Sunday, December 9, 2018

Aria Code – Redial and Review: Ah fors'è lui...Sempre libera

I finally listened to the first installment of  Aria Code, the new podcast coproduced by WQXR and the Met. Each podcast addresses just one aria, giving it in-depth thought and consideration. Based on this episode, they don't just consider the music or explain the plot; they delve into how the music reflects the character's thoughts and feelings in relation to the story.  

This episode is a refreshing glimpse into the mind of the singer and character as Diana Damrau narrates Violetta's big Act 1 finale. She discusses how the music reflects Violetta's thoughts and emotions. I felt like I was being let in on the musical process, as well as Ms. Damrau's thought process as an actor/singer.

Host Rhiannon Giddens, who studied opera at Oberlin before embarking on a folk music career, called on two additional commentators to reflect on the cultural setting of the opera and the mindset of a woman in Violetta's position: Cori Ellison is the company dramaturg for Santa Fe Opera; and Brooke Magnanti, a writer and former escort (yes, that kind of escort).

The discussion is insightful, thoughtful, and informative; and it’s not overly scholarly or "arch," as some of the official Met podcasts can be. It feels more like a personal analysis than “this is high art” musicology or someone simply describing the plot (which most of us already know, anyway.)

Maybe best of all, this episode concludes with a complete performance of  Ah fors'è lui...Sempre libera by Ms. Damrau. (Each podcast will feature a complete peformance of the aria under discussion.) The only quibble I have with the whole production is the "title" of the episode, which (maybe in my own snobbery) I think: (1) is inaccurate, because Violetta seems classy already; and (2) unnecessarily cheapens the podcast's image. But that is a very minor quibble.

So, I finally listened, and I am glad I did. And now I cannot wait for the next episode. Take a half hour (plus or minus) and check out this wonderful podcast!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Aria Code – A New Opera Podcast

A new opera podcast; one that sounds like it will be a smart, down-to-earth podcast. Rhiannon Giddens hosts: 

"Each episode dives into one aria — a feature for a single singer — and explores how and why these brief musical moments have imprinted themselves in our collective consciousness and what it takes to stand on the Met stage and sing them."
Produced in cooperation with the Metropolitan Opera, the podcast will feature interviews with singers, other musical folks, writers, and other music lovers. This sounds like it will be a lot of fun, and a nice companion to He Sang She Sang and the official Met podcasts.
There's a two-minute intro up now; the first official episode will be available on December 2.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What's Richard Croft (Singing God) Up to These Days?

This clip is from about two years ago. He was an amazing Tito at Glyndbourne in 2017. What's he up to this year? Lovers of gorgeous tenor singing want to know.

Monday, November 19, 2018

More Staatsoper.TV

And while we’re on the subject, here’s the schedule for the rest of the 2018 – 2019 live-stream season from the Bayerische Staatsoper:

Bedřich Smetana
Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride)
18.00 hours
Conductor: Tomáš Hanus
Director: David Bösch
Selene Zanetti (Marie), Pavol Breslik (Hans), Günther Groissböck (Kezal)

Ernst Krenek
Karl V.
19.00 hours
Conductor: Erik Nielsen
Director: Carlus Padrissa – La Fura dels Baus
Bo Skovhus (Karl V.), Anne Schwanewilms (Isabella), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Franz I.)

Giacomo Puccini
La fanciulla del West
19.00 hours
Conductor: James Gaffigan
Director: Andreas Dresen
Anja Kampe (Minnie), Brandon Jovanovich (Dick), John Lundgren (Jack)

Richard Strauss
20.00 hours
Conductor: Kirill Petrenko
Director: Krzysztof Warlikowski
Marlis Petersen (Salome), Wolfgang Koch (Jochanaan), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Herodes), Michaela Schuster (Herodias)

Harteros, Kaufmann, and Finley – Otello Live on Staatsoper.TV

Live on December 2, and available on-demand the next day for 24 hours. I am not an Otello super-fan, but I am looking forward to seeing/hearing this performance. 

Connect to the stream on December 2nd. 
And find out more information about the production now. 


Friday, November 9, 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

He Sang She Sang – Podcast Reincarnated as Live Facebook Videos

I've  periodically harassed WQXR to ask them to bring back the one-season podcast He Sang She Sang, which presented wonderful insights into upcoming Met opera broadcasts. They've steadfastly ignored me.

