program 2009-2010

29 juni 2009

Så jag sitter just och går igenom vad som skulle kunna vara intressant att se på den kommande opera- säsongen, jag skippar balletterna, inte för att jag räknar med att komma iväg, men man kan ju alltid drömma lite:

Barberaren i Sevilla – har inte sett den än faktiskt, så det vore ju kul att se
Batseba – inte intresserad
Cosí fan tutte – är inte särskilt förtjust i handlingen, så ingenting jag skulle vilja lägga pengarna på, även om musiken har några riktigt fina guldkorn.
Elektra – det vore häftigt att se Katarina Dalayman i titelrollen, misstänker dock att jag inte skulle vara så jätteförtjust i varken musik eller handling. Det känns ändå som en opera man vill se någon gång.
Falstaff – inte intresserad
Figaros Bröllop – jag har nog kommit fram till att Figaros Bröllop är lite överskattad. Ingenting jag vill lägga pengarna på, men jag skulle inte heller säga nej till möjligheten att se den.
Läderlappen  – jag gillar verkligen Läderlappen, så jag skulle gärna se den igen. Är lite tveksam till Jan Malmsjö som Orlofsky, men det kanske blir bra.
MacBeth – Kanske något jag skulle vara intresserad av.
Orphee – även om det är Anna Larsson, så tycker jag att scenografin ser så förskräcklig ut att jag inte skulle vilja se den. Jag har också lite svårt för barockoperor i helhet. Några arior går bra, men jag tröttnar faktiskt lite lätt på en hel uppsättning
Spader Dam – den är jag sugen på, uppsättningen verkar vara riktigt häftig.
Valkyrian – jag skulle aldrig säga nej till möjligheten att se Valkyrian igen. Det skulle också vara roligt att se Gitta-Maria Sjöberg som Sieglinde. Samtidigt kan jag ju inte komma ifrån att jag börjar väl kunna den här uppsättningen utantill efter att ha sett den på DVD ett antal gånger. Undrar om Rachael Tovey är lika bra på att hoppa upp på biljardbordet som Katarina Dalayman
Xerxes – se min invändning mot barockoperor som jag skrev vid Orphee.

Sen så ger Folkoperan Pärlfiskarna – den skulle vara trevligt att se, och folkoperan brukar ju göra spännande uppsättningar.

Jag får väl hoppas, men jag tror dessvärre inte att jag får möjlighet att se någon opera live, jag får hålla ögonen öppna för vad det blir för Met-utsändningar istället.


100 bästa operorna – 81 Spader Dam av Tchaikovskij

27 juni 2009

The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 (Russian: Пиковая дама, Pikovaya dama) is an opera in 3 acts (7 scenes) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a Russian libretto by the composer’s brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by the poet Alexander Pushkin. The premiere performance took place in 1890 in St. Petersburg, Russia. For a period the opera was commonly performed in French under the still recognized title Pique Dame. Nowadays, the opera is almost exclusively sung in Russian.


Time: The close of the 18th century

Place: St. Petersburg, Russia

Act 1

Scene 1

In a sunny, summer garden, people are strolling. Officers Surin and Chekalinsky share impressions about the strange behaviour of their friend Hermann. He spends time in the gambling house, but does not tempt fate at all. Hermann enters with Colonel Tomsky. Hermann opens his soul to him, explaining that he is passionately in love, but he does not know his loved one’s name. They are joined by several officers. Prince Yeletsky tells of his upcoming marriage. ”This beautiful angel has given consent to combine her destiny with mine!” Hermann is horrified to learn that the prince’s fiancée is the object of his passion.

The countess and her granddaughter enter. Both women are hypnotised by the sight of the unfortunate Hermann. Tomsky tells the story of the countess who, as a young Moscow ”lioness” had lost all her fortune playing the card game Faro. By bribing Count Saint-Germain with sexual favors, she learned the secret of three winning cards, and won back her fortune. She told her husband the secret, and later a handsome young man. That night, a phantom came to her and said that she would receive a mortal blow from the third one she told.

Hermann listens to the story with great interest. Surin and Chekalinsky mockingly suggest that he find out the old woman’s secret at cards. A thunderstorm rumbles. The garden empties. Only Hermann meets the raging elements openly. He exclaims that while he is alive, he will never let the prince have his beloved.

