“APASSIONATA”

The Maestro’s Bleakest Work

In Beethoven’s ‘Appassionata,’ darkness overwhelms light.

ILLUSTRATION: RYAN INZANA

In 1804, following works born of the idealism of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment such as his “Eroica” Symphony, Beethoven created the greatest musical explosion for solo piano of its time: the Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, known as the “Appassionata.” It is a work of a very different temper.

Composed soon after Beethoven first faced the catastrophic prospect of incurable deafness, the work has fascinated and confounded performers and listeners ever since. Full of tragic power, the sonata is arguably Beethoven’s darkest and most aggressive work. It has been compared to Dante’s “Inferno” and Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

To this day pianists the world over wrestle with the jarring drama of this technically ferocious keyboard marvel. Having experienced the thrilling yet strenuous task of performing it numerous times, I can attest to the truth of what Carl Czerny, the composer’s most influential student, said of it: Performers must “develop the kind of physical and mental powers that will be needed to be able to represent the beauties of the noble musical picture.”

The main expectation of the Viennese Classical sonata was to provide the listener with a well-balanced mix of delight and surprise. Mozart was particularly skillful in the former, while Haydn excelled at the latter. Beethoven’s recipe was to write an emotionally involving composition that would hold the listener’s full attention until the very end, one in which shifts and surprises were part of a dramatic entirety.

Among Beethoven’s 32 sonatas, the “Appassionata” stands out for its uncompromising pianistic drive and extremely effective dramaturgy. One early 20th-century commentator spoke of the work’s “rush deathward.” The absence of any hint of a silver lining in the work was well ahead of its time.

Over the course of its three movements, the “Appassionata” pulls the listener through a wide range of extreme emotions. The drama begins with the pianist slowly reaching to the keyboard. Unison notes then fall downward and stalk upward, giving rise to a mysterious stillness. Suddenly the music bursts its bounds, and as it charges ahead the pace relaxes into a lyrical and hymn-like episode of graceful beauty. The dream soon proves to be a nightmare, though, as the fierce turbulence that lurked behind the work’s quiet opening regains its full potential. More dramatic shifts follow as episodes of extreme velocity, furiously jolting rhythms (that could be described as jazzy had they been created a hundred years later), and moments of solace alternate in transporting the listener.

But is the source of the diabolic power of the “Appassionata” simply the drama of violent surprises and shifts of mood? In my view it stems from something deeper, the way Beethoven highlights the tension between what was by then Western music’s most fundamental building blocks, the major and minor keys. You know what these are even if you think you don’t. Music in a major key usually sounds optimistic, cheerful; music in a minor key often sounds sad, even foreboding. These traits—naturally elaborated and complicated beyond what words can describe—add much to the music’s meaning and provide a kind of a dramatic framework.

In Beethoven’s day, “public” works such as symphonies needed to end upbeat and in a major key; it simply wouldn’t do to send a large audience home with an unpleasant aftertaste. However, in pieces written for smaller, private audiences, such as piano sonatas, Beethoven was emboldened to continue in the darker mode until the very end. In the “Appassionata” he made use of this freedom as he did nowhere else.

Throughout the sonata we are witness to a back-and-forth drama of major conquered by minor, or, if you will, darkness overwhelming light. Much of the piece’s harmonic structure includes the systematic repression of brighter themes in major keys. The first movement’s lyrical second theme (in A-flat major) is the first victim. The propitious melody comes to a sudden standstill; a strident chord interrupts and the music veers off into minor. Throughout the rest of the movement, other major keys become strangled by minor. This impulse reaches its climax in the cataclysmic second part of the sonata, which comprises the second and third movements, which follow each other without a break.

Remaining entirely in major, the second movement denies the horrors of the first movement until the sudden and terrific opening gesture of the minor key finale crushes the hopes represented by the major once and for all. The major mode makes one last attempt at an entrance near the very end of the work, but tragically late. And because of its tardiness it sounds like devil’s laughter in the face of ultimate damnation.

Czerny speculated about the finale that, “Perhaps Beethoven, ever fond of representing natural scenes, imagined the waves of the sea in a stormy night, whilst cries of distress are heard from afar.” Audiences over the past two centuries have perceived them to be devastatingly close. The modern listener may be inclined to either view, while every performance cultivates a truth of its own. In the end, what remains certain is that the “Appassionata” is a masterpiece that remains eternally fascinating with its eerie, brilliant and original wildness.

