Thursday, May 29, 2008

Birthday Week!

Guess whose been lazy this week? Me!!!!!!! Finals coming up (not fun) so I decided to just do all of this week's birthdays in one post.

5/26- Theresa Stratas. Such an amazing artist. Two of my favorite operas on video have her in them: La Traviata with Placido Domingo and La Boheme, of course, with Jose Carreras. She's such a fantastic actress, too. Just look at those videos! Proof of her extraordinary talents!
5/27- Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Besides being one of the best lieder singers ever, DFD is one of my favorite Conte Almavivas ever! His voice is so smooth and creamy and just delicious!
5/29- Erich Korngold. Some of the most beautiful arias I have ever heard. Marietta's Lied from Die Tote Stadt has become sort of an anthem for me. I always turn to it, happy or sad, angry or caring I always love listening to it. It either makes me cry or makes me smile until my cheeks hurt. Let's not forget two of his other GLORIOUS ARIAS that I simply CAN'T GET OVER. I love this composer.
5/30- George London. Enough said. So amazing.
5/31- Shirley Verrett. I love this woman. She is amazing.

And now I'm off to watch Tristan und Isolde on PBS.

Happy Birthday to our birthday singers!

Happy Listening!! =)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sillsiana: Happy Birthday, Bubbles.

I've tried over and over in vain to explain to people the unbreakable bond between an opera lover and opera singers. After Beverly Sills died, I was depressed and could not listen to anyone else. I couldn't talk about anything else for weeks! They were so mad at me... "YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HER!" was what they kept saying. Of course I didn't know her! My heart would have stopped if I had gone anywhere near her! Anyway, as soon as they said that I would shake my finger and try to explain to them the mutual affection and the chains that link together a listener and a singer. It's so hard to explain once you try. It's like, you do know the singer, but you don't. You feel this connection that is so powerful because they have given you so much! They have given their miraculous gift to us all and we share in the emotional experience that is opera. It's so incredible! Of course, who understands that but those who experience it? I was that way with Beverly Sills, and I suppose I still am. There will always be a bond between us two, not to mention all of her other dedicated fans!

We're gathered here today to remember the birthday of the immortal and utterly fantabulous Beverly Sills. Although this brilliant lady has left this world, her work will never be forgotten. We pay homage to her today, on the day of her birth. I have compiled for you some of her best performances and some of her funniest moments (in opera or otherwise). We love you, Bubbles.

The mad scene from Lucia di Lammermoor
The final scene from Roberto Devereux
"Pigoletto" from the Muppet Show
"Follie...Sempre Libera" from La Traviata
"Una voce poco fa" from Il Barbiere di Siviglia
"The Thunder of Battle" from The Daughter of the Regiment
"Sillsiana" at Hunter College. This gets my laughing (crying?) every time!!
"O luce di quest'anima" from Linda di Chamounix
"Je marche sur tous les chemins" from Manon
"Adieu, notre petite table" from Manon
Zerbinetta's aria from Ariadne auf Naxos
"Chacun le sait" from La Fille du Regiment
"Je suis Titania" from Mignon
"Da tempeste" from Guilio Cesare
The Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute
In an opera parody with Danny Kaye. "I come from a very classy part of Brooklyn."
The Willow Song from The Ballad of Baby Doe

and finally...
Beverly Sill's Final Performance. It never fails to bring on the waterworks. I always end up crying like a baby. It's pretty pathetic, but listen to her. Just listen to her! Listen to that marvelous voice! It's like an angel. She's simply an angel...

Happy Birthday, dear Bubbles!!

Happy Listening, from a very sentimental CaroNome... =)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

3 New Desert Island CD's.

If you asked me "If you were stranded on a desert island and you could only choose a few CDs to bring with you, what would they be?" I would take a ridiculously long time to figure it out. Two that would immediately come to mind are the Solti Le Nozze di Figaro and one Renee Fleming disc (not sure which one...) I'd want to take all of mine of course, but only a few... Hmm...

