Thursday, June 26, 2014

Legendary New York Conductor Julius Rudel Is Dead At 93

The maestro (left) with Beverly Sills (center)
"Julius Rudel, the Austrian-born conductor who raised the New York City Opera to a venturous golden age with highbrow music for the masses and a repertory that, like him, bridged the Old and New Worlds, died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. His death, announced by his son, Anthony, came eight months after his beloved and financially struggling City Opera filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors. 'I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would outlive the company,' he told The New York Times shortly afterward. Mr. Rudel was the maestro and the impresario, the principal conductor and the director of City Opera for 22 years (1957-79), working in the orchestra pit while running the company on shoestring budgets, signing contracts, casting productions and nurturing young singers like José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Beverly Sills." [Source] Watch a video of the National Endowment for the Arts paying tribute to Julius Rudel in 2010, and see more pictures of the conductor with opera singers, after the jump.

Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute To Close Doors After 17 Years

An early portrait of Johanna Meier who made her Metropolitan Opera
company debut in 1972 as Donna Anna  (Don Giovanni) and her house
debut in 1976 as Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos). She went on to sing over
75 performances with the MET, until her last as the Empress in 1989
(Die Frau ohne Schatten).
"A Black Hills State University opera company is closing out a 17-year run with a pair of final performances this weekend. The Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute began in 1998, and Meier told the Black Hills Pioneer (http://bit.ly/1iusYVe) that she's grateful for having been able to share the beauty and gift of music through the years. 'Music has given substance and joy to our efforts and brings something new and special to each of us,' she said. 'It has been a good run.' The retired internationally acclaimed opera singer and Spearfish resident said she been involved in theater and music since she was an infant, and she would like a few years to relax and do other things. Meier said the nonprofit institute, where she has acted as artistic director, involves an extensive amount of work year-round — 'getting out information about the program to students across the country and engaging faculty, ultimately listening to the audition tapes we receive and selecting the students who will come and on the basis of that decision, what the repertoire will be and who will sing what.' This year, 22 students are performing. Meier said several former students have since had successful singing careers, including one South Dakotan who recently made a debut at the Metropolitan Opera. 'Every year, something particularly memorable happens — either a very fine young singer taking their first big steps or a production which we feel has really reached the audience,' Meier said." [Source] To learn more about the Black Hills University performances, click here. Read more about Johanna Meier, and watch a clip of her singing the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival, after the jump.

The Dallas Opera Appoints Ian Derrer As Artistic Administrator

"In the wake of Jonathan Pell’s decision to step down after thirty years of distinguished service to The Dallas Opera, General Director & CEO Keith Cerny is delighted to announce the appointment of a new Artistic Administrator, Ian Derrer....Mr. Derrer grew up in North Carolina and, in 1996, completed a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. He then worked as a freelance Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Santa Fe Opera, The Atlanta Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Pacific, and Washington Opera. From 1999-2005 he completed Masters Degrees in Opera Production, Voice, and Performing Arts Management from Northwestern University and Brooklyn College. During the summers of 2001-2003 he was also the Scheduling Coordinator for the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy. Afterwards, he served as Rehearsal & Music Coordinator for the New York City Opera (2004-2006). Mr. Derrer also has invaluable experience in the field of orchestra and artist management. Immediately prior to joining the Dallas Opera, Ian held multiple positions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (2006-2014), including Head of the Rehearsal Department, Rehearsal Administrator, and Director of Production, while, also, making time to serve as Rehearsal Director for Santa Fe Opera during the summer of 2012." [Source]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking Back At The Old Metropolitan Opera House

"Most would find it surprising that The Metropolitan Opera Management sued to have their own opera house razed but that is exactly what happened in the mid-1960s. The Metropolitan Opera Association already had plans to relocate to Lincoln Center and they feared the competition that might arise if a new opera company took over the existing Metropolitan Opera House. Part of the reason the association wanted to relocate was because of the opera house’s plain, and what some called ugly, exterior. The opera house, done in the Italian Renaissance style, was even dubbed a 'third-rate warehouse.' What the exterior did not hint of was the building’s lavish interior. The group of wealthy New Yorkers designed the inside to be more extravagant than the competition, the Academy of Music." [Source] Read the whole story and view more pictures here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Maria Callas Artwork Appears In Architect Abeijón-Fernández Work

All eyes on the room: Maria Callas watches over all at Cuatro Caminos
"El estudio Abeijón-Fernández Sociedad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, se fundó en el año 1996 con el objeto de desarrollar, desde el ejercicio libre de la profesión, algunos de los conceptos iniciados durante el aprendizaje académico. Desde este inicio, trabajamos en la elaboración de proyectos enmarcados en varios ámbitos de la Arquitectura. Elaboramos proyectos para obras de carácter público encargadas por administraciones y por entidades privadas. También desarrollamos una amplia labor en el ámbito de la vivienda; llevando a cabo obras de vivienda colectiva, tanto vivienda libre como vivienda protegida, y obras de vivienda unifamiliar. En particular, en la Arquitectura Residencial, entendemos como fundamental la profunda reflexión para la consecución de arquitecturas que permitan la mayor claridad funcional, buscando siempre las máximas prestaciones para el usuario final, sin descuidar la innegable importancia formal de los objetos construidos. Asimismo realizamos proyectos de Arquitectura interior, para espacios comerciales, administrativos y vivienda. En toda nuestra trayectoria trabajamos para conseguir un compromiso entre el creador y el observador, tratando de generar una complicidad visual y formal entre la obra, el lugar y las personas. Por último, cabe destacar el reconocimiento obtenido por parte de la sociedad, reflejado en la cantidad de publicaciones que han recogido nuestras obras, tanto en prensa diaria como en publicaciones internacionales." [Source] See the original use for the image that inspired the artwork, after the jump.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Top Performers: Carmen, Jenson Button, And Mobil Synthetic Motor Oil

As unsuspecting drivers pull in for a car wash, they are soon met with a pit crew cleaning their cars and a surprise visit from British Formula One race car champion Jenson Button. The overture from Bizet's opera Carmen plays under the action during the commercial.
"To prove the outstanding, all-around performance of Mobil 1™ synthetic motor oil, we authenticate our lab results in some of the toughest, most extreme, real-life conditions anywhere in the world. That’s why:
- More than half of all NASCAR teams choose it
- Many automakers choose it for factory fill
- It has received more automaker and industry approvals
And that’s why Mobil 1 is the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand. Time after time Mobil 1 delivers. [Source]

