segunda-feira, 30 de novembro de 2009

Os Contos d'Offenbach

(cena d'Os Contos de Hoffmann - Met Opera House, estreia em Dezembro de 2009)

Barlett Sher assina a nova encenação d'Os Contos de Hoffmann (Offenbach), que o Met apresenta a 3 de Dezembro próximo. A propósito desta nova encenação, o artigo que cito do The New York Times refere aspectos biográficos interessantes do autor da ópera, que reproduzo:

«Offenbach, in real life, faced humiliation despite his seemingly perfect assimilation in France. Nicknamed the Little Jew in Cologne, where he was born in 1819, and at the Conservatory in Paris, where he moved in 1833, he was scorned for his gaunt appearance and shabby clothes and ridiculed for his heavy accent throughout his lifetime.

Despite all these efforts and the huge popularity of his many operettas in France, Offenbach often had to prove his allegiance. James Harding, in his biography of the composer, points out that during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, French newspapers accused Offenbach of being a “Prussian at heart,” and German publications simultaneously mounted a campaign against him.

Hurt by the accusations, Offenbach contacted the French newspaper Le Figaro to defend his reputation. Though he had family and friends in Germany, he wrote, “I owe everything to France, and I would not think myself worthy of the name of Frenchman, which I have obtained through my work and my honorable standing, if I had made myself guilty of cowardice toward my first country.”

Offenbach was denied promotion to the next level in the Legion of Honor, and the personal attacks continued through the early 1870s. French detractors claimed that his opéras bouffes symbolized the frivolity that they believed had led to France’s defeat in the war. For a composer who longed to write weightier operas, this charge no doubt touched a sore nerve.

sábado, 28 de novembro de 2009

Isabel Colbran - I

Antes de uma leitura crítica do (magnífico) trabalho de Joyce Didonato, proponho que o leitor se debruce atentamente sobre uma já longínqua homenagem a Isabel Colbran, Heroines:

Elisabeth Söderström (1927-2009) - II

Sucedem-se as homenagens à grande Senhora da lírica, Elisabeth Söderström.

«I was once told a story about Söderström that may help to convey how her artistry burned. She was rehearsing the Countess Madeleine at Glyndebourne under John Pritchard. The contract with the orchestra meant that Pritchard had to stop the rehearsal on the dot, or else the musicians would start qualifying for overtime, which could not be afforded. The rehearsal went slowly, and had only reached part way through the magical closing scene for the soprano when the deadline was reached. In the pit, Pritchard promptly put down his baton. The orchestra stopped and began packing up. Söderström, in full flow and unprepared for the break, looked as if she had been physically struck down by the sudden end of the rehearsal. In tears, she refused to stop, and sang her part unaccompanied to the end.»

«Shortly after her debut, she joined the Swedish Royal Opera. She remained a member of that company until her retirement. In her early years she focused on soubrette roles, including Mozart heroines. Soon she was branching out dramatically. Her debut at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival in England came in 1957 as the Composer in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” and for years she remained a favorite with the festival. Among Strauss singers, she was one of the few to have sung all three lead roles in “Der Rosenkavalier,” as the Marschallin, Octavian and Sophie.

A milestone in her career came in the 1969-70 season with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, when she sang Mélisande in an acclaimed production of Debussy’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” conducted by Pierre Boulez, subsequently recorded. That Sony Classical recording, with George Shirley as Pelléas, is considered by many to be definitive.

Another series of landmark performances and recordings involved the Australian conductor Charles Mackerras, an informed champion of the Janacek operas. Ms. Soderstrom became Mr. Mackerras’s soprano of choice for his Decca label recordings of complete Janacek operas, including “Jenufa” and “Katya Kabanova,” with Ms. Soderstrom singing the title roles, and “The Makropulos Case,” a mysterious, haunting work in which Ms. Soderstrom portrayed, unforgettably, the 300-year-old Emilia Marty.»

sábado, 21 de novembro de 2009

Elisabeth Söderström (1927-2009)

A mais extraordinária intérprete de Janacek do pós-guerra - que sob a direcção de McKerras perpetuou as trágicas heroínas Jenufa e Kata, entre outras - entregou a alma ao criador, a 20 do corrente mês. Evidentemente, Söderström foi, de igual modo, uma das mais proeminentes intérpretes de Richard Strauss (Condessa) e Tchaikovsky (Tatiana) do século XX.

