Jernigan's Opera Journal

by Charles Jernigan
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Kismet: The Opera That Became a Musical
January 24, 2015

I’ve never seen Kismet, the 1953 musical, although like everyone else of a certain age, I know some of the songs--”Stranger in Paradise,” “And This is my Beloved” and even “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.”  So I was interested when Loveland Opera Theatre announced it as their major production of 2015, even though I generally think that opera companies should stick to opera, not that any opera company ever listens to my opinion.  However, a little research shows that Kismet has a remarkably operatic--or at least a classical music--pedigree.  I already knew that Kismet owes its hit tune “Stranger in Paradise” to Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, but I was not aware of how much of the score (virtually all of it) comes from Prince Igor and other Borodin works.

kismet1Kismet (which means ‘fate’ or ‘destiny’ in Turkish and other languages) has a complicated story which sounds like an amalgam of The Mikado, Turandot  and lesser known works like Rabaud’s Marouf, a once popular opera which concerns a poor man/trickster who marries a princess.  In this case it is the young Caliph who is in disguise and who falls in love with the impoverished daughter of a poet named Hajj, who pretends to be a beggar who becomes a (phony) great magician, all through the mystery of kismet.  Perhaps it’s better not to try and figure it all out before seeing it, but the book (by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis) is based on a 1911 play by Edward Knoblock, and it all sounds like it ought to be out of the Thousand and One Nights and probably is.  It takes place it Baghdad, which, given current events, is a fantasy Baghdad indeed.  In the musical, everything ends happily.

The play by Knoblock was a big hit as well, and it was made into a movie more than four times times starting in 1914.  Otis Skinner, a famous actor in his day, made a specialty of Hajj, the beggar poet, and Loretta Young was in the now lost 1930 version, which caused something of a scandal because of the harem scenes.  Marlene Dietrich and Ronald Colman starred in the 1944 film version.

Kismet, the musical, is really a pastiche, an honorable genre practiced by Handel, Rossini and many others in centuries past, right down to the Metropolitan’s recent, highly successful, baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island.  A pastiche brings music intended for different works, sometimes by different composers, together for a new work to a new story and text.  Sometimes the composer himself reshapes his own work, e.g. Handel.  Sometimes arrangers and adaptors take existing music by others.  Borodin’s adaptors were Robert Wright and George Forrest, who already had experience with another successful Broadway pastiche, The Song of Norway, which had used the music of Edvard Grieg for another Broadway extravaganza full of great tunes and spectacular scenery.

kismet2But Kismet didn’t start on Broadway; it started in Los Angeles where the Civic Light Opera commissioned and first produced it.  It moved on to San Francisco, and opened on Broadway in December, 1953, in the midst of a newspaper strike.  Because the producers were unable to rely on newspaper advertising, they turned to the new medium of television to hype the upcoming production, and it worked.  By the time the strike ended and the major critics had their (mostly negative) say, Kismet was already a hit.  It won three Tonys in 1954, including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (Alfred Drake); it had a successful run on London’s West End and was made into a big Cinemascope movie directed by Vincente Minellli in 1955.  There was a TV version in 1967 with José Ferrer and Barbara Eden, whose most famous endeavor was another Thousand and One Nights-type TV fantasy, I Dream of Jeannie.  Also in the cast of the TV production was the beautiful Anna Maria Alberghetti, who started her career as an opera singer and crossed over into musicals and movies.

Kismet’s operatic roots must have appealed to New York City Opera, which produced it in 1985.  A recording of that production came out which had major operatic credentials with primary roles taken by Samuel Ramey, Ruth Ann Swenson, Jerry Hadley and Julia Migenes.  There was even a pastiche of the pastiche in the 1970’s when the Middle Eastern context was moved to Africa with a new title, Timbuktu!, and with a new star--Eartha Kitt. 

kismet3In other words, the Russian composer Borodin’s music has served a LOT of geographical venues including medieval Asia, ancient Baghdad and Africa with a LOT of different singers and actors whose experience has ranged from the opera stage to the Broadway stage to movies to TV, and now to the intimate stage of the Rialto Theater in Loveland where LOT (Loveland Opera Theatre) is going to produce it in several performances at the end of February and March 1. 

Richard E. Rodda has specified the Borodin sources for the music, and besides three pieces drawn from Prince Igor, there are pieces from the composer’s Symphonies 1 and 2, from the first and second String Quartets, from the tone poem “In the Steppes of Central Asia” and from the Petite Suite.  Wright and Forrest, the adaptors, used one of their pre-existing songs for the song “Rahadlakham” and wrote some connecting music, but everything else, as I understand it, is Borodin. 

Although there have been a few major revivals over the decades since 1953, Kismet has not been done that often and is not common fare in dinner theaters or light opera revivals.  It is complex, and as produced originally, it requires a lot of resources, although there have been successful pared-down versions.  It would seem that the total fantasy of the plot would not cause controversy, but in 2011 it was banned in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, when a local high school planned to do it.  Seems that the school principal and some enlightened locals thought that a play about Muslims in a fantasy of ancient Baghdad would insult the memory of those killed in the 9/11 attacks.

So the chance to see it doesn’t come around that often.  Really, how can you go wrong?  An amusing fantasy with a beautiful poor girl who becomes a princess, a Caliph in disguise, a trickster poet--and the bad guy gets his just desserts.  If you are a fan of the Broadway musical, you have a fairly seldom-revived classic.  If you like opera, you have all that luscious Borodin.  And it was banned in Johnstown!

Auld Lang Syne
January 7, 2014

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquainance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

In the waning days of 2014 Rocky Mountain PBS played the 1984 film Amadeus as its Saturday night offering.  I had loved the film when it came out thirty (thirty!) years ago, and mostly it stands up.   Some of the dialogue and the punk hairstyles already seem a little dated, and of course author Peter Shaffer took amadeusliberties with the facts of Mozart’s life.  And poor old Salieri!  Shaffer casts him as Mozart’s antagonist, a mediocre artist when compared to Mozart, who has the ability to write such great music so effortlessly.  Shaffer’s premise is that Mozart is God’s unwitting vessel.  As a title, he chooses not “Mozart” nor “Wolfgang” nor “Wolfie” (the Christian name and nickname used frequently in the movie), but one of Mozart’s middle names, “Amadeus”--‘Beloved of God’.  Nonetheless, the movie is really about Salieri, the Viennese court composer and rival of Mozart; it hints that Salieri poisoned Mozart without actually saying so--a slander without basis which had already been exploited almost a century earlier in Rimsky-Korsakoff’s 1897 opera Mozart and Salieri.

