Showing posts from November, 2008


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…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Rumors of Baltimore Opera's death have been greatly exaggerated.
- San Francisco Opera's Peter Grimes is canceled, another casuality of the economy. John Copley, who directs our Peter Grimes in April, was scheduled to direct this one as well.
- In a world filled with news about art organizations gasping for air, it is refreshing to see that Minnesota Opera has created a program to cultivate revivals of new work and fund commissions. - Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Man, what a week. Feels like Friday should have been here two Fridays ago. Luckily, my Amazon order arrived this morning so I'll be spending Saturday morning with Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi, perhaps while drinking a Bellini, because, well, that's how we roll here at Aria Serious. I've been hearing good things about bass Raymond Acetoas well and he's on the recording.

Sunday, Aria Serious will descend on Amoeba Records in Hollywood to stock up on music and blow a birthday check from the granddad. Thanks pops! If there's something I should pick up, let me know.
What are you listening to this weekend?
-- Edward

What Opera Is Not

The trailer for Repo! The Genetic Opera has been making its way around the internet.

Billed as a "rock opera" I was intrigued at first -- I mean it does star Rupert "Ripper" Giles from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Ogre from electro industrial act Skinny Puppy (who I'll confess I spent many a night brooding to in my darker days -- VIVISect VI still rules!), Sarah Brightmanand Paris Hilton. Heck, even the story interests me in that morbidly futuristic dystopian kind of way.

Alas, I was one of the "lucky" ones who saw a preview of this when Comic Con came to town in July and all I can report that 1.) Paris Hilton is the best thing in the movie and 2.) I wish someone had repoed my eyes... and ears. Anyone? Please?

This is what Opera is not. And yet I can see this movie having a cult following as the cyberpunk equivalent to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Just with more slippery entrails and fetishware, which, we'll admit, has its time and place too.

You can c…

Not Dead Yet

With all the doom and gloom we've been talking about here at Aria Serious, sometimes it pays to stop and look at the bright side of things. Sure, life and business is tough in this climate but we need to stop and remember this simple fact: opera is not dead yet.

Nope, it is very much alive.

The Christian Science Monitor published this article that looks at how new works are flourishing in America. So have a read, and remember: opera has been through worse. It has survived wars and great depressions. Afterall, it is a great artform, and the one thing all great artforms share is the power to endure.

Now for something completely different, the Monty Python sketch that inspired the title to this post.

-- Edward

Hey Buddy, Can You Spare A Tenner?

Even the stalwart Met is not immune to the economic climate and has announced it is giving up The Ghost of Versailles in an effort to cut costs. AngelaGheorghiuand Thomas Hampson, who were scheduled to sing, will now appear in a revival of La Traviata. "In looking at ways to economize, that was an unfortunate sacrifice," commented Met General Manager Peter Gelb. Aria Serious hears chatter of some other productions being replaced at the Met but until substantiated, we'll file these as rumors for now.

In related economic climate news, San Francisco Opera is taking a close look at its Ring cycle. Readers will remember that this is a co-production with Washington National Opera, which has delayed its full Ring cycle and is now performing Götterdämmerung as two concert performances. "We're not going to make a decision for at least 60 days," said San Francisco Opera spokesman Jon Finck. "First we have to ascertain whether this is really just a postponement, a…

Anthony Dean Griffey Is One Of The Nicest Men Around

San Diego Opera occasionally commissions writers to do interviews for us. And this time we asked local writer Anne Marie Welsh to speak with Anthony Dean Griffey, who joins us in April to sing his signature role of Peter Grimes.

Usually we hold these interviews in our back pocket for a publication at a later date, but reading this one we felt we had to get this one out there. Because you need to know something: Anthony Dean Griffey is one of the nicest men around. It has been years since I last worked with Anthony, but the wait these last few months will seem like an eternity.
Tucked into the performance calendar of lyric tenor Anthony Dean Griffey, amidst entries for his Metropolitan Opera triumph in Benjamin Britten’s masterful “Peter Grimes,” between praised concerts with the OrquestroSinfonicodeSao Paolo in Brazil and appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Mahler’s ravishing “The Song of the Earth,” one entry stands out for its modesty. Just before Christmas in 2007, Gr…

Puccini and Pints

In the never ending quest to find new and younger audiences to classical music, The Guardian in the UK reports on the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment concert series, Night Shift. Seems after their standard concert, the orchestra played an hour-long show to a more casual audience. The show featured "some dimmed lighting and on-stage chat to create a definitively different atmosphere from a normal concert, while still focusing on the music." It didn't hurt that audience members were allowed to bring drinks into the theatre. So there you have it, can it really be that simple? Alcohol makes classical music fun? Or, seriously, was it the whole rethinking of the concert experience? And if so, how can opera learn from this lesson?

-- Edward

Life On The Road

It is time again for our occasional series on our San Diego Opera Ensemble, our group of young professional singers that tour local schools and community centers and also appear in our mainstage productions.

Up next is baritone Will Earl Spanheimer (yep, that's him up above). As a creature of comfort who likes to be surrounded by my things, I'm always in awe of opera singers and the fact they often live out of suitcases for months on end in cities and countries entirely unfamiliar. Our Ensemble members have it a bit "easier" as they are paired up with host families. I've asked Will Earl what it is like to live away from home for so long and how he's adjusting to his host family.
Here's what he had to say:
There are many great things about being a member of the SDO Ensemble, besides working with talented, dedicated, and fun colleagues. Besides the honor of working with the brilliant and phenomenal Nick Reveles and Cynthia Stokes, and being given such care,…

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- The General Director of Baltimore Opera has stepped down to spend more time with his son who is critically ill. The Company acknowledges "cash flow problems" and the season is "expected to proceed" which is some odd language that has us here at Aria Serious crossing our fingers, hoping we're just a wee bit paranoid.
- Washington National Opera has postponed the remainder of its Ring Cycle indefinitely, citing the economy as the culprit. All accounts from Los Angeles Opera is that their Ring is still moving ahead as scheduled. Updated to add: WNO has a statement about this here as well as some hints about the upcoming season, which sounds great.
- The lovely Opera Tattler tells news at WNO postponing their Ring affects San Francsico Opera as SFO is a co-producer of the Ring. A postponement means SFO would have to pay for all of Götterdämmerung. Reports also say costs are being cut and the cinecasts might not continue.
- EdodeWaart, the conduct…

Shout Out

Tim Mangan over at the Orange County Register Arts Blog gave San Diego Opera a nice shout-out as a company for O.C. opera lovers to check out. Thanks Tim, and you know, we always have a seat waiting for you.

-- Edward

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday today and that means it is time to ask -- what are you listening to this weekend? We here at Aria Serious will be lounging in our (finally!) finished backyard, listening to Salome. Just seems like the right time for this one and it has been years since we've given it a complete and careful listen. So, let us know what your listening plans are this weekend and have a great one!

-- Edward

Mortier Leaves NYCO

It seems the relationship between Gerard Mortier and NYCO is over before it really began.

The New York Times is reporting Mortier has resigned from his post at NYCO citing an insufficient budget to produce the meaningful slate of productions he set out to do. It seems the financial crisis has taken another toll, although this one is merely stunned and not dead.

The Company is also making changes to next season's repertoire. The homeless Company was performing an abridged season while its theatre was undergoing renovation. Renovation continues and NYCO will return, but this news could not have come at a worse time. But it is not a suprise as there had been chatter for some time now that the honeymoon period was over.

-- Edward

Tight Like A Vise...

First the good news. Who am I kidding, there is no good news here.

As condolence however, you will find a box of puppies down below, nature's prozac for all your troubles. Some of you might want to skip directly to the puppies, or, view as needed and repeat as necessary.

Now to the bad news. It is a tough world out there. These past few weeks we've already seen Opera Pacific close its doors for good, Michigan Opera cancel a production, NYCO furlough its employees and Pasadena Symphony cancel performances and lay off some of its senior staff and the Aria Serious moles tell us more big news is coming down the pipeline.

