Friday, April 29, 2011

The Magic Tone of Josh Groban?

Listen to see if you can find any similarities between the Josh Groban's song "Galileo (Someone Like You)" from his most recent CD Illuminations and the aria "Magische Töne" from Goldmark's Die Königin von Saba sung here by Nicolai Gedda.

A History of "Orfeo ed Euridice" at the Metropolitan Opera

Risë Stevens as Orfeo (Photo: Tony Vaccaro)
As Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice is set to open tonight at the Metropolitan Opera with David Daniels, let's take a look back at the many stars who have sung the role of Orfeo at this famous company. The first performance given by the MET was actually at the Boston Theatre in Massachusetts and was sung in German with Marianne Brandt taking on the lead role in 1885. The next performance took place in 1891 with Giulia Ravogli singing Orfeo in Chicago, Illinois. In an interesting pairing, the work received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on December 11, 1893, with Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci taking the second part of the evening. Sofia Scalchi sang Orfeo and Nellie Melba sang Nedda. Quite an interesting night to be sure. The production returned in 1895 with Marie Brema as Orfeo and this time sharing the evening with Emma Calvé as Anita in the U.S. premiere of Massenet's La Navarraise. The opera gets revived in 1909 with Louise Homer in a new production with a drastically revised score by conductor of the performances, Arturo Toscanini. Marie Delna makes her debut as Orfeo in the last performance of this run. The original cast of this production returned for the 1910-11 and 1911-12 seasons for a revival with Margarete Matzenauer stepping in for one performance as Orfeo. There is one more performance on March 2, 1914, before this production takes a respite until 1936 when Orfeo ed Euridice returns to the MET in a new production conceived by George Balanchine that puts the singers in the orchestra pit and dancers portraying them on stage. Anna Kaskas was Orfeo
David Daniels as Orfeo at the Metropolitan (Photo: Annie Leibovitz)
and the performance was on a double-bill with Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. Kerstin Thorborg arrives in 1938 as Orfeo in a new production directed by Herbert Graf with sets by Harry Horner. When brought back in 1939, Erich Leinsdorf takes over conducting duties when Artur Bodanzky passes away and in 1941, Bruno Walter steps into the pit for Maestro duties. In February 1955, a new era began with Risë Stevens taking on the title role under conductor Pierre Monteux. From this point on a series of popular mezzo-sopranos including Grace Bumbry (1970) and Marilyn Horne (1972). The opera disappeared until the current Mark Morris production premiered in 2007 with costumes by Isaac Mizrahi and conducted by James Levine. The performances also marked the MET role debut as Orfeo for David Daniels. The role was put back in the hands of mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe when the production was revived in 2009. In addition to countertenor David Daniels, the current run will mark the debut of soprano Kate Royal as Euridice and the Amor of Lisette Oropesa, all under conductor Antony Walker. [Source]

A listening guide through various interpretations of "Che farò senza Euridice" throughout MET history:

Risë Stevens

Grace Bumbry

Marilyn Horne

In Review: "Tannhäuser" at the Dresden Semperoper

(Photo: Matthias Creutziger)
"Impressively, all the singers in this production, with the exception of the renowned Wagnerian tenor Stephen Gould in the title role, were the Ensemble members of the Semperoper. It may lack the starry cast of Vienna or Covent Garden, but the German system of maintaining a group of principal singers who sing a variety of roles throughout the season helps create a natural rapport between the singers which is essential in Wagner. Of the cast, the American soprano Marjorie Owens singing the role of Elisabeth stood out for the richness of her timbre, the ease in projection as well as the sincerity of her expression. On the other hand, Tichina Vaughn’s portrayal of Venus, with her wide vibrato, seemed a bit of a caricature although she brought out more personality in Act III. Stephen Gould is a highly experienced and dependable Tannhäuser with amazing vocal stamina, and he sang with plenty of ardour and passion. Wolfram von Eschenbach was sung by Christoph Pohl and if his 'Abendstern' aria did not have quite the charisma of Christian Gerhaher at Covent Garden last December, he played the crucial role in the last scene with genuine emotion. The Landgraf was sung authoritatively by Michael Eder. Lastly but not least, the Dresden Staatskappelle orchestra conducted by the venerable Peter Schneider was at the heart of the whole production....a prominent Wagner interpreter and a regular at Bayreuth, paced the music perfectly, and his balance of the voice and orchestra was exemplary." [Source]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

David Daniels and Aretha Franklin Visit "The View"

Countertenor David Daniels was a VIP guest today in the audience at ABC's The View. Performing on stage was none other than the "Queen of Soul"Aretha Franklin. And no, she did not perform "Nessun Dorma."