Mozart and Salieri used the text of an 1830 play by Alexander Pushkin, so the legend that Salieri poisoned Mozart had been around a long time.  But the glory of Shaffer’s play/film is not the story or the dialogue (although F. Murray Abraham does a magnificent job as Salieri), but that glorious music, and the film uses a lot of Mozart’s music, especially his operas in wonderful period productions.  You even get to see an excerpt from one of Salieri’s operas. 

It has been a long time since a popular stage hit/movie was about opera or even a composer of classical music.  In some ways it seems that the grand world of opera is increasingly a niche, although you wouldn’t know it for all the blogs and twitter and Facebook comments flying around on the internet.

In our little niche-world, the trends that were evident in the last few years continued to play out in 2014.  The question of a popular audience vs. an elite--and aging--audience has certainly not been resolved.  The Met’s HD broadcasts continue to be popular, but whether they are bringing a new--and younger--audience to opera is still an open question.  And they undoubtedly are draining some of the audience for live performances in the opera house--both at regional houses and at the Met itself, which has discovered that many patrons in the Northeast who used to travel to New York to see an opera live would rather pay $20 and go to the local cinema than spend hundreds and make tiring trips into the big city.  Met audiences remain far below capacity for most performances.

For me, the biggest operatic news in 2014 was the death and resurrection of San Diego Opera thanks to community outrage at the combination of malevolence and cluelessness that tried to kill it, turned into community activism as a way of saving it.  San Diego is back in a big way, and not only with standards; they are planning Adams’ Nixon in China this spring.  According to reports, their subscription base is up considerably from last year and ticket sales are very good.  There is nothing like almost losing something vital to remind us of its value.

klinghofferOf course the Metropolitan had its own troubles, serious troubles, and the good news is that the institution overcame the misplaced rage at another Adams opera, The Death of Klinghoffer, as well as the labor contract problems which threatened to derail the season.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the season opened on schedule, and so far there have been terrific productions of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth of Minsk and a  rerun of a beloved, old-fashioned Meistersinger, along with more usual fare.

Though one could wish that Mr. Gelb had not caved to the Anti-Defamation League’s baldfaced attempt at artistic censorship by canceling the HD broadcast of The Death of Klinghoffer, at least the opera was played and was successful.  (In my mind, the Klinghoffer incident was a foreshadowing of the current brouhaha with the movie The Interview.  Both aimed at applying artistic censorship by attacking the financial backing of the institution/company that was producing a work whereof the attackers objected to the subject.)

For me, one big loser in the Klinghoffer affair (and the labor dispute) was Opera News magazine, which likes to think of itself as the prime source for the opera world in America.  Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall Opera News covering either the Klinghoffer stand off or the labor dispute, although both made the front page of the New York Times on several occasions.  Instead, at the height of both controversies, Opera News devoted an entire issue to the Broadway musical.  I think the magazine should be called Puff Diva because that’s about all it’s good for, while others believe that its long time moniker is more appropriate than ever--Opera Snooze. Really, the interesting stuff on opera is now on the Internet, from upcoming performances and news about singers to reviews to serious studies to gossip.  Take your pick. 

Other opera houses have caught the movie bug.  London’s Covent Garden is now regularly broadcasting their operas in movie theaters; the English National Opera has tried the same tactic, and evidently the Royal Opera House is not suffering from declining audiences, although the ENO is.  For those of us who live too far from London or New York to get there very often, the movie operas are a godsend, and who would have believed a few years ago how many “live” operas can now be streamed on the internet.  There is no doubt in my mind that the movies have raised the level of acting in opera too--surely a very good trend.  But if opera houses can’t find some way to fill their seats at the same time that there is opera in the movie houses, then the large, grand old repertory houses like the Met are in trouble.

One method of filling those seats is to keep programming La bohème, Madame Butterfly, La traviata and Carmen.  Great as those works are, doing them over and over and over leads to rote, routine and boredom.  I sometimes wish that the “standard” works could be shelved for 50 years.  Think how new and exciting they would seem to an audience in 2065 who had never heard the “Toreador Song” before.  Many opera companies, certainly recognizing that opera cannot be a static art, stage new works by contemporary composers.  It is a necessary enterprise, but so few of them are viable and stay in the repertory.  There are exceptions: Dead Man Walking is a powerful work and seems to have staying power; maybe Heggie’s Moby Dick will be here for years too.  So I am glad that Opera Colorado is performing Lori Laitman’s Scarlet Letter next season, and I hope it will have staying power too.

That is not to say that in 2014 companies rested entirely on their laurels or rather on the laurels of the tried and sure-fire.  Central City produced a riveting and draining Dead Man Walking.  LA Opera tried yoking the very old (Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas) with the not so old (Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle).  Santa Fe tried an equally odd yoking of the old and the not so old with Mozart’s one-act Impresario paired off with Stravinsky’s Le rossignol.  Opera Theater of the Rockies down in Colorado Springs brought back Delibes’ exotic Lakmé and both CSU and Crested Butte tried their hands at lesser known Puccini (Suor Angelica).  In Albuquerque, Opera Southwest pulled off a real coup by staging Franco Faccio’s storied Amleto, which had not seen the light of day since 1870.  Sarasota Opera has almost completed its decades-long plan to stage all of Verdi’s operas with the seldom heard Jérusalem.

Farther afield, an old opera hand like myself was able see a lot of rare works, many in superb productions, from Weber’s Euryanthe to Donizetti’s Les Martyrs and Torquato Tasso.  There was as always the summer festival devoted to Rossini in Italy, an annual pilgrimage. 

We’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne
...and 2015

As always at the birthing of a new year, there is hope, operatically too.

The Met seems to be on a stable footing and promises the Santa Fe production of Rossini’s Donna del lago in the spring with a truly stellar cast.  They are also performing one of those strange yokings of one-acters, with Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta (with Netrebko) and  Bluebeard’s Castle.  I have seen the Iolanta production (in Russia) and did not like it much, but the music is so glorious that I am delighted that the Met is doing it for the first time ever.

idomeneoOpera Colorado has announced that they are on a stable financial footing, and they are doing The Magic Flute, a favorite of mine among the standard works.  San Diego Opera is back in a big way and the future seems bright.  There are even powerful rumors of the return of New York City Opera.  Small companies, regional opera and university productions seem as interesting as ever.  CSU’s Ralph Opera Center plans Mozart’s Idomeneo for the spring: Idomeno! not Marriage of Figaro or The Barber of Seville.  The Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver is doing Nicolai’s Merry Wives of Windsor, a tuneful delight which is not very well known outside of Germany.  Down in Albuquerque, Opera Southwest is continuing its innovation with plans to perform several unusual Rossini operas over the next few years. 

