Tuesday, June 30, 2015

High-Voice Standouts At XV International Tchaikovsky Competition

Elegance. Stamina. Distinction. Power. These are all elements that can set singers apart from each other in a competition, especially when at least three people are singing "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" from Dvořák's Rusalka. As the voice division of the International Tchaikovsky Competition began on June 23, several higher voices stood out in the crowd. Here is a small sampling of some unique talent from Round 1: 
DESCRIPTION
Antonina Vesenina (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
DESCRIPTION
Yulia Matochkina (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
DESCRIPTION
Ewa Tracz (Poland)
Click here to watch performance
DESCRIPTION
Anastasia Fedorova (Russia)
Click here to watch performance
Did any of these make it to Round 2 of the competition? Find out after the jump. 

Gramophone Magazine's Editor James Jolly interviews soprano Deborah Voigt who was the first prize winner 
in the 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition and is a jury member this year. See more after the jump.
Mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina was featured in the opening concert of the competition concert in Moscow.
Click here to watch the performance.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thomas Hampson To Replace Hvorostovsky At "Summit of the Stars"

In light of yesterday's tragic news of Dmitri Hvorostovsky falling ill, Thomas Hampson will replace him on the June 27 "Gipfeltreffen der Stars" concert in Munich with Jonas Kaufmann and Anna Netrebko. "Es nennt sich 'Gipfeltreffen der Stars,' und die Veranstalter haben wohl auch recht: Mit Anna Netrebko (43) und Jonas Kaufmann (45) treten am 27. Juni zwei der größten Stars der Klassik-Szene bei einem Open-Air-Konzert auf dem Münchner Königsplatz auf. Ohne Probe funktioniert das aber auch bei den beiden Mega-Stars nicht. 'Kein Konzert ohne Probe! Selbst wenn man auf einer Tournee an zehn Abenden hintereinander dasselbe Programm singt, muss man vor jedem Konzert proben, schon weil jeder Raum eine andere Akustik hat,' sagte Kaufmann im Interview der Deutschen Presse-Agentur. 'Und bei einem technisch aufwendigen Freiluft-Konzert vor rund 15 000 Zuschauern wäre es schierer Wahnsinn, ohne Probe auf die Bühne zu gehen.' Mit Netrebko und Kaufmann zusammen tritt der Bariton Thomas Hampson auf, der den erkrankten Dmitri Chworostowski kurzfristig ersetzt." The concert will include opera highlights by Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini. Special guests include Elena Zhidkova and Ildar Abdrazakov. Click here for more information on how to watch the concert. [Source, Source]

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dmitri Hvorostovsky To Begin Immediate Treatment On Brain Tumor

UPDATE 06/30/2015: "Celebrated Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, will undergo medical treatment at one of London's cancer hospitals, a source close to the singer's family told Interfax on June 25. 'Dmitri will have a course of treatment at London's cancer hospital Royal Marsden,' the source said. It was announced on Thursday that internationally acclaimed baritone Hvorostovsky had been diagnosed with brain tumor." [Source]
==================================================================

[Source]
Watch a video of the 27-year old Dmitri Hvorostovsky at the beginning of his career singing 
"Eri tu" from Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera, after the jump.

