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An Afternoon at the Opera


For all my followers who know me and those who have just found me,  I am a city girl turned country gal, living in the Swedish countryside. It has been some time since I have had an opera evening to share with you. My business Li’l Sis Goat Milk Soap is keeping me quite busy. As much as I love my farm and life in the countryside, I still miss and enjoy when I can, city delights. One such delight is being able to watch live HD transmissions of opera direct from The Metropolitan Opera  in New York. Yes, I can attend and enjoy world class opera just 20 minutes from Gullringstorp! Yesterday I had the pleasure of viewing an opera that sat unfinished for many years. Prince Igor, by composer Alexander Borodin. In true Metropolitan Opera fashion, this Russian epic required and received a stage that was filled with the most wonderful chorus and the costumes and sets that transported you to the towns in Russia that were depicted in the opera. It was a story of power, protest, loss and recovery. Sound familiar? I could not help but think of the present day struggles that are now going on around the globe , most especially the struggle in Kiev, Ukraine. It was very beautiful and moving with a musical score with vocals sung by some of the finest opera voices from  Russia, Ukraine and Georgia. The orchestration and vocals along with the world class Metropolitan opera chorus, were magnificent and really touched my heart. Here are reviews from The Metropolitan Opera site:

Prince Igor

Approximate running time 4 hrs. 15 min. Borodin’s defining Russian epic, famous for its Polovtsian Dances, comes to the Met for the first time in nearly 100 years. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s new production is a brilliant psychological journey through the mind of its conflicted hero, with the founding of the Russian nation as the backdrop.

Star bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov takes on the monumental title role, with Gianandrea Noseda conducting. Dmitri Tcherniakov’s “wonderful staging is dreamlike, wrenchingly human and viscerally theatrical. The impressive cast, with many Russian singers, is headed by the compelling bass Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role… His Igor has moments of Italianate lyrical refinement. He brings passion, even a touch of neediness, to his exchanges with his devoted wife, Yaroslavna, the Ukrainian soprano Oksana Dyka in her Met debut. She is a classic Russian soprano with a cool, penetrating intensity, fearless high notes, and a glint of steel in her sound.” (New York Times)

“The charismatic Georgian mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili brings her plush, big voice and a sultry physicality to the role of Konchakovna.” (New York Times) Gianandrea Noseda “led a vibrant and textured performance… [conveying] the Russian character of the music, while conducting it with clarity and precision. The Met chorus is at its glorious best.” (New York Times)

Prince Igor’s triumphant return: the Met makes a masterpiece of an unlikely opera. [A performance that] would be the jewel of any opera company in any golden age.” (New York Observer)

“The Met has returned a long-absent marvel to its rightful place in the repertoire.” (New York Magazine)

“The hugely talented Tcherniakov [is] a director who also designs his own sets. These were terrific: neither abstract nor period medieval, they took us into more universal realms of fear, longing and despair.” (Bloomberg) “Ildar Abdrazakov masterfully probed Igor’s guilt and regret.” (Wall Street Journal)

There was much to understand and comprehend in this opera. As with any war or civil unrest, like a chess game, there are many moving pieces. to understand exactly what the opera was about, I have included, from the Metropolitan Opera website,the SYNOPSIS

Prologue The city-state of Putivl. Together with his son, Vladimir, Prince Igor gathers his army for a military campaign against the Polovtsians. A sudden solar eclipse frightens everybody. The people and Igor’s inner circle of boyars (nobles) take this as a bad omen and plead with Igor to postpone the campaign. Unnoticed by the army, two soldiers—Skula and Yeroshka—decide to desert: they do not want to risk their lives and are determined to stay behind in Putivl. Igor’s wife, Yaroslavna, pleads with Igor to remain at home, but he cannot be persuaded. The Prince bids farewell to her and leaves her in the care of her brother, Prince Vladimir Galitsky. The army of Igor and Vladimir sets out on their campaign.

Act I The Polovtsian steppes. The battle is lost. Igor’s army is destroyed, and he is taken prisoner by Khan Konchak, the chief of the Polovtsians. In his mind, the tormented Igor replays over and over everything that has happened. The beautiful Konchakovna, who is in love with Vladimir, appears to him. Then Yaroslavna appears. Then Ovlur appears, urging him to flee his captivity. Then Khan Konchak appears and offers his friendship as his guest of honor. Igor has a vision of the overwhelming joy of living life to its fullest.

