Showing posts from October, 2008

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Happy Friday! Happy Halloween! As always it is time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend? Me, I have Don Giovanni on tap -- that and enough candy corn to put me in a diabetic coma. I would like to point out however, in a rare show of foresight, I scheduled a dentist appointment for Monday afternoon.

Share with us your listening plans in the comment section below and have a safe and happy one!
- Edward

Royal Opera Eyes Manchester

The Royal Opera House is in talks with the city of Manchester over a proposed 18-week season of performances. Not everyone is happy however. Opera North conducts a three-week season in Manchester and there is fear that the competition will cannibalize audiences and take away public funds. You can read about the hubbub here.

Call me naive, but I always looked at it this way: what is good for the arts in general is good for us. Besides, nothing like a bit of healthy competition to make sure you bring your A-game to the table.
-- Edward

Ease On Down The Musical Road

Former San Diego Union Tribune classical music critic and (more importantly in our humble opinion) dedicated Aria Serious reader, Valerie Scher, sends us this blog post from the (musical) road.

Did you read the recent news story about the nation’s first permanent “musical road”?

It’s in Lancaster, Ca., about 70 miles north of Los Angeles. The idea is to carve grooves that will “play” the theme from Rossini’s “William Tell Overture” when cars drive over them. What a hoot!

The town first experimented with the concept for a Honda commercial. You can see and hear what I'm talking about down below.

Granted, the rendition is hardly pitch-perfect. But Lancaster’s mayor predicts the new road will become a tourist attraction.
That got me thinking. Why not have such roads in San Diego?
With tongue very much in cheek, I hereby suggest themes from the following pieces so that we can have our own opera-related thoroughfares:

- Overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on Pacific Highway, in o…

Putting An Opera Together, Part II

The second part of a series looking at what it takes to put on an opera on the stage by San Diego Director of Production, Ron Allen. You can read the first part here. Up above is a design sketch from Act II of Don Quixote.
There are some advantages to a rented production. You know what you are getting; most of the technical problems have been worked out and it is much cheaper than building new. A rented production will cost $40,000 - $80,000 for sets and costumes. A new production usually cost a minimum of $300,000 and often cost as much as $1 million or more. (Ian has often complained he could build a house for that amount of money. I explain, yes, he could but a house doesn’t have to be engineered and built to take down and put in the back of trucks afterwards or to rotate or change into another house in 20 minutes.)

The biggest issues with a rental production are – the set is someone else’s vision and not the companies and how will it look in our theatre. We can usually find a ren…

Batten Down The Hatches

More doom and gloom about how the arts are weathering this economic storm; this time a look at opera and classical music and their dependence on ticket sales and donations to meet budgets. You can read The New York Times article here. It is a good article, my neighbor, who clearly hates me, made sure to put another copy of it in my mailbox this morning.

Times are tough and they are going to get even tougher before they get better. Those of you who attend San Diego Opera can rest assured that we have no plans to sacrifice the artistic quality you've come to expect on our stage (a quality that we're quite proud of by the way). We do see the need to work harder and smarter but we also understand the need to make you, our ticket buyers, feel as though you are getting the best experience possible for your entertainment dollars. So, if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I'll share them with the powers-that-be. Any request of "n…

Drops In The Bucket

The Metropolitan Opera led all US Arts Organizations in funding from private sources with $128.1 million dollars in 2007 according to a survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Lincoln Center followed with a pittance of $123.9 million. On the west (and arguably better) coast San Francisco Opera came in at $70.7 million. All in all this list of philanthropic donations grew by an impressive 4.5% in 2007. That's a lot of drops in the bucket.

