Saturday, May 31, 2014

Anna Netrebko Goes Leafy Green For The Garden Theme Of "Life Ball"

Russian soprano Anna Netrebko returns to her second home state of Austria for Life Ball 2014 in Vienna that has a theme of "Garten der Lüste." She attended last year and got some personal time with former President Bill Clinton. We look forward to pictures of her with this year's performer, Ricky Martin. "The Life Ball in Vienna is the biggest charity event in Europe supporting people with HIV or AIDS. The event is organized by the nonprofit organization AIDS LIFE, which was founded in 1992 by Gery Keszler and Torgom Petrosian. AIDS LIFE supports aid organizations devoted to helping people who are HIV-positive or have AIDS. The team entrusted with the allocation of funds thoroughly examines each petition. Moreover, it is an explicit goal of AIDS LIFE to raise public awareness." [Source] Full-length photo of the ensemble is after the jump.

Red Ribbon Celebration Concert Performances At Life Ball 2014

Jennifer O'Loughlin
"Schon früh am Morgen herrschte auf dem Wiener Flughafen hellste Aufregung, denn das Flugzeug mit den hochkarätigen Stargästen wurde erwartet - die Ankunft wurde natürlich, wie könnte es anders sein, spannend gemacht, denn bis zum Schluss war nicht klar, wann der Flieger wirklich landen würde. 'Ich freue mich schon,' zeigte sich Life Ball-Organisator Gerry Keszler aufgeregt, seine Gäste bald begrüßen zu dürfen. Um 9.40 Uhr war es dann endlich so weit: der Life Ball-Jet landete in Wien." [Source] More photos after the jump.
Ildar Abdrazakov

Luca Pisaroni and Thomas Hampson

Diana Soviero Honored By The Gerda Lissner Foundation

Singers Joseph Dennis, Mario Chang, Ryan Speedo Green, Paul Han, Shirin Eskandani, Alison King, Maya Lahyani, Jonathan Kelly, Arlene Shrut, Honoree Diana Soviero and Alexey Lavrov. (Photo: Howard Heyman)
"On the evening of Wednesday, May 7 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City, The Gerda Lissner Foundation showcased their 2014 winners and honored internationally acclaimed soprano Diana Soviero. Stephen De Maio, President of The Gerda Lissner Foundation, spoke enthusiastically about the winners and how proud he is of the awards given to so many throughout the years to help them attain their goals. He thanked Trustees Barbara Ann Testa, Dorothy Moore, Karl Michaelis and Michael Fornabaio, Vice President/Treasurer of The Gerda Lissner Foundation, for their efforts and all of the operatic notables present. Stephen De Maio was recently honored by Opera Index at their Spring Lunch. The Newark born De Maio, a legend himself, asked Opera News editor and author Brian Kellow to host the program and introduce the honoree, New Jersey born (Jersey City) internationally acclaimed soprano Diana Soviero. Kellow elaborated on Soviero’s great career and the impact she had on her audiences everywhere. The New York City Opera, The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden–not bad for a 'Jersey girl.' Kellow mentioned how the arts influenced his life and how the 1945 film Spellbound impacted him. He then thanked Soviero for the influence her performances gave all of us as Cio Cio San,

Friday, May 30, 2014

Priti Gandhi Makes Transition From Center Stage To Behind Scenes

"For soprano Priti Gandhi, the past two months have had all the melodramatic highs and lows of grand opera. But fortunately, her story is ending more happily than those of the tragic divas she’ll play Saturday in a North County opera recital. Gandhi is one of five singers who will join the Center Chorale and Festival Orchestra for 'Opera's Greatest Moments' at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. The longtime Del Mar resident gave up her full-time singing career last fall for a desk job with the San Diego Opera. Then in March, she and her co-workers were stunned when the opera’s ex-leadership announced it would shut down the struggling 49-year-old company this spring. Since then, a groundswell of support from repentant board members, employees and the opera-going public have rescued the company — and Gandhi’s job — from extinction. 'I’m so grateful, so humbled and so overjoyed,' said Gandhi, 41. 'I feel renewed by the faith that San Diego has shown us.' Over the past 19 years, San Diego Opera fans have watched Gandhi grow up on the Civic Theatre stage. Fresh out of UCSD in 1995, she joined the company’s chorus, then spent two years each with the touring vocal ensemble and as a resident artist. In 2000, she made her solo debut in the company’s A Streetcar Named Desire. The Mumbai-born singer spent the next 13 years performing internationally with opera companies in France, England, the Czech Republic, Mexico and throughout the U.S. But the peripatetic life of a starving artist grew stale and she was grateful when an opportunity came along last September to apprentice with Marianne Flettner, the company’s 30-year artistic administrator. When Flettner retires next month, Gandhi will assume her position." [Source] Watch several videos after the jump of Ms. Ghandi discussing the San Diego Opera and her career as a singer.

Lyric Opera Of Chicago's William Mason Steps Into San Diego Role

"The former general director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, one of the premiere opera companies in the country, will serve as a temporary artistic adviser at San Diego Opera for the next six months. William Mason came out of a well-earned retirement — he spent more than 50 years in the opera business — to guide the troubled opera company towards stability. 'I’ve had such a wonderful career in opera, it was a chance to give something back,' Mason said. Mason says he was interested in the gig because it was not just about helping on the artistic side, despite the title. He says he realized the company needed someone with general director experience as well. In addition to helping flesh out the 2015 season, the opera’s 50th anniversary, and offer direction on the operas already booked for 2016, Mason will advise the board on how to govern the newly organized company and weigh in on financials and fundraising until a new general director is appointed. That person, says Mason, needs to have a fresh outlook. 'They need somebody new,' Mason explained. 'I’m 72 years old. I have no new ideas, and I’m not trying to formulate any.' His old ideas worked well for the Lyric, which remained in the black throughout Mason’s tenure, without sacrificing quality, says Marc Scorca, president of Opera America, a national umbrella organization. Scorca says Mason’s vast experience and popularity in the opera world will send a message internally and to the outside world that the ship has been righted. 'I think Bill will not only provide continuity in many ways but he’ll also provide a different leadership style that will win new friends for San Diego Opera,' said Scorca." [Source]

