Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We'll Be Back

A bit of business:

San Diego Opera's Administrative office will be closed starting Thursday, December 23rd at 2 PM and will not reopen until 8:30 AM on Monday, December 27th.

We will also be closed December 31 and will reopen at 8:30 AM on Monday, January 3, 2011.

As always, our website is on for you 24/7.

The Aria Serious crew will be gone beginning tomorrow and will return January 3, 2011. We need a final hurrah up in the mountains before the season starts in force.

Happy holidays and a safe and wonderful New Year.

Stay thirsty my friends!

She's A Fighter. And A Lover.

A wonderful heartwarming story about our dear friend, the singer Zheng Cao, who is fighting stage 4 lung cancer, winning, and fell in love along the way...

Happy Birthday Puccini

Thanks for the tunes!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lise Lindstrom is Cool

In celebration of her Company debut with us next month, soprano Lise Lindstrom sat down with Opera News to talk about how she became the world's leading ice-princess. You can access the article online here, but we prefer the print version that has a big 'ol San Diego Opera mention in the headline (page 16).

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday, and thus time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

To be honest this weekend kind of snuck up on us - and we haven't given our listening plans much thought. We have Ferruccio Furlanetto's new album of Russian lieder unopened on our desk so we'll probably go with that. But we're open to suggestions. So, if there are any "best of 2010 recordings" out there that we should know about, share them in the comment section below.

And please, make it a good one!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Beethoven

Sure, he only composed one opera, but man, what an opera it is.

Happy birthday Beethoven. May you be imortalized in a bust on Schroeder's piano.

The Singers Life

A look at what it takes to make it as a singer here in San Diego in the wonderful Voice of San Diego Arts Blog.

Many of you are singers, what is your story?

If Only

We really like to picture this guy a Boba Fett, but we know it's not true. Still, a former bounty hunter is making his Met debut later this month.

And we imagine some days, the job descriptions read the same.

Science! (Again)

Once again, Science! and opera have come together - this time in the announcement that Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History In Time" is getting an operatic adaption to premiere at the Met in the near future.

Uh, near future in human terms, not in the scope of the cosmological time. We thought we should clarify here.

One thing is for sure - opening night is sure to be a big bang.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Happy Friday!

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will break with tradition and watch opera instead of listening to opera this weekend by heading out the movies to see the broadcast of Don Carlo. We know. We've often commented that we're not fans of these movies - and we're not - we find them boring because part of our opera experience joy is deciding for what to look at on stage and not relying on the decisions of a camera director. The movies make us feel... claustrophobic - for lack of a better word.

But Don Carlo is one of our favorite operas of all time, and we're really looking to seeing Ferruccio "Ace of Basss" Furlanetto sing King Philip - a role he did for us a few seasons back which we maintain is still one of our finest moments on our stage. Besides, there's nothing like sipping coke through a red vine straw at 9 AM in the morning.

After that we'll be taking it easy - it should be hot here so we'll catch up on a bunch of 2010 albums while trying to find the ones that will make it onto our "best of list."

Please have a great weekend and share your listening plans in the comment section below.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Not So Quiet Riot

Protesters at Milan's La Scala turned violent on the opening night of the opera over the government's proposed budget cuts supporting the arts. Because nothing screams "civil disobedience" like well coiffed opera goers.

The End is Near?

Another article about the death of classical music, this one actually filled with some stimulating ideas. But then why would classical music ever think it could complete with pop music which by its very definition is popular music for the masses? No classical music is classical music. It's a niche market. It's exciting. It's very much alive. And it doesn't need to apologize for being what it is. No, it can't compete with bands like U2 or whoever else sells out stadiums these days, but why would it want to?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Podcast Monday

Ever wonder why Richard Strauss uses the waltz throughout his comic opera Der Rosenkavalier? Considering that the story takes place in mid-18th century Vienna (a time when the waltz had not quite developed yet) it seems a bit anachronistic.

This week's podcast delves into the mystery, and has some good music to boot.

You can download the podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- We found this bit of news exciting not because it features pop-opera (popera?) star Katherine Jenkins, but because there actually is a Dr. Who Christmas Special.

- Although purist often scoff at his name, major points for Andrea Bocelli and a story about the healing power of music.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

It's Friday! You made it!

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be listening to The Elixir of Love. We're also catching up with Sufjan Stevens new LP The Age of Adz and The Radio Dept.'s Clinging to a Scheme.

After that we'll be out and about - for our San Diego readers there is a lot going on this weekend including the North Park Toyland Parade, December Nights, The South Park Walkabout and the SoNo Park Holiday Fest Chili Cookoff and Beer Garden. We make a mean chili in case you were wondering as we have a liberal hand with "the Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango, grown deep in the jungle primeval by the inmates of a Guatemalan insane asylum..."

Share your listening plans down below and please, make it a good one!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

You Should Take Voice Lessons

If you can get by the odd robotic voices, a sad, funny and true conversation every opera singer has had in the past 24 hours...

