Monday, September 29, 2014

Elena Souliotis Fans Rejoice For "Norma" Release On Compact Disc

Diva Turn: Souliotis in her prime.
(Photo: Francesco Scavullo)
Previously only available on compact disc in Japan, the 1967 recording of Bellini's Norma featuring 24-year old soprano Elena Souliotis now gets an international release thanks to the Eloquence label. Sporting the original cover photo shot by Francesco Scavullo, this recording can be counted among the most worthy of owning. At times the young singer is vocally gentle and serene, while other moments (namely those with powerhouse veterans Fiorenza Cossotto and Mario Del Monaco) she is ferocious and fearless. Once thought of as a worthy successor to Maria Callas, the career of Ms. Souliotis burned hot and brief. The soprano spent most of her time in the studio during the mid-1960s setting down full operas and recital discs for posterity. Originally recorded for Decca, the opera makes its worldwide debut for which many fans have been clamoring. Gramophone reviewed this set when it was released: "Elena Souliotis has the power, ferocity, energy for the role [...] Mario del Monaco’s 'Ferisci, ma non interrogarmi' is a splendid moment [...] Cosotto’s tone is always full and beautiful [...] Silvio Varviso’s direction is pleasantly spirited [...] The recording is spacious, clear and well-balanced." From the liner notes: "Bellini’s advice to librettists in 1834 might profitably hang above the desks of all who would pursue this singular art today: ‘Carve in your head in adamantine letters: Opera must make people weep, feel horrified, die through singing. It is wrong to want to write all the numbers the same way, but they must all be somehow shaped so as to make the music intelligible through their clarity of expression, at once concise and striking.’ Much of it could apply to his opera Norma. Most of the music was written between September and November 1831 at Blevio on Lake Como, where Bellini was a guest of the great diva Giuditta Pasta, who created the role of Norma. For more than a decade she was the greatest soprano in Europe and undoubtedly influenced the development of Bellini’s vocal style. This recording, made in Rome in 1967, featured the great
Souliotis (left) with Maria Callas
Greek soprano Elena Souliotis. Silvio Varviso conducts and the emphasis is on the drama and the creation of three-dimensional characters. It’s an approach that suited Souliotis. Her interpretation ranges from the ravishing simplicity of her ‘Casta Diva’ to desperate mood swings in the scene with the sleeping children (‘Dormono entrambi’) and in her dealings with Pollione. Mario Del Monaco is as strong as ever as the Roman proconsul Pollione; his high notes ringing and unforgettable. Adalgisa is sung by Fiorenza Cossotto (b. 1935), Italian mezzo-soprano regarded by many as one of the finest mezzos of the twentieth century." [
Source] Full cast list and information about Elena Souliotis can be found after the jump.

"The Strain" Creeps Down The Baroque Opera Path Of Purcell

The young Abraham begs forgiveness for taking the life of his true love after he left her to seek The Master.
As previously discussed, The Strain on FX continues to include opera as part of the show's drama. Episode 12, "Last Rites," aired September 28, 2014, with the climax featuring an excerpt from Henry Purcell's only all-sung dramatic work, Dido and Aeneas. The piece "When I am laid in Earth" plays under the scene of a present, and past, beheading of loved ones fallen prey to the strain. More commonly known as "Dido's Lament," the aria truly expresses the dictionary definition of the word: "la·ment verb \lə-ˈment\: to express sorrow, regret, or unhappiness about something." The music begins as viewers realize that Nora (Mia Maestro) must decapitate her
Present-day Abraham bids farewell to his love.
mother Mariela (Anne Betancourt) as she has recently been turned by Gabriel (Jack Kesy) in an attack on the pawn shop. As the swell of the music increases, we travel in a flashback to 1967 as a younger Abraham (Jim Watson) is faced with having to execute his wife Miriam and their children since they too have been turned and are ready to kill him. As her lifeless body lays on the floor, Abraham takes a knife and cuts her open to remove her heart, which now resides in a jar filled with fluid in the basement of the pawn shop. As Eichorst (Richard Sammel) infiltrates the pawn shop and seeks to execute Abraham, he is forced to leave the only remaining thing in this world that he truly loves: Miriam's heart. As you read the synopsis of Purcell's opera, it is easy to see the parallels to the story line of the show: Miriam as Dido, Abraham as Aeneas, Eichorst as Spirit (née Mercury), and The Master as The Sorcerer. Even the closing lines of the opera after Dido's death include the theme of heart: "The chorus and orchestra conclude the opera by ordering the 'cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle as her heart. Keep here your watch, and never never never part.'" If the show wanted to get a bit creepier,  
perhaps they could have used Symphony #4 "Chiaroscuro" by Gloria Coates which samples the theme of Purcell's aria in a much darker way. Watch the full episode of The Strain by clicking here. More information about Dido and Aeneas, as well as a video performance of Jessye Norman performing "Dido's Lament," can be found after the jump. [Source]
Thomas Eichorst looks down on what has been Miriam's tomb and Abraham's safeguard.

