Showing posts from 2008

Happy Holidays, We'll Be Back

Happy Holidays!

The Aria Serious crew will be out on some well earned R & R until after the first of the year but when we return things will be in full swing with opera singers singing, choruses chorusing, directors directing, orchestras orchestrating and everything else it takes to make an opera while giving you a backstage view to all of it.
So until then, a safe a restful holiday season to you and your loved ones and a happy new year.
-- Edward

Happy Belated, Big P

In my defense (my family and friends will vouch for me on this one) I've never been good with remembering birthdays.

So today, we here at Aria Serious would like to celebrate, a day late (but only a day), Mr. Giacomo Puccini's 150th. That's a lot of candles, especially for a ghost.

Numerous publications have written tributes including ones here, here and here.

For those that really like to celebrate in style (and we know you do), his operas Toscaand Madama Butterflyopen and close the season respectively. Buy a ticket and party like it is 1858.

Now onto that cake.

-- Edward

Don Quixote Costume Sketches

We're pretty excited about Don Quixote this coming February.
First, it is an opera we haven't done since 1969 and it is an opera I've personally never seen before. It features Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto and Denyce Graves. It is also a new production that we're designing here so I get to see all the creative people I work with get even more creative.

Take Missy West for example. Missy is our Costume Shop manager but Missy has never designed an opera for us. Sure, she worked on the Zandra Rhodes production of The Magic Flute and The Pearl Fishers and designed many of the costumes for Wozzeck, but for Don Quixote Missy is the costume designer and that's pretty cool because nobody knows costumes better than Missy.

Missy just shared some sketches of the costumes she's creating and we've decided to share them with you. We're currently building these costumes in the shop, so once some of them are finished we'll put some pictures up -- but no…

While You Were Out

It was a slow weekend in the world of opera. Here's all that developed while we were out:

- The New York Times has posted their "best and worst of Classical Music" for 2008.
- Not to be outdone, The Los Angeles Times has done the same.
- Munich Opera has announced their 2009 Festival Season and it features San Diego Opera (and Aria Serious) friend AnjaHarteros in a gala concert. We must add, after listening to her cd over the weekend, this cd is the bee's knees and it would make a great stocking stuffer for all you procrastinators out there. Heck, I bought five myself. And speaking of bees and knees, where did that phrase come from in the first place?
-- Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! And time again to share our listening plans for the weekend. This is our last one of these for the year as the Aria Serious crew will be busy with family and friends for the next few weeks.

That said, we've decided to break with tradition and feature, not operas, not even operettas, definitely not musicals, but instead two singers whose cds have been sitting on my desk for some time now that I've yet to unwrap and battle that silly barcode sticker thingy that keeps the cd case closed.

First is AnjaHarteros and her cdBella Voce. It has been out a year and we just love Anja so it is time to give this one a spin. And yes, being #2 in the Best Divas of 2008 was a much needed kick in the butt to get me to listen to this.

Second will be Isabel Bayrakdarian'sGomidas Songswhich is showing up on many "Best of" year end lists. Isabel is a friend of Aria Serious and an incredible performer. I know these songs are very close to her heart so I'm interested to hear w…


After moping about the lack of fudge and gelatohere at the Aria Serious compound, I was delighted to find in my in-box Rachel's recipe for homemade fudge that Sam has been taunting me with.

This is actually better than receiving real fudge because 1.) it shows someone loves me without the actual calories and 2.) it is easier to share a recipe with you, dear readers, than an actual brick of fudge which I wouldn't have shared anyway since I would have eaten it all by myself (sorry).
So in time for the holidays and Blogger Appreciation Day (ahem) is Rachel's and Lucia's (that's her mom, the real mastermind of this whole fudge operation I've been told) Real Opera Singer Fudge Recipe:
*** 3/4 cup butter
3 cups sugar
1 can (5 1/3 oz) of evaporated milk
12 1 oz squares of semi sweet chocolate (Bakers)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 jar (7 oz) of marshmallow cream/fluff

Mix sugar, butter, and milk and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in…

Let Us Hope It Is Shorter Than The Book

I'll confess, I started Gertrude Stein's sprawling generational novel "The Making of Americans" many years ago. I'll also confess I'm still stuck on page 345. That leaves me 2/3 of the book to still cover.

