classical singing

170125-philippe-jarousskyOn 19 February, the great concert hall of the MÜPA in Budapest will be a place of celebration: one of the best singers of our time, arguably the most wonderful contra-tenor, Philippe Jaroussky sings opera arias by Händel with accompaniment by the Ensemble Artaserse.

Instead of heaping accolades on this most outstanding singer, who has effortlessly been conquering the hearts of his audiences and the minds of music critics for over a decade on world stages, let me just quote the programme here:

Radamisto – Overture
Flavio – Son pur felice… Bel contento
Siroe – Son stanco… Deggio morire, o stelle
Instrumental piece
Imeneo – Se potessero i sospir miei
Radamisto – Vieni d’empieta… Vile, se mi dai morte
Giustino – Chi mi chiama alla gloria… Se parla nel mio cor
Tolomeo – Inumano fratel… Stille amare
Instrumental piece
Radamisto – Ombra cara
Flavio – Privarmi ancora… Rompo i lacci

It goes without saying that we envy all those who manage to get in. Hope you can give us an account too.

Latest: tickets have sold out. Of course …

by Z.J.S and P.S.

The last time we heard that one of the best tenors would sing in Budapest, we rushed to hear him. It was back in March 2008, the tenor was Roberto Alagna and the concert took place in MUPA, in front of a highly enthusiastic audience. It was a huge success, which also showed at the signing event afterwards.P1050329

So we have been waiting for anything similar to happen again in Budapest. Circumstances are excellent in the modern concert hall, audiences are among the most savvy  and are always eager to hear and cheer the best.

We find it a bit saddening that up till now, no similar events have taken place. However, this is changing rapidly as Placido Domingo performed in the Budapest Opera House this past February. It was not his concert, but the fact that he appeared in Budapest nearly after 30 years of his previous performance signalled a welcome change of direction. Somebody must have been heartened by the event and taken steps. According to fresh news, “The famous Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo is giving a free concert on August 10 at 8pm outside the St. Stephen’s Basilica, in Budapest.” Read more about this here. Great news. And it will happen smack in the middle of the tourist season and will prove a huge success for sure. Only thing one may not be sure of is proper acoustics and the program, which does not seem to include opera arias. But perhaps this is not the right place.

The real huge event will take place on 20 January 2017. José Carreras will have just turned 70 by that time and will have been touring the world’s important stages with his last concert tour, called ‘A Life in Music‘. Opera lovers the world over can listen to this wonderful voice in concert one more time, then another member of the “three great tenors” is retiring, fortunately not the way the first one left us.

Although he is reported to have said he was happy to sing in that special Arena, we are wondering about the concert hall: the Arena he referred to is the relatively new Papp László Budapest Sportarena, a venue for sports events, pop and rock concerts, befitting André Rieu (who performed there two months ago) or the Red Hot Chili Peppers (performing there on 2nd September) (for those interested in similar up-coming events here is a link with programmes).

Anyway, if such a singer comes to Budapest, and certainly for the last time, the largest possible space should be provided, organizers must have thought. The Arena can accommodate 12500 people, no other venue can have such a large audience. As the concert takes place in January, no open stadium would be suitable, though we are sure his voice would fill any place.

Those people who would like to arrive in Hungary specifically for this concert can look for hotels in the area here and find some more information about the venue. More programmes of the Arena can be found in Dutch here, a site which also shows ticket prices together with the possibility to book tickets. The Hungarian site, where it is also possible to book tickets, can be accessed here, with prices in HUF. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the tickets are still available, including those closest to the stage. Well, not really for the pocket of the average Hungarian opera enthusiast perhaps. But then again, the cheapest tickets are around €40, that should be affordable for such a sensational performance. Wish you can also go and hopefully reflect on the event next year.

by P.S. and S.Z.J.

I’ve just received information about a number of very worthy concerts in Budapest, Hungary, but I have to admit it was too late in the first case: tickets to the concert of the Bogányi family and the New Budapest Chamber Orchestra at the Budapest Academy of Music on 15th May have already been sold out. A great pity that we have to miss such a rare concert, where five siblings perform on different instruments in the same concert, among them perhaps the best pianist of the younger generation of Hungarian pianists, Bogányi Gergely. I wouldn’t really care about the programme comprising Purcell, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Puccini, Vivaldi and Weber, but it would still be a very special evening.

To commemorate a concert Beethoven himself gave in Buda on 7th May, 1900, a month after the premiere of his first symphony, a small series of concerts are in the first week of May. The world-famous pianist, Malcom Bilson gives a recital in the great hall of the Hungarian Academy in the Castle on 5th May, performing pieces by Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin.

