Sunday, December 25, 2011

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Gwyneth Jones

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

Thursday, December 22, 2011

At 65, José Carreras Thrives in Fundraiser for Foundation

"'Over the past week I had concerts in Prague, Lugano, a gala on German TV to raise funds for my leukemia foundation, and on Sunday I had a Christmas concert in Milan. Then I have the most important 'project' of the year which is a few days of holiday with my family for Christmas,' Jose Carreras said speaking at a media conference in Moscow. The singer has visited Russia many times both with solo shows and together with other stars of opera. 'I’m very happy to be back in Moscow. It’s a treat for every artist to come to your country because of its incredible artistic and musical tradition. I have wonderful memories from my previous visits to Moscow. I performed in different venues from the Bolshoi Theatre to the Kremlin, to the House of Music. Here I’ve always been treated with affection and respect from the public. And this is a privilege for any artist,' he explained. This time the tenor performed together with Russian soprano Olga Peretyatko and maestro David Gimenez, Carreras’ nephew. The first half of the program featured classical operatic works, and the second half was dedicated to Christmas. 'It is a challenge for us as we have to go through many different styles,' says David Gimenez. During his previous visit in July Carreras had a chance to visit a hospital for children with Leukemia. His foundation was established following his own recovery from the disease in 1988. 'It is one of my goals, to be involved and to try to help fight leukemia.'" [Source] It is reported that the concerts in Germany raised $8.3 million. For more information and to make a donation, click here.

Stephanie Blythe Warms the Holidays in New Jersey Concert

Blythe brought Brahms and Bizet
to West Side Presbyterian Church
in Ridgewood, New Jersey
"'Geistliches Wiegenlied,' a cradle song from the Virgin Mary’s point of view, not only showcased Blythe’s commanding instrument — the firm golden core, the round, earthy lower register — but also her impeccable phrasing. She and her chamber music partners gave a communicative account of the piece, conveying the mother’s anxiety as well as her affection....On the more technical side, it would have been helpful if song translations were handed out at the beginning of the concert, rather than after intermission. This made Blythe’s rendition of Brahms’ Eight Gypsy Songs less approachable than they might otherwise have been. While a consummate performer throughout, Blythe sounded just slightly worn in some of the more animated selections. Still, in an impassioned plea for kindness from a lover in 'Kommt dir manchmal in den Sinn,' the waves of abundant sound that poured forth and swelled at key moments mesmerized. The lively dance of 'Brauner Brusche,' a meeting between a gypsy boy and a blue-eyed girl, also charmed...The concert concluded with selections from Carmen: first an assured, playful 'Seguidilla' and then the ubiquitous 'Habanera,' which Blythe made her own. She drew the listeners in, hushing the final lines of verses, leaving one wanting more and letting out a full-force battle cry with the chorus’ refrain — 'If I love you, watch out.'" [Source]

Russian Opera Singer Maria Maksakova About to Get Political

"While lacking any representatives of the liberal opposition, Russia's new parliament which met for the first time on Wednesday is packed with celebrities ranging from a Playboy cover girl to a tennis legend. The four factions with seats in the State Duma, especially the United Russia part of Vladimir Putin, have stepped up a tradition of encouraging household names to take seats in an apparent bid to give the chamber more appeal. How much impact they will have on political life remains to be seen, given celebrity MPs in the previous State Duma were criticised for showing little interest in policy and rarely showing up for debates....Opera singer Maria Maksakova is also taking a seat but there is no longer a place for Svetlana Zakharova, one of the world's most sought after ballerinas who in the last years juggled her political engagement with dancing commitments and giving birth." [Source] To learn more about Maria Maksakova, click here.

King Roger Pays a Visit to Kiev as Part of "I, CULTURE"

Tenor Eric Cutler sings in Kiev
"The premiere of the concert per­for­mance of Karol Szy­ma­now­ski’s opera Krol Roger (King Roger) finished the program I, CULTURE (organized by the Polish In­stitute in connection with Po­land’s EU pre­si­den­cy), and became a significant event in Kyiv’s music sea­son. The par­ti­ci­pants of this in­ter­­national creative project in­clud­ed the Symphony Orchest­ra of the National Opera of Ukraine, choir cappella Dumka, famous Po­lish sin­gers Mikolaj Zalasinski (Ro­ger II), Ivonna Hossa (Roxana), Carol Koz­low­ski (Edrisi), American Eric Cutler (Shepherd), Dumka so­loists Oleksii Kriachun (Archbi­shop), and Tetiana Havrylenko (Dea­co­ness). Polish con­duc­tor Michal Klauza was at the helm of the production....I want to emphasize the wonderful performance of very complicated vocal parts made by soloists and choir members of the cappella Dumka. Their voices are amazing! Tenor Eric Cutler who performed Shepherd’s part came specially to Kyiv from America for one soiree only, and early in the morning he is going back, because he has performances at Metropolitan Opera. Mikolaj Zalasinski’s (Roger) perfor­mance was very powerful, Ivonna Hossa created a very persuasive image of Roxa­na. Cappella Dumka and musicians of the Symphony Orchestra of the National Opera did really well." [Source]

Nothing To Do On Boxing Day? Watch "Hansël und Gretel"