Netflix Series "Sense8" Shoots At Harpa Hall In Reykjavík, Iceland

Tuppence Middleton  (right) as Riley Blue [née Gunnarsdóttir], stands with her father Gunar (second from left)
 getting high in front of Harpa concert hall in Iceland before the big concert.
In April 2015, Opera Fresh did a feature on architect Olafur Eliasson and his work with opera houses. Now one of his projects is featured in the newest Netflix hit series Sense8. The 12-episode series was released in its entirety on June 5. The show is shot on location in Chicago, San Francisco, London, Berlin, Seoul, Reykjavík, Mexico City, Nairobi and Mumbai. The science fiction drama web television series created, written and executive-produced by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix, Bound, Jupiter Ascending) and J. Michael Straczynski (World War Z, Changeling, They Marched into Sunlight).
Episode 10, "What is Human," features a climactic scene where Riley's father Gunar is giving a performance of the "Allegro" movement from Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 ("The Emperor") and all the sensates present recall the moment of their births. This intoxicating musical moment also triggers something in Riley and blood begins running down her face as she faints at the end of the episode. She will soon be sent to a hospital and discovered by Mr. Whispers. 
"Despite its use of simple chords, including a second theme constructed almost entirely out of tonic and dominant notes and chords, the first movement is full of complex thematic transformations. When the piano enters with the first theme, the expository material is repeated with variations, virtuoso figurations, and modified harmonies. The second theme enters in the unusual key of B minor before moving to B major and at last to the expected key of B-flat major several bars later. Following the opening flourish, the movement follows Beethoven's trademark three-theme sonata structure for a concerto. The orchestral exposition is a typical two-theme sonata exposition, but the second exposition with the piano has a triumphant virtuoso third theme at the end that belongs solely to the solo instrument. Beethoven does this in many of his concertos. The coda at the end of the movement is quite long, and, again typical of Beethoven, uses the open-ended first theme and gives it closure to create a satisfying conclusion." [Source]
More about Sense8, the actor who plays the piano-playing character of Gunar, a complete performance of Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major (Op. 73) by Krystian Zimerman, and another operatic connection to Sense8, after the jump.

You Will Celebrate At The Opera After Getting A Good Night's Sleep

A commercial celebrating the joy of a good night's sleep on a Simmons® Beautyrest® features a woman celebrating with champagne in several locations, including the opera house. It seems as though she may be watching a Gilbert & Sullivan performance or Billy Budd according to the costume of the singer onstage. Watch the commercial after the jump.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Scottish Opera Wins Cultural Award For Architectural Expansion

The exterior of the award-winning structure in Glasgow.
(click on image to enlarge)
"Scottish Opera's recently transformed performance home, Theatre Royal Glasgow, has won Cultural Building of the Year at the RIAS (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) Awards 2015. From 65 submissions across Scotland and a shortlist of 24, 12 winners were announced last night at an awards ceremony in The Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh. The judging panel of industry specialists praised Page\Park Architects’ innovative design of the building: ‘Creating a welcoming entrance foyer and embracing a dramatic, sinuous stair, this new structure boldly signposts Scottish Opera’s HQ. 'Street to seat' was the ethos, with the client wanting to literally 'open up' theatre and opera as art forms. By providing a welcoming entrance, addressing the street corner, the theatre experience has been 'democratised'.’ All the RIAS Award-winning buildings - including a nursery, a distillery and a cancer care centre - will now go forward to be considered for Britain’s richest architectural prize, the £25,000 Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, to be announced in November. RIAS was founded almost 100 years ago in 1916, and the awards, though only in their fourth year, have already become the most important recognition of architectural achievement in Scotland."

A winding staircase makes for a dramatic centerpiece.
(click on image to enlarge)
"The Theatre Royal Glasgow's stunning new foyers have won Best Leisure/Culture Building at the Scottish Design Awards 2015. Organised by The Drum magazine, the Scottish Design Awards are now in their 18th year and are Scotland’s most prestigious awards for architecture firms and design agencies. The awards aim to recognise creativity within Scotland’s design industry, with the judging panel of specialists looking for innovative pieces of work and concepts that stand out from the crowd. The awards ceremony took place on 21 May in the Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow. Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Drum Events said ‘It was an incredible night for the industry and all those involved should be proud of what they have brought to design in Scotland’." [Source]


Read the architect's concept for the expansion, and see more photos, after the jump.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Marilyn Horne Honored As Part Of Multi-Million Dollar Campaign

