Monday, January 30, 2012

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Helena Juntunen

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, January 24, 2012

Vivica Genaux to Give "Pyrotechnics" Concert in Kansas City

Firework Starter (Photo: Christian Steiner)
"Mezzo-Soprano Vivica Genaux and Europa Galante chamber orchestra will celebrate Vivaldi with a 'Pyrotechnics' concert at 8 p.m. Friday, February 3, at the Folly Theater (12th and Central Sts.) in downtown Kansas City, Mo. Vivica Genaux, the dazzling and theatrically engaging mezzo-soprano, joins forces with conductor Fabio Biondi and the Italian chamber orchestra Europa Galante, acclaimed for revolutionary and passionate performances of Baroque and Classical works. The evening’s concert, 'Vivaldi Pyrotechnics,' is fashioned after the heralded Virgin Classics album of Vivaldi’s arias recorded by Genaux and Europa Galante, and nominated for the 2011 Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Performance. Tickets for the 'Vivaldi Pyrotechnics' concert are priced $20, $40, $45, $55, and $65, and can be ordered online at link or by phone at 816-415-5025." [Source]

Cabaret Star Meow Meow Struts Her Stuff For Australian Vogue

Feminine Feline: Meow Meow (Photo: Karl Giant)
"Performance artist Meow Meow gives the traditional fairytale Little Match Girl a cabaret twist. She’s sold out shows in the West End, at Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House. David Bowie, Mikhail Baryshnikov and dance legend Pina Bausch all selected her to be part of their festivals. She sings, dances, tours and is recording an album. So does highly acclaimed cabaret artist Meow Meow ever have a quiet night in? 'Yes, I remember one,' she says, fluttering her thick lashes and pressing a finger to her cheek. 'Gosh, it must have been back in 1956.' The witty and deliciously vampy Meow is back in town for her new show Little Match Girl at Melbourne’s Malthouse Theatre. It will not, however, be a traditional rendition of the Christmas fairytale. 'In my mind what I’ve got is a collision of things, European fairytales in the snow and the ice with a really hot bushfire poem country – that’s sort of my starting point,' she declares. Meow seems to have been neatly slotted into the current cabaret revival, but her work is more far reaching than that. 'I see it as performance art,' she says, sipping her champagne cocktail. 'Definitely music/ dance/theatre: it’s a hybrid.' She laughs. 'It’s about triggering as many sensitivities of the audience as possible, so doing it visually, aurally, [with] smell as you go.'" [Source] Watch a clip of the chanteuse in action (even an operatic vocal bit...) in a video after the jump.

2005 "Batman Begins" Features "Mefistofele" in Opera Scene

The 2005 Christopher Nolan film Batman Begins features a scene with the young Bruce Wayne attending the opera with his parents (just before they are murdered...). The excerpt is "Folletto!...Folletto!" from Boito's Mefistofele and is performed by Norman Treigle, Ambrosian Opera Chorus and The London Symphony Orchestra under conductor Julius Rudel. You can buy the complete recording here. See a video clip of the scene by clicking on the above photo. [Source]

Monday, January 23, 2012

Philip Glass Fusion Work "Les Enfants Terrible" Hits Raleigh

A scene from Les Enfants Terrible (Photo: Elisabeth Carecchio)
"Les Enfants Terribles is a fusion of opera and ballet by Philip Glass; the last in a trilogy of such hybrids based on the works of Jean Cocteau. Premiered in 1996, it was staged at Raleigh's Fletcher Opera Theater last week in honor of the composer's 75th birthday, with a French libretto and English narration and supertitles. Drawing talent from the NC Opera and Carolina Ballet, with new choreography and direction by Robert Weiss, the sold-out Sunday matinee was a crowd-pleasing, if muddled, enchantment. The music was a constant highlight. For 'hypnotically snowy,' you'd have to call John Luther Adams to top Philip Glass, who could turn a phone-book recitation into a magical dream-world. Three pianists—one of whom, Wilson Southerland, was also the conductor—provided grinding ostinati and twinkling arpeggios pocked with ominously thundering chords, and I admired the players for finding their entry cues in the lean, repetitive music. The voices occasionally struggled to project over the pianos, but all the principals gave strong performances: baritone Timothy McDevitt, as a vulnerable yet blustery Paul, especially gave me chills at the moments of greatest rapture, though the singer/dancer pair that played Lise (soprano Jessica Cates and Lara O'Brien, respectively) earned the heartiest ovation. The spiraling climax left me breathless, at least, repaying the rough or confusing passages along the way." [Source]

