Cultural Update from Jeff

(This is a contribution from the BWMTSC Co Chair, an opera buff)

I just want to share a bit about the wonderful music I heard this weekend (even though I have a mountain of papers to grade by Thursday). It started off with an encore presentation of Mozart’s Magic Flute, the Met Live in HD first broadcast 10 years ago. This is the abbreviated English language production by Julie Taymore of Lion King fame. It is fabulous! Mozart’s sublime music and masonic tinged plot is filled out with extravagant puppets, masks, and many other brilliant stage effects. We all loved it!

Then Saturday night I went to a concert at the opera house by the Uruguayan baritone Erwin Schrott. He was backed up by 9 Latin jazz musicians for a selection of Latin American music including tangos, sambas, and others. Schrott was fantastic: a beautiful, sensuous voice and a charming manner with the audience. The back up musicians were all very hot and the whole concert was irresistible. Then the icing on the cake was his special guest, Jose Feliciano! He sang a couple of songs in a strong voice, played incredible guitar riffs, talked charmingly about the past, and closed with Feliz Navidad! The whole concert was a new revelation about Schrott and Latin music and a great memory of an artist we all loved years ago.

Then today I saw the opera Norma again. I had seen the opening night on my birthday and loved it. Today was if anything even better after a few performances to mellow everything. This is one of my favorite operas and I’ve heard many singers essay the very demanding title role. Angela Meade in this production was splendid with a strong, expressive voice that commanded the stage without belting. She was joined by an equally impressive soprano as Adalgisa, a very good tenor as Pollione and bass as Oroveso (both Black by the way, surely a first!). It was bel canto singing of the highest order cascading from the stage in wave after wave as Bellini’s ravishing score unfolded the tragic story. I was speechless with delight by the end and so glad I heard it twice. Good Norma’s are rare because it’s such difficult part emotionally and vocally. It was Callas’s most often performed role; other notable Norma’s were Rosa Ponselle, Joan Sutherland, and Montserrat Caballe. Today Sandra Radvanovsky sings Norma. She and Angela Meade from this production are almost the only two successfully performing this masterpiece. And I heard her twice!

So, cari amici, that was my excellent operaful weekend! Now for those papers….
Jeff Horton

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