Monday, April 27, 2009

I Know This Has Nothing To Do With Opera, But...

I am quite prepared for everyone who follows my blog to drop me like a well-worn hat, but Chelsea's post about the border situation for dummies made me think of these videos by Glenn Beck. Please watch them, and if they make sense to you, let me and your elected and appointed officials know!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Try MetPlayer For Free May 1-3, 2009!

MetPlayer, the online archive performance subscription service of the Metropolitan Opera, is being made free to use for the weekend of May 1st through the 3rd. I shall not miss the Met's January 1, 2005, performance of Handel's Rodelinda starring Renee Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, David Daniels, Kobie van Rensburg, and John Relyea. Though I heard it in 2004 as one of the Met's broadcasts during that sector of the season, this was the first opera I ever heard, and, though I would not know it for some years to come, Renee Fleming was the first opera singer I ever heard sing in a performance, which I am sure must have been providential to me, for I could have heard someone who made me dread the art form that I so genuinely adore.

Using a search engine to search, I found two gems among their library of Renee Fleming results; one of these is part of a concert she gave in Washington, D.C., with Susan Graham entitled "The Art of French Song," and the other is a recital of Strauss and Wagner selections. I have not been yet afforded the adequate time to listen to either of these grand pieces to comment on the audio quality or the duration of the music itself, but I am looking forward to doing so soon. If one uses the search engine I have linked for you and searches for Ms. Fleming, they will find her 2003 performance of Bellini's Il Pirata from the Met. This performance is also available to hear on MetPlayer during their free weekend promotion, so you may want to hear it there, but be forewarned that you can download it through RapidShare.

I cannot wait to see Renee Fleming in Rossini's Armida when it is showcased Live in HD next season; however, I pray that Mary Zimmerman does better with it than she did this season with La Sonnambula. Renee's performance in Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier also is one not to be missed next season. I hope that all of her productions are given broadcast dates. I think it would be good of the Met to offer her a revival of Rusalka sometime in the near future as well. I liked it more than I expected earlier in the broadcast season, and I wish we may hear it again shortly.

Thank you all for reading.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Audition, or My First Experience With the Met: Live in HD

As the title of this post relates, Sunday, April 19, 2009, was my first experience with the Met's Live in HD series when I watched the documentary The Audition. Other than feeling sick during much of the film, I liked the movie. Alek Shrader, who is featured in the May issue of Opera News, totally astonished me with his rendition of Ah, mes amis. To think that he almost did not sing it for his audition scares me. It puts more fear into me that he is that good a singer and that young. The late Ryan Smith impressed and motivated me with his audition because he had little formal training before then; it was almost as if I could see myself in his place immediately. Iwas pleasantly surprised at Marco Armiliato's attitude with all of these young professionals. I was expecting a conductor to be rather harsh, but he was there entirely for the singer as if they were the grandest diva or star in the world. If I ever become an opera singer, I would really like to work with him as much as I could. I would not be surprised if he did prove instrumental in securing Michael Fabiano's debut at La Scala. I learned something about this "cut-throat" world of opera, also. I was amazed at how cordial every member of the staff was to each of the contestants; they actually wanted them to succeed. The panel discussion with Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson dispelled some further myths about auditioning. The greatest one is probably that pesky nagging that you cannot make a mistake, and that the judges are predisposed to dislike you. They, especially Thomas Hampson, advise us to go into an audition showing the judges what we have to offer. We should go in there to sing what we know we can sing and to do it as well as we can, and if they do not accept us, we must go on and try again; we must not try to fit ourselves into a box we think is what the jurors wish to see and hear; rather, we should simply show them what we have to offer as if we were street merchants selling our wares. If the judges like someone else's items better, they will choose them instead of us. It is that simple. All we must do is remember that.

