Friday, January 30, 2009

Is Blogging Supposed to be Private, And Plenty of Opera

Writing of the first thing my post's title concerns, I am wondering, based on periods of discourse with other people who know me, if blogging is private, which is to say, should I only comment on people's posts only if I know them personally, or should I follow their blog under the same parameters? Is communicating with others on the Internet limited to people one has met in the course of their life, or is that why people communicate on the Internet, to meet new people and hopefully friends? I am rather confused about what proper etiquette is in these situations. I hope I am advised one way or another soon because every time I comment on another person's blog posts, I feel that I am in some way violating their privacy. I sincerely hope that this is not the case.

Enough of that, however; let me direct your attention to something else. I have been blessed with the means to learn languages, these being Latin and Spanish (Do not be misled, readers, for I am not fluent in the speaking and understanding of these languages, but know that if any new Roman or Spanish speaking colonies mysteriously appear on the map, and I find myself in them, that I will be more than able to accommodate myself without the usual barriers of different languages between tourists and natives.), and in addition to these, I have a fair amount of vocabulary and a little portion of grammar knowledge within the lexicons of German, French, and Italian, though not in that particular order, and I am confident that if I were to travel to any one of these places, that I could speak with the locals about general things. I would like to tell all of you about an aid I have found in facilitating the acquiring of another language. The BBC has a language site that gives us the opportunity to learn the vital vocabulary of a language for tourists or those interested in expanding their comprehension of a language. To those of us who aspire to become opera singers, this will provide us with the basics of the language and the beginnings of a language, and it will encourage us to seek other opportunities to educate ourselves in the field. Aside from an exhaustive language dictionary and a curriculum on the specific language, this is probably the greatest way to accelerate our knowledge of a foreign language. At this time they offer French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Chinese, and a helpful guide featuring phrases in 36 different languages. To learn what they will teach you for free, you can sign up for their e-mail newsletter for whatever languages with which you want to acquaint yourself, and these come weekly. There are only twelve steps to make it simple for beginners, but you can enhance your experience by viewing helpful articles on local customs and local usages of words. The lessons are almost completely interactive, so there is really no reason to become frustrated and stop taking the lessons. As I said earlier, there is really no other better way to learn a new language outside of a course such as Powerspeak (formerly PowerGlide) or Rosetta Stone, which claims to be the fastest way to learn a language, guaranteed. I prefer Powerspeak because of the information it provides the student beyond merely the language they are trying to learn. If you visit their page, and you think that those courses are for children, think again. They have one of the world's premier linguistics professors as their developer of learning techniques; Dr. Blair's Diglot-Weave stories and narratives are, I think, the best and fastest way to teach a language. I have never used Rosetta Stone, and while I think it has marvelous potential, I prefer Powerspeak's methods best for an ultimate language and cultural immersion experience, but Rosetta Stone will do what they promise, and that is provide you with a quick way to learn a language.

Moving on, I have been privileged to have a channel from my cable service provider on television that plays nothing but operas and recordings by operatic artists. They play only audio, so that obviously degenerates from what you probably initially thought I had. Nevertheless, I am glad I have this luxury. I have been able to hear some recordings of Rebecca Evans', and I was wondering, does she still sing? She has a wonderful voice. I am going to search for her on the web. Other singers I have heard are Thomas Quasthoff, Regina Crespin, Luciano Pavarotti, Cheryl Studer, Jussi Bjorling, Robert Merril, and Alfredo Kraus, amongst other notable luminary singers, but in my opinion they play far too few of the more modern artists. I have been able to expand my listening horizons by a rather grand amount (I still generally dislike Russian vocal music, but this may be the result of my lack of interest and understanding of their difficult lexicon. However, there are some Irina Arkhipova recordings that are quite beautiful.), but I know what I enjoy most, and I want to hear some newer performances. Caballe and Domingo and Sutherland and Pavarotti recordings are played regularly, so I have nothing to worry about when I hear of a legendary performance from someone who was fortunate enough to have seen or heard it live, on the small chance that I would speak with anyone who enjoys opera, let alone anyone who remembers such historic occasions, where I reside and with the few people with whom I associate myself.

Unexpectedly changing the subject, I regret to inform my readers that I was not allowed to watch the Renee Fleming performance on the television show Spectacle, but I think that was acceptable since she probably did not incorporate much opera into the program. Immediately the question arises from the depths of one's brain, "How is a nineteen-year-old not allowed to watch something on television? If he desires, can he not simply turn on the TV and view to his pleasure?" In theory, yes, this is true, but inquisitive readers should understand that I live at home with my family, and this arrangement gives me the opportunity to be free of rent and all other costs whatsoever, one which I am sure anyone would accept even if they were required to sacrifice some of their freedom derived from independence, so I must acquiesce when my parents tell me that they do not wish for me to do something. My mother's reason for not allowing me to watch the program was that it was on the Sundance channel, and they, as she puts it, are one of the most liberal channels on television. With this assertion, I shall readily agree, but she did not judge the program I intended to peruse, only the channel upon which it aired. As you can read, I have mixed feelings on the issue.

