Tag Archives: Placido Domingo

retro Met? (don’t quote me)

Plácido Domingo

 

The one thing I hate at the Met is the note in the program that the public is requested not to interrupt the music with applause. That should be destroyed. What we need is to be encouraged to applaud.
–Plácido Domingo 

 
Fast forward to 2011: Rules about applauding at classical music concerts appear to be relaxing. Even in the bastions of classical music like the Metropolitan Opera, you are likely to hear premature clapping.

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WNO’s ‘Butterfly’ simply glorious

WNO's elegant 'Butterfly'

In the spirit of full disclosure, I need to say that I was predisposed to write a generous review of Washington National Opera‘s ‘Butterfly’–I received two premium tickets for winning their opera songwriting contest last fall.  However, I  am not the most ardent Puccini fan, which I’ve mentioned on this blog, once comparing him to Nicholas Sparks, also on this blog, so there’s no shrinking from that comment. 

However, WNO’s Madama Butterfly was a synthesis of beauty and artistry–the best live opera production I’ve seen this year. And I’ve seen a bunch–more shows than ever. All the elements worked this time–music, direction, design, costumes, lighting–in tandem to produce a seamless opera experience that was nothing short of transcendent. 

I can scarcely describe the fulfillment I experienced as an audience-goer from such careful shepherding of all production elements toward a common end. 

Credit must go to WNO General Director Plácido Domingo and WNO management for selecting to present the Ron Daniels’ version that was so successful in San Francisco, despite the fact that it’s not a brand spanking new production. It’s a luminous treatment that deserves to be seen and appreciated by audiences on this coast. 

It’s no straight revival, but this version does honor the spirit of more traditional productions. All the artistic choices served the opera, and not the other way around, which, if I may say so,  is becoming annoyingly common  and tiresome these days. 

Audience members were wiping tears away by this scene, when Butterfly waits for Pinkerton

Ana María Martínez was a brave and graceful ‘Butterfly’–her voice was as strong and supple as a nylon string. Under the lithe and lively baton of Plácido Domingo, the orchestra supported the singers as if cradled in a gloved hand. We heard every nuance of Martínez’s performance, and there were so many to enjoy–the gentle trills, the beautifully controlled decrescendos on the highest notes the role demands. Her “Un bel di vedremo” was simply a triumph. She has a pure sound–never overdone–as some Puccini sopranos are wont to do. During a question and answer session after the show, I asked her what goes through her mind at the moment before she sings one of the most famous arias Puccini wrote and she said, “Of course, I’m in character. And after that I am only thinking how much I love singing it.” 

The curtain call was perfectly conceived. After the final scene, the curtain rose, and Martínez took a solitary bow. How fitting. It really is Butterfly’s show. Then the curtain fell and the traditional bows began. Though Martínez had already brought the audience to its feet, the standing ovation continued in sincere appreciation for the part that everyone played in making the production a stunning whole. 

Clearly, Plácido Domingo is that remarkable hand guiding each WNO production to its artistic zenith and will be sorely missed when he steps down at the end of this season. Here’s hoping the next general director will possess even half of his talent, taste, discretion, and maganimous spirit.

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float like a ‘Butterfly,’ hurt like a ‘Butterfly’

Washington National Opera's 'Butterfly'

Today I’m seeing WNO’s Madama Butterfly at the Kennedy Center, my first time visiting the venue. If all goes as planned, I’ll be seeing Ana María Martínez sing Cio-Cio-San and Plácido Domingo conducting, who is amazing. (What doesn’t the man do?)

Following the performance, there is an artist Q&A–a nice value add for the audience.

While the reviews have been glowing (look for my own later today or tomorrow) and Martinez singled out for her performance, it is such a sad story. Even all the beautiful music can’t disguise a tragic tale of rape and abandonment.

While I love Puccini‘s music, I have found his heroines to be problematic characters. Puccini was a man of his time and place, and his female leads are too often VICTIMIZED and preyed upon and spend too much time portraying victims. I’ve found Puccini’s women to be somewhat two-dimensional. Not nearly as interesting as Shakespeare’s female protagonists, who can be as flawed and evil as any man or worse–think Lady MacBeth–and who deserve their tragic ends.

So, today when I watch the production, I’ll be considering what makes this opera so popular–and it’s wildly popular in the United States, eclipsed  only in popularity by La Bohème.

While I expect the music to float to the rafters, I already know I’ll have a hard time processing why such an innocent woman will be not only hurt but ruined in the course of this opera–a fate she scarcely deserves.

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best opera singers in the world today – male persuasion

I’m a capable researcher using electronic technology (not to mention, that I work for a College and have great resources at my disposal). I was searching for someone’s–anyone’s–contemporary classification of the world’s best opera singers. I found a link to a dated USA Today article naming the best stars of the 1990’s. Interesting. But far from  up-to-date.

I wanted  to skip the venerable legends who are still alive but sing only occasionally, if at all. For the purposes of this list, I wasn’t looking for promising up-and-comers either, though they may be the subject of another post.

Who are the opera stars of today? Whom are we seeing onstage, watching with awe and admiration?

Since I didn’t have any contemporary articles to from which to choose candidates, I asked my “Operatoonity” followers on Twitter to help me put together a slate of  favorite current performers.

Here then are all the male stars identified as top-of-the-heap. Which are your favorites?

Roberto Alagna

Roberto Alagna, French tenor

– Marcelo Álvarez, Argentine lyric tenor

Lawrence Brownlee, American tenor

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee / photo by Andreas Klingberg

– Joseph Calleja, Maltese tenor

– Carlo Colombara, Italian bass

Plácido Domingo, Spanish tenor and conductor

Gerald Finley, Canadian bass-baritone

Juan Diego Flórez, Peruvian tenor

Ferruccio Furlanetto, Italian bass

Vittorio Grigolo, Italian tenor

– Thomas Hampson, American baritone

Dmitri Hvorostovsky

– Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Russian baritone

– Jonas Kaufmann, German spinto tenor

– Simon Keenlyside, British baritone

– Mariusz Kwiecień, Polish baritone

– James Morris, American bass-baritone

– René Pape, German bass

Bass-bari Erwin Schrott

-Ruggero Raimondi, the Italian bass-baritone

–  Erwin Schrott, Uruguayan bass-baritone

– Stuart Skelton, Australian heldentenor

Bryn Terfel, Welsh, bass-baritone

– John Tomlinson, English bass

– Ramón Vargas, Mexican tenor

Tenor Ramon Vargas

Did I include your favorite male performer singing opera today? Write-ins are, of course, welcome in the comments.

 
Stop back tomorrow for the women!

And a special thank you, to all those providing input on Twitter.



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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Performers, Poll

a Callas remark: an Operatoonity microtale

March 6, 1853 Giuseppe Verdi: Premiere of La Traviata, in Venice, Italy.

Maria Callas as Violetta in ‘La Traviata

On the anniversary of the premiere of La Traviata, a microtale about the Verdi opera most frequently produced in North America seemed in order.

Callas recorded La Traviata early on in her singing career, well before her performance at La Scala in collaboration with Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini resulted in her designation as the Violetta of the age. She wanted the chance to redo the part as a stereo recording with a stellar cast during a time in which Plácido Domingo was just establishing himself a prominent tenor.

After Callas and Domingo were introduced, allegedly Callas said that she was losing interest in performing on stage because there were no satisfactory conductors, directors, or singers.

“Thank you, Maria,” Domingo said–laughing.

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Filed under 20th Century Opera, Classic Opera, Microtales, Opera and humor, Premieres