Among the summer festivals, Santa Fe Opera will perform a Mozart rarity, La finta giardiniera, an opera which has enjoyed some revivals in spirited productions recently, along with the world premiere of Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain.  Central City Opera plans La traviata, which normally would not excite me much, but the Violetta does.  I saw Ellie Dehn last summer in Euryanthe, and I was much impressed.  Central City is trying innovative things too, with a series of one act works spread out in various Colorado cities.  One is very old--Boismortier’s Don Quixote and the Duchess; one is very new--Lera Auerbach’s The Blind; and one is a fairly unknown work by a twentieth century master--Britten’s The Prodigal Son.  Innovative opera planning.  Over on the East Coast, the Glimmerglass Festival will do a complete rarity by Vivaldi, Cato in Utica.

In other words, there is every reason to hope that the worst has passed in regard to the challenges that many opera companies face.  Perhaps along with falling gas prices and a rising economy, our little niche will rise too.  As discouraging as things sometimes seem, this is the golden age of opera, with more works from more eras available in more opera houses than ever before--and that doesn’t count the Live in HD, the DVD’s, the CD’s, the Metropolitan channel on Sirius radio, the streamed content on the internet, and even the old fashioned Saturday morning broadcasts on the radio.

Do you like bel canto as I do?  There are far more bel canto operas at our fingertips (or maybe, earlobes) than was the case in Naples or Milan or Venice in 1830.  Are you a Wagner fan?  There are more Rings around than ever, and you can have your Siegfrieds with or without copulating alligators.  Tristans and Lohengrins are done from Sidney to Savonlinna.  Wagner could only dream of such a wealth of his music on display.  Baroque music?  Handel is everywhere, and there is a splendid new album by Cecilia Bartoli of lost baroque operatic music from Russia, of all places.  Just as there is a spectacular new CD of “lost” bel canto works by Joyce DiDonato.

It is worth noting that opera has faced financial problems since Jacopo Peri produced Dafne in 1598.  Opera house bankruptcies and impresarios skipping out without paying their singers were common enough to be the subject of comedies by Donizetti, Cagnoni and many others.  And yet the art form has struggled on and grown.  With today’s healthy contingent of young singers and our universities and conservatories full of talent, the future is hopeful. 

All the problems we saw in 2014 aren’t over (and never will be), but 2015 is full of hope and promising performances of a great and satisfying art which is always renewing itself.

November 17, 2014

puccini0Puccini’s Il trittico (The Triptych), first performed at the Metropolitan Opera almost one hundred years ago on Dec. 14, 1918, consisted of three one act operas, all distinct.  The first, according to Puccini’s scheme was Il tabarro (The Cloak), a verismo-flavored work of violence set in Paris; second was Suor Angelica, a tragic work set in a convent with an all-female cast, and with a mystic ending; third was Gianni Schicchi, a commedia dell’arte influenced comic work with a plot that comes down to us thanks to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  From the beginning, Gianni Schicchi was the most popular of the three, and it boasted the only truly hit tune, Lauretta’s “O mio babbino caro,” which has become one of the most instantly recognizable melodies in opera.  Soon after the world premiere in New York, followed by the Italian premiere in Rome, directors started to break up the triptych and perform one or two of the operas, often with another opera by another composer, or even with a ballet.  Puccini didn’t like it, but he grudgingly agreed.  Gianni Schicchi was the most frequently performed, followed by Suor Angelica.

Gianni Schicchi, Puccini’s only comic opera, is a masterpiece.  Suor Angelica takes a long time to get down to cases with its depiction of the simple life in the convent, but when it finally does, with the arrival of the Zia Principessa, the Biggest Bitch in Opera, it becomes more and more beautiful and moving up to the tragic end.  I saw a production of Il tabarro in Ireland just a couple of weeks ago, and as a work, it has little to recommend it.  Toscanini, who was in the audience at the Rome premiere, found it disgusting, causing a rift with Puccini.  It is a hard opera to like.

At CSU’s Ralph Opera Center, it was decided to do Gianni Schicchi first and follow it with Suor Angelica, dropping Il tabarro altogether.  Not a bad plan, but I would have preferred ending with the comedy, as Puccini intended.

Gianni Schicchi is such a Florentine story that it is hard for me to divorce it from the city on the Arno, but Tiffany Blake was certainly not the first to give it another setting--Florence, New Jersey, in this case.  The story comes from Dante, the archetypal Florentine poet; Dante was married to Gemma Donati, a relative of Buoso Donati, the dead man whom Schicchi impersonates in order to fraudulently change his will.  Apparently the incident really happened, and Dante puts Schicchi way down in hell for it in his Inferno, among the false impersonators.  The libretto of the opera, by Giovacchino Forzano, has all kinds of references to Florence and the Tuscan towns nearby--Prato, Empoli, Signa, and others.  Rinuccio’s tenor aria “Firenze è un albero fiorito” (“Florence is a flowering tree”) is almost a love letter to the city and the references to the city’s famous skyline are a romantic antidote to the behavior of the characters.  Puccini himself was born down the road from Florence in Lucca.

Moving the opera from its Florentine setting robs the opera of some of its romance for me; having lived and worked in the city of Dante and Leonardo and Michelangelo for many years, I have a special fondness for it. However, it seemed to work for the audience, many of whom laughed at all the references to places in New Jersey even as the singers sang about the Italian towns in the libretto.  Buoso Donati’s “mills in Signa” became a “casino in Atlantic City” and the lovers will throw themselves in the Hudson, and not the Arno.  The libretto ends with a reference to Dante too, as Gianni addresses the audience:

For this bit of craziness
I've been chased down to the inferno... and so be it;
but with permission from our great father Dante,
if you've enjoyed yourselves this evening,
give me...
your applause!

