Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Congratulations to Denyce Graves

Our friend, the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, was married yesterday in a small private ceremony reports The Washington Post. You can read about it here.

We sent a big congratulations over to Denyce this morning and she reported back "we are over the moon with appreciation and contentment."

She deserves it.

- Edward

How Many People Does It Take To Make Opera Happen?

Lots and lots.

Monday, June 29, 2009

NABUCCO Podcast Now Online

Dr. Nic Reveles has posted a new Podcast for NABUCCO online. You can find it by clicking here or by subscribing through iTunes.


While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times reports on fashion trends at European opera houses. I'm happy with news and looking forward to watching La boheme barefoot next season although the person next to me might wish otherwise.

- Singer/songwriter/composer Rufus Wainright's opera, Prima Donna, is set to open in Manchester in July. Still no word on an American premiere for this one.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend?

We here at Aria Serious are going to return to Korngold this weekend since we enjoyed Die tote Stadt so much a few weeks back. On tap for Saturday is Violanta, an opera we've never heard before but were able to find used online.

Of course we'll also find some time to put on our old vinyl version of Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5 while cleaning up the house.

Share your listening plans in the comment section below.

- Edward

Classical Music

Archeologists have announced the discovery of a flute carved from the bone of a bird 35,000 years ago, making it the oldest known instrument in the world.

Talk about classical music.

- Edward

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest in Peace Michael Jackson

For all his eccentricities these past few years, it is hard to remember what an incredible performer Michael Jackson once was.

This will help.

Rest in peace King of Pop.


LA BOHEME Podcast Now Online

Our very own Dr. Nic's podcast series has begun for our 2010 season. Up first, a look at La boheme and what makes opera so popular.

You can access this Podcast online by clicking here, or through iTunes which many of you prefer.

Yep, they're free and run about 15 minutes which makes it a perfect companion for the morning jog.

- Edward

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Elizabeth Futral's Violetta - 10 Questions

As we've mentioned before, Elizabeth Futral is on the great California Violetta tour with engagements in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego all in the same year.

In between dying of tuberculosis on stage each night, Elizabeth was able to answer a few questions we sent over to her in our occasional series called "10 Questions With..."


San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome back to San Diego. We last saw you as Nedda in Pagliacci in 2008. Is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Elizabeth Futral (E.F.): I very much look forward to coming back to San Diego Opera! Since I was there for I Pagliacci last season I have been busy. Two highlights were singing my first staged performances of Thais (Massenet) in Athens, Greece, and singing a world premiere opera, Brief Encounter by Andre Previn, for Houston Grand Opera.

SDO: You sing Violetta for these performances with us. In your own words can you tell us a bit about this character?

E.F.: There is so much to say about the character of Violetta and her journey through this opera. She is multi-faceted and, therefore, very interesting. She is at once incredibly self-sufficient and strong, a real survivor, while at the same time vulnerable of spirit. She has a keen sense of self-awareness which prompts a deep longing for more substance in her life of luxury, excess and pleasure. She risks the only life she has known for a love she believes can (and does) transform her. The loss of that love leaves her alone and longing but somehow more at peace for having loved at all. The return of her love, Alfredo, just before the end of her life allows her the moment to revel in the joy of the love that transformed her and to die at his side.

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

E.F.: I have so many favorite moments in this opera! One of them is in the duet scene with Giorgio (Papa) Germont when Violetta agrees to leave Alfredo and asks him to tell his daughter about the woman who sacrificed her love and died so that the daughter could be happily married. ("Dite alla giovine...")

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?

E.F.: The first opera I saw was Madama Butterfly in a Community Concerts touring production (probably New York City Opera). I must have been in elementary school. I loved it. I didn't then begin dreaming of being an opera singer but I was definitely enchanted by the art form. Though I sang and played piano as a little girl I didn't begin studying and really learning about opera until college and then began in earnest to pursue it full-force.

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

E.F.: Yes, being an opera singer takes me all over the place. I love experiencing new cultures and new American cities-- which can sometimes feel like new cultures! Human beings are just interesting creatures to observe and experience. It's always an adventure!