CONDUCTORS : ARE THEY NECESSARY ?

HIDDEN BRAIN

Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Does This Guy Matter? Conductor Leonard Bernstein during rehearsal with the Cincinnati Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1977.

Does This Guy Matter? Conductor Leonard Bernstein during rehearsal with the Cincinnati Symphony at Carnegie Hall in 1977.

James Garrett/New York Daily News via Getty Images

Have you ever wondered whether music conductors actually influence their orchestras?

They seem important. After all, they’re standing in the middle of the stage and waving their hands. But the musicians all have scores before them that tell them what to play. If you took the conductor away, could the orchestra manage on its own?

A new study aims to answer this question. Yiannis Aloimonos, of the University of Maryland, and several colleagues recruited the help of orchestral players from Ferrara, Italy.

They installed a tiny infrared light at the tip of an (unnamed) conductor’s baton. They also placed similar lights on the bows of the violinists in the orchestra. The scientists then surrounded the orchestra with infrared cameras.

When the conductor waved the baton, and the violinists moved their bows, the moving lights created patterns in space, which the cameras captured. Computers analyzed the infrared patterns as signals: Using mathematical techniques originally designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Clive Granger, Aloimonos and his colleagues analyzed whether the movements of the conductor were linked to those of the violinists.

The scientists hypothesized that if the movement of the conductor could predict the movements of the violinists, then the conductor was clearly leading the players. But if the conductor’s movements could not predict the movement of the violinists, then it was really the players who were in charge.

“You have a signal that is originating from the conductor, because he is moving his hands and his body,” Aloimonos explained. “And then the players, they perceive that signal, and they create another signal by moving the bows of the violin appropriately. So you have some sort of sensorimotor conversation.”

(The research study is part of a larger project where Aloimonos is trying to figure out if human movements share something in common with human language; he suspects both are not only governed by a grammar, but that both may be based on similar processes in the brain.)

Aloimonos said the study found that conductors were leading the violinists — the movement of the conductors predicted the movement of the violinists, not the other way around.

But the study found more: The scientists had two conductors lead the same orchestra. One was a veteran who exercised an iron grip over the violinists. The other was an amateur.

“What we found is the more the influence of the conductor to the players, the more aesthetic — aesthetically pleasing the music was overall,” Aloimonos said.

Music experts who listened to the performance of the orchestra under the control of the two conductors found the version produced by the authoritarian conductor superior. Remember, these experts didn’t know which version was being led by the veteran conductor and which by the amateur. All they heard was the music.

LA BOHEM AT MET HD

The Met Live in HD Series continues with Puccini’s beloved ‘La Boheme’


April 5, 2014

A last minute cast change in today’s matinee broadcast of Puccini’s “La Boheme” took audiences by surprise. Latvian soprano, Kristine Opolais, who has starred as numerous Puccini heroines at the Metropolitan Opera, made her house debut of the role Mimi, graciously stepping in for Anita Hartig. Even having starred in the demanding title role of “Madama Butterfly” less than 24 hours prior, Opolais sounded at the top of her game and, alongside Vittorio Grigolo’s Rodolfo, swept the audience off their feet.

Stefano Ranzani plunged right into Puccini’s colorful score and led a steady and charismatic rendition. The opening scene, like so many others in this opera, has a conversational feel and relies heavily on the liveliness of the cast. Fortunately, today’s performance was teeming with fresh energy. Massimo Cavalletti, in the role of Marcello, and Grigolo (both native Italian speakers) highlighted the libretto’s wit, while Oren Gradus, in the role of Colline, and Patrick Carfizzi, in the role of Schaunard, instilled the amicable atmosphere with their good-natured banter.

The back-to-back audience favorites, “Che Gelida Manina” and “Mi Chiamano Mimi,” were show-stopping to say the least. Grigolo not only looked the part of the romantic young poet, but, more importantly, sang the part with conviction and fervor. His voice rang ardently, but what made his vocal performance particularly thrilling was the power and yearning in his delicate pianos.

Opolais was equally nuanced. In her Act I aria, her shimmering tone blossomed in the climactic line “il primo bacio dell’aprile è mio” and her touching characterization gained dimension as the opera progressed. Seeing as Opolais had only a few hours to prepare for the role, her stage instinct and the chemistry she shared with her colleagues was truly outstanding. Physically, she inhabited the feeble character and, like Grigolo, completed the portrayal with depictive vocal inflections. Her daring decrescendos communicated Mimi’s frailty and tugged at the audience’s heartstrings more effectively than even the best physical portrayal could have.

