Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Rival Bio-Pics To Be Filmed About Antonio Vivaldi

The younger Irons actor will take on Vivaldi
Young acting stars, including the son of Jeremy Irons, are coming out of the woodwork to participate in not one, but two films about the life of Vivaldi: "British up and comers Max Irons and Claire Foy are among the actors joining a new biopic of 17th Century Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi, who was most famous for writing The Four Seasons. Screen Daily reports Elle Fanning is also in advance negotiations to join the film, along with Neve Campbell, Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Wilkinson, Alfred Molina and Sebastian Koch. Vivaldi follows the true story of genius and priest Vivaldi turned a group of courtesans’ young daughters into a world class orchestra who eventually even played in front of the Pope. Presumably, though no roles were specified, Irons would play Vivaldi while Fanning a standout member of the orchestra. And because apparently no movie can go into production without some sort of rival nipping at its heels, there is indeed another Vivaldi film being planned, and names like Luke Evans, Jessica Biel and Sir Ben Kingsley are being bandied about as possible cast members. That film will center around the composer’s alleged forbidden love for
The original Vivaldi
opera singer Anna Tessiero Giro. Irons, son of Jeremy, broke out as one of two suitors vying for Amanda Seyfried’s affections amidst vicious werewolf attacks in Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight follow-up, Red Riding Hood. Foy was recently seen in the Nicholas Cage dud Season of the Witch. Fanning, on the other hand, has a thriving current and upcoming slate of projects, including JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg’s Super 8 and Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo. Filming on Boris Damast’s long-gestating Vivaldi will begin in September, with shooting locations including Venice, Bruges, Hungary and Germany." [Source]

Arkiv Music Revives Classics From CBS/RCA Catalog

Many recordings by fine artists like Frederica von Stade and Shirley Verrett have never seen the light of day on compact disc. That has changed now that Arkiv Music has licensed eight releases from Sony, which holds the rights to the catalogs of CBS Masterworks and RCA, allowing the artistry of these two singers to be brought to the world. Now, any chance we could get re-issues of Anna Moffo's French Opera Arias, complete Thaïs, Debussy songs, Verdi arias, Irvin Berlin and Gershwin songs, La Juive highlights, bel canto songs of Bellini, Verdi, Rossini and Donizetti, Dream Duets with Sergio Franchi, One Night in Love with Skitch Henderson, the album of her singing works she composed, etc.?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Carmen" Becomes a Battle-Cry For Gay Rights in Russia

Gay activist Lieutenant Dan Choi was in Russia marching peacefully in a pride parade when he was attacked by the police (see the shocking video). One of the others detained, Louis-Georges Tin, is also a fierce advocate against racism and homophobia. He really caused a stir when he broke into a rendition of "Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre" from Bizet's Carmen. Read more in-depth coverage of the chaotic event here. Incredible how quickly events change for the worst. Read Lt. Dan Choi's complete twitter feed for the last 10 hours after the jump.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Opera Memphis Makes a Public Plea to Get Justin Timberlake

"'In a brain storming situation with the staff, we just started listing folks and Justin's name came up. He's been doing so much in the comic realm, Saturday Night Live especially, which really shows he has great comic chops,' says [Ned] Canty. Timberlake would play Frosch, the jailer, a speaking role in this opera about revenge and practical jokes. 'What's great about the role is it can be tailored to suit the abilities of whoever plays it. All you need is someone who knows how to stand in front of an audience and entertain. My God who does it better,' says Canty. The campaign to get Justin started on a Facebook page." [Source]

Check out the opera company's official plea to Mr. Timberlake: No word on whether he will wear his SNL costume for the J. Strauss gig.