Are any of my readers knowledgeable on the subject of ballet, or do they enjoy it? I dabble in the field since I receive mail from the American Ballet Theatre in New York, a company that annually performs at the Met in the summer and since I took dance lessons not very long ago, those of the ballet and musical theatre dance variety. If anyone is interested, and admirers of the art of ballet will be if they do not already know, I read somewhere that Julie Kent, a world renowned prima ballerina is retiring from the stage this year. I am quite saddened to learn of the development because she reminds me of Margot Fonteyn. She gives life to every performance she offers, and I shall be sad to see her leave.

On the Met's website unsurpassable tenor Placido Domingo has an interview posted. He speaks of many things about his career and his future plans. He is the kind of tenor I would like to, nay, I strive to become, the one that can seemingly last forever. This season, as if opera aficionados had not yet heard of it, is his fortieth anniversary with the Met, and he sings Maurizio in Giordano's Adriana Lecouvrer with soprano Maria Guleghina as Adriana. He tells much about his time at the Met, but the most important piece of information on the page to my knowledge is that next season he is going to sing the baritone role Simon Boccanegra in Verdi's opera of the same name at the Met next season. He says in the interview,

"It has always been a role that I adored: the music, the contrast between the prologue and the rest of the opera, the drama. Then there’s the love between the father and the daughter, which reflects Verdi’s tremendous feeling for any kind of scene that involved fathers and children—because he was an unhappy father, who lost his children when they were little. I always said, ‘Near the end of my career, I want to do Boccanegra.’ It’s not that I want to be a baritone, but I want to do Boccanegra. And here it is! But I’m still singing tenor parts. These are not my last performances—not planned in any case. You never know. Every day, when I wake up in the morning, I ask myself the question, Am I still able to sing? And so far the answer has always been yes."

Is Domingo near the end of his career? Let us hope that this is not the case; let us hope that he will go on singing, and singing well, until he is seventy-five as Kraus was able to do. Who could replace him vocally? He has over 150 roles in his repertoire (!).

Finally, it is my sincere prayer that God blesses you and keeps all of you in his protection. Until my next post, thank you for reading.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Orfeo ed Euridice" Last Saturday, Renee Fleming on the Sundance Channel this Wednesday, and Verdi's "Rigoletto" From The Met This Saturday!

I think all of us who owe our leisure hours to opera ought to consider ourselves extremely blessed with all of the things that we can access every year in the opera world at any given moment. Examine what the advent of YouTube has done for those of us who have little or no opportunity to see or hear opera in their lives, let alone from the comfort of their own home. For those of you who were able to see Christoph Willibald von Gluck's telling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and his lovely bride Eurydice in the underworld in his opera Orfeo ed Euridice, let me say that there was not a better opera for peole to see who are new to the art form. At around two hours in length, it is comparable to seeing a movie, and for those of you who saw it as part of the Met's Live in HD series, it was indeed akin to viewing a movie, only much more dramatic, I personally think. The radio broadcast was just as nice as the performance shown in cinemas since the music alone is quite soothing. I like to imagine that Gluck's masterpiece still agrees musically, if not altogether vocally, with the Baroque operas it sought to replace. We still see many of the Baroque mannerisms of music in the opera alongside some of the ideas that would later emerge in the pieces of the Bel Canto and later still in the operas that would come from what is known as the Romantic period. The dance music, especially that lilting melodic phrase of the Ballet des Ombres in Act II. One is reminded of the similarities between the music of this and Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel. There are those who might think me out of my wits, but I feel it is a viable juxtaposition within the mind. I personally prefer the the EMI Classics release of the opera with Anne Sofie von Otter and Barbara Hendricks in Gluck's French version of Orphee et Eurydice over other editions, and is it just me, or was the Ballet des Ombres shortened in the Met's broadcast on Saturday, the 24th? It may well be that I was not paying as much attention to the broadcast as I should have been, but I thought that the Ballet seemed short. The performance was a good one, one I shall not soon forget. Stephanie Blythe sang the role nicely, and I was happy to hear Danielle DeNiese sing the role of Euridice. Many critics and people who fancy themselves to be critics dislike her voice, but I find nothing really wrong with it. Heidi Grant Murphy, who, it may be recalled, replaced Lorraine Hunt Leiberson in the role of Euridice last year in the premier of this production of Orfeo last season at the Met after her untimely death at the hands of cancer, sang the role of Amor, the god[dess] of love. I must disagree with SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment in her liking of a mezzo-soprano in the role of Orfeo better than a countertenor; I enjoy countertenors most in the role. David Daniels sang the role beautifully last season. I hope we may hear more of him at the Met soon.