American soprano Jessye Norman as Dido in a costume
designed by Pet Halmen for the l'Opéra de Paris
 (Photo: Zoë Dominic)
"The opening recitative secco, 'Thy hand, Belinda,' is accompanied by continuo only. Word painting is applied on the text 'darkness' and 'death' which is presented with chromaticism, symbolic of death. 'Dido's Lament' opens with a descending chromatic fourth line, the ground bass, which is repeated eleven times throughout the aria, thus structuring the piece in the form of a ciaccona. The meter is 3/2 in the key of G minor. Henry Purcell has applied word painting on the words 'laid,' which is also given a descending chromatic line portraying death and agony, and 'Remember me,' which is presented in a syllabic text setting and repeated with its last presentation leaping in register with a sudden crescendo displaying her desperate cry with urgency as she prepares for her fate: death. In one interpretation Dido's relationship with Aeneas is portrayed in this moment as an 'apocalyptic romance.' The text, and the Purcell opera are alluding to the Roman legend of the Aeneid, the story of a Trojan Warrior Aeneas, seeking Italy in order to settle there and secure his son's lineage. Aeneas is blown off course from Sicily, and lands on the shores of Northern Africa, in Carthage, a recently settled city of former Tyrians. Their queen is Dido, with whom Aeneas has a love affair, before departing for Italy and leaving Dido alone. She becomes so distraught that she orders for a large pyre to be placed, on which she plans to impale herself, and be set ablaze so that Aeneas will see from his ship. This is perhaps the most poignant part of the legend, and ends at the culmination of Book IV." [Source]

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pier Paolo Pasolini's Last Days Documented In Film

Director Pasolini at work creating art.
Previously playing at film festivals, today marks the official release date of the new film Pasolini in Italy. The film, written and directed by Abel Ferrara, chronicles the last days of Pier Paolo Pasolini's final days before being brutally murdered. American actor Willem Dafoe plays the legendary Italian filmmaker. Among the legions of controversial movies that Pasolini released (Accattone, Salò, Teorema, etc.), there was a gem in the center of his career that featured renowned Greek opera soprano Maria Callas. The year was 1969 and the film was Medea. Based on the plot of the Euripides play, the Pasolini version featured the soprano as the protagonist in her only non-singing role. The plot for the film: "To
Acting Chops: Maria Callas in the title role
 of Medea film with Giuseppe Gentile as Jason.
win the kingdom his uncle took from his father, Jason must steal the golden fleece from the land of barbarians, where Medea is royalty and a powerful sorceress, where human sacrifice helps crops to grow. Medea sees Jason and swoons, then enlists her brother's aid to take the fleece. She then murders her brother and becomes Jason's lover. Back in Greece, the king keeps the throne, the fleece has no power, and Medea lives an exile's life, respected but feared, abandoned by Jason. When she learns he's to marry the king's daughter, Medea tames her emotions and sends gifts via her sons; then, loss overwhelms her and she unleashes a fire storm on the king, the bride, and Jason." The beginning of the Pasolini/Callas relationship was quite tepid: "Pasolini treated her with kid gloves from their first meeting in March 1969, one that followed on exchanges of letters and telephone calls. He spoke softly and they struck it off immediately. She had been known to snap unpleasantly about 'homosexuals and Marxists' (her friendships with both notwithstanding): Nothing unpleasant occurred. The production proceeded from the first day that summer with the calm of two professionals animated by mutual esteem, locked in their common task. Pasolini's
Dynamic Duo: Pier Paolo Pasolini and Maria
Callas at the Medea premiere in Paris.
plan was to present Medea through images, a film not directed to the obvious audience of Callas' opera fans. Besides, he did not like opera anyway. At eighteen he went to the Teatro Duse in Bologna and saw his first performance, an 'ugly' rendition of Il trovatore: 'I suffered such a shock that I never went to the opera again"; but after going with Ninetto to hear Giuseppe di Stefano in Rigoletto, in the open air at the Baths of Caracalla during the mid-sixties, 'From then on, I began to have a feeling and a love for opera. Nevertheless, he thought swooning over Callas singing 'Vissi d'arte' was so much ceccheria (approximately: queenery); Callas as the darling of homosexuals all over the world interested him not at all. He said, 'Here is a woman, in one sense the most modern of woman, but there lives in her an ancient woman - savage, mysterious, magical, with terrible inner conflicts.' Pasolini merged the real Callas, the Medea inside her but palpable to him, with the Medea of ancient myth, a personality quite as 'real' as the living opera legend before him. He noted: 'The barbarian deep inside [Callas], who emerged through her eyes, her shape, does not manifest itself directly, on the contrary, the surface is almost smooth. Overall, the ten years [Medea] passes at Corinth are a bit like the life of Callas. She came out of a peasant world, Greek, antique, and then had a bourgeois formation. Thus in a certain sense, I tried to concentrate in her character that which she is, in her total complexity.'" During the making of the film the two became good friends,
A Place in the Sun: Callas vacationing with Pasolini (and her poodles).
even vacationing together: "In the summer of 1970 he joined Callas on Tragonisi, an Aegean island in the Petalii group owned by Perry Embiricos - a great music lover, heir to one of the great Greek shipping fortunes. The part on vacation included Callas, [her confidante-assistant] Nadia Stancioff, one of Onassis' partners from his early whaling business and his wife: an odd ensemble. As he and Callas talked on the beach, Pasolini sketched her, continuing the series of portraits he had started during the filming of Medea the year before. He folded a paper into squares and drew her profile on each, using transparent glue and flowers for color. Stanciff says that he exclaimed, 'This is art in the making. Now it must dry in the sun for twenty-four hours. I shall make only three, and one will be for you.' One undated sheet, believed to be from the drawings series of 1969-1970, repeats the abstracted image of a profile or a mountain - just lines running from lower-left to upper-right in sixteen squares of a folded page. It is an image repetitive, automatic. At the bottom of this sheet, he penned, 'The world does not want me anymore and does not know it' (Il mondo non mi vuole più e non lo sa). Between 1969 and 1971 Pasolini made fourteen drawings of Callas in all: a first group in Cervignano del Friuli and five more in Greece. In Italy he worked at the dinner table, combining the red and white wine at hand, a bit of candle-wax, crushed flower petals. On the beach he took the materials he found there and worked his alchemy with them." [Source, SourceSource, Source, Source] Watch a trailer for the film Pasolini, and see world release dates, after the jump.

