The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho discusses her opera “L’Amour de Loin” on NPR. Its premiere production at the Metropolitan Opera will air this Saturday on “Live From the Met in HD” and on Wisconsin Public Radio

December 9, 2016
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By Jacob Stockinger

This Saturday will see the “Live From The Met in HD” transmission to area cinemas of the popular 2002 opera “L’Amour de Loin” by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho (below, in a photo by Maarit Kytoharju).

The show starts at 11:55 a.m. at the Point Cinema in Madison’s far west side and the Palace Cinema in Sun Prairie. The running time is three hours with an intermission. (It will also be broadcast live on Wisconsin Public Radio starting at 1 p.m.) It will be sung in French with English supertitles.

kaija-saariaho-maarit-kytoharju-for-met

Based on the real-life story of the 12th-century French prince and troubadour Jaufré de Rudel, the opera will be the first one by a women composer to be done by the Metropolitan Opera in 113 years.

It must also be a landmark for Finland, since both the composer and the acclaimed conductor, Susanna Mälkki (below, in a photo by The New York Times), are Finnish. Mälkki is making her Met debut.

susanna-malkki-ny-times

And the cast sounds terrific: Bass-baritone Eric Own (below left, in a photo by Ken Howard) plays the troubadour.

eric-owens-plays-the-12th-century-french-prince-and-troubadour-jaufre-rudel-cr-ken-howard-met

Susanna Phillips (below right) plays his love Clémence, who hails from what is now Lebanon.

eric-owens-and-susanna-phillips-in-mets-%22lamour-de-loin%22-cr-ken-howard-for-met

It sounds like the production, by French-Canadian theater director Robert Lepage – who worked with the Cirque du Soleil and did the Met’s recent controversial “Ring” cycle by Richard Wagner, is appealing on several scores. (You can hear Robert Lepage and Kaija Saariaho discuss the production briefly in a YouTube video at the bottom.)

Here is a link to more information about the opera and cast at the Met’s website:

http://www.metopera.org/Season/2016-17-Season/amour-de-loin-saariaho-tickets/

The appeal has been added to by a story that Jeff Lunden did for National Public Radio or NPR.

It is good background for seeing and hearing the production.

Here is a link. You can read the summary in print, and you can hear the longer broadcast version – which The Ear recommends — with the voices of the composer and others, by clicking on the big red button on the top left:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2016/12/03/503986298/half-of-humanity-has-something-to-say-composer-kaija-saariaho-on-her-met-debut

Do you know the opera “L’Amour de Loin”?

Have you seen or heard it already?

Whether you saw a previous Metropolitan Opera production or this one, let us know what you think of the opera as new music and a fetching love story. Will it “have legs” and survive long into the future?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: Go inside the Money Opera at the Met with the Pulitzer Prize-winning financial reporter James B. Stewart.

March 30, 2015
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By Jacob Stockinger

It is no secret that the famed Metropolitan Opera in New York City has been having major financial and labor problems during the tenure of its General Director Peter Gelb (below).

Peter Gelb 2.jpg

But it is hard to find a better researched or more detailed account of what is going on than the account that was written by the journalist James B. Stewart and appeared in the March 23 issue of The New Yorker magazine.

A graduate of the Harvard University Law School, Stewart (below), you may recall, is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal and currently a columnist for the New York Times. He has also written best-selling books. Such qualifications give him added credibility when reporting on the fiscal state of the arts.

James B. Stewart

Plus, Stewart got access to documents and records as well as to members of the board of directors. His account is filled with specific details about costs and fundraising that are convincing.

The discrepancy, for example, between what the Met said was the official cost of its recent and controversial “Ring” cycle (below) by Robert Lepage of Cirque du Soleil and what others say it cost is both astonishing and appalling.

Lepage Ring set

In an interview with Jim Zirin, Peter Gelb defends himself and his tenure in a YouTube video at the bottom.

To The Ear, the larger question is whether some of the same criticisms apply to other large performing arts groups, opera companies and symphony orchestras in other cities.

But that is another story for another day.

Here is a link to the story about the Met by James B. Stewart:

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/03/23/a-fight-at-the-opera

 


Classical music: Wagner’s “Ring” cycle comes to your home starting Monday night as PBS and Wisconsin Public Television host the Metropolitan Opera’s legendary and controversial new production every night this week.

September 9, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

In case you missed it the first time and want to see and hear it — or in case you want to do so again, PBS and Wisconsin Public Television will air Richard Wagner’s entire mammoth “Ring” cycle every night this week. (Check local times.)

Superstar soprano Deborah Voigt, who sang the role of Brunnhilde (below), will be the host of the series, done by “Great Performances.”

Every night the production starts airing at 8 p.m.

It starts Monday night with “Wagner’s Dream,” a documentary about the ambitious and controversial production — with the complex and npot always reliable set known as The Machine (below) — as staged by the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and director Robert Lepage. Some of the outstanding singers include Bryn Terfel, Stephanie Blythe, Eric Owens, Deborah Voigt, Jonas Kaufmann and Jay Hunter Morris.

