Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Progressions to Something of Enjoyment and, Hopefully, Distances Shortened Toward a Common Goal

As I promised in my previous post, I shall explain exactly what I meant by not being excited about the broadcast of Rossini's Armida next year. When I said that, I am sure a few readers were shocked due to my shameless adoration for Renee Fleming's voice, for how could such a devoted audience member deprive himself of elation and ecstasy for one of her broadcasts? First, I must say that I am not completely mad, for I shall probably hear it, but I shall also see this production on its opening night in person at the Metropolitan Opera, where I will be sitting in the Dress Circle to witness such a spectacle, on the eighteenth day of February. A dear friend of mine and I are spending the days between February sixteenth and the twenty-first in New York City, and our airplane tickets have been in hand since the middle of October, and our Met tickets were bought this past Friday! I am exceptionally overjoyed at what I shall experience, and I am quite sure that I shall never be the same afterwards. Sarah, I may never want to resign to living in Oklahoma after I visit your locale! We, which is to say my friend and I, are staying with friends while we are there, whose company I anticipate with great enthusiasm, but I hope to meet many new people during our visit.

  On December 11th, which was a very cold and blustery day in Oklahoma, and which happened to be the day of Poteet Theatre's final performance of Guys and Dolls, I awoke very early, and I took the ACT for the first time in my academic career. While I am yet waiting to see my results, I expect that my score will reside in the low twenties median, for there were certain portions of the test in mathematics that proved difficult for me, and I did not employ a calculator during my examination, so I hope that my score is not lower than a twenty-two. Moreover, I elected to receive the writing test as well in some effort to endeavor to improve my overall score, and I hope to receive a three on it. Despite what may be considered a poor effort on my part, I was pleased with my maiden attempt on the examination, and I was relieved to find that it was not so strenuous or rigorous as I had been made to expect. With any providence from God, I shall be attending Oklahoma City University in the autumn of next year.

  At the risk of inundating my readers with too much information concerning me and my trivial successes in life recently, I shall, nevertheless, include a summary of what I have been learning in my voice lessons. Before I began to receive lessons, I was worried that my voice was not of a caliber great enough to be considered classical and, therefore, fit to pursue that profession academically, but my teacher insists that my voice is excellent, and my raw talent is quite good. She praises my diction and my natural ability to almost repeat music in the way it should be sung, and she says that my breath and support techniques provide me with a firm foundation for the remainder of my training. In conclusion, she tells me that I should not have any difficulty in being accepted to my university of choice with the potential my voice has, and, what is most rewarding to me to hear, I am, in fact, an operatic tenor. I cannot describe how marvelous it is to finally know that one fact. I have hoped for that to be true, but there have been so many times that I have questioned my supposition's veracity; however, now I have heard it from someone else who is a professional in this field and a respected singer by many other performers. My voice is large, and I can reach an A above the staff quite easily on most days, and there are times that she will give me the excercise of climbing to a Bb to work on acquiring that range without effort as my voice continues to develop to its ripened state. I am pleased to inform you and myself that we have excellent rapport, and she is most encouraging to me. I hope that our collaboration is a lengthy one, and I am immensely grateful to her for her courtesy and grace to me.

  That is all that I shall report for the present, and I am ingratiated that all of you continue to peruse my posts. I promise to devote a post to Christmas before the holiday arrives, and I pray that God continues to keep all of you within His grace.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera's 80th Boradcast Season

  Yesterday was the inception of the Metropolitan Opera's eightieth consecutive season of live radio broadcasts, and they began their season with Verdi's Don Carlo starring Marina Poplavskaya, Ferrucio Furlanetto, Anna Smirnova, Yonghoon Lee, Simon Keenlyside, and Eric Halfvarson, and it was conducted by the admirable Yannick Nezet-Seguin, the young Canadian who conducted last season's electrifying Carmen broadcast. I, unfortunately, missed this promising offering, but I cannot lament such an happening since I was at a dear friend's wedding while this broadcast was heard by many opera aficionados. I was anxious to hear Nezet-Seguin conduct this opera to see what passion and emotion he would imbue into his orchestra, but this wedding was much more enjoyable for me to attend.

  Christmas Day brings us the historic broadcast of this season, which is the rarely performed work of Smetana entitled The Bartered Bride. It being the fortieth anniversary of James Levine's career with the Metropolitan Opera as their Music Director, this broadcast is from December 2, 1978, and he leads the forces of his orchestra and Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, and Jon Vickers in this offering. I am sure that it will be something to remember with admiration, for I have generally found Gedda to be a tenor of excellent voice. Some of his readings are not to my individual liking, but his voice was in marvelous condition, and I have never heard it said that he took too many liberties or risks with it. I hope that this broadcast is in the original Czech instead of English.

  On New Year's Day, we are treated to Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande starring Magdalena Kozena, who I enjoy with greater pleasure each time I hear her, Felicity Palmer, Stephane Degout, Willard White, and Gerald Finley. I heard this opera the last time the Met broadcast it, and I recall that I was engrossed more by the drama than the music ans singing, for the plot was my main attraction to opera in that time, and I remember feeling so much sympathy for Melisande and the tragic circumstances in which she found herself. I do expect that I shall pay better attention to the other aspects of the performance this time, for Debussy's music is most interesting to me. I am ecstatic to hear Sir Simon Rattle in his debut conducting at the Met, for you can download his maiden foray at the Met here. I hope to listen to it prior to the broadcast in the interest of knowing if anything changed in his reading or command of the orchestra during the interim between the two performances.

  If I may digress for a moment, I should very much like to alight upon my appreciation for Kozena and her voice. Looking at her appreciable discography, one is immediately made aware of her versatility with her voice. I happen to prefer her performances of Baroque music best, for I think the long, languid lines of the music that Handel, Vivaldi, and other composers of the era devoted to sorrow yield themselves well to her voice's unique timbre. Though it shall be known at once that she is not a native of the English language when she sings Handel or Purcell, for the idiosyncratic pronunciations of some syllables do present themselves from time to time as they shall from those who are used to the Slavic tongues, her diction is good, and her voice captures and exhibits sad emotion marvelously well. I adore her voice, and I wish that she had a greater career here in the United States. I won her recent recording of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn under Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra, which is reviewed in the January issue of Opera News, from Deutsche Grammophon on Twitter, and I was quite impressed with her interpretation of Mahler. Her and Christian Gerhaher's performances make me want to explore more of Mahler's work, which I have an opportunity to do with another recording I won from Twitter, which was Rattle's Grammy-winning recording of Mahler's Tenth Symphony with the Berliner Philharmoniker.

  To return to the subject at hand, however, please allow me to mention some of my greatest expectations from the remainder of the broadcast season. After Debussy's opera I shall look forward to hearing Puccini's La Fanciulla del West, for I recently discovered that it is one of my friend's favorite operas, so I want to hear it and know why they like it best. I should like to know if there is an archive recording of the world premiere of this opera with Caruso and Destinn available anywhere. It would be marvelous to hear it. Aside from that fact, my other reason to hear it is to hear Deborah Voigt opposite Marcello Giordani, who sings so many diverse Italian pieces. I think his voice is as near to the opulent tenor as we shall see for a long time hence. Jonas Kaufmann is another such artist, and I think that he shall be the next Placido Domingo, for he yet sings dramatic German repertoire and Italian and French operas for the lighter voices almost without us knowing the difference.

  La Traviata, which I have often heard and, therefore, know well, looks promising from the perspective of the cast, and I think the production even has its merits, for Marina Poplavskaya is quite the soprano to watch according to Opera News, but Matthew Polenzani's Alfredo from 2007 opposite Renee Fleming was not as refined as I had hoped he would be, so I am praying that he is in better voice these years later in this broadcast. His opening of the second act was a little weak, and his support was wavering by the end of his aria, but I think that he shall have remedied that by now. Gianandrea Noseda, who we heard quite often with the BBC Proms this summer, conducts this opera, and I expect it shall be an admirable interpretation.

  January 22, 2011, brings us the acclaimed Rigoletto production of Otto Schenk with Joseph Calleja's acclaimed Duke in the cast. Nino Machaidze is Gilda. I have heard her in this role before, and she does a fine performance. Fred Plotkin names this the ideal stater opera, so anyone who is unfamiliar with this art form should definitely visit this offering by Verdi.

  Puccini's Tosca is presented on January 29th, and I am greatly anticipating Sondra Radvanovsky's portrayal of the heroine. She is presently the foremost Verdi heroine our decade knows, so it will be interesting to see how this transfers to Puccini's masterpiece. Marcelo Alvarez and Paul Plishka round the cast, and Marco Armiliato, who is a vibrant, exuberant conductor, leads the orchestra.