A private moment among friends: Pasolini and Callas on the beach in 1969.

Vogue Covers Opera Fashions On MET's Opening Night "Figaro"

Pre-Nozze: Anna Netrebko and soon-to-be-husband Yusif Eyvazov at opening night festivities.
Vogue photographer Hannah Thomson was at the Metropolitan Opera's Opening Night Gala. The evening featured a performance of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. Evening attendants included Maggie Grace, Zac Posen, Vera Wang, Grace Coddington, Josh Lucas, Christine Baranski, and more. See the full gallery of the glamorous night by clicking here
Fall Fashions: Mercedes Bass and soprano Renée Fleming

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

English Conductor Christopher Hogwood Dies at 73

Hit Maker: The late conductor made over 200
 recordings with the Academy of Ancient Music.
"Christopher Jarvis Haley Hogwood CBE (September 10, 1941 – September 24, 2014) was an English conductor, harpsichordist, writer, musicologist and founder of the Academy of Ancient Music. Born in Nottingham, Hogwood studied music and classical literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He went on to study performance and conducting under Raymond Leppard, Mary Potts and Thurston Dart; and later with Rafael Puyana and Gustav Leonhardt. He also studied in Prague with Zuzana Ruzickova for a year, under a British Council scholarship. In 1967, Hogwood founded the Early Music Consort with David Munrow, and in 1973 he founded the Academy of Ancient Music, specializing in performances of Baroque and early Classical music with period instruments. The Early Music Consort was disbanded following Munrow's death in 1976, but Hogwood continued to perform and record with the Academy of Ancient Music. From 1981, Hogwood conducted regularly in the United States. He was Artistic Director of Boston's Handel and Haydn Society from 1986 to 2001, and for the remainder of his life held the title of Conductor Laureate. From 1983 to 1985 he was artistic director of the Mostly Mozart Festival in the Barbican Centre in London. From 1988 to
An early portrait of Christopher Hogwood.
1992, he was musical director of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota. Hogwood conducted a considerable amount of opera. He made his operatic debut in 1983, conducting Don Giovanni in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked with Berlin State Opera; La Scala, Milan; Royal Opera Stockholm; the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Chorégies d'Orange and Houston Grand Opera. With Opera Australia, he performed Idomeneo in 1994 and La Clemenza di Tito in 1997. In 2009, he returned to the Royal Opera House to conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, and Handel's Acis and Galatea. 2009 also saw him conducting Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress at the Teatro Real in Madrid, in a production directed by Robert Lepage. In late 2010 and early 2011, he conducted a series of performances of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at
Constant Collaborators: Soprano Emma Kirby and countertenor
 James Bowman with Maestro Hogwood. 
Zurich Opera House. On September 1, 2006, harpsichordist Richard Egarr succeeded Hogwood as Music Director of the Academy of Ancient Music and Hogwood assumed the title of Emeritus Director. Hogwood said he expected to conduct 'at least one major project' with the Academy each year. He conducted the Academy in a series of concert performances of Handel operas which began in 2007 with Amadigi. 2008 saw performances of Flavio, and the series concluded in May 2009, the Handel anniversary, with Arianna in Creta. In 2013 he conducted the Academy in Imeneo. Although Hogwood was best known for the baroque and early classical repertoire, he also performed contemporary music, with a particular affinity for the neo-baroque and neoclassical schools including many works by Stravinsky, Martinů and Hindemith. He made many solo recordings of harpsichord works, including (Louis Couperin, J. S. Bach, Thomas Arne, William Byrd's My Lady Nevells Booke) and did much to promote the clavichord in the Secret Bach/Handel/Mozart series of recordings, which puts in historical context the most
(Photo: Marco Borggreve)
common domestic instrument of that epoch. He owned a collection of historical keyboard instruments. By the end of his life, Hogwood was Honorary Professor of Music in the University of Cambridge, Consultant Visiting Professor of historical performance in the Royal Academy of Music and visiting professor at King's College London. He was an Honorary Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge and Pembroke College, Cambridge. In July 2010, he was appointed Professor of Music at Gresham College, London, for a four-year term of office. In 2012, he was appointed Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University, for a six year term of office. He was a member of Lowell House Senior Common Room in Harvard University. In 1989 Hogwood was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He was the recipient of the Halle Handel Prize in 2008. In 2011, Hogwood was a juror for the Westfield International Fortepiano Competition hosted at Cornell University. This was the first fortepiano competition in the United States and only the second competition of its kind in the world. Hogwood died in Cambridge on 24 September 2014, aged 73." [Source] Listen to Christopher Hogwood conduct Luba Orgonasova in "Vo'far guerra" from Händel's opera Rinaldo, Emma Kirkby in "But Who May Abide" from Händel's Messiah, and Cecilia Bartoli in "L'anima del filosofo ossia" from Haydn's Orfeo ed Euridice, after the jump.

