La Scala’s first encore since 1933

Matthew Westphal: ArtsJournal
Though Riccardo Muti did allow the chorus to repeat Va, pensiero from Verdi’s Nabucco (which is virtually a second national anthem in Italy) once in 1986 and once in 1996, no soloist has sung an encore at La Scala since the legendary bass Fyodor Chaliapin did it once in 1933 (while Toscanini was out of town). Until the night before last, that is.

It all happened at the opening night of La Scala’s current production of Donizetti’s La Fille du régiment. To encourage you guys to read the actual article, all I’ll do is give a hint: the soloist was a tenor. Anyone guess who?

Rave review for new Bruckner 7

CD of the week
Bruckner: 7th Symphony
Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal/Yannick Nézet-Séguin (ATMA Classique) ****

This is the finest Bruckner I have heard from a young conductor since Franz Welser-Möst started shaving. The Canadian in charge is 31 years old and has just been appointed to succeed Valery Gergiev in Rotterdam. He shapes the gigantic Adagio at the heart of this work, a tribute to the dying Wagner, with austere and respectful restraint. The performance as a whole is marked by a fastidious refusal to emote and a structural certainty that seems uncanny in a maestro of such little experience. Within the massive score, he teases out decorative details from the woodwinds and lower strings, cleaning up the old warhorse as if it were about to run at Ascot. The opening of the finale is positively frisky and the playing of Montreal’s second orchestra is flawless, world-class. Nézet-Séguin is unquestionably the talent to watch. He makes his London debut at the South Bank on March 9; miss it if you dare.

This is from the pen of Norman Lebrecht, writing in La Scena Musicale. It comes at the end of an article bemoaning the recent ridiculous decision of the BBC Trust to prohibit further free downloads of classical music.

Applauding the relaxing of rules of clapping in classical concerts

Applauding the relaxing of rules of clapping in classical concerts
Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The so-called rules about applauding at classical music concerts appear to be relaxing. Even in the bastions of classical music — New York’s Carnegie Hall, London’s BBC Proms at [the] Albert Hall, the Metropolitan Opera and more — you are likely to hear premature clapping. It appears the experience of an orchestra concert, opera or recital is becoming less restrictive — and that deserves a round of applause.

This article makes interesting reading and makes some good points in the process, most notably by quoting the pro-applause views of conductors and soloists. I’m afraid, though, that I have to admit to remaining firmly in the camp of those who glare at premature clappers. I also have to admit that I wasn’t aware of the following (quoted from this article) as being the reason for frowning on clapping between movements:

Tucked in the penultimate page of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra programs, the [rule] about holding applause until the very end of a composition is actually spelled out: “In a multi-movement work, it is customary to wait until the end of the last movement to applaud, so as not to break the concentration of the performers.”

Joe Queenan says it like it is

Y is for youth, Z is for Die Zauberflöte
Listening to third-rate warblers like Andrea Bocelli, the most popular “classical” artist in the world, does not automatically trigger curiosity about truly great singers; if anything, fascination with the bad usually leads to fascination with the worse. That said, just about anything that can be done to induce the public to see The Magic Flute is probably worth the effort, if only because people who come to see a Mozart opera might eventually come back to hear a Mozart opera. Which is the whole point of the exercise.

These are the closing words of Joe Queenan’s A-Z of Classical Music, which has been the featured entry here for quite some time now. I especially like that quote fascination with the bad usually leads to fascination with the worse, but I wonder if he’s been totally fair nonetheless. What say you guys? Anyone out there reading this?

Gian Carlo Menotti, RIP

Gian Carlo Menotti, Opera Composer, Dies at 95 – New York Times
Gian Carlo Menotti, who wrote his first opera before he was 11 and went on to become perhaps the most popular and prolific opera composer of his time, winning two Pulitzer Prizes, died today in Monaco. He was 95. His death, at Princess Grace Hospital, was announced by his son, Francis.

Though critics often dismissed Mr. Menotti’s music as maudlin and unadventurous, many of them still celebrated his impressive lyric gifts, his deft touch with orchestral sound and his talent for making opera comprehensible and enjoyable for people who had previously shunned it. Of his critics, he once said, “They often spoil my breakfast but never my lunch”. His contemporaries, too, were sometimes unkind. Igor Stravinsky dismissed Mr. Menotti’s musical language as “mid-Mascagni”. The composer Luigi Nono withdrew from a project rather than allow his music to appear on the same programme as Mr. Menotti’s.

So, any of you guys at all familiar with Menotti’s music? All I’ve heard of is Amahl and the Night Visitors, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard anything from it. Anyone else?