Monday, January 31, 2011

While You Were Out

Happy Monday. The Aria Serious crew will be taking today off. It was a long weekend but a very good one. In case you've been on Mars, in a cave, with your fingers in your ears we opened up our season on Saturday with Turandot. So this morning we will bask in the glory of reviews.

- Don't come to Turandot for Nessun Dorma - come for the sets and the great cast says the San Diego Union Tribune. We also suggest you don't watch Star Wars just for the Trench Run.

- Out West Arts says this Turandot will be hard to beat (two more are planned in California this year).

And on the news front:

- Turandot is a very chorus heavy opera - a look at our tiniest chorus members, the children

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Favorite Things To Look and Listen For When Seeing Turandot

Some things we loved while watching Turandot these past few nights:

- The unsteady steps of Reinhard Hagen's blind Timur as he navigates the stage. He's built like an ox, but inhabits his role so convincingly it looks like he could topple any moment.

- Ermonela Jaho's face. One could watch the whole opera on her face without looking at the supertitles and know what is going on each moment - she telegraphs her character's emotions so well.

- The xylophone in the first and second act and its distinct Chinese melody.

- The light on Altoum's face during In questa reggia.

- Perhaps the most memorable moment however is a moment that is so subtle at first we were not sure it was even happening - in the second act, as the children's chorus sings, the adult chorus hums at a level so low they blend in and out with the orchestra. It's a seductive moment, one that coaxes you to listen with new ears and is a perfect example of Puccini's mastery of music and stagecraft and a testament to how good our chorus is.

After you come and see Turandot, please share your favorite moments with us.

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday! And the Friday before our season opens, so you know what we'll be listening to this weekend... Turandot!

How about you?

If you come to Turandot, be sure to let us know what you think.

Saturday and Sunday are sold-out. Tuesday and Friday still have seats.

Have a great weekend everyone. We'll have a full report come Monday.

Turandot by Shanower

What do you get when you cross Turandot with comics? A whole bunch of awesome.

Earlier this week the Aria Serious crew invited some comic book artists to sketch a rehearsal of Turandot. While many did not show (we've since been told working with comic book artists is like herding cats) what we did receive was 28 individually wrapped presents that delighted us to no end.

While this isn't the first time we've touched on comics and opera, what we're about to share excites us to no end.

The sketches below are by Eric Shanower. Eric is a two time Eisner award winner and a New York Times bestselling author who's ongoing epic work, The Age of Bronze, is a detailed retelling of The Trojan War. Eric is also known for his Oz novels and comics. We've included links to his home page above and if you love comics, good storytelling and incredible art you owe yourself a visit.

We also did a little Q&A session with Eric which you can find below. But you came here for his art. So, without further ado we proudly present Turandot as seen by Eric Shanower.

Q & A with Artist Eric Shanower:

Aria Serious (A.S.): First off congratulations on Age of Bronze – this how I first heard of you. For our readers who are new to comics – Age of Bronze is the historic retelling of the Trojan War. You’ve been working on this project for over a decade now. What first drew you to this subject matter?

Eric Shanower (E.S): I listened to a book on tape called The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman. Her chapter on the Trojan War made me realize there are many different versions of the story. I thought it would be a great project to synthesize all the versions together while setting it in the correct time period, the Aegean Late Bronze Age. I thought it would make a fascinating comic book, and so I began work on Age of Bronze.

Of course, there are plenty of operas that have been written about the Trojan War. The one I’ve worked with most recently in Age of Bronze is Troilus and Cressida by William Walton. A Trojan War opera that I saw at San Diego Opera was Idomeneo by Mozart about ten years ago.

A.S.: I hear you are also writing the comic adaption to Baum’s Wizard of Oz for Marvel – what is it like to write a straight adaption of a story known and loved by generations of people? How do you make it your own?

E.S.: We’re way past The Wonderful Wizard of Oz now. Baum’s third Oz book, Ozma of Oz, is actually being serialized currently. I’m about to start adapting the fourth book in the Oz series, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. These Marvel Comics Oz adaptations have been really popular. I’ve been an Oz fan ever since I was six years old and have worked on countless Oz comics and books before this Marvel Comics Oz series, so it’s pretty much business as usual to be working with this material. For these adaptations of the Oz books, I don’t try at all to make them my own. I just adapt the books as L. Frank Baum wrote them.

