Friday, September 12, 2014

Callas And Tebaldi Still Rivals Thanks To Their Record Labels

In the 1950s, two sopranos reigned supreme at the premiere opera houses of the world: Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas. There was overlapping repertoire between the artists and both sang in many of the same venues. Was there a real rivalry between these ladies or was it all salaciousness spurred on by the media? "Though many of the stock obituaries of Tebaldi characterized her rivalry with Callas as trumped up by the press, there was, in fact, much truth behind it - and it says much about who Tebaldi was and what she represented. Problems started in 1950, according to Robert Levine's clearheaded book Maria Callas: A Musical Biography (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers), when the two were alternating performances of La Traviata in Rio de Janeiro. At a gala concert, they sang their scheduled arias, and despite a no-encores agreement, Tebaldi sang two. When the two appeared at social occasions, it got ugly. Later, management favored Tebaldi over Callas, and the latter was fired - no doubt traumatized. After the two became more established, Callas was quoted as saying, 'If the time comes when my dear friend Renata Tebaldi sings Norma or Lucia one night, then Violetta, La Gioconda or Medea the next - then and only then will we be rivals. Otherwise, it is like comparing champagne with cognac. No, with Coca-Cola.'" [Source] Fans became divided and the general
Diva Love: Tebaldi (left) and Callas in 1968
sentiment for hearing Verdi's La Forza del Destino at the time was: If you want to hear Leonora sung beautifully listen to Tebaldi, if you want to know the fate of Leonora listen to Callas. Whatever the real story, the true details are taken to the beyond since both have long since passed on. During their careers, the media scandals did serve to bring the two singers much more attention in the public eye. That legacy lives on. As previously announced, Warner Classics will release the complete discography of Maria Callas with a new remastering of the original tapes. Decca Classics will match that by offering a limited edition 66-disc box set of the complete Renata Tebaldi recordings for the label. The international release date is October 31, 2014. Order your copy now by clicking here. See a few more pictures of La Tebaldi after the jump.

Pavarotti Slept Here: Purchase Luciano's New York Luxury Apartment

The late tenor seen here in 1996 leaving Hampshire House
"A spacious two-bedroom co-op at the Hampshire House that captivated the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti some 30 years ago with its treehouse vistas of the entirety of Central Park is poised to enter the market at $13.7 million. The monthly maintenance fees for the 2,000-square-foot apartment, No. 2301, at 150 Central Park South between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, are $4,785. Considering that the white-brick, white-glove Hampshire House, which opened in 1937 with eye-popping interiors by the iconic Dorothy Draper, has scores of staff members looking after the needs of its residents, the monthly charge seems comparatively equitable. The 37-story apartment building, with its distinctive copper roof and twin chimneys, converted to a co-op in 1949; although its board does not frown on international buyers in search of choice pieds-à-terre, it does insist on a cash-only policy.....Mr. Pavarotti, who died at age 71 in 2007 at his main residence near Modena in northern Italy, considered the Hampshire House the favorite
A Room with a View: Pavarotti's singing spot when learning a role in NYC.
of his several pieds-à-terre, according to Ms. Mantovani, who lives in Italy, where she established a foundation after his death. The Luciano Pavarotti Foundation supports aspiring singers and musicians; the Modena residence has already been donated to the foundation, as will a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the New York apartment. (Two smaller units at the Hampshire House that Mr. Pavarotti had used to house his staff and his bodyguard have already been sold.) In an email, Ms.
Palatial Panoramic: A Central Park view fit for the king of the high C's
Mantovani, who married the singer in 2003, said he told her he had first been drawn to the apartment by its views, roomy layout and the fact that it was within walking distance — and eyesight — of the Met. “His favorite room was the living room with its big piano where he could rehearse and get inspired by the magnificent views of Manhattan,” she said. “He adored New York City, which he thought of as a beautiful woman.” [Source] To contact the real estate agent for purchase, click here. Serious inquiries only. More photos and the apartment floor plan are after the jump.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What The Deaths Of Magda Olivero & Licia Albanese Mean For Opera

