Some Stuff for Buffs: Awards and New Releases
The 2016 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording has gone to Kennedy Center Honors honoree Seiji Ozawa for his 2013 recording of Maurice Ravel's one-act "lyric fantasy," The Child and the Spells, which was released internationally in August, 2015. I'm saying, "No surprise." After granting Ozawa eight nominations, it's about time the Academy handed the gold horn over to the eighty-year-old maestro. Otherwise, 2016 has thus far been a very Wagnerian year in the audio recording category, except for a CD set of Mozart's Don Giovanni. An in-house recording of Lohengrin, starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala, and two live broadcasts, one of Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg starring Jonas Kaufmann and Wolfgang Koch, and one of Tannhauser, were released last month along with the scenes from Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by Levine. The DVD category, on the other hand, is a bit (just a bit) more varied in its selection, offering such musical treats as a recital by Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Zubin Mehta's 80th Birthday Concert, and a cluster of complete Verdi operas performed by, among others, Olga Peretyatko (Rigoletto) and Jose Curo (Otello).
The Big Opus Openings: World Premieres and the 2016 Bayreuth Ring
Pain is a part of opera's sound world, and, indeed, nothing better conveys the emotions that pain triggers nor stands as a more intricate monument dedicated to those suffering loss than a musico-dramatic opus. The Cincinnati Opera premiered composer Gregory Spears's new opera, Fellow Travellers, yesterday, performing every scene with the victims of the Orlando massacre and their loved ones in mind. The creative team behind the project have stated that this telling of the story surrounding, as novelist Thomas Mallon, author of the book on which the opera is based, says, "two government workers caught up in the homosexual purges of the early Cold War," is intended to remind audiences of the importance of at this moment remembering "members of the LGBTQ community... whose livelihoods and lives were lost due to hatred, violence, and discrimination." Performances are set to run through July 10 at the Aronoff Center.
As you may or may not have been informed, the 2016/2017 opera season marks a great first in operatic history: the international broadcast of a complete Ring of the Nibelung production mounted at the legendary Bayreuth Festival Theatre. Opera-loving patrons in the UK and Ireland will be able to, per the efforts of Sky Arts, view the complete music drama cycle over the weekend of July 30 and 31 from their living room couches. Lucky them. Lucky, lucky, LUCKY them... Once again, I'm forced to live out an event vicariously through a few of my social media friends. I hope they'll be generous with the details. Other exciting Bayreuth news includes eight premieres of new productions, one of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, one of Donizetti's La Favorite, one of Handel's Semiramide, one of Giordano's Andrea Chenier, one of Schreker's Die Gezeichneten, one of Weber's Oberon, and one of Menotti's The Consul. Star singers, directors, conductors, and designers to feature include tenor Jonas Kaufmann, mezzo soprano Elina Garanca, conductor Michele Mariotti, and director/puppeteer Nikolaus Habjan.
On Stars: The New and the Favorite
Placido Domingo's world-renowned opera competition, Operalia, begins July 19. The start of the competition will, for the thirteenth year, be among the most exciting moments in the opera world, as it will signal the emergence of forty fine and fresh talents on the professional scene. This most prestigious and thrilling event will be held at the Teatro Degollada in Guadalajara, Mexico.
As for some of those established in the art with which we opera freaks are hopelessly in love: The ever-growing reputation of coloratura soprano Jessica Pratt is about to receive yet another few hundred golden words (I'm confident, anyway...) as she prepares to for the first time take on the title role of a work that was among those that won Donizetti the adoration of European audiences in his lifetime, Linda di Chamoumix. Renee Fleming's concert calendar is all over the continent. Anxiously awaited performances in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and halls across the U.S. are scheduled. Juan Diego Florez is presently on tour in Europe, bringing down some of the top houses in the world, and will appear in a November performance series of the landmark Meyerbeer masterpiece, Les Huguenots.
I hope this article and, indeed, the 2016/2017 opera season, find you in high spirits, my fellow opera crazies! Check in next week for a feature on some strange and interesting themes on which operas have been composed. Updates on the goings on of the season will be posted weekly along with all other features. Until next time, happy operatic insanity!