Monday, March 30, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend.

- Our production of Rigoletto opened on Saturday, the first of five performances, and reviews are already starting to appear. You can read them as they arrive on the San Diego Opera Review Page, which you can find by clicking here.

- Also on Saturday, Long Beach Opera gave the US premiere of Vivaldi's Motezuma (sic). You can read about it here and read David Gregson's review of it here.

- We love them, we really do, but opera has its share of "opera crazies". The Los Angeles Times delves deeper into the seedy underbelly of opera fandom with this profile of Wagner fans called "Wagnerites." We like to call them "Ringies." Featured is San Diego Opera friend and all around nice guy, Sherwin Sloan, who helms the Wagner Society of Southern California.

- Orlando Opera is facing a serious budget shortfall, adding to the ever growing list of arts organizations in trouble.

-- Edward

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday, so time again to ask: what are you listening to this weekend? Over here at the Aria Serious tower, we'll put listening to opera on hold in lieu of seeing opera. That's right, Rigoletto open Saturday.

Sunday, we're going to spend in the hammock reading up on some much neglected books.
What are your listening plans this weekend? Are you going to see Rigoletto? Whatever your musical plans are, share them here, and make it a good one.

- Edward

A Conversation With Lado Ataneli, a French website has just put up an interview with Lado Ataneli (in English) to mark the opening of Rigoletto here in San Diego tomorrow night.

You can read the interview here.

And you can purchase your Rigoletto seats here.


- Edward

Rigoletto Artist Roundtable

Last Thursday, the cast of Rigoletto got together for a very enjoyable panel discussion about the opera. In case you missed it, we've placed the entire thing on YouTube that you can watch below.


-- Edward

Normal Texting Rates Apply

The New York Times is reporting today that a production of Cosi fan tutte will ask audience members to vote at intermission for which characters should be married in the final scene. The singers will then perform the chosen ending. Called Cosi fan tutte: Defining Women, the opera will be set in present-day Massachusetts "where nuptials between any combination of three men and three women would be legal.”

-- Edward

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rigoletto: A Sneak Peek

Rigoletto is almost here. After watching the orchestra rehearsal last night I was reminded how much I liked this opera, which is a whole lot. And I think the first scene is one of the best first scenes of Rigoletto I've ever seen.

But why talk when there are pictures to share.
Photos are by Ken Howard.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ezio Flagello Has Died

The New York Times is reporting that the great bass Ezio Flagello, who sang over 500 performances at the Met, has died. He was 78.

You can read the entire article here.

-- Edward

The Digest Version

Opera is not known for brevity. Indeed, a character can get stabbed and then sing about dying for fifteen minutes before actually dying, which can then take another ten...

So we're happy to have Rolando Villazon describe to us the plot of La boheme in just under 10 seconds.

Our La boheme, which opens the 2010 season, will be longer than 10 seconds but with Piotr Beczala and Anja Harteros in the leads, I won't be complaining.

Some of the language in the below clip is NSFW, unless you work in an opera company, and then you're used to it.

-- Edward

Monday, March 23, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

-- Edward

Our Gilda, At Home

Local readers who opened their paper on Sunday we're offered a wonderful look at the family life of traveling opera singer, L'ubica Vargicova with a profile in the San Diego Union Tribune.

Yes, Martin made Steak Tartare, the bane of vegetarian Public Relations workers everywhere, especially when handed a big heaping plate of it by gracious hosts whom you don't want to offend.

Interesting fact: Steak Tartare were named after the Tartans, a fiercely nomadic group who tenderized and "cooked" their meat by placing it underneath their saddle while riding all day. It is useless facts such as these that one can use to dazzle audiences in the hopes they don't notice you moving the food on your plate around so it looks like you ate it.

We're just saying...

- Edward

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! And a sad Friday it is. Not because I work most of the weekend but because tonight marks the series finale of Battlestar Galactica, a show rabidly followed by all of us in the Aria Serious tower for the past five years, and the only real reason I still pay for cable.

This of course means we need to pick something happy to listen to on Saturday which leads us to Donizetti's The Elixir of Love because I found this particular recording used a few weeks back and have not listened to it yet.

So, what are your listening plans this weekend?

Whatever they are, enjoy them, and make it a great weekend.

So say we all...

-- Edward

Stuff Blowing Up to Opera

Some things in life were just meant for one another.

Take chocolate and peanut butter, bacon and eggs, beets and goat cheese (really, it's amazing), vodka and tonic, oh, forget that last one; Friday happy hour can't come soon enough...

Courtesy of procrastination, and a fast Internet connection, comes this gem of a clip of bridges being blown up to opera.

Even on mute there is this strange choreographed beauty of the charges detonating in sequence, like ballet -- but with explosions and explosions, we all know, makes things better, especially ballet. Of course, adding opera to the mix just sweetens the pot.

So enjoy! And don't try this at home, however tempting it might be.

-- Edward

Note to future-self: when you get to direct that opera be sure to include at least one explosion.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Big Step

It is a big week for mezzo-soprano Crystal Jarrell. A former Ensemble member, she just packed up her costume after months of touring and is now making her debut as a San Diego Opera mainstage artist as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto. Faced with a hectic week of 'goodbyes' as well as "hellos' she somehow found the time to sit down and write a few thoughts about this period of transition in the life of a professional opera singer.

Here's what she had to say:

This is an exciting week for me as it represents something big. This week I am making the transition. Our San Diego Opera Ensemble touring productions have just come to a close, and rehearsals for my first main stage production as a principal artist with SDO have begun. This is a critical point in my career and one that I am savoring every moment of.

Last week I was Febreezing my Cosi costume wishing it weren't such a beautiful antique that it could have been dry cleaned at some point during the 6 month tour. I was answering the eager questions of 5th graders as to how we became awesome (seriously!), and enjoying every second of the thrilling Mozart ensembles with my fantastic colleagues and friends. I was a part of an incredible outreach program- one of the best in the country- impacting many many young lives with an experience they will not soon forget.

Well this week I am still enjoying thrilling ensembles, but from a slightly different vantage point. I am watching in amazement from the sidelines of Rigoletto rehearsals as some of the most incredible voices I have ever heard live are barely five feet from where I sit. Now I am the one asking eager questions of the other principal artists in the Rigoletto cast- yes, about how they became awesome! And for two brief scenes I am taking the stage with them. What an honor.

This week represents a great stepping stone. I have learned a great deal already through my experiences with San Diego Opera, but I am also aware that I have so much to learn still. It represents the end of my outreach career and the beginning of the next chapter. Thank you Dr. Nick for taking a chance on me and for investing in me. Thank you Cynthia for inspiring me and believing in me. And thank you Ian for trusting me with more. I can't wait to see what lies ahead!


Neither can we. One thing is for certain, we're going to have one awesome Countess Ceprano when Rigoletto opens next week.
-- Edward

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

We Knew Her When... UPDATED: Or Perhaps Not

The lovely Opera Chic blog is reporting mezzo-soprano Kate Aldrich who sang at San Diego Opera last season in Maria Stuarda and who wowed all of us over with her bella voce will sing Carmen at the La Scala season opener in December.

Making us even more jealous that we will be missing this production is the fact that this production is inspired by Italo Calvino's book "Invisible Cities" who is like our favorite writer here at Aria Serious after perhaps fellow OULIPO member Georges Perec.
As consolation, we'll rewatch the video of Kate climbing into her suitcase and showing off her wardrobe which she filmed here last February.

Congrats Kate!
UPDATED: Zemsky Green (Kate's Agent), via Opera Chic, has denied this claim stating Kate is currently engaged elsewhere. We're filing this in the rumor section for now.

-- Edward

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Until My Thumbs Are Sore

I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm a gamer. Been one all my life starting with the Atari 2600. And so I'm always excited when I come across opera in video games, which is pretty much never.

Sure, there was Double Clef FM in Grand Theft Auto 3, playing a selection of opera "hits" while I drove around making "hits" of my own, but that's about it.

Via Kotaku comes this trailer for a new platformer currently called "Game #3" that uses Verdi's Requiem as its soundtrack. Sure, the Requiem is not technically opera but it is close enough because it's Verdi and well, because I say so.

Not only does this look fun, but it sounds amazing. So here's a plea to all you developers out there: more opera in video games.

I'll play it until my thumbs are sore. Promise.

-- Edward

While You Were Out

I apologize for being a day late but the stomach bug got the best of me.

So, without further ado, all the news that developed while was eating toast and drinking semi-flat ginger ale:

- Has the next Charlotte Church been discovered? Do we even need a new Charlotte Church? Did we need the last one?

- The Met Gala this weekend raised a cool $6.3 million. You can also head on over to the Opera Chic blog for photos of the people prettier than me attending the event.

-- Edward

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! The best of days, unless of course you work weekends, then Friday is like Monday and that's no fun.

What are you listening to this weekend?
Me, I'm going to listen to Pelleas et Melisande. Why? It was the first cd that my gaze landed on when looking over at my stack of opera cds I've never listened to. Sometimes life is easier when you don't give it much thought.

I'll also be participating in San Diego's first Snuggie Pub Crawl tonight, more as a passive observer rather than active participant simply for the fact I have no Snuggie. And have no plans to buy one. Ever.

Whatever your plans are this weekend, make it a good one!

-- Edward

Now There Are Three

Incredibly sad news today concerning Baltimore Opera. Baltimore Opera which had filed for Chapter 11 three months ago, has announced they have now filed for Chapter 7 which is the complete liquidation of the Company. They have now joined the ranks of Opera Pacific and Connecticut Opera.
You can read the article here.

Not a good way to begin the weekend and we wish our colleagues at Baltimore Opera all the best.

- Edward

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Saying Goodbye

As the Ensemble's season comes to an end, we had delightful coloratura soprano Elyse Nakajima give us some parting words on what life was like on the road with the Ensemble.

This is what Elyse had to share.


After six months of hard work, we the Education Ensemble have finished our final performances and are about to disseminate and embark upon life after San Diego. It's hard not to sound cheesy when looking back on my experience at San Diego Opera because I performed for literally thousands of people, made the most amazing friends and colleagues, and had the time of my life. But I will attempt to shed a little light onto the second half of our tour and what the future holds for us.

When we returned in January, we had one brush up rehearsal and then immediately went back to our usual performance schedule -- up to two shows a day, up to six days a week. But with the SDO season starting up, we also had the opportunity to sing in the mainstage chorus in addition to our outreach duties. For me, singing in the chorus of Don Quichotte was a highlight of my experience at San Diego Opera. It contained a lot of firsts for me -- my first time to hear the beautiful opera itself, my first time singing in a house this size, and definitely my first time sharing a stage with Ferruccio Furlanetto. Seriously, you've got to try it sometime.

Even with all this performing, however, I would venture to say that I learned even more from being able to sit in on mainstage rehearsals and watch the artists in process. The first time I observed a Tosca rehearsal, I remember excitedly calling a friend during the break and saying, "I can't even tell you yet what I learned today. I'm just soaking everything up and I'll figure it out later." I think that pretty much summarizes my experience in the Ensemble. Even though I already notice great progress in my voice, artistry and confidence over the past six months, I've learned so much that I will be still digesting it all for many years to come.

It is definitely bittersweet to leave San Diego Opera, but it is also a very normal part of the life of a young musician. All six singers and our music director will be moving on to our next gigs, homes, cities and stages in our careers. And perhaps even more important than our next jobs is finally having a little more time to spend with our wonderful families, friends, significant others and non-musical communities, without whose love and support we absolutely could not live the nomadic lives that we do. I am truly humbled and honored to have been a part of the San Diego Opera Education Ensemble and all the joy that we spread by exposing the young and young at heart to opera. Thank you.


We wish all of our Ensemble members the best of luck and a speedy return to our Company.

-- Edward

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Denyce Graves and President Obama Bring Down the House

Over the weekend, Senator Ted Kennedy celebrated his 77th birthday at the Kennedy Center.

Singing "Happy Birthday" to him was Aria Serious friend mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade, folk singer James Taylor and America's newest baritone, President Barack Obama.

One thing is for certain, he sure sings with enthusiasm.

But you can tell he's new at this whole opera thing because he broke the golden rule: never, ever, stand in front of the soprano.