Podcast Monday!?

It's only four weeks and 2 days late but our newest podcast is now up online. We apologize for the delay - but with vacations, technical difficulties and a few other factors, we've had quite a bit of a delay. But don't worry, we'll be back to our regular schedule soon.

We think this one is worth the wait however since it covers one of our personal favorite operas - Turandot - and the grand choruses that run throughout it.

You can download the podcast here.

We hope you enjoy it. And thanks for waiting!

Monday, November 29, 2010

While We Were Out

We hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend.

- It's called the "Opera" watch and it's incredibly sexy, reminding us of The Nautilus from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. But for $1.2 million I expected it to give us mastery over time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- A bit of business: the San Diego Opera offices will be closed beginning Thursday, November 25, 2010 and will reopen on Monday, November 29, 2010. Our website is always on at Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Happy Friday!

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be getting busy with Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande since we've never listened to this one in its entirety. After that we'll be catching up with the new Belle and Sebastian LP Write About Love among others. Forecast calls for rain this weekend. So it'll be a perfect time to stay in front of the fire, with tunes on the radio while my friends humbly school me in German board games.

Stay thirsty my friends!

Science + Music

You already know we love science and music, so we're pretty darn excited with this article about acoustic scientists recording a pre-Incan shell flute. And yes, you can even hear it being played.

Which leads us to ask: does anyone know of a culture of civilization that doesn't have music? Seems to be a universal thing that binds us all together.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What the Fach?

It's not the first time a mezzo has gone soprano. Joan Sutherland started her career as a mezzo before taking on coloratura roles, even our dear friend Priti Gandhi has made the switch from mezzo to soprano, to name just a few. It's an exciting change and one that opens new career goals but we've never heard it compared to a "sex change operation" until today.

Still, here's a fascinating article about the wonderful mezzo - oops - we mean soprano Elza van den Heever on making the change. It's a fascinating article, even if a bit overdramatic, but then again we are talking about opera and we have a flair for the overdramatic. It's part of our charm,

Monday, November 15, 2010

When Worlds Collide

We love it when worlds collide and we especially love it when the comic and opera worlds collide.

A quick trip to Santa Barbara this weekend brought us to Metro Comic Saturday morning. We had popped in to pick up X'ed Out by Charles Burns but spent a good hour browsing the store when we discovered P. Craig Russel's Opera Adaptions Vol. 3. Having never heard of Mr. Russell but totally fans of opera (duh) and comics we jumped up and down like a, well, like a kid in a comic book store.

After googling Mr. Russell we were amazed to find that late last week, just days before we discovered the book on the out-of-print shelf in the comic book store, his adaption of Salome (one of the operas included in volume 3) had been re-released as a digital comic. And to celebrate this release, Mr. Russell had done some wonderful promotional segments.

And so, here is where you can watch Mr. Russell talk about adapting Salome to comic form.

Here are the original thumbnail sketches to the Salome comic.

Here is an 8-page preview to the remastered digital version of the Salome comic.

And finally, some notes on adapting Salome which is a fascinating read.

And while we're on the topic of Salome, we might as well sneak in that it opens our 2012 season, but more on that when the time is right.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- We went comic book shopping this weekend and we're mighty pleased with our find (to the left).

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Happy Friday!

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be listening to Intermezzo by Richard Strauss. We've been in a Strauss kick lately, in anticipation of Der Rosenkavalier and we've yet to give Intermezzo a listen so we figured, hey, why not give something new a try.

Share you plans in the comment section below. And please, make it a good one!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lise Lindstrom on the Record

Sure, Lise has talked about it before with us, but our friends over at Florida Grand Opera actually sat Lise down in front of a camera to ask her about her sudden Met debut as Turandot last season. See, Lise is currently getting ready to open FGO's season as the icy princess, and then hopefully she can catch some sun and some tasty stone crabs before heading over to us in January to reprise what is clearly one of her signature roles.

Meet Jazzbot!

We here at Aria Serious are fans of science! in case you haven't noticed, and were even more excited when science! is combined with music.

So we were happy to learn about Jazzbot - a robot that can jam with musicians by learning their styles and mimicking them. Can classical music be far behind?

(And bonus the programmers who programmed the "head bob" - nice touch).

Will Contemporary Vocal Music Save the World?

Or, does the world even need saving? An interesting look at how new vocal works and avant opera can increase attendance and make vocal music interesting again. We obviously didn't get the memo here at Aria Serious; we've always thought vocal music was interesting.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Podcast Monday

Let's dance! Why? Podcast Monday is back. This week? Dr. Nic explores dance in Bizet's Carmen.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Opera singer Shirley Verrett passed away late last week at 79. Her obituary is a fascinating portrait of passionate artist breaking racial stereotypes.