Watch the video and read more about Jenson Button after the jump.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Leontyne Price Part Of Historical Campaign Honoring African Americans

"On October 28, 2008, just days before the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States, my first son Chase was born. On July 9, 2012, a few months before President Obama's historic re-election, my second son Amari was born. Six months later, a few days before February 2013, I began to reflect on my sons and their promising future – specifically the opportunities they could pursue as a result of the progress and achievements made by individuals past and present. I also thought about the responsibility and at times the fear, I carry as a mother raising Black boys. I thought about how just one-year prior, Trayvon Martin was murdered. The murder and circumstances surrounding Trayvon's death awakened my consciousness and moved me to create the 'I Am Trayvon Martin' photo campaign. It was through this painful time for the Martin family and America that I came to realize that my lens could truly serve as a microphone that could amplify the feelings, fears, dreams and even the pain of a community. The Because of Them, We Can campaign was birthed out of my desire to share our rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children. While I originally intended to publish the campaign photos, via social media, during Black History Month, I quickly realized how necessary it was to go further. With so many achievers to highlight, and thousands of children to engage and inspire, 28 days wasn't enough. On the last day of February, with just 28 photographs in my collection, I decided to resign from my job in order to continue the campaign. On March 1, 2013, after most national and local conversations about Black History and Achievement ended, I released a photo of a mini-inspired Phyllis Wheatley and began the journey to continue the project for a full year. A year later I have come to the conclusion that even 365 days aren't enough. What began as a mother's passion project quickly evolved into a movement. Today we are committed as ever before to encourage and empower people of all ages and hues to dream out loud and reimagine themselves as greater than they are, simply by connecting the dots between the past, the present and the future." [Source] Watch a video for the campaign and see the original Leontyne Price photo that inspired the above poster image, after the jump.

Opera Australia Will Fulfill Tamar Iveri Contract For "Otello"

UPDATE: Opera Australia has severed ties with Ms. Iveri, who will no longer be singing in the Otello. Full details are here. The company will announce a replacement soon. (June 23, 2014)
=====================================================================
Tamar Iveri is already seeing
cancellations of engagements.
"Opera Australia has just published a statement regarding allegedly homophobic soprano Tamar Iveri, stating that the singer has apologised and rehearsals and performances will go on as planned. Iveri (pictured) who is from the central Asian country of Georgia and is currently in Sydney rehearsing for Otello and will perform in Melbourne later this year, has been plagued by controversy following allegations she penned a homophobic diatribe on her Facebook page in which IDAHOT supporters in the capital city of Tblisi were branded 'fecal masses.' Georgian LGBTI rights group Identoba published a translation of the post which Iveri was said to have subsequently taken down. 'I was quite proud of the fact how Georgian society spat at the parade,' said the translation. The message goes onto to implore Georgian’s President to 'stop vigorous attempts to bring West’s 'fecal masses' in the mentality of the people by means of propaganda. Even today, US ambassador said that the people who raided the rally yesterday were against NATO. No, Mr Ambassador: those, who yesterday raided the rally, are Georgian youth of pure blood, still unspoilt by you,' the translation continues. Identoba directed the comments to the National Opera of Paris who have reportedly now withdrawn an invitation for the singer to perform. With a social media campaign calling on Opera Australia to sack Iveri continuing to grow, and a Change.org petition circulating as well, Opera Australia published a statement regarding the allegations on its Facebook page at 12noon today. 'Opera Australia has become aware in the past 24 hours, of the media and social media coverage of comments reported to have been made by soprano Tamar Iveri,' the statement read. 'The company has made the singer aware of the response from the Australian media and people via social media. Tamar Iveri has sought to clarify her views on this important issue, and has issued an apology and explanation on her own Facebook page. This can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/tamariverisoprano. Rehearsals and performances at Opera Australia are continuing as planned.' Iveri reportedly blamed her husband for rewriting her original letter, which she said she deleted as soon as she saw his homophobic remarks and how it was under her name. The Georgian soprano is currently in Sydney rehearsing for her role as Desdemona in Otello at the Sydney Opera House, before heading to Melbourne in November to perform in Tosca." [Source]

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tim McGraw Claims Not To Be A Legendary Italian Opera Singer

CrossFit McGraw: Tim also does not have
the stature of the late opera tenor.
In the most recent issue of Men's Health magazine, country singer Tim McGraw discuss his multi-million dollar vocal cords: “It’s not like polishin’ silver. I’m not Pavarotti. My voice training comes with two hours of shows every night. I mean, I can warm up all I want–I don’t–and it’s not gonna make a hill’a beans’ difference. I’m a storyteller, not a singer.” The Louisiana-native has a net worth of $65 million. He and Luciano Pavarotti performed on the same stage in Washington, D.C. on October 11, 2004. The duo were among the honorees at the National Italian American Foundation's 29th Anniversary Award Gala. Samuel Timothy 'Tim' McGraw (born May 1, 1967) is an American country music singer, songwriter and actor. Many of his albums and singles have topped the country music charts with total album sales in excess of 40 million units in the US, making him the eighth best-selling artist, and the third best-selling country singer, in the Soundscan era. He is married to country singer Faith Hill and is the son of the late baseball player Tug McGraw. Photos from the Men's Health magazine spread can be seen by clicking here. Check out Tim McGraw singing on stage, after the jump. [Source, Source, SourceSource]

Nuccia Focile To Sing Evening Concert At Llandeilo Fawr Festival

Sicilian Soprano: Nuccia Focile
"The vocal highlight of this year's Llandeilo Fawr festival will be a visit from one of the world's leading operatic sopranos. Opera lovers in Wales will know Nuccia Focile from her acclaimed portrayal of the tragic heroine, Violetta, in Welsh National Opera's sell-out production of Verdi's La Traviata, a few years back. Llandeilo Fawr has gained a justifiable reputation for the star quality of its vocal artists and Nuccia Focile will be the latest in a long line of world-class singers to have visited the festival. The list of leading roles which she has played is awesome and she has appeared at most of the world's leading opera houses, including the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Metropolitan Opera in New York, Paris Opera, La Scala, Milan,and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. Her many opera recordings have enjoyed immense critical acclaim and she has worked with some of the most admired conductors, including Sir Chatles Mackerras, Sir Colin Davies, Seji Osawa, James Levine and Antonio Pappano.
Piano Man: Gary Matthewman
She will be accompanied by a pianist who has received plaudits wherever he has performed. Garry [sic] Matthewman ranks among the finest of British piano accompanists, having appeared at Wigmore Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and the Musikverein in Vienna as well as in Paris, Prague, Toronto and Sydney. He has also accompanied at the prestigious BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition and enjoys the distinction of having his disc of Schubert's Winterreise, with baritone Matthew Rose, feature as 'Recording of the Month' in Gramophone Magazine. Nuccia Focile will be at St. Teilo's Church, on Friday, July 18, at 7pm." [Source] The festival describes itself as "Beautiful Music Performed By Great Artists In An Idyllic Hill-Top Setting." For more information about the 
Llandeilo Fawr Festival, click here.