Lawrence Brownlee Takes a Moment to Thank the Choir

Tenor Brownlee now sings solo.
(Photo: Marty Umans)
"Brownlee, who has performed with Cincinnati Opera and the Cincinnati Symphony, will make his May Festival debut in Mendelssohn's "Elijah" on Saturday in Music Hall. None of this could have happened, said the 38-year-old Ohio native, without his high school show choir at Youngstown East High School. 'I'm a very proud Buckeye,' said the tenor by phone from Toronto, where he was singing the role of the Prince in Rossini's bubbly opera, La Cenerentola (Cinderella). 'We had a very good high school music program. Because of my exposure to classical music, it opened up so many experiences to me.' The high school show choir made him realize there was a world outside of Youngstown." [Source]

Super Mash-up of Rossini Overture and Rocking Drums

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Anna Caterina Antonacci Is Just Fine Not Singing at the MET

The relaxed diva not concerned about the MET
(Photo: Pierre Mandereau)
"Nevertheless, she can seem a mass of paradoxes. She fits no stereotype and no precise vocal Fach. She was an early starter yet a late developer; she made headlines in Handel and Rossini but still had the courage to reinvent herself entirely at the age of thirty-eight. Her voice defies classification, yet she can fit it to an eclectic range of music, from great mezzo roles such as Carmen to Monteverdi, Berlioz and Gluck, as well as the songs of Respighi, Chausson and Fauré, to name a few. Remarkably, she has never sung at the Met. In the pub, Antonacci smiles and shrugs. 'I regret a little that I never, never sang at the Met,' she says, 'but I think perhaps they choose more the recording stars. It's a world that is quite far from mine.' Though she doesn't have a major label contract, she is well represented on opera DVDs — including, for instance, Carmen twice, Ermione, Rodelinda, Les Troyens, Cherubini's Medea and even Marschner's rarely heard Hans Heiling — and on CDs of L'Incoronazione di Poppea, La Mort de Cléopâtre and Così Fan Tutte, among others. But she has made only one solo album to date — Italian Renaissance works, mainly her beloved Monteverdi, under the title Era la Notte (on theAstrée Naïve label). The disc is based on a music-theater project that she toured in Europe: it brought together some of the great 'mad scenes' of early opera and culminated in Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda. OPERA NEWS's critic declared, 'Antonacci mesmerizes the house for a full, uninterrupted hour, running the gamut of vocal expression.'" [Source]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy Birthday: Beverly Sills

"Ah perche, giusto ciel"
Rodelinda (Händel)
Beverly Sills (May 25, 1929 – July 2, 2007) was an American operatic soprano whose peak career was between the 1950s and 1970s. In her prime she was the only real rival to Joan Sutherland as the leading bel canto stylist. Although she sang a repertoire from Handel and Mozart to Puccini, Massenet, Wagner, and Verdi, she was known for her performances in coloratura soprano roles in live opera and recordings. Sills was largely associated with the operas of Donizetti, of which she performed and recorded many roles. Her signature roles include the title role in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, the title role in Massenet's Manon, Marie in Donizetti's La fille du régiment, the three heroines in Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville, and Violetta in Verdi's La traviata. After retiring from singing in

"Al dolce guidami...coppia iniqua"
Anna Bolena (Donizetti)
1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the Chairman of Lincoln Center and then, in 2002, of the Metropolitan Opera, stepping down in 2005. Sills lent her celebrity to further her charity work for the prevention and treatment of birth defects. Sills was born Belle Miriam Silverman in Brooklyn, New York to Shirley Bahn (née Sonia Markovna), a musician, and Morris Silverman, an insurance broker. Her parents were Jewish immigrants from Odessa, Ukraine (then part of Russia) and Bucharest, Romania. She was raised in Brooklyn, where she was known, among friends, as "Bubbles" Silverman. As a child, she spoke Yiddish, Russian, Romanian, French and English. She attended Erasmus Hall High School in

Justin Timberlake Plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Birthday: Ingeborg Hallstein

