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Jonas Kaufmann

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 20

Sony scoops Mr High Cs

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discThe Sony Classical label has drawn ink from Juan Duego Florez. It can now boast, with Kaufmann, Grigolo and Florez, to have the three hot males on the opera stage. Press release follows press pic. (New York / Berlin, June 20, 2016) Sony Classical is proud to announce a long-term exclusive contract with Juan Diego Flórez, one of today’s most prominent stars of the opera and concert stage. The tenor of choice for the world’s leading theatres in the bel canto repertoire and beyond, Juan Diego Flórez’s fluid, expressive singing and dazzling virtuosity have thrilled audiences and critics alike and earned him global acclaim. The Financial Times recently noted: “For a voice of high class and high Cs by the armful, Flórez is your man.” Born in 1973 into a musical family in Lima, Peru, the young singer studied at the National Conservatory of Music and with Peru’s Coro Nacional before winning a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where his deep love of opera was founded. Standing in for an indisposed colleague as Corradino in Rossini’s Matilde di Shabran in 1996 proved to be a turning point in what was to become a stellar career. After this triumph, Mr. Flórez was promptly offered his début at La Scala, Milan, under Riccardo Muti, and since then he has conquered all the world’s leading stages, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Royal Opera House in London, the Vienna Staatsoper, the Salzburg Festival, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and the Zurich Opernhaus, to name but a few. He has worked with the best-known conductors of the day, including Riccardo Chailly, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniele Gatti, James Levine, Riccardo Muti, Antonio Pappano and many more. In 2007 Juan Diego Flórez made history at La Scala when he broke a 70-year-old taboo and gave the first encore in the theatre since 1933. The aria in question was “Ah! mes amis” from Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment, renowned for its nine high Cs. He repeated the feat a few months later, in 2008, at the Met, again after a number of years in which no encores had been heard, and in 2012 at the Opéra de Paris, where no encore had been heard since the theatre’s inauguration in 1989. Juan Diego Flórez has an extensive discography for which he has been honored with countless international awards. He is passionate about music education and through his foundations Sinfonía por el Perú and Friends of Juan Diego Flórez works to bring about social change through music both in his native country and beyond. Mr. Flórez is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. His first album for Sony Classical will be released in fall 2017. Mr. Flórez noted of his new contract with Sony Classical: “Recordings are such a different means of expression for an opera singer. Musically, they allow you to explore and try new and exciting things, such as new colours and ways of interpretation. Working in the studio has fascinated me for a long time and I am full of new ideas I want to realize with Sony. I look forward to working with its team to bring great recordings to music lovers around the world.” Bogdan Roscic, President of Sony Classical, said: “Seeing and hearing Juan Diego Flórez in full flight is one of the greatest experiences in today’s opera world. His personality, his immense musicality and the unmistakably individual sound of his voice have made him one of the few true superstars in the theatre but also beyond it. I look forward to working with him on adding exciting new recordings to what is already an outstanding discography.”

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

June 14

Sicklist: Gatti cancels Kaufmann recording

We hear that Daniele Gatti has pulled out of next week’s concerts and a recording with the Vienna Philharmonic and Jonas Kaufmann. They were to have performed Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde with Kaufmann singing both tenor and baritone/contralto parts. (Suddenly, we’re feeling a bit queasy. And there’s football on telly.) The Vienna Philharmonic has yet to announce a change of programme. We undertand the recording team have been stood down.




