening credits are followed by the silent entrance of all the characters. It lasts almost 6 minutes. We have to wait for the end of Act I to see the conductor. There are more than 8 minutes of applauses and closing credits at the end : first the singers bow all together, then one by one in turn, followed by the chorus joined by the chorus master, the conductor (she shakes hand with the prompter !), then the composer who takes every singer in his arms. The closing credits start only after that, when all artists are bowing together. Then, as in the Claude DVD, the title menu reappears immediately, with its accompanying music. Too bad !
The oddity about this recording is the position of the last track titled "End credits" in the brochure. It starts 6 minutes after the end of the music, when the composer appears on stage. It would have made more sense to have it start at the beginning of the applause. It has been recorded in May 2014, more than two years after the première of the production, so the director isn't there.

Today : world première of 'The Colour' by Gerhard Stäbler in Würzburg

Today, the Mainfranken Theater in Würzburg presents the world première performance of Gerhard Stäbler's new opera, The Colour, with a libretto by Hermann Schneider, after Howard Phillips Lovecraft's 1927 short story The Colour out of Space.

It is the composer's third vocal work for the stage after Sünde. Fall. Beil for the Münchner Biennale in 1992 and Afternoon Sun for Seoul in 2006.
A meteorite falls near a farm. From inside the strange celestial body glows a coloured light that doesn't belong in the usual colour spectrum on Earth. The light gradually causes physical and psychological destruction around it, not only to the family living in the farm, but also to their environment. (freely translated from the Opera house website).
The opera is performed as a part of the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the destruction of Würzburg and the end of World War II.

The cast includes Bryan Boyce (bass baritone), Silke Evers (soprano), Daniel Fiolka (baritone), David Hieronimi (baritone), Sonja Koppelhuber (mezzo), Deuk-Young Lee and Karen Leiber. Enrico Calesso conducts the Choir and the Orchestra of the Mainfranken Theater Würzburg. The librettist Hermann Schneider directs, with video by Falko Herold.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

New season 2015-2016 at La Monnaie in Brussels

Yesterday, I also received the program book for the 2015-2016 season at La Monnaie in Brussels.

Several productions will be staged outside the usual Théâtre de La Monnaie, in several places not conceived for opera performances. Other productions had to be cancelled because of budget cut by the federal government.

Here are the remaining productions :

- Gaetano Donizetti : L'Elisir d'amore, conducted by Thomas Rösner, directed by Damiano Michieletto (first staged in Madrid in December 2013), at the Cirque Royal ;
- Thomas Adès : Powder her Face, conducted by Alejo Pérez, directed by Mariusz Trelinski (new production, with first performance in Warsaw next month), at Les Halles in Schaerbeek ;
- Gaspare Spontini : La Vestale, conducted by Alessandro de Marchi, directed by Eric Lacascade (first performed in Paris in October 2013), at the Cirque Royal ;
- Björk (with vocal arrangements and new composition by Anat Spiegel) : Medulla, conducted by Bassem Akiki, directed by Sjaron Minailo (new production), at La Monnaie, salle Malibran ;
- Engelbert Humperdinck : Hänsel und Gretel, conducted by Lothar Koenigs, with puppets and live projections by Chicago-based group Manual Cinema (new production), at Palais des Beaux-Arts ;
- Pascal Dusapin : To be Sung, conducted by Bassem Akiki, directed by Sjaron Minailo (new production), at Flagey ;
- Florian Leopold Gassmann : L'Opera seria, conducted by René Jacobs, directed by Patrick Kinmonth (new production), at the Cirque Royal ;
- Hector Berlioz : Béatrice et Bénédict, conducted by Jérémie Rhorer, directed by Richard Brunel (new production), for the reopening of La Monnaie ;
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart : Mitridate, rè di Ponto, conducted by Christophe Rousset, directed by Robert Carsen (revival, first performed in October 2007) ;
- Mark Grey : Frankenstein, conducted by Leo Hussain, directed by Alex Ollé (La Fura dels Baus), world première.

Some concert performances are also planned (at the Palais des Beaux-Arts) :
- Anton Rubinstein : Demon, conducted by Mikhail Tatarnikov ;
- Francesco Cila : Adriana Lecouvreur, conducted by Evelino Pido.