Ingeborg Hallstein was born May 23, 1936, in Munich, Germany. She studied with her mother Elisabeth Hallstein and debuted at the opera house in Passau/Germany in 1957 as Musetta in Puccini's La bohème. After engagements at the Theatre of Basel and the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich she made her Salzburg Festival debut in 1960 as Rosina in Mozart's La finta semplice. The same year she joined the Bavarian State Opera, a full member there from 1961 until 1973. In the following years guest appearances led her to almost every important opera house in the world, including among others Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, Teatro La Fenice in Venice and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. She also sang at
the Royal Opera House in London under Otto Klemperer and created one of her signature roles for the re-opening of the Theater an der Wien under the baton of Herbert von Karajan: the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. Her repertoire of operatic roles reveals an artist who has an accurate and smart sense of her own musicianship. Her voice was well focused and she was capable of commanding dramatic phrasing and emotional expression. In opera she sang some of the most demanding roles in the coloratura Fach, e.g. Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, Zaide in Mozart's Zaide and the already mentioned Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte. Apart from her appearances on the opera stage she devoted herself
to the Lied, giving countless Lieder recitals in Germany and abroad. In 1979 she was appointed professor at the Music Conservatory in Würzburg. After initial doubts, teaching became her new passion and she decided to retire from stage and concentrate on the young talents. Hallstein taught in Würzburg until 2006. Today (as of 2009) she gives master classes in Germany and abroad and is a sought-after juror for international singing competitions. An exclusive contract with the renowned German record label Deutsche Grammophon resulted in numerous recordings of operas, operettas and songs. These recordings display an artist who had an uncanny sense of sophistication in terms of ornamentation and a fearless bravura approach to the most
daring virtuoso pieces. Besides her very successful stage career, she also achieved great popularity during the 1960s and 1970s when she appeared in many operetta films like Die Zirkusprinzessin or Wiener Blut, and musical shows broadcast on German television. For her great services, among other things to the young talents, the Bayerische Kammersängerin received the Federal Cross of Merit in 1979, that order's First Class in 1996, and the Bavarian Order of Merit in 1999. [Source]

"Ou va la jeune Hindoue?" Lakmé

"Ombre légère" Dinorah

"Der Hölle Rache" Die Zauberflöte

"E' strano!...Ah, fors'e' lui...Sempre libera" La Traviata (in German)

"Una voce poco fa" Il Barbiere di Siviglia (in German)

"No, no, che non sei capace" K. 419

More photos of Ingeborg Hallstein after the jump.

Outstanding Young Singers Emerge in Brussels Competition

Korean soprano Haeran Hong took first place prize at the Queen Elisabeth Competition this last weekend in Brussels at La Monnaie with the De Munt Symphony Orchestra under conductor Carlo Rizzi. Her program for the final concert was comprised:
Mozart "Giunse alfin il momento –
Deh vieni, non tardar" Le Nozze di Figaro
Händel "Se tanto piace al cor" Ariodante
Wolf "Auch kleine Dinge können uns entzücken - Du denkst mit einem Fädchen mich zu fangen"Italienisches Liederbuch
Liszt "Oh! quand je dors"
Schubert "Im Frühling"
Rossini "La fioraia fiorentina"
Massenet "Je suis encore tout étourdie" Manon
Mozart "Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben" Zaïde
Mozart "Bester Jüngling" Der Schauspieldirektor
Ravel "Je réchauffe les bons" L’enfant et les Sortilèges
Bellini "Care Compagne, teneri amici – Come per me sereno –
Sovra il sen la man mi posa" La Sonnambula

Russian soprano Elena Galitskaya took Third Place in the competition with a program that included:
Mozart "Geme la tortorella" La Finta Giardiniera
Bellini "Eccomi in lieta vesta – Oh! Quante volte"
I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Fauré "Notre amour"
Wolf "Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen" Liederstrauss: Sieben gedichte aus dem buch der lieder von Heinrich Heine
Tchaikovsky "Otchego eto prezhde ne znala" Yolanta
Donizetti "C’en est donc fait" La Fille du Régiment

Händel "E pur così in un giorno –
Piangerò la sorte mia" Giulio Cesare
Mozart "Una donna a quindici anni" Così fan tutte
Rimsky-Korsakov "Vielikii Tsar" The Snow Maiden
Rossini "Una voce poco fà" Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Puccini "O mio babbino caro" Gianni Schicchi
Gounod "Ah, je veux vivre" Roméo et Juliette

To watch a high definition video of the superb singing in the finals, click here and select a name from the pull-down menu. Biographies are after the jump.