The translated titles left that reference to Florence's great poet out too.


puccini2In fact this was the Jersey Shore Schicchi, with the usual caricatures of Italian Americans in a super tacky New Jersey of the 1970’s.  Florence, New Jersey, to be specific.  I think every state must have a “Florence” (including Colorado), but I had never heard of Florence, NJ, though it exists somewhere south of Trenton.  The set was Italian-American tacky with pictures of Jesus and the Last Supper cheek by jowl with nudes, and the ugliest bed I have ever seen with a huge horse’s head on the headboard, reminding me, at least, of The Godfather (1972), and the famous scene of the decapitated horse’s head.  Zannah Gurvich did the honors in kitsch sets and Maile Speetjens did the equally (intentionally) awful costumes.  When the notary comes in with two witnesses from the working class along with a mute Indian, it was a reference to The Village People, a 1970’s disco band, according to my daughter, a child of the ’70’s.  I didn’t get it myself, nor, I suspect, did most of the student audience, too young to recall “Y.M.C.A.”  But it was another exercise in comic tackiness. 

The production itself was wonderfully well rehearsed, a true ensemble piece where everything worked like clockwork, though some of the Italian diction was more Larimer than Tuscany.  All of the singing-actors were great on stage and blond, curly-haired Pablo Romero sang Rinuccio’s romantic tenor with real sweetness.  Marissa Rudd looked great as the innocent Lauretta, and her rendering of the hit aria “O mio babbino caro” was lovely.  Justin Little was funny as the “old” Simone and Dana Kinney’s Zita was an hilarious study in super tacky.  Most of the many roles (15) were double cast, and everyone worked together extremely well when I saw it on November 16.

Suor Angelica focuses more on a single singer than Schicchi does, the Sister Angelica of the title, even though there are a lot of roles (13) for an array of singers.  Our Angelica was the powerful-voiced Carolyn Höhle.  She has real potential and often displayed beautiful tone along with her obvious power.  She rose to the occasion dramatically too, in her heartbreaking aria “Senza mamma.”  The other main soloist here is her cruel aunt, the Princess (Zia Principessa) who was sung and acted superbly by Karoline Barnett.  Hers is almost a contralto voice, and her cold demeanor fitted the part to a tee.


For the production, Ms. Blake decided to change the ending a little bit.  In the original, Angelica’s little son has died, a fact cruelly conveyed to her by the Princess, who wants her to sign over her inheritance to her sister who is getting married.  At the end, Angelica takes poison and as she dies, she has a mystical vision of the Virgin Mary and her son welcoming her to paradise.  In the CSU version, the Princess has lied to Angelica, and the son is not dead.  At the end, as Angelica herself is dying, the Princess leads in the little boy, and as Angelica stretches out her hand towards him, she dies.  I guess the point was to get rid of the mystical, religious ending, but it is hard to get away from the fact that Suor Angelica is a piece that has Christian religion in its bones.  The beautiful original also includes a children’s choir and male chorus singers along with the nuns for the vision of Paradise.  I don’t think I detected that in the CSU production, but it was all very beautiful and moving nonetheless. 

Once again, the ensemble and choral work was very good.  (I have to note that Höhle and Barnett’s Italian was pretty good too.)  And for both operas, the CSU Opera Orchestra under conductor Wes Kenney was very good indeed.  A great deal of the musical pleasure and genius in both operas is in the marvelous orchestration, and that came through right down to the bird twitter on the flute in Schicchi.  It was an afternoon well spent.

November 15, 2014

My friend Richard Beams and I made this Fall, 2014, trip to Europe principally to visit the Wexford Festival and to see three Donizetti rarities--Les Martyrs, Torquato Tasso, and Betly.  But as it fell out, we were in London at a time we could see the final performance of Verdi's I due Foscari at Covent Garden with Placido Domingo, and a rare Dvorak opera, The Cunning Peasant.  Then, on the way to Bergamo, we stopped off for a night in Milan to see Verdi's Simon Boccanegra at La Scala.

Verdi wrote two operas about doges, those rulers of the maritime republics of Venice and Genoa.  I due Foscari concerns a tragic doge of Venice and his son, "the two Foscari" of the title.  Placido Domingo, in his current state of baritone-ness was finishing a run of this rarely done Verdi opera which began in Los Angeles two years ago; back then, in October of 2012, I saw an early performance, and on October 2, 2014, I saw the last.  In the meantime  the production by Thaddeus Strassburger has toured to Barcelona and Vienna.  Domingo must like doges, because no sooner had the run ended in London, he flew off to Milan (but I am sure he was not in Ryanair Cattle Class as we were) to perform a series of Simon Boccanegra's--another opera about a tragic doge, this one a doge of Genoa.  We did not see Domingo in Boccanegra; we got the alternate cast with Leo Nucci, almost as much of a veteran as Domingo, Carmen Giannattasio as his long lost daughter Amelia, Alexander Tsymbalyuk as Jacopo Fiesco, Vitaliy Bilyy as Paolo, and Ramon Vargas as Gabriele Adorno.  

It is just as well that Mr. Domingo was not singing the night we went to Boccanegra because his voice sounded frayed and wavery to me in Foscari.  Two years ago I wrote a short essay-review about the latter opera, and I won't repeat that, but I found Domingo in astonishing voice then, even if Domingo-as-baritone has a tenorial quality to the voice.  I found his performance on that occasion to be moving and thoroughly convincing.  Two years later he is still convincing, particularly in the final scene when he has lost everything, but the voice was not there on 2 November.  (A friend in London who saw a live cinecast a few days before did find Domingo in good voice; I think it is quite likely that at age 73 his ability to sound like he did thirty years ago is an on and off affair.  When I saw him this time, he was off.)  Domingo was partnered, as in L.A., by tenor Francesco Meli as the younger Foscari, and his strong, dulcet voice has grown better in the intervening years.  The wife of the younger Foscari, Lucrezia, was sung in London by strong-voiced Maria Agresta (in L.A. she had been Marina Poplavskaya).  She certainly filled the house with solid coloratura, but I do not find that her voice offers much color.  Renato Balsadonna conducted with conviction.  Most in the packed audience had come to hear Domingo, and it didn’t seem to matter that he was not in very good voice; the applause for him was fulsome and long.  Of course he deserves it on the strength of who he is and what he has done for almost fifty years on stage, if not on the strength of his performance on November 2. 

foscariThaddeus Strassburger's production is dark and filled with scenes of torture, and includes a fire-eater and an acrobat.  I think he tried to give some sense of movement to what is a static, overwhelmingly dark opera.  Lord Byron, who wrote the play that I due Foscari is based on, did not intend for it to be staged: it is a closet drama.  Verdi should probably have heeded his advice and looked elsewhere for a libretto.