  The broadcast of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra has what could be considered a perfect cast in Barbara Fritolli, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Ramon Vargas, and Ferrucio Furlanetto. These artists are solid in every exhibition of their trade, and it will be a joy to hear them collaborate. It almost has the nostalgia of an historic broadcast to it! James Levine provides us with his interpretation of the score in his fortieth season with the Met.

  Don Pasquale will be a pleasant respite from the dramatic offerings of the previous two weeks, and I hope to hear the comedy [and the slap] in this performance from Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, John Del Carlo, and Mariusz Kwiecien.

  It is a rare thing to be able to compare a performance of a work with the exact principles two years apart from each other, but on February 26th, that is exactly what we may do with Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride, which stars Placido Domingo, Susan Graham, and Paul Groves. Patrick Summers, who is the principal conductor at the Houston Grand Opera, leads this performance.

  I shall not be anxious to hear Rossini's Armida, for I shall have yet seen it in person, but, if I may insert a careful amount of mystery into my ramblings, you shall have to read my next post to learn the details of that statement. Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee have excellent chemistry.

  I do not usually place as much emphasis on Russian repertoire, which is probably due to the fact that I do not understand a word of the lexicon, but Valery Gergiev heads a performance of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov that boasts a fine cast with Ekaterina Semenchuk, Aleksandrs Antonenko, and Rene Pape among others. This promises to be a strong performance.

  I must confess that I greatly relish Natalie Dessay's portrayal of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, and I am pleased to say that we shall be hearing it with Joseph Calleja as her fiance under the baton of Summers.

  We are gifted to hear the controversial new production of Wagner's Ring on April 2nd, and I must say that this looks like a rather weak Wagner cast. Nevertheless, thinking about the great use of technology in the production, one finds great respect for the work and its performers.

  In what may be the most welcomed production and performance of the season, Rossini's Le Comte Ory makes it debut at the Met with a stellar cast of Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, and Juan Diego Florez, and the production is designed by Bartlett Sher. This appears to be a gem of the season which will be remembered with great fondness hereafter. These singers are all electrifying in every performance they give, so I am excited to hear this one.

  I could speak volumes about Renee Fleming in Strauss's Capriccio. Her portrayal of the Countess in Robert Carsen's production, which is immortalized in the 2004 DVD release from the Paris National Opera and TDK, was simply exquisite. The final scene is divinely gorgeous, and it is little wonder that she chose it to close her performance in the Metropolitan Opera's Opening Night Gala in 2008. I shall not be available on April twenty-third, for I shall be satisfying my craving for Renee Fleming's sublime voice. Her cast members include Sarah Connolly, Joseph Kaiser, and Russell Braun, and Andrew Davis conducts her performance.

  April 30, 2011, sees the return of Sondra Radvanovsky to her usual Verdi territory in Verdi's Il Trovatore, which she does sing with some regularity. Marcelo Alvarez, who sang opposite her in the Tosca broadcast, sings the role of Manrico, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who is moving into Verdi with great force, and Dolora Zajick, who is a versatile mezzo-soprano to say the least, are also in the cast.

  I have heard Ariadne auf Naxos more than a few times, and it is not one of my particularly favorite operas, but he cast of this performance does excite me, for we are scheduled to hear Violetta Urmana, Joyce DiDonato, the mesmerizing Kathleen Kim, Robert Dean Smith, and Thomas Allen. Fabio Luisi conducts, which makes me a little nervous, for I do not really consider him an interpreter of Strauss, but this cast shall shape a fine performance.

  The final broadcast of the season is Wagner's Die Walkure with Deborah Voigt, who assays her first Brunnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Stephanie Blythe, Jonas Kaufmann, and Bryn Terfel. This assembly of Wagnerians, who are supported by James Levine, promises to be rather better than that in the first of Wagner's epic cycle earlier this season, and I have great anticipations for it.

  That concludes the season of broadcasts, and I hope that my humble additions of description to them made them come alive to your minds and ears. Thank you for perusing my posts, and I have greatly enjoyed these two years that I have been blogging. If I do not say so prior to the event, I wish all of my readers a merry Christmas, and I hope that they are splendidly blessed with their families over the holiday.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life's Happenings

To sate the curiosity of my readers until I can write a proper, full post, let it suffice for the present for them to know that I have three things for which I am most excited at present. These three blessings are that I am receiving voice lessons form an excellent teacher, who also happens to be an adjunct professor of voice at Oklahoma City University, I have an extremely good chance of attending university there next fall majoring in vocal performance, and I am going to see Renee Fleming in "Armida" in February at the Met! I am exceedingly blessed!

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Day After a Marvelous Evening

Upon this last evening, the Metropolitan Opera opened its exciting, glamorous 2010-2011 season with their new production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold. While necessity dictated that I could not hear it in its entirety, I heard much of it, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy Wagner's luscious music. The Germanic and Slavic music of the latter half of the nineteenth century is especially resplendent, and the rich harmonies are as refreshing as water to the spirit and the ear. The cast, which included Bryn Terfel, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Stephanie Blythe, Gerhard Siegel, Eric Owens, Patricia Bardon, Richard Croft, Franz-Josef Selig, and Hans-Peter Konig, proved to be in excellent form, and maestro James Levine, who is a noted Wagnerian conductor, led the orchestra exceedingly well. The warm timbres of the brass and the woodwinds blended excellently with the strings, and there seemed to be real cohesion between all of the various groups of instruments. I have heard the complete Ring cycle on other occasions, but this beginning makes me excited for the rest of it, and it solidifies the reasons why I enjoy it so much when I hear it within my mind. This new production was designed by Robert Lepage, and after I viewed the images of the performance on the Met's website, I was most impressed with the technological magic that happened on that stage. There are so many lighting and projection effects that make the actions on stage appear to be so much more realistic in the audience's perception of them, and it makes you wish that every opera was produced with such realism infused into it. The one thing that did disappoint me was an apparent lack of any set pieces. I think that this production could have been even that much better with forest trees and different rocks and things of that nature. I am waiting to see a waterfall on the Met's stage! To give us some idea of the technical demands of this production, there appears to be forty-three computer monitors in the Met's auditorium during rehearsal in a photograph of the sight. To reflect upon the whole, we can safely say that this marvelous production, which makes us wonder as to the actual technical limits of the Metropolitan Opera, is a resounding success.

Tonight we are treated to the joys of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann as the second performance of the Metropolitan Opera's newly commenced season, and it stars the delightful Kate Lindsey, Giuseppe Filianotti, whose voice is better suited to the leading role than Joseph Calleja's in my opinion, for this role requires a tenor who has a light voice, Anna Christy, and Ildar Abdrazakov. When I watched this production on my local PBS station last year, I was immediately struck by the details within the production, and I thought that Kate Lindsey was excellent as Nicklausse and the Muse. Her character was ever present, which gave the three episodes continuity and it provided a greater depth to her characters. The surprise of last year's cast was the beautiful voice of Kathleen Kim. Her voice was exceedingly clear, and she has one of those sopranos that you desire to hear again and again. If I listen to John Adams' Nixon in China for no other reason, it will be to hear her sing the role of Chian Ch'ing. Tonight promises to be an excellent performance, and it will be broadcast live on the Metropolitan Opera's SiriusXM channel at eight o'clock this evening in the Eastern time zone.

As for the personal nature of my blog, if I may share some of the things that have been happening to me of late, I was given my first supporting role in a musical, and I am scheduled to perform as Lieutenant Brannigan in Loesser's Guys and Dolls in November near the Thanksgiving holiday. I have also been asked to assist the production team of a church's children's Christmas musical, and I hope it turns out better than performances of that variety usually do.

I was approached yesterday by an adjunct professor of voice from Oklahoma City University, which is an university you should know for the reason that it is the alma mater of Broadway stars Kristen Chenoweth and Kelli O'Hara and opera soprano Sarah Coburn, and this professor, whom I have come to know rather well, very graciously offered to provide free voice lessons to me since she and my employer are good friends and colleagues, and after I voiced my obvious reservations and apprehensions to such an arrangement, we came to the mutual agreement that I should take them at her continued behest. I am scheduled to meet with her next week to converse upon my specific goals and fundamental knowledge, and I am immensely excited to have been presented with this wonderful opportunity.

To mention something of opera before I should finish this post, I was most enthralled by the BBC Proms over the summer months, and they are an exceptional comfort when the opera season in the United States is taking a leave of absence to prepare for the next season. There were so many extraordinary singers who displayed themselves in so many diverse works, and I enjoyed every concert I heard from the world's largest classical music festival. I must say that I have yet to hear Dorothea Roschmann's recital from the festival, but I have it waiting for the next convenient opportunity, so I have high expectations for this lauded performance.

