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Archive for the ‘Opera’ Category

Halfway through Women’s History Month, I figured I would pay tribute to two women I adore – two variations on the concept of a Queen of the Night.

First up, Diana Damrau launched her career on playing the Queen in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, easily rupturing eardrums with powerful upper notes in the iconic role.

Following up, my dear Nippy, Whitney Houston goes all Rachel Marron with her performance of Queen of the Night from her legendary The Bodyguard.

Sing on, ladies.  Queens indeed.

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Since President’s Day is really a celebration of two presidents, I figured I’d post two musical highlights.

First up is the iconic “Happy Birthday” from Marilyn Monroe to President Kennedy.

One more after the jump.

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I’ve seen her stop the show twice (on the same night) as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

I’ve seen her in that same run as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte.

I’ve seen her go breathtakingly lovesick and mad in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor.

I’ve seen her commit virtual suicide as Gilda in Rigoletto.

I’ve seen her sing with the Met Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, where she performed Grossmächtige Prinzessin (from Ariadne auf Naxos) twice and had five returns to the stage due to applause.

And now, I’ve seen Diana Damrau take the stage as the title fille, Marie, in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at the Met.

And she was, as expected, lustrous, dynamic, and her usual magnificent self.  One of the more skilled actors in opera, particularly at the “name” level, Damrau gave yet another excellent performance.  While the production debuted two seasons ago with the marvelous Natalie Dessay in the role, Damrau brings a very different, more tomboyish take to the opera.

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The magnetic and dynamic legend Leontyne Price celebrates her birthday today, February 10.  Arguably the definitive Cio-Cio-San from Madama Butterfly and Aida, Price became one of the few top tier opera sopranos.  I have several of her recordings, including Butterfly, Aida, Tosca, Un Ballo in Maschera, and La Forza Del Destino.  Not to mention a greatest hits.

What I don’t have is her recording of La Rondine, but I do have the highlight aria from that opera on the greatest hits, and it constantly lives in my top 20 played.  Here a few highlights from her career.  At least the ones I could get actual performance video of (all seemingly at the very, very tail end of her career).

From La Rondine, Chi il bel sogno, performed live in 1982.

After the jump, a few more highlights.

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Il Trittico is a difficult night at the Opera.  Essentially, Puccini had three ideas, but none long enough to extend into a full operatic experience, so he put three one-act pieces together.  Il Tabarro, easily the darkest, starts the evening, followed by the harrowing Suor Angelica, and the finale, the lovely, light Gianni Schicchi concludes the evening on a high note.  What makes them difficult is that easy has such different emotions & performance styles, audiences have to essentially put their faith in the quality of the music to override everything.

The Met’s production is one of their classics.  The scenery work is tremendous, and the Met tried something new this year.  Most opera companies have different lead performers throughout the pieces, but this time around, the Met used the wonderful Patricia Racette as the lead soprano in all three pieces and the dynamic Stephanie Blythe as her mezzo co-star.  Racette is known for her dramatic skills and lovely tone, and lived up to my high expectations.  Blythe is one of my favorite performers in the Met stable, and she was equally magnificent, even if the roles weren’t enough for her talent.

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The Met’s production of Turandot (or should I say Zefferelli’s production of Turnadot?) is back in full ostentatious splendor. As with all of Zefferelli’s productions for the Met, the incredible opulence & sheer spectacle are on display. For all of the garish moments he creates, Franco Zefferelli’s productions showcase all of the money ticket buyers spend up on stage. And what a stage. The Met’s ginormous stage is used in its full capacity in this production – full throne room & all.

Maria Guleghina sang the title role, and did so wonderfully. Despite her occasional leaden acting, her voice is gorgeous. She might not have the emotional resonance of Karita Mattila, but she certainly exhibits more warmth in her tone than Renee Fleming. Just singing and moving in the costumes & headpieces alone is worth a cheer. Yet, she definitely gave a lustrous performance, able to cut through the noise while still holding some sense of the ridiculous plot together.

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