The Genoese Doge-opera that we saw at La Scala was by far the worst opera of this trip.  It was competently sung (and more than that by Ms. Giannattasio), but it was so dull I kept falling asleep. Simon Boccanegra needs great dark voices, and Nucci is past his prime, Tsymbalyuk’s voice is neither deep nor resonant enough to bring off “Il lacerato spirito,” and Ramon Vargas, sadly, can’t really sing any more.

Tickets at La Scala are expensive.  I had tried to keep it reasonable so that my wife would not kill me, and bought a ticket in the second row of a second tier box.  If I had had to sit in that $150 seat, I could not have seen the stage at all.  As it was, the only other occupant of the box was a Russian lady, and she moved to another box at the first opportunity.  I had the whole box to myself, and could sleep at ease without worrying about disturbing anyone should I snore.  In fact, the whole house was only half full.

The 2010 production by Federico Tiezzi was not very compelling, but it was not so bad either.  It was set in the fourteenth century which is when the story takes place, but at the end the chorus comes up on risers dressed in costumes of the time of the opera's revision, around 1880.  Then a large mirror drops which reflects the orchestra and the audience in the theater.  I think the point was that the opera is meaningful whether you are in the 1300's, the 1800's or the 2000's.  Duh....

boccanegraBut the production was not the problem; it was that no one seemed to care.  All of the protagonists marched to the front of the stage, planted their feet, and sang directly to the audience.  Even in a love duet, or the touching father-daughter duet, the singers rarely pretended that the other person was there at all.  It was so...well, dull.  Maybe  the performances with Domingo would have been better, but I have my doubts.  The orchestra was dull too; the playing was correct under Stefano Ranzani, but there was no excitement.  Not that any of this stopped the protagonists from milking the curtain calls endlessly, even though the sparse audience was mostly gone.  When the conductor came on for his curtain call, he went over to ask the orchestra to rise.  Two or three violinists stood up; the rest had already left.  I'm not sure when the curtain calls all ended because I too had left by that time.  Talk about not getting your money's worth, and this is supposed to be one of the world's great opera houses.

So the doges were mostly a wipe out, but what was not was that unknown, unheralded comic piece by Dvorak, performed by students from the Guildhall Music School in London.  I didn't know what to expect, since I did not know the opera at all; in fact I hadn't  even  heard of it before a friend suggested we go.  I had already bought a ticket to see Idomeneo  at Covent Garden that night, but I have seen Idomeneo, and I had never seen The Cunning Peasant, so I was able to turn the CG ticket in for a refund.  Am I glad I did!  The regietheater production of Idomeneo received terrible reviews and what was described in one of them as an unrelenting wave of boo's (that might have been fun to join in).  It was set in 1999 or maybe 1979, and had something to do with a cult worshiping Neptune and a ritual involving a large plastic shark: Jaws meets Idomeneo.  Poor Mozart!

And while the director Marin Kusej was busy trashing Mozart with plastic sharks over at Covent Garden, where tickets started at around $100 and went through the roof, I was over at the Guildhall having a wonderful time watching a very professional, well rehearsed and well sung production of The Cunning Peasant at $24 for a top price seat!

With the exception of Rusalka, Dvorak's operas are almost completely unknown outside of his native land, but he wrote ten of them, and The Cunning Peasant falls right in the middle, at number 5.  It is a mature work and comes a year before the Slavonic Dances, in 1877.  It owes a great deal musically to Smetana's Bartered Bride and is brimful of folk melodies and dances.  The libretto, by the young Josef Otakar Veselý owes a lot to The Bartered Bride too, and also to Mozart's Marriage of Figaro.  A peasant girl named Bathsheba (I am going to use the English names that the production used and not the Czech originals) wants to marry her impecunious lover Joseph, but her father is pushing for her to marry the rich Reuben.  Meanwhile the Duke and Duchess come to town and the former immediately starts scheming about how he can bed the pretty Bathsheba.  His valet John is also smitten by Bathsheba, and makes lewd proposals to her in spite of his wife's presence.  In the end, the two wives (the Duchess and John's wife) agree to a plot hatched by the "cunning peasant," Gabriel's servant Victoria.  The two wives disguise themselves as Bathsheba and their husbands make advances towards them in the dark thinking they are she (shades of the end of Figaro).  John winds up headfirst in a barrel, reminiscent of Falstaff, probably via Nicolai's opera, The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Finally, the abashed Duke declares that Bathsheba can marry Joseph, and gives him land and a farm so that her father approves.

For some reason the Guildhall production director Stephen Medcalf told us in a note that he had decided to move the locale from Bohemia to "Thomas Hardy's Wessex," the imaginary part of England that Hardy populated with characters in several of his novels.   The characters' names were all changed from the Czech, and some to Hardy character names from Far From the Madding Crowd.  During the overture, we were given a mute scene of a young family being evicted from their house, another Hardy touch.  None of this had anything to do with the opera, and I don't know what the point was, because the opera itself proceeded on its merry way in nineteenth century peasant costumes that might have suggested Hardy novels, but might just as well have been from 1870's Bohemia.  Dvorak's work certainly did not need a Hardy underpinning, and mostly, after the overture, forgot about it.  

Musically, this opera was an absolute delight, a through-composed succession of dances and arias and ensembles which dance off the page.  In fact there are more ensembles, duets, trios and choral numbers than set piece arias.  This is a work of a composer in the full plenitude of his maturity.  Some have opined that the work is not so good on the stage because of the derivative libretto, but it seemed fine to me, no worse than many another comic opera.  The director staged the piece with a set out of the fantastic landscape of an early Disney cartoon, with two "peasant" houses that seemed to bend and teeter.  Francis O'Conner was the designer.


Everyone was very well rehearsed and enthusiastic, as often happens with student productions.  Some of the roles in the four performance run were double cast, and we got Alison Rose on November 3 as Bathsheba (Bètuška in the original).  She was very good and a lovely actress, especially in the long love duet with her Joseph (Lawrence Thackeray), a very appealing peasant lover.  Her harsh father Gabriel (aka Martin) was a blustery David Shipley, and Robin Bailey played the disliked Reuben (Václav).  There was an odd note here in that Reuben was played as a Jew, complete with yamaka, black hat and black overcoat.  I did not get the point, and I don’t think he is Jewish in the original.  In the original, the Duke and Duchess are a Prince and Princess, here the lusting Rick Zwart and the lovely Alison Langer.  Alisa Mainwaring was Victoria (Veruna), Gabriel’s snooping housekeeper who manages the plot and is the “cunning peasant” of the title.  John Findon was the valet John and his angry wife was Anna Gillingham. 


