Sunday, April 29, 2007


Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Turandot: Erika Sunnegardh
Liu: Liping Zhang
Calaf: Richard Margison
Timur: Hao Jiang Tian
Emperor Altoum: Bernard Fitch
Ping: Hung Yun
Pang: John McVeigh
Pong: Charles Reid
Mandarin: Patrick Carfizzi

Turandot: The opera (and final scene) that changed my life. Turandot: My favorite opera. Turandot: The largest Met production ever (until Trittico). Turandot: The opera I saw last night.

I'm still in a daze. I'm not sure I'm thinking all that straight. I went into the house last night with low expectations. Whether it was because it from what I heard during the Turandot broadcast, or other peoples reviews, I didn't want to get my hopes up. Turandot being my favorite opera, I didn't want a major disappointed. Now I ask myself... What in the world was I worried about??
Erika Sunnegardh was better than I could have ever imagined! Her voice rang through the house like a church bell. Clean and clear as glass and as powerful as a lion. Her acting was great. She glided across the stage as she sang, and when she went down the short stairs it seemed like she was floating.
Speaking of the stage... The sets... THE SETS! They were immense and spectacular. That's what the whole evening was, a spectacle. So wonderfully glorious that I couldn't believe what I was seeing (and in most cases, hearing). Zefferelli was a genius. Incredible.
Richard Margison was our Calaf last night. After what I had heard in the Saturday Broadcast I was not expecting much from this tenor. It's good to not be disappointed, even if that means lowering your expectations. His voice was fine (except for the big famous high notes, had a little trouble), but his acting was not fine. Even my dad agreed that he was "a stiff." Sort of "I will kneel down because the director said so. I will walk over here because the director says so." and so on. His voice was also not expressive, very little emotion, but at some points he had good phrasing.
Liping Zhang was very well received by the audience, and rightfully so. Her Liu was heartbreaking and her voice sounded lovely. All of her singing had tons of feeling and emotion. Overall she was wonderful.
Hao Jiang Tian sounded fantastic as Timur. His voice was deep and sonorous as could be. It's not easy being a blind man on stage!!
The three ministers (or the "three p's" as I call them), Ping, Pang, and Pong, are one of my favorite parts of this opera! Their comic relief is so welcome, especially in an opera such as this! I was waiting anxiously during the first act for their entrance and almost squealed with delight when they appeared! The first scene of the second act was fantastic as can be expected!
Basically, my only problem with this production was the tenor's acting!! "Nessun Dorma" didn't blow me away, but what could I expect?

My dad and I noticed something interesting about the conductor... He didn't have the score there. Umm... Could he have memorized the orchestration??? That's pretty darn impressive! It was also impressive when the trumpet players went up to the lighting booth at the top of the house and BLASTED the imperial theme into our ears. THAT was cool.
The orchestra was glorious as usual. Kudos to the horn and percussionists. That's a tough show to do. Blastin' away the whole time. haha! The chorus has less of the "old lady syndrome" when you're in the house, I noticed. As long as you don't hear it in the house, I will turn the other cheek during the broadcasts!

This Turandot was absolutely magnificent. I'm so happy this was my first live Turandot, I was pleasantly surprised by the singers. I tip my hat to all and "TUTTI BRAVI!!!"

Interesting side note: There was a couple in one of the boxes with a BABY. I mean, one-year-old or younger type of baby. I was so afraid that the baby would start crying or something! I said to my dad "If that kid starts crying during Nessun Dorma, him and his parents are getting bumped to Orchestra level using the quickest way down, courtesy of me!!!" We joked about it for a while, but once the act started the baby didn't make a peep, to our relief.

Diecimilla anni al nostro Imperatore! =)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Juan Diego Florez and Julia Trappe

I believe some congratulations are in order...

