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  • Chausson's much neglected opera Le Roi Arthus was given its first complete staging in France here in Montpellier. How totally amazing that a work of such quality had a posthumous premiere in 1903, four years after the composer's death, and that in Brussels, with the Paris Opéra deigning to present Act 3 in 1913. Three concert performances followed in the late 40s, 50s and 80s (the last of which served as the basis for the Erato recording which is now out of print, and that was it until last year when the Dortmund Opera unveiled its production which was in fact co-produced by Montpellier. The Bregenz Festival and Cologne Opera were partners in a separate production almost simultaneously. John Dew's production this evening was in his simple, abstract vein, which in fact suited the work quite well. A late defection of the soprano brought us Jane Casselman who sings Genièvre in Dortmund, and while it is not the most beautiful sound one has ever heard, we are grateful to her for saving the show. Marcel Vanaud in the title role offered his puffed-up singing which too often makes him unintelligible. Only tenor Stephen O'Mara's Lancelot emerged relatively unscathed. All three leading roles are impossible to cast, requiring Wagnerian voices which can also be fined down and at the same time sing in impeccable French. Alain Vernhes' Merlin almost stole the show in his one scene. Conductor Emmanuel Joel could probably have used a few more rehearsals with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Montpellier, while the combined choruses of Montpellier and Nantes didn't quite blend. But again, confronted with a work of such stature which has been more than neglected, perhaps ignored is the operative word, for almost a century, we set aside our quibbles.



  • listen to the new Philips recording of Ruslan and Lyudmila (446 746-2) which I will discuss at length when I see the accompanying video of the production. Gergiev's fiery conducting makes for exciting listening, but he is let down by the basses. As this is the recording most readily available I would not hesitate to recommend it. The packaging, however, is unhandy as there is no separate box for the CDs and libretto which makes shelving a problem, also the case with the new Solti Meistersinger on Decca.



  • I should have been in Montpellier for Le Roi Arthus, but the French railroad's prolonged strike made it impossible - only got to Montpellier towards 9 pm, so I continued on home, arriving at 2.30 am. I was, however, able to read most of Remy Stricker's new book about Schubert, which is fascinating, particularly what he has to say about the operas and their stageworthiness (Gallimard).



  • What a relief to see a production of Werther that looks like something the composer and librettist might have recognized. Roberto Alagna's first stab at the title role offered ample proof that he should stick to the French repertoire, his exemplary diction enhancing our enjoyment of the work. I missed some of the softer singing that he used to give us, but he nonetheless got the part right, which is not easy to do. François Leroux was Albert, a fascinating contrast after his Prince of Homburg last month, while Brigitte Fournier was an exemplary Sophie. Béatrice Uria-Monzon's Charlotte was more of a problem; she looks the role to perfection, acts like a dream, but the sounds are inappropriate when she pushes her chest register to undreamt of heights and tries to inflate her voice beyond its natural size. Richard Armstrong's conducting didn't seem quite comfortable but all praise to Hubert Monloup and Nicolas Joël.



  • Grieg's songs are not something I usually rush to listen to, but a new release on Naxos (8.553781) by an unknown soprano provided total delight. Bodil Arnesen's light voice suits much of this repertory, offering a judicious mixture of familiar and unknown material. Erling R. Eriksen's keyboard support is a model and I would recommend this CD to anyone looking for an introduction to a superb melodist. As a change of pace, Schumann by Barbara Bonney and Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca 452 898-2) turns out to be disappointing. Throughout the centerpiece of the album, Frauenliebe und -leben, the absence of portamento, the exaggerated rubato and the very dry accompaniment become a hindrance to one's appreciation of Schumann's anti-feminist cycle. Bonney's very light voice, moreover, is not suited to all the songs she has chosen, overt drama being outside her range. As has become fashionable, two groups of Clara Schumann's songs are interspersed, with the soprano providing a personal note in the programme defending her choice. In fact, Clara's songs are interesting as yet another reflection of the "romantic" movement.



