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: http://richarddecosta.com/tr.php

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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Community Conversations" for 2011

We'll be heading out into the city over the next few months for a series of free lectures about the 2011 season. Interested in myths, evil and relationships? Good. We got you covered.

This lecture series pairs Dr. Nic with a variety of experts including the curator of the Joseph Campbell Archive where they will talk about myths and Turandot.

Later, Dr. Nic will speak with a psychologist about relationships in Carmen. Talk about putting the fun back into dysfunctional.

We'll tackle an interfaith conversation on evil. We'll talk artist David Hockney with the chief curator at the Contemporary Museum of Art.

There's something for everybody and you can see for yourself here. Each lecture requires an RSVP, and you can do that here as well. Did we mention this is free? We did? Well, it's true.

We hope to see you at some of these.

Rolando Villazon = Awesome

Here's a funny movie from tenor Rolando Villazon called "Mein Mexico" as you can probably already tell, the movie is in German but it's still 100% awesome if your mastery of the language is less than perfect, or nonexistant. Heck, even the opening credits alone are worth a few moments of your time today.

Enjoy!

I, For One, Welcome Our Robotic Overlords

In the future, we'll all be replaced by robots. Yes, even the opera singers. Time to learn how to use a crescent wrench we imagine...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Podcast Monday

This week, Dr. Nic explores a bit of musical history as he listens to the original cast recording of Turandot.

As always are podcasts are free, great tasting and fat free. You can download them here.

While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- Placido Domingo shows off his new Pablo Neruda look for Il Postino while negotiating his contract to helm Los Angeles Opera.

- The Klingon Opera "U" opened over the weekend in the Netherlands.

- Want to go? Then we suggest taking their national airlines, KLM, as they seem they know how to handle any major delays with class.



Friday, September 10, 2010

Mash Up Madness

Is it greater than the sum of its parts or did they just go and ruin three perfectly good songs? Puccini + The Pixies + Goldfrapp = This Monkey's Gone to Opera

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday is finally here!

And so, it's time to ask what we always ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew will continue their surreal journey into Stockhausen's opera-cycle Licht with Montag. We're not yet sure what we think of Donnerstag and Samstag despite having been digesting it for a over a week now.

Saturday we'll sneak out to Tin Can Alley to see the wonderful 80's inspired dreampop band Wild Nothing. Sunday, we'll sleep in

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


Opera + Food = Win

It's back! Our third installment of Taste of Opera which takes one of our favorite things, opera, and combines it with another one of our favorite things, food. Although we're a little sad here at the Aria Serious tower with the lack of bacon inspired menus we do have plenty of opera inspired menus and cooking classes for you.

You can head on over to our Taste of Opera page to see what type of dinners we have planned. And once again, this year we're joining up with Great News! who have planned cooking class around each of our four operas.

How am I going to lose weight this year? It might take a Faustian deal with the devil.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Spy Who Loved Opera

Details are emerging about Margery Booth, and opera singer and spy for the UK who sang for Adolf Hitler with secret documents smuggled in her underwear. Eventually she was found out and tortured by the gestapo, but remained silent throughout her captivity and was eventually able to escape.

Talk about the plot for a great movie. Or, even better, an opera.

You can read about it here.

Opera vs. Heavy Metal

Heavy metal singers have better technique than opera singers!? We think not.

But there's only one real way to solve the debate: air guitar shred contest.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Podcast Monday

As we were celebrating the Labor Day holiday yesterday, please enjoy our newest Podcast on a Tuesday. This week, Dr. Nic takes a listen to recordings of Carmen and talks tenors and great Don Jose's.

You can download the Podcast here, for free.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

The last "bit of business" for a while we imagine... the San Diego Opera offices will be closed Friday, September 3 and Monday, September 6. We'll be back Tuesday at 8:30 AM for all your opera needs.

So, what are you listening to this weekend?

We're going to be ambitious and take on Stockhausen's Licht 7-opera cycle. We'll start with the Thursday and Saturday recordings. Not sure what to expect. We're familiar with Stockhausen, so we're expecting, well, the unexpected. After that we'll see what we're in the mood for although we'll probably just stream internet radio.

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Science Fiction Invades Opera.

Or is it opera invades science fiction?

This week we seem to have received lots of opera news about our favorite literary genre, good ol' sci-fi.

It began with reports of Earth's first Klingon Opera, U, premiering in the Netherlands this month. Then it got even wackier with this "documentary" about sending a message in Klingon into space to invite a delegation to attend. Those Trekkies, always taking everything to the extreme. And when you think about it, do you really want to meet a Klingon opera critic?





Then there is Ka'i: Death of Dreams, an actual space opera that's an opera - with singing aliens and all. And yes, we imagine that would probably make it a space opera opera, but the Aria Serious crew is not big on semantics. And they're seeking a grant writer, if that's your area of expertise.

And finally, we received word that someone is working on Terminator 2: The Opera. And it's as bad as it sounds. Hey, you're lucky we didn't include Robocop: The Musical.