SDO: What do you like the least?

E.F.: I guess the thing that is most tiring about traveling is traveling! I miss the consistencies of being home...seeing friends on a regular basis, being involved in my community, working in my garden!

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

E.F.: My hobbies come and go. When I'm home I really love working in the yard....if I were home more I would grow vegetables and herbs. I do enjoy sewing and try to do projects when I am home. On the road I enjoy hiking when I'm in good places for that (San Diego area works well for me in that regard!), reading, and sometimes doing various types of handcraft projects.

SDO: Is there a book next to your bed? If so, what is it?

E.F.: Yes, there is currently Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent" at my bedside table.

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

E.F.: I don't own an I-pod! And I don't feel compelled to listen to music nonstop. I think, perhaps, because I do music all day long, I enjoy other forms of entertainment (i.e. movies, sports, plays) as alternatives. But my non-operatic favorites include symphonic and classical piano and bluegrass and country.

SDO: If you were not an opera singer, what would you be?

Unemployed! No, just kidding! I think I might have leaned toward social work or perhaps nursing.


Elizabeth just finished up her Violetta in Los Angeles and sings early next month in San Francisco alternating with Anna Netrebko. San Diego Opera's La traviata opens April 17, 2010.

- Edward

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Opera is Good for the Heart

According to the BBC, listening to opera is good for the heart and can lower blood pressure. Of course, working in the business of opera can have the opposite effect.

- Edward

Monday, June 22, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- While Arts organizations around the nation hunker down, Opera Grand Rapids breaks ground on its first permanent home in the Company's 42-years.

- Speaking of hunkering down, our neighbors to the East, Arizona Opera, makes deep cuts while maintaining their upcoming season.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

So, what are you listening to this weekend?

Over here at the Aria Serious tower we're going to spend some time with Dvorak's Rusalka. We last heard this opera in 1996 when we saw a performance at the National Theatre in Prague. Truth be told we were more smitten by actually seeing a Czech opera in Prague, at the actual theatre it premiered in, and didn't pay much attention to the production itself. So this weekend we'll listen, with libretto in hand, to see what we missed oh-so-long ago.

If time permits we might we'll give the new Grizzly Bear album, Veckatimest, a listen as we've been hearing good things about it lately.

Share your listening plans in the comment section below.

And whatever you do, make it a good one (oh yeah, and call your dad as well).

- Edward

"Greatest Hits" Photo Gallery

We just posted a new photo gallery of San Diego Opera's "Greatest Hits" over on our Facebook page. These are some of the best images of our favorite productions over the past 10 or so years, scientifically selected on a whim by yours truly. So if we're missing something you love, speak up and we'll include a picture of it.

You can access the gallery here.

- Edward

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A (Depressing) Look At The Current State Of NYCO

The New York Times ran this article on the front page of the Arts Section this morning. It is a close and rather depressing look at the current state of affairs facing our beloved "people's opera." As usual, I hate sharing this type of news, but I also know that ignoring it does not make it go away. Sadder still is that NYCO is no different than dozens of others art institutions currently fighting for survival in this economy. Go do your part. Support your local arts community this weekend and see a show or visit a museum.

You can read the article here.

- Edward

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why Opera Rocks

Jackie Fuchs over at The Huffington Post has written an article on "Why Opera Rocks." Our verdict: it indeed does rock.

The article is rather old, written last year but we just came across it the other day so we thought we'd share it here.

You can read the article by clicking here.

- Edward

Monday, June 15, 2009

Stump An Opera Singer...

Last week, when sending out my "10 Questions With..." interviews to our 2010 singers I noticed a glaring omission; I didn't send one to Sylvie Valayre, our Abigaille in Nabucco.

You see, Sylvie was our first "10 Questions With..." interview that we posted on the very first post on this blog.

Not wanting to bore her with similar questions, and so completely unoriginal that I couldn't come up with 10 new questions myself, I got to thinking; what if we had you, our dear readers, ask your own question to Sylvie.

