Tuesday, June 30, 2015

High-Voice Standouts At XV International Tchaikovsky Competition

Elegance. Stamina. Distinction. Power. These are all elements that can set singers apart from each other in a competition, especially when at least three people are singing "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" from Dvořák's Rusalka. As the voice division of the International Tchaikovsky Competition began on June 23, several higher voices stood out in the crowd. Here is a small sampling of some unique talent from Round 1: 
Antonina Vesenina (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
Yulia Matochkina (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
Ewa Tracz (Poland)
Click here to watch performance
Anastasia Fedorova (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
Did any of these make it to Round 2 of the competition? Find out after the jump. 

Gramophone Magazine's Editor James Jolly interviews soprano Deborah Voigt who was the first prize winner 
in the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition and is a jury member this year. See more after the jump.
Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina was featured in the opening concert of the competition concert in Moscow.
Click here to watch the performance.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thomas Hampson To Replace Hvorostovsky At "Summit of the Stars"

In light of yesterday's tragic news of Dmitri Hvorostovsky falling ill, Thomas Hampson will replace him on the June 27 "Gipfeltreffen der Stars" concert in Munich with Jonas Kaufmann and Anna Netrebko. "Es nennt sich 'Gipfeltreffen der Stars,' und die Veranstalter haben wohl auch recht: Mit Anna Netrebko (43) und Jonas Kaufmann (45) treten am 27. Juni zwei der größten Stars der Klassik-Szene bei einem Open-Air-Konzert auf dem Münchner Königsplatz auf. Ohne Probe funktioniert das aber auch bei den beiden Mega-Stars nicht. 'Kein Konzert ohne Probe! Selbst wenn man auf einer Tournee an zehn Abenden hintereinander dasselbe Programm singt, muss man vor jedem Konzert proben, schon weil jeder Raum eine andere Akustik hat,' sagte Kaufmann im Interview der Deutschen Presse-Agentur. 'Und bei einem technisch aufwendigen Freiluft-Konzert vor rund 15 000 Zuschauern wäre es schierer Wahnsinn, ohne Probe auf die Bühne zu gehen.' Mit Netrebko und Kaufmann zusammen tritt der Bariton Thomas Hampson auf, der den erkrankten Dmitri Chworostowski kurzfristig ersetzt." The concert will include opera highlights by Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini. Special guests include Elena Zhidkova and Ildar Abdrazakov. Click here for more information on how to watch the concert. [Source, Source]

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dmitri Hvorostovsky To Begin Immediate Treatment On Brain Tumor

UPDATE 06/30/2015: "Celebrated Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, will undergo medical treatment at one of London's cancer hospitals, a source close to the singer's family told Interfax on June 25. 'Dmitri will have a course of treatment at London's cancer hospital Royal Marsden,' the source said. It was announced on Thursday that internationally acclaimed baritone Hvorostovsky had been diagnosed with brain tumor." [Source]

Watch a video of the 27-year old Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the beginning of his career singing 
"Eri tu" from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, after the jump.

Netflix Series "Sense8" Shoots At Harpa Hall In Reykjavík, Iceland

Tuppence Middleton  (right) as Riley Blue [née Gunnarsdóttir], stands with her father Gunar (second from left)
 getting high in front of Harpa concert hall in Iceland before the big concert.
In April 2015, Opera Fresh did a feature on architect Olafur Eliasson and his work with opera houses. Now one of his projects is featured in the newest Netflix hit series Sense8. The 12-episode series was released in its entirety on June 5. The show is shot on location in Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Seoul, Reykjavík, Mexico City, Nairobi and Mumbai. The science fiction drama web television series created, written and executive-produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Bound, Jupiter Ascending) and J. Michael Straczynski (World War Z, Changeling, They Marched into Sunlight).
Episode 10, "What is Human," features a climactic scene where Riley's father Gunar is giving a performance of the "Allegro" movement from Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 ("The Emperor") and all the sensates present recall the moment of their births. This intoxicating musical moment also triggers something in Riley and blood begins running down her face as she faints at the end of the episode. She will soon be sent to a hospital and discovered by Mr. Whispers. 
"Despite its use of simple chords, including a second theme constructed almost entirely out of tonic and dominant notes and chords, the first movement is full of complex thematic transformations. When the piano enters with the first theme, the expository material is repeated with variations, virtuoso figurations, and modified harmonies. The second theme enters in the unusual key of B minor before moving to B major and at last to the expected key of B-flat major several bars later. Following the opening flourish, the movement follows Beethoven's trademark three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a typical two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano has a triumphant virtuoso third theme at the end that belongs solely to the solo instrument. Beethoven does this in many of his concertos. The coda at the end of the movement is quite long, and, again typical of Beethoven, uses the open-ended first theme and gives it closure to create a satisfying conclusion." [Source]
More about Sense8, the actor who plays the piano-playing character of Gunar, a complete performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major (Op. 73) by Krystian Zimerman, and another operatic connection to Sense8, after the jump.

