Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Charlotte Church Sang "Pie Jesu" For Murdoch Press Favors

"Singer Charlotte Church gave damning testimony against the British press at the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics on Monday. In it, she claimed that she sang for free at Rupert Murdoch's wedding in exchange for favorable press coverage. Church said that Murdoch gave her a choice: either she could take £100,000 for the job, or she could waive the fee in exchange for positive coverage from Murdoch's outlets. 'I remember being told that Rupert Murdoch had asked me to sing at his wedding to Wendi Deng and it would take place on his yacht in New York," Church told the inquiry. "I remember being told that [there would be] the offer of money or the offer of the favor, in order to basically get good press, to be looked upon favorably.'" [Source] Videos of the confession and the soprano singing "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem are after the jump.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ruth Ann Swenson On Classmate Rosie O'Donnell's Show

Soprano Ruth Ann Swenson and comedian Rosie O'Donnell have the distinction of having been classmates at the Commack High School on Long Island. Here the singer performs "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi during a 1997 taping of her fellow alumni's television show.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Rachel Ann Morgan

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.

Verdi's "La Traviata" Stirs Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" Film

The classic 1990 film Pretty Woman has grossed over $463 million worldwide since its release. One of the most famous scenes occurs when Edward (Richard Gere) takes Vivian (Julia Roberts) to the opera (San Francisco Opera to be specific). The opera they see, La Traviata, is not such a coincidence since it is the story of a courtesan falling in love with one of her suiters, a theme reflected with the film's
characters (although no one dies of consumption). Scenes from Act I, II and III are featured. Actress Karin Calabro plays Violetta and Actor Bruce Eckstut plays Alfredo in the opera scenes. Here are some audio samples featuring Maria Callas:

"Sempre libera"

"Dammi tu forza, o cielo... Amami Alfredo"

"Teneste la promessa...Addio, del passato"

Other trivia:
-The entrance to the San Francisco opera house was actually filmed at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles.
-The crew had planned to shoot the opera scene in San Francisco, but was prevented from doing so because of the earthquake on October 17, 1989. This whole scene was cleverly faked on a small set at Disney, designed by Albert Brenner.

Some particularly memorable dialogue surrounding this scene in the movie includes the following:
Edward: Peoples reactions to opera the first time they see it is very dramatic. They either love it or they hate it. If they love it they will always love it. If they don't, they may learn to appreciate it - but it will never become part of their soul.

Matron: Did you enjoy the opera, dear?
Vivian: Oh, it was so good, I almost peed my pants!
[Vivian walks off.]
Matron: Wha—?
Edward: She said she liked it better than The Pirates of Penzance.
[Source, Source, Source]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Angela Gheorghiu Would Sing With Fleming and Netrebko

Soprano Angela Gheorghiu gives a revealing interview about her recent Homage  release on EMI, what she would do if she met Maria Callas today, making her early opera appearances in concert on Romanian television, working with Georg Solti on La Traviata, offers of directing opera, the possibility of a "Three Sopranos" concert with Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko, the diva's interactions with Natalie Cole and Hugh Jackman, upcoming concerts with Vangelis, Christmas in New York and special surprises for Vienna audiences during New Year's Eve. Read the whole interview here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Scottish Opera Appoints Gareth Williams Composer in Residence

"Scottish Opera has appointed Gareth Williams as its first ever composer in residence. The post, which sits within the company’s Emerging Artists Programme, will last two years and is set to provide development opportunities to up-and-coming composers. Williams has already working on a number of projects including a community and schools opera, a piece that will feature in the Opera Highlights tour in January 2012, a chamber opera that will tour Scotland in Autumn 2012 and a pilot project to develop an evidence-based music therapy programme. Gareth created two short operas for Five:15 Operas Made in Scotland, is a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and has composed works for the Hebrides Ensemble, the Paragon Ensemble, Symposia, the Black Hair Ensemble, and the London Sinfionetta. He was the winner of the British Conservatoire Composers Forum 2000, and in 2004 won the Dinah Wolf prize for composition. His work has also been featured in the Edinburgh Festival, the St Magnus Festival, Opera to Go, and the York Late Music Festival. Closer to home, Gareth recently worked with NOISE to create the site-specific The Sloans Project, based on the history and characters of the local landmark." [Source]

Eric Owens Discusses the Joy of Recitals in His Career

What's your sense of where recital singing fits into the imagination of the listening public? There are die-hard fans of lieder -- it's a lot of great repertoire -- but it can be difficult for some. The intimacy is something I like as a performer and as a listener.