With her sensitive demeanour she was particularly successful at portraying the troubled women who abound in opera, such as Leonore (Fidelio), Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Evgeny Onegin and the Countess in Richard Strauss's Capriccio, three of the roles with which she delighted audiences at Glyndebourne, where she achieved her most notable successes in Britain.

She was born in Stockholm, the daughter of a Swedish naval captain and a Russian mother, and studied at the Royal Academy and Opera School there. She made her debut as early as 1947, when she was just 20, as Mozart's Bastienne, in the Drottningholm Court Theatre. Thereafter she joined the Swedish Royal Opera, of which she remained a member through the rest of her career. Her roles there stretched from Monteverdi's Nero (Poppea) through Mozart's Countess Almaviva (in Figaro, one of her most palpitating portrayals), Strauss's Octavian and Marschallin (both in Der Rosenkavalier) to Janacek's Jenufa.

At the Royal Opera, she also loved playing the Governess in Britten's The Turn of the Screw and Marie in Berg's Wozzeck, two further distressed women. But she also revelled in lighter things, such as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus and Saffi in the same composer's Zigeunerbaron. She sang many of her roles both in Swedish and in the original.

ln 1955 she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival, as the boy Ighino in Pfitzner's Palestrina. She first appeared at Glyndebourne in 1957, as the Composer in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, and in 1963-64 she was much admired there as Elisabeth Zimmer in Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers. She made her debut at Covent Garden in 1960, with the Royal Swedish Opera as Daisy Doody in Blomdahl's Aniara and as Morgana in Handel's Alcina. She returned there, with the resident company, as Octavian and as an unforgettable Mélisande (1969-70) under Pierre Boulez (a role that she recorded with him).

Her Metropolitan Opera debut was as Susanna (Figaro) in 1959, followed by Strauss's Sophie, which meant she had undertaken all three of the women's roles in Der Rosenkavalier, once joking that she would now have to undertake Baron Ochs. She continued to appear in New York for the following four seasons. One of her later roles, that of the 300-year-old Emilia Marty in Janacek's The Makropulos Case was undertaken with, among others, Welsh National Opera, an unforgettable experience, also seen in London. She wonderfully conveyed the woman's emotional cynicism and eventual boredom at having lived so long. She followed that with the old Countess in Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades, showing that she could still command complete attention even with reduced resources.

Söderström often sang in concerts: she appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, London, and in the recording studio with Otto Klemperer in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. She was also an accomplished recitalist, singing a wide repertory, but particularly happy in the songs of Sibelius, which she recorded complete in the company of the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy. She always delighted her audiences by introducing specific items with her peculiar blend of fey charm and assumed naïveté, nowhere more successfully than with Mussorgsky's Nursery cycle. She was also an engaging broadcaster, and often regaled Radio 3 and 4 audiences in Britain with her experiences in her career, always replete with a veritable book of anecdotes.

From 1993 to 1996 she was director of the Drottningholm Palace Theatre, where she had started her career. In retirement, she became an accomplished giver of master-classes, passing on her knowledge of singing and acting to a new generation. She leavened her lessons with a good deal of the humour and general bonhomie for which she was noted.

Söderström was one of the most distinguished artists of her generation. The combination of a charming, yet elusive personality, very Swedish in character, with her vibrant voice and sincere acting enhanced all her portrayals, and while she was as happy deploying them on comedy as on drama, it is undoubtedly for her interpretations of the heroines in the operas of Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss and Janacek that she will be longest remembered.

As a person, she was the soul of kindness, had a ready wit and was never more at home than when taking part in lively conversation. Colleagues and friends alike were treated generously. In the opera house, she could be demanding, wanting others to meet her own high standards, but she was always cooperative with directors she trusted, and with them she was willing to work as hard and as long as it took to create a result full of inner meaning.

In 1950 she married Sverker Olow, and they had three sons.

John Amis writes: When Elisabeth was invited to make her debut in New York at the Metropolitan Opera, she took all three of her sons with her for the season. When they got to school age, she gave up New York and rejoined the Royal Opera in Stockholm. This was typical of her approach to a happy marriage, and to being both a wife and a mother.

