Monday, July 09, 2018

PARSIFAL at the Bavarian State Opera

There is a new production of Parsifal at the Bavarian State Opera. It features a stellar cast of Wagnerians: Jonas Kaufmann in the title role, Nina Stemme as Kundry and René Pape as Gurnemanz. Kirill Petrenko leads the orchestra of the Staatsoper.  The production, directed by Pierre Audi, features sets and costumes by famed German artist Georg Baselitz. Today you can watch a re-broadcast of yesterday's performance for free.  Go HERE for more details.  Enjoy!

Friday, July 06, 2018

Piotr Beczała will sing LOHENGRIN at Bayreuth

Piotr Beczała has accepted the challenge of taking over the title role in the new Bayreuth production of Lohengrin, after Roberto Alagna walked away from the Green Hill claiming that he was not ready to sing the role.  The following was posted on Mr. Beczała's website:

The last few days were full of excitement and doubts, but the decision has been made. Piotr agreed to take over the role of Lohengrin at the famous Wagner’s festival. Now he has 3 weeks of rehearsals left before his big debut at the Bayreuth Festival, where he will also be the first Polish singer in a title role.

Piotr sang Lohengrin at the Dresden Semperoper in 2016 alongside Anna Netrebko, and under the current conductor Christian Thielemann. This acclaimed production was later released on DVD.

This performance has been posted on YouTube:


Piotr accepted the assignment on a short notice and was forced to cancel some of his scheduled performances. In a statement on his social media profiles, the artist wrote:

Dear Friends!
As you may have just read, I am taking over the title role in Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at this year’s Bayreuth Festival. I am of course extremely excited to make my Bayreuth debut this year, and to collaborate again with Christian Thielemann and so many wonderful colleagues.

But with all the excitement, I also want to tell you that this has been a very difficult decision for me. I know I am disappointing many of you who were planning to see me in other cities around the world. Please know that I hate nothing more than disappointing you, dear friends. I can only hope for your understanding that this is such a very special situation and promise to make it up to you in the future! I want to thank all the wonderful cultural institutions who understood this and helped me to get to Bayreuth. And I want to thank you, dear friends, for your love and support, always. See you very soon! Piotr

The fans of the artist were very supportive and Piotr received hundreds of comments and private messages of congratulations and encouragement for which he was very grateful.

The new production of Lohengrin is created by director Yuval Sharon and conductor Christian Thielemann, the stage design comes from the well-known artist couple Neo Rauch and Rosa Loy. The premiere will take place on July 25th.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Alagna is out of Bayreuth's new LOHENGRIN

 Roberto Alagna has withdrawn from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin at the Bayreuth Festival. The festival announced that the tenor, who was set to make his festival debut and sing his first Wagner role, withdrew from the festival due to "work overload." The statement also noted that Alagna was unable to spend enough time with the role.

In other words, the July 25 opening night of this opera is almost here, and he has not learned the role.

The festival has yet to announce a replacement, but the remaining cast members remain the same. Alagna will next perform at the Metropolitan Opera where he will open the season singing the title role in Samson et Dalila. The tenor will also perform Andrea Chénier at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Otello  at the Opéra National de Paris, Luisa Miller in Opera de Monte Carlo, and La Traviata in Paris.

Meanwhile, the Bayreuth Festival opens on July 25 with Christian Thielemann conducting this new production of Lohengrin, which currently has no tenor. Director Yuval Sharon will become the first American to direct at Bayreuth. Scheduled singers Anja Harteros and Waltraud Meier are still scheduled to perform.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom is the perfect title to describe the current state of the franchise that started with Michel Crichton's novel and Steven Spielberg's classic 1993 film. This fifth film in the series finds Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing  (Bryce Dallas Howard) going back to Isla Nublar to save the last remaining dinosaurs before the mother-of-all volcanoes sinks the island. Claire has formed a Dinosaur Protection Group, and after visiting Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), the partner of Dr. Hammond, who created the original Jurassic Park, and his secretary Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), she seeks out former dinosaur wrangler Owen because she knows he can help her to save the last living Velociraptor, and because she still has a major crush on him. Dr. Lockwood tells her that the dinosaurs will be placed on another island where they can live peacefully without mankind. Meanwhile, Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is in Washington in front of a Senate committee, and in his best Cassandra mode, makes some gloomy pronouncements about how the dinosaurs need to perish in order to correct Dr. Hammond's mistake, and if not, how we will have to learn to co-exist with them. Mr. Goldblum, a stalwart in this series, and a performer one can always depend on when the script falls apart, ends up giving a performance so removed, that it feels like he phone it in.