Recently I was told that I needed to branch out more, listen to different things. Here I am thinking I've got a pretty diverse "repertoire." From Russian opera to German opera to Italian opera and some other obscure languages in between. Apparently I was mistaken. While the comment was intended to push me in a more contemporary direction, I took it in the exact opposite direction. (I'm a firm believer in going back before going forward.) In an attempt to push my boundaries into the past, I purchased Patricia Petibon's "French Baroque Arias" and Diana Damrau's "Arie di Bravura." I made a pact with myself that I wouldn't rush to the songs I knew, but listen to the entire disc.

What a revelation! I'm listening nonstop to these two fabulous artists in arias that I have never heard before, but now can't live without! Consider these added to my Desert Island Collection.
Diana Damrau's stunning voice flowed through these arias with ease and precision. Having only heard two songs from this CD (both Queen of the Night arias) I was a little nervous about my pact. I put on the CD and at the first song I was hooked! Diana Damrau is fabulous!
I first discovered Patricia Petibon from Sarah Noble's "Tubular Belles" and I am sooooooo thankful for it. Not only is this glorious soprano out of her mind, she sings like an angel and has introduced me to wonderful new (well...old) baroque arias! Her Doll Song from Hoffmann that is on youtube had me falling out of my seat. Let's just say, you've never seen a doll break down like this before. Some people find it vulgar, or something, but I think it's wonderful!

Another disc that I recently acquired is Rolando Villazon's "Cielo e Mar". I feel like I'm branching out with this disc also, although it's still in my "comfort zone" which is more in the Romantic style.
Having obviously heard "Cielo e Mar" before, but nothing else on the disc I made the same pact that I had with the above CD's. I had avoided Villazon's recordings before because (I'm going to be brutally honest) most were with Anna Netrebko and I do not like how her voice sounds IN RECORDINGS. (keys words there) I bought this after hearing from various sources how wonderful it was and I'm happy I took their advice. Rolando Villazon is truly one of the great voices of our generation. Two of my favorite arias from this CD (besides "Cielo e mar") are the Mercadente aria from Il Giuramento and the aria from Adriana Lecouvreur, but I love them all!
Another addition to my Desert Island Collection!

I advice a speedy purchase of these three wonderful albums. You won't regret it, I promise!

Happy Listening!!! =)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wagner: Opera's Biggest Cult

Let's face it: Opera is a cult. Not the crazy, torch-bearing kind, but a cult all the same. Within this cult is a series of smaller cults. Indisputably the biggest opera cult is the Wagner cult.
And while Wagner is not really my "thing" (and yes, I've tried it. It was fantastic, don't get me wrong. Again, just not my thing) I understand Wagner's cult and completely respect him as a composer and musical genius.
Here's a small (youtube) tribute to Wagner on his birthday:

The Ride of the Valkyries (oh man, stereotype?)
The Liebsetod from Tristan und Isolde performed by Birgit Nilsson
Wotan's final scene in Die Walkure performed by James Morris (probably my favorite part of any Wagner opera)
The prelude from Lohengrin
Siegfried's Funeral March
Act III from Der Meistersinger von Nurnberg featuring James Morris, Karita Mattila, and Ben Heppner. I seriously remember years and years ago sitting in my grandmother's kitchen watching this on PBS. I remember trying to translate the title (rather unsuccessfully), asking my mom why the soprano made funny faces (hee hee. love you, Karita!!), and trying to make sense of it. I watched it all the way until dinner time and was disappointed when after it was already over. Then a few months ago I remembered watching it and said "Oh my gosh, I can name most of the singers in that now just from remembering what they look like. That's scary!" It was fate!

Happy Birthday, Wagner!

Happy Listening!! =)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Anthony Tommasini's "End of the Season Awards" (And Comments on the Met's Financial Situation)

After I held my illustrious (hardly...) End of the Season Awards, Anthony Tommasini followed suit (haha. funny.) After giving us some statistics and dollar signs concerning the Met's supposed "financial woes" Tommasini got to the good stuff and told us what (or who) he liked about this season at the Met.

But as I think back, it is individual performances by singers that stay with me, none more so than the tenor Anthony Dean Griffey’s portrayal of the title role in the Met’s new production of Britten's "Peter Grimes.” Singing with exemplary artistry and raw emotion, Mr. Griffey found his own way into the daunting role of Grimes, fully conveying that reclusive fisherman’s instability and violent streak while revealing the wounded child within. This was an overdue personal triumph for a selfless artist who rose through the ranks of the Met and had been underused until now...