  • Pelléas et Mélisande, recorded live at the Lille Opera last year by Naxos (8.660047/9), is the best of the bargain-priced issues and rivals some of the top-price versions as well. The only thing in its disfavor is that it is spread over three discs in order to avoid the otherwise necessary awkward break, but I'll take a touch of awkwardness if it means paying for one less disc, even at Naxos prices. Jean-Claude Casadesus has the measure of the piece, giving us a straightforward reading which at the same time does not neglect the score's coloring, something the Orchestre National de Lille is capable of furnishing. What a pleasure to hear singers for whom the language is not a problem so that they can concentrate on their roles without worrying about errant vowel sounds. Both Gérard Théruel Pelléas and Armand Arapian Golaud have long experience of their roles, including a spell with the Peter Brook-Marius Constant Impressions de Pelléas, so that they impart a certain authority to their assumptions. Théruel, a baritone, occasionally strains at the upper notes of his role, a fault common to almost any baritone Pelléas. Mireille Delunsch offers a rich-voiced Mélisande who can also fine down her voice and give us those half-voiced utterances without sounding totally washed out. Gabriel Bacquier has moved to the role of Arkel, and while he may not have a true bass resonance, his command of the role is perfect, and Hélène Jossoud's Geneviève sounds much better on the recording than in the theater. Françoise Golfier's Yniold is unique in the child-like sound she produces, but with a clear focus on the text, somehting of which a child is incapable. Bravo Naxos, and bravo to Casadesus and his orchestra who have realized that it is better to have a regular recording contract with a budget label such as Naxos than a very occasional disc on some other label, particularly when they will be recording a mix of familiar and unfamiliar French music, something at which they excel.



  • listen to Christie's new recording of Hippolyte et Aricie (Erato 0630-15517-2), a work with which he has been involved for over thirty years. Using the "A" cast of the Paris Opera performances, Christie gives an incisive reading in which the Phèdre of Lorraine Hunt and the Thésée of Laurent Naouri are particularly outstanding. It is clear that the entire cast had the work in their bones, to the special benefit of the singers in the title roles who were rather wan in the theater. Anna Maria Panzarella remains a small-scale if charming Aricie, while the Hippolyte of Mark Padmore unfortunately sounds strained above the staff where he often lunges wildly at notes which should come easily in this music. The only obstacle to a nonetheless unqualified recommendation is that Minkowski's Archiv recording of 18 months ago set a standard which has here been equalled but not surpassed, so that we must ask if this recording was truly necessary. Choice will ultimately boil down to the following: do you prefer a more apt pair of lovers (Véronique Gens and Jean-Paul Fouchécourt for Minkowski) or a more overtly dramatic Phèdre and Thésée as on the Christie version? Or do you have a particular preference for or allergy to either of the conductors? One question which remains unelucidated in the face of claims to be using the original 1735 score is the variant readings of the lovers' scenes in Acts 2 and 4; and surely something might have been said about using the 1742 version's Pluto and chorus number already on the Minkowski recording.



  • we combine the European Orchid Conference and the opera, Handel's Rinaldo in the Pizzi production which has been making the rounds since 1983. Pizzi has abdicated all responsibility as stage director in placing the performers on platforms which are constantly shifted around by an army of little men, while other little men are kept busy waving the yards of chiffon which form the cloaks of the performers. Fortunately Jennifer Larmore in the title role succeeded on more than one occasion in making us forget all the nonsense when she spoke directly to the emotions of the audience. Donna Brown as the good girl Almirena and Lillian Watson as the bad girl Armida were formidable adversaries, while the men seemed underparted.



  • listen to two new releases which will be dealt with in an article: Demetrio e Polibio by Rossini and L'Americano by Piccini; neither is essential but both have many points of interest.



