Opera IOLANTA: Teatro São Carlos de Lisboa with Tchaikovsky's(1840-1893). Review by António Lourenço, 5th October 2021

"I am touched by arguments in scripts in which real living people act, who feel the same way as I do ": Piotr Tchaikovsky.

The libretto was written by himself, translated from Danish, by Vladimir R.Zotov, and this being the last opera by the composer, best known for the music of famous Ballets such as " Swan Lake", " The Nutcracker", Sleeping Beauty", also piano and violin Concerts, and several symphonies. However, he composed 10 Operas or 11 (one with two versions) , There are at least two great masterpieces: "Eugene Onegin" and "Pique Dame" , but at least 6 other Operas, including "IOLANTA", are among the most notable creations produced in Russia!

What is lyric theatre for this composer? An opportunity to communicate with a wide audience, stating this in a letter to Madame Vonmeck, where he expressed is a vision of the difficulties of operatic creation: "the scene -this is not to forget that the theatre it requires not only melody and harmony, but also action, as the audience came to watch, not just to hear, but also to see. Those constraints paralyse inspiration, because in a Sonata or even in Chamber music, one is free, with no restrictions or constraints".

The Opera Iolanta was premiered at Theatre Marinski of S.Peterburg in 1892 (now there are two Marinski theatres) on the same night together with ballet "Nutcracker" having this ballet surpassed the success of Iolanta. The criticism was less favourable, according to the comment of the composer Rimski-Korsakov that in his memories (something bilious) or spiteful.

The action of Iolanta takes place in the 15th century and the pseudo -medievalizing libretto of sentimentality giving the opera a static character, with the intrigue somewhat predictable and with a happy ending, more like scenic Cantata. The protagonist reveals herself in a beautiful aria: "Because I didn't know before, nor longing-nor sadness, nor tears". The plot is about a blind Princess, daughter of the "good King René" of Provence, who will regain her sight through the transfiguring force of love, the word longing-mocka has feelings such as sadness and melancholy and has affinities with german 'sehnsucht' or even with Portuguese 'saudade' suggesting desire, nostalgia, longing always present in Tchaikovsky.  

The composer nourished affection for Richard Wagner and Tchaikovsky was present at the inauguration of the Bayreuth Festival in 1876. it is noting in Iolanta some traces of Wagner's "Tristão and Isolda" I remember that Wagner the genial German composer, was the creator of the famous Theatre of Bayreuth! 

In Iolanta there are 10 solo voices and choir, in addition to a symphonic orchestra. In this Production, I would like to highlight the soprano Arina Azaeva, although we prefer her in "La Wally" where she showed her excellent voice of spinto. but she performed a good interpretation of the protagonist. As for the Baritone Guriy Guryev,  interpreter of the Duque of Burgundy surprised us with the aria: 'Kio Mozet Sra Vnitsa', singing with great vehemence, intensity and volume, also beautiful timbre. The Bass Evgeny Stavinsky possesses a strong timbre, and also Alexander Milev, with a deep bass voice, (as a true Russian bass)!

Concerning the Portuguese soloist, I praised their courage for singing in the Russian language, all sang well.

About the Tenor, I remember the 2006 Production in São Carlos, with the now-famous Tenor Piotr Beczala, a wonderful voice, which already enchanted us at that time, different from the tenor Misha Didyk, now in some rule, because he has an excessive 'vibrato' and harsh voice, although imprinting a great vehemence with high pitched notes somewhat shouted.

The Choir was prejudiced by the installation of diverse virus protection. The Conductor Mr. Graeme Jenkins drove the national Orchestra safely, achieving an apotheotic finish, with immense applause!      

The Mozart Festival in Würzburg celebrates 100 years amid pandemic. News, 2nd June 2021

A Mozart tapestry

Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka designed the set and costumes for Mozart's "The Magic Flute" twice — once in the 1950s and once in the 1960s. He combined various informal scenes from his sketches of the opera on this woven tapestry.