Music For the Royal Wedding - A Listener's Guide

For those playing along in the "Guess the Wedding Music" edition on Opera Fresh, match some of the original posts with the final list released for the royal nuptials tomorrow:

"Fantasia in G" (Piece d'orgue a 5) BWV 572 - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

"Veni Creator Spiritus" - Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934)

"Prelude on St Columba" Op 101 no 6 - Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)

"Sonata for Organ" Op 28, i. Allegro maestoso, ii. Allegretto - Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

"Serenade for Strings in E minor" Op 20, i. Allegro piacevole, ii. Larghetto, iii. Allegretto - Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Director Patrice Chéreau to Make Long-Awaited British Debut

Director in London (Photo: Rii)
"It is something of a mystery why Patrice Chéreau has waited until now to work in the British theatre. Ever since his epoch-making version of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth in 1976, he has been recognised as one of the greatest stage and opera directors of his generation, as well a considerable filmmaker (the spectacular historical drama La Reine Margot being his big international hit). His spirit is willing, his English is good, so why has it taken so long? He shrugs at the question. 'Nobody has asked me, that’s the only reason. The National Theatre suggested something once – 20 years ago. But nothing happened. Royal Shakespeare Company, Covent Garden… nothing, ever.'" [Source]

Book on Deceased Diva Leyla Gencer to Get Italian Printing

"Leyla Gencer - Tutkunun Romanı, Turkish journalist Zeynep Oral’s book chronicling the life of late Turkish opera singer Leyla Gencer, will be published in Italy on May 2. Translated by Alessandra Chiappano from the book’s English version released in 2008, Leyla Gencer - Il Canto e la Passione will be printed by the Milan-based publishing group Mursia. The book, first published in Turkish in 1992, comprises Oral’s conversations with Gencer and many figures from the international art scene who were acquainted with her." [Source]

Quotidian Dope; Vol. 1, Issue 8

Now you can watch a video of the much talked about opera with South Africa's Winnie Mandela as the subject matter. The opera production will tour the world. [BBC News]

Diana Damrau wins rave reviews as Gilda in Rigoletto after coming off her stint in the Rossini rarity Le Comte Ory at the Metropolitan Opera. "The standout was the soprano Diana Damrau...[she] won deserved ovations Tuesday night for her vocally gleaming, technically agile and affecting Gilda." [The New York Times]

United Arts of Central Florida and the Orlando Philharmonic helped revive the Orlando Opera with concert-version performances of La Bohème. [Orlando Sentinel]

Treemonisha finds its way into Boston's Hub schools to help children with voice lessons and their first opera experience. []

Caramoor International Music Festival announces the 2011 season. Performances will include Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore and Rossini's Guillaume Tell. []

Composer Peter Lieberson dies at the age of 64 after complications with lymphoma. He wrote many of his cherished works for the love of his life, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who passed away in 2006 from breast cancer. [Washington Post]

San Francisco Opera Announces Wagnerian Cast Change

Tenor replacement: Jay Hunter Morris
"David Gockley, General Director of San Francisco Opera, has announced a casting change in the Company’s upcoming presentation of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). American tenor Jay Hunter Morris will now sing the title role of “Siegfried” replacing acclaimed Wagernian tenor Ian Storey, who was originally announced to sing the role in both Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, the third and fourth operas of the composer’s epic four-opera cycle. Mr. Storey will only sing in Götterdämmerung, a performance that will mark both his Company and role debuts. The premiere of Siegfried is slated for Sunday, May 29th followed by the premiere of Götterdämmerung a week later on Sunday, June 5th. Three complete cycles of the Ring will be presented at the War Memorial Opera House from June 14th to July 3rd, 2011." [Source]

At 76, Jonathan Miller Reveals His Formula For Directing

Jonathan Miller preparing for opening night of Verdi's La Traviata (Photo: Les Bazso/PNG)
The opera legend is directing the Vancouver Opera production of La Traviata, which opens on Saturday, and takes the opportunity to be interviewed by The Vancouver Sun about various aspects of his profession. "'I have a simple formula as a director. It’s nothing more really than reminding singers of what they know already and have forgotten, a re-directing of their attention to Chekhovian detail — the little, negligible actions which are made considerable. This is something I learned as a student working with neurologically damaged patients. After a little while it becomes exactly what I have observed in my children and grandchildren. You don’t direct a child what to do — you put them, for example, into an environment in which English is spoken, and there they are a little later generating perfect English. So the funny thing is that once I start directing the drama, I don’t have to tell them what to do, any more than I have to tell a child to raise its voice at the end of an interrogative sentence. It’s all speech-acts — when we speak, we are in fact performing actions the purpose of which is to persuade, or to apologize. It doesn’t matter whether it is spoken or sung, it is all speech-acts. The intonation of the music takes care of itself, because you already know instinctively what intonation you need to be aggressive, to be apologetic, to be persuasive, and so on.'" He enjoys working the young cast in Vancouver, because as he puts it, 'Some older singers get ossified. They say ‘No, I must stand here, Alfredo would not do that,’ and I always want to reply, ‘When exactly were you last in touch with Alfredo on this subject?’ But if they are young, they will do anything — even act.'" A detailed cast list for the production of La Traviata and video interviews with the director are after the jump. [Source, Source]

