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!