Sylvie being the great person she is, thought it would be neat.

So, here's how "Stump An Opera Singer" works:

- Send a question to Sylvie Valayre at blog@sdopera.com

- Put "Stump An Opera Singer" in the subject line.

- We'll accept questions until July 1, 2009.

- After July 1 we will choose, at random, 10 or so questions to have Sylvie answer.

- Yes, you can send in more than one question.

Based on how successful this is, we'll find another hapless, um, willing singer for the next round of "Stump An Opera Singer." Maybe we'll even let you decide who that singer should be.

Have fun!

- Edward

Lakers Win Championship, Placido Domingo Celebrates

Although we here at the Aria Serious tower were pulling for The Orlando Magic during the NBA finals, we knew the odds were against us because the LA Lakers had an ace up their sleeve.

No, we're not talking about Kobe.

We're talking about Placido.

Seems the tenor is a big Lakers fan through his support of fellow Spaniard and Laker forward Pau Gasol.

Last night, during halftime, the following profile showing the friendship between Placido and Pau aired.

We here considered it the highlight of a truly disappointing game.

- Edward

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Opera Australia begins an internal audit as ticket sales drop and endowment funds dwindle.

- Seattle Opera names the winner of their "Confessions of a First-Time Opera Goer" who will blog about their first Ring-cycle.

- How I missed the days of Audi being our season sponsor (and I really missed the days of driving the Audi's - at legal speeds - around to get serviced) but Mark Swed takes a look at automakers sponsorship of the Arts.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday is upon us, so it is time to ask what we always ask; what are you listening to this weekend?

Here at the Aria Serious tower we're going to spend some time with Korngold's Die Tote Stadt, another notch on the list of operas I should know but have never actually gotten around to listening to.

We'll also finish up reading the steampunky The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters (not sure what we think about this one yet, but it is seductive enough to keep us turning the pages for now) and perhaps some time with The Magnetic Fields/Stephen Merritt's 69 Love Songs. Sublime!

Share your weekend plans in the comment section and whatever you do, make this weekend a great one!

- Edward

Follow Us On Twitter

San Diego Opera is proud to announce that we're now on Twitter. Follow us at _SanDiegoOpera or just click here.

I know, I know; YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all in one week. I like to think of it as an all encompassing website called "YouTwitFace."

We hope to see you there, or here, or over there.


- Edward

What In The World Are They Up To?

While the 2010 International Season is still a few months away, we thought it would be a fitting task this gray Friday afternoon to take a look at the “international” part of our season to see what the singers who will be joining us next year are currently up to. Yes, I am secretly hoping that someone is singing in Bora Bora and I’ll be sent to go do some research. Alas, this not the case…

Anja Harteros, who will join us as Mimi in La boheme is currently in Munch between engagements. She just finished up Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and will sing Elsa von Brabant in Lohengrin and Alice Ford in Falstaff next month.

Joining Anja as her Rodolfo, Piotr Beczala just wrapped up some performances of A Masked Ball in Berlin and heads over to the Vienna State Opera later this month to sing the title role of Faust.

Zeljko Lucic who makes his house debut in the title of Nabucco next year is finishing up the title role of Rigoletto in Madrid before heading over to Munich next month for the title role of Macbeth.

Bass Raymond Aceto, who sings Zaccaria in Nabucco is currently in Berlin singing Escamillo in Carmen.

Sylvie Valayre, Abigaille in Nabucco just wrapped up her Turandot at Washington National Opera and will take a bit of a break before singing Turandot again in Monte-Carlo.

Stephen Costello, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet is singing Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor in Montreal. After a bit of a break he heads off to London to sing Carlo in Linda di Chamounix.

His wife, Ailyn Perez, who will sing Juliet with us in Romeo and Juliet, just finished up her Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi in Philadelphia and will next take on Leila in The Pearl Fishers in Santiago. In between, she’ll sing a Violetta in San Francisco replacing Anja Harteros and Elizabeth Futral.

