Monday, January 31, 2011

Happy Birthday: Franz Schubert

Franz Peter Schubert was born in Himmelpfortgrund (suburb of Vienna), Austria, on January 31, 1797. His opera compositions include Adrast, Alfonso und Estrella, Die Bürgschaft, Fierrabras, Das Dreimäderlhaus, Die Freunde von Salamaka, Der Graf von Gleichen, Der Minnesänger, Rüdiger, Sacontala, Sophie, Des Teufels Lustschloß, Die Verschworenen (aka Der häusliche Krieg), Die Zauberharfe and Die Zwillingsbrüder. Composing over six hundred lieder in his 31 years on earth, this is where Schubert really left his mark on music. Steering away from the strophic style of song writing, the Austrian composer began to compose works that took on a more narrative tone in the form of mini-melodramas. Two examples are his "Gretchen am Spinnrade" and "Der Erlkönig." His song cycles Die schöne Müllerin, Winterreise and Schwanengesang also took on an almost operatic drama. In the grand Viennese tradition, enjoy the Schubertiade after the jump!


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Robert Lapage Discusses His Stage Craft

(Photo: Julie Perreault)
Q: How do you fit opera into that? Is opera more challenging?
A: Opera disciplines me, dramaturgically. The fact that I’ve now abandoned any attempt at staging a text that I’ve already written, and am just concentrating on writing stuff for developing or improvising, and opera’s exactly the opposite of doing that kind of creation.

53-year old stage director Robert Lapage sits down for an interview to discuss his work with plays, dance, opera and the circus. The article hearkens back to the days of his early success with The Dragon’s Trilogy in 1985 through his recent production of Wagner's Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2010. One of the great joys in the conversation is his collaboration with ballet star  Sylvie Guillem and choreographer Russell Maliphant in his Kabuki-inspired production Eonnagata for which Lepage was also a performer. [Source]

A video of Eonnagata is after the jump.

Abu Dhabi Festival 2011: Siurina, Hvorostovsky, Luisotti

"Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) announce magnificient line-up of world class international talent to perform at 2011 Abu Dhabi festival. Held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Festival will celebrate its eighth edition in 2011. An evening Opera Gala featuring acclaimed baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and soprano Ekaterina Siurina with the Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Nicola Luisotti, is sure to thrill the audience with a programme of opera classics. Programme highlights will include the works of Rossini, Mozart, Verdi and Puccini." [Source]
Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Ekaterina Siurina singing in concert at the Moscow Conservatory in 2003

Paul Simon and Renée Fleming In Concert

Music's New Royal Couple
(Photo: Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer)
The Academy of Music 154th Anniversary Concert, and the Philadelphia Orchestra's biggest annual fundraiser, was the occasion for music legend Paul Simon to be singing his first duet with opera singer Renée Fleming.  The song of choice? "The Sound of Silence."

"This is the beginning of the Simon and Fleming era!" proclaimed Paul Simon by way of introducing his first-ever duet with opera star Renee Fleming.

"You've kept your high notes!" said Fleming with a playful air of envy.

"Musetta svaria sulla bocca viva"
(Photo: Michael Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer)


On the program for Fleming were two arias from Leoncavallo's La Boheme, Puccini's "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi and for an encore Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." For his part Simon sang "Boy in the Bubble," "Love and Hard Times," and "Loves Me Like a Rock."

[Source]

Is Juan José de León The Future Juan Diego Flórez?

Tenor  Juan José de León has just been named the winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council's Southwest Regional Auditions in San Antonio, Texas. The selections that won him the distinction included "Ah! mes amis, quel jour de fête!" from Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment and "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön" from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Of the former 9 high-C extravaganza he said, "I wanted to wow the audience and judges, and I can roll out of bed and hit a high C, so I gave them what I do best." The next stop for the 26-year old de León will be New York City for the national semifinals competition in March on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. From this round, ten finalists will sing in the Grand Finals Concert accompanied by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and broadcast nationwide on the Metropolitan Opera Radio Network. The top prize for five lucky winners is an award of $15,000. Learn more about the tenor and watch a video performance after the jump.