Until very recently, the people of Würzburg had been worried whether their 100th anniversary Mozart Festival would even be able to take place in front of a real audience — due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. - DW

"Giving up was out of the question for all of us. We had to fight for this season to happen," says the music festival's artistic director, Evelyn Meining. She says that the musicians were fed up with playing in front of cameras or against glass windows. "This music that comes from the heart and is intended to pull on your heartstrings can only be communicated as a live experience," she told DW.

The declining numbers of COVID infections have already allowed a limited number of listeners to attend the opening concert on site, including guest of honor, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In his opening speech, Steinmeier emphasized that Mozart was not a composer who was only to be enjoyed during "good times."

"The same applies to (Mozart) as to art in general: we need him especially during difficult times."

How much Mozart does one need?

Steinmeier welcomed the fact that the Mozart Festival would not only feature the composer's music but would also encourage a discussion about the direction of Europe's overall cultural heritage. He was alluding to a planned series of discussions as part of the festival entitled "How much Mozart does one need?"

Mozart has long become synonymous with art and culture, said Evelyn Meining in response, highlighting that the real question therefore is how much education and how much culture people need — and how prepared we are as a society, especially during the COVID pandemic, to fight for the preservation of art and culture.

For the opening event, Evelyn Meining and conductor and composer Jörg Widmann put together a program featuring a broad range of Mozart works. The focus was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's last symphony, the Jupiter Symphony.

Widmann's own composition Con Brio was also played, which featured abrupt jumps between classical chords and surprising sounds. "You can hear Mozart even more intensely when you combine his work in a program featuring a contemporary piece," Widman said.

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Opera ERNANI in Theater São Carlos of Lisbon. Review by António Lourenço, 24th May 2021
Sao Carlos

It was one of the biggest hits of recent years. The cast gathered to interpret Verdi's opera, less sang.

ERNANI's last performance was 51 years ago in São Carlos cinema, in Lisbon, but this concert version without sets, made us discover much more of this treasure of bel canto, and with such a cast of the greatest and famous singers, as is usually in theatres like La Scala, Metropolitan of New York, Covent Garden, Liceo of Barcelona, Real of Madrid, etc.

Possible, maybe due to the epidemic and the rarity of performances in the world, it was possible to bring to Lisbon such a luxury cast. Singing by heart, with gestures and acting!

The American Gregory Kunde (56 years old) was the protagonist, endowed with a beautiful voice of tenor lyric spinto, splendid high notes that spilt over the theatre. However, sometimes, his medium notes caused a lake of timbre, but compensated with the high pitched ones!

D. Carlos, the king of Spain, future Carlos V, sang by Simone Piazzola, born in Verona, surprised the audience doted of rare timbre and colour of the voice of true lyric-bariton and full of emotion. He was 2nd Prize,  a public prize in the 2013 Operália competition in Verona and also the "Abbiati" prize, having a promising future and an international careear.

Elvira, loved by 3 men, superbly sung and performed by the Chinese-born soprano Hui Hi, possessing a powerful and dramatic voice, voluminous and round. She is being requested by all the top theatres in the world, maybe even the Metropolitan with 4070 seats, could sound little to such a big voice! 

The bass, Fabrizio Beggi, was D.Ruy Gomes de Silva, a deep voice of ´"basso-profundo", and an intense histrionic expression, performing also he was in a scene and not in a concert version, so like all the singers. 

The remaining Portuguese interpreted we highlighted the coloratura soprano Rita Marques and also Sergio Martins and João Oliveira.

The roman Maestro António Pirolli, directed with great elevation, contributing to huge success, although sometimes the sound of the orchestra covered the ensembled voices. The enthusiasm of the audience proved how an opera in concert is a transcendental and exciting experience!  

RUSALKA - Lyric fairy tale, is an opera by the Czech composer Antonin Dvorák. Review by António Lourenço, 24th May 2021

The libretto was written by Jaroslav Kvapil (1868-1950), based on the fairy tales from Karel Jaromir Erben and Bozena Nemcova. 

