Monday, October 31, 2011

Marilyn Horne Is a Treasure Among Treasures in Operatic History

The mezzo-soprano in her New York apartment during the
1980s, with centuries worth of opera history on the walls.
"On the walls of her apartment is a small but exquisite collection of letters and portraits of the great 19th century singers and composers: Meyerbeer, Verdi, Johann Strauss, Emma Calve. There is a photo of Pauline Viardot, an original lithograph of one of the last of the castrati, a letter written by Maria Malibran. There is something that feels very natural about it all being there: This is the company Horne belongs in. The masterpiece of the collection may be a small piece of paper, little more than a scrap. It is a bit of music manuscript, and it the last song Bellini ever wrote. Horne sang it out in a voice still clear and assured (the qualities that, along with her legendary diction, will come in handy when she sings Katisha in The Mikado with the Collegiate Chorale at Carnegie Hall this spring)." [Source]

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Don Giovanni"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Mozart's Don Giovanni live tonight at 7:30 PM EST on Sirius XM radio. Intermission guests: Joseph Kaiser.

Harold and Kumar Go to the Detroit Opera House for Filming

"Who knew that the Detroit Opera House and A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas could be a match made in heaven? Well, the historic downtown Detroit venue did provide several locations for the made-in-Michigan movie, including one with a heavenly theme. A scene where Neil Patrick Harris envisions the hereafter as
Neil Patrick Harris talking with director Todd Strauss-
Schulson during filming in the lobby of the Detroit
Opera House. (Photo: Darren Michaels)
a nightclub run by Jesus is already getting laughs in the trailer. It was filmed last year at the home of Michigan Opera Theatre. With a little movie magic -- lighting, set decorations, fog machines, dry ice -- the Detroit Opera House's majestic grand lobby was transformed into a hip, happening hotspot for the R-rated comedy. 'The chandeliers are an immediate giveaway it's our lobby,' says MOT marketing manager Michael Hauser. A location scout for A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas got in touch with Detroit Opera House director of operations Jason Warzecha in May. The filmmakers made several tours of the huge, multifaceted site, which includes office space and a roomy rehearsal studio. Prepping and shooting took place in July....Besides the nightclub scene, the Detroit Opera House provided the stage for an elaborate Christmas show that stars a singing and dancing Harris and includes a glimpse of the entire auditorium. The opera house was the location for a dressing room where Harris, who plays a comic version of himself in the "Harold & Kumar" movies, puts the
The Detroit Opera House during normal business operations.
(Photo: Patricia Beck/Detroit Free Press)
moves on a chorus girl. The onscreen room is actually a combination of a wig and makeup room and a set built inside the Boll Hall rehearsal studio. And a hallway in the dressing room area was also used for a scene where Harris is walking backstage with his real-life partner, Michigan native David Burtka. MOT relies on income from renting the Detroit Opera House to outside producers, promoters and others to help balance the company's budget. Last year, there were more than 460 events at the MOT's home. "Whether it's a rock show, a jazz show, a blues show, a comedy show, a cooking show, an artist reading their book, a corporate event, a specialty dinner, weddings, we do anything and everything," says Warzecha of the opera house space." [Source] The (NSFW) trailer for A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas is after the jump.

Can We Expect a Little Puccini From Lady Gaga in the Future?

"Asked which three classics she would like to cover, Gaga replies, 'I would cover John Lennon's ‘Now and then'.' There's a long pause where she smiles at the photographers as one wonders if she's done replying. 'I would cover an opera song [from La Bohème]. I would cover Bruce Springsteen's ‘Thunder Road'. AC/DC maybe." [Source] An artist known for being unpredictable, it's hard to tell if she would do "Quando m'en vo" or "Si, mi chiamano Mimi." Watch a video clip of the full interview (the opera bit starts at 2:59) from India, after the jump.

Salvatore Licitra 2-CD Set Issued by Sony In Memoriam

To honor Salvatore Licitra, who recorded exclusively for the label, Sony Classical will be releasing a two-CD set of arias from solo and complete opera catalog of the tenor who passed away September 5, 2010. Complete track listing after the jump.

