Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seattle Opera "Porgy and Bess" Showcases Two Young Singers

Mary Elizabeth Williams as Serena with Gordon
Hawkins as Porgy. (Photo: Elise Bakketun/Seattle Opera)
"Porgy is a treasure trove of magnificent music, a compendium of one great number after another. Its status as an opera has always been more a complicated proposition. Discussions about where exactly it fits in the repertoire, not to mention its generic implications, are ultimately unsatisfactory: it is what it is, and the occasional lurches in tone from rather conventional old-school opera to Broadway show are part of its fabric. In a way, Seattle Opera’s production doesn’t particularly try to smooth over these inconsistencies. The show-tune idiom associated with Sportin’ Life’s two big numbers (excellently sung, acted, and danced by tenor Jermaine Smith) are frankly treated as star turns. Alto Gwendolyn Brown’s Maria knowingly achieves considerable theatrical effect with her small character role. Leads Gordon Hawkins as Porgy and Lisa Daltirus as Bess embody a more classical sensibility, and a rather refined one at that. Soprano Daltirus brings stature and a sophisticated musical delivery to a role
Click here for special interview
with Mary Elizabeth Williams.
that swings from near-caricature to gritty realism. Baritone Hawkins, a SO favourite, has a warm, rich sound, and very considerable finesse; on opening night, his sensitive restraint was tarnished by occasional balance issues between singer and brass-heavy orchestra. In subordinate roles, baritone Michael Redding was a virile and effective Crown, with lots of requisite swagger and a ringing sound. Porgy’s second scene proved a fine showcase for soprano Mary Elizabeth Williams, who demonstrated that Gershwin (and librettist Dubose Heyward’s) rather one-dimensional characters are nonetheless capable of surprising psychological depth. Her 'Since my man’s gone now' was raw but astonishingly moving—one of the highlights of a solid, and solidly entertaining, revival of a (the?) great American classic." [Source]

Donovan Singletary as Jake.
(Photo: Elise Bakketun)
"Blue's opening number of 'Summertime' sets the tone perfectly with her soaring voice and only sets up the tragedy even more for when Daltirus reprises it later in the show. And [Donovan] Singletary and Blue are stunning as they portray the new hope of this run down town. Smith and Redding as the villains of the piece are each deliciously despicable in their own way. Redding with his sultry lowness and Smith with his conniving temptations and snake like physicality. Brown tends to steal every scene she's in with her grand, take no prisoners attitude. And Williams' rendition of 'My Man is Gone Now' at the funeral brought the entire house to tears. But the show is called Porgy and Bess and the title characters do not get overshadowed at all by the stellar supporting cast. Hawkins quiet strength is the perfect compliment for Daltirus' broken innocence and the two create the perfect aching chemistry for these heartbreaking lovers. Now you may have noticed I haven't said much about the vocal quality of the performers. Well, that's
Click here for a special interview
with Donovan Singletary.
because it all goes without saying as every single person in the show, from principle to chorus, delivers soul shaking vocal performances. This is made even more awe inspiring as none of the performers are miked. Yes, you heard me. In the grand McCaw Hall, there is no amplification so these amazing singers are literally belting to the rafters. Yes the supertitles are still there as with foreign language operas so we're sure to get every word of the story. But for us jaded musical theater aficionados, listening to real voices able to do what they did is a genuine treat. The production is near flawless." [Source]

Bard College Presents Strauss's "Die Liebe Der Danae"

Danae searching for a sugar daddy with a Midas touch. (Photo: Todd Norwood) 
"In the Bard production, smoothly directed by Kevin Newbury, Pollux is a corporate mogul who tries to hide under his boardroom table from his creditors. Jupiter's ship arrives in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty faintly discernible in the background. Danae's picture is plastered on billboards advertising a brand of perfume called AU (the chemical symbol for gold). And she and Midas end up not in a hut in the Syrian desert but living in their car in the American West. [Leon] Botstein assembled a talented cast of singers who did valiant battle with Strauss' treacherous vocal writing. Meagan Miller, a soprano with a bright sound and impressive power, was Danae. She was able to scale the highest reaches of the role (including a final C-sharp), though sometimes her tone took on a hard, metallic sound. When not pushing for volume, she floated lovely soft high notes, even if once or twice she had trouble sustaining them. As Midas, tenor Roger Honeywell sang his high-flying phrases ardently, though he seemed to be pressing his modest voice to its limits. Baritone Carsten Wittmoser's voice isn't really big enough for the stentorian demands Strauss places on Jupiter, but to his credit he never let his tone turn coarse." [Source]

One more promotional photo by Todd Norwood after the jump.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Harolyn Blackwell Talks Finger Lakes Wine on PBS "Vine Talk"

(Click the above image to launch the full episode of "Vine Talk" featuring the opera soprano)

"From the opera stage to Broadway, concert and recital halls around the world, Harolyn Blackwell has established herself as one of the finest and most versatile singers of her generation. She has performed before enthusiastic audiences at The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, The Lyric Opera of Chicago and Teatro Colon de Buenos Aires amongst others. Her television credits include The Grammy Awards, The Kennedy Center Honors and The Annual Memorial Day and Fourth of July Concerts on PBS."

