Friday, July 31, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday is upon us so it is time to ask: What are you listening to this weekend?

We're going to spend the weekend curled up with our Comic Con purchases and listen to La Forza del Destino after a big yard project. Wish us luck.

As always, share your listening plans in the comment section below and make it a good one!

Rocker/Songwriter Patti Smith Wants to be Tosca

Protopunker Patti Smith reveals in an interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera that she wants to sing Tosca. Courtesy of the awesome Opera Chic blog comes the translation:

I'd love to step on a stage and sing Tosca. Tosca loves, and prays, with all her being. I'd love to sing Vissi d'Arte, one of the most strikingly beautiful arias in opera. My introduction to opera was an old LP, Eleanor Steber singing Butterfly... I was very young and it moved me to tears. Giacomo Puccini became my magic portal to enter the world of opera. I am so grateful to Puccini for this... What I love the most about his music is the melodic lines, and the way he builds up tension and emotion. The intensity of his arias represents a lesson to every singer... Puccini is, in the end, an composer whose music is very audience-friendly because he knew the people and he believed in them. His stories are simple, and they move you.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stephen Schwartz Has An Opera

The composer of Pippin, Enchanted and Wicked, Stephen Schwartz, has written an opera and our good friends to the north, Opera Santa Barbara, will have the world premiere on September 26.

Called Seance on a Wet Afternoon it is a "psychological thriller about a medium, her husband and the spirit of their deceased 11-year-old son."

The Culture Monster has the full story.

Sounds intriguing. Aria Serious field trip anyone?

38... 42.... Hut! Hut! Sing!

The New York Times has the story about Keith Miller a former football player who is now "running arias" instead of the line of scrimmage. We won't hold it against him that it was "Phantom of the Opera" that lead to his singing career, after all, dude just might kick my butt.

You can read the article here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wacky Instruments, Part 1 - The Daxophone

If you're looking for something to buy us for our birthday here at Aria Serious, please consider buying us a Daxophone. This instrument is a friction idiophone, whose wooden tongue vibrates to create sound. The sound can vary widely based on the shape of the tongue; a different shape means a different sound so the Daxophone essentially has an endless pallet to work from. It can also be played a variety of ways - bowed, plucked, hammered, etc...

But it's the sound that has us captivated. Strangely odd, incredibly unique I'd love to play with one of these and drive my neighbor insane.

The one in the first clip sounds like an elephant burping harmonicas and backed by a chorus of helium huffing ducks.

The second is of the inventor himself playing his wondrous creation.

You can also visit to play a virtual one and, for those with the DIY spirit, make your own.


Mozart's Mysterious Magical Music Machine

Mozart's original score for The Magic Flute called for a glass harmonica (pictured) or keyed glockenspiel to represent the set of magic bells. These instruments, rare even in Mozart's time, no longer exist today.
(Modern day orchestras use a Celeste to recreate this sound).

When the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra programmed music from The Magic Flute they had no idea what they would do. See, the Brandenburg Orchestra plays on period instruments. But with some ingenuity and a whole lot of research it seems they might have solved a 200 year old mystery.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

We're One Today

A big day here at Aria Serious as today is our one year anniversary.

We'd like to take the time to thank you, our wonderful readers, who stuck through our growing pains over these past 12 months.

We hope you like what this blog has become. If you don't, speak up in the comment section below. It is our goal to make this blog the best it can be by providing you with the stories you want to read.

We're just impressed that after 358 posts, we have three good ones.

Cake for all!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Puccini Goes To China

Puccini's Turandot, once considered an insult to China for its story line, as well as being considered a decadent display of the excesses of capitalism, is returning to Beijing and the city is pulling out all stops.

The Los Angeles Times reports on this cultural shift.