How is it different for you as a singer to approach that repertoire? It can be daunting; there's so much out there. As a recitalist, you're able to be your own artistic director, setting the flow and arc of the evening. The first half of this recital, for example, is unified around the texts, starting with the Wolf, which is serious and somber. The Schumann next, a depressed, tortured soul -- I don't know what it is about depression and artistic release, but it produces such amazing stuff. The Schubert some people won't have heard; there are a couple of precursors to Wagner, in their lush harmonies. Then I'll cleanse the palate with Debussy, open the windows a bit. The Duparc shows the composer taking a sturdier approach; the Ravel Don Quichotte songs I just adore. The Wagner song, which quotes the Marseillaise, seemed like a fitting way to end the second half.

Read the full interview

Lebanese Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian Happy to Keep It Intimate

"Award-winning soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian has performed at La Scala in Barcelona, recorded at Abbey Road in London and travelled to Armenia as the star of a documentary. But as her current tour takes her through smaller communities across the province, the opera star says she's enjoying the change of scenery. 'I've been blessed to have had the opportunity to sing in all the places that any young person wants to sing in,' she said on the phone from Nelson. 'They're all nice and wonderful, but sometimes, performing in small communities is as rewarding.' The opera star said the smallest hall she has performed in on this tour, which ends in Sidney on Monday, had about 300 people in the audience. 'It was tiny and I could really see each and every one who was attending,' she said. 'To be able to communicate with each and every one. - It's something you can't do with a 1,500-person auditorium.'" [Source]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Side-by-Side: Luciano Pavarotti sings "Chiedi all'aura lusinghiera"

Luciano Pavarotti singing Nemorino in Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore. The first clip is from 1969 and features Reri Grist in the role of Adina. The second clip is from 1991 with Kathleen Battle in the same soprano part. It's hard not to compare and contrast the similarities of these two ladies' voices as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "La Bohème"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Puccini's La Bohème live tonight at 7:30 PM EST on Sirius XM radioIntermission guests: Rachelle Durkin, Kim Josephson and Iestyn Davies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Young Singers Revive "Ariadne auf Naxos" at Lyric Opera

Amber Wagner as Ariadne with
Brandon Jovanovich as Bacchus
"Though this revival was planned well before his arrival in Chicago, Lyric’s new general director Anthony Freud’s worthy fingerprints were all about, too, from the ousting of the Ariadne/Prima Donna, the now problematic soprano Deborah Voigt, and her replacement with the remarkable rising star and Ryan Center alum Amber Wagner, to the breath-of-fresh-air supertitles by Colin Ure (Freud’s partner), to a more clearly (and honestly) marked cast list in the program. Music director Andrew Davis has long been what his fellow Britons call 'a Strauss man' and his expertise and natural breathing with this lush score made him a superb guide for Strauss’ streamlined 'court orchestra' of 37 players and for the very fine young cast. Fully convincing musically and dramatically, English mezzo Alice Coote made you wish the Composer’s role was not confined to the Prologue. Theatrically, Anna Christy’s Zerbinetta, the insightful comedienne who at first seems only a tart, was a perfect creation, and her connection to the score of her great aria was absolutely direct. As Bacchus, the tenor-god who rescues the forlornAriadne from her deserted island stranding, Brandon Jovanovich had great physical and intelligent presence. Having seen some top-drawer work from him at Lyric and as Siegmund in San Francisco Opera’s Ring, I’d guess that he was just having momentary difficulties opening night with the closing sections of a notoriously hard and high role." [Source]

Tony Hall, Chief Executive of the ROH, Takes Risks in Arts

The Guardian interviews Tony Hall about coming from the BBC to Covent Garden and the risks involved with leading an arts organization. He also offers advice for young people hoping to go after a position like his one day. Read the full interview here.

Musical Film "My Sister Eileen" Contains Opera References

At the opening of the film, the girls are in their first apartment when they hear operatic singing coming through the window. The landlord declares, "Maybe it's the next Lily Pons or Helen Traubel." Cut to the trio exiting the apartment to find a woman hanging up laundry while she sings "Voi che sapete" from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Full synopis for the film: "Two innocent sisters from Ohio hit Greenwich Village and must cope with wall-shaking subway construction, the neighborhood kooks, and a whopping $65 a month for an apartment. My Sister Eileen is one of those 'Look out, world, we're conquering Manhattan!' movies, with Betty Garrett as a plain, would-be writer and Janet Leigh as her knockout sister, an aspiring actress who draws men like milk draws kittens. The 1955 movie's well-scrubbed Greenwich Village is a delightful fantasy playground. The city was never like this, but it probably should have been. In one of his early roles, Jack Lemmon (crooning one of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin songs quite charmingly) plays a magazine publisher, one of the many Young Men with Ideas he would play in the subsequent decade. Even more interesting is the presence of future director Bob Fosse, as a soda jerk who romances Leigh. Fosse also choreographed the film's musical numbers, and his dances include a delightful quartet at a bandstand and a sensational showdown with Tommy Rall. Fosse and Rall try to outdo each other in a male rivalry dance that will remind Fosse fans of his obsession with hats. The breezy direction is by Richard Quine, who cowrote the script with another future director, Blake Edwards. The original source material, stories by Ruth McKenney, formed the basis for a play and a nonmusical 1942 Rosalind Russell movie, also called My Sister Eileen (in which Quine played the Fosse role); there was a Broadway musical adaptation of the stories, Wonderful Town, which is not related to this film." [Source]