Kate Royal Explores the Life Cycle of Love in Recital Debut

The Royal blush of love at Weill Recital Hall.
(Photo: Richard Termine/The New York Times)
Kate Royal, pregnant with her second child, made her Carnegie Hall recital debut in Weill Recital Hall on May 20, 2011. Zachary Woolfe reviews for The New York Times : "Her ambitious program, a kind of original song cycle, was entitled A Lesson in Love, and Ms. Royal divided it into four themed sections: Waiting, the Meeting, the Wedding and Betrayal. (Not the most optimistic trajectory, but so it goes.) While she conveyed a sweet hopefulness in the first two and a sense of serene happiness in the third, it was when heartbreak was her subject that she was truly memorable .....But the second half felt more varied and specific as the emotional content of the works matured and then darkened. The calm clarity of Duparc’s 'Extase' suited Ms. Royal perfectly, as did Fauré’s 'Donc, Ce Sera par un Clair Jour d’Été.' She gave a stunning rendition of Britten’s 'O Waly, Waly'; its combination of pain and hushed serenity seemed written for her voice, which did just what was indicated by the final line, when love 'fades away like morning dew.'" [Source]

Watch a video of Kate Royal singing at WQXR studios:

Wagner Soundtrack for the End of the World in "Melancholia"

"Let us get it over with right away. The end of Lars von Trier's film Melancholia. Everybody dies. Not just the guests at the grand wedding held in the first part of the film at an ever-so-romantic castle surrounded by a golf course. And not just all life on Earth. For in the world evoked by the Danish film maker this time, we are absolutely alone in the universe. So what ends in our planet's cosmic embrace with the ten times bigger planet, Melancholia, is life as such and our recollection of it. No ending could be more final." [Source] Watch the trailer for the film, which is underscored by Wagner's Tristan und Isolde overture:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Talk About Debbie Downer, Critics Need to Pay More Attention

As Deborah Voigt transitions from her performances of Die Walküre at the Metropolitan Opera to a concert of Broadway show-stoppers at Carnegie Hall, the music critic largely neglects another star on stage. Paulo Szot, who has sung at the MET and New York City Opera as well as off-Broadway in South Pacific, joined Ms. Voigt as a special guest for the performance. However, this is all the New York Times music critic decided to include about him in the review: "...the dashing baritone Paulo Szot was special guest and Ms. Voigt’s on-and-off singing partner."

Paulo Szot and Deborah Voigt getting down with Broadway classics (Photo: Julieta Cervantes/NYTimes)
And as for Ms. Voigt, this was the only kind thing he could find to say,"The problems began with the microphone. Ms. Voigt’s decision to use one throughout most of the program turned out to be an exercise in self-suppression. She muted her power to create a more informal, intimate attitude, making her voice sound ragged and occasionally uncertain, if still essentially operatic. Only when she dispensed with amplification to sing 'My Man’s Gone Now,' in a Porgy and Bess suite, did her magnificent sound unfurl in scorching tongues of fire."

"Life Is Short, Opera Is Long" - The New York Times

Watch a behind-the-scenes video of young singers from this year's Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions:

Battle of the Bacchanales: Saint-Saëns vs. Wagner

Floria Tosca Appears With Justin Timberlake on SNL

"When there's two guys and only one girl, just remember the golden rule." Check out Justin Timberlake in the digital short from Saturday Night Live this weekend. As he goes to visit a lady friend he meets an unusual piece of art hanging in her apartment hallway. See who the girl is he's visiting and watch the clip after the jump.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Christopher Alden Takes on Naughty School Boys in Britten

