Friday, August 29, 2008

What Are You Listening to this Weekend?

Fridays are coming up faster than I can find cute photos of animals wearing headphones, and yet the music I want to listen to keeps on stacking up.

This weekend I'll be listening to Bejamin Britten's Serenade Opus 31 / Les Illuminations Opus 18 / Nocturne Opus 60 with tenor Peter Pears. I've been on a Britten kick lately if you can't tell.

I'll also be giving some careful time to the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall concert as I've only given it a perfunctory listen up until now.

I'll also be spending a solid block of time at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles to satisfy the rocker in me. I never know what I might find perusing the used bins.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Audiences Behaving Badly

I recently read this post by Amanda Ameer on her wonderful blog Life's A Pitch who wrote about her experiences at the Mostly Maux Arts Festival in New York called Dressed to Kill the Art Form. It is a scathing look at audience behavior and how, for having the stereotype of placing so much emphasis on decorum and protocol, those who attend classical music performances can be as rude (or ruder) as audiences at rock concerts or worse, the movies.

We've all experienced audiences behaving badly. The coughing contests that seem to begin the moment the lights dim; the gentleman conducting the orchestra with a rolled up program; the cell phone that chirps out the Queen of the Night aria at a Strauss opera and the person who actually answers the phone to let the person calling know they are currently at an Strauss opera; the person who spends an entire opera typing away on their blackberry laughing at their own wit; the lady (I-kid-you-not) who sings along to the soprano for the entire opera (this, thankfully, did not occur here in San Diego). Hey, at least I haven't experienced any brawls in the theatre, yet.

Perhaps because I look at the theatre as one of the last places refuge, a place of respite from the everyday demands we're constantly bombarded with that I am overly sensitive to audience behavior. I'm not the only one; The Opera Tattler reviews not only opera performances but audience behavior as well.

Now, I’m not a stickler for rules, but I believe some rules are needed when attending a live performance; namely because they are live and they are expensive to attend in the first place. I cannot go back and rewind the last act to watch it again if the person behind me wants to offer commentary to his date.

I understand the need to cough when the need to cough arises, I understand the need to pop a candy in your mouth when hunger strikes. I understand the need to get up and use the bathroom and I even take the unpopular stance of allowing people the chance to return to the theatre to the first open available seat on the aisle.

But more often than not my theatre experience is ruined by a couple talking a few behind me, or the cel phone bleating which simply baffles me.

We here at San Diego Opera even go as far to post a set of rules or “Opera Courtesies” on our website. Many of them are common sense. When did common sense become so uncommon?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Fly?

Variety Magazine recently published this article about movies invading the opera world. The article makes reference to Paris Opera's recent premiere of The Fly (heading to Los Angeles Opera next month), Il Postino (also heading to our neighbors to the north) and Brokeback Mountain which will premiere at New York City Opera in the near future. This isn't the first time opera has looked to movies for inspiration and the article goes on to cite Dead Man Walking and A Wedding as other examples.

Personally I'm all for operatic adaptions to movies but I can't help wondering, why The Fly? Now I'm a big Cronenberg fan and loved Brundle-fly and his enzyme digesting vomit as much as the next kid on the block but I can't help but wonder; are we missing out on the classics? Where are the operas based on the films that have endured for generations?

Where is Citizen Kane? Casablanca? The Godfather? Gone With the Wind? Lawrence of Arabia? Seven Samurai? The Wizard of Oz?

I mean The Fly was a great movie (and might be a good opera -- I'll be seeing it myself in Los Angeles), Brokeback Mountain incredibly moving, Dead Man Walking shockingly poignant but I would not consider these movies classics.

Of course, if I had it my way I'd love to see the original Star Wars trilogy put to opera (OK, fine, see Wagner's The Ring), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and my personal favorite popcorn schlock film Night of the Living Dead (complete with a zombie chorus). But then I never promised I had good taste.

So, indulge me. What movies do you think would make a good addition to the operatic canon?


Friday, August 22, 2008

What Are You Listening to this Weekend?

Friday again, so it is time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend? I'll confess -- I never did get to that Ferruccio Furlanetto recording I found in Mexico last week so that's on my list for this weekend. I will listen to this after my final few days of dedicated Olympic coverage and who knows, I might get to see some actual sports being played between all the profiles and fluff stories.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sneak Peeks

There was once a time, not too long ago, that future opera seasons were closely guarded secrets and revealing an unannounced season, even just a tidbit, was a major no-no. This was always difficult because the next season always seemed to be more exciting than the one I was currently working on (I chalk this up to anticipation). And yes, I'm lousy at keeping secrets. Opera works so far in advance (more on that later) that it is not just one season I need to keep secret, but sometimes as many as four.

Luckily this is changing, and from time to time I get permission to let slip some information about an upcoming season. This is one of those times.

So, below is a clip from Otello at the Salzburg Festival earlier this month that features two singers who will be making debuts with us, not in 2009 but in 2010 and 2011.

The first, Stephen Costello, should be known to you by now as he's had a stellar year and rightfully so. In the video below Stephen sings Cassio and shows up in the first 10 or so seconds.

