Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Met Live HD Encore Tonight: La Cenerentola

Best Comic Opera of the Met season gets global viewing at local theatres

by Dwight Casimere

Tonight, Wednesday, May 14, at 6:30pm local time, audiences are in store for a real treat, the opportunity to see the Met Live HD Encore Presentation of Rossini's La Cenerentola. This is the best comic opera production of the current season and, by all accounts, one of the best cast ensembles to be featured in the opera in recent memory.  Tenor Juan Diego  Florez excels in the "Prince Charming" role of Don Ramiro in this retelling of the popular Cinderella Fairy Tale and soprano Joyce DiDonato brings a fresh approach to the demanding lead role as the beleaguered Angelina.

Even before the central characters take center stage, its apparent that the rest of the cast has consideragle vocal star-power.  For example, Alessandro Corbelli as the scheming Don Magnifico delivers an absolutely hilarious performance as the father of the vain sisters Clorinda (Rachelle Durkin) and Tsbe (Patrcia Risley), who schemes to marry them off to the handsome prince.  The skullduggery happens all the while their stepsisterm Angelina (sung magnificently by Joyce DiDonato) toils in obscurity as the family maid. The hilarity gets underway very quickly as the prince arrives at the stepsister's home disguised as his valet and his valet, Dandini (Pietro Spagnoli), camps its up as the pretend Prince.
In an interview with Met backstage host and soprano superstar Deborah Voigt, Spagnoli reveals the challenges of Rossini's fast-paced vocal repititions, calling it "an ancient Rossini Rap."

Characterizing the rapid-fire singing technique he employed, Spagnoli said "we kept rehearsing the part, each time singing it faster and faster. The conductor (Fabioi Louisi), did an incredible job of keeping the entire ensemble together with the orchestra and having everything move so smoothly along at such a fast pace." Regarding his own vocal gymnastics, Juan Diego Florez marveled at his ability to ahieve the vocal heights created by Rossini in his final aria. " I have to find this high 'A' in the midst of all of the hundreds of notes he puts in front of me. It's a real achievement, especially since it comes right near the end of a very long and demanding scene!"

In addition to the incredible singing and terrific comedic timing. the sets and costume design by Maurizio Balo are refreshing, using bold colors and modern design touches that hint at the timeless, periiod references of the story line, without going over the top. The production, by Cesare Lievi, is one of the finest of the season. For more information and local theatre listings.

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Rossini's La Cenerento

U.S. Encore: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time
Canada Encores: Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm ET
                          Monday, July 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time
                          Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time

Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Wide World of Wine: Italy's Noble B's: Brunello, Brbaresco and Barolo

by Dwight Casimere

Everyone knows Italy's Chiani wine, made from it most famous indigenous grape, Sangiovese, in Tuscany. Not as many are familiar with the great and noble "B's"; Brunello,  Barbaresco and Barolo, which are similarly terrific Italian red wines, which have their own specific greatness and following among wine aficionados.

Brunello is among the most coveted and expensive of Italian wines. It is extracted from a particular strain of the indigenous Sangiovese grape, Brunello di Montalcino, which is made from a particular strain of the Sangiovese grape, which is specific to the regi(hence the name, Brunello, "little brown one"). The wines are very complex, with rich black and red fruit flavors, complex aromas and velvety tannins. They benefit a great deal from cellar aging, but most people who love Brunello, like that sort of wild, fruit forward, highly tannin "rush" they get from first tasting. It's a wine lover's high that is rarely experienced with other varietals!

The new crop of Brunello, Barbaresco and Barolo wines have just been shipped and are available everywhere in the US. Check your local wine shop for the newest releases.

This was the kind of tasting "rush" experienced by several hundred connoisseurs at the US introduction tasting hosted by James Suckling and Zachys Vice President of Marketing, Andrew NcMurray at City Winery in New York's SoHo. The unique environment, which combines the elements of a wine bar, on site wine making, cellar storage,  restaurant and a music venue, made for a heady experience that enveloped all of the senses.

All of the great names were there: Banfi, Casanova di Neri,  Marchesi di Frescobaldi, Fontanafredda. These are but a few of the historic estates creating great wines that are now available. The remarkable thing about these great wines is that the majority of them are well below the $100 mark, most in the $40 range, which makes them an incredible value when you consider the flavor and aging potential. The wines are just reaching stores in your local community, many with sale pricing through the end of the month. It's a fantastic opportunity to stock up on some terrific Italian reds that will provide drinking pleasure now and for many years to come!.

