Friday, August 28, 2020

Christopher Macchio Slaughters Puccini In Political Propaganda Night

Opera suffered a major blow in the America's capital. Donald Trump ended the fourth evening of the Republican National Convention on the lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., with singer Christopher Macchio attempting to interpret Puccini's well-known "Nessun Dorma" from the portico balcony. Struggling through music that is beyond his faculties, even with a microphone, he followed the aria with Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," Schubert's "Ave Maria," Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," and ended with Katharine Lee Bates's "America the Beautiful." The entire spectacle was reminiscent of autocratic regimes in the world that flaunt crowds and wealth as political power. Remember in the context of the opera Turandot, from which the aria derives, the title character has threatened "This night, none shall sleep in Peking! The penalty for all will be death if the Prince's name is not discovered by morning." It's not clear whether the administration knew this in advance or perhaps that is why is was selected. 

According to various biographies, the entertainer attended the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Macchio came to the attention of Donald Trump after he performed at a New Year's Eve Party thrown at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. Read more about his achievements here. "His exploits can be followed online though his website,, through social media, and experienced on his debut album, DocliMomenti, which showcases a stylistic range that can delicately draw an audience in, and
then build to a virtuoso climax that leaves
goosebumps on the arms and tears in the eyes."
Reviews have been less than favorable of the performance. Watch it here. A professional version of the famous aria can be found after the jump.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Marina Abramović Is About to Birth "7 Deaths of Callas" In Munich


What was dubbed "An opera project by Marina Abramović (2020)," the new performance for 7 Deaths of Callas is set top open on September 5 at the Bayerische Staatsoper. With music by Marko Nikodijević and scenes of operas by Georges Bizet, Gaetano Donizetti, Giacomo Puccini and Giuseppe Verdi, the original opening was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is to be co-produced with Deutsche Oper Berlin, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Greek National Opera, and Opéra national de Paris. The additional plans for future performances, however, have not been released. Singers involved include Hera Hyesang Park (Violetta Valéry), Selene Zanetti (Floria Tosca), Leah Hawkins (Desdemona), Kiandra Howarth (Cio-Cio-San), Nadezhda Karyazina (Carmen), Adela Zaharia (Lucia Ashton), and Lauren Fagan (Norma).

Watch the promo video, which features Willem Dafoe, after the jump.


Friday, August 21, 2020

MET Opera Home Audiences Finally Get The Big Picture With Demo

Easy as 1-2-3: The new tutorial to stream opera onto your television posted on Instagram has over 12K views
Twelve years ago when the Metropolitan Opera was getting ready to launch its MET on Demand streaming service, the company likely wasn't prepared that one day the world would have a pandemic forcing it to rely on its videography cache of the Live in HD catalog to sustain some cash flow from audience members and engagement with donors through the announcement of Nightly Met Opera Streams this spring. This blog discussed the option of the MET to go with Roku as a streaming service for their operas and now for the first time if you don't have the service, you can still watch on the big screen with the new tutorial posted on Instagram.
Home Theater: Enjoying the opera greats in the comfort of your living room
"Experience every stunning performance in our Met Stars Live in Concert series on a bigger screen using Google Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to learn how to cast the high-definition stream onto your television. Tickets for the entire series on available now at" This is extremely important considering that the MET has been forced to not only lean on the huge back catalog but also employing a pay-per-view model creating new content for online users worldwide. "After having to cancel their upcoming
Free Trial: How many operas could you watch in seven days?
performances due to coronavirus concerns, the Metropolitan Opera announced it would stream encore presentations from the award-winning Live in HD series of cinema transmissions on the company website for the duration of the closure. This new offering will begin Mar. 16 [2020] with the 2010 HD performance of Bizet’s Carmen Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and starring

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Ex-wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber to Receive Star in Hollywood

