Friday, October 30, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Happy spooktacular Friday!

Fall is in the air (for now), days are growing shorter (by the way - remember to set your clocks back on Sunday) and it's the Friday before Halloween.

So it's time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend? We here at the Aria Serious (haunted) Tower are going to listen to something completely different and blast Gyorgy Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre while sipping wine on our front porch and handing out candy to the constant stream of children (and adults) that descend on our neighborhood.

But first, tonight, we're walking down to the Birch North Park Theatre to catch the Dirty Projectors in concert. We're excited that our neighborhood opera house is starting to book concerts like this and hope they'll continue to book more of these types of shows.

But truth be told, we're more excited we can use words like "neighborhood opera house."

Continuing the trend of all treat and no trick, we've received word from our record slinging friends at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles of another classical music/opera sale - this time the weekend of November 14th and 15th. Everything classical and opera will be 20% off and will include new, used, cds, dvds and beloved LPs.

Share you listening plans in the comment section below and whatever they are please make this a safe, fun and wonderful weekend.

Followup: Lise Lindstrom and Opera History

Happy Friday!

Just two quick items for followup this morning.

First, more about Lise Lindstrom's Met opera premiere, in the form of reviews.

The first, from The New York Times, can be read here but highlights include:

"she sang with chilling power and nailed the top notes. Her sound was impressively focused, with a vibrant vibrato on sustained tones and no wobble. The youthful shimmer of her singing was balanced by rich emotional maturity."

The second, from The New York Observer says:

Ms. Lindstrom made the most of it with a remarkably assured, vocally gleaming performance. Turandot, the hyper-feminist Chinese princess who, in tribute to a wronged ancestor, has her suitors executed, sits the first act out, but the first thing she sings in the second is “In questa reggia,” with its cruelly exposed high notes. Not only did Ms. Lindstrom unleash the scena in tune—no easy task—but she showed a sense of flexible, lyrical phrasing that served her well in the softer moments of the third act.

And here we have an awesome 2010 season planned and I'm already excited for 2011 (disclaimer: Turandot was my first opera and one of my favorites - and the David Hockney production is to die for).

There's been a bit more buzz about the Opera History Twitter Project and our friends over at San Diego News Network have a story about it.

Remember, we start next Monday using the hashtag #operahistory and we're at _SanDiegoOpera (yep, that's an underscore before our name). Hope you can join us!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The History of Opera in 140 Characters

We here at Aria Serious are always trying to come up with fun and creative ways to make our favorite art form more interesting and enjoyable.

Sadly, we're not very creative and we're never any fun.

Luckily we've surrounded ourselves with people who are.

Starting next week on our Twitter feed, Dr. Nic Reveles and the Aria Serious crew will be tweeting the entire history of opera. That's 400+ years of musical intrigue and discovery reduced to 140 characters. We'll do this with a single post a day beginning Monday, November 2, 2009 until we're done.

If you're not already following us on Twitter you can find us here.

We'll be using the hashtag #operahistory so you can find us. This also means we'll only really have 126 characters to work with.

Wish us luck.

Lise Lindstrom to the Rescue

We weren't going to announce this one just yet, but since the lovely Opera Chic already did, we'll report it as well.

Soprano Lise Lindstrom, who was scheduled to make her Met debut as Turandot in a few weeks made an early debut last night, replacing Maria Guleghina who pulled out at the last minute.

We received word on good authority (Lise's parents) that Lise had just an hour's notice before her debut.

Why should this interest you? Well, Lise is scheduled to make her San Diego Opera debut in 2011 singing this same role.

We haven't seen any reviews yet but once we do, we'll share them with you.

If you were at the performance last night, let us know what you thought.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lotfi Mansouri

Our dear friend Lotfi Mansouri is about to be honored next month by the NEA for his contributions to the world of opera. The reason? There are many but this one is for his introduction of super/sur-titles to opera performances - those handy real time translations of what is being sung onstage.

San Francisco Classical Voice reports the Mr. Mansouri received another honor this week - an unveiling of a bas relief plaque at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco where he was General Director from 1988-2001.


Lotfi returns to us next season to direct Nabucco.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Michael Jackson and Castrati

As mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli prepares for the release of her new album, a collection of 17th century opera arias written for castrati called "Sacrificium,” she recently spoke with the LA Times about suffering for art and drew comparisons to the King of Pop.