Austria's "Life Ball" To Host A Galaxy Of (Opera) Stars Tonight

Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczała perform at last year's gala concert for Life Ball.
"Tickets for the Red Ribbon Celebration Concert 2014 presented by Novomatic available on or! Stars of the opera like Anna Netrebko, Vesselina Kasarova, Jennifer O'Loughlin, Juan Diego Flórez, Piotr Beczała, Yusif Eyvazov, Luca Pisaroni, Ambrogio Maestri and Ildar Abdrazakov lend their voices to the good cause. The soloists are accompanied by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Cornelius Meister. Fashion icon Vivienne Westwood will create the stage design of the concert. Red Ribbon Celebration Concert 2014 - May 30, 2014, concert beginning: 8 p.m. at Burgtheater, Universitätsring 2, 1010 Vienna." More information about the star power attending the event, as well as photos from this year's theme Garten der Lüste [including the NSFW David LaChapelle posters....], after the jump.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gabby Young Cites Maria Callas As Vocal Idol To Inspire Emotion

Her band, Gabby Young and Other Animals,
are launching their third album, One Foot
In Front Of The Other, on Tuesday, June 3.
"The theatrical side of music has always appealed to Young since an early age. Five years ago, she moved to Kentish Town with her boyfriend, but as a child she grew up Wiltshire, where her operatic voice saw her become the youngest member of the National Youth Choir at the age of 12. Idolising soprano Maria Callas, she longed to become a performer capable of inspiring great emotion; one who could make people laugh, smile and cry. However, one day a friend handed her a tape of Jeff Buckley and she realised this could be done with her own songs. 'I was told to listen to it because my friend saw resemblances between the two of us, which I thought was strange seeing as he was a guy. It did completely change my life though because it showed you can be really operatic, emotional and theatrical but also write your own music.' Young’s latest album is undoubtedly her most personal yet – a self-described 'grower' that flits between moments of jazz, opera, folk and cabaret with natural ease. It marks a mature step for the musician, and it is one that she owes to her fans, who impressively funded the entire project through a Kickstarter funding campaign." [Source] An acoustic video of Gabby Young is after the jump.

Maestro Ramón Tebar Named Music Director At Opera Naples

"Opera Naples announces the appointment of Maestro Ramón Tebar as music director, effective immediately. He also serves as music director of the Florida Grand Opera, artistic director of the Palm Beach Symphony and music director of the Dominican Republic’s biannual Santo Domingo Festival. When he was named to his position with the Florida Grand Opera in 2011, he became the first Spanish conductor appointed to an American opera company. Mr. Tebar began working as a pianist and assistant conductor in his hometown of Valencia in Spain when he was 15 years old. He went on to become assistant conductor with the Joven Orquesta Nacional de España, while at the same time graduating with honors in piano and chamber music. Since his arrival in the U.S. in 2005, he has been part of the musical staff of Palm Beach Opera and Cincinnati Opera, producing more than 40 different operas, while maintaining a full schedule in Europe, the Caribbean and South America. He has served as a guest conductor for organizations including Italy’s Orchestra Teatro Regio di Torino and the Spoleto Festival Orchestra, Spain’s Festival de Opera de a Coruna, Germany’s Kolner Philharmonie, the Netherlands’ Het Concertgebouw, Russia’s St. Petersburg Symphony and Orchestra de Rouen Haute- Normandie, to name a few. He has conducted many internationally renowned artists, including tenor Ben Heppner, violinist Joshua Bell, soprano Maria Guleghina and cellist Gautier Capuçon. In addition, he remains in collaboration with many of the world’s most famous vocal artists — among them Montserrat Caballé, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna and Joseph Calleja, performing with them from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam, San Juan to Moscow. Orchestral conducting occupies a good part of his annual activities in his native Spain as well as the Netherlands. He will make his Vienna State Opera debut in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in winter 2016. Mr. Tebar currently lives with his family in Miami." [Source] For more information about the conductor, click here.

Hei-Kyung Hong Eyes Madama Butterfly As Next Career Challenge

Opera Veteran: Hei-Kyung Hong (Photo: J. Henry Fair)
"Prima donna Hei-kyung Hong beamed at reporters of the JoongAng Ilbo’s bureau in New York after learning she was the winner of the 2014 Ho-Am Prize for her contribution to the arts. 'I am so glad that I’ve achieved my goal,' said Hong, who has been an established international opera star for the past three decades. 'When I went to New York to study in the Juilliard School back in the 1970s, I was the only Korean kid in the entire class. Asians were still marginalized in U.S. society at that time, and explicit discrimination was all around,' recalled the virtuoso. 'At that time, I had this feeling I was representing Asian society as a whole; so I wanted to become a formidable soprano who would gain everyone’s respect, regardless of the color of their skin.' Hong is known as a pioneer in Korea because she paved the way for musicians junior to her. After she made her astounding debut in 1984 at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, many young, aspiring musicians in her home nation dreamed of following her. Though she has become a national icon for opera music in 21st-century Korea, her path wasn’t initially rosy. Having a remarkable debut was not enough to beat competitors. 'I didn’t win a big title as soon I first started my career in New York. It did not come immediately,' Hong said. 'I guess practicing self-control definitely helped me. Some young vocalists merely accept all the requests of international producers, hoping to become big stars in the opera world,” she continued. “But if you are not ready for the stage, you should be brave enough to say no to the offer.' After having performed on stage more than 350 times at the Met, Hong, who will celebrate her 55th birthday in July, notes that it has been tough to maintain the quality of her voice. 'In Juilliard, I saw so many talented vocalists losing their gifted talents due to overstraining their voice,' said Hong, adding that she has done her best to preserve her vocal chords. A female soprano’s voice reaches its peak between the mid-40s to 55 years old, according to Hong. 'As she becomes 55, she needs to step down from the throne,' she said. But Hong still wants to take on other operatic roles, such as Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. 'When I was younger, I deliberately avoided Madama Butterfly’s character because I did not want to conform to the rigid stereotype that Asians should play Asian roles,' the prize laureate said. 'But now, I dream to show the best version of Butterfly, or Cio-cio san, as a veteran soprano.'” [Source] Watch a stunning video of Hei-Kyung Hong's artistry by clicking here.