- Not opera but cool: They recreated the instruments from Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights." How do they sound? Horrible. No word on if they were played as depicted in the painting. Yes, Flue Butt, I'm looking at you.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Contest Time!

Happy November, Dear Readers!

Opera season is right around the corner!

To celebrate, we're holding a contest.

A contest where you can win free tickets, go backstage and meet the cast of one of our operas!

Since you read us here at Aria Serious, or are a fan on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter, we know you love opera. And really, who doesn't love opera once they've heard it?

Since opera, like all good art, is an intensely personal experience we want to hear from you about how opera has changed your life and inspires you. And we want you to make a video about it.

The rules:

- We're looking for a short video on how opera has changed your life. By short we mean no more than three minutes and by video we mean any type of video that you can easily make and upload to Youtube. Your cellphone camera will be fine, your fancy HD camera will be fine as well. This is not the Jean-Luc Godard opera video contest. We'll hold that one next year.

- Be creative. Be honest. Be passionate. All of us are incredibly bonkers about opera and we want to hear why you are too. Want to sing us your testimonial? Go for it. Do interpretive dance? Lace those shoes up. Reenact a scene from your favorite opera with teddy bears? Uh, sure, whatever gets those creative juices flowing. Sitting down in front of the camera and talking will also work just fine, in case you are wondering.

- Once you are done with your short, no-more-than-three-minutes, video, upload it to your Youtube page. If you don't have a Youtube page yet, it's easy and free and almost 2011, so what are you waiting for? Once your video is uploaded, you'll get a link to where your video lives on Youtube. Please send a note to: with the link to your video.

- Starting on January 2, 2011 we'll post all of the entries here on the blog so our readers here, fans on Facebook, and followers on Twitter can vote on them. We'll keep the voting open for 2 weeks. At the end of two weeks our winner will be the video with the most votes.

- That's not entirely true. We'll also have a prize package for the video the staff liked best and we'll even have the cast of Turandot pick a winner as well so there is more than once chance to win.

- What do you win? Good question. Each winner will receive 2 tickets to the Friday, February 4, 2011 performance of Turandot at 8 PM. Prior to that we'll take a backstage tour and meet the cast. After the performance we'll all get together for a post-opera coffee/drink and we'll invite the cast to join us as well.

The small print:

- One entry per person, please. Sure, we have no way of knowing if you have multiple Youtube accounts, so the honor system is in play here.

- Staff, employees, and family members of staff and employees of San Diego Opera are not eligible.

- San Diego Opera reserves the right to use all submitted videos in future advertising campaigns. Additionally, San Diego Opera reserves the right to photograph contest winners at the opera for use in future campaigns.

- Have fun and good luck!

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday, the best of the weekdays, but only because of what follows it.

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

We're ashamed to admit it but we're skipping on the opera this weekend as we have far too much going on.

The San Diego Beer Week is on tap, but really, when isn't it beer week in San Diego?

There's also a robot expo in Riverside that is beckoning to us. Robots and beer! Boop beep.

Closer to home there's a Steampunk Art Show in Oceanside this Friday. Free parking for airships!

Our music time will be spent at Sezio's Four Day Weekend at the Sushi Gallery which actually started last night with the wonderful The Tree Ring and ends on Sunday with the equally wonderful Avi Buffalo with a bunch of other great bands in between.

Share your listening plans in the comment section and make it a great weekend!

Steampunk dog in photo by Stephane Halleux

Monday, November 1, 2010

Our 2011 Acting Chorus Masters

As we mentioned a few months back, our long time Chorus Master, Timothy Todd Simmons, left us to become General Manager of New Orleans Opera. We now have something new to add - three new things to add in fact - our Acting Chorus Masters for the 2011 season.

Acting Chorus Master, Turandot
Dr. Charles Prestinari currently serves as Chorus Master of the New York City Opera, a position he has held since 2008; prior to that he was assistant chorus master from 2004-2007. At New York City Opera, he has prepared and assisted in preparation for opera choruses on over 40 different operas. While obtaining graduate degrees in choral conducting from Indiana University, he held the position of Chorus Master of the Indiana University Opera Theatre for seasons 2001 through 2003 and opera coach from 2001-through 2004 with that organization and on the faculty of the IU School of Music. He has also held accompanist positions at the Brevard Summer Music Festival in North Carolina and the Carmel Bach Festival in California, and served as guest chorus master at the Manhattan School of Music in 2006 and 2009. He returns to San Diego Opera where he first performed as Acting Chorus Master for the 2008 production of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers.