The latin term trado has been translated into a multitude of definitions: to hand over, give up, deliver, transmit, surrender, impart, entrust, confide, leave behind, bequeath, propound, propose, teach, to hand down, narrate, recount. It served as the basis for the word we now know in the English language to be tradition. With the recent passing of Magda Olivero (age 104) and Licia Albanese (age 105), the opera world loses yet another link to the composers of the past. These were the last remaining sopranos that originated the 20th-century's verismo period and served as an essential connection to the past for future opera audiences. Once upon a time, singers worked directly with composers to tweak the characterization and often had music written specifically for their vocal capabilities. There was something almost sacred that was being passed down for safekeeping to the following generation. Looking back over the history of slightly more than 200 years reveals a great deal about the relationship with the soprano and composer.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had soprano Caterina Cavalieri. A singing student of rival composer Antonio Salieri, Mozart wrote the role of Konstanze in his Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail for the soprano which she premiered on July 16, 1782. On May 7, 1788, Cavalieri sang the role of Donna Elvira in the Vienna premiere of Mozart's Don Giovanni. Other works by Mozart written for her are Davide penitente (1785) and the role of Mademoiselle Silberklang in Der Schauspieldirektor (1786). Gioachino Rossini had Isabella Colbran. Born in Madrid, she studied under Girolamo Crescenti in Paris. The dramatic coloratura soprano first met Rossini in Naples where he composed the title role of Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra especially for her in 1815. She went on to sing the lead roles in his operas Otello, Armida, Mosè in Egitto, Ricciardo e Zoraided, Ermione, La donna del lago, Maometto II, and Zelmira. He eventually married the soprano in 1822 when they moved to Bologna and she sang the last role composed specifically for her, the title role in Semiramide, before the couple split in 1837. After her death, Rossini continued to credit her as being the greatest interpreter of his music. Gaetano Donizetti had Giuditta Pasta. Italian by birth, Pasta studied in Milan with Giuseppe Scappa, Davide Banderali, Girolamo Crescentini, and Ferdinando Paer, among others. She sang regularly in London, Paris, Milan and Naples between 1824 and 1837. Donizetti wrote two roles specifically for the soprano: the title roles in Anna Bolena and Amina in Bellini's La sonnambula (Vincenzo Bellini even wrote Norma for the soprano). She later taught singing with such notable students as Emma Albertazzi, Marianna Barbieri-Nini, and Adelaide Kemble. Pasta retired at her Lake Como villa and in Milan, where she devoted herself to advanced vocal instructions until her death in 1865. Giuseppe Verdi had several leading ladies to premiere his works, including Marcella Lotti della Santa (Aroldo), Teresa Stolz (La Forza del Destino, Aida), Marie Sasse (Don Carlos), Fanny Salvini-Donatelli* (La Traviata), Antonietta Marini-Rainieri (Oberto, Un giorno di regno), Teresa Ruggeri (I Lombardi), Marianna Barbieri-Nini (I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il corsaro) and Sophie Cruvelli (Les vêpres siciliennes). Many of these women were either his mistresses or, in the case of Giuseppina Strepponi (Nabucco), his wife.  Richard Wagner had Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. The German soprano combined a rare quality of tone with dramatic intensity of expression, which was as remarkable on the concert platform as in opera. She created several roles for Wagner Adriano (Rienzi), Senta (Der Fliegende Holländer), and Venus (Tannhäuser). She was to have also done a premiere turn as Elsa (Lohengrin) in 1849, but politics intervened. After her death, a two-volume work entitled Memoiren einer Sängerin was released that were reportedly her erotic memoirs.
Then came the verismo composers: Giordano, Alfano, Mascagni and Cilèa. Magda Olivero often had roles created for her by these composers. Thirty-one of the forty-four composers whose operas Olivero sang during her career were still alive when she began to study. Licia Albanese sang the role of Cio-Cio San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly in over 300 performances. One of her early teachers, Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi, was a contemporary of the composer. "In opera, verismo (meaning 'realism', from Italian vero, meaning 'true') was a post-Romantic operatic tradition associated with Italian composers. They sought to bring the naturalism of influential late 19th-century writers such as Émile Zola and Henrik Ibsen into opera. The style began in 1890 with the first performance of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, peaked in the early 1900s, and lingered into the 1920s. The style is distinguished by realistic – sometimes sordid or violent – depictions of everyday life, especially the life of the contemporary lower classes. It by and large rejects the historical or mythical subjects associated with Romanticism. The Italian verismo composers comprised a musicological group known in its day as the giovane scuola ('young school'). The most famous composers who created works in the verismo style were Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano and Francesco Cilea. There were, however, many other veristi: Franco Alfano, Alfredo Catalani, Gustave Charpentier (Louise), Eugen d'Albert (Tiefland), Ignatz Waghalter (Der Teufelsweg and Jugend), Alberto Franchetti, Franco Leoni, Jules Massenet (La Navarraise), Licinio Refice, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (I gioielli della Madonna), and Riccardo Zandonai."
Today we have a singer like Dawn Upshaw who has championed the composers of the late 20th-century and nurtured the type of relationship with them that harkens back centuries. Many of the composers include Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, and Kaija Saariaho, Henryk Górecki, and David Bruce. Some have even written works specifically for her throughout the last decade. But what of the Mozart, Puccini, Donizetti, Rossini, and Bizet, works that remain the most performed in United States opera companies today? Who is left among the living, that is the closest connection to these composers, that can pass on the tradition to future opera singers? On December 2, the great Maria Callas would have turned 91. As the younger generation seeks out advice from living sources that either worked with composers or had teachers that were living at the time 19th and 20th century music was written, it's easy to see the list is quite extensive. Imagine Patricia Racette working characterization on Carlisle Floyd's Susannah with the originator of the role Phyllis Curtin; Christine Goerke coaching the title role of Strauss's Elektra with Inge Borkh; Anna Netrebko seeking advice from Leontyne Price who sang the role of Leonora in Il Trovatore around the world; Pumeza Matshikiza having a working session with Mattiwilda Dobbs about her early studies with Pierre Bernac and his work with Reinhold von Warlich; or Kathleen Kim asking about the over 60 roles that coloratura Renée Doria performed during her career. Check out the formidable soprano legends that new singers should be clamoring to work with on music, after the jump. 
[Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source]

