Friday, February 27, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! My favorite of days! And time to share what your listening plans are over the weekend.

Me, I'm going to put Nabucco on hold once again as I'll be catching Das Rheingold on Sunday in Los Angeles. I'll also be spending a few hours at Amoeba Records on Sunset stocking up on the rock, and the not, as I have quite a few opera recordings on my wishlist.

Anything I should add to my wishlist? What are your listening plans this weekend?

Share them in the comment section below.

And have a great one!

-- Edward

Nevada Opera Hits Jackpot

Nevada Opera, which in January sent a dire message that it would close after 41 years unless it could raise $100,000 in just four weeks is now saying it exceeded goals with its fundraising efforts and can now mount a production of La boheme in April.

You can read about it here.

Good news for a Friday!

-- Edward

Thursday, February 26, 2009

But Do They Have Any Actual Cupcakes?

The wonderful Opera Tattler, who runs her own blog and paints opera inspired paintings with all the people replaced with cupcakes, has a small show of her artwork up in the Bay Area.

Readers to the North can stop by Squat and Gobble on Lower Haight to see her collection of cupcake inspired opera paintings. (Or is that opera inspired cupcake paintings?) Whatever it is, I don't think any real cupcakes are involved and that's a shame.

But Squat and Gobble is a delicious place for breakfast and one of my favorite places in the Bay Area, second only to Crepes on Cole, and, well, the Toronado. But we have a Toronado here now, and without the dirty hippies out front trying to sell me weed. Bonus!

Squat and Gobble is 237 Fillmore, between Haight and Waller.

- Edward

South Shore Opera Company

A new opera company is emerging in Chicago, the South Shore Opera Company, which was created to give opportunities to African-American opera singers in Chicago. Their first performance will be on February 28, 2009 and will consist of a concert made up of scenes from Handel's Giulio Cesare, Verdi's Falstaff, Strauss' Die Fledermaus and selections by budding youth performers. Judging by the selections this is going to be a serious opera company.

"There were way too few opportunities for African-American opera singers in Chicago," executive director Marvin Lynn told the Chicago Tribune "African-American opera singers here are often passed over for artists from the East Coast or they tend to be restricted to performing in all-black casts."

As someone who has been told of tales of racism by some of our African-African singers, I believe companies like this are needed and wish South Shore the best of luck in these trying times.

-- Edward

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Opera Keeps You Young

"Opera keeps you young," at least that is what we sometimes joke on certain performance nights; watching the octogenarians climbing over the seats of the theatre for the pre-opera lecture much in the way Carl Lewis approaches a hurdle in an Olympic meet.

It seems we might not be far off the mark.

Meet Vilho Kekkonen who is, according the Guiness Book of World Records, the oldest performing tenor in the world at 100 years old.


Now, if opera could just make me prettier, things would be coming up roses...

-- Edward

Monday, February 23, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- All eyes (and ears) seemed to be focused on the premier of Los Angeles Opera's Ring which opened with Das Rheingold on Saturday. Both the Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register have reviews. After reading them I'm quite excited to see it this coming Sunday myself.

-- Edward


An Interview With The Boss

No, not that boss. Bruce isn't returning my calls. I'm talking about my boss, Ian Campbell, who just wrapped up directing four performances of Don Quixote.

For this event, William Burnett over at Operawarhorses sat down with Ian to talk about Don Quixote, opera in general and every other thing that popped into their heads. So much was covered that Bill broke this into two parts.

Part one, which you can read here, talks about Don Quixote.

Part two, which you can read here, just went up this morning and covers Ian's origins in opera, his long term friendship with Pavarotti and the state of opera in general in this day and age.

Enjoy!

-- Edward

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! Time to share our listening plans for this weekend. I wasn't planning on it but I'm going to catch the last two performances of Don Quixote tonight and Sunday. I might as well see it while I can because it is indeed something special.

I mean, I'm missing Battlestar Galactica for this one. It is that good.

Sadly, this means I'll be putting Nabucco on hold for another week since I've been writing about lately but realize I don't know it as well as I should.

What are you listening plans this weekend?

Whatever they are, enjoy them and have a great weekend.

-- Edward

Just Put It Over There, Next To My Other Millions

Placido Domingo has been awarded the first Birgit Nilsson prize for his "unrivalled contributions to the world of opera". The prize, the largest one in the world of classical music, is $1 million.

