Ren_ Pape's first Boris Godunov last month was a triumph, even if the production wasn't. The German bass, performing at the Berlin State Opera, confounded critics who speculated that his voice isn't large for the role of the czar in Mussorgsky's epic opera. The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag declared, "it was Pape's evening" while the International Herald Tribune said Pape was "an unquestionable success." Critics took a much harsher view of the staging, which marked the Western directorial debut of 35-year-old Russian Dmitri Chernyakov. Chernyakov moved the action from 16th century Russia to Moscow in 2012. One critic called Chernyakov' work "a disappointing showing" and audience reactions were decidedly mixed.
Fresh from his success as Boris, Pape heads to Boston January 19-21 to take part in star-studded performances of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with Deborah Voigt, Jill Grove, Ben Heppner, James Levine, and the Boston Symphony. Then he's off to London, where, on the 23rd, he will begin filming director Kenneth Branagh's English-language movie version of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Pape will sing Sarastro in the film; he will sing the same role this summer at the Salzburg Festival in Austria as the festival presents all 22 Mozart opera's in honor of the composer's 250th birthday. This spring, Pape—a favorite of Metropolitan Opera audiences—returns to the Met to sing two Wagner roles he is closely identified with: Heinrich in Lohengrin and Gurnemanz in Parsifal.
Congratulations to the violinist Midori, who completed her master's thesis while maintaining a busy tour schedule, then successfully defended that thesis before an academic panel at New York University this past fall. While writing her thesis, the 34-year-old Midori often lugged around a book bag that weighed more than 10 pounds. Perhaps it was appropriate, then, that the subject of her thesis was pain.
Speaking of school, Midori spent a few days in mid-December visiting New York City public schools on behalf of one of her non-profit foundations, Midori and Friends. Midori and pianist Thomas Sauer played works by Glazunov, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bart‹k for pupils in the third, fourth, and fifth grades and talked with the children and their teachers about the music, the composers, and her art. The remainder of Midori's season includes performances around the world plus additional work with her non-profit organization, both in the United States and her native Japan.
A concert in Carnegie Hall on February 16 honors a pair of musical institutions that are celebrating 70th birthdays this year. Conductor Zubin Mehta, who turns 70 on April 29, will lead a benefit concert for the Israel Philharmonic, which gave its first concert (under Arturo Toscanini) on December 26, 1936. Mehta, one of the Israel Philharmonic's greatest champions, first conducted the IPO in 1961, when both he and the orchestra turned 25. Mehta became music director of the orchestra in 1969 and was named music director for life in 1981. Mehta's program for the concert, which is intended as a fundraiser for the IPO, features music of Strauss, Ravel, and Rachmaninoff, with young Chinese piano sensation Lang Lang as soloist.
In addition to his duties with the Israel Philharmonic and Florence's Maggio Musicale, Mehta spends five months a year as music director of the Bavarian State Orchestra in Munich. Last month, the Mumbai-born Mehta took his German orchestra on a tour of India, playing concerts in New Delhi and Chennai, the first time Mehta had conducted in that city. While in India, Mehta told the newspaper The Hindu that he has been busy polishing a compilation of his thoughts about music for a book, in German, that is due out in time for his 70th.
Christopher O'Riley may be a classical pianist by training and by trade, but he has wide-ranging musical tastes. In the past couple of years, O'Riley released two albums of his own transcriptions of songs by the rock band Radiohead and he has been performing them in recitals around the world. Lately, O'Riley has been immersing himself in the music of the late singer and songwriter Elliott Smith. He recorded his piano arrangements of Smith's songs over the summer and the disc is due out in April. O'Riley is currently in Australia, performing both his Radiohead songs and Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues in a series of recitals. On the way to Australia, he stopped in Hawaii to tape an installment of his nationally broadcast radio program, From the Top. The popular show, which is based in Boston but often originates in other cities, showcases the talents of young performers.
Roberto Alagna canceled scheduled appearances in Manon Lescaut and La bohme at Turin's Teatro Regio due to health problems. The French tenor suffers from hypoglycemia, and he made the decision to curtail his schedule after he collapsed during a rehearsal. Alagna's wife, the soprano Angela Gheorghiu, canceled some of her engagements to be at his side. ... Pianist Alfred Brendel turned 75 on January 6. His longtime record label, Philips, marked the occasion with a series of CDs containing some of his finest performances. ... Soprano Deborah Voigt was the headliner on January 14 when Cal State Fullerton's long-delayed $48.5-million performing arts facility finally opened. The facility serves northern Orange County, California.