Who knows what 2008 will bring.
We here at San Diego Opera have a more modest annual budget of around $17 million. And with this, it now seems like as good a time as any to remind our fair readers that opera is the most expensive of the performing arts, since it is a combination of all other performing arts.
Ticket sales only account for roughly half of our budget, leaving the rest of the funds to be generated by personal and corporate donations. Of course this is not an ideal business model -- to give your product away for half the cost it takes t…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

Italian tenor Gianni Raimondi has died at the age of 85.
Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times thinks big art dreams are worth the cost and he is absolutely right.
Madrid's Teatro Real is looking for a new conductor.
Santa Fe Opera has settled a lawsuit from 2006 involving an employee involved in a car accident.
Katharina Wagner's direction of Rienze proves to be too clever for her own good.
The Los Angeles Times looked at which presidential candidates supports the arts, and goes much deeper than we went last week here at Aria Serious.
Patricia Racette opened her Cio-Cio-San at the Met over the weekend. Reports state her "effort was exceptional; hers is a performance not to be missed." And you shouldn't. Racette brings her Butterfly to San Diego in May.
-- Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! That means another picture of a puppy listening to music to make all the bad news of the week go away.

It also means it is time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?
Me, I have a copy of The Italian Girl in Algiersready to go but I'm afraid it will have to wait as I have family in town for my sister's baby shower. Come to think of it, all this family means I just might be listening to this and every other Rossini opera ever recorded.
So, what are your listening plans this weekend and if there are any takers on the listening group I mentioned in last week's segement, chime in please.
Have a great one!
-- Edward

Dr. Atomic in The New Yorker

Alex Ross, uber music critic, blogger, writer for The New Yorker and genius mastermind has written a wonderful look at the Met's recent production of Dr. Atomic.

My DVD of the Sellars production just arrived in the mail so I'll be sitting down to this in the next few days to watch (having missed the SF production). I had left my Adams binge behind, or so I thought...
-- Edward

We're Number One

We knew it all along, but sometimes it is nice to get validation from others.

San Diego Opera has won Best Live Theatre Companyand Best Classical Music Groupin Sign on San Diego's "Best Of" Readers Poll.

You can gloat in our glory and taunt the losers here.

A special shout-out to you, our readers who voted as well to all those third graders at Gladys Wood Elementary School.

Giant novelty sized foam hands for all.

-- Edward

Handel: Composer, Gourmand, Financier

London's Handel House Museum, where the German-born composer died, will host an exhibition in 2009 focusing on his passion for food and his finances to mark the 250th anniversary of his death, according to Reuters UK.
While we here at Aria Serious can't help you with finances (we got our own problems, OK) we can help budding gourmands by reminding them we still have two remaining Taste of Opera events in November. Join us for a prix fixe dinner (with wine/beer) and a fascinating lecture at two wonderful San Diego establishments - La Gran Tapa and Sea Rocket Bistro. Everything you need to know about Taste of Opera can be found here.
Hope you can join us! -- Edward

About That Darned Economy...

The Sword of Damocles seems to have gotten a bit sharper overnight as reports this morning are coming in about financial woes from various opera houses.

New York City Opera, which has canceled most of its season while it renovates the New York State Theatre, told some employees to take two days off last week as it was afraid it would not be able to make payroll reports The New York Times.
Michigan Opera Theatre has canceled its spring production of Pagliacci and laid off staff in response to the economic downturn. "For the next two years, we have to be very careful and economical," commented General Director David DiChiera.
I'm afraid I'll have more posts like these as time goes on. Hey, at least we post pictures of puppies and kittens here on Fridays.

-- Edward

Putting An Opera Together, Part I

Ron Allen is our Director of Production. Ron is a busy man and rightly so -- he's in charge of everything you see on our stage as well as everything that you don't. There's a lot of activity behind the stage, under the stage and above the stage, too, more than most people realize.
Making small talk with Ron one morning, I suggested he should blog about what it takes to put an opera together since we are creating a new production of Don Quixote (that's a sketch up above from Act I). Apparently people take me seriously and Ron has put together a wonderful look at what it takes to make an opera happen.
There's more to it than any of us can imagine so we've decided to make a series about this topic. So without further ado, here's Part One of Fifteen Million of "Putting An Opera Together."
Edward asked that I write about how long it takes to put an Opera together and to keep it short... What!? When I consider the hundreds of decisions that have to be…

We Remember Her When...

Friend of San Diego Opera, German soprano Anja Harteros, just sang her first Violetta in La traviata at the Met Monday night and it was a solid success.