Supreme Court Copyright Decision Shouldn't Affect Classics

Opera-loving Justice Ginsburg
"Established opera companies and symphonies should not be hurt seriously by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week upholding a law that moved the work of composers such as Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitry Shostakovich from the public domain to copyright protection. Timothy O'Leary, general director of Opera Theatre of St. Louis, said in an interview, 'It is possible that (the decision) will add some additional costs but not substantially.' O'Leary said that about one of Opera Theatre's four productions each season is under copyright, but that 'we don't make decisions about what operas to perform' based on whether royalties are due. In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress did not violate the First Amendment by taking works in the public domain and placing them under copyright protection. Works in the public domain may be performed without royalties, while copyright protection requires royalties. The law that the court upheld extended copyright protection to works of foreign artists from the early 20th century who created their works at a time when U.S. law did not provide them with copyright protection. In addition to Russian composers such as Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky, the law also applied to paintings by Pablo Picasso, movies by Alfred Hitchcock and books by authors such as C.S. Lewis and Virginia Woolf." [Source] Check out two pictures of Justice Ginsburg in more operatic settings after the jump.

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Ute Trekel-Burckhardt

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.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

La mezzo-soprano belge Rita Gorr est décédée

The late mezzo-soprano with conductor Georges Prêtre. Visit the artist's birthday tribute with sound clips by clicking here.
"C'est une grande dame du chant, la mezzo-soprano belge Rita Gorr dont nous avons appris le décès survenu en Espagne ce dimanche. Elle est née en 1926 à Zelzate, au nord de Gand où elle a fait ses adieux en 2007. Un tempérament que l'on peut mettre au niveau de la Callas. Pour Manu Couvreur, l'auteur de référence pour l'histoire de l'opéra à La Monnaie, 'c'est certainement l'une des plus grandes chanteuses belges qui n'ait jamais existé et sans doute l'une des plus grandes mezzos qui n'ait jamais existé, non seulement Belge, mais étrangère", relève-t-il. C'est quelqu'un qui a fait une carrière exceptionnelle en Belgique, mais aussi à Paris et puis au Metropolitan à Chicago, à Beyrouth.' 'C'est quelqu'un qui a réussi à se faire un nom aussi bien dans Wagner que dans Verdi' explique Manu Couvreur qui souligne la puissance de la voix de Rita Gorr, 'les murs de La Monnaie tremblaient, quand Rita Gorr chantait, c'était extrêmement impressionnant !'" [Source]

Alexis Weissenberg (July 26, 1929 – January 8, 2012)

Musical video tributes (including Nicolai Gedda and Montserrat Caballé) to the late pianist after the jump.

When Record Companies Lavished Consumers With Luxury

Check out this listing on eBay for a box-set LP recording of Le Nozze di Figaro that comes with complete vocal score to the opera! Once CD production came into being, the consumer was lucky to get liner notes. Now with MP3 format, it seems as though it is better that the public knows as little about the recording or performers as humanly possible. And if you want a libretto while listening to the opera? Well, you'll have to sit at your computer to see it on screen for the duration. Two more pics after the jump.