Cairo Opera House Caught In The Crosshairs

With the news of protests happening in Egypt, one cannot help but think of the national treasures that will likely be the victim of vandalism and destruction in order to make a political point. Protesters have already broken into the Egyptian Museum only to damage and destroy artifacts. Riotous crowds have now reached the doorsteps of the Cairo Opera House. Officers are firing tear gas toward crowds gathering near the opera house. The Cairo Opera House is considered a National Cultural Center and is the main performing arts venue in the Egyptian capital located on the southern portion of the Gezira Island close to downtown Cairo. All of these landmarks are near the Nile River and the next stop for demonstrating will be Giza where the Pyramids stand. [Source]

What Michael Tilson Thomas Could Do With Seven Veils

"'To me,' he said, 'my relationship with the San Francisco Symphony is the happiest it’s ever been.' The 'sense of adventure' continues with audiences and the musicians, he added. In Miami Beach, he is exhilarated by the new center and eager to explore the technological potential of the campus. Other than maintaining his appointment as principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, he said, he accepts 'very few guest appearances with orchestras in Europe.' There are things he misses, like opera. 'Once in a while,' he said, 'I wonder what I could do with Salome.' But there are many conductors in opera houses who perform these works exceptionally well, he added. Increasingly, he focuses on what he is best suited for." [Source]

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lise Lindstrom Will Prove You Wrong


"Her nadir came in 2003 in a lesson in New York with a new teacher. 'During the lesson, which was $150 an hour in addition to the $35 to the pianist, I was interrupted by the telephone three or four times. After one of those interruptions, the teacher said to me: ‘You really don’t have a very good voice; you are not going to have a career. You probably should start looking for a different profession.’ Just like that.''When I left, I was so angry that I had even allowed that person to come within my personal space and give me that kind of ultimatum. If I’m going to decide that I don’t have any talent, that’s one thing. For someone to decide for me: not allowed.'" The soprano has sung the title role in Puccini's Turandot at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Florida Grand Opera, Savonlinna Opera Festival, Netherlands Opera, Metropolitan Opera, San Diego Opera and more. This spring she will sing it again at La Scala in Milan. [Source]

Pictures of Lise Lindstrom as Turandot after the jump.

Nuccia Focile To Play Adultress Playing A Hungarian Countess

"From the tragedy of grand opera to the comedy of Johann Strauss’s light hearted operetta Die Fledermaus would be a quantum leap for some of the divas of classical music, but for Italian soprano Nuccia Focile her latest role is proving to be sheer delight. As one of the world’s most admired sopranos she has played most of the great operatic roles including Nannetta in Falstaff, Violetta in La Traviata and Mimi in La Boheme and has graced the stage at La Scala in Milan, the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. But as Rosalinde in

José Carreras Asks Celebrities To Do Their Duty

(Photo: Getty Images)
"Opera singer Jose Carreras says celebrities have a duty to use their popularity to give something back to society. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Carreras -- one of the Three Tenors -- said one of the perks of fame was its ability to help important things get done. 'It is our duty to use our popularity in order to give as much back to society as we receive from it,' he said. Carreras was honored with the WEF's Crystal Award recognizing those 'who have used their art to improve the state of the world' for his work in the fight against leukaemia, a disease he has suffered from in the past. But he said all he had done was to 'attempt to turn my gratitude into something tangible.'

Chinese Politics Matter in Music

Chinese bass Hao Jiang Tian
"Lang Lang's choice of music for a state dinner in the US was both lauded and chided, although it has evolved to be another folk song about love of country. Depending on your view, pianist Lang Lang either pulled off a sucker punch or committed a diplomatic faux pas last week. He played a tune from a movie that has anti-American subject matter at the Jan. 19 state banquet US President Barack Obama gave to the visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao. Even though it did not evolve into a diplomatic skirmish, it created some hoopla on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. As a student, before the bass singer Hao Jiang Tian became famous at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he used to moonlight

Dame Margaret Price, Soprano, Dies at 69

Dame Margaret Berenice Price,DBE (April 13, 1941, Blackwood, Monmouthshire - January 28, 2011) is a Welsh soprano. Price, who came from a music-loving family, started singing for pleasure early in her life. She originally did not plan on making a career out of her talent; she dreamed of becoming a biology teacher instead as teaching was in her family. At the age of 15, her school music teacher organised an audition with Charles Kennedy Scott who convinced her to study with him at Trinity College of Music in London and obtained a scholarship for her. Over the next few years, Price was trained as a mezzo-soprano. After graduation, she joined the Ambrosian Singers, but was reluctant to enter

Friday, January 28, 2011

Simone Osborne Ready For the Big Time

Watch a video of 24-year old soprano Simone Osborne discussing how she knew opera was right for her, singing in the 2008 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and her upcoming performances as Pamina in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte for the Canadian Opera Company in February. She will sing in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Robert LaPage directing at the end of March. The video and story can be found here. Listen to excerpts of her singing here.