Joyce DiDonato Shares Touching Story In 2014 Juilliard Speech

"I want to share with you a quick email from a soldier on the front lines of our Arts: an elementary/middle school teacher from Salt Lake City, Ms. Audrey Hill, who is fighting the great fight! She brought her students to the recent HD telecast of La Cenerentola, and wrote the following note to me: 'One of my boys...a 5th grader...wrote in his review this morning that one of his favorite parts (besides the spaghetti food-fight scene) was where at the end you were singing about getting revenge, and how he really liked that your revenge was going to be forgiveness. This boy was new to our school this year, has a beautiful singing voice, and has been teased a lot. I have seen him getting more and more angry as the year was coming to a close and today it seemed like all that had disappeared. It was very moving for me to experience.'" [Source] The Juilliard School’s 109th Commencement Speech by Joyce DiDonato can be read here in its entirety or watch the video after the jump.
2014 Honorees: front row - Lar Lubovitch, Viola Davis, Frank Owen Gehry, Philip Glass; back row: Marcus Roberts, Bruce Kovner, Suzanne F. Kovner, Joyce DiDonato, Juilliard President Joseph W. Polisi
(Photo: Nan Melville/Facebook)

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Singer, Dancer, Poetess: Maya Angelou Dead At Age 86

Maya Angelou seen here with President Obama in 2011 when she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"After graduation, she and her brother rejoined their mother, who had moved to San Francisco. She attended George Washington High School and won a scholarship to study drama and dance at the California Labor School. To earn pocket money, she worked as a streetcar conductor and was, by her account, the first African American woman to hold the job. At 16, after a clumsy sexual encounter with a neighborhood boy, she became pregnant and gave birth to her son, Clyde Bailey Johnson, nicknamed Guy. She graduated from San Francisco's Mission High School and struggled to raise her son on her own through a succession of jobs, including 'a shake dancer in nightclubs, fry cook in hamburger joints, dinner cook in a Creole restaurant and once had a job in a mechanic's shop, taking the paint off cars with my hands.' In San Diego, she was a madam who managed a couple of prostitutes. For a period of time, she was addicted to drugs. In 1949, she married a white ex-sailor, Tosh Angelos, but they divorced after three years. Commandingly tall at 6 feet, with a deep voice and theatrical manner, she moved to New York to study dance, then returned to San Francisco, sharing billing as a singer at the Purple Onion cabaret with comedian Phyllis Diller, who would become a close friend. Riffing off her ex-husband's last name and her brother's nicknames for her, she began performing as Maya Angelou. She won a role in a touring production of Porgy and Bess and performed in 22 countries from 1954 to 1955." [Source] Rare photos after the jump of this wonderful human.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

CastaDiva Resort & Spa At Lago Di Como Is Calling Your Name

"CastaDiva is a 5 star luxury resort located in Blevio in the province of Como, Italy. The heart of the resort consists of the Roccabruna Villa, which was once the home of soprano Giuditta Pasta and where the composer Vincenzo Bellini wrote his two most famous works: La Sonnambula and Norma. The resort is named after the most famous aria from Norma: 'Casta Diva.' Roccabruna Villa was built in the eighteenth century on the shores of Lake Como in the village of Blevio and was later restored by the opera singer Giuditta Pasta. The renovations were carried out between 1827 and 1829 by architect Philip Ferranti. The house was a meeting place for many artists, composers and singers. A frequent visitor was Vincenzo Bellini who, aided by the lake landscape of Moltrasio and Blevio, gave life to his work Norma, which was first performed by Giuditta Pasta. That opera featured the aria 'Casta Diva,' which became one of the most famous arias of the nineteenth century. The chronicles report that in 1829 Gaetano Donizetti spent a month in the villa while composing the Opera Anna Bolena. Today, the villa has been newly renovated and houses the CastaDiva Resort & Spa, which has 75 rooms, 2 restaurants, 4 conference rooms and a spa of 1,330 square metres (14,300 sq ft). [Source]
"CastaDiva Resort & Spa is a five-star luxury resort located on the east side of Lake Como, in the lovely village of Blevio, only 5 km from Como and 65 km from Milano Malpensa International Airport. The Resort consists of seven villas for a total of 73 rooms plus 2 private Villas and it is surrounded by a luxuriant botanic park over an area of approximately 26,000 sqm. A place of excellence and exclusivity, perfect for a romantic weekend or a week of vacation on the lake." [Source] The "Fiordiligi Suite" comes highly recommended with its 6,133 square foot terrace and private swimming pool. If you really want to drop some coin, go for either the private Villa Amina or Villa Norma. Visit nearby 200-year old Teatro Sociale di Como for your evening entertainment. More information and a video of the property amenities can be found after the jump.

Barbara Hendricks Biography Finally Reaches American Shores

In November 2010, Barbara Hendricks released her memoirs in France under the title Ma voie - Mémoires. Now for the first time in America, an English translation has been released called Lifting My Voice. Information about the book: "Growing up African American in segregated Arkansas in the 1950s, Barbara Hendricks witnessed firsthand the painful struggle for civil rights. After graduation from the Juilliard School of Music, Hendricks immediately won a number of important international prizes, and began performing in recitals and operas throughout the world. A Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, she is as devoted to humanitarian work as she is to her music. Always the anti-diva, Hendricks is a down-to-earth and straightforward woman, whether singing Mozart or black spirituals. She challenges stereotypes and puts the music first and presents a warm, engaging, and honest self-portrait of one of the great women of music." [Source] The Wall Street Journal offers a review of the Lifting My Voice, along with Jessye Norman's new book Stand Up Straight and Sing!, here. A beautiful photo of Barbara Hendricks at the 65th Cannes Film Festival and a musical selection are after the jump.