Tribuna musical

May 29

The Rome Santa Cecilia Orchestra visits us for the first time

Italy has three main symphony orchestras. Two have come to BA in earlier seasons: Milan´s La Scala with Gavazzeni and later with Muti, and that of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Maazel. And now, to complete the trilogy, the Mozarteum Argentino brought us from Rome the Orchestra dell´Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Sir Antonio Pappano and with Beatrice Rana (piano). All made their local debuts. The three are of high quality and can compete internationally. La Scala´s has a special regime: during Autumn it is a concert orchestra, but come Winter they go to the pit for the operatic season. That of the MMF of course is the basis for the homonymous yearly Festival in which such great names as Bartoletti and Mehta have presented interesting opera programmes, but they also offer many concerts during the year and they are the pit orchestra for the Teatro Comunale´s opera season. The Santa Cecilia, instead, is a concert orchestra with weekly activity from October to June at the magnificent new Parco della Musica. Each concert is given three times. However, it has recently recorded "Aida" with a starry cast (Kaufmann/Harteros/Schrott) and "Madama Butterfly" with Gheorghiu. The Accademia also supports a Chorus, and so the choral-symphonic repertoire often appears during the season. It is the oldest Italian organism dedicated almost exclusively to concert music. It was founded in 1908 as Orchestra dell´Augusteo di Roma. Bernardino Molinari had a long tenure as Principal Conductor from 1912 to 1944. Later the Orchestra was called Santa Cecilia (she is the patroness of music) and had eminent Principal conductors: Fernando Previtali (1953-73), Igor Markevich (1973-5), Giuseppe Sinopoli (1983-7), Daniele Gatti (1992-7), Myung-Whun Chung (1997-2005) and now Pappano. To their appellation they later added Nazionale (I would have thought more adequate to add "di Roma"). The Academy was established by papal bull as "Congregazione" in 1585, and became Academy in the Nineteenth Century. Nowadays it also has a Conservatory, what they call a "Bibliomediateca" and a Museum of musical instruments. Vinyl lovers will recall that the orchestra, though a concert outfit, was employed in dozens of famous operatic recordings in the 1950s and 1960s. Anyway, I can vouchsafe that in concert the Santa Cecilia was first-rate even in the Fifties, when I heard in Rome a wonderful evening with Previtali and the greatest pianist in my experience, Wilhelm Backhaus, who played both Beethoven´s Concerto Nº4 and Brahms´ First in the same evening! (February 6, 1954). And now to Sir Antonio Pappano (why Antonio and not Anthony? He´s British!). Born 56 years ago, he studied in the United States, he was Musical Director of the Norwegian Opera at Oslo and at Brussels´ Théâtre de la Monnaie prior to taking over the main post at London´s Covent Garden in 2002. So he divides his time between opera and concerts. The programmes he brought over for the Mozarteum´s two cycles played safe, too safe. On the tour came Beatrice Rana, a 23-year-old Italian pianist who recorded Tchaikovsky´s First Concerto and Prokofiev´s Second with Pappano and the Santa Cecilia. If she had played Prokofiev on Tuesday 12 and Tchaikovsky on Wednesday 13, it would have been much better, but no, it was Tchaikovsky both days. Or if the Russian composer´s Fifth Symphony on the 12th would have been replaced by a symphony of, say, Shostakovich, there would have been a good balance. But no, we had both Tchaikovskys together on the first night, and one hopes to hear something more varied from a visiting orchestra, especially if it´s their first time here. But apart from that caveat, everything went swimmingly. The conductor was right in starting both evenings with Verdi: the Overture to "La Forza del destino" and the following day, the Sinfonia (another name for overture) to "Luisa Miller". The phrasing was unfailing, showing Pappano´s knack for dramatic music, and the Orchestra sounded admirable (as listed in the hand programme it is huge, 117 players, but surely fewer came). Rana is a find: a fantastic and effortless technique that combines a big sound without harshness and impeccable digitation at all speeds. Just one reservation: in the first movement she slowed down too much in certain passages, though generally she dazzled in the virtuosic passages. The accompaniment was very professional. Her encore on Wednesday was beautiful: a Schumann song from "Frauenliebe und Leben" as arranged admirably by Liszt. But on Tuesday her Gigue from Bach´s First Partita sounded like a perfectly executed cross-hands etude rather than a dance. The symphonies showed both Pappano´s mettle and the orchestra´s quality; except for some horn fluffs the playing was very firm, with attractive solos from the woodwinds and the strings and a warm, in tune, brilliant overall sound. The conductor was orthodox and gave sure readings of both the Tchaikovsky Fifth and that strange and fascinating symphony, Saint-Saëns´ Nº3. The final minutes of the latter were thrilling; organist Daniele Rossi played on the Colón electric organ placed on the avant-scène loge and it sounded good, though never replacing a true pipe organ (impossible at the Colón). Encores: on Tuesday, "Nimrod" from Elgar´s Enigma Variations, and the last part of Rossini´s "Guillaume Tell". On Wednesday, a marvelous interpretation of Puccini´s Intermezzo from "Manon Lescaut" and a romping close with the galop-like ending to Ponchielli´s "Dance of the Hours" from "La Gioconda". For Buenos Aires Herald