Act II In Yaroslavna’s palace. Terrible nightmares and dark premonitions haunt Yaroslavna. There has not been any news from Igor for a long time. Young maidens come to Yaroslavna accusing Galitsky of going on a wild rampage in Putivl. They complain that Galitsky has abducted one of their friends and ask Yaroslavna to step in and demand that the girl be returned to them. Yaroslavna doesn’t have the power to deal with her brother. Galitsky behaves impertinently with his sister and threatens both her and Igor. In the court of Prince Galitsky, the men are having a drunken feast. Seeking still more power, Galitsky would like to exile Yaroslavna to a nunnery as part of his plan to replace Igor as the new Prince of Putivl. Skula and Yeroshka now support Galitsky’s claims. The young maidens come directly to Galitsky in a desperate attempt to save their friend, but the mob laughs at them, chasing them away. The drunken brawl reaches its climax; everyone prepares for revolt. Yaroslavna’s palace. The boyars bring Yaroslavna the tragic news of the army’s destruction and of Igor’s captivity, sending her into turmoil. In the meantime, Galitsky and his followers take advantage of the moment and revolt. Alarm bells announce imminent danger: the enemy advances on Putivl and in the ensuing panic Galitsky is killed.

Act III Putivl is destroyed and left in ruins. Yaroslavna has lost all hope for Igor’s return and weeps over her husband’s loss. Igor, who has in fact escaped from captivity, suddenly returns to destroyed Putivl. Torturous visions continue to haunt him. The tipsy Skula and Yeroshka discover Igor. In order to escape deserved punishment for treason, the cunning Skula suggests to Yeroshka that they be the first to summon the people to share the joyous news with them. Igor interrupts the crowd’s jubilation and addresses the people with words of repentance. He blames himself for all that has happened and calls upon everybody to unite and rebuild their destroyed lives.  

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Here is a video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZHtISoeGWQ

I may be a little goat herder in the Swedish countryside, but I step out of my world to enjoy wonderful culture whenever I can. As soon as I can get the score on my iPhone, my goats will  have a real treat in the stable.

Thank you for a wonderful and moving experience spent with the Metropolitan Opera of New York.


A Night at the Opera in the Swedish Countryside Part 2


Last evening, this city girl turned country gal went to the opera. Well, not the actual opera, but an HD live transmission from the Metropolitan Opera of New York, at a local movie theater here in the Swedish countryside. We go as often as we can, but I am unable to post on all of them with so much happening here at Gullringstorp with our goats. I would like to post on all our HD opera visits, but it is a bit difficult. I will do my best.

Last evening we saw the Metropolitan Opera of New York’s new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. It was an absolutely  wonderful evening at the opera. I had fun texting back and forth during the intermissions with my daughter who was listening to the live radio broadcast at the same time.

The director, Michael Mayer, has set the production in 1960 Las Vegas, transferring the thuggish morality of the court of 16th-century Mantua to the neon-lighted, satin-jacket world of Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Joey Bishop. Having spent a lot of time in the glittering city as a child and teenager with my family, it was a trip down memory lane for me. This new production had an international line up of fantastic voices :

Zeljko Lucic : Rigoletto

Diana Damrau : Gilda

Oksana Volkova : Maddalena

Piotr Beczala : Duke of Mantua

Stefan Kocan : Sparafucile

Composer : Giuseppe Verdi

Conductor : Michele Mariotti

Rigoletto Synopsis

ACT I. Mantua, 1500s. At his palace, the Duke lightheartedly boasts to his courtiers of amorous conquests, escorting Countess Ceprano, his latest prize, to a private chamber as his hunchback jester, Rigoletto, makes fun of her husband. Marullo announces that Rigoletto is suspected of keeping a mistress, and Ceprano plots with the courtiers to punish the hated buffoon. Attention is diverted when Monterone, an elderly nobleman, enters to denounce the Duke for seducing his daughter. Ridiculed by Rigoletto and placed under arrest, Monterone pronounces a curse on both the Duke and his jester.

On his way home that night, Rigoletto broods on Monterone’s curse. Rejecting the services offered by Sparafucile, a professional assassin, he notes that the word can be as deadly as the dagger. Greeted by his daughter, Gilda, whom he keeps hidden from the world, he reminisces about his late wife, then warns the governess, Giovanna, to admit no one. But as Rigoletto leaves, the Duke slips into the garden, tossing a purse to Giovanna to keep her quiet. The nobleman declares his love to Gilda, who has noticed him in church. He tells her he is a poor student named Gualtier Maldè, but at the sound of footsteps he rushes away. Tenderly repeating his name, Gilda retires. Meanwhile, the courtiers stop Rigoletto outside his house and ask him to help abduct Ceprano’s wife, who lives across the way. The jester is duped into wearing a blindfold and holding a ladder against his own garden wall. The courtiers break into his home and carry off Gilda. Rigoletto, hearing her cry for help, tears off his blindfold and rushes into the house, discovering only her scarf. He remembers Monterone’s curse.