"Hänsel und Gretel isn't just Engelbert Humperdinck's most successful opera. It is also one of the most successful operas of all time. Premiered in 1893, the work was instantly labelled a "masterpiece" by its conductor Richard Strauss, even though it is a somewhat sanitised version of the Brothers Grimm original. Instead of an evil stepmother, as the Grimms have it, the children have a loving but scatty mother and a caring but drunken father. The opera also adds a creepy chorus of echoes to the forest scenes and 14 ballet-dancing angels, who create one of its most spinetingling moments, as the cossetingly somnolent music envelopes the children and helps them through their scary night in the wood. In Laurent Pelly's witty 2008 production for Glyndebourne, to be streamed by the Guardian for a whole week starting on Boxing Day, the tale becomes a gleefully ghoulish satire on consumerism, in which the forest is a maze of dead trees, devoid of any verdant softness. In a touch that feels all too relevant, Hänsel and Gretel's family are forced to live in a cardboard house following economic collapse; the Witch's gingerbread residence is a free-for-all supermarket; and the children who are freed at the end, after the Witch is thrown into her own ovens, are obese, having gorged themselves on the supermarket's high-sugar, high-fat goodies. Usually, there's a strong panto element to the portrayal of the Witch, but here the emphasis is on horror: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke plays her as a murderous matriarch, sharpening her knife, stripping down to her underwear, revealing wisps of mouldy hair under her wig and a ladder of bodyhair rising up her abdomen." [Source] Watch a preview by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Danielle de Niese Contemplates the Role of Music in Society

Soprano advocating for the Arts
"There are so many serious issues affecting our nation and our world; from the Occupy Wall Street movement, to the Republican GOP nomination debates, the economic crisis in the Euro Zone, the uprisings in the Middle East, the moral tragedy of the little Chinese girl left to die on the road...So what on earth could an opera singer say that would have relevance for you and what you're going through at the moment? We can all afford to do a little soul-searching about the choices we make and the way we live our lives, but sometimes searching one's soul doesn't provide the answers we seek. I could ask myself, for example, why I work hard to bring music and opera to schoolkids who have yet to be exposed to classical music when there are so many bigger problems with our education system. With basic education budgets being chipped into all the time, should we care at all about getting kids to try classical music, which can seem so 'optional' in comparison to English or mathematics? I can only answer this question based on the influence of music in my own life, so for me, the answer is a resounding YES." Read the full article here.

Danielle was also named one of Marie Claire's "Women on Top Awards 2011." Check out the piece here.

Opera Singers Performing Christmas Favorites - Part 2

"It Came Upon a Midnight Clear"
"Coventry Carol"
Eileen Farrell

"White Christmas"
Thomas Hampson

"What Child is This"
Deborah Sasson

"In Dulci Jubilo"
Elly Ameling

"Panis Angelicus"
Luciano Pavarotti

"O Divine Redeemer!"
Renata Tebaldi

"The Trumpet Shall Sound"
Samuel Ramey

"It's the Most Wonderful
Time of the Year"
Plácido Domingo & Leona Mitchell

"Hark the Herald Angels Sing"
Maureen O'Flynn

"Abendsegen" and "Traumpantomime"
Anneliese Rothenberger & Irmgard Seefried

"Joy to the World" sung by Anna Moffo

Did North Korea Lose Their Leading Opera Composer?

“Opera is the art of song, the art of action and the art of life.” Kim Jong Il
The North Korean Sea of Blood Opera Company, seen here on a tour to China, credits Mr. Kim
with helping to establish and direct productions.
Kim Jong-il (née Yuri Irsenovich Kim), the supreme leader of North Korea, died on December 17. He was the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, the ruling party since 1948, Chairman of the National Defence Commission of North Korea, and the supreme commander of the Korean People's Army, the fourth-largest standing army in the world. According to Kim's official biography, he composed six operas over two years and also enjoyed staging elaborate musicals. "In 1974 Kim wrote The Art of Opera, in which he set out his principals that Korean opera to be full of "stanzaic songs, which can be understood easily and loved by the people." He continues: "In conventional operas, the personalities of the characters were abstract, their acting clumsy, and the flow of the drama tedious." The book describes how Kim and his dad, the late Great Leader Kim Il Sung, took the husk of a tired art form and gave it a much-needed shot of North Korean communism. Similarly, in a speech to musicians in 1968, Kim
Opera composer and "Dear Leader"
said that music must serve the revolution and not be based on 'uproarious Western music.' Kim said he had initially thought that the song 'Kim Il Sung is our Sun' sounded good in D major. But his father steered him in the right direction, advising E major as better for expressing emotions richly. One of the final accounts of Kim’s musical side came in 2009 when the KCNA news agency reported that he assisted at the rehearsal of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at Pyongyang's conservatory, giving guidance to the director and performers. The Dear Leader praised the teachers’ and students’ efforts to perform an opera of high artistic value, and stressed that the Korean people should get a better understanding of world culture."

