Lessons and carols at the St. Ottlien monastery

Despite the fact that the calendar still says “November,” it’s decidedly Christmas season in Bavaria. Glühwein, Chirstmas markets, holiday lights—they’re all here. For church singers, this is a very busy time of year. And since I’m in a church choir, it’s a busy time of year for me, too. We kicked the season off yesterday with a lessons and carols service at the St. Ottilien monastery in Oberbayern. It’s a long way from Munich, but it’s gorgeous enough to justify the drive. The main chapel is also very resonant—an obvious plus for a carol service.

We have lots more services to sing in the coming month. Unfortunately, I doubt any will be in such beautiful surroundings. Fortunately, they might be in heated chapels. (We all sang in full winter attire yesterday because it was just as freezing inside the chapel as outdoors.)


Hansel, Gretel, and Nightmares

What a nice fairy tale— AHH THOSE CORPSES DON’T LOOK LIKE GINGERBREAD AND THERE ARE DISMEMBERED LIMBS IN THE FRIDGE. Oh, phew they’ve killed the witch— AND WE GET TO WATCH HER MAKE AGONIZED FACES AS SHE DIES. But it’s all okay, because the corpse-children are coming back to life— AND EAGERLY DEVOURING THE BAKED FLESH OF THE WITCH.

Yep, definitely a good opera for children. Full review here.

The Lady of the Camellias

Certain stories are a bit of an obsession for me. Alexandre Dumas, Jr.’s The Lady of the Camellias is one of them. I own four copies of the book (in three languages), have watched three film adaptations, and of course am fond of La traviata and Moulin Rouge. So even though I am not a fan of ballet, when I saw that the Bayerische Staatsballett was performing Die Kameliendame, I knew I had to attend.

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Kusej’s traumatizing Faust

It would be hard to imagine two productions of Goethe’s Faust more different than the one I saw at the Volkstheater last month and the one I saw at the Residenztheater on Sunday. The former was a bit of a farce. The more recent Faust, staged by Martin Kusej (the (in)famous “I’m-not-a-Regietheater-director” Regietheater director whose Idomeneo is currently causing heated debates among London opera-goers), includes a warning for loud noises and strobe lights. Apparently, the mass murder, sex, nudity, and pools of blood don’t require warnings.

Faust (Werner Wölbern) and Gretchen (Andrea Wenzl), before everything goes to hell. Photo: Matthias Horn
Faust (Werner Wölbern) and Gretchen (Andrea Wenzl), before everything goes to hell. The production looks almost normal, right? But it’s a lie. Photo: Matthias Horn

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Jonas Kaufmann in Manon Lescaut

Orchestra seats to a Manon Lescaut starring the inimitable Jonas Kaufmann? Yes, please! It’s a shame it was Puccini (I’m not a fan), but it was still fabulous, crazily costumed chorus and all. I’ll be back for seconds in December. Review here.

I sent two kilograms of gummy bears backstage for Mr. Kaufmann. If you follow opera world news, you’ll know he frequently mentions his obsession with gummy bears in interviews, so it seemed fitting.

Werther: what I wore

(The alliteration in the title only works if you pronounce “Werther” wrong. Go ahead and do so; I give you full permission.)

Regular readers of this blog might recall that Werther was one of my favorite shows I’ve seen in Munich. I decided to return and see it again. It didn’t have quite the same magic—perhaps because this time I saw an 11am matinee with an audience of unappreciative schoolchildren—but it was still wonderful. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about what I wore to the show.


If you’re a devotee of Werther, you’re laughing right now. If not, you have no clue why this outfit is worthy of a blog post. So perhaps I should explain.

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A disappointing Rigoletto

I had some drama when trying to pick up my tickets for Rigoletto—I arrived too late and they’d been re-sold! Persistent arguments and lots of smiling at the kind box office teller led to a phone call to management and an extra chair being placed in the imperial box for me. (I’d always wanted to sit there, so I was pretty excited about that, actually.) Now I know to arrive earlier, and all’s well that ends well.

Unfortunately, while I would love to give the show a great review as a thank-you for the Staatsoper’s kindness in accommodating me, it doesn’t deserve it. My take on this competent but disappointing production is here on Bachtrack.