Thursday, October 30, 2014

Diana Damrau Dives Into Unfamiliar Territory With Kent Nagano

Chant Japonais: Listen to Diana Damrau's interpretation
 of Japanese songs for children by clicking here and 

purchase the recording here.
"One day, Kent Nagano listened carefully when his wife was singing a children’s song to his daughter. The song told a chapter of Japanese history previously unknown to him: It told of emotion, tenderness, love – and bitterness. The song originates from a period when Japan had to open up to the West. At this time, Japan was suffering from over population, starvation and poverty. “These songs came to me very late. Though of Japanese heritage, my family came to America at the end of the 19th century leaving me three generations away from Japan. I came down one morning to breakfast and found my daughter listening to these songs on a little recording, and my wife was singing along with the songs to try to teach them to my daughter.” His daughter Karin Kei was three years old on the day she inspired one of her father’s most ambitious projects. Kent Nagano was so touched by the lyrics and sounds of the songs that he immediately started researching their source. “After quite a while, I’d say six weeks or two months, after listening every morning to these intriguing and beautiful melodies, it occurred to me that due to my limited Japanese, I had no complete comprehension of what they were about, and so I asked my daughter to explain the texts. Her translation, confirmed by my wife, revealed a complex and profoundly poetic collection of texts. They were at once both intensely moving emotionally and disturbing. Their haunting, mysterious beauty has continued to entice all generations since their creation making them actual and vividly relevant to our modern world.” In Japan, the songs that enchanted Nagano are commonly known as 'Shoka', or school hymns. They are based on famous Japanese poetry, but are composed in the Western musical style. The songs emerged during the era of the Meiji-Restorations in the outgoing 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the time when Japan finally opened itself to the West after close to 250 years of reclusiveness. The backward feudal state transformed into a modern imperial world power. It was in this period of economic and cultural upheaval that the children’s 'Shoka' came into being. Sometimes the lyrics deal with day to day
life, while other songs tell of the strangers coming ashore in Japan. Some tell the stories of Japanese who went overseas to flee the poverty at home. The songs from ancient times have left a deep impression on the American conductor and rekindled his interest in his Japanese roots. Kent Nagano wanted to bring them to public attention by a performance with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. His friend, Peter Schmidt, a famous designer from Hamburg, created animated short films to support the musical event." [Source] Read more about the recording, and hear four full tracks off the recording, after the jump.

Renée Fleming Presents A Taste Of Winter Wonderland In New Video

With the release of Renée Fleming's new Christmas-themed recording, Decca Classics now releases a video featuring performance clips of selections from the album. "Following her acclaimed performance at Super Bowl XLVIII, America’s favourite soprano Renée Fleming releases her first-ever holiday album, Christmas In New York. The album celebrates the sparkle and sophistication of the beloved Christmas season in New York City, with music conjuring such iconic scenes as the holiday windows lining 5th Avenue, the Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center and carriage rides in Central Park. A richly collaborative album, Christmas in New York finds Renée Fleming singing with a relaxed intimacy and freedom distinct from her soaring classical voice. Holiday evergreens and nostalgic favorites are both featured with fresh arrangements, joined by a wish list of guests from jazz, pop and Broadway including Gregory Porter, Chris Botti, Kurt Elling, Kelli O’Hara, Wynton Marsalis, Brad Mehldau, and Rufus Wainwright. Highlights include 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,' 'Silver Bells,' 'Winter Wonderland,' 'Sleigh Ride' and 'Central Park Serenade,' a brand new duet by songwriting legend Diane Warren." [Source] To listen to tracks off the album, including the exclusive bonus track available when you purchase the MP3 album, click here. Watch the promotional video, and find some beautiful new publicity photos of Renée Fleming, after the jump.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Joyce DiDonato Goes Patriotic With National Anthem For World Series

Clad in Kansas City Royals-blue fingernail polish and knee-high black leather books, Joyce DiDonato delivered the National Anthem at the 2014 Worlds Series with quivering and deliberate tone that did the opera world proud. Looking as hip as any pop star, the mezzo-soprano is a Kansas City native and lifelong baseball fan. Watch the performance, and a special news feature about the event, after the jump.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Dedication To Opera Singers

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Founded in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries, the goal has been to promote mammography as the most effective weapon in the fight against breast cancer. "In 1993 Evelyn Lauder, Senior Corporate Vice President of the Estée Lauder Companies founded The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and established the pink ribbon as its symbol, though this was not the first time the ribbon was used to symbolize breast cancer. In the fall of 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation had handed out pink ribbons to participants in its New York City race for breast cancer survivors." For information about early detection procedure, click hereAs we near the final days of the 2014 campaign, let us take a moment to remember the many singers in the opera world who are survivors and those that have fallen to the tragic disease. Check out the list of heroines after the jump with features of their vocal contributions. [Source]
The Sydney Opera House is lit in pink lighting to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

At 66, Kathleen Battle Continues To Float Gorgeous High Notes

A video of soprano Kathleen Battle from last evening's performance in Philadelphia of "Underground Railroad: An Evening of Spirituals" proves she still has plenty to sing about with that famous lyric voice. The project started a couple of years ago, inspired by Peter Gelb when he was still at Sony, and has toured ever since. "Legendary soprano Kathleen Battle's newest program celebrates the roots of African-American music and freedom via the Underground Railroad. Battle's sumptuous voice takes flight in this evening of enchanting music, featuring favorite and meaningful spirituals, hymns, and musical majesty. Although Battle's luminous soprano voice has graced the world's great opera houses and concert halls, there is a special place her heart for the songs and spirituals of the African-American journey. In this moving evening, Battle and acclaimed pianist Cyrus Chestnut explore the music that expressed the suffering and salvation of enslaved Africans as they found their way to freedom." [Source] Read an exclusive interview about the concert here and how Peter Gelb inspired the project here. Watch the soprano sing "Fix Me" after the jump. Below is a video interview and rehearsal footage from local CBS Philadelphia.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mahler Gets Appearance In "Birdman" Scene Featuring Naomi Watts