Friday, July 29, 2011

Going Retro: Julianne Moore's Wagnerian Sequence in "Lebowski"

Hot starlet Julianne Moore has a new film out, Crazy, Stupid, Love and it's worth looking back at one of her most memorable scenes in movie making. In 1998, she appeared as Maude in The Big Lebowski. It may particularly stand out for opera fans, because the dream sequence features the actress in full valkyrie armor mode....for the bowling alley. Check out the music video:

More pictures are after the jump.

What Connects Andy Cohen and Opera Theatre of Saint Louis?

Go to 3:12 in the video to see what monumental memory Opera Theatre of Saint Louis holds for Bravo's executive producer Andy Cohen (spoiler: not for the faint of stomach).

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday: Olga Borodina

"Меркнет свет дневной [Konchakovna's Cavatina]" Prince Igor (Borodin)

"Net, tol'ko tot, kto znal"
[None but the lonely heart]
"Olga Borodina (born July 29, 1963, in Saint Petersburg) is a leading dramatic mezzo-soprano, known for her roles in Russian operas at her home company, the Mariinsky Theatre, and for her international performing and recording career in a varied repertoire. Borodina made her debut in Samson and Delilah at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden with Plácido Domingo. She performs frequently at the Metropolitan Opera and the San Francisco Opera and many other opera houses in roles including La Cenerentola, Marguérite in La damnation de Faust, Eboli in Don Carlos, Principessa in Adriana Lecouvreur, Carmen, Marfa in Khovanshchina and Amneris in Aida. Borodina is known for her "plush" voice. She has received recognition as a People's Artist of Russia in 2002, the first prize gold medal of the 1998 Rosa Ponselle Vocal Competition, and also won the Barcelona competition in 1989. She was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation (2006). She was one of

"Printemps qui commence"
Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns)
the winners of the 2007 Opera News Awards for distinguished achievement. Borodina is featured in many Russian opera recordings on Philips conducted by Valery Gergiyev with the Mariinsky company. Her Russian heritage is very important to her: "I'm one of the mad people who need their roots. I take nourishment from my native land, my motherland. I want my children to study in Russia, because they are Russian. I think this is tremendously important. But life in St Petersburg is becoming tougher by the day and the Russian spirit, the spirituality that was part and parcel of Russian culture, is almost not there any more. She once pulled out of a production of Carmen at La Scala because the recitatives were spoken instead of sung, and left rehearsals at the Royal Opera House for Aida, directed by Robert Wilson, because she found the conductor's (Antonio Pappano) "approach too alien to the opera". In 2006, the management of the Vienna State Opera "decided to distance itself from an engagement [with Borodina], not just for this production but also for all others" on the night of the première of L'italiana in Algeri." [Source] She is married to bass Ildar Abdrazakov.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Netrebko and Schrott Will Open Restaurant in Vienna

"Operndiva Anna Netrebko und Bassbariton Erwin Schrott wollen ein Restaurant eröffnen – und zwar in Wien, wie sie in einem Interview für die morgen erscheinende NEWS-Ausgabe bekannt geben. Die Stadt bleibt Lebensmittelpunkt, obwohl beide in der nächsten Saison keine Auftritte an der Staatsoper haben. Beide lassen auch hinsichtlich der Salzburger Festspiele, die sie in diesem Sommer nachhaltig mitgestalten, aufhorchen: Anna Netrebko singt dort zwar nächstes Jahr die Mimi in La Bohème, hat aber für die folgenden Jahre der Intendanz Alexander Pereira keine Anfrage. Schrott ist in dieser Ära überhaupt nicht gebucht. „Ja, das tut es" antworten beide einstimmig auf die Frage ob sie das schmerze. Am 6. August treten beide mit dem Tenor Jonas Kaufmann in der Wiener Stadthalle zu einem Galakonzert mit Arien, Duetten und sonstigem auf. Gelegenheit also, für länger Abschied zu nehmen."

NEWS: Stimmt es, dass Sie demnächst ein Restaurant eröffnen werden?
Netrebko: Wir dachten, dass es doch auch noch etwas anderes außerhalb der Oper geben muss. Das Restaurant machen wir aus Leidenschaft. Da geht es nicht ums Geschäft, denn ich weiß, wie schwierig es ist, ein Restaurant professionell zu führen. Aber wir kochen gern und lieben beide gutes Essen in guter Gesellschaft. Wir wollen etwas Neues entwickeln.

NEWS: Wird das Restaurant in Wien sein?
Netrebko: Ja, ich denke schon.
Schrott: Ja. Und dann übernehmen wir die Welt!

NEWS: Was wird auf der Speisekarte stehen? Churrasco oder Borschtsch?
Schrott: Darüber haben wir noch keine Entscheidung getroffen.


See more photos of the couple, currently in Salzburg, after the jump.

Verizon Fios Using Opera to Sell Its Cable Services?

