Dec 21, 2009

The Opéra de Lyon on Arte Live Web

Photo Opéra de Lyon

Arte Live Web will broadcast the performance of Chostakovitch's Cheryomushki on Dec.29 (from 8 pm) from the Opéra de Lyon.

Dec 19, 2009

Great: Schubert's 9th by Muti

Riccardo Muti
Berliner Philarmoniker
Teatro S.Carlo di Napoli
Mezzo broadcast, May 1st, 2009
"Concert Europa 2009"

Symphony #9 in C Major, "The Great", D944


Perfect Muti, in a nutshell.

Dec 18, 2009

A love story

Riccardo Muti explaining how he fell in love with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Also: Muti's acceptance speech for 2010 Musician of the year Award (a showcase of Muti's sense of humor) - how to conduct Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.

As suggested by a reader...

Dec 6, 2009

Concert éducatif Haydn - Pleyel

Orchestre Les Siècles
Conduction - François-Xavier Roth
Host - Pierre Charvet
Giovanni von Essen

Joseph Haydn
Symphonie n°8 "Le Soir" (extrait)
Symphonie n°45 "Les Adieux" (extrait)
Symphonie n°88 (extrait)
Concerto pour violoncelle n°2 en ré Majeur (extrait)
Trio de Londres, 2 flûtes et violoncelle (extrait)
Libre adaptation de l'hymne allemand

W.A. Mozart
Réduction pour 2 flûtes de la Flûte Enchantée

Salle Pleyel, Dec. 6, 2009
Program here
Concert available for the next two months on Arte Live Web.

A "concert éducatif" at the Salle Pleyel in Paris is not something I would normally attend, but I jumped on the opportunity to watch it via Arte Live Web, and I did enjoy this hour of music very much.

The concert was centered around Joseph Haydn's music, with extracts from symphonies, concerti, chamber music, with two Mozart extracts and even a traditional Irish piece, all that played in a casual, friendly and joyful manner by the orchestra and conductor.

Such concerts are commendable and necessary, to educate children about the beauty and depth of classical music (even if Haydn is not really the master of multi-layered scores, but his music is simple enough to be understood by children). It shows them how fun it really is, and how easy it is to get caught into it - an experience they'll hopefully never forget.

That Arte decided to broadcast is yet another brilliant idea, because broadening the audience of such quality learning experiences is also broadening the accessibility of classical music, and hopefully engraved these emotions into even more children of all ages.

Orphée aux Enfers - Aix 2009

Orphée aux Enfers

opéra-bouffe en 2 actes et 4 tableaux de Jacques Offenbach
livret d'Hector Crémieux and Ludovic Halévy

Eurydice - Pauline Courtin
Orphée - Julien Behr
Aristée/Pluton - Mathias Vidal
Jupiter - Vincent Deliau
L'Opinion Publique - Marie Gautrot
John Styx - Jerome Billy
Mercure - Paul Cremazy
Cupidon - Emmanuelle de Negri
Diane - Soula Parassidis
Vénus - Marie Kalinine
Minerve - Estelle Kaique
Junon - Sabine Revault d'Allonnes

Choeur du Festival d'Aix-en-Provence
Camerata Salzburg
Conductor - Alain Altinoglu

Director - Yves Baunesne
Aix, Théâtre de l'Archevêché
Arte broadcast, July 16, 2009

Acte 2, Jupiter

I'm afraid the production of Yves Baunesne leaves me with yet another bad taste in the mouth.
The music of Offenbach is already cliché as it is, as well as the libretto, and addind every other vaudevillesque cliché there is quite quickly disconnected by from the performance.
The facts that every cast member (Julien Behr as Orphée excepted)has such a limited stage presence and that the actors' direction is so rough sure amplifies the mediocrity of the production.

Acte 2, 3e tableau, l'Olympe

"Ce formidable bordel!" (to use Ionesco's words) is what this production really is, constantly shifting between boring tricks alla Scribe and boring grotesque tricks (Jupiter metamorphosis into a fly in Act 2, the choice of the director to have Eurydice say the spoken dialogues with a strong "Titi"-Parisian accent - quite absurd considering the gap with the music, ...).