  • more catching up, with von Otter and Holzmair. You may question my pairing, but the fact that they have both come up with recordings of French music from the turn of the century is noteworthy. Von Otter and Holzmair offer one work in common, Fauré's Bonne Chanson, but von Otter uses the later arrangement with added string quintet, which I am not convinced adds much to the work. Her interpretation, however, is serious, ardent and well thought through. Other items on the disc which benefit from the iridescence of von Otter's mezzo are the Ravel Mallarmé settings, Chausson's "Chanson perpétuelle", Delage's "Quatre Poèmes hindous", Saint-Saëns "Flûte invisible". An irresistible turn is the total deadpan approach she brings to Poulenc's Rhapsodie nègre, with an almost unrecognizable baritone sound. Bengt Forsberg provides his customary faultless accompaniments as do a host of instrumentalists (DGG 447 752-2). That the Austro-German turn of the century is also her domain is amply demonstrated by a Mahler - Zemlinsky disc with John Eliot Gardiner conducting the NDR-Sinfonieorchester (DGG 439 928-2). Singer and conductor neatly dovetail into each other's concepts, the close focus allowing us to hear many details, an approach especially beneficial to Zemlinsky's Op. 13, Sechs Gesänge nach Gedichten von Maurice Maeterlinck. I am not familiar with the other recordings recently issued, but I find it difficult to imagine anyone surpassing this version. Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and 5 Rückert-Lieder also benefit from this fusion of intent. Wolfgang Holzmair's excursion into Fauré, Duparc and Ravel (Philips 446 686-2) is praiseworthy, but he does not seem to live the music as does von Otter. Add to this a whitening of tone at the top and we must consign this recording to the pile of unnecessary CDs (Philips 446 686-2). Gérard Wyss's accompaniments never lapse into the sentimental, a danger in this music.



  • start catching up on my backlog. William Christie's new contract with Erato seems to keep him in the recording studio much of the time. Two recent recordings are devoted to the secular music of Marc-Antoine Charpentier, La Descente d'Orphée aux Enfers (0630-11913-2) and Les Plaisirs de Versailles (0630-14774-2). There is some doubt as to whether the former has come down to us in its entirety as it ends somewhat abruptly with the descent of Orpheus. Charpentier has come up with music of great eloquence for Orphée, here dispatched with elegance by tenor Paul Agnew. A new generation of singers in the remaining roles demonstrate that there is still a great deal of talent in the ranks. Sopranos Patricia Petibon and Sophie Daneman especially stand out. Les Plaisirs de Versailles shows us an unsuspected aspect of Charpentier, a sense of humor, with Music (Sophie Daneman) disputing with Conversation (Katalin Károlyi) as to which is more important in social life, appealing finally to Comus (Jean-François Gardeil) to settle their quarrel. The disc is filled out with three "Airs sur les stances du Cid" and a "Pastoraletta", Amor vince ogni cosa, a charming bit of fluff about two shepherdesses and two shepherds and a lost lamb. Les Arts Florissants, small format, shows that they have few equals in this music, while Christie's sure hand is exactly what is needed.



  • The new Collins recording of Britten's Albert Herring (70422) will undoubtedly be bombarded with comments that it somehow misses the atmosphere of the version conducted by the composer. I was enchanted by this performance conducted by Steuart Bedford, part of the Britten edition now underway with this company. Only the Lady Billows of Josephine Barstow seems out of sorts, her acid tones and uncertain high notes not pleasant to hear. Of her characterization I can offer nothing but praise. Christopher Gillett in the title role imposes his own view of the character, while Felicity Palmer's Florence is almost visible in an exceptional portrayal. Robert Lloyd, Peter Savidge, Susan Gritton and Stuart Kale are the village worthies, while Della Jones as Mrs. Herring almost makes an unsympathetic role sympathetic. Gerald Finley and Ann Taylor as the young lovers cum conspirators sound the right age and even the children (Yvette Bonner, Témimé Bowling and Matthew Long) for a change are on pitch though perhaps a shade too genteel. See Modern British Opera, Part 1, for a discussion of other recent recordings of Britten operas.



  • the Berlin Statsoper brings its new production of Lohengrin to the Châtelet - what utter nonsense. It's clear that Harry Kupfer has nothing to say, requiring the assistance of not one but two dramaturges to give us a confused, illogical staging: Gottfried and Lohengrin are projections of the same personality and the entire evening is Elsa's dream and the audience's nightmare. Daniel Barenboim tended to let the orchestra have its head at climactic moments. Johan Botha in the title role offered the kind of easy singing not heard since the heyday of Sandor Konya, while the production which had him immobilized throughout required nothing in the way of acting. Emily Magee's Elsa was hard put to sustain her unbroken three and a half hours on stage, but offered lovely singing most of the time. Falk Struckmann ranted his way through Kurvenal, while Deborah Polaski's Ortrud resembled Morticia Adams and sounded raw at the top. René Pape's King offered the most solid singing after Botha. But what a waste.