Mezzo del Giorno: A portrait of Marilyn Horne
from the early days of her singing career.
"The Music Academy of the West has announced its Finale Capital Campaign with a visionary goal to raise $17.5 million for two significant construction projects to renovate and improve its historic campus. The Campaign also includes funding for an instrument fund that will establish the Academy’s All-Steinway institution status and a maintenance endowment. 100% of the Academy’s Board members have participated in the Campaign, joined by support from individuals and foundations in the Santa Barbara community. $11.7 million has been raised to date to begin the renovation in August 2015; the remaining goal is $5.8 million. The historic Main House on the Miraflores campus has been named for legendary mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne with a gift of $6 million, through a $3 million matching gift challenge from long-time Academy benefactors Shirley and Seymour Lehrer. Music Academy President and CEO Scott Reed said, 'Our Campaign completes a long-term strategy to fully preserve, renovate, and expand our campus to guarantee we have world-class facilities. Our fellows arrive in Santa Barbara each summer from around the world to share their talent with us and further their artistry with our distinguished faculty. Enhancing our buildings will provide the best possible experience for our guests and our community.' The Finale campaign will support the final phase of a long-term campus renovation and construction master plan envisioned 15 years ago. The improvement of the Marilyn Horne Main House is Part One of the Finale project, with a groundbreaking in August 2015. The scope of the project includes

Bolshoi Theatre Offers Baroque Opera In 2015-16 Season

Rebecca Evans as Rodelinda in the Richard Jones production this season at ENO (Photo: Clive Barda)
"The Bolshoi Theater's 2015-2016 season, which was announced at a press conference Wednesday, will include a number of new stagings and modern productions in both opera and ballet. In the first half of the season, the Bolshoi will debut a children's opera, “The Fables of The Vixen, The Duckling, and Balda.” The production will combine three operas about fairy tales — Sergei Prokofiev's The Ugly Duckling, Igor Stravinsky's Renard, and Alexander Pravednikov's The Tale of the Priest and his Workman Balda. The opera will be conducted by Dmitry Belyanushkin, who also directed last year's children's opera The Legend of Kai and Gerda. Musical director Tugan Sokhiev told attendees at the conference that the opera will include 'interactive elements.' Also in October, the Bolshoi will premiere a program that includes both the Nutcracker Suite and the opera Iolanta, a realization of Tchaikovsky's initial plans for the two productions to be performed on a single bill. In December, the Bolshoi New Stage will feature a production of Handel's Rodelina in collaboration with the English National Opera, a rare staging of a baroque opera at the theater. In the spring, the theater will offer a new production of Donizetti's opera-buffa Don Pasquale, under the direction of Timofei Kulyabin, who was fired for his modern staging of Wagner's Tannahauser at the Novosibirsk Opera and

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Joseph Colaneri And Francesca Zambello Talk 40th Anniversary

Opera Titan: Francesco Zambello leads the
Glimmerglass Festival into its 40th Season.
(Photo: Claire McAdams)
"The Glimmerglass Festival this year seems grander than ever before. The opera company, with its Alice Busch Theater and campus on the western shore of Otsego Lake north of Cooperstown, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Artistic and general director Francesca Zambello has put together a remarkable season of events and activities, running from July 10 through August 23. Scheduled for the opening and closing performances is the familiar and beloved Mozart masterpiece, The Magic Flute. Other mainstage productions are Verdi’s dark tragedy Macbeth and an amazing unknown opera by Antonio Vivaldi, Cato in Utica. The traditional American musical theater offering is Leonard Bernstein’s witty and clever take on Voltaire’s classic short novel, Candide. Voltaire ends his philosophical reflection on the meaning of life with Candide’s words, 'we must cultivate our garden.' This year the Glimmerglass 'campus' will have a three-part modern landscape installation for sharing stories and quiet person reflection. 'A beautiful garden has both unity and variety,' Zambello says, and the golden thread running through this season is the importance and beauty of our natural surroundings....The festival will also present a lecture by Supreme Court Justice Ruth