Not even if you're the Prez.

-- Edward

Monday, March 9, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Ferruccio Furlanetto, who last month we announced was nominated for an Olivier Award, did not win. The award went to Ed Gardner for conducting English National Opera’s Boris Godunov and Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci among others.

- And on an happy note: the cast of our Rigoletto has finally arrived. A cast of some new faces and some returning voices, everyone has met and rehearsals began a little less than an hour ago. As I catch more of the rehearsals, I'll be sure to report here.

-- Edward

Friday, March 6, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! I've talked about it now for a few weeks but I'm really going to listen to Nabucco this weekend. And that's about it since I'm taking that and about half a dozen books up to the mountain for a weekend getaway before the Rigoletto cast arrives and we're back to our busy rehearsal schedule.

What are your listening plans this weekend? Share them in the comment section below, and have a great one!

-- Edward

Oh Mandy

The mayor of Waitakere City near Auckland, New Zealand has discovered a new use for opera: vandal deterrent.

The mayor is using recordings of New Zealand opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa to deter youths from vandalizing shops and public works of art.

"If it's not your music, and you really don't like it all, why would you, how could you, stay around?" said Mayor Bob Harvey.

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Christchurch, officials are planning to play Barry Manilow songs to deter aggressive youths who gather in a central shopping plaza.

And I thought the Dharma Initiatives Sonic Fence was cool...

- Edward

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ten Questions With L'ubica Vargicova

Rigoletto is around the corner and our singers start arriving over the weekend for the first day of rehearsals on Monday.

Joining us for the first time is Slovak soprano L'ubica Vargicova who sings Gilda in this production. Before jumping on the plane that will take her and her family to San Diego, L'ubica was able to sit down and answer 10 Questions from us here at Aria Serious.

Yes, they're the same 10 questions we always ask, but really it is answers that are important. But if you have your own question you wish to be asked in future installments, submit in the comments section and we'll take it from there.

So, without further ado, 10 Questions with L’ubica Vargicova...

SDO: First, welcome to San Diego Opera! We are very happy you are making your Company debut with us as Gilda in Rigoletto. Before we begin, is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

L'ubica Vargicova (LV): I am happy to be here, thank you for inviting me.

In every season there are luckily some new things. In the past two years I visited again some very interesting countries and opera houses, like the Opera Festival in Aix en Provence (The Magic Flute), the Royal Opera House in Madrid (Tales of Hoffmann) or The State Opera in Hamburg (La fille du regiment) or Theater an der Wien. At home in Bratislava I hade the premier of Ariadne auf Naxos in the role of Zerbinetta, and of course I continue in singing my roles in Traviata, Lucia d Lammermoor, La fille du regiment in my home theatre, the Slovak National Opera.

SDO: You sing Gilda with us, a role you have sung before.. I am wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the character?

LV: My professor used to say, that I am a coloratoura soprano with a sort of “teardrop” in the voice, and according to this has she also always chosen the arias suitable for me ( Violetta, Gilda, Sonnambula ). As she said, this voice is perfect for the lyrically-dramatic parts of the “suffering heroines”. And though I am a joyful and optimistic person, on the stage I like acting in tragedies surrounded by beautiful music. And so is Gilda- a gentle, open heart young girl, honest and straight in her feelings and prepared to sacrifice her own life for her love.

SDO: Is there a part of Gilda that you relate to?

LV: The scene of Gilda’s death is a true challenge, at the final of the opera, for which I have to concentrate very strongly and “save” my energy, as well, since the scene before is very difficult , in order to sing and act credibly and at the same time a beautiful touching moment.

SDO: Is there a moment in this opera that is a favorite of yours?

LV: Verdi’s music is very strong. All parts of the opera are naturally and logically connected, like a perfect puzzle. Sometimes I do not even realize, that I am singing. It is like living the story. I like Rigoletto as it is, including the parts where I do not sing. I think this is Verdi s best and most impressive opera, without a mistake or weak part.

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?

Rather unusually, only after my attendance at the Conservatoire in Bratislava. Before I learned piano, playing and singing meant for me folk songs and popular songs. Actually I just followed the wish of my mother, and I was lucky enough to have these wonderful teachers at both secondary school and university. They help and teach me up to now.

