Taste the opera!

Glorious Glyndebourne is the title of the blu-ray that Glyndebourne Opera House has launched to celebrate their 80th anniversary.

So, Happy Birthday Glyndebourne for 80 glorious years of opera.

The blu-ray gives you a good taste of the quality of the opera productions at Glyndebourne and, if you have never been there, it may make you wish you had.

Read my review here.

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Christiane Karg: A Real Breath of Fresh Air!

Christiane Karg is a young German soprano (33) with a flourishing international career, which has naturally developed from her already celebrated, distinguished work in Germany and Austria. She is the owner of a delightful voice, with crystal clear tone and easy, very warm high notes, a solid, accomplished technique and an admirable enunciation and intonation of whatever language she happens to be singing. Her personality is cheerful, straight-forward, open and honest but at the same time she is vivacious, spontaneous and there is a quiet strength that emanates from within her once she begins to speak about her work.

She is an honest, determined, passionate singer and a charming, spontaneous, warm and genuine human being. Her energy and vivacity are contagious; her knowledge and professionalism commendable. Whether she is speaking about herself, her colleagues or her work, she is always open in her opinions, truthful and appealingly natural. In a world where image and perception seem to be everything, Ms Karg was to me a real breath of fresh air. Read my full interview with Christiane Karg. Enjoy!

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Photos of Christiane Karg by Gisela Schenker, courtesy of Ms Karg’s management

Glyndebourne Festival 2013 – The “Wow” Factor!

Glyndebourne opera house in the middle of the Sussex downs, is nowadays much more than just a place of entertainment and picnics. Their work with the community and educational projects are exemplary and their digital initiatives to make opera available to people everywhere and from any background is second to none.

I had the pleasure of interviewing their General Director (David Pickard) on Friday, 1st March as a preliminary to the Summer Festival that I and other collaborators from Seen and Heard International will be reviewing. Mr Pickard is a very interesting person and made a fascinating interviewee. You can read the full interview here .

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Glyndebourne by Leigh Simpson, courtesy of Glyndebourne’s media manager Vicky Kington

“Lieder Projekt” for the Benefit of Children

“Lieder Projekt” is a charitable project to promote and further singing with children. For each CD sold, a donation of €2 is made to Herzenssache e.V., which translates approximately as “a matter of the heart” and is an organisation that works with disadvantaged children. I have recently had the pleasure of reviewing one of their CDs with German Folk Songs performed by great classical artists. You can read the review here and I hope you will enjoy it or may eventually wish to contribute to such a worthy cause.

Seen & Heard International now floating on cloud nine!

MusicWeb International has always had a section dedicated to Reviews of live concerts and opera performances across the world. However, this part of the site was limited and reviews could only be published twice a week. This has now changed and for the better!

Seen and Heard International has its own independent site, based in the “cloud” (even though it continues to have a connection with MusicWeb). The point is that the site looks amazing, it is easier to use, it can now publish reviews on a daily basis and we have added ballet to our portfolio. We all feel very proud of our new site! So, please check it here.  Happy browsing!

Strauss’s ‘Capriccio’ & The Capricious Satellite

Last Saturday, 23rd April, I went to the Barbican cinema for a live in HD transmission from the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York, of Richard Strauss’s final opera Capriccio. It starred American soprano Renée Fleming in one of her most memorable and dazzling roles, as the young countess Madeleine. I was reviewing this live broadcast of the production for Seen & Heard International (you can read the review here),  for which I write reviews, and was eagerly anticipating not only the whole opera but in particular Ms Fleming’s performance. Unfortunately, the satellite decided to be moody (or perhaps was just the thunderstorm raging over London) and fail just at the climax of Ms Fleming’s performance at the end of the opera’s final scene. The loud disappointed cry of “Oh! No” from the audience at the Barbican, was possibly heard outside of the cinema! It was still a lovely performance but technology can also be capricious and rather sensitive…yet, without it, we would not be able to watch, at very affordable prices, these wonderful performances from the Met, which are often better than the real thing, considering the issues with the Met’s auditorium’s accoustics for some types of opera!

“Diva, Divo” – The Beautiful Duality Of An Opera Singer!

American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato is at present one of the most fabulous mezzo voices in the world of opera. Her dramatic prowess and beautiful, flexible singing never fail to impress. Alongside the irresistible warmth of her voice, DiDonato is extremely versatile and has a rare quality, which is always giving the impression that the composer was thinking specifically of her when writing the opera. Her versatility, beauty of tone, incredible coloratura, detailed understanding of each composer as well as passion for the music are present in all her performances, be it live or on disc. She is at her best on stage and I have seen her in a wide range of electrifying, superb performances: For example, as Dona Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni or as Cinderella in Rossini’s La Cenerentola; however, perhaps one of her best was as Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House, in London, when she broke her leg during the premiere, stoically continued to the end, under painkillers, leaning on a walking stick, and then appeared on a wheelchair on all subsequent performances of the opera. If this isn’t amazing, I can’t think of anything that is!

Joyce DiDonato is a truly accomplished artist. She is magnificent in a live opera but she is no less impressive in a simple concert or recital. I attended her performance at the Proms in 2009 and her recital of Italian love songs at Wigmore Hall in 2010 and her delivery of the music was simply superb!

DiDonato’s latest CD “Diva, Divo” demonstrates all the qualities that I mentioned above. It is also an interesting concept to showcase the duality of roles that mezzos are generally faced with: female and male. Mezzos, as well as countertenors, are today’s natural heirs to the roles composed for the great castrati; therefore many women perform in opera the so-called “trouser-roles”. Not all women are plausible as men and not all are capable of conveying the emotions of an ardent male lover or of a lively young warrior. Joyce DiDonato is and even though she looks very feminine, her dramatic skills make her play a man convincingly but also excel in a female role.

On top of her singing and dramatic qualities, Joyce DiDonato is also an incredibly kind, warm and generous person. She is far from the image of the capricious, unreasonable diva even though she calls herself “Yankee Diva” in her e-mail and blog. She is a pleasant, funny, down-to-earth sort of person, easy to interact with and lovely to talk to. I was lucky enough to have met her in person last year, as she kindly agreed to give me an interview, and I must say that my conversation with her was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had in the world of opera since I’ve started writing reviews.

Although, I think that DiDonato’s previous CD “Colbran, the Muse” (for which she won a Grammaphon Award last year and it was one of my recordings of the year 2010) is even better than the current one; “Diva, Divo” is still an excellent recital of this truly mesmerising singer and, as she says herself in her personal introduction to this CD: “Via opera we happily escape into fantastical stories, wild adventures and, perhaps most profoundly, the simplest of truths. We are allowed and encouraged to indulge our emotions in a way that no other art form can offer, for opera truly is the combination of all the great arts.”

I couldn’t agree more!