After having seen two of the five operas in Santa Fe, I'm really impressed with the excellence of this year's casting.
It isn't easy to blow fresh life into an all-time favourite like La Bohème. It's an opera about young people and in order to be credible it needs to be sung by young singers, but young singers with grown-up voices. The cast assembled by my colleagues here in Santa Fe lived up to these requirements and gave a freshness and emotional immediacy to Puccini's opera that's lacking from so many repertoire performances elsewhere. Santa Fe's Rodolfo, David Lomelí, will soon be with us to share performances with Dimitri Pittas as the Duke in Rigoletto. He's a very special singer to me and I'm glad he's coming to the COC for this and other projects in the future.
To be honest, I'm not a big fan of Giancarlo Menotti's music, but yesterday's performance of The Last Savage was as good as it gets. Conducted by (sadly) former New York City Opera Music Director George Manahan the piece was a sparkling fit for a mild Santa Fe summer night and a huge success with the audience. Canadian baritone Daniel Okulitch was the Savage and I was thrilled to see three members of the COC Orchestra enter the stage to perform at the party scene in the second act. I'd like to mention two more members of the cast, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton as the Maharanee, who was our Emilia in Otello a few seasons back and whom I would love to see back at the COC, and American coloratura Anna Christy as the anthropologist Kitty, who will come to the COC in a major bel canto part soon.
My next date at Sante Fe Opera will be the Apprentice Scenes on Sunday evening.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (1) / permalink
Hello from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Just arrived here to see this year's productions at Santa Fe Opera, and for some time off. Finally, I have the time to catch up on the blog after a few quite intense weeks.
After my return from San Francisco I went to Germany for a few days with my parents and from there to Salzburg. As you know I started my opera career in Salzburg and going there always feels like coming home. This year marks my old friend and mentor Evamaria Wieser's last summer with the festival and it was important for me to be there. To me, it won't be quite the same any more when she's gone. But I was happy to make contact with a few old friends who are with the festival now, the former head of the costume department is running the same department in Salzburg and our former technical director from Paris just took over the technical department. Opera is a small world, indeed.
During the week of my stay I was lucky enough to attend rehearsals and performances of Macbeth, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Le nozze di Figaro, a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic and Pierre Boulez, and had a chance to meet with colleagues, managers and artists. What a privilege to see Riccardo Muti conduct Macbeth, giving care to every single note and showing how deep and important this music can be if it is taken that seriously. Or Christian Thielemann conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Frau ohne Schatten with such a natural flow that the more than five hours of Strauss's marvelous score (performed without cuts) seemed to be just the right length. Or Claus Guth's witty and intelligent production of Figaro, a true folle journée at the Almavivas, with Genia Kühmeier's utterly moving Countess (the best I've heard live). I could go on and on.
Unfortunately, I missed Gerald Finley's Don Giovanni which will only open later in August, but got to meet with him for a very nice lunch. Of Così fan tutte I only saw parts of the piano dress and of the new production of The Makropoulos Case only Anna Viebrock's most impressive set. But of what I've seen Salzburg 2011 felt like the best festival in almost ten years.
Before leaving for Santa Fe I went to Quebec City for a day to see Johannes conduct The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. It is always a pleasure to see Robert Lepage's beautiful show again. It is very special and enchanted the audience in Robert's hometown as much as anywhere else.
Soon, I will start posting my reports of the Santa Fe operas here.
Posted by Alexander Neef / in Travel / comments (2) / permalink
Since my arrival at the COC, hearing the young artists of the Merola Program in San Francisco has become a regular part of my summer. This year, it wasn't possible to combine the trip to San Francisco with other young artists' auditions in Santa Barbara (which I will sadly miss for once) and Santa Fe (later in August), so I just went for two days.
As always, Sheri Greenawald, the director of Merola, had selected a really interesting group of about twenty singers, four pianists and one director. The panel, a few colleagues from Seattle, Denver, Los Angeles and New York and I, hear two arias and then give our feedback, advising the young artists on general presentation, repertoire, vocal technique and almost any subject that might come up in our discussions.
I've never heard a bad singer at Merola. This year there was an abundance of good baritones, and also three young Canadians. I'm very proud that two of them will join our own Ensemble Studio at the end of August.
Now, I'm at San Francisco Airport waiting for my redeye flight to board. I have to be back in Toronto for an early morning meeting - and want to be home for Marnie's birthday!
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