Alas, opera has come to the rescue and I don't need to finish reading it.

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has just premiered an opera based on Stein's cubist novel that traces the history of Americans -- all Americans -- past, present, and future.

It is complex stuff and the production seems to rise to the occasion using multimedia components to bridge narrative time and space.

You can read about it here, which is about 955 pages less than the actual book. Or if you're really lazy, listen to the story below.

-- Edward

Opera's Biggest Divas In 2008

The end of the year is near which means it is time for all those "best of" lists that start to appear everywhere. This one comes from the London Telegraph and lists the biggest diva's in 2008.

We're pretty smitten with pick numero dos, AnjaHarteros, who made her role debut as Violetta with us in Traviata (she's since recorded the role) and then came back to sing Amelia in Simon Boccanegra(that's her to the left, with LadoAtaneli) -- the same role that earned her that number two spot on this list, albeit in a different production than the one we had here. For those that care, Anja returns next season as Mimi in La boheme. Yay for opera!
-- Edward

On The Road With Sam Spade, Part 3

Still without gelatoor homemade fudge, we begrudgingly present part 3 of Sam Spade's tour journal while gnawing on a carrot.

Saturday, November 8th:

Saturday turned out to be another long day. I woke before my alarm could do its job, so I decided to hit the hotel workout room at 8AM. I did some cardio on the elliptical machine and did some lifting with the limited equipment they had there. I went up and got a quick shower before having to be at the theater to help load the set into the truck at 10AM.
The load-out went smoothly, as per usual, and we hit up Nosh Café for breakfast. It was a pretty good breakfast with almost everyone there, save Crystal and Nic.
After breakfast, Crystal, Rachel and I borrowed Elyse’s car (THANKS AGAIN ELYSE!!) and drove to Pasadena to rehearse with Paul Floyd, a pianist with L.A. Opera. We did this because next Friday and (hopefully) Saturday we will all be competing in the Western Regional Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions i…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

-- More about the drama that unfolded at La Scala's season opening last weekend.

-- Baltimore Opera's debt (which led to its filing for Chapter 11) is around $1.2 million and includes a $19,5000 bill for a spa in Milan, Italy.

-- The Cleveland Plains Dealer critic that was moved off his beat covering the Cleveland Orchestra earlier this year has sued the paper.

-- Former San Diego Opera board president and current board member Bill Stensrud wonders if the end is nigh for classical music labels with a thorough analysis of the industry.

-- Met tenor Peter Seiffert, who is singing Tristan in the current run of Tristan und Isolde, is using a earpiece to get prompts that has some fans crying foul.

-- British bass Richard Van Allan dies at 73.

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! Even the souring economy cannot ruin the weekend and the few hours I squirrel away to spend with a new opera recording.

Now more than ever this routine seems important -- a comfy couch, a dark room, perhaps one of the dogs snoring next to me as the music unfolds into an impossible production in my head.
This week is Puccini's La Rondinebecause I love it and there are moments that make my smile with joy. Reason enough, eh?
What are your listening plans this weekend?
Whatever it is, have a great one!
-- Edward

The State Of Opera... pretty dismal right now, so says The Washington Times this morning.

Don't believe it? Reuters ran something similar as well.

I'm really tired of writing these types of posts but it is important to share this information with you because it is something we are all facing -- and not just opera companies -- symphonies, theatres, art galleries are all facing the same grim future.

Why then does it seem so focused on opera? It is expensive to produce. And nearly impossible to make cuts on the production end. You can't just have half an orchestra, half a chorus, half a set when producing grand opera. The singers are specialized. And everyone needs to get paid.

If we are to believe the articles up above there is still more bad news to come.

Happy Friday dear readers.

Here's a fresh box of puppies to take a bit of the edge off.

-- Edward

On The Road With Sam Spade, Part 2

The tour journal of our favorite Ensemble gumshoe baritone continues...