Stephen debuts with us as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet in 2010. Stephen will also sing the "Italian Tenor" in Der Rosenkavalier and the title role of Faust in 2011 so rest assured you'll be seeing a good amount of Stephen on this blog for the next few years.

The second singer making his debut with is Alexandrs Antonenko who sings Otello and enters at the 6'33". Alexandrs will debut as Des Greiux in Manon Lescaut to end the 2010 season.

Stay tuned for more future sneak peaks when I can sneak them by Ian.

- Edward

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shameless Self Promotion

I work in an office with lots of very talented individuals. One of those individuals is Dr. Nicolas Reveles, the Geisel Director of Education and Outreach. That's a long title and I'm a busy man so I just call him "Dr. Nic". After all, that is the name of the hack of a quack on The Simpsons and this is cool enough to begin with, but it gets even cooler when you shout "Hi, Dr. Nic" and he responds "Hi, everybody." This is something I suggest you do when you see him in public buying groceries, or filling up his car, or while waiting on his table when he is trying to have a quiet dinner.

Don't know what Dr. Nic looks like? You should.

Dr. Nic is host of our television show OperaTalk! with Nicolas Reveles. He's incredibly intelligent, charming and well spoken. He also has a face for television (which probably explains why I'm the one sitting here behind a computer writing this blog). Each of his OperaTalk! programs focus on one opera and covers the history, plot and music. They're short as well, coming in under half an hour. I watch them often and repeat the things I learn from the show. This is good because it makes me seem smarter than I really am.

If you haven't watched an episode of OperaTalk! there's really no excuse. We have pages of pages of these programs online at YouTube. I've also (hopefully) included an episode of OperaTalk! Madama Butterfly below because I'm learning to use the "embed video function" of this blog and thought I'd kill two birds, or butterflies, as the case may be, with one stone.


-- Edward

Friday, August 15, 2008

What Are You Listening to this Weekend?

Friday again, so its time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend? Yours truly is flying home this weekend so you can soon expect posts to return with regularity and I apologize for the cobwebs that have formed these past few weeks. Once I get home I'll be listening to this recording of Don Giovanni I happened to find for sale at a flea market in Mexico featuring our dear friend Ferruccio Furlanetto. Amazing what you can discover if you just stop long enough to look.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ten Questions With... Tenor Marcus Haddock Believes in the Geneva Conventions and Rocks Out to Whitesnake

I'm in awe of opera singers. Being tone deaf and born with a lousy voice, unable to act or follow simple directions, I'm amazed by what they do on stage. And then they do it over and over again, night after night, city after city, with a new cast, new audience and new orchestra.

I'm also surprised how they can be contradictions of sorts and I remember a singer we had a few seasons back -- quite excellent and world renowned -- who confided in me they hated opera, and then proceeded to give me his best Homer Simpson snoring-on-the-couch impression. It was quite good. While I don't exactly share his sentiments, it was suprising to hear this.

Enter tenor Marcus Haddock. Marcus makes his Company debut as Cavaradossi in Tosca next season. Marcus isn't your stereotypical opera singer although he loves to sing. He also loves to ride his motorcycle. And he listens to Whitesnake (yes, that's them above -- back in the day when rock was big and hair was even bigger). I like to think Marcus belts out Whitesnake under his helmet while driving up behind people in the fast lane but only Marcus knows this for sure.

Marcus is also incredibly intelligent and offers some great insight into the opera Tosca, the foolishness of torture, and his character Cavaradossi in what we affectionally call "Ten Questions With..."

-- Edward

San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome to San Diego Opera! We are very excited that you are making your company debut with us in Tosca. Before we begin, is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Marcus Haddock (M.H.): Let me say thank you for the opportunity to participate in this interview. I am looking forward to working in San Diego.

What’s new in my life? Unfortunately, things are a bit boring right now. I am working on a new piece, if that could qualify for “new in my life”. I’m singing Les Troyens in Tanglewood this summer, so that is occupying a lot of what free time I have. Other than that, I am currently trying to survive my schedule for the next two years.

SDO: You have sung Cavaradossi around the world – at Washington National Opera, Paris Opera, etc.. so I am wondering if you can tell us a little bit about this role?

M.H.: The role of Cavaradossi is the most “Italian” of all the Italian operatic roles; that is, in terms of diction and musical style it is identified most surely by the Italians as “theirs”. It belongs to them. I did not understand this until I sang the role in Florence. I wasn’t just singing an opera that everyone knows, I was singing something that everyone expected to be “Italian”. As an American, my singing can never be truly “Italian” for the Italians, but after a lot of hard work, I think I got as close as anyone ever could.

SDO: Is there a special part of this opera that really speaks to you?

M.H.: I’m not sure what you mean by “speaks to me”. I would say, however, that the torture scene always makes me think of the absolute stupidity of torturing someone for information. Of course, the opera is filled with great musical moments that inspire me to sing. And the greatest masterpiece of operatic literature is the moment of “Vissi d’arte”. Nothing surpasses that moment.