Nilsson gave instructions before her death in 2005 for the creation of the award.
Prize officials had kept the name secret for almost a decade after Nilsson gave them a sealed envelope containing Domingo's name as her choice for the first award.

Congrats Maestro Domingo, your contributions are innumerable, including that appearance on The Simpsons.
An award ceremony will occur later this year.

You can read the full article, here.

- Edward

Leave the Fasolt Sized Super Big Gulp at Home

The Ring is coming to Los Angeles. I'm excited by this since I've never seen a complete Ring Cycle. Odds are I still won't see a complete Ring Cycle but I'll be catching the individual operas as my schedule allows. First up is Das Rheingold which opens this weekend. As the Los Angeles Times blog, Culture Monster, pointed out, Los Angeles Opera is sending out email alerts that Das Rheingold is 2 hours and 45 minutes with no intermission. For an opera that has lots of water imagery, it makes sense to leave that Giant Sized Super Big Gulp at home.

Los Angeles Opera might want to enter a corporate sponsorship with the makers of Depends. Might help foot the $32 million price tag for this Ring Cycle.

-- Edward

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thousands Of Tissues Onstage, Not A Dry Eye In The House

Sure, we still have Don Quixote on stage, but here in the opera world we work many many months ahead. So today, taking a break from writing our 2010 press release, I decided to look a little closer into the future at Madama Butterfly which opens in May.

Fine, I'm procrastinating.

We'll be presenting the incredible Francesca Zambello production of Butterfly, which, for those of you who have not seen it, has thousands of flower petals fall during the "Flower Duet."

I'll let you in on a little secret. They're not real flower petals. They're thousands of pieces of hand torn tissues.

And what better way to get these pieces of tissue than to use free labor.
Late last year, during our supernumerary auditions, we put these eager beavers to work tearing petals for Butterfly. We even had a little contest to see who could tear a stack of tissue paper into regulation sized petals the fastest. Regulation, because they all need to be uniform in size so they all fall together.

Norm Cullen, the white-haired gentleman in the photo below, was our winner.
The losers will get to sweep up all the petals during the five performances that open May 9, 2009.

-- Edward




Wednesday, February 18, 2009

50 Million Defeats

Modern Arts Notes has just posted a blog entry on why the $50 million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts as part of the federal stimulus package should be viewed as a defeat and not a victory. They then use San Diego as an example, saying that $50 million in stimulus doesn't amount to the cuts in San Diego alone, the nation's 17th largest metropolis. The article then cites that roughly 100,000 arts organizations create somewhere close to 6 million jobs. Therefore, support of the arts is vital to economic stimulation.

As someone who works for San Diego Opera I can say that the Arts do indeed create jobs. Our Company, which can employ hundreds of people for each production, is entirely local. The carpenters, the dressers, the electricians, stagehands, wig and make-up crew, chorus, symphony and administrative staff all live here in San Diego. We pay taxes. We put money into the local economy. Even our principal singers, who are not from San Diego but live here for 5 or 6 weeks, are paying rent, going out to eat, renting cars, visiting our attractions, etc... Add to that the people who travel into town to experience San Diego's cultural offerings (and we have plenty in town for Don Quixote) are paying TOTs, money which goes directly into city coffers, and it is hard to argue that the Arts are not a vital component to our local economy.

Now, $50 million is a lot of money. More than we'll ever see here at the Aria Serious tower, but in the grand scheme of things, when we're talking about an industry that employs 6 million individuals perhaps $50 million should indeed be viewed as a defeat and not a victory.

You can read the entire article on Modern Arts Notes, here.

-- Edward

Governor Furlanetto...

... has a nice ring to it, you have to admit.

The lovely Opera Chic in Milan has posted a little profile on Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto's Don Quixote here in San Diego. You can click here to read it.

He'd have my vote.

-- Edward

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Connecticut Opera closes down after 67 seasons. This closure appears to be permanent.

- The dialogue continues that the Met movies might not be all that, and might actually damage the art form. You know where I stand on this one...

- An opera premieres in a bar after the power goes out combining two of my favorite things in the life; opera and alcohol.

- We touched on it before, but more about Paris Opera's Phantom Voices of the Opera recordings being unearthed.