Teddy Tahu Rhodes Takes Part in Sydney Opera House Celebration

"In 1990, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds released a song that within 11 years was voted one of the Top 30 Best Australian Songs of the previous 75 years. That song was 'The Ship Song.' Now, Sydney Opera House has married this iconic song with the world’s most famous building to celebrate the artists, architecture and interiors that together make the House a part of Australia’s cultural fabric. Sydney Opera House CEO Richard Evans said, 'We set out to create a tribute to the House’s role in the global creative community – a love song to creativity if you wish. We wanted to give people everywhere the opportunity to experience the creative genius that makes this place tick, to get a taste of the artists, venues and other spaces that power the heart that beats beneath our soaring white sails.' Over 12 months, artists and companies performing at Sydney Opera House were asked to join in The Ship Song journey under the lead of award-winning music video director Paul Goldman and music director and arranger Elliott Wheeler. The stature of the artists and companies who agreed to voluntarily perform in 'The Ship Song' is a tribute to the House’s role in Australian performing arts. 'The Ship Song' features vocals by Neil Finn, Kev Carmody, Sarah Blasko, Angus and Julia Stone, Paul Kelly, Temper Trap, Martha Wainwright, Katie Noonan, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Daniel Johns. The
Crooning for iconic architecture
singers are joined by the Sydney Symphony, Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Bell Shakespeare Company and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Along with the music video, 'The Ship Song' also includes a fly-on-the-wall documentary by leading filmmaker Greg Appel about the making of the video including conversations with the artists about the passions that fire their creativity. The Ship Song was released globally on 26 July 2011 and shared across traditional and social media channels. The documentary, narrated by Guy Pearce, will screen on Foxtel." [Source]

For more information about the The Ship Song Project, including photos, history and interviews, click here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Largo al Factotum: Jersey Shore Season 4 Goes to Italy

This isn't the first time that MTV has dipped its toe in the opera pond. Remember when they held the Video Music Awards show at the Metropolitan Opera in 1999? Well, the advertisements for the show were pretty operatically entertaining. Check out the images after the jump.

From the Vault: Christiane Eda-Pierre 18th Century French Arias

Soprano Christiane Eda-Pierre is a French lyric soprano of Martiniquan origin. Her limited discography includes Dardanus (Rameau) and Le Roi David (Honegger) on Erato, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Mozart), Benvenuto Cellini (Berlioz), Béatrice et Bénédict (Berlioz), Missa Solemnis (Beethoven) and Mass in C minor (Beethoven) for Philips, as well as Les Illuminations (Britten) on the Arion label and Pour un Monde Noir (Chaynes) for Caliope. But perhaps her greatest recorded legacy is an LP titled Airs d’opéras-comiques with The Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields under the direction of Neville Marriner in 1979 for Philips. The tracks include arias from comic opera of André Grétry and François-André Danican Philidor. Although this recital would have been a perfect fit for Universal's "Classic Recital" series, no re-issue on CD or MP3 is available. But thanks to the generosity of YouTube user PopoliDiTessalia, you can sample the tracks below:

1. "Comme un éclair, la flatteuse espérance" La Fausse magie (Grétry)

2. "Tout dormait" Mélide ou le Navigateur (Philidor)

3. "Éprise d’un feu téméraire" Anacréon chez Polycrate (Grétry)

4. "Je crains de lui parler la nuit" Richard Cœur-de-Lion (Grétry)

5. "O ciel!...Quel espoir est pour moi?" La Belle esclave (Philidor)

6. "Plus d’ennemis dans mon empire" Céphale & Procris (Grétry)

7. "De la coquette volage" Les Femmes vengées (Philidor)

8. "Je ne le dis qu’à vous" La Fausse magie (Grétry)

9. "Ô toi qui ne peux m’entendre" Tom Jones (Philidor)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Did Castration Give Carlo Broschi (aka Farinelli) a Migraine?

"Not tonight dear, I have a headache."
(From Jacopo Amigoni painting of
Farinelli with friends, circa 1750)
"There was at least one downside to Farinelli's castration. The operation may have preserved the 18th-century singer's treble voice into adulthood, making him a musical legend, but it also condemned him to a skull deformity that may have affected his mind. Farinelli was exhumed in 2006 so that his skeleton could be studied. Lead investigator Maria Giovanna Belcastro of the Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna, Italy, was able to identify two unusual features. Like those of other castrati, Farinelli's limb bones were unusually long. And the front of his skull had grown inwards in a lumpy mass, in places twice as thick as unaffected bone (Journal of Anatomy, DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2011.01413.x). This is called hyperostosis frontalis interna (HFI). It is thought to be caused by hormonal disorders, particularly too much oestrogen, which explains why it is normally found in post-menopausal women and is rare in men. HFI was thought to be harmless, says Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University in Israel, but is now linked to behavioural disorders, headaches and neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. Though any such symptoms probably would not have affected Farinelli until late in life, Hershkovitz says." [Source]

Magazine Cover Models: Erwin Schrott and Anna Netrebko

Opera Chic gives complete coverage of the Italian magazine Io Donna cover story titled "Viviamo d'Arte, Viviamo d'Amore." The blog post gives an English translation to the interview as well as lots more photos. These two have really cranked up the sexy volume in the opera world. As much as they lead separate lives, it is apparent that the couple is very much a singular force with both business and family. Check out the Opera Chic post here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Birthday: Licia Albanese

