Tag Archives: Sondra Radvanovsky

happy anniversary, ‘Tosca,’ and an aria to celebrate!

Sondra Radvanovsky in Tosca

Sondra as Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera production

Today marks the anniversary of a beloved, and I do mean a beloved, opera–Tosca, which premiered in on January 14, 1900in Rome, Italy. One stunning aria after another. A bad guy who is so utterly evil he makes your blood run cold. A flawed but valiant heroine who lives and dies for love.

It is my favorite Puccini opera–bar none.

Two years ago this month, I saw Tosca at the Met, and it was a life-changing performance for me. (You can read my Bachtrack review here. )

While some of the “regie” directorial choices were clearly questionable, the performances were nothing short of stunning. I fell in love with Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi. German baritone Falk Struckmann gave a chilling performance as the villain Scarpia, one of the best I’ve ever seen on stage in the U.S.

But it was American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky who would seal my fate as a Tosca devotee for the rest of my life.

As it turned out, I was lucky to escape that performance with my life intact. See, during her second art aria, “Vissi d’arte,” which was absolutely breathtaking, Sondra hit that high note around 3:11 on the video below, and it took my breath away–literally. I gulped in air and began coughing.

Just my luck, that gorgeous high note at 3:11 resolves sotto voce in the next few measures. I thought the people sitting around me were going to kill me. Because the end of the song is so quiet, I couldn’t scrounge around in the my purse for a lozenge to stop the coughing. I almost died trying to hold my breath until the end of the song.

But death would have been a noble end if Sondra’s voice were the last thing I’d heard before expiring.

Thank you, Sondra Radvanovsky, for your peerless artistry, and for teaching me a lesson. Never sit through a live performance of opera without a lozenge clenched in your fist.

Here is Sondra’s stellar, gorgeous, captivating aria, for you to enjoy, too:

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Tosca premiered today and where would we be without it?

Today in 1900, Giacomo Puccini‘s Tosca premiered in Rome, Italy. And aren’t we glad that it did?

Why is Tosca so loved? It combines beauty and savagery. Both the evocative parts and the savage parts loom more powerfully juxtaposed against the other.

So it’s important to those presenting the opera not diminish the potential for beauty in it or else we don’t experience the inhumanity of it to the depth that operagoers are expecting and deserve.

I suppose that was chiefly my issue with the Metropolitan Opera’s production in 2011, which featured Sondra RadvanovskyMarcelo Álvarez, and Falk Struckmann, which I reviewed for Bachtrack. I won’t launch into another review here, but I will say in retrospect that restraint exercised in stage direction as in writing can be more powerful than succumbing to one’s impulses to add, expand, and heighten, the chief example for me being the director (Bondy) choosing to throw three scantily clad (we’re talking pasties, here) prostitutes into Scarpia’s chambers.

I have no objection to beautiful bodies or their use on stage, but if Tosca is Scarpia’s source of weakness and Scarpia can get sex he wants anytime he wants it however he wants it, his need to have Tosca is sorely and sadly diminished–the power and the aftereffects of that scene are diminished rather than enhanced by adding more sex.

Does that mean I wouldn’t see the Met production again? I’d see it in a heartbeat. Falk Struckmann’s performance as Baron Scarpia was my favorite of the season, despite the over-the-top things Bondy incorporated into his part. Seeing both Radvanovsky and Álvarez in one show added a notch to my opera belt. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have a chance to see this cast again, so I will recreate portions of my experience for you here.

Here then are my two favorite moments from The Met’s Tosca, breathtaking moments, literally. In “Vissi d’arte,” right around 3:12 in the video below, I gasped, so completely engrossed in Radvanovsky’s climatic note. Then of course the aria becomes tender and quiet. Unfortunately, since I’d lost my breath, I began coughing at that point. I’m sure people sitting around me wanted to choke me. Then I began digging in my purse for a cough drop to silence my coughing. Rattle, rattle, rattle. I’m very sorry to those around me for disturbing their enjoyment of this aria:

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And the other favorite moment I can share with you from the Met production is “E lucevan le stelle.”

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Viva, Tosca! You will live forever in our hearts.

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my Spring Semester opera awards

Seance on a Wet Afternoon -- my pick for best of season / photo by © Carol Rosegg

Thus far this semester, I’ve traveled to various houses in major metropolitan areas in the Mid-Atlantic States to see seven professional productions–at the Kennedy Center, the Met, the Merriam Theater, the David H. Koch Theatre, to name a few. (A bit of explanation–I work at a college, and so everything from January to May is considered Spring Semester).   

Here are the shows I was fortunate enough to see:   

January – Puccini’s Tosca, Metropolitan Opera of New York, with Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Álvarez, and Falk Struckmann. Performances spectacular; direction disappointing.   

February – Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, Opera Company of Philadelphia, with Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello; this production was better integrated in the community than any other.   

February – Strauss’s Arabella, Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, with resident artists Corinne Winters and Chloé Moore– challenging work and well sung!   

March – Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C., with Ana María Martínez conducted by Plácido Domingo. Memorable, tasteful.   

March – Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, New York City Opera, with David Lomeli, José Adán Pérez, and Stefania Dovhan. Quirky–selected stellar performances.   

April – Rossini’s Le Comte Ory, Metropolitan Opera of New York City, with Juan Diego Flórez, Diana Damrau, and Joyce DiDonato. Exceptional singing and acting.   

April – Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon, New York City Opera, with Lauren Flanigan, Kim Josephson, and Melody Moore. Intense, scary, thrilling.   

And here are the awards dispensed by me, Queen of “Operatoonity”:    

Artist I most want to see again soon — And the winner is: Juan Diego Flórez. The man has major star quality, something you simply can’t measure from a recording or even by watching a Live in HD simulcast. I’d love to see him in a dramatic role, something of  a completely different nature the Count in Le Comte Ory, to see if I like him as much.   

Best aria — And the winner is:  “Vissi d’arte” sung by Sondra Radvanovsky. She took my breath away–literally. Near the end of the piece, I gasped following one of her high notes and lost my breath. Then as the aria was coming to a poignant close, bereft of air, I began choking and coughing, which everyone around me loved. It was however sensational–her aria, not my choking.   

Best breakout performance –And the winner is: David Lomeli, making his NYC Opera appearance as Nemorino in Elixir. His “Una furtiva lagrima” was a magical moment.   

Best performance overall — And the winner is: Falk Struckmann in Tosca. I was absolutely riveted by his performance of Baron Scarpia–the part could have been written for him–it fit him like a glove in every regard.   

Most fun — And the winner is: A tie between NYC Opera’s The Elixir of Love and the Met’s Le Comte Ory. I giggled throughout both of them. Loved the dustbowl diner concept of Elixir. Loved the show within a show premise in Le Comte Ory and the interplay between the three principals was side-splittingly entertaining.   

Most likely to succeed — And the winner is: Soprano Ailyn Pérez, who sang Juliet for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. She’s a winner in every regard, and it won’t be long until we’ll see her singing for the major houses.  AVA resident artist Corinne Winters is a close second–expect to see and hear her in prominent professional productions. 

Most moved — And the winner is: WNO’s Madama Butterfly. All the production elements were maximized to serve the story and propel the operagoer to experience Butterfly’s destruction. It was beautiful to see and hear as a complete, harmonious production.   

Most pleasantly surprised — And the winner is:  NYC Opera’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon — since I’d never heard any operas of musical theater composer Stephen Schwartz before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I also thought I preferred classic to contemporary opera. Boy, I was wrong. Or maybe I just loved Schwartz’s contemporary opera.   

Best of the season— And the winner is: NYC Opera’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon. Principals–stunning! Chorus–spectacular. Production values–solid. Story–gripping. Music and orchestration–beautiful and functional. It was relevant, immediate, and accessible. Being “accessible” in contemporary opera is definitely a good thing!   

Perhaps I’ll amend this list after I see the last two shows of the season in May: Don Giovanni at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Phila., and Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met in May. We’ll see. Oh, and if you’d like to see all my reviews thus far for Bachtrack, the world’s best way to find live classical performance, simply click on this link.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, Reviews

best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion

As promised, here are the female artists that a discriminating, opera-loving group of Twitterers suggested as the best women performing today. Now, as I mentioned when I posted the men’s list, I was seeking a list of opera greats who are not just living but are performing and can still “cut the mustard,” as Stephanie Brooke said.

So that’s why you don’t see opera great Jessye Norman on this list. Nor do you see promising up-and-comers such as Latonia Moore, Ailyn Pérez (whom I just saw in Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Romeo and Juliet and reviewed very favorably), and Amber Wagner.

Unable to find an already published list from which to draw, this USA Today article naming the best stars of the 1990’s was too old, I created my own, with a little help from my friends.

Anna Netrebko will sing Anna Bolena for the Met in 2011-12

Besides being recording favorites, some of the singers such as Cecelia Bartoli and Anne Sofie von Otter are frequently enjoyed in live recitals. For a wonderful write up of Anne Sofie von Otter’s New York recital, see this post at Opera Obsession. Others like Angela Gheorghiu might be has-beens next year if they keep pulling out of Met productions. (Was her nose bent out of shape because images of Anna Netrebko as Anna Bolena appeared to dominate the marketing collateral for the Met’s 2011-12 season?)

So, what do you think? Have I included your favorite(s) in the list below? If not, please feel free to include in the comments.

– Cecilia Bartoli, Italian mezzo-soprano

Olga Borodina

– Olga Borodina, Russian mezzo soprano

– Sarah Connolly, British mezzo soprano

Fiorenza Cedolins, Italian soprano

– Diane Damrau, German lyric coloratura soprano

Annette Dasch

– Annette Dasch, German soprano

– Natalie Dessay, French coloratura soprano

Mariella Devia, Italian soprano

Joyce DiDonato, American mezzo soprano

Renée Fleming, American soprano

– Angela Gheorghiu, Romanian soprano

Anja Harteros

Anja Harteros, German soprano

– Magdalena Kožená, Czech mezzo-soprano

– Aleksandra Kurzak, Polish coloratura soprano

– Waltraud Meier, German dramatic soprano

Anna Netrebko, Russian soprano

Patricia Racette

– Patricia Racette, American soprano

Sondra Radvanovsky, American soprano

– Dorothea Röschmann, German soprano

– Rinat Shaham, Israeli mezzo soprano

Nina Stemme

– Nina Stemme, Swedish soprano

Anne Sofie von Otter, Swedish mezzo-soprano

Don’t forget to check out the male singers identified as the best in the world today.

And thanks again to the lively informed Twitter “opera” community for their recommendations!



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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, 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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