  • Giulio Cesare at the Palais Garnier. This is the kind of joky production I normally would not like, but somehow it mostly seems to work, except when the irrepressible Dominique Visse takes over the stage. Maria Bayo's Cleopatra catches all the aspects of the character, from the minx to the unfortunate prisoner of war. Brian Asawa is one of the few countertenors I've ever heard whose voice does not sound totally artificial. Lorraine Hunt and Kathleen Kuhlmann were ideal as son and mother, their duet being a high point. Only Suzanne Mentzer in the title role disappointed, her high mezzo unable to cope with the demands of the role for which, in fact, Kuhlmann would have been ideal. Vassily Gerelo's Achilla was the other weak element in the cast, unable to cope with the Handelian coloratura. Ivor Bolton in the pit was sometimes routine.



  • In Naxos's continuing survey of the Lutoslawski orchestral works, Vol. 3 includes Paroles Tissées (1965)and Les Espaces du Sommeil (1975). The earlier work was written for Peter Pears and tenor Piotr Kusiewicz is very good at imposing his own personality on the idiosyncratic Pearsian writing. Adam Kruszewski has greater difficulty effacing memories of Fischer-Dieskau in the later work, but once again Naxos offers us a reasonable alternative for those wishing to expand their musical horizons (8.553423).



  • listen to another novelty from Opera Rara, Rossini's Ricciardo e Zoraide. As with Rosmonda, not a masterpiece, but fascinating for the way in which the composer plays with form and convention. A more detailed appreciation will follow. Naxos is reissuing the Szmanowski recordings previously available on Marco Polo. Even at top price, these were exceptional performances, and the disc with the Stabat Mater and some shorter choral or solo works with orchestra - Veni Creator, Litanie, Demeter and Penthesilea - offers a fascinating introduction to an unfamiliar sound world. The Stabat Mater is the best-known of these pieces and is here given a spacious - in all senses of the word - reading. All the soloists are beyond praise, so close are they to the music. I look forward to the coming releases, but the aural satisfaction already procured is exceptional (NAXOS 8.553687).



  • Natalie Dessay gives the third of three concerts with Patrick Fournillier and the local orchestra. Of the six scheduled pieces only one has those super-stratospheric notes she produces with incredible ease, but the artistry with which she invests the closing scene from Bellini's Sonnambula, the line she is capable of sustaining, only serve as further confirmation that her artistry is equal to her vocalism. The Aubade from Chérubin, or the Berceuse from Lakmé (sung as an encore), which are unlikely selections for this type of program, keep the audience spellbound, coughers silenced. And then "Glitter and be Gay" from Candide, to remind the audience that she is also an actress and comedienne. Fournillier not only conducted an orchestra he knows well and has raised to unimagined heights, he also furnished the few lines of the tenor in an excerpt from Poulenc's Mamelles de Tirésias.



  • Total surprise. Manfred Gurlitt's Wozzeck turns out to be a more than viable stage work and not just a weak sister to the Berg piece which had its premiere just a few months earlier. The disparity between the orchestral and vocal writing is part of its unique atmosphere, while the very different dramaturgic choices make this a complement rather than a rival. Given that the Berg is no more than 90 minutes long and the Gurlitt clocks in at 80 minutes, some enterprising management might even consider a double bill, or else performances on alternate evenings as we are promised next season in Paris with Fidelio and Leonore. All credit to conductor Bruno Ferrandis, director Marc Adam and baritone Vincent le Texier in the title role, and even more to the beleaguered Opéra de Rouen which is fighting for its life in one of the politico-cultural squabbles which badly disfigure the cultural life of France.



  • Parsifal at the Bastille. Armin Jordan's four-square beat has the virtue of rapidity, Graham Vick's production has some bright colors but few ideas, and the cast is neither inspired nor inspiring. A very long evening.



  • Listen to Opera Rara's new recording of Donizetti's Rosmonda d'Inghilterra. Not a masterpiece but good listening and good Donizetti. Detailed review to follow.



  • the Chatelet Don Carlos arrives here in Lyons and I can only ask myself if director Luc Bondy is either stupid or stubborn in not rethinking some of the particularly awkward bits of staging that caused titters last year. John Nelson's conducting is more refined than that of his predecessor, while Martine Dupuy's Eboli is far more elegantly sung. Stephen Mark Brown and Victor Torres, replacing Alagna and Hampson, are singers with voices several sizes too small for their roles, though there is no denying their enthusiasm. Karita Mattila and José van Dam repeat their excellent portrayals of Elisabeth and Philippe, warts and all, but are nonetheless fascinating for the total conviction and professionalism they both display.