Happy Duo: Sarah and Andrew
Soprano Sarah Brightman has performed with opera legends Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, as well as Andrea Bocelli. In June it was announced that she will be getting a rare honor: a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Curious about the opera singers that Ms. Brightman will share the same sidewalk with in California? After the jump, you can see them all and you're going to be surprised by how many appear on the list! Notably missing thus far is Renée Fleming. The British songstress first
 launched into fame with a 1978 hit "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper" with the group Hot Gossip. She went on to marry composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber which propelled her stage career like a rocket after appearing in several of his musicals. She has an estimated net worth of $60 million while her former husband is estimated to have $1.2 billion. Her Facebook page made the announcement: "Sarah to Be Honoured with a Star on the Iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame! Today, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announced that Sarah will be honoured with a star on the world-renowned Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles for her outstanding contributions in live theatre and live performance. Currently celebrating its 60th year, the Walk of Fame was created to "maintain the glory of a community whose name means glamour and excitement in the four corners of the world." Watch the announcement on the official Hollywood Walk of Fame Facebook page: More details about when Sarah's star will be unveiled along Hollywood's most majestic walkway will be revealed in the coming year!" In his tell-all book, the Broadway composer discussed his relationship with the Royal College of Music graduate: "'I suppose it was
Music Makers: Talking music drew the couple together
inevitable that I was going to have a serious affair at some point,' writes composer Andrew Lloyd Webber of his romance with singer Sarah Brightman in his book Unmasked. The candid new memoir hits stands on Tuesday, the same month as the theatrical legend’s 70th birthday. What made the affair complicated? They first met during Brightman’s audition for Cats in the early 1980s, a time when they were both married. Lloyd Webber also had two young children with his first wife (also named Sarah) of 12 years. '[The affair with Sarah Brightman] is one of the parts of my life that I have been dreading writing about the most,' Lloyd Webber writes. 'What you are reading is the umpteenth rewrite. That is the best I can say.' In the chapter titled 'Miss Sarah Brightman,' Lloyd Webber details how his famous musical Phantom of the Opera came into existence — a show that brought both Lloyd Webber, the composer, and Brightman, who starred as Christine Daaé, great success. With their professional relationship thriving, their personal

Mezzo-Soprano J'Nai Bridges Gives Her Great Big Story To CNN

"J’Nai Bridges knows that most people perceive opera as being an artform for the elite. Because opera was traditionally catered towards nobility, many today still don’t feel welcome. Bridges wants to change that. The mezzo-soprano is a rising star in the opera world, with starring roles on stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera House and the San Francisco Opera. When she’s not belting out arias, she’s going to local schools to give students a chance to experience an opera, or teaching masterclasses at colleges. As a Black, female artist, Bridges knows the importance of showing children—especially BIPOC children—that classical music is possible. As Bridges says, when she walks into a room or onto a stage, her goal is to 'change minds, heal hearts, and make music.'" Watch the video after the jump. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

100 Years Later: All The American (Operatic) Ties To Susan B. Anthony

The original "Iron Lady": Susan B. Anthony
On this day 100 years ago in America, the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified which began to pave the way for all women's right to vote. One of the most profound leaders in the suffrage movement was Susan B. Anthony. Her name and legacy would have influence that delved even into the opera world. Let's being at the beginning."[Susan Anthony was] born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society. In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women's rights. In 1852, they founded the New York Women's State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was female. In 1863, they founded the Women's Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in United States history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. In 1868, they began publishing a women's rights newspaper called The Revolution. In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part
A Century Ago: Parade for Voting Rights
of a split in the women's movement. In 1890, the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends. In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action. In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Introduced by Sen. Aaron A. Sargent (R-CA), it later became known colloquially as the Susan B. Anthony Amendment. It was eventually ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Anthony traveled extensively in support of women's suffrage, giving as many as 75 to 100 speeches per year and working on many state campaigns. She worked internationally for women's rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring

Sunday, August 16, 2020

In Conversation: Lawrence Brownlee Interviews Denyce Graves

As part of his online interview series, Sit Down With LB, tenor Lawrence Brownlee has a Facebook LIVE conversation with the legendary mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves. From their homes in Florida and New York, the discussion covers the gamut from hearing Leontyne Price the first time and knowing she wanted to become an opera singer to when she gave Samuel Ramey his wake-up call as a clerk working at the Omni Parker House! We also get to hear about her experience singing with Zubin Mehta and Riccardo Muti; learning to become a better cook; being friends with Ruth Bader-Ginsburg; admiring singers like Kathleen Battle and Elly Ameling; coping during quarantine life with a family; nurturing her life outside opera by spending time on the farm with horses, dogs and alpacas; and how teaching young singers has brought her a renewed sense of appreciation for the art form. You can see the full interview here.  Watch Denyce Graves sing the "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" (Carmenand "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" (Samson et Dalilaafter the jump.

