Thursday, April 29, 2010

Das Experiment: La Bohème at the GNO

Mata Katsuli as Mimi

Convincing 12 colleagues to follow me on a Night at the Opera was easier than I thought. A message with 18 recipients led to 12 positive RSVP. A couple of them would even join us with their boyfriends/girlfriends.

The choice of the opera was not random: I always considered Puccini's masterpiece a great introduction to the world of opera, I had watched Graham Vick's modern mise-en-scène a couple of years ago and loved it and I was thinking that even if it wouldn't impress them, they would certainly identify more with this one than with a typical Boheme with top hats and crinolines. In order to avoid disappointments I had already warned them that they should not expect a typical staging .

On the other hand, I wanted them to watch a fresh and young cast with great voices thus from the beginning I organized our little excursion around Sebastian Guéze who would sing Rodolfo and Mata Katsuli who would be our Mimí. Unfortunately, Guéze's participation was cancelled due to financial reasons (the Greek National Opera goes through the worst period of its history as the debt has reached 14 million euros) and after my original frustration, I dealt with the fact that Greek tenor Yannis Christopoulos would be our Rodolfo.

Yannis Christopoulos and Mata Katsuli

I must admit that my colleagues surprised me positively: they were extremely well behaved, no chatting, no texting, no coughing - instead they looked very absorbed to what they were watching.

Vick's direction is simple, fresh, modern, dynamic, insired by his night walks in Athens - ideal for an athenian newcomer to the Opera. Ideal seemed to be the cast as well: Mata Katsuli was a sensational Mimí, Yannis Christopoulos was a well-sung Rodolfo (even if his constant use of forte and the lack of mezza voce was tiring), Kyros Patsalides was an excellent Marcello, Lukia Spanaki impressed as Musetta, Tasos Apostolou could make rocks move with his "Vecchia Zimarra" and Haris Andrianos was an ideal, hyper-energetic, hilarious Schaunard.

Curtain Calls:

After the performance I avoided to ask my friends for their impressions, I knew I would have time to do it once the experience had settled in them. However I was deeply moved when a colleague hugged me and said "I'm in shock, I have been having goosebumps for over 2 hours, I didn't expect that I would love it so much...".

Kyros Patsalides as Marcello

Lukia Spanaki as Musetta

Haris Adrianos as Schaunard


2 days later, I randomly
picked 4 of my colleagues that attended the event and asked them to write within just a sentence what they liked most and what they liked least.

The Verdict:

1) Female, in her 30's

Most: The tall bearded guy (*bass Tasos Apostolou*)
Least: His Birkenstocks

(The tall guy and his Birkenstocks)

2) Male, 30

Most: the magic on stage and the music
Least: Parts of the subtitles were at times hard to follow

3) Female, 28

Most: I loved the whole experience
Least: I found Rodolfo's attitude a bit weird during Act IV as it was discontinous to what had happened previously on stage (*in Vick's direction, Rodolfo stays away from Mimi during Act IV, no hugging, no kissing, no consolation, Rodolfo falls on his knees only to embrace Mimi's dead body*)

4) Female, 30

Most: the voices and the music
Least: the sets and my impression that the physical appearance of some singers did not match their character (*ha! she hasn't seen Caballé singing Salome*)

Obviously the looks DO matter (if there was a doubt). Hopefully there will be a sequel to this experiment and my friends will return to the Opera - with or without my involvement. Definitely it was a wonderful evening. Undoubtely the Greek National Opera deserves a future.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

José Cura in Athens: Le lacrime che noi versiam son false?

Athens Megaron, 17 April 2010

José Cura's Recital was the blockbuster-surprise of 2010. Tickets had sold-out a week in advance and the demand was still very high till the very last minute.

This wasn't Cura's first time in Athens: His Radamés in May 2001 had fascinated the Greek audience and his 2002 recital was a blust too. On top of that, Cura had been invited to sing in July 2004 on the frontier island of Inousses as part of the festivities for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.

The argentinian tenor was back to Athens for a recital that took place at the Athens Megaron on April 17, a recital that spread more light to Cura-the artist than Cura-the singer.