By that point being rather older than many of her colleagues, she developed the knack of being an elder sister to them and coaching them at rehearsals. She excelled in masterclasses, partly through her eternal good nature, but also because she always sought to encourage her students to give their best; at the same time she delighted her audience without ever buttering her own ego (as many masterclass teachers do).

Elisabeth giggled and laughed a lot, but that only seemed to complement the essential seriousness of her devotion to her art. Sometimes she would point out to people who implied that a singer's life was an easy one, how hard it could be. "Sweat, phlegm and dirty feet is often what its about," she would say. "What do we do all day when not rehearsing? We memorise and that takes up a lot of time, all part of the job. And so is winding down after a performance."

Coming from a country whose language is comparatively remote from most of the repertoire meant that Elisabeth very often would sing operas and lieder in several languages. Some of the Janacek operas, for example, she sang in the original Czech, and also in German, English and Swedish.

She was the least divaish diva that you could meet. There was no side to her whatsoever. She was a thoroughly good person, a good friend, good wife, good mother, good humoured and a very attractive woman.

Sometimes she had a hard time of it. In Janacek's Jenufa once her heel caught in a hole in a floorboard: broken knee. Another time in Offenbach's La Périchole, she took a dive nearly into the orchestral pit: bad back. Deputising, she was manhandled in the last scene of an unfamiliar version of Gounod's Faust in which Marguérite does not get wafted to heaven, but bundled down to hell: broken arm.

Elisabeth wrote an informative and very readable little book, In My Own Key (1979), and in the photographs of her in various roles you can usually guess which role she was playing just by her facial expression, whether it was Tatyana, Leonore, The Governess, Mélisande, Katya Kabanova or the Marschallin or Octavian in Rosenkavalier. She was amazingly different in each part.

At Glyndebourne, we regulars idolised the singer Serna Jurinac, who left Sussex in 1956 when her marriage broke up, leaving her husband Sesto Bruscantino to sing there by himself. We heard that there was some unknown Swedish singer coming to sing Sena's roles, and we all hated her in advance. But as soon as she sang the Composer in Strauss's Ariadne, our hatred turned to love and adoration. The Swede was of course Elisabeth Söderström.»

sábado, 14 de novembro de 2009

Mattila's Tosca

No Expresso de hoje, 14 de Novembro, Calado - Mor disserta sobre a opening night do Met, de 21 de Setembro, ossia a Tosca de Bondy. Dois meses volvidos sobre o acontecimento, pergunto-me se o dito artigo mantém alguma actualidade e pertinência?!

Adiante! O dito Calado desdenha a mise-en-scène, como era de prever. Estará no seu direito.

Termina o Caladíssimo com uma errónea notícia, que quase desencadeou uma síncope neste escriba: a reprise desta Tosca contará com a aposentada Daniella Dessi no papel titular. Temi o pior, pois há muito que adquiri entradas para Abril que, de acordo com o site do Met, contará com a fabulosa Mattila como Floria Tosca.

Num ápice, fui o dito site... Calado dos Calados está errado! É verdade que Dessi interpretará a heroína de Puccini, mas apenas nas últimas quatro récitas.

My Mattila será a MINHA Tosca ;-)D)

quinta-feira, 12 de novembro de 2009

A Banalidade

No panorama lírico – particularmente no tocante ao tenor lato senso (ligeiro, lírico e lirico-spinto), a América Latina tem sido uma referência incontornável. Para além dos extraordinários Alva e Lima, Flórez, Villazón, Vargas e Álvarez têm vindo a conquistar terreno, neutralizando toda a concorrência. De entre os mencionados, Álvarez sobressai como o maior tenor spinto da actualidade: Verdi assenta-lhe que nem uma luva!

Há uns bons dez anos, na Bastilha, Marcelo Álvarez deslumbrou-me com o seu Duque (Rigoletto). Adivinhei-lhe um futuro verdiano, mais na linha do spinto – Radames, Otello, Manrico, Rodolfo, etc.