- Not only did Don Quixote open here on Valentine's Day but San Diego Opera's production of The Pearl Fishers premiered at Opera Colorado to rave reviews.

-- Edward

Monday, February 16, 2009

It Was A Special Knight...

Reviews. Sweet glorious reviews. We have a few in from Saturday night and they all have a theme in common.

Don Quixote is a special night out.

I'd been saying that all along but it is finally nice to have that verified by people who are smarter than I am.

I tend to like reviews, good and bad, because I have a bunch of very smart critics who manage to teach me a thing or two each opera. I have my opinions watching each opera and sometimes it is nice to see that I'm noticing things that people who are paid to notice things are noticing. But really, let's be honest; I really only like the good ones.

And boy these are good:

"What do you get when you acquire the services of Italian basso Ferruccio Furlanetto to perform [the] opera’s title role here in San Diego?", asks David Gregson of SanDiego.com."Eyes full of tears and a heart that feels a little floppy until you work off your vapors in a standing, cheering ovation."

Marcus Overton of the San Diego Union Tribune said "This remarkable production is energized by two elements that – brought together with integrity and taste – guarantee success: an individual vision articulated with detailed simplicity, and a collaborative approach among an artistic team." They called it a "Superb Quixote in Any Language."

And there are more. You can read them all here.

It is a little late, but the Don Quixote Artist Roundtable is on YouTube now. I've placed it below.

And finally, that picture up above, simply my favorite of the thousands that were taken. Makes you wonder what was going through his mind at that moment.

-- Edward



Friday, February 13, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

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

I'm forgoing opera recordings this weekend to listen to some real live opera at the opening night of Don Quixote. I love the music and I'm simply fascinated at how French composers can tackle Spanish influenced music so incredibly well.

After Don Quixote I think I'm going to take a break for a day or two. Believe it or not I'm feeling all opera'd out.

What are your listening plans this weekend? And if you come see Don Quixote share your experience here.

And yes, that's a dog in armor up above. Dog Quixote anyone? Clearly, I need to get out more.

-- Edward

You'll Want To Turn The Bass Down...

Ferruccio Furlanetto and Ian Campbell spent a rainy Monday morning on KPBS radio talking about Don Quixote. Some of you might have heard it live. Some of you might have missed it.

If you missed it, KPBS radio has just made a podcast available so you can listen to it at your leisure.

You can click here to listen to the MP3. It runs about 30 minutes.

You'll want to turn your bass down, Ferruccio is just that commanding. So commanding in fact that throughout the interview all the women at KPBS ran down into the studio to peer at Ferruccio through the glass window.

Next time, we'll bring a bottle of Windex.

For those of you in the San Diego area, a special one-hour version of OperaSpotlight: Don Quixote airs tonight featuring wonderful interviews with Ferruccio, Ian, Denyce, Eduardo and the designers that brought this one to life. For a complete listing of dates and times for OperaSpotlight: Don Quixote, click here.

For those of you outside of San Diego -- sorry, we won't be able to put this on the internet.

-- Edward

Thursday, February 12, 2009

DON QUIXOTE: A Sneak Peek

Don Quixote is a special opera. It is cute, quirky and clever. It is going to make you laugh in unexpected places and then it going to punch you in the gut.

Last night in rehearsals, insanely tired and really wanting nothing more to do than go home, it hit me that I was watching something incredibly magical, one of those things that you only come across once in awhile. Even when you are actively searching for them.

And yeah, it doesn't hurt that Ferruccio Furlanetto is singing at me from twenty feet away.

He's the soul of this opera and an incredible chameleon. Last night he transformed from the tall well-built person I've worked with for 8 years into a frail wisp of a man. And there is a moment, when Sancho leads Don Quixote away at the end of Act IV, where Ferruccio makes a simple gesture that is so heartbreaking, so honest and so profound it took my breath away.

But enough about what I think. Below are some images from last night's rehearsal taken by photographer Cory Weaver from our production which opens on Valentine's Day. I hope you get to see this one.

-- Edward









Hey, At Least She Was In Tune...

Police in Sweden broke down the door of a hostel after hearing what seemed to be a woman's screams, only to discover an opera singer was practicing.

Everyone's a critic.

-- Edward

State Of The Arts In San Diego

The San Diego Reader has just published an article on the state of the arts in San Diego. The article is worth a read to know what we and our fellow organizations are going through.