Prince Harry To Date, Or Just Dine With, Soprano Laura Wright?

Laura Wright (center) is seen here with rugby players of England.
"Prince Harry has been separated from Cressida Bonas for nearly one month now, and both appear to be moving on with their lives. Harry actually has his first date next month with someone of high class and is a familiar face to the Royal Family. Harry will attend the Suffolk Show with opera singer and known soprano Laura Wright. The 23-year-old has performed for the Queen six times in one year and will accompany Harry to the show next month. 'I've been to it since I was a kid and I'll be having lunch with Harry and a few other people,' Wright told the Daily Mail. 'That's right – the newly-single Prince Harry who loves rugby. I was really chuffed when I got the invitation. Every little girl wants to be a princess at some point. Maybe he wouldn't want a princess that plays rugby, though. I don't want to be a rebound.' Harry has thrown himself into his work in the aftermath of his breakup with Bonas. He attended a wedding in the U.S. with brother William and several mutual friends but then returned home and got straight to work. He has made a few Royal appearances but largely remains behind-the-scenes in his work." [Source] More about Laura Wright, including performance videos, after the jump.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ex-opera CEO Kevin Smith Will Temporarily Lead Minnesota Orchestra

Minnesota Non-Profit Hero: Kevin Smith
"Kevin Smith, who retired as CEO of Minnesota Opera in 2011, is becoming interim chief executive at the Minnesota Orchestra. The Star Tribune reports on the appointment, which will take effect in July as current Minnesota Orchestra CEO Michael Henson steps down. Henson exited after the end of the orchestra's long-running labor dispute. Smith led the Minnesota Opera for 24 years, a period of strong growth for the nonprofit. A search for a permanent replacement is expected to take up to six months; Smith isn't expected to be a permanent replacement." [Source]

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky Take Selfie In L.A.

Ms. Fleming is in Los Angeles for Streetcar Named Desire and Mr. Hvorostovsky for a recital. (Photo: Facebook)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Glyndebourne Opera Festival Celebrates Its Own Royal Couple

Love birds: Gus Christie and Danielle de Niese in the manor. (Photo: Dan Bum Forti/The Telegraph)
"They are stars in their own opera. A Donizetti, perhaps. Some sort of teasing pact seems to have been agreed between them: she won’t interrupt when he is trying to make a point. But expecting Danni de Niese to moderate her enthusiasm is like expecting water to run uphill. As a kittenish all-singing-all-dancing Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, she took Glyndebourne by storm in 2005. Then she laid siege to the affections of its owner as he watched her from the wings. After a courtship spanning several cities, wherever in the world she was singing, they married in 2009. Their love story has become as much a part of the Glyndebourne legend as that of his grandfather, John Christie, who built the first opera house in 1934 for his beautiful Canadian wife, the soprano Audrey Mildmay. England’s Taj Mahal, Danni calls it. The idea that another soprano might take up residence once seemed fanciful but 'history has repeated itself,' Danni says." [Source]

Tara Erraught Is Having Her Adele Dazeem Moment In Opera

A picture of Tara Erraught as Sesto in
Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito at
Bayerische Staatsoper
in February 2014 (Photo: Facebook)
Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught has been in the news lately for British press fat-shaming her in a production of Der Rosenkavalier. Other opera singers, most notably Alice Coote's open letter lashing the critics, have voiced their opinions on the matter as well. Even the fashion magazine Elle is weighing in on the issue. Of course the greatest offense here is the critics NOT actually critiquing the singing of an opera, but trying to focus in on someone's appearance. Now, what universe do these men live in that they think Tara Erraught is overweight? It is with great hope that Ms. Erraught is quite aware of her vocal talents and takes pride in her gorgeous physical appearance. This might just be her succès de scandale. John Travolta famously butchered Idina Menzel's name into Adele Dazeem at the Academy Awards just before she sang "Let it go" from Disney's hit film Frozen. The Broadway star now says she was shaken for about 8 seconds before singing, but now in hindsight it was the greatest thing to happen in her career because now millions more people know her by name that may not otherwise have paid attention after her performance. Tara Erraught should soak up all the attention in this moment and ignore those silly men with their limp quills. Her exquisite figure and career will have the last laugh. A photo from the Glyndebourne Rosenkavalier production is after the jump.

Tennis Player Ernests Gulbis Doesn't Like To Miss The Opera

Gulbis (above) displays a passion for opera that
we haven't seen since Novak Djokovic professed
his admiration for Natalie Dessay.
"When I [Sports Illustrated] caught up with Ernests Gulbis at the Italian Open last year, he was in the midst of a career resurgence after plunging to No. 136 and having his mom recommend that he retire. His renaissance has continued in 2014: The 25-year-old Latvian is 23-10 with one title (the Open 13 in Marseille, France) and two semifinal appearances, and last week he reached a career-high No. 17. He is ranked 19th entering the French Open, which begins on Sunday. The outspoken Gulbis — who has put his fans through the wringer with his erratic play and combustible temperament — sat down for another interview in Rome last week, before his third-round loss to David Ferrer. He talked about his newfound consistency on the court and his eclectic tastes off it." What’s a piece of culture that’s impressed you lately?
Gulbis: Lately it’s been more music. I was really pissed off because I got sick in Vienna right before Madrid and I had two great tickets for the opera. One was for Nabucco and Placido Domingo coming to Vienna, and I missed it because I was in a doctor’s appointment. But what I like lately is classical minimalist music. Like Philip Glass, Pierre Boulez, Irmin Schmidt. Schmidt wrote a lot of good music for movies. There’s one really good soundtrack, from Wim Wenders’ film Palermo Shooting. That kind of music culturally touched me. It’s not easy to listen to it. You’re very into music.
Gulbis: My collection of music is pretty big. It’s around 4-5 terabytes. I keep it at home in a hard drive. We put all the CDs that we had in our houses — the country house and the city house — on one hard drive. All the music I downloaded and all the music my father downloaded is in one place. [Source]

It's not the first time we've seen opera and tennis come together. Watch the video after the jump for proof.

