Tag Archives: Roberto Alagna

on Carmen’s anniversary, a sing-off to celebrate

Bizet’s Carmen

Editor’s note: This is a Golden Operatoonity post.

Today, March 3, marks the anniversary of Bizet’s Carmen, which premiered on this day in Paris in 1875.

With one work, Bizet ushers in the verismo opera movement.

Carmen is hardly my favorite opera. As a storyteller, it’s damned hard for me to like Carmen as the central figure in this opera. She’s hard, calculating, cruel and fatalistic. Modern mores sometimes prevent other operagoers from engaging with Carmen as well, as evidenced  in comments such as, “Why is everyone smoking on stage? That’s ridiculous for a bunch of singers” or “A cigarette factory is a goofy setting for an opera.”

Whatever you think about Carmen or the setting or the preposterousness of the storyline, however much you might scratch your head or downright ache for Don Jose’s complete meltdown over a woman not worthy of him, it is Bizet’s soaring, riveting music that lifts the opera into the realm of exceptional works.

Today, in celebration of Carmen, rather than trot out the expected treatments of Habanera, etc., I’d like to offer you Don Jose’s “Flower” aria, “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee” as sung by various artists.

First we have a clip of  Jonas Kaufmann. Truly, this is one of the most exquisitely complete performances of this aria available on YouTube. He sings and acts the HELL out of it, and for me, I have to have more than a pretty sound to really relish opera performance. I think Kaufmann is the most complete male performer today. You will love this, that is, if you have no moral objections to a tenor voice with a unique baritone quality to it.

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Next we have Roberto Alagna’s “La fleur que tu m’avais jetee” which sounds exquisite, but he doesn’t exude that tortured spirit,the inner demons, that is so essential to the portrayal of Don Jose.

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Next is José Carreras from a 1987 Metropolitan Opera production. He certainly sings the dickens out of this. Truly, a world class tenor. His gestures, his posture are more gallant than tortured.  It’s amazing that Carmen (Agnes Baltsa) sits still as a statue and is unmoved by that performance. Also worth noting is how much the style of opera performance has changed in one generation, from Carreras to Kaufmann.

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While Carreras vocally is the strongest, Kaufmann’s is the best total performance, followed by Carreras, then Alagna. What say you, opera devotees?

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Filed under anniversary, Golden Operatoonity, Premieres, tenors, verismo opera, Video

today’s top tenors

I put the task off until today. But since it’s the last day of Talented Tenors month, it was now or never.

(It being the list of top tenors singing today.)

Strangely, there’s lots of information on the best tenors of yesteryear. Just not the best tenors performing today. What’s the cause of that? Recordings, I suppose, are infinitely more accessible than live opera performance though I much prefer to see them and hear them.

These singers range in age from 38 (Juan Diego Flórez, the youngest) to age 70 (Plácido Domingo, the oldest). Apart from Domingo, there’s no more than ten years’ difference in the ages of the other tenors selected. This is important because it presumes a requisite level of experience and exposure that can only be gained over years of time, which is why there are no twenty-somethings on this list.

So, in alphabetical order here they are–the best tenors in the world–today.

Roberto Alagna

Roberto Alagna — born June 7, 1963, a French operatic tenor of Sicilian descent. He made his professional debut in 1988 as Alfredo Germont in ‘La Traviata’ with the Glyndebourne Opera touring company. His performances as Romeo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Covent Garden in 1994 catapulted him to international stardom.

Marcelo Álvarez

Marcelo Álvarez — born February 27, 1962, an Argentine lyric tenor. He achieved international success starting in the mid-1990s, his first role being Count Almaviva in “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini in Córdoba in June 1994. Four years later, he debuted at the Metropolitan Opera La Traviata in the role of Alfredo.

Plácido Domingo

Plácido Domingo — born January 21, 1941, a Spanish tenor and conductor.  His launch into international stardom occurred in February 1966, when he sang the title role in the U.S. premiere of Ginastera‘s Don Rodrigo for New York City Opera. In March 2008, he debuted in his 128th opera role, and as of July 2011 his 136 roles give Domingo more roles than any other tenor.

Juan Diego Flórez

Juan Diego Flórez — born January 13, 1973,  a Peruvian operatic tenor, particularly known for his roles in bel canto operas. Flórez’s first breakthrough and professional debut came in 1996, at the Rossini Festival in the Italian city of Pesaro, Rossini’s birthplace.

Jonas Kaufmann

Jonas Kaufmann — born July 10, 1969,  a German tenor, particularly known for his spinto roles. He was a prize-winner at the 1993 Nürnberg Meistersinger Competition. One of his breakout roles occurred with the 2003 Salzburg Festival for the role of Belmonte in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail.” Another significant step in his career came about in February of 2006 with his début as Alfredo in “La Traviata” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, at the invitation of James Levine.

Rolando Villazón

Rolando Villazón —  born February 22, 1972, a Mexican tenor. He came to international attention in 1999 when he won both first prizes awarded in Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, an international competition for emerging opera singers – in opera and zarzuela. He made his European debut that same year as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon in Genoa. swiftly followed by further debuts at Opéra de Paris as Alfredo in La traviata; and the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin as Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing both Álvarez and Flórez at the Met in the last year and seeing Domingo conduct a beautiful Butterfly at WNO. I sincerely hope to see Alagna, Kaufmann, and Villazón in the near future.

What say you? Would these singers be on your list of top tenors?

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Bel canto opera, Opera Awards, Performers, Sunday Best, tenors

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

Puccini’s best opera?

While listening to the Met’s Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky and Roberto Alagna tonight, and after hearing La Fanciulla del West driving home from Wilkes-Barre Saturday, I was wondering which of Puccini’s works was considered his best–critically speaking.  Which might be a different choice than your favorite, if you catch my drift.

What do you think? Which is Puccini’s best opera?

Pick one:
Le Villi (The Willis or The Fairies)
Edgar
Manon Lescaut
La Bohème
Tosca
Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly)
La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)
La Rondine (The Swallow)
Il Trittico (The Triptych) – Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi
Turandot

List your choice in the comments section. (Thanks to FanPop for all the retro thumbnails.)

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Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Composers