GQ Man of the Year 2011 Awards Set For Sydney Opera House

"GQ Australia editor, and newly anointed Editor of the Year, Nicholas Smith, in association with Chivas, will host the 2011 GQ Men of the Year Awards at the Sydney Opera House. An exclusive black-tie dinner and awards ceremony will be attended by 250 guests and MC’ed by Wil Anderson, with an after party to follow in the GQ Lounge. Celebrating Australia’s leading actors, comedians, musicians, sportsmen, fashion designers and visionaries, the 2011 GQ Men of the Year Awards, in association with Chivas, welcomes back home-grown international celebrities Joel Edgerton, Alex O’Loughlin, and Rachael Taylor and comedian Jason Gann. Also on the guest list are actor Hugh Sheridan, chef Manu Feildel, swimmer James Magnussen and The Project’s Charlie Pickering. Adding further star power to the night are the presenters including David Jones Ambassador Megan Gale, chef Pete Evans, actor Jack Thompson, Sydney
FC’s Brett Emerton, media personality Steve Vizard and author Tara Moss. Also, heading to Australia to attend GQ Men of the Year Awards 2011 is star of Twilight Breaking Dawn, Kellan Lutz and his Australian girlfriend Sharni Vinson. The 2011 GQ Men of the Year Awards, in association with Chivas, comprise 18 categories across entertainment, fashion, the arts, sport, media and philanthropy. Also, for the first time, there is a Woman of the Year category, recognising the achievements of GQ Australia’s favourite Australian leading lady." [Source]

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi: Sex, Drugs, and Opera (Mostly in Vienna)

Naughty boy Gaddafi after capture.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Muammar, was arrested on November 19 in the town of Ubari, near Sabha in southern Libya, 640 kilometres (400 mi) from Tripoli. It is reported that he had been flown to Zintan by plane. His capture was confirmed by the International Criminal Court (ICC). In the wake of his capture, news starts to leak out about his private life: "A woman claiming to be the ex-wife of Colonel Gaddafi's captured son Saif al-Islam has emerged in Ukraine with extraordinary stories alleging domestic violence and womanising. Nadia, a blue-eyed brunette claims to have met him when she worked as a stripper in a top Moscow nightclub, and says she is currently in hiding, fearing for her life. She claimed that as she prepared for marriage to Saif, she had to fly to Paris to have an operation to 'restore' her virginity. 'The doctor proved my innocence in the presence of Saif's aunt. Then I embraced Islam,' she added. 'I tried to have a normal family, but Saif wanted to live as a single man with lovers and orgies,' she said in a Ukrainian newspaper interview. While there is no proof of her claim of have married and divorced Saif after two years, her claim appears to be taken seriously in Russia and Ukraine. If she is who she says, she could be a key witness at his trial whether it is in Libya or under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. One aspect of his trial is likely to be his alleged friendship with a number of prominent British figures, including Prince Andrew, Tony Blair and Lord Mandelson...'He had certain sexual perversions in sex, for example, he liked to do it in public. I understood that we couldn't live together.'...'When we separated I had only luxurious earrings which I managed to sell for $1 million. I lived in Moscow on this money. Now almost nothing is left.' Her most recent interview was with Ukrainian paper Respublika. It was made shortly before his capture. 'I thought Saif would turn my life into an Eastern fairytale,' she said. 'It didn't work.'" [Source]
The playboy in his former setting of luxury, the Vienna Opera Ball in 2006.