As many of you now are aware, I have discovered an excellent place to hold recourse and learn about opera through Twitter. There are many star singers who have accounts with this social media outlet, and they update them with some regularity. Many of the organizations that present their talents to us also have accounts, and these are most informative places from which to receive information. Broadway shows even have Twitter accounts, and they have contests to win souvenirs from the shows sometimes. I won an autographed poster from the cast of A Little Night Music recently, and I cannot wait to see it on my wall! Yes, the last part was boastful on my part, but that is just one of my vices that my readers must accept.

Thank you for continuing to peruse my humble posts, and I pray that God continues to bless you in every facet of your lives.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Medici TV

Because of my late fascination with Twitter and using it at as a means to learn more about opera, I discovered an incredible find in a website called Medici TV. Medici TV is an online subscription service that specializes in providing classical music and opera performances for their members to watch. Their catalogue includes quite an exhaustive amount of selections of performances from the Verbier festival, and I watched Renee Fleming's recital with the Berlin Philharmoniker Orchestra, which was conducted by Maestro Ion Marin, and I was thoroughly impressed with the repertoire of the concert. Any devoted aficionado of Renee Fleming's will enjoy this performance, which can be streamed for free, because it displays so much of her recorded work. She sings the Final Scene from Richard Strauss's Capriccio, Marietta's Lied from Erich Korngold's Die tote Stadt, all three of the La Boheme selections by Puccini and Leoncavallo from her Verismo album, and O mio babbino, caro. The program is entitled A Night of Love, and I enthusiastically enjoyed the performance. The venue for the performance was an outdoor ampithteatre, and it looked exceptionally inviting. Looking at the audience who experienced this performance personally, I was deeply envious because you could see that many patrons had brought picnic meals along with them to enjoy the evening, and most of them appeared to be having a marvelous time. One of the things which irked me, however, was that, when the camera focused on them, some people in the audience looked as if they would rather be anywhere else but there.

The vidoe stream is about two hours, but it is well worth it. Ion Marin does an admirable job of leading the Berlin Philharmoniker Orchestra, and Fleming sounds just as excellent as she usually does. O mio babbino caro sounds almost exactly as it does on her self-titled album, and I thought she provided something for every audience member to enjoy in her selections. Her attire was also gorgeous. Capriccio's final scene did not seem quite so long as I remembered it, and I found myself drifting into the music rather more easily this time than when I watched her DVD performance of the opera from Paris. I always anticipate the Korngold selection with elation, but I wish she would sing Ich ging zu ihm more often, for that music is exceptionally beautiful.

Finally, one might wish to view other concerts from the Verbier Festival, and I know I am looking forward to seeing one by Angelika Kirschlager, so feel free to visit MediciTV's website to enjoy opera to its fullest extent. I thank all of you for reading my humble posts, and may God continue to bless us.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Renee Fleming in Armida on PBS, and Opera on Twitter

Concerning the first part of my post's title,  Mary Zimmerman's latest production for the Metropolitan Opera, Gioacchino Rossini's Armida, will be aired on PBS later this month. My local station is scheduled to air it on the twenty-eighth, and I am immensely excited to see this again after being one of the nearly two hundred thousand audience members who saw it in May as part of the Met's Live in HD season. The cast included the radiant Renee Fleming as Armida, who is supposed to be a sorceress, the incomparable Lawrence Brownlee as Rinaldo, who falls in love with Armida, the surprisingly talented John Osborne, and a former cast member to Renee in Handel's Rodelinda when it was last presented at the Metropolitan Opera, Kobie van Rensburg. Because I immensely enjoyed this performance, when I discovered that the Met was scheduled to revive this production for the 2010-11 season with much of the same cast including Fleming, I elected to choose it as the anchor of my entertainment for my maiden visit to New York City next year.

The production itself was rather lacking in developing and advancing the chronicle of events, and I did not think that it gave enough emphasis to the magic potential of the production, since this was a critical point of the Met's marketing of this production, and, for evidence of this, I refer to the line that I constantly read which regularly mentioned Fleming starring as "Rossini's sorceress". I wish Zimmerman would think in such visionary spectrums as Robert Lepage or in such wonderfully revitalizing terms as Bartlett Sher. Beyond the failings of the production, I must say that the singing was most enjoyable, and the tenors performed exceptionally well. I was impressed by the varying vocal tones of the different tenors, who are all respected as opulent performers of the Bel Canto repertoire. Lawrence Brownlee's high notes sounded almost effortless, and I must admit that I was extraordinarily envious of his marvelous voice. I would appreciate seeing him perform in other Rossini operas that are rarely performed, so I would be anxious to see him Guillame Tell somewhere.

As for the second portion of my title, it may have come to some of my readers' attention that I have included a Twitter widget to my blog's sidebar, which implies that I have a Twitter account. I have found a wealth of information through both Chelsea and SarahB, and I would like to think that I have become a better acquaintance to both of them in the process. Chelsea and SarahB, I proffer my immense gratitude to you both for so readily accepting my presence on Twitter and through following your respective blogs, and I have exuberantly enjoyed learning so much from the both of your collective knowledge of opera. I have also discovered that opera has an enormous presence on Twitter. I follow sixty-nine people or organizations, most of which are related to opera or the arts, which is a considerable amount of entities when one considers the limited amount of time that I have spent using Twitter. It turns out that almost any piece of relevant news to opera that can be expressed in one hundred forty characters or less can be found on this rather unique social networking website. Danielle De Niese, Renee Fleming, Joyce DiDonato, Thomas Hampson, the Metropolitan Opera, and most of the other major opera houses of the nation, and, indeed, the world, have Twitter feeds, and I have collected all of the ones of which I am aware into a list, which is what I display in my Twitter widget as a feed. The amount of information one can receive from these short communiques is most definitely immense, and it is not difficult to hold conversations on a given subject between a group of people, for Chelsea, SarahB, and I discussed American opera and Tobias Pickers's An American Tragedy recently. I hope that this new medium of communication affords us as great an opportunity at discovering new things about opera as any of its predecessors, and I am pleased to think that I am an humble part of it. I currently possess five followers to my tweets, as they are colloquially known by account holders to the service, and among this group of individuals is Carnegie Hall's Twitter account. I am most exuberant about this, and, while my cause for rejoice may be slight in the minds of some, I am honored that I am referenced by such a revered establishment as it is among our world of entertainment venues.

I thank all of youfor continuing to peruse my posts, and I continue to pray for God's blessings to each of you.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra's 2010-11 Engagements

Renée Fleming at the 2009 premiere of the Metr...Image via Wikipedia

While the European ones are entirely another matter, I do not usually follow the recitals and concerts of orchestras throughout the United States. In the case of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, however, I have made a notable exception, for I understand that Renee Fleming is scheduled to perform with them on Saturday, October 2, 2010. Usually, I look into all of my favorite singers' European schedules to see where they are performing with orchestras for the chance to see if the recital will be broadcast, but those in the United States are rarely broadcast. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has made a contract with KWMU for that public radio station to play most of their Saturday evening concerts on the air, and I am of the opinion that such is the case regarding Renee Fleming's recital! The gala event begins at seven o'clock P.M., but the airing does not start until an hour later; of course, this could be a delay in the broadcast or something, which I greatly hope it to be, and I hope to record it with Audacity.

When I learned of Renee Fleming's appearance with the orchestra, I elected to learn what other soloists they would present this season, and I was surprised to find the following list of performers that I shall relate. This season promises concerts by Louis Langree conducting Anne Akiko Meyers in Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, K 216, Joshua Bell playing Tchaikovsky, pianist Orli Shaham performs Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Andre Watts lends his talents to the Piano Concerto by Edvard Grieg, Emanuel Ax offers Brahams' Piano Concerto, No. 1, Semyon Bychkov conducts an evening highlighting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, and he returns to conduct Mahler's Sixth Symphony, Chris Botti has an engagement to fulfill with them, Christine Brewer is the soprano soloist in Mahler's Second Symphony, Yefim Bronfman plays some of Tchaikovsky's piano melodies, and Cyndia Sieden and Richard Troxell lend their voices to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. That appears to be a most exceptional season for claasical music, and this is not even the New York Philharmonic or the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the best part remains that most of these performances shall be broadcast on Missouri's public radio station KWMU. That is a most exciting piece of news for those of us who like to preserve recordings of recitals and performances for our listening pleasure.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

$20 Million Pays for a Concert Hall of 875 Seats?!

Perhaps I do not know anything about the current level of inflation to the American Dollar, or perhaps I am merely naive about these sorts of things, but I did think that such an expense for so relatively small a performance space was rather extravagant.