The new film Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, has original music composed by Antonio Sanchez playing throughout the film. Additional classical music is added to several scenes including works by Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Rachmaninoff and John Adams. The real standout scene comes when Lesley (Naomi Watts) is emotionally thanking Riggan (Michael Keaton) for the opportunity of making her Broadway debut in his new play. At this point, the character of Riggan is starting to unravel and things seem as though they are imploding. The vocal line that starts under the scene is "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" (I am lost to the world) from Gustav Mahler's Rückert-Lieder. A full translation of the piece can be found here and a performance by Violeta Urmana (the artist used in the film) is after the jump. "Riggan Thomas, once known quite well to movie theater goers as an iconic super hero called 'The Birdman' had recently turned down a third installment of the franchise. Now washed up, he attempts to reinvent himself as a director by staging a new retelling of a classic Broadway dramatic play called What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The events leading up to the Saturday night premiere prove to be one disaster after another as the original lead actor is injured while on set and Riggan scrambles to find a replacement, but the replacement proves to be exactly who he needs - a method actor who takes the job way too seriously. But Riggan has a hard time juggling between the set, his replacement actor, his equally washed up daughter, and a host of other disasters that prevent a proper staging of the play. Meanwhile, a New York Times critic who Riggan has to woo threatens to shut down production of the play before it even starts with a scathing review of the dress rehearsal. Does Riggan have a hit on his hands or will he even make it to opening night?" [Source]

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Berg And Sartre Inspire New Online Horror Film By Existentialist

"A mysterious contagion plagues humanity. Its symptom: lust, confusion, and madness. It spreads like an airborne aphrodisiac crushing any hope for a containment or cure. In Chicago, the newly infected terrorize the streets. Two young women find themselves trapped in an absurd nightmare of violence and chaos. As they escape the two discover other survivors and unlock a secret that may be the key to their very survival...or is it? Inspired by Alban Berg's Lulu and Sartre's No Exit, Scent is a blood-tingling twist on the horror genre that re-defines reality and the experience of the cinema." [Source] Stars of the film include Di Billick, John Byrnes, Elisa Dei and George Ginakakis. The film was released on the internet in the USA on October 1, 2014. Visit the official website here to watch the whole film. A trailer is after the jump.

Aprile Millo Photographed By Herb Ritts At Elizabeth Taylor Wedding

Ms. Millo can be seen on the left of the Herb Ritts
 photo behind hair-dresser José Eber.
In 1991, Aprile Millo sang for the wedding of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky. The soprano had just made her debut in Boito's Mefistofele at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She sang "Ave Maria" at the Neverand Ranch as helicopters swirled overhead during the ceremony. "It was the eighth – and final – trip she would ever make down the aisle. And now, for the first time, the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation has released photos of Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Fortensky's lavish 1991 wedding at Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch exclusively to People. This inside look commemorates People's Oct. 21, 1991, cover story on the biggest and most media-saturated wedding in Hollywood history. (Remember, this was in the days before weddings like George and Amal Clooney's and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's.) In the photos, the blushing, bronzed bride is dressed in a pale yellow $25,000 Valentino gown (a gift from the designer). She is seen with her groom – her seventh (she married Richard Burton twice) – and with her close friend, Jackson, who hosted the wedding for 160 high profile guests on his 2,700-acre Santa Ynez Valley, California, estate." [Source]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Take A Tour Of Spain Based On Birthplaces Of Great Sopranos

Deciding where to travel in a foreign country can become a daunting task with all the landscapes, museums, architecture, restaurants, and concert halls. It seems natural to put an operatic twist on the itinerary when looking for adventure. Why not let the birthplaces of famous sopranos (and some mezzo-sopranos) dictate the destination? Let's start in the country of Spain. With all the flamenco dancing, bullfights, and beaches, this culture is muy caliente! "Spain has an extraordinary artistic heritage. The dominant figures of the Golden Age were the Toledo-based artists El Greco and Diego Velázquez. Francisco de Goya emerged in the 18th century as Spain's most prolific painter and he produced some wonderfully unflattering portraits of royalty. The art world in the early 20th century was influenced by a remarkable group of Spanish artists: Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí, ambassadors of the artistic culture in Spain. Spain's architecture ranges from prehistoric monuments in Minorca in the Balearic Islands, to the Roman ruins of Merida and Tarragona, the decorative Lonja in Seville, Mudéjar buildings, Gothic cathedrals, castles, fantastic modernist monuments and Gaudí's intricate fabulist sculptures in Barcelona. They are all representative of the culture of Spain. Another example of culture in Spain is the invention of the Spanish guitar, which was invented in Andalusia in the 1790's when a sixth string was added to the Moorish lute. It gained its modern shape in the 1870's. Spanish musicians have taken the humble guitar to dizzying heights of virtuosity and none more so than Andrés Segovia (1893-1997), who established classical guitar as a genre. Flamenco, music rooted in the cante jondo (deep song) of the gitanos (gypsies) of Andalusia, is experiencing a revival. Paco de Lucia is the best known flamenco guitarist internationally. His friend Camarón de la Isla was, until his death in 1992, the leading light of contemporary cante jondo. In the 1980s flamenco-rock fusion (a.k.a. 'gypsy rock') was developed by the likes of Pata Negra and Ketama, and in the 1990s Radio Tarifa emerged with a mesmerizing mix of flamenco and medieval sounds. Bakalao, the Spanish contribution to the world of techno, emerged from Valencia." [Source] So why not add opera to the highest cultural contributions in Spain? Time to see the country as the famous opera singers would have experienced it while growing up. The tour begins after the jump.