A.S.: How did you get interested in drawing?

E.S.: I don’t remember. I’ve always been interested in drawing as far as I know.

A.S.: This wasn’t your first opera, when did you first experience it? What did you think of it?

E.S.: The first production of an opera I saw was Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin at Chautauqua Institution, done in English. I recall liking it, although I was shocked that Onegin decides to die at the end—that was back when I refused to read synopses because I decided that every opera performance must communicate its story to the audience without off-stage help or else it’s a failure. These days, however, I mostly read synopses when I go to the opera.

As a native English speaker I like opera in English because it’s more immediate. I wish that more opera in the USA were done in the country’s dominant language—in good translations. Of course, then the singers would have to memorize new words, which I guess could be a challenge.

Best opera I’ve seen was the Seattle Opera Ring Cycle. Terrific naturalistic design and staging, jaw-dropping special effects, excellent translation for the supertitles.

A.S.: What did you think of Turandot?

E.S.: Great design. Great drama. I was already familiar with the music and like it, but it was really nice to hear played by a live orchestra. I was a little disappointed that the leads were saving their voices during the rehearsal I saw, but that wasn’t unexpected. Overall I thought every aspect of the production was terrific.

I was actually surprised that I liked the set so much. I’m not a big David Hockney fan.

A.S. When I checked in with you during an intermission you told me you felt like the live sketching was like “work.” That surely wasn’t our intent. What was some of the hurdles you faced last night while drawing?

E.S.: I had never drawn like this during a stage performance before. When I go to the theatre, it’s to watch the show. You had no expectations of me except to draw whatever I wanted, but that meant that I had no guidelines either. I really had no particular plan on how to approach it except to draw. I brought some colored pencils, expecting to use them and I did. As a visual storyteller, I’m drawn first and foremost to the characters, so that’s what I ended up drawing for the most part. I thought a lot beforehand about the work of Al Hirschfeld, the famous theater cartoonist, so I have to admit that I began drawing during the performance trying to channel him. But other than that I didn’t have a firm approach in mind. And drawing is my work, so of course the experience was just like work for me.

A.S.: Did the music help dictate what you drew?

E.S. No, it didn’t. I was far more intent on the visual aspects. While I’m drawing I can’t really pay conscious attention to sound. Although I listen to music much of the time when I draw, it’s always background.

A.S.: Anything coming up our readers should know about?

E.S.: Just had a couple projects come out this month: I penciled issue #101 of the popular comic book series Fables, published by Vertigo/DC Comics. Oxford University Press just brought out a volume on the use of Greek and Roman classics in comics, titled Classics and Comics, and I contributed a 12-page story about Age of Bronze, my Trojan War comic book. Marvel Comics is currently bringing out the comics adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s Ozma of Oz with script by me and art by Skottie Young—issue 4 will be out soon. And for all you San Diegans out there, come see me at the San Diego Comic Con in July, booth 2008.

Eric will join us later this year for Faust.

Artwork © copyright 2011 by Eric Shanower. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Today is a "Super Five" Day

Although there are those that will argue that arts coverage is dead or dying, we say otherwise. Case in point: these two great articles that humanize the wacky world of opera and illustrate that the people we surround ourselves with are like family - from the stars to the chorus to the patrons that fill our seat.

Take first, Valerie Scher's article on Rita Cartwright - a chorister with 71 operas under her belt.

And then, from the other side of the curtain, a profile in City Beat by Kinsee Morlan on Alice Hartsuyker - a longtime subscriber who has brought multiple generations to the opera.

It's compelling stuff, and a reminder as to why we do what we do. We hope you find them as enjoyable as we did.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stars in the Salon

Life in the fast lane, art as an illness, ancient Chinese folk tunes and love are the topics we cover in Stars in the Salon Turandot.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Podcast Friday!?