In Edmond, Oklahoma, the Armstrong Auditorium is scheduled to open on September 5, 2010, with a performance of Felix Medelsohn's Elijah, which will be performed by the Herbert W. Armstrong College Choral Union, and the soloists are David Grogan (baritone), Paula Malone (soprano), Pamela Williams (mezzo-soprano), and James Doing (tenor). The building itself is most beautifully adorned and appointed with luxurious accents; in fact, the first word that my city's major newspaper, The Oklahoman, employed when describing it was palatial.

When one approaches the structure, one must cross the plaza in the foreground, which is made of travertine stone imported from Turkey. As one can barely see in this photo, there is also a 40,000 gallon reflecting pool in front of the main facade, and inside of the pool is the sculpture Swans in Flight by British sculptor David Wynne. The lobby is encased by glass on three sides, and the roof is supported by twelve forty-eight feet tall columns, which do remind one of the Ancient Greeks and their structures in Athens and Corinth. The lobby boasts at least three Swarovski-Strass crystal chandeliers weighing up to two tons and holding between 15,000 and 21,000 pices of crystal each suspended over a carpet of royal purple. Other decorations that adorns the room are Baccarat crsytal candelabra used by the Shah of Iran to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Empire of Persia, panels of caramel colored onyx mined in Azerbijan and polished in Viareggio, Italy, and American Cherry wood panels extend from floor to ceiling with matching grains.

While all of this is most opulent for the eye to behold, one cannot help but to think that twenty million dollars could have provided at least over a thousand seats. Nevertheless, I am most elated at the prospects for this new venue, and I hope that it serves to bring many excellent artists to perform in our metropolis area. The inaugural season is scheduled to showcase The 5 Browns, the Eroica Trio, The Vienna Boys' Choir, the Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields Orchestra, a performance of Swan Lake by the Russian National Ballet Theatre, Andre Watts, Anderson-Roe Concert Piano Duo, and Opole: National Philharmonic of Poland.
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Monday, August 2, 2010

The 5 Browns Go To Hollywood

Musical phenomenon The 5 Browns have released a new album, and it promises to expand their audience to an even wider demographic. Many might balk at the idea, but their renditions of classic film scores are imaginative and refreshing. Their website features a new blog from the siblings, which I hope lasts longer than their previous one, and their website has been completely redesigned. They are scheduled to perform in Edmond, Oklahoma, on November 4, 2010, and I shall do all in my power to attend that concert.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cecilia Bartoli Wins The Echo Klassik Award 2010

Cecilia Bartoli, after a concert performance o...Image via Wikipedia
Cecilia Bartoli has won the Echo Klassik award this year for her newest recording, which is entitled Sacrificium. Bartoli, who is an incredible interpretor of Baroque music, used this album to help tell the story of the castrati singers in Italy. I have yet to hear the selections from this disc, but it features several world premiere recordings of arias by some rather obscure composers of the Baroque period of opera. Joining her on this project is the reknowned period instrument ensemble Il Giardino Armonico under the capable direction of Giovanni Antonini, who also served as her accompaniment during her recording of The Vivaldi Album. Of course, Fillipa Giordano was also awarded the Echo Klassik in 2001, and she had the worst crossover album that I have ever heard. If I were wanting a pop interpretation of Casta diva and O mio babbino caro, I might appreciate her renditions of them, but I am not quite in the mood for such a thing, and, to be quite honest, nor do I think I ever shall be after hearing Renee Fleming's interpretations of the works.
In other news concerning opera, soprano Patricia Petibon is the featured singer in August's issue of Opera News magazine, and it is interesting to note that she is carving a new nche for herself outside of the Baroque realm where she is known so well. Her current project is Berg's Lulu, which is rather a brave and bold departure for a Baroque specialist. I am anxious to hear reviews and ba broadcast of this, for I am ever interested in new artistic directions taken by singers so that I can either marvel at it or learn something from it.

This is all that I have to say for the present, so I thank you for your continued reading of my posts, and I pray for God to continue to bless you in all things. Oh, if anyone knows how to upload a background image for their blog page, I should like to learn the correct way to do this. I have followed the directions outlined by Google on their site, but this has been to no avail. I also do not appreciate the obscene amounts of spam that I have received over the past few weeks, and I have implemented every defense against this, so I would be elated to receive some actual comments from readers to take my mind from the subject.

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Monday, July 19, 2010


If you notice some rather odd changes to my blog page in the coming weeks, it is because I am trying to edit the look of my page, and right now I am not having much luck with it. I am going to make this a beuatiful page, even if I have to learn everything about HTML and CSS code in the process!

Thank you for indulging my levels of inner creativity, and thank you for your continued reading.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Over the Summer

As most of my regular readers can probably deduce for themselves without my recognizing the fact, summer is not the best time of year for me to blog. There are two reasons for this, and the first one is that I am usually involved in some theatrical pursuit, and, therefore have little or no time to post anything of relevance. Second, I have learned that there is not much to report on opera during the summer, which is something of a blessing considering the other reason for my lack of regular posts during this hectic time of the year.

Be that as it may, I have some time to myself at present, and I have a few things to say about opera, so this is the perfect time for a post, which may turn into something of a long affair, but I beseech your indulgence in advance, and you are forewarned.

First, I must admit that I am not enjoying High School Musical as much as I have enjoyed other productions of which I have been an humble part, and I am anxiously anticipating our production og Guys and Dolls in November. For those who have been blessed enough not to have seen the Disney movie of our show, let me just reassure you that all of those comments you have heard about High School Musical and its unbelievable amounts of cheese or fluff, whichever you care to insert, are not exaggerating in any way. The music for this musical is such that you wonder that it required so many people to compose it and write it. There are at least ten different names credited to the creation of this show, and they somehow managed to create this. We have a cast of fifty-five or so, and we are a talented group of performers, but we can only do so much with this show until we become disengaged from it.

As for opera, which I have longed to discuss with someone who has a love for the subject for a while now, I heard what may be the best contemporary broadcast of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro that we have ever had. It came to me over the radio courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the cast was assembled of an almost superstar roster including Danielle De Niese as Susanna, Nicole Cabell as the Countess, Joyce DiDonato as Cherubino, Mariusz Kwiecien as the Count, Keith Jameson as Basilio, and Kyle Ketelsen as Figaro. The performance was from the Lyric Opera of Chicago's last season, and it was conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. This broadcast sounded very nearly flawless, and I was grateful for the wonderful afternoon I had because of it. I was surprised at how much of the opera I remebered from my previous encounters with it; neverthelss, there were several new gems that I gleamed from the broadcast. One of these was noticing that the tenor does actually have a decent amount to sing, which I had somehow overlooked in my other forays into this opera. Nicole Cabell sounded very much like Renee Fleming in the role of the countess, a fact for which I was most ingratiated, and I should very much like to find a broadcast of one of Renee's performance of the Countess. It is still difficult for me to think that Danielle De Niese has been singing at the Met for ten years, for her voice yet sounds so young and fresh, and she plays all of the Mozart roles such as Susanna and Despina. On that afternoon I thought that I enjoyed Mozart almost as much as Kim does. I am of the opinion that it is one of the definitive broadcasts of the opera, especially for the modern aficionado.

In other areas of opera, it should be mentioned that the summer festivals are well under way in Europe, and Renee Fleming recently finished what she considers to be her final run of Verdi's La Traviata. On her Twitter feed she had this to say after the last performance:

"Champagne afterwards with Tom Hampson and friends… Very happy to celebrate six wonderful years with Violetta."
3:47 PM Jul 6th via web

"Now it’s for another generation to put their stamp on Violetta…"
3:45 PM Jul 6th via web

"I tried to enable the audience to forget that I’m singing, and ultimately express the words and the story."
3:45 PM Jul 6th via web

"Which is why this opera is so popular. It is most definitely for three different voices -- three different temperaments and sensibilities."
3:44 PM Jul 6th via web

"An extraordinarily challenging role, but worth the effort; grateful. People are moved by the story and Violetta's plight..."
3:43 PM Jul 6th via web
I must confess that I was rather saddened to hear her say as much because I consider her 2004 Metropolitan Opera broadcast of the opera with Ramon Vargas and Dmitri Hvorostovsky conducted by Valery Gergiev to be among the best broadcasts of the opera one could ever hear. The broadcast of the 2007 run of performances on Sirius conducted by Marco Armiliato pair her with Thomas Hampson, who needs no introduction and Matthew Polenzani, who won the first Beverly Sills Award, does not sound quite so good as the formerly mentioned one, but it is acceptable. Polenzani does sound young and vibrant, but he lacks the musical maturity of Ramon Vargas, and, when Polenzani opens act two with his aria, he sounds rather less than secure when he goes for the high note at the end, which is something Vargas refrains from doing; however, Vargas's tone is beautiful, and it flows smoothly. One does not want to hear anything else when he is singing, and Vargas and Fleming's voices sound perfect together. In the 2004 broadcast Fleming's rendition of Sempre Libera is full of energy and life, and she is on top of every note controlling every rhythm, but in the 2007 broadcast on Sirius, where Margaret Juntwait announces that this is probably Fleming's last appointment with Violetta for the Met, some of the tempi seem to slip away from her, which can be attributed to a lesser rapport with Marco Armiliato than she had with Maestro Valery Gergiev.