*also sang the following Verdi roles during her career: Mina (Aroldo), Gulnara (Il corsaro), Lucrezia (I due Foscari), Elvira (Ernani), Giovanna (Giovanna d'Arco), Giselda (I Lombardi), Lady Macbeth (Macbeth), Amalia (I masnadieri), Desdemona (Otello), Gilda (Rigoletto), Violetta (La traviata), and Leonora (Il trovatore).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Operatic Connections Run Deep For "The Strain" On FX Networks

More menacing than Vincent Price: Jonathan Hyde
as Stoneheart Group CEO Eldritch Palmer. But
where did this character get his name?
"The Strain is an American vampire horror–drama television series that premiered on FX on July 13, 2014. It was created by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, based on their novel trilogy of the same name. Del Toro and Hogan wrote the pilot episode, 'Night Zero,' which del Toro directed. A thirteen-episode first season was ordered on November 19, 2013. The pilot episode premiered at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas, in early June 2014....On August 6, 2014, FX renewed The Strain for a 13-episode second season, with production set to begin in November 2014." [Source] The only way to make a television series about vampires and the holocaust more dramatic, is to score it with hints of opera and classical music. The show has thrown brief sound clips into scenes specific to two characters: Eldritch Palmer and Thomas Eichorst.
One German-composer-loving Nazi vampire:
Richard Sammel as Thomas Eichorst
The composers approved by the Nazi regime during WWII (a theme used heavily in the show) were Ludwig van Beethoven, Richard Wagner, and Anton Bruckner. So far, we've gotten some Beethoven and Viennese composer Mozart in the first nine episodes. It will come as no surprise if the other Germanic composers make an appearance later in the series. Beyond the music clips, there are many other real-life opera connections to the lead actor in the show and his character's name as well. 
Read all about the opera connections surrounding the series, and listen to music presented in the show, after the jump.  The Strain airs Sunday nights at 10:00 PM ET/PT, only on FX. Watch the full episodes of The Strain by clicking here. [Source, Source]