Nearly Purrfect

Making its way around the interzweb, this incredible video of a CATcerto featuring Nora the Wondercat on piano. For fans of things cute, warm and cuddly and those who like modern classical music. If you're a fan of both, you might want to hold on now...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic Con 2009 Report

Comic Con 2009 has come and gone and while we are sad as always to see it go, we're somewhat relieved to not have to walk 10 miles a day to see everything there is to see. (Next year, we swear, we're wearing a pedometer and/or roller skates)

"Why," you must be asking, "is an Opera blog commenting on Comic Con?" And you have a point; but like opera, comics are grossly misunderstood and stereotyped so we feel we might as well chime in. Besides, we can, so why not?

First, there was very little opera related I could find at Comic Con.

I was in line to ask ex-Python and uberdirector Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) about his aborted operatic directing debut at La Scala with Andrea Chenier but we ran out of time. We did get to see some clips from his new movie however. Bonus points for having Tom Waits as The Devil.

Battlestar Galactica / Caprica composer Bear McCreary mentioned in the Battlestar Retrospective panel how he would love to do a concert at Vancouver Opera. We tweeted this up to our friends at Vancouver Opera who would love to see it happen. I later gave Bear my card to get them talking to one another. We'll see what comes out of it.

There was also a midnight showing /sing-along of REPO! The Genetic Opera. But we saw it last year, and you can find our impressions on it here.

And then there was a wonderful, inspirational, conversation with Ray Bradbury that I was lucky enough to have. Mr. Bradbury wrote the screenplay to the movie Moby-Dick, an opera we happen to be producing in 2012. I asked Mr. Bradbury if he would have any interest in writing some notes in our program on why people keep returning to this story. He passed on the offer to write for us but has Moby-Dick in his calendar now. He promises to live to 100 and wants to be buried on Mars. We were in awe of his fertile, incredibly sharp, mind. More in awe that thousands of people walked by us while we chatted and nobody seemed to notice him.

Comic Con is about books. And we here at Aria Serious love books almost as much as we love opera. Comic Con is one huge bookstore that goes on for miles and miles. Not so much a fan of Superman, Batman, Ironman or their ilk we tend to go for graphic novels and below are some of the gems we found.

Unable to find any comic books about opera (hello people) we had to settle for some plays by Shakespeare adapted in the Manga style. We bought a half dozen copies of Hamlet for my wife's classroom. Using Shakespeare's actual text we're hoping the visual ques can help some of the reluctant readers get through the sticker passages.

After eyeing some original drawing by Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt (out of my price range) and eyeing the beautiful and grotesque clockwork taxidermy of an artist whose name I can no longer recall (also out of my price range), I came across the incredibly bizarre, wonderful and horrific graphic novel The Squirrel Machine about brothers who make instruments from animal carcasses. Set in a beautiful, haunting steampunk universe I bought the book based on the cover and was not prepared for the disturbing journey inside. This one is currently my personal "best of show" but I have a lot of books to read still.
[Edited to add: The artist is named Lisa Black and you can see some of her creations here.]

Another book worth mentioning is the delightfully nostalgic tale of a boy and his father called Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? A tale of optimism in a time when the future seemed to hold all the answers, this book is set around the New York World Fair with artwork that is both a throwback to earlier styles while also using some cutting edge illustration techniques. (Bonus points for the elegant, beautiful, lady working the Abrams ComicArts table - she was stunning from the get go but the Superman tattoo on her wrist just melted us, temporary or not).

A big fan of Guy Delisle's non-fiction travel comic books, we picked up copies of his Shenzen and The Burma Chronicles. These are excellent looks at people and locales that I will never get to explore on my own.

A fan of Yoshihiro Tatsumi visual short stories I was delighted to find A Drifting Life, his 900 page comic autobiography that follows his life as a child through the Japanese reconstruction of post-World War II and his career as an artist. While his works are never easy to read they provide a look at a world incredibly foreign to me but in a such a simplistic style that they touch on the universal human experiences and seem almost familiar.

