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How Do You Save A Concert With Karita?

In Classical Music, Opera, Review, Richard Strauss on January 23, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Review: The Rest Is Noise Inaugural Concert (Royal Festival Hall, Saturday 19 January 2013)

Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
Four Early Songs, Op. 33
Notturno, Op. 44 No. 1
Dance of the Seven Veils & Final Scene, Salome, Op. 54

Karita Matilla (Soprano)
Thomas Hampson (Baritone)

London Philharmonic
Vladimir Jurowski (Conductor)

An all-Strauss concert heralded the start of the Southbank’s The Rest Is Noise festival – literally chapter one in a one-year musical traversal of Alex Ross’ book of the same title.

It’s an ambitious and creative approach to the book. As well as concerts, talks and films are scheduled to bring 20th Century music to life for the audience.

So it’s a shame that the opening concert didn’t quite live up to the artistic and ambitious endeavor of the festival itself. Bar the most obvious programming of the evening Jurowski and the soloists didn’t manage to generate that frisson of excitement that underlined the reason why Ross embarks on his book with Richard Strauss.

The last time I heard Jurowski conduct Strauss was a mixed affair and the same was true of this opening concert. Also sprach Zarathustra – while smartly played by the London Philharmonic – was no nonsense – in fact almost perfunctory – in its delivery by the maestro. Played almost as an academic exercise, Jurowski gave no quarter or flex to allow the music to breathe. When speaking afterwards, Jurowski spoke of the piece’s nihilism. Clearly his idea of nihilism is to get to the final bar as quickly and unapologetically as possible with no pause for thought or reflection.

I just hope that by the time Jurowski gets to Die Frau ohne Schatten later this year that he has – for wont of a better phrase – relaxed into Richard Strauss a great deal more.

Sadly the four early songs that followed fared little better. Neither Verführung nor Gesang der Apollopriesterin were the best choices for Karita Matilla. Or vice versa. There is no denying that Matilla is still an incredible singer but she simply wasn’t able to negotiate the broad sweeping phrases as written by Strauss and in some cases not only quite literally ‘gulped’ them out but struggled at both ends of her register. There was little finesse and no colouring in her performance and as a consequence this inevitably meant that at times her diction was below par. I see that she is schedule to sing the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos. An unusual decision based on her performance of these two songs.

Thomas Hampson fared better. Marginally. A career of lieder singing was evident in his performance and focus on the words but he struggled not only against the orchestra at points (which male singer doesn’t in Strauss?) and again he wasn’t quite able to negotiate the range that Strauss had written in to the vocal line.

However again while Jurowski coaxed some resplendent playing from the orchestra I was not always convinced of his sympathy either for supporting either singer or the music itself. It was almost – despite his own comments to the audience about the influences of Wagner and the like – that these songs were a sideshow to what was to come.

The second half was immeasurably better but not always for reasons of musicianship.

I have not heard the Notturno performed in the UK before and not for some time generally. It is an interesting piece with Strauss being inspired by Richard Dehmel’s poem to create a new and beautifully evocative palette of colours for a chamber ensemble that he was not to do again. As well as echoes of Mahler in places it is definitely forward looking but whether it had an influence on later composers is debatable. Strauss’ own retreat from this sound world proves that he was himself experimenting. Here Jurowski seemed to relax into the music more. Perhaps it was the intimacy and focus of the piece that inspired him as he allowed the players greater freedom and weaved the textures produced together around Hampson who sang with great diligence and some theatricality. However this piece is cruel in its exposure of any singer and here Hampson didn’t quite manage the lower parts of the vocal line and could perhaps have been braver in his interpretation. Hopefully however we will see Notturno become a rare, if not absent, addition to the performance schedule here in the UK.

And so to the closing music of the concert.

Personally I think that Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils could almost conduct itself. Beautifully orchestrated and cunningly constructed it moves inexorably to its denouement and for the conductor the challenge is to marshal the orchestral forces to ensure it doesn’t burn out too quickly, tease out the orchestral colours and inject a sense of sexuality and swagger. Jurowski did the first, mostly did the second but the third was sadly lacking. Again there was a sense of the perfunctory to his leadership that while it meant the Dance was beautifully played it didn’t quite have the sensuousness that would lead one to want to give Salome someone’s head.

