Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday: Sylvia Geszty


"No che non sei capace" K. 419 (Mozart)
The soprano was born Sylvia Maria Ilona Wytkowsky on born February 28, 1934, in Budapest, Hungary. Originally wanting to be a dancer or actress, but decided to take voice lessons and attempt a career in opera. She studied at the Franz Liszt Musikakademie in Budapest with Erzsébeth Hoor-tempi. She won several competitions, including the Robert Schumann singing competition in Berlin. In 1959 she made her debut at the Budapest National Opera and immediately was engaged as a soloist with the Hungarian Philharmonic Orchestra. Two years later, she was singing the role of Amor in Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Berlin Staatsoper. Soon she was dubbed by the public the "Prima Donna unter den Linden." In 1966 she sang the Queen of the
The Hungarian soprano today.
Night at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London and repeated the role a year later at the Salzburg Festival. She was also singing a the Komische Oper in Berlin as well. By 1967 she was one of the most acclaimed coloraturas in Germany singing the coloratura roles in Die Zauberflöte, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto , Alcina, Les Contes d'Hoffmann and La Traviata. Meanwhile, she continued to study with Dagmar Freiwald-Lange. She had success with many concerts and recitals, especially in Munich and Salzburg. In 1970, the singer moved to West Germany and became a permanent member of the Staatsoper Stuttgart. One of her most celebrated roles was Rosina in Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia. She

Cecilia Bartoli Talks About Singing, Roger Federer and Lady Gaga

Thanks to Kinderkuchen for pointing out this video interview with Cecilia Bartoli. In the hour-long segment for Stars, conducted with Sandra Studer in German and Italian, the mezzo-soprano discusses what it means to be an opera diva today, using her vocal technique to sing everything from Vivaldi to Mozart, working with Daniel Barenboim and her thoughts about his project with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, studying Flamenco dancing before deciding to sing for a career (and the influence her mother played), how Farinelli was the Michael Jackson of his day, choosing Lady Gaga as her pop artist of choice (over Beyoncé and Gianna Nannini), what it means to get the respect of her colleagues, her adulation of Roger Federer and his talent for the sport of tennis, when she feels like she has "won" a performance in the theater, whether she's satisfied with her work (she admits to being a perfectionist), her first experience singing the Sheperd boy in Tosca as a child and how it launched a career of music, as well as plans for singing Cleopatra in Händel's Giulio Cesare for the 2012 Salzburg Festival. Watch the video after the jump.

Enrico Caruso (Probably) Ate Here For Lunch

Lunch location for MET singers and staff.
(Photo: Daniella Zalcman/Wall Street Journal)
"Manganaro's dates to 1893, when Ernest Petrucci opened a wine and spirits store on the site at 488 Ninth Ave. near 37th Street that also sold olive oil and groceries. As Prohibition took effect in 1919, his nephew James Manganaro, and Sal Dell'Orto's uncle, took over the space and changed the name to Maganaro's. An academic paper in 1967 by Howard Robboy, a sociologist now at the College of New Jersey, traced one possible origin of the hero sandwich to Mr. Manganaro and Mr. Petrucci, both immigrants from Naples. In its heyday, the counters at the Grosseria were often packed three or four deep with customers, with sausages and 200-pound provolone cheeses, sausages and salamis hanging from the ceiling. Lunchtime customers, from garment center workers to performers and staff at the old Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway and West 39th Street, crowded in for hero sandwiches. Over the years the neighborhood has changed. In the 1930's, much of it was demolished for the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel. The old Metropolitan Opera House was demolished in 1967. And most of the garment manufacturing moved away." Looking back through the archives of the Metropolitan Opera during the 1919-20 season, it's possible to imagine some of the famous opera singers who might have been lunchtime patrons of Maganaro's: Enrico Caruso, Geraldine Farrar, Giovanni Martinelli, Claudia Muzio, Giuseppe De Luca, Frances Alda or Rosa Ponselle. [Source, Source]

Student Singing For Her Supper in the Subway

SAMANTHA MARGULIES: Classically trained in opera (at the Manhattan School of Music).
SOUND: Delicate yet powerful, whether she’s singing classical or Leonard Cohen. “I sometimes get laughed at when I sing opera, but when I make the transition from Puccini to Fleetwood Max, people are impressed,” she says. “In a way, opera is easier because there are established patterns, there’s structure. Developing your own pop style is harder, because you need to innovate.”
BEST OF THE SUBWAY: “It’s paradise. I can try whatever I want and I’m not asking anything of anyone and vice versa. I’m just free.”
WORST: “A couple of summers ago, when I started, I made more than I do now, which can go as low as $15 an hour and as high as $50 an hour. I’m what you call an economic indicator.”
FIND HER AT: samanthamargulies.com.
[Source]