If anyone is palnning a trip to Europe this summer, the festival line-up looks appealing in many places. Salzburg, as is customary for them, offers an impressive mix of singers for its recitals this year with Rolando Villazon, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Pettibon, Magdalena Kozena, Thomas Quasthoff, Matthias Goerne, Jonas Kaufmann, and Juan Diego Florez. Their operatic offerings are Handel's Theodora, Haydn's Armida, and Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte and Le Nozze di Figaro. Another of Austria's festivals, the Schubertiade, promises to be an excellent recital venue as well with the notable mentions of Andreas Scholl, Kate Royal, Quasthoff, Ian Bostridge, Anne Sofie von Otter, and an ensemble recital with Bostridge, Quasthoff, Dorothea Roschmann, and Angelika Kirchschlager on September 5th. Austria would definitely be on my travel list for Europe this summer, but there are music festivals in many countries of Europe if not in every one, and most of the others about which I know offer excellent performances, also.

The region explored in this year's edition of Opera News' annual travel issue is Scandanavia. I had no idea that this region of the world had given us so many of the legendary singers or that it had such a rich operatic tradition and heritage. I usually associate Vikings with this almost arctic locale, and it is difficult for me to relate Vikings and opera to each other.

Oh, yes! Am I the only one disappointed with the new online Met Opera Shop? The old one had so many more items to offer! The new one is a branch of the Met's website, and it features only a few CD's, DVD's, and some products that are inspired by the Met. While I am on the topic, I might as well say that I also despair that the Met does not release more of their Live in HD presentations onto DVD. I especially want to see their Opening Night Gala put on disc!

Finally, I heard Irene Theorin in Wagner's Seigfried on Saturday and I left the broadcast thinking of how I wished I could have heard her throughout the cycle instead of for the limited time one does in the third part of Wagner's epic Ring cycle. Wagner's music did take me to that fairy-tale world that is created with the Norse mythology, but it did not accomplish this so well as Dvorak's Rusalka did for me earlier this season. From what I heard, we have nothing to worry about Theorin's voice deteriorating; she is excellent.

Thank you all for reading.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Life is Unfair, or Why Do I Still Like Opera?

The title of my post is the question I have been asking myself for the past couple of weeks now.

I had best begin at the inception of this train of thought. When my local PBS station's regular channel decided to air Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, I told my mother that I wanted to view it, to which she replied that this would probably be acceptable unless someone else wanted to watch something. This last part of the of the sentence, the caveat vendor if you will, applies to me since nobody else in my family, and I do mean no one else, likes opera, and, therefore, everyone else's viewing pleasure takes precedence over mine generally every time. I am aware that this is only fair since I am the minority, but since I have never been to a live opera performance, since I have not even been allowed to attend the Met's Live in HD engagements in theaters (I shall give my mother a little credit for at least reluctantly trying to take me to see Thais with Renee Fleming, though she would not take me to see the Met's Opening Night Gala at a local theater since she did not want to have to take me to a movie theater right after she finished working.) and since I have only ever been afforded the opportunity to go to only one recital by a singer in my entire life, I think it would be nice if I was allowed some liberty to watch opera on television on the increasingly rare opportunities I have to do so.

All of this finally brings us to the airing of Lucia di Lammermoor. When the appointed time came for the telecast to air, I asked my mother if I might watch it, and she offered me a counter inquiry of "What are the rest of us supposed to do, just leave the room?" Well, an hour later, after searching for something, anything, to watch on TV, she said in the most normal voice you can imagine, "Tyler, I suppose you can watch your opera thing you wanted to see now," and I responded that I had already missed a third of it. She enlightened me that I should grateful to view whatever I could of it, and normally I would be inclined to agree with her on a point such as this, but I felt more than a little disappointed that yet again I had been subjected to missing something I wanted to do because of something unimportant.

If you want to continue reading this dreary post, I will also tell you that Music Choice has removed their opera channel from their program offerings, and I am very upset at this. That channel at the end of my list of channels provided by my cable service provider was one of the staples of my leisure viewing, and arguably my favorite channel. I shall miss it. Perhaps they shall bring it back again soon. If there is anyone who liked that channel, I would encourage them to leave a comment on their website.