Here I put on display, for all of the world to judge, my knowledge of opera and what I have come to realize the voice the voices of opera to be. There are many who would think that I have never heard of the great artists like Pons, Bjoerling, Tucker, Caruso, Sayao, Callas, Price, Del Monaco, Di Stefano, and others besides, yet I must assure them that I have. I own some recordings of these great singers of the past, but I understand that they are from the past. We must accept that there are new singers to inhabit the roles they once commanded. In any event, I belive that the fact is undebatable that the vocalists of today have a decided advantage over those of the golden age of recorded opera, the advent of better technology to record their albums and performances. Older recordings are filled with an ample amount of distracting noise on the records or other form of media, and CD's do not always correct these shortcomings faced by the originals. In summation, the old and the new can be embraced evenly.

As to Renee Fleming's appearance on the Sundance Channel, she performs on a show entitled Spectacle with Elvis Costello. I hope she manges to fit an opera aria in there somewhere. I may not be allowed to view it, so I hope that there will be videos of it on YouTube (Yes, I know I trust YouTube too much to satisfy my opera viewing habit.). It airs on Wednesday here in Oklahoma, so check your local listings.

This Saturday we are treated to Verdi's masterpiece Rigoletto from the Met. The cast is scheduled to be Aleksandra Kurzak, Victoria Vizin, Giuseppe Filianotti, George Gagnidze, and Mikhail Petrenko. I shall have to revisit my recording of the opera with Sumi Jo and Marcelo Alvarez before Saturday to reacquaint myself with it. I love this opera; it is one of those that really incorporates all of the characters. Their music is also not too difficult to sing either (Well, at least the Duke's is not), and it is all beautiful. I cannot wait to hear it! Speaking of Sumi Jo's wonderful voice, when will we hear it at the Met again, or has she retired? Her voice is beautiful; if the Met is planning to revive their production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor any time soon, they ought to get her to sing Lucia.

I hope that I have not rambled on needlessly to waste your time, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed composing it for your continued enjoyment. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Blogger vs. Facebook

As the title of my post offers for the inquisitive peruser of my ramblings, this post is about why I prefer Blogger over Facebook. For the parties interested, then, allow me to begin.

My younger sister has a Facebook profile, and she graciously allowed me to try Facebook with her profile to see what I thought of it because apparently one cannot enjoy Facebook until one is confirmed as a friend, and until they have these friends, they are obliged to do nothing. Needless to say, I have been interested in creating my own identity on Facebook, so I readily accepted her generous offer, and since she and I possess many of the same friends and acquaintances, with us mutually having more of the latter than the former, I decided to learn what I might about what my acquaintances were doing. I saw several of the people I knew, and I was able to see whatever short instant messages they sent to each other, but I began to feel that this was rather foolish. When I can post to my blog, I try to say things that are worthwhile to read, and, readers, you may inform me of it if I fail to do this in each of my posts, but many of the remarks I read were things that were without any consequence or of little importance. Therefore, I much prefer Blogger with its format of longer posts over Facebook's.

Second, I like the way one may customize their blog page with many sorts of media and lists of blogs that one follows regularly. Facebook's pages, when one is acclamated to the features of Blogger, seem very dull indeed. Although I would not mind having a Facebook profile since people I know would probably not wish to visit my blog, I like the format of Blogger much better; it encourages users to make pages their own and to create posts of variable lengths.

Of course, there is the remote possibilty that I cannot deny exists that I did not fully explore Facebook with all of its usages. Still, for now at least, I am one blogger who is going to maintain my views on the subject. Do not be dismayed, however, that I am one to close my mind to new ideas, for I think that I shall explore it further, but I do not think that I shall subject myself to Facebook quite yet.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sondra Radvanovsky Never to Sing at The Met Again?!!!

As I promised you, dear, gentle readers, whose patience with my incessant ramblings knows no end (Alas, only if real life were so pleasant to us mere mortals. That is the precious beauty of authorship, the ability to imagine something and to make it credible.), I am going to give you an ample dosage of opera in this post.

Firstly, to deal with the title of this post, in the February issue of Opera News magazine, a most invaluable resource for the dilletant and the aficinado alike, there is an interview with soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, who is from Chicago by the way. Radvanovsky, our first true Verdi soprano in a number of years, says that she has no extension of her contract with the Met into next season, and these upcoming performances of her in Verdi's Il Trovatore may be her last with what is arguably the world's greatest opera company. Can you imagine it? Just when the opera-adoring public thought we had a soprano of the caliber of Leontyne Price again, we find that the Met currently has no inclinations of using her voice in other Verdi rarities such as Giovanna d'Arco or I Lombardi. I heard her last year as Elvira in Verdi's Ernani with Thomas Hampson and Marcello Giordani, and I thought she sounded excellent. Before that I heard her in Alfano's Cyrano di Bergerac as Roxane. I hope that the Met extends her contract, so we may be priveliged to hear her in the roles in which she truly has little or no competition.