Honorable mentions go to Lillie Carre's "sound comic" The Lagoon, Put The Book Back on the Shelf an anthology of comics based on the songs of Belle & Sebastian and Black Hole by Charles Burns, his look at sexual awakening and the transition into adulthood in the Seattle suburbs in the late 1970's.

We also picked up the few remaining issues of Y: The Last Man we needed for our collection.

And oh, we got shake hands with Spock.

Comic Con 2010 is July 22 -25. We bought our passes already.

Who in the World is Claudia Muzio?

We didn't know either.

Thank god for Dr. Nic and his weekly podcast series.

This week focuses on the greatest soprano of her time and muse to Maria Callas.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- There is no acting in opera. Some people think this is OK. Do you?

Friday, July 24, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

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

We here at Aria Serious are exploring the wastes of Glornak 7, err, we mean reveling in the geekfest that is Comic Con so there will be no listening to albums for us this weekend. But next week we're looking at either The Force of Destiny or Otello. Any reason to pick one over the other? Let us know in the comment section below.

Whatever you decide to listen to this weekend, make it a good one.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We'll Be Back

Aria Serious will be quiet for the rest of the week as we're heading down the street to experience our annual week of geekdom at Comic Con.

Ah, youth, we remember when Comic Con was just a three or four hour event that was held right next to our theatre... Now I complain there's too much to see and take a week off to experience it all...

Should anything really strike our fancy we'll blog/tweet about it. Remember we're on Twitter now @_SanDiegoOpera. Yep, that's an underscore before our name.

But we'll be back with a report. Promise!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LA Supervisors Vote: Wagner a Wiener, No Change to Festival

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted today on a proposed plan to change the focus of the Ring Festival.

The verdict: Wagner is a wiener but use the festival as an "examination of his influence on Western culture and society -- for better and for worse."

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky (who incidentally sounds like a nice Jewish boy) proposed the focus of looking at Wagner's influence also added "we should keep our sticky fingers out of this. There is no reason for politicians to meddle in artistic undertakings."


The Culture Monster has the full report.

When the Drama Backstage Overshadows the Drama Onstage

And the lesson we learned from this: be careful of what you write on your Facebook page.

And that former Skylight theatre Artistic Director William Theisen is a man of principles. Bravo!

*runs off to delete Facebook page*

Wagner, Still Apparently a Wiener

The great Wagner debate in LA continues and is starting to get as long as the Ring itself.

We still stand by our earlier statement and think this is starting to get silly, especially with all the other important issues clearly on the table (remember folks, California is broke).

But we'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter in comment section.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stephen Costello and Ailyn Perez in Hectic Harmony

Aria Serious reader "Linda" just posted a link to this profile on Stephen and Ailyn in the comment section but the link was too long and got truncated.

Since it is such a great profile we've decided to give it its very own blog topic.

You can read the article here.

Stephen and Ailyn make their debuts with us in 2010 in the title roles of Romeo and Juliet.

Thanks "Linda"!

A New Podcast Online

Got a case of the Monday blahs? Aria Serious cares.

Here to make your Monday better is our newest podcast for you. This week Dr. Nic takes a look at Love Duets in opera and what makes them tick. You can download the podcast here or check us out on iTunes.

As always our Podcasts are free and run about 15 minutes.


While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- As you know, I'm not a fan of opera in movie theatres. Apparently neither is this writer, who argues why opera is better in 3D -- the real 3D.

- A profile on Stephen Costello, who sings Romeo in our Romeo and Juliet.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

We here at Aria Serious will be spending the weekend with family in Los Angeles so listening to a complete opera is out of the question. But we do have a few hours planned for Amoeba records so if there is something you want to suggest we pick up make it known below.

Whatever your listening plans are, make it a good one.

Baritone Zeljko Lucic Is A Man of Few Words

Next in our occasional series of 10 Questions With... is Yugoslavian baritone Zeljko Lucic who sings the title role of Nabucco with us in February 2010. Between rehearsals we were able to ask him 10 questions and his brief responses are below.