Arthur Gelb, Father of Peter Gelb, Is Dead At Age 90

Peter Gelb, left, with his parents Barbara and Arthur Gelb at the Metropolitan Opera in 2010.
"Arthur Gelb, who by sheer force of personality was a dominant figure at The New York Times for decades, lifting its metropolitan and arts coverage to new heights and helping to shape the paper in its modern era, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90. His son Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, said the cause was complications of a stroke. Hired as a copy boy in 1944, Mr. Gelb rose to become a singular Times figure in the second half of the 20th century, leaving a large stamp as critic, chief cultural correspondent, metropolitan editor, deputy managing editor and managing editor, the post he held when he retired at the end of 1989. Mr. Gelb, writing for the culture pages, discovered stars in an expanding Off Broadway universe. His reviews and news coverage helped propel the fledgling careers of, among others, Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, Dick Gregory, Lenny Bruce, Jason Robards, Joseph Papp and Colleen Dewhurst." [Source]

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bringing Opera Singers To Television Shows At What Cost?

Future popera star: Bradley Wisk
"Maybe the production team for The Bachelor and The Bachelorette has a newly acquired taste for high Cs and Wagnerian levels of personality conflict, but this reality-show franchise has suddenly made a habit of casting aspiring opera singers. The newest edition of The Bachelorette premieres Monday night, with tenor Bradley Wisk included among the initial 25 contestants vying for a rose from 'bachelorette' Andi Dorfman. On Wisk's website, the 32-year-old singer says that he was a student of Giorgio Tozzi at Indiana University and then received his master's degree at Manhattan School of Music. But over the past few years, he's been shopping himself around as more of a aspiring 'popera' performer, complete with backup dancers. If you're curious to hear Wisk in action in pure classical mode, we've dug up a video of him singing the ever-popular 'Che gelida manina' aria from Puccini's La Bohème. Maybe Wisk's turn on The Bachelorette — regardless of how many roses he accepts along
Pursuing opera over roses: Sharleen Joynt
the way — will provide just the kind of media exposure that he seems to be seeking for his own, not-so-highbrow career. But he might also want to heed the words of Sharleen Joynt, the young soprano who recently, and famously, decided to leave The Bachelor of her own accord partway through taping. Joynt is no Miss America talent-competition-level dilettante, and, unlike Wisk, she's a hardcore opera singer. This past season, she's been covering Strauss' Arabella at the Met. Her teacher in New York, Ruth Falcon, has also taught heavy hitters like Deborah Voigt, Sondra Radvanovsky and Danielle de Niese. A shakily recorded video of Joynt singing 'Grossmächtige Prinzessin' from Strauss' opera Ariadne auf Naxos in Heidelberg, Germany, is just stunning." [Source] Read the full story here.

New Orleans Snags Mezzo-Soprano Luretta Bybee For Loyola Position

Ms. Bybee recently sang Fricka/Flosshilde
in the Ring Cycle with Minnesota Concert
Opera and Mary in The Flying Dutchman
at Opera Carolina.
"Loyola University has recruited opera star Luretta Bybee to help train a new generation of singers at the New Orleans school. The mezzo-soprano brings extra luster to Loyola's voice program, which has produced many top singers in recent decades, among them, her husband, Greer Grimsley. Bybee will join the music faculty in August. She is relocating from Boston where she served as part of the leadership team for the New England Conservatory's Opera Studies program. Loyola spokesman Mikel Pak said Bybee and Grimsley were drawn to New Orleans because of family connections and the Crescent City's rich opera heritage. Both singers tour internationally and have performed in New Orleans. This February, Bybee appeared in the New Orleans Opera production of Massenet's Cendrillon. As an associate professor of music at Loyola, Bybee will teach studio voice classes—which are one-on-one private lessons with students. She joins a program that helped form many contemporary singers, including international stars such as Alfred Walker, Bryan Hymel and Melody Moore, and respected American singers such as Sarah Jane McMahon, Suzanne DuPlantis and Brandy Lynn Hawkins. [Source]

San Diego Opera Announces 2014-15 Season After Rescue

Seats at San Diego Civic Theatre
wait to be filled with opera fans.
"San Diego Opera’s Board of Directors voted today to rescind the decision to close the Company after nearly two months of careful analysis, deliberation and fundraising. The Company originally announced its closure and the sale of its assets on March 19, 2014. The original closure date was scheduled to occur on April 14, 2014, the day after the Company’s final sold-out performance of Don Quixote. A vote by the Board on March 31, 2014, delayed that closure by two weeks until April 29, 2014. Another vote by the Board on April 18, 2014, extended that closure date to at least May 19, 2014. Today’s vote on May 16, 2014, overturns the original decision to close. 'The public spoke, we listened, and we’re open for business,' shares Board President Carol Lazier, 'and do we have some great news to share with you!' In light of this news, San Diego Opera is announcing its 2015 season, the Company’s 50th. La bohème, Don Giovanni, and Nixon in China are the three operas being performed at the San Diego Civic Theatre. The Company will also celebrate its 50th anniversary with special Gala Concerts of favorite arias, duets, ensembles and choruses with the San Diego Symphony at Copley Symphony Hall. Additional events and performances are in the works, and will be announced shortly. The Company has also announced that the ongoing crowd funding effort has resulted in a total of $2,116,376 in donations from 2461 of donors as of midnight Sunday, May 18, 2014. 48% of these donors have never given before and represent gifts from six countries – Austria, Australia, Canada, England, Italy, Mexico & 36 States. The gifts range from $10 – $50,000 with a median gift of $100. Now that the $1 million goal has been reached, and the Company has announced a 2015 season, both triggers of the escrow account have been met and donations will be moved from the escrow account into the Company’s 2015 fund to be used for the just-announced season." [Source] See details of the season, including artists performing, after the jump.

