Friday! I'm celebrating with another performance of Toscatonight. Then on Saturday I'm listening to Mozart's The Abduction from the Seragliomostly because it is one of those operas I've heard only in parts. I'm also going to spend a good hour with Bon Iver's new release for ForEmma, Forever Ago despite not being opera related at all. Sunday, I might forgo a fourth performance of Tosca and opt for the Super Bowl (read "beer nap") on the couch with the dogs.
What are you listening plans this weekend? Whatever they might be, enjoy!
Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto, general director Ian Campbell and all around nice guy Richard "Big Bertha" Helmsetter played a round of golf yesterday with Peter "Brewery" Rowe from the San Diego Union Tribune.
Arriving to the course Ferruccio commented how hot and dry it was (80 degrees in mid-winter, take that rest of the world) and asked if this was what we called a Santa Ana. I commented it must be hard to sing with the air so dry and Ferruccio responded in his bone vibrating basso, "who cares about singing. I'm here to play some golf."
And played golf he did. With a handicap of 5, if this singing thing doesn't pan out, Ferruccio can always fall back on professional golf.
You can read Peter Rowe's profile on Ferruccio Furlanetto on Sunday, February 8 in the Union Tribune or a few days later here.
Tosca is onstage and the cast of Don Quixote has arrived including Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto, the beautiful Denyce Graves and Eduardo Chama who sings Sancho Panza.
Last time Eduardo was in town we spent an afternoon listening to Don Quixote in my office and he told me one of his favorite roles was Sancho Panza. At the time he was quite sad because the role of Sancho Panza had been cast to someone else. But all things happen for a reason and Eduardo is now in town rehearsing the role he dreamed about many years ago.
To celebrate, below are two clips of Eduardo as Sancho from the Teatro Colon in Argentina.
You can catch Eduardo in the flesh when we open Don Quixote on Valentine's Day.
Sign on San Diego will be sitting down to bask in the warm operatic glow of Greer later today and once they have his interview online, we'll link to it here so you to can gaze upon the luscious locks of bad cop Greer Grimsley from the comfort of your computer.
These past few days have seen more belt tightening by our friends and neighbors up north.
San Francisco Opera has announced a scaled back 2009-2010 season, filled with many classic operas with incredibly strong casts. "There's no question that this season represents a huge belt-tightening for us," SFO General Director David Gockley told the Chronicle. "We're scaling our budget back from $70 million last season to $64 million, and we'd already planned to make sure there were a lot of popular productions and ones for which we could do a lot of performances." You can read the entire article here.
Closer to home, Los Angeles Opera announced staff and pay cuts this morning as well as a reduction in performances and the delay of the world premiere of Daniel Catán’s IlPostino. The economy and the financial drain of mounting their first Ring Cycle is to blame. You can read the article here.
With this news falling like bombs around us, many of you must be wondering how San Diego Opera is doing. Times are tough, like they are everywhere. We are working incredibly hard to fill up our Tosca. We have also announced an Audience Challenge Campaign and are asking the community for financial assistance. Like every other organization we face some very real and tangible threats. You can read about them and donate to the Audience Challenge here.
Some people might think all we do is sit around and listen to opera. This is true Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but today being Tuesday we have a lot of work to do.
To show you how much goes on during a day at San Diego Opera I've pasted what we call a "Daily" down below. It shows every single thing that is happening here throughout the day. With two casts in town now, you can see it gets quite busy with a Tosca performance as well as a Don Quixote rehearsal call.
We get one of these every day, six days a week, from January 1 until the season closes, usually at about 4 or 5 in the afternoon for the following day. This is good because it reminds me of the things I've forgotten to put on my calendar while giving me enough time to fake my way through whatever it is I forgot about.
You'll need to click the actual image to read it. Phone numbers and addresses have been redacted to protect the innocent as well as the guilty.
Friday! That means a new episode of BattlestarGalactica. It also means it is time to share what opera I'll be listening to this weekend.