Happy Birthday: Nan Merriman

Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas (De Falla)
Nan Merriman was born Katherine Ann Merriman on April 28, 1920, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The mezzo-soprano studied singing in Los Angeles with Alexis Bassian and the legendary Lotte Lehmann. By the age of twenty she was singing in Hollywood film soundtracks and it was there that she was spotted by Laurence Olivier. He picked Merriman to accompany him and his wife Vivien Leigh on a tour of Romeo and Juliet where Merriman would perform songs during the set changes. She sang many roles both live and on radio under the baton of Arturo Toscanini between 1944 and 1952 while he was conductor of the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Among the roles she sang with him, all released on CD, are Maddalena in Act IV of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto,

"Laudamus Te" and "Qui sedes ad
dextram Patris" (Bach)
Emilia in Verdi's Otello, Mistress Page in Verdi's Falstaff, and the trousers role of Orfeo in Act II of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. Soon after the Second World War Nan Merriman came to Europe where much of her career was to be centered. The role, she was most identified with and on which she built a strong reputation in Europe, was Dorabella in Mozart's Cosí fan tutte, which she sang amongst others at the Festival in Aix-en-Provence in 1953, 1955 and 1959; the Glyndebourne Festival 1956 and La Scala 1956 conducted by Toscanini's short-lived protégé, Guido Cantelli. She participated in two different complete recordings of Così fan tutte. Nan appeared as Baba the Turk in the British premiere of Stravinskys The Rakes Progress at Edinburgh (1953) and as Laura in The Stone Guest, by the nineteenth-century

"Che farò senza Euridice" (Gluck)
Russian composer Dargomizhsky, in 1958. Throughout the 1950s she appeared at many of the leading European opera houses, including Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Milan and Paris, and was a favorite at the Chicago Lyric Opera and the San Francisco Opera. She was very much admired in the Netherlands, where she became a particular favorite singer in recitals and on the concert platform with songs and Lieder of Bizet, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler and De Falla, accompanied by pianist as J.Antonietti and Felix de Nobel. On May 17, 19 and 21, 1957 she appeared under Otto Klemperer in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis, together with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jozsef Simandy and Heinz Rehfuss. On stage she appeared only once in the Netherlands, in Verdi's Fallstaff as Mrs Meg Page on June 29, 1956 in the Gebouw voor Kunsten en Wetenschappen in The Hague. Nan Merriman married with the Dutch tenor Tom Brand in Eys, Limburg, became at the same time the Dutch nationality. Her husband started as an opera singer and became an

"Chère Nuit" (Bachelet)
accomplished oratorio singer who sang the tenor part in numerous passions, oratorio and cantatas. He was widowed in the early sixties and father to ten children. Nan decided to give up her career in order to be with him and take care of the children. Her last concerts, accompanied by Felix de Nobel at the piano, were at April 27 and 28, 1965 in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. Unfortunately, Tom Brand died of a heart stroke in 1970. Nan stayed in the Netherlands taking responsibility for the children, but when they were grown up she moved to Los Angeles in 1973 where she still resides today. Her studio recordings of Spanish and French songs, with Gerald Moore at the piano, were recorded for EMI and have been released on CD by the Testament label. [Source, Source]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jessye Norman Presents Inaugural Vision Award

Arthur Miller and Jessye Norman
(Photo: Marilyn Abalos/Dance Theatre of Harlem)
"Opera star Jessye Norman presented Dance Theatre of Harlem's Inaugural Vision Award to the organization's co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus, Arthur Mitchell at a gala benefit, held at The Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center on Monday, April 25. The gala was hosted by actress, author and former dancer Victoria Rowell. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Next Generation Fund for scholarships and financial aid to students at the Dance Theatre of Harlem School." [Source]

Sony Classics Releases Live MET Operas, 2.0

Hot on the heels of the last set of releases in January, the Metropolitan Opera is ready for the second batch to officially be released May 27 (Europe). Of the live recordings being put out, it's hard to imagine a better cast than the one in Wagner's Die Walküre with Nilsson, Rysanek, Ludwig, Vickers and Stewart!

Plácido Domingo Surely Does Not Endorse This Product

Check out the background music to this cheesy product advertisement for the "Facial Flex" by clicking on this link.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Introducing Soprano He Bai at the University of Hawaii

Music Bump: "Praise the Lord" Vespers by Sergei Rachmaninov (Irina Arkhipova, mezzo-soprano)

"The Resurrection of Christ" by Peter Paul Rubens

The Mystique of the Missing Russian Diva Voices

Every few years a soprano comes along from the Russian landscape that has a big and steely sound to take on the most challenging music of Giuseppe Verdi. She then is proclaimed the "Verdi soprano" for which the opera world has been impatiently waiting. Then after singing a few seasons at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala and Covent Garden, that artist slips into obscurity or suffers major vocal decline. Here are some examples:

Galina GorchakovaLjuba Kazarnovskaya
"Pace, pace mio Dio""Ecco l'orrido"
La Forza del DestinoUn Ballo in Maschera

Maria GuleghinaMarina Mescheriakova
"Santo di Patria""Tu che le vanità"
AttilaDon Carlo

And will this latest Russian export to be proclaimed the leading diva of Verdi be the next victim?