He goes on to mention Natalie Dessay, Susan Graham, Renee Fleming, the cursed "Tristan und Isolde", Juan Diego Florez, and Philip Glass.

He wasn't as mean as me. He didn't talk about "the worst of" the season, like I did. I think that was a smart move, Mr. Tommasini. =)

Happy Listening!! =)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

End of the Season Awards!!!!!!

Since yesterday marked the end of the Met's 2007-2008 season, I've decided to give out the awards today! I've had to mentally prepare myself for the end of the season. My summers are so bland without any live performances or Sirius Live Broadcasts!
The Bad, The Good, The Sad, The Funny and anything special that happened. Mostly based on what I heard/saw, but I'll put a few others in, too.
We'll start with The Bad:

Worst Acting:
Johan Botha in Otello (*puts head on wall to symbolize extreme sorrow*)

Worst Singing:
(Since this season was so spectacular I will do something I don't usually do and that is take what I heard from other people. I'm sorry for it.)
John MacMaster in Tristan und Isolde (first man to be booed in how many years?)

Worst HD Broadcast:
(for its bad split screen thing, otherwise it was lovely!)
Tristan und Isolde

Most Cursed Production:
Tristan und Isolde

On to The Good:

Best New Production (production only):
La Fille du Regiment

Best Revival:
Madame Butterfly
Manon Lescaut
Le Nozze di Figaro

Best singing by a male artist:
Juan Diego Florez in La Fille du Regiment
Salvatore Licitra and Dmitri Hvorostovsky in Un Ballo in Maschera
Ramon Vargas in La Boheme
(look I can't just say "everyone.")

Best singing by a female artist (biased):
Renee Fleming in Otello
Anna Netrebko in Romeo et Juliette and Angela Gheorhiu in La Boheme (shocked, aren't you?)
Olga Borodina in Carmen
Natalie Dessay in everything she sang

The Sad:

Most touching performance by a male artist:
Ramon Vargas in La Boheme
Marcello Giordani in Lucia di Lammermoor

Most touching performance by a female artist:
Angela Gheorghiu in La Boheme
Renee Fleming in Otello
Patricia Racette in Madame Butterfly

The Funny:

Funniest moment in an opera:
When the jewelry box fell off the stage during Nozze and hit the celloist on the head
The music lesson, the tank, and pretty much the entire Fille production

The most acrobatic performance:
Marcello Giordani almost falling off the bed during Romeo et Juliette
Anna Netrebko in Romeo and Natalie Dessay in Fille and Lucia
Karita Mattila doing a split in Manon Lescaut

The unexpected:
Marcello Giordani covering for Joseph Kaiser (last minute!) in Romeo (the night I was there!!)
Seeing Peter Gelb in the lobby before Carmen

Other Special Things:

Productions I'm sorry I missed:
Abduction from the Seraglio
La Traviata
Manon Lescaut

Productions I'm so happy I didn't miss:
La Fille du Regiment
Romeo et Juliette
Madama Butterfly
Lucia di Lammermoor

Highlights of the season:
La Fille du Regiment
Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Salvatore Licitra, and Stephanie Blythe in Ballo
Renee Fleming in Otello
Anna Netrebko in Romeo et Juliette
La Boheme in HD
Diana Damrau. Period.

Oh, the list goes on and on. It's hard enough restricting myself to this many awards. I should have just said "Best Everything: The Met." Really sums it up quite nicely.
I'm sorry I wasted your time with my nonsense, but it feels good to get it off my chest. I good summary of the season, I think. It's too bad I didn't see everything. (I plan to next season. Saving up for Standing Room!!)

This is a hard season to say goodbye to (aren't they all?) because so many wonderful things happened. "There's always next season," I know, but I get so attached! SEE YOU NEXT SEASON!!!