Finally, I cannot wait until I can see my first opera either Live in HD or at the Met. I do not think I should mind where I saw it so long as Renee Fleming was in the cast. I am hoping that I may begin driving soon, and that I may garner a the little amounts of freedom that shall accompany that privilege. By the way does anyone have any suggestions for me to see opera?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

This Is Not The End Of The World

The Met's Braodcast Season, the primary way through which I am able to experience the luxury of opera, ends in two weeks. I have missed half of the Ring cycle for various reasons, but I am still looking forward to listening to the last half. I hear from the Associated Press, who's knowledge of how opera ought to be performed is questionable to me, that the Met's replacement for soprano Christine Brewer in the role of Brunnhilde, Irene Theorin, is not doing well in her debut role. I want to hear Theorin for myself before I form an opinion. Anyone who has heard Theorin in this run at the Met could inform me as to what I should expect.

However, despite the Met's Broadcast Season ending in two weeks, there are still some excellent performances left in their season. Last evening at 8:00 P.M., they offered Verdi's Rigoletto starring Joseph Calleja and Diana Damrau. I would have loved to hear this cast earlier in the season. I heard Calleja's Duke last season on the broadcast, and his tenor is a beautiful lyric one. As for Damrau, little is required for me to say in her honor. I love hearing every performance of hers that I can. Let us hope that we are allowed to hear her next season as Marie in La Fille du Regiment in the broadcast season.

Easter Sunday went well for me. My family, including two extended branches of it, were camping together. As you may have heard, our state of Oklahoma received great amounts of rain. We were able to dodge the rain that drenched our state by coming home a day early. However, we did not do anything to observe the sacred holiday except to watch a Biblical movie. If the decision had been put to me, I should have elected that we had went to a service somewhere and sung a Liturgic Mass, and that preferrably in Latin in accordance with the old customs (Before you all frown in disdain, I may remind you that I am a singer with a healthy curiosity for a broad range of classical vocal music.).

The Audition, a film that follows and documents the Met's National Council Grand Finals Concert, specifically the performers of that event, from, I believe, 2007 is going to be released in four days! I hope that I may go see it, but my record of seeing anything, especially anything related to opera, at the cinema is not very laudable. Let us hope and pray that I break this cursed cycle. This documentary, which I call a recital by young performers, should be exciting if only for the performance of Ah, mes amis by one of the tenors. If everyone else is terrible, and I highly doubt that, and that tenor nails his aria to the wall, the entire two hours will be worth it. After the movie, I understand that Renee Fleming hosts a panel discussion with Thomas Hampson and Susan Graham about what it is like to be involved in an audition of this importance. I really want to see this part.

Tonight, in a rare occurence, my local PBS station is showing Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor from the Met's Live in HD series. My mother tells me I may be allowed to watch it depending upon what the other members of the family desire to view. I shall have to inform you as to how that goes.

Lest my readers forget, we still have one more Live in HD event scheduled for this season. On May 9th (write that down!) we get to see Elina Garanca and Lawrence Brownlee in Rossini's La Cenerentola. This promises to be an excellent performance.

Well at least we know that the end of my world has been delayed for a month.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hey, Batter, Batter, ...Swing!

My readers are not going to believe what I am about to tell them: I am now a bona fide Little League Baseball Coach! Before I grauduated from high school, I used to play on a homeschool baseball team, and this year since my younger siblings are playing on their softball and baseball teams, they asked me to coach and direct their team of 10-12-year-old boys. I acquiesced, and now I am the head coach. The first night of practice, which was Tuesday, we only had ten boys show up, so I am hoping we get some more kids to round out our teams; Because this is not really competitive, that is to say that the teams do not play other public school counterpart teams from across the state, I need about eight more boys to make two "teams" or sides to play against each other. I am hoping that this will be a fun experience, but I also know how boys that age can be.

As for opera, which I have regretfully neglected of late, I cannot wait for Opera News' May issue to be published since that is the annual Travel Issue. Last year they documented Switzerland with all of its opera houses, the Lucerne Festival, which I think would be wonderful to attend, and the fine dining opportunities. My fine dining recollection does not extend beyond Zio's Italian Kitchen, where I usually order Greek Pasta to taste both of the flavors of the opposite sides of the Adriatic Sea (?). This is probably not detrimental to me since gourmet establishments are often known for not only how delectable and delicious their food is, but also how much they charge for serving it to you. Is not this system of free enterprise one which promotes prosperity? I support it to the utmost extent.

