Critic’s Picks (July 5–11)
“We live in an extraordinary Age” — Carl Sagan. It is summer 2021, and with the decline in COVID cases in Europe and North America, the re-opening of concert and opera venues for the summer and next season is a reality. According to Opera Wire, announcements have come from Bayerische Staatsoper, Opera National de Paris, Opéra de Metz Métropole, Teatro de la Zarzuela, Opéra de Lille, Staatsoper Berlin, Teatro San Carlo di Napoli, Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Göteborg Opera, Stadttheater Klagenfurt, Philharmonie Essen, Hungarian State Opera, Opera de Massy, Bilbao Opera, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Opera National de Bordeaux, Theatre Essen, Staatsoper Stuttgart, Polish National Opera, Oper Köln, Wiener Volksoper, and Staatstheater Wiesbaden. Audiences can expect various COVID precautions, possibly including proof of vaccination.
The Salzburg Whitsun Festival in Austria re-opened with a blockbuster Tosca starring Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann, replacing the originally announced Anja Harteros and Bryn Terfel. An interesting twist was that it also featured the great Cecilia Bartoli — no, not as Tosca, but as the Shepherd Boy! She made her debut in this cameo role at the age of 10. These performances feature personalized ticketing to facilitate contact tracing, a maximum of 50% capacity, proof of vaccination, and use of face masks. Glyndebourne Festival 2021 started with an opening weekend of Kát’a Kabanová and Il turco in Italia on stage, and The Cunning Little Vixen online. It continues to August 29, with four operas and a concert series. The Czech Philharmonic performed a concert with a live audience of 350 on May 10 in Prague, conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Austria’s Salzburg Easter Festival now takes place on November 1. The Prague Summer Nights Young Artists Music Festival is going ahead for an in-person festival (July 5-Aug 2).
On this side of the Atlantic, all eyes are on the Met. While it announced next season months ago, its reopening is uncertain due to various ongoing labour disputes. It was reported on July 3 in Opera Wire that the Met has reached an agreement with IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). The agreement includes a 3% wage cut and a 4.5% annuity cut for three years, plus a lump sum payment equal to eight weeks of bridge pay as well as several other concessions on both sides. Let us hope this paves the way to a reopening in the fall. Elsewhere in North America, the Santa Fe Opera will take place July 10 to August 27, with an in-house, socially distanced audience, plus nightly simulcast in its lower parking lot. The Chicago Lyric Opera will present a film of Pagliacci in August starring Russell Thomas and Ailyn Perez. Tanglewood and Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer festivals will happen, in the case of BSO at 50% capacity.
LA Opera returned to live, in-person performances with a June 6 performance of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. James Conlon conducted, with Russell Thomas, J’Nai Bridges, and John Relyea. LA Philharmonic reopens the Hollywood Bowl in July, and the Cleveland Orchestra returns to the Blossom Festival on July 11. New York’s Teatro Nuovo has announced that it will put on Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on July 27 and 28 on the summer stage at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. And it is good to hear the once ubiquitous New York City Opera is back, with a summer season in Bryant Park. Michigan Opera Theatre will offer free summer concerts featuring its Touring Ensemble at several Detroit neighbourhoods and in parks elsewhere in Michigan.
In Canada, the Elora Festival (Aug. 5 – 28) will be an online festival. Sinfonia Toronto’s 2021-22 season, “A Joyous Reunion,” will have a hybrid format, combining in-person and virtual concerts. Toronto’s Luminato Festival, normally in June, will take place in October. The National Ballet of Canada recently announced their new season; so has the Toronto Symphony, which opens in November. Toronto Summer Music (July 15 – August 1) will be online, with a mix of chamber music, art song, and dance, all free of charge. Wellington Water Week, a music festival in Wellington, Prince Edward County, is now rebranded as the BIGLAKE Festival, under the co-artistic directorship of conductor Johannes Debus and violinist Elissa Lee. It will take place August 20-27. The Canadian Opera Company made a vague announcement on June 7, with very little details except that the fall season is likely virtual and completely free. It promises more information in August.
On the streaming front, this is Week 69 of the Met Opera’s free nightly streaming, an astounding feat and only possible from opera companies with enormous archives like the Met. The theme of this week is “Operas of Richard Strauss,” all chestnuts such as Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne auf Naxos, Elektra, Salome, Capriccio, and Arabella. Sadly, no Die Aegyptische Helena, Guntram, Die Liebe der Danae, or Friedenstag, off-the-beaten-path works one encounters in Europe. Streams start at 7:30 p.m. ET and remain available for 23 hours. San Francisco Opera has announced streaming of Jenufa, Les Troyens, Elektra, and Luisa Miller in July, with big names the likes of Christine Goerke, Susan Graham, Karita Mattila and Michael Fabiano. Other than these big houses, there are fewer streaming initiatives from independent artists, understandable given that we have been in this pandemic now for a year and a half. With COVID numbers declining in Europe and North America, there’s hope that the Delta variant can be kept at bay, and we will soon return to the concert halls and opera houses doing what we love, to make and to enjoy music.