You Will Celebrate At The Opera After Getting A Good Night's Sleep

A commercial celebrating the joy of a good night's sleep on a Simmons® Beautyrest® features a woman celebrating with champagne in several locations, including the opera house. It seems as though she may be watching a Gilbert & Sullivan performance or Billy Budd according to the costume of the singer onstage. Watch the commercial after the jump.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Scottish Opera Wins Cultural Award For Architectural Expansion

The exterior of the award-winning structure in Glasgow.
(click on image to enlarge)
"Scottish Opera's recently transformed performance home, Theatre Royal Glasgow, has won Cultural Building of the Year at the RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) Awards 2015. From 65 submissions across Scotland and a shortlist of 24, 12 winners were announced last night at an awards ceremony in The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh. The judging panel of industry specialists praised Page\Park Architects’ innovative design of the building: ‘Creating a welcoming entrance foyer and embracing a dramatic, sinuous stair, this new structure boldly signposts Scottish Opera’s HQ. 'Street to seat' was the ethos, with the client wanting to literally 'open up' theatre and opera as art forms. By providing a welcoming entrance, addressing the street corner, the theatre experience has been 'democratised'.’ All the RIAS Award-winning buildings - including a nursery, a distillery and a cancer care centre - will now go forward to be considered for Britain’s richest architectural prize, the £25,000 Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, to be announced in November. RIAS was founded almost 100 years ago in 1916, and the awards, though only in their fourth year, have already become the most important recognition of architectural achievement in Scotland."

A winding staircase makes for a dramatic centerpiece.
(click on image to enlarge)
"The Theatre Royal Glasgow's stunning new foyers have won Best Leisure/Culture Building at the Scottish Design Awards 2015. Organised by The Drum magazine, the Scottish Design Awards are now in their 18th year and are Scotland’s most prestigious awards for architecture firms and design agencies. The awards aim to recognise creativity within Scotland’s design industry, with the judging panel of specialists looking for innovative pieces of work and concepts that stand out from the crowd. The awards ceremony took place on 21 May in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow. Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Drum Events said ‘It was an incredible night for the industry and all those involved should be proud of what they have brought to design in Scotland’." [Source]

Read the architect's concept for the expansion, and see more photos, after the jump.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Marilyn Horne Honored As Part Of Multi-Million Dollar Campaign

Mezzo del Giorno: A portrait of Marilyn Horne
from the early days of her singing career.
"The Music Academy of the West has announced its Finale Capital Campaign with a visionary goal to raise $17.5 million for two significant construction projects to renovate and improve its historic campus. The Campaign also includes funding for an instrument fund that will establish the Academy’s All-Steinway institution status and a maintenance endowment. 100% of the Academy’s Board members have participated in the Campaign, joined by support from individuals and foundations in the Santa Barbara community. $11.7 million has been raised to date to begin the renovation in August 2015; the remaining goal is $5.8 million. The historic Main House on the Miraflores campus has been named for legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne with a gift of $6 million, through a $3 million matching gift challenge from long-time Academy benefactors Shirley and Seymour Lehrer. Music Academy President and CEO Scott Reed said, 'Our Campaign completes a long-term strategy to fully preserve, renovate, and expand our campus to guarantee we have world-class facilities. Our fellows arrive in Santa Barbara each summer from around the world to share their talent with us and further their artistry with our distinguished faculty. Enhancing our buildings will provide the best possible experience for our guests and our community.' The Finale campaign will support the final phase of a long-term campus renovation and construction master plan envisioned 15 years ago. The improvement of the Marilyn Horne Main House is Part One of the Finale project, with a groundbreaking in August 2015. The scope of the project includes