Meanwhile, He Sang She Sang sneakily reappeared as video feeds on Facebook. They're now focused more on behind-the-scenes conversations with opera singers. They're a lot of fun; and they're informative. I think they're available only at Facebook; do check them out!

Thomas Hampson on the Singing "Industry"

In a recent interview on a new (to me, but it's been around for about five years) blog, Thomas Hampson talks about how the opera singing industry has changed since he started his career. Back then...

“There was this foregone conclusion that with every operatic role and experience, you should develop into something vocally and theatrically better,” Hampson says. “I don’t see that kind of emphasis today.”
What he does see is a focus not on developing opera singers, but on developing opera productions. With the integrity of a singular production a growing priority, companies are on the hunt for singers who fit a specific aesthetic – be it musical or visual; and in response, singers are training not to become autonomous and unique artists, but to become useful to the operatic industry. In fact, they’re persuaded to do so, Hampson argues. “We no longer encourage young singers to become singers. We teach them how to become voices that are useful for an industry purpose. That bothers me a lot, as a pedagogue.”

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Rush to Judgement – A Reflection Sparked by 2018 Bayreuth

An excerpt from the latest Bayreuth Lohengrin provoked critical comments from opera fans. We know there are many who are willing to criticize a production sight-unseen. Others will reserve judgement till they at least see photos or maybe a 5-minute video.

My readers know by now that I will argue that it’s not fair to pass judgement on a performance without seeing/hearing/experiencing the whole thing.

With most "non-traditional" stagings, it's very hard to grasp a production from excerpts. (Granted, this Lohengrin bit is a nice long excerpt.) Neuenfels' Lohengrin just seems gimmicky if you only see one scene, aria, or chorus; but it made sense (to me) once I watched it through. Decker's Traviata (like it or not) makes a lot more sense when you see it from start to finish, rather than just the Brindisi. And, (one of my unsung—so to speak—favorites) Richard Jones' Boheme from Bregenz (2002) kind of weirded me out until I saw the whole thing.

All we are saying is, “Give (the) Piece a Chance.”

P.S. At this moment, while writing about Lohengrin, I'm listening to a stream of Die Meistersinger, and experiencing what my granddaughter would call "cognitive dissonance" (even though I am pretty certain she's not quite sure what cognitive dissonance means!)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

James Jordan’s Afternoon Delight – Parterre Saturday Webcasts

Those of us who feel lost in the summer without our Saturday Met broadcasts, look no further. Parterre Saturday Afternoon (now playing its ninth show as I type) offers rare/historical/interesting/beautiful (choose all that apply) performances streamed in real time from Parterre Box Presents La Cieca blog site and on YouTube as operazine

Even better, the streams remain on YouTube for future listening. I just caught up with the stream from last week featuring Beverly Sills singing Mozart and Strauss.

Today, in between acts of Gounod’s Faust (an opera I rarely seek out, but always love when I come across it), James offers a two-part interview with tenor Michael Fabiano. James is a font of operatic knowledge to begin with. And Parterre's followers offer humorous and informative thoughts, opinions, gossip, and trivia in the comments sections.

If you're looking for me next Saturday, I'll be at my computer (or on my phone) lisetning to Parterre Saturday Afternoon! Bravo James!! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NYC Opera Seeking Transgender Singer

I have so many things to write about: four Hoffmann productions; a Lucia di Lammermoor; a Flying Dutchman; the new La Clemenza di Tito audio recordingBut this item needs immediate attention and requires no commentary from me. New York City Opera seeks a transgender singer to create a role in a new opera. 

About Stonewall

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the event, Stonewall is a moving and explosive new American opera that captures the rage, grit, humor and, finally, hope of the LGBTQ community’s uprising in a Greenwich Village dance club on one hot night in June 1969. The work follows a diverse group of characters whose lives collide at that pivotal moment in history when the police push them too far and they find the courage to fight back.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Met in HD Encores – Three Left this Summer

Three Met in HD summer encores are left this year. I  missed the gorgeous Butterfly last week because I was out of town. 

I am not sure I need to see this Trovatore again, but I’ll probably go anyway. 

