“American Tenor, Michael Fabiano Talks Bel Canto” and about the ENO’s Upcoming Production of Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia”

ENO presents a unique new staging of one of the Italian composer’s most profound masterpieces Lucrezia Borgia. Legendary recordings are cherished by opera fans everywhere, but live performances of the work in its entirety are rare, so this staging is an extraordinary treat for all serious music lovers.

Director Mike Figgis has created some of the most significant cinema in recent years, including the Oscar-winning classic Leaving Las Vegas starring Nicolas Cage. Here, he brings his visionary directorial style to opera for the first time. The production features a specially commissioned new film by Figgis, charting the early life of Lucrezia Borgia.

Claire Rutter, star of ENO’s Zandra Rhodes-designed Aida, returns as Renaissance Italy’s darkest femme fatale, with rising young American tenor Michael Fabiano as Lucrezia’s long-lost son. ENO’s Olivier Award-winning former Music Director, Paul Daniel, conducts.

Performances
Jan 31, Feb 9, 15, 18, 23, 25 & Mar 3 at 7.30pm, Feb 5, 12 at 6.30pm

CAST:

Claire Rutter (Lucrezia Borgia)

Michael Fabiano (Gennaro)

Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini)

Alastair Miles (Alfonso d’Este)

 

Interview: Michael Fabiano stars in ENO’s new production of Lucrezia Borgia


A great voice and brains to boot, tenor Michael Fabiano

World’s first live 3D opera
ENO and Sky are collaborating again on a world-first broadcasting project, with Lucrezia Borgia becoming the first ever live opera in 3D.

The partnership will create the world’s first ‘quadcast’ on 23 February 2011, with a live broadcast on Sky Arts 2 (HD), Sky 3D and live into selected cinemas in 3D around the UK and a deferred relay in 2D into selected cinemas internationally. The fourth element of the ‘quadcast’, onto Sky Arts 1, is directed by Mike Figgis, and will allow audiences a closer understanding of his concept for Lucrezia Borgia as well as including interviews with people behind the scenes.

Synopsis of “Lucrezia Borgia”

Prologue

The Palazzo Grimani, Venice

A party is in full swing and Gennaro and his companions are enjoying themselves. The conversation turns to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, and his infamous wife, Lucrezia Borgia. Orsini recounts how Gennaro saved his life in battle. They swore eternal friendship, but had no sooner done so when a man appeared prophesying that the two friends would die together and that they must avoid Lucrezia Borgia.

Bored and tired, Gennaro leaves his friends and falls asleep on the terrace, where he is discovered by Lucrezia Borgia. Wearing a mask to protect her true identity, she has followed Gennaro to Venice because he is her long-lost son. Preoccupied by Gennaro, she fails to notice Alfonso and his henchman, Rustighello, lurking in the shadows. Gennaro wakes and, overwhelmed by Lucrezia’s beauty, declares there is only one other woman he loves more: the mother he never knew. He recounts to Lucrezia the story of his childhood.

Gennaro’s comrades return and immediately recognize Lucrezia, who has been responsible for murdering members of each of their families. Gennaro is horrified.

Act I
Scene 1 A piazza in Ferrara

Alfonso wrongly believes Gennaro and Lucrezia to be lovers and plots Gennaro’s murder.

Gennaro and his entourage have come to Ferrara as part of the Venetian embassy and have taken lodgings close the ducal palace. To show his hatred of Lucrezia’s crimes, Gennaro defaces an image of her.

Gubetta (sent by Lucrezia) and Rustighello (sent by Alfonso) are both looking for Gennaro. Rustighello and his men seize Gennaro.

Scene 2
A room in the ducal palace

Alfonso orders Rustighello to fetch two decanters of wine, one of silver and the other – containing poisoned wine – of gold.

Lucrezia enters. Having seen her defaced image, she demands revenge on the perpetrator. Gennaro is brought before them and accused of insulting the Borgias, a charge to which he confesses. When she discovers that it is Gennaro who is responsible, Lucrezia attempts to back-track from her previous position and makes excuses for him. Alfonso accuses her of infidelity with Gennaro, which she vehemently denies. She threatens Alfonso, reminding him of the fate that met each of her previous husbands. But Alfonso remains adamant, and forces her to choose the manner of Gennaro’s execution.

Alfonso pretends to Gennaro that he has yielded to Lucrezia’s pleas to release him. Gennaro is surprised by the duke’s clemency and reveals that he once saved the life of Alfonso’s father in battle, news of which prompts Alfonso to feign gratitude. The duke offers him a glass of wine, and forces Lucrezia to pour the drink from the poisoned decanter.

As soon as Alfonso leaves, Lucrezia administers an antidote to the poison and begs Gennaro to leave Ferrara.

Interval of 20 minutes

Act II
Scene 1 A courtyard leading to Gennaro’s lodgings

Gennaro admits to himself that he loves Lucrezia.