Acting Chorus Master, Der Rosenkavalier and Faust
San Diego Opera debut. Walter Huff has been Chorus Master for The Atlanta Opera for twenty-two years, having prepared the chorus in over 70 productions. Mr. Huff received degrees from the Oberlin and Peabody conservatories and has performed with singers throughout Europe and the United States. He has served as coach with the Peabody Opera Theatre, Washington National Opera, and Baltimore Opera Company and has performed in master classes presented by renowned singers such as Sir Peter Pears, Licia Albanese, Eileen Farrell, and Elly Ameling. He has been musical director for The Atlanta Opera Studio, Georgia State University Opera, and Actor’s Express. Mr. Huff was chosen as one of four Atlanta artists to receive the first Loridans Arts Awards, honoring exceptional contributions to the arts life of Atlanta. In June 2008, The Atlanta Opera Chorus under Mr. Huff’s direction sang critically acclaimed performances of Porgy and Bess at the Opéra-Comique in Paris and on tour in Granada, Normandy, and Luxembourg.

Acting Chorus Master, Carmen
San Diego Opera debut. Yugoslavian-born Kosta Popovic has worked as Assistant Chorus Master with the Metropolitan Opera from 2002 to 2008 and served as an assistant conductor at the Met for eleven seasons. Additionally, Kosta Popovic has collaborated with Opera Pacific, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, and Washington National Opera in the U.S., as well as the Teatro Municipal, Santiago, Chile; the Sächsische Staatsoper, Dresden, Germany; the Spoleto Festival, Spoleto, Italy; the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy; and the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal. Mr. Popovic holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Belgrade Music Academy, a Master’s of Music degree from The Juilliard School, and in 1995 completed course work in doctoral studies with a concentration in keyboard collaborative arts and choral music at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

While We Were Out

Over the weekend:

Friday, October 29, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Happy Spooktacular Friday!

Time to ask what we always ask: vhat are you going to listen to this veekend, mwahahaha?

OK, fine, we've been dipping into the candy corn a little early.

We're starting Saturday morning with Britten's Turn of the Screw for a little Gothic horror this Halloween weekend.

Then we'll turn up the Bauhaus on Sunday and pass candy out to the kids in our neighborhood. Then we're locking the doors and turning off the lights - The Walking Dead premieres on AMC at 10 PM and we've been big fans of the comic. We're keeping our undead fingers crossed the tv show will live up to our expectations.

Share your plans down below and please, make it a great one!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


We're firm believers that it should be correct to include an exclamation point after science! We just love science! so much. We love it even more when opera is involved. Like in this story here of an opera singer who received a double lung transplant and continued to sing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It Gets Better

A message from our dear friends, the opera singers Patricia Racette and her partner Beth Clayton.

WWF - Wagner Wrestiling Federation!?

As one who grew up in the 80's and spent Saturday nights watching the "WWF's Main Event" with religious devotion this one really speaks to us here at Aria Serious.

New York's Performance Lab 115 has taken the first two operas of Wagner's Ring Cycle and moved them to the world of 1980's professional wrestling and replaced Wagner's sublime music with 80's metal.
Now, if only they sold Hot-Pockets at the concession stand would my childhood be complete.

You can read about "The Ring Cycle Part 1 +2" here. In the meantime, we're looking for cheap flights and our old Poison concert t-shirts...

This is not the version of Moby-Dick we will be doing in 2012

But it would be cool if we were. Joking aside, interesting to see how this story is still relevant to today's audience... I mean if you add a renegade sub, nukes and a very angry whale.

And classic lines such as "I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." Epic.

Coming straight to DVD we imagine in the very near future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Homecoming

We here at Aria Serious love stories like these - when soprano Stephanie Weiss returns to San Diego for Der Rosenkavalier she'll also be making a homecoming. Stephanie attended La Jolla Country Day School when she was younger and started singing as part of the on-campus Madrigals. This eventually blossomed into a professional singing career.

Expect to hear more about this in the coming months!

RIP Walkman

Ah, the Walkman, responsible for headphone hair all through the 80's. Sony has announced the retirement of the Walkman today. It seems it was no match for the MP3 player.

Just another way opera makes living life better.

Happy Anniversary McFly

The movies Back to the Future came out 25 years ago today and we wouldn't be doing our jobs properly if we didn't mark this occassion with a Pepsi commercial featuring a young Michael J. Fox AND opera.

Thanks to our friends over at Opera Colorado for the tip.

While You Were Out

- Live in San Diego and have nothing planned tonight? Our first Community Conversation of the season is happening tonight at 7 PM at the Neurosciences Institute. The conversation will be about myth and Puccini's opera Turandot. The conversation will feature our very own Dr. Nic Reveles and the founding curator of the Joseph Campbell Archive, Dr. Jonathan Young. A few seats are still available and must be RSVP'd here. Oh, and it's free.

- Did you attend Dr. Nic's cooking class at Great News! on Friday? Let us know what you thought. And thanks for coming! While the first one sold-out there are three more cooking classes inspired by the other three operas of the season.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday, the best day of the work week, and time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

With Halloween around the corner we're going to give Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle a listen for a little gothic horror.

We're also going to hit Amoeba's second annual Classical Music sale this weekend as we'll be in LA. Is there anything we should be looking for? Let us know.