Sotto Voce: Metropolitan Opera Launches New Website With A Whisper

The Metropolitan Opera has redesigned their website with no fanfare or press release. The old splash page existed for nearly a decade with only minor cosmetic changes including the addition of flash for advertising current or upcoming shows via rotating photos, as well as news items on a ticker that scrolled horizontally. With the new site, users experience a bit of lag in loading time due to the full-screen video playing on the landing page (currently the Die Fledermaus production from the 2013-14 season) and the high resolution photos used for the next two screens scrolling down. Subsequent screens look similar to a blogspot layout with 24-point text font size. In the previous incarnation, social
media links (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) existed prominently at the top. Makes sense for a company wanting to be relevant to the younger generation. Where are the links for its social media outlets now? At the very bottom of the site. If you are adventurous enough to find them, you will see one of the coolest features on the site: a miniature Rolex keeping your computer's time. Sponsorship never looked so good. See photos of the old websites dating back to 1997, as well as more photos of the new MET site, after the jump. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Swedish Wedding Of Prince Carl Philip Is Royal Musical Miss

Non-Operatic Pairing: Prince Carl Philip with 
his bride Sofia. See the full program of the
 wedding ceremony by clicking here.
HRH Prince Carl Philip of Sweden married Sofia Hellqvist on June 13, 2015, in The Royal Chapel of The Royal Palace. Following the footprint for the nuptials of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Silvia Sommerlath, assembling guests were treated to "compositions for Royal Weddings" by Johann Sebastian Bach, Johan Helmich Roman, and George Friederic Händel. That would be the end of the classical music for this ceremony. What followed was the inclusion of non-traditional music such as "Athair ar Neamh" by Enya for the Procession,  "Fix You" by Coldplay (sung by Salem Al Fakir) before the Intercession, and "Joyful, joyful" (sung by Samuel Ljungblahd) at the Bridal Recession. No surprise that a love of pop music runs in the family, as his parents were treated to an ABBA concert at the Royal Opera the night before their wedding in 1976. As this trend toward lack of vocal music at young royal weddings continues, will opera singers be banished from these events in the future? There is a plethora of actively performing Swedish sopranos and mezzo-sopranos that could have been engaged for this special occasion, including Anne Sofie von Otter, Miah Persson, Nina Stemme, Katarina Karnéus, Ann Hallenberg, and more. Check out videos of the country's overlooked singers (including Peter Mattei), after the jump.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Broadway's Allison Semmes Aspired To Be The Next Kathleen Battle

Lyric Aspiration: Semmes the opera singer
turned Broadway star. (Photo: Dana Scruggs)
"It’s not difficult to find songstress/actress Allison Semmes these days. Just follow the hot national touring trail of Broadway’s Motown The Musical and catch Semmes’ riveting portrayal of iconic singer Diana Ross. The stage production, which stars Semmes, musically and artistically chronicles the epic rise of Motown Records from its humble 1959 beginnings in Detroit, to how it became the world’s most storied record label. The musical comes to life with captivating portrayals of the label’s legendary singers and musicians that helped put Motown on the map, all told through the vision of the master architect, Berry Gordy, Jr....Growing up in Hyde Park on Chicago’s Southside, a young Semmes’ love for singing took many directions, inclusive of with the Chicago Children’s Choir. Semmes, who performed with the choir from the age of six to 18, developed a strong voice and love for classical music. With the choir, she performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and performed abroad. Singing in her church choir was also beneficial to Semmes’ development as a vocalist, and thanks to her parents’ vast collections of albums in jazz, blues, R&B, and heavy doses of the Motown Sound, she was able to listen to the vocal stylings and music of many artists. Yet, heading off to college, classical music charted the way for her to
Broadway Baby: Kathleen Battle performed as alternate to the
 title role in Scott Joplin's Treemonisha on Broadway 
from October - December 1975. [Source]
earn a bachelor of music degree in classical voice from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She subsequently earned a master’s degree in music with a concentration in musical theater from New York University (NYU)-Steinhardt. 'I wanted to be an opera singer. I wanted to be the next Kathleen Battle,' Semmes said, with a laugh. 'The color to her voice is so expressive and so graceful.' After college, however, Semmes headed to New York, where she began her professional stage career with Dreamgirls. Other musicals have included Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Wiz, and The Color Purple (national tour). In addition to Motown The Musical, her other Broadway credit is The Book of Mormon. Semmes is humbled by her national starring role in Motown The Musical." [Source] Watch performances of the Allison Semmes, after the jump.