The opera’s only other female character, Musetta, is the antithesis of Mimi’s modest, delicate character. Musetta, sung by Susanna Phillips, made a fittingly grand entrance amid the bustling streets of Paris in Act II. Franco Zeffirelli’s notoriously extravagant set for Act II features over 100 supernumeraries, at least as many choristers, the majority of the cast, and even a horse-drawn carriage (on which Musetta is drawn in). Most of the cast is swallowed by commotion, but Phillips maintained a magnetic presence throughout the chaotic act. In Musetta’s famous “Quando M’en Vo,” Phillips demonstrated both her vocal dexterity and bewitching lyricism.

“La Boheme” is, without question, one of the world’s most beloved operas, but it takes more than a cast of great singers to realize the opera’s full dramatic potential and the Met succeeded in bringing together an extraordinary cast of singing actors for this run. The coordination and chemistry between the cast members was superb and the audience’s attention never flagged.

After all these years, the charm of Zeffirelli’s 1981 production has not worn out its welcome. The painstakingly detailed sets and costumes continue to win applause at the start of each act and provide an engrossing setting for the audience members to lose themselves in.

 

FAZIL SAY’DAN

İNCİ ÖZDİL : FIRST WOMAN CONDUCTOR OF TÜRKİYE

İnci Özdil

İnci Özdil

Turkey’s first female Western classical music orchestra conductor

I thought, “Why should I not conduct my own compositions?” and wanted to become a conductor.

Date of Birth: 1960

Place of Birth: Ankara

Field of Activity

Orchestra conductor

“I received piano education at Ankara State Conservatory. There, I became interested in composing. My older sister Sıdıka Özdil was also thinking along the same lines. Composing was an important goal for us. We studied at the two departments at the same time. Composing is a magnificent world.

When I graduated from the piano department, I thought, ‘Why should I not conduct my own works, my own compositions,’ and set my foot on the path to becoming an orchestra conductor. When you become a composer, you start to feel all the musical colors an orchestra can convey. Once you really begin to hear the orchestra, you want to perform what you have composed for that orchestra. My experience was something like that. There are still not much female conductors in the world. For some reason this job is considered to be a man’s job, but it is not.”

After I started conducting I just couldn’t compose anymore. Because conducting an orchestra is the kind of thing where you must become one with the composer when you’re conducting. It’s as if that moment the composer’s blood is running in your veins. You just can’t sit down and compose paying no attention to all of that.

I cannot forget the very first second of my debut appearance as a conductor.When I saw myself at the helm of a huge orchestra full of accomplished musicians, I remember being terrified at first. I was trembling as I mounted the conductor’s podium. Before signalling the orchestra to begin the piece, I silently and deliberately scanned each member of the orchestra all the way from left to right. My aim was to meet their eyes. It may be this was the first time any of them had seen a woman conductor on the podium. As I lifted my right hand to conduct the first beat, I fell in love with my lifework at that moment. There was a palpable tremendous energy. I was able to lead them exactly according to the music as I heard it. This gave me great pleasure and a sense of confidence. It was the beginning of a passion that would be a lifelong passion. I realized the instant that passion began that it would last till the end of my life. I still live in that moment as if it will never end.
(İnci Özdil)
Zeynep Oral, “Akıl, yürek ve yetenekle kanatlanmak”, Zeyneporal.com, 2.7.2003.

 

  • 1994İnci Özdil formed the Antalya Chamber Orchestra
  • 1997İnci Özdil transformed the Antalya Chamber Orchestra into Antalya State Symphony Orchestra

İnci Özdil is the youngest conductor and the first female conductor to form a state orchestra in the Republic’s history.