Pilar Lorengar Live and Studio Recordings 1959-1962 Berlin

"Ihren weltweiten, aber unaufdringlichen Ruhm verdankte Pilar Lorengar, die Spanierin mit Wahlheimat Berlin, vor allem der Opernbühne. Sie war bekannt für ein Repertoire, das von den jugendlichen Heldinnen Mozarts über die jugendlich-dramatischen Heroinen Verdis und Puccinis bis zu tragischen Mädchengestalten wie Tschaikowskys Tatjana und Janáčeks Jenůfa reichte. Die drei CDs der vorliegenden Kompilation mit Arien und Liedern enthalten Ton­dokumente aus den ersten Berliner Jahren der Sängerin, Studioaufnahmen und Live Mitschnitte, die zwischen 1959 und 1962 entstanden. In ihnen zeigt sich die Lorengar von einer eher ungewohnten Seite, sowohl im Bereich der Oper als auch der Lieder: Nicht in ihrer angestammten Mozart-Rolle der Donna Elvira ist sie hier zu hören, sondern als Donna Anna, außerdem mit für sie ungewöhnlichem Repertoire wie z. B. dem Gebet "Casta Diva" aus Bellinis Norma, dem "Piangerò la sorte mia" aus Händels Cleopatra und einer Händel-Kantate, mit der Arie aus einer Scarlatti-Oper, mit dem "Ernani, involiami" der Elvira aus Verdis früher Oper Ernani und der Partie der Rosario aus der Oper Goyescas von Granados. Die Mozart-Sängerin beweist sich hier auch als einverständige Lied-Sängerin, und wo sie schon einmal ihre Sensibilität für diese Gattung mit Mozart ins Spiel bringt, bereichert sie ihr Programm auch gleich um eine Liebesklage von Bellini und um liedhafte Arienentwürfe, um vier Canzonetten des jungen Verdi. Mit zwei Dritteln dieser Anthologie deckt Pilar Lorengar dann aber einen Bereich ab, der eine Hommage an die Musiktraditionen ihrer Heimat ist. Als junge Gesangsschülerin in Madrid hat sie sich in den Musikcafés und im Zarzuela-Theater bereits ausgiebig szenische Praxis und Präsenz angeeignet. In ihren Beiträgen zur vorliegenden Veröffentlichung entfaltet sie ein Panorama spanischer Musikgeschichte, das sich über fünf Jahrhunderte erstreckt, das von der Liedkunst der Vihuelistas des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zu den Folklore-Sammlungen und Bearbeitungen von Federico García Lorca reicht. Die moderne Gitarre ist die legitime Nachfolgerin der altehrwürdigen Vihuela, und Siegfried Behrend ist in diesen Liedern der kongeniale Partner von Pilar Lorengar. Zu dieser Produktion gibt es einen 'Producer's Comment' vom Produzenten Ludger Böckenhoff." [Source] In addition to the live opera recordings on this release, is the famous studio recording of songs with guitar featuring Siegfried Behren available for the first time on CD outside of Japan. Release date is set for June 6, 2014. Also, thanks to the recent release of a long-lost Decca LP, more of the soprano's recordings are now available in their entirety. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nathan Gunn And Mandy Patinkin Duet Show Scheduled Out To 2015

Patinkin (left) and Gunn (right) carry on the tradition
of pairings like Frank Sinatra & Luciano Pavarotti and
Carol Burnett & Beverly Sills in their show of
musical tunes combined with opera excerpts.
Despite having to cancel their appearance at the Ravinia Festival this summer due to Mandy Patinkin's filming schedule for Homeland, the duo continues to take their show on the road. The Charlotte Observer is announcing their participation in the 2014-15 concert series lineup:

March 18: “An Evening With Mandy Patinkin and Nathan Gunn” pairs the Homeland star with a quasi-operatic tenor and the baritone with Metropolitan Opera experience and a popular approach. You may get songs from musicals known well (Carousel) or less well (The Secret Garden), Americana, ’70s pop tunes, even a medley of “Singing in the Bathtub” and “Largo al factotum” from The Barber of Seville. Gunn’s wife and music director Julie Jordan Gunn and Patinkin’s longtime accompanist, Paul Ford, join them onstage. [Source

Watch a video of the two performers discussing how they met and came up with the idea for the show, after the jump.

Cleveland Orchestra Animates "The Cunning Little Vixen" With CGI

"Long before summer blockbuster films dazzled us with CGI-enhanced superheroes and villains, audiences got their dose of spectacle at the local opera house, where lavishly costumed singers have walked through monumental sets for centuries. Now, operatic excess and computer-generated imagery are meeting on an Ohio stage as the Cleveland Orchestra reanimates Czech composer Leos Janácek's 1924 opera, The Cunning Little Vixen. In the opening scene, the vixen spots something she's never seen before — a frog — and asks, 'What is that?' The opera's director, Yuval Sharon, says he can relate. 'I think that's kind of how I first responded to opera when I was a kid: 'What is that weird thing?'' Sharon recalls. 'Sometimes fascination is the best entry point.' Sharon is trying to create some fascination in his production by having the bodies of the fox, the frog, a mosquito and other creatures animated on three giant video screens. The singing comes from actual human beings in animal masks, who stick their heads through portals in one of the screens from backstage. The director says the production design dates back to his childhood — and a summer memory. 'A cardboard cut-out that you see at the beach — where you stick your head through and it looks like your body has become a muscle guy's body, or this woman in a bikini's body — everyone takes delight in that,' Sharon says. 'And I thought that could be the kernel of a really interesting theatrical experience.' The animation allows for cinematic scene changes, but it also addresses a problem Cleveland Orchestra Music Director Franz Welser-Möst has long had with Janácek's 80-year-old opera. 'Every time I have seen a production of this piece, it's a little strange,' Welser-Möst says, 'because you have human beings trying to behave like animals. And it's always close to ridiculous.' The visuals were produced by a Los Angeles animation studio. David Bamberger, who directs the opera program at the Cleveland Institute of Music, notes that opera has long embraced the technology of its day. 'In the 17th century and the 18th century, the stages were very well-equipped with mechanical devices,' Bamberger says, 'so that the gods could descend from the clouds and you could have a very dramatic storm effect, or sinking ships, or whatever.' Bamberger recalls one revealing moment from his time at the New York City Opera. He was directing Mozart's The Magic Flute, in which the lead character endures trials by fire and water, and using lighting effects to pull the illusions off. 'We had an old German production manager who was very experienced in all forms of theater,' Bamberger says. 'I said to him, 'Hans, in Mozart's day, how did they do fire and water?' And he turned to me and said, 'They used fire and water!' Which is one of the reasons that old theaters burned down most of the time.'" [Source] For more information about the performances, click here.  Watch videos of how the animation came to life, after the jump.