Marina Poplavskaya
"Mia madre aveva una povera ancella"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Arnold Rawls Makes Unexpected MET Debut

Rawls as Manrico at the Bregenz Festival
Tenor Arnold Rawls stepped in for an indisposed Marcelo Álvarez for the second half of this evening's performance of Il Trovatore at the Metropolitan Opera. He was told at the end of the intermission that he would need to go back stage and get into costume to sing. An announcement was made to the audience that there would be an extra few minutes to allow the transition. For those who know the opera, the music that begins Act II, scene 3 is some of the most difficult for the role of Manrico during the whole evening. He opens with "Ah si, ben mio coll'essere" and quickly moves to "Di quella pira l'orrendo foco," a feat that would test the mettle of the most seasoned tenor who has also had the advantage of Act 1 to warm-up. Mr. Rawls basically went on cold and blew the audience away it what became his Metropolitan Opera debut. Roars of "bravo" thundered the opera house after his arias and the crowd leapt to its feet for his curtain call. Despite the interruption it may have caused the other singers who had to take extra time during the break when they were ready to get back on stage and sing, the cast change proved a thrilling evening for the tenor and the audience. The Louisiana-native has previously sung the role of Manrico in Il Trovatore for Bregenz Festival (Austria), Opera Southwest, Teatro Lirico, Mobile Opera, Indianapolis Opera, Seattle Opera and in concert with the Elmhurst Symphony. For more information about Arnold Rawls visit his website:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Marina Poplavskaya Enchants Writer and Offends Immigration

Poplavskaya: A tigress on and off the stage?
(Photo: Phil Fisk/The Guardian)
The Guardian's Peter Conrad seems to never run out of superfluous adjectives to describe what seems to be his muse, Marina Poplavskaya: "Poplavskaya's jaw – angular, horizontally extended to give her square face the look of a cubist stores the breath she releases when sculpting the air as she sings....That sound is cool and silken, stoically controlling the passions it expresses....She does not vivaciously seduce us like her colleague Anna Netrebko, and her air of withdrawn mystery is increased by the waist-length cascade of hair that she wears like a veil. She is the Mona Lisa with a bevelled jaw; it's up to us to intuit what goes behind that alabaster mask...This pining futility could not be further from the determination of Poplavskaya herself....Arriving at the theatre, she told the selectors with precocious self-possession that she had a large repertoire and intended to perform all of it; they of course succumbed."

Worse yet may be having to experience Ms. Poplavskaya at the airport: "'Every time at the airport,' sighs Poplavskaya, 'I am a victim again.' Before each foreign engagement, she has to return to Moscow to join sullen, shuffling queues in quest of a visa. 'I'm trying to bring my mum to London now to visit; she's at the embassy today. On the phone she was hysteric, terrified by it. They are suspicious, they interrogate us, they tell us we must wait weeks for a decision and it is so expensive! Even if you get visa, sometimes you are not allowed into the country where you sing. At Heathrow once I slept a night on the floor because they wanted more information before they admit me. I am in a herd with workers, house cleaners, many people from Araby. Do they think I sell drugs or carry bombs? One man in a blue uniform saw I had a 1A visa to come here, and he said, 'This is only given to persons of extraordinary ability.' I replied, 'But I am person of extraordinary ability!' He asked what my job was and I said, 'I am opera singer.' 'Madam,' he said, 'do you make fun of me?' Finally, I had to threaten that I would report him for his intonation. 'Just put the stamp,' I said, 'and say welcome.' He did it, but with such a look! He expected maybe that I would give him champagne?' Bob Dylan pitied the poor immigrant; I'd rather pity the poor immigration officer who has to match wits with the deplaning Poplavskaya." [Source]

Patrick Reardon Gives a Perspective From the Chorus

Patrick Reardon, one of the many stories
in the Chicago Symphony Chorus
Carnegie Hall presented Verdi's Otello in concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus under the direction of Maestro Riccardo Muti on April 15. One of the members in the chorus was tenor Patrick Reardon. In an interview with the Litchfield County Times, the Connecticut-native gives an interesting insight into the world of one chorus member's life. Growing up in a musical household in New Hartford, his singing abilities were discovered at an early age as he performed in his local church choir. An avid sportsman, he continued to casually pursue his passion for music when he decided to attend the University of Connecticut and begin taking voice lessons. He is now studying to get his masters in music education. “I think we can’t start early instrumental work, the Suzuki method starts children as young as 3 and 4 years old on very small stringed instruments. They achieve phenomenal results when they get older, and are so much more advanced that their peers who start in the fourth or fifth grades.” As he continues his education, he gets his income from being a member of the Chicago Symphony
Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony
Orchestra and Chorus at Carnegie Hall
(Photo: Joshua Bright/The New York Times)
Chorus and the St. James Cathedral Choir. Once finished with his education he hopes to teach four or five years at the high school level before he pursues a doctorate in conducting. Singing with the Chicago Symphony Chorus has one major perk besides the music for this 25-year old, he gets to perform with his his fiancée, Katherine Kahrmann, who is also in the Grammy Award-winning group. So the next time you're at a concert with orchestra, soloists and a famous conductor, remember there are more than 100 individual stories of the chorus members behind it all. [