Scene 2

At sunset in Lisa’s room, the girls play music, trying to amuse their friend, who is sad despite her engagement to the prince. When alone, she reveals that she loves the mysterious stranger, in whose eyes she saw the fire of scorching passion. Suddenly, Hermann appears on the balcony. He has come to see her one last time before killing himself. His ardour carries away Lisa. A knock at the door interrupts him. Hiding, Hermann is excited by the appearance of the old countess, who looks like a terrible phantom of death. Unable to hide her feelings anymore, Lisa submits to Hermann.

Act 2

Scene 1

A rich dignitary is hosting a ball. Yeletsky, disturbed by the coldness of Lisa, assures her of the immensity of his love. Chekalinsky and Surin, wearing masks, scoff at Hermann, asking him whether he will be the third to learn the secret of the three cards. Their words spark his imagination.

Pastoral Intermezzo: The Sincerity of the Shepherdess

After the completion of the intermezzo, Hermann sees the Countess. When Lisa gives him the keys to her bedroom which connects to the countess’s, Hermann thinks it is an omen. Tonight he will learn the secret of the three cards, and with it, win Lisa’s hand.

Scene 2

Hermann hides in the bedroom of the countess. She enters. She is unhappy with the customs of the day, and with melancholy recalls the past. She falls asleep in an armchair. Hermann reveals himself, begging her to reveal the secret of the three cards, but the countess, who has grown dumb with fright, says nothing. When Hermann threatens her with a pistol, she dies of shock. Blaming Hermann for the death, Lisa sends him away. In this scene we hear the ancient French song ”Vive Henri IV” as well as the beginning of ”Je crains de lui parler la nuit” (Laurette’s Aria) from Grétry’s Richard Coeur-de-Lion.

Act 3

Scene 1

Hermann is in a barracks. He reads Lisa’s letter, forgiving him, and asking him to meet her on the quay. In his imagination, he sees pictures of the old woman’s funeral. Doleful singing is heard. The phantom of Countess appears in a white funeral shroud. ”Rescue Lisa, marry her, and the three cards will win in succession. Remember! The three! The seven! The ace!”

Scene 2

Lisa awaits Hermann, full of doubt. At midnight, she is finally relieved when Hermann appears. But Hermann, after confessing his love, is possessed with the idea of using the secret of the three cards. When she refuses to go with him to the gambling house, he pushes her away and leaves. Lisa, realizing that the inevitable has happened, throws herself into the river.

Scene 3

The players are gambling in the casino. Tomsky entertains them with a playful song. Hermann enters and wins two large stakes, betting on the three and the seven. Prince Yeletsky, looking for revenge, is the only one who will cover the third bet. Instead of the expected ace, Hermann is dealt the queen of spades. He sees the features of the old dead woman on the card, whose smile seems to be mocking at him, and kills himself. With his dying breath he asks for the Prince’s pardon and sees Lisa’s ghost, who forgives him.

Hermann – tenor
Count Tomsky – baritone
Prince Yeletsky – baritone
Chekalinsky – tenor
Surin – bass
Chaplitsky – bass
Narumov – bass
Master of Ceremonies – tenor
Countess – mezzo-soprano
Liza – soprano
Polina – contralto
Governess – mezzo-soprano
Masha – soprano
Boy-Commander – spoken
Prilepa – soprano
Milovzor – contralto
Zlatogor – baritone
Chorus, silent roles: Nursemaids, governesses, wet-nurses, strollers, children, gamblers

This Russian is not uncommon on the world stages, even if it’s of course a lot more popular in Russia and in the former Sovjet parts of the world. Many of the arias are staples on concerts for singers from Eastern Europe, but I can’t say that I’ve heard an of them until I had to find them out for this post. The Royal Opera her premiered a production of it this spring, that was commended more for the staging than for the singers. It claimed to have the most realistic sheep ever taking part in an opera performance.

Anyway here are a couple of arias: Prince Yelevtski’s aria from act II, Hermann’s aria from act III (sounds very Russian to me), and finally here’s the duet between Liza and Polina.

I also think this is a clip worthy of mentioning: it’s Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing Yeletski’s aria at the 1989 Cardiff World Singing Competition. He won the competition ahead of Bryn Terfel, who won the Lieder prize, and was the start of both their ways to stardom in the operatic world.