3 podcasts in one week!? Why not. we have them. They're good. And Turandot opens in 8 days. Today's podcast features the lovely soprano Ermonela Jaho who sings Liu. In this one she talks about the role and about returning to San Diego.

You can download the podcast here. Enjoy!

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday - so it's time to ask: what are you listening to this weekend?

The Aria Serious crew is taking a quick break from opera since it will be taking up our entire coming week which is fondly known as "tech week" (sometimes "heck week") here at the tower.

We'll be heading up to Lou's Records to do some damage and pick up some holes in our record collection including some new EPs by The Naked and the Famous and Foster the People. Totally not opera, but catchy tunes nonetheless. Then it's Turandot, Turandot, Turandot. Life is good.

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

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Podcast Thursday!?

No, your calendars are correct - it is Thursday. We're just dropping two podcasts this week. Why? Because we love you of course, but also because we recorded a really good one this week with soprano Lise Lindstrom and don't want to wait. In it, she talks Turandot, the vocal demands of the role and her 11th hour Met debut which is the stuff of opera legend.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We've added our brand new Flickr photostream to the right of this page. We hope you enjoy it. Just a word of caution - we're really bad photographers. But what we do well is make great opera. So in the end, let's just call it a wash.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday! And what a beautiful Friday it is (yes, allow us to gloat - we pay for this sunshine).

It's time to ask, what are you listening to this weekend?

We'll be retiring to the hammock this weekend to listen to Auber's Fra Diavolo - mostly because we've never listened to it before and found a copy used up at Amoeba records some time back.

And because we like symmetry in our lives we'll have some homemade pasta from Assenti's and we'll cook up a fra diavolo sauce to go with it. We're just like that.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Stars in the Salon

Our first Stars in the Salon (formerly known as The Artist Roundtable) of the season is taking place next week on Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 5:30 PM in the Beverly Sills Salon. Lise Lindstrom, Carlo Ventre and others will talk about Puccini's masterpiece and answer questions from the audience. The event runs one-hour and is free to the public.

You can find more information here.

For those of you who live out of town, we'll be recording this event and should have it online a few days later. If you want to ask a question you can leave it in the comment section below or tweet your question to us @_SanDiegoOpera and we'll ask it for you. We would like to add that's is sunny without a cloud in the sky today, so really, those of you snowed in might want to think about a vacation in sunny San Diego. You know you deserve it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Der Rosenkavalier Cast Change - Baron Ochs

Last week, we announced a cast change for our cast of Der Rosenkavalier.

Our dear friend Ferruccio Furlanetto decided not to add the role of Baron Ochs to his repertoire at this time. Luckily, the celebrated British bass-baritone Andrew Greenan was available and has joined our cast.

Those of you who attend our performances regularly will remember Andrew for his 2008 house debut as Biterolf in Tannhauser. Later that season, he sang an incredibly powerful Lord Cecil opposite Kate Aldrich in Mary, Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda). Andrew will come to San Diego immediately from singing Titurel in Parsifal with English National Opera.

It should be interesting to note, that Andrew was originally scheduled to make his Company debut with us in 2005's Simon Boccanegra but asked to be released so he could sing his first Baron Ochs in Nancy, France. The wheel, it seems, has come full circle.

For those of you wondering when you'll get to see Ferruccio next, you'll need to wait now until 2013 when he sings his first American Thomas Beckett with us in Pizzetti's Murder in the Cathedral.

Our General and Artistic Director, Ian Campbell had this to share: "“Although sorry to loose Ferruccio, I am excited to have Andrew join a splendid cast. Andrew, Anja and the rest of the cast promise to make the perfect combination for this masterpiece of Romantic music."

You can read a bit more about Andrew in his bio which you will find below.

Der Rosenkavalier opens Sunday, April 3, 2011 for four performances.

