Thursday, February 27, 2014

Decca Pulls Out All The Stops With 50-Disc Release Of Most Wanted

Decca seems to be scouring the back-catalog to entice buyers to complete their collections before compact discs become obsolete. The latest batch of releases to include 50 CDs, with some familiar and not-so-familiar artists, is titled Most Wanted Recitals. Several of these discs have made it to CD transfer in chopped-up form, leaving buyers bewildered as to why the whole material was not simply released. For example, a two-CD set was released to commemorate the artistry of Pilar Lorengar. It was much of her recorded legacy with London/Decca. Only about half the material from an album done with Jesús López-Cobos made it to the set. Here at last, we will have it
complete. And it is worth having, as she is in spectacular voice. The same holds true for an
opera arias disc by Gwyneth Jones that was licensed by Belart, but did not have the complete Verdi scenes LP on it. Other discs have already had the material released in multiple sets. Such is the case with Cristina Deutekom recording of Viennese bon-bons. Material by Régine Crespin, Inge Borkh, Hilde Gueden, Virginia Zeani, and others, has made it to the store shelves in bits and pieces. It is nice to see a label dig deep into the archive and make an attempt to get some interesting programs out on CD, instead of just releasing them as MP3s. Hopefully this is the first round of this recital series, because we are still missing important releases [not counting
items already released on MP3 only]. A short list would include: Leontyne Price (
Noel, Noel with Charles Dutoit), Birgit Nilsson (Songs of Scandinavia and Wagner complete with Colin Davis), Helena Döse (Puccini, Mascagni, Verdi), Virginia Zeani (Puccini Arias), Elisabeth Söderström (Jenny Lind Songs), Edith Mathis (Haydn Arias), Sylvia Geszty (Coloratura Arias and Duets with Peter Schreier), Montserrat Caballé (Dramatic Soprano Arias and Music of Spain), Elly Ameling (German Romantic Songs, Bach Cantatas and Schubert on Stage), Marilyn Horne (Sings Carmen with Henry Lewis), and Eileen Farrell (Songs America Loves). Not to mention that Felicia Weathers could have a whole box-set dedicated to her. In addition to the Verdi & Puccini Arias recording (released by Decca on CD in
2006), there are the albums yet to be transferred:
Italianische Opernarien [arias by Cilea, Verdi, Boito, Puccini and Giordano]; Die Schönsten Lieder der Welt [songs of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms]; Spirituals & Folksongs; Richard Strauss Lieder; Hello Young Lovers [songs from Musicals]; Liebe, Love, L'amour [songs from Films]; and the label could probably get the rights to release the material on her Intercord recording Wunderbar ist die Welt. Check out more of the soprano selections from the Most Wanted Recitals collection after the jump. You can see the complete list here. Items will be released in March/April.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Anna Netrebko Wears Exclusive Fendi Fur Cape For "Manon Lescaut"

Fresh from her stint at the closing ceremonies
of Sochi Olympics 2014, Anna Netrebko wraps
herself in a new role.
"Fendi has created an exclusive fur cape for Russian soprano Anna Netrebko for her lead role in a new production of Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini. Conducted by Riccardo Muti and directed by his daughter Chiara Muti, the opera in four acts will run at Rome's Teatro dell’Opera from Feb. 27 to March 8. The white Rex rabbit cape, which is lined in silk, has been manufactured by hand at Rome’s Fendi fur atelier in collaboration with the opera house’s dressmakers and costume designer Alessandro Lai." [Source]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Opera Singers Appearing On Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show

Although we don't have video footage of Robert Merrill, Risë Stevens, Jan Peerce, Patrice Munsel, Richard Tucker, Julia Migenes, Sergio Franchi, Grace Bumbry, and Roberta Peters, from their appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, we are fortunate to have footage of Judith Blegen, Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, Martina Arroyo, Marilyn Horne, Carol Neblett, and Plácido Domingo, from the program. As a bonus watch Kathleen Battle performing on The Tonight Show, with Johnny Carson's successor Jay Leno, after the jump. [Source]

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Renée Fleming Heads The Line-Up Of New Productions At MET

Renée Fleming under the hot pursuit of Nathan Gunn (Photo: Brigitte Lacombe/Metropolitan Opera)
The Metropolitan Opera announced its 2014-15 season today. Check out the online brochure here. Several new productions are added to the repertoire and many works created under the Peter Gelb regime will be revived. The New Year's Eve Gala will be focused on