As can be seen, this opera calls for many roles and is very much an ensemble work while giving the opportunity to many people to shine.  And shine they did!  The fine student orchestra was conducted by Dominic Wheeler.  The Czech work was done in a funny English translation by Clive Timms, and everyone sang clearly enough to be understood.  There were no titles, and none were needed.  There is a lot of dancing in The Cunning Peasant, and it was consistently well choreographed (by Sarah Fahie) and well executed by the large chorus as well as a few featured dancers.  The best was a delightful spring maypole dance/chorus.

Musically and dramatically this unknown comedy was a delight, the sets were amusing, the direction spirited and the orchestra super.  The evening sped by without a single drooping eyelid.  There are times when major opera houses (Covent Garden, La Scala) can mount operas by a major composer (Verdi) with famous singers (Domingo, Nucci) and still fall flat, while a well-thought out production of an unknown opera by students that nobody has heard of can really sing and take off.  The two operas at the famous houses cost me over $250, while the student performance was a bargain $24.  My wife always tells me that finding a great bargain is 90% of the fun, and she’s right.

November 14, 2014

Each year the Bergamo Music Festival in Donizetti's home city presents several operatic works which focus on their most famous citizen.  The Festival is usually split into two sets of performances, a month or two  apart, and last September they produced Lucia di Lammermoor and Betly.  In the first weeks of November came a repeat of the one-act Betly and a new production of the composer's Torquato Tasso.  I saw Tasso on 9 and 11 of November and Betly on the 10th.  Both works utilized new critical editions prepared by the Fondazione Donizetti.

Torquato Tasso

tasso1Surprisingly, Torquato Tasso is the only Italian opera I am aware of which centers on a famous artistic figure the way that Berlioz' Bevenuto Cellini does in France, or Wagner's Meistersinger does in Germany.  The libretto, by Jacopo Ferretti deals with the impossible love of Tasso, author of Jerusalem Delivered, for Eleanora, the sister of Duke Alfonso II d'Este in Ferrara, and the author's subsequent imprisonment for madness.  It ends when Tasso is released from prison after seven years to travel to Rome so that he can be named poet laureate.  Tasso's confinement in a hospital for the insane is historically true and so is the plan to crown him poet laureate, although it never came to fruition because Tasso died in Rome before the ceremony could be held.  Modern medical sources believe that Tasso was bipolar because although he suffered from what his age called "madness" and melancholy, he was always able to function and write, and he often acted normally.  Tasso did fall in love with (or write love poems to) Lucrezia Bendido, a lady in waiting to Eleanora d'Este, and he was close friends with the older Eleanora, but a love relationship with her is probably fanciful.

Tasso's paternal family came from Bergamo, although he was born in Sorrento (his father Bernardo Tasso was a diplomat and poet himself); he spent much of his life in Ferrara and died in Rome.  In Bergamo, there is a Piazza Tasso, and my friend Rich Beams and I prepared for the opera by having dinner at the Café Tasso, a dinner which ended with "Tortu Donizzet," "Donizetti Cake" in the local Bergamasque dialect.

Jacopo Ferretti's libretto dates from 1833, a year when Donizetti produced an astonishing four operas plus one rewrite of an earlier score: Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo, Parisina, Lucrezia Borgia and TassoIl furioso and Tasso are unusual in several ways--each includes a scene of madness for the male protagonist, each has a comic element, and in each the protagonist is a baritone.  (Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo, based on an episode from Don Quixote, means "The Madman on the Island of Santo Domingo.")  Interestingly, both experimental libretti are by Ferretti.  Torquato Tasso is not only about the relationship of the poet to the sister of the Duke, but perhaps even more it is about the backbiting and backstabbing that goes on in the gossipy court of Ferrara.  And ultimately, it is about the triumph of art over petty temporal concerns.  At the end, when Tasso has been imprisoned for seven years, he is about to be freed to go to Rome, and all he can think of is that now he is worthy of Eleanora.  Alas, he learns that Eleanora has in the meantime died.  After lamenting her passing, he ends the opera with  a tragic cabaletta (an oddity in itself), beginning in a lamenting minor key, and turning triumphant only in the final line: "Si: dell'onore al grido/Volo del Trebbo al lido.../Non vi sdegnate, O Cesari;/V'è un lauro ancor per me" ("Yes: at the call of honor/I fly to the shores of the Tiber.../Do not be offended, O Caesars;/There is also a laurel crown for me").  Art finally trumps everything else.


Oddly, almost everyone else in the opera aside from Eleanora d'Este is a traitor to Tasso in some way.  The tenor (Roberto Geraldini) is reprehensible because he pretends to be Tasso's friend, but he is jealous of his talent and the favor he gets at court; Don Gherardo, a self-important courtier and gossip is a buffo bass and he has comic arias, very much in the patter style to be found in Elisir or Don Pasquale.  He is jealous of Tasso because he thinks the poet loves the Countess of Scandiano, whose name is also Eleanora.  That Eleanora intrigues against Tasso's relationship with the sister of the Duke, because she wants him for herself so that she can be made immortal by Tasso's poetry.  So this is an opera semiseria, but an unusual one: a serious, even tragic, opera which boasts a strong comic, buffo element, has a tenor villain, and a baritone hero who ends the opera with a long prison scene where people believe he is mad.  It is not the kind of nineteenth century Italian opera we are used to! 

Musically, Tasso is variable.  Some of it is second-drawer Donizetti, as one might expect from a year when he produced three other new works and a revision.  But the best of Torquato Tasso is on a level with the best of Donizetti, including Eleanora d'Este's beautiful entrance aria "Io l'udia ne' suoi bei carmi" ("I heard in his beautiful verses") followed by the rousing cabaletta "Trono e corona involami" ("Take my crown and my throne").  Also great is all of Act III, which is an extended scena for Tasso, his sort-of mad scene, and of course there are the great ensembles which serve as finales for Acts I and II.  The buffo patter arias with chorus are also very good, and funny.