Astoria Music Festival Presents "Ariadne" For Strauss 150th

Marie Plette will sing the title role of Ariadne.
2014 marks the 150th birthday of Richard Strauss. Festivals and opera houses around the world have celebrated this special anniversary. Now the Northwest brings one of his most famous operas to life for the Astoria Music Festival. "Not heard in Oregon for nearly fifty years, Strauss’s operatic mash-up juxtaposes high-minded opera with ribald comedy. The richest man in Vienna has invited you to a party, for which he’s commissioned a new opera – a tragedy of the jilted Ariadne – and a comic farce, The Fickle Zerbinetta and her Four Lovers, but dinner’s running late, so we’ll save time and present them simultaneously, resulting in some of history’s most glorious music, brilliant coloratura, arching melodies, and a kaleidoscope of lush orchestral color." The cast for Ariadne auf Naxos includes Marie Plette (Ariadne), Maria Aleida (Zerbinetta), Angela Niederloh (Composer), Matthew Hayward (Harlequin), and Allan Glassman (Bacchus). [Source] Other opera stars that have already appeared at this year's Astoria Music Festival are Angela Meade, Richard Zeller, Amber Wagner, and Amy Hansen. The festival will conclude with a performance of Mozart's Cosí fan tutte. Get more information here.

Ticket Frenzy May Occur For "The Sound Of Music" In New Zealand

"Climb Every Mountain, Ford Every Stream"
Lesley Garrett will take over as head of the Abbey in
The Sound of Music. (Photo: Simon Fowler)
"The world’s most popular musical is coming to New Zealand! Lunchbox Theatrical Productions and David Atkins Enterprises present Andrew Lloyd Webber, David Ian and the Really Useful Group’s London Palladium Production of The Sound of Music. The lavish and much-anticipated London production of The Sound of Music comes to New Zealand in September. Tickets to the Auckland season go on sale tomorrow – exclusively to those who have registered on waitlists. The Auckland season will run from 3 October at The Civic theatre for a strictly limited time, following on from a season at Wellington's St James Theatre from 12 September. This acclaimed production of the legendary Rodgers and Hammerstein musical premiered at the home of West End musical theatre – the London Palladium – where it celebrated a record-breaking 954 performances and was seen by well over 2 million people, before going on to enjoy sell-out performances internationally. Fans are urged to act swiftly to avoid disappointment as waitlists for these tickets have exceeded any other waitlists for a major musical in Auckland during the past three years....Reprising her West End role especially for the New Zealand tour is international opera star Lesley Garrett as the Mother Abbess. Britain’s most popular soprano, Lesley Garrett CBE has found fame on the stage, on TV and as a recording artist, winning both critical acclaim and the affection of many fans and music lovers. Lesley’s operatic career includes lead roles with the Royal Opera at Covent Garden in London, English National Opera at the London Coliseum, the internationally renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Welsh National Opera as well as Opera North. Internationally she has performed in operas or in concert throughout Europe, the USA, Australia, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea. Her major television appearances include Lesley Garrett…Tonight, The Lesley Garrett Show, The Singer, Sacred Songs and Lesley Garrett – Desert Dreams for the BBC. Lesley has 14 solo CDs to her credit." [Source] A photo of Ms. Garrett as Mother Abbess, after the jump.

Soprano Claire Rutter Does House Chores And Likes Country Music

Western Girl: Rutter will sing the role of Minnie in
La Fanciulla del West with the Minnesota Opera
next month. Details here.
"For one of the world’s most in-demand opera stars, the image conjured up for me was, well, less than glamorous. The truth is, admitted Winchester’s Claire Rutter, I really enjoy finding the time to do the ironing while listening to country rock music. I pointed out this was hardly the diva-ish image fans might expect of the star who is currently wowing audiences as Violetta in La Traviata being staged at Hampshire’s Park Grange Opera. 'Having children certainly helps to keep you grounded. If we start singing around the house they tell us to shut up quite quickly,' confessed Claire, as we spoke prior to her appearance in a special concert this weekend to help raise funds for St John the Baptist Church in Alresford. And how does she relax when not doing the ironing? What music does an international opera star listen to when off duty? 'Certainly not opera. It’s like any job really. When you sing opera all the time it’s the last thing you want to listen to. In fact, the only time I will listen to opera is when I’m learning a piece or someone has sent me something for an opinion. Otherwise I enjoy country rock and jazz.' At that our telephone interview came to an end. The builders had arrived and a delivery of gravel was threatening to block the family’s drive. A diva’s life indeed." [Source]

Sondra Radvanovsky Not Afraid To Throw Herself Into Tosca Role

The calm before the storm: La Radvanovsky as Puccini's heroine Tosca. (Photo: Catherine Ashmore)
"In the title role, the American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky was quite stunning. Her voice has astounding power with thrilling high notes. Her acting ranged from coquettish and suspicious with Cavaradossi to tragic when submitting to Scarpia, but was convincing throughout....Finally, there is Tosca's leap to her death. All too often, this is a tentative little step across the parapet, giving the impression that the soprano is a bit worried that he might sprain her ankle or chip a fingernail as she plummets to her doom. Claire Rutter showed us how it should be done at ENO a year or two ago, and Radvanovsky followed her lead with a wondrously graceful slow fall backwards. This was not just a good leap, it was a great leap, well worth an extra star on its own." [Source] For more information about the production, please click here. Also, after the jump, a wonderful marketing photo for the production that depicts the jump.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Tenor Noah Stewart Lets Opera Pave His Path To Reach Others

