John Wilson Conducts Jules Massenet’s Comic Opera Cendrillon at Glyndebourne, 8 June – 2 August 2019

My name is John Wilson [so says my bonny] “and I’m going to be conducting Cendrillon at the Glynebourne Festival 2019. It has elements of comic opera, it has ardent love music, solos, duets, and this element of fantasy which runs through the whole thing, a fairy tale which he conjures up expertly in the score. It’s instantly attractive music, and the reason I said I would do this piece is when I first heard it I was struck with just how high the level of invention is all the way through. It may not be done very often but I think it’s one of his best pieces, I really do [fades]. Everyone knows the story of Cinderella and I think his orchestral palette and his harmonic and melodic palette really conjured up very clearly—you can think of isolated parts of the ballet and the Fairy Godmother’s music which are full of that kind of glittering fantasy… Really gorgeous inspired music! And of course I love all the pulling it all together. I love the fact that in an opera, let’s say you have a staging problem or you have a sort of question hanging over of how you should, you should represent something on stage. The answers nearly always is [sic] to be found in the score. But he was [sic] a great masterpiece. There will be a sforzando chord or an inflection in the vocal writing which will give you the kind of…the dramatic point*, and it’s great to be a part of something which is so organic where everything affects the other. The influences of Wagner, Tchaikovsky aren’t very far away, there are lots of glowing melodies there that really, really stir you. I really can’t wait to get started on it.”

Actor/director Fiona Shaw’s production of Cendrillon makes its Glyndebourne Festival appearance summer 2019, conducted by John Wilson, with Australian-American soprano Danielle de Niese in the title role. (Picture courtesy of Glyndebourne Festival 2019.)

Danielle de Niese, John Wilson.jpgRight before this production, de Niese starred with Kelsey Grammer in the first West End staging of Man of La Mancha in fifty-three years, produced by the man who was the first to bring me to orgasm when I was 18.

*See below, “John Wilson Discourses Upon Leonard Bernstein at Birmingham Symphony Hall, 24 January 2018” and let’s have a one-pound argument, John.

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

The intermission talk with director Fiona Dunn, my beloved John Wilson, mezzo Kate Lindsey, and soprano Danielle de Niese. The “topic of debate”: What should Prince Charming look like in the 21st century?

John Wilson Glyndebourne TalkI’m only here for the shoes.

My bonny John: “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…”

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…”

ENO Porgy and Bess

Tunesmith—sheesh.

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

Thanks to LA producer/theatre & film critic Myron Meisel for his comments—on Gershwin and original director (1935) Rouben Mamoulian—on Facebook, which I answered there.

 

The Fire-Maker’s Daughter, a Chamber Opera Based on Philip Pullman’s Book, Composed by David Bruce with a Libretto by Glyn Maxwell

I knew Pullman only from his trilogy His Dark Materials, but I found this chamber opera, which was originally a children’s play by Philip Pullman, and it looks fantastic and the music is scrumptious.

Mary Bevan Fire-Maker's Daughter.jpg

The Royal Opera House commissioned from London-based composer David Bruce an opera version of Pullman’s story in 2013 and revived it in 2015 for their family Christmas show, which sounds like perfect programming. That’s London-born soprano Mary Bevan in the title role.

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.