Hot Photo of the Day: Luciano Pavarotti Teases Renata Scotto

"Tenor Luciano Pavarotti indulges in a little horse play as he licks the shoulder of soprano Renato Scotto 10/31/1976 at Carnegie Hall memorial concert tribute to the late Metropolitan Opera star Richard Tucker. Concert was to provide funds for memorial foundation in Tucker's name."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Renée Fleming: Decca Cover Art 15 Years Later

America's diva is back with an up-do (reminiscent of her 1997 Schubert release) for her latest CD release on Decca titled Poèmes and features the music of Messiaen, Ravel and Dutilleux. A description and release date follow the photos:

"Voici le très attendu nouvel album de Renée Fleming, consacré exclusivement à la musique française. La soprano Américaine enregistre pour la première fois l'une des oeuvres les plus sensuelles du XXè siècle français : Shéhérazade de Maurice Ravel. Elle interprète également un véritable tour de force vocal : les Poèmes pour mi, chansons d'amour qu'Olivier Messiaen avait composées pour sa jeune épouse. Découvrez également en première mondiale Le Temps l'horloge d'Henri Dutilleux, dédié à Renée Fleming. En complément, le compositeur a orchestré spécialement pour cet album deux sonnets de Jean Cassou, qui ont été enregistrés en sa présence." According to Amazon France, the release date is February 20, 1912.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New Release Box-Sets: Elly Ameling and Kathleen Ferrier

Click on specific image to purchase the box-set.

Alfie Boe Talks Being Naked For "La Traviata" in Wales

Do you keep fit at all?
I do, yeah. Doing Les Misérables is quite a workout in itself but when I’m not doing the show I usually spend time in the gym and go swimming. At one point, I did a lot of weights and was taking all the protein shakes and the supplements and I put on a lot of weight. I became really sort of muscle-bound. I was working out for a show because I had to take my clothes off in La Traviata
What? All your clothes?
Yeah, for the dress rehearsal the director wanted me to be stark naked on stage. It was OK. I built myself up to it and did it for the dress rehearsal and the audience went crazy, it was really weird. I got so many whoops, whistles, gasps and intakes of air that they actually cut the scene. So in the end, I just took my shirt off and kept my trousers on. It was an amazing experience though. Whenever I did do it the wings were full. And I didn’t mind. 
So this was full frontal?
Full-frontal, yeah. It was a bit scary. And a bit stupid, I don’t know (laughs). But I’m pretty happy with my manhood so…

Julie Taymor's "Magic Flute" Down Under With Australian Opera

"Julie Taymor's renowned and fanciful production of The Magic Flute, which originated late in 2006 at the Metropolitan Opera New York, arrived triumphantly at the Sydney Opera House on January 6. Impressively reconstructed locally and directed by Matthew Barclay, it inaugurated a Mozart-intensive Opera Australia summer holiday season. While this Flute is memorable for its innovative good humour and often cartoonish design touches, its premiere under the baton of Jonathan Darlington was only very intermittently anything like as impressive musically. Its vocal apex was Emma Pearson’s pretty well impeccable assault on the Queen of the Night’s second aria. Andrew Brunsdon’s Tamino improved as the evening wore on. Andrew Jones never quite managed to creep convincingly inside Papageno’s happy-go-lucky shoes, but David Parkin was a reasonably sonorous Sarastro and Nicole Car a pleasing Pamina. This is the abridged family version of Taymor’s production, so it is odd that only two of the 28 performances will be matinees." [Source]

Apple Opéra Ranks Among the 9 Most Innovative Stores

"The Apple Opéra Store – facing the city’s famous Opera de Paris, is gorgeous and very Parisian. The location, which opened in 2010, features original décor from the bank that once occupied the space. Inside, carved wooden stairs with wrought-iron railings connect the floors, instead of Apple’s signature glass and chrome steps." [Source]