Met Opera | Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Starring Kiri Te Kanawa, Tatiana Troyanos, Judith Blegen, Luciano Pavarotti, Derek Hammond-Stroud, and Kurt Moll, conducted by James Levine. Production by Nathaniel Merrill. From October 7, 1982. An iconic performance among Met Opera telecasts, with luxury casting – what house could afford to pay Luciano Pavarotti a full fee to sing for only two minutes, in “Di rigori armato”? | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Elektra. Starring Nina Stemme, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, and Eric Owens, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Production by Patrice Chéreau. From April 30, 2016. A powerful production by the late Patrice Chéreau, who passed away shortly after the show opened. Chereau is best remembered for his Centennial Ring Cycle in Bayreuth (1976). | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Starring Deborah Voigt, Natalie Dessay, Susanne Mentzer, and Richard Margison, conducted by James Levine. Production by Elijah Moshinsky. From April 3, 2003. | Details
Tafelmusik/Canadian Stage | Baroque and Beyond — 8 p.m. ET. (In-Person Concert, repeats on July 9 and 10) These outdoor chamber performances feature two to three Tafelmusik musicians, with limited pod seating and following all health and safety guidelines. Tickets can be purchased on a Pay-What-You-Can basis. | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Capriccio. Starring Renée Fleming, Sarah Connolly, Joseph Kaiser, Russell Braun, Morten Frank Larsen, and Peter Rose, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Production by John Cox. From April 23, 2011. Renee Fleming in one of her best roles, here joined by two fine Canadian singers in Kaiser and Braun. | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Salome. Starring Karita Mattila, Ildikó Komlósi, Kim Begley, Joseph Kaiser, and Juha Uusitalo, conducted by Patrick Summers. Production by Jürgen Flimm. From October 11, 2008. This run caused a sensation when it opened, as the Finnish diva Karita Mattila gave the audience the “Full Monty” in Salome’s Dance. Unfortunately, not in the telecast! | Details
San Francisco Opera | Janáček’s Jenůfa — 1 p.m. ET. This Janáček masterpiece stars Malin Bystrom (Jenůfa) and Karita Mattila (Kostelnicka) in their respective role debuts. Free stream available until Monday 3 a.m. ET. Registration required. | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Arabella. Starring Kiri Te Kanawa, Marie McLaughlin, Helga Dernesch, Natalie Dessay, David Kuebler, Wolfgang Brendel, and Donald McIntyre, conducted by Christian Thielemann. Production by Otto Schenk. From November 3, 1994. | Details
Met Opera | Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Starring Renée Fleming, Elīna Garanča, Erin Morley, Matthew Polenzani, Marcus Brück, and Günther Groissböck, conducted by Sebastian Weigle. Production by Robert Carsen. From May 13, 2017. A very interesting production by the Canadian director, edgy and striking, but not offensive nor off-putting for the conservative Met audience. | Details
1) Fred Plotkin on Fridays | Helga Rabl Stadler. President of Salzburg Festival since 1995, Rabl-Stadler chats with Fred Plotkin about how she managed to re-open the Festival to in-person performances without a single infection.
2) Glyndebourne Opera | Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito. This performance from the 2017 Festival was streamed on July 4 and is available until July 18. Robin Ticciati conducts the Claus Guth production starring Richard Croft in the title role, joined by Alice Coote (Vitellia), Anna Stéphany (Sesto), Joélle Harvey (Servilia), and Canadian mezzo Michele Losier (Annio).
3) National Ballet of Canada | Thank You, Karen. This 13-minute video is for fans of the National Ballet and Karen Kain, former prima ballerina and its current Artistic Director. It features a long list of individuals paying loving tribute to Kain, who has left an indelible mark on the Company, first as a great principal dancer, followed by a 16-year term as its Artistic Director.
4) Washington Concert Opera | Bellini’s I Puritani. Premiered on June 27 and available until July 26. This concert performance stars Brenda Rae, René Barbera, Javier Arrey, Musa Ngqungwana, and members of the Washington Concert Opera Orchestra conducted by Antony Walker. Registration required. | Details
5) Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition | Final Concert. In Erfurt, Germany, Canadian tenor Joshua Lovell took first prize in the 39th Hans Gabor Belvedere International Singing Competition on June 28. The second prize was shared by British soprano Verity Wingate and American soprano Elena Villalón. Third place went to South Korean tenor Kangyoon Lee. | Details
6) Toronto Operetta Theatre | The Csárdás Princess. Available from July 9, 2 p.m. to July 21 11:30 p.m., this Emmerich Kálmán operetta stars Lauren Margison, Caitlin Wood, Michael Barrett, and Ryan Downey. Staged by Guillermo Silva-Marin, Robert Cooper is the music director, and Narmina Afandiyeva is the pianist. | Details
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