And Karita Matilla’s Salome? Was she – as Hampson said – one of the greatest Salome’s alive? Did she deserve the standing ovation?

Yes.

And no.

Clearly this was the moment in the concert that Ms Matilla was completely focused on and she gave a mesmerizing – at times electric – performance. I could have been mistaken but did the Southbank lighting technicians bathe her in a red light. Why? It was not needed. She completely immersed herself in the character and music of Salome and while the sounds that she produced were not always beautiful, they were completely in character. When needed she cut through the orchestral most brutally but could then reduce herself to an almost Sprechstimme-like whisper. She pulled out all the stops and had clearly decided that this was not a moment for vocal beauty but rather a moment to forge an interpretation based on raw – almost physical – emotion.

And it worked in the confines of the concert hall.

And it was clear that wherever she went Jurowski was duty-bound to follow. The roles were reversed and she was in control. For the first time he seemed to release himself from some kind of self-imposed straitjacket and pushed himself and the orchestral to their limits. He mined the rich textures and colours that Strauss had written but more than that he surrendered and gave space for the lyricism that this closing section is steeped in as a juxtaposition to the music of Salome’s own deranged mind.

Together Matilla and Jurowski sought out and found beauty in the brutality of Strauss’ music. For the first time that evening you could completely understand why Alex Ross chose Strauss as the first chapter in his book. It swept away all the disappointment of the rest of the concert.

Quite rightly the audience showed their appreciation. But it was for Matilla’s memorable not musical Salome.

The evening was quite literally saved by serving up a head on a plate.

Aria For … Wednesday – Io t’abbraccio (Rodelinda)

In Aria For ..., Baroque, Harry Bickett, Opera on January 16, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Handel’s Rodelinda contains some of his most ravishing music and nothing more beautiful that the duet that closes the Second Act – Io t’abbracio – here sung by Sarah Connolly and Rosemary Joshua.

Written in 1719, for me this is a greater “fare thee well” duet than the one composed by Handel for the closing of the second act of Giulio Cesare.

It’s the utter simplicity of this duet that makes is so effective. The dropping vocal phrases, juxtaposed and contrasted with an independent instrumental line – which with any other composer would just be textbook Doctrine of Affections technique – are here molded by Handel into something wonderful and poignant. And in the middle section, Handel reverses the direction of the vocal line, again a simple textbook technique, but done with such style.

The music is further heightened by the impassioned performance of Mesdames Connolly and Joshua – possibly two of the greatest Handel interpreters on the stage today. And what makes this a great performance is their delicate, intelligent and emotionally sensitive embellishments in the returning da capo.

And this duet is only one small part of an excellent album of opera and oratorio duets with the bright and alert accompaniment of The English Concert conducted by the ever brilliant Harry Bickett.

Dear Sarah Crompton, Stick To Learning Italian.

In Classical Music, Opera on January 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I don’t know why Sarah Crompton’s most recent piece in The Telegraph has riled me so. But it has.

I have read it. And re-read it. And thought about it. And discussed it with friends. And it is still poking at my hackles after the weekend.

I know I should let it go but I can’t.

It’s not that she has seemingly declared war on “citizen journalists” and “citizen critics” but it’s her old world, faux privileged view of her own position in society.

Now, clearly I blog. I don’t profess that I know more than any other person blogging, nor sitting next to me at a concert or recital or listening to the same CD as me for that matter. But I respect their point of view and on more than one occasion I have changed my own opinion after discussion, debate or simple advice.

I don’t make a living by blogging. That’s not why I started and I would have thought that this is true for the majority of people who do blog.

I blog because I care passionately about classical music. It’s a major part of my life. No day – or rarely any day – goes by without me listening to classical music at some point.

We all have to make a living Sarah. You chose journalism. That doesn’t mean that my opinion is any less valid than yours simply because I am not paid for my point of view.

In your own words you have chosen to devote your life to the pursuit of “cultural judgement”. And there we have it. “Judgement”. What a damning word and just about sums up how you see yourself. Jury. Judge. Keeper of some sort of sacred flame.

None of the blogs I read exist simply to give a “thumbs up or down” and definitely not in the sometimes savage manner of many of your own peers. And I can think of more than a few journalists who make irritated or irritating comments.