You can find part 1 here:
Friday, November 7th:

Friday was an early day. We were up and had to be at the theater by 9AM for the first of our two shows, which was to start at 9:30AM (the second being at 11:30AM). We all got into costume and were ready to go in plenty of time. Unfortunately, one or more of the schools scheduled to attend the first show didn’t get buses to pick them up. So, we ended up starting that show a half hour late. Luckily we were supposed to have an hour between the shows, so we still had a half-hour breather before our second show.

The shows went really well. Nic was really pleased with everything. He is usually happy with how the shows go, but today he was particularly pleased with everything. The Name Polka [in Rumpelstiltskin] during the second show was eventful for me. I usually run around in the crowd and end up diverting attention from the stage. Today, though, it was dark in a large …

Phantom Voices Of The Opera

In 1907, on Christmas Eve, Paris Opera buried 12 recordings in a vault in an effort to preserve the leading voices of the era including Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso.

The plan was to unearth these recordings a 100 years later so future listeners (that's us) could hear them while vacationing on the moon.

The recordings were unsealed a year ago and technicians have been digitizing the recordings so everyone can download them to their ipods.

They have just been released to the public and you can listen to them here.

You can also read more about the "buried voices" of the Paris Opera by clicking this link.

Plans are being made to leave another audio time capsule that will remain sealed for a century, ensuring future generations will have the gift of hearing Rihanna's "Umbrella" while cruising the Jovian moons.

-- Edward

Sometimes No News Is The Best News One Can Hope For

... I said yesterday. And today, now this. Crap.

-- Edward

On The Road With Sam Spade, Part 1

No, not that Sam Spade; the private investigator business is still as lucrative as ever we're told. Nope, we're talking about Sam Spade the baritone, two-time Ensemble Member and your guest blogger for this series of posts.

See, we here at Aria Serious asked Sam what it was like to be on the road with our Ensemble and what Sam gave us was a tour diary of the Ensemble's road trip to San Pedro last month.
Sam was so thorough we decided to break this up over the next few weeks.
Before we begin however it might be worth going here to meet our Ensemble as Sam refers to them all by first name. After reading his report you'll know them all so well you'll be referring to them by first name too.
On the road with Sam Spade, part 1 follows:
Thursday, November 6th
I don’t remember the San Pedro trip coming this soon in the season last year, but that isn’t the only thing that made this trip unique. Our van depart was set at 1PM today, so I was able to sleep in a bit and still g…

While You Were Out

The good, the bad, and the ugly from over the weekend:

- Ticket sales lag and uncertainty loomsamong San Diego arts organizations and even we here at San Diego Opera are not immune.

- La Scala's season opened over the weekend and the drama backstage is clearly more interesting than the drama onstage. Still wanting more intrigue? Be sure to visit the Opera Chic for more detailed accounts.

- The Birgit Nilsson Foundation has announced a $1 million prize to reward the outstanding achievement of a concert or opera singer, a classical or opera conductor, or a specific production by an opera company. We think they're selling themselves short and should include an award for opera blogs somewhere in there.

- Former NYCO headGerard Mortier is singing the same song in a different city, this time Madrid, when discussing his future plans for the Company. We like the message and think this is incredibly important; let us hope we see some of it come to fruition this time around.

- Speaking of NY…

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

After a week hiatus it is back to the lovely routine of picking an opera out of the stacks and giving it a careful listen over the weekend.

This week we throw caution to the wind and break with tradition mostly because my wife is out of town therefore allowing me to watch an opera on DVD in glorious surround sound as opposed to merely listening to it with headphones. I know, I know I simply cannot stand watching opera on TV, but this is a rare occasion because this opera does not exist on record or cd, merely DVD.
Tomorrow morning I'll be watching Pizzetti's Assassino Nella Cattedrale (Murder in the Cathedral), which is based on the TS Eliot's play of the same name about Thomas Becket's murder by the knights of Henry II.
Why? I felt like I wanted something different. Heck, I might even have dessert for breakfast and breakfast for dinner, that's how loose I'm playing it this weekend.
Have a great one, and share your listening (or viewing) plans in the comment sect…

Can't Do It In Real Life? Do It In Opera

Aria Serious reader Ariagirl (she has her own blog under construction so go give her some love) sent us "The Sloganizer" this morning.

