Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Renee Fleming to Make Broadway Debut in 2015

(Image Courtesy of broadway.com)
     It was announced yesterday that opera diva, and my personal favorite soprano, Renee Fleming shall make a debut on Broadway in 2015 in a new play. Entitled Living on Love, Fleming plays in a leading role she originated for the play's first performances. It follows the lives of two artists who are married to each other who each fall in love with their assistants, according to The New York Times.

     Written by Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro, Living on Love takes its comedic drama from the tension between an opera star and her husband, a maestro, while the latter has been assigned a young female assistant to assist him in ghostwriting his autobiography. Naturally jealous, as divas tend to be portrayed, the diva hires her own male assistant to ghostwrite her own autobiography, and he is quite the handsome young man to cause her husband to notice their budding relationship.

     Devoted aficionadi of Ms. Fleming's exquisite soprano voice shall be pleased to discover that the play does feature her singing at moments throughout the performance. Performances are scheduled to commence officially on April 20, 2015, but previews start rather earlier on the first of the aforementioned month at the Longacre Theatre, which presently plays host to the revival of You Can't Take it With You, which sees its final performance on February 2, 2015. With this scheduling, it comes just after Renee's starring in Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow, which is a gala production for the new year at the Metropolitan Opera. Of course, any astute observer of her career will note that this transition into assuredly lighter fare than even her last season at the Met undeniably denotes the recession of this glorious soprano's career upon the opera stage. My heart mourns for this product of reality, but I remain immensely grateful that I was blessed to see her perform in a veritable diva role in Gioacchino Rossini's Armida at the Metropolitan Opera in 2010.

     For my part I am delighted to witness this foray into new artistic realms for my most cherished of opera singers who introduced me to this art form that I adore with such ardent passion, and I might even say that I am somewhat excited to see what opportunities this brings to her as the future continues to visit all of us. Hopefully, this shall prove to be a marvelous surprise for all of us who welcome it as a continuation of a favorite diva's continued career.

     As ever, I pray all of my readers continue to remain amply blessed in every facet of life, and I keep all of you in my thoughts. If you are so inclined, feel at liberty to include your thoughts about this latter part of Fleming's career or your expectations for this play in the comments section below, and I wish all of you a merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Post for the End of Time: The Retirement of Anonymous 4.



     It was a sad day a couple of weeks prior to this one when I read that the world's premiere female vocal quartet, and perhaps some shall say even ensemble, have decided that the 2014-15 season shall be their last as a performing group. Comprised of singers Ruth Cunningham, who also writes excellent program notes for the foursome's concerts, Marsha Genensky, Susan Hellauer, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, and Johanna Maria Rose, the history of the ensemble spans 29 years, and they leave an impressive recorded legacy of more than twenty albums on the Harmonia Mundi label.

      Formed in 1986 as a friendly endeavor one afternoon as the original four (Horner-Kwiatek replaced Cunningham later, who later returned to replace Rose.) gathered to read through some medieval polyphony, they decided to remain a group. They did not want to have a prescribed leader, which has been excellently exhibited in their music making ever after. Hellauer proposed the name for the group, which was initially met with opposition. Nevertheless, it remained, and it has been identified as among the gold standards of medieval music.

     I was immensely blessed to witness this divine ensemble perform in my native city of Oklahoma City last early this year. Performing in a local Episcopalian church, a friend of mine from university and I attended the concert. The audience was not an especially capacious one for the venue, for there may have been 200 people in entirety who came to witness the performance. If memory serves me correctly, the cost of attendance for university students was a mere ten dollars, which I gladly paid, and I can safely say that I received much more than a fair value for such a paltry cost.

     When the four ladies entered the sanctuary, we all applauded. They began the evening with medieval selections, and for the entirety of the first half prior to the intermission, a pin's drop could be heard throughout the place. Not one of us among the audience members dared move for the distraction it might create in opposition to the sublime music to which we were paying the utmost reverent attention. There was no applause, but this was not due to a lack of adulation from all of us; we simply did not wish to break the complementary silence between the chants. A more surreal evening I have never experienced, and the applause at the intermission was most grateful and ardent for the performers.

     The second half included the groups signature, exquisite settings of traditional hymns. We applauded between each set of them, for they were organized in such a manner, and these performances were enough to make me wish that each Sunday was devoted to worship of God in such manner, for I should find it most difficult to discover a purer, more gorgeous form of praise to God than this evening certainly was. Rare are the occasions upon which a recorded artist sounds as perfect in live performance as it does upon its recordings, but I can assure you that there is no difference between the two instances in the case of Anonymous 4, and this concert is perhaps the very best I have ever attended.

