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Thread: What opera have you been listening to, lately?

          
   
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  1. #1591
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Here's the story:

    I was unemployed beginning in late summer 1979, and was driving home one afternoon from somewhere when the announcement came over the radio that the visiting Vienna State Opera was holding a try-out/audition for supers. I made a U-turn and drove madly to the Kennedy Center, where I was just in time to be selected out of a cattle call of some 200 guys as one of about 20 supers for Vienna's two weeks of opera in Washington, DC.

    MAuer is exactly right, Vienna brought their productions of Ariadne auf Naxos (Karl Böhm w/Janowitz - Ariadne; Gruberova - Zerbinetta; Agnes Baltsa - Composer; Hopferwieser - Bacchus+), Marriage of Figaro (Karl Böhm w/Hans Helm - Count; Gundula Janowitz - Countess; Walter Berry - Figaro; Lucia Popp - Susanna; Trudeliese Schmidt - Cherubino+), Fidelio (Leonard Bernstein w/Theo Adam - Pizarro; Jess Thomas - Florestan; Gwyneth Jones - Leonore; Lucia Popp - Marzelline+), and (a gorgeous Wiener Werkstätte style) Salome (Zubin Mehta w/Leonie Rysanek - Salome; Theo Adam - Jochanaan+). I was a super in the first three, but not Salome (the Viennese, though, were very sweet in explaining to me why they could not include me in Salome as well: I was 5'11" and 135 lbs and just way too thin/scrawny to be credible as a Roman soldier with no shirt/armor making a theatrical entrance to crush Salome).

    Anyway, regarding Ariadne auf Naxos: The supers were only used in the Prologue as household servants to light candles in preparation for the evening's festivities. Since we were only in the Proglogue, this allowed the two or three of us interested in the rest of the opera to change out of our costumes and race upstairs to standing room to watch the opera. When Edita Gruberova sang Zerbinetta, the audience went wild. The first evening was so powerful that, if I recall correctly, Gruberova sang an encore. It's too long ago for me to recall whether that happened more than once. She was so amazing that I ran upstairs and watched the 2nd Act/Opera each night. The audience went nuts each performance - not only was Gruberova great, she sang the notoriously difficult Zerbinetta effortlessly - like she might have tossed it off every night for laughs. Hers was probably the single most amazing performance I've ever seen. The production was beautiful and, even if Mr. Hopferwieser wasn't an ideal Bacchus ( I couldn't really tell the difference in those days, I thought he was fine), he was still better than I've seen since.

    Bottom line, I was able to ask Edita Gruberova for her autograph privately backstage and not in the autograph gauntlet where the greater audience awaited principals as they exited the Kennedy Center after their performances. She was very nice, very gracious.

    I have to admit that I was just way too intimidated to ask Lucia Popp for her autograph. I had her recording of the Queen of the Night and thought she walked on water. I couldn't do it. Not asking Ms. Popp for her autograph was my one regret from that fabulous experience where I had the time of my life. Those weeks were the silver lining in being unemployed, because rehearsals went every day for a week or two before opening night and, had I been working, there was no way I could have gotten that much time off. 10 or 15 years later, Lucia Popp was in Washington doing publicity on a new album, including signing autographs. Quite shamelessly, because I did not buy the cd (whatever was I thinking??), I got in line with my Vienna program and explained to her that I had been too nervous to ask for her autograph, which made her laugh and shake her head. She was delighted that I thought enough to come back and ask.

    Let's see, what else? Rehearsing Fidelio and observing the discussion between Gwyneth Jones and Leonard Bernstein ("Lenny, No!") fascinated me. They argued back and forth for a couple of days and Gwyneth Jones would only sing "Abscheulicher" in half voice in rehearsal (her voice was none too steady, even that long ago). Fidelio opened Vienna's stay in DC - opening night, following the performance, after I had changed out of my costume, I was waiting at the elevator to leave, when (then) U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (Yikes!) walked up, also to wait for the elevator. I asked whether he had enjoyed the performance and he replied that, yes, he had, but... when Pizarro made his entrance, one of the 4 soldiers following in back of him was out of step. That super, naturally, was me. I then had, and still have, zero sense of timing and no ability to dance. The Vienna people had noticed the problem, and had we worked on it, but no one could ever figure out the problem. Ultimately, they decided that it was too remote of a situation for anyone to notice - except for the Senator, I guess. I don't recall what I said to Sen. McCarthy, but probably um-hummed.

    I asked the Vienna staff toward the end of their stay how they made their decisions when selecting the crew of supers. They told me that their sole criterion was looking for guys who would fit the costumes - which, of course, explains that Salome thing. So much for my dashing persona and otherwise obvious acting skills.

    I had a package of photos taken during those weeks and, in the course of several moves over the years, I sadly lost the entire package. The experience remains one of my fondest memories.

  2. #1592
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    With the performances being in Washington, they could have asked a couple of soldiers from the Army's Old Guard to help train the "supers" in marching.

  3. #1593
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    Name:  51KHl69nNBL.jpg
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    As with many old KULTUR DVD's the picture is watery and faded in places, but it still sounds great.