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Die Walküre"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Wagner's Die Walküre live tonight at 6:30 PM EST on Sirius XM radio. Intermission guests: Sondra Radvanovsky, David Daniels, Tyne Daly and Robert Dean Smith.

Deborah Voigt Reveals Differences Between Theater & Opera

Voigt as Brünnhilde (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe)
"One of Debbie’s close friends is Jack Doulin, a casting agent who Debbie met through his work with New York Theater Workshop. She told me that she had been having some interesting conversations with him about the differences between how the theater world mounts a production compared to how it’s done in the opera world. 'In the theater, the company has weeks of previews before a paying audience before they are critiqued. But in opera, we get less than half the rehearsal time, and no chance to sing it for an audience and take their temperature, and we are critiqued the night that it is done before a paying audience for the first time. It’s really not fair! Wouldn’t it be nice to have this wonderful cast rehearse on the Lepage set for three weeks for an audience and then invite criticism?' [Source]

Happy Birthday: Fiorenza Cossotto

"Nel giardin del bello" Don Carlo
Fiorenza Cossotto is an Italian mezzo soprano. She is considered by many to be one of the great mezzo-sopranos of the 20th century. Born on April 22, 1935 in Crescentino, Province of Vercelli, Italy, Cossotto attended the Turin Academy of Music and graduated top of her class. After her studies with Mercedes Llopart, she made her operatic debut as Sister Matilde in the world premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites in 1957 at La Scala in Milan. Her international debut was at the 1958 Wexford Festival as Giovanna Seymour in Donizetti's Anna Bolena. Her Covent Garden debut was in 1959 as Neris in Cherubini's Médée, with Maria Callas in the title role. A 1962 performance of the lead in La favorita at La Scala led to wider fame and she made her American debut in the same role in 1964 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and as Amneris at the Metropolitan Opera in 1968. Altogether between the seasons of 1967–68 and 1988–89 she gave 148 performances at the Met (exclusively leading roles). She was considered

"Solo un pianto" Medea
an expert in portrayals of heavy Italian roles of the middle 19th century e.g. Favorita, Amneris, Azucena, Eboli, Preziosilla, Maddalena, Ulrica, and Laura. She also essayed Carmen, Mozart's Cherubino, Urbain in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, Bellini's Romeo and Marfa in Khovantschina. She kept on singing, and in 2005 she celebrated her 70th birthday with a performance of Suor Angelica at the Théâtre Royal in Liège, Belgium. She was married to the Italian bass Ivo Vinco for over 40 years, and had a son, Roberto. The marriage ended in divorce. According to the book Opera published by Koenemann, 'She [Cossotto] and Giulietta Simionato were the leading Italian mezzo-sopranos of the 1960s and 1970's. She [Cossotto] won plaudits in the annals of operatic history for her wonderful vocal timbre, her perfect singing technique, and the ease with which she could master different registers. Besides singing the great mezzo roles, she also took the outstanding alto parts of the Italian operatic repertoire.' Among her competitors were Shirley Verrett and Grace Bumbry, Rita Gorr, Christa Ludwig, Marilyn Horne, Viorica Cortez and Tatiana Troyanos. Apart from mezzo and alto roles she also sang soprano roles which are traditionally sung by mezzos, such as Santuzza (Cavalleria Rusticana) and Adalgisa (Norma). She sang

"Ahime!...morir mi sento" Aida
Adalgisa next to the Normas of Callas, Joan Sutherland, Caballé, Gencer and Elena Souliotis. Full live documents (except for Callas which is partial) of these performances are commercially released in either audio or video. She also tried her luck in soprano roles (alas in studio only) of Lady Macbeth and Marchesa del Poggio (Un giorno di regno), and made a commercial recording of soprano arias by Verdi. Her repertory at the Met included Amneris, Eboli, Adalgisa, Santuzza, Azucena, Dalila, Carmen (only on tour and in the park concerts), Principessa (Adriana Lecouvreur) and Mistress Quickly (which she added in 1985 next to Giuseppe Taddei as Falstaff). [Source]

"Una macchia... è qui tuttora!" Macbeth
"Di tanti palpiti" Tancredi
"Si mostri a chi l'adora" Un Giorno di Regno
"Il tenero momento" Lucio Silla
"O mio Fernando" La Favorita
"L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" Carmen