It begins:

"In early September, Ian Campbell, general director and artistic director of San Diego Opera, was in London to discuss a possible coproduction with the prestigious Royal Opera, known as Covent Garden. He then went on the continent. 'When I came back through London about two weeks later, the economic shoe had dropped, and I told them we could not continue discussions, and that was that,' says Campbell."

Wonder what opera the Royal Opera House is commissioning these days?

Bummer.

You can read the article here and blame the sub-prime mortgage lenders next time you see them.

-- Edward

Anna Nicole Smith, The Opera

Word has it that the Royal Opera House in London is moving forward on Anna Nicole Smith, the Opera. British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage will work with librettist Richard Thomas, who created Jerry Springer, the Opera. The opera is expected to open in 2011.

When one reads the story of Anna Nicole Smith it does make for good opera fodder.

No word yet on if this is coming to the States, but once we hear something we'll share it here.
-- Edward

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Met's 2009-2010 Season

The Met announced their upcoming season yesterday and you can read about it here. Of special note however are two roles at the Met which will also be seen here in San Diego.

First up is Piotr Beczala (he just sang Edgardo in the HD broadcast of Lucia and NAILED IT) who will be singing his first Rodolfo at the Met in La boheme. Piotr will sing it here, at San Diego Opera, a few weeks prior to his Met engagements. We have him opposite Anja Harteros. La boheme opens our 2010 season in January.

Lise Lindtrsom was also announced yesterday as The Met's Turandot. She'll be bringing this same role in the awesome David Hockney production to San Diego Opera to open the 2011 season.

- Edward

From The Department of Irony...

Sen. Tom Coburn(R-Okla.), who led the charge "to ensure that taxpayer money is not lost on wasteful and non-stimulative projects," such as funding museums, theaters and arts centers has kept money from his own daughter's pocket, the up-and-coming soprano Sarah Coburn.

(Aria Serious has heard incredible things about her Lakme. That's her to the left with Aria Serious friend Larry "Go Steelers!" Brownlee.)

You can read about all of it here. Meanwhile, I'm going to go waste money on completely non-stimulating things like Don Quixote.

-- Edward

Monday, February 9, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Ferruccio Furlanetto's profile ran in the San Diego Union Tribune.

- Joining the ever growing horribly depressing list of opera companies facing cuts is Connecticut Opera who has canceled the remainder of the season. Kansas City Lyric Opera also has some cuts, but not as deep.

- Opera is on shaky ground in New York City as well.

- Los Angeles Opera's The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny won two Grammy Awards last night. Congrats to all involved! This means tenor Anthony Dean Griffey will be sporting some bling when he comes out in April to sing Peter Grimes.

- Warner Herzog has produced a short film pairing the music from La boheme with images from Ethiopia. This is part of Sky Arts "Opera Shorts: Behind The Scenes" program which will premiere on the satellite provider (and presumably on the internet) next week. I've placed a teaser clip below.
-- Edward





Friday, February 6, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend

Friday! And a rainy one at that. This weekend I'm going to throw tradition aside (and eat crow as well) as I attend the Lucia di Lammermoor broadcast to see and hear tenor Piotr Beczala who will be singing with us next season in La boheme.

I hate watching opera in a movie theatre, but it is the best way to hear Piotr without having the Company pay for me to fly to New York, which they wouldn't have done anyway. And besides, afterwards I can catch Coraline which I'm interested in seeing.

Sunday it is Don Quixote rehearsals.

So, what are you listening plans this weekend? Whatever they are, have a good one!

-- Edward

Doritos And Opera (Again)

Eagle-eyed Aria Serious reader, OperaMan, sent me an email pointing out that last year's Dorito's superbowl ad also featured opera.

And he's right.

Obviously someone in the marketing department at Frito-Lay must love their opera.

I've included the clip below, which I find hilarious, especially those last few unnecessary punches thrown at the end.

OperaMan also offers this sage advice:

"Eating Doritos and typing on the computer at the same time stains your keyboard orange."

And makes them nacho-y as well.

You've been warned.

-- Edward

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Of All The Noises Known To Man, Opera is The Most Expensive

The Huffington Post takes a close look at the state of opera and suggests, in this economy, perhaps less is more when staging an opera.