"In the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] there are five revolutionary operas, all created in the early 1970s, which have been termed in North Korea as ‘immortal classics.’ In order of production date these are Sea of Blood, The Flower Girl, A True Daughter of the Party, Tell O’ the Forest! and The Song of Mt. Kumgang." [Source, Source, Source, Source, Source]

Monday, December 19, 2011

Renée Fleming Takes Spain Audience on Emotional Rollercoaster

Cargada de Emociones: Fleming in Spain
(Photo: Nacho Carretero)
"Dicen los especialistas que el canto implica dos centenas de los 250 músculos que cubren el esqueleto humano. Renée Fleming empleó ayer todos ellos para montar al público del Auditorio Miguel Delibes en una montaña rusa de emociones, con recorrido por la ensoñación, el amor, subida al misticismo haendeliano, caída libre por la alegría mozartiana, parada en la nube de Franck o en el conmovedor lamento de Cilea y salida cómica con La Boheme. La voz que resucita a Strauss desplegó un catálogo de obras con el que demostró su versatilidad y su buenhacer desde el barroco hasta la contemporaneidad. Nada parece resistírsele a la estadounidense. La acompañaba en la exhibición un director con el que ya hizo una gira en 2010, Miguel Harth-Bedoya. El maestro dirigió con mimo y brío a la Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, que se puso al servicio de la diva. La obertura de La escuela del escándalo, de Barber, fue la pieza instrumental con la que comenzó el concierto. Harth-Bedoya es una batuta querida por los músicos de la OSCyL. Los hilos invisibles que mueven los brazos del director, tirando ora de los violines, ora de las trompas o la percusión, se acompañan en este caso de expresivos gestos con la cara y el cuerpo. Solo el frac calla en el porte del peruano, que llega a lanzar besos a los músicos para aprobar una interpretación. De Barber a Strauss, pasando por el cinematográfico Herrmann y sus 'Cumbres borrascosas'. Fleming declamó los sueños de Catherine Earnshaw y luego los deseos de Cleopatra. Pero fue con Arabella con la que estranguló cualquier despiste del respetable. Había propina de Strauss para esta primera parte, 'Morgen', un lied cebo que bien podría traducirse en un programa monográfico de las 'Cuatro canciones finales' del alemán para la próxima temporada." [Source]

Anne Hathaway Fashioning a Callas Air in New Batman Film

Whether she is supposed to be channeling Maria Callas or Audrey Hepburn, this image of Anne Hathaway from the new Batman film, Dark Knight Rises, definitely is a throwback to late 1950's. Check out a photo comparison with Callas and see the movie trailer after the jump.

Opera Singers Performing Christmas Favorites - Part 1

"Stille Nacht"
Dawn Upshaw with Chanticleer

"Still, still, still"
Bryn Terfel

"He Shall Feed His Flock"
"Come Unto Him"
Barbara Bonney

"O, Holy Night"
Denyce Graves

"In the Bleak Midwinter"
Kiri Te Kanawa & Roberto Alagna

"Mary Had a Baby"
Kathleen Battle

"Die Heiligen Drei Könige"
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

"Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming"
Renée Fleming

"O Tännenbäum"
Leontyne Price

"The Virgin's Slumber Song"
Joan Sutherland

"I Know That My Redeemer Liveth"
Marilyn Horne

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Indra Thomas and Angela Meade Among Celebrants at Concert

"Evening Hours" by Bill Cunningham in the Sunday, December 18, 2011, edition of the New York Times 

Springtime in Perth, Australia, For Jessye Norman Recital

Norman singing at the Montreux
Jazz Festival in 2010
"Iconic soprano Jessye Norman has created her own niche as a result of exceptional performances in opera and classical music. Her extensive repertoire and passion for singing will be on show at the Perth Concert Hall on Monday April 23 from 8pm. This recital will feature renowned New York pianist Mark Markham and includes songs by Duke Ellington, George Gershwin and pays homage to performers including Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne and Josephine Baker. Buy your tickets here.

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Edda Moser

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

Bass James Olds To Perform in "La Traviata" Sydney Spectacle

Aussie Bass: James Olds
"A giant stage will be built on Sydney Harbour to bring opera to the masses when Opera Australia presents La Traviata for an exclusive three-week season next year. And James Olds of Cronulla who has made a career as a bass singer will perform in the chorus when the spectacular is staged in March. 'This production is a world premiere, a massive spectacle,' Olds said of the production, which will involve installing huge pillars in the harbour. 'This is going to be a total fanfare with fireworks every night and a shorter opera that is trimmed for all ages and for all audiences.' Olds began classical training in year 10 at Newington College and joined the Conservatorium of Music in 2004. Since joining Opera Australia in 2009, he has performed in many famous productions, including Der Rosenkavalier, MacBeth, The Merry Widow and Pirates of Penzance. Since becoming a full-time performer with the company, he has travelled with their productions and has picked up some small solo and understudy roles." [Source] Read more about James Olds after the jump.

Seattle Opera's "Attila" Concept Stirs Up One Canadian

Machine Gun Hun: John Relyea
"A late contender for the title of most yawn-inducing operatic news announcement of the year: 'Production sets barbarian invasion in today's war-torn world.' The work is Verdi's Attila and the run, opening Jan. 14, is at the Seattle Opera. Could there be a more predictable theatrical tactic? Ubiquitous in Europe, modern-dress productions are now depressingly common in North America. Far from bold and innovative, they are ham and eggs, the usual thing. A new production of a 19th-century opera set in the time actually specified by the librettist: This would be the extraordinary choice today. There was a time when companies could argue in favour of updating and other directorial displacement on the grounds that standard stagings of standard repertoire had begun to look tired. But Attila is an early Verdi opera, seldom performed. This is its Seattle Opera premiere. There is no old-fashioned, iconic look from which to depart. Of course, the Seattle Attila could be a good show in spite of the utterly conventional decision to place it in 'today's war-torn world.' Former Opéra de Montréal general director Bernard Uzan directs. John Relyea, a Canadian bass-baritone, takes the title role. Advance publicity photos show our 21st-century Hun holding a machine gun. Not that updating is the only eye-rolling cliché that can be passed off in the opera house as innovation. The much-written about Canadian director Robert Carsen has summoned some dandies for his season-opening new production of Don Giovanni at La Scala." [Source]