Trevliga nyheter

23 juni 2009

Enligt BBC är opera ”music for the heart” och kan hjälpa till med rehabilitering av stroke och andra hjärtproblem. Tydligen är Puccinis Nessun Dorma, sjungen av Pavarotti,  en särskilt bra medicin, så vad passar bättre än att stärka sitt hjärta med att höra den här i en gala från 1994:

(jag hade föredragit en tidigare inspelning, men tyvärr var ljudkvalitén för dålig)


100 bästa operorna – 82 Billy Budd av Britten

20 juni 2009

82 – Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten

Billy Budd is an opera by Benjamin Britten, first performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 1 December 1951. It is based on the short novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville.

Originally, the opera was written in four acts, but, in 1960, Britten revised it substantially in preparation for a BBC broadcast revival, compressing it into two acts and cutting Vere’s appearance at the end of Act I. This meant that his first appearance after the prologue was not a public speech but a private moment alone in his cabin. The two-act version is generally considered the more dramatically effective, but the four-act version is occasionally revived and has been recorded.

Place: On board the battleship HMS Indomitable, a ”seventy-four”
Time: The French Revolutionary Wars in 1797


Captain Edward Fairfax Vere, an old man, reflects on his life and his time in the navy. He reflects on the conflict between good and evil, he is tormented by guilt over the case of Billy Budd on board his ship, HMS Indomitable, some years earlier.

Act 1

The crew of the Indomitable works on deck. For slipping and bumping into an officer, the Novice is sentenced to be flogged. At the same time a cutter approaches, returning from a merchant ship where it has pressed three sailors into England’s Navy.

One of these sailors, Billy Budd, seems overjoyed with his situation – entirely different from the other two who are not so happy. Claggart, the Master-at-Arms, calls him ”a find in a thousand,” despite the slight defect of a stammer. Billy says a jaunty farewell to the Rights o’ Man, his former ship, innocent of what his words imply. The officers take his words as a deliberate provocation and order the men below decks. Claggart tells Squeak, the ship’s corporal, to keep an eye on Billy and give him a rough time.

The Novice returns from his flogging, unable to walk and helped along by a friend. Billy is shocked at the cruelty of the punishment, but is certain that if he follows the rules he will be in no danger. Dansker, an old sailor, nicknames Billy ”Baby Budd” for his innocence.

At this point in the four-act version came the climax of Act I, in which Captain Vere appeared on deck to give a speech to the men. In the two-act version, Dansker simply tells the others Vere’s nickname, ”Starry Vere,” and this is enough for the impulsive Billy to swear his loyalty to the unseen captain.

In his cabin, Captain Vere muses over classical literature. His officers enter, and they discuss the revolution in France and the mutinies in the British Navy sparked by French ideas of democracy. The officers warn that Billy may cause trouble, but Vere dismisses their fears and expresses his love for the men under his command.

Below decks the sailors rough-house, but old Dansker remains gloomy. Billy goes for some tobacco to cheer him up, and discovers Squeak rifling through his kit. In a rage, Billy begins to stammer. He knocks Squeak to the ground as Claggart and the corporals enter. Billy is still unable to speak, but Claggart takes his side and sends Squeak to the brig. However, when alone, Claggart reveals his hatred for Billy and vows to destroy him. He orders the Novice to try and bribe Billy into joining a mutiny, and the broken-spirited Novice quickly agrees. Billy refuses the bribe and believes he will be rewarded, but Dansker warns him to beware of Claggart.

Act 2

Claggart begins to tell Vere about the danger that Billy represents, but is interrupted by the sighting of a French ship. The Indomitable attacks, but loses the enemy in the mist. Claggart returns, and tells Vere that Billy poses a threat of mutiny. Vere does not believe him and sends for Billy so that Claggart may confront him.

Later, in Vere’s cabin, Claggart repeats the false charge to Billy’s face. Once again, Billy begins to stammer in rage. Unable to speak, he strikes Claggart, killing him. The Captain is forced to convene an immediate court-martial, and the officers find Billy guilty and sentence him to hang. Billy begs Vere to save him, and the officers appeal to him for guidance, but Vere remains silent and accepts their verdict. He goes into the cabin where Billy is being held, and the orchestra suggests a tender offstage meeting as the captain informs Billy of the death sentence. This was the end of Act 3 in the four-act version.