Awards

  • 2011Leading Women’s Award of the University Women’s Association of Turkey
  • 1988″Best Commentator” Award in Hans Werner Henze Festival, Germany

Memberships

Member of the Orchestra@Modern

Member of the Konyaaltı Branch of the University Women’s Association of Turkey, Antalya

Education

Ankara State Conservatory, Ankara
Piano Department, student of Nimet Karatekin and Mithat Fenmen
Composition Department, student of Ferit Tüzün, Necil Kazım Akses and Nevit Kodallı
Conducting Department

Guildhall School of Music, London

Royal Academy of Music, London, student of George Hurst, Colin Metters, John Carewe, Sir Colin Davis and Horst Neumann

Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena, worked with Carlo Maria Giulini

St. Petersburg Conservatory, St. Petersburg, worked with Ilya Alexandrovich Musin

Contributions to Society

Founding member and the conductor of Orchestra@Modern

Family and Friends

  • Mother:(No information available, agricultural engineer)
  • Father:Recai Tayyar Özdil (doctor, popular music composer)
  • Sister:Sıdıka Özdil (composer)
  • Friends:

Projects in her Honour

(No information available)

Further Reading

Sources

Quoted Sources:

 

Source of Visual Images:
    • İnci Özdil privat archive

 

Additional Information

Female Conductor Information Pool, Women in Music Internet Site:http://www.kapralova.org/CONDUCTORS2.htm

 

PUCCINI : “O MIO BABBINO CARO”

willighagen_1
Puccini’s ‘O mio babbino caro’ (Oh My Beloved Father).

http://www.flixxy.com/9-year-old-girl-sings-opera-on-hollands-got-talent-alt.htm

Amira Willighagen is a bit nervous – she has never been to such a large audience.  But then she sings the stars from the sky and gets a standing ovation.   The jury (Gordon, Dan Karaty and Chantal Janzen) were stunned and gave her one of the “golden tickets,” which means that Amira goes directly to the live shows. 


Full Translation: I ‘m Amira. I am 9 years. I’m going to sing something you all do not expect what I’m singing. I often dream of fans coming to me and clapping so. Well as thousands of fans were standing here I would laugh a little, sometimes a little wave. I hope it will happen satellite. I ‘m a little nervous. But it is especially nice that I can sing. I think I have now. I ‘m ready for my biggest night merry is that something goes very wrong. because I have trained very hard for today..
 HOST: (to Robert Brink) Hi, Amira ? AMIRA : Of course I want to win that Holland Got Talent, only you can not win them all. I hope, I just hope they find it very beautiful. HOST: Come over here because you can fix sneak a little look. Here it all happen naturally huh. That is left to the jury. AMIRA: the most fun I think   GORDON: Well hurry up AMIRA: Sometimes he says things and very funny that I find very funny. HOST: Go hear. GORDON: Amira Willghagen, I say that? ( yes ) How old are you? AMIRA: I am 9 years old GORDON: And what will you do ? AMIRA: I’m singing a song GORDON: Is that just a song, or is it something special ? AMIRA: Well actually it’s an opera song GORDON: An opera ? ( Yes / Yes) Oww. Why are you singing? AMIRA: Well it started with Kninginnedag, my brother played violin and I also wanted to do something. So I thought I’d better go to sing. I searched on Youtube a song, and then I heard opera songs, which I found very beautiful, that ‘s when I started singing. GORDON: Wow what had bijzonder.Ik were expecting you had sung ( no), IETA K: but you find nothing? What song do you sing? AMIRA: A song O Mio Caro Babbina GORDON: Well Amira (yeah ) I ‘m so curious how that sounds. Do I need earplugs or ikan so safe? It is safe AMIRA SONG GORDON: Yes Amira Willighagen 9 years is here CHANTAL: ( judge) Are you really nine ? (yes ). wow GORDON: Amira they sometimes say that old souls live on in people and when I hear you sing then you have almost the inspiration of Maria Callas, who unfortunately is no longer, but your voice is so pure and so beautiful. But I think it’s so special that for a girl your age that you do this, that’s unbelievable I would also like a daughter.. CHANTAL: Who did you learn to sing? Do you have a voice teacher ? AMIRA: No I do not have singing lessonsCHANTAL: So that you learn yourself. You are going to listen and then you sing along and at some point you can do it. GORDON: Ow incredible. CHANTAL: And what is your dream? AMIRA: Later I would really like to be a singer, but if that fails or so then I would also like to participate in the Olympic Games Athletics. CHANTAL: These are two little things DAN KARETY: Have you ever performed for an sudience ? GORDON: Have you ever occurred to the public? AMIRA: Yes, but not for such a large audience GORDON: But what good of you. Truly and without nerves THEN… CHANTAL: A big fat YES. GORDON: We have in Holland’s Got Talent, just like last year, The Golden Token, for you! HOST: She just qualified for the Live Show. Anyway (absolutely) the Live Show! BROTHER AND FATHER: You’re through, great, great!