Here is the full schedule:

Monday: “Wagner’s Dream”

Tuesday: “Das Rheingold

Wednesday: “Die Walkure”

Thursday: “Siegfried”

Friday: “Gotterdammerung”

You can check this blog information search site for more stories about it.

I also suggest Googling the various productions by title, especially for critical reviews and previews. Check out especially The New York Times’ various critics, The New Yorker’s Alex Ross and The Washington Post’s Anne Midgette.

It was a historic two-year project at the Met and for the “Met Live in HD”  broadcasts.

And now you can experience it in your home. So, Wagner addicts: Here is your chance for a week-long fill of music and drama.

Here is a link to PBS previews:

http://video.pbs.org/video/2268382099

http://video.pbs.org/video/2268383058

Also, be sure to check out the longer short excerpts from the individual operas at the bottom of the web page.


Classical music: Deutsche Grammophon will release the Met’s new and controversial production of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle on 8 DVDs plus a 2-DVD collection of highlights and a 1-DVD documentary in mid-September to mark the composer’s bicentennial in 2013.

August 26, 2012
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By Jacob Stockinger

Attention Wagner fans: Get ready for Valhalla in your home!

The Ear has received word that Deutsche Grammophon will release an 8-DVD recording of the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle next month. It will include a 1-DVD documentary plus a 2-DVD set of highlights – a very smart marketing move, says The Ear — as well as the complete set of four operas.

Say what you will about the Metropolitan Opera’s latest production of Wagner’s mammoth four-opera “Ring” cycle – that’s the production by Robert Lepage that was featured in the “Met Live in HD” broadcasts  — it generated a great deal of interest and controversy and divided partisans sharply.

And that kind of publicity is priceless.

So the acclaimed and venerable label Decca has announced it will release DVDs of all the operas plus a documentary and a highlights compilation next month – just in time for the Oct. 13 start of the latest season of “The Met Live in HD,” which can be seen at:

http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/liveinhd/LiveinHD.aspx

Here is the official press release from Universal and Deutsche Grammophon:

“For Immediate Release

New York, NY — Wagner’s “Ring” presents the ultimate challenge for any opera company, and the New York Metropolitan Opera’s new production of “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” unveiled between 2010 and 2012 and starring some of the greatest Wagnerian singers of today, is among the most ambitious “Ring” stagings ever mounted.

“The Met’s production, directed by legendary theatre visionary Robert Lepage, uses a 90,000 lb. “tectonic” set (below) -– an infinitely mobile, writhing, rotating raft of 24 individually pivoting aluminium planks that came to be nicknamed “The Machine” – in a dazzlingly cinematic staging that harnesses the latest interactive and 3D video technology to realize many previously “unstageable” aspects of Wagner’s epic drama.

“It is at once a state-of-the-art production for the 21st century and a deeply traditional Ring. In Lepage’s words, “it’s the movie that Wagner wanted to make before movies existed.” For the Boston Globe, it’s “a high-tech Ring with a traditional heart”. In the London Telegraph’s view, it’s “a triumph, at once subtle and spectacular, intimate and epic.”

“Already seen by over a million people in the theater and at cinemas around the globe, the Met Ring was filmed live in high-definition and is now being released on both DVD and Blu-ray to launch Deutsche Grammophon’s celebration of the composer’s bicentenary year in 2013.

With Bryn Terfel, widely acknowledged as one of the finest bass-baritones of our age, performing his first complete cycles as the embattled god Wotan and American soprano Deborah Voigt (below) making her role debut as his disobedient warrior-daughter Brünnhilde.

Other international stars include Jonas Kaufmann (below top) and Eva-Maria Westbroek as the incestuous Siegmund and Sieglinde, and last-minute stand-in Jay Hunter Morris (below bottom) – a thrilling new tenor from Paris, Texas – saving the day as the fearless but ill-fated hero Siegfried. The New York Times declared the cast “as strong a lineup of vocal artists for a Wagner opera as I have heard in years.”

Acclaim was equally enthusiastic for the cycle’s two conductors: James Levine, the Met’s longstanding Music Director, who has conducted 21 complete Ring cycles at the Met; and Fabio Luisi (below), the Met’s Italian-born Principal Conductor, who took over conducting the second half of the cycle after illness caused Levine to withdraw.

“Levine drew exciting, wondrously natural playing from the great Met orchestra”, wrote the New York Times, while “Luisi brings out the score’s three-dimensional detail and animal heat,” wrote New York Magazine.

Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Met since 2006, says: “Nothing defines an opera house more than its new productions, and there’s no new production that is more significant than a new “Ring” cycle. That is why I invited Robert Lepage, one of theatre’s great visionaries, to create our new cycle.”