Gwyn Hughes Jones Pays Tribute to Late Footballer Gary Speed

Tenor Tribute: Gwyn Hughes Jones
"Newcastle United fans paid an emotional tribute to former player Gary Speed. Welsh opera singer Gwyn Hughes Jones led the fans in a rendition of "Bread of Heaven" before the kick off in their home tie against Swansea. He was joined in the centre circle by members of Speed's family and former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer. The song was followed by a minute's applause and fans in the East Stand held up cards which picked out Speed's number 11 shirt from his Tyneside days. As well as the applause, fans chanted Speed's name. On the 11th minute of the game, fans chanted his name again and waved their black and white scarves. The 42-year-old was found hanged at his home in Cheshire last month." [Source]
The late Gary Speed.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A "Hansel and Gretel" Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

Kate Lindsey (left) as Hansel, Robert Brubaker (in the oven) as the Witch and Aleksandra Kurzak (right) as Gretel in the Metropolitan Opera production of the classic Humperdinck opera. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP)

Opera Influencing Fashion Influencing Architecture in Asia

Starhill Gallery: Inspired by Christian Lacroix
"'I was inspired by an exhibition at Singapore’s National Museum featuring French designer Christian Lacroix’s opera and ballet costumes, especially the use of heavy, folded fabrics,' Pimbley, 53, says at an interview after the relaunch ceremony. 'There was an immediate corollary between the quality of Lacroix’s folded fabrics and the fine tailoring of luxurious labels in Starhill Gallery. I never knew Lacroix designed for opera, and I found it fascinating, the way he drew and designed the diaphanous clothing and flowing robes. I translated the idea into architecture so that the building appears wrapped in flowing fabric, which, in fact, required some very complex engineering. Architecture is meant to make people’s lives better' maintains Sparch founding partner Stephen Pimbley. 'I didn’t want to create just another conventional mall but a visual statement for Bukit Bintang that offers a fresh,

Lyric Opera of Chicago Stage Manager, Caroline Moores, Profiled

Moores backstage throwing cues to keep the opera running smoothly. (Photo: J. Geil/Oakpark)
"At 5-foot-1, Oak Park's Caroline Moores is a towering force of verve, creativity and efficiency as the longtime production stage manager at Lyric Opera of Chicago. She's the one backstage with the British accent, calling all the cues that help create the pageantry that is opera, and when she speaks, people listen. At the piano run-through of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, which closed Dec. 11, Moores was poised stage right, ready to hold court. With her headset on, she makes sure everything and everybody is in the right place at the right time. At her beck and call are several assistant stage managers who await her signal to verbally call the actors to stage. Everywhere else, scores of people responsible for running the electronics, makeup, wardrobe and props, including techs on the rail who fly scenery in and out, are paying close attention to Moores, waiting for the cue to carry on. In Ariadne auf Naxos, for example, she cues a cloud machine to travel across the stage, and tells stage hands when to fetch, deliver and pull away the boat platform and wagons. In this house, she rules, but not with an iron fist. Rather, Moores says, she facilitates the work at hand, always standing at her oversized console, never sitting. 'It's about being focused, and I need to stand to think,' Moores says." Read the full article here.

Free Online Opera Courtesy of Bayerische Staatsoper in 2012

"Anfang 2012 startet die Bayerische Oper mit zwei Opern ein Pilotprojekt: Zuschauer aus der ganzen Welt können einen kompletten Opernabend auf der Bühne des Nationaltheaters im Internet live über einen Video-Stream mitverfolgen. Die Clou: die Übertragung ist für alle Nutzer kostenfrei...Einzige Voraussetzung ist eine Breitband-Internetverbindung wie zum Beispiel DSL. Das Video wird mit 600 und 1000 Kilobite in zwei Übertragungsqualitäten angeboten, die sich automatisch an die individuelle Datenverbindung des Internetnutzers anpassen. Für die Nutzung des Live-Streams fallen für den Zuschauer keinerlei Kosten an." [Source]

The first live streams from the opera house will be:

January 7, 2012
L'elisir d'Amore (Donizetti)

Adina: Adriana Kučerová
Nemorino: Pavol Breslik
Belcore: Levente Molnár
Dulcamara: Ambrogio Maestri
Giannetta: Tara Erraught

Musikalische Leitung: Dan Ettinger
Inszenierung: David Bösch

January 22, 2012
Don Carlo (Verdi)

Philipp II, König von Spanien: René Pape
Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien: Jonas Kaufmann
Rodrigo, Marquis de Posa: Mariusz Kwiecien
Der Großinquistor: Eric Halfvarson
Ein Mönch: Diogenes Randes
Elisabeth von Valois: Anja Harteros
Die Prinzessin Eboli: Anna Smirnova
Tebaldo, Page Elisabeths: Laura Tatulescu
Der Graf von Lerma: Francesco Petrozzi
Stimme vom Himmel: Evgeniya Sotnikova

Musikalische Leitung: Asher Fisch
Inszenierung, Bühne, Kostüme und Lichtkonzept: Jürgen Rose

