Maria Ewing (1950-2022) Gives Richard Strauss’s Salome the Full Monty and Sings “Bali Ha’i” Exotically with The JWO, Just for My Beloved English Conductor, John Wilson

There are 3 naked ladies in this blog. This is one of them.

“I’m not given to displays of emotion, but when Maria and I met up again [to record the R+H album] we had tears in our eyes. She’s so exotic!” enthused my bonny conductor about this Detroit-born soprano. “I love her—as a person!” Yes, John. I’d love to hear more.

Maria Ewing in SalomeAbove proudly nude Salome in the 1991 Covent Garden production of Richard Strauss’s 1905 opera directed by Ewing’s husband at the time, Sir Peter Hall: “Bali Ha’i” sung by soprano Maria Ewing in the compilation Rodgers & Hammerstein At the Movies, with The John Wilson Orchestra, conducted by John Wilson (Warners, 2011).


About the DVD recording of Salome, says Toronto blogger John Gilks in Opera Ramblings: “The production is really pretty conventional… Almost all the visual interest revolves around Ewing’s Salome though Michael Devlin’s scantily clad and palely made up Jochanaan is quite arresting too. Narraboth (Robin Legate) is an unremarkable actor and Herod (Kenneth Riegel) and Herodias (Gillian Knight) look uncomfortably like a couple of drag queens… The recording, directed by Derek Bailey, is about what one would expect from a 1992 BBC TV broadcast… This is probably worth having a look at as a record of an iconic performance by Ewing but I can’t imagine anyone would choose it as the definitive Salome.”

Here’s another exotic nude, just for my beloved John Wilson.

And the third and best, which you can find in the posting, “Cantara Christopher in Sadie (Bob Chinn director, Mitam Productions, 1980) as Indexed in the Database of the British Film Institute; and ‘Pictures of Lily’ by Pete Townshend”.



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Conductor John Wilson Among the Women of Glyndebourne’s Cendrillon by Jules Massenet, 2019

At the intermission talk with Cendrillon‘s director Fiona Dunn, my beloved John Wilson, mezzo Kate Lindsey, and soprano Danielle de Niese, the topic of debate was, What should Prince Charming look like in the 21st century?


AVAILABLE NOW: The Glyndebourne production of CENDRILLON streamcast at Marquee.tv


John Wilson Glyndebourne 1Above John making namaste at the premiere of Cendrillon at Glyndebourne, 2019: “Vous êtes mon prince charmant” from Act III of Massenet’s comic opera.


Says John to the lovelies (here pictured): “I think having Prince Charming as Massenet stipulated, it fits beautifully within the whole kind of sonic picture of the whole thing. It’s not a piece that you could say fits on one musical plane, it’s got lots of colors. It’s one of the most colorful pieces he ever wrote… When I said I was doing this piece to people, they would say, Oh yeah, that’s a nice light sort of sweet little piece. It’s not a sweet little piece, it’s a big piece, there’s always another layer to get to and there’s always more detail to explore, always more depth every time. It’s not lightweight…”


EXTRA! The most John Wilsonish piece in Cendrillon.

“Marche des princesses”
from Cendrillon, Act IV
Jules Massenet, composer
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Neville Marriner, conductor
Capriccio, 1997



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Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Peter Pears and the EOG, 1954; and at Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020, Filmed by Opera GlassWorks and Conducted by My Beloved John Wilson

AVAILABLE 30 JAN 21: Opera Glassworks’s filming of their fully-staged TURN OF THE SCREW streamcast at Marquee.tv


EXTRA! John speaks in this half-hour BBC4 radio show about the re-staging of Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020


A new production of The Turn of the Screw from Opera Glassworks, conducted by John Wilson at London’s Wilton’s Music Hall, was three days from opening in March 2020 when the first lockdown hit.

Director Selina Cadell and producer Eliza Thompson managed to rebook the cast of six singers and 13 musicians (from John’s own orchestra, the Sinfonia of London) for a run in October. But as weeks of lockdown turned into months, it looked like the project would be scuppered.

At which point, they rethought it for film.

The stage director and producer took the opportunity to experiment. “We weren’t interested in live capture,” says Thompson. “But we didn’t want the fact that it was intended to be a stage production to be lost.”

This influenced not just their approach with singers and a working method with camera director Dominic Best across the 6-day shoot, but also with the individual players forming John Wilson’s orchestra.