Speaking of contracts with the Met, in one of my early posts, I mentioned soprano Ruth Ann Swenson, and I asked if anyone knew what had happenned to her or whether or not she was still singing. I read on the informative blog Sieglinde's Diaries that Ruth Ann Swenson is scheduled to sing Musetta (What? Not Mimi?!!!! No, that role goes to Anna Netrebko. I guess we need fresh blood.) in an upcoming production of Puccini's La Boheme, which she will share with Nicole Cabell. Do not accept that as the gospel truth, however, because that is planned for the 2009-2010 season, and singers do sometimes cancel. I am simply happy to see this wonderful general purpose soprano back on the Met's stage.

There also was an article by Brian Kellow in Opera News from the letters from abroad series, and this one was from Wexford Festival Opera. I read the piece with enthusiasm because Sarah Coburn was featured in the opera Tutti in Maschera this past festival season, and I wanted to see what he thought of her. She met with glowing reviews from Mr. Kellow, who enjoyed not only her performance in that opera but also in Orff's Carmina Burana, which he also took the opportunity to praise. I truly cannot wait to hear Ms. Coburn perform again.

There are some other stars we have not heard at the Met for a long time or ever at all: Cecilia Bartoli, Patrizia Ciofi, Jose Cura, Leona Mitchell (she is another artist from Oklahoma, from Enid, if I am not mistaken, and she was in the January issue of Opera News quoted in an interview as saying that she was looking over the part of Bellini's Norma. She wants to return to the Met, and she wants to sing again.), to mention a few. I would really like to see Ms. Mitchell make a return to the Met or some of our other regional houses such as Santa Fe, Lyric Opera of Chicago, or Los Angeles.

Further contained in the February edition of Opera News, is an interview with tenor Marcelo Alvarez, who, interestingly enough, had no aspiration to become an opera singer. He was in the profession of being a furniture salesman in his family owned business when he auditioned for Luciano Pavarotti in South America (in Brazil, if my memory continues to serve me well). Pavarotti liked his voice and was able to get him into leading opera companies, and he has become one of the greatest tenors we now possess. I look to stories like Mr. Alvarez's for inspiration in my own unfinished journey to becoming an opera singer. They show me that I still have a chance and that I should not despair if things seem to be at a stagnant point for me. After I remind myself of such providential occurences, I look forward to my own story of success and to eventually helping other young artists have more opportunities to study and learn music than I do, for is that not what we should try to accomplish in life, to provide an easier life for our descendants and others who may benefit from our experiences? That ought to be humanity's greatest aspiration.

Speaking of Opera News as we have been, it brings to mind something I wanted to iterate to my readers. When I first began receiving my copies of the publication thanks to one of my questions to the Met's Opera Quiz being answered during one of their broadcasts, I accessed my account online, and to my dismay, I could not view any archived issues, but a few weeks ago I realized that I could view them, and, oh, the wealth of information I have found! Subscribing to Opera News is well worth it just for the archived issues of the magazine.

I trust that I have provided a sufficient amount of material related to opera in this post, and I pray that God keeps all of you well until my netxt post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Other Activities

I thought I might show my readers some of my other hobbies outside of opera for once. One of these is watching reruns of the hit television series Walker, Texas Ranger on the Hallmark Channel. Right now they are showing all of the ones with Trent and Carlos (for those of you who follow or know the series; for those of you who do not, please visit the Wikipedia page if you are interested.) I cannot wait for the ones with Gage and Sydney, the ones from seasons eight and nine, I believe.

Walker, Texas Ranger was a hit TV show on CBS for nine years (1993-2002 with a reunion movie in 2005 called Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial By Fire that sadly did not include Sydney or Trivette, but it did add some new characters, and Gage was also in it.). When it left the air, it was the number one show on television, or at least on CBS. It starred legendary martial artist Chuck Norris (tenth degree black belt karate, eighth degree black belt grand master tae kwon do, the first person on the western hemisphere to be given that rank reportedly, black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and brown belt judo), Clarence Gilyard, Jr. as his partner, James Trivette, Sheree J. Wilson as the D.A. and later his wife, Judson Mills as Ranger Francis Gage (a second degree black belt in tae kwon do in real life, which some say helped him get the part) and Nia Peeples as Gage's partner Sydney Cooke. In the later seasons, the show becomes more family-friendly with less swearing and adult themes, and way more action. Here are a couple of clips that will make you sit on the edge of your seat.