Here are the cancelled productions :

- Erich Wolfgang Korngold : Die tote Stadt, conducted by Lothar Koenigs, directed by Mariusz Trelinski (new production) ;
- Kurt Weill : Die Dreigroschenoper, conducted by Samuel Jean, directed by Olivier Py (new production) ;
- Claudio Monteverdi : L'Incoronazione di Poppea, conducted by René Jacobs, directed by Alvis Hermanis (new production).

It is amazing what one can do, even on a reduced budget, when one is really committed ! 10 operas by 10 composers in 4 languages (Italian, English, German, French) or even 5 (Russian for the Demon), from Mozart to contemporary opera, including a world première and 2 20th century operas. This season looks very promising.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Received in the mail this morning : program book for Dusapin's 'Penthesilea' in Brussels

This Tuesday morning, I have received the two volumes published for by the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels for the world première performance of Pascal Dusapin's new opera Penthesilea.

The first volume (112 pages) contains :

- the complete cast ;
- the synopsis, written by librettist Beate Haeckl ;
- an article by the composer Pascal Dusapin ;
- an lettre written by Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere to J. M. Coetzee ;
- an article by musicologist Harry Halbreich ;
- an article by Murat Alat ;
- an article by Hélène Cixous, Achille est Penthésilée est Achille.

There are also a number of quotes by Heinrich von Kleist, Pascal Dusapin, Gilles Deleuze, Maurice Blanchot, Michel Foucault and Georges Bataille, as well as several photos of sculptures by Berlinde De Bruyckere.

The whole book is bilingual, Dutch and French. A 40 pages separate booklet contains the complete and detailed cast and biographies.

The second volume (44 pages) contains the complete libretto in the original German, with Dutch and French translations.

Scans of the front covers of all program books for contemporary opera I have are available in a flickr folder.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Today : World première of Zsófia Tallér's 'Leander and Linseed' in Budapest

Today, the Hungarian National Opera presents the world première performance of Zsófia Tallér's children opera Leander and Linseed in the Erkel Theater in Budapest. The libretto by Barnabás Szöllősi is based on Andor Szilágyi's fable.

Tallér Zsófia
 While the ugly goblin Leander attends to his business in the forest, his pitch black tom cat stays home doing the housework, cooking and cleaning goblin shirts. But when Leander comes home tired, the cat stretches out comfortably in front of him and reads to him. Thus they live together in happy goblinhood, until one day, King Bölömber the Second mistakes the kitten for a bloodthirsty rabbit, and shoots him with an arrow. (reproduced from the season brochure from the opera house)
The cast includes bass baritone Marcell Bakonyi, soprano Ágnes Molnár, tenor Gergely Boncsér, soprano Eszter Wierdl, bass baritone András Habetler, mezzo Andrea Meláth, soprano Ildikó Cserna, countertenor Zoltán Darago, and baritone Zoltán Gradsach. Tibor Bogányi conducts the Orchestra of the Erkel Theater. Sándor Zsótér directs.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

New Season 2015-2016 at the Landestheater in Linz

This Tuesday morning, I have received in the mail the program book for the 2015-2016 season at the Landestheater in Linz, Austria.

The season includes 8 new productions :

- Giuseppe Verdi, La Traviata, conducted by Daniel Spaw, directed by Robert Wilson ;
- Grigori Frid, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank, conducted by Borys Sitarski, directed by Thomas Barthol ;
- Franz Lehar, Die lustige Witwe, conducted by Daniel Linton-France, directed by Michiel Dijkema ;
- Engelbert Humperdinck, Hänsel und Gretel, conducted by Takeshi Moriuchi, directed by Rainer Mennicken ;
- William Bolcom, McTeague, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, directed by Matthias Davids (Europrean première) ;
- Claude Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, directed by Achim Freyer ;
- Domenico Cimarosa, L'Impresario in angustie (in German), conducted by Marc Reibel, directed by John F. Kutil ;
- Moritz Eggert, Terra Nova oder das weisse Leben, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, directed by Carlus Padrissa (world première).

This is quite an interesting season, with 1 world première and 1 European première, Bolcom's McTeague joining Harbison's The Great Gatsby, which will have its continental première in Dresden.