Once in Isla Nublar we meet big White hunter Ken Wheatly (Ted Levine), and from the first shot of the man we know that he's going to be trouble (so much for character development!) It seems that both Claire and Owen have been duped. The animals are being rounded up so that they can be put up for auction to rogue states so that they can serve as military weapons. I wonder if a Velociraptor or a T-Rex can tell one army from the other? But who cares! The film becomes a creature feature inside Lockwood's old dark house when we find out that the stately state has a lab in the basement cloning new creatures, including an outrageous creation that even outdoes Indominus rex from the previous movie.

Despite the participation of a serious cast, including B.D. Wong reprising his role of genius geneticist Doctor Wu, and Geraldine Chaplin (her fourth film with Spanish director J.A. Bayona) as a nanny, the film ends up being nothing more than a bridge towards the next part of the franchise, which if you wait around after the movie's end credits, will tell you that the next chapter will be a glitzy update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World as dinosaurs run amok free all over the world.  I guess the new movie ought to be called "The New Kingdom." Or perhaps, it's time to end the series right now, since the premise has left the original park way behind.

Monday, June 25, 2018

PARSIFAL at the Bavarian State Opera


On June 28, the Bavarian State Opera unveils their new production of Richard Wagner's Parsifal. The production will be directed by Pierre Audi with sets and costumes by renown German artist George Baselitz. The stellar cast will feature Jonas Kaufmann in the title role, Nina Stemme as Kundry and René Pape as Gurnemantz. Kirill Petrenko will conduct the Bavarian State Orchestra.

The performance will be broadcast live in Germany by BR Klassik.  Watch the video above for a short preview of the production.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Romeo and Juliet at ABT

I never get tired of watching Kenneth MacMillan's brilliant choreography of Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet. The more I attend performances, the more I discover. This time I noticed that in the second act, the beggar who crosses the stage on crutches later on throws them away, and starts dancing freely much to the chagrin of the characters who just gave him alms. Also, the two little boys who stand on sentry at the entrance of the Capulet household come back in the second act, and sway to the music and wave to the dancers, but are ushered away when death comes to Verona's main square. It's little touches like these that makes this work so fascinating and utterly enjoyable.

Likewise, the more I listen to Prokofiev's brilliant, exciting score the more surprises come through.  I concentrated this time on the vast array of dissonances, and thought about just how dangerous it was to be a 20th century composer in Stalin's Soviet Russia. How, for example, Dmitri Shostakovitch, that other giant of Russian music, suffered for putting on paper what he heard in his mind's ear. How much did Prokofiev have to adjust his own modernist leanings in order to have his music approved by a repressive state? This work just might be my "desert-island ballet," although the jury is still out on that one, and I think it might just be out for a long time.

Yesterday afternoon American Ballet Theatre presented the ballet with two of the most charismatic and popular dancers in its roster: Daniil Simkin and Misty Copeland. Mr. Simkin is an exciting, highly technical dancer who offers a graceful interpretation of the title character, going from youthful lad to lover. Ms. Copeland, riding a wave of recent acclaim once becoming a principal dancer, presents us with a very likeable Juliet, but watching her early entrance, one never experiences the innocent, shy girl that the role demands. Instead her characterization emphasizes the passionate, take-charge woman that she ultimately becomes towards the end of the drama right from the start. Not exactly what is called for in a Juliet, however her charm and technical proficiency carry her through.

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most satisfying works in ABT's roster, not to be missed by anyone who values great theater and beautiful ballet. The perfect marriage of amazing music and inspired movement.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Robert De Niro's F-bomb at the Tony Awards

Robert De Niro hurled the F-bomb last night at the Tony Awards towards Donald Trump.  CBS, which broadcasted the show live, scrambled to censor the speech.  Above is the uncensored clip from England's The Guardian.