The New York Timessaid "Harteros sings with an elegantly dark-hued and fluid soprano that is weighty enough to project easily, even in pianissimo moments."
The London Financial Timessaid "she does command a lustrous, wide-ranging soprano capable of much thrust in moments of abandon, much shimmer in passages of introspection, and much suavity between the extremes. She manages the florid outbursts with expressive point yet without feverish exaggeration. She sustains the long, arching lines with easy grace. She looks lanky, lovely and elegant, moves meaningfully, respects the line that separates pathos from self-indulgence."
Anja sang her first Violetta on our stage in 2004 and we knew then that this would be a special role for her (that's her up above from our production in a photo by Ken Howard). For those who like…

Everything Old is New Again

“People are wrong when they say opera is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what's wrong with it.” - Noel Coward

Funny how time can change perceptions. I'm sure at one point Noel had a point just as I am sure he will have a point again some time in the future. I cannot help thinking however that everything old is new again, especially when it comes to opera.

Looking back at the last few decades, some interesting productions have come to light -- much of it ushered in under the banner of regietheater (director's theatre) and the belief that a director’s interpretation of an opera is as important as what the composer intended (sometimes to comical and/or disastrous effects). Still, there are other productions that are simply different to be different, sometimes in an attempt to remarket an opera -- to modernize or update it in the hopes of keeping it fresh while attracting a newer, younger, audience.

We here at San Diego have done our fair share of update…

What In The World Are They Up To?

Since Aria Serious has readers as far flung as Latvia, here's an update on where in the world some of our 2009 singers are currently performing:

Soprano Sylvie Valayre (Tosca) will be in Leipzig in November and December for a run of Aidas. She'll also sing a few Turandots at the Staatsoper Berlin.

Closer to home tenor Marcus Haddock (Tosca) will take on Don Jose in Los Angeles Opera's Carmen, opening later next month.

Ace-of-bass Ferruccio Furlanetto (Don Quixote) is currently singing Zaccaria in Nabucco in Venice but you should save the money and come see him perform it here in 2010. After this he'll do a series of King Phillip II in Don Carlo at the Wiener Staatsoper as well as at La Scala.

Mezzo Denyce Graves (Don Quixote) will be chewing up the stage as Carmen at Washington National Opera next month and then performs a series of recitals before heading over to us.

Soprano L'ubica Vargicova (Rigoletto) sings Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann in Madrid and then perfor…

Which Presidential Candidate Supports the Arts?

I know it is a minor issue, especially considering this country is fighting two wars and facing an economic crisis of historic proportions, but I was lying awake last night wondering which candidate supports the arts? For me, someone who works in the arts, this is a personal matter; I don't want to be facing my own personal sub-prime mortgage crisis.

To find the answer, I first went to the campaign websites of Senator McCain and Senator Obama.
I was unable to find any statement from McCain on his website concerning the arts.
Obama has, under the heading "Additional Issues", a statement on the arts, which you can read by clicking here. One issue of note, at least for us, is the subheading "Attract Foreign Talent" which is essentially a plan to streamline the visa process for foreign artists put in place after 9/11. Obtaining visas is a daunting task and can take months of work. Looking further, the Arts Action Fund publishes a "scorecard" on the candid…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

Composer John Adams is being followed by the government and his phone is most probably tapped he reveals in an interview with The Guardian. His very own Dr. Atomic was also released on DVD recently and is worth checking out. Maestro, since we care, we here at Aria Serious have found tinfoil hats to work wonders in keeping the thought police away. Plus, we get our local NPR station through the fillings in our teeth.
Closer to home and very alarming news is that the Lyric Opera of San Diego is having financial problems. Saddled with an incredibly high mortgage, donations are down and the administration is calling for help.
As someone who loves opera and lives in the North Park community, this is concerning news for me. Lyric Opera does what they set out to do quite well, and my wife and I love the fact that we can walk to performances there, have dinner on the way over and drinks on the way back. A townhall style meeting will happen in the future. In the meantime, you c…

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! That means it is time for our weekly "what are you listening to this weekend" segment.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a listening group; just like a reading group except with opera recordings instead of books. We'd vote on an opera to listen to, listen to it the following week and then have some discussion over it. Any takers?
Anyhow, as promised, I'll be listening to Pique Damein my newly landscaped backyard -- alright, partially completed backyard -- FINE, very evenly leveled dirtpatch of a backyard. Happy now?
If I have time I'll delve into Calexico's new album.
But first I need to walk around the dog park with a pair of headphones and a camera because I'm getting low on pictures to use.
Have a safe weekend!