Pavarotti Was a Lover Not a Fighter

Belfort (left) NOT singing opera
"'I think when you’re talking about a career, a job, you need to be professional. It doesn’t matter your position, you need to carry that flag. Everyone is like a team, working towards that goal. I believe a lot of people in the past had discrimination for the fighters that we don’t have anything in life to do and became a fighter. I remember one famous reporter asked me if he hit me in my car what I would do. I told him, so if someone hit the car of Pavarotti, he would leave the car and do opera for the guy? I believe we are on a good path and I’m very excited for the future for the sport and for all the fighters.'" - Vitor Belfort [Source]

Enrico Caruso Signs Victor Contract in 1904

In celebration of the legendary tenor Enrico Caruso signing a record contract with Victor Records on this day, here is a performance of "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'Elisir d'Amore recorded on February 1, 1904.

Palm Beach Hotel Celebrates 100th Anniversary With Music

Gertrude am klavier (Photo: Meghan McCarthy)
"Gertrude Matthews, who turns 102 in March, will play piano Wednesday at a tea and open house at the Palm Beach Hotel. The hotel’s condominium association is staging the event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the town’s incorporation this year and the 1926 hotel’s designation as a national historic landmark. Matthews said Friday that the three make a good match. 'The town’s old, I’m old and the hotel’s old,' she said. Brenda Boozer, a mezzo-
Mezzo-soprano Boozer
soprano and former Metropolitan Opera soloist, will sing and lead a short sing-along of songs ranging from 1915 to the 1960s. Her husband, Dr. Ford Lallerstedt, a composer, conductor, pianist and music instructor, will also play piano. Maestro Teddy Abrams, the 23-year-old prodigy and assistant conductor of the New World Symphony, will play the clarinet." [
Source]

Karita Mattila Makes You Wish You Lived In New York

(Photo: Hiroyuki Ito/New York Times)
"Ms. Mattila’s focused, intense interpretations of three songs by her countryman Jean Sibelius. There is no better match of singer and material, and she gave a gripping performance of the darkly radiant, almost Wagnerian monologue 'Autumn Evening.' The song’s hushed ending was followed by a solemn silence that seemed to recognize that this — the opportunity to hear one of the world’s great artists doing the work she does better than anyone else — was the reason you go to concerts, the reason you live in New York." [Source]

Get a sampling of the soprano singing "Ah! Perfido" of Beethoven which was also on the program.

Marilyn Horne & Stephanie Blythe In Residence

"SUNY Potsdam is proud to welcome internationally-celebrated mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe '92 back to campus as a guest artist-in-residence at The Crane School of Music this coming week. The Metropolitan Opera star, who has been hailed as a 'once-in-a-generation opera singer' by the New York Times, will share her amazing talent and professional experience with Crane vocal students from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4. Select singers will receive individual coaching sessions with Blythe, while others will get the rare opportunity to take part in a masterclass with the acclaimed artist. She has served as a guest artist-in-residence several times, and starred in the world premiere of 'The

Robert Mapplethorpe Portraits Includes Frederica Von Stade

Mum by Robert Mapplethorpe
"As a result, 'Portraits' includes striking blue-and-white photographs of numerous people who are, arguably, more famous than the artist himself. There's Smith, of course, notably the famous portrait that was used on the cover of 'Horses,' her 1975 debut album. There are other New York rockers of the period (Iggy Pop, Deborah Harry, David Byrne) and Mapplethorpe's contemporaries in the world of art (Louise Bourgeois, Keith Haring). There are representations from the worlds of fashion (Carolina Herrera), performance art (Laurie Anderson), dance (Bill T. Jones), writing (William Burroughs, Truman Capote) and acting (Richard Gere and Glenn Close, both

Too Much Sex and Murder in Opera?