Seeing opera will actually cut into my listening of opera this weekend but these are the sacrifices we need to make from time to time. So instead of curling up on the couch with headphones I'll be putting elastic into my tuxedo and squeezing into it (fingers crossed) for Opening Night on Saturday.
Now I've seen Toscafour times already this week in various states of rehearsal but nothing beats that moment when the orchestra comes to tune and the curtain rises.
So, share your listening plans here, or, if you see Tosca on Saturday share your opening night experience with us.
Sunday I'm in the hammock with my dogs -- yes, that's one of them up above, getting a head start. It's a dog's life indeed...
If you're new to the world of live opera and classical music then you've probably clapped after hearing a wonderful aria or a stunning movement. Apparently this is a mistake. And you'll know this is a mistake by the glares and the venomous shushing that will come your way.
The cast of Tosca including Sylvie Valayre (Tosca), Marcus Haddock (Cavaradossi), Geer "Opera God" Grimsley (Scarpia) as well as conductor Edoardo Muller and director Andrew Sinclair got together to discuss Tosca last Thursday night in San Diego in front of a packed house.
Through the wonders of the internets (which we still think is just a fad) we bring this conversation to you... Enjoy.
The North County Times ran an article on Marcus Haddock this morning. Marcus makes his Company debut with us as Cavaradossi in Tosca on Saturday. Marcus is sounding excellent in rehearsals and I look forward to seeing him onstage tonight during the Orchestra Dress. You can read the article here.
We apologize for the delay, but we here at the Aria Serious tower have been busy watching history being made with the swearing in of President Barack Obama.
Ontop of that, this morning was our sitzprobe for Tosca, where the orchestra and singers come together for the first time. Everything is sounding great and we have a great opera opening on Saturday.
But in honor of this historical day, which was on the minds of everyone at the sitzprobe -- there was even a "Yes We Can" cake our wonderful Assistant Stage Manager Kerry Masek baked last night -- we have a clip below of the beautiful Renee Flemming performing Rodgers & Hammerstein's "You'll Never Walk Alone" for The Obama Inaugural Celebration.
Renee begins at around minute 6 for those with Attention Deficit Disorder.
The San Diego Union Tribune ran an excellent article on relationships between opera companies and singers yesterday, focusing on Sylvie Valayre, our upcoming Tosca this week. You can read the article here.
This weekend I'll be listening to Vivica Genaux's Handel and Hasse Opera Arias. We here at Aria Serious just love Vivica and Opera Magazine (the small digest UK one) has a wonderful profile on her that just hit newsstands. Reading it made me remember what a special artist Vivica truly is and that her Handel and Hasse cd has been sitting on my shelf neglected for far too long.
Besides, I felt a special frog themed photo for our favorite frog loving mezzo-soprano was fitting today.
Although we here at Aria Serious had our doubts, Greer Grimsley, our Scarpia in Tosca, confirmed last night he has nothing to do with the Facebook group "Greer Grimsley is an Opera God" and after much prodding, admitted he didn't even have a Facebook page.
Greer and the rest of the crew open Tosca next Saturday. Buy a ticket and come see the hair.
Aria Serious friend and Picken's Plan fan Kirstin Chavez sings Maddalena with us in Rigoletto in March but those in New York can hear her a bit earlier as the Met just announced she will sing Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice on January 14, that's tonight, replacing Stephanie Blythe, who is ill.
We wish Kirstin a wonderful performance and a speedy recovery to Ms. Blythe.
New York Magazine has taken a close look at New York City Opera's current state of affairs and offers some surprisingly simple and yet very bold suggestions on how to cure the ailing Company. You can read the article here.
It is time again for the next post in our occasional series that focuses on the San Diego Opera Ensemble, our touring group of young professional opera singers.
This time we've decided to do something different and have the music director of the Ensemble, Tina Chang, tell us about what it is she does.
Mainly because I was wondering.