BAM Turns Orchestra Pit Into Swimming Pool For Stravinsky

Originally a Canadian Opera production, the set allows singers to be submerged. (Photo: Michael Cooper)
"If the director is Robert Lepage, he'll flood the orchestra pit with 12,000 gallons of water and send his performers wading in waist deep. For The Nightingale and Other Short Fables, opening tomorrow at BAM, Lepage's production company has installed what looks like an above-ground swimming pool inside the Howard Gilman Opera House. The notion of performing half-submerged is nothing new -- in fact, Lepage says, it's based on the art of Vietnamese water puppetry. The Canadian director and his designer, Michael Curry (The Lion King), studied the 1,000-year-old craft while devising the staging for this tale of a Chinese emperor and his pet songbird, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story." [SourceAs previously mentioned, the production will feature Simone Osborne.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Happy Birthday: Mirella Freni


Scène de la Crau: "Voici la vaste plaine"
Mireille (Gounod)
Born February 27, 1935 as Mirella Fregni into a working class family in Modena (both her mother and tenor Luciano Pavarotti's mother worked in the same cigarette factory in that city); her aunt was the soprano Valentina Bartolomasi. She was a musically gifted child and sang "Un bel dì vedremo" in a radio competition at age ten. The tenor Beniamino Gigli warned her, however, that she risked ruining her voice and advised her to give up singing until she was older. She resumed singing at age 17. Mirella made her operatic debut in Modena at 1955, at age 19, as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen. She was offered many roles after this, but she decided to

"Va godendo vezzoso e bello"
Xerxes (Händel)
put her career aside and marry her singing teacher, Leone Magiera. She resumed her career in 1958 by winning a singing competition and singing Mimì in Puccini's La bohème at the Teatro Regio in Torino. She then sang with The Netherlands Opera during the 1959-60 season. Her international breakthrough came when she sang Adina in Franco Zeffirelli's staging of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore at Glyndebourne, where she also sang the Mozart comic roles of Susanna and Zerlina during the 1960-62 seasons. In 1961, Freni made her Royal Opera House debut as Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff. In 1963, she made her debut at La Scala, in a production staged by Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan (Freni went on to become one of Karajan's favourite singers, and she collaborated with him in numerous operas and concerts). In 1965,

Quotidian Dope; Vol. 1, Issue 3

Would anyone like to take a guess at which opera singer was blasting vocal scales in the hotel room next to Jason Sudeikis in Los Angeles? [New York Daily News]

For £100,000, you can rub elbows with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone and Katherine Jenkins as they celebrate the 80th birthday of Mikhail Gorbachev. [Telegraph]

One spelling error turns the princess daughter of Altoum into the son of emperor Fereydun. [Ultimate Conroe]

Roger Hodgman pits countertenors against each other as Xerxes and Arsamene to make new sparks and takes one of them to the edge of his range in the process. [New Zealand Herald]

Mark Rothko's "voices in an opera" are still singing after 40 years in the Texas chapel. [Wall Street Journal]

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Britten's "The Rape of Lucretia" Garners High Marks in Vienna

Nathan Gunn as Tarquinius
"Das Klangforum Wien setzt unter der herausragenden musikalischen Leitung der jungen Engländerin Sian Edwards die Schilderungen der Zustände zuerst im Heerlager (bleierne Sommerhitze mit Grillengezirpe an der Harfe), dann im Hause Lucretias die Morgendämmerung (Vogelgezwitscher) mit äußerster Präzision um. Die drei Soldatenrollen sind ausgezeichnet besetzt: Nathan Gunn gibt einen virilen Tarquinius, Markus Butter leiht dem Jago-ähnlichen Intriganten und Profiteur eine sehr differenzierte Stimme und Jonathan Lemalu gibt den enttäuschten, aber verzeihenden Ehemann Lucretias mit viel Noblesse. Auch die kleineren Rollen der Amme Bianca und der Dienerin Lucia werden von Jean Rigby und Anja Nina Bahrmann einfühlsam dargestellt. Höhepunkt der Aufführung ist sicherlich das Lamento der Lucretia nach der Schändung
Kirchschlager as Lucretia
durch Tarquinius, von Angelika Kirchschlager wunderbar gesungen und ähnlich einer Bachkantate im Orchester vom Solo-Englischhorn begleitet. Angelika Kirchschlager gelingt im Theater an der Wien eine zutiefst anrührende Gestaltung dieser im Innersten verletzten Frau. Sie macht aus dem kleinen Werk Brittens einen intensiven, stillen Abend. Das äußerst aufmerksame und gespannte Premierenpublikum dankte mit viel Jubel. Das Theater an der Wien hat mit dieser großartig umgesetzten Kammeroper eine wahre Alternative zum Flaggschiff Staatsoper gesetzt." [Source]

Watch videos of rehearsal and the production here. More photos after the jump.