We're also going to give the French pop band Revolver a careful close listen. We heard a webcast of them from CMJ and really liked what we heard. It was only after reading a bit more about them that we learned that they're classically trained and cite Benjamin Britten as one of their influences. They're debut LP "Music for a While" also shares the name of one of Henry Purcell's greatest works. This just might be our favorite music discovery of the year. Uh, so far...

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Introducing Children To Music Early Is Important

In case you forgot how much joy music can bring (I know, we're preaching to the choir since you're reading this blog) take a look at this video below.

So next time you're having a bad day, close the blinds, grab a pencil, turn it up and get into it!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Do Not Adjust Your Bass

The Aria Serious crew has just discovered a delightful interview featuring our dear friend Ferruccio Furlanetto conducted by the equally wonderful Eduardo Chama. Those of you who are regular readers here will recall Ferruccio and Eduardo performed together as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza in Don Quixote with us a few years back. Their chemistry onstage was magical. It seems the chemistry has continued, evident in the following audio interview.

No need to adjust your bass.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Podcast Monday

On this week's podcast, Dr. Nic takes a listen to Valentin's aria in Faust, "Avant de quitter ces lieux", and compares three different baritones from three different generations.

You can find the podcast here.

While We Were Out

Over the weekend:

Friday, October 15, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday. A grey Friday at that. Which means we should probably listen to something cheery this weekend.

Alas, this weekend we're breaking with tradition and watching an opera as opposed to listening to one. Mrs. Aria Serious is out of town this weekend thus freeing up the TV for some opera DVDs.

We're going to watch The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams. We started this DVD many years ago and never got around to finishing it. It's not that we didn't enjoy it, I seem to recall the cat threw up in the other room and we never went back in to finish it after cleaning up.

Share your listening plans in the comment section below. And please, make it a good one.

Is Projection Mapping The Future Of Opera Productions?

Two things we like: opera and all things technologically wondrous.

So we're very excited about our upcoming production of Moby-Dick in 2012 which uses large format projections to create a variety of environments in a finite space. Moby-Dick will use a curved wall and projections to create the inside of the Pequod, the exterior of the Pequod, the ocean, whaling boats on a whale hunt and many more environments that can't realistically fit on stage. It's exciting cutting edge stuff, which, truth be told, one doesn't see very often in American opera houses.

Is projection mapping the future of opera? We'll surely see more of it we imagine. And as the technology becomes cheaper and widely available a Company could essentially create a season of opera productions digitally and project them onto a plain modular set. In fact, it's already starting to happen. Vancouver Opera is using the technology for the world premiere of Lilian Alling to create a variety of backdrops, and the world premiere of Moby-Dick at The Dallas Opera is the same production we're using.

Below is probably the most effective use of projection mapping we've seen, even though it doesn't take place inside a theatre. As you can tell from the video below, when done right, the possibility of what one can create on stage is endless.

The 600 Years from the macula on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


A bit more on our production of Moby-Dick in 2012, this time in a wonderful profile from the North County Times. Although it's over a year away, we're very excited. We hope you are too.

The Breast Kind Of Publicity

Vienna State Opera has pardoned a ballerina they recently fired for appearing in nude photos for the Austrian men's magazine "Wiener." *snicker*

In related news: opera subscriptions by men have increased 800%

Since we know you're now going to spend the next few minutes searching for above mentioned photo, we here at Aria Serious are here to help you out.

Bedbugs Discovered at Lincoln Center

Some patrons you can do without. Bedbugs have been discovered at Lincoln Center in its David H. Koch Theater which is home of the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera.

I'm sure someone can come up with a funny political statement right now, as Koch, an incredibly generous arts philanthropist, is also a major supporter of the tea party movement. But we're not going to be that person.

Updated: It seems the Met Opera House is now experiencing their own bedbug problem. In related news, officials at Carnegie Hall panic.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Podcast Monday on a Tuesday

We're a day late, sorry. But this week's podcast is worth it. Promise!

This week Dr. Nic takes a look at The Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier and talks about how Strauss parodies the Italian style.

You can download the podcast here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

While You Were Out / Dame Joan Sutherland

While we're certain there is plenty of opera news out there to report, today it seems the only news on our mind is the passing of Dame Joan Sutherland this morning, at the age of 83. Cause of death was not officially announced only that she passed peacefully.

The New York Times has a very comprehensive obituary they just posted which you can find here.

All of us here wish Maestro Bonynge and their companion Chester our deepest heartfelt sympathies - both Dame Joan and the Maestro were close friends to the Company - Joan performed here seven times: three of her appearances were concerts, four of them operas - Lucia di Lammermoor (1974), Die Fledermaus (1980), Adriana Lecouvreur (1983) and I Masnadieri (1984). The Maestro accompanied her in each performance (he also continued to conduct nearly a dozen other productions for us without her).