Both the sets, the lights and the costumes are also a disappointment, beeing anything but original, edgy, smart or enlightning.

Acte 2, 4e tableau

The musical interpretation is equally as bad, singers, orchestra and conductor included.
Most of these young singers haven't developed yet, and their technique is lacking some basics (intensity and projection mainly); the conduction of Alain Altinoglu I also disliked, lacking emotion, color and brightness (the strings were especially to blame), and the overall tempo did remind me more of military marches than of Offenbach's usual spiciness.

Overall a production to forget.

Dec 5, 2009

Carmen - Scala - Dec.4

Anita Rachvelishvili as Carmen

Renaud Machart, the very trustworthy musical critic of Le Monde, was yesterday evening attending the performance of Carmen at La Scala for journalists and under-30 audiences (read: the general rehearsal opened to the public).

He is definitely not happy.

The French diction ranges from mediocre to unbearable, he says, and the cast is overall pretty weak (he especially has tough critics for Erwin Schrott (Escamillo) and Adriana Damato (Micaëla). But he's forgiving with young Riccardo Massi (Don José) that had to step in yesterday when Kaufmann cancelled, supposedly to keep his strength for the real prima on Dec.7.

Machart is not kind also for both Barenboim - uneven and therefore having a bad understanding of the score (with sometimes a feel of Wagner to the music, that Machart dismisses as heresy).

And finally, Machart has also some criticisms for director Emma Dante - and is left wandering whether she was eaten by tradition or managed to play with it.

Dec 3, 2009

Scala Opening Night on Arte

Once again, Arte will broadcast the Opening Night at La Scala on Dec.7 (8:45 pm Paris time).

This year of course Carmen opens the season, directed by Emma Dante, and conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

Dec 2, 2009


" Tu me dis de la suivre
pour que toi, tu puisses courir
après ton nouvel amant!
Non! non vraiment!
Dût-il m'en coûter la vie,
non, Carmen, je ne partirai pas
et la chaîne qui nous lie
nous liera jusqu'au trépas


Je te tiens, fille damnée
je te tiens, et je te forcerai bien
à subir la destinée
qui rive ton sort au mien! "

Final 3e acte
Carmen, EMI 1964 (2e CD, #14, 2e moitié)
Georges Prêtre, Nicolai Gedda, Maria Callas

Carmen - Barenboim / Kusej - 2006

Georges Bizet (1875)

Carmen - Marina Domashenko
Don José - Rolando Villazón
Escamillo - Alexander Vinogradov
Micaëla - Norah Amsellem

Conduction - Daniel Barenboim
Berlin Staatskapelle Orchestra, Staatsopernchor

Direction - Martin Kusej
Coproduction Berlin Staatsoper / Théâtre du Chatelet

Berlin Staatsoper Under den Linden
July 1st 2006
ZDF broadcast

An all-dark and heavy atmosphere for this production of Carmen.
Lust and violence are the two axis Kusej chose to emphasize - and he did push his concept to the extreme, since not only Carmen, but also Don José and Micaëla turn out dead at the end of it.

But since the libretto didn't convey to such an extend the intentions Kusej wanted to showcase, he also took the liberty of rewriting the spoken dialogues, and in a very poorly manner.

All and all, I think this production is a failure.
Somewhere during its genesis, the concept became poisoned by its essence, Kusej lost all sense of balance, and the production became a mix of zombies and psychopaths (the zombies do appear quite litteraly during the children chorus "Avec la garde montante" in Act I, and are so disconnected from the music you can hardly escape the images of mediocre horror movies).

The other huge issue with this production is the cast.
Villazon is supposed to portray a dark, violent and nihilist Don José, but the result on stage is a disaster. There's no way he can identify with such a character, and he also has the tendency to forget his stage presence when singing a solo; "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée" is the quintessential example of such a tendency; after a while, he wants so much to showcase his voice he enters the [wild-and-ridiculous gestures]-mode, that obviously fails even more the concept of Kusej.