As far as I am aware the only existing recording of Torquato Tasso memorializes live performances which took place in various Italian towns in 1985 with Luciana Serra, Simone Alaimo and Ernesto Palacio.  Massimo de Bernart conducted.  That recording opens with a long sinfonia (overture).  The new critical edition shows that this nine and a half minute passage was not by Donizetti, and was apparently concocted by Maestro de Bernart.  There is no real overture, and this is just one change that the new edition has brought to light.  There is a lot of music here--about three hours worth, even if there is no overture, there are a lot of orchestral passages.  Almost every scene, even every aria, has an extended, interesting orchestral introduction to set the mood.  As always, Donizetti lavishes melodic riches on the score, many of them only phrases or ariosos which are heard briefly and then pass away.  Professional video was being made of both performances, so I would guess that a DVD will be forthcoming.


Bergamo's new production was directed by Federico Bertolani, with sets and costumes by Angelo Sala and Alfredo Corno, respectively.  The costumes and sets were all in black and white with red accents: the male chorus was dressed in black as were most of the courtiers.  Eleanora was given a white gown while Tasso's black leather pants and doublet trimmed in red made him look like a Renaissance biker who had left his Harley at the palace  gate.  The villain Roberto got black pants and a white doublet.  I am not sure about the symbolism (bipolarity?), but the costumes correctly  placed the time in the sixteenth century.  The stylized, color-coded sets and costumes were matched by stylized, slow movement by all the participants, who moved glacially even when the music said 'be excited' or 'hurry up'.  The sets included massive black columns for rooms in the Duke's court, white shrubbery and a white statue for Act II's "Garden."  There were tall red bars for the prison.  Pages and pages of manuscript were scattered across the stage, apparently alluding to Tasso's work as a writer.  When love was the subject, red sheets of paper dropped from above.  Not too subtle, but not too distracting either.  There was very little attempt to act beyond standard operatic gestures and poses, but perhaps that was intentional and part of the stylized approach.


Of the singers, I particularly liked Marzio Giossi as the buffo Don Gherardo.  He was a master of agile-tongued patter, and had a good comic voice; he was also the only singer to give point and skill to the acting.  Gilda Fiume was fine as Eleanora d'Este; she has a firm voice, good in the high ranges with adequate coloratura, but I can't get the wonderful version of her entrance aria sung by Montserrat Caballe on a Donizetti arias album of long ago out of my mind.  Leo An, a Korean baritone was the only non-Italian in the cast.  His Tasso was a mixed bag; sometimes his voice was deep and resonant, but at other times he had difficulty with the higher range, and his voice seemed to come from the head and not the chest.  He has been singing a lot of Rigoletto's lately, and that is a natural progression from this role.  It was really Donizetti, more than any other composer, who established the modern baritone as a separate voice category, with the help of Giorgio Ronconi, his first Tasso, who went on to premiere six other Donizetti operas between 1833 and 1843.  Giorgio Misseri as Roberto Geraldini started strongly, but faded and seemed to alternate between a strong, pleasant tenor and a pinched tenorino sound.  The cast was rounded out by Annunziata Vestri as the other Eleanora and Gabriele Sagona as the Duke.  Overall, the singing was at a competent provincial level.  Sebastiano Rolli led the orchestra enthusiastically, a reading torpedoed occasionally by extremely wayward horn playing--and the horn has a lot exposed writing in the prelude to the final act.

It has been said, and I think it may be true, that Donizetti in 1833 saw himself in the character of Torquato Tasso.  He is the artist who perhaps as early as 1833 foresaw the end to his own life in syphilis-induced madness and bi-polarity. In the end, what remains is the art.  I don't think that Torquato Tasso will ever enter the repertory, but it is an interesting and unusual piece, and worth doing on occasion.  Tasso's final aria-cabaletta is a strong forecast of the anti-cabaletta which ends Lucrezia Borgia or even Edgardo's final cabaletta in Lucia di Lammermoor.


The other offering at the BMF this week was Donizetti's delightful 1836 one-act opera, Betly.  Donizetti himself wrote the libretto for this work which premiered at Naples' Teatro Nuovo on 21 August, 1836, less than three months after its companion piece Il campanello di notte (The Night Bell) had premiered at the same theater. Il campanello, also a one act opera with libretto by Donizetti, had been a big hit, and the composer determined to capitalize on its success and follow it up with a similar comedy.  For the source, he turned to Scribe's libretto for Adolphe Adam's opera Le châlet.  Curiously, both Betly and Torquato Tasso ultimately trace their roots to plays by Goethe, Torquato Tasso to Goethe's play of the same name and Betly to Goethe's singspiel Jery und BätelyBetly, o la capanna svizzera (Betly, or the Swiss Hut) was not so successful at its first outing and Donizetti soon revised it; it had more success at its second coming out in September, 1837, at the Teatro del Fondo in Naples.

Betly is a strong-willed young woman and owner-operator of the "capanna svizzera," or a small, simple châlet or hostel in Appenzell, Switzerland.  She is beloved by Daniele, a local lad.  When the opera opens, the villagers have played a cruel trick on Daniele by sending him a forged letter from Betly, declaring that she will finally agree to marry him.  He orders champagne all around for that night's celebration.  But when Betly arrives, she tells Daniele right away that he's crazy and must be the butt of a joke.  In despair, Daniele goes out to join the army and soon comes across a company of soldiers.  He tells the sergeant his sad tale, not realizing that the sergeant is none other than Max, Betly's older brother who has been away for fifteen years.  Max decides to help Daniele, and takes his troops to Betly's châlet; they cause havoc, raid the wine cellar and accost the women.  Betly asks Daniele for help, and he is only too willing to oblige, even though he is a shy and modest fellow.  Max challenges Daniele to a duel, and when the alarmed Betly tries to stop it, the only way out is to agree to marry him.  She goes inside to get the marriage agreement, and hopes it will work since it will need to be signed by her long lost brother, Max.  Of course Max agrees to sign, reveals who he is, and all ends happily.


If this sounds a little like L'elisir d'amore, written in 1832, well--yes it does.  The Swiss setting gives Donizetti the chance to write some "Swiss" or Tyrollean yodeling music with Betly's tuneful  entrance  aria "In questo semplice, modesto asilo," ("In this simple, modest dwelling"), but for the most part the score slides from one tuneful number to the next.  Max's entrance aria "Ti vedo, ti bacio" closely resembles Belcore's "Come Paride vezzosa," from Elisir d'amore, but is even closer to Count Rodolfo's "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni" in Bellini's La sonnambula, another opera with a Swiss mountain village setting.  There is a drinking chorus that sounds like it owes a lot to Comte Ory.  However that may be, for an hour and twenty minutes of ravishing melody and just plain fun divorced from the troubles of the world, it would be hard to do better.