Gergiev Brings Berlioz and Rimsky-Korsakov to Festival

(Photo: Howard Schatz)
"The sixteenth Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival will revolve around the 'Sea & the City', the organisers have announced. The festival will begin on 8 September with a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and Britten’s Death in Venice Suite conducted by Valery Gergiev. On 9 September he will conduct Berlioz’s Les Troyens and on 10 September the Dutch premiere of Rimski-Korsakov’s opera Sadko. Mr Gergiev, who is from Russia, was the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal conductor between 1995 and 2008, and currently is the festival’s artistic director. The festival will also include performances by other ensembles." [Source]

For more information visit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Music-Loving Photographer, Chris Hondros, Killed in Libya

Chris Hondros (March 14, 1970 – April 20, 2011)
"Conjure a combat photographer in your mind’s eye — fatigues, a whiskey flask and a fondness for rude pastimes. Now discard the cliché and conjure Chris Hondros of Getty Images instead. A tweed blazer with elbow patches. A taste for martinis. A love of Mahler. And a passion for chess. Mr. Hondros, 41, was mortally wounded Wednesday in Misurata, Libya, not long after filing intensely close-up pictures of the fighting between rebel and government forces. Tim Hetherington, the director and producer (with Sebastian Junger) of the documentary Restrepo, was killed in the same attack. Two other photographers — Guy Martin and Michael Christopher Brown — were injured. Colleagues spoke on Wednesday of Mr. Hondros’s quiet drive, his steady friendship and his devotion to his fiancée, Christina Piaia. They also recalled several distinguishing habits and passions. 'He would be conducting with his hands as walked around,' said Chip East, a photojournalist. 'He knew more about classical music than anyone I know. He knew every beat to every symphony, every opera.'" [Source]

From a September 2010 New York Times article: "Lens recently recorded the screen of Mr. Hondros’s laptop as he timed his images to a recording of Bach’s Partita in D minor for solo violin performed by Mark Huggins, associate concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. All of the images were made through a Humvee window as Mr. Hondros rode through Baghdad." Watch the video here.

HGO's Anthony Freud To Replace LOC's William Mason

Mr. Freud will leave Houston
"Lyric Opera of Chicago named Anthony Freud as its new general director, succeeding William Mason, 69 years old, who had announced plans to retire. The changeover becomes effective Oct. 1, opening night of Lyric's 2011-2012 season. Mr. Freud, a 53-year-old native of London, has been general director of the Houston Grand Opera since 2006 and, prior to that, was general director of the Welsh National Opera. He also currently is chairman of Opera America, the largest professional opera association in North America. In 2010, Mr. Freud commissioned and produced the world's first mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna/To Cross the Face of the Moon, a work recounting the story of three generations of a family in Texas and Mexico. Mr. Freud will be the fourth general director in Lyric's 57-year history." [Source]

Dallas Opera Guild Vocal Competition Semi-Finalists Named

The Texas organization has announced twenty-one semi-finalists in their 23rd annual competition that will have its final judging on Saturday, May 14, 2011, in the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Some past winner alumni of the competition include Latonia Moore, Jesus Garcia, Clifton Forbis, Takesha Meshé Kizart and Jennifer Black. The judges this year include Daniel Biaggi (General Director of Palm Beach Opera), Andreas "Andy" Melinat (Director of Artistic Administration, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Christina C. Scheppelmann (Director of Artistic Operations, Washington National Opera), Joshua Winograde (Artistic Administrator, Los Angeles Opera and Director of the Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program) and Jonathn Pell (Artistic Director, The Dallas Opera). In previous years the competition has administered as much as $19,000 in prize money. The event is free to the public. [Source]

The full list of semi-finalists is after the jump.

Luisi Taking Over For Levine: "Epochal Changing of the Guard"

Luisi at the MET (Photo: Sara Krulwich/New York Times)
As Fabio Luisi prepares to conduct Rigoletto at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday, the New York Times speculates that he may be the heir apparent to James Levine's job as Music Director. Although the Italian-born maestro refuses to discuss the matter, dismissing the topic as inappropriate, there is plenty of evidence to suggest he is slowly making his way to New York for more important duties. Getting ringing endoresments from one of the MET's favorite artists doesn't hurt either: "He’s like James Levine, an all-arounder,” the German soprano Diana Damrau said of Mr. Luisi. “He loves voices, and he listens and he reacts.” [Source]

Renée Fleming Sings For the People of Japan

"For the People of Japan is a YouTube channel created by cellist Yo-Yo Ma to give space for a cultural response to the recent natural disasters and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan. This channel was created to provide a dedicated global space for cultural response to the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan. Our hope is that people in Japan might take comfort in knowing the world is with them as they endure unimaginable hardship."

Nudity In The Theater: Too Much For Audiences?