Release dates: November 25 (Germany), November 29 (USA), December 5 (UK)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

LIVE: Renée Fleming "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen"

Fleming will sing Mahler in New York
this January (Photo: Jonathan Tichler)
In 2001 Paramount Classics released Bruce Beresford's Bride of the Wind, a film celebrating Alma Schindler Mahler: "Vienna, 1902: Alma Schindler meets Gustav Mahler. She beautiful, young, plays, and composes: music is her life. She becomes Mahler's lover, then he marries her, asking that she give up composing. She has two children, works as his assistant, does his books, saves him from debt, and feels stifled. In 1910, after the death of a child, she retreats to a spa where she falls in love with Walter Gropius. Will she go with him or stay with Mahler? She conducts an affair with the tempestuous Oskar Kokoschka and is stifled in another way. Then, she marries Gropius, who proves imperious. She leaves him for Franz Werfel: he finds her compositions and insists the public hear them." The soundtrack featured three songs by Alma Mahler ("Bei dir ist es traut," "In meines Vaters Garten," and "Laue Sommernacht") written in 1910. The works are performed by Renée Fleming and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet joins on
Fleming as Alda in 2001
two of the pieces. They even got into costume and performed one of the numbers at the end of the film with Fleming portraying soprano Frances Alda singing for an audience that includes the character of Alma Mahler. Another piece on the soundtrack was "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" from Gustav Mahler's Rückert Lieder. It featured Fleming singing the famous song (which in the film was arranged by the film's composer Stephen Endelman) and is heard only in excerpt*.

Now is your chance to hear Fleming sing the song in its entirety from a live concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on October 25, 2010:

Renée Fleming will perform Mahler's Rückert Lieder at Carnegie Hall in New York on January 15, 2012 with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. James Levine is scheduled to conduct. Watch a trailer from the film Bride of the Wind after the jump. [Source, Source, Source]
*This is how it was recorded for the soundtrack and film.

Norwegian National Opera Eagerly Anticipates Per Boye Hansen

Per Boye Hansen will take charge in
Norway starting January 2012
(Photo: Nytt Kunstnerisk)
Although he doesn't officially take over the position of director at Den Norske Opera until January 2012, certainly there is excited anticipation for Per Boye Hansen to arrive. Chosen from a list of 61 names, Mr. Hansen was one of only two Norwegian applicants for the job. The current director, Paul Curran has held the position since August 2007. Per Boye Hansen, born October 11, 1957, is a Norwegian opera director and has worked in opera for more than 30 years. He has previously worked as director of the Bergen International Festival (2005-2011). In the years 1983 to 1989 he was assistant director at the opera in Cologne and the Salzburg Festival. During these years he worked with such regarded directors as Michael Hampe, Willy Decker, Hans Neugebauer and Jean-Pierre Ponelle. From 2001 to 2005 he was director of the Komische Oper Berlin. Hansen has a degree in theater studies and musical director at the University of Oslo and received his diploma from the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik, the Ruhr, the line of music-director. He founded the Oslo Summer Opera in 1983 where he was artistic director until 1992, and Oslo Arts Management AS in 1990 as he led until 2000. He is from 2011 chairman of the jury for the International Ibsen Award. [Source, Source] More about the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, as well as photographs of the award-winning structure of the Oslo Opera House, after the jump.

Romance Was Born Are Latest Designers to Enter the Arts Arena

Cate Blanchett's favorite designer Romance Was Born (seen in photos on this page modeling their designs), comprised of the Sydney duo Luke Sales and Anna Plunkett, entered the world of costume design last spring. Blanchett and husband Andrew Upton, the co-artistic directors of Sydney Theatre Company, invited Romance Was Born to design costumes for their production of Edward Gant's Amazing Feats of Lonliness, written by award-winning Scottish playwright Anthony Neilson, that played at La Boite theatre in Brisbane in May 2011 and again at STC’s Wharf Theatre in June 2011. As an article in Bazaar magazine last April points out: "Leading fashion designers have long been associated with the performing arts. Last year in Rome, the Museo della Fondazione hosted an exhibition featuring costumes and sketches by designers including those of Coco Chanel for Diaghilev’s 1924 ballet Le Train Bleu, and
several creations made for opera: Gianni Versace’s costumes for Salome and Capriccio; Missoni’s designs for Lucia di Lammermoor; Giorgio Armani’s for Cosi Fan Tutte, and Romeo Gigli’s costumes for Mozart’s The Magic Flute. In New York last year, Verdi’s dark opera Attila featured costumes by Prada. Tom Ford, Christian Lacroix, Isaac Mizrahi, Manolo Blahnik, Valentino and Alexander McQueen have all designed for ballet, opera, film and stage. Karl Lagerfeld, Giles Deacon, Toni Maticevski, Narciso Rodriguez and Marc Jacobs have all designed for dance." See for yourself here. [Source] More about Romance Was Born after the jump.

An Argument For Why Opera Should Be Elite and For Snobs?

