Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Life is a wonderful adventure as seen by a vixen!

By Thanassis Vavlidas

Following a series of successful productions, such as “Gioconda’s smile” by Manos Hadjidakis and “Tristan und Isolde” by Richard Wagner, the Greek National Opera presented a marvelous new production of Leos Janacek’s “The cunning little vixen” in collaboration with the “Welsh National Opera” and the “Scottish Opera”. This opera, composed by Janacek between 1922 and 1923, is based on a serialized novella written by R. Tesnohlidek and illustrated by St. Lolek, which was first published in the newspaper “Lidove Noviny”. The composer himself wrote the libretto, creating a fairy tale suitable for the whole family. A female fox is captured by a forest ranger and is obliged to learn to live among humans. The vixen finally escapes to freedom, grows up, falls in love, creates a family and finally meets an unexpected death. The forest ranger is the only person who really feels sad for her death. Each animal in the opera has its own behaviour and is not just a naturalistic or smart sketch of an animal. The colourful music includes folk music and rhythms, leitmotivs transformed skilfully and themes of a nostalgic atmosphere created by instruments such as harp, celesta, horn and viola. It is an insightful study of the relationship between the restrictions of human life and the freedom of the animal kingdom.

There is a lot of discussion regarding the opera’s name. There is no mention in the Czech title of a diminutive ("little"), although this term appears since the 1980s in both the German (Das schlaue Fuechslein) and the English version of the opera's name. It was, however, the German name, used for a movie (1965), which established the English "cunning little," ignoring the important double meaning in "Sharp-Ears" of the original title. The first three audio recordings, all from the Czech company Supraphon (Neumann 1957, Gregor 1972, Neumann 1980) used, naturally, the original Czech name. Then, Decca recorded the opera with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1981, and this widely circulated release made the “cunning little vixen” its standard name.

The director David Pountney, assisted in the wonderful sets and costumes by Maria Bjornson, created a land of dream, a symphonic fantasy of voices and colours. At the same time, the cunning vixen becomes the model of a woman who is trying to emancipate at the beginning of the 20th century, trying to control her own life without external restrictions. There is a fine line between tragic and comic actions and Pountney decided to move this line back and forth. The choreography of Stuart Hopps created a moving vision of the music and we are thankful to Elaine Tyler- Hall who revived successfully both the director’s and the choreographer’s ideas.

The young conductor Ondrej Olos took advantage of most melodies in order to show the broad range of orchestral colours while keeping in touch with every single note of the voices. It is not surprising that he was rewarded for conducting this very opera in 2006. All the singers, as well as the choir, made every effort to give an excellent performance. Although it was the first time this opera was staged by the Greek National Opera, one can certainly admit that the vocal parts were successfully performed.

The composer himself described “the cunning little vixen” as “a comic opera with a sad ending”. However, we left the theatre with a feeling of love for nature, as well as a feeling that we love life more than ever!

Thanassis Vavlidas
Member of the “Union of drama and music Greek critics”

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Piano Concerto No. 1

1st Movement: Allegro giocoso
2nd Movement: Andante molto cantabile
3rd Movement: Toccata con fuoco


Friday, April 10, 2015

P.I.Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony

Xian Zhang, Conductor
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi
London, PROMS
Royal Albert Hall 2013

Chinese-American conductor Xian Zhang directs the 'Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi' in the Byronic epic that closes the season's Tchaikovsky symphony cycle.
Written between Tchaikovsky's Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, Manfred is Russia's Harold in Italy, a work inspired by the programmatic symphonies of Berlioz and depicting the death of a tormented Faustian hero with supernatural gifts and a guilty secret.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

R. Wagner: Parsifal - Prelude to Act 3 and Good-Friday Music

Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester,
Daniele Gatti conducting.

Royal Albert Hall, 26 August 2012.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Francis Poulenc: Concerto for two pianos and orchestra

Francis Poulenc: Concerto in d minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra
Pianos: Rolf-Peter Wille, Lina Yeh
Conductor: Alexander Rudin
Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Piano Sonata...

An old "sin"... Composed in Provo, Utah, October 1983. Nobody has managed to play it yet!


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Robert Gutman's "Wagner"


It seems Robert Gutman did a great job in discrediting and "demonizing" Richard Wagner's character. Now it is time for the truth!

"In 1968 Robert Gutman published a popular book about Wagner (Richard Wagner: the Man, his Mind and his Music) in which he portrayed his subject as a racist, psychopathic, proto-Nazi monster. Despite the reservations expressed by reviewers about the quality of Gutman's scholarship, this book has been a best-seller; especially in the USA, where an entire generation of students has been encouraged to accept Gutman's caricature of Richard Wagner. Even intelligent people, who have either never read Wagner's writings or tried to penetrate them and failed -- the situation is not made any more favourable to Wagner in the English-speaking world by the scarcity of good translations -- have read Gutman's book and accepted his opinions as facts. Since Gutman's book was a seminal contribution to the ill-tempered debate about Wagner's alleged racism, the relevant sections of the book will be considered at length in this article."

Read the article


"Wagner had a lot of Jewish friends and colleagues, including his favorite conductor Hermann Levi; one of his arrangers, Joseph Rubinstein; pianist Carl Tausig; writer and choirmaster Heinrich Porges; his public relations man Herr Neumann; and French writer Judith Gautier, with whom he had what might be called a long-distance love affair. Wagner said in his autobiography one of the most beautiful friendships of his life was with Samuel Lehrs, a Jew. He had a deep appreciation for Jewish composers, such as Mendelssohn. He was asked several times but always refused to sign any public declarations against the Jews."

Read the article

Friday, February 13, 2015

Wagner - Tristan und Isolde: Prelude and Liebestod (Solti)

Richard Wagner - Prelude and Liebestod from "Tristan und Isolde" - Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Georg Solti.