James Suckling with Andrew McMurray, Vice President of Marketing.

Barolo and Barbaresco are both from the Piedmont region (the top left part of the "boot" of Italy), and both are made from the Nebbiolo grape, but they are named after the districts they hail from. Barolo and Barbaresco have wonderful, distinctive aromas of tar, roses, licorice and truffles. Barolo has a reputation for being more massively tannic and rich, while Barbarescos are more graceful and approachable, but there are many variations of styles out there. (There is one more Piedmont "B," and that's Barbera, which is the name of both the grape and the wine. Barberas are kind of the opposite of Barolos and Barbarescos; they're light and crisp, with lower tannins, and they drink well young.)

Brunello, on the other hand, is made from a particular strain of a different grape (Sangiovese) in a different part of Italy (Tuscany, near the center). The best versions of Brunello have luscious, bold, rich black and red fruit flavors. Decanting and aging is good for Brunello, when you give it a chance to express its complex aromas and velvety tannins.

Here's a peek at my tasting notes of some of my favorites:

Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2009 $65 (introductory sale price $52). This is an elegant, approachable wine that makes the normally overpowering Brunello a softer, pleasurable experience. The wine opens up with its bright fruit flavors and soft tanins, creating a blanket of fruit flavors on the back of the tongue. Its very drinkable now and will make a terrific wine for al fresco dining with a rack of lamb on the grill or a rosemary and garlic basted strip steak roasted over embering coals.

Castiglion del Bosco Brunello di Montalcino 2007 $44.99 (introductory sale price $39.99). This was one of the real bargains of the new releases. If you love the taste of fresh plums , combined with the unusual combination of lemon rind and hints of brioche or pie crust with a lovely, velvety finish, this is the wine for you. It's an unusually soft and elegant presentation for a normally aggressive red wine. This is a wine that truly reveals the creative hand of the winemaker. Ripe cheeses, artisinal hams and salumis with a side of olives are the best way to appreciate this wine. A hearty meal would overpower the sheer pleasure of drinking a well-balanced wine, made with extreme care.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2009 $74 (introductory sale price $54).  The Frescobaldi family has been making fine wine since the days of the Medici's, yet they continue to rewrite the history books. The wines all come from the greatest vineyards in Tuscany, and it shows. The 2009 is rich and full-bodied with a polished texture and long finish. This is among the highest rated wines in the batch and it deserves the recognition and accolades it has received.

 Antonio D'Ambrosio, Empson USA with Lisini Brunello di Montelcino 2009
 Sabine Lodahl, Castiglion Del Bosco, , Campo del Drago

 Robert Spierer of Perelson Weiner LLP
 Luciano Castiello, Castello Banfi Ambassador and Joe Janish, Director of Public Relations, Banfi

Galen Crippin. Export Manager USA at Marchesi de Frescobaldi.
 Candace Ma'te' of Mate Montalcino

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Met Live HD: Rossini's La Cenerentola

by Dwight Casimere

Met Opera Photos: Ken Howard

Terrific singing from a stellar cast; Imaginative sets and beautiful costumes; and, of course, the music of Gioachino Rossini, makes for a not-to-be-missed presentation of the Met Live HD's "La Cenerentola" this Saturday, May 10 at 12:55pm ET. Check your local listings for theatre locations or visit U.S. Encore performance is Wednesday, May 14 at 6:30pm local time and the Canadian Encores take place Saturday, Jul5 at 12:pm ET, Monday, July 7 at 6:30pm local time and Wednesday, July 16, 6:30pm local time.

Scintillating Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez brings all of his charsima, star-power and a silver-lined voice to the role of Don Ramiro, the enchanting prince to Joyce DiDonato's ravishing portrayal of the central character in this romantic comedy. From the act one quintet "Signore Una Parola," to the climactic aria "Dolce Sperenza," the opera is filled with Bel Canto (beautiful singiing) that is the hallmark of one of the greatest opera composers of all time. Joyce DiDonato is magnetic in the title role, displaying a coloratura virtuosity that becomes more vibrant with each moment that approaches the happiness of meeting her Prince Charming. Rossini's La Cenerentola is one of the real gems of comic opera and the cast assembled for this Met Live HD production is one of the best in recent memory.

Rossini's La Cenerentola

May 10, 2014, 12:55 pm ET

U.S. Encore: Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time
Canada Encores: Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm ET
                          Monday, July 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time
                          Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at 6:30 pm local time