"More nonsense is talked about opera than any other single art form. It may be the nature of the form itself, all hysterics and extremes of passion. It may be that it remains a minority form, which is supposed to be refined and melodic. But the temptation to blow up its antics and its subjects into dramas themselves seems irresistible. 'Naughty girls' are indeed the stuff of opera. The work which started it all, Monteverdi's Coronation of Poppea, of 1643, has as its heroine a woman who sleeps and murders her

Blue Man Group Member Can't Make Use of His Voice

"[Matt] Ramsey, a native of Buhl, Idaho, always saw himself as someone who would use his vocal chords professionally. He studied opera at Albertson College in Idaho and played drums in various metal bands. Upon graduating, he decided to pursue acting, which led him to attend a graduate school fair where he was first introduced to the Blue Man Group." [Source]

Rolando Villazón Says His Werther In Lyon Is Psycho

"Villazóns jahrelange Beschäftigung mit psychoanalytischen Fragen bestimmte seinen Inszenierungsansatz: Er wollte zeigen, was in den Personen vorgeht, auch wenn sie es nicht zum Ausdruck bringen, es ihnen nicht bewusst ist. Kurz: Er wollte ihr Unterbewusstsein inszenieren. Im ersten Akt zum Beispiel, als Werther und Charlotte auf der verbalen und der Handlungsebene noch sehr weit voneinander weg sind, weil Charlotte die Liebe zu Werther verleugnet, gibt es ein Orchesterzwischenspiel – die beiden sind dabei pantomimisch ein Herz und eine Seele, sie spielen miteinander und werfen zum Spaß ein Tuch in die Luft. Sie tun etwas, was sich zu diesem Zeitpunkt Charlotte niemals erlauben würde." [Source]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"Not Pavarotti or Domingo, The Other One" Is Salinger Favorite

Even if Jerry Seinfeld couldn't remember the third tenor, a certain American author did:
"JD Salinger was the archetypal literary hermit, protecting his privacy with guard dogs and high walls around his home. Yet an extraordinary new letter archive suggests he was a soft touch, spending his time gardening, admiring opera stars 'The Three Tenors' and, most bizarrely of all, marvelling at the meteoric rise of British tennis player Tim Henman in the 1990s. For a writer who penned one of the most critically-adored works in history, Salinger's preoccupations are strikingly ordinary, if eccentric. His favourite of 'The Three Tenors' was José Carreras." [Source]

Battling Homophobia Through Gay Rap Opera

Nathan Cuckow (l) and Chris Craddock (r) stars of Bash'd
(Photo: David Morgan)
"Using humour as a tool to combat hate, discrimination, and homophobia, the stars of Bash’d, a gay rap opera, promote acceptance and connect with their audience. The rap-opera tells the story of Dillon and Jack, two young men who fall in love and find themselves fighting the harsh reality of homophobia in an urban setting. This modern day love story battles the typical gay/straight stereotypes by featuring socially charged rhymes that seek to ignite and engage audiences. It runs in Calgary until Jan. 29 at Vertigo Theatre." [Source]

David Adam Moore Talks Sex Symbol Status

David Adam Moore as Zurga in Seattle Opera's
2009 production of Les pêcheurs de perles.
"Sex is an important element in opera plots, and I like the fact that these blogs exist because it indicates that there are opera enthusiasts who are aware of sexuality in opera and demand that performers have the ability to inhabit the sexuality of their characters. I don't really follow opera blogs, but from what I've seen, Barihunks seems to treat the subject in a tasteful way— it goes more deeply into aspects of the performers' work than just pointing out pictures of their biceps. I often hear people worry that opera companies will begin casting more on looks than vocal and acting ability. I don't think this will happen because the learning curve that

Jacobs School of Music Student Becomes Miss Indiana

Gabrielle Reed being crowned Miss Indiana
"Gabrielle Reed is not a typical beauty queen. This past weekend, January 15, Reed and 52 other women competed for the title of Miss America, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reed has a desire for promoting domestic violence awareness, and a passion for opera singing. She got involved in pageants for scholarship money, but soon found that she gained much more than money for school. 'I found more than just scholarship. I found an avenue to cultivate my voice as a classical singer, and as a domestic violence advocate,' Reed said in a video about her experiences. She studies opera with The Jacobs School of Music, Senior Lecturer in Music, Alice Hopper, and currently is taking this year off of school because she travels 3 to 4 days a week doing appearances around Indiana.The first night