Polish Film "The Hater" Uses Bach, Beethoven, Fauré, and Purcell

Dido's Lament: Ewa Majcherczyk is accompanied by string quartet in this 17th-century masterpiece
A new Polish film on Netflix directed by Jan Komasa, The Hater (Sala samobójców. Hejter), features classical music throughout. Selected pieces include  "Ach bleibe dich, mein liebstes Leben" from Ascension Oratorio (Bach); "Ode to Joy" from Symphony #9 (Beethoven); "Les berceaux" Fauré; and "When I Am Laid in Earth" from Dido and Aeneas (Purcell). This last selection is performed by soprano Ewa Majcherczyk in a scene that intersperses shots of the
Family Affair: Szymon Komasa
protagonist inside the theater against him working in the office. The significance of the music isn't lost on audiences as the characters in the opera mirror those in the movie with themes like betrayal, envy, jealousy, rejection, and abandonment. This is a sequel to Komasa's 2011 film Suicide Room (Sala samobójców) which also made use of classical music including works of Chopin, Gluck, Mozart, and Schubert. During the closing credits we also hear the director's brother, bass-baritone Szymon Komasa, singing "Lament Hansa" composed by Paweł Mykietyn. The track is featured on the singer's recording Polish Love Story. "An important movie, which exams Scio/Psychopathic behaviour in youth along with sides effects of social media presence in backdrops of political unrest in the world. This seems a lot to handle in one film, but Jan Komasa masterfully handled these subject matters. The film never felt overburden by the issues it tries to examine. Starring: Maciej Musiałowski, Agata Kulesza, Danuta Stenka, Vanessa Aleksander, Maciej Stuhr, Jacek Koman, Adam Gradowski, Piotr Biedroń, Martynika Kosnica"
Silent Obsession: Tomasz (Musiałowski) tries to seduce Gabi (Aleksander) at the disco
Read about the film, watch a video clip of Ewa Majcherczyk singing the Purcell piece, and view the trailer for The Hater after the jump.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński Breakdances & Sings For Pepsi Beat

Breakout opera-star Jakub Józef Orliński dances and adds vocals to a new track called "Never Alone" (Nigdy Sam) in a newly-released music video from Warner Music Poland. Known for his high-flying vocal ornamentations of undiscovered Baroque music, the young countertenor is also a well-skilled breakdancer. He puts his beat skills to the test in the high-energy track. Launched to fame with a YouTube performance that went viral (currently at nearly 6 million views...) of Vivaldi's "Vedrò con mio diletto" from Il Giustino, the Juilliard School of Music alumni has become a darling of Europe performing on several tours with Il Pomo d'Oro with whom he has recorded two albums. Check out the discs hereDuring the time of COVID-19, the Polish singer has done a recital for Aix-en-Provence and concerts with Capella Cracoviensis in Świdnica. Upcoming engagements include a pastiche project staged by Robert Carsen at Dans les Jardins de William Christie Festival in Thiré, France, and a charity concert at Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa in September.
"Never Alone" (Nigdy Sam) is the second, after the hit 'Where You,' the musical version of the Pepsi Taste The Beat project. Sir Mich again took up the production  and invited a line-up that could only be created on this platform. The first element of this surprising puzzle is Sarius, a top Polish rapper who has taken the Polish scene by storm in recent years. Another is BARANOVSKI, a discovery and great hope for ambitious pop. This absolutely magical trio is complemented by the participation of the repeatedly awarded and delighting countertenor - Jakub Józef Orliński. 'Never Alone' is a pulsating kaleidoscope of talents infecting with positive energy. The publisher of the song is Warner Music Poland and Papaya Films is responsible for the production of the clip directed by  Marcin Starzecki."
"Pepsi Taste The Beat is a timeless music project for those who love music, have their own taste, value their taste and are energized by the energy that lies in beating. This is where we break with the routine, discover the undiscovered, appreciate our sights, cultivate spontaneity and follow our passions! Meet the non-obvious collaborations of artists and a surprising mix of sounds over genres. Get to know a new phenomenon on the Polish music scene. Get carried away by the urban sound. Try this unconventional approach to the subject. This is lifestyle. This is what the city sounds like. This is what Pepsi sounds like. Listen to your taste."
Watch the full video for "Never Alone," the famous "Vedrò" clip, and other videos Jakub has worked on during the quarantine time, after the jump.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Peter Pears Longtime Collaborator Julian Bream Passes Away