Domashenko's Carmen is also a disaster.
She has no sex-appeal whatsoever and her stage presence is so cold and distant it's hard to see any inch of Carmen in her. The singing is also disappointing: bad projection, ugly high notes, and no modulation (between none and too much like Villazon, I'm afraid I can't pick one over the other).

Norah Ansellem's Micaëla and Alexander Vinogradov's Escamillo are also vocally weak, and the only ray of light comes from the chorus, though its performance is not flawless as well.

I'm also very critical of Barenboim's conduction; I understand his view, I just don't agree with it, and I think he doesn't serve the score as well as he could be.
Barenboim's idea is to shape the rhythmn of the score to display all the colors Bizet injected in each individual instrumental score but, in doing so, he loses the cohesive rhythm of the score as a whole - and the opera itself.

The result is a performance in which you can distinctly hear all the instruments, but that is overall quite feeble, lacking brightness and intensity.

I wonder if he'll keep this idea when Barenboim conducts Carmen in a few days for the Opening Night at La Scala...

Further reading : Mostly Opera's review

Nov 26, 2009

Attila - 1848

Museo Del Risorgimento E Della Resistenza
July 18, 2009

Nov 25, 2009

Caisse de résonance

July 13, 2009

Nov 21, 2009


July 20, 2009

Nov 14, 2009

Magdalena Kozena - French Arias

Because of my mind-blowing experience with Gounod and Minkowski in Paris, I purchased Magdalena Kozena's French Arias, with Marc Minkowski conducting the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (2003).

It turns out to be a dreamy and delightful immersion into XIXth century French music.

1. Le Domino noir, " Flamme vengeresse ", Auber
2. Cinq Mars, " Nuit resplendissante ", Gounod
3. Roméo et Juliette, "Depuis hier je cherche en vain mon maître ", Gounod
4. Cléopatre, " J'ai versé le poison ", Massenet
5. Don Carlos, " Sous ces bois au feuillage immense ", Verdi
6. Don Carlos, " Au palais des fées ", Verdi
7. La Damnation de Faust, " Autrefois un roi de Thulé ", Berlioz
8. L'Heure Espagnole, " Oh! La Pitoyable Aventure! ", Ravel
9. Don Quichotte, " Lorsque le temps d'amour a fui ", Massenet
10. Mignon, " Connais-tu le pays? ", Thomas
11. La Dame blanche, " Chut! Chut! écoutons ", Boieldieu
12. Sapho, " O ma lyre immortelle ", Gounod
13. Les Contes d'Hoffmann, " Voyez - la sous son éventail ", Offenbach
14. Cendrillon, " Ah! que mes soeurs sont heureuses ", Massenet
15. Carmen, " Les tringles des sistres tintaient ", Bizet

YouTube extracts (audio only):

- " Nuit resplendissante ", Cinq-Mars, Charles Gounod
- " O ma lyre immortelle ", Sapho, Charles Gounod
- " Les tringles des sistres tintaient ", Carmen, Georges Bizet

Another reason to love Arte

[as if I still needed one]

It's called Arte Lounge, and it's hosted by Measha Brueggergosman.

© ZDF / © Antje Dittmann

Playlist for the 3rd show, that aired Nov.12 and can be viewed from France and Germany on Arte+7 here :

- Voyage à Paris, Francis Poulenc, Measha Brueggergosman
- Oboe Concerto, 2nd & 3rd mvts, J.S. Bach, Albrecht Mayer (Berlin Philharmoniker)
- Sorge nell'alma mia, Haendel, Max-Emanuel Cencic
- Cara Speme, Haendel, Max-Emanuel Cencic
- Black Earth, Fazil Say
- Turkischer Marsch, W.A.Mozart, superb re-interpretation by Fazil Say
- C'est la vie, Coralie Clément
- Le baiser permanent, Coralie Clément
- La diva de l'Empire, Eric Satie,  Measha Brueggergosman
- Sleepy time, Mocky
- Was Gott tut, das ich wohlgetan, J.S.Bach, Mayer, Cencic, Mocky and others...