Susan Stroman's new interpretation of Franz Lehár's 110-year old operetta
Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow as it will be performed in English) starring mega-star Renée Fleming in her role debut as Hanna. "The Merry Widow is an operetta by the Austro–Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. The librettists, Viktor Léon and Leo Stein, based the story – concerning a rich widow, and her countrymen's attempt to keep her money in the principality by finding her the right husband – on an 1861 comedy play, L'attaché d'ambassade (The Embassy Attaché) by Henri Meilhac. The operetta has enjoyed extraordinary international success since its 1905 premiere in Vienna and continues to be frequently revived and recorded. Film and other adaptations have also been made. Well-known music from the score includes the 'Vilja Song,' 'Da geh' ich zu Maxim' ('You'll Find Me at Maxim's'), and the 'Merry Widow Waltz'. The operetta was first performed at the
Theater an der Wien in Vienna on December 30, 1905, with Mizzi Günther as Hanna, Louis Treumann as Danilo, Siegmund Natzler as Baron Zeta and Annie Wünsch as Valencienne. It was Lehár's first major success, becoming internationally the best-known operetta of its era. Lehár subsequently made changes for productions in London in 1907 (two new numbers), and Berlin in the 1920s, but the definitive version is basically that of the original production. The operetta toured Austria and in 1906 enjoyed productions in Hamburg's Neues Operetten-Theater, Berlin's Berliner Theater (starring Gustav Matzner as Danilo and Marie Ottmann as Hanna, who made the first complete recording in 1907), and Budapest's Magyar Szinhaz. Its English adaptation by Basil Hood, with lyrics by Adrian Ross, became
a sensation in London in 1907 and ran for an extraordinary 778 performances, followed by extensive British tours. The first performance in Paris was at the Théâtre Apollo on April 28, 1909. Many international productions, as well as revivals followed, as did sequels, spoofs and film versions. The operetta originally had no overture; Lehár wrote one for the Vienna Philharmonic to perform at his 70th birthday concert in April 1940." [Source] For a full synopsis, click

Is "Las Hijas De Danao" A Remake Of The Classic Film "Diva"?

The thriller film Las Hijas de Danao is set in Paris during the 2005 urban riots. The opera is rehearsing to perform Salieri's Les Danaïdes, when a well-known soprano receives an anonymous threat. Coinciding with serious disturbances in the French capital, detectives do their best to infiltrate the opera company to solve the mystery. The director, Fran Kapilla, says the idea came out of the juxtaposition of the two worlds of protestors and the sophisticated opera society. If the plot sounds vaguely familiar, check out the description for Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1981 film Diva by clicking here. For more information about the film, visit the official website: See more cast photos, and find out the connection Montserrat Caballé has to this film, after the jump! [Source]

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Duke Ellington Opera "Queenie Pie" Playing In Chicago

Karen Marie Richardson portrays the entrepreneurial Madame C.J. Walker
"Any definition of the Great American Songbook has to include songs identified with Duke Ellington. It’s a lengthy list that includes such gems as 'Mood Indigo,' 'Sophisticated Lady,' 'I Got It Bad' and the jazz anthem 'It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).' Often collaborating with musicians from his band, Ellington wrote hundreds of tunes that are still among the standards cherished by veteran and newly-minted jazz singers alike. But throughout his career, which began in the 1920s and ended with his death in 1974, the pianist, composer and conductor experimented with longer forms as well. A complete list of Ellington’s compositions includes long suites, quasi-symphonic pieces and sacred works. From 1962 until he died, at age 75, he wrestled with an unfinished opera titled Queenie Pie inspired by a real person, Madam C. J. Walker, the dynamic African-American entrepreneur who became a millionaire selling hair and beauty products designed for the African-American market early in the 20th century. The story, which involves an imagined encounter between Walker and a young rival, opens in the very real world of Harlem in 1930s and continues on a fantasy island where Madam Walker hopes to find a magic potion to revive her failing business. There have been assorted attempts to stage the uncompleted opera over the years: Oakland Opera Theater produced a version in 2008, and in 2009 the opera department at the University of Texas at Austin took a stab at it. Now it’s Chicago Opera Theater’s turn. The company, headed by artistic director Andreas Mitisek, presents four performances of Queenie Pie at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 21 and March 5 and 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Harris Theater." [Source] Watch a video clip after the jump.