Ms. Jenkins sings for the masses
In an article for The Spectator titled "Let's Hear it For Eliticism" writer Michael Henderson takes a look at the current crop of "opera singers," including Alfie Boe and Katherine Jenkins, who think that the art form should be for the masses but has been far too long confined to the intellectually elite: "As for Miss Jenkins, has any singer benefited quite so obviously from the technology of the modern recording studio? Unfazed by the absence of any discernible talent, this decorous lightweight has entered the realm of fantasy: one day, apparently, she wants to give the world her Carmen! Imagine if a club cricketer told his team-mates that he intended to open the bowling for England against Australia at Lord’s, and you have some measure of the lady’s self-delusion. Mr Boe and Miss Jenkins may consider themselves to be opera singers who have been snubbed by snobs. In the real world of opera, which, oddly
Mr. Boe amps up the voice
enough, is more interested in the exploration of high talent than media manipulation of pretty boys and girls, they are regarded as no more than end-of-pier crooners. If this bedraggled group ever gathered under a single banner, it would probably read: opera for the masses! But opera was never intended to be a mass activity. You may as well demand ballet for the masses, theatre for the masses, or even jazz for the masses. Some things are more difficult than others, and cutting them into bite-sized chunks for the benefit of the incurious will not make them more digestible. Opera, thank goodness, is the enemy of accessibility. It can only prosper if there is an elite, based on the honing of skills and a capacity for hard work. In that regard it is like top-level sport, the main difference being that fans of Premier League football
Together as judges on "Popstar to Opera Star"
clubs spend far more money following their hobby in the course of a year than most opera-goers spend on theirs. If this is ‘elitism’, let’s hear three hearty cheers." [Source] For a sampling of the sonically enhanced capabilities of the soprano and tenor, check out a performance from the Brit Awards after the jump.

Sony Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Leontyne Price's MET Debut

If you missed the chance in 1996 to purchase The Essential Leontyne Price, an 11 CD box set celebrating the diva's 70th birthday, you're in luck! To commemorate her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1961, Sony Classical is releasing two limited edition box sets called Leontyne Price: The Complete Collection. All the content comes from her catalog originally recorded for RCA, now owned by Sony. The first box contains 12 CDs full of French and German art songs, as well as orchestral works for soloist (Barber, R. Strauss, Berlioz). This box also contains two discs of arias in recital with David Garvey on piano, two discs dedicated to her recordings of sacred works (Spirituals with Leonard de Paur, Hymns with the Men and Boys Choir of St. Thomas Episcopal Church) and the crossover album Right as the Rain with André Previn. The second box is loaded
with opera arias and duets from the recording studio years of 1959 -1979, including her first solo album affectionately referred to by fans as the "blue album" because of the color on the jacket sleeve, the five Prima Donna albums of roles she never performed on stage, a Richard Strauss disc of opera arias, scenes from Antony and Cleopatra, a duets album with tenor Plácido Domingo and a 1982 gala concert at the Metropolitan Opera with Marilyn Horne and James Levine. Release date is set for November 29, 2011.

But what will make these two sets especially memorable for fans who may have purchased this music in previous incarnations? Each CD will be have its own sleeve featuring the artwork from the original LPs. Special standouts could potentially be:

*Editor's note: The Leontyne Price Sings Richard Strauss album was released with its original cover in this box set from 2009.

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Gabriele Fontana

As record labels explore the cost effectiveness of the MP3 format, many are digging deep into their archives to find recorded material to re-issue from previous CD incarnations or in some cases for the first time since their original LP release. Click on the Amazon widget to hear MP3 audio samples.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Google Pushes Anna Netrebko to #1 on Russian Forbes List

Anna Netrebko photographed at the Mariinsky Theatre
in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
"The Russian edition of Forbes magazine has named 50 Russians who have “conquered” the world. The Forbes list includes businessmen, scientists, athletes, and also workers in culture....The opera singer Anna Netrebko ranks as No.1 on the Forbes list of the most influential workers in culture because the number of inquiries about her in the Google Web Search is the highest. Following her are Yuri Bashmet, Timur Bekmambetov, Valery Gergiev, and Dmiti Hvorostovsky." [Source]

Russian Operatic Royalty Attends Bolshoi Theatre Gala

The audience for the reopening of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow was filled with politicians, businessmen, celebrities and some well-known opera singers who performed at the landmark auditoriums throughout their careers.
Mezzo-soprano Elena Obraztsova was sitting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (not pictured) in the Tsar's box which rests in the center rear of the auditorium. 

Soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, widow of Mstislav Rostropovich, was sitting in a special box stage right. 