About That Diet...

Man, those opera carrots and celery sticks are starting taking their toll. First beer and opera, followed by cupcake and opera. Now this!

I don't ever recall seeing this ad, but worth a look in our random series of opera selling things that isn't opera.

OK, I'm going to go stare at my reflection in the vending machine plastic window since it is convex and makes me look thinner, which, come to think of it, is an excellent marketing ploy.


- Edward

Opera Has Legs

Via the delightful Opera Chic blog comes this story about German supermodel/pair of uberlegs Nadja Auermann who just modeled a series of ads for Deutsche Opera Berlin to promote the 2008-2009 season. That's her Turandot to the left..

Let's talk about bringing sexy back to opera. Or let's not; I can write my best material right now but it can't hold a candle to these images so let's just get to the pictures already.
For those of you care, an interview with Nadja Auermann (in German).

- Edward

Venus from Tannhauser:

A very very naughty Carmen:

The Flying Dutchman:


Die Agyptische Helena:

More Details Emerge About Met Player

More details have emerged about the Dharma Initiative's... err... I mean the Metropolitan's Opera grab for global domination with the new Met Player service they plan to unleash next week. The New York Timeshas all the details that you can read here.

I'm still not sold (and by now you're probably sick of me talking about how opera belongs live in the theatre and not on the movie or computer screen), although I'm curious to see what they can dig up from their audio archives.

Now if there is a way to get this stuff off of my computer and into my headphones while I rest in the hammock on Sunday, then perhaps they'll even make a subscriber out of me.
Regardless, this fusion of opera and technology is exciting stuff.

- Edward

Mmmmm. Opera Cake.

Almost as good as beer and opera; opera and cupcakes...

The Opera Tattler keeps on hitting it out of the park with a new painting she just completed called "Cupcake Boccanegra" which consists of cupcakes acting out a scene from Simon Boccanegra. Check it out here.
This of course means those of us here at 'Aria Serious?' will be putting on our baking caps tonight in an attempt to create some real cupcakes to stage in our favorite operas provided we don't eat all the batter first.
Speaking of opera and yummy things, one cannot overlook opera cakes. For a tasty look at this incredible creation, click here but be sure to wipe the drool off the screen.
OK, off to go eat my opera celery sticks now...
- Edward

You Sunk My Battleship!

Next up in the occasional series of opera and commercials is this one from Milton Bradley. I remember this commerical growing up, and once it aired every time someone yelled "you sunk my battleship" it would be met with a resounding "shhhhh" from everyone else in the room. We don't condone playing Battleship in our theatre but if you must play a game, then we suggest a friendly match against this cheating computer.

Otherwise you can cue up your Tristan und Isolde DVD and play with your friends in the living room.

- Edward

John Copley Tattles

As promised, the wonderful Opera Tattler has published her interview with British stage director John Copley this morning and it is worth a read. John reveals he'll continue to direct after our production of Peter Grimes in April. He had originally hinted this would be his final production, but those of us who know John, knows he'll never stop. Those of you in the Bay Area can see John's staging of Idomeneo which opens tomorrow evening. Peter Grimes will open April 18, 2009 on our stage here in San Diego.

- Edward

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

Seems all eyes are on the economy and the coming election as it was a slow news week in the land of opera.
Anthony Tomassini of the New York Times talks about why so many new operas fail. A very interesting article, much of which I agree with.
Our dear friend Barbara Divis is getting some blog love over on Operaville. Barbara last joined us as Micaela in Carmen back in 2006.
British Stage Director John Copley celebrated 60 years in the business over the weekend. John opens Idomeneo in San Francisco later this week (he directed it for us in 2001) and comes to us in April to direct Peter Grimes. Stay tuned for an interview with John that the wonderful Opera Tattler conducted on Friday which should be up in the next few days.
And that's all she wrote...
- Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday again, so it is time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend?