Modena Makes Comic Book Librettos to Attract Young

"Ecco Macbeth, il primo libretto d'opera formato fumetto. Lo presenta La Fondazione Teatro Comunale di Modena inaugurando la collana editoriale 'Lirica a strisce, l'opera a fumetti' dedicata al pubblico più giovane del Teatro. L'esperimento è ardito visto che si mettono a confronto due linguaggi molto diversi fra loro: quello del libretto ottocentesco, in questo caso firmato da Francesco Maria Piave, con quello dei disegni di un fumettista dei nostri giorni, Cesare Buffagni in arte Buffo. Lo sceneggiatore è Stefano Ascari, il colorista Luca Raimondi e l’agenzia di comunicazione e grafica Labirinto. Il fumetto di Macbeth sarà in vendita al Teatro Pavarotti di Modena al costo di 7 euro. Gli abbonati potranno acquistarlo al prezzo scontato di 5 euro. Prossimamente Macbeth sarà in vendita anche in alcune librerie di Modena e Bologna." [Source] More images after the jump!

Hungarian State Opera House Announces 2011-12 Season

Highlights of the season include the opening performance of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, 93 years after its premiere at the Hungarian State Opera, with a 3D production by Renzo Cerbo; Costume designer Ivan Stefanutti brings to life a production of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, an opera not seen at the house since 1991; conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson leads Mozart's Don Giovanni; beginning in January 2012, Achim Freyer (director, costumes and stage designer) will begin four-
Peter Gelb's wife will conduct
year cycle of Wagner's Ring; not seen since 1934, Strauss's Arabella will return to the opera house; a presentation of the 1757 version of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie in June 2012. The company will feature repertory pieces of Verdi, Puccini and Rossini. Big names featured next season include Leo Nucci and Charles Castronova in Rigoletto and Johan Botha in performances of Tannhäuser. [Source]

Does Opera Education Influence Gingger Shankar's Film Scores?

"Whether it's composing music, performing live or song writing, Gingger Shankar has won kudos. Here, she reflects on how her musical inspirations shaped her life and the experience of working in Hollywood.The kudos heaped upon Gingger at Sundance was only the latest in a string of accolades for the California-based daughter of violin maestro L. Subramaniam. The gifted singer, virtuoso violinist, composer, model and songwriter grew up in Los Angeles, where her accomplishments already include working with top producers and film composers such as Mel Gibson, Mike Nichols, Mike Myers, and James Newton Howard. While Gingger was the artist and co-composer behind the poignant score of Mel Gibson's blockbuster The Passion of the Christ, her music can also be heard in Mike Nichol's film, Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks, where she had a chance to collaborate with film composer James Newton Howard. Her vocals can also be heard in Jackie Chan's film, The Forbidden Kingdom, and she also worked

Quotidian Dope; Vol. 1, Issue 2

- Watch your wallet if you are walking to La Scala or Wien StaatsoperSonja Kohn might just try and pick your pockets. [Newsweek]

- Over 100 children gear-up for ambitious Scottish Opera project in 2014 for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Sneak peek will be in 2012 for the London Olympics.[The Herald Scotland]

- Feel like you've been here before? Vinyl fetishists in Natick, MA, have 50,000 reasons to rejoice. [MetroWest Daily News]

- Two brothers (17 and 19) from Flintshire are being dubbed the "panini Pavarottis" by the customers they serve. [BBC Wales]

- 78-year old kicking Bo Derek out and inviting Italian prostitute for the Opera Ball? [Newsday]

- Bringing "fashionista" Renée Fleming to Mississippi pays off for new artistic director. [Hattiesburg American]

- Stanford Olsen takes it to church with a new recording. [Salt Lake Tribune]