Italian Literal translation Singable English
O mio babbino caro,
mi piace, è bello, bello.
Vo’andare in Porta Rossa
a comperar l’anello!Sì, sì, ci voglio andare!
e se l’amassi indarno,
andrei sul Ponte Vecchio,
ma per buttarmi in Arno!Mi struggo e mi tormento!
O Dio, vorrei morir!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!
Babbo, pietà, pietà!amira-willighagen-s-o-mio-babbino-caro-on-hollands-got-talent-invites-comparisons-to-jackie-evancho

Oh my dear papa,
I love him, he is handsome, handsome.
I want to go to Porta Rossa
To buy the ring!

Yes, yes, I want to go there!
And if my love were in vain,
I would go to the Ponte Vecchio
And throw myself in the Arno!

I am anguished and tormented!
Oh God, I’d like to die!
Papa, have pity, have pity!
Papa, have pity, have pity!

Oh my beloved father,
I love him, I love him!
I’ll go to Porta Rossa,
To buy our wedding ring.

Oh yes, I really love him.
And if you still say no,
I’ll go to Ponte Vecchio,
And throw myself below.

My love for which I suffer,
At last, I want to die.
Father I pray, I pray.
Father I pray, I pray.

 

PLEASE CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO AMIRA

AN ACQUIRED TASTE: OPERA

Listening to opera is an acquired taste; it takes many years of listening and growing into it in order to truly enjoy it. The good news is, as time passes, you can enjoy it at many levels.  I remember how much I loved “La donna mobile” when I first heard it. Now I often fast forward it while I am listening to Rigoletto.
Learning how to enjoy classical music started with my first exposure to it by my junior high school music teacher, Mr. Berry.
It was twenty years later when I noticed Opera and now I think it as the ultimate zenith of music. 
I first heard of Pavarotti in 1987 by a tape cassette I purchased while I was working in Saudi Arabia. Ever since, my enjoyment gradually progressed from Mozart to Rossini to Verdi to finally to Wagner. Now that I am enjoying Wagner, I look back the times when I could not stand him was only five years ago.
Opera is the most complex art form combining sophisticated orchestral music with human voice, theatrical arts including acting, stage decors and costumes. 
It is performed through a dramatic work called libretto, which combines music and text. It incorporates theatre and even dances in the performances. 
There are some tastes that come naturally to us, while some habits have to be attained with time, in order to really enjoy them. Opera falls more in the second genre. It uses words and music to evoke the emotions within us. Moreover, sometimes it can be overwhelming for even an aficionado, not to talk about the novices. However, cultivating the taste for this art form can not only make you fall for it, but also give a knowledge of one of the most famous and brilliant art forms in the world today. With the tips given below, know how to listen to the opera.
 
Listening To Opera 
  • Instead of directly heading towards an Opera House and acquiring a ticket for a performance, listen to it for sometime, say on TV, before you actually watch a show onstage. It will help you get acquainted with the show and make sure that the experience is not overwhelming.
  • Familiarizing yourself with the terms related to opera will help you understand it better. The logic here is – if you know the rules of a game, you understand and enjoy it better. An opera is made up of arias, which follow a pattern beginning with a tune, followed by another tune and then a reprise of the first tune.
  • Another thing you need to know, before you actually visit an opera house, is the story that will be performed. It will help you relate with the emotions. You can read the synopsis of the opera. The best thing will be to read the libretto. You will find them with the CDs or even online.
  • You can also read about the composer or the opera singer and their influence. Also, gather information about the historic period in which the opera is set. The knowledge about the origin will also help you relate with the performance better.
  • While you are reading the synopsis and libretto, pay attention to both the original and the translation. It will help you associate with the words. You will also be able to imagine the scenes and situation better.
  • In addition, before you plan to visit an opera house, you can start by listening to operas on CDs, which are easy to understand and help you familiarize with the opera as well. For the basic elements of the drama, listen to Rigoletto or La Traviata. If you are interested in lyric drama with music and without interruption, you can listen to Tosca or La Boheme. If you want to hear classical Opera, the best start for you will be Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

 

FAZIL SAY WINS “ECHO” AWARD

fazil-say-2-300x235
TURKISH  PIANIST AND COMPOSER FAZIL SAY WINS THE PRESTIGOUS “ECHO AWARD” WITH HIS “ISTANBUL SYMPHONY”
FAZIL SAY’A ECHO ÖDÜLÜ

Dünyanın en saygın klasik müzik ödülüdür, Echo.. Klasik Müziğin Oskarıdır.. Tam da Oscar gibi, bir müzik
akademisi önce adayları belirler ve sonra oylar..
2020 Olimpiyatlarına aday olan İstanbul’un sloganı “Birlikte köprüler kuralım”di. İstanbul’un bu seçimi Arjantin’de Tokyo’ya karşı kaybettiği saatlerde Almanya’da Echo Jürisi büyük özel ödülünü açıkladı.. “Fazıl Say İstanbul Senfonisi ile..”