San Diego Opera (SDO): Welcome to San Diego, we are very happy to have you making a house debut with us for these performances of Nabucco. Is there anything new in your life that you would like to share with us?

Zeljko Lucic (ZL): Very usual things. Traveling, singing, enjoying life.

SDO: In your own words, can you tell us a bit about the character Nabucco?

ZL: Maybe a little parallel to Rigoletto, but this guy is crazy.

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

ZL: I have nothing to do with this guy.

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

ZL: Of course. That is the aria in the third act.

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?

ZL: It is never boring. Meeting other people is a good thing!

SDO: What do you like the least?
ZL: Not being with my family!

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

ZL: Not actually! Watching TV, going out with friends.

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

ZL: I am very classical: Dostoyevski, Tolstoi…

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

ZL: Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and Co.

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

ZL: A taxi driver.

We'll have another 10 Questions With... shortly.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Richard Wagner, Still A Trouble Maker

The great debate continues in Los Angeles about the Ring Cycle. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is calling for an overhaul of the planned cycle with less of an emphasis on Wagner.

LA Times critic Mark Swed, chimes in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Robert Brill Joins Moby-Dick

Robert Brill, the Tony Award nominated set designer with ties to local community has been named set designer for the world premiere of Moby-Dick. Moby-Dick gets its world premiere in April of 2010 at Dallas Opera and comes to San Diego Opera in February of 2012. In addition to Dallas and San Diego, Moby-Dick is being developed by a consortium of companies including San Francisco Opera, Calgary Opera and the State Opera of South Australia.

Robert made his Company debut designing our Wozzeck "Tower of Power" in 2007. He is a founding member Sledgehammer theatre and has close ties to La Jolla Playhouse, The Old Globe Theatre and others.

He's also a really nice guy. (This counts!)

We're happy to have Robert Brill on board. Once we get some sketches from Robert, we'll share them with you.

The Habanera

Man, I sure miss The Muppets

Richard Wagner Causing Trouble Again

Leaders in Los Angeles are asking that Wagner's Ring Cycle be pulled from the citywide Ring Festival on ground that Wagner was anti-semitic. And so were a lot of people back in Germany at the time... This debate is nothing new and people forget that Wagner was just a product of his environment and that it was Hitler who took Wagner's music and made them the themes for his horrible cause.

As a Jew, I'm the first to call anti-semitism when I see it in my personal life, but as a Jew I also understand that banning art is just a step away from banning ideas which is just a few steps away from banning people, which means that we're just a few steps from becoming the very things we hate.

You can read about the hoopla here, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times Arts Blog, Culture Monster.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Nothing New Under The Sun

Proving even more that we're not as original or creative as we thought, Aria Serious has received word the a zombie opera - Maelstorm - has just received its world premiere.

This is something we touched on last summer, and were quite smitten with the fact that we had come up with something so original. But it seems one was already in the works, which just goes to show there is nothing new under the sun.

And remember: hatchets don't require ammo, move to higher defensible ground and above all DON'T PANIC.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sir Edward Downes Has Died

Although he performed with us before I was here, we here at San Diego are saddened by the news that Sir Edward Downes and his wife have ended their lives at the Dignitas clinic in Zurich.

Sir Edward conducted our production of Fidelio in 1989 and those that were here at the time remember it as a very memorable production. He also worked with our General and Artistic Director, Ian Campbell when he was a singer, and Sir Edward was Music Director of The Australian Opera.
The 85-year-old maestro had become virtually blind and had lost some of his hearing, while his 74-year-old wife had been suffering from cancer his children revealed.

A dignified end to a special and quite amazing life.

Something To Crow About

Because it is opera related and includes animals. What more do you need?

Monday, July 13, 2009

LA TRAVIATA Podcast Is Now Online

Like we try to do every Monday morning, our newest Podcast is now up for listening. This one is about La traviata and in it Dr. Nic takes a look at the real-life Violetta Valéry.