Oscar De La Renta, Friend Of Opera And Sopranos, Is Dead At 82

Night at the Opera: de la Renta attending 
Anna Bolena at the MET in 2011.
"Óscar Arístides de la Renta Fiallo (July 22, 1932 – October 20, 2014) was a Dominican fashion designer. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, De la Renta was trained by Cristóbal Balenciaga and Antonio del Castillo, he became internationally known in the 1960s as one of the couturiers to dress Jacqueline Kennedy. An award-winning designer, he worked for Lanvin and Balmain; his eponymous fashion house continues to dress leading figures, from film stars to royalty, into the 2010s. De la Renta is particularly known for his red carpet gowns and evening wear." [Source] The designer was always a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera as an audience member and supporter. Today's most established sopranos in the opera world are often photographed wearing the designer's creations. "'I’m a woman, and I love it so I enjoy dressing up,' says Netrebko, who attends fashion week in New York and Paris, when possible, and was excited about a recent encounter with designer Oscar de la Renta. 'I was very honored to meet him — I’m always shopping at his stores. To me, his clothing is art, which I can’t stop collecting.'" [Source] Other famous sopranos to wear his gowns include Renée Fleming, Ailyn Pérez, and Angela Gheorghiu. Some of these fashionable gowns, as well as some that just seem operatically inspired, can be seen after the jump.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Opera Inspires Chefs on Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" For Fox

The October 15, 2014, episode of Hell's Kitchen on the Fox network had 12 chefs competing in the following challenge: "The teams must create Italian opera-inspired dishes and go head-to-head against a member of the other team.....The team that earns the most points from Chef Ramsay and guest judge Chef Celestino Drago will win a $3,000 shopping trip and VIP dinner at Cecconi’s in West Hollywood, while the losing team will prepare the squid for the next dinner service. Later, during the dinner service, teams will prepare Italian dishes for VIP guests, including members of the Italian Consulate. After nerves in the kitchen lead to two major mistakes and one team is kicked out of the kitchen, both teams will have to present teammates for elimination. Find out who will move on and who will be kicked out for good." Each chef chooses a singer that is holding a scroll with some opera related title on the front (opera titles, characters, arias or songs often sung by opera singers) with a related food item on the back. One
chef selects another to go up against in the kitchen and then that chef chooses the singer to reveal the dish they will be cooking for in the competition. Although it looks more like the singers are performing in a Madrigal Dinner, the entire concept is clever. Watch the full episode by clicking here. [Source, Source]

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maria Callas Sampled 24 Years Ago In Enigma Electronic Recording

Synthesized Immortal: Maria Callas
"MCMXC a.D. ('1990' in Roman numerals followed by an abbreviation of 'Anno Domini') is the first studio album from the electronic music group Enigma, headed by Michael Cretu. Recorded at A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, it is one of the first albums to be recorded on a computer's hard disk drive. Released in 1990 on Virgin Records, the album reached number one in 41 countries including the UK. It peaked at number 6 in the United States, and remained on the Billboard 200 for 282 weeks...."[Track 3] 'Callas Went Away' is a tribute to the opera singer, Maria Callas. Chirps from electronic birds at the beginning, mixed with a slow beat and sounds of a piano leads to Sandra's whispers and ends with some samples of Callas singing the aria 'Werther! Qui m'aurait dit /Ces lettres!' from the opera Werther by Massenet." The track was written by Curly M.C. [Source] "Michael Cretu (Romanian: Mihai Crețu pronounced [miˈhaj ˈkret͡su]; born May 18, 1957, Bucharest, Romania) is a Romanian–German musician. He is also known as Curly, MC or Curly M.C. because of his fair curled hair (creț means 'curly' in Romanian). His peak musical activity was with the Enigma project, which was mainly based in Germany. He has collaborated with
Composer Michael Cretu aka Curly M.C.
many musicians along his career, including his ex-wife Sandra Lauer (Sandra Cretu from marriage in 1988), musician Peter Cornelius, guitarists Manfred Thiers and Jens Gad, Frank Peterson, David Fairstein (Fabrice Guitad), D.J. André Tanneberger (from the A.T.B. Music Project), Peter Ries, Bernt Moehrle, singer Ruth-Ann Boyle, and Andru Donalds, who produced the single Mishale in 1995. In 2002, Crocodile-Music, Cretu's management company, stated that 100 million Cretu-produced records had been sold worldwide. By the year 2008, Michael Cretu's Enigma project had sold over 50 million studio albums according to his official site. He owns A.R.T. Studios, a recording studio facility located near the resort on the Balearic Islands, where he lived with his wife and their two teenagers, Nikita and Sebastian. He and Sandra divorced in 2007. Cretu has been reported as living in Germany since that time....Cretu was born to a
Cover art for the 1990 recording by Enigma
Romanian father and an Austrian mother in Bucharest. His uncle, Ion Voicu, a Romanian violin-player and former director of the Bucharest Philarmonic, told Michael's parents that he had talent in music and as such, he studied classical music at Liceul Nr. 2 in Bucharest in 1965 and in Paris, France, in 1968. He later attended the Academy of Music in Frankfurt, Germany, from 1975 to 1978, attaining a degree in music. Cretu was taken on as a keyboard player and producer for Frank Farian." [Source] Watch the Enigma video for "Callas Went Away" and listen to Maria Callas sing the complete 'Letter Scene' from Werther, after the jump.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Launches Short Films Series During HD