With the perfectly captured, decayed grandeur of its main, high-vaulted space dating back to 1859, the thrillingly atmospheric, Victorian-era Wilton’s Music Hall translates perfectly into the chilly, remote country house and garden in which the ghostly actions occur. Designer Tom Piper seized the opportunity to make the entire building a film set.

“Covid restrictions meant we couldn’t have all the musicians there together,” says Thompson. “So with the auditorium completely filled, becoming a Suffolk reed bed, we’ve planted the musicians throughout the film. As the story progresses, it becomes more anarchic.”

Cadell and Thompson have capitalised on the opera’s unique construction, individual scenes interspersed with an instrumental theme and 15 variations, to enhance the work’s filmic, non-linear nature.

The performance, still in the edit prior to being distributed via arts channel Marquee TV, is an equally impressive advance born out of Covid necessity. The vocals were filmed live, with the singers using microphones but without the orchestra. Instead, using monitors, John Wilson conducted them against live keyboards. Once the singers’ tracks were laid down, the orchestra was recorded to fit the singers’ interpretations, which is how it should be. ~David Benedict, from The Stage, 20 Nov 2020

*Catch a glimpse of the man I love on the monitor at 00:33 or here at rehearsal.


The Turn of the Screw at Wilton's, 2020When I was back in grad school, I did a paper on the novella this opera is based on, The Turn of the Screw, my take being that the whole thrust of the story had to do with, at its core, author Henry James’s weird revulsion to/fear of sexualityany sexuality—gay, straight, bi, kinky, whatever… Which in my ignorant prejudice I took to be typical of all English men anytime, anywhere—until I remembered that James was born not just American but, like my son, a native New Yorker (used to take The Kid to the playground in Washington Square near James’s old house) and he turned out fine. So it was fascinating to hear and watch OperaGlass Works‘s no-emotional-holds-barred production with my brilliant, bonny conductor John Wilson at the musical helm. Above Opera GlassWorks’s filmed production at Wilton’s Music Hall (2020): Britten’s 1954 The Turn of the Screw, with a superior libretto by poet Myfanwy Piper. Singers: Jennifer Vyvyan, Peter Pears, Arda Mandikian, Joan Cross, Olive Dyer, and as the young and beautiful boy Miles, David Hemmings! The English Opera Group was conducted by the composer.



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Update On Conductor John Wilson’s 2020 Gigs: Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (March); Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 in Santiago (April); and Massenet’s “Meditation” (Chandos, February)

CANCELLED: Opera GlassWorks’s fully-staged production of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera The Turn of the Screw scheduled to open 11 March 2020. More information on my later posting, “Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Peter Pears and the EOG, 1954; and Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020, Filmed by Opera GlassWorks and Conducted by My Beloved John Wilson”.


EXTRA! My beloved John speaks in this half-hour BBC4 radio show about the re-staging of Turn of the Screw at Wilton’s Music Hall, 2020


AVAILABLE 30 JAN 21: Opera Glassworks’s TURN OF THE SCREW streamcast at Marquee.tv


CANCELLED: During Easter Week, the holiest week of the year for observing Catholics, John in Santiago, Chile conducting a me-tic-ulously chosen student orchestra, culminating in a concert on Easter Sunday consisting of the always-favorite Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No 3.

John Wilson with Onyx Brass 1, 2021NOTES for John’s new CD Escales (Chandos, Feb 2020) can be found here.


RECORDED: Lastly, re “Meditation” above, that short symphonic intermezzo between the scenes in Act 2 in the opera Thaïs (1893) by Jules Massenet, which my beloved John conducts on his February 2020 album from Chandos (10th cut) and in which Andrew Haveron performs his violin solo like an angel…

Gazing now at John with love and longing and taking this to a private place. Everybody, go away.


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Venera Gimadieva Sings Salammbo’s Aria by Bernard Herrmann, Backed by The John Wilson Orchestra (BBC Proms, 2013)

Gimadieva made her UK debut at the Proms with John and the John Wilson Orchestra in their program Hollywood Rhapsody, which included pieces by my favorite screen composer Bernard Herrmann. I’ve been a fairly knowledgeable fan of Herrmann since my teen years, but somehow I never got around to hearing the entire aria until—yes! yes! are you getting bored hearing this again?—I fell in love totally and completely with English conductor John Wilson and craved to hear all the music that he is part of. To my delight, he backed this brilliant singer well.