And here I thought Tina just played some beautiful music on the piano. Seems that's only half the story.
When I first received my contract from San Diego Opera offering me the position of Music Director and Pianist with the Ensemble, it took me a couple of reads to fully understand the prospect of the job. First of all, I couldn’t believe that I got the job (a story that’ll just have to be reserved for another time)! Having now been hired by a well-respected opera company in North America means that I’m finally getting a real taste of what the opera world is like. All my previous experiences with opera involve schools and festivals that seem to be more about the process, as it should be. While the San Diego Opera Ensemble is a young artist program (a stepping stone for young professionals), it meant that all personnel involved need to be on top of their game: coming to rehearsals prepared, ready to discuss ideas and most of all, ready to be able to perform at a short moment’s notice – especially since our touring schedule is so incumbent on schools and communities booking us.
In preparation for the position, I first start out by learning all the music for the two operas we do, plus all the recital arias and ensemble pieces. For me, it is crucial to learn all the music cold before I can begin to do anything else. This means, studying (and sometimes translating the text if they’re in a language other than English), the actual notes themselves, and most of all, how the text relates to the music. Once some sort of intelligent opinion has been formed does it allow freedom to explore other ideas presented by other musicians as we begin to work together.
Come September, when I met the members of the Ensemble for the first time, including Dr. Nick Reveles, the Geisel Director of Education and Outreach, we rehearsed and coached through all the music, talked about tempi, phrasing, and interpretive ideas in conjunction with the Stage Directors’ visions for the two operas, in addition to being the repetiteur for all the rehearsals – after all, every show we do is with a pianist, yours sincerely, so it is a great way to develop a musical relationship with the singers as I begin to know each person’s voice.
Aside from the musical aspects of the job, I’m also the one programming pieces for our recitals in various communities. As I mentioned, not only do we bring opera shows to schools, we also present recitals of arias and ensemble pieces as a way of introducing and entertaining the crowds. Being that the Ensemble is an education outreach program, we also present topics of singing and working in the professional opera world to young, aspiring performers from high school. And I’ll tell you, all this talking and M.C.’ing has improved my skills as a public speaker. One hopes to get better and better with practice.
As we started our tour in October, it was important to be aware of all the venue pitfalls and be able to adapt. Sometimes the pianos were not in the best of conditions, or the venue was either too echoey or absorbed sound like a sponge, sometimes the stage was too small, etc…. Dependent on the venue then, it is my job to be able to let the singers know what needs to be done musically so the text and the intention of the operas still gets across to the audience as if it were any other hall. As we repeat the shows over and over, it is also important to stay as fresh as possible. Often that means reminding ourselves of the intentions of whatever is about to happen. All in all, being in the ensemble demands utmost flexibility from me, the singers and the tour manager.
- Slovakian singer L'ubicaVargicova, who makes a Company debut with us as Gilda in Rigoletto later this year is in Los Angeles singing the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. You can read the review about her here.
- And the most important news this weekend, at least here at the Aria Serious camp, is that yours truly became an uncle this morning so expect a break in posts sometime this week when I travel to meet my niece.
Friday! Here we are, faced with what to listen to over the weekend. This week's pick is not very original, nor inspired, as this weekend I'll be listening to Tosca since we open the season with it in 14 days and it doesn't hurt to familiarize myself with it one more time.
Sure it is work, but I'm not complaining because any job that requires me to curl up for a few hours to listen to Puccini over the weekend is a job I'm interested in having.
English National Opera will be broadcasting an opera from backstage with its upcoming La bohème so viewers can see "all of that furious paddling under the water that you don't normally see," said John Berry, ENO's artistic director.
As someone who has seen plenty of opera from the wings, it truly is a sight to behold. Of course it does not replace seeing an opera from the audience, but it truly is orchestrated chaos and I think the average opera goer would be surprised to learn how many people are backstage making the show happen.
(The answer: ALOT, just take a look at everyone involved with Samson and Delilah in the picture).