Celebrate Leontyne Price 365 Days Of The Year

Yesterday marked the 87th birthday of soprano Mary Violet Leontyne Price and the United States deems February as "Black History Month," so we have double reason to celebrate this fine artist. Click here for a listening party in her honor and continue to celebrate the living legend every single day of the year, regardless of holiday.

Brecht-Weill "Threepenny Opera" Plays At San Jose Stage Co.

"Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne, Und die trägt er im Gesicht": Moreno as Macheath
"At the center of this decadent universe is Macheath (the agile Johnny Moreno), a cheating,
Jenny Diver & Mack the Knife
whoring hustler (in case you're not sure, he has the word 'hustler' tattooed across his chest.) Armed with a silver tongue, an outsized libido and the gift of swagger, Macheath threatens to upset the underground economy run by Mr. and Mrs. Peachum (Paul Myrvold and Susan Gundunas) when he announces that he intends to marry their virginal daughter, Polly (Monique Hafen.)....The cast, costumed in eye-candy grunge by Jean Cardinale and looking sharp in MaryBeth Cavanaugh's choreography, is strongest on the female side; Hafen's Polly is the standout, creating the character with a fine mix of innocence and bruised toughness, and singing with a focused, sweet-toned soprano that made songs like 'Pirate Jenny' and 'Barbara Song' into showstoppers. As Jenny, Halsey Varady is also splendid, belting 'The Flick Knife Song' (also known as 'Mack the Knife') at the top of the first act. Her performance of 'Socrates Song,' sung with balletic grace while suspended over a piano, is one of the evening's mesmerizing highlights." [
Source] More photos after the jump.

(Photos: Dave Lepori)

Sumi Jo Donates US$10,000 To Unicef After Philippines Recital

"Korean soprano Sumi Jo held music lovers in the palm of her hand during her Manila debut at the Samsung Hall in SM Aura in Taguig City. Voice teachers, classical singers, choral directors, pianists, theater directors, students and voice enthusiasts had earlier filled up the hall, eager to listen to the Korean diva, the pride of Asia. The concert was presented by the Korean Cultural Center, Edsa Shangri-La and Steinway Boutique Manila for the benefit of victims of Typhoon 'Yolanda.' The diva performed a bouquet of operatic arias from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Contemporary eras; as well as classical, Korean folk and Broadway songs. She immediately revealed her vocal might with her opening song, Henry Bishop’s 'Lo, Here the Gentle Lark,' for which she got a thunderous applause from the audience. The voice is of world-class quality, unmistakably honed in the bel canto style of singing. 'Beautiful singing,” the literal translation of the style, emphasizes the voice as the most expressive element in singing, especially in opera. Through a rigorous honing of a dynamic technique, singers of the bel canto style effortlessly intone elegant, velvety melodic lines that are well-kept in the same passage. To bring out the innate beauty of the human voice is the chief concern of such a style so necessary to express the dramatic import of the musical piece....Sumi Jo presented a facsimile check of the P450,000 donation to Margaret Sheehan, chief field officer of Unicef. She deserves to be heard again in Manila!" [Source]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dawn Upshaw Brings Jazz Down Under For Australian Tour

Soprano Dawn Upshaw (left) with composer Maria Schneider
"The last time she toured here with the ACO was also in summer, in February 2009, when she sang works by Bartok, Golijov, Dowland, Schubert and Schumann. This time she'll introduce a work written for her by friend and colleague Maria Schneider, a nine-song cycle titled Winter Morning Walks that uses the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Ted Kooser. A performance of this earned her a Grammy award for best classical vocal solo. Upshaw doesn't see her musical diversity as a trip along a musical vector. 'No, I don't see a straight line anywhere,' she says. 'It's more adding on to the structure of my musical life. I don't see myself so much on a path as exploring.' Born in Nashville, Tennessee, the daughter of a minister in the United Church of Christ, she felt that music must have some kind of message. 'My musical upbringing was centred on the civil rights movement, and I grew up listening to recordings of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. The message was that music could inspire people so much that things could really become better. I want to be engaged in the world that I'm living in, and I think that's what stirred my interest in particular in working with composers. I really feel I'm jumping right in with music of my own time.' Upshaw fell in love with Schneider's music when a friend introduced her to a recording of Schneider's Concert in the Garden. She started going to Jazz Standard in