“ECHO” Jürisi ödülün gerekçesini, şöyle yazdı..
“İstanbul Senfonisi’nin, Doğu ile Batı arasında oluşturduğu sanatsal
köprüdeki başarısı ile, Fazıl Say!..”

Avrupa’nın önde gelen eleştirmenleri bu eser için “21. Yüzyılın ilk başyapıtı” demişlerdi. Senfoni kısa bir
süre içinde 12 değişik ülkede, 50’den fazla seslendirildi.

Ödül töreni 6 Ekim’de yapılacak ve Alman Birinci Kanalından naklen
yayınlanacak.

AIDA AT METROPOLITAN OPERA

“AIDA” AT METROPOLITAN OPERA ( A REVIEW BY T. SUMER )
The Metropolitan Opera’s “Aida”
As Aida, Ukrainian soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska (still cannot spell -or pronounce- her name without cheating) sang the role beautifully. Her rich spinto soprano ( having both lyric and dramatic quality ) voice is capable of great range. She was able to sing incredibly soft and perfectly placed spinning sounds, which is a requirement for the role. It may be that she was more effective as an actor in the opera house, but on the screen she was cold and uninvolved.

Olga Borodina was much better as the pharaoh’s daughter Amneris—in all respects. Vocally, she is a powerhouse; able to sing the highest notes with muscle and she popped out some almost bartitoneish low notes. Almost more importantly, she created a complex character out of a role that is all too often sung as a caricature of the spoiled brat who is used to getting everything she wants. This was a love triangle that she intended to win.

Borodina actively did battle with Aida for the affection of the war hero Radamès, portrayed by the handsome tenor Roberto Alagna. She casted Aida a couple of daggered glances that would have frozen a five-alarm fire and she turned on all the charm in the world around Radamès. True, she caused his downfall in a moment of jealous weakness by exposing his tryst, with Aida and her father Amonasro, King of Ethiopia (imposingly portrayed by George Gagnidze), where she treasonously gives away the Egyptian battle plans. However, her grief at his trial and death sentence is so real that you tearfully forgive her, even if she can’t forgive herself.

The set, costumes and stage decorations were imposing, and there were over 200 actors and three horses onstage in the justly famous triumphal march. The stage direction and the acting on the other hand, was completely absent other than “you stand here and you stand there.” Those with some acting chops, like Borodina and Gagnidze ( who was constantly popping his eyes wide open in a most disconcerting manner) created their characters out of their imaginations.

The ballerinas and the choreography was impeccable ; indeed awakened some of the somnolent audience, like Joseph Haydn has done with his “Surprise” symphony (Symphony #94).

The worst non-moment was the final duet. Radamès is condemned to die by being sealed in his tomb alive. Aida sneaks in to share her lover’s fate. And there they stood, eight feet or more apart for most of the duet. There was no impassioned greeting, not even a handshake. Finally, they managed to get into a very awkward scene in which they didn’t even sit down, or hug, let alone embrace and kiss. Of course, that had been typical of their very chilly romance for the entire show. You never believed that they were in love. Somewhat more energetic Roberto Alagna indicated some affection for Aida, but Monastyrska was frozen all afternoon, just walking through the role without any affect. She never went somewhere because it was natural; she went because the director told her to take three steps stage right on this note.

ROBERTO ALAGNA-800wi                                  ROBERTO ALAGNA

It worth mentioning Roberto Alagna in more detail. This mediocre French tenor arrived on USA stage when he won the Luciano Pavarotti voice competition. It is rumored that, upon their arrival, his graceful and accomplished Romanian wife Angela Gheorghiu set a condition to Metropolitan Opera : “Either take us both otherwise no deal..”. I am not sure if this story , I think I had read in “Opera News” years ago, is true or not. After listening to him in Aida, I believe it might be true. Appearantly Gheorghiu and Alagna now have decided to divorce.