Billy prepares for his execution in his cell. Dansker brings him a drink and reveals that the crew is willing to mutiny for his sake, but Billy is resigned to his fate. Four o’clock that morning, the crew assembles on deck, and Billy is brought out. The Articles of War are read, and show that Billy must be hanged. Just before his execution, he praises Vere with his final words, singing ”Starry Vere, God Bless you!” echoed by the rest of the crew.


Vere, as an old man, remembers Billy’s burial at sea, reflecting that the man he failed to save has instead blessed and saved him. As he recalls Billy’s blessing, he realises he has discovered genuine goodness and can be at peace with himself.

Billy Budd, – baritone
Captain Vere – tenor
John Claggart – bass
Mr Redburn – baritone
Mr Flint – bass-baritone
Lieutenant Ratcliffe – baritone
Red Whiskers – tenor
Donald – baritone
Dansker – bass
A novice – tenor
the novice’s friend – baritone
Squeak -tenor
Bosun – bass
First Mate – bass
second mate – bass
Maintop – tenor
Arthur Jones – tenor or baritone

Quite unusual with an all male cast in an opera. Personally I’m not really fond of most modern operas, and I’m definitely not into Britten. I found this quite nice clip which is more or less the [link=]opera in 10 minutes.[/link] with Peter Mattei as Billy Budd, in a performance from Frankfurt in 2007. Here is also [link=]Claggart‘s aria[/link] sung by James Morris at the Met in 1997. I think it sounds quite eerie.


Gianni Schicchi – Glyndebourne 2004

13 juni 2009

Jag har bestämt mig för att försöka gå igenom de operor som finns på stadsbiblioteket och som jag inte har sett än, även om jag inte direkt känner någon dragning till en del av dem. Först ut är iallafall Gianni Schicchi, och den har jag haft lust att se sen jag skrev om den i 100-listan.

Jag hittade en DVD med en uppsättning från Glyndebourne 2004. (det verkar som att det framförallt är Glyndebourne-uppsättningar som köps in till biblioteket). Själva operan är en komedi, och väl det lättsammaste som Puccini har skrivit. Musikaliskt är den blandat. Förutom den kända ”O, mio babbino caro” är det inga enskilda stycken som verkligen står ut, utan istället bildar musiken en varierad väv som omsluter scenen. Det är för mina öron modernt, med en hel del disharmonier, men det hela uppvägs av de underbara, mer svepande, melodier som framförs av kärleksparet på scenen. På det hela taget lyckas Puccini balansera upp musiken, så att när man håller på att tröttna på det ena uttrycket så byter han till det andra. Jag har personligen svårt för operor skrivna efter Puccini, och det är väl kanske det att den här balansen försvinner och det bara blir disharmoniskt istället.

Den här uppsättningen utspelar sig ungefär vid 1800-talets slut, även om en del av kostymern är av betydligt senare snitt. Det är också en jämn ensemble, det är kanske kärleksparet, som spelas av Massimo Giordano och Sally Matthews, som sticker ut. Det kan ju också vara för att jag helt enkelt tycker bäst om deras melodier. Felicity Palmer som Zita och Alessandro Corbelli i titelrollen gör också fina tolkningar, fyllda av fin komisk tajming.

Det är en lättsam opera, och eftersom det bara är en akt tar den bara lite mer än en timme. Jag rekommenderar den, och kan nog tänka mig att den skulle fungera som en bra introduktion till opera och till Puccini.

4 av 5 förfalskade testamenten


Kungliga Operan utan lokaler 2010-2011

11 juni 2009

När det nu sker en ombyggnad av operan, som börjar i sommar och kommer att tvinga operahuset att stänga hösten 2010 och ett år framåt, så har man inte lyckats få någon ersättningslokal att vara i. Det tänkta alternativet var Gasklockan, men där säger brandskyddsmyndigheten stopp. I och för sig ska operan iallafall ut på turné i landet under perioden, men det känns ändå trist om man blir helt utan produktioner i Stockholm under tiden. 

Jag läste om det hela i DN.

100 bästa operorna – La Fille du Régiment av Donizetti

10 juni 2009

La fille du régiment (The Daughter of the Regiment) is an opéra comique in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Written while the composer was living in Paris, the French libretto is by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Jean-François Bayard. A slightly different Italian-language version (in translation by Callisto Bassi) was adapted to the tastes of the Italian public.