Lyric Opera Of Chicago Gets The High Fashion Treatment

"Opulence and glamour aren't just for the stage. These gorgeous photos were taken at the Civic Opera House and hark back to styles of the 1950's-1970's (which just so happen to be Lyric's first three decades). High fashion and opera: a perfect pairing." Chicago magazine created a portfolio of stunning images that highlight the fashion of Gucci, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Givenchy, Bottega Veneta, Prada, Dior, and more, in the art deco setting of the opera house. The feature, put together by Heiji Choy Black, highlights the artistry of photographer Yossi Michaeli. A few more images after the jump. You can see the full article by clicking here. [Source]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Fears Restricting Visas Will Affect Quality Singers

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa as the Countess in the 1973
 production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro
 at the Glyndebourne Festival.
"Soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has warned of the restricting impact of visas for international singers hoping to work or study in the UK. The New Zealand-born singer told The Observer that the current model for obtaining visas for work and study in the UK are weighted against new talent, comparing her own experiences with those of students and singers today. 'When I came over there was an open door. But now a foreign singer can come into schools for a year or so, but then, more often than not, if they want to carry on they have to reapply. So what happens is they have to go back after their time runs out and sit there in New Zealand, for example, for almost a year. I talk to opera companies in London about it, and they don't like it when I say it. But these singers have got to get the visas or they will never learn.' Te Kanawa continued, saying that the solution was to remove hurdles from the visa process, and that not all international singers are likely to enjoy a long professional career: 'The thing is, they are not all going to make it, so what I want is just one place a year for a person who is really going to last.'" [Source] For those concerned about their current, or future, visas can find more information by clicking here.

Former Athens Home Of Maria Callas To Become Opera Academy

If these walls could talk, they just might sing:
The five-year residence of Maria Callas in Greece.
"The historic but long-neglected building at 61 Patission Street in central Athens where opera legend Maria Callas lived from 1940 to 1945 before she left for the United States is set to undergo renovation work so that it can house the Maria Callas Opera Academy, as daily Kathimerini online reported. The City of Athens has already reached an agreement with the owner of the building, the Sailors' Pension Fund (NAT), and officials are reportedly working out the details so that the project can be included under EU Community Support Framework for Greece in 2015. The agreement was marked yesterday with a grand opera gala concert organized by the association for the building of the opera house and the academy in cooperation with the Greek National Opera. Artistic director of the Greek National Opera Myron Michailidis said the organization would support plans to establish an opera academy. Born Maria Kalogeropoulos, Callas first performed in Greece when she was 18. She died in Paris at the age of 53 in 1977." [Source] "A rich audio-visual exhibition with emblematic photos and interviews, along with personal objects, will be presented in two of the building’s three floors. The museum will also have a library with books and records for opera lovers. Additionally, there will be a hall for temporary exhibitions, classes and small opera concerts. The ground floor will feature a thematic museum shop as well as a bistro named La Divina, where visitors will have the chance to taste some of Callas’s favorite dishes." [Source] After the jump is a complete list of operas that the hallowed walls of this apartment would have heard Madame Callas singing during this time period.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Verdi Tease: Anna Netrebko Singing Lady Macbeth At The MET

Catch your first glimpse of Anna Netrebko singing the demanding role of Lady Macbeth, in Verdi's version of the Shakespearean drama Macbeth at the Metropolitan Opera this month, by watching a teaser of "Vieni, t'affretta" after the jump.

Operatic Pairing Of Beyoncé And Givenchy Director Riccardo Tisci

Stars and Stripes Forever: Beyoncé shows her patriotism
 in Paris, France, during the last concert on her "On the Run"
 tour with husband, and fellow musician, Jay-Z.
Not since Jessye Norman was draped in the French flag for the country's bicentennial celebration has fashion been so operatically inspired as when pop superstar Beyoncé closed her On the Run tour with husband Jay-Z by singing "Forever Young" wearing a bustle replica of the American flag designed by Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy in only black and white. The drama created by this flowing garment is simultaneously rebellious, patriotic, militant, and haute couture. This isn't Mr. Tisci's first operatic gesture with fashion, he previously collaborated with artist Marina Abramovic at the Opéra de Paris at the Palais Garnier in 2013: "For his first collaboration with the Paris Palais Garnier de l'Opéra National, Givenchy's creative director Riccardo Tisci has signed the costumes for Maurice Ravel's Le Boléro ballet. In a hostel in Spain, a gypsy traveler dances on a table surrounded by people. Her speed and rhythm gradually entrances the onlookers and carries them away in an intoxication of instinctive dance. Maurice Ravel's Le Boléro, written in 1928, comes to the Paris Opéra Garnier from May 2 until June 3 and Riccardo Tisci, creative director at French label Givenchy, has created dance costumes for the entire company. It is the first time the celebrated designer has worked with the Palais Garnier on a personal project of this scale and the resulting costumes combine obscurity and romanticism in equal measure. The white, billowing dresses and capes are spectacular when in flight on stage, while the fine, detailed embroidery on the transparent leotards reveals the human skeleton that moves gracefully underneath, breathing life into this theatrical interpretation. Choreographers Sidi Larbi
Andre Balaz, Riccardo Tisci, and Marina Abramovic at The
Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit
Celebrating "Punk: Chaos to Couture" in 2013.
Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet have entrusted Marina Abramovic with the show's production. The Art Corporel choreographer aims to give the human spirit a new sense of freedom, redefining limits through this unique interpretation of Maurice Ravel's masterpiece...." [
SourceDuring the time the duo was working together, Dazed Digital interviewed Marina Abramovic and Riccardo Tisci. Once question in particular stands out:

Can you remember your first experience of opera?
Marina Abramovic: My mother was very strict. The only thing I read was the literature she gave to me; I certainly wasn’t aware of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. My education was Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky and opera. I think the first opera I saw was La Traviata, in Belgrade.
Riccardo Tisci: My first opera was also La Traviata! I came from a poor family so we never had the money to go to (Milan opera house) La Scala. I remember having goosebumps; I remember wanting to cry. I remember thinking it would be my dream to design costumes for La Scala or l’Opéra (in Paris). [Source]

Perhaps one of the finer opera houses in the world will snap up Riccardo Tisci to create costumes for a new production. In the meantime, there might just be a diva somewhere wearing one of his couture designs. Stay tuned. Watch the full video of Beyoncé performing "Forever Young" in the gorgeous creation by Riccardo Tisci, as well as some beautiful still photos, after the jump.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Szilvia Vörös Wins Grand Prix At Éva Marton Singing Competition

The mezzo-soprano was the only
Hungarian in the competition.
"The jury of eight members, all of them outstanding representatives of the international opera world, awarded as a result of their discussion far into the night the 26-year-old mezzosoprano, Szilvia Vörös the Grand Prix at the Liszt Academy. On Saturday the Final round of the competition, which started on Monday, was full house. The eleven competitors (Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese (from China and Hong Kong), Romanian and Polish) sang in the Grand Hall of the Liszt Academy, and were accompanied by the MÁV Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ádám Medveczky. This has been the first international competition organized by the institute itself since the renovation of the Liszt Academy was finished last autumn. The 29-year-old Romanian baritone, Aghenie Alexandru was awarded the First Prize, which is worth 12,000 euros. He sang one aria from Gounod's Faust and one from Verdi's Il trovatore. The 30-year-old Ukranian soprano, Tetiana Zhuravel got the Second Prize, that is, 9,000 euros, while the 28-year-old Polish soprano, Marcelina Beucher won the Third Prize, which is worth 6,000 euros. The audience could also vote for singers and give their votes in the intermission of the Final. Thus, the Audience Prize of 500,000 HUF and the china replica of one of the Faun figures of the music palace on Liszt Ferenc Square was given to the Second Prize winner Tetiana Zhuravel. Szilvia Vörös studied at the Richter János Secondary School of Music.
The competition's namesake: Ms. Marton
(Photo: Emmer László)
As a student of Veronika Dobi-Kiss she won first prize at the Simándy József Singing Competition in 2008. In the same year she attended the Liszt Academy of Budapest where she studied in the class of Éva Marton. She graduated in 2013. She participated in masterclasses given by Éva Marton, Andrea Meláth, Leonardo de Lisi, Alberto Gazale and Nicholas Clapton. During her studies she performed the alto solo parts of Bach's Johannes- and Matthäus-Passion and also some oratory pieces by Mozart, Buxtehude, Arvo Pärt and György Orbán. Latest roles played by her include the Third Dame in Die Zauberflöte at the Liszt Academy. She also appeared in Elektra by Strauss at the Hungarian State Opera House." [Source] Listen to mezzo-soprano Szilvia Vörös
 sing "O don fatale" from Verdi's Don Carlos sung in July 2013 at the Hungarian State Opera honoring Éva Marton, after the jump.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tavis Smiley Interviews Renée Fleming About Her Singing

Renée Fleming sat down with Tavis Smiley in Los Angeles to discuss a variety of topics including what it's like to have André Previn write a piece specifically for the soprano; getting boxed into specific singing genres by critics; the "valleys" of her career; how her voice is holding up to the demands of time; singing the national anthem; singing with honesty; the usefulness of critics; what is going to help the arts survive in the future; among other topics discussed. Watch the video of the interview after the jump, as well as a bonus of an earlier
episode of Tavis Smiley interviewing soprano Jessye Norman from 2011. And in case you missed the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to André Previn in 1998 at which Ms. Fleming sang "I Want Magic!" from the composer's operatic rendition of A Streetcar Named Desire, click the image on the right to launch the video of the performance. For more information about Tavis Smiley and to see more of his interviews, go to PBS online by clicking here.

New Zealand Opera Explores The Seediest Side Of "Don Giovanni"

"Almost done with this pole dance, but first....let me take a selfie"
(Photo: Stacy Squires/Fairfax)
"New Zealand Opera's production of Mozart's Don Giovanni opened its Auckland season on Thursday and had already courted a little bit of controversy as to its staging. Not the stuffy, fusty 18th Century costumes and street scenes for this production directed by Sara Brodie. Rather, the setting is in a seedy, dingy Spanish nightclub, completely devoid of any sophistication whatsoever. There are poledancers and a DJ in residence and smartphones, and selfies are taken. Apparently, there's some substance abuse as well although I have to say I missed that. But you get the idea. Not surprisingly, this has detracted from the other, arguably more important elements. How's the music, for starters? Were there any sacrifices made to the plot or libretto to accommodate the setting? And was it any good at all? The good news is that the music is good and it is a pretty decent production. While some might argue that some of the traditional elements to the story are reworked to suit the setting, the sets, created by designer John Verryt, are dynamic and up to the usual high standard we have become
Hell Hath No Fury: Anna Leese stars as Donna Elvira
(Photo: Mark Stone)
accustomed to with a New Zealand Opera production. NZO's music director Wyn Davies and the Auckland Philharmonia give their customary quality performance. And, most importantly, the cast is vocally strong. The two standouts in the cast have to be New Zealand soprano Anna Leese as Donna Elvira, one of Giovanni's victims, and Australian bass baritone Warwick Fyfe as Giovanni's long-suffering manservant Leporello." [Source]