"When you think of the opera singers, the image of a Black man from Harlem rarely comes to mind. But baritone-turned-tenor singer Noah Stewart has changed that. Fresh off a European tour, the world renowned jazz singer touched down at Minton's, a jazz house in Harlem for a Hennessy-hosted welcome-home party on Monday (June 16). The iconic venue, home of some of the first Harlem Renaissance jam sessions, where bebop was born and where Duke Ellington sharpened his pianist chops, was fitting for the new face of Harlem’s jazz scene. 'I have been on the road a lot but now that I am back in Harlem I plan to bring the energy of the Harlem Renaissance back,' Stewart told BET.com, who grew up in the historic Sugar Hill. 'I love opera and there is nothing like being back here to share my experiences.' Stewart performed his first opera as a student at the famed Fiorello LaGuardia High School. He then went on to further harness his craft at the Juilliard School. From there he gained recognition singing backup for Coolio and other big names before breaking into the classical music community, which inevitably thrust him onto the international main stage. But his road to opera singing sensation was often lonely. 'I decided I wanted to pursue opera because no one looked like me,' Stewart said in between boisterous sets.
'When I was growing up everyone wanted to be a rap artist or the next pop star.' A story that is synonymous with other aspiring artists, Stewart faced adversity during his journey. He poked fun at his naysayers as he performed Barbara Streisand's 'Everybody Says Don't,' entertaining the crowd with his angelic voice and cunning lyrics all at once. But after his international success, becoming the first Black man to have a No. 1 album on the U.K. classic charts in 2012, Stewart is still doing him and creating his legacy. 'Growing up in NYC, it's [important] to sit back and reflect on everything you did because the city moves so fast,' Stewart said. 'Now I can sit back and look at what I have done and my goals and say, 'I did that.'' His moment of reflection at home will be brief. In the fall, Noah debuts La Boheme with the Nashville Opera, then returns to Michigan Opera Theater in Puccini's Madame Butterfly." [Source] Click here for more about Noah Stewart. Watch a video from the Michigan Opera Theatre performances of The Pearl Fishers, after the jump.

OPERA America Conference Breaking Records For Attendance

"OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, is pleased to announce details of Opera Conference 2014: Audiences Reimagined, to be held in San Francisco, CA from June 20-23. Hosted by San Francisco Opera, in association with Opera Volunteers International, this largest annual gathering of opera professionals in North America will convene at venues in Union Square and the Civic Center. It marks the first time the Conference will be held in San Francisco in 25 years. With registration still open, Opera Conference 2014 has already broken OPERA America's all-time attendance record, previously held by the 2010 conference in Los Angeles. OPERA America's annual conference presents a unique opportunity for industry leaders to examine issues affecting
Marc A. Scorca
the opera community from a variety of perspectives. With the theme Audiences Reimagined, conference attendees will explore how opera companies and artists can benefit from an increasingly broad, diverse and engaged audience through innovative technologies and exciting alternative performance offerings. Topics planned for opera conference attendees cover all facets of the art form and address the concerns of creators, administrators, trustees and supporters." [Source] For the full schedule of events, click here.

Meryl Streep Will Portray Maria Callas In "Master Class" For HBO

Goddesses Of Their Crafts: Maria Callas (left) and Meryl Streep (right)
Callas at Juilliard
"Meryl Streep — the Oscar winner who’s transformed herself into Margaret Thatcher, Anna Wintour and Julia Child — will play opera legend Maria Callas in a film version of Terrence McNally’s play Master Class for HBO, Page Six can exclusively reveal. Mike Nichols will direct the adaptation of the Tony-winning play about iconic diva Callas teaching students at Juilliard in 1971. Hollywood sources say filming will begin in January after Streep tackles another juicy musical project — director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Diablo Cody’s Ricky and the Flash, in which Streep plays a fading rock star who tries
mc²: Maria Callas + Master Class
to reconnect with her estranged kids. 'Meryl is learning the tricks of the guitar trade from none other than legendary Neil Young' for that movie, a source tells us. Master Class debuted on Broadway in 1995 starring Australian actress Zoe Caldwell as Callas and co-starring Audra McDonald. Others who’ve tackled the role include Patti LuPone and Tyne Daly. In the play, Callas reminisces about her storied career and personal life, which included being dumped by Aristotle Onassis for Jacqueline Kennedy." [Source] Listen to the complete master classes of Maria Callas at Juilliard by clicking here.

"America's Got Talent" Opera Contestants Show Full Spectrum

Soave sia il vento: A photo of Maggie Lane from her website promoting personal fitness training.
"Eleven-year-old Grace Ann Gregorio and 31-year-old hottie personal trainer Maggie Lane are both very different opera singers who are moving on. Grace is sweet, while Maggie strips down to a bikini and gets a standing ovation from the guys in the audience and hot-body compliments from Heidi and Mel B. Shockingly, Howard wishes she kept her clothes on, but Howie thinks it opens opera to a whole new audience." [Source] Watch the video performances after the jump.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chicago-Native Soprano Marisa Buchheit Crowned Miss Illinois

"Aspiring professional opera singer Marisa Buchheit of Chicago was crowned the new Miss Illinois over the weekend. The 24-year-old Wicker Park resident who won Saturday’s competition will go on to represent the state in the Miss America pageant in September. Buchheit is the reigning Miss Chicago, a title she also held in 2012. Buchheit is a trained opera singer whose career ambition is to become a professional opera singer, she said in an interview with the Tribune. Pageants were always a dream of hers, but she didn't start competing until her late teens, she said. 'It's really a process, and you grow a lot,' Buchheit said. 'For me, I was naturally very shy and it was really a progression up to this point. I feel like this year, I was truly ready for it and ready to embrace everything.' Buchheit grew up on the Northwest Side, in Edison Park, and attended Ebinger Elementary, Baubien Elementary and Northside College Preparatory High School. She received her bachelor's degree from Cleveland Institute of Music in Ohio. Buchheit now works as an art and choir teacher at Josephinum Academy in Wicker Park. Buchheit sings in seven languages — Italian, German, French, Czech, Chinese, Thai and English — and is an active solo concert artist." [Source] Watch a clip of the soprano singing Schubert's "Frühlingsglaube" from the Cleveland Institute of Music and look at a few more photos, after the jump.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky Interviewed For Closing Of Istanbul Opera Festival