Julian Bream (left) accompanies Peter Pears on the lute. The two performed in concert and recorded together.
"The British guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream has died peacefully at his home in rural Wiltshire. He was 87. From unassuming suburban London beginnings in which he learned jazz guitar with the help of his father, Bream rose to become one of the very finest modern exponents of the classical instrument. His talents attracted composers of the stature of Britten, Walton, Tippett, and Hans Werner Henze. Bream’s ardour for the playing of jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt started early and never died, but he decided in an instant that classical guitar would be his future on hearing a recording of the great Andrés Segovia in the later 1940s. After studies at the Royal College of Music (majoring in fact on piano) Bream swiftly gained recognition on his 
Baroque Jam: Bream and Pears rehearsing
chosen instrument. From early days, concert appearances were supplemented by BBC appearances and then by commercial recordings. Somehow he managed to integrate guitar-playing into his National Service, not least via army dance band appearances. Bream’s discovery of the lute and its repertoire in the early 1950s resulted in a lifelong devotion to the instrument, explored not just in solo repertoire but, for example, in his duo partnership with the tenor Peter Pears and via his own Julian Bream Consort. Among other significant collaborations were those with harpsichordist George Malcolm and fellow guitarist John Williams, both preserved for posterity on disc." Guitarist Julian Bream and tenor Peter Pears recorded several albums together including tracks with composer Benjamin Britten on piano. During his career, the world-famous instrumentalist also worked with The Golden Age Singers and soprano Victoria de los Angeles. His collaborations extended to other artists including three albums of duets with John Williams. Influenced by the stylings of Andrés Segovia and Francisco Tárrega, Bream went on to win four Grammy Awards recording for RCA, Decca, and EMI. "Bream was born in Battersea, London, England, but at the age of two moved with his family to Hampton in London, where he was brought up in a musical environment.Bream described his parents as both 'conventional suburban,' but in another way 'very unusual.' His father was a commercial artist, with an 'extraordinary talent for drawing'
Both artists worked often on Dowland and Bach
and a 'natural musician' according to Bream. Bream would lie under the piano in 'ecstasy' when his father played. His mother, of Scottish descent, was a very beautiful woman who was often, according to Bream, 'not always there' mentally and did not like music, but was a warm-hearted person. His grandmother owned a pub in Battersea, and Bream spent much time there during his youth. His father played jazz guitar and the young Bream was impressed by the playing of Django Reinhardt, he would later call his dog 'Django.' Bream began his lifelong association with the guitar by strumming along on his father's jazz guitar at an early age to dance music on the radio. He became frustrated with his lack of knowledge of jazz harmony,so read instruction books by Eddie Lang to teach himself. His father taught him the basics. The president of the Philharmonic Society of Guitarists, Dr Boris Perott, gave Bream further lessons, while his father became the society librarian, giving young Bream access to a large collection of rare music. On his 11th birthday, Bream was given a small gut-strung Spanish guitar by his father. He became something of a child prodigy, at 12 winning a junior exhibition award for his piano playing, enabling him to study piano and composition at the Royal College of Music. Aged 13, he made his debut guitar recital at Cheltenham on 17 February 1947; in 1951, he debuted at Wigmore Hall. Leaving the RCM in 1952, Bream was called up into the army for
  national service. He was originally drafted into the Pay Corps, but managed to sign up for the Royal Artillery Band after six months. This required him to be stationed in Woolrich,
Duet: Pears and Bream reviewing a score
which allowed him to moonlight regularly in London with the guitar. After two years in the army, he took any musical jobs that came his way, including background music for radio plays and films. Commercial film, recording sessions and work for the BBC were important to Bream throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s. He played part of a recital at the Wigmore Hall on the lute in 1952, and later did much to bring music written for the instrument to light. 1960 saw the formation of the Julian Bream Consort, a period-instrument ensemble with Bream as lutenist. The consort led a great revival of interest in the music of the Elizabethan era. Bream pursued a busy career playing around the world. His first European tours took place in 1954 and 1955, followed (beginning in 1958) by extensive touring in the Far East, India, Australia, the Pacific Islands and many other parts of the world. Bream performed for the Peabody Mason Concert series in Boston, first solo, in 1959, and later with the US debut of his Consort. In addition to master classes given in North America, Bream conducted an international summer school in Wiltshire,England." See album covers of Julian Bream with Peter Pears and The Golden Age Singers after the jump.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Leontyne Price Live MET Performances Get 2-CD Release

"Celebrate one of opera's greatest artists with Leontyne Price at the Met. This new release features excerpts from the beloved American soprano's Met performances of Aida, Tosca, Il Trovatore, Antony and Cleopatra, and much more." Pirate recordings of the American soprano have previously been available to the public, but now the Metropolitan Opera attempts to get the highlights of the most famous moments that Leontyne Price sang at the house in this new compilation. Pre-order your copy here.