A rusalka is a water sprite from Slavic mythology, It's one of the most successful Czech operas (Dvorák composed 9 operas).

The composer, Dvorák, played viola in the pit orchestras in Prague, and he had an experience of operas by Mozart, Weber, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner and Smetana.

Russalka has beautiful melodies and orchestral timbres but, only last years, has been performed more regularly.

"Song of the Moon" is an aria, most known sung by a soprano often in concerts also. The composer completed this opera at the end of 1900, and the first performance was in March 1901 in Prague, which soon gained success. In 1910 was given in Vienna. But, only In 1959, the UK stage premiere at Sadler's Wells Theater, following the United States in 1975. At last in 1993, At N.Y. Metropolitan Opera.

RUSALKA, a water-nymph, tells that she has fallen in love with a human prince and she want to become human to embrace the prince. After drinking a potion, the prince appears from the forest and embraces her!

The spectacle is about 3 hours. At the tragic end, Rusalka thanks the prince for letting her experience human love, returning to her place in the depths of the lake as a demon of death.

The Music allowing for nationally inflected passages and GROVES judges that the work shows the composer at the height of his maturity admired the melodic patterns, and orchestration described a profound disturbing drama their majestic almost hymnic solemnify.  

The duet between the Prince and Rusalka was considered as the most glorious minutes in all opera. 

Rusalka was sung in the original language by the Portuguese soprano Dora Rodrigues. It was a success with beautiful tone and expressivity, a soprano lyric, that deserves much more opportunities. 

The Prince was a heldentenor Peter Wedd, strong voice of Wagnerian tenor and the Spirit of waters was the baritone Thomas Johannes Mayer, a strong and imposing voice almost bass-baritone.

We want to mention the Portuguese mezzo-soprano, Maria Luisa de Freitas, also a good voice and it was a "tour de force of singing in the Czech language" and the Conductor, Graeme Jenkins.

Congratulation to the Director and staff of Teatro São Carlos, for its high-level production!"

OPERAFEST Lisboa. Post by Francisco Lacerda, 12th April 2021

After the success of the summer 2020 edition, the new OPERAFEST LISBOA, 11 to 20 August 2021 will be directed by soprano Catarina Molder and with the production of Ópera do Castelo. It looks that it is now a proven reality!

Combining tradition and avant-garde, in a summer program, comprehensive to reach all types of audiences, betting on the opera of the future and new creators, national talent and the conquest of new audiences, has as its epicenter in the unique setting of Jardim do National Museum of Ancient Art.

Still on the path of tragedy, an essential subject of opera, following the programmatic matrix “the worse, the better”, but in the wake of a pandemic that paralyzed the world, jeopardizing social life and human sharing, art presents itself as a invaluable path to the world of the unlimited and the fantastic - dream and magic are now essential needs!

It will be a program that combines tears and dreams, marked by great classics (Madame Butterfly by Puccini), but also by unpublished opera (The Medium by Gian-Carlo Menotti), new orders (“Until death do us part” - opera in creation by Ana Seara) in double dose with Magagonny Songspiel by Kurt Weill, but also new proposals with satellite opera (Opera Gala staged: Soul on Fire, Lyrical Machine performance, Singing lessons for amateurs, Opera Marathon XXI - Arias and Cine contest -opera), to reach unusual audiences, passing through distant, exotic and fantastic worlds.

"Il TABARRO"- The Cloak. Review by António Lourenço, 25th May 2021
Isabel Matos

The vibrantly and emotional music of Puccini filled all Theatre São Carlos of Lisbon, under the conductor's baton of Roman Maestro Antonio Pirolli, in a genuinely Puccini interpretation, transporting spectators to his melodic and sublime world. The dramatic soprano: Elizabete Matos, gave us a brilliant Giorgetta, with beautiful timbre and tunning conveying sensuality and passion, the most celebrated Portuguese singer, who stepped on the famous stages in the world, including the Metropolitan where she has sung "La Fanciulla del West". The Italian dramatic tenor: Marco Berti as Luigi, with a powerful voice and truly Italian articulation, sang the aria "Hai bene rezone, Meglio non Pensare" with strong intensity interpretation and passion, notable for a personage of a longshoreman.