As always these podcasts are free. You can download it here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Rufus Wainwright's first opera, Prima Donna, had its premiere over the weekend in Manchester. The New York Times has the review. The Omniscient Mussel has the interview. Rufus, apparently, has a Verdi costume for opening night.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Time to ask: what are you going to listen to this weekend?

We here at the Aria Serious tower are going to spend some time with Puccini's Manon Lescaut. No reason in particular other than it is a lovely opera and we just love us some melody.

After that, we'll probably spend more time with Andrew Bird as we caught him yesterday evening on a boat in the bay for a private concert (thanks KPRI FM for the tickets, that was an incredibly special evening). NPR has a wonderful live concert of Andrew performing in Washington DC for those that are interested.

Whatever you're listening to this weekend, make it a good one.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Beginning And An End For Mortier

Gerard Mortier, the Artistic Director of the Paris Opera; the one-time incoming director of NYCO; and now the incoming director of Spain's Theatre Real had a sort of farewell this week at Paris Opera. His final commission, by painter Anselm Kiefer, Am Anfang (“In the Beginning”), premiered earlier this week.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Michael Jackson and Luciano Pavarotti

Seems a fitting, final, tribute this morning... Michael Jackson and Luciano Pavarotti worked together back in the late 90's on a number of charity projects.

Below, the King of the High C's and the King of Pop talk about their charity work.

In Italian and in English.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sylvie Valayre Concert

Although February is some time away we're already excited about Sylvie Valayre's Abigaille in Nabucco.

To hold us over, user 75zazou over on YouTube has just posted videos from a charity concert Sylvie gave last month in Washington DC for Peace Child Israel.

You can find the concert here and we've pasted "Sola, perduta, abbandonata" from Manon Lescaut below.

Monday, July 6, 2009

ROMEO AND JULIET Podcast Now Online

This week, Dr. Nic takes a look at the four, yep, FOUR love duets in Romeo and Juliet.

Take a listen by clicking here.

- Edward

Break A Leg

We didn't mean literally! !

American mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato is reporting via her blog that she did just that -- broke her fibia and then proceeded to sing in The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House while being helped around and held up by her fellow castmates for the entire opera.

The show indeed must go on!

All of us here at AriaSerious send Joyce our best wishes, our utmost respect for the incredible dedication she showed to her fans and colleagues and a speedy recovery


You can read about the experience, in Joyce's own words, on her blog. And while you are there, why not comment on her post and send her some opera love.

- Edward

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- A grant has been awarded to keep Opera Orlando alive after the Company field for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in early June.

- The new General Director of Opera Australia seeks harmony and calm waters.

- The Met Opera saves money in new negotiation with stagehands.

- And finally, the American mezzo-soprano Sandra Warfield passed away over the weekend. She was 88.

- Edward

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Thursday, normally the tease of the week with Friday right around the corner, actually delivers with the long holiday weekend. So it is time to ask, a day earlier than normal, what are you listening to this weekend?

We'll spend Saturday chillin' and grillin' so it seems only fitting to listen to Norma while the coals shimmer and glow.

We'll also find time to listen to Andrew Bird's Noble Beast which is perfect music to nap in the hammock to while sipping a rye rickey.

Make it an extra good one, and be safe!

- Edward

An Introduction to San Diego Opera

In case you are new to our Company, or just want to relive some great moments, we've posted our "Introduction to San Diego Opera" video below.
Special kudos to John Menier over at UCSD-TV who turned our intangible ideas into a tangible product. And for not getting stabby when we changed our mind 6,281 times.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Zandra Rhodes In Car Accident

Zandra Rhodes, our Princess of Pinkness, designer of The Magic Flute and The Pearl Fishers was in a car accident yesterday reports The San Diego Union Tribune.

Reports indicate Zandra drove her car into a hardware store in La Jolla, California. One person in the store was injured. The injuries are not life threatening. The cause of the accident is unknown.

We hope all involved have a speedy recovery and send our best Aria Serious wishes to all.

- Edward