When Art Trumps Singing On The Family Tree

It's Hard to Face up to Kings and Queens
2003, Zdzislaw Sikora
"Studying art is somewhat unusual in Sikora’s family, where traditionally everyone has studied music. His grandmother was an opera singer, his sister is a conductor in New York, and even his daughter today enjoys singing. 'I personally couldn’t stand the idea of being in a little room practicing by myself for five or six years,' he says. 'Since I was the kid who could draw, I wanted to be in an open studio with other art students where something is always happening.'" [Source]

Zdzislaw Sikora's work has been presented in more than 35 one- or two-man shows. In addition, he has been invited to exhibit in more than 50 invitation exhibitions

Queen Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Re-issue

"March 2011 sees the re-release of Queen’s first five albums – one of the most exciting and influential back catalogues of all time. Recorded in the maelstrom of the early 1970’s London music scene Queen created a groundbreaking and unique soundtrack that remains globally influential today. Theatrical, imaginative, diverse, melodic and unpredictable they had a sound and a look all of their own. Sitting alongside their contemporaries like Led Zep and David Bowie, Queen set the standard for British rock in the 1970’s and became one of the most thrilling, glamorous and downright rock n roll bands of all time, directly influencing a contemporary roll call of artists from Foo Fighters & Axl Rose to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Queen, Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races have been specially re-mastered and each will be released as a standard CD as well as a deluxe 2 disc set which will feature new bonus content. Each

Bryn Terfel Helps Welsh National Opera Win Award

Bryn Terfel as Hans Sachs in WNO's Meistersinger
"A MAJOR Wagner production starring Bryn Terfel in the leading role has scooped an international arts award for Welsh National Opera. The Cardiff-based company has won the opera category of the South Bank Sky Arts Awards for Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg. Directed by Richard Jones, it premiered at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay last summer, with Terfel singing Hans Sachs, the role which he has described as the 'pinnacle' of his career. Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg beat off competition from English National Opera’s A Dog’s Heart and Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd to win the latest award." [Source]

For more information and a video of Bryn Terfel singing "Was duftet doch der Flieder" go here.

Alice Hartsuyker Is An Opera Fan

(Photo: Kinsee Morian)
Alice Hartsuyker is an opera fan who sits down with the local newspaper to give her take on the San Diego Opera season featuring Turandot, Der Rosenkavalier, Faust and Carmen.  She quite possibly could be the poster girl for the MET's broadcasts!

"Back inside, framed vintage opera posters, copies of Opera News—which she calls her 'bible'—and the guide to The Met’s latest Live in HD performance broadcasts are the first clues to Hartsuyker’s obsession. A thick, tattered red book with a taped-up spine, Stories of the Great Operas by Ernest Newman, seals the deal. While opera is high on her priority list, her interests are broad. She’s worked as everything from a shabbas goy (an aide to Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath) when she was 9 to an aeronautical engineer during the war years. Her fascination with opera started when she stumbled upon her grandpa, fixated on his cathedral-shaped Gothic Philco radio, eyes watering as he listened to the Saturday-afternoon matinées broadcasted from The Met." [Source]

Turandot Joins Dolly Parton at the Hollywood Bowl

Turandot will be sung by Christine Brewer 
[not Dolly Parton] at the Hollywood Bowl 
(Photo: Christian Steiner)


Wunderkind-Maestro Gustavo Dudamel will present Puccini's Turandot with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of the "Sunday Sunset Performances" at the Hollywood Bowl on July 17, 2011. Also featured this season at the Hollywood Bowl will be Lang Lang, Chris Botti,Dolly Parton and July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with Daryl Hall and John Oates.

"Turandot, Puccini’s extravagant portrayal of a legendary princess in China, comes to the Hollywood Bowl. Christine Brewer stars as the icy princess who challenges suitors to a game of riddles to win her heart. This story of love – led by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel – features some of the most beloved arias of all time, including 'Nessun dorma.'" [Source]

Contact High: Renée Fleming

I Puritani - "Nel mirarti un solo istante"
Renée Fleming
Julius Rudel, NYC, 1991
Clip length (0:30)


con·tact high [kon-takt hahy]: when you feel the slight, brief sensation of being high just because you were close to somebody that was definitely high.