O presente artigo constitui uma colectânea de árias verdianas, cujo denominador comum assenta, justamente, no spinto. Dir-se-ia que a dita colectânea foi construída à imagem dos dotes do tenor argentino…

Álvarez possui um timbre encorpado e heróico, pujante e amplo, contudo as fragilidades técnicas são indisfarçáveis: tendência para o fortissimo e pianissimi inseguros. As suas interpretações não ultrapassam a fasquia do banal, enfermando de falta de subtileza e lirismo, elegância e linhagem. A brutalidade e dilaceração, demandadas pelo epílogo de Otello, tendem a estender-se às demais incarnações, tornando-as algo desinteressantes e excessivamente afins, sem matizes de natureza alguma.

No panorama verdiano discográfico, onde Del Monaco, Bergonzi, Vickers e Domingo se destacam, Álvarez dilui-se, sendo incapaz de sair do anonimato.

É bem verdade que este tenor não encontra rival à sua altura, neste repertório – Licitra parece ter perecido, liricamente falando… Contudo, quando comparado com os seus antecessores, Álvarez constitui uma mera curiosidade.


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segunda-feira, 9 de novembro de 2009

Os Troianos de Valência

(ensaio geral de Os Troianos, Valência - Palau de les Arts, Novembro de 2009)

O "dedinho" dos catalães La Fura dels Baus nunca me levou à certa. Será a vertente iconoclasta dos senhores a que mais me repugna. Às vezes, acho-os pouco mais que crus ou primitivos.

Em matéria de encenação operática, os La Fura têm feito história, reconheço: La Damnation de Faust (Salzburgo) e Der Ring (Valência).

No Palau de les Arts de Valência, Berlioz foi levado à cena pelos catalães e dirigido por Gergiev. Eis a crítica deste Os Troianos:

«Valencia apuesta por la operascope, el espectáculo de gran formato, acorde con el gigantismo de la Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias. A la Tetralogía wagneriana del verano ha seguido ahora el estreno de Los troyanos, inaugurando la tercera temporada del ovni que Calatrava plantó en el lecho del Turia. De nuevo para dirigir este montaje se ha recurrido a la más galáctica de nuestras compañías, La Fura dels Baus, sección Carlus Pedrissa, que está que se sale de la estratosfera: próximamente tiene cita en la Scala con un Tannhäuser dirigido por Mehta. Es decir, que el gran formato no es una exclusiva valenciana, sino una estrategia de mercado: cada vez más los montajes líricos nacen digitalizados para su posterior comercialización en las pantallas. Lo cual es legítimo siempre que no se ahogue el directo en la sopa tecnológica.

La traslación de la Eneida berliozana al mundo de la astronáutica no crea mayores problemas: finalmente las epopeyas antiguas y las de la ciencia-ficción se tocan en la común distancia del presente. Pero siendo el espacio, de 2001 a Alien, el principal referente estético, no es el único: hay también mucha alusión a la pantalla de ordenador, al cómic y hasta a los muñequitos de Playmobil. La obra permite esta operación, pues está concebida como una sucesión de números cerrados, muy al gusto de la grand opéra de mediados del XIX. Arias, dúos, tríos, quintetos, octetos, enormes escenas corales, interludios orquestales, cuadros coreográficos: no hay combinación que se le resista al gran orquestador Berlioz, superior a Wagner en esto, aunque ciertamente inferior como compositor dramático. El tercer acto de Los troyanos pega un bajonazo obvio y el montaje se resiente de la deficiencia estructural: hay cuadros de una enorme intensidad y belleza, como el de la matanza de las mujeres troyanas o el del palacio de Dido, que recuerda a un acelerador de partículas, junto con otros más discutibles, como el campamento de tiendas Decathlon de los troyanos o unos números coreográficos francamente pobres. Pedrissa provocó alguna contestación al final. Poca cosa, pues a esa hora, pasada la una de la madrugada, se habían registrado notables deserciones en la sala.

Bad, bad boy!

Terfel é o maior e melhor cantor lírico do mundo actual. Uma voz de mil cores, com uma pujança e homogeneidade de registos sem paralelo. Teatralmente é um sonho. Discograficamente... nem tanto...

Desde o início do milénio, os registos discográficos de Terfel praticamente deixaram de frequentar a minha casa: entre o musical de gosto duvidoso e a melodia inglesa desinteressantíssima... Enfim!

O mais recente disco de Terfel - a que aqui fiz referência - não foge à regra do musical, mas promete momentos de brilho (Boito e Mozart).

A seu tempo, pronunciar-me-ei! Por ora, mantenho-me expectante.