Sunday, January 27, 2019

A Chicago Miracle!

Last night, in freezing weather, David and I braved the cold to hear Jane Glover and the Music of the Baroque perform a miracle.

It was Mozart's Serenade No. 10 in B Flat Major. This work is comprised of seven movements and was played by a virtuosic ensemble of woodwinds, horns, and a double bass.

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Watching Ms. Glover shape each musical phrase and hearing this amazing ensemble fulfill each measure following her amazing leadership is a joy! She reminds me of what was once said when a critic was asked what made Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler such an unbelievable pianist. He replied 'She's a witch!'

And a good one!

My piano teacher, Carolyn Willard, studied with Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.

The way Mozart uses the various instruments in different groupings and the brilliance of the writing is witchlike, as well. One's ear is drawn right into the work and one experiences incredible delight.

In other words I loved every moment! 

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It's a hard act to follow and the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B Flat Major as performed by Angela Hewitt didn't quite make it. It's not my favorite concerto and Ms. Hewitt will never be my favorite pianist. She plays with a dry sort of sound that sometimes is lost in the orchestration. Her fingers work fine; good runs and the occasional burst of sound, but, to my taste, not world class playing.

But the Serenade was worth braving the icy cold.

On our drive home on Lake Shore Drive, a car in front of us did a 180 on the ice and wound up facing us. A large truck that was sanding the road did a similar maneuver, both of them crashing into the wall at the side of the road. Somehow we got around them and arrived home safely.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

La Bohème

Last night David and I saw Chicago Lyric's production of Puccini's La Bohème. This would never be my favorite production of this opera for various reasons.

The cast were all strong singers but were hampered by poor stage direction and impossible scenery. 

Zachery Nelson as Marcello, Michael Fabiano sang the role of Rodolfo, Adrian Sampetrean was Colline, Ricardo Jose Rivera was Schaunard, Maria Agresta was Mimi and Danielle de Niese was Musetta.

My favorite production of this opera was one I saw at the Met years ago. Mimi was sung by Dorothy Kirsten, one of the most beautiful voices and beautiful women to grace the operatic stage. Ms. Agresta doesn't begin to match this kind of singing. Possibly no one does. 

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Kirsten made her debut at the Met in 1945 and sang there for the next thirty years. She was in her sixties when I heard her heart-breaking Mimi. There is an amazing recording of her on You Tube singing 'Depuis le jour' at age 71. It's worth listening to!

Last night's staging and sets bothered me. The garret in Acts one and four was about as minimal as could be. Mimi had to die lying on the floor.

Act two was a mish mosh of three separate sets that filled the stage forcing the large cast and chorus to hug the footlights. It was often difficult to find the principals in this setting.

In Act three the stage director had a tall male standing with his back to the audience completely blocking Mimi, who was singing at the time. Really dumb stagecraft.

The opera got rave reviews in Chicago papers. Maybe I'm just too old- or the Chicago reviewers have never heard Ms. Kirsten or seen another production of the opera. It would be good if they did this!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Delicious!

Last night David and I saw an amazing production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. It was fabulous!

The play was imaginatively directed by by Joe Dowling. Incredible set by Todd Rosenthal and costumes by Fabio Toblini. Incidental music by Keith Thomas. What a great group!



 

The principal actors were Edward O'Blenis as Theseus/Oberon, Alexandra Silber as Hippolyta/Titania, Sam Kebede as Philostrate/Puck, Tyrone Phillips as Lysander, Melissa Solodad-Pereyra as Hermia, Eric Schabla as Demetrius, and Christina Panfilio as Helena. There were all excellent!

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I first saw the play in about 1950 at the Old Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and 39th Street. It was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Sadlers-Wells Ballet (later the Royal Ballet). It starred Moira Shearer as Titania and Robert Helpman as Oberon. It was magical! I later saw it as a ballet at the New York City Ballet in Lincoln Center. At the end of this production Puck was whisked up into the flies on the last note of music. Thrilling!

Last night's performance was a dream. Beautifully acted and sung, when necessary. One of the best I have seen at Chicago Shakespeare.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Verdi at its best

Last night was a time for lusty singing at Chicago Lyric! A  wonderful cast presented Verdi's Il Trovatore

It's a pot-boiler of a story but when sung like this raises the hair on the back of your head. 

Roberto Tagliavini was the first voice to be heard as Ferrando and set the standard for the rest of the evening with a large, handsome voice.



Tamara Wilson as Leonora was magnificent. High, low, loud, soft, she could do it all with ease and beauty. Her soft, high pianisimos  were breath-taking.

Photo: Claire McAdams

Arthur Rucinski as Count di Luna was equally fine. A beautiful baritone voice who sang the role with ease.

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Russell Thomas was Manrico; an excellent tenor who soared to the heights.


And Jamie Barton who sang the role of Asucena. A huge voice with an amazing lower register.

As usual the anvil chorus stole the scene but the entire work was presented with vigor and musical clarity.

I loved it! 

I was not able to get photos of some of the artists. Sorry!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Double Header!



Monday night David and I were thrilled to be totally engulfed in the music of J.S. Bach as presented by the amazing Jane Glover and Music of the Baroque.

The occasion was Bach's Christmas Oratorio, six cantatas that were written for the days after Christmas and first presented in the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig. John and I were in that church in 1975 for a  concert given by Wilhelm Hoffman, one of Bach's successors in the position. 


It is a remarkable work and was presented with Ms. Glover's usual artistry and vigor. She is a miracle. So  completely musical that she involves everyone about her, the chorus, the orchestra, the audience in a complete understanding of the work.



The soloists were Yulia Van Doren, soprano, Elisabeth DeShong, mezzo-soprano, Thomas Cooley, tenor, and Tyler Duncan, baritone.

I have heard Ms Van Doren previously and commented on her singing.

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Ms. De Shong has a rich mezzo voice with a wide range and sang with great beauty and energy.




Mr. Cooley has a tenor voice that still has a good low range as well as an easy top.

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Mr. Duncan has a very expressive, fine baritone and sang extremely well.



But I must give all accolades to Ms. Glover. She is the best choral conductor I have ever heard; and I have heard and sung under the greats!

Brava!! 

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From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Tuesday night we saw The Book of Mormon which we saw several years ago and enjoyed. They should sub-title this 'Part Two' since it is a completely different show.

It is loud, crass, and boring! I hated it!!