 Michele was sung by the Bulgarian bass-baritone: Kiril Manolov with harshness but sometimes with 'Mezza voce'. We would prefer to hear in this role more a lyrical baritone, with an Italian school of singing. Anyway, although "Il Tabarro" only lasts an hour, we have been looking forward to so much!

Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim play piano duets News, 7th April 2021 
 Caroline Doutre 2021. Festival de Pâques

Canceled last year due to the pandemic, the organizers of the Easter Classic Music Festival, in Aix-en-Provence, did not want to waste another year and opted, this time, for an "online" and free version , with all the concerts. played live. 

One of the highlights of this year is the duet of Argentine pianists Daniel Barenboim and Marta Argerich . 

This Wednesday, the Portuguese Maria João Pires enters the scene .

Barenboim says that "he has been making music for more than 70 years and people continue to want to see it, or in language more than this century, to pay to see it, which is very gratifying".

"Ernani" Opinion of António Lourenço, 15th January 2021 

This recording was a big surprise, with no audience at Teatro Máximo de Palermo-

It was with singers, from the Italian Belcanto School, for whom we often know where the great Italian voices come from.

“Ernani” is a less sung opera, on stage, than the best known composed by the genius of Busseto, Verdi as the Traviata (Callas sang it in Lisbon, in 1958), and so many others like Rigoleto, Aida, Otello, etc.

"Ernani" has Piave's argument, based on Victor Hugo's drama, "Hernâni". In this production, the choir singers are distributed, one by one, through the boxes and the solo singers in the audience (chairs removed). Dressed in a rich wardrobe, from the time of the century. XVI, romanticized, at the same time, due to contingency, becomes an unprecedented solution.

Let's start with the baritone Simone Piazzolla, in the role of D. Carlos that is endowed with a beautiful singing school, with a beautiful timbre, phrasing and expressiveness. We also highlight tenor Giorgio Berrugi in “Ernani”, Soprano Eleonora Burato in Elvira,

Bass Michael Pertuzi in the evil Silva, after the end of each act, the camera moves to the place where the singers prepare, already with a protective mask.

Continuing, inside the theater room, forming an arena, with the orchestra on stage, we see the singers. Ernani (tenor) who was after all Don Juan de Aragão, a bandit banned by the king of Castile and who loves Dona Elvira (soprano) who is about to marry the old Ruy Gomes da Silva great of Spain, and hides Ernani refusing to release him. However, it combines to free Elvira, also loved and hostage of Don Carlos, king of Castile, later elected Emperor, will forgive those condemned to death, consenting to the marriage between Elvira and Ernani. Meanwhile a hunting horn is heard, but Ernani having arranged with Silva that he would kill himself, if the horn sounded, dies in Elvira's arms and finishes the opera.

The beautiful aria "Ernani Involami" is sung by Elvira, being a laugh with coloratures, it is one of the most difficult for a lyrical spinto voice.

"About Tosca" Review by António Lourenço, 15th January 2021 

One of the most famous and sung operas, Tosca opened on January 14 (1900), in Rome, with eternal music by Giacomo Puccini and libreto, by the duo Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.

It originated in a play written in 1887, by the French writer Victorien Sardou, for the famous actress Sarah Bernard (who stayed in the history of the theater).

A neurotic "owner" would be the subject of study of the various psychological variants and pathologies, from being jealous, insecure, obsessive and impulsive. In love with the painter, Mario Cavaradossi (sung by a lyrical Tenor), she will face the powerful police chief, Baron Scarpia (sung by a Baritone), a man full of lust who uses power to perversely manipulate his victims and will use them as an object of desire. Tosca, a lyrical soprano, in the play and on the stage, loses confidence in his lover Mario, which will further crumble the world around him, suspecting that he has a secret connection with the lady who is painting the portrait.