One doesn't have to be following Cura's career to understand what is obvious: Cura constantly resorts to manierisms that render his singing uneven. His accuti can make you nervous only by watching the tenor execute them - the way he rides the passaggio and passes the voice to the head, pushing, pushing and pushing, creating so much pressure in his skull that a high note above A, maintained for a bit more than a few nanoseconds could lead to an explosion.

Certainly he knows his flaws and can by-pass them artfully or use them in order to serve the drama. But after a 90-minutes recital, and after having sung this way, Cura comes on stage and sings a Nessun Dorma that leaves you breathless -round, sustained high notes included- and thinking "But if he CAN do it like this, why doesn't he?".

Just like during the 2003 recital at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, Cura played hide-and-seek with the audience, making his entrance from between the audience while singing Tonio's "Si puó? from I Pagliacci - á la Del Monaco. His "Vesti la giubba" that followed gave me the goosebumps, same for Otello's "Dio, mi potevi scagliar" and "Niun mi tema".

During Part II, Puccini was the composer of honour and his music seemed to be fitting Cura like a glove: Mario, Dick Johnson, Pinkerton, sung with passion
(especially Dick) and in the most dramatic fashion though without ever overcoming his upper register problems.

Cura's companion in this journey was the young, Greek mezzo-soprano Katerina Roussou. Roussou, still a student of vocal arts in Ljubljana, displays an interesting instrument, a natural voice that better served Carmen's Seguidille than the unfortunate Angelina that I found to be too risky a choice for the warm-up. Cherubino's "Non so piú..." during the encores, verified that the vocal material exists but it's still immature and there's a long way to go.

What stroke me the most was Cura-the entertainer: he monkeyed around the orchestra, sang from all possible spots in the Hall, flirted with the -usually capricious and grumpy- (female) concertmaster, he joked with the audience, the organisers, even the President of the Hellenic Republic that was present (may we remind that the Greek President is an honorary citizen of Milan and a frequent visitor of the palco reale of La Scala), and displayed excellent communication skills.

The audience liked him but didn't surrender. During the first part, the applause was lukewarm, nobody seemed to be excited during intermission, and only during the second part did the audience show some excitement (not half the excitement the audience showed during the Garanca or the Flórez concerts just to mention some recent ones).

Kudos to the National Symphony Orchestra of ERT that played unexpectedly well -for a change- especially Puccini's La Tregenda from Le Villi, and seemed to enjoy the collaboration with maestro Mario de Rose.

Backstage, a long queue waited for an autograph and a photo with José Cura who didn´t let down his fans.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Breaking: Garanca cancels ALL the Vienna Carmen

And while at the Athens Megaron,
I receive these lousy, lousy, LOUSY news!

The cancellitis goes on...

Ps. Sorry, I don't know how this will look, first time I'm posting from my BB

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Grossmächtige Mutter!

We hear that Diana Damrau is pregnant
and that her baby will be coming to this world
within Autumn 2010

~(and you read it here first!)~

Many, MANY, m-a-n-y Wishes
for the Ab-Fab Diana and her baby!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lost Paradises: Jordi Savall in his first ever appearance in Athens

Athens, 11 April 2010

Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras gave a stunning concert in Athens just a few days ago. Parsi asked D.T., a young student of old music and a die-hard Savall fan to share a few thoughts.

"When I was a high school student, while discussing my likes and dislikes in music and the sounds of instruments in general, our young music teacher (K.K), took out a piece of paper and wrote down a few unknown to me words: viola da gamba and theorbe. ''Search for them, and watch the film ''Tous les matins du monde''. '

'This is MY music, this is me'', I said after listening to the amazing soundtrack by Jordi Savall. Marais, Saint Colombe, Lully became my favourites and I felt so blessed for discovering early music.

Jordi Savall became an inspiration and thereafter I took the decision to study renaissance lute (something very difficult and rare in Greece, as many musicians (and not only those) ignore and depreciate this kind of music as something ''easy'').

