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  • Another disinterment by that indefatigable musical necrophile, René Jacobs. Cesti's L'Argia was written more than 300 years ago when Sweden's Queen Christina was slowly making her way to Rome and stopped off for a visit in Innsbruck. A wonderful evening, reviewed elsewhere.



  • All praise to conductor Mario Venzago for his untiring championship of the neglected Swiss composer Othamar Schoeck. After a 1992 recording of concert performances, the Geneva Opera saw fit to stage his opera Venus. See review elsewhere.



  • Start listening to the new Solti Meistersinger. It's impressive, but the Solti gloss works less well on record than in the theater. See review for more extended commentary.



  • Michaël Levinas may call his theater piece an opera, but any work in which all sounds emerge via a synthesizer, including the voices of the singers, is not IMHO an opera. GO-gol is a free improvisation on Gogol's novella The Cloak, staged by Daniel Mesguich in such a fashion that prior knowledge is essential in order to follow the goings-on. Alain Zaeppfel in the leading role of Akaki Akakievich is extraordinary but closer attention to the narrative elements might have made for a less puzzling evening.



  • Robert Wilson treats us to his musings on Pelléas et Mélisande, not very profound, with Mélisande assuming stylized Geisha gestures, and all the costumes vaguely Japanese except for Yniold who looks like a Renaissance pageboy. Still worse, Mélisande apotheoses at the end. The singers are all out of sorts and Conlon encourages the orchestra to a Wagnerian frenzy.



  • Arrive at the Bastille to hear that Carmen is off tonight because the chorus is striking, and this after the premiere had to be given as a concert because the machinists struck.



  • Pierre Boulez is in the pit for a double bill of two works composed at about the same time by two composers who many years later became unacknowledged neighbors: Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and Stravinsky's Nightingale. Again, an inexperienced operatic director - Stanislas Nordey - seemed to have little idea that while opera is theater it also has its own constraints which should be respected. Christine Schäfer offered a Pierrot which was more sung than spoken while she retraced her steps along an invisible tightrope. Three ladies in turn held a rose against the wall for each of the seven songs in her domain, while faces were illuminated behind a high screen well upstage. Schäfer's impressive performance was matched by Natalie Dessay's trench-coated Nightingale, at ease in the high-flying reaches of her role. Boulez did his best to weld the disparate parts of the Stravinsky into an entity while Nordey's production de-emphasized the Chinoiserie.



  • Verdi's Macbeth opens a season devoted to British operatic royalty, the remaining operas being Donizetti's "Tudor trilogy". A conductor new to me, Lukas Karytinos, got through the work without bringing any special light to bear, stage director Vincenzo Grisostomi seemed to focus more on peripherals such as showing offstage action behind a scrim to make sure we missed nothing nor were we spared a crotch-scratching ballet by choreographer Nicolas Musin. Renato Bruson's advancing years were barely audible as the evening progressed, but Maria Guleghina seemed to think she was singing in an outdoor arena as she made the walls shake. Playing the sleepwalking scene as Ophelia was also a bad idea, though there is no denying the conviction she brought to her portrayal.



  • Finished listening to Vivaldi's Ottone in Villa (Bongiovanni), over three hours of not fascinating music sung by two countertenors, one of whom produces the ungodliest sounds for which his exemplary musicianship barely begins to offer compensation. It is all too anemic.



  • A promising evening with a young cast in La Boheme is ruined by the directorial antics of Mireille Laroche who has sunk the work under a thick cloud of symbolism and extras, including a boy who plays an active role througout, a lady with a stuffed bird on her wrist, circus performers and an uncanny knack for upstaging every one of Puccini's musical cues. Maria Bayo's first Mimi could easily have been submerged in the morass but her shining presence saved the day, partnered by Fernando de la Mora who at times almost got lost in the waves of sound unleashed by conductor Enrique Arturo Diemecke.



  • listen to some interesting vocal reissues of Bidu Sayao and Eleanor Steber. I am struck by the clarity and steadiness of both voices. The transfers are immaculate yet the presence of both sopranos is immediate. Each of the Cds contains a classic recording, Sayao's Bachianas Brasilieras No. 5 and Steber's Nuits d'Eté, and both retain the freshness which characterized their first releases more than 50 and 40 years ago, respectively.



  • Puccini's Trittico seems to have emerged from a period of neglect, with productions in Brussels and Chicago, Antwerp, Hamburg, Zurich, and I shamefacedly admit that my respect for the composer has moved up a few notches. The cumulative effect is more powerful than I remembered, despite some undercasting. No complaint can be levelled at Jean-Philippe Lafont in both Tabarro and Schicchi, Alexandrina Milcheva in the three contralto roles or Leontina Vaduva and Tito Beltran as the young lovers in the last part. The other two sopranos present an interesting contrast: Galina Kalinina has a large Slavic voice with a large Slavic wobble (less in evidence this evening) but lacks presence, while Susan Anthony's well-trained instrument lacks the warmth which would make her a more distinctive artist. Maurizio Benini's rapid reading did not prevent the Orchestre du Capitole from providing a warm sound, though the fortissimos might have been a bit less raucous.



  • My ears tell me that I'm listening to Massenet's Werther, my eyes are not sure that's what I'm watching. Willy Decker is unfortunately not the last of the current crop of directors who will take a work and try to make it fit his preconceived notions, using ugly decors by Gussmann which too closely remembled their botched Onegin at the Bastille. This time the steeply sloping upstage area could be closed off by a massive wall that was manipulated far more often than was necessary. Turning Schmidt and Johann into Tweedledum and Tweedledee was another bad idea that proved unwelcome from start to finish. Positive elements were the conducting of Kent Nagano, far more comfortable now than he was last year in a concert performance, the excellent playing of the Lyons Opera Orchestra and the surprise casting of Lorraine Hunt, a Charlotte of distinction if not always intelligible, her intensity almost tangible. Martin Thompson sounded either Jet lagged or ill or both as a last-minute replacement for an ailing colleague.

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