"The Met will expand its visual arts initiatives with a new series of short films, Gallery Met Shorts, in which celebrated visual artists use animation, video, and film to create original artworks set to music from operas in the Met’s current season. Each short film will be shown in movie theaters around the world during the intermission of a corresponding live performance from the Met’s Live in HD series, which is now seen in 69 countries. The first short, set to music from the Act I finale of Verdi’s Macbeth, is by artist Maurizio Cattelan and photographer Pierpaolo Ferrari as part of their ongoing Toiletpaper project, which also includes the irreverent art magazine of the same title. Their film will be shown at intermission of the live transmission of Macbeth, which stars Željko Lučić in the title role and Anna Netrebko as his ruthlessly ambitious wife, on Saturday, October 11 at 12:55 p.m. ET." [Source] Watch the short film, and
see more video stills, after the jump. Pierpaolo Ferrari (1971) was born and raised in Milan where he developed his passion for photography and art. Since 1994 he specialized in advertising photography, collaborating with all major agencies like BBDO, McCann Erikson, DDB, Saatchi and Saatchi, Cheil Communication, Thompson and Wieden & Kennedy, working for brands like Nike, Audi, Mercedes, Vespa, Campari, BMW, Motorola, Sony, Rayban, Alfa Romeo, Heineken, MTV, Samsung, Biennale of Venice. His portrait for Campari has been chosen for the cover of Archive Magazine and he is one of the top 10 ranked photographer in the magazine. In 2006, with Federico Pepe, he realized Le Dictateur, a luxury art magazine, publishing personal artworks for best artists and photographers from all over the world. Currently he directed the
latest commercial for Emporio Armani and is now shooting celebrities for Uomo Vogue. He has received numerous awards from all the major festivals worldwide for many of his campaigns. Maurizio Cattelan was born in Padua, Italy, in 1960. Cattelan, who has no formal training and considers himself an "art worker" rather than an artist, has often been characterized as the court jester of the art world. This label speaks not only to his taste for irreverence and the absurd, but also his profound interrogation of socially ingrained norms and hierarchies, subjects historically only available to the court fool. Early in his career, Cattelan unleashed his mockery on figures in the art world. For Errotin, le vrai Lapin (1995) Cattelan convinced gallerist and notorious womanizer Emmanuel Lapin to wear a giant pink rabbit
costume shaped like a phallus to Cattelan's gallery opening. In 1998 a volunteer paraded around SITE Santa Fe donning an oversized papier-mâché caricatural Georgia O'Keefe costume; the same year, a similarly comical Pablo Picasso guise welcomed visitors to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Cattelan united humor with the macabre in his installations of taxidermy animals. The creatures were configured in absurdist narratives, like a post-suicide squirrel in Bidibidobidiboo (1996), as well as disarmingly familiar scenarios, like dogs curled up on the floor or perched on their haunches, seemingly still alive. In the late 1990s, Cattelan began to create hyper-realistic figural sculptures. The artist repeatedly employed his own image in works of self-mockery and self-effacement such as Mini-me (1999) and La Rivoluzione Siamo Noi (2000). Indeed, nobody was exempt from Cattelan's critique. In La Nona Ora (1999), a wax
replica of Pope John Paul II is seen struck down by a meteor and pinned to a red carpet. In Him (2001), a small simulation of Adolph Hitler kneels on the floor. Ave Maria (2007) reveals a line of saluting arms extending from the wall, recalling the fascist fervor that led to the Holocaust. In the more reverent, mournful piece All (2007), a series of marble sculptures that uncannily resemble dead bodies covered in sheets line the gallery floor. Solo exhibitions of Cattelan's work have been organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1998), Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2000), Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam (2001), Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2001-3), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (2002), Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (2003), Musée du Louvre in Paris (2004), Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt (2008), and The Menil Collection in Houston (2009). His work has also been featured in Venice Bienniale (1993, 1997, 1999, 2002, and 2003), L'hiver de l'amour at the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1994), SITE Santa Fe (1997), Manifesta 2 (1998), Istanbul Bieniali (1998), Kunsthalle Basel (1999), Whitney Biennial (2004),
Traces du Sacré at Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2008), and theanyspacewhatever at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (2008). A retrospective of Cattelan's work opened in the fall of 2011 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Cattelan also founded The Wrong Gallery in 2002, a store window in New York City that allowed for a freedom of art interventions he found lacking in the commercial galleries. Cattelan lives and work in New York and Milan. [Source, Source]