Our General and Artistic Director, Ian Campbell, had this to add:

"Joan's death ends, at least for now, an era of full-voiced coloratura singing. There is no soprano today with a sound to match hers, since however talented they be, singers of her roles cannot match the sheer outpouring of sound she delivered.

It was not a matter of "loudness" or "volume" but of fullness, roundness. Joan's voice filled every corner of every opera house in which she sang with a warm, rich sound which seemed to embrace the listener.

Her pin-point coloratura, still full and rich throughout a range beyond high D, was extraordinary. How she moved such a full sound so rapidly and effortlessly defied imagination.

I first heard and met Joan in Sydney in 1965 when she and Richard were part of a series of opera performances across Australia. There was no full-time opera company in Australia in 1965 - that came in 1967 when I joined as part of the first ensemble - so a local promoter had put a season together with the help of Richard Bonynge to showcase Joan.

She had come to international attention with a series of Lucia di Lammermoor performances at the Royal Opera in London in 1959. She soon had conquered the major opera capitals of the world, and it was time to visit home.

The singers came from around the world, and included the then relatively unknown Luciano Pavarotti who was 29. That was when I first heard him also, and attended four of his performances on free tickets he gave me. I did not hear him together with Joan at that time, however, but heard them frequently later.

Joan was at her peak. I managed to hear her first Sydney Lucia di Lammermoor, and the extraordinary sounds are still in my musical memory. When she made her first entrance the audience erupted, stopping the performance for what seemed like several minutes. At the end they would not stop cheering. It was certainly appreciation of her performance, but a bit of national pride was evident also.

Incidentally, for most of us it was our first staged Lucia.

Repertoire which had been unsung for a generation or more was revived through the talents of Joan and the detective work of Richard who knew better than even Joan herself what was right for her voice. Many of today's successful sopranos are in her debt since many of her re-discovered roles are again mainstream.

Joan actually sang quite a few times with San Diego Opera, and I'll get a list to you. Her performances here filled the theatre every time.

It is well known that Joan was very down-to-earth, and never lost her Australian accent or directness. She also had a delightful sense of humor. She never showed nervousness in rehearsal or performance, or hid it very well. Her constant needle point was her relaxation and took her mind off the demands of the stage.

I last saw her on June the second in London last year (2009). It was at a performance of Roberto Devereux at the Holland Park Festival. Richard was conducting and Joan and I were in the audience a few seats from one another. Everyone stood and applauded as she came in, a fitting tribute.

Joan had broken her legs in a recent fall and was struggling on two canes. She was frail. When I asked how she was managing she replied in typical style, "It's a bloody pain in the neck."

Every voice is so individual we can always say with confidence that we will never hear the like again. Joan sang in a style technique, with such a full sound, that she will be difficult to emulate.

But someone will follow in her footsteps eventually, and Joan will remain the touchstone for
that technically brilliant, larger-voiced coloratura soprano whenever she does come along. "
Rest in Peace Dame Joan. Thanks for the memories, and the music.
Below, some photos from our archive that haven't been seen in decades.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday is here and so it's time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend? Share it in the comment section below.

The Aria Serious crew will be listening to Billy Budd. We're craving something ocean like - must have been all the talk of Moby-Dick this week.

Then we'll catch up on some pop music - NPR has both the new Belle and Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens streaming on their site.

For those of you who still collect physical media, and you know who you are, Amoeba Hollywood is getting ready for a huge classical music sale the weekend of 10/22 - 10/24 which is great as we'll actually be in LA that weekend. They'll be offering 20% off on their classical music inventory excluding DVDs but they have some great deals on their classical used LPs as well. You can read all about it here.

And oh, one more thing, make it a great weekend!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

So We Take It She Sang Well

Georgian (the European Georgia, not the peach) mezzo-soprano Nino Surguladze makes her debut with us in Carmen this coming May. She made another debut last night, this time at The Metropolitan Opera as Maddalena in Rigoletto.

One reviewer commented:

"In a production marked by great singing and indifferent acting, Nino Surguladze stood out for her feisty physical presence. The Georgian mezzo, who acted in films and sang with pop groups before committing to a classical career, brought a sultry Maddalena to the table – quite literally in a scene that saw the Duke all but devouring her as she sprawled next to his wine glass."

Should make for an excellent Carmen.

You can read the rest of the review, from The Classical Review, here.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Podcast Monday

It's called Turandot, but it's Liu who often steals the show. Dr. Nic takes a look at Puccini's masterpiece and looks at how the composer shifted the audiences sympathies from the young slave girl to the title character. Or did he?

You can download our podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend?

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be taking in Sextet tonight, a new opera by our very own Director of Education, Dr. Nic Reveles. We're incredibly proud of him and can't wait to hear what he's come up with.

All this going out means we'll have very little time to listen to a complete opera, but there is always next week.

Share you plans in the comment section below and please, make it a good one.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Podcast Monday

On this week's Podcast Monday, Dr. Nic takes a look at the spoken-word Opera Comique version of Carmen and compares it to the version modern audiences know and love.

