Thursday, August 20, 2015

Katia Ricciarelli Claims Gambling Keeps Her Calm & Serene

Opera Zenith: Katia Ricciarelli with Plácido Domingo in 1972 when they recorded duets together for RCA.
In a recent telephone interview, soprano Katia Ricciarelli admitted that going to the casino keeps her in a wonderful state, unless she gets asked for an autograph: "'Spero ancora nell'amore e non chiedetemi autografi mentre sono al video poker.' La cantante, ospite del programma radiofonico I Radioattivi, rinnega di avere il vizio del gioco e specifica che è solo un divertimento, perché 'mi dà adrenalina come il gioco ai bambini ma non sono malata, non lo pratico per mesi. Tra tutti i giochi mi diverto solo con il video poker, mi dà calma e serenità ma purtroppo ti vengono a chiedere gli autografi e in quel caso guardo tutti con occhi cerulei.'" [Source] Listen to the full interview, and hear a recording of the soprano's professional debut from 1969, after the jump. 

Learn more about the diva's journey from poverty
to performing on the great opera stages of the
world by purchasing her book here.
"Born at Rovigo, Veneto, to a very poor family; she struggled during her younger years when she studied music. She studied at the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory in Venice, won several vocal competitions in 1968, and made her professional debut as Mimì in La bohème in Mantua in 1969, followed by a 1970 appearance in Il trovatore in Parma. In the following year, she won RAI's 'Voci Verdiane' award. Between 1972 and 1975, engagements followed in the major European and American opera houses, including Lyric Opera of Chicago (1972); Teatro alla Scala (1973); Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1974); and the Metropolitan Opera in 1975. In 1981, she began a decade-long association with the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, thus broadening her repertoire of Rossini's operas. Beside her many opera performances, she also appeared as Desdemona in Franco Zeffirelli's film version of Verdi's Otello in 1986, alongside Plácido Domingo. In 2005 she won the best actress prize Nastro d'Argento, awarded by the Italian film journalists, for her role in Pupi Avati's La seconda notte di nozze. In 1991 she founded Accademia Lirica di Katia Ricciarelli, and, since 2003, she has been Artistic Director of the annual summer Macerata Opera Festival. In 2006 she participated in the reality show La fattoria (Italian version of The Farm) on Canale 5. In 1986 on her 40th birthday, she married Pippo Baudo, a television personality, and filed for divorce in the summer of 2004." [Source]

DG Will Release Rufus Wainwright Opera "Prima Donna"

The 2-CD set will be available September 11, 2015.
Pre-order your copy here.
"Prima Donna is an opera composed by Canadian-American singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright to a French language libretto which he co-authored with Bernadette Colomine. It is about 'a day in the life of an aging opera singer,' anxiously preparing for her comeback in 1970s Paris, who falls in love with a journalist. It premiered at the Palace Theatre, Manchester on July 10, 2009 during the Manchester International Festival. The U.S. premiere was presented by New York City Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on February 19, 2012. In March 2014, Wainwright began raising funds via PledgeMusic to record a two-disc album recording of the opera."...."It is vitally important to me that Prima Donna be properly recorded and released so that I can tour a concert version of it in the coming year, and I have decided to do this with the help of both PledgeMusic and the incredible BBC Symphony Orchestra which in turn requires your generous support. Quality studio opera recordings are extremely expensive and too time consuming to pull off these days, and it seems that a once vibrant recording industry is no longer what it was and new methods are needed to get the music out. Though sad, the upside is that everyone in the field agrees that this is a great time to bring the audience into the wonders of the creative process and the myriad of stages the recording of an opera requires. Exciting rehearsals, deep conversations, strange and colorful characters, not to mention many a silly moment, all of this I’m truly excited to experience with you until that glorious moment when the conductor, myself the composer, the orchestra, the singers and the recording crew turn on the red light and put down for posterity my first magnum opus, Prima Donna." [SourceSource] Watch a video interview with Rufus Wainwright discussing how he came up with the concept, as well as footage from the BAM performances, after the jump.
Composer Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna was inspired by an interview he saw of Maria Callas. 