On Monday, April 23rd, Juan Diego Florez and Julia Trappe were married in Vienna in a private and secretive ceremony.
There was a celebration on Wednesday, April 25th, at the Staatsoper after a performance of Fille du Regiment.
The full story and more updates on Juan Diego Florez may be found here:
and here:

May they live happily ever after!!
The End. =)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Ruth Ann Swenson Mess

I've tried to avoid this, but I really can't for much longer. Let me just say that I have extreme respect for some one to go out on stage at all, at any time in their lives. But to go out on stage in front of scrutinizing and thoroughly terrifying opera buffs (because as much as we want to deny it, we're too hard on some people) only weeks after finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer, or any other kind of cancer!
People first complained about her article in the New York Times Arts section which stated:

"...“It’s hurtful,” Ms. Swenson said. “I’m a New Yorker. I’ve sung here for many, many years."..."I’ve never let them down.” She added: “It’s so stressful to get up onstage and realize that the top guy doesn’t like you, and there’s nothing I can do about it..."

"...Mr. Gelb acknowledged some dissatisfaction with her past performances. But he disputed that her career at the Met was over..."

"...“I think I’m not skinny enough for him,” Ms. Swenson said. “Excuse me, I’m not some giant person.”..."

"...Ms. Swenson said she was aware that her words could burn bridges with Mr. Gelb. “He doesn’t like me anyway,” she said, “so what do I have to lose?”..."

People were saying that Ms. Swenson was trying to get pity and was just plain being a cry baby. I think that these allegations are unfair and untrue! I think that Ms. Swenson was trying to show how some opera companies are trying to make it more about drama and (let's be frank) sex appeal than about musical abilities. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen. Obviously, there are people who think that this is so. Between Deborah Voigt's public weight "issues" and the increase in skinnier singers, it may not be unlikely. There are full-figured opera singers to be sure, more than half of the men are a little more than "full" and some women, Ms. Sweson included, are not super-model thin. Opera has remained for a long time an art that does not care what you look like, just how you sing! I am hoping that it stays this way; we can't be pushing singers on a scale at every audition, it would be unheard of! And cruel!

Last week the NY Times printed a review for the Met's production of Handel's "Guilio Cesare" with David Daniels and Ruth Ann Swenson as Cleopatra. The critic had nothing but good things to say about Ms. Swenson! She, as we hear, received a little more than enthusiastic applause during the curtain calls, and an every-praising review. So... What do people have against her?
People say that she is not much of an actress. Well, neither was Cornell Macneil! Pavarotti was sometimes a "stand there and sing" type of guy, too! At some points opera was a "stand and sing" art form, whether it was intentional or not. There is that story about Corelli and Tebaldi in Boheme where each stood on an opposite side of the stage and sang to their fans on other sides of the house, not caring whether Mimi and Rodolfo were supposed to touch hands.
People also say that her vocal quality has not been as good as past years. Well, there are a few factors that could contribute to this... One, is age. Everyone gets old. We can handle a few wrinkles, can't we?? I mean, Domingo hasn't even retired yet, so I think we can handle it! Two...People, people people people! Did you miss the part where Ruth Ann Swenson had breast cancer? Cancer and chemo can do things to you! You don't get off scot free! It's ridiculous that someone thinks that she will come back unaffected!

I'm not sure what to think about this problem as a whole. Even though I just put my two cents in, and you probably think I have a strong opinion about it. I'm inclined to like Ruth Ann Swenson a lot, and I am hoping to see her next season in 'La Traviata.' I understand that Peter Gelb wants to make opera more popular, but he can't push out talented singers.

This has been prying on my mind for a long time, and I want everyone to know that this entry took me days to write. =) I didn't know whether to set up a riot on Peter Gelb or to sit back and see what happens. I would really like to see his reaction and/or comeback to all of this!!!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Quick Thought about Turandot on Sirius

Thought I would share these quick comments about the cast...
(Erika Sunnegårdh replaced Andrea Gruber, because she was ill. Thank goodness, because I don't like Andrea Gruber at all.)

Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Turandot: Erika Sunnegårdh
Liù: Hei-Kyung Hong
Calaf: Richard Margison
Timur: Oren Gradus

  • Turandot- "In Questa Reggia" was unbelievable! What power! What force! (I do prefer Eva Marton and she sang it a lot, but I can have my favorites =]) Act II was electrifying! What a glorious top voice this woman has! Marvelous! I can't wait to see her live. what a spectacle... Riddle Scene was bone chilling! I'm shivering!
  • Mandarin- wobble wobble wobble. otherwise, alright =) in Act II he got off the rhythm a little and had to rush to get back in place.
  • Liu- vocally, very solid. Act I was very very good! "Signore Ascolta" had lots of feeling (i could even hear her sobbing softly at the end!) and was stable, even on top (had a nice *ring*).
  • Timur- dark and rich voice. very deep and sonorous. some wobbling. Act I was sung extremely well. i like the tone of his voice a lot.
  • Calaf- okay, not Domingo's Calaf, but what are you gonna do? pushing a little bit, but not bad... not bad at all! he doesn't show a lot of feeling through his voice, though, which is sort of disappointing. Act I was alright, except for the three "Turandot! Turandot! Turandooootttt!"... something weird happened with that, it just felt funny. Act II was alright... again, not Domingo, but still okay. From Mel Brooke's "History of the World Part I": Nice...not thrilling, but nice.
  • Ping- Act I was really good. He sounded relaxed, confident and like he was having fun, which he should in such a role!! Act II was good. his tone, i noticed, is rather gravely which is okay as long as it doesn't get out of hand.
  • Pang- Act I was very good. I love the two tenor roles, Ping and Pang. they make such a good pair! haha! Act II was even better than the first!
  • Pong- Act I was increasingly getting better. wonderfully enjoyable! Act II was just as good if not better than the first act!
  • Ping, Pang and Pong together- charming as usual. they always make me smile!! =)=) "Addio amore, Addio razza, Addio stirpe divina!!!!!" i love these guys!
  • Emperor- No wobbles, though it did sound a little unstable. He is supposed to sound extremely old, so I guess it fits.
  • Chorus- menacing and great as usual. there is a new symptom of "old lady" syndrome in the higher notes. hopefully they can fix that? however, when they screamed "SANGUE! SANGUE!" i got goose-bumps. agh, it's terrifying.
  • Children's Chorus- so cute! lovely voices, too. "La, sui monti dell'Est" was great. good work, kids!
  • Orchestra- loud and lovely. =) you can't say many bad things about this orchestra
  • Conductor- kept things together, as the conductor should. sometimes it felt rushed or too fast, but overall it was very, very nice work. he also goes a little too slow at times, there must be no happy medium! haha, bravo Maestro Luisi.
I was too tired to listen to the final act, although my favorite aria is in it! (Correction: mom made me go to bed =])

Although I'm not sure this is Puccini's absolute best work ever (there is Tosca, La Boheme, Manon Lescaut etc. etc.), it remains to be my favorite opera nonetheless. Turandot surely contains some of Puccini's most haunting music! Caution: Turandot's music may cause nightmares or recurring dreams of decapitated princes and/or cause extreme emotion including sobbing like a baby, yelling "sangue" in public places, and smiling like a fool!!!

I'm so incredibly excited to be seeing this production later this month! I'll give a more in-depth review after I see it.

Diecimila anni al nostro Imperatore!!! Gloria a te!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Villazon's Crack

There has been a small dispute in the opera world about whether or not Rolando Villazon really did "crack" last night at the 40th Anniversary Gala.

Most people who were actually in the house (ex. Grand Tier, Balcony, etc.) say that they never heard the tenor crack once! Some people in the orchestra said that they heard him crack severely in his Manon aria.
People who were listening to the live stream from the Met (like me) and on Sirius Radio said that they distinctly heard him crack during both "Che Gelida Manina" in Boheme and in his Manon aria. It also sounded like he was having trouble in "O Soave Fanciulla," especially that final high note.