David Hockney's "Turandot" Gets Invigorated in San Francisco

Foster as Puccini's Icy Princess
"Making her company debut in the title role, soprano Susan Foster revealed a powerful and intermittently well-controlled instrument, one that carried effortlessly and with steely intensity above the clamor of the orchestra and rang out clearly in more exposed passages. Foster had a harder time locating the lyrical vein in this role, and the potency of her singing often shaded into stridency; her account of the opening 'In questa reggia' sounded blunt and lurid. But she came into her own nicely in Act 3, managing Turandot's improbable emotional turnaround with flair. Tenor Walter Fraccaro's performance as Calaf also improved as the evening progressed, though he had further to go. Throughout Act 1, Fraccaro's singing - a few well-placed, clarion high notes aside - was tonally ragged and beset
Crocetto as Liù
by intonation problems. But the Act 2 Riddle Scene had a sturdy heft to it, and although his 'Nessun dorma' at the start of Act 3 sounded stiff and ill tuned, his performance flourished from there on. Christian Van Horn was a solid, if uninspiring, Timur. The rest of the performances evoke happy memories of opening night. Soprano Leah Crocetto, an Adler Fellow, remains a brilliant Liù, vocally lustrous and dramatically assured, and the Opera Chorus sang superbly throughout." [Source]

David Daniels on Being the World's Leading Countertenor

Daniels as Oberon at the Lyric
Opera of Chicago (Photo: Dan Rest)
"Few singers active over the past twenty years have changed the American opera landscape as radically as David Daniels. When the countertenor first emerged on the scene in the early 1990s, falsettists were still widely considered something of an anomaly on many of the world's opera stages. Yet in the span of a few short years, Daniels and a handful of colleagues changed all that. The sickly sweet, overripe-English-choirboy timbres of Alfred Deller and James Bowman seemed to fade out in the wake of Daniels's full-throated, agile sound of genuinely operatic intensity and ardor. With Daniels's success came a newfound understanding by audiences of the vitality of the Baroque repertory, as well as a world of possibilities for the next generation of talented countertenors. Now forty-five, Daniels clearly knows his worth as a performer and looks forward to a string of high-profile engagements. This season he sings Arsamene in performances of San Francisco Opera's Serse before creating the role of Prospero in the Met's new Baroque pasticcio, The Enchanted Island, on New Year's Eve; in February and March, he takes on the title role in Lyric Opera of Chicago's new production of Rinaldo. OPERA NEWS caught up with Daniels at the end of August, while he was in the midst of unpacking following a three-month absence from his Atlanta home." Read the full article at Opera News by clicking here.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday: Barbara Hendricks

"Qui la voce...Vien diletto"
I Puritani (Bellini)
Soprano Barbara Hendricks was born November 20, 1948, in Stephens, Arkansas. She graduated from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and chemistry at the age of 20. She then attended Juilliard School of Music in New York, where she studied with mezzo-soprano Jennie Tourel and participated in master classes led by soprano Maria Callas. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in music. In 1974, Hendricks made her professional operatic debut in Europe at the Glyndebourne Festival in Cavalli’s La Calisto and in America at the San Francisco Opera in Cavalli's Ormindo. During her career, she has appeared at major opera houses throughout the world, including the Opéra national de Paris, the Metropolitan Opera, Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, and La Scala. In 1998 she sang Liu in the historical performance of Turandot at the Forbidden City in Beijing. Hendricks has performed more than twenty roles, twelve of which she has recorded,

"Je veux vivre"
Roméo et Juilette (Gounod)
including Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Ilia (Idomeneo), Antonia (Les Contes d'Hoffman), Micaela (Carmen), Manon (Manon), Juliette (Roméo et Juliette), Mélisande (Pelléas et Mélisande), Liù (Turandot) and Gilda (Rigoletto). Her portrayal of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro was her debut role in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Munich, as well as the role she sang in the last performances that the late Karl Böhm conducted of this opera. She appeared as Mimì in the Luigi Comencini film for La Bohème and in 1995 she sang the role of Anne Truelove in the Swedish film Rucklarens väg, an adaptation of Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. In 2007, she appeared in the film Disengagement by Amos Gitai and starring Juliette Binoche. She also recorded Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde which is the main theme for the film. She was a member of the jury at

Bachianas Brasileiras (Villa-Lobos)
the International Film Festival in Cannes 1999, presided by David Cronenberg. Barbara Hendricks has toured Japan with von Karajan (1977), Bernstein (1985), with the Vienna State Opera (1986) and the Hamburg Opera (1996). In 1974, she sang the American premiere of Gilbert Amy's Un Espace Déployé with the Chicago Symphony and Sir Georg Solti, who invited her back for the world premiere of the American Bicentennial Commission of David Del Tredici's Final Alice, which she subsequently performed with the Boston, Philadelphia and Cleveland Symphonies, and the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestras. She sang the American premiere of the Dies Irae of Penderecki in 1976 with the Los Angeles Philarmonic and Zubin Mehta. She gave the world premiere of Tobias Picker's The Rain in the Trees with Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1996; as a special guest of Lord Menuhin, she premiered