Rustighello and his men come to arrest Gennaro. They overhear Orsini persuading Gennaro to remain in Ferrara and attend the banquet at the Princess Negroni’s that evening.

Scene 2

The Princess Negroni’s banquet

Gubetta, who is loyal to Lucrezia, mocks Orsini and a fight breaks out. Liverotto puts a stop to it, and Gubetta invites everyone to drink a toast to friendship. Orsini leads a drinking song which is interrupted by mysterious voices chanting the service for the dead.

Lucrezia enters and announces that in revenge for their insults in Venice, Gennaro’s associates – Orsini, Liverotto, Vitellozo, Petrucci and Gazella – have been served poisoned wine. Horrified to see Gennaro still in Ferrara, she swears she never intended her vengeance to extend to him. There is still some of the antidote left, but not enough to save him and his companions. Gennaro attempts to kill Lucrezia but she stops him by revealing that she is his mother. Son and mother are briefly united before the poison acts on Gennaro. Realizing that she has murdered her own son, Lucrezia calls on God to strike her down.

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The Last Verista’s “Pick of the Week” for Jan 17-23: Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” from 1958 with Eleanor Steber


Eleanor Steber

 

Monday, 1/17
6:00 AM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

9:00 AM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman

12:00 PM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

3:00 PM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

6:00 PM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

9:00 PM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale

3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

Steber and Elias in Vanessa

 

Tuesday, 1/18
6:00 AM ET Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
1/21/1995-Müller; Swenson, Hadley, Oswald, Plishka

9:00 AM ET Verdi: Aida
12/26/1970-Cleva; Arroyo, McCracken, Bumbry, Colzani, Flagello

12:00 PM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
3/15/1997-Isepp; Vaness, Croft, Graham, Gunn, McLaughlin

3:00 PM ET Puccini: La Bohème
1/16/1982-Levine; Stratas, Carreras, Scotto, Stilwell, Monk, Morris

6:00 PM ET Wagner: Parsifal
4/14/1979-Levine; Vickers, Ludwig, Weikl, Talvela, Shinall, Plishka

12:00 AM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

Wednesday, 1/19
6:00 AM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale
3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

9:00 AM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

12:00 PM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

3:00 PM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman

8:00 PM ET Verdi: La Traviata (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Noseda; Poplavskaya, Polenzani, Dobber

12:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

Rosalind Elias

 

Thursday, 1/20
6:00 AM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

9:00 AM ET Puccini: La Bohème
1/16/1982-Levine; Stratas, Carreras, Scotto, Stilwell, Monk, Morris

12:00 PM ET Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
1/21/1995-Müller; Swenson, Hadley, Oswald, Plishka

3:00 PM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

8:00 PM ET Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (SEASON PREMIERE – LIVE FROM THE MET)
Levine; Hvorostovsky, Frittoli, Vargas, Furlanetto

12:00 AM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
3/15/1997-Isepp; Vaness, Croft, Graham, Gunn, McLaughlin

Friday, 1/21
Happy 70th Birthday, Plácido Domingo!

6:00 AM ET Giordano: Andrea Chénier
3/26/1977-Levine; Domingo, Arroyo, MacNeil, Kraft, Love, Chookasian

9:00 AM ET Puccini: Manon Lescaut
3/29/1980-Levine; Scotto, Domingo, Elvira, Capecchi

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Stiffelio
3/5/1994-Levine; Domingo, Sweet, Chernov, Plishka, Riberi, Lattimore

3:00 PM ET Wagner: Lohengrin
2/16/1985-Levine; Domingo, Tomowa-Sinto, Martin, McIntyre

9:00 PM ET Verdi: Otello (SIRIUS XM Premiere)
10/13/1995-Levine; Domingo, Fleming, Morris, Bunnell, Croft

12:00 AM ET Bizet: Carmen
3/22/1986-Levine; Ewing, Domingo, Malfitano, Devlin

Saturday, 1/22
6:00 AM ET Wagner: Parsifal
4/14/1979-Levine; Vickers, Ludwig, Weikl, Talvela, Shinall, Plishka

1:00 PM ET Verdi: Rigoletto (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Arrivabeni, Meoni, Calleja, Machaidze, Kocán, Chávez

6:00 PM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

9:00 PM ET Verdi: Aida
12/26/1970-Cleva; Arroyo, McCracken, Bumbry, Colzani, Flagello

12:00 AM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

Sunday, 1/23
6:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

9:00 AM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale
3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

3:00 PM ET Live from Carnegie Hall: The Met Orchestra
Mozart: Serenade in D Major, K. 320, “Posthorn”
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Levine; DeYoung, O’Neill

9:00 PM ET The Met on Record: Puccini: Madama Butterfly (1956)
Mitropoulos; Kirsten, Barioni, Miller, Harvuot, De Paolis

12:00 AM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman

 

 

“When ‘Assuming The Role’ Goes Too Far: Confronting the Engima of “Black Swan”

