As Opera Australia prepare their new Ring Cycle, they celebrated Wagner's 200th birthday earlier today via the traditional medium of cake. A specially-commissioned life-sized Valkyrie helmet, full of chocolatey goodness, was taken on a tour of the building before the ritual demolition.
A Wagner documentary without Howard Goodall or Stephen Fry? Yes, it can be done.
Here's the earliest effort: Carl Fröhlich's 1913 silent movie The Life and Works of Richard Wagner. The series of reverential vignettes was put together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Ideally it would have been accompanied by an orchestra playing Wagner's music at each showing, but the makers didn't want to stump up the required royalties. So they commissioned Giuseppe Becce to craft a Wagner-like score; close enough to sound like the real thing, but different enough to avoid legal retaliation. Becce bore such an uncanny resemblance to Wagner that he was drafted in to act the part of the composer as well.
There's no sound on the video above, so feel free to slam on some Daft Punk.
Kasper Holten has kindly spared the time to make a lengthy and constructive comment addressing some of the criticism of La donna del lago and the more general issues raised. You can read it on the post itself, or below:
Scots are fuming over their haggis at John Fulljames's portrayal of Highlanders in La donna del lagoreports the Herald. The director shows them as kilted thugs with matted hair and filthy clothes, going round raping and disembowelling everything in their path in between 21/2 octave coloratura runs.
"Turning Highlanders into savages is the clear choice of an author; that's what Rossini and Scott are saying," he claims. "If you look at those films [like Highlander and Braveheart], the Highlanders are hairy. You do imagine they'd be smelly."
But Professor David Purdie, the chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club, dismisses that interpretation as "bollocks".
"Scott was a great admirer of the courage and characteristics of the Highlanders and lamented the fact they had been separated for so long from southern Scotland by geography, language, politics and religion. Scott more than anybody else helped to unite the Highlands and Lowlands. His great aim in life was the promotion of Scotland as a unity within the United Kingdom."
La donna del lago - Royal Opera House, 17 May 2013 (first night)
The Royal Opera House has pulled together the most perfect cast imaginable for this new production. They more than lived up to expectations, with line after line of the most thrillingly spectacular Rossini singing I've ever heard. Even a production that rivals the recent Nabucco for sheer ineptness couldn't dim their brilliance.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra have just announced that Andris Nelsons is to become their next Music Director, beginning as Music Director Designate in the 2013-14 season. He takes on the full role in the following season on a five-year contract that commits him to up to 12 weeks of performances each year. The full press release is below.
The CBSO have confirmed Andris will stay with them until "at least 2014/15 on a rolling contract"; they will make an announcement about future seasons later this year.
While it's possible for one conductor to handle two orchestras, this makes it less likely that Nelsons will be available for the Berlin Philharmonic opening in 2018.
Here, with thanks to reader James, it is possible to answer an question that has no doubt pressed many a mind - what does Jonas Kaufmann look like with straight hair? Mozart fans may wish to turn the sound down.
So who'll be on top at La Scala after Stéphane Lissner leaves for Paris in 2015?
The short answer - probably music director Daniel Barenboim, who finds it tough to play #2 to anybody. But there remains a post to be filled, and La Scala's press officer Carlo Maria Cella has just confirmed that a decision will be made by the mayor of Milan later this month. He says there are three neck-and-neck frontrunners amongst the many candidates.
First up is the Austrian outsider Alexander Pereira. In charge of the Salzburg Festival since last year, he ran Zurich Opera for 21 years before that. Previous form includes running Vienna's Konzerthaus and, famously, flogging Olivetti typewriters. Good at raising money and starting fights, bad at being Italian - and his artistic choices are often questioned.
Next is Cristiano Chiarot. A former journalist, his entire operatic career has been with the Teatro la Fenice in Venice. He rose through the press and marketing ranks to become Superintendent in 2010. A vocal critic of public spending cuts.
Finally, we come to Sergio Escobar. Since 1998 he has been Director of Milan's Piccolo Teatro, where he plays a largely administrative role alongside artistic director Luca Ronconi. Before that he held management roles at opera houses in Rome, Bologna, Genoa - and, helpfully enough, La Scala, where he was marketing director and assistant to the general director between 1979 and 1990. His broad exposure to the opera world is tempered by the fact he's been out of it for 15 years.
The Salzburg Whitsun Festival opens on 17 May with a new Leiser and Caurier production of Norma starring the Festival's artistic director, Cecilia Bartoli. Leiser and Caurier revisit their beloved 1950s in the sombre palette of Italian neorealism.
La Ceci has insisted the musical side reflects Bellini's own era instead of reverting to post-Verdian cliche. Her digging around has resulted in a revised score that reverses habitual cuts. The casting of Norma and Adalgisa has been rethought, and Zurich Opera's period orchestra, La Scintilla, has been drafted in.
Alongside the Riemann hypothesis and the existence of God, one great question remains unanswered.
How old is Plácido Domingo?
Rumours have long circulated. Has the legendary baritenor, who claims, like Gheorghiu, to have started college at the age of 14, shaved a year or five off his age? His official birth date is 21 January 1941, making him 72.
Van Dam was born on 25 August 1940, so he would have been 31 in 1971. Yet Plácido's eldest grandchild, the actress and Playboy modelIvonne Armant wasn't born until 16 January 1974, when Van Dam was not 31 but 33. To complicate matters further, paternity wasn't initially acknowledged. Plácido's first 'official' grandchild arrived at a later date, when Van Dam was even older. No-one would question the veteran bass's honesty. But perhaps the passage of time has clouded his memory. It does seem unlikely that his conversation with Domingo could have taken place at the time he recalls, however old Domingo is.
So the mystery remains unsolved. As ever, it seems nothing short of cutting Plácido in half and counting the rings will provide an answer.
In recent years relegated to the French provinces, this time round it is blessed with the starriest cast it could hope for. The excellent tenor Andrea Caré
(as recently seen in Covent Garden's Nabucco) takes the title role, with Anna Caterina Antonacci
as Brunehilde and Anne Sophie Duprels as Hilda. Cross fingers they make a recording - there's none currently available, and earlier attempts don't really do the work credit .
Amazingly, the soprano who created the role of Brunehilde back in 1884 lived long enough to record part of it after her stage career had ended. Above, hear Rose Caron in 1904 with Des presents de Gunther.
Below, and rather more stylishly, Régine Crespin tackles Salut, splendeur du jour.
There's no word about Harteros's one remaining booking, 11 May, yet, but "acute tonsillitis" is not something that clears quickly. Could we have unwittingly seen her last ever Covent Garden performance already?