Bolshoi Theatre Offers Baroque Opera In 2015-16 Season

Rebecca Evans as Rodelinda in the Richard Jones production this season at ENO (Photo: Clive Barda)
"The Bolshoi Theater's 2015-2016 season, which was announced at a press conference Wednesday, will include a number of new stagings and modern productions in both opera and ballet. In the first half of the season, the Bolshoi will debut a children's opera, “The Fables of The Vixen, The Duckling, and Balda.” The production will combine three operas about fairy tales — Sergei Prokofiev's The Ugly Duckling, Igor Stravinsky's Renard, and Alexander Pravednikov's The Tale of the Priest and his Workman Balda. The opera will be conducted by Dmitry Belyanushkin, who also directed last year's children's opera The Legend of Kai and Gerda. Musical director Tugan Sokhiev told attendees at the conference that the opera will include 'interactive elements.' Also in October, the Bolshoi will premiere a program that includes both the Nutcracker Suite and the opera Iolanta, a realization of Tchaikovsky's initial plans for the two productions to be performed on a single bill. In December, the Bolshoi New Stage will feature a production of Handel's Rodelina in collaboration with the English National Opera, a rare staging of a baroque opera at the theater. In the spring, the theater will offer a new production of Donizetti's opera-buffa Don Pasquale, under the direction of Timofei Kulyabin, who was fired for his modern staging of Wagner's Tannahauser at the Novosibirsk Opera and

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Joseph Colaneri And Francesca Zambello Talk 40th Anniversary

Opera Titan: Francesco Zambello leads the
Glimmerglass Festival into its 40th Season.
(Photo: Claire McAdams)
"The Glimmerglass Festival this year seems grander than ever before. The opera company, with its Alice Busch Theater and campus on the western shore of Otsego Lake north of Cooperstown, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Artistic and general director Francesca Zambello has put together a remarkable season of events and activities, running from July 10 through August 23. Scheduled for the opening and closing performances is the familiar and beloved Mozart masterpiece, The Magic Flute. Other mainstage productions are Verdi’s dark tragedy Macbeth and an amazing unknown opera by Antonio Vivaldi, Cato in Utica. The traditional American musical theater offering is Leonard Bernstein’s witty and clever take on Voltaire’s classic short novel, Candide. Voltaire ends his philosophical reflection on the meaning of life with Candide’s words, 'we must cultivate our garden.' This year the Glimmerglass 'campus' will have a three-part modern landscape installation for sharing stories and quiet person reflection. 'A beautiful garden has both unity and variety,' Zambello says, and the golden thread running through this season is the importance and beauty of our natural surroundings....The festival will also present a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Ruth

Sotto Voce: Metropolitan Opera Launches New Website With A Whisper

The Metropolitan Opera has redesigned their website with no fanfare or press release. The old splash page existed for nearly a decade with only minor cosmetic changes including the addition of flash for advertising current or upcoming shows via rotating photos, as well as news items on a ticker that scrolled horizontally. With the new site, users experience a bit of lag in loading time due to the full-screen video playing on the landing page (currently the Die Fledermaus production from the 2013-14 season) and the high resolution photos used for the next two screens scrolling down. Subsequent screens look similar to a blogspot layout with 24-point text font size. In the previous incarnation, social
media links (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) existed prominently at the top. Makes sense for a company wanting to be relevant to the younger generation. Where are the links for its social media outlets now? At the very bottom of the site. If you are adventurous enough to find them, you will see one of the coolest features on the site: a miniature Rolex keeping your computer's time. Sponsorship never looked so good. See photos of the old websites dating back to 1997, as well as more photos of the new MET site, after the jump. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Swedish Wedding Of Prince Carl Philip Is Royal Musical Miss