I used to have the Onegin on DVD (I cannot find it...who did I loan it to? Sorry; to whom did I loan it?); and I think it's a "don't miss" performance and production (all those leaves!). I reviewed this one, and here is the first part. My Uncle (my Dad's brother) had some thoughts about this production of his favorite opera. 

And I simply must see Nina Stemme as Turandot.

Here are the dates the encores playing in my neighborhood (all Wednesdays):
  • 06/27 – Trovatore 7:00 PM
  • 07/11 – Eugene Onegin 7:00 PM
  • 07/18 – Turandot 7:00 PM

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Herheim’s Boheme – Must See DVD

So, this arrived yesterday. Everyone leave me alone. 
It’s a very Boheme Sunday. I’ll be back later to discuss. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

ReJoyce, for her 2018 Master Classes are Online Now

Joyce DiDonato is back for her annual Carnegie Hall Master Classes. I missed them live over the weekend (the trials of having a job!) But lucky for us, the three days of classes are online now at Medici.TV. As soon as I have a lull at work, I'll be watching them. See you there!     

P.S. Her Juilliard class from last fall is still there, too.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Gratuitous Friday – Juan Diego Flórez as Orphée

It's been a little while since I’ve spent time with Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice/Orfeo ed Euridice. I am a major mezzo fan, but I always love to hear a tenor Orphée! Juan Diego Flórez recorded this opera commercially a few years ago, and it's great to hear how his interpretation has matured. (I still love Richard Croft best in this role and Daniel Behle does a nice job with this aria, but JDF is doing just fine, thank you very much!)

Friday, April 13, 2018

Gratuitous Friday – Michael Fabiano Sings Corrado and Talks about Opening Opera to a Wider (and Younger) Audience

Here's a performance from the 2014 Richard Tucker awards of Corrado's Act 1 aria from Il Cosaro. Fabulous Fabiano!! (The men of the chorus do a great job, too!)

And here is a recent interview about his upcoming Australia performances in Faust.

Mr. Fabiano also talks about his interest and efforts to open the world of opera to a broader (and younger) audience. Bravo, Fabiano!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I Wanted to Care about Il Corsaro…

…but I couldn’t. I kept watching/listening because of Michael Fabiano, and he did a great job. I love his singing, and generally he is a good actor (but he didn’t have a lot of help here). The other principals sang well, and did their best at the acting part, particularly Viti Praante and Kristina Mkhitaryan. But they were left high and dry by their director, Nicola Raab. She talked a good game; but it didn’t pay off. Il Corsaro is based on a Byron poem, so she cast Corrado (the Corsaro) as the poet. In the first part of the opera, he remembered things past (Acts 1 and 2) and seemingly lived out the conclusion in Act 3. Somewhere in Act 2, it seemed he was working on writing the story.

Even knowing this, it was rather confusing. Framing an opera as a flashback is not a new idea (but it’s not a bad idea, either) but it wasn’t very clear. Gulnara, who in the plot, dies at the end of the opera, seems to rise from the dead to do her first scene in Act 1, then take poison and die before the Act 1 curtain. Then she’s back for the finale of Act 3, apparently still dying. Corrado (Mr. Fabiano) throws himself off a cliff (according to the libretto) at the end, but he and the two sopranos (the baritone was really dead—and in another country) simply turned away from the audience at the end of the final scene.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Jackie and Pat and Debbie and Flicka – DivaChat

This is a fun, free-wheeling conversation among four amazing opera divas: Marilyn Horne, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt, and Frederica von Stade. Among many topics, they discuss how they got their start; who their main influences are; and what they're up to now. Full of fun chat, interesting background, and some opera inside jokes (Flora Amici)! And Jackie schools Debbie on fach. Check it out. 

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM), in collaboration with San Francisco Opera, presents "Sunday with the Divas," Moderated by Stephen Rubin. Recorded February 25, 2018 at the Nourse Theater, San Francisco.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Met Radio Broadcasts Archived on BBC Radio 3

Opera on 3

I was reminded the other day that BBC Radio 3 transmits the Met Saturday broadcasts. Not only that, they archive each one for about 30 days. This means if you had other things you had to do yesterday and couldn’t set aside six hours to listen to the fabulous performance of Parsifal, that you still have time to do so.