I don’t deny that being a critic – paid, citizen or otherwise – is a hard task to master. I would argue that as much attention and love goes in to many blogs as you put into your own articles. But to blatantly say that only paid critics can have the knowledge and judgement (again) to ‘analyse something they have seen, to set it in context and give guidance on what it might feel like is’, quite frankly, patronizing.

And furthermore, you seem to imply that only critics read around their subject. Really? Seriously? Personally I think I could match you article for article, book for book in terms of reading around the subject I love. I don’t get paid for it and I do it on my own time.

And while we are talking about ‘filthy lucre’, when was the last time you actually paid for your ticket – or that of your ‘plus one’? How lucky you are to get tickets for anything you want including complimentary wine and nibbles, and possibly in any country that you want, paid for by your newspaper.

Bloggers are self-funding. Not even complimentary wine and nibbles for us.

But underlying all of this do I sense a feeling of paranoia? This isn’t the place to revisit the challenges print media faces but clearly it isn’t valid to lay the blame entirely at the door of social media.

Newspapers – like many major institutions – have to an extent lost touch with their customers. Some – like The Guardian, The Times, despite its paywall and even The Telegraph – have boldly embraced the challenge of digital with varying degrees of success or found new ways to re-engage their readers. I personally applaud your own newspaper’s The Opera Novice. Surely we can agree that anything that gets people into the auditorium is a good thing? I like Sameer Rahim’s fresh perspective and his articles often make me listen and watch anew something I have known for years. Or does it send a shiver down your spine, the thought of someone without knowledge, context or ‘judgement’ writing a review in your own newspaper?

So perhaps it’s the fear of digital wolves howling from infinite cyberspace at your own door that has really got you worried. Why? No arts blog could – I imagine – hope to match your newspaper’s circulation. Or perhaps your marketeers have shown you some distressing data about the clickthroughs to your own articles? Who knows.

But I do agree with you on one thing. We do need a vibrancy of cultural debate both by critics and citizen journalists. But sadly if you had your way you would ghettoize – or perhaps rather smother – those very people who (used to) read your column.

So I tell you what Sarah. You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Capisce?

Aria For … Wednesday – Casta Diva (Maria Callas)

In Aria For ..., Opera on January 9, 2013 at 10:53 pm

This choice of aria is a bit of a cheat. Sometimes I wake up and I know exactly what aria or piece of music I want to listen to at the start of my day.

It’s nearly always evoked by a memory. And nearly always something either sad or poignant. Perhaps it’s me.

It’s a cliché but my mother introduced me to Maria Callas at an early age. And by introduce I don’t mean that she sat me down, made me listen to her endlessly or told me that Callas was the greatest soprano that ever lived.

No.

Maria Callas wasn’t even playing in the background as I grew up. My mother only ever went to the opera once. And saw Callas. Then life took over and she has never been to the opera since. Despite even my best efforts.

It was just the way my mother talked about Callas that had me intrigued. But it was still some time before I purchased a Callas recording.

It’s also a cliché that the aria I most associate with her is Callas singing Casta Diva.

But it is. It’s not the first aria I remember hearing Callas sing. That was Ritorna Vincitor.

It’s simply because my mother remembers seeing Callas sing Casta Diva. And when she talks about it she doesn’t talk about technique, or diction, or any of the things that I – and others – write and talk about. She uses a single word.

‘Passion’.

Now some would argue that Callas didn’t have the most beautiful voice. It isn’t always pretty and sometimes she doesn’t quite manage what’s written on the stave, but you can’t deny the passion of her singing. And I can’t help by being drawn into her performance completely.

There is a magnetism to her voice that is enthralling. Even when the recording isn’t the best quality her singing cuts through you.

I can’t think of many – if any – singers today that have that effect.

So today – for a very specific reason – I searched out Casta Diva on my iPod and let Maria Callas cut through me. As I sat there on the bus listening to it a whole gamut of emotions and memories – good and bad – raced through my mind.

But by the end, as the aria drew to a close, I knew everything was going to be fine.

That’s the power of music. Memory. And Callas.

Character? The Don Left Home Without It.