What's The Sloganizer? It is a random slogan generator where you input a key word (like "opera", I know, original) and it generates a slogan. Some are quite funny, some I wish we could use (like the title of this post).

Other random gems:

"Say It With Opera"

"Beware of Expensive Opera"

"Gee, Your Opera Smells Funny"

Waste some time, and get some laughs, with The Sloganizer here.

-- Edward

Sending The O.C. Some Love

Tim Mangan, over at the O.C. Register and The Arts Blog has posted an article about an offer we are extending to displaced Opera Pacific patrons that was created when Opera Pacific approached us following their closure. We can confirm letters are now going out to Opera Pacific patrons.

We hope they can join us down here; live opera is an incredible experience and one that every community should have access to. The loss of our good friends at Opera Pacific is heartbreaking.
-- Edward

No Water In Beer, That's Something I Can Drink To

Pam Kragen, writer and editor for the The North County Times, has just published an interview with boss Ian Campbell about how the economy is affecting us here at San Diego Opera. It is a sobering article but luckily (and very wisely I might add) Ian promises that the artistic quality will not diminish:

"If you lower the artistic standards, that's like putting water in the beer. First the regulars in the pub know it, and then others see the regulars going away and they know there's something wrong."

Great analogy boss, and one I can (and will) drink to.

Umm, after work of course. Phew.

You can read the full article here.

-- Edward

Carmen Sleevefaced

Courtesy of Sleeveface comes this Carmen inspired entry by Anais Lefeuvre. Never heard of Sleeveface? It is defined as:

One or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion.
See! Finally something to do with those old records gathering dust in the garage.
You can submit your best opera inspired Sleevefaces to the website up above -- and you should check the website out anyway, some of them are quite wonderful.
And a special shout out to Culture Lust for the heads up.

-- Edward

Vissi d’arte: Our Upcoming Tosca, Sylvie Valayre

Soprano Sylvie Valayre was our inaugural blog post. Now, with her arrival to San Diego just a few weeks away, we're still excited that she's making her debut with us as Tosca. Even more exciting is the fact that we get to meet in person instead of chatting through emails.

We sent local writer Pam Kragen out to chat with Sylvie one last time before she arrives in San Diego and this is what she has to report.
If you want a phrase to describe Sylvie Valayre, the liricospinto soprano who makes her San Diego Opera debut next January as Tosca, it’s “drama queen.”
But that’s not because the Paris-born singer is a diva. By all accounts, Valayre is described as warm, shy, funny, candid, self-effacing and exceptionally studious.
But Valayre is also one of Europe’s reigning interpreters of the dramatic repertoire, spending six to 11 months of each year playing opera’s most passionate heroines — Lady Macbeth, Salome, Turandot, Aida and Tosca — at prestigious houses such as Covent Garden, …

The Knife Compose An Opera

We're so excited we originally posted this one in ALL CAPS.

Swedish brother and sister electro pop duo, The Knife, are currently composing an opera based on Darwin's On the Origin of Species called "Tomorrow, in a year."
Commissioned by the Danish theatre group, Hotel Pro Forma, the piece will premiere in November of 2009, in honor of the 150th anniversary of Darwin's famed text.

According to Hotel Pro Forma's press materials: "The Swedish music group The Knife creates completely new compositions that challenge the conventional conception of opera. The form is experimental and exploratory. The music is written for three singers who come from different backgrounds: electronica pop, classical opera and performance."

According to their webpage Olof Dreijer (one half of The Knife) is now in the Amazon taking field recordings of animals, fish and plants that will be used in the composition. The other half, Karin Dreijer Andersson, is taking publicity photos …

Is Opera Going To The Dogs?

From the lovely and wonderful Opera Chic blog comes this delightful clip of a dog singing along to Cecilia Bartoli on the radio.