"After 300 years we’re still ready to sacrifice our bodies for beauty or what fashions dictates for us, and it got me thinking about the incredible talent and musician of Michael Jackson. He was an amazing, amazing musician and talent and genius really of music. He was really also a victim of this, in a way. Mutilating himself — what he did for his body, for the skin, for the nose.”

“Most of these young boys were coming from very, very poor families, which they already have 10 to 12 children,” Bartoli says, again making a parallel with Jackson, “one would sacrifice, in the name of music, but in fact it was big business because if this boy was able to make a career he was considered a pop star and he was earning lots of money and he was the one who could have saved his family out of poverty.”

You can read the full article here, and it is worth the read.

For those of you in NYC on November 16th, a listening party and screening will be held at (le) poisson rouge. A special cocktail, "The Castratini" will be served and we're not going to ask any questions...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Podcast Monday

Monday is here, and for some reason it feels like an extension of last week. Blech.

But we're not going to despair since it's Podcast Monday today. This week?
Everything you wanted to know about a concertato but were afraid to ask.

You can download the podcast here.

Enjoy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday! And what a week it has been. A good week, but a very, very, long one.

So it's time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

We here at Aria Serious are going to listen to Berg's Lulu as it's been some time since we've given it a close listen and Lulu, like all of Berg, requires a close one.

But first we're going to see the very special, amazing, haunting, Daniel Johnston in concert tonight. We've waited to see this one for years. If it ends early enough we might try pop on over to the Casbah to catch the bluesy funk of The Heavy. But that's a long night and we're already tired now.

What are you listening plans? Share them in the comment section below. And make it a good one!

Opera, The Way It's Meant to Be Heard

The New York Times is reporting that New York City Opera (whose season opens up in just under two weeks on November 5th) has removed the amplification system that was installed in 1999.

We're happy about this, as one of the draws live opera has for us is the fact that what we hear is pure unamplified sound. We know that one day, as listening tastes change, opera will most probably be amplified but allow us to cling to this one tradition just a bit longer.

You can read the article here.

Aylin Perez

For those that haven't been paying attention, soprano Aylin Perez makes her Company debut with us next season as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. For those that have, you know we're pretty darn excited about this.

And we have good reason to be.

Below is a clip from Ailyn's recital at the Rosenblatt Recital Series in the UK last week.



Good, huh?

The Truth Must Be Known

Hector Berlioz's dirty little secret exposed. You'll be disgusted, shamed and you'll want a banana daiquiri...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Antony (from Antony and the Johnsons) Loves Coffee So Much He Sings Puccini For It

And it's not bad.

But it's not opera.

I always skipped over his records for some reason despite many of my friends swearing he's the best thing since, well, coffee. I'll need to give him another listen now.

You can listen to his version of "Nessun Dorma" here.

Five Things About La boheme You Don't Need To Know But Will Be Glad You Did

Getting ready with Dr. Nic last week for a TV interview he came up with five tidbits about La boheme to be used on air. Live TV being what live TV is, not all of them made it onto the show, but I thought they were interesting enough to be recycled here on the blog.

Besides, I'm busy hammering away at the 2011 press release so pressed for time today.

2011 press release you say? You betcha. But, faithful readers, here's a tidbit: a certain married couple returns to us next season in another opera by Gounod.

Without further ado, five things about La boheme you'll be glad to know

1) Giacomo Puccini’s opera La boheme is one of the three most popular operas ever written but it wasn’t always that way. It was not an immediate success. An opera by a rival Italian composer, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, on the same subject (and also named Le bohème) premiered about a year after Puccini’s and was quite successful. It’s possible that, in fact, Puccini actually stole the idea from Leoncavallo. (They had a rather awkward public meeting in a café when Leoncavallo accused Puccini of stealing the idea…eventually Puccini said, “Let the public decide which one they like best!”) The two operas co-existed in Italian theatres for about ten years before Puccini’s came out as the public’s favorite version. It’s never left the active repertory since, and Leoncavallo’s version is all but forgotten.

2) Puccini’s opera was really considered quite risque for its day, in fact a number of critics condemned the story outright as being suggestive and salacious. The two young lovers, Rodolfo and Mimì, have an open affair and it’s obvious that they’re sleeping together without the benefit of marriage. Since opera houses in Italy were considered places where one could have an evening of uplifting entertainment for the whole family, the story was something of a risk for the composer and his producers.