Patrice Munsel Dishes For New Jersey Newsroom

"On Sunday night, Feb. 20, Miss Munsel, now 85, was interviewed in a room at Lincoln Center, and it became immediately clear that despite her age she’s quick-witted and lively. As she sipped from a bottle of water she said, 'I just wish this were vodka.' She was interviewed, by author Brian Kellow, after an exceedingly rare showing of the 1953 film, Melba. Years ago, when Miss Munsel first read the movie’s script, she related, she wept; she was so deeply disappointed that it portrayed Melba as someone 'nice, someone out of a Jane Powell movie.' (Miss Powell happens to be a dear friend of hers, Munsel added.) And, as she noted in her talk, there wasn’t much of a plot." The former diva goes on to talk about her days at the MET, including juicy stories of Enrico Caruso, Helen Traubel and Kirsten Flagstad. [Source]

Soprano Finds Herself Victim of Racism in Vienna

The soprano with Plácido Domingo
"The rising Southern California-bred soprano Angel Blue is having a smashing Vienna debut — except for an ugly encounter with a racist cab driver outside a Starbucks in the Austrian capital. Blue, who has sung several roles for Los Angeles Opera, where she trained in its Domingo-Thornton Young Artist program, was on break from rehearsals for Benjamin Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and needed a ride back to the venerable Theater an der Wien opera house. She hopped in a white Mercedes cab, according to the Viennese weekly magazine News, only to hear the driver snarl, 'I don't drive black women. Get out!''I did so and started to cry,' she told the publication, recalling the Nov. 10 incident. 'All I wanted in that moment was to get away from here.'" The news broke Wednesday under the headline, 'Scandal in Vienna: Taxi Driver Refuses to Transport Dark-Skinned Opera Singer.' The paper said she is 27. By then, says Blue's Beverly Hills attorney, Don Franzen, she had settled into her role, opening Feb. 17 and ending Tuesday, and has received a warm reception from the Viennese." [Source]

Opera Singers Give Relief Concert For New Zealand Victims

From left to right: Taddei, O'Neill, Cole, Makisi
(Photo: Marion Dijk/Nelson Mail)
"Soprano Aivale Cole jokes that she usually travels on the bus, so it was nice to be greeted by a couple of gleaming classic cars when she arrived at Nelson Airport yesterday for Opera in the Park tonight. The opera star was on the same flight from Wellington as tenors Ben Makisi and Simon O'Neill and conductor Marc Taddei. The singers, draped with leis in honour of the Samoan tsunami relief fundraiser, travelled in style to their accommodation in a 1958 Buick Special and a 1961 Studebaker Hawk. The performers said it was bittersweet to be singing in Nelson after the devastating Christchurch earthquake, but all were looking forward to providing some relief through song. 'A poignant evening,' was how O'Neill described tonight's show – and everyone agreed. 'I'm really glad that we've come here,' Cole said. 'A lot of Christchurch people are here just to get away and they're probably still thinking about their homes.'" [Source]

Has Lucia Sucked the Life Out of Natalie Dessay?

(Photo: Ken Howard/The Metropolitan Opera)
"In this revival of Mary Zimmerman’s grayly atmospheric production, there is an empty space where Lucia ought to be. Not that there’s not a soprano onstage, and a redoubtable one, in Ms. Dessay, returning to the company after a two-year absence. Her cool voice has thinned a bit, but it still impresses in coloratura and rises to the score’s climactic moments. The issue is not the voice so much as what that voice should serve: the character. Ms. Dessay and Ms. Zimmerman have clearly, carefully considered every motion (the soprano’s physical performance Thursday was essentially identical to the one she gave in 2007, when the production was new) and the result is a Lucia almost entirely blank. The main consideration seems to have been avoiding going over the top, being too “operatic.” But in this version, Lucia — that supremely expressive Romantic character, the one who weeps, swoons, trembles and is often, as the libretto describes, simply “beside herself with misery and fear” in a work dominated by passions and blood — is so internal that the audience perceives her only as indifferent and detached." [Source]