These are a few of the things that I have been doing over the summer months, and I almost wish that I have done more so that I might tell you something of greater relevance, but I have been consumed by so much  that it has been difficult to maintain my following of opera.

Of late I have tried to learn some new compositions for piano, and I have succeeded in acquiring Enya's To Go Beyond to my repertoire of selections to provide at gatherings. I should very much like to add other selections to my knowledge of pieces, but I do not have the time at present. I desire to learn Howard Shore's score to The Lord of the Rings, and I think that is a goal that is easily attained for me. I need to sit down to my keyboard at home and learn some of my beloved music by Liz Story and Enya's gorgeous Amarantine, which I believe to be her best album thus far.

Thank you for continuing to peruse my posts, and I pray that God continues to bless you.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Few Randomly Collected Thoughts

I am elated at the thought of my vacation in New York next year, and the reason for this is the fact that I received the Met's performance schedule in the mail a few days since, and I see that I also have the choice of seeing La Boheme and Lucia di Lammermoor in addition to Renee Fleming in Rossini's Armida. Puccini's masterpiece promises a refreshing cast, and Natalie Dessay sings the role of Lucia in Mary Zimmerman's production, which is probably her best for the Met thus far. I do not know wheter or not the friend who is accompanying me there has ever been to the Met to see an opera, though he has been to NYCO to see La Boheme, but I think this is an admirable set of performances with which to begin my attendance of opera performances, which I hope shall one day become frequent. I am not one to take pictures without reason, but I may perhaps lay that rule aside and capture everything with an image to commemorate my experience.

For the present I am occuppied with rehearsals for High School Musical, and I must say that they have proven difficult at times, but I begin to see the rewards of our demanding rehearsal schedule. We are performing for four weekends, which is rather unusal to those of us who have performed here at Poteet for very long since we are accustomed to only three.

Henry Purcell's aria When I am Laid in Earth has been voted as Great Britain's favorite opera aria through a poll on BBC Radio 3. Their eleven favorite arias are as follows: 1. When I am laid in earth (Dido and Aeneas, Purcell)

2. Dove sono (Marriage of Figaro, Mozart)

3. Liebestod (Tristan and Isolde, Wagner)

4. E lucevan le stelle (Tosca, Puccini)

5. Casta diva (Norma, Bellini)

6. Song to the Moon (Rusalka, Dvorak)

7. Che faro senza Euridice? (Orfeo ed Euridice, Gluck)

8. Der holle Rache (Magic Flute, Mozart)

9. Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (Zaide, Mozart)

10. Gluck das mir verblieb (Die tote Stadt, Korngold)

11. Mon coeur s'oeuvre a ta voix (Samson and Dalila, Saint-Saens)
I cannot help but to hope that these people were considering the interpretation of Rusalka's Song to the Moon by Renee Fleming when they chose it as number 6. Voters were probably recalling either Diana Damrau or Natalie Dessay when they elected Der holle Rache to the list since these two performers are most often associated with this aria.

That is all for the present as the demands of time pull me elsewhere, but thank you all for continuing to read my posts.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sarah Coburn's Recital- The Three B's: Baroque, Bel Canto, and Beyond

I was immensely blessed to be in attendance for the previously mentioned event, which was the final concert of the Canterbury Choral Society's 2009-10 season, and I wish it had never ended. My primary reson for going was to see soprano Sarah Coburn, and you can imagine my dismay when I read in my local newspaper that she was only performing during the Bel Canto section of the perofrmance. I am pleased to say that I am now better informed of their misinformation, and I was greatly surprised to learn that Coburn would perform for much more than just the Bel Canto section of the recital.

Before I procedd with my narrative of the evening itself, let me say something concerning the venue for this auspicious occasion. The Civic Center Music Hall was the location of the concert, and, it being divided into five separate performance spaces, this recital was held in the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theatre, which is the place's largest single hall to my knowledge. I have been told that it seats some three thousand, five hundred occupants, but I am unsure of the veracity of this claim. I purchased a seat in the Upper Orchestra level, and my seat was situated well enough so that I could notice that the proscenium lacked paint towards the bottom of the structure, and I thought this was particularly idiotic since this is supposed to be our state's premiere performance venue for theatre and classical music. Despite that fact it is a rather elegant performance hall, and I have heard rumors that there is another plan to soon upgrade it, but that is something of a sore subject with taxpayers, so I shall not mention it further. The seating arrangements did not make me feel detached from the performers or the stage, but this may have been due to the fact that I was so greatly anticipating what an excellent performance I was about to witness that I could not help but to feel a connection with the performers.

The orchestra, which was advertised to be the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, was rather small, which would explain something of my reluctance to believe it to be the orchestra that was claimed, and the conductor was Dr. Randi Von Ellefson. The orchestra reminded me of rather a large ensemble, but I found it hard to imagine it as a full orchestra, but I suppose that the Met has made everything in the world of opera and classical music seem grand to me.

The program included George Frederick Handel's Let The Bright Seraphim. Sarah Coburn sang this aria well, and the cadenzas she added made up for the breath one could hear in the selection. She seemed to breathe rather often here, and this was not long after the start of the recital; this may be attributed to the fact that she had a baby last summer, which was something she spoke about in an interview in our newspaper, or it could be a number of other variables. The trumpet player did well with his solos, and he followed the voice admirably. I was impressed by the cadenzas from Coburn, for, while I prefer simplicity in Baroque music, it is also nice to hear it performed with engaging new elements.

The chorus was featured without the soprano for a few selections, and I noticed that their diction was rather poor. It was evident that they do not make many forays into Italian opera. A dear acquaintance of mine is the president of Canterbury Choral Societym and he said as much when I conversed with him on the concert prior to the event; he even ventured to say that the arias sort of sounded the the same, which I discounted. In summation the chorus sounded as if they were from Oklahoma.

Another selection of Sarah's was Mozart's Martern aller arten, which it seems nobody could pronounce, for everyone, even the Choral Society's Artistic Director in addressing the audience before the start of the performance, referred to it as "the Mozart piece." Coburn's rendition was excellent, and it made me recall the Met's broadcast of this opera from a couple of years since starring Diana Damrau. I thought that it was a marvelous way to finish the first half.

During the intermission, I was pleased to recognize an acquaintance of mine who was also in attendance, and he very cordially approached me and held some small discourse upon the recital and what a marvelous one it was. I sat in my seat for some time listening to the other patrons discuss the performance with their neighbors or friends, and then I went to get a bottle of water, which I shall admit was rather expensive for my customs. While I was thus engaged, I heard two young men and a woman conversing near me, and it was then that I learned that half of the people in the audience around me were voice students, most of whom were from OCU. The woman was rather rude to her two conversationalists, for she was detached from their topic, which was one's progress in becoming an opera singer, and she did not seem to mean it when she said, "Keep me informed because you know that I just love your voice."

When I returned to the concert hall, I noticed that the couple who had been sitting two seats to my right did not come to their seats for the second half, which means they probably "upgraded" their view. As I was siiting there, an usher came towards me, and he began to talk to me about the evening. Naturally, he began his inquiry with '"Isn't she amazing?"' This was a middle-aged gentleman, and he apparently adores opera. I was glad of the ensuing conversation we held, for it is not often that I am afforded the luxury of conversing upon a subject so delightful as opera, and I replied by expressing my immense enjoyment of the affair. I mentioned that I greatly desired to hear Coburn's rendition of Ah, non credea mirarti, and he mentioned that he saw the Met's new production of Bellini's La Sonnambula starring Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay when it opened. I asked him what he thought of the production, and he told me that he did not think much of the production, but, and I quote, '"...that Juan Diego Florez is young and sensuous and good-looking , so he and Natalie Dessay wrapped up the whole... thing."' I then attempted to compare Dessay's voice to Coburn's, and I said that I thought her voice was a little darker than our soprano's, especially after her two surgeries on her vocal cords, to which he said, '"Yeah, I think that her voice is a little lower, too."' I did not take the time to explain what I meant by darker after that. I could tell he was from Oklahoma when he pronounced La Sonnambula, for he said La Son-AM-BULL-ah, which I thought was hideous. He inquired what other operas I had seen, and I told him that I had never seen one live except through the Met's Live in HD series, and I informed him that my most recent screening was Renee Fleming in Rossini's Armida. He had a reason for not going to see that, and it was because he could not find any excerpts of it on YouTube. I think he missed a mesmerizing performance.