Moving back to opera, I am sad that the Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts are taking their annual hiatus from the airwaves. I long for the first Saturday in December already, and it is yet only April! I shall have the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the San Francisco, Houston, and, I believe, the Los Angeles Opera's broadcasts to comfort me in the interim, however. The allure of a summer festival still beckons to my spirit, and I can picture myself, with, or perhaps without, a companion, seated in a relaxing pose on the grass listening and watching rapturously as a singer performs their favorite works. The image I have conjured almost makes me wish I had seen Frederica von Stade at the OK Mozart festival last year instead of seeing the national touring production of Phantom of the Opera, which was a once-in-a-lifetime performance for me. If I stay where I am in my current appontment, it may be that I shall never do something so extravagant as that again. I still remember today how my father drove my mother, my younger sister, whom I had elected to share this gift with me (It was for my graduation from high school.), and me to Tulsa after he and I had spent four hours working on my white 1986 Chevrolet Scottsdale truck, and we arrived literally five minutes before the performance began. Three of the four passengers bailed out of the cab built to carry three when the doorman opened, and I am sure he was laughing at the sight we were. I was just glad to learn he was not coming to tell us that the performance had already started, for I did not know it was his office to open our door for us! Needless to say, it was an experience and a performance I shall not soon forget.

Here are the photographs I promised to show you. These views are from a church's bell tower overlooking the southwest quadrant of Oklahoma City.

This is the top of the sanctuary's dome:

The largest structure in this photo is the Oklahoma County Jail:

This is part of the neighborhood surrounding the church (You can see the shadow of the tower in this one.):

This is the rear view of the Pastor's mansion adjacent to the church:

Thanks for reading.


Monday, April 6, 2009

What I Am Actually Doing Over The Summer...

I told my gracious readers in a previous post what I desired to do over the summer months; I have decided to follow that post with this one to compare my fancies with reality.

It turns out that I shall be a part of a theatrical production this summer with my local community theatre company with whom I like to perform. Even though I did not audition, because I am amicably acquainted with the director of the production, I have been added to the cast of Fiddler On The Roof. The originally assembled cast had a deficiency of men in the cast, and I think that this fact helped me to be lately cast. I am extremely thankful for this blessing to me from God. I first watched the movie version today, and I am excited for rehearsals to begin in June.

After speaking with my friend Jay and another acquaintance who shall currently remain anonymous, I have determined that it would be in my best interest to take the ACT test. My new "counselors" seem to believe that I could easily receive a mark high enough to attend any university of my choice in Oklahoma; all of this advice is based on information and evidence that I have given them, but I remain unconvinced, though I trust in them enough to prepare for the opportunity it would provide me. Before I apply to take the ACT, I definitely must revisit the subject of mathematics and give it new concentration. I pray that God's providence will help me in this.

Insofar as I know, I am to continue working at Poteet for an indefinite period of time to be determined by my employer, or else when he becomes bereft of tasks to assign to me, whichever comes first. I enjoy the work that I do, and there are many who cannot say as much; indeed, there are many who possess no means of support at all, and some are better men than I. May God deliver them into better circumstances in His good time.

As I have done these past four years or so, I shall continue to maintain the lawns of my customers who cannot do so themselves. This excercise for the body also proves to be excercise for the mind on various occasions, and this pays me far greater dividends than the former. I perform this task out of the pleasure it brings me to help the elderly at a nominal price. The real reward for me is oftentimes the conversation I hold with them at other times outside of our regular discourse.

As I promised in another post, I took pictures to show you a grand view of Oklahoma City available to few, but I regret that I cannot yet upload them here. I promise that they shall make the next one, and I hope you like them.

Thank you all for reading, and I hope you all are as excited about what the summer holds for them as I am for what it brings to me!