On Saturday, 7th May, the popular Hungarian pianist, Vásáry Tamás performs sonatas by Beethoven (Pathetique, Mondschein, Les adieux and Appassionata), then on Sunday, 8th May, Beethoven piano concertos can be heard in the performance of musicians who won this year’s cadenza-competition. On program are the first two concertos, the Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat major, WoO 6, and the rare Concerto composed in his youth in B-flat major, WoO 4.

I’m not aware whether tickets are still available for any of these three concerts but they certainly are worth a try.

The last concert is still available, though I’m not quite sure if it should be labelled as opera or concert: Verdi’s Othello is performed at the Margit-szigeti Open-air Stage in Budapest on 29th and 31st July with a single singer named. But that is Rost Andrea, the best Hungarian soprano still really active among the best ones. As no other singers are named, I’d have to suppose it’s going to be a concert recital of the opera, except that without anyone for Othello, it’ll be a strange concert. Still, if Rost Andrea sings, it doesn’t really matter who the other singers are, it is worth getting a ticket on either of the evening. Hope you can get yours in time too.

by P.S.

kholodenko.0Vadim Kholodenko, winner of the 2013 Van Cliburn competition, is giving a concert in the Great Hall of the Budapest Academy of Music tomorrow, 9th February at 19:30. Prices from 10 to about 25 €.

A native of Kiev, Kholodenko was born in 1986. Since age 15, he’s collected a number of international prizes, like one at the Budapest Liszt Piano Competition, but the first prize from Fort Worth really established him as one of the leading pianists of our time.

He is reputed to be comparable to the greatest Russian predecessors, Richter and Emil Gilels, so I’d love to be there to listen. If you are anywhere near Budapest and a fan of excellent piano concerts, here’s one for you. Don’t miss it, and please write about it here afterwards.

The programme:

Schumann: Nachtstücke, op. 23
Schumann: Humoresque, op. 20
Skryabin: 24 preludes, op. 11
Skryabin: Phantasy, op. 10

by P.S.

At the end of September, the first Eva Marton international singing competition resulted in a resounding Hungarian success. Szilvia Vörös, a former student of Eva Marton, won the grand prize (results and winners can be read about in Hungarian here). The young singer gave not only beautiful interpretations of, among others, Mozart and Donizetti, but a very nice interview for the classial music channel (Bartók rádió) of the Hungarian Radio, describing her career and artistic development. Some earlier recordings with her can be found on YouTube here and here.

Her victory brought about wide-spread optimism concerning the operatic life in Budapest. Experts on the radio channel talked about a bright present and future of operatic life, which was supported by another interview given by Andrea Rost, one of the leading sopranos of these years.

Unfortunately, the program of the Budapest Opera House does not warrant such high optimism. Hungarian singers abound, but most of them do not usually come back to Budapest to grace the programmes. As a matter of fact, the highlight of the autumn season, in my opinion, is coming on the single evening of 27th October in the Erkel Theatre, when Edita Gruberova sings Lucia in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. Fortunately, Atala Schöck is appearing in the role of Alisa, so this evening is going to provide an evening with more than the presence of a single star.

Though the season is already under way, a few more of the productions of Mascani’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallos’s Pagliacci are still ahead of those interested. The performances on 7th and 11th October will feature Gyöngyi Lukács and Andrea Rost, among other quality singers.

Besides these productions, some of the promising ones incluce Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, with Zita Váradi, or Ingrid Kertesi in the first half of October in the Erkel Theatre, Puccini’s Tosca on some days in October and on 2nd, 13th and 26th Novermber with Gyöngyi Lukács and Anatoly Fokanov in the Opera House.

This does not look as if Budapest in the role of the opera capital of Central Europe is realistic. Fortunately, the greats are returning here in the late winter and the spring season, of which it is my plan to provide more information. Hope to see you back as audience with an opinion, or a visitor to this site for the program of the second part of the season.

by P.S.

We would like to present a few of the videos taken during a recent concert Zhong Jun Shen gave in Arnhem in the Netherlands. The concert didn’t take place among the best possible circumstances, for which we are sorry, but your comments are welcome.

Vivaldi – Spoza son disprezzata

R. Strauss – Traum durch die Dämmerung

R. Strauss – Allerseelen

R. Strauss – Zu eignung

Händel – Lascia chi’o Pianga

Händel – Ombra mai fu

Caccini – Amarilli