Andrew Greenan, Baron Ochs
British bass-baritone Andrew Greenan made his San Diego Opera debut as Biterolf in Tannhäuser in 2008 and returned the same year to sing Lord Cecil in Mary Queen of Scots (Maria Stuarda). Greenan has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera as Heinrich in Lohengrin, The Royal Opera, Covent Garden as Landgraf Hermann in Tannhäuser, Pietro in Simon Boccanegra, Tom in A Masked Ball, Crespel in The Tales of Hoffmann, and Swallow in Peter Grimes which he has also sung with the Hamburgische Staatsoper, Klingsor in Parsifal with Grand Théâtre de Genéve. Other recent appearances include the title role in Falstaff at the Prague National Theatre, Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring at the Opéra Comique, Paris, Waldner in Arabella at Théâtre du Châtelet and his latest performances as Baron Ochs at Cape Town Opera. Earlier this season he achieved a notable success in the central role of Arnolphe in the French premiere of Liebermann's Die Schule der Frauen at Opéra National de Bordeaux and will come to San Diego directly from performances of Titurel in Parsifal with English National Opera, a company with which he has enjoyed a long association covering a large and varied repertoire. An accomplished recording artist, he appeared on the Grammy Award-winning recording of Les Troyens with the London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Colin Davis.

Podcast Monday

Since our season starts in just a few weeks, we thought it would be nice to feature some of the "Golden Moments" we're looking forward to in our 2011 season in this week's podcast.

You can download the podcast here.


While You Were Out

Over the weekend:

- "Producing opera in today's economic climate is like pirouetting on the edge of a razor." A look at the economic of our 2011 season.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What Are You Listening To This Weekend?

Friday! The first one of the new year and one of the last Fridays with any real meaning for the Aria Serious crew as opera season is here and we work most weekends.

So, what are you going to listen to this weekend?

We're doing some prep work and will listen to Turandot. Our singers arrive early next week to start rehearsal on Tuesday!

We'll also catch Dr. Nic's lecture at MCASD on the designs of David Hockney on Sunday. If you want to attend as well you should RSVP as we're getting close to capacity.

After that we're going to catch up some other music such as the new Iron & Wine LP which they performed live this week on NPR and delve into the Australian psychedelic scene with Tame Impala.

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

(Dog art up above by David Hockney)

We Did Indeed Have Cookies. And Opera Bingo

The Aria Serious crew has received reports that last night's Supernumerary Open House was a solid success (we had personal plans that prevented us from being there first hand) and that cookies were indeed consumed and opera bingo was played. Had we known opera bingo was on the agenda we would've canceled our plans; there is nothing like singing out "Bingo" in a High C.

We've put some photos below from the event last night so you can feel like you were part of the action, but remember - there is still time to become a Supernumerary. All you need to do is call (619) 533-7073 x333 and leave a message. We'll call you back. Promise.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Can We Talk?

We've mentioned them here a few times already, but the wonderful La Jolla Light has written a nice article about our upcoming series of Community Conversations that cover everything from David Hockney, to the Devil and concepts of evil, ancient Chinese melodies, not to mention relationships and putting the "fun" back into dysfunctional.

The lectures are free and we have few exciting ones coming up.

You can read the article at the clicky above and you can RSVP for the conversations by clicking here. We do require an RSVP as these events always reach capacity. We hope to see you at one. Or all of them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Opera is Super. And You Can Be Too.

Opera has lots of moving parts. Singers, musicians, choristers, dancers, stagehands - you name it - if it moves it is probably in opera. The unsung heroes of opera (hey, we made an unintentional pun!) are the supernumeraries (or supers) - those with no speaking parts but whose presence helps populate the stage to create a living breathing world.

San Diego Opera is holding an open house for people interested in joining us for the 2011 season (and beyond) as supers. The open house is this Thursday, January 6, 2011 in the evening. Interested individuals are encouraged to call (619) 533-7073 x333 for more information. (If you can't make the open house but are still interested in being a super that's OK and that's still the number to call).Being a super does require lots of time commitment on weekends and evenings. But you get the best seat in the house, but you can't sing along. Don't even think of singing along.

Did we mention there will be cookies?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Podcast Monday

Are you like us and still working your way through your email backlog from the holiday? Don't know what to listen to? Why not the orchestral interludes of Carmen. Incidentally, our topic for this week's podcast. Well, technically last week's podcast, but who's keeping track of these things.