Next show on Dec.10.

Nov 13, 2009

Salzburg 2010

Riccardo Muti will be back in Salzburg next summer with Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, a piece for which his interpretations have matured so much since three decades, it has now become, I think, his own masterpiece.

Cast info:
Elisabeth Kulman, Orfeo
Genia Kühmeier, Euridice
Christiane Karg, Amore
Vienna Philharmonic

Claus Guth's brilliant production of Don Giovanni will be back for another big buzz, as Yannick Nézet-Séguin will conduct the Vienna Philharmonic.
The cast has not changed much since the 2008 premiere, so the performances should be spectacular (Erwin Schrott especially, is back as Leporello).

Yannick Nézet-Séguin will also conduct Gounod's Roméo et Juliette revival, with Anna Netrebko scheduled for 5 of the 8 performances, and with Piotr Beczala as Roméo.

There will also be two concert performances of Norma, with Edita Gruberova (Norma), Joyce DiDonato (Aldagisa), Marcello Giordani (Pollione) and Ferruccio Furlanetto (Oroveso) and Friedrich Haider conducting the Camerata Salzburg (Aug.9 and 14).

Other performances include Strauss' Elektra with Waltraud Meier, René Pape and Daniele Gatti (Nikolaus Lehnhoff's production); Berg's Lulu with Patricia Petibon ; and Rihm's Dionysus, staged by Pierre Audi.

Can anyone honestly argue that Salzburg isn't the best Summer Festival in the world right now?

Oct 28, 2009

"Big Fan": Nicolai Gedda

Found a great link to get to know better Swedish tenor Nicolai Gedda, a great interpreter of the French repertoire from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies. I highly recommend to hear his Nadir in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles, his Faust in Gounod's eponym masterpiece, his Werther (Massenet), and his Don José in Carmen.

Oct 26, 2009

Desperate times

call for desperate measures, don't they?

Or else, what would Juan Diego Florez do in bed with Pedro Suarez?
Andrea Bocelli would have done the trick...

Funny appearance of JDF in the video though, and nice view of the Met's hall (3'47).

Oct 14, 2009

Précis d'harmonie #4 - gamme chromatique

Rappel: tons / demi-tons

Figure 1 

Gamme majeure: réarrangement des sept notes en série de quintes justes:

Figure 2

Poursuite de la série (à droite) en quintes justes:

Figure 3 

Ces 5 nouveaux sons, intercalés avec les premiers (cf. figure 1) donnent:

Figure 4

Si on prolonge la série de quintes justes à droite, on obtient:

Figure 5 

En intercalant ces 5 nouveaux sons avec les premiers (cf. figure 1), on obtient:

Figure 6 

Les deux séries (celle en dièses et celle en bémols) sont des successions de quintes juste de rapport 3/2. On obtient la gamme chromatique dite gamme tempérée, formée de douze sons espacés symétriquement: 

Figure 7 

La musique et les musiciens Albert Lavignac - professeur d'harmonie au Conservatoire de Paris Libraire Delagrave, Paris 1938

Oct 13, 2009

Précis d'harmonie #3 - gamme mineure

Gamme mineure = gamme majeure altérée, qui respecte les trois sons générateurs (intervalles de quarte et de quinte):
do-fa quarte do sol quinte
Les modifications portent sur les 5e harmoniques de ces trois sons: soit les trois sont abaissés, soit deux seulement, soit parfois un seul, d'une quantité déterminée.

Transformation d'une gamme majeure en une gamme de plus en plus mineure:

"Les sons nouveaux qu'on y introduit ainsi ont une parenté moins directe, un rapport moins simple avec la tonique, son principal, d'où résulte une sensation de vague qui caractérise le mode mineur, et en fait le charme un peu triste."