Happy Birthday: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart] (January 27, 1756 – 5 December 1791), was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood in Salzburg. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. At 17, he was engaged as a court musician in Salzburg, but grew restless and traveled in search of a better position, always composing abundantly. While visiting Vienna in 1781, he was dismissed from his Salzburg position. He chose to stay in the capital, where he achieved fame but little financial security. During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and portions of the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of

Which Rich Opera Singer Will Win $1 Million?

Diva on Divan (Photo: Hamish Brown/Evening Standard)
This Sunday, Angela Gheorghiu is the favorite to win the next Birgit Nilsson Prize valued at $1 million. The prize is awarded for outstanding achievements by (a) a singer in the field of opera or concert or oratorio (b) a conductor in the classical field of opera or concert or (c) a specific production by an opera company, as long as this production is outstandingly cast and conducted and, most importantly, staged in the spirit of the composer. According to sports betting platform bwin.com, other nominees include Anna Netrebko, Jonas Kaufmann, Nina Stemme, Renée Fleming, Rolando Villázon, Thomas Hampson and Karita Mattila. Also on the list is James Levine with 18-1 odds. [SourceThe full betting list is after the jump. For more information about the Birgit Nilsson Prize, go here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fiancée Swapping Sisters In 1790 Vienna

Sisters (Ray Caesar, 2005)


Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Jules Bastin
"Soave il vento"
The first performance of Mozart's Così fan tutte took place at the Burgtheater in Vienna on January 26, 1790. The subject matter did not offend Viennese sensibilities of the time, but throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries it was considered risqué. The opera was rarely performed, and when it did appear it was presented in one of several bowdlerised libretti. After World War II, it regained its place in the standard operatic repertoire. It is frequently performed and appears as number fifteen on Opera America's list of the 20 most-performed operas in North America.

Football Players Turned Opera Singers

On stage and on the field
(top to bottom): Keith Miller,
Lawrence Harris and Ta'u Pupu'a
Before Ta'u Pupu'a and Keith Miller, there was Lawrence Harris. It seems a natural transition for these hulking football players to swap the astroturf stage for the opera house stage. No matter how far these worlds seem apart, they both require putting on a performance. The biggest difference may just be in the locker rooms.

"Lawrence Harris may have the distinction of being the only ex-pro-football player/Native American opera singer in America (he’s half Choctaw on both sides of his family). A former offensive lineman for the Houston Oilers, Harris quit professional football in 1989 to start on a second career as an opera singer and performer. Harris has received a number of accolades and acclaim for his work as an opera singer. The New York Times critic, Bernard Holland hailed Lawrence Harris as a 'major voice' following his New York debut. Jon Vickers praised Mr. Harris as having one of the most beautiful voices in the world. Phyllis Curtin, having heard Mr. Harris'

Love Is Ageless At The Opera

Ana Araujo and Ronnie Wood (Photo: Getty)
"She's the Brazilian-born polo instructor who stunned friends and family when she started dating Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood who, at 63, is 30 years older than her. Ronnie started dating Ana at the start of last year after they met at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden and bonded over a shared love of art." [Source]

Joe Green Wins By Landslide

If you are one of those geeky types who likes tables, charts and numbers, then the website Bachtrack is for you. They recently ran a query to find the "composers with most opera performances" and "most performed operas" for 2010 and the results may (or may not) surprise you. Check it out after the jump.

Knight of the Rose Sells Out in 1911


Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Renée Fleming
"Marie Thérèse! Hab' mir's gelobt"
Der Rosenkavalier (Op. 59) (The Knight of the Rose) is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on January 26, 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt. Until the premiere, the working title was Ochs von Lerchenau. (The choice of the name Ochs is not accidental, for in German Ochs is translated as ox, which depicts the character of the Baron throughout the opera.)

Iowa and Opera Make Gregg Edelman Cry

Q: Music that makes you cry, any genre?
A: Movie music can really start my waterworks. Just ask my wife. At the top of that list is the score to "Field of Dreams." However, opera is a very close second. Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" stops me in my tracks.

For more fascinating trivia about the actor, go to "Cue & A" on Playbill.