The Russian baritone is a rock star in the world of opera.
Daily Sabah: How were you first introduced to and became involved with opera?
Dmitri Hvorostovsky: I grew up in a family that always appreciated classic music. My father is a chemical engineer who has studied piano since he was a child and has continued to play piano till now. When he was in his 20s he began taking singing lessons. My mother has a very beautiful natural high soprano. I've listen to classical and opera music literally since I was born. After studying at music school as a pianist, I moved on and rebelled as a rock singer in my teens, but always had a special love and appreciation for opera. Soon I realized that my voice is way too rich and bright for rock and pop, and my father suggested I should go and study at choral music college, where I went and quickly developed an enormous passion for opera singing. At college I studied piano, conducting, choral singing and took singing lessons three to four times a week with Galina Astanina. After three years I auditioned for Ekaterina Yoffel's class at the Krasnoyarsk Academy of Arts. After studying for five years I graduated as an opera and chamber music singer. In the second year, I became the youngest soloist at the Krasnoyarsk State Opera Theater.

Read the full interview here.

Patricia Rozario Receives Honor From Royal College Of Music

The Prince of Wales presents Ms. Rozario with the
Fellowship of the Royal College of Music award on
May 14, 2014. HRH is the President of RCM.
(Photo: Chris Christodoulou)
"This May, the soprano received the Fellowship from the Royal College Of Music, London, the second Indian to have been given this honour after world-renowned conductor Zubin Mehta. 'It is a prestigious award and a sign of recognition that I have attained a certain international level in Western music,' says Rozario, over the phone from her home in London, where she lives with her pianist-husband Mark Troop. Some of the previous recipients of this award include American violinist Yehudi Menuhin, violinist Nicola Benedetti, and theatre person Andrew Lloyd Webber. In her late 50s now, she moved to the UK more than 25 years ago to pursue a career in Western classical opera. Rozario graduated in English and French from Sophia College, Mumbai. Though she attempted to learn Indian classical music, the atmosphere at home lent itself naturally to jazz and Western classical music. 'My brothers were good at
jazz and my mother and I were into Western classical music and Hollywood musicals. When I began singing, I wanted to do the classical repertoire of Mozart and Handel,' says Rozario, whose father did not want her to pursue a career as an opera singer. Her German music teacher recommended her to a professor at the Guildhall School of Music in London, UK, when she was in college. 'I sang a Schubert composition and the professor was not impressed. Then he sang five notes and asked me to replicate the scales. I did that and he smiled,' says Rozario, who entered Guildhall when she was only 20. She now teaches at the Royal College of Music. Rozario’s style ranges from classical European opera to Baroque and contemporary music. She has performed with contemporary English composers such as the late John Tavener and Estonian Arvo Part. Tavener chose her for his opera Mary of Egypt. She went on to become his muse performing in pieces written especially for her, like Life Eternal, until he passed away in 2013. 'Coming from India it was a big challenge to act and be a character in operas. People took time to take me seriously. As an Indian, I was treading a certain path, which not many have. I had to build my confidence in the UK and I had to look the type. At an early stage in my career, I participated in a summer music programme at The Mozarteum, Austria, which boosted my
confidence of performing on stage,' says Rozario, who began performing in a sari to assert her individuality. Unwilling to let go of her Mumbai ties, in 2009, she started the Giving Voice Society, an institution that trains students in Western classical forms, in the city. Rozario and Troop come three times a year with a set of compositions to mentor students. Her current batch will perform an opera across the country titled Dido and Aeneas by Baroque English composer Henry Purcell, this August. Awarded the OBE in the New Year’s Honours in 2001, Rozario was given the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Goa government in 2013. Among her other ambitions, Rozario wants to perform with Mehta, whom she auditioned for briefly. 'He said he wanted to do a Gustav Mahler composition with me. In fact, I am just going to write to him now,' she says." [Source] A list of other well-known opera singers bestowed with this prestigious honor can be found after the jump.

Classically-Trained Elly Oh Rocks Rendition On "The Voice Australia"

Full-bodied voice sensation Elly Oh
"She's the timid Sydney woman who teaches opera singing out of her garage - at least that was before The Voice. Now Elly Oh has completed her transformation into a stage queen, wowing the judges with her racy rendition of Jessie J's Mamma Knows Best as the Showdown rounds continued on Monday night. The classically trained Team Ricky singer stepped out onto the stage in a skimpy outfit reminiscent of pop queen Lady Gaga, unleashing her powerful voice as she performed in a sequined bra. She paired the sexy piece with a black blazer, tiny shorts and a pair of thigh-high black boots. After belting out the track the 29-year-old earned a standing ovation from the audience and the coaches, and despite strong performances from her fellow Team Ricky contenders Fely Irvine and Thando Sikwila, it was Elly who mentor Ricky Martin chose to take to New York where she will prepare for the finals. It was one raunchy round of the Showdowns as former Hi-5 children's group singer Fely showed off her slim physique in a black bra under a white blazer." [Source]
Judges of The Voice Australia (left to right): Ricky Martin, Joel Madden, Kylie Minogue, and will.i.am
"South Korean born music teacher Elly Oh has recently branched out into R’n’B, pop and rock after eight years of professional opera singing and extensive classical and opera training in Sydney, Korea and Italy. A little lady with a big voice, it’s hard to believe that this bold 29-year-old was once an extremely shy child. Elly misses her family in Korea but has found a surrogate family in her much loved students to whom she teaches pop music. She likens her newfound musical style to that of Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone and Adele but has turned to The Voice to broaden her experience across all musical genres and pave the way for her first album." [Source]

Watch a video of the "Mama Knows Best" rendition, as well as an operatic sing-off with fellow contestant Jess Berney of "O mio babbino caro" from Puccini's Gianni Schicchi that took place last month, after the jump.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Christine Goerke Balances Being a Wagnerian Opera Star & Mother