Mark Wilkinson, President of Deutsche Grammophon, says: “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Met to help take Wagner’s spectacular, breathtaking music, boldly realized here by Robert Lepage, to as wide an audience as possible. Both collectors and newcomers to Wagner’s extraordinary world will find it at once spectacular, visually spell-binding and deeply thought-provoking.”

To complement the complete Ring cycle on both DVD and Blu-ray, Deutsche Grammophon is releasing two related titles: “Twilight of the Gods,” a 2-CD compilation of audio highlights from the Met’s “Ring” – featuring all the major stars of the production and such famous extracts as “The Ride of the Valkyries,” “Wotan’s Farewell,” the “Magic Fire Music,” “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” and the concluding “Immolation Scene”; and “Wagner’s Dream,” a frank and revealing documentary about the five-year making of the Met’s new Ring that has already been acclaimed as “simply the best documentary about the Met ever made” (Film Journal), “a must-see for any creative soul” (Cinespect) and “destined to be one of the classic documentaries about opera” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

Here are details:

“Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen”

Das Rheingold · Die Walküre · Siegfried · Götterdämmerung
& Wagner’s Dream  The making of the Ring

Starring in alphabetical order: Patricia Bardon, Stephanie Blythe, Richard Croft, Mojca Erdmann, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Jonas Kaufmann, Hans-Peter König, Waltraud Meier, Jay Hunter Morris, Eric Owens, Iain Peterson, Franz-Josef Selig,· Gerhard Siegel, Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, Eva-Maria Westbroek plus The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, all under conductors
James Levine and Fabio Luisi and directed by Robert Lepage

8 DVDs 00440 073 4770
5 BD 00440 073 4771

U.S.  Release September 11, 2012

“Twilight of the Gods”

Wagner: Highlights from “Der Ring des Nibelungen”

Stephanie Blythe, Jonas Kaufmann, Jay Hunter Morris, Eric Owens, Bryn Terfel, Deborah Voigt, Eva-Maria Westbroek and The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
under James Levine and Fabio Luisi.

2 CD 00289 479 0638

U.S. September 11, 2012

“Wagner’s Dream”

The making of the “Ring”

Documentary

Featuring Robert Lepage, Deborah Voigt, Jay Hunter Morris, Peter Gelb, James Levine, Fabio Luisi and the Metropolitan Opera

Directed by Susan Froemke

DVD 00440 073 4840

U.S.  Release September 12, 2012


Classical music: Why are critics picking on the Metropolitan Opera and its general director Peter Gelb, and why is Gelb picking on the critics? Plus the National Memorial Day concert airs tonight on PBS.

May 27, 2012
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AN ALERT: Remember to remember. The National Memorial Day Concert, broadcast live from the west lawn of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., will air tonight on PBS. There won’t be a lot of classical music on the program, but the National Symphony Orchestra will perform. And the broadcast of the concert will be repeated tomorrow night on many PBS channels. What classical music would you like them to perform and do you think it appropriate to remember veterans and mark Memorial Day?

By Jacob Stockinger

In some important ways, this has been a very good year for the Metropolitan Opera’s general director Peter Gelb (below).

He raised a record amount of money for the world’s most famous opera house, and his Met Live in HD broadcasts continue to expand and now reach thousands of movie theaters around the world.

Yet especially when it comes to Robert Lepage’s new production of Richard Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, Gelb has still come in for harsh words from such celebrated critics as Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times and Anne Midgette of The Washington Post.

Now, it seems, Opera News has joined the fray.

And Gelb tried fighting back.

Here is link to a roundup of the drama, that latest act, that is threatening to turn the Metropolitan Opera (below) in an opera itself.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/05/23/153512997/an-online-debate-of-operatic-intensity-the-met-and-its-critics

But is the Met’s story, and Gelb’s, a comic opera or tragic opera? That is the question.

What do you think?

Do you share the criticism of Gelb?


Classical music: New York Times art critic Roberta Smith praises the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle by Robert Lepage.

May 22, 2012
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

For many months now – almost two years — The Machine has been the object of scorn by opera buffs.

Many of the nation’s most acclaimed music critics, including Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times and Alex Ross of The New Yorker magazine, have heaped scorn on various aspects of the mammoth, complicated and expensive mechanical set or device (below, in “Das Rheingold”) that director Robert Lepage invented for his production at the Metropolitan Opera of Richard Wagner’s equally mammoth “Ring” cycle.

Some people, including New York Times music critic Zachary Woolfe, have praised aspects of it. And even Tommasini has had some second thoughts.

But the best overall minority report I have seen, the best dissent, if you will, came recently in the form of a perceptive and articulate column and appreciation by New York Times critic Robert Smith (below).

She makes many points, including how the visual aspect of The Machine clarified and reinforced the important plot points and individual characters in the epic four-opera series.

Read it and see what you think:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/14/arts/music/video-as-art-in-lepages-ring-at-the-metropolitan-opera.html?_r=1&ref=richardwagner

What did you think of The Machine?

Did it add to or detract from your appreciation of the Met’s “Ring” cycle and of Wagner?

The Ear wants to hear.


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