Happy Birthday: Emma Kirkby

This soprano, born February 26, 1949, has been the undisputed queen of early music for the better part of the last century. Possessing a not-quite sizable voice for grand opera, it is perfection for liturgical purposes and her clarion tone has stirred many a stone heart when bursting out Bach, Haydn, Händel, Monteverdi or Mozart. After graduating the Sherborne School for Girls in Dorset she went on to student classics at Oxford. There she discovered her passion for Renaissance and Baroque music after joining the Schola Cantorum. She was a founding member of the Taverner Choir and in 1973 begin her long association with the Consort of Musicke and the Academy of Ancient Music. She worked hard to form relationships with London Baroque, the Freiburger Barockorchester, L’Orfeo (of Linz), the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Palladian Ensemble and Florilegium. With over 100 recordings to her credit, she has sung everything from Hildegard von Bingen to Amy Beach. In 1999 Kirkby was voted Artist of the Year by Classic FM Radio
(Photo: L'Oiseau-Lyre/Decca)
listeners and in November 2000 she received the Order of the British Empire. BBC Music Magazine in April 2007 published a survey of critics to nominate “The 20 greatest sopranos”, controversially placing Kirkby at #10. On 21 January 2011 it was announced that Dame Emma had been awarded the Queen's Medal for Music, an award funded by the Privy Purse and given to an individual who has had a major influence on the musical life of the nation. The soprano has declared that she enjoys live performances to recording. She married lutenist Anthony Rooley and they have a son together. Top 10 listening suggestions are after the jump.  [Source]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Quotidian Dope: Vol. 1, Issue 1

Last call: Ensemble Parallèle presents Philip Glass’ Orphée February 26th and 27th at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco. [San Francisco Sentinel]

La Scala board members asked to pony up to pay off the deficit. [Milano Cultura]

Seems like not all the diva drama was inside the Royal Opera House for the premiere of their new opera about Anna Nicole Smith. [Daily Mail]

Conductor Antoni Wit explores Chopin's fascination with Bellini in a concert recording of Norma featuring Hasmik Papian in the title role. [Dziennik Polski]

La Gioconda returns to Teatro Massimo di Palermo after a 41-year absence. [Gruppo Adnkronos]

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu: "J'ai conscience d'être hors norme"[L'Express]

Music Bump: "Laetatus Sum" Vêpres Vénitiennes by Nicola Porpora (Isabelle Poulenard, soprano)

Portrait of Queen Victoria (1859) by Franz Xaver Winterhalter


February Was a Good Month For Georg Friedrich Händel

Whether it was the season calendar that dictated dates of premieres or Händel just loved winters in London, the German composer had a plethora of his operas debut in the month of February over three decades. A look at some of the operas celebrating the anniversary of their first performances this month are listed below along with a history of the King's Theatre, eerily similar to New York City Opera problems of late, and listening clips after the jump. Also worth noting is that Händel filed for (and received) British citizenship on February 24, 1727.
Rinaldo and Armida in the Garden by Giambattista Tiepolo (c. 1752)

Nero (February 25, 1705)*
Rinaldo  (February 24, 1711)**
Giulio Cesare (February 20, 1724)
Rodelinda (February 13, 1725)
Siroe (February 17, 1728)
Partenope (February 24, 1730)
Poro (February 2, 1731)
Sosarme (February 15, 1732)
Giustino (February 16, 1737)***
Alessandro Severo (February 25, 1738)

All operas were performed at the King's Theatre unless otherwise indicated. *Hamburg, Theater am Gänsemarkt **London, Queen's Theatre ***London, Covent Garden Theatre

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Lucia di Lammermoor"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor live tonight at 8:00 PM EST on Sirius XM radio. Intermission guests: Riccardo Frizza, Kobie van Rensburg and Julie Boulianne.


Diana Damrau Returns To The MET Post Pregnancy

Proud Mutter in Vienna  (Photo: Johannes Ifkovits/Opera News)
ON: Speaking of things in opera happening for real, talk to me about singing Schweigsame Frau while you were pregnant with your son. It sounds as if it was a wonderful success for you. Was that fun, to do that?
DD: Oh yes!


ON: How long was it between that series of performances in July and the birth of your son?
DD: My son was born the third of October. And my last concerts — after the Schweigsame Frau at the end of July — were in Salzburg, with Mozart arias on the 14th and 15th of August.

ON: Wow. You obviously put a premium on keeping in really good shape, so that must have helped your ability to keep singing. Do you feel any different now as you start going back to singing?
DD: I admit that I have not sung a note yet. Except cradle songs. [Laughs] Before he was born … after about the fifth month, I really felt very strong. I never had problems with breath — I could move all right, and breathe. As for Schweigsame Frau, by that point we couldn't hide [my pregnancy], so as you probably have read, [we] made the character of Aminta pregnant, which gave another dimension to the whole story. It was beautiful for the whole production and for the opera.

Plácido Domingo les envía saludos!

The 70-year old tenor offers a hearty welcome from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in costume for his role as Oreste in Iphigénie en Tauride. Watch the clip by clicking here.