Scarpia personifies the abuse of power, with its mistakes and dirty games of corruption, using that power to subdue the weakest, to satisfy their desires, destroying the lives of those who oppose or do not think like him, using torture and the murder. The opera ends. With a total of 3 homicides and Tosca's suicide!

Opera "LA WALLY" In Theater São Carlos on 14th, 16th and 18th October News, 12th October 2020

Composer Alfredo Catalani - First performed at La Scala, Milan on 20 January 1892. Is well known especially owing to the beautiful aria: "EBEN, NE ANDRÓ LONTANA" (I'll go far away). A story from the Tyrolean Alps, based on an episode in the life of tyrolean painter Anna Stainer-Knittel "Die Geir-Wally '' epithet, from once stealing a vulture’s hatchling from her nest.

Catalani had composed the most famous aria, independently as "Chanson Groënlandese" in 1878 and, later, incorporated it in his Opera. The heroine throws herself into an avalanche, and because of the difficulty of staging is rarely performed, owing to this scene. There is a movie "La Wally", 1932 (Dir. by Guido Brignone).

The protagonist of the opera "La Wally", soprano ZARINA ABAEVA, was endowed with a beautiful and rare dramatic soprano voice, with a splendid timber and wonderful articulation, with 33 years of promise and great successes.

The composer Alfredo Catalani, with dense music and an orchestral score full of density, both in the accompaniments and in the beautiful preludes, is part of the VERISMO movement (“I love you, you betrayed me, I kill you”). Although, weak in melodies, the reason that made him less known and represented, because even the famous aria "EBBEN? NE ANDRÒ LONTANA", was taken from a peasant song, which he had previously composed.

The version presented in São Carlos, was in Concert, given the pandemic in which we live, in addition to being a work difficult to stage, due mainly to the avalanche scene.

Tenor, Azer Zada, in the role of Giuseppe Hagenbach, lyrical spinto, fulfilled it thought with a certain effort and guttural voice. Sromminger, the Brazilian Luiz Ottavio Faria, with a deep, very deep voice; the promised groom Vincenzo Gelner, sung by the baritone Luis Cansino, with a deep voice, with intense volume and something rude. The remaining secondary roles, very well interpreted by, Joana Seara, Patrícia Quintas and Nuno Dias. The version of Concerto allow us to appreciate more deeply the great music of Catalani (deceased at the age of 39), without the scenographic distractions, We left the Theater in a state of grace.

"Opera Fest Lisboa 2020" Review by António Lourenço , 18th September 2020

Amazing initiative to launch an opera festival, in such a dramatic moment that humanity faces, as it was a real "spear in Africa", generated by a great passion of Catarina Molder, a lyrical singing. His mentor, soprano who also played Tosca's role, with dignity, feeling that this love is in the blood. It is an authentic landmark in Portugal, which brings together sublime music, drama and lyrical singing, in addition to visual arts, staging. It was a great difficulty, to find a place for the shows and gorges to be in the ruins of Carmo, it took place in the beautiful gardens of the National Museum of Ancient Art, the most famous and important in Portugal.

Since opera performances are highly expensive, the adventure was even greater.

Opera marathon XXI: In addition to "TOSCA", the director invited 7 young Portuguese national composers to compose, a mini 20 to 25 minutes. The result of the contest, awarded the composer Sara Rosa in "Margarida". In general, there was an excess of words in the mini-operas, except for the 4th - "The Treasury" and the 7th "I don't know how many souls I have", in which the song predominated. There was also a Rave and a Gala, with the Mexican Tenor Rodrigo P. Garulo. Throughout the organization there was a spirit of calling and bringing more young people to watch opera performances!

For the role of Mario Cavaradossi, Spanish tenor Xavier Moreno, with a lyrical spinto voice, was invited.