3) Puccini’s opera has been quite influential on contemporary and popular arts. The musical Rent by Jonathan Larson is based very closely on the story of the opera, and one of the big tunes or arias from the opera (Musetta’s waltz, “Quando men vo” from Act II of the opera) was used to great effect in the score of the film Moonstruck with Cher and Nicolas Cage.

4) Puccini is most often praised for the writing of the music of La boheme, and justly so: it’s a gorgeous score. But few of us, even in the opera business, realize that he was a genius of the theatre as well. He knew what would work on stage, and what would not. He was sometimes very aggressive with his librettists (the men who wrote the words, the poetic text for the opera) insisting that this or that word, phrase, or stage action wouldn’t be effective, or badgering them to include something that they felt would fall flat, only later to realize that the composer was always right. One could compare him with Andrew Lloyd Webber in that sense, a composer who also happens to be a great showman.

5) Puccini’s first opera was Verdi’s Aida which he saw when he was a teenager. He often told the story about how he had to walk twenty miles in order to buy a ticket and see performance in a distant town. But he was so inspired by that experience that he decided to dedicate himself to opera.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Say What!?

Studies have shown the musicians hear better than the average person, of course that just means they better selective hearing than everyone else.

NPR music has the report.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Podcast Monday

On today's Podcast Monday a look at German composers before Wagner. You know, Weber, Spohr, Nicolai, Lortzing and Marschner. Who? Exactly.

You can download the podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:




Friday, October 16, 2009

What Are You Listening to this Weekend?

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

The Aria Serious tower will be thumping this weekend with the strains of Strauss and Ariadne auf Naxos. It's been a looong time since we've listened to this one, not sure why we've neglected it for so long.

Rumor also has it that there is a recording of Piotr Beczala's Faust at Lyric Opera floating around on the interwebs but we've yet to find it.

We'll probably end the weekend listening to some Hank Mobley as we just received a bonanza of early Blue Note LPs from a friend who clearly has no taste, and no concept of how much these records are really worth.

Make it good one! And share your listening plans in the comment section below.

:-)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

No Coup For You

The fun never stops at New York City Opera as the New York Observer is reporting that incoming opera head George Steele has weathered a coup attempt.

Reports indicate "that a group of former board members tried to form a coalition to oust key members of the current City Opera board, and had recruited former Metropolitan Opera head Joe Volpe as their standard bearer. It seems the group failed and Mr. Steele has the support of the board."

You can read about it here.

New York City Opera's season opens next month with American Voices.

Does This Tux Make My Butt Look Fat?

It's a big season for The Dallas Opera. They're getting ready to move into their new home this evening, and they have the world premiere of Moby-Dick in April (it comes to us in 2012).

When the Winspear Opera House opens in Dallas tonight they expect a full house at 2,200 seats which is down from the 3,300 seats in their old theatre. Why is this? Mainly to enhance the dramatic experience, but also because the seats have to be larger. It seems our butts have gotten bigger over the years.

The UK's Guardian reports.

And yes, because we're feeling punchy this morning

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Getting to Know Ailyn Perez

Soprano Ailyn Perez makes her Company debut with us in March singing Romeo and Juliet alongside her husband tenor Stephen Costello. She's also making an important solo recital debut in the UK this weekend.

Ailyn sat down with BBC radio this morning to talk (and sing -- oh, what glorious singing).

You can access the interview here for the next 7-days at which point it will be sent off into the internet ether.

Ailyn appears just before 1 hour, 28 minutes.

March can't come soon enough.

A special Aria Serious Cupcake to reader Linda Ginsburg who originally told us of this story. Awesome find!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Podcast Monday

This week's podcast Monday take a look at Romeo and Juliet and the great singers that have sung this opera. You can download this week's podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- A call to take ownership of your cultural community.

- Santa Fe Opera gets into the oil business.

- Love conquers all. Except Opera. (in French).

- Note to self. 1.) don't mug soprano Sondra Radvanovsky and 2.) do not under any circumstances fall on her foot.

- Our single tickets are now on sale to all 2010 operas. Enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday is upon us. Fall is in the air. It is a good day.
It is also time to ask what you are listening to this weekend? We're going to spend Saturday listening to Lohengrin since the boss was talking about this recording the other day and from time to time we like to show him we pay attention.