The next half was as thrilling as the first, and it was here that we were to hear the aforementioned aria and, indeed, the entire ensuing scene and the Libiamo from Verdi's La Traviata. The Bellini aria was as beautiful as any recording I have ever heard, and she infused the aria with the exact amount of emotion in the first syllable in much the way Cecilia Bartoli does on her recent recording of the opera with Juan Diego Florez. Since the program did not mention the Non, non piu reggo or the Ah non giunge as additions to the aria, I was not expecting them when they came, and this led to a nice surprise. With the exception of an encore, Sarah chose to end her evening with this, and I think it was most appropriate. The tenor, whose name escapes me and who holds a Master's degree in Vocal Performance from OCU, was acceptable, but he has some way to go before he approaches international acclaim.

The Brindisi, which was called the Drinking Chorus in the program proved to be rather muddy in the choral passages. Indeed, one might have well though it was the Drunken Chorus from some of the measures of uncertainty. The orchestra was rather overwhelming at times, especially in the deep brass section of the tubas, and I fear that I must say that this quickly turned into Verdi's Polka. Whether this was through the fault of the conductor, who did seem rather energetic for some selections, and who may have taken Ricardo Muti's advice on the Met's intermission for Attila rather too seriously, or the instrumentalists, I cannot say, but I did not like this new artistic license.

Thank you all for reading, and may God continue to bless all of you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Opera In Cinema Compared With The Met: Live in HD

I personally enjoy the Met's Live in HD series far better than the Opera in Cinema franchise, and until recently my main point of debate with those who have asked me to go to their cinema events over the Met's was that the Met's casts were infinitely better than Opera in Cinema's. While this is yet veritable, and it should remain a sufficient factor of decision for those choosing one over the other, there are a few other points I have lately discovered concerning Opera in Cinema.

Most importantly it should be understood that Opera in Cinema, which is cordially referenced as the other solicitor of high-definition opera transmissions into movie theaters, shows performances that employ body microphones to gather sound, a fact that was evident in their broadcast of Verdi's Il Trovatore from the Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona, which starred Fiorenza Cedolins, who was wearing the microphone when it began to malfunction. This piece of news, which I read in a New York Times article, caused me to wonder why they were employing body microphones, which naturally leads one to think of sound-enhancement systems. I make no implications, but it does give one pause to inquire. I do not know the Met's practices on such things, though I do understand that they use stage microphones for the purpose of broadcasting, but I hope that we are not going to uncover a secret in the world of opera that most opera companies no longer rely on accoustics to relay the human voice throughout an entire hall.

Another thing I dislike about the Opera in Cinema simulcasts is that they are not performed live; however, they are taped performances that are shown worldwide on a lter date, and this leads to speculations regarding editing and other things which can make a performance better or worse.

One thing I admire about the Opera in Cinema series is that they provide performances from the Salzburg Festival, and I am of the opinion that such coverage of European summer festivals is something that the world of opera presently lacks, for I should like to see some radio station or Opera in Cinema make a better effort to offer such performances to the general public.

If I may offer some advice to Opera in Cinema, I am of the opinion that they are in a most advantageous position in their offering of European performances, and they should capitalize on the fact that some star artists, such as Cecilia Bartoli for one, are almost exclusively European performers, and I think that they could make up for their wants in other areas by offering performances by Bartoli and others.

I now leave it to you to decide which series you enjoy most, and I hope that I have not bored you too much in relating my preferences on the matter. May God bless all of you.

If I Were In Europe This Summer,...

... I would attend the festival that receives the pleasure of hearing what shall probably be the last Violetta that Renee Fleming will ever sing. I am not sure, but I believe that Zurich is the European city to host this performance, and she also sings a Strauss opera there later this summer; moreover, if anyone could record this, I would be elated to peuse such a recording. The other continental festivals look rather enticing also, and for example I inform my readers that Diana Damrau, Joyce DiDonato, and Anne Sofie von Otter are all scheduled to sing in Europe over the summer months. Reading about all of this in the latest issue of Opera News has made me wish that I had some sort of festival near me such as the ones in Europe to which we all long to make our pilgrimage.

In other news Diana Damrau has withdrawn herself from performances of Ades's Hamlet because of pregnancy. Naturally, one wonders if she will be singing this role at the Met soon, for I read a comment on YouTube about how Diana Damrau forever seems to sing a role the year after Natalie Dessay is given it. It would be nice to see Damrau get to perform it first for once.

Philip Langridge, who is perhaps most recently known as the biennial Witch Regina Lickspittle in the Met's abridged, English language production of Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, died on March the 5th. This is a veritable shock to anyone who heard his vibrant performances as the Witch, for they were so recent to us this season. Langridge was an artist of incredible longevity, and he ought to be a model for all future singers who aspire to perform professionally, for at seventy-one he was yet performing with great constancy and vigor. Having sung several world premiere works and been a noted interpreter of Benjamin Britten, he was scheduled to give yet another world premiere in 2011. He won an Olivier Award for his performances, and he was in the world premiere of Ades's The Tempest. I am sure that he shall be sorely missed by opera audiences.

When I listened to the Met's broadcast of La Traviata, I must admit that I was rather disappointed. My greatest loss of faith in the performance came form Angela Gheorghiu during her rendition of Sempre Libera. At the end of the aria, she let the orchestra preced her, and she missed a phrase; however, the mortifying part was that the audience seemed to applaud as if nothing had happened. Gheorghiu's singing that afternoon was full of problems for me, and there were times when she sounded as if she was marking, for there were instances in which she sounded very quiet in the first act and the second scene of the second act. Despite the prima donna's failings, Jmes Valenti sounded excellent in his Metropolitan Opera debut, and Thomas Hampson provided depth and intelligent insight to the character of Germont.

On the first of May, which turnoed out to be a most splendid afternoon insofar as the weather is concerned, I was blessed to go to my local cinema to see the Met's Live in HD simulcast of Rossini's Armida starring Renee Fleming and Lawrence Brownlee. Though I thought Mary Zimmerman might have utilized the full potential of the Met's extensive technical resources a little better, I must say that I was pleased with the outcome of the production. Renee Fleming amazed me to the fullest extent with her singing for the afternoon, and her acting, which I have heard criticized by some people I know, left little to be desired, for I thought she provided an excellent interpretaion of her character. Lawrence Brownlee, whom I had never heard before this broadcast, proved to be every bit as marvelous a singer as I had heard him lauded to be by so many. His colleagues, sopranos Fleming and Sarah Coburn not least among them, praise his instrument when they work with him, and I look forward to hearing more from him in the future. His high notes did indeed sound effortless, and when one considers that he is yet a relatively young singer, it sets the imagination to dreaming about his future performances. Fleming and Brownlee, however, were not the only stars of the afternoon; the cast also included Kobie van Rensburg, Barry Banks, and John Osborn, and I must confess that I heard so many high notes that I was unsure if I would ever be considered an opera singer. I thought that it was rather hilarious that Mary Jo Heath claimed that there must not be any other Bel canto operas being performed that Saturday because of the fact that the Bel Canto tenors seemed to all be in the cast of Armida. John Osborn quickly pointed out that Joyce DiDonato was singing a Rossini opera in Europe that day. I am anxious to see this production next season at the Met. As an aside, does anyone have any idea as to what that Bel Canto opera was that Renee Fleming referenced when she promised that she was going to sing another one in a couple of years?

Thank you for continuing to read my posts, and I pray that my readers are all well and that God continues to grant you the desires of your heart.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Metropolitan Opera's 2010-11 Season

Since I heard about it a few weeks ago, I have been pleased with most of the Met's upcoming season; indeed, I told a friend one day recently, "Except in the case of the premiere of John Adams's Nixon in China, there is not a bad production to be shown at the Met in terms of the cast and the opera." My prejudice against American opera was nakedly present in that remark, but, from the small amount of experience that I have had over the years with this genre, I have gained the knowledge that I dislike most American opera. Of course, there are the new productions, which one must ever anticipate with the mixed emotions of excitement and regret, especially in the retirement of Franco Zeffirelli's gorgeous production of La Traviata, of which we are uncertain, but their casts may make up for whatever the theatricality lacks.