You can listen to the podcast here, and then, since you're in the know, buy your Carmen tickets here ahead of everybody else.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- With The Met's season starting tonight with their first installment of their new Ring Cycle, the wonderful Alex Ross asks if multimillion dollar opera productions have a place in this world.

- Did you know we have $99 Orchestra tickets this year. Single tickets go on sale to the general public October 3, but since you read Aria Serious, you don't need to wait.

- For the datebook: Interested in hearing a bit of Moby-Dick? Well on Sunday October 3, 2010 San Diego Opera friend and the composer of Moby-Dick, Jake Heggie, will be holding a recital at the Neuroscience Institute in La Jolla at 2:30 PM. He'll be joined by San Diego Opera friend, the mezzo-soprano Suzanna Guzman. Together they'll perform a selection of arias and songs composed by Mr. Heggie including the overture to Moby-Dick. In between pieces they'll provide commentaries on their craft. For more information and tickets you can visit here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will take a rare break from listening to opera this weekend. You see, it's our 20 year high school reunion so we're just simply booked. Although we imagine we'll get our fair share of 80's music this weekend.

However if we don't hear Falco's "Der Kommissar" we'll consider the entire weekend a failure.

Share your listening plans down below. And make it a good one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Space. Opera.

While we mentioned it here awhile back, we now have a bit more information about the real space opera (opera) Kai, Death of Dreams.

As we here at Aria Serious are opera loving, sci-fi geeks who stayed up way past our bedtime playing Halo last night, this is something we're interested in.

Kai, is literally a space opera opera - an opera taking place in space about one alien's quest to free her people from physical and spiritual bondage at whatever cost. It's told entirely in 3D computer animation, or machinmina, which uses video game engines to create a computer generated story (for an example see Red vs. Blue). It's an incredibly intriguing concept, and one that excites us as it creates a new production (albeit a virtual one) with very little money using open source programs that are already in millions of homes.

Technology aside, opera is about story telling. It's about music. The music for Kai is fitting for the story and quite good, considering we expected a bunch of pewpewpew sounds when we first heard of the product. It's melodic modern classical music. You can hear it for yourself as we've embedded some clips down below. The story is also suited for opera (and even tackles some very real and contemporary problems). The one thing we noticed from the clips down below is that the singing of the text is not done in English (or any language on this planet as far as we can tell) but in an alien tongue which we found an interesting decision.

As my dogs can attest to when I sing to them "dog operas" in the morning (whatev, we know you do the same with your pet) is that it is very easy to create sounds to fit the music and yet these sounds are completely devoid of meaning. What made the Klingon opera, U, that we talked about last month so fascinating is that it followed an established set of linguistic rules that other people who knew these rules could comprehend. I'm not sure if the Kai team has employed a xenolinguist to create a completely new language, and if so, it's a truly impressive feat. Part of what makes opera so magical, for us at least, is the economy of language, how a librettist can fit the text into the musical line. But without a defined language, the "text" just becomes another part of the orchestra without telling a narrative story.

We've asked the composer, Richard DeCosta, for some clarification on this and here is his response:

"Since I have a background in computer programming, I wrote a computer program to translate the lines. Instead of building up a language with its own vocabulary, grammar, etc, I created one that acts as a code of sorts. What happens is this:
1. A line is read by the program
2. letters and letter combinations are replaced
1. for example, all letter e instances are replaced with 'u', all 'ch' with 'lk', and so on
2. the program consults a lexicon of poetic combinations of letters and verifies that all words are
1.singable ("pronounceable")
2. poetic (a subjective term, but I spent many, many hours fine tuning the logic)
3. of a reasonable length
4. of a particular sound character (the opera's main language is meant to be sung as one would sing Latin or Italian)

3. the program scans the line for any anomalies or other irregularities I do not wish to write music for (avoiding alien words that might sound like English curses or famous names, etc.)
3. output is passed to the post-processor, which puts the words back into a single phrase and returns it to the user

If you want to try it, there are two of my languages online:

I have spent hundreds of hours fine-tuning the program so that I can enter any text and get alien speech back that I can then use in my opera.

I decided to use my own language because I did not want to be tied to an existing Earth language, nor be tied to any of the existing created-languages. I wanted to be able to be flexible and have my characters sing what I wanted them to without just making up alien-sounding words on the fly."

Seems to be a perfectly sensible and intelligent solution.

What really excites us is how Kai can open opera up to those who would never enter a physical opera house. As much as we love Barkingbartok's Lego versions of opera, Kai is doing the same thing, just using the modern day equivalent of building blocks, digital code; and in doing so frees the production up from being limited to one physical location at a given point in time. It's a virtual opera production that can be taken on a virtual tour and be staged in any virtual world such as World of Warcraft or any of the other MMO's (massively multiplayer online game) out there.

