Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Roméo et Juliette to die for!

The three decks of stone arches of the Felsenreitschule in Salzburg are the backdrop for this production of Roméo et Juliette. Passionate singing by this excellent cast was the norm. But the real star of the production was the incredibly beautiful score by Charles Gounod. It is truly a masterpiece.

Rolando Villazòn was the vocally muscular Roméo. It is truly a remarkable voice and he is a dramatic actor, but the voice is concentrated too much in the throat. This apparently recently caused him to cancel all performances for several months. He is more like a young John Vickers than a young Placido Domingo. Producing a voice in this way often leads to vocal problems. I hope that he will find a way to sing with less throat tension because he is too good a singer to be stopped by vocal problems. Vickers was able to get away with it but not everyone is that lucky. This performance was one of the first Villazòn did after his time out. It is obvious that he spends too much time pushing from the throat to achieve what is, admittedly, a dramatic sound. A word to the wise! Call me up!

Nino Machaidze is from Georgia (Russia, not southern USA) and has a voluptuous soprano voice. She easily matched Villazòn in ardor and vocal power. It is a lustrous sound that sometimes straightens out at the very top. But perhaps I'm being picky. Juliette starts as as a coloratura and winds up having to do spinto duty as the opera progesses. She was able to bring this off in fine fettle. She was replacing Anna Netrebko who was taking time out to be pregnant.

The rest of the cast included Mikhail Petrenko, bass, as Frère Laurent, Russell Braun, baritone, as Mercutio, Falk Struckmann, bass-baritone, as Le Compte Capulet, and Juan Francisco Gatell, tenor (and a very good one!), as Tybalt. They are all fine singers and actors. The Stéphano of mezzo-soprano Cora Borggraaf absolutely stole the show with her big aria. A wonderful singer!

The stage direction was by Bartlett Sher and the work was conducted by Tannick Nézet-Séguin.

An excellent chorus sang the wonderful pieces that Gounod created for them. They put the Met chorus to shame! But then, almost anyone puts the Met chorus to shame.

I don't know why this opera is not performed in this country more often. It is simply marvelous in every way, especially with a cast like this one.

This was again, a part of the series of filmed operas from European houses that the Warner Theatre in Torrington, CT, has been featuring. What a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. You should be so lucky where you live!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some like it hot!

When it's a toss-up between Puerto Rico and the hills of Western Massachusetts in January, guess who wins? I have just returned from a wonderful two weeks at the Caribe Hilton Hotel in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico and my money is on Puerto Rico.
I managed to miss some of the worst winter weather we have seen in a while here in the Berkshires and, instead, was luxuriating in the warm ocean breezes of San Juan. The hotel is on 17 beautifully landscaped acres right on the ocean on the western edge of Old San Juan. I was on the eighth floor of 'The Garden Wing', which overlooks a tropical garden complete with swans (are swans tropical?) and peacocks wandering around. Lush vegetation, one of the four or five pools to be found on the hotel grounds, and a wonderful view of the ocean, all from my balcony.
The color of the sea in Puerto Rico is something from an artist's palette. A slightly deeper blue than the sky. With the white-caps rolling in to shore, it's a painter's dream. At night, when I was in bed with no other sounds going on, the roll of those waves pushing against the rocks was a lullaby.
The people of Puerto Rico are a sweet group of folks. Everyone was very friendly and kind.
I love it! I"ll probably do it again next year.