  • a new production of Jenufa is notable for the Kostelnicka of Helga Thiede, singing in German, but giving an unforgettable performance of great subtlety unlike others. Gunnel Bohmann in the title role is another singer I've never heard before and she too is impressive, with a pure voice and a simple dignity which goes well with the part. Of Friedeman Layer's conducting, the less said the better as he so refines the asperities of the orchestral writing that the piece almost sounds like Dvorak. A simple, almost too simple, set is evocative and the straightforward approach of director Friedrich Meyer-Oertel is greatly appreciated.



  • La Dame Blanche is a work in need of special pleading, with a top-notch cast capable of dealing with the difficult vocal writing and the very dated libretto with much spoken text. Jean-Louis Pichon's production caught the flavor of the work but the contributions of Bernard Pisani as both actor and choreographer were much overdone. Marc Laho's Georges Brown did not efface memories of more illustrious tenors in his two major airs, but he did get through the part. Inge Dreisig's Anna was lovely to look at but too unsure vocally. Dominique Trottein's conducting was too flaccid. Let us hope the performances at the Opéra-Comique will be more convincing.



  • Henze's Prinz von Hombourg is only a few years younger than Susanna, but a much more accomplished piece by a composer of the same age with much more operatic experience. The simple fact that there are musical interludes to cover the scene changes makes the work seem much shorter than the far too broken Susanna, even though neither has much more than 100 minutes of music. Jean-Claude Auvray's sensible production captures the dichotomy of the dream sequences interspersed with reality. François Leroux in the title role sounds a bit tired but the role is a killer. Both he and Mari-Ann Häggander as Natalie are so at home with their roles that the angularity of the vocal writing is almost forgotten in the ease with which they both sing.



  • Why am I here, listening to Carlisle Floyd's first opera, Susannah? And why is it being given its French premiere only now? The music is closely related to Menotti in its descent from Puccini, it has some nice tunes, but the melodrama, especially when the guignol elements are emphasized by director Philippe Godefroid, is of the sort we find difficult to accept today. The performers are all working hard, none harder than Regina Nathan in the title role, who seems not quite to have her heart in it, unlike conductor Jean-Yves Ossonce. If the choice was to be an American work of the melodic sort, why not something more recent like Susa's Liaisons Dangereuses or Corigliano's Ghosts of Versailles?



  • Listen to Volume 3 of the Bach cantatas by Ton Koopman and crew (ERATO 0630-144336-2). It attains the same level of achievement as the earlier volumes in the series, though one might welcome some sopranos with more vocal colour.



  • Listen to Minkowski's new Rameau album and as always am impressed by the vitality. Véronique Gens is her usual extraordinary self in the solo cantata Le Berger Fidèle, while Annick Massis charms us with her major role as Amour in Anacréon. Only the much too soft-grained baritone of Thierry Félix does not make the impression it ought as the eponymous hero of the latter work (ARCHIV 449 211-2).



  • We go to see the Ballets de Monte Carlo on tour in Lyons because I am suffering from Balanchine deprivation and they are giving two of his works on the same program. Stravinsky Violin Concerto suffers from being played too loudly through the loudspeakers, while the dancers are struggling too much. They also have trouble with Who Cares?, to 17 Gershwin songs, with one of the most beautiful pas de deux to "The Man I Love". Again, my memories of the first casts help me through the sometimes inadequate renderings.



  • Listen to the new Forza from the Kirov and like much of what I hear. See more detailed review in Operanet's CD reviews.



  • Listen to Ying Huang's recital again, thinking I may have been too harsh, but am once again struck by the lack of personality and vocal color while appreciating the refusal to force and a reasonably astute technique.



  • Things are no better at a performance of Philippe Manoury's60ème Parallèle, in which characters who cannot be understood emote while one couldn't care less. Occasionally the music rises above the pretentiousness of libretto and staging, but those moments are few and far between.



  • Attend a performance of Mozart's unwritten opera, Ombra Felice, a pasticcio put together by the team of Ursel and Karl Ernst Herrmann, and am relieved to hear that almost all my colleagues share my feeling of total boredom. How can one take such gorgeous music as Mozart's concert arias and make such a non-event of the occasion? I kept feeling that if the pauses were any more pregnant, they would have to include a delivery room as part of the rudimentary set.