Some of the events for which I am elated are as follows. William Christie, best known as the conductor of Les Arts Florissants, being a skilled conductor of the Baroque repertoire, makes his Met debut conducting Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, the cast of which includes Danielle de Niese, Isabel Leonard, Miah Persson, and Nathan Gunn. While Mozart is not very far removed from the Baroque period, and one can hear some of its influence in his music, I could not help but to wonder if this might have been a good time to revive or premiere one of Handel's magnificent operas. I should like to see them assemble a cast of Handelians to rival their 2004-05 production of Rodelinda, and, yes, I am quite aware that Renee Fleming is not considered an Handelian, but one only has to listen to her Handel album to know that she sounds divine singing his music.

Sir Simon Rattle also makes his Met debut next season, and he lends his baton to performances of Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande. He recently married mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, and she is starring in this opera alongside Stephane Degout and Gerald Finley. If my interpretation of the surnames White and Palmer are correct, then we should also be seeing Felicity Palmer and Wendy White in this opera as well. Kozena is a singer with whom I have only recently acquainted myself, but I first heard of her from a Met broadcast, the title of which I do not recall, for it was rather long ago. I came to know her better through the release of her Ah mio, cor disc of Handel arias, and it was through that release that I heard her sing Lascia chi'o pianga, and I immediately adored her ornamentation of the aria. Her voice seemed so light, yet it was not weak, and she clearly seemed to perform on the level of Cecilia Bartoli, with whom I was then infatuated through her Vivaldi album, in that aria. Ever since I have wanted to hear her again at the Met, and next season I am granted my wish.

Renee Fleming is scheduled to reprise her role as Rossini's enchantress in Armida in February 2011, and what makes this even more impressive is that I shall be there to see it! I have longed to see my favorite soprano perform live in an Italian opera for so long, and if nothing happens to make her cancel the run, I will finally have that opportunity. She is also singing Strauss's Capriccio, which promises to be most memorable if the 2005 TDK DVD release from the Opera National de Paris is to be of any indication in this case. The fact that I will see an opera performed on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera of New York starring my favorite soprano makes the possibility of anything going wrong seem fantastic, and I cannot wait until I am at the entrance of the Met taking in all of the excitement, anxiety, and sheer magnificence of that moment, which will endure for some three hours and continue in my memory for the remainder of my life.

This year's annual offering of La Boheme stars Maija Kovalevska, Krassimira Stoyanova, Piotr Beclaza, Peter Mattei, Ramon Vargas, and Joseph Calleja. This production is timeless, and I hope that the Met does not intend to retire it anytime soon. It would be wonderful to see Franco Zeffirelli either refresh one of his earlier productions or design a completely new production for the Met. It would be magnificent, and I am sure it would sell out quickly. I am glad that the Met offers La Boheme so very often. With so many distinguished casts presenting it, it has become a learning experience for me every year.

Bartlett Sher, who has won a warm place in the opera aficionado's heart for his recent productions of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes d' Hoffmann, returns with what promises to be another hit new production in the 2010-11 season. Turning his talents towards the music of Rossini, he is heading Le Comte Ory, and the cast is incredible; it includes Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau,and Joyce DiDonato. Maurizio Benini conducts this run of performances. Who could ask for a better cast for a Rossini opera? I immensely enjoyed Damrau and Florez in this season's broadcast of La Fille du Regiment, so I cannot wait to see what Joyce DiDonato adds to this pair's fabulous vocal display.

Nicholas Hytner makes his debut directing a new production of Verdi's Don Carlo next season. This production has already been shown in London, so it is probably one that has plenty of merit, but here is another production that the Met might have retained. I did not ever see this production, but the costumes alone from the photographs I have seen are enough to make me want to keep the production. Marina Poplavskaya and Roberto Alagna head the cast for this opera. An interesting, engaging young conductor from Canada, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, who may be remebered for conducting this season's Carmen, returns to the Met podium with this Verdi masterpiece. I look forward to how the orchestra sounds under him in this opera.

Since I am likely to ramble at length about the remainder of the season, let it suffice for me to merely provide a few remaining highlights from the rest of the repertoire presented. Natalie Dessay returns to her portrayal of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor next season. Julie Taymor's abridgement of The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflote) is again presented as their Christmas offering, and Nathan Gunn and Erika Miklosa reprise their roles of Papageno and The Queen of the Night, respectively. Miklosa's Queen of the Night is breathtaking, and in a few years I should like to hear Kathleen Kim sing this role. Nevertheless, i would like to hear more of Miklosa at the Met. I recall that new production of Gluck's Iphigenie en Tauride from a couple of seasons ago with great pleasure, and Susan Graham, Placido Domingo, and Paul Groves are scheduled to reprise their individual roles in this opera next season. It will be interesting to compare this run with the prior one, for it is not often that one is granted such an opportunity as this to hear the exact singers sing a performance again two years later. Despite the demerits of the production, David Daniels, Kate Royal, and Lisette Oropesa join forces to present Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice. I am thrilled to see a countertenor return to the Met, and to hear him in this rolewill be most entertaining. I have wanted to hear Kate Royal ever since her Midsummer Night album received such an impressive review in Opera News, and it seems the Met has catered to my taste or desire yet again.

If I may digress from the subject of my title, it bears reference that I shall see the Met's Live in HD presentation of the new production of Rossini's Armida, starring Renee Fleming, Lawrence Brownlee, Barry Banks, and Kobie van Rensburg on May 1st, and I am naturally elated at the prospect. Two weeks from thence I am scheduled to see soprano Sarah Coburn perform with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, and I am even more excited to attend that performance. It promises to be an auspicious, formal evening, and Coburn will be singing selections from the Baroque, Bel Canto, and later periods during this recital. While I am speaking of her, I must admit that I wish that she would sing at the Met again soon. While they are not detrimental to her career, I would much prefer to hear her singing Verdi or Donizetti over these world-premiere American operas that continue coming her way.

I thank all of you for reading this long post, and may God continue to bless you. I greatly enjoy thinking that there are people who enjoy reading my opinions on opera, and I am blessed to have such a great amount of them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hopefully In The Near Future

Though I do not have much time to post something of relevance at the present, I thought my readers might like to know of some of the things I have planned for the near future. To begin I am considering changing the layout of my blog page if the new customize features are all that Blogger In Draft has said that they are, and I think that I should like to enroll in the Amazon Associates program by which one can earn commissions on all of the products they reference and link in their posts that people buy. If I actually do this, I would provide links to opera CD's, DVD's, and books that my readership might enjoy, and the wonderful part is that, if you purchase items through my links, I would receive a fifteen percent commission from every product that they procure through my links. Of course, if I have any fellow bloggers who have products in which I should be interested linked in their posts, I should be inclined to help them earn revenue in reciprocation.

In the world of opera, I have learned a few exciting things, which I shall presently divulge to you. First, I must say that I am anxious to hear Marlis Petersen in the role of Ophelie in Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet from the Met this Saturday. I have heard it said that she will do as fine of a portrayal as Natalie Dessay should have done, but since I have never heard her sing before, I shall wait to hear her prior to making an assessment. Related to Hamlet is the interview with Simon Keenlyside, who portrays the protagonist in the broadcast, in this month's issue of Opera News where he recalls an anecdote about one of the original cast members inquiring as to whether or not it would be possible for Mr. Thomas to lower an aria an half step. Mr. Thomas allegedly replied that he would not do it because everyone else could sing it if he did.

It also turns out that Renee Fleming is going to present her portrayal of Rossini's Armida at the Met next season in addition to this one. I am pleasantly surprised by that revelation, and I am making plans to visit New York City during that run of performances to see it and to visit with some acquaintances of mine who reside there. Because she is such an excellent singer and loves to please her audiences, she is also singing Richard Strauss's Capriccio next season at the Met, and this promises to be a most memorable run of performances. If it is half as good as the 2005 production on DVD from the Opera National de Paris, then I will thoroughly enjoy it.

Frederica von Stade is retiring this year, and this is rather a sad thing to report, for she is such an enjoyable performer to hear and observe, and to many her performances of Cherubino are the standard by which others are measured. I had the chance to see her perform a couple of years ago, but I went to see a performance of the national touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera instead, and, given the circumstances, it was just as well, for had I chosen to see Frederica von Stade, it would have turned out that I should not have been able to do so. I adore her voice, which I think is best presented in her Mozart and Haydn recordings.

Finally, I must tell my readers that I am auditioning for Poteet's production of High School Musical, which shall be staged for four weekends this summer. I hope to apprehend a role instead of being placed in the chorus, but this is not exactly my type of musical. I am actually doing it because I am aching to perform again, and the director, who happens to be my employer and a very good friend of mine, has told me that I must do it because he requires male adolescents who have strong voices, so naturally he asks me to do it, which is not a conceited remark to exhibit my unproven singing abilities. As of now, and the auditions are April 10, 2010, I merely hope that I am paired with people with whom I have developed a good rapport. I am looking forward to it.