One of the many nude scenes from Baal in Sydney
In the opera world, most audiences wonder if the soprano singing the title role in Salome will bare all during the dance of the seven veils. Few have. But artistically speaking, shouldn't it be put in front of audiences for realism sake? Current productions at the Metropolitan Opera include prostitutes in Luc Bondy's Tosca that have greatly toned down their sexual antics with Scarpia, but the Wozzeck included an erotic simulated sex scene involving a 55-year old Waltraud Meier jumping up and wrapping her legs around Stuart Skelton as he humped her against a wall. The Sydney Morning Herald addresses the issue of taking it to the limits in theater. "Baal is playing at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne. In Stone's version, the actors are naked for much of the play as Baal, an outsider poet and singer who rejects the constraints of a bourgeois society, immerses himself in sex, booze and emotional and physical cruelty. The show's early previews inspired several walkouts by audience members confronted by the nudity and violence." This production of Bertolt Brecht's play has prompted many walk-outs by audience members. But it begs the question of why is this sort of thing fine to see in movies, but it is not good live in theater. In this recent article, Jonathan Bielski, executive producer at the Sydney Opera House, comments that it is justifiable to push the envelope as long as it is not just for "shock" value. "Opera Australia received a number of complaints about the lengthy fellatio scene in Neil Armfield's award-winning production of Bliss last year. More complaints rolled in for Tosca's rape scene, which insiders say is one of the reasons Cheryl Barker pulled out of the role. The company plans to warn audiences about nudity and scenes of a graphic violent and sexual nature in the coming production of Richard Mills's The Love of the Nightingale. So far no one has complained about the topless prostitutes in La Boheme." Opera Australia's Lyndon Terracini says, "Personally, I think there is a terrible double standard. What is allowed in film and television is far more insidious. If you're comfortable watching extreme violence and sex scenes in Underbelly, you should have no problem with Rigoletto." [Source]

Bass Matt Boehler Talks About Upcoming Glimmerglass Gig

Bass Boehler has the goods (Photo: Todd Franson)
The gay opera singer is interviewed by Metroweekly of Washington, D.C., where he discusses his challenges pursuing musical theater as a bass and the path he took from his training in Wisconsin to his decision to transition into opera. "Boehler started his opera career in 2000, and then honed his craft further as a Filene Young Artist with the Wolf Trap Opera Company in the mid-2000s. He's now returning to Wolf Trap to perform in The Inspector, the second opera the Wolf Trap Foundation has commissioned. John Musto and Mark Campbell's comedy is based on Russian writer Nikolai Gogol's The Government Inspector, but the pair have transposed the play to 1930s Sicily under Mussolini's reign, and written it in English." He ends the interview being asked about the possibility of a gay opera to which he responds, "In some ways, opera is so gay that it might be like gilding the lily a little bit, you know?" [Source]

Chattanooga Symphony & Opera Selects Female Music Director

The Maestra, a Japan-native, in rehearsal
After a two-year search for a new Music Director, the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera has made its choice: Dr. Kayoko Dan. She recently completed her three-year tenure as the Assistant Conductor of The Phoenix Symphony before becoming the Music Director and Conductor of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra in Lexington, KY, a position she will hold until joining the CSO in September 2011. She is the eighth Music Director of the CSO and the first female to hold the position. "Kayoko Dan began her musical training in Japan at age three. After relocating to the United States, she continued her musical studies with flute and received her Bachelor in Music Education at The University of Texas, and her DMA in Conducting and Master in Music education from Arizona State University. She was named the Karajan Fellowship for the Young Conductors in 2007 and David Effron

Brian Mulligan Makes Last Minute Replacement in San Diego

(Photo: Sam Hodgson)
"At 9:30 a.m. Monday, one of the main singers for Faust, Joshua Hopkins, told general director Ian Campbell he was getting sick. They immediately decided Hopkins should withdraw from the first performance of Faust, and maybe more, depending on his health. Three hours later, Campbell booked another baritone to sing the Valentin role, Brian Mulligan. By the time I was sitting in Campbell's office on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m., Mulligan had arrived and was at his costume fitting. Once Campbell made the decision that Hopkins should sit out, he and his assistant made a list of about 10 candidates, bolstered by suggestions from some of the other singers of people they'd worked with before. They made a list of requirements, crossing off any of the
Brian Mulligan as Valentin and John Relyea
as Méphistophélès in San Francisco
(Photo by Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)
candidates who didn't match: Male, baritone, established, available within 24 hours, versed in the role of Valentin (not just a song or two) and comfortable with swordplay. Oh, and he had to be American or currently in the United States, to avoid a visa processing delay. That left a pool of exactly two people. In the first conversation with Mulligan's agent, Campbell learned that Mulligan sang the same role with the San Francisco Opera and will sing it at the Metropolitan Opera next winter." [Source]

When the Verdi's "Anvil Chorus" Meets Wireless

And some visuals from the David McVicar production of Il Trovatore which is currently playing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

(Photos: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stephanie Blythe Sings For Classical Action