(Photo: Alastair Muir)
Director Christopher Alden sets Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in a boy's school with mixed results: "Thus, Oberon is the pervy, bespectacled Latin master with a pair of underage catamites, one of whom is Puck – Jamie Manton, too old - who turns out to be Theseus when he grows up, emotionally damaged (are you paying attention? It gets worse) and who relives the whole story in flashback whilst staggering around the stage like a slow-motion zombie. Tytania is the boot-faced drab Music mistress, forever vigorously castrating pupils’ writing tools in a pencil sharpener – geddit!!??!! – when not smoking the odd cigarettes which do duty for the 'love-juice' and lounging louchely up against the school’s dreary walls. The four lovers are all schoolchildren in uniform. The mechanicals are the school’s handymen and, I think, Sports master. The staging is claustrophobically confined to a triangular stretch of schoolyard bounded by two giant two-storey walls of classroom windows and corridors (designed by Charles Edwards) inside which the 'Fairies' – the other pupils – line up on both levels in order to make their crucial contributions and from
(Photo: Alastair Muir)
which the staging never once deviates. Bottom is not transformed into an ass, or indeed anything else at all: he merely takes his shirt off and – like everyone else in this miserable, interminable drivel – staggers around in slo-mo a lot, provoking the others’ holy horror for no visually discernible reason. Twenty minutes minimum of “ass” jokes thereby go for absolutely nothing, as does any sense of magic, mystery, atmosphere or, God forbid, fun. The lovers’ weary collapse at the end of Act II is accompanied by the school burning down, which, given that they’re inside it at the time, makes their decision to go to sleep there rather puzzling. The Act III Pyramus and Thisby sequence – performance-proof, I have always found in the past – is rendered so coarsely and grossly as to be virtually unwatchable in its Carry On Crassness (Snug, drunk, pisses up a wall and gets a blow-job from 'Thisby') ." [Source]

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fashion Designers Sketch Opera Costumes for Charity, Part 2

Elie Tahari - Salome
If you enjoyed the previous round of designer sketches by Narciso Rodriguez, Peter Som, Carolina Herrera and others, check out the follow-up with works by Giles Mendel, Nicole Miller, Austin Scarlett and Deborah Lloyd for Kate Spade. More images are after the jump. [Source]

Son Escapes Fratricide by High Priestess Sister in 1779

Les Remords d’Oreste (1862), William-Adolphe Bouguereau
"Ô malhereuse Iphigénie" sung by Violeta Urmana
Iphigénie en Tauride (Iphigenia in Tauris) is an opera by Christoph Willibald Gluck in four acts. It was his fifth opera for the French stage. The libretto was written by Nicolas-François Guillard. With Iphigénie, Gluck took his operatic reform to its logical conclusion. The recitatives are shorter and they are récitatif accompagné (i.e. the strings and perhaps other instruments are playing, not just continuo accompaniment). The normal dance movements that one finds in the French tragédie en musique are almost entirely absent. The drama is ultimately based on the play Iphigenia in Tauris by the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides which deals with stories concerning the family of Agamemnon in the aftermath of the Trojan War. Iphigénie en Tauride was first performed in Paris on May 18, 1779, and was a great success. Some think that the head of the Paris Opéra, Devismes, had attempted to stoke up the rivalry between Gluck and Niccolò Piccinni, an Italian composer also resident in the French capital, by asking them both to set an opera on the subject of Iphigenia in Tauris. In the event, Piccinni's Iphigénie en Tauride was not premiered until January 1781 and did not enjoy the popularity that Gluck's work did. [Source]

Plot summary after the jump.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Happy Birthday: Zinka Milanov