While the article brings up some very good and realistic points I'm not sure if any but a small percentage of opera fans would really support a "concert opera" season from their local company. Part of what makes opera so great is the combining of art forms -- the music mixed with the drama. Take that away and is it still opera as we know it?

-- Edward

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

A few San Diego Opera events taking over the airwaves:

- On Sunday, February 8, 2009 at 7 PM (PST) our production of Tosca will air on KPBS radio at 89.5 FM, 89.1 FM (La Jolla), and 97.7 FM (Imperial Valley).

For those of you elsewhere you can stream this feed over the internet by clicking here and following the instructions onscreen.

- On Monday, February 9, 2009 at 10 AM (PST) Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto, Denyce Graves, and stage director Ian Campbell will be on KPBS to talk Don Quixote and opera in general. Ian and the entire cast have really brought their A-game to this production so I'm interested to hear what they have to say. See the above item for how you can listen.

- Not San Diego Opera related (yet), but exciting nonetheless, is the news that Polish tenor Piotr Beczala will replace Rolando Villazon as Edgardo in The Met: Live in HD broadcast of Lucia di Lammermoor on Saturday. Piotr makes his Company debut with us next January as Rodolfo opposite Anja Harteros in La boheme.

-- Edward

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Meet the Don Quixote Cast

The cast of Don Quixote will be getting together tomorrow night, Thursday, February 5 at 5:30 PM in the Beverly Sills Salon of the Civic Theatre to have a talk about the opera during our Artist Roundtable Event.


And oh, if you do come, be sure to ask Eduardo Chama if he's ever performed in a version of Don Quixote that used live animals. His response will be worth the price of admission alone.

That price of admission? Free.

For those that can't make it, we'll have the whole thing up on YouTube next week. How's that for service?
-- Edward

We Call Him The "Ace of Bass" For A Reason

Ferruccio "Ace of Bass" Furlanetto, who is currently in town rehearsing the title role of Don Quixote, has been nominated for the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award he tells me.

The most-coveted theatre award in London has a category for “Most Outstanding Achievement in Opera” and Mr. Furlanetto has been nominated for his portrayal of King Philip in Don Carlo. Ferruccio performed King Philip in San Diego Opera’s 2004 production of Don Carlo to both critical and popular acclaim.

Don Quixote, which features Ferruccio Furlanetto and Denyce Graves opens at San Diego Opera on Saturday, February 14, 2009 for four performances only.

Go Ferruccio!

-- Edward

Super Opera Bowl

We here at Aria Serious sometimes feel we're always at work because opera shows up in some of the most unexpected places.

Take last Sunday for example; comfortably ensconced on the couch, dogs asleep at my feet, ice cold beer within reach, a heaping plate of soy chorizo nachos on my lap, the big game on the TV when all of the sudden, bam, you guessed it -- opera starts playing in a commercial.

"Hey, you should blog about," suggested my wife.

And she's right.

Opera showed up in two Superbowl commercials which I find somewhat strange. I mean, when you're paying $3 million for 30 seconds of air time, it seems strange to use opera as your background music considering your viewers are not typically an opera going crowd. But there is something to be said about the timelessness of opera, and the fact it is so ingrained in our consciousness that it is instantly recognizable even if you've never seen an opera before.

I've put the two ads below.

The first, from Monster.com, is quite wonderful.

The second, from Doritos, is not; mostly because my nacho chips didn't have any magical powers, even after five or six beers.

Eh, you win some and you lose some.

Enjoy!

-- Edward




Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

Director William Friedkin has pulled out of directing La Scala's operatic adaptation of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" citing "irreconcilable creative differences" with poet and librettist J.D. McClatchy.

La Scala is seeking a new director.

Inconvenient indeed.

-- Edward

Is Opera Going To The Dogs? Part 2

Courtesy of Cuteoverload comes another clip of our canine companions singing along to opera.

Sure, we've posted something like this before, but really, who can get enough of a dog baying along to some opera? I sure can't, so expect Part 3 through Part 56 soon. Because, well, it is dogs and it is opera and it works on so many levels. Enjoy!

-- Edward

Monday, February 2, 2009

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- The ban on having the works of Richard Wagner performed in Israel shows no sign of letting up.


- Opera Orchestra of New York cancels the rest of its season, including a concert with Ferruccio Furlanetto. For consolation, we have Ferruccio here for Don Quixote. Damn he's good.


-- Edward