Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MET broadcasts go legit via SONY Classical

Click on the above and listen to the finale of Pagliacci from the Metropolitan Opera, broadcast live April 11, 1964.
Franco Corelli, Lucine Amara, Anselmo Colzani, Franco Ghitti and Calvin Marsh. Nello Santi conducts

Want more?
You should.

The good news is that SONY Classical has begun releasing Met broadcasts commercially with sound cleaned up a bit. The above Pagliacci is paired with of course Cavalleria rusticana, with Richard Tucker and Eileen Farrell. On my own copy of this broadcast I always found Farrell a wonderful singer but dramatically removed. Either I've changed or the sound has because SONY has our Eileen in great voice and dramatically compelling.

Corelli is back in Don Carlo with Rysanek and Tozzi, and a wonderful Rodrgio from the Romanian baritone Nicolae Herlea. Franco's in Tosca from 1962 with Leontyne Price (was any voice more beautiful?) and Cornell MacNeil, whose Scarpia always scared the ginger outta me. Price and MacNeil are featured as well in Verdi's Ernani from 1962, with my favorite tenor Carlo Bergonzi. This is a great performance of a dumb opera. Once past Price's 1st act aria the score doesn't do much, though MacNeil has Act 3 to himself and he's worth the price of admission and then some. Bergonzi's line and sweetness of tone are marvels. God bless him.
And do yourself a big favor: Il trovatore with Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli, one week past their sensational "double debut" in 1961.

Roberta Peters's commercial recordings of Rigoletto and Nozze di Figaro are hard to find, but here she is live from the stage in broadcasts from 1955 and 1961 with Giorgio Tozzi, Robert Merrill, Richard Tucker, Lucine Amara, Cesare Siepi and Mildred Miller. A lot of this is mouth watering. These were the standard casts back then.

The most famous broadcast in the set thus far is undoubtedly the 1947 Romeo et Juliette with Bidu Sayao and Jussi Bjoerling. I can't imagine these two roles sung more beautifully. It shows why this opera was such a hit in those days.

We hear Birgit Nilsson in Die Walkure with a dream cast of Rysanek, Vickers and George London. The great Swedish soprano and Jon Vickers are also featured in a 1960 Fidelio that will rattle your socks. Richard Tucker is heard as Don Jose in Carmen with Rise Stevens, who owned the role (alive and glamorous today at 99) and especially as Hoffman from 1955, conducted by Pierre Monteux, with Marrtial Singher, Roberta Peters, Lucine Amara and Rise Stevens as the sexy Giulietta.

Ok. You and I both now that anyone who really wanted recordings of Met broadcast going back 70 years could get them. I have a wall filled with nothing but. Legalities and royalties be damned. But for the many, and for the business of opera and recording to have these broadcasts commercially available-and inexpensive, about $15 a pop, is a great treat. Indulge yourself. And phooey on the critics who damned Marian Anderson with faint praise at her 1955 Met debut. She's 58 and not in fresh voice, but she is tremendous in her own way as Ulrica in Un ballo in maschera with Jan Peerce, Robert Merrill and Zinka Milanov.

Start clicking and order it. Order 'em all.

Monday, January 30, 2012

I should stop reading the obituaries

Irishman I am , I seem to be addicted.
I note the passing of Kevin H. White, Mayor of Boston in my youth-and a little after/

And we've had several losses in music in the past week:

RITA GORR the great Belgian mezzo soprano. She's Amneris on Leontyne Price's first recording of Aida-said recording the first such I ever heard, in third grade (1964? 1965?)

MARTIN ISEPP musical staff at Glyndebourne, pianist, accompanist, conductor , coach-often worked with Dame Janet Baker.

PATRICIA NEWAY died at 92. She put Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul on the map. She was also the first Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music. She was Tosca in Paris and Italy-and recorded Gluck's Iphigenia with Giulini. She did it all. Wonderful.

CAMILLA WILLIAMS One of the first African American artists allowed to make a big career in opera. Her Madame Butterfly was greatly admired by Geraldine Farrar, who created the opera at the Met in 1907!