In Classical Music, Mozart, Opera, Review on January 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Review – Don Giovanni

Don Giovanni – Ildebrando D’Arcangelo
Leporello – Luca Pisaroni
Donna Anna – Diane Damrau
Don Ottavio – Rolando Villazón
Donna Elvira – Joyce DiDonato
Masetto – Konstantin Wolff
Zerlina – Mojca Erdmann

Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Yannick Nézet-Séguin (Conductor)

Don Giovanni is one of my favourite operas of all time. Indeed the first CD I ever bought was Haitink’s recording of Don Giovanni and to this day – while I have pretty much every other recording – it remains my favourite recording of this work. Haitink draws magnificent singing from the cast – yes even Maria Ewing – and his sense of pacing and drama is second to none. And no Don’s final cry is as chilling as Sir Thomas Allen’s.

On paper, this new recording of Don Giovanni has excellent prospects – a strong cast and an excellent conductor and orchestra.

But somewhere, somehow, it doesn’t fall into all the right places.

I know it is almost “common hackney’d” to say that – like The Godfather – this opera rises or falls on the Don. But is it true. The Don Giovanni character isn’t only the lead, but he is the foundation on which each and every reaction by every other character is played out upon.

The Don Giovanni in Opera North’s recent production wasn’t up to muster and sadly, on this recording neither is Ildebrando d’Arcangelo. It isn’t that he is a bad Don. He sings all the notes. But it is that he simply sings the notes. There is no depth or dimension, light or shade to either his voice or performance and consequently therefore his characterization is a cipher. This is a shame as I have seen him as Leporello at Covent Garden and even his solo recital CD was a stronger performance that we have here.

For me, the most telling moment isn’t in the more expected passages or arias but his performance in the quartet Non ti fidar, o misera. This is the very moment when Don Giovanni’s world because to unravel. In my opinion, he could have got away with the murder of the Commendatore up to this point, but from here on in it’s all downhill. And there is nothing from d’Arcangelo at this point that indicates either this, or the necessity suaveness of character that he realizes he needs if he is to dupe Donna Anna (again) and Don Ottavio.

And sadly this sense of a single dimension Don is evident throughout the opera. La ci darem la mano is tepid with single moments of loud bluster and only in Deh! Vieni alla finestra do we get even the smallest hint of what could have been.

And the closing scenes have none of the electricity and menace that is usually so evident. Indeed so lukewarm and lacklustre are the closing scenes that I’m surprised the Commendatore didn’t simply shrug and not bother. Hell would probably be a more interesting place without this Don Giovanni.

Similarly, casting Rolando Villazón seems an odd choice. Perhaps mentally sporting doublet and hose for Don Ottavio and the Spanish story confused him. For the most part he sings the role as if he is actually on the set of Don Carlo.

Konstantin Wolff is passable as Masetto and so it’s left for Luca Pisaroni to redeem the men of the cast. His Leporello is magnificent – confident as well as confidante, darkly humoured with just the right sneer to his voice. Madamina, il catalogo è questa, from his opening word is a musical equivalent of a money shot even if the orchestra is a little lacklustre. Indeed I couldn’t quite work out why Pisaroni wasn’t the Don sometimes.

And so to the women. Mojca Erdmann is as passable as her beau and while Diana Damrau takes a while to warm up at the beginning, hers is a formidable Donna Anna both musically as well as in terms of character. Of course it is in the two magnificent set pieces that Mozart wrote for this character that Damrau shines. While some sopranos see these more as opportunities for vocal athleticism than personality, Diana Damrau delivers both – pinpoint accuracy, brilliant singing and intense characterization.

For example, just listen to how Ms Damrau shades her voice and handles the words when recounting Don Giovanni’s assault before launching into a full-blooded reminiscence of her struggle. And all this before she launches into a magnificent rendition of Or sai chi l’onore.

Similarly Crudele … Non mi dir, bell’idol mio. Each phrase in the accompanied recitative is beautifully molded and the subsequent aria is a masterclass of how this aria should be sung. Not as a vehicle for vocal fireworks so much as a heartfelt plea to her fiancé. Although by this point in the opera I think she has pretty much made up her mind to dump the man.

And Joyce DiDonato – vocally superb as ever – brings just the right shade of insanity to Donna Elvira from her opening aria where she literally spits out ’empio’ to In quali ecessi … Mi tradi quell’alma ingrata where her technique is as much in evidence as her musicianship.