Non-Operatic Pairing: Prince Carl Philip with 
his bride Sofia. See the full program of the
 wedding ceremony by clicking here.
HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden married Sofia Hellqvist on June 13, 2015, in The Royal Chapel of The Royal Palace. Following the footprint for the nuptials of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath, assembling guests were treated to "compositions for Royal Weddings" by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johan Helmich Roman, and George Friederic Händel. That would be the end of the classical music for this ceremony. What followed was the inclusion of non-traditional music such as "Athair ar Neamh" by Enya for the Procession,  "Fix You" by Coldplay (sung by Salem Al Fakir) before the Intercession, and "Joyful, joyful" (sung by Samuel Ljungblahd) at the Bridal Recession. No surprise that a love of pop music runs in the family, as his parents were treated to an ABBA concert at the Royal Opera the night before their wedding in 1976. As this trend toward lack of vocal music at young royal weddings continues, will opera singers be banished from these events in the future? There is a plethora of actively performing Swedish sopranos and mezzo-sopranos that could have been engaged for this special occasion, including Anne Sofie von Otter, Miah Persson, Nina Stemme, Katarina Karnéus, Ann Hallenberg, and more. Check out videos of the country's overlooked singers (including Peter Mattei), after the jump.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Broadway's Allison Semmes Aspired To Be The Next Kathleen Battle

Lyric Aspiration: Semmes the opera singer
turned Broadway star. (Photo: Dana Scruggs)
"It’s not difficult to find songstress/actress Allison Semmes these days. Just follow the hot national touring trail of Broadway’s Motown The Musical and catch Semmes’ riveting portrayal of iconic singer Diana Ross. The stage production, which stars Semmes, musically and artistically chronicles the epic rise of Motown Records from its humble 1959 beginnings in Detroit, to how it became the world’s most storied record label. The musical comes to life with captivating portrayals of the label’s legendary singers and musicians that helped put Motown on the map, all told through the vision of the master architect, Berry Gordy, Jr....Growing up in Hyde Park on Chicago’s Southside, a young Semmes’ love for singing took many directions, inclusive of with the Chicago Children’s Choir. Semmes, who performed with the choir from the age of six to 18, developed a strong voice and love for classical music. With the choir, she performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and performed abroad. Singing in her church choir was also beneficial to Semmes’ development as a vocalist, and thanks to her parents’ vast collections of albums in jazz, blues, R&B, and heavy doses of the Motown Sound, she was able to listen to the vocal stylings and music of many artists. Yet, heading off to college, classical music charted the way for her to
Broadway Baby: Kathleen Battle performed as alternate to the
 title role in Scott Joplin's Treemonisha on Broadway 
from October - December 1975. [Source]
earn a bachelor of music degree in classical voice from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in music with a concentration in musical theater from New York University (NYU)-Steinhardt. 'I wanted to be an opera singer. I wanted to be the next Kathleen Battle,' Semmes said, with a laugh. 'The color to her voice is so expressive and so graceful.' After college, however, Semmes headed to New York, where she began her professional stage career with Dreamgirls. Other musicals have included Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, and The Color Purple (national tour). In addition to Motown The Musical, her other Broadway credit is The Book of Mormon. Semmes is humbled by her national starring role in Motown The Musical." [Source] Watch performances of the Allison Semmes, after the jump.

Christine Goerke Gives Top Wagnerian Performance In New Zealand

Brünnhilde Ascending: Christine Goerke is quickly climbing to the summit of Valhalla. (Photo: Arielle Doneson)
Concert review for Wagner Gala featuring Christine Goerke (soprano), Simon O'Neill (tenor) with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pietari Inkinen at Michael Fowler Centre on June 12, 2015, in Wellington: "In 2012 we had that thrilling concert performance of the second of Wagner's Ring operas Die Walkure, and two of the outstanding cast were Christine Goerke and Simon O'Neill. Now as a kind of addenda to that extraordinary experience we heard large slices of the last two Ring operas, Siegfried and Gotterdammering [sic]. I suppose there was a hint of frustration in the hour or so of each opera we heard, in that we moved from act to act, missing huge chunks that tie the operas together, and were treated to surtitles that were quaintly absurd in the manner of English translations of Wagner's words. Having said all this, though, the evening was a marvellous experience of Wagner 'writ large'; a huge orchestra with

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Peter Gelb Paid $2.1 Million As MET Opera Deficit Balloons