"Vissi d'arte" Tosca (Puccini)
Licia Albanese was born July 22, 1913, in Bari, Italy. Licia Albanese made her unofficial singing debut in Milan in 1934, when she replaced an absent performer in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, the opera with which she would forever be connected. Over 40 years, she sang more than 300 performances of Cio-Cio San. Although she has been praised for many of her roles, including Mimì, Violetta, Liù and Manon Lescaut, it is her portrayal of the doomed geisha which has remained her best loved. Her connection with that work began early with her teacher, Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi, a contemporary of the composer and an important exponent of the title role in the previous generation.There is some controversy regarding when she made her formal debut. It was either in that same year (1934) at the Teatro Municipale in Bari, singing in La bohème, or in Parma, or in Milan

"La mamma morta"
Andrea Chénier (Giordano)
in 1935 in Madama Butterfly. By the end of that year, she had debuted at La Scala as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi. She soon realized great success all over the world, especially for her performances in Carmen, L'amico Fritz and Madama Butterfly in Italy, France and England. Following her considerable success in Italy, France, England, and Malta, Licia Albanese made her Metropolitan Opera debut on February 9, 1940, in the first of 72 performances as Madama Butterfly at the old Metropolitan Opera House. Her success was instantaneous, and Albanese remained at the Met for 26 seasons, performing a total of 427 performances of 17 roles in 16 operas. She left the company in 1966 in a dispute with General Manager Sir Rudolf Bing without a grand farewell. After performing in four productions during 1965-66, she was scheduled for only one performance the next season. She returned her contract unsigned. Arturo Toscanini invited Albanese to join his broadcast concert performances of La bohème and La traviata with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in

"La Canzon del Salce"
Otello (Verdi)
NBC's Studio 8-H in 1946. Both complete performances were later issued on LP and CD by RCA Victor. She was also a mainstay at the San Francisco Opera where she sang between 1941 and 1961, performing 22 roles in 120 performances over 20 seasons, remaining in part because of her admiration for its famed director, Gaetano Merola. Throughout her career, she continued to perform widely. In recital, concert, and opera, she was heard throughout the country; she participated in benefits, entertained the troops, had her own weekly radio show, was a guest on other broadcasts and telecasts, and recorded frequently. Albanese came to San Francisco in the summer of 1972 for the special gala concert at Sigmund Stern Grove celebrating the 50th anniversary of the San Francisco Opera. Joining numerous colleagues who had sung with the company, Albanese sang the love duet from Madama Butterfly with tenor Frederick Jaegel, accompanied by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Limelight Magazine Picks Their Top 10 Opera Film Selections

Catherine Zeta-Jones look-alike
Sylvia Sass doing Bartók.
Paulo Montoya chooses from a plethora of operatic depictions on celluloid and narrows the best down to the top 10. Directors include such luminaries as Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Robert Dornhelm, Miklós Szinetár, Gianfranco de Bosio and Götz Friedrich, while some of the greatest opera singers in the last 60 years featured include Mirella Freni, Teresa Stratas, Plácido Domingo, Leonie Rysanek and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The most recent film on the list is Puccini's La Bohème featuring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón from 2009. Chances are many of the titles are available on demand through Netflix. Sounds like a good chance to stay inside from the summer heat and see some cinematic excellence. View the full list.

Tale of Two Metropolitans: Where Opera Meets Art

Could this be Violetta Valéry?
Irina Shifrin, Assistant Chief HR Officer at Metropolitan Museum of Art, discusses her love of opera and connects it to several of her favorite art pieces through a wonderful multimedia presentation. Click here to launch the feature.

"There is a whole branch of psychology that studies the psychology of happiness. One of the theories is that the only time when we are happy is when we are 'in the flow.' When you lose track of time, when you forget about the problems of your life. Being in the opera, listening to the human operatic voice gets me into the flow and that's when I am happy."

Obsess Much? Identifying Your Inner Opera Fanatic

"You know the opera fanatic even if you have never attended an opera performance in your life. He or she knows every performance, every singer, every composer, every conductor. The critics... phooey, they know nothing, but the fanatic holds the key to opera knowledge and enjoyment. Only they truly understand the art, and only they truly appreciate the art. In The Opera Fanatic: Ethnography of an Obsession, Claudio E. Benzecry identifies four distinct types of the obsessed attendee: There’s the hero, who believes he is keeping the opera house open and the art itself alive and vital. There’s the addict, who is willing to sacrifice his families, friends, lovers, money, and sanity to attend multiple performances of the same opera, to listen to the records and attend lectures and travel to distant theaters. There’s the nostalgic, for whom everything was better when it was sung by Maria Callas, or Joan Sutherland, or back in 1965, or back when people took pride in knowing about opera. Then there’s the pilgrim, the devoted subject who treats the opera house as a religious temple." [Source]