Happy Listening!!! =)
PS. That doesn't mean I won't be posting during the summer!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

4 Birthdays and a Camelot

The past two days have seen the birthdays of four of the world's greatest opera stars to ever grace the stages of the world's greatest opera houses. These four are:

I've been so lazy lately (it might be that all of my school projects are due in the same week), but this morning I got around to finally watching the Live from Lincoln Center "Camelot" that I recorded. I was debating whether to bother recording it or not, but thanks to Nathan Gunn I did. (Slight crush on that barihunk.) To go along with his sumptuous voice comes impeccable acting and perfect comic timing. The "C'est moi" was so adorable, you positively must watch it. His "If Ever I Would Leave You" (with Marin Mazzie) had me, figuratively, drooling over him. If Guinevere doesn't fall for that, then there is something wrong with her.

The rest of the cast is, needless to say, fantastic. Gabriel Byrne, Marin Mazzie, Fran Drescher, Christopher Lloyd, and Stacy Keach starred in the production with the NY Philharmonic conducted by Paul Gemignani. It would take me too long to say what I want to say about each cast member. Go to youtube look for videos from the telecast, you won't regret it!!!! =)

Happy Listening!!! =)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When I Was a Lad...

Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan) is someone whose music I grew up with. My dad always played the "Ultimate Gilbert and Sullivan" CD in the car. Occasionally I love to dig it up (now it's on my iPod, which makes it easier) and listen to it. (and so would my sisters and my cousins and my aunts)

Here are some highlights from G&S classics:

"I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General"
"When I Was a Lad"
"Three Little Maids from School are We"
"The Sun Whose Rays (The Moon and I)" (my favorite)
"A More Humane Mikado"
"Lord High Executioner"
"I've Got a Little List"

You may notice that most of there are from "The Mikado." The only reason for that (except me LOVING "The Mikado") is that I can't find videos on youtube that due the other shows justice. It's sad. I wanted clips of "Nevermind the Why and Wherefore", "Give Three Cheers", "A Cat Like Tread", and others, but I couldn't find any that I really liked. I'm biased. It's that darned fabulous D'Oyly Carte Opera Company (mentioned above) recording. It's just too good. I would advice you to invest in it directly. =)

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Sullivan!

Happy Listening!!! =)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Massenet: Bow in His Presence

Ohhhhhhhh French opera. Good stuff. Try it sometimes, it'll do you good.

Especially if the orchestral interludes sound like this and the sopranos sing like this.
In the mood for fun? Try a gavotte...
Want heartbreak? Try singing to a table...
Feel like writing a letter? Well...why not?

As you can see, all problems can be solved with a little Massenet. I mean, there's so much to choose from, I'm not sure in which gorgeous direction I should turn next!

Manon... for everyone!!!
Act I- fun-loving types
Act II- people who thrive from heartbreaks
Act III- Scene One- those teenage girls (like moi) who think they're princesses (aren't we?)
Scene Two- people desperate for a love duet
Act IV- the gamblers
Act V- tragedy lovers

Happy Birthday, Massenet!!!!

Happy Listening!! =)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Leyla Gencer (1928-2008)

I'm sad to announce the death of the legendary soprano, Leyla Gencer, aka "La Regina." She died in Milan at the age of 79. So many opera fans adored her. She was known as "The Queen of the Pirates" because she never made commercial recordings of operas. She was also known as "La Diva Turca" and, well, you can guess why.
She was most known for her extreme emotional involvement in the opera. (Do yourself a favor and see her "Figlia impura di Bolena")The way she threw herself into a role was incredible. Her diverse repertory, from Gilda to Leonora, made her one of the greatest sopranos of her day. Perhaps any day.

La Scala has a small tribute. La Cieca, Philly Opera Fanatic, and Opera Chic both have tributes to the great diva.

RIP. Leyla Gencer. Addio.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ja vas lyublyu: A Tribute to Tchaikovsky on His Birthday

Ja vas lyublyu!
Thank you, Tchaikovsky, for teaching me how to say "I love you" in Russian. It comes in handy when I'm trying to impress people with my linguistic skills. =)

But, more than that, Tchaikovsky has shaped most of my appreciation for music. Since "The Nutcracker" takes up more than half of my time during the months of September, October, November, and December, it's safe to say that Tchaikovsky's music is one of the most important in my life. As a ballet student I've seen (and heard) "Swan Lake" countless times. Not that that's a problem at all, my gosh of course not! My favorite (to dance)... the four little swans.