We might try and hit up the Amoeba Opera/Classical record sale as well, but I'm not sure if a drive to Los Angeles is in the cards.

We'll also be listening to the Malawian electro of The Very Best.
Post your listening plans in the comment section below and whatever it is, make it a good one!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Piotr Beczala's Rise To Fame

If you've read Aria Serious for a week or so you know we're pretty excited about Piotr Beczala making his debut with us as Rodolfo in La boheme.

To add to our excitement are these reports coming out Chicago after his Company debut at the Lyric in the title role of Faust.

We've placed a few excerpts below.

Chicago Tribune

“Much of the excitement on opening night centered around Piotr Beczala, who was making his Lyric debut in the title role. The Polish lyric tenor brought to the part a robust, attractive sound with a smooth tonal finish and a wonderfully open, clarion top. His elegant phrasing invested Faust's third-act Salut! demeure with romantic ardor and rightly drew a huge ovation. Yet he also commanded enough power to nail the dramatic pages. On top of that, he is a fine actor, even when required to lurch about the stage with a wine bottle and wenches, one of the more dubious touches in Corsaro's staging.”

The Associated Press

“Making his Lyric debut in the title role, Poland's Piotr Beczala solidified his claim as one of the finest lyric tenors on the scene. His singing was smooth and stylish, capped by an impressive high C in his aria, Salut! Demeure.”

Chicago Classical Review

“As Faust, the aged philosopher who sells his cynical soul for renewed youth, Piotr Beczala made an outstanding Lyric Opera debut. The young Polish tenor is the real thing—a singer with a big vibrant instrument, notable ease of production, virile tone, and ringing top notes. Rarely does the Faust-Mephistopheles duet at the close of Act I provide such a theatrical frisson. Beczala rose to the challenge of Salute, demeure chaste et pure with a seamless long line and requisite refinement —some miscoordination with the orchestra apart—and poured out a stream of rich, heroic tone in the love duet and final trio”

You can also hear Piotr in his own words talking about Faust.

Again, tickets are on sale now for all 2010 operas if you're reading this. Everyone else needs to wait until Sunday, October 11, 2009.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Your Pop Culture Guide to the 2010 Season

With single tickets going on sale this Sunday, October 11, 2009 TODAY, for our Facebook, Twitter and Aria Serious fans we'd thought it might be fun to put together a popular culture guide to our 2010 season. Don’t know your bohème from your traviata, an aria from a tiara? We're here to help.

La bohème – Imitation is the greatest form of flattery. 100 years before the musical Rent, there was the opera La bohème, or “the bohemians”. It’s about poverty and love during the tuberculosis plague in Paris while Rent is about poverty and love during the height of the AIDS epidemic in New York City. Most of the characters have the same names, which goes to show there is nothing new under the sun. What makes the opera special is achingly beautiful music with soaring voices, and no electronic enhancement. It’s au natural. We think that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Nabucco – It’s Italian for Nebuchadnezzar (the Babylonian king, not the hovercraft in the Matrix trilogy) and we’re just thankful we get to use the shorter name. This one tells the story about the Jewish exile from Israel but it’s really about a daughter with some serious father issues. It’s Verdi’s third opera, which established him as one of the world’s greatest composer. Think of it as his Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and you’ll understand. In the end everything works out: the daughter finds the closure she needs and the Jews find freedom.

Romeo and Juliet – Shakespeare’s most famous play with 100% more singing. You know this one already, but instead of lovers dying suddenly in each other’s arms, they sing a whole bunch then die in each other’s arms. Of the 24 or so operatic versions of Romeo and Juliet this one’s the best. Take the girlfriend; she’ll love you for it. Take the wife. Take them both.

La traviata - The title means “The Woman Who Strayed”. It’s about a hooker with a heart of gold. Yes, it’s the same stuff the movie Pretty Woman is based on which is why when they go to the opera in the movie they go to La traviata. Remember how moved she was? The big difference between the two is that La traviata is a tragedy. Even back then Verdi knew that a story about a hooker with a happy ending was just asking for trouble.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Diggin' In The Crates

Bring the handiwipes and knee pads, you'll need them.