Samuel Ramey To Do Residency at Western Michigan University

Samuel Ramey in his signature role of Attila
"Samuel Ramey, one of the biggest, well-known voices in the opera world will perform and share his knowledge at Western Michigan University next month. For more than three decades Ramey has been considered one of the top leading bass and bass-baritone performers in the world. He's appeared on the biggest stages, including Metropolitan Opera and the Royal Opera, and performed with the best orchestras, including the London Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic. Ramey will undertake a guest residency at the School of Music at WMU from Feb. 3-6, where he'll interact with students via a master class, Q&A session and private coaching, according to a press release from WMU. Ramey will perform a free concert with the University Symphony Orchestra and Collegiate Singers at 3 p.m. Feb. 5 at Miller Auditorium." [Source]

Lise Lindstrom Talks Nudity as Salome for San Diego Opera

"At the cocktail party the other night, I can't remember who said it, but they told everyone, 'By the way, she takes all her clothes off.' I was, like, fabulous."
Nadja Michael in the Salome production at San Francisco Opera that Lise Lindstrom will do at the San Diego Opera beginning January 18, 2012 (Photo: Terrence McCarthy)

Read more of the interview with Lise Lindstrom and Greer Grimsley by clicking here. One more picture after the jump from the "Dance of the Seven Veils."

Measha Brueggergosman Talks About Having a Healthy Heart

Measha Brueggergosman chats on Canada AM (click image to launch video)

Plácido Domingo Will Conduct Youth Orchestra in Harlem

As if this guy does not do enough already! Well, good for him. "On Wednesday night, opera superstar Placido Domingo will spread the love of music to some of his youngest fans. He’ll take the stage with New York City school children in Harlem, where some of the kids are rehearsing for the performance of a lifetime. At PS-129, the top musicians from the Harmony Program are getting ready for Wednesday night’s big gala and their conductor will be Placido Domingo. 'I’m going to meet the most famous opera singer in the world and I’m going to be very happy to see him,' 9-year-old Johann Arias told CBS 2′s Cindy Hsu. Domingo is being honored Wednesday by the program that has nearly 100 students in Harlem and Brooklyn. They are learning about music 2 hours after school, 5 days a week. 'It’s not just about reading the notes on the page or playing a song on a stage. It’s really about teaching children the skills that they can apply to their academics,' Executive Director of the Harmony Program, Annie Fitzgibbon, said. 'Children through music learn how to focus, how to concentrate, how to work with others.'" [Source]

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "Tosca"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform Puccini's Tosca live tonight at 8:00 PM EST on Sirius XM radioIntermission guest: Anthony Roth Costanzo, Patricia Racette and Ferruccio Furlanetto.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Opera-Singing Beauty Pageant Contestant Wins Miss America

Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Age: 23
Education: St. Joseph High School | Carthage College
Platform Issue: Circles of Support-Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents
Scholastic Honors: Dean's List; Outstanding Senior Music Major Award,; Music Department Honor's Recital Participant
Career Ambition: To become a Speech Pathologist
"A college professor described the Kenosha native who is now Miss America as humble and genuine. Laura Kaeppeler was crowned Miss America 2012 on Saturday night in Las Vegas. She attended Carthage College in Kenosha, where she majored in music and vocal performance. She sang opera during the competition, where her platform was supporting and mentoring children of incarcerated parents. Carthage assistant professor Gregory Berg accompanied Kaeppeler to recitals as a pianist and worked with her in 2010 as the music director of The Magic Flute, where she was the lead soprano. He said she never craved the spotlight or attention and it was a challenge to get her more comfortable being on the stage." Check out her Miss America performance of "Il Bacio" by Luigi Arditi during the talent portion of the competition after the jump. [SourceSource]

Vacation Destination of Maria Callas and Mick Jagger in the 60s?