The BMF production by Luigi Barilone changed the "simple, modest" hostel to a grand spa hotel in the Alps, circa 1928.  The stage set relied on projections of posters from that era advertising Switzerland, and a couple of sofas were the only props.  Daniele was dressed in a golfer's sporting outfit from the '20's and Betly arrived carrying a pair of vintage skis.  Chorus members were dressed as bellhops and waiters at the de luxe hotel, and women wore flapper-style dresses and hair-dos.  The Italian name for Betly's simple châlet, La Capanna Svizzera was changed to the German equivalent, Die Schweitzer Hütte.  I didn't think it did any damage to the story, and the large contingent of Swiss opera lovers in the audience, who had come to Bergamo to see these rarities, chuckled at it.   Betly's message of a strong willed woman who cowers and needs a man to protect her at the first hint of trouble might not sit well with today's feminists, so at the end, while Betly sings her charming rondo-finale, Daniele has his tuxedo removed and is dressed in the red bell-hop costume: he might be marrying Betly, but there is no doubt he is going to work for her too, and he will start at the bottom.


Betly is an opera that requires only three singers, plus chorus.  Our Betly (the two performances were double cast) was Linda Campanella.  She was pert and acted well, but she was obviously too old for Daniele--more like his mother than his lover.  Vocally she held her own.  Daniele was Angelo Scardina, a young tenor who was funny, but not really the Nemorino-like village bumpkin with a good heart that he is intended to be.  I did not find his tenor very mellifluous.  Max, Vittorio Prato, though suffering from a cold, sang well with a smooth legato for "Ti vedo, ti bacio."  The chorus and orchestra of the Bergamo Academy and Bergamo Music Fesival did their part under Maestro Giovanni Battista Rigon, but it sounded as if that wayward horn player was back with this group too.

Like Torquato Tasso, Betly was performed in a new critical edition of the original 1836 score with spoken dialogue.  The music mostly sounded familiar to me, but there were passages where a melody had been changed somewhat for the revised version I had heard before--made more bright or given a more particular orchestration, or at least it sounded so to me.  I have seen Betly only once before, several years ago in Modena.  It deserves more frequent performances than that.  Given the limited resources needed and the constant tunefulness of the score, it would be a perfect vehicle for college or conservatory performance.  Or as one half of a full evening with Il campanello or Rita or Il giovedì grasso--all charming Donizetti one-acters.

Betly was performed in the lovely, restored Teatro Sociale, a theater in the upper city of Bergamo (the older, medieval town, where Donizetti was born is on a hilltop and is called Città Alta; the newer city, where the larger Teatro Donizetti--venue for Tasso--is located lies below on the plain and is called Città Bassa).  The Teatro Sociale dates from 1809 and saw performances of many operas by Simone Mayr, Donizetti, Mercadante and others.  European Union arts funds have led to its restoration, and it is a little gem.  The ceiling was not restored, and so the opera-goer looks up to the original wooden beams that support the roof high above the tiers of boxes.

Our 6 PM performance of Betly was over by about 7:30.  (Before the opera started buffo bass Gabriele Sagona performed a newly discovered buffo aria with orchestra by Donizetti, "O donne, e perchè siete"; it was evidently composed to insert into an opera by another, older composer, given the eighteenth century style.  It was a delight.) 

This year the BMF made announcements in both Italian and English and projected surtitles were in both languages too, a concession to the growing international importance of the Festival.  The numbers of foreigners in attendance was happily announced by the management, and there were busloads of German, Swiss and Austrian opera lovers as well as a scattering of people from France, England and America.

When the opera ended several of us walked down through the rain to the Agnolo d'Oro, an old fashioned inn which might have doubled for Betly's Swiss chalet.  It was bright and welcoming in the rainy night, hung with dozens of gleaming copper pots and with all kinds of bric-a-brac decorating the shelves.  There we dug into our farewell Bergamo dinner--luscious plates of casonsei alla bergamasca, a meat stuffed pasta served with bits of bacon, sage and butter, or foiada, broad pasta noodles cut in odd shapes and served with a sauce of sausage and porcini mushrooms.  There was steaming polenta taragna mixed with melted cheeses and served with coils of sausage or a rabbit stew, and a delicious local wine, Valcalepio.  All of this is peasant fare in the Bergamo area, and hearty fare it is.  Switzerland is nearby, and one could imagine Betly bringing the plates of food to the table in her châlet, pursued by Daniele, now a husband and a bellhop.  Discovering Donizetti is even better when followed by Italian food and wine!  The rumor is that next year's Festival will include Anna Bolena and the very rarely done Il paria (The Pariah).  I hope to be back. 


Donizetti's les Martyrs in Concert  November 4, 2014

Wexford Festival Opera November 4, 2014

Hamlet Comes Back to Life in Albuquerque October 26, 2014

Verdi's Macbeth

Autumn Leaves, September 21, 2014

Follies in Fort Collins September 10, 2014

The Sea, the Sun, Branzino and Rossini  August 27, 2014

Five Tenors, One Girl and a Desert Island: Armida Comes to Pesaro  August 21, 2014

Rossini's Aurielano Goes Forth (With Goats)  August 19, 2014

Euryanthe at Bard's Summerfest  August 7, 2014

Manon Goes to the Movies  July 27, 2014

Buckets of Gold: Colorado Summer Opera II  July 21, 2014

Buckets of Gold: Colorado Summer Opera I  July 11, 2014

A Letter From Fly-Over (HD Broadcast) Territory  June 21, 2014

Coda  May 15, 2014

I Puritani Times Two  May 8, 2014

Women Are Like That  May 6, 2014

Ancient Heroes: Hercules and Persée in Toronto  May 6, 2014

Javier Mania: A Cinderfella Story  May 1, 2014

Bel Cant Bungle: Roberto Devereux in Toronto  April 29, 2014

Death in San Diego?  April 21, 2014

The Voice of Dulcinèe: Massenet’s Don Quichotte Returns to San Diego  April 15, 2014

Verdi and Wagner, 'Nel Mezzo del Cammin'  March 18, 2014

Operalogue I: Met Trilogy  March 12, 2014

Colorado Confection  March 3, 2014

A Kansas Tell  February 25, 2014

Fairy Tales and Fol-de-Rol in Colorado  12 February 2014

Book Review: Bel Canto Bully