ECHO Klassik Vocal Award-Winners 2011

Singer of the Year: Simone Kermes
Sängerin des Jahres:
Simone Kermes
Sänger des Jahres:
Thomas Hampson
Nachwuchskünstler (Gesang):
Vittorio Grigolo
Rolando Villazón
Operneinspielung des Jahres:
Bejun Mehta
Operneinspielung des Jahres:
René Pape
Liedeinspielung des Jahres:
Diana Damrau
Musik-DVD-Produktion des Jahres (Oper):
Cecilia Bartoli

New York City Opera Gets Thrown Under a British Double-Decker

"New York is living through a moment of cultural reckoning. The American Folk Art Museum, the preeminent gallery for outsider art, has just shut its doors for good, saddled with millions of dollars in debt. The New York City Opera, which in its heyday mounted 20 productions a season at Lincoln Center, can no longer pay the rent on its theatre and has finally announced a wretchedly abridged season, staged in borrowed space around town. So perhaps the precariousness of our cultural moment explains how weak-kneed the city has gone for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which arrived in town with alarums and excursions this summer for a two-month residency. New York is no longer much of an artistic powerhouse, and the arrival of dozens of actors and technicians at the height of this sweltering summer came almost as a relief." [Source]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bayreuth Festival Gears Up For Opening of 100th Season

"The Richard Wagner festival in Bayreuth, Germany will be starting its 100th season on Monday with a new production of Tannhäuser. And marking this centennial milestone of the world-renowned opera festival, Sebastian Baumgarten will be making his debut as stage director in the landmark opera house atop Bayreuth's celebrated Green Hill. With Thomas Hengelbrock conducting, Swedish singer Lars Clevemann will have the title role in the opera subtitled The Battle of the Singers in Wartburg Castle. Festival director Eva Wagner-Pasquier, amid the rehearsals underway, stresses the high artistic expectations of the festival in interpreting the works of her great-grandfather.'We want to offer the very best worldwide,' she says. The festival itself is not celebrating a birthday this year. The two co-directors Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier are instead focusing more on the year 2013 - the 200th anniversary of the birth of their great-grandfather, and likewise the 130th anniversary of his death....Every year, the festival opening attracts prominent people from politics, business and culture, and it will be no different this time. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a regular guest in Bayreuth, is scheduled to come. Among various other dignitaries expected at the premiere, there will be the new head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, EU Health Commissioner John Dalli, and a number of German actors and actresses including Veronica Ferres, Maria Furtwängler and Edgar Selge. With his Tannhäuser, Baumgarten will be putting the focus of the conflict of the title character torn between the sensual world of Venus and the clearly-
structured system in the Wartburg Castle. 'I am not interested in the yearning for a dreamlike opulence, but rather in the fundamental philosophical aspects,' Baumgarten told the German Press Agency dpa. The selection of the singers turned out to be an 'absolutely lucky break,' the 42-year-old says. Along with Lars Clevemann as Tannhäuser, Michael Nagy will be playing the role of Wolfram von Eschenbach, Camilla Nylund singing the Elisabeth role and Stephanie Friede performing as Venus. Guenter Groissboek plays the landgrave, and Lothar Odinius is in the role of Walther von der Vogelweide. Besides Tannhäuser, this year's programme returns the Hans Neuenfels staging of Lohengrin (conductor: Andris Nelsons), the Christoph Marthaler staging of Tristan and Isolde (conductor: Peter Schneider), Stefan Herheim's interpretation of Parsifal (conductor: Daniele Gatti), and for the last time, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg." [Source]

Pittsburgh Opera Helps Promote 10-Year Old Jackie Evancho

Jackie: The little "opera singer"
(Photo: Michael Levine)
"Christopher Hahn is the first to admit that when a friend told him about the 10-year-old from Richland who sang classical music, he was a bit skeptical. 'I thought, ‘Yeah, right,' but I was really glad that I watched, because right after her performance, my phone started ringing,' he said. Hahn is the general director of the Pittsburgh Opera, and he is, of course, referring to Jackie Evancho’s appearance last summer on America’s Got Talent. Although Hahn doesn’t typically watch the TV show, he gravitated toward the little singing sensation and followed the rest of her appearances on the show. When he was approached about having Jackie appear with the Pittsburgh Opera, he 'jumped at it.' Jackie will perform with the Pittsburgh Opera at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Benedum Center. Tickets go on sale to the general public July 25 but already are available to Pittsburgh Opera season-ticket subscribers. According to Hahn, the ticket sales have been exceeding his expectations. 'I wasn’t sure how [subscribers] would view the concert as it isn’t one of our typical performances, but we already have about half of the tickets for the performance sold,' he said. Hahn said the fact that Jackie is from Pittsburgh has
Fan of Jackie Evancho:
Christopher Hahn
increased interest with local subscribers, but they also have received calls from as far away as North Carolina about the sales. 'When we throw it open to the general public, [tickets] will sell extremely well,' he said, 'People love the idea that they can see this performance right in their own backyard.' Hahn views Jackie’s appearance as a benefit for the opera, for the area and for Jackie. 'The Pittsburgh Opera is very highly respected. We are the eighth oldest opera in the country, and we are well known in the opera world, but this opportunity allows us to reach people that may not typically attend the opera,” he said. He looks at the upcoming appearance as the opportunity “to remind everyone that we have this wonderful opera in our own backyard.'" [Source]

Sony Classics Releases Live MET Operas, 3.0

The third round of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts featured on Sony Classical will be released domestically in the United States on August 16 and internationally in the United Kingdom on August 15, as well as France and Germany on August 29.