Alagna made international headlines of a different kind in this opera in 2006. The scene was Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, one of the world’s great opera houses. The tenor usually sings lighter roles and he has received mixed reviews in previous performances. In Milan performance, the booing started as he made his first entrance and continued all the way through his opening aria, “Celeste Aida.” He supposedly gave, what Daniel Wakin of the New York Times called, a “military salute” (maybe with one finger raised) and stalked off the stage. He refused to go back stage and finished the performance. Naturally and rightly so, was barred from future performances by the opera house.

No one booed him in the movie theater on Saturday. He sings this heroic role with a pleasant lyric tenor voice. It is hard to tell the power of his voice in the movie theater. However, he frequently escaped to “falsetto” tones, especially at “legatos” when high notes were required. “High” tenor notes at finales and “crescendos” are relatively easy to produce; even for mediocre tenors. It usually brings big applause and, in United States, standing ovation. The real skill and power lies in singing the “high” notes at lower decibels and “legatos”; as skillfully sung in the past by Domingo, Pavarotti, Corelli, Di Stefano, Del Monaco and by many others. It is hard to understand why Alagna has so many roles in this year’s repertoire; then again, even Andrea Bocelli was allowed to perform (!) on this stage.

The set is gigantic and uses all seven of the Met’s rotating stages and fills 17 tractor-trailer trucks when it travels.  Here, the roving camera shrunk the stage as it gave close up after close up. In fact, even when it pulled back as far as it could, you never really saw the entire stage. Besides, the closer you saw Monastyrska, the less effective she was. Even from the most expensive seats, the Opera house audience probably never saw her emotionless stare.

Dr. Timur Sumer

MARIA STUARDA : OPERA REVIEW

http://Conductor 02MARIA-articleLarge-v2

MARIA STUARDA : OPERA REVIEW

The Metropoliten Opera HD presented “Maria Stuarda” by Geatano Donizetti on selected movie theaters around the world on January 19, 2013. I was there at Flint, Michigan Rave theater to enjoy the show.

There were about fifty aficionados in the 500 seat theater. As usual, almost all men were gray haired or depilated  and the women were elegant.

This is my first time viewing or listening to this masterpiece.

The sound system and camera were impeccable. Most of the scenes on the other hand, were too dark for my taste and this was shared by a few friends I chatted after the performance. This trend seems to occur in many performances lately; one thinks if this is a new way of saving energy for Met Opera :)  

This is a well known story in English history. Although it is a tragic story, compared to some of the Ottoman-Turkish palace tragedies of  the same period, it would rank like a high school play. As the tradition goes, in the name of preserving the unity and preventing civil war, Ottoman sultans killed all of their male siblings and their offspring for hundreds of years.

Donizetti’s “Maria Stuarda,” the challenging bel canto tragedy that recounts the clash between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart (Mary, Queen of Scots) and ends with the anguished Mary heading to the executioner’s block.

The great American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (CLICK ON NAME) is in the title role. Ms. DIDonato’s will be pointed to as a model of singing in which all components of the art form — technique, sound, color, nuance, diction — come together in service to expression and eloquence. Her high mezzo voice is crisp  and velvety. Her acting is sincere, comfortable but not exaggerated.

In the second scene, in a park outside the prison at Fotheringhay Castle, where Elizabeth has had Mary confined, the trees are like telephone poles, without branches and leaves against poorly painted , unnatural gray skies.  As we learned during the intermission interview, Elizabeth & Maria Stuarda’s meeting was not a historical fact and never took place.

Mr. McVicar’s production and staging is more visually striking and imaginative than what he came up with for Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena,” (CLICK ON BLUE) which opened the 2011-12 season, the first installment of the Met’s planned presentation of Donizetti’s Tudor trilogy, of which “Maria Stuarda” is the second. (“Roberto Devereux” will be next.)

Maurizio Benini  http://www.stagedoor.it/en/artist/Maurizio%20Benini , with the best opera orchestra and chorus in the world, no question is the right conductor in the pit: He brings a sure hand and insight to this masterpece. With his supporting style, he draws a  glowing performance from the orchestra and the chorus.