Christine Goerke Gives Top Wagnerian Performance In New Zealand

Brünnhilde Ascending: Christine Goerke is quickly climbing to the summit of Valhalla. (Photo: Arielle Doneson)
Concert review for Wagner Gala featuring Christine Goerke (soprano), Simon O'Neill (tenor) with New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pietari Inkinen at Michael Fowler Centre on June 12, 2015, in Wellington: "In 2012 we had that thrilling concert performance of the second of Wagner's Ring operas Die Walkure, and two of the outstanding cast were Christine Goerke and Simon O'Neill. Now as a kind of addenda to that extraordinary experience we heard large slices of the last two Ring operas, Siegfried and Gotterdammering [sic]. I suppose there was a hint of frustration in the hour or so of each opera we heard, in that we moved from act to act, missing huge chunks that tie the operas together, and were treated to surtitles that were quaintly absurd in the manner of English translations of Wagner's words. Having said all this, though, the evening was a marvellous experience of Wagner 'writ large'; a huge orchestra with

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Peter Gelb Paid $2.1 Million As MET Opera Deficit Balloons

"The Metropolitan Opera disclosed on Friday that its general manager, Peter Gelb, earned a total of $2.1 million in salary and benefits in 2013 but said a pay cut he took last year remains in effect. Mr. Gelb’s 2013 compensation was detailed in a tax filing released by the Met at the close of a challenging period marked by labor strife and financial setbacks. The opera company’s operating budget for the 2013-14 season was $315 million, down about 3.5% from the previous season. Its deficit ballooned in the same period, rising to $22 million from $2.8 million. In December, Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the Met’s credit rating, citing a 'marked decline in liquidity' and the company’s increased reliance on an operating line of credit. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services affirmed the company’s 'A' bond rating in April but revised its

Elisabeth Söderström Singing Sibelius Made Available For Third Time

The latest release of a famous recording. Pre-order here.
Recorded at Kingsway Hall in London between December 1978 and November 1981, this set of complete songs from Jean Sibelius features baritone Tom Krause and soprano Elisabeth Söderström accompanied by pianists Irwin Gage and Vladimir Ashkenazy as well as guitarist Carlos Bonell. It won the Gramophone Award for "Solo Vocal Award" in 1985. Originally released on LP, this 4-CD set was available previously only by Universal Japan and then as part of a special limited-edition Gramophone Awards Collection series on Decca. For connoisseurs, this edition sets the standard quite high in the artistry department. Born in the Swedish-speaking region of Finland, Sibelius didn't begin to learn Finnish until age 11. His songs were made popular worldwide by opera singers Birgit Nilsson and Jussi Björling through their recitals, concerts, and recordings. Scandinavian music in general continued to be under-represented on disc until Elisabeth Söderström recorded a 1957 program of works that ranged from Erik Gustav Geijer to Ture Rangström. Since the initial release of Decca's Sibelius songs, the industry has produced a plethora of recordings featuring the composer's vocal gems interpreted by artists such as Karita Mattila, Anne Sofie von Otter, Monica Groop, Katarina Karnéus, Soile Isokoski, and Barbara Bonney.  Listen to excerpts from Sibelius: The Complete Songs by clicking hereRead a 2004 review of the Gramophone re-issue, and see the complete list of songs, after the jump. [Source, Source]