Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Patrizia Ciofi

Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi is making her Company debut with us this season as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. She's a voice we don't know much about, as we've been limited to hearing her in short online clips or snippets on DVD. Here's a new clip we came across the other day on the awesome Opera Chic blog. It's Patrizia and mezzo Laura Polverelli in Bellini's Capuleti e Montecchi. If this isn't the prettiest nine or so minutes of music you hear today we really want to know what you are listening to.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Podcast Monday

This week's podcast is a devil of a good time.

This week, Dr. Nic gets ready for the return of Greer Grimsley and explores historic basses who have taken on the role of Mephistopheles.

You can download this week's podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- A look at the state of American Opera and the question: is anybody listening?

- A football/soccer opera is in the works? Make it about our US team and you have yourself a tragedy worthy of the masters. We're not bitter or anything...

Friday, June 25, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

We're going to listen to Iolanta tomorrow afternoon, after the US World Cup Match, of course. We've listened to this opera before, but it's been such a long time we're considering this a first listen.

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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Science + opera = win

We always like stories about science. We also like stories about opera. Here's a story about a soprano that serenaded her surgeons after receiving a lung transplant (no, not right away). Not only is it interesting but very heartwarming as well. And 100% vuvuzela free.

Brahms and Ravel on the Vuvuzela

We've been joking about Mozart's other opera "Die Zaubervuvuzela" during World Cup month but it seems a few members of the Berlin Orchestra has taken the joke even further claiming that Brahms had written music for the vuvuzela and then proceed to play an excerpt.

You can watch the clip by clicking the link (unable to embed). It's in German but I think we can all understand the universal sound of extremely annoying buzzing.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Podcast Monday

This week's podcast is now online and this week Nic explores Margarethe Siems - the First Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. You can download the podcast here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Ever wanted to perform in an opera? There's an ap for that.

- While everyone talked about the music of Moby-Dick, people were equally as impressed with the special effects.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Time to ask what we always ask on Friday: what are you listening to this weekend?

We're listening to one thing and one thing only: the vuvuzela.

It's World Cup. Gotta keep our priorities straight.

Truth be told, we might swing a recording of Carmen on for our Father's Day brunch; this was the opera my father played constantly while I was growing up and part of the reason I'm here where I am right now. But knowing him, he'll want to watch the match instead.
Apples don't fall far from the tree.

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

Contralto Maureen Forrester Dies at 79

Canadian Contralto Maureen Forrester died on Wednesday. She was 79. Maureen made her San Diego Opera debut as the Witch in 1984's Hansel and Gretel and returned in 1990 as Mme. de Croissy in Dialogues of the Carmelites.

She had suffered dementia in recent years and died peacefully according to her daughter.

You can read her full obituary here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Soprano Ermonela Jaho Lives Her Dream and Possibly Shills for Bill Gates

The Aria Serious crew first became aware of Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho in 2008 when our soprano for Maria Stuarda became ill during tech week.

Our Artistic Director was familiar with Jaho, having seen her perform Maria Stuarda some time earlier while in Europe. Knowing we needed to start lining up a replacement immediately (not many people sing the role of Maria Stuarda) Ian called her agent in New York to see if she was available and in the country. The agent said "why don't you ask her yourself; she's sitting right here next to me." She was on a plane a few hours later.

Ermonela arrived in time for the final dress rehearsal on Thursday night. She did one walk through of the opera and then sang the opening night performance on Saturday to popular and critical acclaim. Since then she's been singing at all the major houses - the Met, Covent Garden and beyond.

Ermonela comes back to sing Liu in the season opener Turandot. She was able to take a few minutes from her busy schedule to answer the 10 or so questions we always ask in our occasional series of "1o Or So Questions With..."

San Diego Opera (SDO): When we last met you had flown in for the opening night of Maria Stuarda in 2008. Since then you’ve had some important Company and role debuts and your career has really taken off. Would you like to share a few of your exciting engagements since we last saw you?

Ermonela Jaho (EJ): It has been a very exciting time. I would name Violetta in “La Traviata” in Covent Garden, Met, Berlin and Lyon, “Anna Bolena” in Paris and Lyon, “Butterfly” in Philadelphia, “Manon LescautMarseille, Margarite “Faust” Helsinki etc…..

SDO: You sing the role of Liu with us. Can you tell me a bit about the character? How do you feel about her?