Classical iconoclast

May 22

Interpreting Meistersinger : Glyndebourne, Munich

Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Glyndebourne. Is it unusual to start a new season with a revival ?  This production premiered on the exact date on which Wagner was born 200 years before.  Fortuitous timing, perhaps, but also a bright start to the 2011 season.  "Sunny but not shallow" I wrote at the time - read my original piece HERE .  David McVicar set the production around the time if Wagner's birth, which was appropriate in the composer's anniversary year, but rather less relevant now.  On the plus side, early 19th century designs are easy on the eye.  Perhaps the popularity of this production stems from it being so genteel and non-challenging. But Die Meistersinger isn't about pretty scenery. On the contrary. It says, quite clearly that appearances deceive. The good guy is not the one in the smart black suit. . s message is that appearances deceieve. The good guy isn't the one with the smart suit.  On the minus side, it gentrified 16th century Nuremburg,  obliterating the context of Reformation and revolt.  It didn't matter so much in 2011 because we were celebrating the start of the season, the production was fresh and it was different. Gerald Finley was a sophisticate, rather than earthy. Because he's a house favourite, it's perfectly reasonable to build a production around him.  There isn't and shouldn't be a "Hans Sachs type" but Finley's voice is on the genteel side, so his Sachs was never going to be gritty or pugnacious.  Hence his Sachs was an Early Romantic poet, from a time when poets were intellectuals, often aristocratic, almost all middle class.  They'd no more make a living fixing shoes than might a hero from Jane Austen.  True, the Romantic period was a revolution, but the revolution Wagner wrought transformed the music of the past, even if it grew from Romantic values.  I enjoyed the 2011 premiere because Vladimir Jurowski conducted exceptionally well. The orchestra communicated what the set avoided.  There's no reason why Die Meistersinger shouldn't be sunny and gay, in the old sense of the word, because the Nuremburgers are celebrating the survival of their city and the renewal,of art.  There is more in the opera, though.  The Meistersingers were happy enough to do as Beckmesser wanted and run Walter out of town, had Sachs not intervened.  Not for nothing, when darkness falls, the townsfolk s crap. It's comic but not funny. A crowd can descend into a mob. The Night Watchman is a counterpart to Sachs, restoring sanity.   And so to  Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg from the Bayerisches Staatsoper in Munich, just down nthe road from Bayreuth and not far from Nuremburg. Presumably the locals have Die Meistersinger inn their DNA, notwithstanding their ancestors' less than worshipful approach to Wagner himself.  Even if they don't, the opera is so familiar that it could be interpreted in a new way, yet still true to the fundamentals.  Jonas Kaufmann is Munich's greatest asset, and even more popular than Finley is at Glyndebourne. I''m glad I listened to the premiere audio only, in order to get the musical,logic behind the interpretation.  Kaufmann is simply head and shoulders above everyone else in the cast, though they are good, and probably better than the Glyndebourne cast.  He's just so good that he changes the balance of the opera.  Jacques Imbrailo did the same with the Glyndeboure  Billy Budd, singing so divinely that some forget that for Britten, the story actually revolves around Captain Vere's moral dilemma.  It's fine to adjust balances in this way because they allow a change of perspective.  Kaufmann's Walter was so good that no one could have mistaken him for an untrained newcomer.  The birds in the woods who taught Kaufmann's Walter must have been pretty amazing.  An interpretation placing more emphasis on Walter than on Sachs would be perfectly valid, if done well, because walter is the future, as Sachs recognizes.   Sachs was named after St John the Baptist, who laid the way for Jesus.  Johannisnacht is a Christian festival, but also has connections with prehistory and even the occult.  The tree in the town square, for example is a kind of fertility symbol, and young folk go courting at the fair.  "Holy German Art" was poisoned by Hitler, but it's not actually about nazism.  The music isn't even demonic, just affirmative, so,playing it up for cheap,thrills is a ciop out.  It's time to exorcise that ghost from the opera and from its interpretation. . Holy German Art in Hans Sachs' time was an affirmation of native German values, as opposed to the Catholic Church, to the democratization of learning through the printed word.  Before Gutenberg, people didn't have books, and had to believe what they were told.   The real message of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg  is a lot more radical,than some realize.  Please alsomread Mills and Boon Wagner -Meistersinger at the Met  and  Stefan Herheim's perceptive Meistersinger, Salzburg and ENO Vindicated : Wagner's prescient warning. 

Classical music and opera by Classissima



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