Palm Beach Opera Receives OPERA America Grant For Technology

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in Palm Beach
"Statistically speaking, the free concert on the West Palm Beach waterfront that Palm Beach Opera staged in December was a rousing success. About 2,500 people turned up to hear soloists and a full chorus and orchestra perform opera favorites and Broadway show-tunes. Around 52 percent had never been to an opera event before. The debut concert was the flagship of the company’s drive to attract new audiences. One of its most innovative features was a mobile-device app that enabled users to access scene-setting information, lyrics and fun facts about the pieces being performed. For the next edition, scheduled Dec. 13 at the Meyer Amphitheatre, the company intends to open a two-way conversation by developing a new app financed by a $30,000 grant from Opera America, a service organization for the opera community. With the new app, audience members can shoot off comments about the show, ask questions and respond to surveys, said Daniel Biaggi, Palm Beach Opera’s general director. Plans call for users to be able to tweet and post to Facebook directly using a hashtag. The company also is 'investigating the cost and feasibility of live feeds from social media within the app so that people would see all their comments go by,' he said. Palm Beach Opera is one of seven companies chosen from 53 applicants to receive a total of $300,000 in grants under the Building Opera Audiences program. The program, now in its second year, is supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation." [Source]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Host Of Talent In "Les Contes D'Hoffmann" At Teatro Real Madrid

Eric Cutler in the title role of Hoffmann
(Photo: Javier del Real/Teatro Real)
Stage director Christoph Marthaler brings together a young cast of invigorating talent including Eric Cutler (Hoffmann), Vito Priante (Four Villains), Measha Brueggergosman (Antonia/Giulietta), Ana Durlovski (Olympia), and Altea Garrido (Stella). The seasoned veteran of the group, mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, portrays the character of Nicklausse. Conductor Sylvain Cambreling leads the ensemble. The production premiered May 17 and runs through June 21. For more information on the cast and production dates, click here. Watch a preview video after the jump of highlights from the production.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Yanni CD Features Fleming, Domingo, Villazón, Yende, And Grigólo

"Yanni's greatest music performed by the world's most extraordinary voices. 'This album is about all the loves in my life! Never losing faith in humanity & our incredible ability to overcome just about anything we are challenged with. Its also about imagination, creativity, love, kindness, compassion, integrity, parents, country, peace, unity & belief & faith in our future. It is all possible. With all my love, Yanni'" [Source] "The haunting instrumental melodies of internationally renowned composer Yanni have garnered him over 40 platinum and gold albums including the double-platinum Tribute album, which sold more than a million albums within six weeks of its release and Live At The Acropolis, which has sold over 5 million copies in North America alone. For his new album, Inspirato, Yanni, in partnership with the legendary Plácido Domingo, has enlisted the talents of some of Opera s biggest stars to give voice to his music. His timeless hits have been transformed by the addition of lyrics, most of them written by Plácido Domingo, Jr." [Source] Click here to purchase a copy of the CD. Listen to an excerpt of Renée Fleming singing "I Genitori" below and find the complete track listing, as well as another audio sample, after the jump:

"Opera Noir" To Be Title Of Timbaland's Forthcoming Album

"The talent of hit producer Timbaland has been on fire lately! Over the past two years he has put the 'Midas Touch' on the albums of major artists like Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, Beyone's hit surprise album, and Jay Z's Magna Carta...Holy Grail. Now he’s ready to do his own thing. Timbaland tells Revolt that his upcoming fourth project will be called Opera Noir. The album's title comes from black culture. 'It’s a culture thing. It's the truth. It’s just about life in general. My life. My personal life, and I found myself as an artist and human being and as a man. I found who I am,' the super producer claimed. Timbaland describes the album as his version of Dr. Dre's The Chronic, but don't expect all the features. The Virginia Beach native plans only two or three features on the project at most. 'Me and my new artist, her name is V. Just me and her. And Cee-Lo. That's it. When [Opera Noir] comes out and you see the whole package, you'll understand why. You'll see it, and you'll be like, ‘Wow, I've never seen nothing like this,’' Tim explained. Previously Timbaland had told fans that the next album following 2009's Shock Value II would be called Textbook Timbo. But we understand, things change." [Source]

Bulgarian Bass Nicola Ghiuselev Dead At The Age Of 78

"Nicola Ghiuselev (August 17, 1936 – May 16, 2014) was a Bulgarian operatic bass, particularly associated with the Italian and Russian repertories. Ghiuselev was born in Pavlikeni. He studied painting at the Academy of Arts in Sofia, and later voice at the school of the National Opera of Sofia, with Christo Brambarov. He made his stage debut with that company, as Timur in Turandot, in 1960. In 1965, with the Sofia Opera, he toured Germany, the Netherlands and France, and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera of New York, as Ramfis in Aida, quickly followed by King Philip II in Don Carlo, and the title role in Boris Godunov. In two seasons with the Met, he sang as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Colline in La Bohème. Important debuts followed at the Berlin State Opera, La Scala in Milan, the
Vienna State Opera, the Monte Carlo Opera, the Palais Garnier in Paris, the Liceo in Barcelona, the San Carlo in Naples, the Royal Opera House in London, the Verona Arena, the Salzburg Festival, the Holland Festival, he also appeared in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Prague, Budapest, Warsaw, Marseille, Toulouse, Chicago, Houston, among others. Other notable roles include; Mephisto in Faust, Creon in Medea, Padre Guardiano in La forza del destino, Banquo in Macbeth, Zaccaria in Nabucco, Silva in Ernani, Enrico in Anna Bolena, Galitzky in Prince Igor, the four villains in The Tales of Hoffmann, Mosè in Mosè in Egitto, Marcel in Les Huguenots, and Gremin in Eugene Onegin. He died on 16 May 2014, aged 77." [Source]

