Tuesday, August 03, 2010

And Music! Always Music! - I

That title will only mean something to CBC radio listeners who tuned into The Transcontinental on Sunday afternoons in the 80s-90s. Hosted for 22 year by Otto Lowy, a charming Czech who found a home in Canada after the war, it was a "musical excursion across Europe" stopping in various places for coffee, pastry, a bit of history and "music, always music!" And it - and he - was always a delight.

My August is going to be a bit like that - except I guess we could say seafood, wine, a bit of history and "opera, always opera". Over the next three weeks I'll have travelled, if not Europe, a fair bit of Italy and seen five operas.

It starts next weekend with a sort of mini-VerdiFest - in anticipation of the real thing in October in Parma. Saturday morning I'm heading up to Verona - five hours by train with a change in Padova now that there's no direct trains - for the opening of Il Trovatore at the Arena (above). Opera in the Arena has been a tradition since the first performance of, what was to become its signature piece, Aida in 1913. This is "GRAND" opera and gave rise to the tradition of elephants, horses and - in one production - giraffes as the stars of big productions of the Italian warhorses. Though it may not have all the glamour of the big names of the old days Saturday hasn't got such a bad line up - Russian barithunk Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sondra Radvanovsky, Marianne Cornetti (okay she's no Simonato but who these days is?) and Marcelo Alvarez (okay I could do without Alvarez but who else sings Manrico these days?). The whole conducted by Marco Armiliato - who isn't such a bad stick waver.

And apparently directed and designed by Franco Zefferelli as indeed are all five operas at the Arena this year. I say apparently because I'm still trying to figure out how the Zeff will work his trademark bare-chested hunks, donkeys, children and, reportedly, a troupe of Spanish dancers into Verdi's great gloom and doom revenge tragedy. It should be interesting. (That's a scene from his production of Turandot above.)

Sunday its back to Rome on morning train and off to the Baths of Caracalla for the last performance of Rigoletto. Given the track record the past few seasons: a very good Turandot; an Aida that began with the ballet that Verdi forgot to write music for (so it was danced in silence); a Madama Butterfly where little Trouble was more audible than the tenor; a dreadful Tosca (only the second time I have left a theatre before the end of a performance in 57 years); and a disappointing Carmen I was almost willing to forgo this year's offerings. However my friend David Nice - of I'll Think of Something Later and so much else fame - mentioned that an up and coming soprano would be appearing here this year. So I will be heading off to the Via Appia and Caracalla's old bath house to see Jessica Pratt as Gilda. If David says she's someone to hear and keep an eye on - then hear and eye I will. The rest of the cast is so-so but at least conductor Donato Renzetti is a known quantity.

Then its my last two days at work - let's not go there - and then... 10 days on the road. Our annual ferragosto in Pesaro with a detour through San Franscico di Assisi country before coming back to Rome. A bit more about that will follow shortly.

03 agosto - Sante Mara e Lidia


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Sounds wonderful! I used to listen to The Transcontinental too -- what a Canadian icon that broadcast was!

David said...

Hmm - not sure how she'll do as Gilda; she's a big girl. But in Rossini, she was formidable.

You might be amused to see the spat I've apparently whipped up with an Arts Desk review of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, total stinker if you ask me, but almost so bad it was good. Maybe I should have seen Scotto and Domingo...


most czech's are charming, until they've had about 8 pevos.