From the Vault: Lucia Popp Sings Mozart Concert Arias

Soprano Lucia Popp recorded this album of Mozart concert arias in 1984 with the Mozarteum-Orchester Salzburg under conductor Leopold Hager. Deutsche Grammophon 410 961-1 Stereo. Surprisingly it has never appeared complete on CD, nor in MP3 format. Philips released this CD box set of Mozart works, but the items in bold were missing from the below original track list:

1) A Berenice...Sol nascente, recitative and aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 70 (K. 61c)

2) Per pietà, bell'idol mio, aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 78 (K. 73b)

3) O temerario Arbace!...Per quel paterno, recitative and aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 79 (K. 73d)

4) Per qual paterno amplesso, K79/73d

5) Basta, vincesti...Ah, non lasciarmi, recitative and aria for soprano & orchestra, K. (2) 486a (K. 295a)

6) Ah non lasciarmi, K486a/295a

7) Ah, lo previdi...Ah, t'invola agl'occhi miei, recitative and aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 272

8) Alcandro, Io confesso...Non só d'onde viene, recitative and aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 294

9) Nehmt meinen Dank, ihr holden Gönner, aria for soprano & orchestra. K. 383

10) Chi sà, chi sà, qual sia, aria for soprano & orchestra, K. 582

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Side-by-Side: Elena Obraztsova Sings Carmen's "Habanera"

Review: Vivaldi's "Griselda" Opens at the Santa Fe Opera

Leonard and Abrams
(Photo: Ken Howard)
"...countertenor Yuri Minenko, who portrayed this 'man in the middle' counselor, was the only person in the cast who combined elegant, agile vocalism with a sense of period musical style. His voice is small but handsome, his technique immaculate. He projects just enough to be heard clearly, but he demands that listeners give him their complete attention. In a production in which most of the characters flounced about with awkwardness that could border on the irrational, Minenko maintained a dignified bearing even while wearing what came close to a pastel green leisure suit. The opening night's other countertenor was Jason Abrams (in his house début), the understudy for David Daniels, who called in sick. He held up his own in the role of Roberto (part of a love-interest subplot), and his attractive voice may earn him continuing plaudits as he addresses some inconsistencies that have not yet been worked out of his vocal production at this emergent moment of his career. As Ottone (who lusts after Griselda), soprano Amanda Majeski was made to run around dressed like an MTV award presenter. Her shrill timbre was not unsuited to her aria 'Scocca dardi,' which describes how Griselda's eyes throw darts into her soul, but in other contexts her tone seemed less apposite and her precisely notated arpeggios were the stuff of approximation. Some fine singing arrived via Isabel Leonard, a mezzo-soprano rising fast in the world of lyric theater. Nonetheless, she did not seem well suited to her role of Costanza, whom Gualtiero pretends he will marry, though he knows

"Rigoletto" With Plàcido Domingo Available on PBS Website

"From Andrea Andermann comes a visually and musically spectacular production of Verdi’s Rigoletto, filmed last September on breathtaking locations in and around the Renaissance splendor of Mantua, Italy, in the places and hours specified in the libretto. Starring tenor Plàcido Domingo in the traditionally baritone role of 16th-century court jester Rigoletto, Julia Novikova as his innocent daughter Gilda, Vittorio Grigolo as the womanizing Duke and Ruggero Raimondi as the assassin Sparafucile, the production is directed by Marco Bellocchio, and the RAI National Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Zubin Mehta." [Source]

Watch the full opera by clicking here.

Aspiring Opera Singer Sits on New Corp.'s Board of Directors

"Natalie Bancroft: Perhaps the best example of how Murdoch has rigged the game. Bancroft, 31, an aspiring opera singer whom Murdoch handpicked to be the only woman on the board. (At the company's annual meetings, Murdoch is often asked about the lack of female representation on the board; once, in rehearsing his answer to that question, he quipped, 'They talk too much.') Bancroft has her seat thanks to her family’s decision to sell Dow Jones & Company and The Wall Street Journal to News Corp. One condition of the deal was a guaranteed seat for a Bancroft family member on the board until 2018. 'At the time, she was literally the least equipped person to do that job,' a Bancroft family member told Adweek. 'This nice girl had never had any involvement in any family business.' According to the family member, Natalie Bancroft’s appointment was seen by her family as a 'ploy by Rupert'—he kept to the letter of the deal, but it was all for show. When a reporter asked Bancroft in 2008 whether she was planning to get an MBA to help prepare her for the position, she responded, 'In journalism?'” [Source]

Another photo (with interesting caption) after the jump.