So, is this the fault of the radio transmission, the placement of the audience members, or Villazon's audibility? Usually, I hear, Villazon doesn't have these sort of problems. I'm guessing he was getting over a cold or developing one. It could have been vocal fatigue. It could have been many things, but I feel certain that Mr. Villazon is a better performer than what we heard last night. He deserves another chance, which he is getting next year in Romeo et Juliette.

I really wish the Met had recorded this Gala for either DVD or CD so we could tell what actually happened. I'm very curious, though, as to why the audience in the opera house couldn't hear the crack and us listening over the radio could!! Was it the placement of the microphones? Was it the volume of the orchestra overwhelming his voice so the audience didn't hear the crack? Was it how his voice carried into the upper tiers? Was it the audience members themselves? Some people suggested that the radio was to blame, and that the cracks were nothing more than a glitch in the transmission, which is ridiculous.
I firmly believe that Rolando Villazon did crack if not once, but twice, throughout the entire Gala performance. I will surely not hold this against him, but I hope he does better next season.

I sincerely hope Mr. Villazon feels better if anything is ailing him. May he have many better galas and performances ahead of him!!! =)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Met 40th Anniversary Gala- Villazon and Netrebko

A live commentary of the Gala straight from the web-radio to this blog!!! My first ever play-by-play opinions...

La Boheme Act I
The beginning of Boheme always gives me chills, especially with a good tenor. Puccini was a genius! This is my first encounter with Mr. Villazon. I'm pleasantly surprised!!!! He is truly lovely!! The Marcello of Mariusz Kwiecien is great as well. Is that Paul Plishka singing Benoit?? He sounds the same as when I saw him this season! Ha ha!
My goodness, I never realized how much Anna Netrebko sounded like Angela Gheorghiu! I'll get butchered and murdered for this, but in the first few minutes, I do think they sound similar! Don't get me wrong, Anna is unique in her own way, but something is very similar about the two of them...
Does Mimi really believe Rodolfo when he says he hasn't found the key? He's totally lying, it's completely obvious! How do you fall for that?
Che Gelida Manina notes: Lovely start, Rolando! I'm impressed!!!! uh oh, something happened on that "che faccio." but I won't be picky, Villazon's Rodolfo is a dream! I'm in a small-cold-hand sort of trance! What a beautiful rendition of such a perfect aria!! Applause start: 7:30:25 Applause Ends: 7:30:55
Si, Mi Chiamano Mimi notes: What pure voice Anna Netrebko has. "solletta." she sang it so cute-ly! What a flirt this Mimi is! Glorious, lovely, beautiful! What a gorgeous Mimi! (gosh, I'm running out of adjectives)Applause Start: 7:36:01 Applause Ends: 7:36:24
O Soave Fanciulla notes: First, I love this duet to death! Rolando Villazon starts it miraculously! Enter Anna Netrebko; lovely! That's a tough entrance, so high! How beautiful...*sigh*
Boheme overall ending:
Applause Starts: 7:40:00
Applause Ends: 7:41:52

My Boheme overall reaction: WOAH! =O
(PS. I was right, Benoit was Paul Plishka)

Manon Act III Scene II
I'm not very familiar with this opera, but I'm following along with a libretto and a translated libretto

I'm going to need to get a recording of this. It's only the first few bars and I believe I'm in shock.
Samuel Ramey as Count des Grieux, wow. What a treat! What French!
Props for the French diction! Villazon and Ramey sounded fine during both dialogue and singing. I know how tough it is, I take French, and it's not easy!
I'm repeatedly losing my place in the libretto to listen to Villazon sing. That says something right there. =] bravo
Oh, goodness. Rolando Villazon might be coming down with something. This might be the third time he's had trouble/cracked a note! I'm so depressed.
Applause for Rolando's first aria: Start: 7:58:00 End: 7:58:20 (conductor wanted to move on)
Props for Anna with her French! They all speak/sing it so wonderfully.
What expression! What passion in their singing! It must be breathtaking when they're live together! (I mean in the actual house, of course. lol)
"Regarde-moi! Regarde-moi!" Oh, quanta soffra! haha! How poor Manon suffers. Anna puts so much feeling into it, isn't she exhausted by now?
What a glorious ending! I feel the tears coming on! *sniffle*
Manon end applause:
Start: 8:09:18
End: 8:10:03

My Manon overall reaction: Oh my gosh, I need to get a recording/DVD of this opera! This is unbelievable! Crazy! Lovely! I love it! Ha ha!