Duke of Mantua Does Crossfit: Stephen Costello And James Valenti

Stephen Costello (left) at Houston Grand Opera and James Valenti (right) at Dallas Opera, share the same Peter J. Hall-designed robe as the Duke of Mantua in Michael Yeargan's production of Rigoletto that was shared by the two companies. It's clear both tenors get gym time into their schedule to be as healthy as possible for the athletic sport of singing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Aprile Millo Triumphant Return To Italy In Puccini's "Il Tabarro"

Soprano Aprile Millo returned to the Italian city of Genoa for the role of Giorgetta in Puccini's Il Tabarro. The opera was performed in concert version at Teatro Carlo Felice. Watch a video excerpt after the jump.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Anna Netrebko Performed Olympic Anthem At Sochi Opening

Netrebko Does Russia Proud: Hitting all the high notes in a gown by Katya Kotova.
On the heels of American soprano Renée Fleming singing the National Anthem for the Super Bowl, Russian superstar Anna Netrebko sang the Olympic Anthem in Sochi for Vladimir Putin, 43,000 stadium spectators, and an estimated 3 billion television audience members. The Olympics have been in the news recently for the ballooning $50 billion price tag and it seems not all the construction is complete after seven years of preparation. No word on whether there will be more singing from the country's most beloved opera singer during her stay in Sochi before she travels back to Italy for the opening of Manon Lescaut with Riccardo Muti at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma on February 27. Photos from the performance here and a many more after the jump. As a side note, Google has created a doodle that seems like a statement about Russia's anti-gay law just in time for the Olympics:
(Translation: "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." –Olympic Charter)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Will Renée Fleming's Super Bowl Exposure Catapult Her To Next Level?

On February 2, 2014, Renée Fleming sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" for Super Bowl XLVIII to a stadium with a capacity of 82,566 people in addition to a home-viewing audience of 111.5 million (the largest in the history of American television). The response to an opera singer performing America's National Anthem for the first time in the sports event's history came swiftly from the Twitter crowdFacebook followers and YouTube commentators. The general public, more accustomed to the likes of Christina Aguilera, Dixie Chicks, and Beyoncé Knowles warbling out the famous tune, was surprisingly supportive with positive feedback. What does all of this media exposure mean to Renée Fleming and her illustrious career? At the time of this writing, the video of the event on YouTube has been viewed over 800,000 times. Taking a look at the artist's Facebook page days before the Super Bowl appearance, she had just over 77,000 "likes" and now the page stands at 94,362. No official data has been released on whether record and MP3 sales have skyrocketed, but a quick glimpse at shows that the Decca-exclusive artist has three albums in the top-20 best seller list for opera & vocal (Guilty Pleasures, The Art of Renée Fleming, and her self-titled album from 2000). Next week's results may yield a more revealing story. Be sure to keep an eye on the Billboard charts. The opera star has already sung for the Queen of England, the President of the United States, and has even read the "Top 10 List" on Late Show with David Letterman. Two nights after the Super Bowl, the soprano was back at the Metropolitan Opera performing the title role in Dvořák's Rusalka to a crowd of 4,000. How large that number must seem to a young singer at the beginning of their career and how small it must feel after performing at the Super Bowl. Are there going to be stadium concerts in the future that will sell out the likes of "The Three Tenors" during it's most popular days? Unlikely. The real question: What is the next level? Write a book? Done. Appear in a movie? Done. Win a Grammy Award? Done (4 times). Act in a stage play? That's coming too. Perhaps she really isn't looking for more. After all the accomplishments, she might list happy wife and proud mother as her most cherished. And for the fashionistas that are wondering, she wore "...a custom Vera Wang black long sleeve gown with pleated accent at the waist, and an ivory silk faille floor length wrap coat with exposed shoulder and hand draped detail." [Source, Source]

L'amour, l'amour, toujours l'amour: Juan Diego Flórez Release

"Marking a departure for the Peruvian bel canto superstar, this new recording offers a personal survey of the French operatic repertoire from Donizetti to the romantic outpourings of Gounod and Massenet, including Massenet’s ‘Pourquoi me Reveiller’ from Werther. This is a disc that not only plays to Flórez’s strengths – virtuosic and high-lying – but also shows a new side to the popular singer, featuring repertoire which he has rarely sung on stage. The first solo album in four years by one of the classical world’s biggest stars reveals a voice which has become richer, rounder and more mellow; the choice of repertoire draws further new colours from this ever-stylish tenor. [Source] Due out in March 2014, the complete track list is after the jump.