Watch a video of Leontyne Price's farewell performance at the Metropolitan Opera in the title of Verdi's Aida.

Celebrating Kathleen Battle's 72nd Birthday With MET Streams

Kathleen Battle (center) is featured in the 1982 Metropolitan Opera production of Mozart's Così fan tutte with Maria Ewing (left) as Dorabella and Kiri Te Kanawa (right) as Fiordiligi (Photo: Winnie Klotz).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Metropolitan Opera has been deep-diving into its video broadcast troves to stream the content out to users in hopes of fundraising and continued engagement. In honor of Kathleen Battle's birthday today (see our previous tribute here), we highlight the recently aired performance of L'Elisir d'Amore featuring her performance alongside Luciano Pavarotti (view here) and on August 22 they will present Il Barbiere di Siviglia with fellow artists Rockwell Blake and Leo Nucci (view here). Read the company's feature "Practically Perfect," written by photo editor Jonathan Tichler, on Ms. Battle here. More of the soprano's MET production photos after the jump.

Kathleen Battle with Luciano Pavarotti in L'Elisir d'Amore (Photo: Robert Cahen).

Rossini Helps Launch "Muppets Now" Streaming On Disney +

Everyone Is a Critic: Show favorites Statler and Waldorf perched in their favorite box

It's time to play the music, It's time to light the lights. It's time to raise the curtain on the Muppet Show tonight! "Muppets Now is The Muppets Studio’s first unscripted series and first original series for Disney+. In the six-episode season, Scooter rushes to make his delivery deadlines and upload the brand-new Muppet series for streaming. They are due now, and he’ll need to navigate whatever obstacles, distractions, and complications the rest of the Muppet gang throws at him. Overflowing with spontaneous lunacy, surprising guest stars and more frogs, pigs, bears (and whatevers) than legally allowed, the Muppets cut loose in Muppets Now with the kind of startling silliness and chaotic fun that made them famous. From zany experiments with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker to lifestyle tips from the fabulous Miss Piggy, each episode is packed with hilarious segments, hosted by the Muppets showcasing what the Muppets do best. Produced by The Muppets Studio and Soapbox Films, Muppets Now premieres Friday, July 31, streaming only on Disney+." The video trailer advertising the series makes use of music from Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia with music from Figaro's aria "Largo al factotum della città." Watch the trailer for the new series and a video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing the whole aria after the jump. Be sure to check out this feature that documents opera singers that appeared on the original series The Muppet Show by clicking here.

Get more information on Muppets Now by clicking here.



Helmut Newton Gets Resurgence In New Virtual Cinema Documentary

(Photographer Helmut Newton seen here with operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti)

"Obituaries and appreciations of the photographer Helmut Newton after his death on January 23, 2004, are riddled with the monikers Newton collected during an increasingly controversial career. In the New York Times, Newton was described as the '35mm Marquis de Sade'; in The Guardian, an 'enfant terrible'; and in Vogue magazine, for which Newton shot for decades, the King of Kink.' Yet none of those nicknames come quite close to capturing the sly luridness and bold subversion of Newton’s images, which transformed fashion photography while simultaneously raising questions about aesthetics and exploitation. The documentary 'Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful,' released in what would have been Newton’s centennial birthday year, only briefly dares to question the methodologies of the man who recoiled at the words 'good taste.' Instead, 'The Bad and the Beautiful' is less about Newton himself and more about how his work made the women he photographed feel...For as incomplete as 'The Bad and the Beautiful' feels in terms of addressing criticisms leveled at Newton, the inclusion of so many women’s perspectives is its own defensive statement." Read more about the documentary here. Watch the trailer and see more photos of Luciano Pavarotti shot by Helmut Newton after the jump.
(Another image of Pavarotti by Newton)


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Alexa Goes For Hell's Revenge In New Commercial From Amazon

Alexa, Amazon's virtual assistant that uses artificial intelligence technology, is activated by voice interaction to control music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic, sports, and other real-time information, such as news. In their latest television commercial, they tap one of Mozart's most famous arias from Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) sung by the Königin der Nacht (Queen of the Night): "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen." Known as the "Vengeance Aria," it is wickedly high and hard to sing. The promo is pushing customers to create playlists with Summer Vibes. The client trying to relax interrupts the performance to request "something more fun" which quickly transforms the scene to Donna Summer singing "I Feel Love." Watch the full Amazon commercial, a performance of Edda Moser singing the complete aria, a video of Donna Summer, and check out the lyrics with translations for the aria after the jump. [Source, Source]