Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Why #BringKellysKidsHome Should Matter to Every American

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   For those readers who have steadfastly remained intrigued by my posts since my earliest days of authorship here in my corner of the Internet, you shall know from experience that I rarely deviate from the subject of opera within my humble musings for the purpose of this blog. However, I have been known on occasion to delve into other realms of the entertainment world, and this post counts for another rare foray there. Sometimes there comes an issue so important and so close to my heart that I cannot remain silent upon it, so I must pen some thought about it. For those who are acquainted with me through Twitter, you shall probably know that I customarily reserve my more public thoughts and opinions for its platform, for I revere my blog as a very specialized niche of my authorship, and it should be a disservice to my audience if I was to delve too frequently into other places without the world of opera. Nevertheless, as a matter of principle, I feel I must do so here, and I do hope that all of you shall continue to peruse this post despite this caveat.

     I am the first to admit that the realm of popular culture is rather without the scope of my interests or expertise, but I am occasionally known to follow a popular venture in the form of entertainment, and from this there will stem interest in the artists and performers whose endeavors issue forth a finished product from time to time. Actress Kelly Rutherford became an interest of mine in recent years following her role in television's Gossip Girl. An initial admiration of her performance there soon grew into an appreciation for the kind, gracious person she consistently proves herself to be, and her promotion of haute couture in nearly every aspect of life is a most welcome one to me. A glance at her social media feeds supports this view of her, and I cannot say that I have ever noticed her to have so much as an insulting word to say against anyone. "Is she perfect," I hear the skeptics inquire. No, she is human, and I am certain that such a status begets a series of mistakes and imperfections in any of us, and, no, I am not naïve enough to believe that a considerable portion of what I see from her through the lens of social media is not there for the sole purpose of publicity in a favorable light. Nevertheless, from my limited interactions with her, and from the general knowledge I have, I believe her to be a gracious, genteel woman who presents her best efforts to be thoroughly courteous to all.

     Rutherford married Daniel Giersch in 2006, and the marriage lasted until 2008, when a divorce was sought. The couple had been blessed with a son, Hermés Gustaf Daniel Giersch, and Rutherford was expecting a daughter at the time of the divorce, as well. Daughter Helena was born in June of 2009, and the family, though tensely split between two parents in a custody battle over the children, continued.

     Throughout the custody proceedings, both Rutherford and Giersch made claims that most of us can agree were probably made more for the benefit of the press and publicity of the matter than anything else. Of course, I cannot assuredly say as much, for I am not well enough familiar with either party to make such an absolute claim, but I am not entirely bereft of knowledge pertaining to the effectiveness of the court of public opinion and the persistent reputation of one's image when one lives within the public light. There were assertions from Giersch that Rutherford withheld the information of his daughter's birth from him and that he only learned of it through media reports. Rutherford insists that she feared her children might have been abducted throughout the custody hearings, which is not an entirely unfounded concern in such cases. Other supposed legal minds of the Internet will also remind us of how Rutherford's legal team conveniently informed the State Department of Giersch's allegedly questionable business practices, which led to the revocation of his visa and subsequent deportation from the United States. However, these are red herrings insofar as we as Americans ought to be concerned, for they are of no bearing in the actual case that ought to be made in light of the result of the custody decision from an American court.

     Originally, in 2009, custody was ordered to be jointly shared between both Rutherford and Giersch as a temporary arrangement until 2010. In April of 2012, a full two years following the initially agreed upon end of the temporary custody agreement, Giersch's visa was revoked, and he was deported based upon allegations of illegal business practices. Often, the story of the custody decision is told from this point without any insight into the importance of what this meant for the children, who are American citizens, but I shall not make such a grave error. Because Giersch was no longer permitted to enter the United States, it gave Rutherford de facto custody of the children on the condition they remained here in the United States, and this was the point Rutherford tried to use to ask the court to grant her sole legal and physical custody of the children. However, the Superior Court of the state of California decided this was unfair and ordered that the once temporary custody agreement remain in place. So that Giersch could exercise his joint custody, it was the decision of the court that the children must reside in France and that Rutherford would have to travel there to exercise her joint custody.

     If we look beyond the sole issue of custody, we must soon come to the realization that the Superior Court of the state of California has effectively ruled that two citizens of the United States, citizens who are children, mind you, must be forced to reside without the country and surrender the rights of their native country to satisfy the temporary rights of a man who is not a citizen of the nation its decisions are supposed to represent and who cannot legally enter the country due to a quantity of enough sufficient evidence of illegal activity for the federal government to deny him visitation privileges to destinations within our shores. Therefore, even denouncing every claim Rutherford may have to substantiate her right to the custody of her children, the Superior Court of the state of California released a decision in utter disregard of the rights of the children, citizens to whom it owes the duty of legal representation and preference in its decisions.