"Britain's Got Talent" Star Lucy Kay Gets Sony Release

"Lucy Kay, the soprano who cast a spell over the excitable live audience on TV’s Britain’s Got Talent, has been signed by Sony Classical in a ‘multi-album deal’. The 25-year-old from Leicester studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and sang an abridged version of Puccini’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ on the show on April 12, showcasing the tonal and technical potential in her attractive young voice and immediately securing the dumbfounded endorsement of the judges. ‘Lucy has the natural talent and ability to be a worldwide star,’ commented Mark Cavell, Senior Vice-President of Sony Masterworks. ‘We look forward to continuing her amazing success story in the USA and around the globe.’" [Source] The new album, Fantasia, will be released on September 29, 2014. Click here for purchase. Watch the soprano's performance of "Vissi d'Arte" on Britain's Got Talent, after the jump.

Remembering Joan Rivers And Her Operatic Connections

Joan Alexandra Molinsky (born June 8, 1933), widely known as Joan Rivers, was an American actress, comedian, writer, producer, and television host noted for her often controversial comedic persona — where she was alternately self-deprecating or sharply acerbic, especially toward celebrities and politicians. Rivers came to prominence in 1965 as a guest on The Tonight Show. Hosted by her mentor, Johnny Carson, the show established Rivers' comedic style. In 1986, with her own rival program, The Late Show with Joan Rivers, Rivers became the first woman to host a late night network television talk show. She subsequently hosted The Joan Rivers Show (1989-1993), winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host. As the author 12 best-selling memoir and humor books and numerous comedy albums, Rivers was nominated in 1984 for a Grammy Award for her album What Becomes a Semi-Legend Most? and was nominated in 1994 for the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance of the title role in Sally Marr...and her escorts. Having become widely known for her red carpet interviews, Rivers co-hosted the E! celebrity fashion show Fashion Police (2010- 2014) and starred in reality series Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best? (2011-2014) with daughter Melissa Rivers. Rivers marketed a line of jewelry and apparel on the QVC shopping channel, and was the subject of the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010). In 1968, noted New York Times television critic Jack Gould (1914–1993) called Rivers 'quite possibly the most intuitively funny woman alive.'" Joan Rivers passed away on September 4, 2014. [Source] Check out the connections this great star had with opera, after the jump.

Sandrine Piau Offers Insight To Her New Mozart Recording

(Photo: Sandrine Expilly)
"When Naïve offered me the chance to record a Mozart recital in 2001, it was something I hadn't even dared to dream of, because he seemed to me to be the composer most emblematic of every kind of perfection. I made the disc with a feeling almost of transgression and a tremendous fear of not being worthy of him. Now, thirteen years later, I come back to Mozart with the experience of the roles I've tackled on stage in the meantime. Donna Anna is probably the character I most wanted to include, not only because I've sung her in the theatre but also because the part is traditionally given to heavier voices than mine. Like any so-called Baroque singer, I'm suspicious of traditions, and I like the idea that behind her cries of suffering she has still retained a redemptive gentleness, which one can sense in 'Non mi
dir.' The arias I've chosen are often tormented. I suppose this is a disc of maturity, which both reflects my trajectory over these past few years and catches me at a specific moment in my life, like a snapshot." - Sandrine Piau [Source] The recording features arias from Lucio Silla, Don Giovanni, La Finta Giardiniera, Le Nozze di Figaro, Idomeneo, Mitridate, and Il Re Pastore. Purchase the new album, Desperate Heroines, by clicking here and read an inspiring review of the disc here. You can listen to audio clips of each track by clicking here

Friday, September 19, 2014

Deborah Voigt Joins Rufus Wainwright For BBC Proms Performance

Operatic soprano Deborah Voigt joined pop star Rufus Wainwright at the 2014 BBC Proms. Watch the two sing "If I Loved You" from the musical Carousel and Ms. Voigt sing "Quand j'étais jeune étudiante" from Wainwright's opera Prima Donna, after the jump.