In addition to guests in the auditorium a number of artists that have been part of the Bolshoi Theatre's history were present through previously recorded interviews, including the late Irina Arkhipova who passed away in February 2010:

Although Russia has two powerhouse opera facilities (the other being that bastion of culture in St. Petersburg led by Valery Gergiev known as the Mariinsky Theatre), it seems odd that so many prominent Russian opera singers were not present for the festivities that reopened the Bolshoi Theatre on October 28 either to perform or just appear as dignitaries. Perhaps this had to do with schedules and the fact that the government was in charge of the invitation list for the evening. Here are some audio clips in their honor:

Anna Netrebko - "O ne rydai, mai Paolo" Francesca da Rimini (Rachmaninoff)

Galina Gorchakova - "''Da, On Rassejalsja'' The Fiery Angel (Prokofiev)

Ljuba Kazarnovskaya - "Den li tsarit" (Tchaikovsky)

Olga Peretyatko - "Lilacs" (Rachmaninoff)

Olga Borodina - "Merknet svet dnevnoj" Prince Igor (Borodin)

Larissa Diadkova - "Duenna's Aria" Betrothal in a Monastery (Prokofiev)

Sergei Leiferkus - "The Field Marshal" Songs and Dances of Death (Mussorgsky)

Vladimir Atlantov - "Kuda, kuda vï udalilis" Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)

Maria Guleghina - "The Cuckoo" (Tchaikovsky)

Yevgeny Nesterenko - "Vas tabor spit. Luna nad nim" Aleko (Rachmaninoff)

Nina Rautio - "Prastite Vy, Xalmy" The Maid of Orleans (Tchaikovsky)

Vladimir Chernov - "Prince Andrei's Aria, Act I" War and Peace (Prokofiev)

Also curiously missing were some major opera singers who participated in a cultural exchange in 1964 between La Scala and the Bolshoi Theatre. Opera stars like Renata Scotto, Fiorenza Cossotto, Leontyne Price and Mirella Freni, all took part in that event and are all still around today. Would that have been too much of a gesture on the part of Moscow? The exchange between companies took place again in 1974 (with Montserrat Caballé and Plácido Domingo) and 1989. Here is an audio clip of Mirella Freni singing "Non mi resta" from L'Amico Fritz at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow on September 13, 1964:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Большой театр: What You Get in Russia For $700 Million

The Bolshoi Theatre spent what averages out to $401,606.46 per auditorium seat to renovate the great opera and ballet house in Moscow, Russia. The reopening night gala was streamed live on YouTube for the world to join in the festivities. Following is a brief summary of the evening, facts about the architecture of the building and more photos from inside the hall during the gala.

Bolshoi Theatre Reopening Gala Concert - The Opera Edition

"President Dmitry Medvedev and prime minister Vladimir Putin hosted the event billed as the 'rebirth' of one of Russia’s cultural treasures, featuring opera stars Placido Domingo, Angela Gheorghiu and Natalie Dessay and ballet dancers Natalia Osipova, Svetlana Zakharova and Ivan Vasiliev. The renovation is intended to transform the 1820s theater in central Moscow from a crumbling, acoustically inadequate beauty into a state-of-the-art facility. It is believed to be the most expensive theater renovation project ever, according to Russia's RT network. Invitations for the event were sent out by the Kremlin administration and not by the theater itself and reports have surfaced that that ticket tickets have been up for grabs on the Internet for as much as $65,000. The Bolshoi administration denies any involvement in the matter. 'Could you imagine what the reaction would be if London's Royal Opera House gave up the entire theater to the presidential administration?' Russian music critic Marina Gaikovich told the Interfax news agency. The restoration has been mired in controversy from the start, overshooting the original budget over four times and missing its original reopening date of 2008 as the condition of the building was found to be far worse than first believed. Symbolically, restorers removed the Soviet hammer and sickle from the curtain, while the Soviet coat of arms has been pulled from the facade, replaced with the double-headed eagle, the Tsarist symbol readopted by Russia." [Source]


Violeta Urmana: "Prastite Vy, Xalmy"
from The Maid of Orleans (Tchaikovsky)

Dmitri Hvorostovsky: "Ya vas lyublyu"
from Pique Dame (Tchaikovsky)

Natalie Dessay: "Ne poi, krasavitsa, pri mne”
lyrics by Alexander Pushkin and music by Rachmaninoff

Yelena Zelenskaya, Anna Aglatova, Yekaterina Scherbachenko, Svetlana Shilova
sing “Nature and Love” by Tchaikovsky

Irina Dolzhenko, Lolitta Semenina, Andrey Grigoriev, Maxim Paster, Boris Rudak:
"Final Scene" from Betrothal in a Monastery (Prokofiev)

Angela Gheorghiu: "Ach, istomilas ja gorem"
from Pique Dame (Tchaikovsky)