For me, nothing. I have a side yard to clear, level and landscape so I'll be listening to something fast and loud to cover up the swear words I'll be muttering under my breath. I hate yard work.

Monday however, when I'm in traction, will provide me with enough time to catch up on my listening duties. I do have Pique Dameon deck, but that will wait until next week when I'm laying in the cool shade of my hammock in my new backyard.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?

- Edward

Popera Redux

Some new information about pop singer Rufus Wainwright's opera has emerged. We touched on this a bit back when it was announced the opera would no longer be performed at the Met due to Rufus insisting the opera be sung in French. Seems now the work will be seen at the Manchester International Festival next year. Reading more about what Rufus has to say about the composing experience is quite fascinating and he seems to know his stuff. Still no word if it will make its way to the States but let us hope a succcessful premiere will proper it somewhere across the pond.

- Edward

Another Reason Opera Is Better Live...

Another reason opera is better live than in the movies:

Those attending the Met HD Broadcast of Salome this weekend in the hopes of seeing Finnish soprano Karita Mattila nude in what she calls a "slutty, two-second scene" will be sorely disappointed.

During the Dance of the Seven Veils while audiences in the theatre will see the much talked about full-frontal nudity, those watching the movies will see the camera go elsewhere.

According to Peter Gelb, via Culture Monster, he "decided early on the Salome broadcast would not feature nudity."


But never fear, we here at Aria Serious circumvented firewalls and risked downloading spyware while scouring the internet to find you a clip of a nekkid Karita Mattila.

OK, fine, we just Googled her via YouTube...

This is from a Paris Opera production in 2003. Those of you who are just here for cheap thrills can skip to the last 30 seconds but be warned -- you'll be missing out on one helluva performance. Enjoy!

- Edward

Feeling The Pinch

As the economy continues its tailspin downward, news is coming out of Broadway that theatres are starting to feel the pinch and closing up shop. Hard times are ahead and how low the economy will sink is anyone's guess.

Truth be told, I really hate sharing this type of news but I don't think anyone who works in or attends the Arts can avoid this topic which seems to linger constantly in the back of our minds.
Will the economic situation affect how you attend the Arts?
If so, how?
Candidly, I will be much more selective of where I spend my entertainment dollars and will rely on the wisdom of my friends and peers when deciding what to do over the weekend. This doesn't mean I won't be attend but I'll be looking for a deal when I do.
Afterall, the Arts are what gets me through the week and without the Arts in my life I imagine I'll feel this economic situation has defeated me even more than it really has. Besides, everyone needs a good escape from reality every once i…

It's A Dog's Life

Reader Valerie Scher sent me this tidbit of Placido discussing what it is like to be a dog in "Beverly Hills Chihuahua". Looks the Maestro brings as much passion to this role as he does to the opera stage. I was skeptical at first, but really, this is quite poignant. But talking dogs!?!? My animals have enough sway over my life without speaking. Speaking of which, time to spend my lunch break walking them... Yes, my furry overlords, I'm coming...

- Edward

New Kid on the Block

This is our San Diego Opera Ensemble, a group of young professional opera singers that perform around San Diego County at schools and community centers. It is hard work with hundreds of performances and far too many hours riding around in a van with lousy air-conditioning from gig to gig. But it is a start in this business, which is a lot harder than many imagine, and for an aspiring singer it is a wonderful opportunity to build up some experience.

Today begins the first of an occassional series focused on the Ensemble -- a tour journal if you will. For this post I picked on the new girl, mostly because she's new and doesn't know to remain motionless and therefore unseen when I walk into a room.

Rachel Copeland (that's her up above) is a lyric coloratura soprano from Oklahoma who's performed with Indianapolis Opera and Lousiana Lyric Opera to name just a few.