La musique et les musiciens Albert Lavignac - professeur d'harmonie au Conservatoire de Paris Libraire Delagrave, Paris 1938

Oct 12, 2009

Précis d'harmonie #2 - gamme majeure

  • Les 15 premières harmoniques de do

  • Gamme majeure 

    - seconde majeure = do-ré (cf. harmoniques 8-9: do 8 vibrations par rapport au son fondamental, ré 9 vibrations) - rapport caractérisant la seconde majeure: 9/8
    - tierce majeure (1er et 3e degrés de la gamme) = do-mi (harmoniques 4-5) - rapport 5/4
    - quarte majeure = do-fa - rapport 4/3 (autre exemple entre les harmoniques 3 et 4 - sol-do)
    - quinte majeure = do-sol - rapport 3/2
    - sixte majeure = sol-mi - rapport 5/3
    - septième majeure = do-si (harmoniques 8 et 15) = rapport 15/8 - octave = do-do (harmoniques 1 et 2) - rapport 2/1

    On peut aussi représenter ces rapports en réduisant toutes les fractions au même dénominateur (27); on obtient ainsi le nombre relatif de vibrations pour chaque son d'une gamme majeure parfaitement juste:

La musique et les musiciens Albert Lavignac - professeur d'harmonie au Conservatoire de Paris Libraire Delagrave, Paris 1938

Oct 11, 2009

Tous les matins du monde

"Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour"

I highly recommend this 1991 film by Alain Corneau; Marin Marais (Gérard Depardieu), at the dusk of his life, remembers the life of his master, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (Jean-Pierre Marielle - simply mind-blowing).

Jordi Savall was the musical director for this film, and also played the viola da gamba. As a result, the soundtrack is a perfect complement to Corneau's dark and intimist atmosphere, and a true testament to this particular instrument.

A must-see.  

[unfortunately for the non-French speakers, the DVD is only available in French - and without any subtitles]

YouTube extracts:
- Jordi Savall playing
- a piece perfectly illustrating the mood of this film
- Lully's Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs (Depardieu as Marin Marais conducting the orchestra)

Amadeus in 5 seconds

Amadeus, Milos Forman, 1984

Oct 6, 2009


Charles Gounod, Philémon et Baucis  

Que les songes heureux 
Planant sur votre tête,
En un divin sommeil,
Tiennent vos sens charmés.  
Que vos coeurs restent sourds,  
Aux voix de la tempête,  

Demain, vous connaîtrez, 
Quand sur l'azur immense,  
L'aurore épanchera  
Ses rayons enflammés,  
Comment le ciel se venge  
Et comme il récompense,  

Don Carlo's pictures from the ROH

Recent performances of Nicolas Hytner's Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House. The production premiered in June 2008 and this new run featured Jonas Kaufmann as Don Carlo and Simon Keenlyside as Posa. All photographs - Catherine Ashmore

Oct 3, 2009

Précis d'harmonie #1 - harmoniques

  • son fondamental 1 corde vibrant sur toute sa longueur 258 vibrations
  • 2e harmonique - son à l'octave 1 corde + 1 noeud = 2 demi-cordes 517 vibrations
  • 3e harmonique - son à la quinte 1 corde + 2 noeuds = 3 tiers de corde 775 vibrations
  • 4e harmonique - son à la quarte 1 corde + 3 noeuds = 4 quarts de corde
  • Récapitulatif
  • Notes tonales - Octave, quinte, quarte.
La musique et les musiciens Albert Lavignac - professeur d'harmonie au Conservatoire de Paris Libraire Delagrave, Paris 1938

Sep 29, 2009

Conduct like Dudamel

For the beginning of Gustavo Dudamel as Music Director (opening concert on Oct.8), the LA Philharmonic has come up with a little game (also available on your iPhone) they should have untitled "So you think you can conduct".

