From January, 2011

Daron Hagen’s View

Seattle Opera premiered Daron Hagen’s opera Amelia in May of 2010.  Hagen is an American composer who writes not only opera and art song, but symphonies, concerti, ballets, and chamber works.  I find his words about the voice written within the liner notes of his CD “Love in a Life” incredibly sympathetic. “When a singer sings, he has nowhere to hide.  He is the matador to the listener’s bull.  A pianist can still depress the keys, a violinist still stop the strings, even a wind player can still count on the instrument to respond if they are ill.  But a…

The Golden Ticket

The Atlanta Opera just announced that its 2011-12 season will include Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, as well as a new comic opera based on the Roald Dahl children’s book Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Composer Peter Ash will conduct his new opera The Golden Ticket in Atlanta next March. There are operas about historical characters and events, fairy tales, Biblical figures, and even about celebrities.  In fact, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, is producing a new opera this month about the infamous Playboy centerfold Anna Nicole Smith!

Sopranos, Mezzos, Tenors, Baritones, and Basses – Oh My!

An opera neophyte is most likely curious about voice classification. What distinguishes a soprano from a mezzo-soprano, for example?  This is significant in the world of opera because operas are typically cast using voice type as a basis.  After a singer first meets the vocal qualifications though, he must look and act the part, catching the artistic director’s interest enough to get hired.  Bizet’s siren Carmen –  the title role in his most popular exotic opera – is a mezzo-soprano.  Mezzos are identified by their vocal range (the collection of pitches that they can sing from lowest to highest), vocal…

Two Vocal Styles, the Same Singer

Here I’ve included two videos of soprano Renee Fleming.  The first is Fleming singing Liu’s aria from Puccini’s Turandot and the second is a clip from her new Indie record, Dark Hope.   These recordings highlight a distinctive difference in vocal styles.  What are the characteristics of classical singing as opposed to a pop sound?  To quote pedagogue Richard Miller,  “Classical vocalism, as practiced in the international historic school of singing, is based on freedom of production and on certain acoustic properties of the singing voice associated  with functional efficiency.”  (On the Art of Singing, page 100)  In the first clip of the aria “Tu che di gel sei cinta”…

Getting people interested in opera…

http://www.artsjournal.com/jumper/2010/12/slow-food-a-model-for-the-arts-and-culture-sector/ The slow food industry has had to re-think its approach to branding and figure out how to redirect potential customers from the Burger King drive through back to whole food consumption.  Likewise opera organizations are always brainstorming about how to bring in new audiences.  The Metropolitan Opera’s HD simulcast is just one fabulous marketing technique, but more initiatives are needed.

Dr. Adrian’s review of North Carolina Opera’s Tosca

http://operanews.com/operanews/templates/content.aspx?id=18364 At a time when opera companies are calling it quits out of financial necessity, North Carolina Opera has emerged in Raleigh.  Here’s my review of NCO’s inaugural production starring Cynthia Lawrence, Grant Youngblood, and Steven Harrison.   Tosca RALEIGH, NC North Carolina Opera      10/17/10 North Carolina Opera — newly formed from a merger between two smaller pre-existing companies, Opera Company of North Carolina and Capital Opera Raleigh — opened its first-ever season with an inspiring production of Puccini’s Tosca (seen Oct. 17). General director Eric Mitchko kicked off the evening with a greeting to the patrons, saying, “Opera is essential. Opera…

Is there a need for arts criticism?

http://operanews.com/operanews/templates/content.aspx?id=17888 I am currently a correspondent for Opera News and have attached a link to my most recent review of The Atlanta Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme.  Is there a need for performing-arts criticism and what is its purpose?  Often reviews are helpful to those in the business who want to read about current productions, in order to keep abreast of who’s directing, conducting, and singing in them.  Listen magazine had a terrific article by Ben Finane in its Fall 2010 issue titled “Music in the afternoon.”  Finane describes how an arts critic should tell a true story of the recording or performance,…

Luciano Pavarotti is unarguably the most recognizable opera figure these days, even a year or so after his death.  Here the famous tenor sings an aria from Puccini’s Turandot, “Nessun Dorma.”

Dafne – 1597

If you’re curious about the foundations of opera and game for some not-so-light reading, peruse Donald J. Grout’s A Short History of Opera.  Not including the bibliography or extensive index, it is 728 pages long and required reading for any college voice major.  Opera wasn’t really known as “opera” until the 17th century, but Grout identifies the dramma per musica Dafne, with lyrics by Ottavio Rinuccini (1562-1621) and music by Jacopo Peri (1561-1633) and Jacopo Corsi (1561-1602) as the first.    Now – more than 400 years later – opera is not only of historical, musical, and cultural importance.  It is a fascinating pastime.  One can spend a lifetime…