Well, I hope you enjoy these, and I promise you, my readers will get much more opera than they bargained for in my next post because I just got my February issue of Opera News.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Poteet Theatre Awards 2009 and A Novel Idea About College Education

Dear gentle readers, I first thank all of you for allowing me this opportunity to pen my thoughts without hindrance. It is good that people have some sort of creative outlet, and this is mine when I am not involved in some theatrical production. I have some news about my local community theatre, Poteet Theatre, that I thought my readers might find interesting and perhaps a welcome glimpse into the ordinary, regular, mundane aspect of my life.

Last evening I, along with some fifteen other teenagers, served victuals, beverages, and desserts to guests and honorees at the Second Annual Poteet Theatre Awards banquet. It was quite an enjoyable festival, and the best part of it all was that we all got to review the year of 2008 in plays and musicals. The caterers brought salads, steak dinners complete with baked potatoes and green beans, and apple and cherry pie for dessert, which all of us volunteer waitstaff joyously served. I waited tables very little, for I was the Assistant Manager in the kitchen, and I directed everything from the kitchen to the banquet hall in the church, St Luke's United Methodist Church here in Oklahoma City. Our service, though I am biased in my own favor, was excellent, at least there were no complaints from the recipients of it, so I mark it as a success.

Two productions in which I performed, The Secret Garden and Seussical, won awards. The Secret Garden won Best Newcomer Actor, and probably something else, but I was unable to see what it was. Seussical, our summer production with a cast of eighty (on a small stage), won Best Show, Best Actress, Best Choreography, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor. It was a wonderful testament to all of the diligence put forth in that show. The evening was beautiful.

On another note I am something of a fixture at Poteet, and as such I am good friends with the administration of the venue because we have all performed together at some point or another. Because of this, I plan on asking the Executive Director, which is the official capacity in which a very good and dear friend of mine serves the theatre, if we might expedite the process in getting an opera staged at Poteet. I will even direct it if there are none willing to do so, and believe me there are stranger things that have taken place in that theatre. If it comes to that, I feel confident enough of my knowledge of opera to put on a production that would make the staff of Poteet proud. If an opera were to be produced at Poteet it would invariably have to be in English to introduce an audience to the art form, but I do not really like American opera, a subject I will speak of later in this post. I would like to have some reader input on what operas already in English, that is to say not requiring any additional translation, I should suggest to my friend. I was thinking something by Handel or Purcell, something from the Baroque repertoire that would not require too much vocal "fireworks" from the singers, but this is difficult since the tenor part is usually replaced by the countertenor as the protagonist, and I would like to be the lead and the protagonist in this production. A simple solution for a choice from the Baroque is to transpose the role to suit my voice, a prospect I am willing to pursue, but it would be nice to remain faithful to the original work. Thanks for your input on this subject.

As to the subject of American opera, I have listened to a few performances of American opera, but I did not really enjoy them. One piece of American opera I actually heard in its entirety and enjoyed was Tobias Picker's world broadcast premiere of An American Tragedy from the Met with Patricia Racette, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, and a few other artists whom I fail to recollect. Although the story sparks an interesting and engaging conversation on whether Clyde actually murdered Roberta, I really only listened to it the first time because it had Susan Graham, and even though I was new to the wonderful world of opera, I knew she was one of the great singers in the opera world, so I listened and ended up liking it fairly well. However, I did not enjoy the Met's recent production of John Adams' Doctor Atomic.

On the other subject adddressed by the title of this blog post, I have thought of something that might allow me to make the most of my time that I have without employment or a course of direction for my life. I thought that since it is unlikely that I shall attend college since I personally lack the capital to do so and I cannot seem to find adequate assistance to make my decision and apply for scholarships, I entertained the idea that I might educate myself through college with the aid of my local library and the luxury of the Internet. I am probably more prepared than most for such an exacting and strenuous undertaking because I have been home-educated from third grade until I graduated from high school last year. I only want to study the liberal arts, those sciences which are commonly known as "general eds," for I should like to attend an university or an opera company's studio program to learn all that I yet require to become a good singer. I still have some praying to do about it to determine whether it is something God would have me do, but I do not see why I should sit idly while the world passes me by because I could not make the most of the opportunities and blessings God has given me to use for His glory. Wish me well in this venture, please.

Finally, you may notice that I have procured the iLike widget for my blog; let me say that there is a caveat involved with the simple to use system, and that is that the music is powered by the Rhapsody online music service, so you only get 25 plays per month if you happen to be a free user like me. On the other hand, however, it is far simpler to create a playlist with iLike than by using you are not required to create any accounts or anything. You simply search for an artist or song, play the one you were looking for to ensure that it is not incomplete, click add to playlist, and click done when you are finished, all on the same page! This widget appears to be designed specifically for Blogger in that you just click 'add to Blog,' which directs you to your page elements page, and you click 'add widget,' and, guess what? You are done; there is no entering an html code to get the playlist to show up on your page or anything like that. However, users should not automatically delete their playlists from their page since iLike is still in beta mode and is expanding its library, so there may be some problems with finding what you want. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the best part of the whole thing: when you play a song, below it is the description of the song, and there is a tab that says 'Video.' If you click on that, it automatically searches YouTube to find a video of the song and artist you are playing, and it plays the video in a miniature player that you can restore to full size and search for related content. Pretty nifty, eh (see, readers, I can have pizazz, too, when I want to have it.), so you do not have to waste your free Rhapsody plays.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Idina Menzel on "Soundstage"