ACT II. In his palace, the Duke is distraught over the disappearance of Gilda. When his courtiers return, saying it is they who have taken her and that she is now in his bedchamber, he joyfully rushes off to the conquest. Soon Rigoletto enters, warily looking for Gilda; the courtiers bar his way, though they are astonished to learn the girl is not his mistress but his daughter. The jester reviles them, then embraces the disheveled Gilda as she runs in to tell of her courtship and abduction. As Monterone is led to the dungeon, Rigoletto vows to avenge them both.

ACT III. At night, outside Sparafucile’s run-down inn on the outskirts of town, Rigoletto and Gilda watch as the Duke flirts with the assassin’s sister and accomplice, Maddalena. Rigoletto sends his daughter off to disguise herself as a boy for her escape to Verona, then pays Sparafucile to murder the Duke. As a storm rages, Gilda returns to hear Maddalena persuade her brother to kill not the Duke but the next visitor to the inn instead. Resolving to sacrifice herself for the Duke, despite his betrayal, Gilda enters the inn and is stabbed. Rigoletto comes back to claim the body and gloats over the sack Sparafucile gives him, only to hear his supposed victim singing in the distance. Frantically cutting open the sack, he finds Gilda, who dies asking forgiveness. Monterone’s curse is fulfilled.
— courtesy of Opera News

Here is a clip of the rehearsal of Rigoletto, Met Opera 2013

Here is a video clip of Piotr Beczala ( A fantastic tenor from Poland)

Here is a video clip of Diana Damarau ( A beautiful  soprano  from Germany)

Here is a beautiful and touching  duet between Rigoletto : Zeljko Lucic ( A baritone from Serbia)and his beloved daughter Gilda: Diana Damarau

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01qqf4k/Opera_on_3_Live_from_the_Met_Verdi_200_Rigoletto/

I hope you have enjoyed a night at the opera…


An Evening at the Opera


The old saying, “you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the  city out of the girl” is true. I am a city girl now a country gal who still enjoys the wonders of the city.  Here in our quiet countryside communities of Sweden, we can enjoy a bit of the cosmopolitan city life of New York. Thanks to Peter Gelb of the Metropolitan Opera House of New York, we are able to enjoy HD broadcasts of the opera season, right here in our Swedish countryside.

We were able to enjoy a world premiere opera The Enchanted Island.  This new opera utilized the music of 18th century composers, Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau and Leclair.  A new libretto written by Jeremy Sams uses the four lovers from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream while also incorporating Prospero’s Island from The Tempest.  All of these ingredients produced a most enchanting Baroque opera.

The Metropolitan orchestra was honored to be conducted  by the distinguished William Christie.

A short synopsis of The Enchanted Island :

Prospero played by the wonderful countertenor David Daniels gave a command to Ariel , his sprite servant whose freedom he controls played by Danielle De Niese a soprano, to cast a lover’s spell on Ferdinand to fall in love with his daughter,  Miranda.

Prospero played by David Daniels

Prospero played by David Daniels

Ariel being brought back by Prospero's magic as she tries to escape her recent instructions

Ariel unable to move forward because she was being pulled back by Prospero's magic as she tries to escape her recent commands

While Ariel was beginning her instructions, there were two couples who had become shipwrecked and separated from each other. This situation gave way to offering the ingredients for  both the comedy and heartache in this opera.

This was the shipwreck that left 2 newly wed couples lost and separated from each other

This was the shipwreck that left 2 newly wed couples lost and separated from each other

Ariel makes all the wrong matches. When Sycorax decides after learning of  Prospero’s plans  for his daughter Miranda and realizing that  Caliban wanted to marry her also;  that Helena, one of he shipwrecks newlyweds would be a great match for her son.

 Caliban was in absolute delightful heaven with his new love Helena

Caliban was in absolute delightful heaven with his new love Helena

Meanwhile, Ariel had mismatched everyone and was having a difficult time finding that elusive Ferdinand. While Ariel was in search of the right Ferdinand, each couple seemed to be happily basking in  their newly found love, including Caliban whose happiness was a wonderful thing to see.