SDO: Our production of Tosca sees you joining up with Sylvie Valayre, Greer Grimsley and Reinhard Dorn among others… Have you worked with anyone in the cast before, or is this an entirely new group of people for you?

M.H.: Yes. I have worked with Sylvie on two occasions. One in Don Carlo in Warsaw, and most recently in Tosca in Paris. I have know Greer for a number of years, but I have never worked with him. I have known of Reinhard for many years while I was in Germany. I may have worked with him in Cologne.

SDO: I’ve heard your early musical influences were gospel and Christian pop. How, if at all, did this influence you to start a career as an opera singer?

M.H.: Since I sang my first solo in church when I was about 8 or 9 years old, I wanted to sing. I knew nothing about Opera growing up. My father was a Southern Baptist Minister, and, so, my only thought back then was perhaps to become church musician, minister of music, or something. However, I really didn’t like much of the gospel music, and the Christian pop wasn’t something that thrilled me. My ear, from early on, recognized a more legitimate sound, and I favored that sound among the different evangelistic singers that came to our church for revivals. Nevertheless, the music influenced me to want to sing. Of course, now, the Christian pop has less to do with “Christian” and a lot more to do with “pop”. I cannot bear to listen to it.

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to Opera? When did you first hear it? What made you realize this was the path you wanted to pursue?

M.H.: I entered Baylor University as a pre-med student. I thought I wanted to be a doctor. Boy was I wrong. Before going to Baylor, my father and I went to the campus to meet with some professors from the school of music, as I was thinking about studying music, and from the Arts and Science department. We also met with Dr. Porter, the choir director. I was interested in being in a choir, regardless of my primary study, and I wanted to sing. So, I went to Baylor, studied pre-med, and sang in the one of the choirs. I also started taking some voice lessons from a student of Carol Blaickner-Mayo. The students name was Sharon Vickery. In exchange for voice lessons, I did yard work for her. You have to understand that Opera was nothing to me. The word was not a part of my vocabulary. It wasn’t long before Sharon started saying some things to me about seriously considering vocal study. And for the Christmas break of my freshman year, she gave me a recording of La Boheme to take home with me during the break. I listened to the recording and said to myself, “I want to do that”. I went back to Baylor after the break, talked to Sharon about it, she arranged an “audition” for Ms. Mayo, and that was it. I changed my major to music and began studying voice with Ms. Mayo. I never dreamed that it would turn out like it has.

SDO: Being a professional Opera singer you spend a lot of time traveling, meeting different people, exploring new locales. What do you like best about this aspect of your job?

M.H.: Traveling, meeting different people, and exploring new locales.

SDO: What do you like the least?

M.H.: Traveling, meeting different people, and exploring new locales….

SDO: We (begrudgingly) must admit there is more to life than Opera. So, do you have any hobbies?

M.H.: I have always enjoyed sailing, but I haven’t had time to go for several years. Currently, I enjoy riding my motorcycle (Yamaha FJR 1300) any chance I get. I gave up golf, so I don’t have to worry about a handicap and changing clubs every other year.

SDO: What is in your cd player/iPod right now that is not Opera related?

M.H.: Whitesnake, Bach cello suites, Beethoven string quartets, some old Al Jarreau, and I also have some sacred music that I enjoy.


Friday, August 8, 2008

What Are You Listening to This Weekend?

It's Friday again. And that means it is time to find out what you are listening to this weekend. Yours truly is on vacation in Puerto Vallarta so I was originally planning on listening to the surf, the birds and the wind but in reality I'm listening to cars honking, people hawking, church bells ringing, donkeys braying and more thunder than is really necessary. Luckily the owner of the bed and breakfast I'm staying at mentioned how much he loved Rigoletto before I packed my bags so I brought him a copy to listen to. Later I'll be heading out to listen to some live Mariachi music which I know nothing about but with a good guide, adventurous ear and open mind I might actually fall in love. I discovered opera this way, so who knows what's in store.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Small Surprise

It's always nice when I get an email in my morning in-box from an artist. Even better when they send me music. Sylvie Valayre did just that this morning. My morning present is now yours. Here's Sylvie singing Violetta from La traviata. Enjoy!

- Edward

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bad Boy Don In Bid To Boink the Bride

No. I didn't come up with the headline. It is taken from the British tabloid The Sun who recently ran this article about Don Giovanni . The article, aptly called "Sex, death, booze, bribery, revenge, ghosts ... who said opera is boring?" is the type of coverage I love to read and I think opera deserves. They're right of course, opera is not boring, and in the right hands it can be a transcendent experience. But then if you're reading this, you already know this fact. Still, it is refreshing to see this type of coverage, and the headline got me thinking about other tabloid spiced headlines that can be used to describe various operas.

Soldiers in Sick Girlfriend Swap (Cosi fan tutte)

Two-Timing Tom Ditches Wife for Bearded Lady (The Rake's Progress)

Crazy Step-Mother in Baby-Killing Nightmare (Jenufa)

Raucous Russian Czar Loses Mind, Crown (Boris Godunov)

So have it, and post your best tabloid opera headlines here.