The cast is excellent. In a notable Met debut, Elza van den Heever, (CLICK ON NAME) a 33-year-old South African soprano whose career is rising internationally, is a vocally bright and successful Elizabeth (Elisabetta). Although, her volume was somewhat suppressed in the first 30 minutes or so, her voice warmed up to an excellent quality later in the first act and raised to a penetrating depth and character. She turns flights of coloratura passagework into bursts of jealousy and defiance as Elizabeth contends with the threat that Mary, a blood relative, poses to her reign in England. During the intermission interview, she explained how she was changed to this character with the help of the director. She initially was preparing to play an eloquent royal lady, but the director suggested her character  to be an almost a quarrelsome  almost that rhymes with “witch” or “rich” :) quality. I also think, this is what Donizetti would have wanted.

These intermission interviews have  been very educational and entertaining for the Met HD audience in movie theaters, and has been an advantage for the Med HD viewers over the real on site viewers. Also the back stage action is interesting to watch; opera goers normally do not have access to this aspect of the art.

Another advantage of movie theater audience is close up camera action to singers , orchestra players and the conductor. It is amazing how camera moves between the instruments in orchestra  as the relevant passages are played. Wiewing the maestro face on is a great treat. After viewing these performances dozens of times, I am still impressed and excited when I hear the call “Maestro to the pit please, maestro to the pit”. As if I am the one who is being called to the pit :); truely.

In her final scene, in which Elizabeth orders Mary’s death, Ms. van den Heever, in cumbersome queenly regalia, almost waddled around her palace room, looking physically shaken by the course she could see no way around. This may have been a bit of overacting. But I admired the rawness and vulnerability of Ms. van den Heever’s performance. She was so committed to this role that she shaved her head,(CLICK ON BLUE) the better to accommodate the queen’s elaborate wigs. And her bright, intense voice sliced through the orchestra whenever the queen’s ire was provoked.

Matthew Polenzani, (CLICK ON NAME) who is becoming the Met’s go-to tenor in bel canto repertory brings melting sound and appealing vulnerability to the role of the hapless Robert Dudley (Roberto), the Earl of Leicester.

He is caught between love for the doomed Mary and entangled feelings for the imperious Elizabeth, and early scenes in “Maria Stuarda” suggest a typical bel canto romantic triangle. But his character fades into the background as the story increasingly focuses on Mary’s plight. Still, in early scenes, he must do a lot of fancy, ardent singing, and Mr. Polenzani embraced the challenge, singing with vigor  crispness.

Matthew Rose brings a robust bass voice and dignified presence to the role of George Talbot (Giorgio), the Earl of Shrewsbury, who is loyal to Mary. The baritone Joshua Hopkins captures the mix of genuine concern and political calculation that drives William Cecil (Guglielmo), Elizabeth’s secretary of state. And the rich-voiced mezzo-soprano Maria Zifchak is touching as Jane Kennedy (Anna), Mary’s devoted lady-in-waiting.

In the last extended scene, Donizetti excelled himself. Facing her execution, Mary confesses her sins to Talbot, then, surrounded by faithful servants, leads a noble, prayerful chorus. As Mary has a last moment with the guilt-ridden Leicester and bids Jane farewell, the music goes on and on, with what seems like aria after aria. But Donizetti knew what he was doing, and his inspired score carries every shift of emotion and drama.

Ms. DiDonato is simply magnificent, singing with plush richness and aching beauty. At a few moments, from the collective sounds of the subdued chorus and orchestra, a pianissimo high note, almost inaudible, emerged from Ms. DiDonato’s voice, slowly blooming in sound and throbbing richness. At that point, I thought she turned from mezzosoprano to high soprano.

I left the house mesmerized , moved and excited.

Many thanks to Metropolitan Opera HD for bringing these masterpieces to those of us who are so far away from New York.

Dr. Timur Sumer

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HENRYK GORECKI Symphony No. 3

This album must be listened with upmust attention, in a serene atmosphere and by a very good stereo system. My car stereo was inadequate in capturing neither the harmony nor the range of crechendo – decrechendos. 24 Score harmony and the wide range of decibels creates a harmonic distortion, if not listened by an excellent audio system with powerful woofers. This is one of the best music ever composed; at least it feels like when listened in the right mood. Dawn Upshaw’s voice and interpretation is heavenly. This probably is her best performance and should place her on the top of the short list of sopranos of our time. David Zinman’s conducting haunts the listener.He sounds like he has Gorecki in his soul; almost like they are the same. London Sinfonietta’s performance is impeccable and raises the bar to unreachable levels. This masterpice should be heard by all music afficionados.

Timur Sumer