Wallis Giunta Profile: More Than A Queen Of The Night In Opera

Glamorama: Wallis Giunta captures a styling moment before a high-style photo shoot. (Photo: Facebook)
"This month, the mezzo sings Tiffany in Adams’s I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky for her Rome debut. Wallis Giunta’s mezzo boasts a silvery top and a hearty midrange, both deployed with crisp diction in an ever-growing repertoire of modern and classic roles. In November, she makes her German debut as Cherubino at Oper Leipzig, where her other assignments through June are Rossini’s Angelina, Siébel in Faust and even a Valkyrie. A July debut in Frankfurt, as Mercédès in Carmen, follows. An alum of the Met’s Lindemann Program, which she completed in 2013, the Canadian began her studies in Ottawa and Toronto, where her first undergrad assignments were quintessential soprano roles — Mozart’s Queen of the Night and Susanna. Now, she says, 'I have high notes, but I can’t live there. It’s not that I have a bad technique and I’m actually a soprano in hiding. The most colorful part of my voice is the middle. So if anyone ever says to me, ‘I think you’re a soprano,’ I say, ‘Well, yes, I am. A mezzo-soprano is just a different kind of soprano, and that’s the kind I am.'" [Source] Watch a video of Wallis Giunta singing "Parto, parto," from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito, after the jump.

Sydney Opera House Architect Reminisces About Construction

Australia's most famous building now is popular for architectural projection mapping on the iconic rooftop.
Famous Builder: Architect John Zaat
"'I JUST got lucky, I suppose ... but it was absolutely mind blowing, being involved in the design of one of the great buildings of the world.' Rosebank man John Zaat was one of the architects who worked on the iconic Sydney Opera House. As a young graduate in 1966, it was a life-changing opportunity for him, and it's a story he loves to share with fellow members of U3A Northern Rivers (Lismore). Mr Zaat is the current president of the group. Although he doesn't run any of his own classes, he regularly speaks about his time working on the opera house and what it meant for his career in architecture. 'Eleven years of my career were spent on that building,' he said. 'I first started work on the initial design in 1966 ... it was my job to design the ceiling in the concert hall. Then in the 1990s I worked on the upgrade program, which was a $120 million program.'" [Source]

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Röschmann And Uchida Follow Up Carnegie Concert With Recording

In April 2014, Carnegie Hall presented a recital of two legendary interpreters: "The superstar team of soprano Dorothea Röschmann and pianist Mitsuko Uchida performs love songs by Schumann and Berg. Schumann’s great love for Clara Wieck is at the heart of this Liederkreis, songs he described in a letter to her as his 'most romantic music ever, with much of you in it.' His marriage to Clara might have inspired his song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, a celebration of a woman’s devotion to her husband. Schumann’s piano mastery is evident throughout, as the instrument is given a more prominent role than ever before heard in the song literature. Berg offers a fevered view of love in his impassioned Seven Early Songs." [Source] Following the high praise for the performance in New York, Decca releases a full recording of the repertoire. International release date is set for October 2, 2015. See a complete track list for the recording, and watch a video of Dorothea Röschmann discuss working with Mitsuko Uchida, after the jump.

Julia Lezhneva Dominates Händel In Fall 2015 Release From Decca

As a follow-up to her Decca debut in 2013, Julia Lezhneva's next release will be an all-Händel disc that drops in October. Similar to the first disc, which featured motets of Händel, Mozart, Porpora, and Vivaldi, this new recording keeps the young Russian star focusing on Baroque. During 2014, the soprano toured with Il Giardino under the direction of Giovanni Antonini in a concert titled "Händel's Italy" that featured works written by the composer between 1706-1710 while in the country, including the operas Rodrigo and Agrippina as well as the oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, all of which are featured on the new release. Adding other works written during that time such as the sacred oratorio La Resurrezione, the psalm Dixit Dominus, the antiphon Salve Regina, and the secular cantata Apollo e Dafne, completes the experience of Händel's time in Italy. Like the first disc and the international tour, she is accompanied by one of the world’s leading early music ensembles, Il Giardino Armonico, conducted by Giovanni Antonini. See the full track list, as well as videos of Julia Lezhneva singing Händel, after the jump.