"The Metropolitan Opera disclosed on Friday that its general manager, Peter Gelb, earned a total of $2.1 million in salary and benefits in 2013 but said a pay cut he took last year remains in effect. Mr. Gelb’s 2013 compensation was detailed in a tax filing released by the Met at the close of a challenging period marked by labor strife and financial setbacks. The opera company’s operating budget for the 2013-14 season was $315 million, down about 3.5% from the previous season. Its deficit ballooned in the same period, rising to $22 million from $2.8 million. In December, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Met’s credit rating, citing a 'marked decline in liquidity' and the company’s increased reliance on an operating line of credit. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed the company’s 'A' bond rating in April but revised its

Elisabeth Söderström Singing Sibelius Made Available For Third Time

The latest release of a famous recording. Pre-order here.
Recorded at Kingsway Hall in London between December 1978 and November 1981, this set of complete songs from Jean Sibelius features baritone Tom Krause and soprano Elisabeth Söderström accompanied by pianists Irwin Gage and Vladimir Ashkenazy as well as guitarist Carlos Bonell. It won the Gramophone Award for "Solo Vocal Award" in 1985. Originally released on LP, this 4-CD set was available previously only by Universal Japan and then as part of a special limited-edition Gramophone Awards Collection series on Decca. For connoisseurs, this edition sets the standard quite high in the artistry department. Born in the Swedish-speaking region of Finland, Sibelius didn't begin to learn Finnish until age 11. His songs were made popular worldwide by opera singers Birgit Nilsson and Jussi Björling through their recitals, concerts, and recordings. Scandinavian music in general continued to be under-represented on disc until Elisabeth Söderström recorded a 1957 program of works that ranged from Erik Gustav Geijer to Ture Rangström. Since the initial release of Decca's Sibelius songs, the industry has produced a plethora of recordings featuring the composer's vocal gems interpreted by artists such as Karita Mattila, Anne Sofie von Otter, Monica Groop, Katarina Karnéus, Soile Isokoski, and Barbara Bonney.  Listen to excerpts from Sibelius: The Complete Songs by clicking hereRead a 2004 review of the Gramophone re-issue, and see the complete list of songs, after the jump. [Source, Source]

Friday, June 12, 2015

Olga Peretyatko Joins Forces With Alberto Zedda For Sony Rossini Disc

The young soprano is channeling Graziella Sciutti and Sophia Loren on the cover of Rossini!
For her third album on the label Sony Classical, Olga Peretyatko returns to her first love: Rossini. Her collaborator on the disc is conductor Alberto Zedda with whom she began a working relationship at Pesaro in 2006. The new CD will feature arias from Il viaggio a ReimsMatilde di ShabranIl barbiere di SivigliaTancrediIl turco in Italia, and Semiramide. More details of the forthcoming disc can be found after the jump. [Source]

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Leontyne Price Boulevard Named In Mississippi To Honor Singer

"The City of Laurel has renamed one of their main roads after an opera singer. City council approved the change and Beacon Street is now Leontyne Price Boulevard. The street is named after a Laurel native who is known to be one of the first African-Americans to gain international acclaim as a professional opera singer. Mayor Johnny Magee said the street signs have not been changed yet, but will be in the next few months. He said residents who live on the road will have to change their street address name. 'Beacon Street is going to be a major thoroughfare in Laurel after the completion,' Magee said. 'We felt like it would be a great addition to put the name of Leontyne Price on Beacon Street because of all the notoriety that she brings to Laurel.' Mayor Magee said the unveiling of the renamed road will be held as soon as Price can make her way down to Laurel." [Source]

Monday, June 8, 2015

More Antics At The Opera On Showtime's "Penny Dreadful"