Anna Netrebko "Vier Letzte Lieder" Rendition Available On DG

"Rund 1200 Mal hat Richard Strauss die Staatskapelle Berlin (bzw. die damalige Königlich Preußische Hofkapelle) dirigiert. Von 1908, als er mit der Leitung der regulären Symphoniekonzerte des Orchesters betraut und zudem zum Generalmusikdirektor befördert wurde, bis zu seinem offiziellen Abschied von der Staatsoper 1919 stand er an der Spitze des Berliner Musiklebens. Bach und Händel hat er ebenso zur Aufführung gebracht wie die Wiener Klassiker, die Romantiker von Berlioz bis Brahms, aber auch Zeitgenossen wie Reger oder Mahler. Und nicht zuletzt waren es auch seine eigenen Werke, denen er sich immer wieder widmete, auch in den 1920er und 1930er Jahren, in denen er als gern gesehener Gast zur Staatskapelle kam. Am 11. Juni 2014 jährte sich der Geburtstag von Richard Strauss zum 150. Mal. Nicht allzu weit entfernt von diesem Datum erwies die Staatskapelle Berlin ihrem ehemaligen Chefdirigenten die Ehre – in einem Benefizkonzert zugunsten der Sanierung des Opernhauses Unter den Linden, das mit Strauss’ Entwicklung so eng verbunden ist. Mit Anna Netrebko und Daniel Barenboim engagierten sich dabei zwei Künstler, die in der Welt der klassischen Musik eine ähnlich herausragende Position einnehmen wie Strauss sie seinerzeit besaß. Eine Hommage an einen großen, durchaus umstrittenen Komponisten: Der eindrucksvolle »Schwanengesang« des 84-Jährigen, die Vier letzten Lieder, erklang am 31. August 2014 in der Berliner Philharmonie gemeinsam mit Ein Heldenleben, der monumentalen Tondichtung des Mittdreißigers vom Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Mehr als 200 Lieder hat Richard Strauss im Laufe seiner langen Karriere komponiert, von der Jugend bis ins hohe Alter. Den Schlusspunkt bilden vier Stücke, die von Frühjahr bis Herbst 1948 Gestalt gewannen. Zwei Jahre immerhin hatte Strauss an diesen Liedern gearbeitet, von den ersten Skizzen bis zur fertigen Partitur. Ausgewählt hatte er sich zunächst drei Gedichte von Hermann Hesse, deren poetische Bilder ihn sehr ansprachen. Als viertes kam ein Gedicht des hoch geschätzten Romantikers Joseph von Eichendorff hinzu, das einige Entsprechungen zu den Hesse-Texten enthielt. Bis auf Frühling mit seinem optimistischen, aufgehellten Ton kreisen die Texte (Hesses
Maestro Barenboim and Ms. Netrebko in Strauss concert.
 'September' und 'Beim Schlafengehen' sowie Eichendorffs 'Im Abendrot') sämtlich um die Themen Müdigkeit, Abschied, Vollendung und Tod, wobei die Atmosphäre ins Friedvoll-Tröstende gewendet ist. Insgesamt herrscht ein spürbar verschatteter, herbstlicher Klang vor, den Strauss mittels fein differenzierter orchestraler Nuancierungen erreicht. Die Singstimme blüht häufig in breit strömenden Kantilenen von bezwingender Schönheit auf – eine eindringliche Beschwörung der Romantik. Insbesondere in den beiden abschließenden Liedern kommt dieses stilistische Moment zum Tragen: Strauss’ Musik wirkt hier gleichsam wie aus der Zeit gefallen, aber trotzdem absolut authentisch. Dass dabei die Vier letzten Lieder insgesamt zurückhaltend, geradezu zart wirken, passt durchaus ins Bild. Fragile – und trotzdem hochgradig expressive – musikalische Gebilde sind es, die der späte Strauss seinen Hörern hinterlassen hat. Ein gutes halbes Jahrhundert zuvor, Ende 1896, hatte Strauss eine Tondichtung in Angriff genommen, in deren Zentrum eine Heroengestalt (bzw. das Heldenhafte an sich) stehen sollte. Autobiografische Aspekte haben hier zweifellos eine Rolle gespielt – als Protagonist seines Heldenlebens dürfte Strauss in erster Linie sich selbst gesehen haben. An keiner Stelle jedoch offenbart er, dass es sich um ein klingendes Selbstporträt handelt: Die Grundidee des Werkes bestehe vielmehr darin, die Auseinandersetzung eines Helden mit seinen Widersachern in Musik zu setzen. Von vornherein waren zwei kontrastierende Teile geplant: Auf die Darstellung des Heroischen sollte ein Abschnitt folgen, der den Kritikern des Helden Raum gab. Auch die Tonarten wurden bereits festgelegt: Es-dur – wie in Beethovens Eroica – für den Helden, g-moll für dessen bornierte Gegner. Zusätzlich zu diesen beiden musikalisch bewusst gegensätzlichen, aber eng aufeinander bezogenen Hauptthemen sollten weitere Episoden (eine Liebesszene, ein Teil »Kampf mit der Welt« sowie eine beschließende Adagio-Partie »Flucht in Einsamkeit/Ruhe/Idyll«) eingearbeitet werden. Erstaunlich ist, dass Strauss auf dem Weg zur endgültigen Werkgestalt und zur Uraufführung 1899 an dieser ersten Konzeption kaum mehr Änderungen vornahm. Allerdings integrierte er virtuose Passagen der Solo-Violine, die symbolhaft für »Des Helden Gefährtin« stehen. Im Anschluss entwickelt sich ein regelrechtes Schlachtentableau sowie eine Folge von Themen, die sämtlich als Zitate aus früheren Strauss-Werken erkennbar sind, bevor die Tondichtung unerwartet gedämpft, fast ein wenig resignativ ausklingt. - Detlef Giese" Pre-order your copy today by clicking here. Track listing and sound clips, including the entire "Im Abendrot," are after the jump.