Monday, September 8, 2014

San Francisco Gala Beauty Captured By Photographer Jason Henry

With couture by Lela Rose, Tom Ford, Pierre Cardin, Carolina Herrera, Nina Ricci, Badgley Mischka, Marchesa, Herve Leger, and Oscar de la Renta, dominating the scene at the 2014 San Francisco Opera Gala, it's likely the real star was photographer Jason Henry who captured much of the festivities for the Chronicle. The San Francisco Opera opened its 92nd season with a cocktail reception, dinner, a performance of Bellini's Norma and an after party. An important element to major events is to document the evening with images that show who attended and which designer they chose to wear for the occasion. However, it takes true talent to give the viewer a real sense of being taken on a journey and truly feel the atmosphere of a room through a camera lens. Jason Henry does exactly this through his impeccable photos that feel whimsical, artistic, and focused, all at the same time. Below is a sampling from the evening [click images to enlarge]. Unfortunately the gallery lacks photos of the singers Jamie Barton (Adalgisa), Marco Berti (Pollione), and Sondra Radvanovsky (Norma) who performed in the opera and surely attended the post-performance festivities in their own regal garments. Go here to see the full gallery of 115 photos of attendees. More about photographer Jason Henry after the jump.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rossini Has As Much "Go Power" As Cheerios Oats From GM

"Many television commercials for Cheerios have targeted children featuring animated characters (such as an animated Honeybee). Bullwinkle was featured in early 1960s commercials; being his usual likably klutzy self; the tag line at the end of the ad being 'Go with Cheerios!' followed by Bullwinkle, usually worse for wear due to his Cheerios-inspired bravery somewhat backfiring, saying '...but watch where you're going!' Also, Hoppity Hooper was featured in ads in the mid-1960s, as General Mills was the primary sponsor of his animated program. Beginning in the mid-1950s and continuing through the early 1960s, 'The Cheerios Kid' was a mainstay in Cheerios commercials. The Kid, after eating Cheerios, quickly dealt with whatever problem presented in the commercial, using oat-produced 'Big-G, little-o' 'Go-power.' The character was revived briefly in the late 1980s in similar commercials. In 2012, The Cheerios Kid and sidekick Sue were revived in an online internet video that showed how Cheerios 'can lower cholesterol.' [Source] The new commercial from General Mills features the Guglielmo Tell (or William Tell) overture as the soundtrack, probably because the music was used for the American television show The Lone Ranger (note the correlation of the cowboy at the beginning of the ad). Watch Riccardo Muti conduct the full Guglielmo Tell overture after the jump.

A Perfect Gift For The (Loud) Opera Singer In Your Life

You can purchase a t-shirt (available in royal, black or raspberry) by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Phase 4 Stereo Revival: Eileen Farrell, Marilyn Horne & Robert Merrill

Decca Classics is scheduled to release a 41-CD box set of its Phase 4 Stereo recordings that will feature 11 first international CD releases. Choosing from over 200 albums dating back as early as 1964 when the company started recordings of big classical works for large scale symphonies, the collection features film scores, popular ballet titles, big band and light classics, alongside major piano and violin concertos. Included in the set are some vocal pieces as well. Carl Orff's Carmina Burana featuring Norma Burrowes, Louis Devos, and John Shirley-Quirk, under the direction of Antal Doráti, and Beethoven's Symphony #9 featuring Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Alexander Young, Donald McIntyre, with conductor Leopold Stokowski, have both been previously released on CD. Three other discs are coming to the market complete for the first time on CD: The Magnificent Voice of Eileen FarrellMarilyn Horne Sings Carmen and Robert Merrill: Americana. The Eileen Farrell recording totals 36 minutes and features tunes from
Broadway shows, spirituals and traditional American standards. One hopes that this will spur Sony Classics to release her other albums (originally recorded on Columbia) not previously made public like the Arias in the Grand Tradition, Carols for Christmas, This Fling Called Love, and highlights from Cherubini's Medea. Of rare interest is the disc with Marilyn Horne singing highlights from Bizet's Carmen with conductor (and then-husband) Henry Lewis. The recording features highlights from all four acts, including the title character's two big arias "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle" and "Près des remparts de Séville." Also left unreleased by Sony Classics was the recording (originally for RCA) of Marilyn Horne Sings Carmen Jones, which comes from the soundtrack of the film featuring Dorothy Dandridge for whom the mezzo dubbed the singing. The third selection found in the new box-set is Robert Merrill: Americana. Much like the Farrell album, this recording features Broadway (Oklahoma), Stephen Foster classics and traditional American
songs ("Camptown Races," "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," etc). Earlier this year, Decca released a host of treasures long in the vault. Let's hope that the executives continue to relinquish the goods. No word on whether these discs will be sold individually after the release of the box set. Listen to audio clips and see complete track list here for the Phase 4 Stereo box set. See some intriguing albums missing from the Phase 4 Stereo box set, read more about the Phase 4 Stereo history, and see the artwork for the new release, after the jump. 