"It must be the Wagner": Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) get wet post-opera.
In season 2, episode 5, "Above the Vaulted Sky," we find two couples attending the opera: "A somewhat more healthy relationship continues to blossom between Dorian Gray and Angelique, although the public nature of it finally catches up to them at the opera where Angelique is recognized and spit upon. Back in Gray’s gallery, a humiliated Angelique appears dressed as a man, but Gray assures her he cares for who she is, not what she was born as. These scenes continue to have no real bearing on the rest of the show and play a bit like a Very Special Episode spaced out over the course of the season, at least until the lovers take off their clothes and all bets are off. It’s interesting to see how director Damon Thomas presents the various sex scenes visually: the more comfortable the characters are in their own skin and with their sexuality, the closer the camera and the more explicit the scene. In the case of Gray and Angelique, it’s about as graphic as Showtime gets. At the other end of the spectrum we get a high overhead shot of a fully-clothed Victor humping spasmodically atop Lily. Evelyn Poole and the mind-clouded Sir Malcolm are somewhere in between." [Source] Music cues up just before the scene at the opera house. It is a syncopated brass section and we hear a voice sing, "Elsa." Next we find Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) escorting Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp) into a hall during the intermission of the opera. She remarks that the performance is scandalous because the plot involves brother and sister. After the performance is over, we see Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) and Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) exit straight to a hotel where they kiss for the first time in the pouring rain. He apologizes for being so forward and she credits their passion to Wagner. So what did they see at the opera? The lead-in music hints at Lohengrin (Count Friedrich von Telramund does accuse Elsa of murdering her brother in order to become the Duchess of Brabant), but it could also be Die Walküre (where we are introduced to Siegmund and Sieglinde, twin brother and sister turned lovers), or even Siegfried (since the opera is about the love-child of the incestuous couple). The viewer is left to guess. Be sure to check out the previous post about Penny Dreadful by clicking here. Watch the full episode by clicking here. See more than twenty photos of the episode, including the NSFW sex scenes, after the jump.
A (Rough) Night At The Opera: Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney) and Angelique (Jonny Beauchamp) find trouble.

Love's First Prick: Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) and Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory) at the opera.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Waltraud Meier Sings Strauss For President Obama At Schloss Elmau

Wagnerian soprano Waltraud Meier performs "Zueignung" at the Schloss Elmau Castle for the G7 Summit.
"Accompanied by beer, sausages and men in lederhosen, Barack Obama received a warm welcome to the Bavarian Alps from Angela Merkel on Sunday, before two days of intensive G7 summit talks. Alpine horns and locals in traditional dress greeted the US president as he arrived in Krün, a village close to the G7 venue of Schloss Elmau, before the two leaders sat down to a breakfast of the local sausage, weisswurst, a glass of weissbier and pretzels. Locals cheered as Obama saluted them with a 'Grüss Gott' – a traditional greeting – against a stunning backdrop of pine forests and snowcapped mountains, telling them: 'That was without question, the best Alpine horn performance I’ve ever heard.'....The talks began discussing the state of the global
economy, including the European debt crisis. A second meeting was expected to deal with international trade and standards, including the controversial TTIP deal between the EU and the US. Over a working supper, cooked by a Michelin starred chef, they were due to discuss pressing foreign policy issues, including what Obama referred to earlier in the day as 'Russian aggression in Ukraine.' On Monday the leaders are expected to discuss the climate, global health, terrorism, the empowerment of women and development. NGOs were trying to put last-minute pressure on Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper as it emerged that he is allegedly blocking agreements on development goals....Ahead of supper they were to be entertained in the castle’s grand hall by star sopranist Waltraud Meier performing Richard Strauss lieder. Strauss had a house in Garmisch, the town closest to the summit venue, and died there in 1949." [Source] Watch two videos after the jump.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cecilia Bartoli Lends Vocals To The Film "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"

From Russia With (No) Love: The villain Viktor Cherevin lets hubris get the better of him.
Movie goers are introduced to the Russian character of Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Brannagh) first by seeing only the back of his head while a doctor is trying to insert a needle into his arm. Under the scene we hear mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli singing Caccini's "Amarilli mia bella." The tune only returns at the end of the film when the Interior Minister Sorokin (Mikhail Baryshnikov) delivers to Viktor a dose of his own medicine. There may be no significance whatsoever in using the strophic song, but some parallels could be drawn. Inside the office of Mr. Cherevin hangs a painting, Feat of Cavalry Regiment at the battle of Austerlitz in 1805 by Bogdan Willewalde, that depicts "the capture of a French regiment's eagle by the cavalry of the Russian guard at Austerlitz. The French lost only one eagle at the battle of Austerlitz and this happened when the Russian horse Guard caught the 4th Line regiment in the open and charged them." The lead players here - Viktor Cherevin, Napoléon Bonaparte, and Giulio Caccini - were all pretty power-hungry men that suffered defeats in some form or another. Learn more about the movie, the Napoleonic war, biographical information on Caccini, and listen to the full song "Amarilli mia bella" performed by Cecilia Bartoli, after the jump. [Source]