Composer Paola Prestini Collaborates With Artist Ali Hossaini

"It takes a lot of dough—and probably, even, a village—to get an opera off the ground. That's why composer Paola Prestini held a small get together slash fund-raiser at the Ethan Cohen Fine Arts space in TriBeCa in support of her in-progress composition, Oceanic Verses. Performances of the multimedia opera, which is based in Italy and explores the lives of a sailor, a mother, a scholar and a soldier, are slated to begin in Massachusetts in May, with a stop in Manhattan in June. Ms. Prestini, a 36-year-old Italian composer who splits her time between the Upper West Side and San Francisco, said she needed $60,000 to pay for the production, and was hoping to raise $25,000 of that from the evening at Mr. Cohen's gallery. The event included a performance by Phillip Glass, a friend and mentor of Ms. Prestini, as well as an excerpt from Oceanic Verses by Helga Davis. The crowd included composers, musicians and artists, including Heidi Rodewald, Mickey Strauss, Diane Volk and the Klezmer clarinetist David Kracauer. Hanging at the gallery were works by the American artist Ali Hossaini, including video segments and 3-D photographs. Mr. Hossaini and Mr. Cohen said that 3-D glasses weren't imperative to enjoying the show, but they helped. Mr. Hossaini is also contributing visuals to Ms. Prestini's opera though he hadn't decided yet if they should be in 3-D. Should he decide that they are, Ms. Prestini believed that hers would be the first opera that incorporated said technology."
"Prestini received a commission from the Carnegie Foundation, and it has been performed as a work-in-progress at the New York City Opera and The Kitchen. It premieres at the Kennedy Center in 2012 before moving to New York City and the Barbican Theater in London." [Source, Source]

Get Your Bake On! Check Out MET Gingerbread Contest

Celebrate the season and the Met’s holiday presentation of Hansel and Gretel, by baking your favorite opera characters! Enter here.
(1) Bake up a batch of gingerbread cookies and decorate them as your favorite opera characters.
(2) Upload a photo of your best cookie creation.
(3) Get all your friends to vote! The gingerbread character with the most votes will win a prize from the Met!
Most Votes >> 4 prime orchestra tickets to any Met production in the Spring 2012 (exclusions apply)
• Enter by 11:59 PM EST on Saturday, January 7
• Vote from 12:00 PM EST on Thursday, December 1 until 11:59 PM EST on Saturday, January 7
• Winner selection is Monday, January 9

Some fun entries so far:

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Pyromaniacal Laura Dern Channels Königin der Nacht

From the season finale (part 1) of HBO's hit new show Englightened, the lead character Amy, played by Laura Dern, has just tapped into her company's mainframe email system (she's not happy at her job...) when a fantasy dream sequence begins underscored by "Der Hölle Rache" (Hell's Vengeance) from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) sung by the Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night).

Méphistophélès Celebrates the Holidays with Bulgari

Perched on the balcony between the ties and sunglasses, René Pape appeared last night at the famous jewelry-maker Bulgari on 5th Avenue in New York City to perform a set of Christmas songs for an audience that included opera soprano Jessye Norman and rock star Fred Schneider (of B52's fame). He was accompanied by Brian Zeger who is the Head of Vocal Studies at the Juilliard School of Music as well as the Executive Director of the Lindemann Program at the Metropolitan Opera. He might want to watch his back, there is a newfound groupie that might be waiting at the stage door of his next Faust performance! All photos (more after the jump) by Billy Farrell Agency and can be purchased here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Yvonne Kenny

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Palm Beach Opera Displays Financial and Artistic Success

Founded in 1961 as the "Civic Opera of the Palm Beaches," the Palm Beach Opera is a professional opera company performing at the Kravits Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach, Florida. For years the jet-set have been traveling from large cities across the country to reach this haven for the rich in an area known
Daniel Biaggi: Captain of the high C's
mostly for its golfing and yachting during the winter months. West Palm Beach is technically a municipality (the oldest in South Florida) with a population that inches toward 100,000 residents and its slightly more exclusive neighbor, Palm Beach, has only 30,000 residents during peak vacation season. Opera can be a tough sell in these parts, especially since Florida Grand Opera is operating a mere 67 miles south in Miami and the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to movie theater as part of their "Live in HD" series. In the beginning, the company performed one production annually and by the mid-1990s four fully staged operas were taking place each season. Artistically, Palm Beach Opera hit its stride during the directorship of its Principal Conductor Anton Guadagno from 1984 to 2002. The new millennium brought corporate scandals and plummeting stock portfolios for many supporters of the opera. The company had no choice but to
James Valenti: Star tenor and
West Palm Beach resident.
make bold choices for leadership in order to succeed and flourish in the coming decade. After Maestro Guadagno passed away in August 2002, the company brought Bruno Aprea in as the Artistic Director & Principal Conductor beginning in 2005 and appointed Daniel Biaggi as the new General Director in 2008. As Palm Beach Opera celebrates its 50th Anniversary this season by opening with Madama Butterfly on December 16, 2011, it is clear the artistic and financial vision of the company is beginning to pay off. Although they reduced the budget from $6.5 million to $4.7 million, trimmed full-time staff to ten positions and now present three fully staged operas with one concert performance a season (Beethoven's Symphony #9 and Verdi's Requiem were recent choices), the quality of singing has skyrocketed. In addition to meeting the expectations of audiences aurally skilled in houses like the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera, the company has to provide A-list singers alongside budding young talent that fits the budget. Recent seasons have seen veterans Ruth Ann Swenson and Dolora Zajick, as well as newcomers Angela Meade, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Nadine Sierra, James Valenti and Nicole Cabell.
Metropolitan Opera soprano Ruth Ann Swenson
at a post-performance dinner 
Now that the company has found its footing, they hope to expand beyond the typical Italian and French repertoire into 20th-century works (especially American pieces) and Baroque. For more about the cast and performance dates of Madama Butterfly at the Palm Beach Opera, click here. And if you are in the neighborhood on January 20 and 22, the company will present two Golden Jubilee concerts featuring scenes from La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, La Bohème, Carmen, Aïda, among others and will be hosted by the baritone Sherrill Milnes. The concerts will be lead by conductors Julius Rudel and Bruno Aprea with singers Angela Brown, Ruth Ann Swenson, Denyce Graves-Montgomery, Brandon Jovanovich and many more.[Source, Source, Source]