Broadway and recently film actress Idina Menzel returned to her beginings as a singer with an episode of the PBS show Soundstage. I am finally one up on SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment in knowing about a broadway star or opera singer displaying their talents on television; do not rejoice too loudly, however, because she will probably have something about it in her next post. The concert she gave was good, but I personally did not enjoy all of the pop songs she sang for the evening since I do not very much appreciate that style of music. She did sing a duet of Josh Groban's Awake with him, and Ravi Coltrane and his saxophone provided extra musical color on her original composition of Perfume and Promises. Just when I was beginning to despair, thinking that not a single song from arguably her most known role in Steven Schwartz's Wicked would surface in the set, at the end she unfurled a different version Defying Gravity, but I must admit that I like the original from the Original Broadway Cast recording best; I think that another Wicked song would have better suited the theme of the evening, that being As Long As You're Mine. I was a little disappointed that she asked Ravi Coltrane and Josh Groban to perform with her without asking Oklahoma native Kristen Chenoweth to sing a duet with her, but perhaps she is seeking a different identity than Elphaba. All I can say is that, while the concert was good, Broadway is still calling, and I believe that is where she flourishes. For anyone interested, Idina's latest release is called I Stand, and she has an official website.

Speaking of musicals, here are some of my favorite musicals and Broadway stars: Probably my favorite musical is either The Phantom of the Opera or Into the Woods. Into the Woods is also probably one of the most musically challenging , which is not to say that The Phantom of the Opera is without difficulty, but with all of Stephen Sondheim's use of atonal melodies that has garnered him the accolade of musical genius, his later works from the late '70's onward are often extremely hard to sing and play because with atonal pieces it is almost impossible to pick out a root note since the song is not built on the usual eight-note scale but with a twelve-note scale. One of the best examples of atonal music and singing is Sondheim's A Little Night Music, an often overlooked gem, particularly the duet Every Day A Little Death. My favorite song from Into the Woods, and believe me when I say that this is a hard choice to make, is either No More Questions or No One Is Alone, although the title songs, Into the Woods and the finale at the end of the show, are so much fun to perform. Some of my other favorite musicals include The Sound of Music, Wicked, Les Miserables, Seussical (yes, I performed in that one with my local community theatre), The Secret Garden, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Cinderella, and Camelot. I also have some songs that I like from musicals that are not necessarily favorites and that have become solos for singers to display their vocal abilities; some of these are: Every Day A Little Death, Remember, and Now, Later, Soon from A Little Night Music, One More Walk Around the Garden, Take Care of this House, Here I'll Stay, There's Always One You Can't Forget, and Someone's On Your Side from the canon of Alan Jay Lerner (be sure to hear Julie Andrew's CD entitled Here I'll Stay: The Words of Alan Jay Lerner for the best recordings of these songs. Ian Fraser's arrangements of these pieces are gorgeous), This Can't Be Love, Where or When?, If I Loved You, Spring Is Here, It Never Entered My Mind, Out of My Dreams, Edelwiess, Something Good, A Cockeyed Optimist, My Funny Valentine, and many others from the songbook of Richard Rodgers (you must hear the Music of Richard Rodgers recording by Julie Andrews and the Bernadette Peters Loves Richard Rodgers album by Bernadette Peters; both of them are without equal in this category of music.), and many other ballads and troubadors' lyric poems, but their respective titles escape my memory currently. Some of my favorite singers for Broadway are Julie Andrews (who does not absolutely adore her voice?), Bernadette Peters (she has such a diverse style: one minute Sondheim, the next minute Rodgers, and after that Gershwin), Liz Callaway (her Anywhere I Wander album is full of sweetly toned gems; it begs to be revisited time and again), Dawn Upshaw (who dictates that opera singers cannot sing Broadway; if you think that the former cannot sing the latter, then try hearing Upshaw's numerous albums of Broadway songs.), and Sarah Brightman. I must include a word of explanation on this last inclusion to the list: I do not enjoy much of Brightman's forays into classical repertoire, but her Broadway endeavors are divinly excellent. Well, that is all for now.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Soprano Sarah Coburn and some new songs on my playlist

First, I would like to explain some of the recent additions to my playlist. If anyone actually listens to the music beyond the first track, they will notice that I have uploaded quite a few more selections to this playlist of music which says so much about my diverse interests in music. Most of the new material is from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but I have also included two songs I recently discovered by Renee Fleming, which are probably my favorite new additions, and some music from the Christian metal scene by Stryper and Whitecross, two bands who are replete with talent but are sadly dormant, although that may change in the near future. All of these unconventional tracks on an opera aficionado's playlist may leave room for speculation as to my "true tastes" in music, but I can assure my readers that nothing could be further from the truth. On occasions far and few between my regular listening habits, I sometimes listen to the hard rock and metal of the Christian genre and I give in to urges to hear the classical crossover melodies of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Let it be known that I listen to classical music and opera almost exclusively.