EJ: For me she is the personification of how true love should be; ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for what she believes in. Her character touches us with its purity and maturity and makes us think, maybe we have “developed” love a little too much from its origin in modern times.

SDO: Your favorite moment in Turandot? No. You can’t say “curtain call.”

EJ: You took my best answer away. I would say two, her first aria “Signore ascolta” where Puccini makes us feel the purity of the character and “Tu che di gel sei cinta” where no one can remain unstirred by the depth of her love.

SDO: Your dream role that you’ve yet to sing?

EJ: I am afraid it became a reality last year in Philadelphia. “Butterfly” has been a dream of mine since starting to take the first music lessons. It turned out to be exactly what I expected it to be.

SDO: Tell us about your introduction to opera? What was your path to get where you are today?

EJ: My first introduction to opera was “La Traviata”. I went to see it with my brother and after being moved so much by its music I decided to become an opera singer. The path to get there though turned out to be a little more than I expected. If I had the choice today to choose my career again I would definitely think more than twice about becoming an opera singer again but, in the end somehow I know there will really be no choice.

Fill in the blank section: “If I was not an opera singer I would be a Child Social Worker

SDO: What’s your favorite part of being an international opera singer?

EJ: The opportunity to remind people of their humanity through my singing.

SDO: Least favorite?

EJ: Being far from the people I truly love and love me.

SDO: Some people say there is more to life than opera. I know, we think they’re crazy too. But we’ll humor them: do you have any hobbies?

EJ: My favorite hobbies are sports and meditation.

SDO: Do you have a book next to your bed? What is it?

EJ: For the moment “La dame aux camélias” of Dumas (fils)

SDO: Name three bands or musicians on your iPod that aren’t opera related.

EJ: Sorry for the Bill Gate’s kind of response but I don’t have an iPod. I play my music from my Blackberry phone. I do not have a lot of other music other then opera but definitely a few songs from Freddie Mercury.

SDO: Where in the world are you right now and what are you singing?

EJ: I am presently in Köln; tomorrow is the last performance of “Butterfly” and after that in London singing Violetta in “La Traviata” in Covent Garden.

Turandot kicks off our 2011 season in January, 2011.

Renee Fleming's Shiny New Crossover Video

Sadly, the Aria Serious crew was not impressed with Renee's new album of indie and pop music covers, but then again we're hard to impress.

Anyway, here is her new shiny video from her Dark Hope album for you to look at and hopefully enjoy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Podcast Monday Returns

We're back! Yes, after a few week hiatus, Dr. Nic returns with his weekly series of Podcasts. This week's topic:

Famous Turandots on record - Luckily for us, Puccini's opera Turandot premiered in 1926, well after the invention of sound recording. So even though we don't have a recording of excerpts from the opera by the two principals (soprano Rosa Raisa and Miguel Fleta), we do have recordings of some of the sopranos who made history in the role. Let's survey a handful of those sopranos and see if we can get a good sound picture of what Puccini might have expected for the role.

You can download the podcast here, and as always they are free. Enjoy!

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Do online video clips hurt or help opera companies? We think opera is the one art form that can directly benefit from well done short clips. The trick is getting them done well.

- Another Southern California opera company, this one doing exciting and experimental work and growing. A look at Long Beach Opera.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Opera Conference Recap, Day 2

... in which we shake our head at the mystery opera, walk right by Maria Callas, learn what it feels like to be a sardine, get floored by Jackson Pollock and slurp noodles while suppressing the urge to kill a mime...

Day two of the Opera Conference has come to an end, and it was quite a day. The second day of the conference (actually the first official day - yesterday was a special seminar session) started with a welcome session with comments from Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Zev Yaroslovsky. Filled with self-depreciating humor he was an excellent speaker, an advocate for Arts Education (he knows how to sweet talk the Aria Serious crew) and encouraging all of the attendees in the hall to spend money while in LA - they need the income he chuckled in recognition of the $14m loan to the Los Angeles Opera to help cover expenses of the Ring Cycle. He also called opera fans the loudest fans in the world, after the Lakers.

As if. We totally have them beat.