Intermission Features: A recording from the opening of the new Met Opera House. Interviews with Rudolf Bing, Leontyne Price, and Justino Diaz.
Very exciting other interviews, and live from the house as well! =)

L'Esilir d'Amore Act II
Libretto and synopsis in we go...

I also need a recording of this opera, too! Amazing, I never even heard these two operas before! What I have been missing, it's rather depressing =(
Everyone's singing is splendid. But the real bravo goes to Donizetti himself for the joyous melodies.
Both lead singers are incredible actors. I can hear their acting from over the Internet!!!! haha
The "non ti può mancar l'amor" from one of Belcore's little parts is such a beautiful phrase. There are always these little phrases in all operas that just get to me. This (and "Una Furtiva Lagrima") must be that small phrase!
I do lie... Almost all of these phrases are beautiful! I'm overwhelmed with great artistry and great opera! Between Manon and L'Esilir, I'm going to have a very large bill!!!Nemorino and Belcore Applause: Start: 9:03:27 End: 9:03:40
The Met Chorus women have a little bit of an "old lady sound." It pains me to say it, it really does. Surely there are some young singers who want to be a part of such a lovely chorus? =)
Villazon is certainly shining in this act. Shimmering, shining, whatever you want to say, he's kicking butt!! I'm just waiting for the big aria =]
Alessandro Corbelli as Dulcamara is wonderful! He sounds like he could sing Figaro in Barber easily. I'd like to hear more from this guy!!!
Applause for Anna and Corbelli: Starts: 9:23:04 Ends: 9:23:23
Una Furtiva Lagrima notes: (I'm a firm believer that you have to be able to sing this aria well to be considered a "great" tenor.) una furtiva nuh NA. haha. What a gloriously gorgeous piece of singing I am hearing right this very moment from Rolando Villazon. This applause better last a long time, because he's singing this like a master tenor! "si può, si può morir!" oy! too beautiful to handle Applause: Starts: 9:28:24 Ends: 9:28:59 (with many "bravos")
I really need to confess that even though I didn't like Anna Netrebko at first, for a long time, she has really raised herself up, first with I Puritani and now with this Gala. I'm really happy to hear her now. She's working her way up into my favorites ;) and this Gala is proving why. ]
(Laughter from the audience?? How I wish I was there! How can we know what they're laughing at? It was obviously physical humor =[ how sad for us!)
High notes from Anna Netrebko!!! What a lovely top!! =] Applause for Anna: Start: 9:37:44 End: 9:38:25
I really like this Dulcamara!!! I must investigate... hmm...

My OVERALL Reaction: Oh my gosh, I wish I was there!!!!!

Final Applause (bows):
Starts: 9:41:16
Ends: 9:48:54

There's confetti, apparently, for Rolando and Anna. Many screams and bravo/a's. Sam Ramey gets a large ovation, Paul Plishka too, Alessandro Corbelli gets a large ovation as well, the Marcello from Boheme gets a very large ovation. Rolando and Anna, of course, get the best and biggest ovation. Lots of screaming and lots of bravo/a's. People are still clapping as Margaret Juntwait is signing off, so the end of the applause is probably not accurate.

In case you were all wondering... yes... I was sitting here with a digital clock recording how many seconds the people clapped. Not only was I bored out of my mind and could do nothing else but listen to beautiful music and document times, but I was actually very curious. People consider different things to be a "long" ovation, so I wanted to see if my ears and my clock were accurate. =]

I'm sorry this was so long, I don't expect everyone to read all of it. It was just fun to write =] Thanks, y'all!