Sep 28, 2009

Fastes du XIXe siècle

Grand Hall de l'Opéra Garnier Paris Sept.22, 2009

Sep 26, 2009

Mireille ressucitée


Opéra en 5 actes de Charles Gounod
Livret de Michel Carré d'après Frédéric Mistral
Créé au Théâtre Lyrique le 19 mars 1864
Entrée au répertoire de l'Opéra de Paris, 14 septembre 2009

Mireille - Inva Mula
Vincent - Charles Castronovo
Ourrias - Franck Ferrari
Ramon - Alain Vernhes
Taven - Sylvie Brunet
Vincenette - Anne-Catherine Gillet
Andrelou - Sebastien Droy
Ambroise - Nicolas Cavallier
Clemence - Amel Brahim-Djelloul
Le Passeur - Ugo Rabec

Orchestre et choeurs de l'Opéra de Paris
Conduction - Marc Minkowski
Stage direction - Nicolas Joël

Opéra Garnier Sept.22 performance - gala AROP

There were certainly some in Paris to boo Nicolas Joël's new production (only on the premiere it seems, as in NY). Nobody followed through in the performance I attended though, not even me, though his lack of ideas and actors direction is the only thing one can think of after seeing his production.

But Joël's decision to start his 5-yr contract as director of the Paris Opera by staging this particular piece is so commendable - and Minkowski's conduction is so exquisite one can only thank the man. Finally, after too many years of drought, Gounod is back in Paris. Adios Gérard Mortier...

I can't emphasize enough how extatic I felt when the first notes of the overture emerged and how exquisite the musical execution was. Finally, after too many years of bad treatment - including Plasson's massacre last year in Orange, Gounod's music is fully rehabilitated.

Who can, after hearing this performance, honestly say Gounod is boring and emotionless? It took Mark Minkowski - a baroque's conductor - to unravel all the marvels of Mireille's score.
I had truly never heard this opera played so brilliantly - a magnificent interpretation indeed (why he was also booed on the premiere is beyond comprehension).

And so does it really matter that Joël's staging is unattractive and quite dumb and so desperately true to the libretto ? Not for me.

Beginning of Act I

The piece

Gounod wanted to adapt provensal poet Frédéric Mistral's novel for the lyric stage (he actually composed most of the music while staying in the very places Mistral's story takes place in), but had to adapt to so many demands he ultimately delivered a piece quite different from his original idea.
 The huge pressure he got all his life from opera directors and prima donna meant he constantly had to make concessions and give way.

For Mireille, Marie Miolan-Carvalho - wife of the Théâtre Lyrique's director and the soprano who would create the role - told Gounod "Surtout, n'est-ce pas, faites brillant, très brillant, brillant" [Make it shiny, shiny, shiny], so he had to cut most of the dramatic scenes and add light and joyful arias for Mireille.

The score was cut and rewritten again and again after the premiere, and some arias of the original score were lost during the fire of the Opera House.

The version performed in Paris is the one Reynaldo Hahn assembled in 1939 - the closest to the original version.

More on this opera:
- Synopsis - in French

Alain Vernhes and Inva Mula

The performance

Apart from the marvellous job Marc Minkowski did, the orchestra had a great night as well.
The strings were superb, as were the woods and the brass.

The energy coming from the pit was mind-blowing, but the chorus of the Paris Opera did not deliver nearly as good a performance as the musicians did. The change of the chorus master hasn't succeeded in improving the quality of the ensemble - their unison is always somehow off and terribly unstable.

The soloist singers on the other hand were overall interesting - and Charles Castronovo, with his dark yet juvenile timbre made a good impression on me as Vincent.

I was also impressed by Alain Vernhes' Ramon, a rich and colorful voice very expressive, and Anne-Catherine Gillet's Vincenette.

The weakest main character was Franck Ferrari's Ourrias. The acting was vaudeville-esque and pretentious(and I hate vaudeville at the opera), while the singing was mediocre and not really up to the overall level.

Inva Mula's French is not really understandable for anybody, but her singing was decent enough not to ruin Minkowski's view of Mireille.

Overall a great evening for me.

Further reading 
- Mireille au palais Garnier,  Formalhaut
- Oh Mireille, même à Garnier, tu ne vieillis pas