  4. #1594
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    With the performances being in Washington, they could have asked a couple of soldiers from the Army's Old Guard to help train the "supers" in marching.
    Several years later, I discovered the problem. I was supering with the Royal Danish Ballet - I don't recall the ballet, but was a member of a guard unit of maybe 12 or 15, carrying pikes (aka: spearcarrier) and we had to march out on stage in strict formation (the Danes were very fussy about this).

    In rehearsal, the guard unit wasn't performing according to their plan, which really annoyed them - I guess movement of any kind in ballet is important to their equivalent of legato. Our trainer made us do the routine over and over until he finally said "Aha" and pointed at me, saying "you are the problem". It was too late to replace me (and I fit the costume). We went through it a number more times, with music and without, and he still couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Finally, he called in the choreographer himself, who got down on his hands and knees and finally flat on his belly and had us do the routine very slowly. It turned out I was taking off on the wrong foot.

    Voila! Everything went without a hitch in performance.

  5. #1595
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    Several years later, I discovered the problem. I was supering with the Royal Danish Ballet - I don't recall the ballet, but was a member of a guard unit of maybe 12 or 15, carrying pikes (aka: spearcarrier) and we had to march out on stage in strict formation (the Danes were very fussy about this).

    In rehearsal, the guard unit wasn't performing according to their plan, which really annoyed them - I guess movement of any kind in ballet is important to their equivalent of legato. Our trainer made us do the routine over and over until he finally said "Aha" and pointed at me, saying "you are the problem". It was too late to replace me (and I fit the costume). We went through it a number more times, with music and without, and he still couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Finally, he called in the choreographer himself, who got down on his hands and knees and finally flat on his belly and had us do the routine very slowly. It turned out I was taking off on the wrong foot.

    Voila! Everything went without a hitch in performance.
    funniest thing ever
    Natalie

  6. #1596
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    And this undoubtedly explains why drill sergeants call out "left" or "right" when they're teaching trainees how to march!

  7. #1597
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Well, this was really weird. Il Trovatore, directed by Tcherniakov at La Monnaie. I like some of his work but not this. How can you render this opera even more confusing? Well, you make it all about some kind of role-play flashback with one of the participants (the Luna role) going bonkers and basically shooting everyone before dying of a heart attack. It would have been better if the singers were great, but Misha Didyk as Manrico should stick to the Russian repertoire, Scott Hendricks was underpowered as Luna, and Marina Poplasvkaya, while a committed actress whom I admire in many ways, had to do a lot of shrieking to reach Leonora's notes. Only Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo as Azucena was a pleasure aurally.

    Then I watched Ariadne auf Naxos from Salzburg, with Elena Mosuc, Emily Magee and Jonas Kaufman in a rather spivvy leopardskin suit, playing Bacchus like a jumpy housecat. This is the original version, with a kind of play-ballet based on Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme replacing the prologue as it is usually given now. I think it was probably interesting, but as I was watching on YouTube without subtitles I was struggling with my substandard German, only really appreciating the parts that I recognised from Molière. Good listening practice though. Second part was also good, although I have to confess that I find Strauss a bit soprano heavy, on the whole, for my tastes.
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; January 5th, 2018 at 06:11 PM.
    Natalie

  8. #1598
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    My goodness, I had forgotten how utterly hilarious the Barber of Seville is, especially when sung by a cast comprising Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato (sans wheelchair), John del Carlo, John Relyea and Peter Mattei. Why on earth is it not on DVD?
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; January 5th, 2018 at 06:11 PM.
    Natalie

  9. #1599
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    My goodness, I had forgotten how utterly hilarious the Barber of Seville is, especially when sung by a cast comprising Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato (sans wheelchair), John del Carlo, John Relyea and Peter Mattei. Why on earth is it not on DVD?
    Alas.....we still wait for the DiDonato "barber" with no wheelchair to appear on retail disc, waiting, waiting.......

    I do like this much better than the wheelchair version that was released
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; January 5th, 2018 at 06:12 PM.

  10. #1600
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    It's been in the Top 3 of my "Why Won't They Release It?" list (along with the Herheim Parsifal and the Carsen Ariadne) for years.

  11. #1601
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    My goodness, I had forgotten how utterly hilarious the Barber of Seville is, especially when sung by a cast comprising Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato (sans wheelchair), John del Carlo, John Relyea and Peter Mattei. Why on earth is it not on DVD?
    I saw this live in the theater and it is the absolutely best Barber ever, for me. It is completely revolting and disgusting that this is not on DVD. It's the worst of such cases, even worse than the Damnation de Faust and you know how strongly I feel about that one.

    We should organize a world-wide boycott on all DVD and blu-ray companies and the Met and every opera company in the world that stages the Barber, to say that nobody will ever buy another ticket or another DVD until they capitulate and release this one.
    Last edited by Soave_Fanciulla; January 5th, 2018 at 06:12 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #1602
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Natalie

  13. #1603
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    I've decided I really prefer the Solti over the Giulini recording:

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  14. #1604
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    I'm going to make more time to enjoy Mozart in the future...

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  15. #1605
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hoffmann View Post
    I've decided I really prefer the Solti over the Giulini recording:

    Name:  DonCarlo.jpg
Views: 104
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    Is that the five act?

    Answered my own question. It is the five act.
    " … if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it, and above all become passionate about it."
    Roald Dahl

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