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Volume 13 - Issue 9 - June 2008

due to its inordinate

due to its inordinate length and countless longsecco recitatives that obstruct the flow ofmusical progress. A lesser performance caneasily become tedious.David Mc Vicar's unique new vision atthe work, his dynamic staging, action that isconstantly moving, talented and attractiveyoung cast makes it exciting to watch. Andhear. The musical success of any opera alwaysdepends on the conductor and in thiscase Antonio Pappano, one of the best in theworld today in opera, makes us sit up fromthe very first note of the overture. With generallyfast tempos he reminds me of the greatvan Karajan. His great skill is manifest in thecrucial 2nd act, where we go from duet totrio, quartet, quintet, sextet and octet in onegradual continuous buildup to the finale oftotal mayhem.The cast is simply superlative. As Figaro,the new Uruguayan sensation ErwinSchrott's voice is dark and mellifluous (itreminds me of Dmitri Hvorotovsky). AsSusanna, young Swedish soprano Miah Perssonis charming yet mischievous with a delightful,sweet voice. Of the two more established'senior' singers Montreal-born GeraldFinley (Count) has a powerful, authoritativedeep baritone with temperamental and firmcharacterization while international star Germansoprano, Dorothea Roschmann (Countess)delivers her two famous arias with trueemotion and wonderful Mozartian style. Atreasure. This is the Figaro to cherish.Janos GardonyiDonizetti - La Fille du RegimentNatalie Dessay; Juan Diego Florez; RoyalOpera House; Bruno CampanellaVirgin Classics 519002 9Those who saw thelive broadcast ofDaughter of the Regimentfrom the MetropolitanOpera lastmonth will recognizethis production taped atCovent Garden inJanuary of2007. The Isets, costumes anddirection are the sameas is the cast, lead by ' ~I - ----- - ~French soprano Natalie Dessay and Peruviantenor Juan Diego Florez.Florez is adorable in his lederhosen andmulti-coloured sweater - more Missoni thanTyrolean. He's very handsome, and movesaround the stage with delightful ease. But it'shis gorgeous tone and breathtaking agilitythat have made him the most exciting betcanto tenor of our time. As usual, he bringsdown the house with his thrilling string ofnine full-voiced high C's in the famous Ah!mes amis cabaletta .Dessay is an ideal stage partner for Florez.A natural actress and deft comedienne,she gets the most out of every phrase andmusical gesture - even while ironing or peelingpotatoes. When she sings coloratura thedecorations and runs become an integral part54of the action. The director, Laurent Pelly,fashioned this production with her in mind,and he takes full advantage of her willingnessto throw herself into a role.Alessandro Corbelli's combination ofbluster and tenderness makes for a wonderfulSulpice, especially in his scenes with theBritish mezzo Felicity Palmer as a marvellouslynuanced Marquise of Berkenfeld. Theonly cast member not in the Met broadcast isthe non-singing Duchess of Crackentorp,here played - to the hilt - by the hugely popularBritish comedienne Dawn French. She ismuch funnier than her arch American counterpart,and her spoken French - no punintended - is far better.The conceptualized staging is very effectivein captures the light-hearted insoucianceof this comedy, with an undulating stagecovered in maps, and props which include aclothesline of dancing long-johns.There's been some fiddling with the libretto,especially when Dessay launches into ahilarious diatribe. Even the English subtitlestake liberties - the French command, "Silence!"becomes "Put a sock in it!" This isgreat opera - and great video .Pamela MarglesRomantic AriasJonas Kaufmann; Prague PhilharmonicOrchestra; Marco ArmiliatoDecca 475 9966Most of the outstandingtenors whohave come onto theopera scene duringthe past decade arelight lyric voicesespecially suited toItalian and Frenchroles . But Germantenor Jonas Kaufmann is different. His voiceis intense and powerful, with a grainy texture,much closer on the tenor scale to Jon Vickersthan to Luciano Pavarotti. It is a disappointment,then, that his first recital disc presentsstandard fare for a lyric tenor - a predictableassortment of arias from operas like Rigoletto,La Traviata, La Boheme and Manon .Kaufmann clearly puts his heart into theseroles, and easily meets their technical demands,but his voice lacks the openness andsunny warmth required for the Italian roles orthe suppleness and elegance for the Frenchones. While he adapts with finesse to differentcharacters and vocal styles, the unrelentingbaritonal quality of his sound is unsuited tomany of them.Selections from Die Freischutz and DieMeistersinger show what he should be doingmore of - there are few tenors today who canmatch him for his combination of power andsensitivity in this repertoire. PerhapsKaufmann' s good looks have tempted him totake on lyric romantic leads. But there areplenty of excellent tenors for Rodolpho andAlfredo singing today, and all too few tenorsable to manage the heavy German roles heWWW. THEWHOLENOTE. COMexcels in. For all Kaufmann's strengths, thisrecital promises more for his future than itoffers in the present.Seth EstrinUnsuk Chin - Alice in WonderlandSally Matthews; Bayerischen Staatsoper;Kent NaganoMedici Arts 2072418When American conductorKent Naganomoved to the BavarianState Opera, hebrought this new operaby Korean composerUnsuk Chin with him.The premiere lastsummer in Munichwas controversial, thenewspapers in thisopera-addicted city reporting complaints byChin that German director Achim Freyer,who always puts his own signature on hiswork, was ignoring her intentions. But theadventurous Munichers took to Alice withenormous enthusiasm, as you can hear onthis DVD taped during its premiere run lastsummer.Chin and her co-librettist David HenryHwang, who wrote the libretto for Canadiancomposer Alexina Louie's The Scarlet Princess(and the play M Butterfly), have takenthe most darkly surreal bits from LewisCarroll's beloved book, and fashioned theminto an angst-filled play - in every sense ofthe word - on identity. Chin's score draws onmany different styles. Her orchestrations arediaphanous and vibrant. Yet she manages toachieve a distinctive voice.Freyer puts on a fabulous show. The problemis that the music is only one part of it.His imaginative staging distracts from boththe subtleties of the music and the intricaciesof the text.The bare stage is severely raked . Alice,on stage for almost the whole opera, is surroundedby a fabulous array of costumedacrobats and puppets. Her head is covered byan oversized rag-doll mask. While the Queenof Hearts roams on a platform near the bottomof the stage, the remaining eight singerssit in a row at the base of the stage dressedlike courtroom judges - or mock Lewis Carrolls- cut off from the action on stage. Thesingers, restricted though they are, all manageto create vivid characterizations. SallyMathews is captivating as Alice. GwynethJones, now over seventy, is a fearsomeQueen of Hearts. The remaining singers aresuperb . Bass-clarinettist Stefan Schneiderprovided a show-stopping interlude as thedoleful Caterpillar.The Munich Opera orchestra is unfailinglyexpert and versatile. Nagano, who leadsMontreal Symphony as well as the MunichOpera, shows the kind of commitment to thescore that ensures a fully realized performanceof this charming, thought-provoking,and altogether entertaining opera.Pamela MarglesJ UNE 1 -J ULY 7 2008