Then there were comments by Marc Scorca of Opera America and Anthony Freud of Houston Grand Opera. The theme of their speeches was one not of recovery but one of discovery. It was hard to gauge how this was received. Traditionally - and the thrust of their speech was about bucking tradition - organizations retract rather than expand when facing the problems so many opera companies are currently facing. Budgets get cut, programs get reduced; terms such as “weathering out the storm” are brandied about. So it was exciting to hear them talk about exploring new ways of doing business, not to work back towards where we were before the economic crisis, but to new plateaus and to new ways of doing business. It was inspirational stuff, but I’m not sure how easily Companies will take to the advice. Opera is based on the very tradition they challenged us to buck, and at times we are painfully slow to change course.

This theme was continued in composer Daniel Catan’s speech. Challenging opera companies to work together, he suggested that when planning a season, opera companies could leave a slot blank in their programming; a “mystery opera” that would be announced last minute. This would enable companies to assist one another in commissioning new operas, keeping them current and in the cultural dialogue. It’s a nice idea, it is also institutional suicide. Would you buy a subscription to a season without knowing what the repertoire was? Would a donor fund it? They were interesting ideas, and in a perfect world…

Afterwards, meetings were had, and a quick lunchtime trip to Amoeba was made (well, instead of lunch) and on the way back I obliviously walked by Maria Callas’s star on Hollywood and Vine. Thank god I keep company more astute than I am.

The big event of the day for me was “Critics, Bloggers and the Changing Media Landscape” a panel discussion with Los Angeles Time’s Mark Swed, Washington Post’s Anne Midgette, OC Register’s Timothy Mangan, Brian Holt from Outwest Arts and was moderated by Sherry Stern from the Los Angeles Times Culture Monster blog. This was clearly the big event for everyone, with the crowd spilling out of the room and sitting on the floor, packed like sardines. I had attended the panel with expectations on learning how to work with bloggers more effectively, what they look for in pitches, the tools we can use to make their job easier. Instead we talked about their experiencing blogging, and how their jobs have changed. It was nice to see these colleagues in a relaxed setting; their personalities were on display which I rarely see when they are in our theatre for a review and quite formal. And it was nice to learn Mark Swed is an anarchist.

After this, we had a Marketing/PR roundtable discussion. Since we had talked Social Media and PR at all our other meetings it was time to talk about ticket sales. The question: what are companies doing to increase subscriptions and ticket sales? The answer: Nobody knows. Everyone has some things that work but nobody has the definitive answer.

So, do you buy tickets to the opera? Why? If you don't, why not?

Then it was time for a shower and a trip to MOCA outside the door of the hotel which is free on Thursday nights. While the MOCA is small, the layout is impressive and the collection incredibly solid. Plenty of Rothko's, Jasper Johns's, a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, but it was a single solitary Jackson Pollock, perched in the center of the wall on the first turn that stopped me in my tracks. I had seen Pollock's before but something about this one captured the frenetic energy and I couldn't tear myself away from it.

Thursday night is also Art Walk in the downtown district so we headed down that direction to slurp some noodles and eat black sesame ice cream. The Art Walk was a zoo, an incredibly diverse hodgepodge of people going from gallery to gallery, graffiti artists working on building facades, performance artists, pop art and modern light sculptures, jazz bands jamming, two incredibly thuggish looking guys I was ready to hand my wallet to making incredibly catchy and sweetly sung electro pop. And mimes *shudder*. We hate mimes.

Then it was off to meet more convention people back at The Edison, our favorite time traveling bar.

Tomorrow are a few meetings and then it'll be time to return home. But first we'll be up at 6:30 AM to watch the first match of the World Cup. Priorities...

What Are You Listening to this Weekend?

Friday, the bacon of the workweek. And time to ask what we always ask on Friday, what are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be deep in opera seminars and meetings this weekend, and what free time we have we'll spend listening to the drone of vuvuzelas with our eyes on the pitch. It's World Cup month after all.

There is a slight chance we'll head over to Long Beach Opera's Orpheus and Euridice but obligations back home might prevent us from making the curtain.

What are you listening to this weekend? Any World Cup predictions?

Mmm. Bacon.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Opera America Conference Day 1

So the first day of the Opera America conference has passed and it was a good one.

The Aria Serious crews was ensconced all day in a "Making an Impact With Social Media and Technology" seminar, held in a freezing ballroom with, ironically, the worst wifi this side of smoke signals.

It was a great day however, filled with presentations from the leaders of Social Media.

It was nice to hear we're doing many of the same things they are, and humbling (and a little bit scary) to hear that many of them look to us for guidance and inspiration.