Goerke at home with a picture on the wall featuring her
with the great Wagnerian soprano Birgit Nilsson.
(Photo: Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger)
"Goerke’s world is carefully balanced between her family and her art, which requires frequent travel — this season, to Australia, Spain, Poland and Chicago. And next month, she’ll be local as the artist-in-residence at Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown, N.Y. She has never stayed away longer than 60 days — 'too long' — and video-chats with the girls every day. In her home, past the practice room where sunlight streams through a picture window to a grand piano, opera DVDs share space on living room shelves with Charlie Brown and Barbie. Goerke’s Grammy Award certificate hangs on one wall, framed crayon drawings on another. She is determined that the girls receive music instruction to enrich their lives, but how far they pursue the field is their choice. In general, she sees education as essential as the opera world goes through changes — in her words, people need to know 'that it’s not the kind of thing they think it is.' She describes the rich scores she sings as really great movie soundtracks, the emotional subtext of compelling stories — with incredible voices. 'To hear no microphones, no speakers, just unadulterated, mind-blowing, butt-kicking sound coming right at you is so fierce and it’s so visceral,' she says. 'It’s something everyone should experience once in their life and then, if you don’t like it, I’m okay with it.' The kind of sound that Goerke describes comes to very few people naturally, even if they work as hard as she has. But when she asks her colleagues if she can be heard in the audience over 120-piece orchestras, they laugh. “While some might find that daunting, I finally feel like I don’t have to hold back anymore,” she says. 'I finally feel at home.'" [Source]

"Age Of Innocence" Shows Martin Scorsese Love For Opera

Ms. Pfeiffer (facing camera) at the opera in the film Age of Innocence. Read a wonderful article documenting the history of opera in the life of director Martin Scorsese by clicking here.
"The Age of Innocence is a 1993 American film adaptation of Edith Wharton's 1920 novel of the same name. The film was released by Columbia Pictures, directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Winona Ryder. The film won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, and was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Winona Ryder), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. The film was dedicated to Martin Scorsese's father, Luciano Charles Scorsese, who died before it was completed." [Source] The opera scene that opens the movie is from Gounod's Faust and shot at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Watch the scene and read the movie plot, after the jump.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"The Flying Dutchman" (aka Robin Van Persie) Scores Big At Cup

"Robin Van Persie has set the bar high. He had to get pretty far off the ground to do it. Anyone who wants to score the most amazing goal of the 2014 World Cup is going to have to best the Dutch striker's high-flying tally against Spain. With the Netherlands trailing the reigning World Cup champions, 1-0, in the 44th minute of a rematch of the 2010 final, Van Persie scored a jaw-dropping goal with his head. Running onto a long pass from teammate Daley Blind, RVP launched himself into the air for a breathtaking, game-tying goal." [Source] The Netherlands went on to defeat Spain. Listen to the overture from Richard Wagner's opera Der fliegende Holländer (The flying Dutchman): 
Watch the spectacular move as RVP flies through the air and look at more pictures of the soccer star, after the jump.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Christian Lacroix Talks 80s Influence For "Mahagonny" In Berlin

"Stars wie Jennifer Aniston, Dita von Teese, Naomi Watts und Julianne Moore lieben die Kreationen von Christian Lacroix (63). Jetzt hat der französische Stardesigner die Kostüme für die Premiere von Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny am Freitag um 19.30 Uhr in der Staatsoper entworfen. B.Z.-Redakteurin Claudia von Duehren traf den Designer in der Kostümabteilung des Schiller-Theaters."

Welche Message haben Ihre Entwürfe? Sehen wir Goldgräber der 30er Jahre? 
Wir orientieren uns an der Gegenwart. Die Männer tragen Streetwear. Entscheidender Teil ihrer Kostüme ist das Licht. Die Mädchen erinnern an Rock-Girls der 80er. Ihre Outfits sind crazy Couture, mit großen Frisuren und High Heels. Wir haben Vintage-Klamotten der 80er gekauft und umgeschneidert. Außerdem waren wir in Brautmodengeschäften. [Source

Read the full interview here and learn more about the costumes here. Visit the Staatsoper Berlin website for ticket information. Watch a promotional trailer for the production, after the jump.

Mariana Nicolesco Conquers Vocal Demands Of Rare Meyerbeer Piece

"In his own time, Giacomo Meyerbeer was considered one of the all time great composers of music, along with Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. His music was incredibly popular, and other composers admired and emulated him. Today he is mostly known for the grand operas that he composed for the French stage from 1826 until his death in 1864. Among his lesser-known works are his melodies for voice and piano, his Lieder and other songs, and the monodrama Gli Amori di Teolinda. Written in 1816 when he had first journeyed to Italy, it shows how enamored Meyerbeer was with everything Italian, and in particular with Italian music. It was composed in Verona when Meyerbeer was in the company of two of his childhood friends from Germany; the clarinetist Heinrich Baermann and the soprano Helene Harlas, both virtuosos. The scoring is for soprano, clarinet, chorus and orchestra, and features virtuosic clarinet writing as well as Italianate coloratura for soprano voice. In the directions to the score there are indications that choral

Austin Lyric Opera Director Makes Splash Over Subscriptions

"We take opera seriously...opera parties, not so much. Watch Austin Lyric Opera general director Joe Specter hold up his end of a challenge to the ALO Guild by jumping in the pool at their spring party. Huge thanks to Guild members for renewing their season tickets and meeting our goal! Find out more about our 2014-15 Season: Verdi's A Masked Ball, Gounod's Romeo & Juliet, and Mozart's Don Giovanni! http://www.AustinLyricOpera.org." [Source] Video of Mr. Specter jumping into the swimming pool is after the jump.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Ana María Sánchez And Plácido Domingo To Perform At World Cup

Ana María Sánchez quer cantar música brasileira!
"Placido Domingo will sing before a World Cup final for the sixth time, announcing Wednesday he will perform at Rio de Janeiro's HSBC Arena on July 11. The concert featuring the 73-year-old classic musical star will take place two days before the final at Maracana Stadium. The show also is scheduled to include pianist Lang Lang, soprano Ana Maria Martinez, conductor Eugene Kohn and the Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira. Domingo has attended every World Cup final since 1970 with the exception of 1978 in Argentina. He sang the 1982 theme song in Spain, 'El Mundial.' He said the program next month will include classical music and Brazilian songs. 'I always think music and sport are the two great things many people can understand without any need to really speak the language,' Domingo said in a telephone interview from London, where he is to conduct Puccini's Tosca next week at The Royal Opera. 'I have friends from all around the world, and they are really fanatics of soccer and music. It's great to see many of the people I know.' [Source]