The love spells were broken and all the matches fell apart as each realized, they really were not in love. When Caliban looses his love Helena, his sadness and grief is palpable. He is thrown into the depths of a sadness I have never seen before in any other opera. Caliban, played by the Bass Baritone Luca Pisaroni, went from childlike delight at finding his new love to the saddest creature ever. Not only was it heard in his voice but his body language showed the anguish of his loss. All of this,  with the beautiful score being played in the background by the fabulous Metropolitan orchestra, there was no doubt that Caliban had been thrown into the depths of depression by his loss.

This face tells the entire story of lost love and saddness

This face tells the entire story of lost love and sadness

All of a sudden, the stage is filled with gayety and dancing, all trying to make Caliban feel beter

All of a sudden, the stage is filled with gayety and dancing, all trying to make Caliban feel better

Caliban's sadness gave way to anger

Caliban's sadness gave way to anger

Caliban’s mother Sycorax played by the fantastic Mezzo Soprano Joyce Di Donato, sang the most beautiful aria to her sad son Caliban all about love and broken hearts. She sang of a mother’s difficult job to try to protect her child from this kind of pain and sadness. She sang to her sad son straight from  her heart.  She sang of her own anguish at not having the power to protect her son from the heart-break of love. Her anguish must have filled the air in the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan as she sang to her son, because as I watched this in my tiny theater in the Swedish countryside, I felt it sep in my heart.

As a mother, I am aware of the need and the expectation that we have the power to protect our child from the hurts and pains of life. The terrible truth is, we can not. We can only be there  to collect them as they fall , cushion that fall the best we can, hold them and remind them that hurt is a part of life and that you will always be there for them and to love them.

This is what Sycorax did for her son Caliban. I have only been so moved by such a scene on the stage once before; that was a scene from Madam Butterfly.  Then I cried as a woman understanding  Cio-Cio San’s loss of her love and her eventual feelings of betrayal. In this opera, I cried as a mother , helpless to keep painfully sad experiences from the life of her son. My tears flowed…

Sycorax sings to her sad son, Caliban

Sycorax sings to her sad son, Caliban

In the meantime, Ariel is still having a difficulty  locating Ferdinand and goes beneath the sea to consult with Neptune. She needs his help locating Ferdinand.

The moment the audience realize that Neptune is the Met’s beloved Tenor Placido Domingo, there was an eruption of thunderous applause! It was wonderful to hear and I really wish that I was sitting in the opera house at that very moment. He looked magnificent as Neptune!

Once the audience saw Ariel make her appearance beneath the sea in her diving gear, the audience broke out in delightful laughter. This opera, took us to great heights and depths. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

Ariel goes beneath the sea to find Neptune

Ariel goes beneath the sea to find Neptune

Placido as Neptune

Placido as Neptune

Neptune's underwater world was filled with suspended mermaids and the Met chorus in cut outs

Neptune's underwater world was filled with suspended mermaids and the Met chorus in cut outs

Ariel finally was able to find Ferdinand with Neptune’s assistance and each of the shipwrecked newly wed couples found each other and were blissfully in love, once again. Miranda was united with Ferdinand.  Caliban hoped that he would one day find his true love. Ariel won her freedom from Prospero and Sycorax transformed into a beautiful self-assured , ready for the world , new woman.

Sycorax  in the beginning

Sycorax in the beginning

The new Sycorax

The new Sycorax

The new and bright Sycorax

The new and confident Sycorax

Prospero, at the urgency of Neptune, begs for forgiveness from Sycorax for all the bad things he has done to her and her son Caliban and returns the island to her.

Neptune speaks of forgiveness to both sycorax and Prospero

Neptune speaks of forgiveness to both Sycorax and Prospero

Forgiveness with Neptune's help

Forgiveness with Neptune's help

Ariel the mischievous sprite wins her freedom

Ariel the mischievous sprite finally wins her freedom

As Neptune explains the virtues of mercy and forgiveness, Sycorax accepts Prospero’s apologies and extends her hand of forgiveness. With the help of the fabulous Metropolitan  chorus, there was song and beautiful music to celebrate joy, peace, forgiveness and love.

Met chorus  all join in to sing of peace, love, joy and forgiveness

Met chorus all join in to sing of peace, love, joy and forgiveness

Needless to say again , but I must, I had an enchanting evening at the opera in the Swedish countryside!