"Aida" Royal Opera House (1968): High Camp AND High Quality

Is "30 Rock's" Liz Lemon the Ninth Valkyrie Sister?

Elizabeth Miervaldis "Liz" Lemon is the main character of the American television series 30 Rock and is played by Tina Fey. The character's ringtone on her cell phone was The Ride of the Valkyries in several episodes. No word on whether Liz Lemon was going for the Bugs Bunny aspect or perhaps it was simply the influence of fellow actor (and opera lover) Alec Baldwin that made the decision for the ringtone.

"The Ride of the Valkyries (German: Walkürenritt or Ritt der Walküren) is the popular term for the beginning of Act III of Die Walküre, the second of the four operas by Richard Wagner that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen. The main theme of the Ride, the leitmotif labelled Walkürenritt, was first written down by the composer on 23 July 1851. The preliminary draft for the Ride was composed in 1854 as part of the composition of the entire opera, which was fully orchestrated by the end of the first quarter of 1856. Together with the Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin, the Ride of the Valkyries is one of Wagner's best-known pieces. In the opera house, the Ride, which takes around eight minutes, begins in the prelude to the Act, building up successive layers of accompaniment until the curtain rises to reveal a mountain peak where four of the eight Valkyrie sisters of Brünnhilde have

Anna Netrebko Does Russian Vogue Magazine in Style

Trench by Jean Paul Gaultier and gloves by Georges Morand. (Photo: Peter Rigaud)
Thanks to Intermezzo for leading the way to the current spread of Anna Netrebko in the Russian edition of Vogue. The soprano sports the styles of Jean Paul Gaultier, Hermès, Prada, Christian Louboutin, Chopard, Dior Homme and more! Check out the full article here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "La Fille du Régiment"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Donizetti's La Fille du Régiment live tonight at 7:30 PM EST on Sirius XM radioIntermission guests: Aleksandra Kurzak and Kate Lindsey.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adam Sandler's Film "Mr. Deeds" Gets Some Operatic Humor

The 2002 film, Mr. Deeds, features Winona Ryder, Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Steve Buscemi, and Peter Gallagher, in a non-stop romp of humor. One scene takes place in a restaurant when a table of guests decides to make fun of Sandler's character. One gentleman proclaims, "I sing at the Metropolitan Opera" and proceeds to let loose with a vocal thank you for corporate sponsorship: "When Longfellow Deeds, a small-town pizzeria owner and poet, inherits $40 billion from his deceased uncle, he quickly begins rolling in a different kind of dough. Moving to the big city, Deeds finds himself besieged by opportunists all gunning for their piece of the pie. Babe, a television tabloid reporter, poses as an innocent small-town girl to do an exposé on Deeds. Of course, Deeds' sincere naiveté has Babe falling in love with him instead. Ultimately, Deeds comes to find that money truly has the power to change things, but it doesn't necessarily need to change him." [Source]

Anna Moffo's Step-Daughter, Rosita Sarnoff, Gets Married

Beth Sapery and Rosita Sarnoff (right) photographed by the great opera portraitist Christian Steiner
"Beth Sapery and Rosita Sarnoff were married Saturday evening at their home in New York. Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in New York, officiated. Ms. Sapery (left), 66, retired as an executive managing director at Murray Hill Properties, a commercial real estate firm in New York, where she remains a broker. She graduated from Connecticut College. She is the daughter of the late Muriel Rohman Sapery and the late Stanley Sapery, who lived in Mamaroneck, N.Y. Mr. Sapery was the founder and chief executive of Augusta Plastics, a manufacturer in New York. Ms. Sarnoff, 68, retired as an executive vice president and the director of marketing and business development at Stribling & Associates, the New York real estate firm, where she remains a broker. She graduated from Swarthmore. She is a trustee of the Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass. She is the daughter of the late Esme O’Brien Hammond and the late Robert W. Sarnoff, who both lived in New York. Mr. Sarnoff was the former chairman of the RCA Corporation in New York. Ms. Sarnoff is the stepdaughter of the late Anna Moffo Sarnoff, the opera soprano, and of the late John Hammond, the record producer and talent scout, and is also the stepdaughter of Felicia Warburg Rogan of Charlottesville, Va. Ms. Sarnoff is also a granddaughter of the late David Sarnoff, the longtime chairman of RCA and the founder of NBC." [Source]

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Edith Mathis

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

Saturday, December 10, 2011

"Alerte! Alerte!" With Paul Plishka, Pietro Ballo, Kallen Esperian

The Metropolitan Opera presented Gounod's Faust today as part of their "Live in HD" series. Here is a throwback to a 1989 concert performance of the final trio "Alerte! Alerte!" with Paul Plishka, Pietro Ballo and Kallen Esperian:

Finnish Sopranos Gone Wild! Karita Mattila and Sirkka Lampimäki

Friday, December 9, 2011

René Pape Looking Very "Easy Rider" in New Photo

Glenn Petry of 21C Media Group posted this picture of René Pape. He is currently at the Metropolitan Opera signing copies of his new Deutsche Grammophon CD Wagner Arias. He will also be featured as Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust for the "Live in HD" series broadcast around the world in movie theaters tomorrow.