And late in 2011:

SALVATORE LICITRA 43 Italian tenor died of injuries sustained in a motorbike accident

SENA JURINAC Soprano had a huge career in Vienna and London-and was a regular in San Franciso. Butterfly, Tosca, Ariadne-she was the first I ever heard do the Komponist. Marschallin, Jenufa.

CORNELL MCNEIL The great American baritone-a big man with a big voice-Rigoletto, Ernani--all the big Verdi roles-and frightening as Scarpia.

MARGARET PRICE-Welsh soprano-gorgeous, rich voiced with plenty of 'gleam'. I head her in recital at Carnegie where she pissed some people off by singing the whole program with scores. Not me. Her voice was sensational. Also saw her as Desdemona w. Domingo

..and The New York City Opera has been beaten all out of recognition, and Paul Plishka retired, and.....

Monday, January 09, 2012

A Lament for the New York City Opera

With today's report in the New York Times of a lockout at the New York City Opera, I suspect this wonderful company really has come into its final days. Management squandered hundreds of thousands on a general manager who left before producing one opera for the company; they have left Lincoln Center (it's no longer the New York State Theater but the David I Koch Theater but it's going to be the State Theater to me) and is roaming around sites in Brooklyn the Bronx and Manhattan (who are these people? Cole Porter?) with no permanent home. The chorus and orchestra, back bones of the company-what made the City Opera a company has been decimated. THEY are the ones locked out of rehearsal (I do have to ask locked out from where?) today.

I haven't seen a City Opera performance since Nic Muni's modern dress AIDS ward Traviata in 1990. The show was sold out. People cheered and people booed but everyone in the State Theater (thank you very much) was involved. That to me was the point of the many City Opera performances I did see: even in a theater too large with crummy acoustics, the mission of the artists on stage and the unseen personnel was to communicate-I never saw a City Opera artist walk through a performance. The company meant a great deal to me when I arrived in New York in 1979. I put down my bags and ran to see Faust with Diana Soviero and Samuel Ramey; Tosca with Marilyn Zschau and Brent Ellis, Gianna Rolandi and Barry McCauley in Lucia. I had cheap seats, but they were seats, and cost $2!

I've posted a youtube clip of the Lucia telecast because it represented to me, without Sills, Treigle, Domingo or Ramey, a good night at City Opera- a good night for any opera company-minus the great high voltage stars. This to me was City Opera at its best-back in the day. I admire the stagecraft of Steven Wadsworth, Nic Muni and the Alden brothers-I haven't seen their City Opera productions, but I imagine they didn't look like this Lucia. And that's fine. This was 30+ years ago. City Opera moved with the times. It refreshed the repertoire, brought in -out of the box' production teams and kept its devotion to American singers.

That past? I never heard the great Cosi fan Tutte cast with Phyllis Curtin, John Alexander, John Reardon, Judith Raskin and and Frances Bible. I would have loved to have heard Curtin in Salome andSusannah. Brenda Lewis in Mark Blitzstein's Regina. I was too late-barely, dammit!-for Norman Treigle in anything and I would have loved to have experienced his Olin Blitch or Mefistofele.

Beverly Sills was in Boston a lot-where her Violetta was unforgettable. I was lucky to hear her t at the City Opera, sublime in I Puritani, Anna Bolena, Barber of Seville and Manon. She gave you the reason for all the shouting and press accolades.

To me City Opera was about Tito Capobianco and his stagings-how sad I missed Sills's Lucia and how I loved Rolandi!-I saw Frank Corsaro's Butterfly years after it was new and I still remember Patricia Craig taking the crucifix off the wall after Sharpless read her Pinkerton's
kiss off letter. Patrica Brooks! Who was more beautiful? I did see Patricia Brooks, in Puritani-but I missed her in Corsaro's Traviata. But I did see the staging late in the day with Diana Soviero and Rico Serbo-both of them young and gorgeous making you forget everyone else. Catherine Malfitano and Samuel Ramey made you horny as Susannah and Figaro-and I saw my first Ariadne at City Opera: with Johanna Meier, John Alexander, Patrica Wise and Marilyn Niska....

Get the point?

American opera had a nurturing laboratory at City Center and later at Lincoln Center. The City Opera imprimatur told the world that American opera thrived with by Hoiby, Flloyd, Menotti, Douglas Moore, Robert Ward. So many more. This at a time when Rudolf Bing at the Met said, "We cannot produce American opera because people will not come." Maybe Douglas Ward's Wings of the Dove wasn't a sell out, but the fact that it was produced at all meant that new opera mattered.