The mezzo in action.
"There was a day when the 'Three Bs' were acknowledged to be Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. On Wednesday evening, April 6, Brahms was still in evidence, but the other members of the evening’s Trio of B’s were the irrepressible Irving Berlin and the incandescent Stephanie Blythe. And add to that heady mix the irresistible Warren Jones on piano and you have the recipe for a truly unforgettable evening of music-making. From Brahms’ Eight Folk Melodies and his Rhapsody No. 2 for solo piano to vocal and piano gems of the 20s and 30s, among them piano rags of Scott Joplin and Berlin’s saucy 'If You Don’t Want My Peaches,' never saucier than as delivered by the incomparable Ms. Blythe, eighty-five Classical Action supporters were treated to an evening of sheer vocal and piano magic. As an encore, Ms.
The singer with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Charles Hamlen.
Blythe offered a haunting performance of Stephen Foster’s classic 'Beautiful Dreamer,' which lingers in our ears and memories and is probably resonating still in the acoustically vibrant home of our gracious and generous hosts, Kevin Roon and Simon Yates.
Tickets are still available for the final concert in the Michael Palm Series on May 4, featuring mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and pianist Jeremy Denk." [Source]

Soprano Betsy Diaz, 22, at the Palm Beach Opera Competition

The young Cuban-American singer talks about how she prepares to sing in the competition, including listening to Rihanna's "Umbrella" on her ipod before singing Puccini's "Sì, mi chiamano Mimì" on stage. She also discusses what it is she loves about the art form of opera and how she tries to communicate that to the audience. Read more about the up-and-coming soprano's career on her website:

Sondra Radvanovsky Profiled by the New York Times

La Diva Radvanovsky in New York
(Photo: Vivien Schweitzer/NYTimes)
The soprano, who makes her return to the David McVicar production of Il Trovatore this evening at the Metropolitan Opera, gives an interview to the New York Times about the long road it has been to success in the world's greatest opera houses. She describes the difficulty of administrators not really "getting" her unique voice and how hard she has worked to prove she is one of the leading Verdi sopranos of this generation. She discusses her relationship with the Peter Gelb and how her early involvement with MET - winning the National Council Auditions and being a member of the Lindemann Young Artist Program - never secured her hiring by the house for large roles. Through determination and hard work, she showed fellow colleagues like Plácido Domingo and Dmitri Hvorostovsky that she had not only the vocal goods but the stage craft to rank among the best. In discussing her own unique voice the article states, "Ms. Radvanovsky admires Maria Callas, because 'she paid attention to the text and the music and was willing to make an ugly sound, if the text and music called for it,' she said. 'She was one of the best storytellers ever.' She compares her voice to Callas’s in the sense that audiences 'love it or hate it.'" [Source]

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Happy Birthday: Natalie Dessay

The French coloratura soprano was born Nathalie Dessaix, 19 April 1965, in Lyon. She dropped the "h" in her first name in honor of Natalie Wood when she was in grade school and subsequently simplified the spelling of her surname outside France. Famous
A 2001 Corpus Thalis gown designed
for Ms. Dessay
in her earlier career for a very high upper extension, limpid intonation and superb coloratura, Dessay became more recognized in recent years for her dramatic and comedic flair as a singing actress. In her youth, Dessay had intended to be a ballet dancer, and then an actress. She discovered her talent for singing while taking acting classes, and shifted her artistic focus to music. Dessay was encouraged to study voice at the Conservatoire national de région de Bordeaux and gained experience as a chorister in Toulouse. At the competition Les Voix Nouvelles, run by France Télécom, she was awarded First Prize (Premier Prix de Concours) followed by a year's study at Paris Opera's Ecole d'Art Lyrique, where she sang Elisa in Mozart's Il re pastore. Also, she entered the International Mozart Competition at the Vienna State Opera, winning First Prize. She was quickly approached by a number
of theatres, and subsequently sang Blondchen, Madame Herz (in Der Schauspieldirektor), Zerbinetta and Zaïde at the Opéra National de Lyon and the Opéra Bastille, as well as Adele in Die Fledermaus in Geneva. She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1994 as Fiakermilli in Strauss's Arabella. Having given over 70 performances at the MET, she has sung in Ariadne auf Naxos, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Roméo et Juliette, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Sonnambula and La Fille du Régiment. She is an exclusive recording artist of EMI Classics. Photos of Natalie Dessay are both by Simon Fowler. [Source, Source, Source, Source]

Listening highlights from the soprano's career (click the aria title to launch the music):
"Où va la jeune hindoue" Lakmé (Delibes)

"O zittre nicht" Die Zauberflöte (Mozart)

"Großmächtige Prinzessin" Ariadne auf Naxos (Strauss)
"Les Oiseaux dans la Charmille" Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Offenbach)

"Il dolce suono...Ardon gl'incensi" Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)

"Oh! quante volte" I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini)

"Frühlingsstimmen", Op. 410 (J. Strauss)

"Da tempeste il legno infranto" Giulio Cesare (Händel)