lunes, enero 29, 2007

Alternative opera's coming season

As you probably are aware of, one of the unforeseen and surprising consequences of the crisis was, in the musical side, the appearance of alternative (to the Colón) opera companies. One of the most complex and costliest arts flourished when money was scarcer than in the preceding decade! Certainly an Argentine paradox, and only explainable because man needs spiritual escape from dire conditions.

Even before the crisis, our plucky soprano, Adelaida Negri from her Casa de la Opera planned in diverse venues two operas a year, mostly from the bel canto repertoire and long-absent. She has persevered season after season, pratically leading the necessary process of renovation, which certainly includes worthwhile revivals of neglected material. Titles for 2007 haven't been announced yet but I'm sure she will surprise us again.

Juventus Lyrica will present their season at its habitual theatre, the Avenida. I have always admired the basic principle of giving opportunities to young artists, but I do feel that the programming policy isn't acceptable except in commercial terms. Two out of the four titles chosen are the direct result of the audience's vote, and I'm sorely disappointed to verify that their taste goes to the most hackneyed and unnecessary standards. I believe there's almost no artistic direction under these circumstances as regards programming, though I know I will be told that they need to do it to make ends meet. It's probably true, but it does mean that the more sophisticated audience that has seen through the years much more important interpretations of those operas has no incentive to go. I can only feel that there's a serious decline in median culture.

Consider: Verdi's "Rigoletto" leads the way (April 27, 29; May 3, 5) conducted by Antonio Russo and produced by Ana D'Anna (no cast details are given in any case). And the season closes with Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" (conductor Russo, producer Horacio Pigozzi) on November 2, 4, 8, 10. The second title will be one of the two most often performed zarzuelas: "Dona Francisquita" by Vives (the other is Moreno Torroba's "Luisa Fernanda").Conductor, Susana Frangi; producer, Oscar Barney Finn; July 6, 8, 12, 14. The sole saving grace will be the double Ravel offered on September 7, 9, 13 and 15; conductor, Emiliano Greizenstein; producer, D'Anna . "L'enfant et les sortileges" needed vindication, for Juventus had wrongly offered it years ago in a reduction for three musicians (a mortal sin with Ravel, the greatest genius of orchestration). And "L'heure espagnole" is very welcome, for it was last seen in BA in 1964 and it's a lovely and funny piece.

Better financed (which doesn't mean they have it easy), Buenos Aires Lírica will offer a five-opera season, where two seem to me poorly chosen: Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore"; both were seen in good versions in recent years elsewhere. They too hire the Avenida, certainly cozy and beautiful but afflicted by an insufficient pit that holds 45. That is why I can't agree with another choice, Wagner's "The Flying Dutchman", which certainly needs a more substantial orchestra. One title seems to me acceptable, the combination of two of the three parts of Puccini's "Trittico" ("Suor Angelica" is so-to-speak "odd-woman-out"): "Il Tabarro" and "Gianni Schicchi" (the whole hog does become too long). And one raises my expectations to enthusiasm: the premiere of Handel's "Rodelinda" in full staged version (years ago the Colón Institute offered a condensed concert version). The institution does announce its casts. An important bit of news: their success permits them now to offer five performances of each title instead of four.

"Il Trovatore": April 13, 15, 17, 19, 21. Conductor (C), Carlos Vieu; producer (P), Marcelo Perusso. José Azócar, Svetlana Volosenko, Omar Carrión, Alejandra Malvino. "Rodelinda": June 1, 3, 5, 7, 9. C, Juan Manuel Quintana. Claudia Pereira, Evelyn Ramírez, Jaime Cacompai. "The Flying Dutchman": August 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. C, Guillermo Brizzio. Homero Pérez-Miranda, Adriana Mastrángelo, Hernán Iturralde, Enrique Folger. "L'elisir d'amore": September 28, 30; October 2, 4, 6. C, Dante Ranieri; P, Claudio Gallardou. Patricia Cifuentes, Luis Olivares, Leonardo Estévez, Fernando Santiago. "Il tabarro" / "Gianni Schicchi": November 16, 18, 20, 22, 24. C, Carlos Vieu; P, Rita Cosentino. Ricardo Ortale, Azócar, Volosenko, Luis Gaeta, Ana Laura Menéndez, Santiago Burgi. A final reflection: artists of Chilean origin proliferate in the casts, apparently due to the crisis in Santiago's Teatro Municipal; this is both good and bad: audiences have a wider range of singers but less Argentines get jobs.