"Elle a fui, la tourterelle"
Les Contes d'Hoffman (Offenbach)
works by five internationally known composers, dedicated to Lord Menuhin for his 80th Birthday Celebration at the closing concert of the Lincoln Center Music Festival; and in 1997, the world premiere in Japan, of songs by young Japanese composer Mari Takano. In 2000 she performed Sven-David Sandström's Mölna Elegy commissioned for her by the Gotland Chamber Festival. She performed in 2002 the world premiere of Bruno Mantovani’s Das erschaft der Dichter nicht commissioned for her by the Ensemble Intercontemporain of Paris. In addition to her busy concert and opera schedule in Europe and in the United States, she alternates every other year with extensive tours to the Far East or Latin America and performs regularly at international music festivals worldwide. Since her 1974 New York Town Hall debut, Barbara Hendricks has been acclaimed as one of the leading and most active recitalists of her generation and in addition to her

"Canzonetta sull'aria"
Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
with Eugenia Moldoveanu
vast repertoire of German Lieder she is also known as a leading interpreter and staunch promoter of French, American and Scandinavian music. The pianists with whom she has performed and recorded include Dmitri Alexeev, Michel Béroff, Yefim Bronfman, Michel Dalberto, Youri Egorov, Ralf Gothoni, Radu Lupu, Maria Joao Pires, Roland Pöntinen, Staffan Scheja, Andras Schiff and Peter Serkin. Because of her love for chamber music, she regularly participates and also organises chamber music festivals with friends who share her passion. Barbara Hendricks has performed her extensive orchestral repertoire with all of the leading conductors and orchestras of our time. She is one of today's best-selling recording artists and has worked with conductors such as Barenboim, Bernstein, Davis, Dorati, Giulini, Haitink, Karajan, Maazel, Mehta, Sawallisch and Solti. She made her jazz debut at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994 and has since then performed regularly in

"Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" (Schubert)
renowned jazz festivals throughout the world with the Magnus Lindgren Quartet. In 1975 she made her first recording for Decca of Clara in Porgy and Bess with Lorin Maazel conducting the Cleveland Symphony. The first collaboration with EMI (now known as EMI Classics) was in 1978 with the recording of the voice of heaven in Verdi's Don Carlo conducted by Herbert Van Karajan with Mirella Freni, Jose Carerras and the Berlin Philharmonic. Although she continued to record with other companies, Deutsche Gramaphone, Telarc, Teldec, Erato, CBS (Sony today), in 1983 EMI FRANCE offered her an exclusive contract for solo recordings. She has made nearly eighty recordings of opera, more than twelve roles of her active repertoire, including Gluck, Mozart, Puccini, Bizet, Lalo, Donizetti, Strauss, recitals of Schubert, Strauss, Wolf, Mozart, Fauré. Debussy, Duparc, Ravel, Grieg, Sibelius, Nielsen, many orchestra and oratorio works with the most prestigeous conductors and orchestras of

"Après un rêve" (Fauré)
our time, as well as jazz, operetta and Negro spirituals. More than fifty of these have been for EMI. In January 2006, she left EMI, and created the new label Arte Verum for which she records exclusively. Hendricks also performs jazz music and made her jazz debut at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1994. Since that time, she has performed at major jazz festivals around the world. Hendricks is also known for her love of chamber music and has organized a number of chamber music festivals. In March 2000 she added Tatiana in Eugene Onegin at the Nice Opera with Vladimir Chernov. In 2004 she premiered Arvo Pärt’s l’Abbé Agathon for eight cellos commissioned for her by the Festival L’Ensembles de Violoncelles in France. At the end of 2004 she will sing the part of The Angel in the world premiere of Peter Eötvös’s opera, Angel based on the Tony Kushner play Angels in America at the Châtelet Theatre, Paris. After nearly 20 years of

"Sometimes I feel like
a motherless child" (spiritual)
service to the cause of refugees and her untiring support for the UNHCR she has been named Honorary Ambassador For Life by the UNHCR and will be given special tasks that demand her long unparalleled experience and commitment. At the end of 1991 and 1993, she gave two solidarity concerts in war-ridden former Yugoslavia (Dubrovnik and Sarajevo). In 1998 she founded the Barbara Hendricks Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation to personalise her struggle for the prevention of conflicts in the world and to facilitate reconciliation and enduring peace where conflicts have already occurred. In 2001, at the special request of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kofi Annan, she sang for the Nobel Prize ceremony and gala concert in Oslo, and in May 2002 for the East Timor Independence Day Ceremony. She has received numerous awards for her artistic achievements and humanitarian work: Doctorat Honoris Causa from the