NY Philharmonic Tribute To William Warfield Role In "Show Boat"

Can't Help Lovin' That Man: The 1962 cast recording of
Show Boat featuring John Raitt, Barbara Cook,  music director
 Franz Allers, and William Warfield. (Photo: Don Hunstein)
"In anticipation of the New York Philharmonic's production of Show Boat, Leonard Bernstein Scholar-in-Residence Carol J. Oja explores the African American baritone William Warfield, whose relationship with the philharmonic began at the summer Stadium Concerts at Lewisohn Stadium with his performance as Joe in a 1952 concert version of Show Boat. The lecture includes clips from the 1951 MGM film featuring Warfield as Joe and his 1976 performance with the Philharmonic in London narrating Aaron Copland's Lincoln Portrait, conducted by Leonard Bernstein." The event is free and takes place at the David Rubenstein Atrium on Wednesday, October 22, 2014, at 7:30 PM. [SourceFor more information about the New York Philharmonic production of Show Boat featuring Vanessa William, NaTasha Yvette Williams, Lauren Worsham, and Norm Lewis, click here. "William Caesar Warfield (January 22, 1920 – August 26, 2002), was an American concert bass-baritone singer and actor. Warfield was born in West Helena, Arkansas and grew up in Rochester, New York, where his father was called to serve as pastor of Mt. Vernon Church. He gave his recital debut in New York's Town Hall on March 19, 1950. He was quickly invited by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to tour Australia and give 35 concerts. In 1952, Warfield performed in Porgy and Bess during a tour of Europe sponsored by the U.S. State Department (he made six separate tours for the US Department of State, more than any other American solo artist.) In this production he played opposite the opera star Leontyne Price, whom he soon married, but the demands of two separate careers left them
Gershwin Partners: Leontyne Price and William Warfield
recorded highlights from Porgy and Bess for RCA.
little time together. They divorced in 1972, but were featured together in a 1963 studio recording of excerpts from Porgy and Bess." [Source] "Show Boat is a 1927 musical in two acts, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. Based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands, and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River show boat, over forty years, from 1887 to 1927. Its themes include racial prejudice and tragic, enduring love. The musical contributed such classic songs as 'Ol' Man River,' 'Make Believe,' and 'Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man.'" Watch William Warfield sing "Ol' Man River" from Show Boat, after the jump.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Sex And The City" Features Mozart's "La Clemenza Di Tito"

Ballo in Maschera: Charlotte York (Kristin Davis) and
Jack (Joseph Murphy) are looking for [more] love.
Sex and the City, Season 1, Episode 8: "Architect and amazing lover Jack, an ideal catch for princess Charlotte, whom she met at many disease benefits, strongly suggests a trio with another woman- the friends are divided if or how....She talks about this to her friends and finds out that Samantha loves it, but insists that one should only be a 'guest star' in one to avoid complications." Charlotte and Jack attend a masked ball fundraiser for Attention Deficit Disorder where they set their sights on a willing third person for their ménage à trois fantasy. As the flirtation begins, the scene's accompanying music is the tenor aria "Se all'impero amici dei" from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. [Source] "Titus (Latin: Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus; December 30, 39 – September 13, 81) was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own biological father. Prior to becoming Emperor, Titus gained renown as a military commander, serving under his father in Judaea during the First Jewish-Roman War. The campaign came to a brief halt with the death of emperor Nero in 68, launching Vespasian's bid for the imperial power during the Year of the Four Emperors. When Vespasian was declared Emperor on 1 July 69, Titus was left in charge of ending the Jewish rebellion. In 70, he besieged and captured Jerusalem, and destroyed the city and the Second Temple. For this achievement Titus was awarded a triumph; the Arch of Titus commemorates his victory to this day. Under the rule of his father, Titus gained notoriety in Rome serving as prefect of the Praetorian Guard, and for carrying on a controversial relationship with the Jewish queen Berenice. Despite concerns over his character, Titus ruled to great acclaim following the death of Vespasian in 79, and was considered a good emperor by Suetonius and other contemporary historians. As emperor, he is best known for completing the Colosseum and for his generosity in relieving the suffering caused by two disasters, the eruption of Mount
Mercy, Mercy: Victory is at hand for the couple
Vesuvius in AD 79 and a fire in Rome in 80. After barely two years in office, Titus died of a fever on September 13, 81. He was deified by the Roman Senate and succeeded by his younger brother Domitian." [Source
Watch the scene from 1998 by clicking here. After the jump is a full text translation of the aria and a video of Jonas Kaufmann singing the aria from a 2005 production of Mozart's opera at the Opernhaus Zürich. You can purchase the entire first season of Sex and the City by clicking here