If in the above paragraphs I have intimated disappointment at overly hackneyed repertoires, the La Plata Argentino certainly gets the prize: except an Argentine opera, only the most hoary standards, although with good casts, conductors and producers. No dates yet, except the month. April: Bellini's "Norma"; C, Antonio Russo; P, Roberto Oswald. Maria Pia Piscitelli, Carlos Duarte, María Luján Mirabelli, Carlos Esquivel. May: "La Traviata"; C, Dante Anzolini; P, Barney Finn. Paula Almerares, Carlos Vittori, Gaeta. June: "Madama Butterfly"; C, Javier Logioia Orbe; P, Constantino Juri. Eiko Senda, Gustavo López Manzitti, Federico Sanguinetti. August: Bizet's "Carmen"; C, Perusso; P, Daniel Suárez Marzal. Kate Aldrich, Luis Lima, Esquivel, María José Siri. October: world premiere of "Estaba la madre" (Luis Bacalov); C, Bacalov; P, Carlos Branca. Mastrángelo, Lucila Ramos Mané, Ortale, Estévez. November: Rossini's "The Barber of Seville"; C, Esteban Gantzer; P, Rubén Martínez. Carrión, Almerares, Carlos Natale, Gustavo Gibert, Esquivel.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald - January 31, 2007


The Big Three announce their seasons

Ever since the descent to a very low profile of the Asociación Wagneriana, the Big Three of our international concert institutions have remained the Mozarteum Argentino, Festivales Musicales and Nuova Harmonia. Even in 2002 they refused to be defeated by the crisis and have continued to offer good music by outstanding artists, less starry than before 2001 but still valuable. Devaluation won't go away (three pesos to the dollar, four to the Euro) but things have picked up somewhat because more Argentines have money in their pockets.

This year of course the Big Three don't have the Colón, a grievous problem. The Mozarteum has opted for the Coliseo in what amounts to a reconciliation (decades ago they were unceremoniously told to go elsewhere in what was then a blatant protection of the Italian community-backed Harmonia). They will offer two cycles as usual.

The Budapest Festival Orchestra under Ivan Fischer comes back; April 19, Weiner, Schumann and Beethoven; April 21, Mozart and Bruckner. May 3 and 4, debut of the Britten Sinfonia and pianist Joanna McGregor. J.S.Bach, Britten, Stravinsky, Golijov and Gismonti. On May 10-11, the debut of pianist Pjotr Anderszewski playing Bach and Beethoven. Vadim Repin (violin) and Itamar Golan (piano) pay us a return visit on June 6 and 7 with scores by Janácek, Brahms, Grieg, Chausson and Waxman.

June (26 and 27) also brings back after a long absence an outstanding ballet company, though in its juvenile mode: Nederlands Dans Theater II led by the brilliant choreographer Jirí Kylian. A welcome debut on August 2 and 3 of the Capilla Real de Madrid (soloists, chorus and orchestra) led by Oscar Gershenson; they will interpret music by Bach, Handel, Corelli and De Nebra. August 30, 3l: perhaps the highest spot of the season: the debut of the most talented baritone of his generation, Thomas Hampson, in Mahler, accompanied by the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester conducted by Philippe Jordan.

After a long absence the renowned Hagen Quartet returns ; it will play Shostakovich, Haydn and Schubert (September 5 and 6). Then, an unfortunate "faux pas": the Jacques Loussier Trio in their jazzy adaptations of Bach, Ravel and Debussy , a bow to crossover banalisation (October 8 and 9). Finally, the most welcome return of the Sao Paulo State Symphony under John Neschling with the debut of Canadian violinist James Ehnes (October 30, November 1).

Festivales Musicales will as usual combine venues. Their season is called "Cycles and integrals". No exact dates given, only months. The Ensemble Louis Berger led by Ricardo Massun will offer "Music of the Jesuit Missions at Chiquitos", a fascinating Bolivian Baroque (April, Avenida). In May Horacio Lavandera plays the 19 Chopin Nocturnes with opus number (there are two others) at the Auditorio de Belgrano, and La Barroca del Suquía under Manfredo Kraemer will execute "Baroque tableaux", descriptive music from Biber to Boccherini (who is a Classicist, in fact), at the Avenida. On June Alexandre Tharaud will play in two sessions the integral Ravel music for piano (Coliseo). On late June and early July , also in two sessions, Mario Videla will lead Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" with the Ensemble of the Bach Academy and the Orfeón de Buenos Aires. In a non-subscription concert, septuagenarian pianist Paul Badura-Skoda will offer his specialty, Schubert ("Moments musicaux" and "Impromptus" op. 90), at the Avenida.