I'd be jealous except she's such a wonderful singerAbove my bonny John making nicey-nice with a soprano for once: “O cruel!” (Salammbo’s aria) from the film Citizen Kane. Herrmann planned to write an entire opera based on this scandalous Flaubert novel but, daunted by the task, as Mussorgsky and Rachmaninoff before him, never got around to it.


And for good measure, here’s Gimadieva doing Donizetti’s “O luce di quest anima” with The Hallé the way I’d like to have sounded in my last trimester jury at music school.


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Porgy and Bess at the English National Opera, Conducted by John Wilson, Fall 2018

In a podcast interview for the English National Opera, this is what my bonny John Wilson, Conductor had to say:

“There are very few pieces I can say I’ve been waiting all my life to conduct, and this is one of them. In my, kind of, college years or whenever that was, I got the Simon Rattle LP and I kind of wore out the groove of those records and had to buy ‘em on CD…

“Of course it’s known for the hit tunes that have been extracted from it, but it’s much more than that… And I would even say that the most interesting music in the opera is the ariosos, the small pieces which link everything together and the incidental music… It’s really very ambitious… It’s George Gershwin at his most inventive, and as Gershwin was arguably the greatest tunesmith of the twentieth century, you’re looking at melodic material from the very very top drawer…”

Porgy and Bess, Met 2019.jpgAbove: Nadine Benjamin sings “Summertime” in rehearsal. Poster above is actually from the fabulous 2019 Metropolitan Opera production of Porgy and Bess.


Tunesmith—sheesh.

And I miss the goat. Without the goat, there is no Porgy and Bess (2:31:25).


EXTRA! I found this pre-performance talk with John and a bunch of other weeds on Soundcloud here, if you’re interested


Thanks to LA producer/theatre & film critic Myron Meisel for his commiseration on the goat, and for his comments on Gershwin and my old boss, Porgy & Bess‘s original director (1935) Rouben Mamoulian, on Facebook, which I answered there.


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The Story So Far: Or, Conductor John Wilson—His Limits

Anyroad, like a good Dr Watson I have compiled a list:


Listen to John’s new orchestra the SINFONIA OF LONDON here


JOHN WILSON – HIS LIMITS (Updated September 2021)

john-wilson-rosza-2-copy.jpeg

Knowledge of/affinity for/talent with:

All the rest is just Cantara trying to sort out where bonny John fits into her inner life. Which as it turns out is in every nook, every cranny

Part 1 “Dopamine” here or above.


Listen to John’s new orchestra the SINFONIA OF LONDON here


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The Music I Hear When I Gaze Upon Conductor John Wilson: “Glück das mir verblieb” from Erich Korngold’s Die tote Stadt, Sung by Beverly Sills

4 May, 2018—Everybody, go away. I’ve fallen in love with this man.

My Beloved John Wilson

Glück, das mir verblieb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Abend sinkt im Hag
bist mir Licht und Tag.
Bange pochet Herz an Herz
Hoffnung schwingt sich himmelwärts.

Wie wahr, ein traurig Lied.
Das Lied vom treuen Lieb,
das sterben muss.

Ich kenne das Lied.
Ich hört es oft in jungen,
in schöneren Tagen.
Es hat noch eine Strophe—
weiß ich sie noch?

Naht auch Sorge trüb,
rück zu mir, mein treues Lieb.
Neig dein blaß Gesicht
Sterben trennt uns nicht.
Mußt du einmal von mir gehn,
glaub, es gibt ein Auferstehn.


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Antoni Mendezona Sings “Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa” from the Opera Noli Me Tangere

Music by Felipe de Leon, libretto by Guillermo Tolentino. Noli Me Tangere is based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s 1887 classic novel of the same name. It follows the story of Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin, who returns home to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open a school and marry his sweetheart, Maria Clara (where we get the name of the dress I’d love to make and wear again), but Padre Damaso, arch-enemy of the Ibarras, sets out to thwart Crisostomo’s plans, creating the dramatic—and very operatic—storyline of forbidden love, betrayal, and revenge. “Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa” is one of the great soprano mad scenes in opera.

Awit ng Gabi ni Sisa from Noli Me Tangere (Felipe De Leon)

From the 2011 University of the Philippines production. Info on Cebuana coloratura Mendezona can be found at her website here.



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