Act 1

The Tyrolean mountains

On their way to Austria, the terrified Marquise of Berkenfield and her butler, Hortensius, have paused in their journey because a skirmish has broken out. When the Marquise hears from the villagers that the French troops have retreated, she comments on the rude manners of the French people (“Pour une femme de mon nom”). Sulpice, sergeant of the 21st regiment, assures everyone that his men will restore peace and order. He is joined by Marie, the mascot, or “daughter,” of the regiment, which adopted her as an orphaned child. When Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with, she explains that he is a local Tyrolean who once saved her life. Troops of the 21st arrive with a prisoner: this same Tonio, who says he has been looking for Marie. She steps in to save him, and while he toasts his new friends, Marie sings the regimental song (“Chacun le sait”). Tonio is ordered to follow the soldiers, but he escapes and returns to declare his love to Marie. Sulpice surprises them, and Marie must admit to Tonio that she can marry only a soldier from the 21st.

The Marquise of Berkenfield asks Sulpice for an escort to return her to her castle. When he hears the name Berkenfield, Sulpice remembers a letter he found near the young Marie on the battlefield. The Marquise soon admits that she knew the girl’s father and says that Marie is the long-lost daughter of her sister. The child had been left in the care of the Marquise, but was lost. Shocked by the girl’s rough manners, the Marquise is determined to give her niece a proper education and to take her to her castle. Tonio has enlisted so that he can marry her (“Ah, mes amis”). But Marie has to leave both her regiment and the man she loves (“Il faut partir”).

Act 2

The Berkenfield castle

The Marquise has arranged a marriage between Marie and the Duke of Krakenthorp. Sulpice is also at the castle, recovering from an injury, and is supposed to be helping the Marquise with her plans. The Marquise gives Marie a singing lesson, accompanying her at the piano. Encouraged by Sulpice, Marie slips in phrases of the regimental song, and the Marquise loses her temper (Trio: “Le jour naissait dans la bocage”). Left alone, Marie thinks about the meaninglessness of money and position (“Par le rang et l’opulence”). She hears soldiers marching in the distance and is delighted when the whole regiment files into the hall; she leads them in singing a patriotic tribute (”Salut à la France”). Tonio, Marie, and Sulpice are reunited. Tonio asks for Marie’s hand. The Marquise is unmoved by the young man’s declaration that Marie is his whole life (“Pour me rapprocher de Marie”). She declares her niece engaged to another man and dismisses Tonio. Alone with Sulpice, the Marquise confesses the truth: Marie is her own illegitimate daughter whom she abandoned, fearing social disgrace.

Hortensius announces the arrival of the wedding party, headed by the groom’s mother, the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Marie refuses to leave her room, but when Sulpice tells her that the Marquise is her mother, the surprised girl declares that she cannot go against her mother’s wishes and agrees to marry a man that she does not love. As she is about to sign the marriage contract, the soldiers of the 21st regiment, led by Tonio, storm in to rescue their “daughter.” The guests are horrified to learn that Marie was a canteen girl, but they change their opinion when she tells them that she can never repay the debt she owes the soldiers. The Marquise is so moved by her daughter’s goodness of heart that she gives her permission to marry Tonio. Everyone joins in a final “Salut à la France.”


Marie – soprano
Toni, a young Tyrolean – tenor
Sergeant Sulspice – bass
The Marquise of Berkenfeld – contralto
Hortensius, a butler – bass
A corporal – bass
A peasant – tenor
The Duchess of Krakenthorp – spoken
A notary – spoken

Now we come to an opera that is actually pretty popular to produce, not the least at Metropolitan that has done it as a digicast during the last season. Personally I find it an amusing, but not spectacular story. There is quite a lot of freedom to have proper comedians in the spoken parts as well, for example when I saw it Dawn French played the Duchess, and did it wonderfully. It’s also a good thing if you don’t know anything about the real geography of the area, since that will only get you confused. The most famous music from the opera is probably Toni’s ”A mes amis”, which is a real feat for any tenor. It comes early in the opera and contains 9 high Cs. Pavarotti’s breakthrough in the US is mainly attributed to his performing this aria in a Met production. One of the current tenors that have been associated with the role is Juan Diego Florez. Since it’s such a classic aria I’ve decided to post both Pavarotti’s classic performance of it and Juan Diego Florez’s so that you can compare them. The role of Marie is also a daunting one, demanding both a good actress and a good coloratura soprano. Here’s an excerpt of Natalie Dessay, from the same production as Juan Diego Florez.

Min recension av produktionen med Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez och Dawn French kan hittas här: