Lise Davidsen and Jonas Kaufmann Sing “Die Walküre” in Concert

What happens when the world’s most sought-after tenor teams up with the world’s fastest rising opera star ?

Magic.

In a gem of a casting bill, Lise Davidsen and Jonas Kaufmann performed a concert version of Act I of Wagner’s Die Walküre live from the Bayerische Staatsoper… and I had a front row seat !

The singers, who were at the top of their game, gave a performance that was as riveting as it was raw. Never once did I espy a break from character and the visual display of the revved up orchestra was a treat on its own. While each participant was exceptional, the real sparkler was Lise Davidsen. By the end of the final duet, my friends and I erupted into living room applause with an uncontrollable flood of “Brava !” And who said opera was boring ?

The Cuisine

A summer concert called for summer fare and I knew of the perfect dish: Ina Garten’s Guacamole Salad ! Years ago, my mother would make this recipe and add corn kernels to increase the color, texture, and flavor. The salad’s fresh ingredients are the key: avocadoes, bell peppers, grape tomatoes, red onion, and black beans all tossed in a zingy lime marinade. “How bad can that be ?

Chris added to the table a plate of select cheeses and fruit and we all dove in with chips and crackers to our summer repast.

Of course, we couldn’t do without our sip of champagne…

Or cookies ! I baked a “No White Flour, No White Sugar” batch of Ina Garten’s Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies, which were probably more addictive than the regular way.

The Clothes

Thinking of a classical music concert brought to mind the solid black attire worn by the orchestra. It’s traditional and very sophisticated. As it so happened, I knew just what I would wear and didn’t have to go any farther than my mother’s closet.

Thank you for the shoes, Lynne !

While the dress is beautiful and classy on its own, there’s a greater story behind its black crepe and cutout detail. In 1986, my mother wore this same dress to a Christmas party at a Country Club and for as long as I can remember the photo from the occasion has graced our walls.

It’s clear that my mother’s Christmas dress from the 80’s has stood the test of time. So has Wagnerian opera… and Jonas Kaufmann ! And if the performance at the Bayerische Staatsoper was any indication of future success, Lise Davidsen should be joining the ranks, after a storied career, as one of the great Wagnerians in history.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits:

Die Walküre (Act I) concert production
Richard Wagner
Bayerische Staatsoper
Munich, Germany
Live broadcast date: May 13, 2021
(Date seen: June 14, 2021)

Asher Fisch ─ Conductor

Lise Davidsen ─ Sieglinde
Jonas Kaufmann ─ Siegmund
Georg Zeppenfeld ─ Hunding

Wagnerians in Concert

Over the years, I have found that the more I am exposed to Wagner, the more I love it. It’s complex, lush, and completely absorbing if given the right circumstances. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who harbors a cultish hankering for Wagnerian music. And so, off to Chris’s we go for another Met Stars Live in Concert series !

Broadcast live from the Hessisches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, Germany, the grand foyer proved to be one of the most gorgeous settings for a concert with the lighting shifting to fit the mood of each song. Although the program was not entirely Wagnerian (a thimbleful of R. Strauss was thrown into the mix), the quartet of Elza van den Heever, Christine Goerke, Andreas Schager, and Michael Volle made the most of the arias and duets… and the staircases ! There was a choreographed sequence of how the singers would enter and exit to avoid cutting into the next performance all while capitalizing on the thespian potential of the Neo-Baroque architecture.

The Hessisches Staatstheater in Wiesbaden, Germany

The greatest (and most accurate) of these tableaux came during the penultimate number with Elza van den Heever and Christine Goerke acting out the duet from Act II of Lohengrin, complete with balcony betrayal. Juicy !

The Cuisine

Our afterparty fare was a European hodgepodge of Gruyère and Bleu, open faced canapés, sauerkraut salad (similar to Korean kimchi), Riesling, and… banana bread. Well, it was almost European.

The recipe for the banana bread is an adapted version of Cookie and Kate’s Whole Wheat Banana Bread with maple syrup as the sweetener (and butter in place of the oil). For years it has been one of my go-to staples for a “No White Flour, No White Sugar” treat. Thanks, Kate !

The Clothes

In thinking of a Wagnerian-inspired outfit, several elements came to mind:
1) Medieval gowns with long, wide sleeves
2) Knights in chainmail
3) Leather, lots of leather

Each of these characteristics can usually be observed during a typical Wagnerian opera. However, I wanted to create a more modern look and sought to avoid the following fashion pitfalls insomuch as looking like a:
1) Gothic punk
2) Biker
3) Cosplayer

A challenge, indeed. Leaving the angel sleeves behind, the rest of my outfit gave me just the right combination of Wagnerian features with a completely modern appeal.

The outfit and the concert were a terrific celebration and reminder of why I enjoy Wagner so much: drama and beauty intertwined as the complete work of art.

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

How exactly did I create my sequin tunic ? The answers can be found in my accompanying tutorial post: http://costumeclosetcouture.com/2021/05/29/sequin-mail-drafting-a-cowl-neck-chainmail-tunic/

Cast and Credits

Wagnerians in Concert
Hessisches Staatstheater
Wiesbaden, Germany
Live broadcast date: May 8, 2021
(Date seen: May 20, 2021)

Elza van den Heever ─ soprano
Christine Goerke ─ soprano
Andreas Schager ─ tenor
Michael Volle ─ bass-baritone
Craig Terry ─ piano

Bavarian Apple Torte

Shoved deep in my mother’s old decoupage recipe box is a brown splattered index card with instructions written on front and back. In the time leading up to fancy dinner parties or special occasions, the card was always sought with expediency. That prized recipe was for Bavarian Apple Torte and originally came from my great grandmother, who was of direct German descent.

My great-grandmother, Claire

When the occasion arose for Jonas Kaufmann’s concert in Bavaria, there was no better choice than the regionally appropriate dessert for our small watch party. And now I’m sharing the favorite recipe below in case you need a simply elegant dessert to impress your guests or have an insatiable hankering to visit Bavaria.

Ingredients

Crust:
½ C butter
¼ tsp. vanilla
1/3 C sugar
1 C flour

Filling:
1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
¼ C sugar
1 egg
½ tsp. vanilla

Topping:
1/3 C sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon (or more — ¾ – 1 tsp.)
4 C peeled apple slices (any kind)
¼ C sliced almonds

Instructions

Cream butter, vanilla, and 1/3 cup of sugar. Blend in flour. Spread dough onto bottom and sides of springform pan.
(*For easier cleanup, I place a sheet of parchment paper over the bottom of the springform pan and secure it with the metal ring that goes on top. This helps the torte slide off the pan if you do not want the metal bottom of the pan going to an event or if you are giving the torte as a gift.)

Parchment paper covering the pan

Combine softened cream cheese and ¼ cup of sugar; mix well. Add egg and ½ tsp vanilla. Mix and pour into pastry lined pan.

The crust and the filling

Combine 1/3 cup of sugar and cinnamon. Toss apple slices in sugar and cinnamon mixture. Spoon apple mixture over cream cheese layer. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake 10 minutes at 450°F. Reduce heat to 400°F. Continue baking for 25 minutes. Note: Cover with foil if needed so almonds don’t burn too much, about 10-15 minutes before done.
Cool. Remove rim of pan and slide onto serving plate, leaving bottom of springform underneath torte.
Top with whipped cream, whipped with a little sugar.

Enjoy !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Met Stars Live in Concert: Jonas Kaufmann

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Jonas Kaufmann ? He’s handsome, personable, full of charisma, and one of the greatest tenors to date. When it was announced that Jonas would be headlining the Met’s new concert initiative, how could I resist the opportunity to see the spectacular tenor perform ? For the cost of $20, one could be treated to an intimate and breathtaking performance with the craveable comforts of home. It was to my delight when my dear friend, Chris, invited me over to view the event on her mega screen TV, fully equipped with augmented surround sound.

Broadcast live from the historic Polling Abbey in the tenor’s native region of Bavaria, the recital was stunning, as was the sacred setting. With songs ranging from popular Puccini favorites to more obscure operatic selections (like Ponchielli), Kaufmann dazzled with his attention to vocal detail and tempered interpretation of the music. Particularly moving was piano accompanist Helmut Deutsch’s rendition of the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut and the engaging aria “Un dì all’azzuro spazio” from Andrea Chénier. Of course, my favorite has been and will always be “Nessun dorma”, which never ceases to thrill me.

Jonas Kaufmann singing “Nessun dorma” with Helmut Deutsch accompanying on piano

If I could have changed anything about the format of the concert, I would have preferred to have heard more songs and less “filler” that was injected into the program after every couple of numbers ─ it’s not difficult to find and watch snippets of Jonas’s past Met Opera performances on YouTube ! Personally, it would have been more meaningful to me if there had been a series of short, sit down interviews with Kaufmann and Deutsch that had been previously recorded specifically for this concert, giving insight into the songs, the challenges (if any) of performing without an audience, etc. This addition would have made the pay-per-view price well worth the cost in terms of value.

The Clothes

Given the opportunity to dress up, I will take it ! And since I was going to attend a concert for the esteemed Jonas Kaufmann, why shouldn’t I look my best ? Nothing in my closets tickled my fancy and I was coincidentally distraught that a lining material I had ordered for another project was regrettably unusable for its purpose. However, I had an idea. Instead of hording the unfit fabric in a closet for years, crossing my fingers that I would eventually find a use for it at some indeterminable point down the road, I decided to make a “mock-up” dress of the untested pattern for which I originally bought the too-bright lining material.

The purple ITY knit lining material
Lekala Pattern #4078

Pressed for time, I completed the dress in a weekend. Although there were minor fitting issues with the pattern, I was pleased with the final result ! Styled in classy and chic fashion, I paired my new ruched dress with monochromatic stockings and heels and accented the look with gold jewelry. Don’t be deceived by the pictures─ neither the purple material nor the vanda orchid are nearly as blue toned as in the photos.

The Cuisine

A new dress for the event was only the start. Chris planned to serve wine and cheese for the gathering and I wanted to bring some “themed” food for the festivities. Since Kaufmann is from Bavaria and the concert was taking place in Bavaria, what better dessert to bring than my great-grandmother’s beloved Bavarian Apple Torte ?

Bavarian Apple Torte

Shingled with sliced almonds to shelter the cinnamon apples and cream cheese filling cohabiting beneath, the torte was a hit ! Another supplement of mine, a chilled bottle of Riesling wine which had been awaiting its moment of glory for many years in the refrigerator, was supple and sweet.

The sliced salami, prosciutto, and capicola were right up my alley ! I’ll never reject dry-aged salted meats !

All that was needed was a smattering of brie on a tangy sourdough rye cracker…

…and the sharing of laughter among friends. Who said classical music was stuffy ? Take me at my word: when Jonas Kaufmann is the subject of conversation and critique, there’s plenty to discuss !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits

Met Stars Live in Concert: Jonas Kaufmann
Polling Abbey
Polling, Bavaria
Live broadcast date: July 18, 2020
(Date seen: July 27, 2020)

Jonas Kaufmann ─ tenor
Helmut Deutsch ─ piano