     To come at great length to the point of this post, why should this matter to Americans? What bearing does this case have upon any of us? Most of us will not marry a person of foreign descent, so our likelihood of being involved in a similar case is greatly diminished, many will argue. Be that as it may, we are faced here with an injustice against two American citizens and a mother, who is also an American citizen, to the benefit of one who has no right or granted privilege to be found in this nation. If it is not reversed, this decision is now given the benefit and almost unassailable legal credibility of precedent, which can then be applied in a myriad of interesting ways to the cases of today and the future. Will we as Americans stand for the violation of fellow citizens' rights? Let us hope we do not, for we, too, are then made subject to the will of a court with a safeguard for the interests of those who are other than Americans in mind in its decisions, a notion that is quite beyond the authority and scope of the American legal system.

     In addition to the #BringKellysKidsHome campaign, Kelly also has become a staunch advocate of the Children's Justice Campaign. At its root, the Children's Justice Campaign seeks to introduce legislative alterations to the treatment of decisions regarding children in custody hearings in hopes of making the best decision for the child. At its heart, I support the Children's Justice Campaign; however, as one continues to read the research that accompanies this idea and the proposed conclusions we must make from this, which must then affect the legislation introduced, I cannot profess further support, nor do I believe it is the best resource our nation possesses to prevent cases such as this. The law as it presently exists protects the rights of citizens over citizens of foreign countries, and this case merely exhibits absolute disregard for the protection of the rights of citizens of our nation. If the Children's Justice Campaign were more acutely focused on this injustice and travesty, it should receive my full endorsement and support. As it presently exists, I reiterate that I quite agree with the founding principle of the organization, but my support is limited only to that.

     As I conclude this narrative of events and commentary of thoughts, let us all pray for the safe and expedient return of Kelly Rutherford's children to their native country and that their rights as citizens of this great nation shall be preserved and defended by a higher court whose best of intentions are reserved for the people it is its duty to represent and protect. Let the legal behave as it should and side with the rule of law to #BringKellysKidsHome. I pray that all of you are marvelously blessed and that life continues in a state of joy for all of you.


ABC News

Monday, March 16, 2015

Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2015-2016 Season

     As spring dawns every year, the world of opera and classical music begin to present the following season's fares for the benefit of audience members who wish to plan their entertainment pursuits for the future. This spring is no exception, and Lyric Opera of Chicago recently made its 2015-2016 season announcement. The new season runs from September 26, 2015, to May 22, 2016, but it is only filled with nine productions. If productions are filled with casting gems and exciting works, this is a winning strategy for audiences who may wish to view a different cast in a production or who loved the production design enough to merit a second viewing. It seems very much an approach that favors quality over quantity, and I must say it has its merits.

     The new season begins with Mozart's classic Le Nozze di Figaro, an adored work by audiences everywhere. Though some will object to the length of the opera, and I respectfully count myself among these astute observers, it provides all of the ingredients a company desires in the possibility of a beloved triumph. All that remains for the company is to give it a stellar cast and a decent production. Since it opens the season, Mozart's comedy receives a new production by Barbara Gaines, and it features a cast anchored by Luca Pisaroni as the wary Count. To my knowledge, at least, here is where the recognition ends, for this production also features the Lyric debuts of two European singers with whom I am unfamiliar, who are Adam Plachetka as Figaro and Christiane Karg as Susanna. Amanda Majeski, plays the steadfast Countess, and Rachel Frenkel, also making her debut with Lyric, portrays the page who is smitten with love, Cherubino. Henrik Nanasi takes the podium.

     Next in the season comes Rossini's La Cenerentola, and this is a run of performances I should not want to miss if I was near Chicago between October 4-30 later this year. Mezzo Isabel Leonard has lately been traveling with this fairytale princess to various houses around the world, and I believe she delivers one of the finest all-around performances of this character. She is joined by tenor Lawrence Brownlee in the role of Prince Ramiro, and this is, surprisingly, his Lyric debut. I have had the pleasure of seeing him perform live, and his voice is exquisite in these Rossini gems. Veteran baritone Alessandro Corbelli rounds out the cast as Don Magnifico, and Sir Andrew Davis leads the orchestra. Let us pause a moment to revel in Leonard's glorious talent.

     Progressing forward, we find Alban Berg's Wozzeck scheduled to open November 1, 2015. Wozzeck was once an opera one could rarely have opportunity to see, but it seems audiences have warmed to it a bit. It features an intense story and very layered characters. For this production Lyric brings German soprano Angela Denoke into the cast as Marie, and this has been a rather frequent role in her career, for she has sung it in Paris, Barcelona, London, and New York. Tomasz Konieczsy makes his Lyric Opera debut as the title character, and Gerhard Siegel also debuts as the Captain, but he and Denoke have performed this opera opposite each other in Barcelona in 2006, I believe. For the difficulty of the music, Wozzeck's tale may more than equate a reason to see this new production by Sir David McVicar. Sir Andrew Davis conducts this, as well.