I've asked her what it like to be the new kid on the block, and what is the rehearsal process is like. Here…

Beer + Opera

This one is for our reader OperaMan (yes, apparently I take requests now) who mentioned this ad in the Celeste Football talkback section. I happen to love this one too as it combines my two favorite things: beer and opera.

- Edward

Touch of Gray - Audiences for the Arts

A fascinating and wonderful look at aging audiences for the arts.

But gray hair at 40!!?? Come to think of it, at 40 I'd be happy for just some hair.

Any hair.


- Edward

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

New York City Opera began its "Looking Forward" Season -- a season devoid of any staged performances while the New York State Theatre undergoes a major overhaul. All of this is happening when some are having second thoughts about incoming Director Gerard Mortier who seems to have his eye on other ventures. To top it off 11 staff members are laid off to kick off opening weekend.

Across the street in New York, Dr. Atomic just got a lot cheaper to see thanks to some generous donors. Now if I can just get them to subsidize my airfare. Drama down under at Opera Australia threatens to overshadow the drama on stage.

Rasputin: The Opera received its world premiere in Moscow.

Placido Domingo performed as a Mariachi at Mayan ruins in Mexico and became a talking dog in Beverly Hills Chihuahua, showing us there is no end to what the Maestro can do.

On a postitive note, classical music is alive and kicking.

And don't forget to vote for San Diego Opera as the best of just…

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday comes faster than I can find pictures of cute animals listening to music. But not fast enough for me to stock up on a new cd to listen to over the weekend. Saturday is all about Strauss. All about Der Rosenkavalier to be more specific. Why? I'll sheepishly confess I've never listened to it all the way to completion. Bhaaad, I know.

Time permitting I will dive into the beautiful, haunting, surreal world of Daniel Johnston.

What are you listening to this weekend?

- Edward

Stuffing the Ballot Box.

We here at Aria Serious have never asked you for anything before and yet we give you so much -- funny videos, breaking accurate (and inaccurate) opera related news, behind-the-scenes looks at various opera productions, interviews with artists, pictures of cats and dogs wearing headphones -- really, what more can you ask for from a blog?

But now we need your help.
San Diego Opera has been nominated in numerous categories for the "Best Of"Awards that are conducted by our local paper's online presence, Sign On San Diego.
San Diego Opera has been nominated for Best Live Theatre Company, Best Classical Music Group, Best Hotspotand numerous of other categories that we don't really belong in that I may or may not of nominated us for during a late night bender. But those three up above, that are underlined and bolded (so all you need to do is click and vote), are the three that mean the most to us.
Please ensure I still have a job here by voting. You can vote once every 24 hou…

The Pearl Fishers in Opera News Magazine

From the tooting our own department (again):

The October issue of Opera News is running a beautiful spread about the Zandra Rhodes production of The Pearl Fishers that was created here by us, currently at Washington National Opera and heading off to Opera Colorado in February of 2009. The issue is on newsstands now, or click here to read it online.
And because we love you here at Aria Serious, that's Zandra down below talking about designing this production.
- Edward

All Aboard for Opera

This is frakkin brilliant.

Opernhaus Zurich mounted a production of La Traviata last night and turned Zurich's Hauptbahnhof into a living breathing set for the Verdi classic. Using the main hall, coffee shop and train platforms the performers moved through the station and mixed with commuters, workers and observers while performing the opera which was televised live and watched by 1/3 of all the households in Switzerland.

Talk about bringing opera to the people!

Looks like what we have here is an opera broadcast arms race and Zurich Opera just dropped the bomb.

A bunch of behind the scenes videos can be found on the official SF1 television site. Excerpts above and below. Enjoy!

- Edward

Placido Domingo Celebrates 40 Years at the Met

The stars were out on Sunday to honor Placido Domingo's 40th Anniversary singing with the Met. Woody Allen and Miss Piggy were among the honored guests as well as trio of cross dressing divas -- Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham and Patricia Racette who sang "Nessun Dorma" while dressed in tuxedos which they tore off to reveal gowns underneath. Placido made his first appearance with the Met in 1968 when he filled in for an ailing Franco Corelli in Adriana Lecouvreur.

Happy 40th Anniversary Maestro!

Now onto some Muppets...

- Edward