Contact High: Leona Mitchell

Manon Lescaut - "In quelle trine morbide"
Leona Mitchell
Japan, mid-90s
Clip length (0:55)


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: Renata Scotto

Watch a special video message from tenor Stephen Costello. In case you missed the recent interview with birthday girl Renata Scotto, check it out here and if you are in New York City this Sunday be sure to attend the MET Legends event taking place at Hunter College's Kaye Playhouse.


"Come per me sereno" La Sonnambula (Bellini)
Renata Scotto was born on February 24, 1934 in Savona, Italy. She made her operatic debut in her home town on Christmas Eve of 1952 at the age of 18 in front of a sold-out house as Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata. The next day, she made her 'official' opera debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan as Violetta. Shortly after, she performed in her first Puccini opera, Madama Butterfly, in Savona and was paid twenty-five thousand lire. Both roles would later become closely associated with her name. In 1953, Scotto auditioned at La Scala for the role of Walter in Catalani's La Wally with Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco. After her audition, one of the judges, the conductor Victor de Sabata, was heard to say, "Forget about the rest." La Wally opened on December 7, 1953 and Scotto was called back for fifteen curtain calls. Tebaldi and Del Monaco each received seven. Scotto's major breakthrough came in 1957: At the Edinburgh Festival, La Scala performed their production of Bellini's La Sonnambula with Maria Callas as Amina. The production was so successful that the company added an additional performance. Callas however declined to perform due to illness, saying that she had already appeared in the other performances against her doctor's orders. Scotto, covering the role of Amina, replaced Callas on September 3, 1957. The performance was a great success, and the 23-year-old Scotto became an international opera star. In 1961 she performed Amina again at Venice's La Fenice with tenor Alfredo Kraus with whom she shared the same teacher, Mercedes

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Amadeus Effect

TCM is running Academy Award-winning movies all month long as a lead-up to this year's awards ceremony on February 27. Last night's feature was the 1984 musical bio-pic Amadeus. Written by Peter Shaffer and directed by Miloš Forman, the story is told from the perspective of Antonio Salieri who is delirious with fictionalized jealousy for a contemporary composer named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Perhaps at first glance the project may not have appealed to a high-brow society that puritanically fills concert halls and opera houses but it manages to introduce moviegoers to wonderful Mozart compositions, some for the first time. "Amadeus is a magnificent film, full and tender and funny and charming -- and, at the end, sad and angry, too, because in the character of Salieri it has given us a way to understand not only greatness, but our own lack of it. This movie's fundamental question, I think, is whether we can learn to be grateful for the happiness of others, and that, of course, is a test for sainthood." - Rogert Ebert, film critic

ANTONIO SALIERI
Venetian by birth, he became the director of Italian opera (1774-1792) to the Habsburg court in Vienna and served as the Austrian imperial Kapellmeister (1788-1824). In addition to his service to Emperor Joseph II, he wrote 35 original dramas for opera houses in Paris, Rome and Venice during his career. He was a student of Gluck, who after turning down an offer to compose a new work for the opening of La Scala in Milan charged that Salieri should have the task resulting in the premiere of Europa riconosciuta in 1778. Listen to some samples of the composer's works:


"A regnar su questa fede" Europa riconosciuta
(
Daniela Barcellona, Desirée Rancatore, Diana Damrau, Genia Kühmeier;
conducted by Riccardo Muti at Teatro La Scala in 2004)

Commemorating Dame Nellie Melba

Portrait by Rupert Bunny (1902)
Soprano Dame Nellie Melba GBE died on February 23, 1931. As we look back at some of the highlights from her life and career, it's easy to see how this opera singer is still part of popular culture 80 years later. Just this week a porridge bowl given by the diva to her godson Simon Birch went on auction and was expected to receive bids of £300 - 500 and the Australian winery De Bortoli released a new wine called the Melba ‘Mimi' 2008 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nebbiolo. Born in 1861 as Helen Porter Mitchell in Melbourne, Australia, her parents were of Scottish descent. She married Charles Armstrong in 1882, with whom she had a son named George. She has an affair with Philippe, Duke of Orleans, that eventually led to scandal and in 1900 her