Today : World première of Laurent Cugny's 'Cloud Tectonics' in Nantes

Today, jazzman Laurent Cugny's first opera, La Tectonique des Nuages (Cloud Tectonics), with a libretto by François Rancillac after José Rivera's bookin the translation by Isabelle Famchon will be performed at the Théâtre Graslin in Nantes.

The opera was first performed in concert at the jazz festival in Vienne (France), in 2006. A recording was then released by PypeLine productions.
Maybe the ground will end up being cut to the heart of the monstrous city, this crazy, dazzled, amnesic Los Angeles on which the flood from heaven has been pouring for so long... that no one can remember as time itself was trampled on by Celestina, the goddess paralyzing clocks and men. This irresistible beauty, with a belly heavy from a doubtful embrace, landed out of nowhere, with its mystery as only luggage, and wanders in memory, in history, in the arms of Anibal of his brother Nelson. All three get lost, find themselves, hope and forget, victims of this strange intimate Apocalypse where love constantly blooms, blooms again and dissolves. (free translation after the opera house website)
The cast includes David Linx (Anibal de la Luna), Laïka Fatien (Celestina del Sol) and Yann-Gaël Poncet (Nelson de la Luna). The band consists of ten musicians (piano, 2 saxophones and clarinets, trumpet, trombone, horn, accordion, guitars, doublebass and drum kit.

Friday, 3 April 2015

New program books for contemporary operas in my collection

I have recently acquired several program books (or brochures) for performances (world, national or local premières) of contemporary operas in New York. Here they are :

- Jack Beeson : Lizzie Borden, New York City Opera, March 6, 1999 ;
- Jack Beeson : Sorry, Wrong Number, Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse, May 25, 1999 (Elie Siegmeister's Angel Levine was also performed in a double bill) ;
- Richard Danielpour : Margaret Garner, New York City Opera, September 29, 2007 ;

- Carlisle Floyd : Of Mice and Men, New York City Opera, October 14, 2003 ;
- Philip Glass : The Juniper Tree, Alice Tully Hall, March 20, 2007 ;
- Elliot Goldenthal : Grendel, New York State Theater, July 11, 2006 ;

- Osvaldo Golijov : Ainadamar, Rose Theater, January 22, 2006 ;
- John Harbison : The Great Gatsby, Metropolitan Opera, May 7, 2002 ;
- Lowell Liebermann : Miss Lonelyhearts, Peter Jay Sharp Theater, April 26, 2006 ;

- Jost Meier : The Dreyfus Affair, New York City Opera, April 2, 1996 ;
- Stephen Paulus : Summer, Kaye Playhouse, June 19, 2002 ;
- Ned Rorem : Our Town, Peter Jay Sharp Theater, April 23, 2008 ;

- Tan Dun : The First Emperor, Metropolitan Opera, December 29, 2006.

I have added to the flickr folder containing scans of the covers several programs I already had, for operas by John Adams, Lera Auerbach, Harrison Birtwistle, Philippe Boesmans, Charles Chaynes, Pascal Dusapin, Peter Eötvös, Graciane Finzi, Carlisle Floyd, René Gerber, Philip Glass, Hans Werner Henze, Marcel Landowski, Marius Felix Lange, György Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen, Marc Monnet, Krzysztof Penderecki, Steve Reich, Aribert Reimann, Wolfgang Rihm, Aulis Sallinen, Elzbieta Sikora, Oscar Strasnoy, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Iannis Xenakis and Bernd Alois Zimmermann.

I now have 346 program books for contemporary operas.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Received in the mail this morning : program for Xavier Dayer's new opera in Rouen

This Wednesday morning, I have received the program published by the Opéra de Rouen Haute Normandie
for the world première performance of Xavier Dayer's opera Contes de la lune vague après la pluie, on March 20th.

It is a 12 pages brochure. It contains :

- complete cast and crew (1 page) ;
- biorgaphies of the artists (3 pages) ;
- colour pictures of the solosits (1 page) ;
- synopsis of the opera (1 page) ;
- interview of the composer (2 pages) ;
- a 'note of intention' by the director (1 page).

It is entirely in French.