David Adam Moore, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, is wrapping up his Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Scala and next heads to Glimmerglass Opera for Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas.

Elizabeth Futral our Violetta in La traviata, is currently embarking on the great California Violetta tour with engagements in Los Angeles and San Francisco this month and next. Afterwards she heads off to Kentucky Opera for, you guessed it, Violetta. (We’ll have an interview up with Elizabeth shortly.)

Marius Brenciu, Alfredo to Futral’s Violetta, has a run of Lensky’s in Eugene Onegin in Zurich, Vienna and Munich.

We'll follow up again with these artists again in the Fall.

- Edward

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

O Captain! My Captain!

Although we're still shaking off the wild, wonderful, ride that was the 2009 season it is time now to look ahead to 2010.

And so we thought we'd begin with the return of our occasional series called "10 Questions With..."

Up first is tenor Piotr Beczala who makes his company debut with us as Rodolfo in La boheme. Mr. Beczala became the talk of the opera world when he sang in the Met's broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor earlier this year and the phone hasn't stopped ringing.

In between these calls Piotr was able to sit down and answer some questions we had for him.

And so, without further ado, the first installment of San Diego Opera's 2010 "10 Questions With..." which if you are a better counter than me, will realize there are actually eleven...


San Diego Opera (SDO): First, welcome to San Diego Opera. Of all the artists making a debut with us this season, you’re the one that everyone seems to be talking about; it seems everybody saw your Met movie broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor. Is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Piotr Beczala (PB): Not really, it was funny for me to receive such an incredible number of e-mails from every corner of the world and from so many opera fans who had not known me before ... which expresses how important it is to be a part of today's mediaworld too! One single performance as Edgardo made me more popular than 10 years on international opera stage! However, my schedule has no space left for all the projects which were offered to me after my "discovery" in February.

SDO: You sing Rodolfo with us, a role that you are singing more and more. You sing it at Covent Garden before joining us in San Diego and then take it immediately to the Met in New York. Can you can tell us a little bit about the character in your own words?

PB: Rodolfo is a tenor part which was sung by every important operatic tenor in opera history since the world premiere of "Bohème" in 1896. I sang the part for the very first time within one series in Amsterdam 2001, but have put it aside for a break of 7 years. In 2008 I did it again at San Francisco Opera and it is one of my most frequent roles on opera stages today as well as for the future. I just love both the story and the music, the part of Rodolfo is written for a lyric tenor with a good middle and a secure top register. One can basically show everything: tender, soft colours in act 1 as well as more dramatic attitude in act 3. Rodolfo is a great guy, romantic, nice, honest and easy by heart, he really loves Mimi but due to the difficult living circumstances their relationship becomes impossible.

SDO: Is there a part of the character Rodolfo that you relate to?

PB: I like the characters like Rodolfo or Lensky very much, "romantic anti-heroes" very human , very normal , close to real life!

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

PB: I love every moment, of course the aria and the final duet from act 1, but the scene in act 3 is my absolute favorite, it is heartbreaking.

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?

PB: I started late, with already 19 I began as a chorus-member and only then started my music education as a singer. After 6 years at the conservatory I got my first job at the Linz Theatre in Austria. Having sung Tamino , Belmonte, Werther, Alfredo an many other roles there, I realized that it would most probably work for the future ... After moving on to Zürich it was clear to me that this was indeed my way to go ... But this was in 1997 ...

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?

PB: It becomes more or less some sort of routine and after a while you know most of the places and there remain only few to be newly discovered; this is the case with San Diego for me. I have never been there yet, but I know from some friends that it is a great place! I do enjoy very much meeting new, interesting people, mostly musicians, I always like learning more about music, the art and life in general!

SDO: What do you like the least?

PB: Travelling! Packing after the last performance of a series, putting all the things into the luggage (always much too much!), waiting at the airport, flying into another city, entering another hotel room or apartment ... and thinking of my beautiful house at home which is empty and so far away .... Fortunately my wife is always with me and she creates some sort of "home" in every place!!!