FGO Sponsors Zarzuela Film Festival

"In celebration of its first zarzuela production, FGO hosts Cine Zarzuela, a film series held in independent cinemas throughout South Florida featuring screenings of scenes from the 2007 Teatro Real production of Luisa Fernanda with Plácido Domingo. These events are FREE and open to the public, but space is limited and reservations are required. To submit your RSVP or for more information, email"

July 20, 2011 @ 7-9pm
Miami Beach Cinematheque
1130 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139

August 16, 2011 @ 7-9pm
Coral Gables Art Cinema
260 Aragon Avenue
Coral Gables, FL 33134

August 23, 2011 @ 7-9pm
Cinema Paradiso
503 Southeast 6th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

Young Opera Singer Joins College Music Faculty in Iowa

"Andrew Wannigman will join the Luther College faculty as an alumni guest lecturer of music in August. Wannigman served as the section leader and soloist at the First Church in Chestnut Hill, Boston, from 2007-09. He served as a professional singer for Opera North in 2009 and the Des Moines Metro Opera in 2010 and 2011. He has played the roles of Papageno in The Magic Flute, Figaro in The Barber of Seville, and Baritone in the North American premiere of 3x3=∞. Wannigman has performed in Randall Despommier's Mass for Baritone and Piano, the premiere of Lori Dobbins' The Rage of Achilles, and was a soloist in Vaughn Williams Five Mystical Songs and Beethoven's Mass in C. He was awarded the Society of Singers Vocal Arts Scholar in 2008 and the Andy Anselmo Scholarship from the New England Conservatory in 2007-08. Wannigman has led workshops in voice and opera and led master classes for Iowa high school singers. He holds the bachelor's degree from Luther and the master's degree from the New England Conservatory, Boston." [Source]

Who Is the Real Angela Gheorghiu? Aren't All Artists Difficult?

What piece of music would work as the soundtrack to your life?
I think I need a composer for that. Somebody to really get to know me, to discover the real Angela, and not just read the newspapers.

How would you like to be remembered?
I think I need to work on that. People still think I'm difficult. But who is not difficult? Balzac was difficult; Tolstoy was difficult; my mother can be difficult. Anybody who wants a good result must be difficult sometimes.

Read more of the artist profile on the Guardian's website.

Catherine Malfitano's Daughter Premieres Opera Libretto

Lauren Flanigan, Thomas Pasatieri, Catherine
Malfitano, Daphne Malfitano and Chris Cooley.
"'My name is woman,' Magda Sorel says in Gian Carlo Menotti’s opera The Consul. In The Family Room, composed by Thomas Pasatieri with a libretto by Daphne Malfitano, the two main characters are billed only as Woman 1 and Woman 2. Their identities are even more erased those of Magda and her family as they too face brutal cold and imminent death. The Family Room has its own sensational premise that can be traced to real events. Its protagonists have been trapped in a windowless basement room, afraid—or maybe unable—to leave their captor. The opera’s private staged reading at the McCarter Theatre’s Berlind Theatre was the first collaboration between Opera New Jersey and American Opera Projects. The show opens this weekend and offered much to recommend it. Written for and sung compellingly by renowned sopranos Catherine Malfitano and Lauren Flanigan, the story’s central women are vividly, distinctly drawn, with relatable desires expressed eloquently in both words and music. The opera has many elements of mystery and room for audience interpretation. But, while trying not to give too much away, part of what makes The Family Room so intriguing is that desperation breeds creativity. As the women imagine future plans and share their memories, intoxicating melodies lull the characters and the listeners." [Source]

For ticket information about the performances on July 23 and 24, visit the Opera New Jersey website here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Diva From Down Under Once Wanted to Be Mariah Carey

"Amelia Farrugia is humming The Merry Widow Waltz as she (there’s no other word for it) waltzes around a dressing room beneath the soaring sails of the Sydney Opera House. Dressed in a figure-hugging black silk gown, black fur and carrying an enormous feathered fan, she looks every inch the opera diva about to take the lead opposite David Hobson in Opera Australia’s The Merry Widow. So it comes as a surprise when the Mosman mother-of-one says she nearly ended up in the gown and wig of a barrister instead of an opera star. 'I got into law at the University of Sydney and intended doing that, and it was Dad’s idea that I pursue singing instead,' she says. As a 16-year-old, the only musical member of a 'not really musical' family, she had been decidedly nonplussed when her teacher told her that her voice was more suited to the classical repertoire than that of a pop star. 'I was a bit ‘oh’, because at that stage you want to be Mariah Carey,' she says. 'But when I was in high school, a teacher played 'Summertime' from (Gershwin’s opera) Porgy and Bess and I loved it. I remember thinking ‘God if I could sing like that’.' Opera might seem like a fait accompli for the vocally-blessed Farrugia, but if you’re one of the many who would like to ‘know’ opera and throw around words like 'libretto' and 'contralto' without blushing, how do you learn to love what many consider to be the most refined art form?" [Source]

Watch a clip of Amelia as Musetta in La Bohème after the jump.