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?

LV: It is definitely far away from a boring job. Sometimes I have to decide within a couple of hours and change plans completely sometimes for days or even weeks. For me, as a mother of three children this means a lot of improvisation in our family life. But I am lucky also in this: I have a perfect family which helps me in every situation. I prefer to take my family always with me. I am happy if we are all together discovering new countries, new people. I always look forward to meet new colleagues; I can learn a lot from, to gain new experiences and to find new friends. However I also value when I feel the happiness and satisfied joy of the audience, immediately after the performance.

SDO: What do you like the least?

LV: I am bit stressed of this eternal fear of getting tired or sick and the following complications. I also must confess, that I am not always in a laughing, singing mood, but I have to. It is sometimes difficult to have this perfect timing, and forget about real life and real problems. I am also often stressed of a huge feeling of responsibility or stage fright. But if I am physically O.K., all this disappears in the first couple of minutes.

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

LV: My hobby is my big family, the kids and everything in connection with them. I love being surrounded by them, being together somewhere in the countryside.

SDO: Is there a book you are dying to get people to read?

LV: Unfortunately I do not have enough time for books. I read fairy tales to my youngest son Jacob and I learn from school books with my older ones, and we like reading encyclopedias. I only can recommend all “children books” to you…

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

In my privacy I prefer silence. Of course there is always a CD on our cd player, now it is Ariadne, the opera I last sung. Prior to each performance I usually memorize the role by listening to the opera performed by one of the excellent well known singers, in order to collect energy and feel the atmosphere of the opera.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Why Things Should Always Stay The Same

We here at Aria Serious are joking, of course.

We like adventure, we like intrigue, we like things new and challenging and different. However, it seems in the world of opera, people like things to be the same way they have always been.

Take the Met's newest production of La Sonnambula which opened this week. Throwing tradition aside, director Mary Zimmerman has set this production up to be an "opera within an opera" -- essentially the whole thing is staged as one big opera rehearsal. Sounds interesting and fun, if not true to the libretto.

But this is where we here at Aria Serious are wrong. Very wrong.

The Associated Press called the production a "travesty" while Bloomberg asks "what was she thinking?"

And then there were the boos at curtain calls. Ouch.

Of course, after reading all of this, we've shelved our dreams of directing our own opera down the road.

But joking aside, does booing at an opera discourage directors from taking risks? I happen to think risks are needed, and can sometimes be surprisingly enjoyable, especially for an art form that has essentially gone unchanged for hundreds of years. Perhaps I'm in the minority. What do you think?

As for the boos, I always felt Joan Sutherland said it best “I think Booing is ill-mannered. A hush, a deathly hush, is just as spine chilling as a boo!”

Or you could just blog about it.

- Edward

More On The Met's Chagalls

Peter Gelb has commented to The New York Times over the the Met's move to put their two Chagall's up for collateral. "We don’t think it’s a major event," he told the paper.

The article also discusses a move to reduce singer salaries by 10% across the board which is quite a move if you ask us here at the Aria Serious tower .

You can read the full article here.

- Edward

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Before The Final Show

A wonderful photo, that came through on one of my daily email alerts, shows two of our dancers practicing their dance moves before closing night of Don Quixote.

Our Assistant Stage Director, Keturah Stickann, took this photo, which I simply love. Something about this image, with the sliver of set showing, makes it seem like this could be a photo from any number of a dozen towns in Europe. I find it charming, even peaceful, especially when I consider all the hustle and bustle that is going on outside of the frame.

You can check out her entire San Diego Opera photo set online here.
- Edward

Monday, March 2, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- The Metropolitan Opera has taken a loan against the two Mark Chagall's that hangs in its lobby. Appraised at $20 million, a board member apparently called the move a "decision of last resort" as the Company has seen its $300 million endowment shrink by a third and faces a $40 million deficit next season.

- Readers on the West Coast have a new opera website to visit. David Gregson, who reviews our productions for Opera News, has restarted his Opera West website which reviews operas from San Diego to Seattle and points in between.
Slow weekends are the best kind of weekends if you ask me.

- Edward