I grew up at the City Opera at a time in my life when I needed to grow up. I treasure this great company and its legacy. Nobody who has ever seen a New York City Opera performance would allow its chorus and orchestra to be locked out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Books Friends Read in 2011

I asked a number of people to name some of their favorite books read in 2011
(see previous post)
What great responses!
Thanks to all.

If you have other titles please add them to this blog
What were your favorite reads of 2011?


Invalids Home From Hot Climes Tom Robbins
The Moor's Tale Salmon Rushdie
Nobody's Fool Richard Russo
The Crossing Cormac MCarthy
The Portable Atheist Christopher Hitchens


Just Kids Patti Smith
At Home Bill Bryson
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese


The Pale King David Foster Wallace
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit Mark Seal
Kentucky Derby Andrea Cohen
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach Brenda Woods


A Testament of Devotion Thomas Kelly


Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in the World S.C. Gwynne

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine Michael Lewis
The Paris Wife Paula McLain
Purple Jesus Ron Cooper
Wizards First Rule Terry Goodkind


Masters of Atlantis Charles Portis


Samuel Ramey: American Bass Jane Scovell


Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition Daniel Okrent
And So it Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life Charles J. Shields
The Invention of Hugo Cabret Brian Selznick
Lisa's Story Tom Batiuk


11-22-63 Steven King
Mornings on Horseback David MCullough
The Autobiography of Mark Twain


The Hare With the Amber Eyes Edmond de Waal
Binary Vision Collected Stories of Edith Perlman
When We Were Strangers P. Schoenwalt
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand H. Simonson
The Gift or Rain T.T. Eng


The Memory Chalet Tony Judt
The Hare with Amber Eyes Edmund de Waal
The Thou and Autumns of Jacoib de Zoet David Mitchell
The Gate of Angels Penelope Fitzgerald


The Masters of Atlantis Charles Portis


Swamplandia Karen Russell
Emily, Alone Stewart O'Nan


The Frontiersman Alan Eckert
Star Island Carl Hiasen
Skinny Dip Carl Hiasen
Steve Jobs Walter Isaacson


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Books Read in 2011

These are the books I read in 2011. * indicates a book I especially enjoyed. My favorites are listed at the end of this post. WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BOOKS READ IN 2011?
NOTE: Don't miss Kevin Griffith's picks: www.kevingriffith.tk

Kevin is Professor of Creative Writing and Poetry at Capital University and is a regular panelist on All Sides Weekend/Books.


Trespass Rose Tremain
Extraordinary Renditions Andrew Ervin
Body and Soul Frank Conroy
Half in Love Linda Sexton

*George Washington Ron Chernow
Catherine of Aragon Gilles Tromblett
Little Girl Blue: Karen Carpenter Randy Schmidt

*Just Kids Patti Smith
Twins Allen Shawn
Another Way Home John Thorndike

By Nightfall Michael Cunningham

The Big Show

The Memory Palace Mira Bartok
My Father at 100 Ron Reagan

Franklin and Eleanor Hazel Rowley
*Home Land Sam Lipsyte
House Arrest Ellen Meeropol
The War for Late Night Bill Carter

Ghost Light Joseph O'Connor
Sarah (Bernhardt) Robert Gottlieb

Life Keith Richards
*Listen to This Alex Ross

Paris Wife Paula McLain
The Metropolis Case Michael Galkey
Rawhide Down DelQuentin Wilber

Townie Andre Dubus III
Franny and Zooey J.D. Salinger

Apollo's Angels Jennifer Homans (history of ballet)

An Improvised Life Alan Arkin
Politics and Pasta Buddy Cianci
Bringing Adam Home Les Standiford
Untied Meredith Baxter

I Was a Dancer Jacques d'Amboise
J.D. Salinger Kenneth Slawenski
9 Stories J.D. Salinger

Wait for Me Deborah Duchess of Devonshire
A Covert Affair (Julia and Paul Child) Janet Conant