  • The second cast of Carmen at the Bastille was unfortunately unhindered from getting on stage. Roberto Arias's non-production might almost be subtitled Carmen and the Three Dwarfs, for the prominent role given to them alongside three dancers, so that in fact we had three Carmens, Josés and Escamillos moving around the stage. Arias almost never let the music speak for itself, seemingly confusing opéra comique with comic opera, or even music hall. Banal conducting and insignificant singing by all but Norah Amsellem as Micaela, along with a blowsy performance in the title role by Béatrice Uria-Monzon who has already demonstrated that she is capable of greater subtlety, made for a dull evening.



  • The 53rd opera (1837), Roberto Devereux, is to me the most exciting, its conciseness approaching the Verdian but with vocal writing for Elisabetta which rivals that of Norma for difficulty. For the first time this weekend we are hearing male singing which does not need to be tuned out. Giuseppe Sabbatini is a tenor of taste with exciting high notes when required and his acting is not limited to three stock gestures. Marianna Nicolesco in the title role is an object lesson to any aspiring singer of how to make the most of reduced means, giving a riveting performance, far from impeccable vocally but inspired. Gloria Scalchi was perhaps too passive as Sara but sang an exquisite duet with the tenor in half voice which some idiot in the audience booed.



  • Maria Stuarda, the 43rd opera (1834), is perhaps the member of the "Tudor trilogy" which has gained the most currency, its length far more manageable and the soprano far more elegiac except for her outburst during the confrontation with Queen Elizabeth. Maria Pia Piscitelli learned the title role in three weeks, her unfamiliarity with the work barely perceptible other than one or two moments when she clearly had difficulty in pacing herself. The voice is light and for the moment should probably not sing such a dramatic role except on special occasions. Her face and body language were always emotionally expressive. Caroline Sebron as the rival queen has an impressive mezzo-soprano voice in need of taming: her pitch is not always accurate and she seems to think that increasing the volume will make us forget her problems. As with the previous evening, of the males, the less said the better.



  • The Monte Carlo Opera is one of the few houses to have realized that this year is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Donizetti, the composer of close to 70 operas, not counting the numerous revisions - occasionally extreme - of several works, too few of which grace the repertory of most of our opera houses. In an interview with John Mordler, director of the Opera (see Operanet Interview), he told us of his long-range plan, now come to fruition, to celebrate this important birthday. On this first of three weekends, the operas were presented in chronological order, so that we first heard a light version of Anna Bolena, the 30th opera (from 1830) and that which placed him in the musical forefront of his day. Giusy Devinu is an affecting performer in the title role but her vocal means are by no means up to the demands of this dramatic role created by Pasta. Sonia Ganassi's Seymour was a welcome return to a lighter mezzo in the role and she easily encompassed all its demands. Of the remainder of the cast, only Sara Mingardo as the page Smeton demonstrated a voice and personality well matched to her role. But where were all the missing pages of music?



  • Start listening to Pacini's Saffo on Marco Polo (8.223883-4) which is a live recording from Wexford. The sound is not pleasant for starters, while a shouting baritone and tenor in difficulty take away from one's listening pleasure. Franca Pedaci in the title role does her best in a role in which the unforgettable Queen of the pirates has left a memorable souvenir. And this is music which should be heard occasionally, important in demonstrating that Verdi did not spring singlehandedly into the operatic world, with a few hints from Donizetti. Pacini and Mercadante were also considerable influences.



  • Listen to Ying Huang, the Butterfly of the film, who has made a first recital (I first wrote rehearsal) album for Sony (SK62687) with James Conlon and the London Symphony Orchestra. One is aware of a pretty but smallish voice, coached by Renata Scotto as her verbal inflections make clear. But the voice has a limited range of colors, with limited dynamic range, so that you can listen to only a few selections at a time.



  • Entertain two people from opera-l, who are in Lyons to see the much-travelled Carsen-Christie Orlando. I haven't gone because two looks at the production in Aix and Montpellier were more than enough, watching everyone sloshing around through the water. Dave Hall of the Handel page, Hear Handel, and Barbara are good company and we pass a pleasant evening discussing things operatic, also sharing our distaste for the production they have just seen.


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