CLASSICAL AND BEYONDHaydn - Six Piano SonatasAnton KuertiAnalekta AN 2 9933Rachmaninov - Nine Etudes-Tableaux;Schubert - Drei KlavierstiickeAlain LefevreAnalekta AN 2 9278This month, I was given not one, but twopiano recordings to look at, both on the Analektalabel, and both featuring artists who areCanadian, either by birth or by adoption - atreat indeed for a pianophile such as myself!As a result, the best piano-music comingfrom my den this past week has sadly beenfrom my CD player rather than from my ownpiano. The venerable Austrian-born musicianAnton Kuerti has made his home in Torontofor the last 35 years, and has rightfully cometo be regarded as Canada's most revered andrespected pianist.Already famous for his interpretations ofBeethoven, Kuerti has turned to the music byJosef Haydn for his latest disc, his first everrecording of keyboard music by the "fatherof the symphony" (and the string quartet).While Haydn's sonatas never have the dramaticintensity of those by Beethoven, theynevertheless contain a charm all their own,and the six presented here - composed over aspan of some 40 years - are all fine examplesof his keyboard style. True to form, Kuertieasily captures the gracious spirit of the music,playing with a delicacy and technicalprecision that particularly suits the genre.What cheerful-sounding music this is indeed.Certainly not without passion - as Kuertipoints out - but almost always maintaining amood of happy optimism, making it a joyboth to play and to listen to.From Toronto we go to Montreal for thetalents of Alain Lefevre and another Analektarecording, this time featuring the music ofRachmaninov and Schubert. Born in Montrealin 1962, Lefevre was the 1980 winnerof the Alfred Cortot competition, and hemade his debut two years later with violinistChristian Perras. While the RachmaninovEtudes-Tableaux Op.39 and the SchubertImpromptus D946 may seem an unlikelycombination on one disc, as the program notespoint out the two composers were remarkablysimilar. Both were pianists, both were introverts,and both were plagued by creative selfdoubtsover the course of their respectivelifetimes. Lefevre makes the pairing seemtotally logical, approaching the music withgreat panache. The considerable technicaldemands required by both composers areeasily met by a formidable technique, yetLefevre also demonstrates a deep sensitivity,a characteristic almost mandatory in performingthe music of Schubert, with its intenselyricism. My only quibble with this recordingis with the actual sound quality itself, which Ifound at times to be too dry and "boxy" - alittle more resonance please! But this is aminor issue, and only slightly mars an otherwisefine performance. Two worthy CDsfrom Analekta, each with very differentrepertoire, and each showcasing the talents ofa fine Canadian artist. Recommended.Richard HaskellSaint-Saens - Piano Concertos 2 & 5Jean-Yves Thibaudet; L'Orchestre de laSuisse Romande; Charles DutoitDecca 475 8764Once again Frenchpianist Jean-YvesThibaudet andSwiss conductorCharles Dutoitshow what a dynamicteam theymake. Their irrepressiblevitality in

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