The World of Patti Smith Mixes Opera and Pop Music

Smith arriving at the MET Opera
'As it happens, the 64-year-old made her acting debut last month on an episode of 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent,' but it’s hardly a surprise to see her pushing into new areas of art and expression. Smith just won a Polar Music Prize in May and is still collecting trophies (a National Book Award among them) for 'Just Kids,' the 2010 memoir of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith has said that she’s also working on a crime novel set in London, but when we bumped into her all she wanted to talk about was opera — and her singular obsession in the pop music world. 'I've been listening to Adele nonstop,' Smith said. 'That ‘Rolling in the Deep’ song, I must have listened to that a thousand times.' [Source]

Calling a Spade a Club: What Defines "Classical" Music

At first glance, classical fans may rejoice at huge increase in album sales. Once you take a closer look at why the numbers soared, it becomes slightly more depressing.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Canadian Soprano Pierrette Alarie-Simoneau Dead at 89

Click on the above photo to launch a video retrospective of the singer's career.
La soprano Pierrette Alarie, est décédée à Vancouver le 10 juillet. Considérée comme l'une des voix les plus raffinées du Québec, la soprano était âgée de 89 ans. Avec son mari ténor Léopold Simoneau, elle avait formé un célèbre duo.

Née le 9 novembre 1921 à Montréal, Pierrette Alarie fait ses débuts à la radio à 14 ans comme comédienne avant d’étudier l'art vocal et dramatique. En 1938, elle monte pour la première fois sur la scène du Monument national, à Montréal. Elle y reviendra à de nombreuses reprises, cette fois dans des premiers rôles. En 1943, elle est Barbarina dans Le Mariage de Figaro, sous la direction de Sir Thomas Beecham, à Montréal.

Après avoir obtenu une bourse pour aller étudier aux États-Unis, Alarie fait ses débuts au Met Opera de New York en 1945, dans Un bal masqué de Verdi, dirigé par le grand Bruno Walter. Peu après, elle y chante les Contes d'Hoffman d'Offenbach, aux côtés de deux de ses compatriotes, le ténor Raoul Jobin et le chef d'orchestre Wilfrid Pelletier.

Erwin Schrott Admits to GQ He Feels Like a Circus Performer

The ring master in Paris.
"Das Auftreten auf internationalen Bühnen genießt Schrott: 'Der Wunsch, herumzukommen im Leben, war in der Tat immer ein Motiv für meine Entscheidungen. Ich träumte als Kind schon davon, in einem Wanderzirkus zu arbeiten. Deswegen wurde mein Traum auch wahr – letztlich bin ich ja nichts anderes als ein vagabundierender Zirkusartist. Ich habe mich nie mit Alternativen beschäftigt', berichtet Schrott. 'Meine Eltern mussten immer schuften – mir dagegen erscheint es so, als wäre das, was ich tue, gar keine Arbeit.'"

He also discusses his love of Anna Netrebko and that he wants nothing more for her than to be happy. He also talks about his days growing up in Uruguay and getting caught smoking on the school yard. Check out the August 2011 issue of German GQ for the complete interview. [Source]

World Premiere of Rameau's Revised "Dardanus" by EOC

Cast member Svetli Chaumie
The European Opera Centre will present the world premiere performance of Jean-Philippe Rameau's rarely heard 18th century opera Dardanus on July 20 (Limerick, Ireland) & 22 (Liverpool, England). "The musicians are French, handpicked and each of them is specific to their basse de viole, clavecin, hautbois and hautes-contre de violin. There’s a list of 28 instruments in all..." The opera is performed on occasion around the world, but generally in its first version given in Paris in 1739 at the Académie Royal de Musique. This production presents the revised edition by Rameau five years after the premiere, which has never been revived in modern times.

"This new edition – commissioned by the European Opera Centre from the French musicologist, Dr Gilles Rico - is based on the 1744 version of the opera. It incorporates the numerous emendations made by Rameau during the 1744 and 1760 runs of the opera to tighten the dramatic grip and enlarge the emotional range of musical expression. Using autograph and non-autograph eighteenth-century manuscript and printed sources, it makes available for the first time to modern audiences some of the most beautiful and inspired musical passages of an opera which epitomizes the evolution of French opera in the eighteenth century from a court entertainment - constrained by the grand display of technical prowess and a pronounced taste for extraordinary stories - to a more intimate and more humanistic drama."

[Watch an excerpt of Christiane Eda-Pierre as Vénus singing "Marlgre le Dieu Des Mers" in a 1980 production of Dardanus at the Théâtre National de Paris with conductor Raymond Leppard]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Susan Bullock Versatile as Brünnhilde and Mother Abbess

(Photo: Anne-Marie Le BlÇ)
This summer, dramatic soprano Susan Bullock takes on the role of Brünnhilde in Acts 2 & 3 of Wagner's Die Walküre for the Manchester International Festival on July 15 under conductor Sir Mark Elder. She then makes her way to the BBC Proms Festival for August 13 performances of this year's first "Comedy Prom" hosted by Tim Minchin. The highlight will be the "Last Night of the Proms" on September 10 when she will sing the Immolation Scene from Wagner's Götterdämmerung, "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music and "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel (both musicals are by Richard Rogers). The evening will end with her leading Arne's "Rule Britannia."

With the BBC coverage of the BBC Proms, singing isnt' the thing the soprano is most concerned about, “...everyone asks me now is ‘What are you going to wear?’ If I had a pound for every time that’s been said, I’d be a rich lady!” [Source]