Dogs and Opera!? Together? Seems like a match made in heaven for those of us here at Aria Serious.

And yes, the licking of the parts is apparently a lost vocal technique.

For the very flexible.


While You Were Out

Now that we've recovered from our weekend long tryptophan haze, returned from the malls relatively unscathed on Black Friday, spent much of the morning wrapping up our holiday shopping on Cyber Monday, it is time to look at all the good and bad that happened over the extended weekend:

- Gerard Mortier is no longer unemployed, having landed the top spot at Madrid's Teatro Real.
- A strike threatens the opening of La Scala later this week. San Diego Opera/Aria Serious friend, Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto, is scheduled to sing (or not sing) King Phillip in Don Carlo. The Italian government is attempting to intervene.
- JornUtzon, the Danish designer who designed the Sydney Opera House has died at age 90, having never seen the iconic building completed.
- The board of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera have voted to suspend all opera productions for the 2009-2010 season. You can blame the economy on this one.


We here at Aria Serious would like to take a moment to thank all of you for your support with our fledgling blog.

If you are a reader, commenter, ticket buyer or donor (not just with us but with any opera company) we thank you.

These past few months we've shared with you some stories about the hard times every arts organization is facing. We can't promise those stories are going to go away, but we can promise that we'll continue to give you behind-the-scenes looks at the workings of our Company (even more now that we'll actually be in season and you know, actually have stuff going on behind-the-scenes).

We have a favor to ask of you however: would you please do your part in helping to fill you local opera house? Purchase tickets, bring a friend, give a gift certificate and share your love of opera with those you love. Studies show that those who attend opera on a regular basis were first introduced to opera by a family member or a friend.

We can think of no greater gift th…

Those Wacky Conductors

We don't really touch on conductors as much as we should here at Aria Serious. We promise that is going to change. I'd even venture a guess that there are those that have no idea what conductors do besides wave their arms around, but what does all that waving mean? I think I'll ask our resident conductor Karen Keltner to explain all that in a dedicated post sometime in the future but today there is news of two conductors worth mentioning here.

The first comes from the LA Times "Culture Monster" blog and is about wunderkid Gustavo Dudamel and his left hand. If you've ever wondered what conductors are doing on the podium this is a great article to read. It is also a kick in the teeth since I missed this concert when it was in San Diego on Saturday due to family obligations. But if you attended, feel free to mock me in the comments section below.
The second should serve as a warning to marketing departments around the world as it is about Russian conductor Gennad…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Sure they sing mostly heroic roles, but tenors can and do turn wild from time to time.
- And then there are tenors like Marcello Giordani, who performed two leading roles the same day at the Met. And I get tired just watching a single opera.
- A former NYCO executive whose position was eliminated when Mortier's (now aborted) directorship was first announced, has won a game of musical chairs and is now heading the Brooklyn Orchestra. - Things are not looking so bright for Baltimore Opera, which reports that ticket sales are down for Aida. It also seems the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is facing some hard times as well.
-- Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Time again to ask: what you are listening to this weekend?

Me, I'm going to spend Saturday morning with Verdi's Ernanibecause I've never heard it before and found it used at Amoeba last weekend.
Have a great weekend and be sure to tell us what you are listening to in the comment section below.
-- Edward

Sting And Elvis Costello, A Night At The Opera

Sting and Elvis Costello are starring a new opera reports London's Telegraph. Called Welcome to the Voice the story sounds vaguely reminiscent of Tosca and was composed by Costello's long-time keyboardist Steve Nieve with the libretto by Muriel Teodori, Nieve's wife.

The piece was originally workshopped at a New York Jazz Festival in 2000 and mixes popular with operatic singing, with influences of jazz, electronic composition and full orchestral arrangements.

A big Costello fan from This Year's Model to Goodbye Cruel World, I lost touch with his work for the past 20 plus years. I was surprised to learn that besides this, he also has an unfinished opera, The Secret Arias, that was workshopped by the Royal Danish Opera. Seems all things come full circle in life and I have a lot of skipped recordings from Elvis to discover now.