Thank you for continuing to peruse my posts, and I pray that God continues to bless all of you immensely.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The World Through My Eyes

First, I must apologize that I have neglected to post something for so long as I have without any explanation for my action, but since I finished Children of Eden, life has been hectic. To provide some example of this fact  so that it is not discredited as hearsay, I submit that I am even now, so soon after my last theatrical outing, involved with the technical side of Little Women, the Musical, and it has devoured my spare time of late. Naturally, my work also invades my private life, and there has been more expected of me at the church where I am employed, so I have barely been given the opportunity of listening to the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts which I adore. Add to this the fact that I am presently without the luxury of the Internet at home, I think it is plain to see why I have not posted something in the space of a month. Of course, I could just relenquish posting for the sacred season of Lent, but I have never before observed it, so why should I now choose to begin that tradition?

Thanks to SarahB, I have been coaxed to cease with this period of inactivity, and I am posting. The aforementioned Met broadcasts that I have heard in the interim since my last post, which was in February, have been excellent for the most part. I relished every minute of Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment, which starred Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez, both of whom had colds that day, and Kiri te Kanawa in a cameo performance. Damrau's French diction was perfect, for I did not hear any sign of her native German tongue in its pronunciation, and her singing was flawless even with that infection. I do not know of many singers who have either the resolve or the stamina to sing as well as she and Florez did with such ailments, and I point to Sondra Radvanovsky and Angela Gheorghiu during the last season and the one prior as evidence of that fact. Florez even hit his nine high C's in Ah, mes amis on a cold, and I would love to see the singer who can perform such a feat, for it is highly impressive to sing them in the most regular of circumstances, but I have never heard them sung with a cold, and if I had not heard that these two singers had succumbed to the virus during the intermission feature, I should never had believed it. If I may utter a final accolade for this broadcast, Dame Kiri te Kanawa sang in this run of performances! Everyone I heard who spoke of this broadcast thought that she would, and she did not disappoint us.

Another broadcast I found that I enjoyed was Barber's Vanessa, and this was rather surprising since I usually loathe American opera, and this was an archival broadcast from the 50's with Eleanor Steber, Nicolai Gedda, Rosalind Elias, and Regina Resnik. Nicolai Gedda is one of my favorite tenors from his era because of his clear diction and his full, rich voice; however, I despise his recording of Bizet's Je crois entendre encore, for it sounds like it is sung without any resonance, and one can automatically detect the change from full voice to head voice, which at times sounds like a countertenor is singing. While I am not a great fan of his, I recommend Rolando Villazon's recording on his Opera Recital album of 2005. If I may return to Gedda, who was the best singer of this broadcast, his diction actually is better than that of most Americans, at least of the ones i have had the opportunity of hearing, and, no, just because I am from Oklahoma that does not mean that I have no idea as to the correct way to speak, and we do not speak with the accent that is typically associated with people from my state.

I also had the immense pleasure of hearing the broadcast of Bizet's Carmen, and it starred Roberto Alagna, Barbara Frittoli, whom I had not heard for far too long a time, and Elina Garanca, who replaced Angela Gheorghiu, who withdrew from the production around the time that her divorce from Alagna was made public knowledge. While the singers performed admirably, the thing that I most joyfully recall from that broadcast was the conducting of Yannick Nezet-Seguin and his philosophy for it. For such a seemingly young conductor, he has an innate knowledge of music and how it should sound, and he did not disappoint the sold-out house or the radio audience. Garanca performed the Habanera with her usual ease, and it was pleasing to hear it done so well.

Verdi's Simon Boccanegra was a performance I shall not soon forget, for I recall that the singers, among them Placido Domingo, Marcello Giordani, Adrienne Pieczonka, and James Morris, did an excellent job of marrying the synopsis to the music. I could hear every emotion of the worried father in Placido Domingo's voice, and Marcello Giordani was the heroic tenor in love with Amelia who would do anything for her, and his voice is a favorite of mine even though he has few recordings to my knowledge.

I would have to admit that my greatest surprise of the season thus far came from Verdi's Attila. I did not expect the story, the music, or the singing to be quite so good as I found them to be. Violetta Urmana, whom I had never before heard, proved to be an excellent voice for the role of Odabella, which is one of the most idiotic names I have ever heard, in opera or otherwise, and I should like to hear her again. One could hear either strain or holding back in her voice when she came to the lyrical passages in the first act, but her aria in the prologue was beautifully sung. Ramon Vargas, whom I had forgotten was to be a part of this broadcast, did not fail to make me wish all the greater to become an operatic tenor, for his is the voice to which I most align mine in description, and he sang with an ease that made his role seem almost effortless. Ildar Abdrazakov did an excellent job in the title role of Atilla the Hun, and Samuel Ramey, who is still singing at the Met after all of these years, had his memorable moments during this broadcast.

As I incessantly do, I enjoyed the broadcast of Puccini's La Boheme. The only regret that I have in hearing it was the cast that I heard, particularly Nicole Cabell. I have no qualm with her as a singer, and she sang Musetta with the abandon with which her voice is characterized, but I should have much preferred to hear Ruth Ann Swenson instead. Anna Netrebko is not my image of an ideal Mimi, but she was in good voice, so I cannot complain too much. Piotr Beczala's Rodolfo was forever marked upon my memory as an excellent portrayor of that role. Marco Armiliato, who is one of my favorite conductors, led the orchestra very well.

In conclusion, if I may say something about myself, I had a most enlightening conversation with a local music director after a rehearsal of Little Women one evening. In a way I caused the discourse we held, but it was not my intention, for I merely asked him if he was aware that Renee Fleming had just won her third Grammy award because I knew that he should be interested to hear such tidings, and he replied that he had not. He then continued our exchange by asking my opinion of Renee's acting, her vocal abilities, and the recent Live in HD presentation of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier. I articulated my opinion that I thought it was excellently done, but I was rather disappointed with the second act, particularly the presentation of the Rose between Susan Graham and Christine Schafer. He, desirous to know my reasons for my opinion, for he had heard much the same lament from others he knew who had seen it, asked my me why I said as much, and I said that I had seen another performance of this scene from the 2002 Salzburg Festival with Sophie Koch and Miah Persson where there appeared to be far more chemistry between them. I simply just did not believe that Octavian and Sofie were in love during the presentation of the Rose or the ensuing scene. I thought that Kristinn Sigmundsson carried that act with his comic presence. We digressed to other things, and this eventually turned to his inquiring after my voice, and in the end he encouraged me to persevere and that my voice was developing quite nicely.

I am afraid that this is as much as I can relate for now, but I hope to post again soon. May God continue to bless all of you, and thank youfor reading.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Renee Fleming Wins And Other New Discoveries

Renee Fleming won a Grammy Award for her latest solo recording, entitled Verismo. After being nominated for the award several times, she has a total of three of the prestigious accolades. I am elated that she finally received one after all of her nominations in the years after her previous wins. Her album won over Anne Sofie von Otter's recent release Bach, the late Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's Recital at Ravini, Susan Graham's Un Frisson Francais, and Juan Diego Florez's Bel Canto Spectacular. Unfortunately, the world is more interested in Beyonce and Lady Gaga, so classical performers are not invited to perform at the Grammy's, but perhaps that is for the best lest we have more classical performers like Filippa Giordani.

Over the weekend, we had a snowstorm in our state; naturally, I had an immense amount of time to do absolutely nothing, and, being onthe internet, I discovered Dawn Upshaw's recording of Gorecki's Symphony No. 3, Op. 36, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, and I thought that it was one of the most beautiful pieces of music I had ever heard in my entire life. It is filled with so many layers in the orchestra, and the music is enchanting.

Speaking of music, I also recently discovered Sumi Jo's Baroque Journey recording, and she does a fine interpretation of Purcell, Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach's best compositions. Her diction is fairly good, but one can yet hear some of her Asian accent , especially when she sings in English. My favorite tracks from this album are Handel's I Know That My Redeemer Liveth, his Where'er You Walk, Bach's Coffee Cantata, and Purcell's Music for Awhile, which I think Dawn Upshaw sings better, and his Fairest Isle. I adore Jo's vocal timbre, for it is so clear and full. I think she should perform more often, specifically at the Met. She studied at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia di Roma with Cecilia Bartoli, and they were good friends for many years. Sumi Jo thinks that Bartoli has more or less settled into one repertory, that of the Baroque, and that she should expand branch out into other genres. I think that Cecilia Bartoli has been wise to remain associated with Mozart and the Baroque, for she sings it so well, but it would be interesting to see her perform in other works, such as Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, and I think that she has done so with her recordings of Maria and Bellini's La Sonnambula.

That is all for the present, and I thank all of you for reading my posts.