Nominated for 4 Golden Globes:

Best Motion Picture Drama

Best Performance by and Actress in a Motion Picture:  Natalie Portman

Best Performance by and Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture:  Mila Kunis

Best Director of a Motion Picture:  Darren Aronofsky

 

“Become the Role,” “Transcend to greater heights,” “You need to lose yourself,” “Perfection isn’t enough,” “Feel the music, be the rhythm,”…..how many times as artists do we hear these words?  For others, how many times do we say these words to students, colleagues, and even professionals?  Not untypical, directors and choreographers, coaches and professors, instructors and pedagogues all use these thoughts as a means to thrust an artist away from the constraints of reality, of their own lives and, instead, link their persona, emotions, thoughts, and past experiences to the character they are attempting to portray.

But when does “assuming a role” go too far?

Black Swan is psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet, Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a featured dancer who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with a new rival at the company (Mila Kunis). A Fox Searchlight Pictures release by visionary director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler), Black Swan takes a thrilling and, at times, terrifying journey through the psyche of a young ballerina whose starring role as the duplicitous swan queen turns out to be a part for which she becomes frighteningly perfect. Black Swan follows the story of Nina (Portman), a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey) who zealously supports her daughter’s professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well (artistically and perhaps sexually). Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Although Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly, Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to experience a connection to her dark side, and  a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.

 

Portman as the Black Swan

 

On a purely aesthetic note, Black Swan was well produced and expertly directed by Aronofsky.  Many of the camera angles were edgy and dissonant; for example, a rehearsal in which the entire dance sequence is shot from the perspective of the violinist playing the music, overlooking his violin.  The director catered to Nina’s, at first awkward and then unbalanced self and became more and more present as the film lead to its abominable conclusion.  The choreography and costuming was lovely, and contrary to popular opinion what is most attractive about Black Swan is not the 2 minute lesbian scene that brought a multitude of twenty-something men to the theatre to see a movie that is essentially about classical music, ballet, and the deconstruction of an artist (genius on the part of the director and screen-writer). Rather, it is the character of Nina who enthrals.  It is her passion and her obsession, her dual personas, her need to fight for the role she believes is hers–artistically and personally–it is her struggle to remain centred and focused amidst the competitive nature of her colleagues, especially Lily.

The genius point of this film is that Nina’s instability affects everything around her, including us–the third gaze. The third-gaze is a tactic that was used by Bellini in “Lucia di Lammermoor,” for example.  When a character like Lucia or Nina finally succumbs to their insanity there is a scene in which they are fully exposed in their illness and the audience, as well as the subsidiary characters in the scene, gazes at them in an attempt to understand who they are or what they have become.  As I sat there, and perhaps because I understand Nina’s unquenchable thirst to be the character and achieve perfection as would anyone who lives a life embroiled in the arts, I began to feel unsettled and even nervous, at times.  At first you want to slap her silly because she is so naive and needs to inherit some guts and gall, but then you realize that this poor young woman is a by-product of a mother who is vicariously living a career through her daughter.  As sick as this is, you feel for the mother’s own destruction and for what she does to Nina, but you also understand Nina’s frustration and need to free herself from a mother who is suffocating, over-bearing, and much too involved in keeping control (there is definitely something psychotic about keeping your twenty-something daughter in a room filled with stuffed animals fit for an 8 year old).

The moment of transcendence begins

 

With Lincoln Center as its backdrop, the action brought a deep sense of realism for me, and perhaps for others who live artistic lives.  Natalie Portman gave a magnificent performance, a point that is supported by our changing feelings toward her and her plight for artistic perfection.  Her alternate personality (the Black Swan) is one that we want to see, be seduced by, and experience viscerally, and yet we are frightened by its consequence. We know it will destroy her and yet we desire that destruction and watch anxiously for the moment of rupture.  The epitome of a good actress is one that makes you love her and hate her at the same time.

The ultimate feeling that I would like to impress about this film is that it was more realistic than many will realize.  It is not merely a fictional tale concocted by someone’s screwed up fantasy about Ballerinas or the artistic stage; rather, it is a true-to-life example of what might happen if an artist assumes a role too intensely.  Can you still lose yourself and maintain your sanity?  Is this a necessary confrontation that we must all experience as artists? Can we handle it?  Black Swan’s enigma is not unsolvable, yet to understand what happened to Nina we must put her slippers on and ask ourselves whether art demands our every ounce…and whether we might have done anything different.  Isn’t what Nina experienced in the final scene, where she spawns the feathered wings of the Black Swan and becomes her, ideally what we aspire to–that moment of transcendence where we have served art beyond life, beyond ourselves, and beyond reality.  For some, that moment may never happen. For those who experience it…choose wisely and know your boundaries.

 

Millo talks Verdian Singing on La Cieca’s “Parterre Box”

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend your ears to what La Profonda has to say.

Millo’s Essay on Verdian Singing