"I Feel Pretty"
West Side Story (Bernstein)
University of Louvain in Belgium (1990), Doctor in Law from the University of Dundee in Scotland (1992), Doctor of Music from the Nebraska Wesleyan University (1988), and Doctorat Honoris Causa from the University of Grenoble in France (1996). Honorary Doctor of Music from the Juilliard School of Music in New York (2000). Since 1990, she has been a Member of the Swedish Academy of Music. In 1986, the French government made Barbara Hendricks a Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres, and in 1992, she was awarded the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by President François Mitterrand. In 2000 she was The Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts (Spain) recipient for her advocacy for human rights and for the contribution of her artistic work to mankind's cultural heritage. In 2001 she received the Lions Club International Award to encourage the actions of her foundation. The University of Gerona, Spain, awarded her the Premio Internacional Xifra Heras in 2004, given to persons who embody the characteristics of humanity, humility and honesty. In November 2010, she released an autobiography title Ma Voie: Mémories. She has lived in Europe since 1977 and currently lives on Lake Geneva in Switzerland with her husband and three children. She is also a citizen of Sweden. [Source, Source] Career timeline highlights after the jump.

"I Love My Man [Billie's Blues]" (Holiday)

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Lena Nordin

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, November 19, 2011

Happy Birthday: Agnes Baltsa

"Non so più cosa son"
Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart)

"Nacqui all'affanno...Non più mesta"
La Cenerentola (Rossini)

"Je vais mourir"
Les Troyens (Berlioz)

"Ah si, mie care...Or la sull'onda"
Il Giuramento (Mercadante)

"Una macchia è qui tuttora"
Macbeth (Verdi)

"L'amour est un oiseau rebelle"
Carmen (Bizet)

"Una voce poco fa"
Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini)

"Nei giardin del bello saracin ostello"
Don Carlo (Verdi)
Mezzo-soprano Agnes Baltsa was born on the Greek island of Lefkas on November 19, 1944. From the age of six she took piano lessons. In 1958 she moved to Athens where she graduated from the conservatory in 1965. In the same year she won a Maria Callas scholarship which enabled her to continue her studies in Munich (Germany). In 1968 she made her first appearance as Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro, Mozart) at the Frankfurt Opera, followed by Octavian (Der Rosenkavalier, R. Strauss) at the Vienna State Opera in 1970. Until today, she is the youngest Ocativian ever at the Vienna State Opera. From that year on, her career developed rapidly: the Deutsche Oper Berlin, various opera houses in the United States (among which the Metropolitan Opera in New York), the Bavarian State Opera (München), Govent Garden, Zürich, the Paris Opera etc. Under the guidance of Herbert von Karajan, she was a regular guest at the Salzburger Festspiele. Her repertory includes works by Mozart (Le Nozze di Figaro, Così fan Tutte, Requiem, etc.), Rossini (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, La Cenerentola, L'Italiana in Algeri), Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana), Verdi (Aida, La Forza del Destino, Il Trovatore, Don Carlo, Requiem) and Bellini (I Capuleti e I Montecchi), Donizetti (Il Campanello, Maria Stuarda), etc. But she is, of course, most famous for her performance of Carmen (Bizet), a role she has sung with José Carreras, Placido Domingo and Niel Shicoff many times. In 1980, Agnes Baltsa became Kammersängerin at the Vienna State Opera; she has been an honorary member of this opera house since 1988. In 1992, she made her first full-length motion picture called Duett, in which she plays a Hungarian opera singer. Baltsa continued to add new roles to her repertory like Fedora (Giordano), Hérodiade (Massenet), of which a live recording from Vienna was issued, and Fidès (La Prophète, Meyerbeer) at the Vienna State Opera. At the Wiener Festwochen 1999, she sang Orlofski (Die Fledermaus, J. Strauss) again, a role she hadn't sung for years. In February 2000 she successfully sang the part of Despina (Così fan Tutte) at the Zürich opera alongside Cecilia Bartoli. In the beginning of 2000, she again picked up a role she had abandoned many years ago: the Composer in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos (in Japan). This performance was part of the tour the Vienna State Opera made of Japan. The organisation especially asked Baltsa to return to Japan to sing The Composer again, since she had been tremendously successful with this role (also with the VSO) over there in 1985. The cast of Ariadne also included Edita Gruberova and Cheryl Studer, the performance was conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli, who sadly passed away in 2003. Quite surprisingly, for the first time in over 30 years, Baltsa was not scheduled to appear at the 2000-2001 Vienna State Opera season. She decided not to accept the offer to sing the long-awaited role of Lady Macbeth (Verdi) in Zürich in July 2001, but did very successfully perform the role of Kundry (Parsifal) at the Teatro Real (Madrid) in March 2001. Cast also included Pladico Domingo, Matti Salminen and Frans Grundheber. Even though conductors such as Karajan and Muti had pleaded with her to sing Kundry, it wasn't until 2001 that she finally decided to sing the role that had 'persecuted' her throughout her career. In May 2001, Baltsa gave various concerts in Austria and Germany. Agnes Baltsa was extremely successful at her debut as Kostelnicka in Janacek's Jenufa at the Vienna State Opera in February 2002. One of the most interesting performances of the year 2002 would have been her long-awaited return to the US, where she was to appear in a concert performance (Boston) of Haensel und Gretel as the Witch. Unfortunately, Baltsa had to cancel these performances due to illness. Significant performances in 2003 included an opera gala in Japan and an opera gala in Athens. In March 2003, Agnes Baltsa also returned to the opera house in Frankfurt, where she made her debut as Cherubino in 1968, for two performances of Cavalleria Rusticana. In October 2003 she also appeared in her home country again for four performances of Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) in Thessaloniki. Highlights in 2004 were: a concert performance in Malmoe (her very first appearance in Sweden), Greek Songs, as well as L'Italiana in Algeri in Japan and a concert on the occasion of Carreras' 30th Anniversary at the Vienna State Opera (see news for more info). Baltsa quite unexpectedly dropped out of the production of Lohengrin at the Vienna State Opera in 2005. In 2005 she added a new role to her repetoire: Klytemnaestra (Elektra), Japan 2005, with Ozawa, as well as Vienna (2007) and Athens (2007), München (2008-2009) and Berlin. In October 2005, Agnes Baltsa and Placido Domingo sang the Radames/Amneris duet from Aida on the occassion of the 50th anniversary of the reopening of the Staatsoper in Vienna. For the past few years, her career seems revolve around Elektra, Jenufa, numerous opera concerts and the very successful concerts with Greek Songs, mostly in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Greece. She has recorded for Deutsche Grammophon, Philips Classics, EMI and Sony. Agnes Baltsa is married to the German opera singer Günter Missenhardt and lives in Bern (Switzerland) and Athens (Greece). [Source] More photos and audio clips after the jump.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sydney Opera House Inspired Axel Enthoven Camping Tent