Monday, October 13, 2014

Danielle De Niese Celebrates Music With World's Biggest Stars

All-Time High: The soprano sings an American classic tune while up in the sky.
"One of the biggest names in the opera world, soprano Danielle de Niese sang live in the studio for BBC Radio 3’s 'In Tune' earlier this year and was one of the presenters of the 2014 BBC Proms." Soprano Danielle de Niese joined fellow classical musicians trumpeter Alison Balsom and violinist Nicola Benedetti to celebrate the joy of music and raise funds for charity. They are joined by mega-stars like Elton John, Emelie Sandé, Kylie Minogue, Pharell Williams, Stevie Wonder, and the original Beach Boys member Brian Wilson. "BBC Music is delighted to share with you this extraordinary version of the Beach Boys' masterpiece, 'God Only Knows,' to celebrate our love of music. With the 80-piece BBC Concert Orchestra at its heart and 27 ridiculously talented musicians from a wide range of genres, this 'impossible orchestra' represents the talent, diversity and musical passion found every single day throughout the BBC. The single is also in aid of this year's BBC Children in Need campaign....The BBC has launched BBC Music and to celebrate has released the single 'God Only Knows,' featuring a dazzling array of musical stars, to raise money for BBC Children in Need. Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Stevie Wonder and Emeli
Sandé are among the 27 artists who joined the BBC Concert Orchestra to record the track and film showing the breadth of the BBC’s music output and its relationship with musicians. The unveiling of BBC Music marks a celebration of brilliant musical talent in this country and beyond, and showcases the BBC’s ongoing support for music programmes, partnerships and ground breaking music initiatives." Learn more about BBC Music by clicking here. The video, details about where to buy the single, and more photos, after the jump. [Source, Source, Source]

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Duke of Mantua Becomes Adman For Visa & Chelsea Ristorante

A new commercial for Municipal Credit Union Visa features New York City's Chelsea Ristorante in order to sell its low-interest card. The music playing under the commercial is the Duke of Mantua's canzone "La donna è mobile" from the beginning of Act 3 of Giuseppe Verdi's opera Rigoletto from 1851. Judging from the gallery on the restaurants website, it is a favorite for "Sopranos." For more information about the MCU, click here.

Renata Scotto Chats About Being One Of Opera's Chosen

Madame Scotto explains to the audience the major differences between opera 50 years ago and today.
Last night, WQXR hosted a live webcast featuring performances and interviews centering around tenor Michael Fabiano: "Tonight at 7 pm, join us for a live webcast of Italian opera excerpts and songs in The Greene Space, headlined by American tenor Michael Fabiano. Fabiano, the recipient of the 2014 Richard Tucker Award and the 2014 Beverly Sills Artist Award, has performed at opera houses around the world, and is noted for his vocal style, physical dash and star power. Operavore blogger Fred Plotkin recently named him one of his '40 under 40' opera singers. The evening also features performances by Richard Tucker Grant winners Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano, and Brandon Cedel, bass-baritone. Legendary soprano Renata Scotto makes a guest appearance in conversation with WQXR’s Naomi Lewin, discussing her collaborations with Richard Tucker and her role as a master teacher imparting the traditions of Italian opera to a new generation of American opera singers." The highlight was when Renata Scotto took the chair to be interviewed about her career and thoughts about opera now. Some of her responses included the difference in how today's singers study and prepare roles; are they singing for themselves or for the audience?; with many singers in the world, only
Hard Worker: Michael Fabiano prides himself
 on having the American work ethic. 
a few are "elected" or "chosen" to become successful; discussing performing for television cameras in La Bohème and that sparked her to lose weight; singers today shouldn't worry about looking good for the HD cameras, that is the job of the costumer, make-up artists, director, and television staff; listening for the first time to an excerpt from Rigoletto with Richard Tucker at the Teatro Cologne in 1967; talking about her American debut in 1960 with Richard Tucker in La Bohème while on her honeymoon; getting cookies on the doorstep of her Park Avenue apartment from Richard Tucker's wife; what responsibility she feels to opera being an Italian; why she thinks Felice Romani is the greatest librettist to ever live; and finally whether she prefers sfogliatelle or cannoli*. Watch the video of the evening, after the jump.


*Spoiler: Michael Fabiano claims "you can stuff cannoli down my throat all day."

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Dirty Man Mike Rowe Breaks Out Puccini For CNN Newsroom

Hard at Work: Dirty Mike Rowe
Back in 2011, we told you the story about Mike Rowe and his opera-singing background. Now you can witness for yourself, as he breaks out in "Vecchia zimarra senti" from Puccini's La Bohème. He visits the anchor room to wake up some unsuspecting workers with his booming voice when asked if he remembers the aria. He came prepared and everyone took notice. Watch the sensational spectacle for yourself in the video posted below:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ana Gasteyer Studied Opera At The Beginning Of Her Career