Daniela Dessì Adding Gioconda To Her Repertoire

(Photo: Outomuro/Fidelio Artists)
According to Forum Opera, soprano Daniela Dessì will be adding the demanding title role in Ponchielli's tragic opera La Gioconda. With over 70 roles to her credit, she will take on Gioconda at Teatro Massimo in Palermo beginning in February. The cast will include Salvatore Licitra (Enzo), Marianna Cornetti (Laura), Alexander Vinogradov (Alvise) and Elisabetta Fiorillo (La Cieca). For more information about the production, click here. The production is by Jean-Louis Grinda and has already been performed in Liege, Nice and Saint-Etienne. It will be performed at the Paris Opera in 2013. [Source]

Valery Gergiev Brings Russia to Japan in February

Valery Gergiev will lead artists of the Mariinsky Opera on tour in Japan beginning February 12. They will perform Jonathan Kent's 2009 version of the Richard Strauss 1919 fairy tale opera Die Frau Ohne Schatten and Charles Roubaud's 2002 elegant production of Puccini's Turandot with Odessa-native Maria Guleghina taking on the title role. The company will also present three evenings of classics beginning with Berlioz's epic opera Les Troyens. Then a "Wagner Evening"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Q&A With Paulo Szot

Szot as Don Giovanni for Dallas Opera
(Photo: Gleb TARRO)
Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings? Music that makes you cry – any genre? A few relatively recent films you love? A few books that are important to you (and why)? Thing(s) about yourself that you’re most proud of? Three things you can’t live without? “I have a secret crush on…”? 

Want the answers to those questions and 13 more? Baritone Paulo Szot gives Albert Imperato the full story on Playbill's "20 (Plus) Questions."

A Dectet of Boys, Boys, Boys: The Ten Tenors on Tour

"Most people remember the Three Tenors: Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras, who, starting with a live, worldwide performance at the 1990 soccer World Cup in Italy (with Pavarotti doing his 'O Sole Mio'), gave the classical concert and recording world one last big bounce before its big decline. They popularized opera for the masses even as music critics dismissed them as too kitschy. But they launched a brand. By 2000, there were The Irish Tenors, The German Tenors, Three Mo’ Tenors (a black troupe) and The Tatty Tenors, also from Australia. And there was the Ten Tenors." [Source]

Elektra Brings Her Complex to Dresden in 1909


"Allein! Weh, ganz Allein"
Hildegard Behrens
Elektra is a one-act opera by Richard Strauss, to a German-language libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal adapted from his drama of 1903—the first of many such collaborations between composer and librettist. It was first performed at the Dresden State Opera on January 25, 1909 conducted by Ernst von Schuch. The cast included Annie Krull (Elektra), Margarethe Siems (Chrysothemis), Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Klytämnestra) and Karl Perron (Orest). The plot of Elektra is based upon the great Greek tragedy of the same name by the tragedian Sophocles. The unrelenting gloom and horror that permeate the original play produce, in the hands of Hofmannsthal

Houston Grand Opera Awards Joyce DiDonato

(Photo: Larry Ford/Gramophone)
"Lynn Wyatt, Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Houston Grand Opera (HGO) and a Life Trustee of the organization, together with Anthony Freud, HGO General Director and CEO, today announced that mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato will be the Lynn Wyatt Great Artist at Houston Grand Opera for the 2011-12 season. The Lynn Wyatt Great Artist Fund at Houston Grand Opera - an endowed fund dedicated to bringing the world's best operatic artists to HGO - was established in 2010 with a gift of $1,000,000 from Oscar Wyatt in honor of Lynn Wyatt's many years of philanthropy and service to the company. The first Lynn Wyatt Great Artist at Houston Grand Opera was Ana María Martínez, who opened the 2010-11 season to great acclaim as Cio-Cio San in a sold-out run of Puccini's Madame Butterfly." [Source]

Anna Nicole Opera Rated 16+

According to the Royal Opera House website Mark-Anthony Turnage's new opera about the ill-fated starlet Anna Nicole Smith, and thought to be the season's most-anticipated event, will not be suitable for young viewers: "Ages 16 +. A celebrity story of our times that includes extreme language, drug abuse and sexual content." 

We previously gave a run-down of the production and cast, but an update with a juicy synopsis and titillating photo keeps things lively. [Source]