Marilyn Horne Chats With Vatican Radio In Italy For Master Classes

La Dolce Vita: Marilyn Horne ponders the knowledge she has acquired as a singer
and tries to pass it on to the future of young artists through master classes.
"Since retiring from the operatic stage, Ms Horne has dedicated herself to teaching promising singers of the future. Just over twenty years ago she launched the Marilyn Horne Foundation which provides opportunities for young singers to give recitals. The renowned Mezzo Soprano was recently in Rome to give a series of Masterclasses at the American University of Rome. The classes were part of the University’s inaugural Summer Vocal Institute and saw singers come from all over the world to take part. But for Marilyn Horne, how does being a teacher differ from performing as an opera singer? She told Vatican Radio’s Lydia O’Kane, 'first of all I have to try to remember all the things I have learned as a singer, so it’s really very much giving giving giving and pulling pulling pulling!' Looking back at her extraordinary singing career she says, 'it was my life, I knew practically nothing else except singing since the time I could talk, so it’s my soul, my life, my everything, tied to the music of course, not just singing but the great great music that I’ve had the pleasure to perform.' Ms Horne also says that she feels blessed to have had the career she has had. 'As we say I’ve had a great go and I feel that I’ve been very privilege to have the kind of life that I did.'" [Source] Listen to the full interview by clicking here. For more about the American University of Rome, click here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Christina Scheppelmann New Artistic Director Of Gran Teatre del Liceu

"La comissió tècnica encarregada de la selecció de la Direcció Artística del Liceu ha proposat Christina Scheppelmann per a aquest càrrec. El seu nomenament correspondrà a la Comissió Executiva de la Fundació, que es reunirà en sessió ordinària a finals del mes de juny. El passat 28 de novembre de 2013, la comissió executiva de la Fundació del Gran Teatre del Liceu va acordar obrir una convocatòria internacional per a la designació de Director Artístic en substitució de Joan Matabosch. Un total de 49 candidats, d'onze nacionalitats i amb un alt perfil professional, van presentar la seva candidatura al final del termini fixat, el 2 de gener de 2014. A tots ells se'ls va requerir per presentar la seva proposta, d'acord amb el model artístic del Liceu. La recepció de les propostes ha tingut lloc al llarg del primer quatrimestre de 2014. Finalitzat aquest període es van determinar 9 candidatures finalistes. El període d’estudi i contactes amb els potencials candidats s’ha perllongat fins a mitjans del mes de maig, i en tot moment el procés s’ha dut a terme garantint la confidencialitat dels mateixos i la dels propis candidats. El procés ha comptat en tot moment amb la supervisió de les Administracions Públiques que integren la Comissió Executiva del Liceu: Ministeri d’Educació i Cultura, Departament de Cultura de la

Global Updates On Opera Events Taking Place In The Desert

ROYAL OPERA HOUSE - OMAN
"The Royal Opera House in Muscat, Oman, will launch its new season September 18th with a variety of performances from Oman and the Gulf, as well as from Arab and foreign countries. This season's performances will feature five operas including Macbeth by Giuseppe Verdi and Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini as well as the Cologne Opera presenting My Fair Lady. The new season will include several Omani performances such as Omani Women's Day celebrations with Egyptian singer Angham as well as an Omani military musical performance, said Issam al-Mallah, programmes and events advisor to the Opera's board of directors. The Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra will be accompanying the Lebanese oud player and musician Marcel Khalife in concert and the Egyptian musician Omar Khairat in another concert. Lovers of Arabic melodies and music will have a chance to see Gulf singer Hussein al-Jasmi perform and Egyptian singer Amal Maher in an evening performance of Kulthumiyat, during which she will present the best of Umm Kulthum's songs. 'Every year, we pay attention to cater our performances to the taste of our Omani audience and those living in the sultanate as we have foreigners living with us from 90 Arab and foreign countries with their own preferences and cultures, so we aim for diversity and uniqueness in our performances,' said Nasser al-Taie, adviser on education and outreach to the board of directors. 'Our goal is for our performances to have cultural and humanitarian dimensions, carrying messages of peace, tolerance and love, and focusing on cultural immersion and human communication amongst nations through art and music as a global language,' he added." [Source]

OPERA LAS VEGAS
The Barber was at the Bayley last weekend and all was well as professional opera returned to Las Vegas in this hilarious production from Opera Las Vegas that was even funnier than the famous Bugs Bunny spoof. This production of The Barber of Seville (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) by Gioachino Rossini (sung in Italian with English supertitles) was surprisingly traditional when one remembers Opera Las Vegas’ innovative stagings of Pagliacci in 2007 and Tosca in 2012, but the simple, yet attractive set design worked well for this beloved comedy because it kept the focus on director Henry Price’s cartoonlike buffoonery. Opera Las Vegas Artistic Director and conductor Gregory Buchalter, who is also maestro di banda with the Metropolitan Opera, made a dashing figure as he led the Opera Las Vegas orchestra in a vivacious performance of the world’s most famous opera overture. He continued with a confident hand throughout the performance, ably supported by the production’s outstanding musicians and singers. The light as panna cotta plot of the opera revolves around the attempt by dashing Count Almaviva to whisk away the innocent young Rosina from the clutches of her lecherous guardian Don Bartolo with the assistance of Seville’s resident yenta, the barber Figaro. The story is straight out of Italian commedia dell’arte. Baritone Daniel Sutin, who sang the leading role of Wozzeck at the Met this season made his role debut as the famous Barber in this production. The cheese has fallen on the macaroni of his Figaro and he sang the role with infectious good humor in 'Largo al factotum della citta,' ('Make way for the factotum of the city'). His portrayal was role-defining. Robert McPherson made a dreamily romantic tenor in the role of Count Almaviva. Of course, the more heartfelt he was, the more comical the results. The scene where he accompanies Rosina on the harpsichord for her music lesson had the audience in stitches with laughter. Mezzo-soprano Renee Tatum, who spent the 2013-14 season with the Metropolitan Opera, made her role debut as this production’s lovely Rosina. She was an appropriately fiery romantic heroine and her comic expressions had the emotional range of a Meryl Streep. She gave the impression that she was controlling the emotions of all the men in the opera." [Source]

ISRAELI OPERA FESTIVAL
It’s year five of the Israeli Opera Festival at Masada, and while not all of the expected tens of thousands of audience members expected over the course of four performances will actually make it up to the top of the mountain for a visit prior to the overture, they’ll still experience the proximity of history. 'People want to feel the aura of the mountain,' said Eitan Campbell, general manager of Masada National Park. Still, this is a massive undertaking. The production team began working in early spring, taking two full months to clear a 50,000-square-meter (538,195 square feet) stretch of desert, then building stairs, hauling machinery, creating safety supports, and setting up tents, lighting and toilets. Once the stage was ready, they trucked in the set designed in Tel Aviv, which this year includes a massive video-screen backdrop and partial reproductions of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, as well as LED-lit chandelier skirts and 12 red couches that flip over and double as planters. After all, this is La Traviata, Giuseppe Verdi’s hugely popular opera about a French courtesan and her lover, and the complications and misunderstandings in their relationship." [Source] Click here for full cast listing.