Aria Serious has received word that Amoeba Records in Los Angeles will be having a special Classical Music/Opera vinyl blowout sale later this month.

Now before you get too excited, remember, this is vinyl - those big ol' platters of music with the grooves in them that you drop a needle onto. So for all two you who actually have working record players at home, this is for you.

See, vinyl is where you're going to find all that out of print music you've been pining over; those recordings you once heard but have never been able to find. And since we're talking 50 cents a record, you can also buy a few things you've never heard of before. Heck, throw caution to the wind and buy a few based on covers alone.

There are very few record stores around these days and I'm afraid an entire generation is missing out on the pleasure of getting on their knees and flipping through the stacks under the bins finding that one elusive gem after hours of searching. Sure there is ebay, but there is something endorphin inducing having earned it, dirty hands, sore knees and all.

The sale also include electro 12'' as well as Reggae for all of you looking to finish up that African Headcharge collection.


Good hunting!
PS - if you find something good and can sleeveface it, send us a picture and we'll put it up on the blog.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Arias From Operas You've Never Seen

On this week's Podcast Monday Dr. Nic digs deep into the crates to pull out great arias from operas you've probably never heard of. You'll hear music by such diverse composers as Cilea, Catalani, Auber, Thomas and... Rosini.

Our podcasts are always free and can be downloaded here.

While You Were Out?

Over the weekend:

- Is that a Symphony in your pocket? A look at the Arts and the iPhone with San Diego's Instant Encore. Which reminds us, have you downloaded our app yet?


- Two turntables and a microphone has been replaced by Two macs and a Wii. Introducing the Fauxharmonic Orchestra.

- More boos for the Met. This time for Aida.

Friday, October 2, 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 take a pass this week as we're incredibly busy. We have the Taste of North Park followed by the South Park Walkabout. And a whole bunch of yard work in between.

Sunday is a very special day as San Diego Opera welcomes another couple into the fold with the marriage of one former employee to a current employee making the number of couples who have met and fallen in love here around 12 gazillion. Be it among staff or singers. you'd think there's something in water here but really it is something in air - beautiful beautiful music.

Share your listening plans below, and play it loud because you never know what might happen.

Make it a good one!

Booers at Covent Garden Deserve a Spanking

Seems there's a lot of boos in the air this week. Now, on the other side of the pond...

Covent Garden's new production of Tristan und Isolde was booed when the production team appeared on stage and the Guardian's Music Critic isn't having any of it.

Read about it here.

Better Wear A Seatbelt Then

Tenor Marcelo Alvarez, who is currently singing in the Met's new production of Tosca likens the production to a "car wreck" saying "It's like there's an accident in the middle of street: People say, `Ah, I don't want to go.' But they want to see the blood."


Thursday, October 1, 2009

To Play! While Out of My Mind... On My Xbox 360

Oh late night TV, you play such dastardly tricks.

So there I was, half dozing in and out of sleep when over my TV comes the strains of Pagliacci's "vesti la giubba."

So you can imagine my surprise when the music turns out to be a commercial for a video game rental service. While I happen to love both video games and opera, I wonder if the message behind the music is lost on much of the target audience.

Still, there is something strangely poetic about people lamenting their most recent bad video game purchase to the strains of this timeless music.

Clip is below.

Boheme in the Burbs

Talk about taking opera to the masses - via Parterre Box comes word that Arte TV just aired a televised version of La boheme which was filmed live and on location in the Gäbelbach low-income housing apartment complex in Bern. Residents appeared as extras. More about the program here (auf deutsche).

Clip below.

So We Can Finally Wear Our Slave Leia and Chewbacca Costumes to the Symphony?

In the ever expanding quest to attract new audience members to attend classical music/opera performances comes word that "Star Wars in Concert" will begin its national (and future intergalactic) tour tonight in Orange County and Los Angeles.

Comprised of a two hour symphonic concert with big screen footage from the Star Wars movies plus lasers and explosions producers hope to attract "Star Wars" enthusiasts, older rock'n' roll fans looking for a new kind of live show, and, a distant third, classical music aficionados."

Comments Lucas Liscensing president Howard Roffman, "If you look at the numbers, there are a lot more people today consuming 'Star Wars' than consuming classical music."

Ouch.

Which goes to show everything is better when you add lasers.

You can read the full report here.

And oh, Han shoots first.