Let's not forget his amazing operas!!!!
My gateway into the Russian opera world: Eugene Onegin. One of my favorite book, containing one of my favorite heroines is also an opera (not like you didn't know!) that takes everything to the dramatic extreme! Oh, how glorious.
I will not fail to mention his other operas, Iolanta and The Queen of Spades. Let's linger on The Queen of Spades (Pique Dame) for a moment. That baritone aria, OH THAT BARITONE ARIA. It's like heaven wrapped in chocolate...especially when Mr. Hvorostovsky is singing it!

Oh, that Tchaikovsky. Never fails to amaze.

Happy Listening!!!! =)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Rataplan! Rataplan! Rataplan!

La Fille du Regiment
Gaetano Donizetti
May 2nd, 2008

My dad said that it was the single best opera performance he had ever been to in his life. In his entire life. I had to think for a minute when he said this, but after a while I nodded and said, "I might have to agree with you."

It might not have been as emotionally or operatically draining as the day I saw Otello and Carmen within a few hours of each other. It might not have been as... Actually... You know, I think maybe it was. There are no exceptions to this rule (so far). Juan Diego Florez and Natalie Dessay (along with the rest of the cast) blew the roof off of the Met like I have never seen before. Every aria, duet, trio, or ensemble was greeted with ovations that were twice as long, or more, as one would usual hear. I have never heard an audience react like that. Not only to "Ah mes amis" (for which there was no encore, but the ovation went on for longer than at the HD!) but for all of Natalie's arias, JDF's second act aria, and everything else.
Speaking of Juan Diego Florez's second act aria... that Db was out of this world. It's still ringing in my ears. What. A. Voice. He played his character as a country bumpkin. Sort of nerdy, but it worked. When he was running on stage for the first act duet, he tripped on the clothes line and slid down the stage. A little unprepared humor. Natalie Dessay acted the daylights out of that role! She sang so masterfully! The most glorious sounds came out of her mouth while she was a) lying on her back b) peeling potatoes c) folding laundry, and d) being carried around the stage. I've never seen anything like it. Her mumbling to the audience in the first act was really funny. I could hardly hear her, but I'm not sure you're supposed to.
Felicity Palmer, Alessandro Corbelli, Marian Seldes, what more is there to say? Palmer and Corbelli sounded just as wonderful as in the broadcast. No disappointments there. Madame Seldes's humor seemed less over the top in the house. However, the "bobsled team" was funny only once. Her French might not have improved, but she was so funny and what a presence! (Note: I think she was miked. I'm not sure, I could be wrong.)
Notable Notables: Donald Maxwell as Hortensuis. While I think the HD suited him better, he brought a lot to his character and made it so funny. The french horn player, who has a solo in the overture. I love the french horn and when it sounds like that it really takes you to a different place. I loved it.
One of my favorite parts was the trio "Tous les trois reunis" not only because the music is so fabulous, but the staging for it was funny and clever. Natalie had to correct the audience with a shake of her finger when they (some, not all) applauded at the wrong times. I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, but when Sulpice (aka Corbelli) sings "Ecoutez moi!" and the others start singing while he holds it you could have knocked me down with a feather. I love when composers do that. It's so fulfilling!
The chorus and orchestra were once again phenomenal. Marco Armiliato really knows his stuff. He always seems like he's having a great time.

I had to mentally prepare myself during intermission to enter the Belmont Room. We had two passes, but I was so nervous! My dad says I'm impressed too easily, but all of those knowledgeable people in there are quite frightening. It turns out they're not that bad, but they did stare at me a great deal, being the youngest person there by far. It's such a lovely room and it looked like there were original manuscripts of something, but I couldn't get close enough to see.
We usually drive to and from the Met, but this time we took the train. In the subway there was a flute player playing "Ah, mes amis." I've heard stories about the flute player, but I'd never seen him. I gave him a big salute and enjoyed the music for the rest of the wait.

If only all performances could be that amazing. After a performance like that you feel like you've really accomplished something. Even though you were not in the show, the audience is a part of it. THE most important part of it. Usually I'm very jumpy and giggly after an opera, but this time I was very calm. I thought to myself "Wow, I've really seen something great. I've accomplished something." It's a good feeling.

Happy Listening!!! =)