FRED PLOTKIN is one of America’s foremost experts on opera and has distinguished himself in many fields as a writer, speaker, consultant and as a compelling teacher. He is an expert on everything Italian, the person other so-called Italy experts turn to for definitive information. Fred discovered the concept of "The Renaissance Man" as a small child and has devoted himself to pursuing that ideal as the central role of his life. In a “Public Lives” profile in The New York Times on August 30, 2002, Plotkin was described as "one of those New York word-of-mouth legends, known by the cognoscenti for his renaissance mastery of two seemingly separate disciplines: music and the food of Italy." In the same publication, on May 11, 2006, it was written that "Fred is a New Yorker, but has the soul of an Italian."
Richard Strauss is in the House
An Annotated Listing of Strauss Operas in 2014
Tuesday, December 31, 2013 - 12:00 AM
If 2013 was the year of Wagner, Verdi and Britten, the uncontested star of 2014 is Richard Strauss, who will see the 150th anniversary of his birth celebrated on June 11 and have most of his operas performed in Europe and, to a lesser extent, North America. Major orchestras have programmed much of his symphonic music and recitalists will include his beautiful songs in their concerts.
Some fine performances of Strauss have already taken place. On December 15, the American Symphony Orchestra and Leon Botstein performed the early comedy Feuersnot at Carnegie Hall, striking a blow for exploring the lesser-known operas.
The Bavarian State Opera in Munich, Strauss’s home town, chose Die Frau ohne Schatten for a new production on November 21, 2013, the 50th anniversary of the house's reopening after it had been badly damaged by bombing in October 1943. This opera returns June 29 and July 3. Also scheduled are Der Rosenkavalier (March 2, 3, 8; July 26, 29); Salome (March 22, 26, 29; April 2) and Ariadne auf Naxos (May 16, 19, 22; July 23).
Dresden will be an important destination for lovers of Strauss. Nine of his fifteen operas had their premieres there. The Semperoper gives a new production of Elektra (January 19-31; June 22, 29) with a stellar cast. Strauss’s first opera, Guntram, will be heard in concert February 23, 28; March 2. Feuersnot gets semi-staged performances on June 7, 9 and 10. On June 11, there will be a gala anniversary concert led by Christian Thielemann with three sopranos—Anja Harteros, Camilla Nylund, Nina Stemme—performing an impressive sampling of Strauss’s music. Renée Fleming is scheduled in mid-November for Der Rosenkavalier and Capriccio.
What follows is a chronological listing of other important Strauss performances in 2014:
The Flanders Opera presents a new production of Der Rosenkavalier by Academy Award-winning actor Christoph Waltz from January 9 to 19 in Ghent, Belgium.
Gun-Brit Barkmin sings the title role in Salome at the Vienna State Opera on February 10, 13, 17 with Andris Nelsons conducting.
Daphne, the story of a nymph who is transformed into a tree to beautiful music, will star Maria Bengsston at the Frankfurt Opera, February 28-March 22.
Renée Fleming and Sarah Connolly headline a March 8 concert performance of Der Rosenkavalier at Washington’s Kennedy Center, with Christoph Eschenbach leading the National Symphony Orchestra. The maestro and the NSO will be joined by Iréne Theorin and John Relyea in a concert that includes music from Salome and Elektra, March 20-22.
The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, will present a new production of Frau by Claus Guth (right) from March 14 to April 2. The conductor is Semyon Bychkov and the stars are Emily Magee, Elena Pankratova, Johan Botha and Johan Reuter.
Jennifer Check sings Ariadne in Toulon, France March 14, 16, 18.
Elektra is scheduled for a single performance at the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg on March 20 with a cast to be announced.
The Metropolitan Opera, which recently presented a ripping Die Frau ohne Schatten and a bittersweet Der Rosenkavalier, will revive Arabella April 3-24 with Malin Byström in the title role. Annette Dasch plays Arabella at the Netherlands Opera April 11 to May 2.
Arabella will also be at the Salzburg Easter Festival (April 12-21) with Christian Thielemann leading Fleming and Thomas Hampson. There will also be an orchestral concert with Strauss tone poems and Anja Harteros singing Four Last Songs and Malven. Fleming then sings the Marschallin in Vienna on April 23, 27, 30.
Ariadne auf Naxos is performed at the Vienna State Opera (April 15-22; June 11-20). It will be presented at the Royal Opera House in London (June 25-July 13) with Antonio Pappano conducting and Karita Mattila starring. It will also be at the Glimmerglass Festival in Cooperstown, NY (July 19-August 23) with Christine Goerke in the title role.
Nina Stemme as Salome is one of the most enticing prospects this year. She performs the role in Zurich from April 19 to May 4.
The Glyndebourne Festival will present a new production by Richard Jones of Der Rosenkavalier from May 17 to July 3, with Kate Royal as a youthful Marschallin and Tara Erraught as Octavian. Robin Ticciati conducts. The same work will be at the Finnish National Opera from May 13-21, starring Melanie Diener and Niina Keitel.
The Elektra production by the late Patrice Chéreau that had an ecstatic reception last summer in Aix-en-Provence will be at La Scala for six performances from May 18 to June 10 with the original cast. Although the production is shared by other companies (Liceu in Barcelona; Staatsoper unter den Linden in Berlin; Finnish National Opera; the Metropolitan) scheduled to present it in the future, Chéreau is reported to have insisted that his name can only appear in the credits when the conductor (Esa-Pekka Salonen) and cast (Evelyn Herlitzius, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, Tom Randle, René Pape) are the ones he personally worked with. I gather from a reliable source that the La Scala cast will be the last one that features all the original singers.
Budapest will be a major destination for Straussians between May 25 and June 11 as the Hungarian State Opera stages Ariadne auf Naxos, Arabella, Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Der Rosenkavalier and Salome, plus an orchestral concert.
Anne Schwanewilms sings Danae in a concert version of the rarely-heard Die Liebe der Danae (1944) at the Frankfurt Opera (June 15, 19).
Strauss was one of the founders of the Salzburg Festival in 1920, so it is logical that he will be honored there this summer. Franz Welser-Möst will conduct, and Harry Kupfer stages, a new production of Der Rosenkavalier (Aug. 1-23) starring Krassimira Stoyanova and Sophie Koch.
The Teatro San Carlo in Naples will have Nicola Luisotti leading Catherine Naglestad as Salome November 15-26.
Photos: 1) Die Frau ohne Schatten (Monika Rittershaus/Teatro alla Scala) 2) Arabella: Winnie Klotz/Metropolitan Opera