DUBAI OPERA HOUSE
"The main contractor of the Dubai Opera House, Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC), has said it has begun work on the Dubai Opera House project. CCC is the main contractor on the project, having previously worked with the developer as part of a consortium on Dubai Mall. The 2,000-capacity venue will be situated in the shadow of the Burk Khalifa, in Dubai’s Downtown district. It will be used for opera, theatre, concerts, art exhibitions, orchestra, film, sports events and seasonal programmes and is being developed by Emaar, which has said it will be the centerpiece of a new district to promote the arts, culture and events scene in Dubai. 'It’s a really challenging but exciting project, as it is in a really prime location, and we’re moving in the right direction. The work has already begun and the concrete works will happen soon,' said Nazih Abdul Kader, executive VP of operations at CCC. 'I think the proper form of the opera house will begin to become apparent in 12 months, and it will be finished in around 24 months.' Kader also predicted that a number of infrastructure projects will soon begin in Dubai, much of which will be linked to the 2020 World Expo. 'I think Dubai is approaching another boom. The 2020 event will bring a renewed infrastructure market as it builds out towards Jebel Ali, for example – Dubai is going to become a bigger place.'" [Source]

Ojai Music Festival To Debut New Opera For 68th Season

"It's not unusual for the spirits of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven to hover over an outdoor concert. At this year's 68th Ojai Music Festival, though, they will be appearing in corporeal form as characters in The Classical Style, an eagerly anticipated comic opera that is making its debut. It should make a fitting centrepiece, as innovation, creativity and new music have long been hallmarks of the four-day event, which takes place about 80 miles north-west of Los Angeles. Ojai is known for its setting among the citrus groves and the mountains, and for a strong spiritual tradition dating back to the 1920s when the community became a centre for Jiddu Krishnamurti, a philosopher, and his followers. Thomas Morris has been the artistic director of the festival for the past decade. Each year he chooses a different music director, and together they shape the programme. This year he turned to Jeremy Denk, a MacArthur Award-winning pianist and writer who also wrote the libretto for The Classical Style. (The score is the work of Steven Stucky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer.) Mr Morris says the festival has 'a history of eclectic choices' when it comes to musical directors.
Historical Music Man: Aaron Copland served as
one of the many music directors for the festival.
Contemporary music was already its focus by the 1950s, and in those early years directors included Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Lukas Foss. More recently Mr Morris has tapped Mark Morris, a choreographer, Dawn Upshaw, a soprano, and eighth blackbird, a chamber-music ensemble. At the same time, composers like Steve Reich, John Cage, John Adams and Thomas Adès have found Ojai a congenial place for American or West Coast premieres of their work. The common element, notes Mr Morris, is that 'the artists who come to Ojai are not only performers but also thinkers and innovators.' The theme behind this 68th festival had its roots in a conversation between Mr Denk and Mr Morris a few years ago. Mr Denk had an idea for a chamber opera based, rather curiously, on an award-winning book of criticism by Charles

Kristīne Opolais And Jonas Kaufmann Not Exactly Headed For Sand

Kristīne Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann in rehearsal
for Manon Lescaut which opens June 24 in London.
(Photo: Bill Coooper/Royal Opera House)
"Louisiana, early 18th century. A few kilometres outside New Orleans: Manon and her lover, Des Grieux, have escaped the city on foot, hoping to reach an English settlement. What lies ahead of them seems insurmountable: plains so vast and mountains so high they would daunt the roughest and hardiest of men and women. As night falls, Manon can walk no further and succumbs to the unavoidable. She collapses from thirst and weariness, and dies in the ‘the depths of the desert’. The inhospitable land the two lovers describe in the last act of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut has more than puzzled contemporary audiences and directors alike. The original poster of the opera’s 1893 premiere showed sun-baked arid hills and what appears to be like an agave plant (more commonly found 2,000km away in the accurately arid desert of Arizona, not in Louisiana). To put it mildly, the setting is a largely inaccurate description of the outskirts of New Orleans, even some three centuries ago. Devastating hurricanes aside, the southern city is used to a healthy amount of rainfall. And water also abounds in lakes, streams and other watercourses that dissect this meandering delta region of the Mississippi River. It's an area alive with mammals, birds and reptiles. In fact, rather than thirst, it's likely that hungry coyotes or alligators would have led to Puccini heroine's untimely demise. So why did the composer and his librettists get it so apparently wrong?
Drowning in a flood from some hurricane might
have been more realistic than a desert death.
The original source of the opera and later adaptations offer a few possible clues. In his 1731 novel L’Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut, French writer Abbé Prévost gives some details about what was then predominantly uncharted territory to European colonizers. Apart from a mention of ‘barren and uninhabited plains’, the author describes Manon’s resting ground only briefly: ‘We sat down in the middle of a vast plain, unable to find a single tree to give us shelter.’ One of the last scenes of the 1830 ballet-pantomime Manon, by dramatist Eugène Scribe, is also set in the ‘vast desert of New Orleans.’ But his 1856 opera Manon Lescaut, with music by Daniel François Esprit Auber, takes place in the ‘plains, and forests of North America.’ Both Prévost and Scribe seemed to have portrayed a settlers’ misconception about much of America west of the Appalachian Mountains." [Source] Read the entire article by Mattia Cabitza by clicking here. See the original poster for Manon Lescaut and a photo of Kiri Te Kanawa with Plácido Domingo in the 1983 production at the ROH, after the jump.