From March, 2011

Soprano Kiera Duffy

I met soprano Kiera Duffy for lunch yesterday at Six Feet Under to talk about her career and current role in The Atlanta Opera’s production of  Cosi fan tutte.  You can find the interview in an upcoming issue of Classical Singer.  Duffy was featured in the Susan Froemke documentary The Audition, a film which revealed the behind-the-scenes experiences of 12 finalists at the the 2007 Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions. Duffy is a lyric coloratura soprano who has the technique and musicianship to pull off challenging new music.  One such example –  a performance of Unsuk Chin’s ‘Cantatrix Sopranica” with the Los Angeles Philharmonic given immediately before her arrival in…

The Ordinariness of Opera

“Opera’s been deformed by some sort of belief that it has to be extraordinary.  And I think that what is extraordinary about the great works of art is their ordinariness.” -Jonathan Miller, British theatre and opera director, in a scene from Diva Diaries

Claus Guth’s Cosi fan tutte

Researching Cosi fan tutte for my Opera News review next month…I love this contemporary version of “Ah, guarda, sorella” from the 2009 Salzburg production – conceived by Claus Guth.

The Bel Canto Tradition

In my last post I quickly mentioned the fact that Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor is a bel canto opera.  Here’s a link to a fabulous 3-year old essay by New York Times critic, Anthony Tommasini that can serve as a primer about the bel canto tradition. Bel canto essentally means fine singing or beautiful singing. A singer who can execute this Italian style of singing can sing both sustained, legato phrases expertly as well as agile, coloratura phrases.   This vocal style is evident in the arias of Handel and Scarlatti, but is most identified with the elegant Italian vocal style of…

Metropolitan Opera Simulcast: Lucia di Lammermoor

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/26/arts/music/26lucia.html The Metropolitan Opera presented the final performance of a run of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor for its March 19 HD simulcast.    Director Mary Zimmerman incorporated a ghostly apparition during Lucia’s aria, “Regnava nel silenzio” – not outlined in the score – but as a reference to the Walter Scott novel.  It was haunting and effective to see as Lucia tells the story of the ghost of Lammermoor.  Then in the final act, after Lucia’s demise, the specter is a pale Lucia (Natalie Dessay) who helps her grieving lover Edgardo to commit suicide.  Overall the production was beautiful.  Dessay’s mad scene was riveting, but I found the rest of the stage…

Who is Mary Costa?

Recently I’ve been studying the score of Mozart’s opera Cosi fan tutte and chose my companion to be a 1954 EMI recording, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.  I love Maestro Karajan’s recording of the complete Beethoven symphonies and knew that this particular Cosi is regarded as one of his most successful Mozart endeavors on record.  The cast includes Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Nan Merriman, Rolando Panerai, Leopold Simoneau, Lisa Otto, and Sesto Bruscantini. Today, while driving, I had just listened to the Fiordiligi-Dorabella duet, “Ah, guarda, sorella”  when my two-year-old requested Sleeping Beauty.  I reluctantly switched out CDs, trading my opera for a compilation CD of “Disney’s Greatest” and fast-forwarded to track fourteen: …

Opera Requires Suspension of Disbelief…Sometimes

A Night at the Opera by William Matthews  (from Search Party: Collected Poems) “The tenor’s too fat,” the beautiful young woman complains, “and the soprano dowdy and old.” But what if Othello’s not black, if Rigoletto’s hump lists, if airy Gilda and her entourage of flesh outweigh the cello section? In fairy tales, the prince has a good heart, and so as an outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible grace, his face is not creased, nor are his limbs gnarled. Our tenor holds in his liver-spotted hands the soprano’s broad, burgeoning face. Their combined age is ninety-seven; there’s…

More about Porgy and Bess

Opera is a music drama in which all dialogue is sung.  Gershwin used the operatic convention of recitative within his Porgy and Bess in order to forward the plot of the opera.  Bess’ brief aria  “What you want wid Bess?” is preceded by sung dialogue with her old boyfriend, the drug addict and murderer, Crown.  This is one of the most expressive parts of the opera and certainly one of my favorite parts of Porgy and Bess.  Bess’ music is so sensuous and completely contradicts her text.  In this moment Bess is trying to convince Crown to leave her alone, but in the…