Come September, soprano Emma Kirkby will be back accompanied by lutenist Anthony Rooley in English Elizabethan songs (Avenida). Finally October will give us two concerts with the debut of conductor Víctor Pablo Pérez and the Galicia Symphony at the Coliseo, doing Brahms in one concert and Falla in the other.

Finally, Nuova Harmonia does its whole season at the Coliseo, as could be presumed. The Artistic Director Dino Rawa Jasinski has persuaded the Italian Government to open up a bit on their all-Italian policy (plus a few Argentines) and this year we shall also have artists from Poland, Spain and Germany.

May 2: the Cappella della Pietá dei Turchini under Antonio Florio, with Maria Ercolano (soprano) and Giuseppe De Vittorio (tenor), will presumably offer the valuable and ill-known Neapolitan Baroque repertoire. A warm welcome to the return of the Orchestra Giuseppe Verdi of Milano with the debut of conductor Michael Schoenwandt and the comeback of bel canto soprano Lucia Aliberti (May 30). Rossini, Verdi, Puccini, Donizetti and Prokofiev. June 14: some will agree (I don't ) with the idea of Mauricio Wainrot : dancing Handel's "Messiah" (Ballet Contemporáneo Teatro San Martín). The David Piano Trio plays Shostakovich, Brahms and Haydn on June 21, and pianist Andrea Lucchesini returns for a recital on July 11: Clementi, Scarlatti, Schubert and Schumann.

The Camerata Bariloche Orchestra under Karl Martin accompanies pianist Nelson Goerner on August 9. September 9 is the date of the debut of Orchestra di Fiati Europa (Rocco Eletto) playing a crossover program that includes film music. The Euskadi Symphony under Gilbert Varga comes back with the debut of cellist Asier Polo (September 18). The debut of the Orchestra Barocca di Venezia under Andrea Marcon should prove interesting; the talented violinist Giuliano Carmignola will be the soloist (September 28). Vivaldi and Tartini among the composers. The Deutsche Akademie Neuss under Lavard Skou Larsen will play on October 10. And finally, the important debut of Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic – and of pianist Mei-Ting Sun- on November 9.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald - February 06, 2007

domingo, enero 21, 2007

The Colón's difficult year

As you probably know, the Colón closed for restoration on November 1st 2006 and will remain in that condition until May 2008, when it will presumably be reopened with Verdi's "Aida", the opera performed on the day of the Colón's inauguration, May 25, 1908. Marcelo Lombardero, the Artistic Director, and Leandro Iglesias, the General Director, managed to find alternatives for the Colón's activities in opera, ballet and concerts. None of them compares with the Colón, but they will have to do during 2007. This article will refer to opera; ballet and concerts (mainly the Buenos Aires Philharmonic) will be dealt with separately.

There are few venues that can be even considered as replacements of the Colón. Two principal reasons, audience capacity (around 2100 people) and a good orchestral pit, made the Coliseo the most reasonable choice. Let's not forget the not inconsiderable problem of adapting the seating plans of the Colón to the lower and simpler disposition of the Coliseo, which has no loges (subscription renovation was awkward and slow).

A bit of history: the original Coliseo was built in the same plot as the current one, M.T. de Alvear between Cerrito and Libertad, not far from the Cervantes and the Colón. Its initial trajectory went from 1907 and 1937 and in those thirty years it offered great artists, although the Colón's competition eventually proved impossible to vanquish. The Italian Government was the owner, as it still is; the Italian community, grieved by the long closure of the theatre and its run-down condition, gave its support to a new and very different building, inaugurated in 1961 and still with us. Opera was sporadic, but some things were important, such as Verdi's "I Masnadieri" and Cilea's "Adriana Lecouvreur", both with the Teatro Argentino of La Plata, and the specialized case of Vivaldi's "Il Giustino". But it has been mainly used for concerts (particularly Harmonia and Nuova Harmonia) or for theatrical seasons of Les Luthiers.

Something important was discovered that wasn't publicly known: the original pit, holding 100 players, wasn't destroyed when the first building was torn down ; now, with the sacrifice of three rows of the stalls, it will be recovered. However, as Lombardero told me, the stage conditions are very difficult: not only is it shallow but it has no flies; to move a big chorus around is practically impossible. That is why two of the operas will be offered in concert versions where the chorus stands in a fixed place. On the other hand, the big pit allows playing such a Richard Strauss work as "Elektra".