All of that being said, a few notes about the new pieces are in order. I have seen Trans-Siberian Orchestra twice live here in Oklahoma City, and I must say that they sound much better live in concert than on CD. All of the selections that I have provided here for the listening pleasure of my readers are the ones that I like best. Wish Lizst, Wizards In Winter, Christmas Eve In Sarajevo, and Queen of the Winter Night are beyond description live. If anyone ever has the chance to see them on tour, they ought to not miss the opportunity. As I said earlier, the two Renee Fleming songs I found are probably my favorites that I was able to add. The final song, Du bist die Ruh' from her recording entitled The Schubert Album is among my top-ten favorite songs to hear. This version is exceptionally beautiful. Finally, the songs by Whitecross and Stryper are some of their best known works, and they are memories of an era when the Christian music scene had rather more talent in it than it currently possesses. It can be argued that the passing of the era came in 2005 with the retirement of Christian rock music pioneers Petra. They had been around for thirty-three years, so I can understand why they wanted to retire, but when one hears their live album Farewell and watches the videos on YouTube of drummer Paul Simmons' drum solos, one cannot help but wonder how their playing would have been on a well-crafted studio recording; they could have done a remix of Jekyll and Hyde with longer guitar solos, more drum solos, and a couple of new songs. I think Bob Hartman, their guitarist, could really have returned to the Wake Up Call and On Fire eras with his playing. It could have been great. As to why my playlist will not allow me to randomize the starting songs and the order in which the rest of them are played, I do not know, so it appears that you will have to scroll through the songs to see what new material I have added.

Enough of that; allow me to speak of opera, the thing you visited to see. Some years ago soprano Sarah Coburn, a coloratura soprano able to sing with the best artists around with equal musicianship, came to a local university to give a recital. I, who was hungry for opera then and unaware that there were different calibers of performers, was allowed to attend the event. I dressed in my best and only suit for the event, and when I arrived, I was not required to pay for my ticket because someone else had purchased too many for their party, and they gave me one. I sat on the front row in the middle of the concert hall, the most ideal of seats really, and I prepared myself for a most enjoyable Sunday afternoon. Ms. Coburn, who has recently risen to quite a level of notoriety within the opera world since, did not disappoint all of us who filled the venue, and I do not belive that there was an empty seat. It is a performance that I vividly remember. One of the selections she sang was Rossini's Una voce poco fa, and it is to this performance of it that I compare all others who sing it. After the recital, which lasted some three hours or more, Ms. Coburn signed autographs for every audience member who cared to stand in line to get it. Opera News praises her voice as "blissfully sublime," and be assured, dear, gentle reader, that they do not lie about this fact. I, the young, ignorant person I was then, asked her whether or not she was going to be featured on any upcoming Met broadcasts. She told me regretably no, but that she could not wait to be, so ever since, I have remained hopeful. She has sung at the Met; she was in the first and second runs of Tan Dun's opera The First Emperor with Placido Domingo. Recently she sang with Placido Domingo at WNO in Handel's Tamerlano, and she has sung in Rossini's Tancredi. I cannot wait to hear and see her again.
Not to perk up the hopes of those who might wish me well or to extend my little amount of good luck or providential protection, whichever you prefer, but I may be allowed to go see the recital Renee Fleming is giving in Houston, Texas, but this is only if the tickets for a gala celebration featuring dancing and dinner following the performance do not fill the seats of the concert hall prematurely. If I am so fortunate as to see what promises to be the most fascinating and anticipated piece of entertainment in my life, it would be my first time seeing Renee Fleming live in anything and, hopefully, to meet her. As soon as I learn anything about it one way or another, I will be sure to post about the developments here. May God bless all of you.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Is there an "Opera Singer's Guide to Cold Remedies," and a review of the Met's "La Rondine" Broadcast

First of all, as the title of this post suggests, I am currently inflicted with a cold. I have only had it for a few days, and I should be over the worst of it in a couple more, but I feel terrible! I hate being any kind of sick anyway, and I am very, very careful to steer clear of anyone who has the slightest symptoms of a cold (e.g. the dreaded "sniffles"). This is rather difficult, however, when everyone else in your family has one! I fended it off for a long while, so now, guess what? I have it, and the other remaining members of my family are pretty much over it.