Johann Strauss II Injects Spring Into Comedy Central's "Another Period"

Comedy Central has a new show coming this summer called Another Period. Commercials running on television to advertise the show have all been spoofs on popular modern day obsessions like Twitter, viral videos, and selfies. One of the most recent ads pokes fun at the dating application Tinder. Titled "First to Swipe Left," the scenario is a total send-up of users swiping left on their phones when not interested in the person. But this is the turn of the 20th-century, so one does it the old-fashioned way. The music featured is Johann Strauss II's "Frühlingstimmen" waltz in its instrumental form. The show premieres on Comedy Central on June 23. For more information, click here. Watch the commercial, and a performance of soprano Edita Gruberova singing the work, after the jump.

The cast of Comedy Central's Another Period.
"Another Period follows the lives of the obscenely rich Bellacourt family and their many servants in turn-of-the-century Rhode Island. Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome lead an all-star cast -- including Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Christina Hendricks, Jason Ritter and Paget Brewster -- in this historical satire about narcissistic aristocrats and the poor souls in their employ." [Source] "Another Period is an American period sitcom created by and starring Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome. It follows the lives of the Bellacourts, the first family of Newport, Rhode Island at the turn of the 20th century. Lillian (Leggero) and Beatrice (Lindhome) are sisters 'who care only about how they look, what parties they attend and becoming famous, which is a lot harder in 1902.' It is intended to be a spoof on reality shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The series was picked up for 10 episodes and is due on Comedy Central in 2015. It will be directed by Jeremy Konner, co-creator and writer of Drunk History. Ben Stiller's production company Red Hour is producing. Leggero, Lindhome, and Konner are also executive producers." [Source]

Who could swipe left looking at that
beared? Johann Strauss II in his prime.
"'Frühlingsstimmen' ('Spring's Voices,' or commonly 'Voices of Spring') is an orchestral waltz, with optional solo soprano voice, written in 1882 by Johann Strauss II, his Opus 410. Strauss dedicated the work to the pianist and composer Alfred Grünfeld. The famous coloratura soprano Bertha Schwarz (stage name Bianca Bianchi) sang this concert aria at a grand matinée charity performance at the Theater an der Wien in aid of the 'Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth Foundation for Indigent Austro-Hungarian subjects in Leipzig.' The waltz was not a great success at its premiere, but was more successful when performed on Strauss' tour of Russia in 1886. A piano arrangement by the composer contributed much to its success beyond Vienna. Bianca Bianchi was then a famous member of the Vienna Court Opera Theatre and Strauss was sufficiently inspired to compose a new work, a waltz for solo voice, for the acclaimed singer. The result was his world-renowned 'Frühlingsstimmen' waltz which celebrated spring and remained one of the classical repertoire's most famous waltzes. The piece is sometimes used as an insertion aria in the act 2 ball scene of Strauss' operetta Die Fledermaus. The waltz makes a grand entry in the key of B-flat major with loud chords preceded with the waltz's three beats to the bar ushering the first waltz's gentle and swirling melody. The second waltz section invokes the joys of spring with the flute imitating birdsong and a pastoral scene. The plaintive and dramatic third section in F minor probably suggests spring showers whereas the fourth section that follows breaks out from the pensive mood with another cheerful melody in A-flat major. Without a coda, the familiar first waltz melody makes a grand entrance before its breathless finish, strong chords and the usual timpani drumroll and warm brass flourish. A performance lasts between seven and nine minutes." [Source]

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Tribute: Margaret Juntwait Interviewed By Deborah Voigt At The MET

Margaret Juntwait (left) gets interviewed by Deborah Voigt.
"As the Met’s beloved radio host for more than ten years, Margaret Juntwait interviewed countless operatic artists for the company’s Saturday Matinee Radio Broadcasts and for Metropolitan Opera Radio on Sirius XM. A few months before Juntwait died, soprano Deborah Voigt turned the tables on her, interviewing her about what it means to be the voice of the Met. Listen to the interview from December, 2014." Read the Metropolitan Opera's full statement on the passing of Margaret Juntwait, and see a video of her singing 'I Dreamed a Dream' from Les Miserables, after the jump. Funeral services for Margaret Juntwait will be held Saturday, June 6, 11:15 a.m. at Church of the Presentation (271 West Saddle River Road Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. A memorial service in New York will take place at a date TBD. The family requests in lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Save the Met Broadcast Fund, the Manhattan School of Music, or New York Public Radio.

