My Pet Operatic Hates

This morning, Dolce Suono was delighted to read this article by the wonderful blogger Opera Teen. OT has hit the nail right on the head in his rant about distinguishing crossover from genuine opera. This blog post reminded DS of many of her pet hates to do with opera and so here is a brief compilation of some of the worst:

1. People who don’t know what is opera and what isn’t.

This really needs to be made clear, once and for all. The Phantom of the Opera is not an opera. Mozart’s Requiem is not an opera. O sole mio is not an opera. The Ode to Joy is not an opera. (All of these mistakes are genuine).

2. People who think they know about opera but don’t

The one song which always manages to convince people that they are opera aficionados is, for some reason, Der Hölle Rache, from The Magic Flute. There seems to be a firm belief that if you know this aria, you know everything about opera. There is also the belief that this aria can be called either ‘The Queen of the Night’ or ‘The Magic Flute’.  It is appreciated that some people may have trouble remembering the German name, but please, please, please do not think you can get away with referring to it as the name of the character or the name of the opera. Because you can’t.
Also, it’s all very well knowing how a couple of bars of the aria go but if you can’t say who wrote it, then your claim that you know what you’re talking about becomes completely invalid.

3. Katherine Jenkins

The opera singer who has never sung in an opera.

4. People who only like one singer

This is an irritating feature of some people who are opera fans but sadly narrow minded. The attitude that if one singer has performed an aria or a role wonderfully it is not worth even listening to anybody else’s version annoys me immensely. And for some reason, it is quite often Callas who gets mentioned in this way. Everyone should be able to listen to a performer and enjoy their work in its own respect before comparing it to others, even if those others were indeed better.

And finally . . .

5.People who believe that dead/retired/older singers are always better

This one is harder because sometimes its right and we are all guilty of it. But I have always thought that sometimes we should be more hesitant to dismiss singers of our time for ones of the past. There are some singers, such as Sutherland, who just shine out in their areas of the repertoire. But there are others who could be considered comparable but we would never dare to. For example, if you had to choose between the voices of Renee Fleming and Dame Kiri te Kanawa, who would you choose? Just the thought of it prompts the reaction “How dare she compare them?”. We probably all immediately jump (mentally) to te Kanawa and scoff at the fool who dares to mention her in the same sentence as Fleming. But, actually, when you think about it, there’s no reason why the two shouldn’t be compared. But because Renee is a singer of today, we automatically put her behind when comparing her with older singers. Why? Because these opinions are biased. Not saying, obviously, that younger singers are always better. Just that maybe we should think a little before immediately jumping to conclusions. Here’s a video from someone who has dared to make such a comparison:

Big Post of the News of the Week

Even as I type this post, the Echo Klassik Awards are underway in the Konzerthaus Berlin. The hosts this year are Nina Eichinger and Rolando Villazon. There will be performances by Alison Balsom, the Leipziger Streichquartett, Khatia Buniatishvili, David Garrett, Philippe Jaroussky, Anna Prohaska, Erwin Schrott and Klaus Florian Vogt. Other winners (the Meistersingers of Berlin!) include Jonas Kaufmann (19th Century Opera Recording of the Year) for his recording of Fidelio conducted by Claudio Abbadio, Renee Fleming (Female Singer of the Year) for her album Poèmes, Riccardo Chailly (Conductor of the Year) and Daniel Barenboim (Lifetime Achievement Award).  For a full list of the prizewinners and a fun interactive piano, go here.

Dolce Suono is delighted to reveal that Diana Damrau has had another baby. According to unknown sources, it is another boy who is called Colyn. Anyway, a huge congratulations to Diana and her family (the first picture is of her with her son Alexander and the one below that is Alexander with Rolando Villazon)!

Pavarotti’s 77th birthday was on the 12th, two days after Verdi’s 199th (Dolce Suono regrets that she was unfortunately unable to post on the day itself). So, because on the 10th, you were overloaded with Verdi, here is some refreshment in the form of Pavarotti singing one of DS’ favourite arias from one of her favourite operas by one of her favourite composers! A fitting celebration!

And, one last personal note: If you have any thoughts on my posts, please comment and tell me! I would love to hear feedback from any of you who read this blog! Thank you and keep on reading and enjoying opera!

Weekly Video #3

Jonas Kaufmann sings ‘Pourqoui me réveiller’ from Massenet’s Werther.

Now, I’m not usually a Massenet fan but even I have to admit that this aria is incredibly beautiful. And no more so than when sung by the wonderful (and handsome 😉 ) Jonas Kaufmann. In this scene, the poet Werther returns to his love Charlotte, who is married to Albert but secretly loves Werther anyway. In this aria, he reads her a poem in which the poet foresees his death. She begs him to stop but then refuses to leave her husband. For the rest of the story go here. With Sophie Koch.

The lyrics and translation:

Ah!  Bien souvent mon rêve s’envole 		Ah! How often my dream takes flight
Sur l’aile de ces vers, 			On the wing of these verses, 
et c’est toi, cher poète			and it’s you, dear poet,
qui, bien plutôt, était mon interprète! 	who, quite soon, was my interpreter!
Toute mon âme est là! 				All  my soul  is there!

"Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps?	"Why awaken me, oh breath of spring?
Pourquoi me réveiller? 				Why awaken me?
Sur mon front, je sens tes caresses 		On my brow, I feel your caresses,
Et pourtant bien proche est le temps 		and yet, very close is the time
des orages et des tristesses! 			of storms and of sorrows!
"Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps? "Why awaken me, oh breath of spring?
Demain dans le vallon viendra le voyageur, 	Tomorrow in the valley will come the voyager,
Se souvenant de ma gloire première. 		Remembering my first glory.
Et ses yeux vainement chercheront ma splendor, 	and his eyes vainly will seek my splendor,
Ils ne trouveront plus que deuil et que misère!	They will find only mourning and suffering!
Hélas!  					Alas!  
"Pourquoi me réveiller, ô souffle du printemps?	"Why awaken me, oh breath of spring?

2012/13 Season at the Met

Plenty of highlights to look forward to in the Met’s new season. My picks are:

  • L’Elisir D’Amore – In a relatively Netrebko-free season, this is her main appearance, alongside a cast including Matthew Polenzani, Mariusz Kwiecien and her husband Erwin Schrott. Good line up for what will hopefully be an entertaining show.
  • Un Ballo in Maschera – Part of the Verdi/Wagner bicentenary celebrations, this stars Marcelo Alvarez, Sondra Radvanovsky and one of my personal favourites, Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Radvanovsky and Hvorostovsky are known to sing well together and I look forward to discovering a Verdi opera I know very little about.
  • Roberto Alagna returns to Aida as Radames. Let’s see if he can keep his blood sugar levels low this time.
  • Dialogues des Carmelites, famous for its haunting end, does not often come round so this is something to look forward to.
  • Ildar Abdrazakov as Don Giovanni, accompanied by Mr. Netrebko as Leporello.
  • An interesting Traviata, with Damrau as Violetta and Placido Domingo sings Papa Germont for the first time.
  • What the Met claims is “a rare opportunity to witness Berlioz’s vast epic Les Troyens”, completely ignoring the very recent performance at Covent Garden
  • JDF returns in Le Comte Ory and Elina Garanca in La Clemenza di Tito
  • And of course the return of the vast Ring Cycle which has completely divided opinions. Personally, I love it, which is saying something given that I am not normally very patient at all with Wagner.
  • Also, a Don Carlo with Ramon Vargas although personally I would be more interested in Covent Garden’s upcoming production, starring Jonas Kaufmann.

Most of these performances will be broadcast in cinemas. For the full brochure, go here.