Angela Gheorghiu Will Travel To China For Arts Festival In October

Cover Girl Gheorghiu: China & Romania have a history
 of several decades of economic and cultural exchanges.
Read more about that history by clicking here.
"Organizers of the 16th China Shanghai International Arts Festival say there will be more original performances at this year's event. Scheduled to run from October 17th to November 16th, the festival will have 45 musical, dance and theatrical works, including 25 from abroad. Here's more about it. The opening show will be a four-act Chinese opera called The River Flows to the East, which looks at the history of Shanghai. It will star Chinese opera tenor Liao Changyong and soprano Huang Ying. Organizers say one-third of the performances this year will be originals and Shanghai premiers. During the art festival, world-famous art troupes such as the St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonic, the Orchestra de Paris and the National Ballet of the Netherlands will give performances. Meanwhile, original Chinese productions including Shaoxing Opera will also be staged. 'We want to use this opportunity to introduce the world of Chinese original operas and art performances, to expand the influence of Chinese culture around the globe,' said Liu Wenguo, deputy secretary-general of Shanghai International Arts Festival. The closing performance will be a co-production of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, by over 300 artists from the Bejart Ballet Lausanne, the Tokyo Ballet, the Shanghai Ballet and the Shanghai Opera House." [Source] The festival will also includes performers Kyung Wha Chung, Mischa Maisky, Paavo Jarvi, and Kent Nagano. October 30, 2014, will feature soprano Angela Gheorghiu in recital with accompanist Alexandru Petrovici. Details of the recital are after the jump.

Sumi Jo Among Famous Korean Singers At 2014 Asian Games

South Korean soprano Sumi Jo performs
 a solo during the opening ceremony
 of the 2014 Asian Games at the Asiad
 Main Stadium in Incheon, South Korea.
"Pop sensation Psy was the star attraction as a dazzling opening ceremony, showcasing the glorious past and modern-day South Korea in a grand spectacle, launched the 17th Asian Games on Friday. The world's second-biggest multi-sports spectacle after the Olympic Games, that will see over 13000 competitors from 45 countries and regions vying for glory, was kick-started with singing, dancing, besides the expected fanfare and fireworks. The Games were declared open by South Korean President Park Geun-Hye with the words 'I declare open the 17th Asian Games," before celebrated actress Lee Young-ae lit up the flame resembling a fountain of cascading water. As Lee lighted the cauldron, dazzling fireworks lit up the evening sky. The second part of the opening ceremony consisted of two themed songs - 'New Asia, a Song of Hope' and 'Incheon'. 'New Asia, a song of hope' began with poet Ko Un reading 'Song for the Asiad', composed by Kim Young-dong, which was followed by Soprano Sumi Jo brilliantly singing the solo song which was followed by a 10-vocalist choir joining her with a large screen showing Incheon citizens reading the latter part of the poem. The song changed into Arirang, a very popular Korean folksong often sung as an unofficial national anthem. Then 'Incheon, a place for one Asia' expressed the Games hosting city as a bridge to unite Asia as one family and open the future of the continent." [Source]

Susanna Phillips Sings Praises Of Richard Strauss Songs

(Photo: Zachary Maxwell)
"Susanna Phillips, Carlos Miguel Prieto and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra love to take risks. That's certainly clear from the season-opening, musical challenge that the celebrated singer, rising-star conductor and New Orleans band have arranged for Friday (Sept. 19). When the musicians gather at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, they will test technique, soul, and stamina in a series of visionary works penned by Richard Strauss. Phillips will appear for the program's centerpiece, the 'Four Last Songs,' which Strauss composed in 1945, while contemplating the end of life and the disappearance of the cultured, music-loving Germany that had sustained his work for half-a-century. Phillips first sang those culminating masterworks in her early 20s, in Huntsville, Alabama, when Prieto led the orchestra there. 'It's an amazing experience to come back to the 'Four Last Songs' over the years. They never feel the same because I have changed so much as a singer and as a woman,' Phillips said. 'I'm always seduced by their beauty, of course, but now I approach them with more simplicity. As a young singer I tried to act out the words, because I hadn't lived enough, didn't understand enough about the poems Strauss set.' Phillips has a tip for Friday's concertgoers: read the poems that inspired Strauss. 'Vocal music always is driven by the text – and these poems, by Hermann Hesse and Joseph von Eichendorff, really are the entrance point for singers and listeners. I'm always seduced by their mood of serene acceptance, and the understanding of death that Strauss underscores with every note,' Phillips said. 'I care about that message, and that's the key to Strauss for me. It's not just about hitting high notes and finding a comfortable tempo. I come from a different school: if I don't feel the music in my heart, it won't be heard it in my voice. I think Prieto and the LPO operate from the same assumptions – and that's why I'm so excited about this concert.'" [Source]

"Don Giovanni" Gets Decoded In ABC's "Scandal"

Musical Scandal: Harrison (Columbus Short), Olivia 
(Kerry Washington),and Huck (Guillermo Díaz), 
decode the operatic message.
Season 2 - Episode 6: "A man rushes down the sidewalk to hand over a package to his neighborhood postal carrier. The mail truck turns the corner leaving the man standing on a peaceful suburban street. BANG! The man shoots himself in the head. The package he was so anxious to send off before committing suicide is addressed to Olivia Pope. There’s sheet music inside. Huck quickly determines this is actually a coded message asking for protection for a group of covert operatives. He knows the people on the list are spies because his name is amongst them." [Source] The sheet music that's inside the envelope is the tenor aria "Il mio tesoro" sung by the character Don Ottavio from Mozart's Don Giovanni. Listen to the full aria and see a full translation after the jump.