Then came the second love: the traditional, folk, ethnic medieval and renaissance music, not the music of the royal courts that we are used to. And again Jordi Savall: Spanish music, Hebrew, Arabic etc. (check the ''Jerusalem'' and ''Istanbul'' CDs ).

This music fusion was synthesized in ''Paraisos Perdidos''(Lost Paradises), music of the nations living in Andalucía during Christopher Colombus' voyages.

The Athens Megaron on the 11th of April was full of excited people, eager to see/hear the Spanish viol player and conductor , his wife soprano Montserrat Figueras, the ensembles Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and the two great narrators.

Montserrat Figueras performed songs full of sensitivity, so ''simple'' but so beautiful... sounds so familiar to the Greek people because of the common eastern base in music.

It was such a huge event for early music in Greece, and so important for the musicians to attend something different than opera and piano concerts over and over again.

After the concert the artists welcomed all their fans with a big smile, ready to listen carefully to all comments contrary to other ''divas'' that just ignore their public."

Not much to be added. This was indeed a night to remember: Savall, Figueras et alia created a musical universe in which we lost ourselves for nearly 2 hours, in a virtual trip to the Lost Paradises and the Sefarad, to the lands of our ancestors, from Izmir to Gibraltar, from the time of the expulsión de los judíos no convertidos (the expulsion of the sephardis) circa 1492 till today.

The alive music of distant eras, remembered by the memory of our history, can be transformed to the soul of a revitalized critic and humanistic vision of our origins and maybe even help to liberate ourselves from a certain cultural amnesia, particularly serious in what concerns our music. Only this way, regaining and revitalizing our old musical heritage, like we do when we approach history and our past from another perspective, will we be able to imagine and build in a better way the memory of the future.

Jordi Savall, Summer of 2006

Monday, April 19, 2010

Let the cancellitis begin!

Mariss Jansons has withdrawn from all the performances of the Vienna Carmen due to an illness that will keep him away from the podium for 2 or 3 months.

Jansons, aged 67, suffered a heart attack back in 1996 while conducting La Bohème. The May the 3rd Carmen would mean his debut at the Wiener Staatsoper.

Let´s hope this is the first and last cancellation of this much awaited production.


Mariss Jansons has been replaced by his compatriot Andris Nelsons

Monday, April 12, 2010

L'amour est un oiseau (très) cher

Guess which is the hottest ticket
of the Season.

With prices going up to 1.300 euros per ticket on eBay,
the run of Carmen at the Wiener Staatsoper in May '10
is definitely hawt hawt hawt

Happy Birthday Montse!

Born April the 12th 1933,
Montserrat Concepción Bibiana Caballé i Folch,
or else our Montse, will celebrate today her 77th Birthday!

Happy Birthday Montsita!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pink Floyd + The Teatro alla Scala Ballet in Athens

It all started at the end of the 60's when Roland Petit was urged by his daughter to listen to a Pink Floyd LP. Petit loved the music and flew to London in order to dine with the band and propose them the creation of a Ballet. The group was so thrilled that they even suggested to play live. The Floyd performed a handful of concerts accompanying the Roland Petit Ballet (Marseille, 22-26 November 1972, 13-14 January and 3-4 February 1973 and 15– 28 January 1973).

Roland Petit on how it started

The 1972 debut in Marseille famously united academic dance with live music by Pink Floyd. This true rock ballet could only have been imagined by Roland Petit’s open mind, which translated the energy of the music in a kaleidoscopic flooding of light and laser effects. Over time the four initial movements have developed and in its more elaborate structure the ballet has been performed the world over.

The Ballet consists of 18 sections using 12 pieces from the albums "The Wall," "The Dark Side of the Moon," "Meddle," "Relics", "Obscured by Clouds," and "Is Anybody Out There?"

Last seen at La Scala in June/July 2009, the Pink Floyd Ballet, featured no others than étoiles Svetlana Zakharova and Massimo Murru. The athenian reprise will take place at the Athens Megaron for just 4 performances between 12 and 15 April 2010.
Very few tickets left
(if any).