Zinka Milanov was born May 17, 1906, as Zinka Kunc in Zagreb, Croatia. She studied with the Wagnerian soprano Milka Ternina and her assistant Marija Kostrenčić. She also studied in Milan with Campi and in Vienna with Stickgolt. On October 29, 1927, she made her operatic debut as Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi's Il Trovatore in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the young age of 21. Her debut in her native Croatia, at the National Theatre in Zagreb, took place five weeks later as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's Faust. After an early debut in Dresden (November 5, 1928, also as Leonora), her teacher, Ternina, was not pleased and much work commenced to perfect her technique. She performed in Zagreb and Ljubljana almost exclusively for the next six years. Later she became a member of the New German Theatre in Prague, where all performances were sung in German. She was discovered there by Bruno Walter,
who recommended her to Arturo Toscanini for a performance of Verdi's Requiem in Salzburg. In 1937, the soprano made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, once again as Leonora. At that time she adopted the name Milanov, which was the stage name of her second husband, an actor. According to Milanov herself, "Kunc" wasn't "glamorous" enough for the Metropolitan Opera. In the article "Zinka Takes Off" (Opera News, November 2004, vol 69, no. 5), it is stated that the name change was deemed necessary since the gentlemen at the Met feared the "implications inherent in what they predicted would be the standard American mispronunciation — but they were never forthright with her about it". On November 8, 1937, Erich Simon, who was in charge of engaging Milanov, cabled Edward Ziegler, the assistant manager of the Met, "Mme Zinka KUNZ-MARCOVIC has informed me that she wishes to perform under her husband's stage name,
MILANOV." In 1947, she left the Met when she married, for the third time, Yugoslav general and diplomat Ljubomir Ilić, and returned to live in Croatia. She was at the peak of her artistic and vocal powers when she made her debut at the Teatro alla Scala as Tosca in 1950. Milanov returned to the Metropolitan Opera the same year, invited by Rudolf Bing in his first year there as general manager. She gave her final performance in 1966 at the closing night of the old Metropolitan Opera House. Having worked as a voice teacher while still performing, Milanov devoted herself to teaching after her retirement. Among her pupils were Betty Allen, Grace Bumbry, Christa Ludwig, Regina Resnik, Dubravka Zubovic and Milka Stojanovic. She recorded prolifically from the 1940s through to the 1960s. Her voice was well-suited to Italian operas such as those of Verdi, Ponchielli, Puccini and the verismo composers. She died in New York City, aged 83. [Source]

"Domovini I Ljubavi" traditional song

"Ernani, involami" Ernani

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"Un bel di vedremo" Madama Butterfly

"Ecco l'orrido campo" Un Ballo in Maschera

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"Ritorna vincitor" Aida

"Suicidio" La Gioconda

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"D'amor sull'ali rosee" Il Trovatore

"Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" Rusalka

Happy Birthday: Birgit Nilsson

La Nilsson singing Wagner's Isolde at the MET Gala 1983
"The celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano who specialized in operatic and symphonic works, would have turned 93 today. Her voice was noted for its overwhelming force, bountiful reserves of power and the gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register. Birgit Nilsson came from a rural background and had to work hard to gain acceptance in the world of music, but she made so strong an imprint on many roles that they came to be known as the "Nilsson repertory". She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini's Turandot, but it was the music of Wagner that made her career; her command of his music was comparable to that
With her dog Nalle in Sweden
of Kirsten Flagstad, who owned the Wagner repertory at the Metropolitan Opera during the years before World War II. At her peak, Nilsson astounded audiences in live performance with the unforced power of her voice, which cut through dense orchestration, and with her remarkable breath control, which allowed her to hold notes for a remarkably long time. Her interpretive powers grew as her career developed, and she became a moving artist as well as a vocal phenomenon. Among colleagues, she also became renowned for her playful sense of humor."

Bing Gala at the MET 1972
"Una partita a poker" La Fanciulla del West (w/Andrea Mongelli)

"Starke Scheite, schichtet mir dort" Götterdämmerung

"La fatal pietra..." Aida (w/Luigi Ottolini & Grace Hoffman)

"Dich teure halle" Tannhäuser

"Mario, mario, mario!" Tosca (w/Franco Corelli)

"Der Engel" Wesendonck Lieder

"Ah! Perfido"

"Una macchia" Macbeth

"O Don fatale" Don Carlo

"Du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund küssen lassen" Salome

"Crudele!...Non mi dir" Don Giovanni

A full biography and funny anecdotes are after the jump.