Presentations were by Marc van Bree, Ling Chan at Vancouver Opera, Margo Drakos of Instant Encore (maker of our iPhone ap. We have an iPhone ap? You betcha) and Ceci Dadisman from Palm Beach Opera. While everyone had different and intriguing ideas, it was clear that the goal for all of us is the same; how can we create an online community and engage the community to provide a meaningful relationship to our art form and organization. And here is where I guess I should ask you, dear reader, since you are the direct audience we seek.

How can we make your online experience with San Diego Opera a better one? Are we providing you with meaningful insight into our art form and our organization? If so, how? And if there is something you'd like to see more of, what is it?

After the session it was time for a quick shower and then it was onto the welcoming reception at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion where we were graciously welcomed by Maestro Placido Domingo who talked about collaboration and communication between Companies.

This year's theme of the conference is "New Realities / New Strategies" which I read as "Bad Economy / What The Heck Are We Doing Now?" and walking from conversation to conversation during the meet and greet reception it was clear that although Companies are reaching goals and balancing budgets they're having a hard time doing it.

I heard at least a dozen times "well it's nice to know were all in the same boat," and indeed - it is nice to know that the troubles shared by one are troubles shared by many, but I wonder if this is what the passengers of the Titanic also felt cruising through the night...

And lets hope some of the solutions are shared as freely as he problems.

After the welcome reception, the Aria Serious crew made their way to the Marketing and PR dinner where we sat with colleagues and talked work while eating bad Chinese food.

And here is where we'd like to propose making us the Director of Food for Opera America, or at least direct them to Chowhound for future conventions.

Some of the best information is shared after all the formal events, and last night was no exception when the above mentioned Ling Chan, Florida Grand Opera's Brendan Glynn and our own director of Marketing explored The Edison a post industrial steampunk bar a few blocks from the hotel and talked late into the night.

We're a bit tired but day #2 is looking just as good with an Opening Session with Daniel Catan (Rappaccini's Daughter), a conversation with director Achim Freyer, a panel on "Critics, Bloggers and the Changing Media Landscape" a break out session with PR/Marketing professionals, and more.

It's going to be a good one!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Friday, June 4, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

What are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will be skipping on our weekly opera due to travels this weekend. We're heading up to Los Angeles to listen to the mopey minimalist pop of The XX on Saturday.

We're hoping to get some time in at Amoeba records as well. It's been a long time since we went to a record store; we've been moving to digital music since we turned our music room into a nursery and we're tight on space. Still, we'll be hitting the stacks to find some gems, space be damned.

Any new opera recordings we should pick up? Let us know. We already have Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen on our list of purchases but we're always looking for something new and different.

And of course, share your listening plans with us.

Make it a good one!

Baritone Giuseppe Taddei dies

Italian baritone Giuseppe Taddei died in Rome yesterday. He was 93. Taddei began his career at the age of 18 and sang in opera houses throughout the world past his 70s.

You can more about him here.

And watch him performing "Non piu andrai" from The Marriage of Figaro.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Behind the Music

Using an MRI machine, we can now see what goes on in a soprano's mouth when she sings. The verdict? Tongues are gross.

But very cool...

the diva and the emcee from Krishna Nayak on Vimeo.

Two Turntables and a Baritone

Dapper DJ Daedelus remixed Wagner's Ring Cycle last month as part of the Los Angeles Ring Festival and we have video below to prove it. The verdict? It's got a good beat and I can dance to it. I give it an 80.

Daedelus Remixes the Ring Cycle from clay lipsky on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Close to home, The LA Opera began it's long awaited Ring Cycle. Opening night was met with about two dozen protesters outside, but the reaction inside was quite positive. How are tickets sales? Apparently behind what was originally planned, that damn economy is still making life difficult.

- The sour economy is affecting opera halfway around the world, Australia's famed Sydney Opera House is in such severe financial straits it could face permanent closure. Reports are indicating that the iconic house is so antiquated that it poses a safety risk to performers and stage crews. Yikes.

- Crossover: n.
a. The adaptation of a musical style, as by blending elements of two or more styles or categories, to appeal to a wider audience.
b. A recording designed to appeal to more than one segment or portion of the listening audience.
c. One that appeals to a wide or diverse audience

See "Dark Hope", the new album by Renee Fleming. And the NY Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini and pop music critic Jon Pareles chime in.