     Following the performance, we were all invited to purchase recordings from the ensemble, and who among us could possibly resist following such aural pleasure? I procured their latest at the time, Marie et Marion. I do not believe any of us wanted the evening to end. When we had finished making our selections, the group came forth and autographed everyone's copies, and they were even gracious enough to pose for a photograph with my friend and answered any questions we had during the autograph session. I informed them of my sentiment regarding the concert and my great desire to hear them live before having been blessed with the chance, and they were most gracious in proffering their gratitude to hear my intimations. It was one of those evenings one can only dream of having with a famous artist, yet here it was in reality.

     As the group settles into retirement, I emphatically encourage you to attend a concert by Anonymous 4 if you possibly can. It is not an evening you shall regret, and, even though I should never otherwise advise it, I should even be so bold as to suggest neglecting one's homework for an evening to witness them in performance. You shall not be disappointed. Prior to complete retirement as a group, they are scheduled to release a final album for Harmonia Mundi. It completes an American trilogy from them and shall be entitled 1865. Featured on this release shall be folk songs and parlor songs from the American Civil War era, and master fiddle, guitar, and banjo player and otherwise vocalist Bruce Molsky joins them in the creation and performance of this music.

     I lament Anonymous 4's departure from the world of classical music, but I look forward to a brighter future when such music surrounds us all about God's throne in Heaven. Meanwhile, upon the Earth in the steadfast love of our Father, I leave you and wish all of you a merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Return to My Roots

     Dear readers, as the year of 2014 comes ever closer to its close, I find the desire within me to return to this blogging venture of mine for which I was known in earlier times. My reasons for this shall be explained in due course, but let me commence this post with expanding your knowledge of me a bit in the interim since my last post was published here.

     I continue my pursuit of my university degree, and music continues to be my primary focus there; however, without the hallowed shrine of academia, I have developed other interests and passions, and I have followed these to other exciting opportunities and knowledge as time has progressed. Though it may have been slightly evident ere now, I have gained a keen interest in computer science over the past eight years or so, and it remains among my hobbies I continue to nurture in what precious little leisure time I may be said to possess. My time is principally divided by three obligations during my waking hours. These are either labors, for I am, thankfully, employed, studies in music, or else technology. Of course, I devote some time to entertainment, and I have learned to enjoy photography with my Canon XS DSLR, but these former three pursuits comprise most of my schedule on any given day. As for technology, I have continued to learn much. If you did not have knowledge of it, I am a devoted Linux user. After some continuous frustration with not having adequate software for my media needs and the constant threat of viruses, I distanced myself from Windows 7 a couple of years ago, and I have rarely had cause to use it again thereafter. I migrated to Ubuntu 12.10, a generic, but feature-rich Linux environment that was easy for me to use and integrate into my life. As of now, I have tested at least five other Linux distributions and have used them to varying degrees of frequency for specific purposes. I feel at home in this UNIX-like system, and I do not intend to leave it soon.

     Moving to opera, the very reason for which this blog exists in the first place, I must confess that I have not been so diligent in following it as I have formerly been. University does rather inhibit me, which should seem most illogical when consideration is given to the degree I strive to obtain in the field of vocal performance. However, having said as much, I have made a decent effort at keeping abreast of its developments through Twitter, where you can find me here if you are so inclined. Many of the world's finest singers inhabit that virtual space, as well, and they include both veteran, classic artists with which my generation has grown in adoration in addition to new artists who are only now making their ways onto the world's stages. My list of followed accounts should point you in the right direction, and if you are looking for a broader representation of who I am than that which the limited scope of this blog provides, then you can also find that in my Tweets.

     Arriving at this point in the post, the looming question yet remains. Why have I returned to blogging? My presence on the Internet has come almost full-circle. Twitter, my main outlet of expression and conversation in these times, has become too constrictive for me. It is difficult to say all that I want to intimate, and I should very much like to rearrange my priorities so that opera takes a greater prominence as it once held my attention better than all of my other interests. Furthermore, I hope to connect with my acquired friends and acquaintances on a deeper level and with a more genuine nature than the medium of Twitter affords. Twitter for me was ever supposed to act as a supplement to the content here, but it has taken over as the primary and sole communication method for me, which is quite unfair to my readers and terribly incommodious and often quite ineffective for sharing my thoughts thanks to its limited character allotment for the relation of a sentiment.

     Of course, the main reason I left the blogging world was because of privacy concerns and the data collection activities of large conglomerates such as Google, which hosts my site here, and these concerns have not vanished; indeed, they have only intensified as time has continued. Because of this, I am looking at alternatives to the Blogger platform, the most enticing of which lies in self-hosting my own website.

     There are exciting ventures before me that I hope to share with all of you, and I certainly hope that you shall find joy in learning of them. There may be a bit of maintenance done over the next few days regarding links in the sidebar and the like, but the future of this space appears promising for the nonce, and I am thoroughly overjoyed at using it for its intended purpose again. As Christmas visits us in yet another continued year of life upon this Earth, I pray that all of you are blessed and that God keeps you in the most benevolent of His graces.