While I have been thus plagued, I thought that opera singers, since they have probabaly the most to fear from colds and allergies and ailments of that sort, ought to have a book on various tried and true cold remedies. I could certainly use it right about now. In keeping with Renee Fleming's advice in her autobiography The Inner Voice, I try never to sing on a cold. Before I read Fleming's wonderful book, I did sing on a cold once, and it was months before I could pull anything above an F out of the air; I had to bulid up to all of my high notes. It is good that I am not involved in any productions at the moment because of this.

This talk of sickness brings me to my review of the Met's broadcast of La Rondine, which all of us loyal Metropolitan Opera radio listeners heard earlier today. Angela Gheorghiu sung the part of Magda, but before the performance began, The Met's General Manager, Peter Gelb came out onto the stage and told all of us that Gheorghiu had a cold and iterated that we ought to be patient if she missed any notes or anything. Angela sounded good despite her illness, but I did not have a score in front of me, so I cannot truly say whether she did everything right or not. I did, however, notice that she apparently was out of breath when she and her husband, Roberto Alagna, were singing a duet because it sounded like she cut off a hold before she was supposed to do so. Roberto was aware of this, and he stopped singing also to give the audience the illusion that this was the way it was supposed to be sung and to be polite. Speaking of Roberto, though, it seemed that there were several places where one could not hear him when others, mostly Angela, were singing. I cannot determine whether this was due to his place on the stage or if he was having volume problems. Renee Fleming hosted the Live in HD event, and she interviewed both of the stars backstage. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato stopped by the radio booth to give an interview with host Margaret Juntwait, and it turns out that she will be hosting the next Live in HD broadcast in movie theaters around the world, which is Orfeo ed Euridice, I believe, on January 24th. I wish they were using countertenor David Daniels to sing Orfeo like they did when this production by Mark Morris premiered last season, but if Joyce's recommendation is to be of any indication to us, Stephanie Blythe is excellent in the role. To return to my original subject for this paragraph, La Rondine was a joy to hear.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year! I have two followers!

First, I would like to thank Leah and Erin for following my blog. I was beginning to think that I should bask in the solitude of obscurity, but they have pulled me out of that blissful realm and into my present world of identity. I cannot comprehend what they see in my posts worthy to read compared to their most insightful and entertaining blogs since their lives are likely to be filled with so much more in the way of live opera than mine, but I express my deepest, most sincere, humble gratitude to them. I hope they enjoy what they read. If anyone is interested in reading their posts, and they are well worth perusing, just click the links to their pages on the blogs that I follow.

Second, I desire to wish everyone a Happy New Year! I pray that however anyone celebrated the holiday that it was safe, merry, and providentially blessed. Mine, although it was lacking in festivities and even leisure time, was all of this and more. May God make this year a good one for all of us, and may we thank Him daily for all of the blessings we receive.

In the world of opera, much has happened and there is much which we have great cause to await with pleasure. Last evening at the Met, the production of Puccini's La Rondine was performed as a Gala with Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu. Despite my not attending it, I am sure that it was a grand occasion, and we who were not a part of it can hear a live performance of it January 10th, 2009, on the radio, or we can see it in cinemas across the country and around the world at 1:00 P.M., eastern time. I shall probably listen to it over the air knowing my rotten luck in seeing The Met: Live in HD transmissions. Some other Live in HD performances that are coming to a theater near you soon are Bellini's La Sonnambula starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez on March 31st, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon on February 7th, and Rossini's La Cenerentola starring Elina Garanca and Lawrence Brownlee on May 9th. I should personally like to see Mary Zimmerman's new production of La Sonnambula. I cannot wait to hear Dessay sing Ah non credea mirarti..., but Renee Fleming's recording of it on her Bel Canto album is certainly my favorite. Anna Netrebko's version of it on her Sempre Libera CD is worth hearing also; the two sound different, not necessarily bad or wrong, only different. Fleming's sounds more tenderly sung while Netrebko's sounds best in the high notes. It is worth mentioning that Cecilia Bartoli and Juan Diego Florez released a recording of this opera (yes, La Sonnambula) with Bartoli as Amina. Bartoli, who may well be the world's greatest mezzo-soprano in the Italian repertoire, maintains that the original version of the opera was written quite lower for the prima donna. She cites performances by Maria Malibran and Giuditta Pasta, the latter of whom originated the role of Amina. Bartoli futher asserts that there was no "Malibran version" or a transposed version for mezzo-sopranos; be that as it may, three of the arias on this recording are transposed down for Bartoli. This would be a remarkable recording to own if her Vivaldi album is to be any indication for prospective purchasers. Nevertheless, I do not care if Donizetti wrote the opera for a mezzo-soprano; I still want to hear sopranos sing the role, especially if Natalie Dessay is performing as Amina. Compare Fleming's and Dessay's versions in the following videos from YouTube.

Well, that is all for now. I hope you all enjoyed this post and thanks for reading!