Five-Hour Porpora Opera Staged At Innsbruck Festival Of Early Music

Lengthy Drama: Rosmonda (Klara Ek), Arminio (David 
Hansen), and Segeste (Carlo Vincenzo Allemano)
in Porpora's Il Germanico.
"Le chef italien Alessandro De Marchi exhume un ouvrage ambitieux au Festival de musique ancienne d’Innsbruck. Il Germanico fut créé en 1732 à Rome, et c’est la première fois qu’il est rejoué. Cinq heures de musique, et deux entractes. Vous pensez à Wagner, bien sûr, mais non! L’opéra Il Germanico de Nicola Porpora n’avait jamais été joué depuis sa création, à Rome, en 1732. Sa renaissance fait l’événement au Festival de musique ancienne d’Innsbruck, où le public a réservé une standing ovation au chef Alessandro De Marchi et aux six chanteurs réunis pour cet opera seria sur fond de lutte politique....La mezzo irlandaise Patricia Bardon chante le rôle-titre. Sa voix homogène et très expressive sert magnifiquement le général romain. Le contre-ténor australien David Hansen campe Arminio. Il se montre très engagé scéniquement, prêt à prendre des risques, mais la voix n’est pas idéale. L’émission est serrée, d’où des acidités dans l’aigu. Sa diction en italien mériterait d’être travaillée. Il gagne pourtant en aisance au fil du spectacle. Son grand air de lamentation, au cœur de l’opéra («Parto, ti lascio»), est digne des plus beaux moments chez
Powder His Wig: David Hansen (second from left) as Arminio 
at the Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik.
Haendel. Le ténor italien Carlo Vincenzo Allemano (qui n’a peut-être pas le plus beau timbre) incarne un Segeste très alerte. La soprano suédoise Klara Ek présente un timbre gracieux et souple en Rosmonda. La jeune mezzo Emilie Renard (Ersinda) est aussi bonne comédienne qu’excellente cantatrice. Le contre-ténor Hagen Matzeit (Cecina) se montre un peu imprécis dans certains ornements, maniéré par moments, mais il chante avec une belle musicalité. Le duo qu’il forme avec Emilie Renard est attendrissant. Entre grâce mélodique et élan solaire, cet opéra méritait une renaissance. Il donne une image plus complète de Porpora que l’on résume trop facilement à un compositeur purement intéressé par la pyrotechnie vocale. Alessandro De Marchi creuse les nuances et façonne des couleurs à la tête de l’Academia Montis Regalis. On est loin d’un ouvrage mineur d’un petit maître, même si on n’y atteint pas l’inspiration d’un Haendel dans ses plus grands opéras." [Source] And if you're wondering what team David Hansen might play on, the answer is after the jump.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Opera News Cover Revamp Resembles Vanity Fair Magazine

Opera News magazine has revealed a new cover layout with its September 2015 issue featuring soprano Diana Damrau. In an attempt to make the magazine more relevant to the popular masses, they may have taken a page out of Vanity Fair's typography handbook. Most notably is putting Ms. Damrau's given name in larger print while putting her surname in italics, which just inverts the concept VF uses. It's easy to compare with several other recent issues of VF and
almost feels like ON has lost its own unique identity. Even going back as far as 1990 when Madonna graced the VF cover with her pearls and plunging neckline like Ms. Damrau in the current ON issue. The Metropolitan Opera Guild publication has typically debuted a new wordmark every decade since its inception in 1936. The latest may be coming a bit early, but it might have something to do with the recent addition of publisher Diane Silberstein in May 2014. Perhaps the new look will help the magazine to gain attention on newstands for as long as it continues to remain in print before going strictly digital. Below are some of the most recent wordmarks over the last 20 years. Take an historical look back at the Opera News cover changes from the last 79 years, after the jump.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Canadian Rock Singer Peaches Secretly Likes To Sing Opera

Rock Opera: Merrill Beth Nisker, aka Peaches, can bring operatic flair to the rock world.
Controversial electronic artist Peaches, from Canada, releases her sixth album, Rub, in September. She has a new single, "Light In Places," out now, and will tour later this year:

IT'S BEEN SIX YEARS SINCE YOUR LAST RECORD, I FEEL CREAM. WHY THE BREAK? 
I was tired of that cycle of making an album and touring for two years, and then doing it again. There's no life in between, and no chance to do anything else.

YOU SANG AN ITALIAN OPERA IN THE MEANTIME? 
Yes, and did my own version of Jesus Christ Superstar, called Peaches Christ Superstar. I was really pushing myself as a singer, and I didn't really want to have to change my attitude to music, just to pacify my guilty pleasure of singing opera. I had to find another way to do it.  [Source]

"Merrill Beth Nisker (born 11 November 1968), better known by her stage name Peaches, is a Canadian electronic musician and performance artist who lives in Berlin, Germany. Her songs are noted for disregarding traditional gender norms, and for their use of sexually explicit lyrics. She plays her own instruments for her songs, programs her own electronic beats, and produces her own albums. Her songs have been featured in movies such as Mean Girls, Waiting..., Jackass Number Two, My Little Eye, Drive Angry, and Lost in Translation. Her music has also been featured on television shows such as Lost Girl, The L Word, Ugly Betty, South Park, 30 Rock, True Blood and has been used for the promotion of Dirt. Peaches performed guest vocals on Pink's album Try This, on the song "Oh My God", on the Chicks on Speed album 99 Cents, on the song "We Don't Play Guitars", on Christina Aguilera's 2010 album Bionic, on the song "My Girls" (which was produced and co-written with Le Tigre), and recently on Major Lazer's 2013 album Free the Universe on the song "Scare Me" featuring Timberlee." [Source]

Watch a live performance of the most famous song from Peaches, after the jump.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Legendary Lyric Soprano Kathleen Battle Celebrates Birthday

Today marks Kathleen Battle's 67th birthday. Celebrate by listening to audio clips and reading about her life by clicking here.