"Alighting in France’s Provence with the fragrance of lavender in the air. Enjoying a good glass of wine in the hills of Tuscany. Day-dreaming with the murmur of the Mediterranean in your ears. If you make the Opera your travel companion, a whole new world will open up to you. A world in which you can enjoy the luxuries of a comfortable hotel against the backdrop of your favourite natural landscapes. A world in which you have the freedom to go, or stay, wherever you wish, while relishing the purity of the outdoors in style. Welcome to the world of Opera, Your Suite in Nature. The Opera is a mobile designer suite in a class of her own. Within minutes, she will show you her characteristic outlines, resting firmly on her legs in a level position. The teak veranda is an invitation for you to come on board, where you’ll be amazed by the luxury and detail. Such as the two electrically adjustable beds that can easily be transformed into one. Or the boiler supplying warm water to the kitchen, the fountain and the (exterior) shower. The hot air heating. The ceramic toilet. The top loading refrigerator. The low-energy LED lighting from awning to floor. The Opera offers you the convenience of a complete holiday home." [Source] More photos after the jump.

Mojca Erdmann & Christie Clark: Separated at Birth?

One from the land of opera and the other from popular television soap opera. Soprano Mojca Erdmann and actress Christie Clark (from Days of Our Lives) are one German accent away from being identical twin beauties.

Jay Hunter Morris: Practice Makes Perfect As Wagner Tenor

Heldentenor Jay Hunter Morris finally getting deserved recognition. (Photo: Stephanie Diani/NYTimes)
"As a boy growing up in Paris, Tex., Mr. Morris — he blurs his age as 'mid-40s' — had music on both sides, his father a Southern Baptist music minister, his mother the organist at First Baptist Church. He had never heard opera until he moved to Dallas and saw La Traviata. 'She is laying on her back and she has no microphone and she’s singing,' he said. 'How do they do that? I decided to take lessons and see if I have a voice for this.' To be self-critical without being self-destructive may be the single most valuable trait of adult life. Mr. Morris says he does not have the tenor quality 'where I can just open up and be glorious,' but he cops to being persistent. 'It’s sort of like shooting free throws over and over to get them right,' he said. 'There are things that my voice teacher has been telling me for the last 15 years, and I’m just now getting them. I want to be really good at this someday. I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.'" [Source]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Nabucco"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Verdi's Nabucco live tonight at 7:30 PM EST on Sirius XM radioIntermission guest: Adam Diegel.