I'm quite aware of the limitations, but I'm disappointed by some of the choices: this was the right year to hear in concert versions important operas of great musical quality but with theatrical problems that make them of dicey staging. It would have been both useful and fascinating to premiere such pieces as Weber's "Euryanthe" and/or "Oberon", Schumann's "Genoveva" , Schubert's "Fierrabras" or "Béatrice et Bénédict" by Berlioz. Instead , all the operas chosen have been offered within the last fifteen seasons, and generally in valuable versions that will hardly be bettered in 2007. This was a year in which at least two premieres should have been included, to give some novelty to a subscription series that will be very short on stars (financing this year is unfairly restricted by the Government).

Let's get down to facts. The season starts with Berg's "Wozzeck", a fundamental twentieth-century opera, with an all-local double cast: Hernán Iturralde/Luciano Garay, Adriana Mastrángelo/Alejandra Malvino, Carlos Bengolea/Fernando Chalabe, Ricardo Cassinelli/Gabriel Renaud, Gustavo Gibert and Eduardo Ayas. Conductor (C), Stefan Lano; producer (P), Lombardero; stage designer (SD), Diego Siliano; costume designer, Luciana Gutman. March 23, 25, 27, 29, 31.

"Mefistofele" (Boito) will have a concert version with Mikhail Kit, Francisco Casanova, Virginia Tola, Elisabeth Canis and Rubén Martínez (it was staged a few years back with Samuel Ramey). C, Mario Perusso. April 13, 15, 17, 21, 25.

"La Traviata" is certainly unnecessary; the rationale is that in 2007 we commemorate the l50th anniversary of the inauguration of the first Colón with the famous Verdi piece. C, Guillermo Brizzio; P, Eric Vigié; SD, Enrique Bordolini; CD, Imme Moller. The double cast includes the debut of Nathalie Manfrino and Maya Dashuk. The others: Darío Schmunck/Enrique Folger, Víctor Torres/Omar Carrión, Mónica Sardi/Mariana Carnovali. May 18, 20, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27.

"Samson et Dalila" (Saint-Saens) was staged memorably with Plácido Domingo some seasons ago; now we have the return of José Cura in a concert version, with well-known locals: Cecilia Díaz, Luis Gaeta, Carlos Esquivel, Ariel Cazes. June 24, 28, 30; July 3, 5.

I will skip the ballet "Cinderella", wrongly included in the lyric subscription series, and leave the reference to my next article. Massenet's "Werther" follows, with Jonathan Boyd, Mariana Rewerski, Garay and Graciela Oddone. C, Arturo Diemecke. P, SD and CD, Louis Désiré. September 14, 16, 19, 21, 23.

Although the last BA "Elektra" was truly memorable (Behrens and Rysanek) , the debut of Luana DeVol in the title role should be interesting; others will be Virginia Correa Dupuy, Graciela Alperyn, Iturralde and Bengolea. C, Lano; P, Mario Pontiggia. October 19, 21, 24, 27.

Finally, another non-opera, the Verdi Requiem, completes the meager season. C, Lano. María José Siri, Annette Seilgen, Jean-Luc Viala and Greer Grimsley . November 16, 18, 20, 22, 25.

Para el Buenos Aires Herald - January 23, 2007

The Colón in 2007: Ballet and concerts

First, a P.S. on the preceding article on opera: to compensate somewhat for the hackneyed quality of the main opera programming, the Colón Chamber Opera will offer two interesting premieres: Mark Anthony Turnage's "Greek", on the tough Steven Berkoff text; and Chabrier's "Une éducation manquée", a charming operetta. I don't relish the idea of the third programme, called "Sacred and Profane", which includes two incompatible Pergolesi masterpieces, the "Stabat Mater" and "La Serva Padrona"; there's no sense in staging the sacred score. No dates announced nor details on casts, but the venue is really intriguing: the Theatre 25 de Mayo in the borough of Villa Urquiza, currently undergoing restoration, will be back in business after many years of closure.

Among the changes announced late last year, Raúl Candal replaced Oscar Araiz as Director of the Colón Ballet. To my mind, a replacement of some sort was needed, for Araiz had disappointed during his rather brief tenure. In fact, the Ballet hasn't found its feet during the whole last decade. Will Candal be the man? He was a distinguished Principal Dancer and is well steeped in classical style. Perhaps because the Colón is closed and the Teatro Presidente Alvear is much smaller, he has chosen potpourris of classical "pas-de- deux", some revised by himself, rather than valuable complete ballets, either short or long. And there's no renovation whatsoever. One thing is totally unacceptable: two pieces are present in both Programmes III and IV, for the same subscribers! This is almost insulting. Let's hope that in 2008, back at the Colón, Candal will be able to show more enlightened ideas.