In a degree of separation type of thing, it is also worth noting that The Police's drummer Stewart Copeland also composed operas which means one …

Turning New York City Opera Around

The New York Times this morning takes a close look at NYCO'sroadmap for the future as it is being laid out by turnaround specialist Michael K. Kaiser. The article goes onto look at some of the faults that lead to the situation the Company is currently in.

You can read the article for yourself, here.
-- Edward

How To Get Free Tickets

Probably not an option for many of us, including myself, but when singer Adriano Graziani called to buy some opera tickets for a concert by Welsh National Opera he was told "no" and was instead offered the leading part.

Seems the lead tenor had gotten ill a few hours prior and Welsh National Opera was looking for a replacement. With just two hours to familiarize himself with the music and have a last minute rehearsal, Grazianibrought the house down and was offered a future role in La boheme.
This isn't the first time he's gotten a lucky break. He also filled in as Macduff in the Glyndebourne Touring Opera production of Macbeth after the lead fell ill.
Graziani swears he is “not doing anything to these tenors, honestly” which just makes us all the more suspicious.
-- Edward

Fire Music

Southern California is burning. Luckily we here in San Diego have been spared the worst of it -- nothing like the fires that choked us last year and shut the city down for a week. The only thing that is different is a thick brown haze on the horizon which, truth be told, creates some wonderfully beautiful iridescent sunsets of shimmering oranges and purples.

A group of classical musicians on their way to the Riverside Philharmonic for a concert were on the 91 freeway when the fire crossed it. They filmed the drive, and being musicians, set it to music, in this case the second movement of Shostakovich's Symphony #10, which was the piece they were on their way to perform.

"We found it interesting that the music we were about to perform matched the intensity of the fires we witnessed," commented the videographer of the video which you can see below.

-- Edward

Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto's Love Affair With San Diego

We here at the Aria Serious Tower are lucky. Blue skies, an excellent view of the bay, fine weather (I mean it is 85 degrees mid-November) and the fact that we can bank on Italian bass FerruccioFurlanetto singing with us on a fairly regular basis. (That's him to the left at the driving range at Torrey Pines.)

We're one of the few companies in America where he sings these days. He sings with us. He sings at the Met. He has sung at Los Angeles Opera, once. And, well, that is about it.
If you've heard Ferruccio before you know why this is exciting. If you haven't, then I suggest joining us in February or at least checking out one of his recordings, preferably on DVD because the man can act as well as sing.
We sent local writer Pam Kragento find out how we got so lucky and this is what she had to report:

When Ian Campbell arrived as San Diego Opera’s general and artistic director in 1983, he carried with him the memory of a particular Italian basso cantante.
While working …

Opera Radio Returns to Cox Cable

Aria Serious readers in San Diego should be happy to know that Cox Communications has reinstated its opera radio channel after an extensive telephone campaign by concerned listeners. You can find the station at channel 900. The station officially kicks off in mid-December but it is up and running now. Click here for the official music choice opera page.

-- Edward

Manchester United?

We touched on it earlier last month, but now it seems that the Royal Opera House will scrap plans to perform an 18-week season in Manchester if it cannot secure state funding. The planned expansion is expected to cost somewhere between $90 - $120 million dollars. You can read about it here.

-- Edward

I'd Like To Exchange This Egg

Have you ever wanted to be in an opera? Like being on stage? Are you like me and lack any artistic talent whatsoever? We here at Aria Serious understand this predicament all too well, and we think we can help.

San Diego Opera is seeking supernumeraries to appear in our 2009 operas and would like to invite you to attend our Super Open House next month on Thursday, December 18.

What's a super? They're the people that inhabit the scenes -- waiters, guards, townfolk, etc... And oh, they have no singing or speaking parts, so don't even try.
Sound fun?Here's how you can become one:

Contact San Diego Opera Super Captain (and all around super-duper guy) Bob Borntrager. You can reach Bob by email at or by phone at (619) 533-7073.

However you decide to reach him be sure to leave your: name, address, email address, phone number and age (if under 18) so he can send you a super info packet. Bob will also tell you the time and location of this super-secret sup…