Why Glyndebourne Heir Sir George Christie Cut His Own Hair

Sir George Christie with Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström (Photo: Getty)
"One curious fact about Sir George Christie, who died last week, aged 79, was that he always cut his own hair, a notoriously difficult thing to do. He did it with a three-way mirror and, according to his wife Mary, did it very badly. His reason, apparently, was a reluctance to waste money on a barber. For while George was very well-off (and the epitome of generosity when it came to others), he hated to spend anything on himself. For example, he never took a taxi — he would always travel in London by Tube or bus, even to such an event as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee service in St Paul’s Cathedral — and he had his suits made by the wardrobe department of the Glyndebourne opera company rather than pay a London tailor. His thrift, however, didn’t extend to wine, which he loved as much as he hated water, and of which he possessed an excellent cellar. When he was weakened by his final illness, his main complaint was that he was no longer capable of walking off his hangover." [Source]

Isabel Leonard To Give Recital In Florida At Frost School Of Music

The mezzo-soprano relaxing for the camera. (Photo: Dario Acosta)
"Isabel Leonard is a glamorous young opera star, svelte and vivacious, whose career has rocketed into the stratosphere. But sometimes an opera star is just a mom. 'I’m trying to get the nanny and my son out of the house,' she said with a rueful laugh, apologizing for starting an interview a few minutes late. Based in Manhattan, Leonard and husband Teddy Tahu Rhodes well know the formidable challenge of corralling a toddler, namely their 3-year-old son, Teo. But in terms of her career trajectory, running late is not Leonard’s style. In September 2007, barely one year after earning her master’s degree from the Juilliard School, the mezzo-soprano made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Stephano, Romeo’s page in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. 'It’s hard to make a splash in a pants role in a long opera on a night when Anna Netrebko is singing,' wrote Washington Post critic Anne Midgette, 'but Ms. Leonard did.' Born in 1982, Leonard already has a jam-packed resume. In 2013 she won the Richard Tucker Award, a prestigious honor for promising young singers that carries a $30,000 prize and a concert appearance. In 2012, she starred as Miranda in the Met’s highly praised premiere of Thomas Ades’ 2004 opera based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest directed by Robert Lepage. She has appeared in opera houses stretching from Vienna to Santa Fe. Her mezzo is a powerful instrument with an astonishing range, dusky and worldly wise in its lowest register yet silvery and agile in high-flying coloratura passages. South Florida audiences will get to see what all the excitement is about when Leonard makes her local debut Sunday as part of the Sunday Afternoons of Music series in Coral Gables. Her recital with pianist Vlad Iftinca will be the final concert in Doreen Marx’s series, which is closing down after a 33-year run." [Source] Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard will perform with pianist Vlad Iftinca at 4 p.m. Sunday at Gusman Concert Hall, Frost School of Music, University of Miami, 1314 Miller Dr., Coral Gables. For more information visit A copy of the recital is after the jump.

Kiri Te Kanawa Acknowledged By Australian House of Representatives

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa bows as she is acknowledged
while attending question time in the House
of Representatives at the Australian Parliament
in Canberra. (Photo: Rick Rycroft/AP)
"New Zealand soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, touring Australia to celebrate her 70th birthday, makes a rule of never discussing retirement. In keeping with the philosophy she says she borrowed from her own theatric hero, Dame Judi Dench, Te Kanawa won't rule out returning to Australia for an 80th or even 90th birthday tour. 'You never know,' she told The Associated Press on Thursday at a Parliament House reception where she was a guest of House of Representatives Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, an opera fan. 'Never say never, but 90th - they'd be wheeling me in in a chair,' she quipped. Te Kanawa later bowed to the House of Representatives to the applause of Australian lawmakers, an experience she humbly described as 'pretty special.' She no longer performs in operas, shifting her focus to recitals and concerts. Her work schedule is less hectic than it has been, but she continues globe-trotting at a frenetic pace. Her current 11-concert tour will end in her native New Zealand in early June. She then flies to London to learn new music to premiere at Chicago's Martin Theater on Aug. 12 as part of the Ravinia Festival." [Source] Read more about the tour and her retirement activities by clicking here.

Saturday Movie: "Charlie Chan At The Opera" (1936)

"Gravelle, a former baritone believed dead after an opera house fire, has been languishing in a mental institution for the past seven years, an anonymous amnesiac. When he fortuitously sees a news story about his former wife's current appearance at the local opera, his memory returns. He escapes, and, disguised in costume, seeks revenge for a failed attempt on his life years earlier. When the guilty parties are found stabbed to death, Charlie Chan and son Lee try to find out if the dangerous fugitive is the one responsible." [Source] Despite looking like a production of Faust, the music for the on-screen opera Carnival is by Oscar Levant. [Source] Watch the entire film after the jump.

Experienced Publisher Diane Silberstein Joins Opera News Magazine

WQXR is reporting on a new position filled at Opera News magazine: "Opera News magazine has named Diane Silberstein as its new publisher. Her résumé includes work as the publisher of Penthouse and Playboy adult men's magazines, as well as work at more traditional glossies. Silberstein, who started on May 9, has a remarkable background even by the hurly-burly standards of magazine publishing. Having begun her career at Glamour, she worked her way up to publisher roles at Elle (1992-1994), the New Yorker (1994-1997), Playboy (2003-2006) and Penthouse (2006-2008), before eventually launching Silberstein Media, a company representing media brands for advertising and sponsorship sales. The appointment was reported Thursday by Mediabistro. Silberstein's time at Penthouse had its colorful moments: In 2008, the magazine was one of several publications to pursue a cover story with Ashley Dupré, the 22-year-old call girl involved in the scandal of resigning Governor Eliot Spitzer. 'We would love to have her in the magazine,' Silberstein told the Associated Press at the time. 'We would even consider offering her a cover. We think we could also be very helpful to her in her music career.'" [Source] The official Opera News press release can be found here.