Programme I: fragments of "Raymonda" (Glazunov- Petipa- Candal); "The flames of Paris", pas-de-deux (Asafyev – Candal); "Grand Pas Classique" (Auber – V. Gsovsky); "La Esmeralda", pas-de-deux (Drigo – Petipa); "Diana and Acteon", pas-de-deux (Pugni – Vaganova); Polovtsian Dances from "Prince Igor" (Borodin – Fokin). March 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18.

Programme II: "The Bayadere", First Act pas d'action (Minkus- Petipa- Candal); "Flower festival at Genzano", pas-de-deux (Bournonville – Helsted); "Spartacus", pas-de-deux (Khachaturian – Candal); "Sleeping Beauty" , Third Act grand pas-de-deux (Tchaikovsky – Petipa); "The Corsair" , First Act pas d'esclaves (Drigo – Petipa – Gusev); "Bolero" (Ravel – Zartmann). March 23, 25, 27, 28, 29, 30 ; April 1.

Programme III: "Paquita" (Minkus – Petipa); "The Combat" (Banfield – Dollar), "The Witch Boy" (Salcedo – Carter). The second and third are revivals of successful ballets of forty years ago. December 1, 2, 7, 9.

Programme IV: "Paquita"; "El Combate"; "Carmen" (Bizet/Shchedrin – Plissetski). December 13, 14, 15, 16.

At another venue, the Coliseo, there will be a full-length ballet performed both as part of the lyric and of the ballet subscription series. It will be "Cinderella" (Prokofiev – Lastra), presumably as vindication of the sorry fact that some years back it had to be done with recorded music due to the conflict of the Colón with the editors (the Colón hadn't paid). I intimated already in my earlier article that I think it is a bad idea to put a ballet in a lyric series. The combined dates are: August 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, 25; September 18, 22, 24, 25, 26.

The saving grace of the Colón season will be the programming of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, conceived by a real expert, Julio Palacio. Arturo Diemecke is no longer the General Director of the orchestra, although he will conduct some concerts. There will be 14 subscription concerts and a special one , all at the Gran Rex, which is big but unfortunately has opaque acoustics. And intermingled with that series they will play 6 Winter concerts and 6 Spring ones, non-subscription, at the Teatro San Martín (Sala Coronado). I have no space to detail every concert, but I will give some highlights.

Subsciption series: March 6, 13, 20; April 3, 17, 24; May 8, 15; September 11, 25; October 2, 9, 16, 30. Special: September 18, with Ute Lemper in Weill's "Seven Deadly Sins". No. 1: conductor (C) Stefan Lano : Berg's Violin Concerto (F. Hasaj), Bruckner 9. No.2: G.Scarabino (C) : it's a Sibelius year (we commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death) and the Phil remembers him: premiere of "The Oceanids" and revival of "Tapiola". No.3: Francisco Rettig does two wonderful pieces: Dvorák's "Scherzo capriccioso" and Lutoslawski's Concerto for orchestra. No.4: again Rettig: the lovely Fauré "Masques et bergamasques" and the admirable Zemlinsky "Lyrical symphony" (with Mastrángelo and Torres). No. 5: Alejo Pérez and Horacio Lavandera premiere Berio's Second piano concerto. No.6: C Arthur Fagen does Mendelssohn's "Reform Symphony" and the Grieg "Symphonic Dances" (centenary of his death). No. 7: C Pietari Inkinen (debut) in three important scores: Balakirev's "Thamar", Sibelius' "Luonnotar" (Correa Dupuy) and Bartók's "Music for strings, percussion and celesta". No.8: incredible as it may seem, the fascinating Haydn Symphony No. 60, "The absent-minded", hadn't been premiered; Calderón does this and the Sibelius Fifth. No.9: Jan Latham-Koenig offers two premieres: Weber's Overture "Lord of the Spirits" and Henze's First Symphony. No.10: Diemecke offers a fascinating combination: Herrmann's orchestral narrative "Psycho" (premiere); Korngold's Violin Concerto (Pablo Diemecke, debut) and Prokofiev's "Alexander Nevsky". No.11 features violinist Virginie Robilliard with conductor Calderón, and No.12, pianist Peter Donohoe plus the premiere of Kurtag's "Stele". No.13: Diemecke conducts Franck's "The cursed hunter" and Szymanowski's Second. Muza Rubackyte (piano, debut) plays both Liszt Concerti framed by Scriabin's "Poem of ecstasy" and "Poem of fire" (C, Lano).

Para el Buenos Aires Herald -January 24, 2007