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Thread: Catching Up

          
   
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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Catching Up

    Hi everyone,

    I apologize for my disappearing act. First, I'm fine, no further health issues to deal with. Just a bunch of boring stuff that kind of got overwhelming.

    Things got very busy very fast. I had my usual trip to Cape Cod to open our house over Memorial Day for the summer season, with family around and the usual upkeep - although nothing is ever as easy as we think it should be - before heading back to DC. Then, I spent a couple of days with my sister and brother in law, whom I hadn't seen since Christmas and the worst days of my double vision. Oh, and they also have a new Golden Retriever puppy who is unbelievably adorable (I know, it's in her position description, but still..).

    Arriving back in DC, I had a last minute flurry of Dr. and Dentist appointments and friends to see before leaving for Berlin for 5 weeks. Another round of testing and follow up, to which I have to add a lot of dental work - my favorite. They don't tell you when they put in a permanent crown that it might not be so permanent. I am about to replace my 3rd or 4th crown, I've lost count. I have that and other work to be done - 5 appointments - to look forward to after I return to the States. And, a little item from the IRS telling me I had shorted them by $4,600 last year and that I had better pony up because their clock is ticking. That's not the kind of excitement I like - I hope that's fixed, but won't know until I get home.

    I've been in Berlin for just over a couple of weeks now. First, Elizabeth keeps asking when Luiz will return to Berlin - better watch out! She has been moving apartments (i.e., I have been moving her apartments..), which has me about worn out. Fortunately, I have a break for a couple of weeks while she travels before we meet up again in Paris. She went ahead and bought me tickets for Carmen at the Opera Bastille and a ballet at Palais Garnier. I haven't been to either, so I suppose it's ok, but I don't much like the ballet... In the meantime, I started German class again today, to make another futile stab at catching up with my friend MAuer's German.

    I usually try to write proper opera reviews, but enough time has gone by that I really only can do thumbnail sketches of what I've seen. Overall the operas have been outstanding, with the weakest of the lot, Turandot, being a bit of a chaotic production, but with the title role exceeding well sung by Catherine Foster.

    We started with La Damnation de Faust at the Berliner Staatsoper which was something of an experience. It was a joint production with the ENO and opera companies in Palermo and Antwerp. The production, by movie director and Monty Python alumnus Terry Gilliam, was high Regietheater. I kind of know the story, but this wasn't that. Essentially, Gilliam gave us a history of the Holocaust, complete with a re-enactment of Kristallnacht. Which, as you might imagine, was something of a surreal experience, sitting in a theater in downtown Berlin as I was. The leads were exceptionally well-sung by Magdalena Kozena and Charles Castronovo - who got to be crucified in the shape of a (backwards) swastika (the real ones I don't believe are permitted in Germany) at the end. There's more, but suffice to say that the little booing at the end was drowned out by cheers and applause. A terrific production, but felt awkward in the time and place.

    Next up was Der Fliegende Holländer at the Deutsche Oper and, considering that I was still jet-lagged and hadn't slept well the night before, apparently took the opportunity to catch up on my rest at the opera - or so I've been told. Elizabeth told me the production was terrific and finally succeeded in making the story clear to her. I'm embarassed that I can't say more, but there you have it.

    A few nights later, we saw Nabucco, again at the Deutsche Oper, with a mostly unknown cast but with Ludmila Monastyrska singing Abagaille. Monastyrska sang the doors off the place - she hit every note without effort - a true force of nature. The production looked expensive, with the curtain opening on to massive ramparts that slowly pulled apart to reveal the chorus. Despite most of the cast being unknown to me, they were terrific, with Dalibor Jenis singing Nabucco and Attilio Glaser singing a strong Ismaele.

    The real gem, though, was Boris Godunov. This was a joint production with the ROH Covent Garden designed by Richard Jones and is, apparently, the first production to use Mussorgsky's original score, basically untouched by Rimsky-Korsakov or Shostakovich. The opera, therefore, is considerably shorter than we recognize and was staged in a single act (about 2 1/2 hours) Boris was stunningly well sung and acted by Ain Anger. The revelation, though, was the unknown Croatian singer Ante Jerkunica, whose Pimen is a major role in the opera. Wow, a true basso-profundo who was totally mesmerizing. An awesome evening.

    Still to come: Don Carlo and The Pearl Fishers in the beginning of July and possibly a L'Orfeo and a Zoroastre (Rameau) at the Komische Oper.

    So, again, my apologies - I suddenly realized that folks would start to wonder if I was ok, so know that I was being careless in not keeping up. I hope everyone is having a good summer! I will be in and out for the next few weeks, but always thinking of you!

  2. #2
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Wow, you are living an opera dream. That is a lot of opera to take in. I would love to have seen the Hollander and the Boris Godunov. And that original Mussorgsky-orchestrated Boris is my favorite (the 1869 without the Kromy Forest and Polish scenes). Only one recording of that and it is Gergiev in the 5-disk set that has both the 1869 and the 1872 Mussorgsky versions untouched by meddlers!
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

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    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Great to hear about your adventures, opera related and otherwise. Berlin really is one of the best opera cities in the world.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Oh yes, I forgot to mention an evening at the Berlin Philharmonic, with a long excerpt from Berlioz' L'Morte d'Cleopatre, sung by Joyce DiDonato. Extraordinary piece with stunning mezzo role. DiDonato has got to be a national treasure.

    Then, another evening at the Philharmonic, this time in the concert hall - it is a separate, smaller building that matches the larger Philharmonic in layout and external appearance - and superb acoustics. We heard pianist Igor Levitt play Bach's Goldberg Variations. A very intense evening - far more so than vaguely listening to the Variations at home on my sound system.

    There are other great music towns - New York, London and Vienna jump to mind - but Berlin has got to be right up there among the best.

  7. #5
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Great to hear all your opera experiences and even better to have you back.
    Natalie

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