Anna Netrebko & Yusif Eyvazov Attend Domingo 40th Anniversary

Anna Netrebko and fiancé Yusif Eyvazov attend the 40th Anniversary of Plácido Domingo's Salzburg Festival stage debut. Performers for the July 30 concert included Maria Agresta, Ana María Martínez, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Rolando Villazón. See a photo of the singers on stage from the Gala, after the jump.

Renée Fleming Has Given Berg To The World For 30 Years On Disc

Modern Medium: Renée Fleming performs with the Emerson String Quartet
Soprano Renée Fleming is known for singing the Germanic repertoire of Richard Strauss, but it is the music of Alban Berg that continue to surprise audiences with its intensely difficult vocal line and soaring range. Her first foray into the recorded repertoire of Berg began in 1996 when
she partnered with The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the direction of James Levine to record "Lied der Lulu" from Lulu Suite and excerpts from Wozzeck for Sony Classical. The next installment of the 20th century composer came when Ms. Fleming collaborated with Claudio Abbado and the Vienna Philharmonic for a live recording of the Sieben frühe Lieder in 2005. A decade later, she is releasing a new disc  accompanied by the Emerson String Quartet: "This release unites on record for the first time Americas reigning star soprano Renée Fleming and its premier string quartet, The Emersons, to take us on a journey into the twilight world of Vienna in the 1920s and 30s in music imbued with late romanticism and burgeoning modernism. Berg's Lyric Suite is a work of intricate, complexity believed to have a secret
dedication and to outline a secret programme relating to Berg's affair with Franz Werfels sister (Werfel was married to Mahler s widow, Alma). Theodor Adorno called the work a latent opera and in its sixth and final movement, the Largo desolato, Berg introduces the soprano voice and quotes Wagner's Tristan motif to evoke his doomed, impossible love. This was still secessionist Vienna: a world of paintings by Klimt, psychoanalysis by Freud and a musical life where you could hear Bruno Walter conduct Mahler and Clemens Krauss lead the operas of Richard Strauss. Egon Welleszs highly expressive setting of Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning was one of the last works he completed before leaving Austria ahead of the Anschluss in 1938. It is heard here in its original version for soprano and string quartet. Barrett-Browning was one of the most popular English poets of the Victoria era, although Wellesz turned to
German translations by Rainer Maria Rilke for his setting. Renée Fleming is famed for her intense and luxurious (Evening Standard) performances of Richard Strauss and Korngold, Berg and Mahler. Her sumptuous sound is uniquely suited to this repertoire. As Edward Seckerson wrote of her fin de siècle recital at the Barbican in 2012: 'We were back in Viennas golden age and it seemed like that was where she had always belonged.'" The disc will be released internationally on September 11, 2015. Pre-order your copy here. [Source] See the full track list, watch a video of Renée Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet performing Berg's Lyric Suite, and see more photos, after the jump.

In Session: Renée Fleming recording Alban Berg with the Emerson String Quartet

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

"Mission: Impossible" Gets The (Vienna State) Opera Treatment

Soprano Lise Lindstrom has sung the title role of Puccini's Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Les Choregies d'Orange, and many other opera companies around the world. (Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)
Critic Alex Ross brilliantly covers the classical music-infused sequences of the new Tom Cruise thriller Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. From opening scenes featuring Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro overture to extended excerpts of Puccini's Turandot. Although actors portray the opera roles of Turandot (America Olivo) and Caláf (Jesus Alvarez), the parts are sung here by Lise Lindstrom and Gregory Kunde under conductor Philippe Auguin (played by Nicholas Lupu in the film). Most of the action takes place at the Vienna State Opera. There's even a splash of Beethoven's Eroica Symphony thrown in for classical good measure. And it is probably no coincidence that the femme fatale of the film, played by Rebecca Ferguson, is named Ilsa Faust. Hélas, no Gounod is found in the film. Read the entire review by clicking here. Watch a clip of Lise Lindstrom singing the role of Turandot, after the jump.
Tom Cruise as the indestructible Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation.