As of this writing, they also have archived recordings of Tosca, Il Trovatore, and L'elisir d'amore. Of course, they also broadcast other opera performances from the UK and Europe. I still find the website a bit difficult to navigate; but perseverance pays off. You can always explore while you’re listening to the archives.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Met: Live in HD 2018-2019 Season Announced

  • Aida 10/06/2018
  • Samson et Dalila 10/20/2018
  • La Fanciulla del West 10/27/2018
  • Marnie 11/10/2018
  • La Traviata 12/15/2018 
  • Adriana Lecouvreur 01/12/2019
  • Carmen 02/02/2019 
  • La Fille du Régiment 03/02/2019
  • Die Walküre 03/30/2019
  • Dialogues des Carmélites 05/11/2019

More information is available at the Met website

Also, Parterre Box has a super discussion of the new season and changes at the Met.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Re-Joyce! Another Master Class

This one is from the Royal Opera House; and it just appeared the other day on the tube. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but I wanted to share it right away! I will be tuning in as soon as I post this. Watch, listen, learn, and enjoy!!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Gratuitous Friday – [Fred Plotkin's] Conversation with Luca Pisaroni

Usually these gratuitous posts are videos of a single song or aria. But today, we make an exception for our Luca. Here is an interview he did recently with Fred Plotkin. (Not so much an interview, but more of a lecture with a guest. There's some interesting discussion of Cosi (the blue kool-aid one and the Glyndebourne one), Don Giovanni and a few other operas.)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Opera Fugit (Especially on YewToob)

The fleetingness of opera online is well knownespecially on that one video upload website that you and I watch on the tube. However, these selections seem likely to stay around, since they're published by the EuroArts Channel. (They also have a lot of non-opera concert performances as well.) 
Highlights include:

Most do not have subtitles, but hey, we're opera fans, we can figure that part out.

So many operas…so little time.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Operas Online (Now and Later) from La Monnaie

This is a quick reminder to myself, as well as to my readers that La Monnaie makes all of its productions available online, for at least a limited period of time—not only on their own website, but on other platforms, too. (For example, Dialogues des Carmelites is no longer on the La Monnaie site, but you can still see it via OperaVision.)

Their productions are always interesting, often provocative, and feature outstanding directors, conductors, and singers.
So many little time.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Gratuitous Friday – Jakub Józef Orliński, Countertenor

I don't know how this young Polish countertenor snuck onto the scene, but I am glad I stumbled upon him:

I even missed his master class with JDD at Julliard (and oddly, sadly, this video seems to be a trimmed version of his session.)

He's so expressive, even in a casual setting:

Oh, and in his spare time, he like to break dance:

For more about JJO, here's an article/interview with him from about two years ago. Who knows what he's up to these days? Let's Google and find out!

P.S. I just found this interview that's just about a month old. 

P.P.S. A little gratuitous beefcake:

Turandot in Torino – Find the Diva

OK, so imagine you're a diva who can actually sing the role of Turandot. And you get hired for a production. And and the director says, "You'll never be on stage alone. You will be surrounded by the female chorus, and they will all be dressed exactly like you and move exactly like you. And they all be will  lip-synching your part with you. [Ed.: and some will over-act*.]  And, you will lip-synch all the choral parts with them. So most of the audience won't even be able to tell you're the actual diva."
Where's Waldo Turandot?
"Hmmmm," you think in your diva brain, "I am not that egotistical, I can handle that."

And then the director says, "Oh by the way, the opera ends when Liu dies—there's no big final happy ending duet. In fact, you die when Liu dies, and that's it." If you're still on board, then you are an exceptional diva!

So, they ended the performance where Puccini stopped writing, much as Arturo Toscanini did at its premiere almost 100 years ago. Toscanini stopped there because he wasn't pleased with either of Alfano's endings. And although the opera's also been completed by Luciano Berio (!!!), that ending didn't appeal to this director and maestro either. So they decided to follow Toscanini's lead. This shifts the focus away from Turandot's (less than convincing anyway) transformation from ice princess to love diva. And that's where Liu comes back in. She is in love with Calaf simply because he was nice to her. Not because she's bloodthirsty, vengeful, and unavailable. Calaf always seems more interested in "conquering" Turandot than actually loving her (or being in love with her). If he wanted love, Liu is right there for him. He's kind of a Pinkerton to me. But I digress.
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