And We All Fall Down Nic Schiff

Against All Odds Scott Brown
The Rooms Tom Sholes
*Emily, Alone Stewart O'Nan
Hitman Howie Carr

Cleopatra Stacey Schiff
Henry's Demons : Living with Schizophrenia Patrick and Henry Cockburn

The Tragedy of Arthur Arthur Phillips

Sing You Home Jodi Picoult
A Box of Darkness Sally Ryder Brady

*From Splendor to Revolution Julia Girardi
Half a Life Darin Strauss

The Boy in the Moon Ian Brown
Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin Frank Bailey

*Purple Jesus Ron Cooper

This Side of Paradise F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Romantic child Priscilla Gilman

A Walk on the Wild Side Earl Wild
Save Me Lisa Scottoline

Lady Blue Eyes Barbara Sinatra
*A Singular Woman Janny Scott (Stanley Ann Dunham, mother of Barack Obama)
*The Greatest Journey David McCullough
In the Garden of Beasts Erik Larson

*The Devil All the Time Donald Ray Pollock
The Convert Deborah Baker
Forbidden Childhood Ruth Slenczynska
The Untold Story Monica Ali (what if Diana lived?)

*Green Hills of Africa Ernest Hemingway
Violette Noiziere Sarah Maza
Reading My Father Alexandra Styron

The Last Tycoon F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Bold and Reckless Life: Barak Obama, Sr. Sally Jacobs

And Furthermore! Judi Dench
My Luck Life Dick Van Dyke

The Unnamed Joshua Ferris
Transition Chaz Bono
*Bed David Whitehouse

*This Beautiful Life Helen Shulman (boy e mails photo to classmates)
George Szell Michael Charry

*The Man in the Rockefeller Suit Mark Seals
Tabloid City Pete Hamill
*Long Drive Home Will Alison (an auto accident on purpose)
The Price of Malice Archer Pryor

Every Last One Anna Quindlen
Paco's Story Larry Heineman

The Bell Iris Murdoch
Heart of a Soldier James B. Stewart

You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train Howard Zinn
Fall of Giants Ken Follett

Wendy and the Lost Boys Julia Salomon (bio of Wendy Wasserstein)

Disaster was My God Bruce Duffy (novel of Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine)

Here Comes Trouble Michael Moore

*We the Animals Justin Torres
Rules for Civility Amor Towles
Emperor of Lies Sam Sten Sandberg (novel of the Warsaw ghetto)

On Canaan's Side Sebastian Barry (Ireland 89 year old Lily in the States)

Elements of style Wendy Wasserstein
Hatred at Home Andrew Welsh Huggins
Riccardo Muti: A Memoir

The First Queen of England (Mary Tudor) Linda Porter

Chango Beads and Two Two Tone Shoes Ken Follett

Growing Up Amish Ira Wagler
*Lost Memory of Skin Russell Banks (abandoned kid sex offender)

Jane Fonda Patricia Bosworth
The End of Normal Stefanie Madoff Mack
*Destiny of the Republic Candice Williams

Truth and Consequences Life Inside the Madoff Clan Laurie Sandell

The Final Verdict Walter Schnier
The Rogue: Sarah Palin Joe McGinnis

Behind Closed Doors: The Duchess of Windsor Hugo Vickers
Lucking Out James Wolcott

Anne of Cleves Retha Warnicke

JFK in Ireland Ronan Tubridy
Elizabeth I Margaret George
(sic) Joshua Cody
My Week with Marilyn Colin Clark

Eva Braun Life with Hitler Heike B. Gortermaker
Last Man in the Tower Aravind Adiga
Boston Noir stories ed. Dennis Lehane

Gabby Mark Kelly

The Night Stranger Chris Bohjalian
Mary Boleyn Alison Weir

Hedy's Folly Richard Rhoads (Hedy Lamar and Geo. Antheil inventors)

Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut
*The Outlaw Album Daniel Woodrell
*The Sense of an Ending Julian Barnes

Catherine the Great Robert K. Massie

Favorites for 2011:

The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes
George Washington, Ron Chernow
Destiny of the Republic, Candice Williams
Purple Jesus, Ron Cooper
Just Kids, Patti Smith
We the Animals, Justin Torres
Long Drive Home, Will Alison
The Man in the Rockefeller Suit Mark Seals