By C. Ian Kyer
In 1995 when American bass-baritone John Del Carlo was preparing to sing the lead in Falstaff at the Schwetzinger Festspiele, he had to do extra training. He had sung Verdi’s Falstaff before but this time was very different, because what he was singing was not the work of Arrigo Boito and Giuseppe Verdi. This Falstaff featured a libretto by Carlo Prospers Defranceschi with music by none other than Mozart’s infamous rival, Antonio Salieri. To Del Carlo’s surprise he found the work both entertaining and musically interesting.
The two Falstaffs were both the work of mature and celebrated composers. Verdi’s Falstaff was in fact his 26th and last opera. He had said that he fired his last cartridge with Otello (1887) but in 1889, at age 76, he began to set another libretto based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor. Verdi and his librettist called it Falstaff, after the lead character in Shakespeare’s play, Sir John Falstaff, and it premiered at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on February 9, 1893.
Coincidentally, the first opera ever performed at La Scala had been Antonio Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta in 1778 (it was also performed at the re-opening in 2004), when Salieri was only 28 years old. He was much older in 1799 when he wrote the music for Falstaff, his 37th opera, but certainly not as old as Verdi was when he composed his version. One of Salieri’s students, Ludwig van Beethoven, so liked the work (or so wished to exploit its popularity) that he did piano variations on a duet from the opera, La stessa, la stessissima.
This year the Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble of New York marked Antonio Salieri’s birthday (August 18th) by presenting his Falstaff as part of the company’s two-week A Summer of Shakespeare festival. See the New York Times review here.
You owe it to yourself to attend the COC’s performance of the Verdi comedic masterpiece, but you should also watch John Del Carlo sing Salieri’s Falstaff from the Schwetzinger Festspiele. It was recorded and released on DVD (and a trailer for it can be found on YouTube here). For a classic DVD version of Verdi’s version, check out Franco Zeffirelli’s acclaimed Metropolitan Opera production conducted with warmth and brio by James Levine. Its superb ensemble cast features Paul Plishka in the title role; Mirella Freni as a delightful Alice and, early in their careers, Susan Graham and Barbara Bonney as Meg and Nannetta. Marilyn Horne takes a comic turn as Mistress Quickly. The DVD is available for purchase at the Opera Shop for $25.75 including tax. Watching these two operas will give you a real insight into how the art form has changed in the almost 100 years between them.
For more information about the Austrian Imperial Kapellmeister Salieri, read Ian Kyer’s novel “Damaging Winds” (available for free online in both PDF and ePUB file formats) or listen to him as a guest on the National Arts Centre podcasts.
Image Credits: Portrait of Antonio Salieri, Museo Fiorini, Legnago. Wiki Commons. Costume design realized on commission of Ricordi & c. by Adolf Hohenstein for the premiere at the Teatro alla Scala, February 9, Milan, Wiki Commons.
Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Falstaff / comments (0) / permalink
Madama Butterfly is one of Giacomo Puccini’s greatest works and one of the most popular operas in the world. The opera tells the tragic story of Cio-Cio San, a Geisha, who falls in love with B. F. Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer, while he is stationed in Japan. Formed through layers of symbolism, musical history, and diverse cultures, the opera is filled with unique elements from the costumes to the arias that help make it a favourite of opera goers both old and new.
Explore our production of Madama Butterfly in our new series of infographics, where we guide you through the story and characters, costumes, makeup, and wigs, and the score, set, and artistic direction of our production. Get to know the show before you go, and catch a glimpse behind the scenes of Puccini’s perennial favourite.
Click on the image below (or here) to view!
Posted by Kiersten Hay / in Madama Butterfly / comments (0) / permalink
We're back! After a chilly summer hiatus, the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre returns for its 2014/2015 season today with an always popular performance by artists of the COC Ensemble Studio. Their performance is just one of many highly anticipated concerts this September and October. Here are five more concerts that you won't want to miss!
Thursday, September 25, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Payadora Tango Ensemble
Payadora, one of Toronto's hottest new ensembles, performs highlights from their self-titled debut album. The program features sophisticated and sizzling arrangements of traditional and contemporary tango music, including new works written specifically for the ensemble. Watch the video below for a sneak preview!
Thursday, October 9, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
A Shropshire Lad
Artists of the COC Ensemble Studio
In remembrance of the First World War, tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and bass-baritone Iain MacNeil perform two very different, yet equally beautiful and deeply felt settings of poems by A.E. Housman: Ivor Gurney's Ludlow and Teme and George Butterworth's A Shropshire Lad. Gurney's experience in the trenches as a private and his own war poetry lend a particular poignancy to his setting, which casts a darker light on the wartime experience when compared to Housman’s idealized pre-war poetry.
Hear Sir Thomas Allen's touching rendition of Butterworth's "Songs from a Shropshire Lad" in the video below.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Lauren Segal and Robert Gleadow
Mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal (Meg Page in the COC’s production of Falstaff) teams up with bass-baritone and fellow cast member Robert Gleadow (Pistola in Falstaff) in a rich and spicy program featuring Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs, de Falla's Siete Canciones Populares Españolas and Ibert's Chansons de Don Quichotte, as well as a selection of duets by Brahms and Fauré. Anna Netrebko sings Dvořák’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, in the video below
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
The Idea of North
Two great northern cultures meet when Víkingur Ólafsson, Iceland's award-winning rising star pianist and host of the Icelandic TV series Útúrdúr, makes his Toronto debut. In addition to performing music from his homeland and Nordic neighbours, he pays tribute to one of his greatest inspirations, legendary Toronto pianist Glenn Gould, in a performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations. Check out Víkingur's performance of Bach's Partita No. 5 in the video below for a taste of what to expect!
Thursday, October 30, 2014
12 - 1 p.m.
Divertissement à 6
Winds of the COC Orchestra and Monique de Margerie
The first of five concerts this season featuring artists of the COC Orchestra shines the spotlight on the woodwind section. An all-female wind quintet joins forces with pianist Monique de Margerie in a charming program of chamber works by Jean Françaix (Divertissement), György Ligeti (6 Bagatelles for Wind Quintet) and Francis Poulenc (Sextet). Hear a version of Françaix's Divertissement in the video below.
For more information about all of our exciting concerts this season, visit coc.ca/freeconcerts or check out our Facebook page!
Photo credit: Artists of the COC Orchestra, photo: Chris Hutcheson
Posted by Kristin McKinnon / in Free Concert Series / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001