"Spangled seas, hot sun, freshly-squeezed orange juice. There are few early morning pleasures quite so seductive, especially when it's miserable back in England. It is easy enough to find such joys in California, but that is an 11-hour flight and an eight-hour time change away. The beautiful little Moroccan port of Essaouira, with temperatures that do not drop much below 22c even in January, is California practically on our doorstep. The huge hotel rooms, the dazzling light, delicious food and the year-round sporty lifestyle catering for windsurfers, golfers, horse riding enthusiasts - everything smacks of Malibu this side of the Atlantic. But the town also has a fascinating history and such beautiful medieval architecture that it was used in Orson Welles's award-winning film of Othello. There is even an Orson Welles square. I have been going to Morocco ever since the early Sixties. The combination of lingering French sophistication from the days of the protectorate, the flavours of the hot African south, the geometric Arab designs coupled with the romance of the nomadic Berber tribes make it irresistible. I know this beautiful country from the writers' city of Tangiers, in the North, to Goulimine, the gateway to the Sahara, but I have come late to Essaouira, midway down on the Atlantic coast between Casablanca and Agadir. What a wonderful place to have saved till last. It was discovered in modern times by rich European hippies. Musicians from Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix to Maria Callas, came here in the Sixties to immerse themselves in the local beat." [Source] Looking for a place to stay in Essaouira? Check out the Maria Callas suite at the Riad Lotus O'Marine after the jump.

What Do Opera Singers and Robots Have in Common?

Female robot by Hajime Sorayama
"The charity Communication Matters estimates that there are more than 30,000 people in the UK who could benefit from speech-generating communication technology, although not all of them have access to it. This number is likely to increase as people with profound disabilities are living longer due to medical advances. However, it is hard for robotic voices to command listeners' attention for more than short periods of time and, given that the majority of users lack the advantage of being able to expound on the secrets of the cosmos, they are understandably keen to sound as realistic as possible. But, says Dr Christopher Newell of the School of Arts and New Media at the University of Hull, sounding more human isn't necessarily the answer. The science of robotics has found that when devices become too human-like, people's positive reactions quickly turn to feelings of deep unease and even revulsion, and he believes this may also apply to artificial voices attached to real people. The phenomenon has become know as the 'uncanny valley' syndrome, the 'valley' being the dip in a graph showing the range of human reactions to a robot, and has been put to good use in many a sci-fi film involving Stepford Wives-style androids. Newell believes that it may be more fruitful to focus on making synthesised speech more attractive to the ear rather than more realistic. 'It's about finding an acoustic formula that gives the feeling that a person is worth listening to,' he says. The former opera director is running a research project, in partnership with Newcastle and York universities, that aims to find out what synthetic-speech technology can learn from the voices of opera singers. 'The technology can potentially benefit from associating itself with the performing arts, where there is an understanding of voices. In opera, you're dealing with the extreme end of human vocal capability, yet the voice has a seductive emotional power. We're looking at whether there's anything we can extract from the acoustic features, or the content of an opera production, that we can bottle and pop into a speech synthesiser.' His research is focusing on a series of performances of Mozart's The Magic Flute, which he recently directed for Co‑Opera Co, a training company for young opera singers. The study used technology designed by digital interaction researchers from the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University, and was funded by the Research Council UK's Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy project. The aim was to isolate times during the performance when audience members felt the 'tingle factor' – those goosebumps moments, as when Pavarotti hits that top C at the end of Nessun Dorma." [Source]

Lady Gaga Ready to Present "Electro Pop Opera" Tour

"Lady Gaga has described her forthcoming world tour as an 'electro pop opera.' The singer, who released her second album ‘Born This Way’ earlier last year, is reportedly planning to embark on a two-year tour. GaGa told her fans via Twitter: 'I'm drinking a beer looking over the new ball blueprints. I can't wait to throw this effen party. ELECTRO POP OPERA!' According to The Sun the singer wants to break U2's record for the highest grossing and most attended tour with a 450-date jaunt. A source told the paper: 'The Haus Of Gaga is taking things up a gear. She is planning to kick things off in Asia and India next year and go on a gruelling world tour. As is always the case with Gaga, the plans came to her in her sleep. She has a target of 450 dates. It has never been done before, but she doesn't think that's a reason not to try.'" [Source]