Sadly however – and through no fault of their own – both Mesdames Damrau and DiDonato don’t stand out because of the quality of their own individual performance. Rather they inadvertently suffer from the lacklustre contributions of their colleagues.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin more than ably conducts the Mahler Chamber Orchestra through a note-precise performance and you cannot fault his sympathetic support of the singers. But I did wont for greater orchestral characterization. Mozart filled the score with an incredibly amount of colour and bite and for the most part it isn’t much in evidence either in Nézet-Séguin’s conducting nor in the playing of the orchestra.

So all in all this Don Giovanni doesn’t add up for me. For the majority of the time it’s like looking at a watercolour copy of a Goya oil painting. The characters are all there but somehow the music making has got watered down.

2012: The Good. The Bad. The Stupid.

In Classical Music, Opera, Review on January 4, 2013 at 8:58 am

2012 was meant to be about getting to Leipzig to hear the GewandhausOrchester and Riccardo Chailly. And about trying to listen to more new music, at least one new piece every fortnight.

Sadly, I can’t say that I achieved either.

But it has been a good year in terms of music in my life, a good year for the ‘bad’ music in my life and let’s face it, the classical music world wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for the occasional ‘stupid’ things as well.

But starting with the good. And in most cases the excellent.

Renée Fleming tops the list not only for the performances that I attended but for the CDs that have given me not only hours of pleasure but lifted my spirits on many an occasion.

Her disc of Ravel, Messiaen and Dutilleaux is one that I appreciate more each and every time I listen to it. There is a depth and integrity to the performances that is perfectly matched by the more burnished – almost golden – tone of her voice. Of the recital, it is Messaien’s Prière Exaucée that I return to most often.

In terms of live performances, Ms Fleming has delivered three of my most memorable concerts of the year. In February she made her debut as Ariadne/Prima Donna at Baden-Baden, in an intelligent and beautifully nuanced production by Philippe Arlaud. She is today’s Strauss interpreter par excellence, and her Ariadne – warm, dignified and soulful – was truly remarkable. And she was supported by an incredibly strong cast, from The Composer of Sophie Koch and Jane Archibald’s Zerbinetta to a particularly strong performance by Robert Dean Smith as Bacchus.

Similarly, her Arabella in Paris in June. While Philippe Jordan was not the most sympathetic conductor, and the set felt somewhat lost on the stage itself, Ms Fleming and Michael Volle in the lead roles were superb.

But most memorably and most recently was Ms Fleming’s performance at the Barbican. In a carefully constructed recital, she took the audience on the most magnificent journey through the closing years of the Habsburg empire to the dawn of fascism. From Mahler to Schoenberg, Ms Fleming once again demonstrated her musical and vocal prowess. And when, in her encores she glitched, she did so with great humour. As I said at the time I hope that in 2013 she will make a recording of this recital. It can only be brilliant.

Staying with Vienna, Robert Carsen’s production of Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Wien Staatsoper in March was a homage to the city itself. Compared to the two previous productions I had seen – in Copenhagen and Edinburgh – this was by far the more successful in interpreting the at times dense symbolism of the story. And Carsen was aided and abetted by an incredible cast, led by Adrienne Pieczonka and Evelyn Herlitzius as the Empress and Dyer’s Wife respectively and Robert Dean Smith as the Emperor. And in the pit, Franz Welster Möst drew superlative playing from the orchestra. It’s a shame that this production hasn’t been captured on DVD.

Soprano Sandrine Piau literally wowed the audience of Wigmore Hall with her Mozart recital in October. Combining Mozart’s arrangements of Handel arias with some of his own arias drawn from his youth Ms Piau, ably supported by the Orchestra of Classical Opera conducted by Ian Page gave a performance that was nothing short of brilliant. But to the delight of everyone who attended she saved the best til her final encore – an absolutely heart-rending performance of Verso gia l’alma col sangue from Handel’s Aci. Galatea e Polifemo. Brava.

And finally hats off to the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for being – in short – the most cheerful, energetic and enthusiastic performers of 2012. Not only is their music making of the highest standard but they continue to raise the bar when it comes to reaching new audiences and the inventiveness of their programming. Their Nightshift series is brilliant and their most recent event, celebrating the music of Handel with brilliantly amusing anecdotes by John Butt demonstrates that they know how to make classical music seem alive and relevant to the audience. And their first two concerts in the series Queens, Heroines and Ladykillers with superlative performances by Anna Catarina Antonacci and Sarah Connolly bode well for the remaining concerts in 2013. Definitely performances to book if you haven’t done so already.