Renée Fleming Previews The Set Of "Bel Canto" For LOC

Soprano Renée Fleming was the inspiration for
Ann Patchett's diva in her novel Bel Canto.
"In this interview with Chicago Tonight's Eddie Arruza, Renée Fleming visits the set of Bel Canto, a new opera by composer Jimmy López and librettist Nilo Cruz, that she has curated for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and which will be premiered on December 7, 2015." Watch the video interview, the LOC announcing the world premiere of the opera, and a behind-the-scenes photo, after the jump. "Ann Patchett's best-selling novel Bel Canto took the literary world by storm — now, in a new work curated by Lyric's creative consultant, Renée Fleming, this riveting story inspired by a real-life event becomes a powerful opera. Superstar American diva Roxane Coss has flown to Peru to sing at the vice president's home for a visiting Japanese mogul who is an opera buff. Dignitaries of every nationality are there — but an international crisis explodes when terrorists storm the mansion and take everyone hostage. Isolated for months, unlikely alliances form between captors and captives as fear and anger mingle uneasily with desire and even love. Music is the one universal language — but can it draw forth the humanity that exists in us all? An extraordinary international cast is led by Danielle de Niese, who caused a sensation as Lyric's Cleopatra in 2007. Sir Andrew Davis teams up with Kevin Newbury (Anna Bolena) for this world premiere with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz and music by Jimmy López, a native of Peru and 'one of the most interesting young composers anywhere today.' Chicago Sun-Times" [Source] For more information about the opera, click here.
The Team Behind Bel Canto: (back row left to right) LOC General Director Anthony Freud; Curator, Creative Consultant, and Soprano Renée Fleming; Conductor Sir Andrew Davis; (front row left to right) Director Kevin Newbury; Composer Jimmy López

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lauren Flanigan Will Lease $3.6 Million Harlem Mansion For Music

Headmistress: Soprano Lauren Flanigan
"It's a throwback to a time when Harlem was still a rural village and not yet legally part of the city. An old clapboard house, widely considered to be the oldest single-family home still occupied in Harlem, has been sold for $3.6 million to a new owner who plans to turn it into a home and practice facility for struggling young musicians, the Daily News has learned. The famed wooden property, at 17 E. 128th St., dates back to 1864 and is one of the few surviving frame houses in the neighborhood. It was landmarked by the city in 1982. The new owner, San Francisco-based e-commerce executive Jack Stephenson, told the Daily News that he plans to lease the property to his friend, famed opera singer Lauren Flanagan [sic]. Flanagan will turn the house into a new location for Music & Mentoring House, a not-for-profit organization providing upscale affordable housing and mentoring to students studying in the arts.'She takes music students in a gives them room and board, feeds them, makes their beds and
The new Harlem location for Music & Mentoring House
 is in the center with the green stairs.
gives them instruction in music,' Stephenson said. 'There are boot camps and classes on how to get by in the business and she invites many famous friends like Stephen Schwartz, who wrote the musical Wicked to come talk to them.'....The stunning French Second Empire-style home has five bedrooms, four bathrooms, six working marble fireplaces and a country kitchen that leads outside into a garden. The house has remained the same, even as the neighborhood has grown and evolved around it and still has its original veranda, a pair of doudle-leaf Itlaianate doors, wood-framed windows and a sloping mansard roof." [Source] For an in-depth study of the past property owners, including Carol Adams who was once a famous member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, click here. More photos of the house can be found after the jump.

Monday, July 27, 2015

MET On Demand Skips Popular Streaming Providers For Roku

Opera On Demand: A snapshot of the MET Roku channel
Rather than joining powerful on-demand Internet streaming media provider Netflix, which has 26 million subscribers worldwide and is available to viewers in North America, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and parts of Europe (Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Ireland and United Kingdom), the Metropolitan Opera has decided to create their own subscription service channel on Roku. Typically Netflix partners with content providers to license streaming rights for movies or television shows. Perhaps the blockbuster company had no interest in negotiating with the MET for their content? Or maybe the opera company thought their revenue stream could potentially be higher going their own route? It's not clear what the motivation might be in choosing to go with Roku. Users must first purchase a Roku plaer. Three options of players are available: Roku 1 (Basic Player) - $49.99; Roku 2 (Lightning Fast Performance) - $69.99; and Roku 3 (Fully Loaded) - $99.99. The second step will be to pay the $14.99/month subscriber fee for the MET Opera on Demand channel. Roku recommends a minimum download speed of 3.0 Mbps for HD content from your cable service to get optimum quality when viewing streams. The Roku Streaming Player does give full access to free channels such as AthiestTV, Crackle, Jewelry Television, and YouTube. Other premium channels like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Vudu must be paid for separately. "Met Opera on Demand delivers instant streaming of more than 550 full-length Metropolitan Opera performances on