"Depuis le jour" Louise by Charpentier (rec. 1913)
husband divorced her in Texas. She studied with Pietro Cecchi and Mathilde Marchesi. Soon she was introduced to and studied with several composers including Gounod, Massenet, Délibes, Debussy, Duparc, Chausson, Verdi, Saint-Saëns, Thomas and Puccini, as well as changing her name to a variation on her hometown. She debuted at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels (October 13, 1887), Royal Opera House in London (May 24, 1888), Opéra de Paris (May 8, 1889), La Scala in Milan (1893), The Metropolitan Opera in New York (December 4, 1893) and Opéra de Monte-Carlo (1904). Throughout her career, her major roles in the opera house were Gilda, Marguerite, Juliette, Ophélie, Lucia and Gilda. She sang the world premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns's Hélène, the first to sing the role of Nedda in Pagliacci for London (1892) and New York (1893), as well as the first to sing Mimi in Puccini's La bohème in New York. In 1909, she bought property at Coldstream (East of Melbourne) and around

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

L.A. Opera's "Il Turco in Italia" Seems Timely Relevant

Machaidze as Fiorilla
(Photo: Lawrence K. Ho/L.A. Times)
"For all its froth, Turco tackles a sensitive subject more pressing than ever. We laugh knowingly but anxiously, recognizing the timely, touchy topics of immigration, racism and sexual exploitation. The veteran baritone Thomas Allen is affectionate and hilariously hapless as the poet Prosdocimo, his influence on the action always at his own physical expense. As Fiorilla, Nino Machaidze, a soulfully dark-toned soprano who made a star turn in the L.A. Opera production of L’Elisir d’Amore last season more as a singer than an actress, proves this time a magnetic comedian. Whether she is changing in an instant from vixen to harridan, putting on makeup or making cappuccino, she continually twirls exquisite Rossinian roulades. Kate Lindsey, who has been garnering attention in New York as an emerging mezzo-soprano, seems a bit all-American as Zaida, but she produced a pure, sure, all-around lovely sound. Maxim Mironov, as Don Narciso, is a true Rossinian tenor, sweet and extremely flexible, but unlike many a Rossinian tenor, he is also able to squeeze into very tight jeans. Simone Alberghini is a suave Selim. Paolo Gavanelli’s henpecked Don Geronio so captures the quintessential buffo Italian patriarch that you almost wish he might try parodying Berlusconi." [Source]

Reminiscing About Joan Sutherland With An Aria Performance

Sutherland as Lucrezia
The entire state memorial service held on November 9, 2010, at the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House for the late Dame Joan Sutherland is available on YouTube here. But two moments that particularly stand out are a videotaped performance of the soprano singing "Era desso il figlio mio" from Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia (especially for her marvelous full-bodied delivery of the line "Il mio cuore con esso è morto") and her son Adam speaking directly afterwards. Click on the video below to watch both items.

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "La Bohème"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Puccini's La Bohème live tonight at 8:00 PM EST on Sirius XM radio. Intermission guests: Renata Scotto and Patrick Summers.

Gran Teatre del Liceu Announces 2011-2012 Season

The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona announced their 2011-12 season. All the details can be found here. Highlights of the season include opening night of Faust (Krassimira Stoyanova, Piotr Beczala, Erwin Schrott), Erwartung (Angela Denoke), Linda di Chamounix (Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez), Aida (Sondra Radvanovsky) and Adriana Lecouvreur which will
Early portrait of Caballé
have three casts: sopranos Barbara Frittoli, Daniela Dessì, Micaela Carosi, tenors Roberto Alagna, Fabio Armiliato, Carlo Ventre and mezzo-sopranos Dolora Zajick, Marianne Cornetti and Elisabetta Fiorillo. The biggest event of the season, however, just might be the concert on January 3, 2012, that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Montserrat Caballé's debut with the opera company in the title role of Strauss's Arabella. Recitals will include Juan Diego Flórez (December 3, 2011), René Pape (February 5, 2012) and Nina Stemme (July 4, 2012). [Source, Source]

Happy Birthday: Gigliola Frazzoni


"La mamma morta" Andrea Chénier (Giordano)
Gigliola Frazzoni was born on February 22, 1927, in Bologna. She studied in Bologna with Marchesi and Secchiaroli, and made her debut at the Teatro Comunale Bologna, as Mimi in La bohème. She quickly enjoyed considerable success at major opera houses throughout Italy, Turin, Venice, Parma, Palermo, Rome and Milan, etc. She was a regular guest at the Verona Arena from 1956 to 1972. On January 26, 1957, she took part in the world premiere of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, as Mère Marie, at La Scala in Milan. Beginning in 1954, she also sang outside Italy, notably in Cairo, Munich, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Zurich, Vienna, Bordeaux, Dublin, etc. She was
Fooling around as Nedda
admired in dramatic roles, especially by Verdi and Puccini and some other verismo composers such as Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Giordano. She can be heard on a complete recording of Tosca, opposite Ferruccio Tagliavini and Giangiacomo Guelfi and in Jan Schmidt-Garre's film Opera Fanaticand also as Minnie in  La Fanciuilla del West by G. Puccini together with Franco Corelli as Ramerrez and Tito Gobbi as Rance –Live Recording, La Scala, Milan April 4,1956. [Source]