GQ Encourages A One-Night Stand With Carmen Based On Bieito

"Calixto Bieito's raunchy production of Georges Bizet's Carmen at the English National Opera proves that opera is no longer for the old (or boring). For those of you hoping to expand your horizons, Carmen is the perfect introductory sampler to whet your appetite and keep you coming back for more. The image of opera-goers squinting into their binoculars with their powdery, wrinkly faces is over. A younger audience is quickly encroaching into operatic territory, and here's why. Opera's saving grace comes in the form of Carmen. Why invest in opera now when we've only just managed to master the musical? Sex, that's why, and lots of it. OK, not just sex, but other themes that we can also relate to such as love (love triangles, unrequited love) and lust....This Carmen could very possibly drive a new (younger) audience to the opera. When GQ saw the production, a lady sitting next to us said, 'It's a bit cruder than I remember,' during the intermission. This surprised us, as Carmen is the definitive story of action fuelled [sic] by sexual tension. The story is almost entirely based entirely on sex, infidelity, and hot-blooded desire. And if that doesn't draw younger people to the opera, we're not sure what will." [Source] For more information about Carmen at ENO, click here. Watch a trailer of the production, and see the full cast performing through July 3, after the jump.
Hopelessly Devoted To You: Don José (Eric Cutler) wants more than one night with Carmen (Justina Gringyte).

Rolex Sponsors New DG "Abduction" With Yannick Nezét-Séguin

"Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail features a star cast full of critically-acclaimed artists – including Rolando Villazón, Diana Damrau, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Anna Prohaska and Thomas Quasthoff. It is the third of DG’s series of seven Mozart operas conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, and initiated by Rolando Villazón, in collaboration with Festspielhaus Baden Baden, U-Live, and sponsored by ROLEX." [Source] International release date is July 3, 2015. Purchase the recording by clicking hereWatch a video of the recording session featuring all of the artists, and the album cover art, after the jump. You can find the previous Mozart operas with Maestro Nézet-Séguin on DG by clicking here and here

The Marcella Sembrich Museum Houses Her Personal Victrola Player

A Portrait of Madame Sembrich
"In our series the Adirondack Attic, North Country Public Radio collaborates with Andy Flynn and his sources at the Adirondack Museum and other historical associations and museums in the region to bring local history stories to air. Andy recently spoke with Beth Barton Navitsky, Executive Director at The Sembrich opera museum in Bolton Landing, N.Y., about a record player once owned by opera star Marcella Sembrich. 'We’re looking at a 107-year-old Victor Victrola that was made in 1908,' Navitsky said. 'It is a standing model that stands about 4 feet high and 2 feet wide. It also has a Circassian walnut veneer on the cabinet. The Circassian walnut is an English walnut that has a pattern of swirls on the outside as well as the inside. To play the Victrola, you have to lift the lid. You have to put the needle down on the record disc. And then you need to open up the cabinet below so the built-in speakers can be sending out the sound.'....'This was given to Marcella Sembrich, and she was an internationally renowned Polish opera singer whose career spanned
Put a Needle on the Record: The very player that the soprano would listen to her own Victrola recordings.
over 40 years,' Navitsky said. 'When she retired, Madame Sembrich opened up her studio and she taught students from Juilliard and the Curtis Institute of Music, and she used the Victrola for her students to listen to other opera singers as well as her own singing. She recorded quite a few recordings also in records. And she, of course, used it for enjoyment.'...'Was this made specifically for her, or did she just go out and purchase it?' Flynn asked. 'Actually it was made specifically for her,' Navitsky said. 'It was one of the first 10 made, which was why the Victrola Repair company in Vermont has said that they feel it was of the best made because it was made for Madame Sembrich and she was well-known as a very popular opera singer of that time.' [Source] Hear samples of the soprano's Victrola recordings, after the jump.

The Opera Museum is located in the former teaching studio of the Metropolitan Opera Diva Marcella Sembrich - pianist, violinist, teacher, Polish patriot and benefactor - on the shores of Lake George in Bolton Landing, New York. Click here for more information.