J. Rosalynn Smith-Clark Sings For Opera Noir

"Opera Noir Presents Classical Soprano J. Rosalynn Smith-Clark in the West Coast Premier - 'Then Sings My Soul.' J. Rosalynn Smith-Clark, nationally recognized and highly acclaimed classical soprano, will grace the stage on February 3, 2012 at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, Oakland, CA in a staged concert performance of 'Then Sings My Soul.' This riveting 'site-specific' concert performance explores the role of faith and music in the African American journey towards social justice. Joining Ms. Smith-Clark in this much anticipated evening of song and oratorio, is award winning actor of stage and screen, Hawthorne 'Big Red; James. The concert performance of 'Then
Sings My Soul' on February 3, 2012, begins at 7:00 PM at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, located at 3900 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609."

Tickets may be purchased online at For sponsorship, publicity and further information contact Glass House Communications at 510.691.8687 or

Opera Gaining New Audiences in Ankara, Turkey

A scene from Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves at Ankara Opera
"A Western style of music is having success in the capital of Turkey, which has an Islamic majority and is moving away from the foundations that were laid by Ataturk: opera. Opera theatres are often sold out and ticket sales have increased. This trend was revealed by the Ankara State Opera and Ballet (ADOB), which underlines that the occupancy of theatres increased by 6% in the first half of this season (2011/12), when 36 thousand people saw a total of 68 highly appreciated performances. The season was opened by the ballet The Hunchback of Notre dame and continued with the Turkish opera Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, said ADOB

MET Sirius XM Radio Tonight: "The Enchanted Island"

Listen to the Metropolitan Opera perform The Enchanted Island live tonight at 8:00 PM EST on Sirius XM radioIntermission guest: Eric Owens.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Ann-Helen Moen

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, January 14, 2012

Sony Classics Releases Live MET Operas, 5.0

If you missed round one ,  two, three or four of the Metropolitan Opera archive performances being released on Sony Classical, time to catch up with the new releases! The latest round might as well be a dedication to Thomas Schippers who is conducting three of the latest editions. At budget prices, these should not be passed up.

Woody Allen Samples Mozart and Prokofiev in "Love and Death"

The 1975 Woody Allen classic, Love and Death, features Mozart's overture from Die Zauberflöte playing during a scene at the opera. The film also makes heavy use of  "Plescheyevo Lake" from Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Metropolitan Opera By Numbers in Fortune Magazine

(Photo: Stephen Wilkes/Fortune magazine)
Fortune magazine writer Shelley DuBois takes a look at what the MET has been up to in terms of rejuvenating its brand. "When Peter Gelb, who had been an executive at Sony Classical records, took over in 2006 as general manager of New York's Metropolitan Opera, attendance was fading and the average age of ticket holders rising. Gelb brought in Broadway and West End directors, took chances on innovative, edgy works, and started beaming operas around the world in HD movie theaters. The result: a younger, broader audience and a record year financially for the world's biggest opera.

57.7: The average age of audience members at performances in 2010, down from 60.4 in 2005, according to the Met.

$182 million: That's what the Met raised last fiscal year -- up 50% from the previous period. Board chair Ann Ziff and her family, heirs to the Ziff Davis publishing fortune, pledged $30 million.

1,700: The number of venues in 54 countries that will screen Met operas in HD this year. Some 8.5 million tickets have been sold so far. Last year HD produced $11 million in profits for the Met." [

Monday, January 9, 2012

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Bente Vist

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.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Buried (MP3) Treasure: Galina Vishnevskaya

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.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year 2012!

To all the wonderful readers who follow this blog for entertainment and learning new things, a special thank you and happy new year! Opera Fresh will be on holiday until January 9, at which time postings will resume. Be sure to check out the blogs on the right to stay in the opera loop. Cheers!