Fast Food For Sad Clowns: Taco Bell's New Commercial

Andrea Bocelli & Veronica Berti Expecting Child in Spring 2012

"Opera singer Andrea Bocelli has revealed that he and his girlfriend Veronica Berti are expecting their first child together. The star made the announcement that he and Berti are delighted to be welcoming a baby girl into the world, at a charity dinner to launch his Andrea Bocelli Foundation. Variety reports that the couple's baby is due to arrive in spring 2012. Bocelli is already a father to two sons, Amos and Matteo, from his marriage to Enrica Cenzatti. The pair separated in 2002 but have yet to formally divorce." [Source] One more photo of the couple after the jump.

MET Opera Archive Alert: Beverly Sills Costume On the Loose

Could the costume in question be Thais?
"Like so many New Yorkers making the move from Manhattan to Queens, the Theatre Development Fund was after one thing: closet space. That's a serious concern when your wardrobe includes 75,000 outfits and accessories. You can't just call up U-Haul. 'It's like moving your apartment. But a much, much, much bigger apartment,' said Stephen Cabral, director of the Fund's costume collection, which this week opened the doors at its new 16,000 square-foot space in the Kaufman Astoria Studios. Costumers are invited to search the racks for items for their productions or they can email their requirements and measurements. The Fund will send digital photos of the potential items, and then have the costumes mailed. You never know what you might get. A few years ago, Cabral was asked to send costumes for a theater company in Chicago that was putting on Follies. He soon got
Thais costume front
an email response: One of the young actors, an aspiring opera singer, looked at her new costume's label and burst into tears. It said 'The Metropolitan Opera' and, below that, 'Beverly Sills.' 'I thought, `There's a really good example of how little things like that can change lives,'' said Cabral, who started working with the collection 18 years ago and intuitively knows how to find virtually any item, even though the collection hasn't been fully inventoried or computerized." [Source] More guesses after the jump as to which Beverly Sills costume could have ended up in Follies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Francesca Zambello Ready to Remodel the American Musical

Directress Zambello (Photo: Daniel Chavkin)
"Opera companies are running out of popular operas to put on the stage. Luckily, there are plenty of popular musicals available to produce instead. Musicals are becoming a bigger part of the operatic repertoire: the Vancouver Opera produced a fully staged version of West Side Story last month, American opera diva Deborah Voigt appeared in a fully staged version of Annie Get Your Gun at the Glimmerglass Opera this past summer, and in early 2012, the Chicago Lyric Opera will present Show Boat. James Wright, general director of the Vancouver Opera, says that opera companies “need to be less rigid than we’ve been in the past.” In some cases, that means putting on a Broadway show instead of another La Bohème. Leonard Bernstein, the composer of West Side Story, was one of the first to suggest that musicals were the true American opera, and some opera houses have done musicals in previous decades. But the musical temptation has become greater for classically oriented theatres, even overseas: the Théâtre du Châtelet, a house known for operas and operettas, has recently brought material like The Sound of Music to Paris. It helps that these shows sell; West Side Story did well for Vancouver, and Chicago Lyric Opera general director Anthony Freud says that 'when we surveyed our subscribers, almost 70 per cent were very enthusiastic about Show Boat.'....One thing that still distinguishes musicals from operas is that musicals aren’t reinterpreted and updated the way operas routinely are; Francesca Zambello, the director who did the Glimmerglass Annie and the upcoming Chicago Show Boat, experiments more with operas than she does with musicals. 'As long as a work is under certain copyright restrictions,' Wright explains, directors 'won’t be able to do much. But when those run out, these works are going to be fair game.' When directors start deconstructing Les Misérables, we’ll know musicals have really arrived in the opera world." [Source] More about some of the above-mentioned productions is after the jump.

Need a Place to Stay in Vietnam? Try Hôtel de l’Opéra Hanoï

"In the heart of ancient Hanoï is a haven of boutique sophistication reinventing the Bohemian glamour of the Belle Époque era with a 21st Century twist. An operatic highlight in ancient Hanoï, Hôtel de l’Opéra Hanoï rests just a step away from Hanoï’s beautiful Opera House. The hotel distils the best of Hanoi – colonial accents in the architecture and theatrical interior design of jewel tone accents and classic opera motifs juxtaposed with contemporary spaces for dining and entertaining. All the glamour and anticipation of a night at the opera are captured within every experience, from the decadence of the guestrooms to the opulence of Satine – the fine dining restaurant. During the day, Hôtel de l’Opéra Hanoï is the place to meet, with delicacies at Café Lautrec, indulgent treatments at the spa and a cool place to relax in the atrium." [Source] More photos after the jump.
Actress Kristin Scott Thomas, seen here in front of the opera house in Hanoï, is an ambassador to the
Hôtel de l'Opéra. Check out her videos and photos here.