The tight economy is indeed putting the squeeze on arts organizations and the Los Angeles Times explores this in a depressing but nonetheless incredibly important article this morning. The solution, LA Times critic Mark Swed suggest, might be found in bold programming. And he might be onto something. Difficult times usually lead to an increase of artistic output. And…

A Film Noir OperaTalk!

Fans of our OperaTalk! program will be delighted with our newest one.

Dr. Nick and crew really outdid themselves with this film noir look at power and corruption in the opera Rigoletto.

You can watch it below, and a reminder that all our programing can be watched on YouTube here.

Turnaround Is Fair Play...

...and also makes for some interesting journalism.

A few months back we posted a story on why the ABCs are so important. The story looked at the rock music critic of London's The Guardian first experiences with live opera.
Now the table has been turned, and the classical music critic for The Guardian is making her way to live rock concerts. It is an interesting read filled with some acute observations that you can see for yourself here.
-- Edward

Mozart Rawks Redux

While we've touched on it before, we just love the news that heavy metal is receiving scholarly attention in Salzburg. I'll confess, I always had a soft spot for metal. Perhaps it prepared me for the jump into opera which occured at about the same time I discovered Slayer and the power of turning my knobs up to eleven. Rock on.

-- Edward

Canadian Opera Company Announces Surplus

Yep. You read correctly. Time to ice the Molson!

The Star reports that the Canadian Opera Company has announced a surplus -- the sixth one in a row! Citing near-100% attendance in its 66 mainstage productions, this news comes just a few weeks after they announced a $2 million gift from an anonymous donor to fund 100 public concerts each year.
It is worth noting the the COC receives a very large government subsidy so to compare this to American opera companies is like comparing apples and oranges. And besides, we're talking Canadian dollars so it is not like it is real money. We're kidding, you know we love you Canada...
-- Edward

Opera Buffs

It seems only fitting to follow a sad post with a happier one.

We here at Aria Serious love nudity. But what we love even more is when said nudity is for charity.
Artists as well as the staff of the Royal Opera House have decided to get naked for a calendar, the proceeds of which benefit the Macmillan Cancer Support. Each participant has dedicated their image to someone close to them who they have lost to cancer.
To broaden the appeal each calendar features 12 men and 12 women with two different covers.
You can order the calendar from the Royal Opera Shop and all proceeds go to cancer research. At least that's what I'm telling my wife, even though it is true.
-- Edward

Opera Pacific Closes Doors

It is a rough morning.

News came out yesterday that Opera Pacific, our fine neighbors to the north, has closed its doors for the remainder of the season, and has no plans for future seasons in the works. Additionally, all but a skeletal staff remains and President and CEO Robert C. Jones as well as Artistic Director and Conductor John DeMain have been laid off. Opera Pacific's Santa Ana headquarters is also up for sale so it seems this closure is for good and all of Southern California that much poorer with the loss of this great company.
We here at Aria Serious are crushed by this news wish our colleagues and friends the very best. We also know this is just the beginning of what will be a very difficult period for performing arts in general.
If anyone from Opera Pacific would like to share with us their story, please feel free to contact us.
-- Edward
Orange Crush graphic by Darren Beckett of Threemagination, Inc.

More On That Los Angeles Wagner Festival

While we here at Aria Serious slowly wake from the fog that is our post-election hangover (hey, the martinis were bipartisan and boy were they strong) some more information has emerged about the Wagner Festival taking place in Los Angeles in conjunction with their Ring cycle.

If someone would like to read it to Aria Serious in sotto voce that would be nice, we're unable to open our eyes beyond slits, which is fine since we're seeing double this morning and the world is far too bright.
-- Edward

Remember To Vote

Aria Serious would like to take this moment to remind all of our American readers to vote today.

That's all the news you need to know until tomorrow.

-- Edward

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Singer Leyontyne Price, composer Carlisle Floyd and impresario Richard Gaddes had their day in court last week.

- The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra performed in Abu Dhabi over the weekend.

- David McVicar hates La traviata so much he directs it.

- Los Angeles Opera is said to be announcing today a city-wide "Ring" festival in conjunction with its first cycle in 2010. More than 50 cultural and educational organizations in Los Angeles County will join in a 10-week festival. More information as it becomes available.

-- Edward