Hip Chick: Ana Gasteyer performing in her music video
Funny lady Ana Gasteyer appeared on Live with Kelly and Michael on October 1st to promote her new CD, I'm Hip. During the interview she disclosed that she wanted to be an opera singer when she was younger. Music was always in her background, starting with violin lessons at age five. Her passion shifted to singing and her first professional job was as a child ghost in Verdi's Macbeth when she was 13-years old. She attended Northwestern University with full intention of getting the training needed to live her dream. However, after arriving at college she started partaking in activities that she thought were not so becoming for that career choice. That is when she stopped singing opera. "...Gasteyer always had an ear for music and a knack for timing. Years later, after a formal education as a classically-trained singer, she made the fateful discovery that she could get people laughing—and laugh they did every Saturday night at NBC’s
Studio 8H. Audiences fell in love with Gasteyer’s flair for irony and character driven comedy on six seasons of SNL, where she unabashedly played, and often sang, at full-tilt. Eventually, Broadway came calling and Gasteyer spent several years belting out superstar vocals in shows like Wicked and Rocky Horror. But she felt most at home crooning and chirping with a big band in a nightclub, amidst laughter and the inviting clink of ice in a glass. Her acclaimed shows, Let it Rip and Elegant Songs from a Handsome Woman earned praise from audiences and critics alike who hailed the acts as 'exuberant and rollicking entertainment' with 'high-octane vocals' and 'a topnotch swingin’ ensemble.'" Her journey from Saturday Night Live to singing on Broadway stages is really quite remarkable. "Ana Gasteyer is best-known for her incomparable
work on Saturday Night Live (1975). During her six-year stint, she created some of the most famous SNL characters, including middle school music teacher 'Bobbie Moughan-Culp,' NPR radio host 'Margaret Jo,' Lilith Fair poetess 'Cinder Calhoun,' as well as spot-on impressions of Martha Stewart, Céline Dion and Hillary Rodham Clinton....On stage, she made her triumphant Broadway debut as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show. Since then, Gasteyer earned raves as Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway & originated the role for the Chicago production, earning a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination. Other New York theater credits include the Tony-nominated Broadway productions of The Royal Family directed by Doug Hughes, The Threepenny Opera with Alan Cumming and Jim Dale, Eve Ensler's acclaimed off-Broadway hit, The Vagina Monologues, and Manhattan Theatre Club's hit production of Kimberly Akimbo, by celebrated playwright David Lindsay-Abaire. Ana also starred as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera. Gasteyer starred to rave reviews as Fosca in Gary Griffin's production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion at The Chicago Shakespeare Theater, earning a
Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for her performance. She also co-starred in the one-night-only, star-studded Actors Fund benefit concerts of Funny Girl, Hair and A Centennial Celebration of Frank Loesser." Watch her performance of "One Mint Julep" on Live with Kelly and Michael by clicking here. You can purchase the digital version of the album here. More videos of the multi-talented Ana Gasteyer, after the jump. 

[Source, Source, Source, Source]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How Facebook Versus Drag Queens Will Affect Opera Singers

UPDATE (10/02/14): Chris Cox of Facebook has responded to the controversy and says that drag queens will be allowed to use their stage names on their accounts. No word on sopranos. Read more about it here.
If this Facebook debate were happening 40 years ago, this
 opera singer wouldn't even be able to go by Bubbles on
 her personal page, but rather Belle Silverman.
"Years ago, Lil Miss Hot Mess created a Facebook profile. 'The way that I move through the world as a drag queen is different than how I move through the world every day,' she says. With her stage name, she has a different social circle, a different way of being online. Her page was shut down early last week, and she wasn't the only one whose account was deactivated. Facebook also closed the pages of other queens after they were reported for not using their 'real' names on Facebook. Now, drag queens around the U.S. are gaining allies in a fight against Facebook's real name policy. Activists argue that 'real' is a complicated term, and that for some, using birth names on profiles can actually put them at risk instead of keep them safe. But Facebook contends this protocol prevents anonymous bullying. In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: 'Having people use their real names on Facebook makes them more accountable, and also helps us root out accounts created for malicious purposes, like harassment, fraud, impersonation and hate speech. While real names help keep Facebook safe, we also recognize that a person's real identity is not necessarily the
Bianca Del Rio is one of the drag queens in danger of
 having to change her profile name to Roy Haylock.
(Photo: Santiago Felipe)
name that appears on their legal documentation, and that is why we accept other forms of identification that verifies the name a person uses in everyday life.' The policy isn't new, so why is it getting attention now? Within the last couple weeks, dozens of drag queens' Facebook profiles were reported as not having 'real' names (Facebook says it does not seek out fake profiles). Those flagged accounts were deactivated. Drag queens started organizing and, along with San Francisco City Supervisor David Campos, met with Facebook on Sept. 17. Facebook said it would reactivate approximately 200 accounts and that at the end of two weeks, queens would have to either change their names or lose their profiles. Next week, there's another meeting scheduled at Facebook — and a protest planned in San Francisco. In the midst of the back-and-forth, a number of questions about identity and safety online have come up. Here are a few of them. Facebook has said that drag queens can use their stage names if they switch over to pages in place of profiles. The way people engage is similar — except we're talking about 'fans' rather than 'friends.' Facebook also says it offered to help anyone who was interested in turning a friend list into fans. Here comes the issue: Pages are intended for 'businesses, brands and organizations.' As Lil Miss Hot Mess puts it, 'We're not Lady Gaga; we're not Coca-Cola.' For her, inviting people to a show is 'much closer to inviting people to a dinner party.' She adds, 'These names are not just marketing tools.' She says her name is another part of her identity — not a separate persona." [Source] What does this mean in terms of the opera world? If you log onto Facebook and try searching for one of your favorite singers, chances are you will get a fan page or Wikipedia produced page. Many opera singers don't want to deal with people they are not truly connected with in the offstage world sending friend requests to their private accounts. The solution? Make a variation on your name or truncate it so that no one searching actually could find it. But once they become friends with another singer,
Citizen Leah Joanne may have to become
 public figure Leah Crocetto if Facebook
 has their way. (Photo: Facebook)
for example, their identity becomes pretty obvious. For example, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton goes by the moniker Jam Barto; soprano Sondra Radvanovsky goes by her married name Sondra Lear; soprano Alyson Cambridge goes by Aly Cam (which might soon change, since she is recently engaged); soprano Leah Crocetto has taken the name Leah Joanne for her personal page (possibly her middle name as the surname?); and Deborah Voigt created two pages using her casual nickname Debbie Voigt. Will Facebook take these singers to task, along with the drag queens, and force them to either change their personal pages to the names reported on government issued IDs? Luckily Facebook wasn't around for the entire last century or we would have to search Facebook for the real names of famous singers like Alice Pons, Roberta Peterman, Mary Price, Belle Silverman, Helen Porter Mitchell, and Sophia Kalos.