Here at San Diego Opera we've gotten to showing a scene change during intermission for one opera each season. It is widely popular with a large portion of the audience staying to watch the scene change and applauding when it is complete. Then there is OperaSpotlight, our program that offers glimpses into the backstage activity of each production. You can tune into OperaSpotlight when it premieres later this month on January 23rd on UCSD-TV.
It is a sad day at San Diego Opera with news that soprano Deborah Riedel had died of breast cancer. She would have been 51 in July.
Deborah made her US debut with us in 1994 as Amina in La sonnambula with Ramon Vargas, returned as Adina in The Elixir of Love (1996), Violetta in La traviata (1997), Alice in Falstaff (1999) and Anna in Don Giovanni (2000), which is where this picture of Deborah is taken from.
She went on to sing at the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera.
Her career took her to Grand ThéâtredeGenève, Opéra National de Paris, OpéradeMontpellier, Opérade Bordeaux, Aix en Provence, Opera di Roma, BayerischeStaatsoper, Wiener Staatsoper, the Royal Opera Covent Garden, and many other top houses.
She made several recordings, including some lovely operetta highlight CD’s with Jerry Hadley and Richard Bonynge.
The Australian has a wonderful profile on her that you can read here.
We here at Aria Serious love irony. Even more so when it is delicious irony. So we love the new Red Bull commercial although we're just as surprised as you are that we used delicious and Red Bull in the same paragraph.
This commercial consists of a cat licking his chops and flossing his gums while Mozart's "Der Vogelfanger Bin IchJa" from The Magic Flute plays in the background. This is Papageno's (the bird catcher) aria, a fact lost to probably 99% of the people who've seen this commercial.
Of course, I personally think Papageno is one of the creepiest characters in all of opera so I like to think the cat has eaten Papageno, which makes the commercial even more delightful for me.
Today is the first day of rehearsals for Tosca! First days are always exciting around here and go something like this:
We begin our morning with a staff and cast breakfast in Ian Campbell's office where he tells the same jokes we've heard each first day of rehearsals for the past 8 years while we eat bagels and sip coffee.
After mingling, we make our way to the rehearsal hall where the cast performs a sing-through of the opera. It is a great time to hear the vocal talents of our singers; especially the ones making debuts with us because cds, dvds and YouTube just does not do them justice.
Heading up this sing through of Tosca today is San Diego Opera's Principal Guest Conductor EdoardoMüller.
In preparation for his arrival here we asked local writer Charlene Baldridge to chat with Edoardo and take a look at his long relationship with us.
It could be a slight exaggeration, but let us say it anyway: San Diego Opera Principal Guest Conductor EdoardoMüller is everyone’s favorite maestro. Asking others about him evokes a deluge of adjectives--analytical, approachable, caring, charming, delightful, ebullient, energetic, generous, knowledgeable, passionate and warm. To hear him speak is to hear an art song, and when he raises his baton over the San Diego Symphony Orchestra listeners are imbued with centuries of tradition, so steeped is he in Italian operatic literature. To the delight of San Diego Opera audiences Maestro Müller has returned all but one season since he made his conducting debut with Giovanna d’Arco (Joan of Arc) in 1980.
“In spite of my name, I am full Italian,” says the maestro, who was born in Trieste and lives at least three months each year at the Milano home he shares with his wife, Giovanna, and at their home in the Italian Riviera. Nearby are grown children and three grandchildren. He speaks of his loved ones bel canto, and it becomes apparent that music and family are his life.
“Giovanna d’Arco was my American debut,” he says. “The conductor should have been Giovanni Gavazzoni, but he cancelled no more than a couple of weeks before the production.” Tito Capobianco, SDO artistic director at the time, phoned Müller and asked him to name possible replacements. The year before the two men had met in Buseto at a competition for Verdian voices, Capobianco representing America, and Müller, La Scala. After Müller listed conductors, Capobianco said, “By the way, maestro, would you be available?” Müller said he would love to come but had to organize things for his absence at La Scala. A few days later Müller phoned Capobianco and said, “Here I am. I am coming.”