Is it the future of opera? No. But as opera companies are trying to find newer, younger audiences, many of whom are staying at home and immersed in virtual media, it might be a smart move to bring our art form to them.

So tonight, instead of playing team deathmatch on Halo, we'll boot up the in-game editor, The Forge, and attempt to recreate the final act of Tosca - firing squad, jump from the ramparts and all. That is until someone comes over and shoots us with a plasma rifle. Yes. Everyone is a critic. Even in the year 2552 and especially in space.

You can learn more about Kai and help them make their opera a (virtual) reality here.

Multimedia clips follow.

"K'ai, Death of Dreams" - "Zroetur, Greeti Garx, grepiti ex e erupive." by RicharddeCosta

"K'ai, Death of Dreams" - "K'ai, Vu uvayaa epu" by RicharddeCosta

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Laszlo Polgar

The Hungarian State Opera is reporting the great bass Laszlo Polgar has died. He was 63. You can read the story here.

We've placed a clip from Don Carlo down below; what a beautiful instrument he possessed.

Rest in peace.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eleven Operas in Ten Minutes

Betcha they could've done it five, if the announcer didn't sound like she was addicted to quaaludes.

Podcast Monday

This week Dr. Nic takes a look at the role of Baron Ochs from the opera Der Rosenkavalier. Perhaps the biggest boor in all of the opera repertoire, Nic explores this demanding role which will be sung by the great Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto for the first time in his career when the opera opens in April, 2011.

As always, our Podcasts are free and can be downloaded here. Enjoy!

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

Friday, September 17, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

We're going to take a recommendation from one of our San Diego Opera Facebook Fans and listen to Janacek's From the House of the Dead. We listened to a while back and liked it very much. We also know that this is an opera that requires more than one listening.
After that, we'll put on some Fela Kuti and the Africa 70 while powering through some yard work.

Share your listening plans below, and make it a good one!

From the Department of Bittersweet

Today San Diego Opera says goodbye to our Chorus Master of 13 years, Timothy Todd Simmons. Todd joined us with The Barber of Seville and has led the San Diego Opera chorus in over 60 productions. His favorite production in all those years? Peter Grimes. That's one of our favorites too.

Although we hate to see him go, we're quite happy for Todd. He heads South with his family to New Orleans where he'll take on the Executive Directorship for New Orleans Opera. Not only does Todd know music, he knows business, having earned his MBA recently.

So, the Aria Serious crew, and the rest of the San Diego Opera staff, wish Todd good luck, or bon chans as they say in Creole. Thank you for 13 years of incredible dedication, drive, and passion. It's been a pleasure to work with you, and more so, a pleasure to listen to the beautiful music you've created with our chorus. Bravo!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Special Offer For You, Dear Reader

As a special offer to the readers of Aria Serious (that includes you, mom) we're pleased to let you know that all single tickets to the 2011 season are now on sale. We're only telling you, our Facebook fans and our Tweeps about this offer.

Everyone else needs to wait until October 4, 2010.

So, if you know you're going to go to Turandot and Carmen, now is the time to buy them before the general public.

Think of it as our way of saying "thanks" for reading our little blog.

You can access our ticket flow by clicking right here.

And let us know what you bought - we're interested to hear what people are excited about this season.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ailyn Perez to the Rescue!

Aria Serious just received world that Ailyn Perez (you know, Juliet from last season's Romeo and Juliet and Marguerite for our upcoming Faust) just stepped in as the second cover for an ailing Ermonela Jaho (who sings Liu in our upcoming Turandot) who was in to replace an ailing Angela Gheorgiu for Royal Opera's Japanese tour of La traviata.

And the reports say a star was born.

Ahem, we both know a star was already there in the audience but it's nice to know our dear friend can cold kill it when she needs to.

You can read about it here and see Ailyn in person when Faust opens April 23, 2011.

A Plopera?

The Aria Serious crew has read that awesome actor John Malkovich has signed on to play Casanova in an Austrian theatre production that is a hybrid play / opera called "The Giacomo Variations" and will feature the music of Mozart.

Have we just created the first plopera!?

The Future Of Opera?

The Metropolitan Opera announced this morning they are preparing a baroque pastiche to premiere later this year. A pastiche, or "mash-up" is a selection of "greatest hits" from a variety of operas loosely held together with an often tenuous narrative thread (if one at all).

Or as Peter Gelb, head of the Metropolitan Opera, states "It's meant to be a lighter Baroque affair, one that does not take itself too seriously."

Of course in the era of authenticity a pastiche was something that was unthinkable. And to be honest, the purist in me died a little when reading this. But the arts marketer in me said "right on!"

In a time where opera is competing more and more with other distractions, a night of hearing some operatic highlights sung by some of the greatest singers performing today sounds like a great night out.

And purist be damned, the Aria Serious crew predicts it will sell-out. And that pastiches will soon be coming back into vogue.