Monday, February 21, 2011

Stephen Costello Earns Spot In Prestigious Tenor Lineage

"Rising-star tenor Stephen Costello will sing his American recital debut, at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the Folly Theater (12th and Central Sts.) in downtown Kansas City. The Harriman-Jewell Series continues its trademark tradition of presenting the American recital debuts of world-class performing artists at the beginning of extraordinary careers. The Philadelphia native’s Kansas City appearance will mark the Series’ 20th American recital debut presentation....Costello will be joined by pianist Danielle Orlando to perform arias and songs by Verdi, Liszt, Tosti, Rossini, Quilter, and Brodsky. Go to hjseries.org for the complete program list. The Harriman-Jewell Series' first American recital debut presentation was sung by tenor Luciano Pavarotti (1973) and tenors who followed him have also had internationally prominent careers: Francisco Araiza (1982), Ben Heppner (1997), Marcelo Álvarez (2001), Juan Diego Flórez (2002), Daniil Shtoda (2002), Salvatore Licitra (2005), and Clifton Forbis (2006)."

Do Lavish Opera Productions Cause The Fall Of Empires?

"This is the story of how an over-extended empire sought to cope with an external debt crisis by selling off revenue streams to foreign investors. The empire that suffered these setbacks in the 1870s was the Ottoman empire. Today it is the United States. In the aftermath of the Crimean war, both the sultan in Constantinople and his Egyptian vassal, the khedive, had begun to accumulate huge domestic and foreign debts. Between 1855 and 1875, the Ottoman debt increased by a factor of

Renata Scotto Remains A Private Citizen Of The World

The 1984 autobiography tell-all
"Usually, in the houses of the older men and women who once dominated the stages of the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala and Covent Garden, there is a piano. The piano, in fact, is the focal point of the house. It’s the reminder of past glory, what they gave their lives to. It’s there in the corner when you walk in the door, sheet music at the ready and crowded with fading photos in costume, backstage shots. In Renata Scotto’s house there is no piano. A decade after retiring, following a career that lasted over 50 years and was one of the greatest in twentieth-century opera, Scotto never sings, not even in the shower. She keeps a single photograph in the house of herself in costume (as an imperious Lady Macbeth at the Met), and she hangs it under the staircase. With few exceptions, her friends aren’t fellow
Scotto in Florence (1961)
singers or musicians. This is how she wants it. 'You can ask a thousand people about the kind of person I am,' she said last week over espresso and cookies in her living room in Westchester, leaning back on her couch and laughing as she drew out the 'thousand' in the thick Italian accent that’s stayed with her through decades of living in the United States. 'I would never have a moment where I said, ‘Ohh, I can’t sing anymore, it’s too bad because I can do it better than so-and-so.’ I’m happy the way I am, and so interested in so many things. I’ve never had a piano in my house. I’ve always kept it separate.'" [Source]

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Iphigénie en Tauride"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride live tonight at 8:00 PM EST on Sirius XM radio. Intermission guest: Lucas Meachem.

Edita Gruberova Hailed A Success in Barcelona

"Edita, La Regina" read the banner unfurled from the balcony.
(Photo: Antoni Bofill)
"The performance of Donizetti's Anna Bolena was chugging along fitfully, the leading lady definitely showing her age. Then the opera's final scene began, and Edita Gruberova worked her magic. As Anna prepared to meet the executioner's ax at the Gran Teatre del Liceu on Friday night, the 64-year-old Slovakian soprano transformed herself from the slightly frumpy grandmother who had sung with sometimes faltering tone into an ageless diva still capable of a remarkable vocal display. "Ah dolce guidami castel natio" ("Ah, lead me to the dear castle where I was born"), she sang to a mournful, gently descending melody, her mind wandering as she imagined happier days. Full of trills and delicately filigreed
runs, this first section demands pinpoint accuracy, purity of sound and an ability to sustain long lines on a single breath. Gruberova, seated near the bottom of a huge staircase, was astonishing. At one point, as if sinking into despair, she slowly lowered her upper body until her head rested on a higher stair, singing all the while in hushed tones of ethereal beauty." [Source]