The opera gods were smiling. A young agent attended Giovanna d’Arco and signed Müller, resulting in an extensive American career that includes the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera Chicago, and the major houses in Philadelphia, Seattle and Houston, to name just a few. Müller returned every year. Then Capobianco left. “Ian Campbell apparently loved me and asked me to continue the relation with the Company. I was happy, because I loved the city, and I loved the theater, and I was enjoying it….every, every, every year.”
When Müller first appears the orchestra pit, one can tell the audience loves him. “It’s reciprocal,” he says. “I love them, and I do what I can to give to San Diego my experience in the Italian repertoire. “Before conducting, I was an assistant conductor, and I worked with so many good old conductors who know the tradition. What I’m doing is not because I listened to recordings, it is because I really learned on the stage, in the theater. I worked with conductors especially in Italy, but not only in Italy. I also learned from bad conductors, for what not to do, you see? My philosophy is that you must become dirty of theater and music; you must do mistakes before you learn how to do things.”
Müller ‘s big break came in Florence, when French conductor Georges Prêtre, who was scheduled to open the Maggio Musicale with Mose in Egitto, dropped out. Mueller stepped in, so impressing Claudio Abbado that he hired Müller to be his assistant at La Scala.
The maestro places emphasis on a good psychological connection with the singers, hoping thereby “to put them in the condition of giving their best.” “He’s a great model for people who work with young artists,” says Geisel Director of Education and Outreach Nicolas Reveles. “It’s not about hiding your gift or protecting your ‘secrets,’ it’s all about communicating those secrets.”
Rising soprano Priti Gandhi, a former member of the SD Opera Ensemble who made her Caramoor Festival debut as Rosina in 2008, says, “I was fortunate to work with him quite a bit over two years. He personally cared. He remembered what I sounded like the last time he’d heard me. It made me feel very comfortable, like I was in the right hands.”
Whenever time allows, Maestro Müller conducts a master class in San Diego. He thinks American singers are coming along very well. “America is doing good things for the new generation. I cannot say the same thing for other states [countries]. Müller, who has been director for two years of La Scala’s school for young artists, says that there the good singers must make their debuts in other theaters and then return to La Scala. “Here? No. They are well supported and they have many chances. If someone is a talented singer with a good technique, a good musicality and a good instinct for acting, he can be sure to have a career in America.”
The 2008 season worldwide marked the 150th anniversary of Giacomo Puccini’s birth. Müller conducted lots of Puccini in the States, including a Boheme in Orange County and Butterflys in Cincinnati and Detroit. During the 2009 season in San Diego, he conducts three Italian operas, Tosca, Rigoletto and Madama Butterfly.
Müller remarks that his public in San Diego is different from that in other countries, to say nothing of La Scala, where boos and catcalls are commonplace. “I think in San Diego people are always too nice….Some times I would appreciate a more severe reaction.” San Diego may have reason to be less than demanding of its beloved maestro.
Campbell says that though Müller demands the best of his singers and the orchestra, “It’s all in the interest of the art, not the interest of his ego. He learned his craft at the feet of some great Italian conductors. He came up the way the best do, as a repetiteur, then a coach, and then a conductor. Singers have assumed roles here for the first time with Edoardo conducting, and they go away with that opera so solidly established they can live off it for years to come. There is nobody in our company, or in our audience, who does not benefit from his many years of extraordinary experience.”
It’s likely that we will continue to reap benefits from Müller’s presence for many years to come. At 70 he is in robust, good health. “I feel the energy, the love and desire to do better and better,” he says. “My wife and the theater are the main reasons for this.”
Charlene Baldridge, freelance journalist, poet, and critic, member of San Diego Theatre Critics Circle writes locally for North County Times, La Jolla Village News, Downtown News and Performances Magazine.