     Franz Lehar's The Merry Widow makes its opening in the 2015-2016 Lyric Opera season on November 14, 2015. Following very mixed reviews from audiences and a very gentle review from The New York Times for the Metropolitan Opera's New Year's Eve gala slot for it, soprano Renee Fleming takes the role of Hanna to Chicago to see if audiences appreciate it any more there. For those who have been visitors to my blog for a decent amount of time or who are acquainted with me through social media, it comes as no surprise that Renee Fleming remains my favorite soprano. Do I wish that she would cease to sing these operetta roles? No, I do not wish as much entirely. I simply wish that she would add some other role in addition to this relatively easy one to her season. Of course, she is on Broadway at the moment, so I suppose I must be content. As I consider it, is there anything she cannot do if she sets her mind to it? I think not. There are things she ought not to attempt again, but that is beside the point. She is one of the most diverse artists in opera, and she never ceases to impress me with new insights and revisiting previous roles I have long adored in her voice. Joining Fleming in this work are baritone Thomas Hampson, a thoroughly erudite and thoughtful artist, tenor Patrick Carfizzi, and soprano Heidi Stober. Soprano Elizabeth Futral replaces Renee later in the run. Sir Andrew Davis conducts here, as well. It shall be interesting to see how this production deals with the challenges of the Met's new one from Susan Stroman and if the performances garner a greater degree of praise from the public and the press.

     Running from December 7, 2015, to January 17th, 2016, is the world premiere of Jimmy Lopez's Bel Canto, which is based on Ann Patchett's novel of the same title. Set in South America, the story begins during a vice president's birthday party. Famed American opera singer Roxanne Cross is performing for the affair, but terrorists seize the vice president's mansion. Roxanne, a Japanese electronics company chairman, and an interpreter are kept hostage since the president is not in attendance of this celebration, and romance blossoms under captivity. Danielle de Niese stars as the heroine, but do any of my readers share my wish that Renee might have given the premiere of this role? It does make sense since author Patchett, who is a close friend of Renee's in actual life, based Roxanne Cross on Fleming herself. Nevertheless, de Niese provides a marvelous draw to what otherwise might be an overlooked work of the modern canon. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo and mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges help fill this cast with attraction for at least my interest.

     As he should in any opera season, Verdi also graces the Lyric stage with Nabucco, running from January 23 to February 16, 2016. Celebrated Verdi baritone Zeljko Lucic takes the stage as Nabucco. Soprano Tatiana Serjan, a voice with which I am unacquainted, stars as Abigaille, and mezzo soprano Elizabeth DeShong returns to Chicago as Fenena in this new co-production shared between La Scala, the Royal Opera Covent Garden, and the Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona. Carlo Rizzi leads the orchestra for one of Verdi's perhaps lesser known operas.

     For its penultimate production of the 2015-2016 season, Lyric Opera of Chicago has elected to mount Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, another opera some audiences may find rather too lengthy, but this time I am not among them. Oktavian has become the focus of this opera in recent years, and this is made even more apparent in the fact that this company has booked not one, but two star mezzo sopranos to fill this role. Both Sophie Koch and Alice Coote have been assigned to this beloved trouser role, and Amanda Majeski returns as the Marschallin. Bass Matthew Rose, a rather unknown star to me, sings Baron Ochs while tenor Rene Barbera cameos as the Italian Singer. Soprano Christina Landshamer makes her Lyric Opera debut as Sophie. The cast is led by Edward Gardner at the podium, who also makes his debut as maestro of the Lyric Opera Orchestra.

     In a production that is new to Chicago audiences, Bartlett Sher gives us his interpretation of Charles Gounod's Romeo et Juliette, and this may include the best cast of the season in my opinion. Joseph Calleja sings Romeo, the young man in love with soprano Susanna Phillips's Juliette, a young maiden of a rival family. My first impression is that these two shall make a tenderly affectionate and devoted stage couple about whom the world as they know it falls around them as their mutual attraction and feelings for each other become known. Tenor Eric Cutler will later step into the role of Romeo, which will be a most interesting contrast, I believe. Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn sings Friar Laurence, a role sometimes almost carelessly forgotten, and mezzo soprano Marianne Crebassa makes her Lyric Opera debut as Stephano. Emmanuel Villaume leads the orchestra in this tragic tale of forbidden love.

     Presently, no single tickets are being sold, but, if you reside in the Chicago area, subscriptions for the forthcoming season are available. Student discount tickets are also available for a mere twenty dollars, and Lyric also has a rush ticket program, as well. The 2015-2016 season promises to be a pleasant and perhaps even surprising one in Chicago, and I would urge anyone to try to schedule a visit for a weekend of opera in this glorious city. As ever, my gratitude remains for your continued reading, and I pray that all of you may be continually blessed.

Henrik NánásiHen
Henrik Nánási
Henrik Nánási
Henrik Nánási