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

PB: I like reading books, playing golf, I love oldtimers and watches.

SDO: Is there a book next to your bed? If so, what is it?

PB: The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

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

PB: Soundtracks of James Bond Movies ...

SDO: If you were not an opera singer, what would you be?

PB: The Captain of a Ship!!!

Piotr joins Anja Harteros and Priti Gandhi in January, 2010 for La boheme. I think we'll be hearing more of him over the next few months.

In the meantime, take a listen to Piotr and enjoy.

- Edward

Follow Us On Facebook

Late to the game, but playing now nonetheless, San Diego Opera is pleased to announce we just created our Facebook fan page. Come join us and learn about special offers and contests, connect with other fans of San Diego Opera and join in the conversation. Simply log into your personal Facebook account, search for San Diego Opera and add us as a friend.

We hope to see you there.

YouTube and Facebook all in one week, wonders never cease to end.

- Edward

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take Me Out to the Opera!

San Francisco Opera offered its third simulcast to opera fans at AT&T Park on Friday to a record audience of 27,000. Closer to home, we're excited because Carlo Ventre (who was with us last month as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly) sings Mario and Lado Ataneli (who was with us in March for Rigoletto) is Scarpia for these productions.

You can read about the simulcast here.

- Edward

Friday, June 5, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

The greatest of the work days, Friday, is upon us which means it is time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

We here at the Aria Serious tower have been busy converting our vinyl collection to MP3 so will send some of the weekend delving into the Warp Records 10+3 Remix Boxset (nothing to do with opera, but man can't live on opera alone). We're also going to listen to a recording of Jens Lekman live @ The Loft that we recorded last week. (Great venue by the way, for those in San Diego). Opera wise we're going to spend time with Dido and Aenas by Purcell. Is it shameful to admit we've heard this opera yet?

What are your listening to this weekend? Share it in the comment section below and make it a good one!

- Edward

Join Us On Youtube

San Diego Opera is pleased to announce that we've finally gotten around to putting our YouTube channel together. Yep, all our content including OperaTalk!, the Artist Roundtable and more can be found in one handy location now. So come on and join us as a subscriber so you can keep up to date on all our latest video offerings. You can click the linky text up above to access it.

- Edward

An Epic Tale Of A Missing Threaded Elbow Screw

Shoppers at Ikea in London this past week have been entertained by an in-store opera that takes advantage of ready-made Ikea sets to represent different areas of domestic life. Called "Flatpack", the opera offers answers to questions such as "Why is my bookcase called Billy?" "What is domestic harmony?" and "What do our homes have to say about us?" The opera is performed by Mammoth Music Theater.

You can read about it here and see a clip down below.

A sequel called "How the $#@! Do You Expect Me to Follow Your $#@! Directions" is currently in the works.

- Edward

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Our Dear Friend

Our dear friend Marian Staver passed away last month. The San Diego Union Tribune has written an obituary fitting of our beautiful friend. She will be missed by all us here.

- Edward

The Nose Knows

We joked about it, thought about it, and then joked some more but it seems that "Green Aria: A ScentOpera" might have the last laugh. The New York Times ran a review of the premiere this morning and all reports indicate it didn't stink. (Ouch. We know. But you couldn't have resisted that one either.)

- Edward

Amato Opera's Final Curtain Call

The New York Times ran an article this morning on the final performance at Amato Opera on Sunday. While it could never compete with the Met or City Opera, Amato truly was a labor of love and the performances I saw at Amato simply exuded delight and love of singing and I remember them fondly. Amato Opera will be missed.

- Edward

Monday, June 1, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- As New York's pocket sized Amato Opera closes after 60-years, a new opera Company made up of veterans of Amato Opera has announced the creation of Amore Opera. Extra brownie points if they actually sell homemade brownies during intermission as our beloved Amato did.

- Sad news is even sadder when it hits your good friends and co-workers but even we are not immune to the economic forces that have shaken this world.
-- Edward