Soprano Marquita Lister Receives Victory Award in D.C.

"Last week, Washington, D. C. native Marquita Lister was among the recent recipients of the prestigious Victory Award at the 25th Anniversary Victory Awards Gala held at the Wardman Park Marriott. 'The entire evening was magical.' said Lister. According to a recent press release, The Victory Awards® were created by NRH (National Rehabilitation Hospital) in 1986 to celebrate the Victory of the Human Spirit. This nationally recognized, one-of-a-kind award honors individuals who best exemplify exceptional strength and courage in the face of physical adversity. Over the past 25 years, NRH has recognized celebrities and former patients from all walks of life with this prestigious award." [Source] To see photos from the event go here and for more about Marquita Lister click here.

Maureen O'Flynn Takes on Cabaret at Feinstein's in NYC

"Metropolitan Opera artist Maureen O'Flynn will make her New York cabaret debut at Feinstein's at Loews Regency in At the Crossroads, a sumptuous musical feast for the ears, sung by one of the most thrilling voices to grace the worlds of opera, musical theatre & cabaret. With award-winning director Eric Michael Gillett and renowned musical director Don Rebic helming her band, Maureen explores a catalogue of songs sure to appeal to music lovers of all kinds. Her repertoire includes classics by Jerome Kern ("Remind Me"), Cole Porter ("In the Still of the Night," "Find Me a Primitive Man"), Sondheim ("Make the Most of Your Music") & Kurt Weill ("I'm a Stranger Here Myself"), as well as new gems by contemporary songwriters including Flaherty & Ahrens ("I Was Here") & Craig Carnelia ("Flight"). Maureen O’Flynn’s 25-year career has taken her to the most important opera houses of the world, from the Metropolitan Opera to La Scala to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Maureen has sung under the batons of Riccardo Muti, Placido Domingo, Antonio Pappano, Maurizio Benini, Leonard Slatkin & James Conlon, to name a few, performing the title characters in Lucia, La Traviata, Manon, The Merry Widow, Romeo & Juliette, Mimi in La Boheme & Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She has also appeared in concert with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Minnesota Symphony, and on numerous occasions at the star-studded Richard Tucker Gala Concerts at Avery Fisher Hall in NY. Maureen is equally at home in musical theatre. She has performed the roles of Jenny in Sondheim’s Company, Laurie in Oklahoma, Julie in Carousel, Marianne in Moliere’s The Miser & Sister Rita in The Runner Stumbles. She won acclaim for her portrayals of Guinevere in Camelot & Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, with the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts." [Source]
In September of 2011, Maureen launched the debut of her first cabaret show, At the Crossroads, at Feinstein's at Loews Regency. She will be returning to Feinstein's with her cabaret show on Dec 18, 2011, and Jan 9 & 10, 2012, at 8:30 PM. If you are feeling reminiscent for some of Ms. Flynn's operatic singing, check out "Caro nome" from Rigoletto after the jump.

Karita Mattila Recital Program Complete For Carnegie Hall

Accompanied by pianist Martin Katz, Finnish soprano Karita Mattila will sing a recital program on December 10, 8PM, at Carnegie Hall in New York.

"The first half of the program is devoted entirely to the music of France, beginning with one of Francis Poulenc’s most beloved song cycles. Banalités is the tongue-in-cheek title concocted by avant-garde poet Guillaume Apollinaire—the “banalities” of existence are anything but banal when turned into art. Poulenc’s cycle encompasses languorous boredom in a hotel room, the giddy whirl of Paris, tragic love, and Surrealist wordplay. French genius Claude Debussy was recovering from a serious case of Wagner addiction when he composed the Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire (Five Poems of Baudelaire). Set to texts by one of France’s greatest poets, these are among Debussy’s richest, most complex mélodies (19th-century French art song) that recall memories of bygone lovers, meditate on sensual pleasures and regret, and envision the afterlife. Born in Somero, Finland, Karita Mattila is among the world’s foremost proponents of music from her native country, including compositions by Aulis Sallinen—one of Finland’s most distinguished
Mattila with Katz in Helsinki
composers. Tonight, we hear a song cycle on four poems by Finnish poet Paavo Haavikko. During the heyday of radical music innovators like Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, composer Joseph Marx struggled to cling to his late Romantic origins. Presently, his gorgeous lieder are coming back into sight and sound; tonight, we hear five of his best songs in different moods." [Source] The full program listing is after the jump and you can read the full program notes by clicking here.