Other memorable performances were Janowski’s Tannhauser for Christian Gerhaher’s Wolfram slightly pipping Nina Stemme’s Elizabeth and a live stream of the final installment of Kriegenberg’s Ring in Munich.

Sadly 2012 wasn’t without its turkeys. Top of the list was ENO’s misjudged choice of director for their new production of Julius Caesar. Michael Keegan-Dolan’s vision was nothing short of facile and shameful as it completely undermined the strong performances overall of the cast. In a similar vein, Nigel Lowery’s production of Il Trionfo di Clelia wasn’t only let down by the pretension and ridiculousness of his ideas but by the ragged, almost poorly rehearsed playing of the City of London Sinfonia.

Sadly Opera North also didn’t quite hit the mark this year. Disappointing productions of Norma and Giulio Cesare – bar a strong performance by Sarah Tynan – were followed by a particularly poor Die Walküre. As well as being poorly cast, Richard Farnes never seemed to grasp the music’s sweep. I am hoping that they recover their mojo for Siegfried.

Robert LePage’s Ring Cycle finally ended with a fatally flawed Götterdämmerung. Not only was the production – symbolized forever by it’s Buckeroo Grane – poorly conceived together with the rest of the cycle, but a hostile reaction from the public and the critics led to both the director and Peter Gelb going on a poorly thought through offensive. LePage’s interview in the New York Times was nothing less than insulting, and Gelb’s attempt at censorship similarly ill-fated. Lepage’s reference to “the Machine” as a ‘poisoned gift’ in Wagner’s Dream, a documentary about the entire production and well worth watching, seems particularly apt.

Staying with bad ideas, the BBC’s Maestro At The Opera proved just how insulting the BBC thinks its audience is. This tick-box-arts-programming featuring a series of has-beens and nobodies not only insulted the intelligence of the wider audience but also ensured that the tired old myths and misconceptions about opera on the whole have been perpetuated. Let’s hope that Lord Hall of Birkenhead sorts it all out.

And John Berry continued his attempts to be hip with his introduction of a “no dress code” dress code at ENO. Stupid man.

But to end on a positive note, this year has seen some fantastic CDs issued. Top of the list and forgive my bias that “all-things-by-Joyce-DiDondato-are-fantastic” is her latest CD, Drama Queens. Not only is each and every track a marvel of musicianship and passion but her concert tour has been a storming success. Personally I cannot wait for her to perform in London this February. Valer Barna-Sabadus rose above the poorly named title of his CD to produce one of the best recital discs of 2012. Not many artists could pull of an entire CD of Hasse’s music, but Barna-Sabadus not only does so with verve but with a series of masterful performances. As I said at the time, Cadrà fra poco in cenere is simply beautiful. Two other discs that remain almost on constant repeat are Iestyn Davies’ Arias for Guadagni accompanied by the excellent ensemble Arcangelo under Jonathan Cohen and Anne Schwanewilms’ disc of Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder.

And for 2013? Well I have already mentioned Ms DiDonato’s forthcoming concert but there are other things to look forward to and to book. The OAE’s Queens, Heroines & Ladykillers series continues and in this year of Wagner a full Ring cycle is a must. But if not the Met, then perhaps Munich or even Palermo?

And while I have failed to get a ticket to Die Frau ohne Schatten with Anne Schwanewilms in Amsterdam, I have my eyes firmly fixed on a new production of FroSch at the Met this Autumn. And of course I hope to return to Vienna for either Die Walküre or Tristan und Isolde.

And in terms of forthcoming CDs who cannot be excited – or at least intrigued – by Gergiev’s forthcoming Die Walküre, a reissue of Anneliese Rothenberger singing the Vier Letzte Lieder and another instalment of of Janowski’s WagnerZyklus?

So it only leaves me to thank you all for continuing to visit my blog. I know that not all of you agree with my write-ups and I am always honoured when you leave a comment – good or bad they make me think and on occasion change my mind.

So while it’s adieu to an eventful and enjoyable 2012, in terms of 2013 I say “bring it”.

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