Danish Symphony Orchestra Reacts To Fabio Luisi Announcement

"Fabio Luisi has been appointed Principal Conductor of the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, succeeding Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, who died earlier this year. Luisi is currently Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and General Music Director of Zurich Opera. Luisi has signed a three-year contract running from 2017-20 and said, 'I have loved the Danish National Symphony Orchestra from the first moment we worked together in 2010.'" [Source]

Rock Opera Offers New Telling Of The Psyche And Eros Story

Cast members (left to righ): Katie Kitani, Ashley Ruth Jones, Benai Alicia Boyd, Cindy Sciacca and Michael Starr. (Photo: Barry Weiss)
"For Western culture, the story of Psyche and Eros exists as a kind of mytho-religio-literary singularity, a foundational narrative of heroic romantic and erotic love whose DNA is shot through our folklore (CinderellaSleeping BeautyRumpelstiltskinBeauty and the Beast) as well as our psychoanalytic theory. But if its poetic resonances run deep, its epic jumble of capricious gods, fantastic labors, virtuous heroine and her iniquitous sisters, along with a host of anthropomorphized supporting players, proves a cumbersome and tedious tale to represent in toto even on the musical stage, at least if this premiere of composer-librettist Cindy Shapiro’s Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera is any measure. Michael Starr as Eros looks sexy enough in E.B. Brooks’ steampunk-accented costume design, and Ashley Ruth Jones as Psyche sounds pretty enough, belting her way through Shapiro’s double-album’s worth of somewhat monotonous power ballads and ethereal, hymnlike rockers (under Jack Wall’s expert musical direction). But not even director Michael Matthews’ sumptuously animated, Baroque staging (on Stephen Gifford’s architectural capriccio set, with Tim Swiss’ chiaroscuro-sculpted lights) can finally forgive Shapiro’s seemingly endless 34-song score and her over-ambitious but under-adapted book." [Source]

If you're looking for a more traditional approach, you might try the Baroque opera Psyché: "Psyché is an opera (tragédie lyrique) in a prologue and five acts composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully to a libretto by Thomas Corneille adapted from Molière's original play for which Lully had composed the intermèdes. Based on the love story of Cupid and Psyche, Psyché was premiered on April 19, 1678 by the Académie Royale de Musique at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris." [Source]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Patricia Petibon Gets Eccentric In A Very French Way For DG

"With this new record, soprano Patricia Petibon makes a welcome return to French repertoire on disc, exploring the fascinating world of French art song in this extraordinary new album, titled La Belle Excentrique. The record features all-time favourites by Satie, Fauré, Poulenc, Reynaldo Hahn, Manuel Rosenthal, but also popular hits by Léo Ferré. This selection takes the listener on an exciting journey of discovery: from the decadence of the cabarets of turn-of-the-century Paris to the melancholy of the 60s, from the eccentricity of the fin-de-siècle to modern-day spleen. This original program is a collection of often humorous and eccentric songs with a deeper subtext. Petibon is joined on this occasion by her accompanist and partner of many years,
Purchase your copy of the new disc, set to be
released September 26, by clicking here.
the superb pianist Susan Manoff, and a number of high-profile guests stemming from diverse musical backgrounds and influences, including star violinist Nemanja Radulovic and actor Olivier Py. This is a wonderful new release from one of DG’s key vocalists. Featuring music of exceptional variety and contrast, it showcases Petibon’s versatility and multi-faceted artistry in an intimate setting as never before, while paying homage to the great tradition of French mélodie and chanson." [Source] Watch the EPK video for the album, as well as a complete track list, after the jump. (Photos: Inge Prader/DG)

"Zombieland" Rule #32: Genießen Sie die kleinen Dinge

"A shy student trying to reach his family in Ohio, and a gun-toting tough guy trying to find the Last Twinkie and a pair of sisters trying to get to an amusement park join forces to travel across a zombie-filled America." The 2009 cult classic film Zombieland, from director Ruben Fleischer, features a scene where actors Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Woody Harrelson, Abigail Breslin, tear up a souvenir shop while the overture from Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro serves as the soundtrack to the scene. As the destruction is complete, the phrase "Rule #32: Enjoy the little things" pops above the screen. Watch the clip from the movie, as well as the complete overture, after the jump. [Source]