José Carreras Leads Holiday Celebrations For Voice in Prague

"Like the fragrance of mulled wine, holiday music fills the air in Prague during December. The city’s usual bounty of classical and traditional music becomes a rich feast during the Christmas season, when perennial favorites return to the halls and churches, and the opera houses, orchestras and chamber ensembles stage special holiday programs...For star power, there’s world-famous tenor José Carreras, who will be singing a program of classics and Christmas music with support from soprano Mi-Hae Park, the Prague Philharmonic Children’s Choir and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra (O2 Arena, Dec. 10). Fans of another singing star,
Mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková
Czech mezzo Dagmar Pecková, will have a chance to hear her in a much more intimate setting with a fine chamber group, Vojtěch Spurnýʼs Ensemble 18+ (Sts. Simon and Jude Church, Dec. 20)...The Prague Philharmonia is moving to Žofín for its Christmas concert, which will feature a program of popular opera arias by Verdi, Puccini and Donizetti sung by soprano Tereza Mátlová and tenor Aleš Briscein, who will also lead the audience in a closing set of Christmas carols (Žofín main hall, Dec. 21)....The Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra will serve up a confection of two seasonal J.S. Bach works, the Christmas Oratorio and Cantata No. 1 for the First Holiday of Christmas, with a strong cast of local singers that includes alto Markéta Cukrová, tenor Jaroslav Březina and the Prague Philharmonic Choir (Rudolfinum, Dec. 19). And the indefatigable Libor Pešek will lead the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and a large cast of local singers in a program of Pachelbel, J.S. Bach and Rybaʼs Czech Christmas Mass (Obecní dům, Dec. 20)...One could go no further
Soprano Eva Štruplová
than the State Opera and have a very enjoyable holiday season. With its storied history and fabulous rococo interior, it offers the most charming atmosphere in the city. On Christmas day, a brass quintet and the Kühn Children’s Choir will perform Czech composer Jan Seidelʼs popular program of “Bethlehem Songs.” And on New Year’s Eve, the State Opera offers an ideal setting for a lively production of Straussʼ Die Fledermaus...Organist extraordinaire Irena Chřibková will be at the giant console at St. James for two programs of light classics, the day after Christmas with soprano Eva Štruplová and flutist Mario Mesany, and on New Year’s Day with a brass quartet (St. Jamesʼ Basilica, Dec. 26 & Jan. 1)...And a delightful segue back to the serious season comes from the Talich Chamber Orchestra, which will be backing two very good singers, Chinese soprano Lily Zhang and American baritone Richard Zeller, in a program of opera arias (Sts. Simon and Jude Church, Jan. 2). [Source]

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Farrelly's "Three Stooges" Mimes Rossini's "Futile Precaution"

"Left on a nun's doorstep, Larry, Curly and Moe grow up finger-poking, nyuk-nyuking and woo-woo-wooing their way to uncharted levels of knuckleheaded misadventure. Out to save their childhood home, only The Three Stooges could become embroiled in an oddball murder plot...while also stumbling into starring in a phenomenally successful TV reality show." One prank even leaves Sean Hayes (as Larry) even hits a high operatic note when a lobster is dropped down his pants!

Hard not to see some of the farcical similarities to the opera from which this clip takes its music: "The Barber of Seville, or The Futile Precaution (Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L'inutile precauzione) is an opera buffa in two acts by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Cesare Sterbini. The libretto was based on Pierre Beaumarchais's comedy Le Barbier de Séville (1775), which was originally an opéra comique, or a mixture of spoken play with music. The première (under the title Almaviva, or The Futile Precaution) took place on 20 February 1816, at the Teatro Argentina, Rome. It was one of the earliest Italian operas to be performed in America and premiered at the Park Theater in New York City on 29 November 1825. Rossini's Barber has proven to be one of the greatest masterpieces of comedy within music, and has been described as the opera buffa of all opere buffe; even after two hundred years, its popularity on the modern opera stage attests to that greatness." [Source]

Three Romanian Divas in Concert: Donose, Gheorghiu, Văduva

Taking a cue from "The Three Tenors" concerts, three Romanian divas, Ruxandra Donose (left), Teodora Gheorghiu (middle) and Leontina Văduva (right), will perform in concert together on December 17. Full details: "Cele trei dive Ruxandra Donose, Teodora Gheorghiu şi Leontina Văduva vor fi pentru prima dată împreună pe scenele din România, la invitaţia pianistului Horia Mihail, care le va acompania, informează Radioul Public. Turneul naţional extraordinar "Cele trei dive" se va desfăşura la Iaşi, Cluj-Napoca, Timişoara, Bucureşti, între 17 şi 23 decembrie, după programul: Sala Filarmonicii din Iaşi - pe 17 decembrie, ora 19.00; Sala Auditorium Maximum Universitatea "Babeş-Bolyai" din Cluj Napoca - 19 decembrie, ora 19.00; Sala Capitol din Timişoara - 21 decembrie, ora 19.00; Sala Radio, Bucureşti - 23 decembrie, ora 19.00, împreună cu Orchestra Naţională Radio, dirijată de Iurie Florea. Dacă triada Pavarotti-Domingo-Carreras a devenit un brand preluat apoi cu succes de tenori din toată lumea, care au apelat la această formulă, în cadrul turneului "Cele trei dive", publicul va descoperi această idee de tripletă, realizată pornind de la alegerea vocilor şi continuând cu "negocierea" repertoriului, care va fi unul foarte atractiv, cu arii şi duete celebre din opere precum "Habanera" din "Carmen" de Bizet, "Aria Adelei" din "Liliacul" de Strauss, "Aria Charlottei" din "Werther" de Massenet, duete celebre din "Nunta lui Figaro" de Mozart, "Lakme" de Delibes, "Povestirile lui Hoffmann" de Offenbach, precum şi celebrul "Noel" de Adolphe Adam cântat de toate trei." [Source]