Renata Tebaldi Museum Open In Villa Pallavicino Stables

"After the great singer died in San Marino in 2004, her long-time factotum, Ernestina Viganò, destined her legacy to the Renata Tebaldi Committee (soon to become a Foundation) and its president, Giovanna Colombo, to perpetuate the artistic and personal life of this 'angel voice'. After setting aside the idea of creating a 'Castle for the Queen' inside the Torrechiara Castle in Langhirano, and thanks to the interest shown by Riccardo Muti – who was always fond of Tebaldi – the Municipality of Busseto gave the Committee permission to use Villa Pallavicino’s Stables. Musicologist Giovanni Gavazzeni – grandson of the unforgettable Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who was alongside Tebaldi when she came back to La Scala to perform in Tosca, interrupting her American exile – has been entrusted with coordinating the Committee’s activities and curating the museum, in order to best display its treasures. He has created, for example, a whole room dedicated to Madame Butterfly – a role Tebaldi performed in Barcelona in 1958, in her return to the stage after her mother’s passing. 'The word ‘museum’ can be quite terrifying,' Gavezzeni says. 'But I want visitors to feel like the Tebaldi Museum is alive.'" [Source] Learn more about the museum here.

Ildar Abdrazakov Gets His Close-Up In Vanity Fair Magazine

Abdrazakov in St. Petersburg (Photo: Jason Bell)
"It could almost be the plot of an opera: a dark, dashing descendant of both Genghis Khan and Tamerlane appears and sweeps all before him. But in the case of Russian-born bass Ildar Abdrazakov— 'I’m one-fourth Tatar and three-fourths Bashkirian,' he says with a smile—it happens to be true. A native of Ufa, the capital of the Russian republic of Bashkortostan (also known as Bashkiria), Abdrazakov, 37, has emerged in the past few years as one of the most sought-after young basses in the operatic world. He was pitch-perfect as the brooding prince in the Metropolitan Opera’s production last season of Borodin’s Prince Igor. But what Abdrazakov actually likes best is Italian opera: 'I only started singing the Russian roles when I came west,' he says. His supple, burnished bass shines in the lyrical Rossini-to-Verdi canon, along with his comedic flair." [Source] Read the full feature by clicking here.

Behind The Scenes Of The Metropolitan Opera Opening Productions

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg Would Love To Be A Great Diva

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg marries Michael Kaiser, former
president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing
 Arts, and his partner John Roberts in August 2013.
"People seeking clues about how soon the Supreme Court might weigh in on states' gay marriage bans should pay close attention to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a Minnesota audience Tuesday. Ginsburg said cases pending before the circuit covering Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee would probably play a role in the high court's timing. She said 'there will be some urgency' if that appeals court allows same-sex marriage bans to stand. Such a decision would run contrary to a legal trend favoring gay marriage and force the Supreme Court to step in sooner, she predicted. She said if the appeals panel falls in line with other rulings there is 'no need for us to rush.'....Ginsburg spent 90 minutes before an audience of hundreds discussing her two decades on the Supreme Court as well as her days as an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer. In a question-and-answer period, she predicted that cases dealing with the environment and technology would make for watershed decisions in years to come. Privacy of information carried on smartphones in the context of criminal searches could be particularly big, Ginsburg said. 'You can have on that cellphone more than you can pack in a file cabinet,' she said. The liberal justice said the court is the most collegial place she has worked as she fondly described her close relationship with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. She made sure to plug a comic opera about the two of them — Scalia/Ginsburg — that will debut next year in Virginia. And the 81-year-old Ginsburg elicited plenty of laughter by highlighting a Tumblr account about her called the 'Notorious R.B.G.' and a never-realized dream job. 'If I had any talent God could give me, I would be a great diva,' she said." [Source] See pictures of Justice Ginsburg with the many opera divas (and a few divos) she has befriended over the years, including Renée Fleming, Leontyne Price, Plácido Domingo, and Marilyn Horne, after the jump.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Callas And Tebaldi Still Rivals Thanks To Their Record Labels

In the 1950s, two sopranos reigned supreme at the premiere opera houses of the world: Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas. There was overlapping repertoire between the artists and both sang in many of the same venues. Was there a real rivalry between these ladies or was it all salaciousness spurred on by the media? "Though many of the stock obituaries of Tebaldi characterized her rivalry with Callas as trumped up by the press, there was, in fact, much truth behind it - and it says much about who Tebaldi was and what she represented. Problems started in 1950, according to Robert Levine's clearheaded book Maria Callas: A Musical Biography (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers), when the two were alternating performances of La Traviata in Rio de Janeiro. At a gala concert, they sang their scheduled arias, and despite a no-encores agreement, Tebaldi sang two. When the two appeared at social occasions, it got ugly. Later, management favored Tebaldi over Callas, and the latter was fired - no doubt traumatized. After the two became more established, Callas was quoted as saying, 'If the time comes when my dear friend Renata Tebaldi sings Norma or Lucia one night, then Violetta, La Gioconda or Medea the next - then and only then will we be rivals. Otherwise, it is like comparing champagne with cognac. No, with Coca-Cola.'" [Source] Fans became divided and the general
Diva Love: Tebaldi (left) and Callas in 1968
sentiment for hearing Verdi's La Forza del Destino at the time was: If you want to hear Leonora sung beautifully listen to Tebaldi, if you want to know the fate of Leonora listen to Callas. Whatever the real story, the true details are taken to the beyond since both have long since passed on. During their careers, the media scandals did serve to bring the two singers much more attention in the public eye. That legacy lives on. As previously announced, Warner Classics will release the complete discography of Maria Callas with a new remastering of the original tapes. Decca Classics will match that by offering a limited edition 66-disc box set of the complete Renata Tebaldi recordings for the label. The international release date is October 31, 2014. Order your copy now by clicking here. See a few more pictures of La Tebaldi after the jump.