It's been a while since I dipped into Die Oper kocht. But one particular dish has been calling my name ever since I bought the treasure trove of operatic recipes.
The instructions for Rene Pape's Sächsischer Sauerbraten mit Klößen und Rotkraut (boiled beef Saxon-style with dumplings and red cabbage) don't quite hang together, I couldn't track down the main ingredients, and I don't like dumplings. But, unlike most folk not brought up on the stuff, I actually like boiled beef and cabbage. Must be something to do with school dinners.
Faust - Royal Opera House, 18 September 2011 (first night)
looking for a John Tomlinson impersonator?
Despite some outstanding performances from a top-drawer cast, this second revival of David McVicar's Faustsomehow fails to hit the mark. Part of the blame is of course Gounod's - never afraid to cut a flowing story dead in its tracks with a crowd-pleasing ballet or drinking song.
What has a deep, dark, chocolately blend of sweetness and bitterness with a fruity finish? Not just the voice of Rene Pape, but the special cake baked in his honour by the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.
To mark Rene Pape's long-awaited return to the Royal Opera House, in Faust, I'd hoped to tackle his Sauerbraten recipe from Die Oper kocht. The difficulties in getting hold of Tafelspitz, proper buttermilk and - most importantly - Soßenkuchen in London have put paid to that idea for a while.
So instead here's the chocolate and caramel cake devised by the pastry chef of the Imperial Hotel. It was originally sold only when Kenneth Branagh's Magic Flute film (in which Rene played Sarastro) was released in Japan in 2007. Pape himself loved the cake, so when he returned to Japan May 2011 for the Met tour, the recipe was dug out again, and named the Rene cake.
On the last night of Don Carlo, he bought the cake for the rest of the cast:
Want to know how Rene Pape spent his last summer hols? Starring in a movie, that's how. Of course der Superbass is already a screen veteran, having been the only thing worth watching in Kenneth Branagh's excruciating Magic Flute a few years ago.
Now he plays the Hermit in a new film version of Der Freischütz, shot last year and shortly to be released under the title Hunter's Bride.
The film promises a treat for lovers of 'realistic' opera. Set during the Napoleonic wars, the publicity shots suggest neither corsetry nor cavalry have been scrimped on. The cast is rounded out with an unbeatable group of singing actors - Juliane Banse as Agathe, Michael König as Max, Michael Volle as Kaspar and Olaf Bär as Kilian. And while they were singing on the battlefields of Saxony, Daniel Harding conducted the LSO at Abbey Road.
The Dresden premiere on 4 September promises to be a special event. Instead of herding a gaggle of micro-slebs into a cinema, the movie will be shown on the banks of the Elbe, open air and open to all, with just a few prime spots held back for sale at €15 each. It goes on general release in Germany later this year, but there's no word as yet about the UK (where, to be fair, Der Freischütz has never exactly taken off).
A sound production, a spectacular cast, a few roast heretics for supper - this could have been the greatest Don Carlo ever. If only they'd rehearsed it. Following an airing in January, Jürgen Rose's ten year old production was revived for just two nights. Some critics complain that Munich's summer opera festival is not imaginative enough, that it doesn't have new productions coming out of its ears like Salzburg's does. But for out-of-towners like me, one of the main attractions is well-cast revivals of old favourites.
However when the most convincing actor on stage is Ramón Vargas, you know you've got problems. The singing was uniformly terrific, but the cast, to a (wo)man, looked as if they'd been shoved on stage and told to get on with it. It didn't help that the temperature outdoors was a muggy 80-plus degrees, and worse inside. In their heavy period costumes, sweat running down their faces, running around the stage was probably the last thing any of them wanted to do.
He's booked up for the next couple of years, but after that he intends to focus more on recital work. Limiting his future opera appearances to one or two a year should leave enough spare time to catch up on his reading as well. Literature and history are his picks - it's time to develop his mind.
Manfred Honeck conducted the Verbier Festival Orchestra, and the full cast is René Pape (Leporello) Anna Samuil (Donna Anna), Bryn Terfel (Don Giovanni), Thomas Quasthoff (Commendatore), Michael Schade (Don Ottavio), Annette Dasch (Donna Elvira), Sylvia Schwartz (Zerlina) and Robert Gleadow(Masetto).
There are two sources - arte.tv and medici.tv. I found the Medici streaming was slightly better quality - but you need to sign up for a (free) account to watch beyond a brief preview.
The festival runs from 17 July to 2 August, and as last year, both channels are are also streaming other festival performances - in some cases live. The full programme is here.