Friday, 4 November 2011

The 2007 production of La Traviata at La Scala

Today I finally received the blu-ray disc I had been eagerly waiting for, the Live from La Scala 2007 performance of Verdi´s La Traviata, with Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas in the main roles.

Of course, I had to watch it immediately.

Angela Gheorghiu in top form at La Scala

And what a performance it was, pure musical and visual delight! I have to admit, that I had certain doubts about Gheorghiu (whom I have previously only heard in televised "gala" type of concerts), but in this live recording both her singing and acting were simply wonderful. The late Anna Moffo was perhaps the greatest Violetta of them all, but with this performance Gheorghiu comes close. And the sometimes unduly underrated Vargas was outstanding as Alfredo.

And what a bliss to watch a performance, where the director - Liliana Cavani - had chosen to be true to the intentions of  both the composer and the librettist! (No need to do what I did, when watching Aida from Basel).

It goes without saying that the Orchestra - under the eminent maestro Lorin Maazel - the Chorus and the Ballet of Teatro alla Scala were all in fine form.

Blu-ray and HD are transforming the home theater experience in a wonderful way. If you do not yet have this disc, buy it! - for about five pounds you get an unforgettable opera evening at the legendary La Scala almost free!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Another foggy November day in Øresund

On this foggy afternoon, I took the newly renovated Scandlines ferry Hamlet to Helsingør. From the ferry I shot these photos:

The Marshall Islands registered dry Cargo ship Danavik (104x16m)

HH ferry leaving Helsingør

Danavik from another angle

Tanker Bro Grace (103x15m, Netherlands) on its way to Kalundborg

Passenger shuttle Pernille arriving in Helsingør

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Tribute to Nicolai Gedda

Nicolai Gedda´s rendition of Lenski´s aria from Eugene Onegin was probably the most important introduction to the world of opera for me in the early 70s. And it still is a personal favourite, which one never tires of returning to:

Where have you gone, o golden days of my spring?...
(Full text in English here)

Gedda´s  father Mihail Ustinov (a distant relative of Peter Ustinov) was Russian, and a member of the Don Cossack Choir. His mother, whose maiden name he adopted as a singer, was Swedish.

Gedda, who has over 100 recordings of opera, operetta, oratorio and lieder to his credit, is famous also for his linguistic skills; he speaks and has performed in seven languages.

For me personally, Gedda´s Russian repertoire has always had a particular appeal. The Russian songs bring out the full sweetness of  Gedda´s beautiful  voice. I hope you agree, after listening to e.g. these:

The little coach bell rings monotonously and the coachman's sorrowful song sets my cold heart aflame ...

Remember the parting with the strange smile
Remember many things which are far and so dear
During listening the unceasing sound of the carriage´s wheels
And glancing thoughtfully in the broad skies ...

O, could I but express in song ....

I remember that magical moment
When before me you appeared
Like a fleeting vision,
Like a spirit beautiful and pure ...

(Full lyrics in English here)

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pictures of the young Sibelius

Drawing of Sibelius by the famous Finnish painter Albert Edelfelt (1900)

Most photos of  Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) show him as a stern looking elderly gentleman, posing as a the "great composer" (which he of course was). But, as we know, Sibelius stopped composing when he was 60, although he lived for another three decades. And as a matter of fact, the years around the turn of the century were among the composer´s most productive years.

In order to redress the "imbalance", it may be appropriate to present some pictures showing the young Sibelius. These pictures appeared in Erik Furuhjelm´s book "Jean Sibelius", published in 1914:

Sibelius in 1877

In 1887, when this picture was taken, Sibelius composed a number of chamber music pieces, among them a piano trio in D major, the "Korpo trio"
This photo was taken 1890 in Vienna. The op.4 String quartet in b flat major and a piano quintet in G minor were among the works he composed that year.
Drawing by Axel Gallen-Kallela (1894). The Karelia suite was maybe the most wellknown work Sibelius composed that year.

Sibelius in 1896, the year he composed his only opera, The Maiden in Tower.

Sibelius in 1900, when he composed the symphonic poem for orchestra, Finlandia.