Monday, July 28, 2014

Speight Jenkins Cites Hiring African-American Men As Achievement

Ringmaster: Jenkins in Seattle
"Speight Jenkins is stepping down as general director of Seattle Opera after 31 years. And among the things he’s most proud of are the productions of two successful Ring cycles, surviving the economic recession by not resorting to just producing popular operas and advancing the opportunities for African-American men. 'When Leontyne Price came to the Met Opera in 1961, it ended the problem of black women in opera. But it didn’t end the problem for black men,' Jenkins said. 'When I came to Seattle, it was still the case of black men with great voices not appearing. I think people were afraid, and I was convinced that opera should be colorblind.' Jenkins says he takes satisfaction in bringing talented African-American and Asian-American singers to local audiences over the past three decades. And he’s proud of the role the opera has had in grooming young talent. One of the most notable examples is tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who came through Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program. Jenkins says he never heard a single complaint from Seattle audiences about his casting decisions. And he predicts the ranks will continue to become increasingly racially diverse with a wave of talent coming from China." [Source]

Christine Goerke Conquers "Ariadne in Naxos" At Glimmerglass Opera

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Diva Goerke sings the title role in English
"If there’s ever a work that cried out for an English language version to give some clarity, this is it and the adaptation by Kelly Rouke works very well. The original German returns though during large portions of the second act, when soprano Christine Goerke plays the role of Ariadne. Rather than pining away from a rocky island, she’s reposed on bales of hay. Yes folks, tradition is out the window in this production by Francesca Zambello. But poking fun at the conventions of the art form is at the heart of this opera anyway. So just do your best to enjoy the mayhem and meanwhile lavish in the excellent singing. Goerke, who is this year’s artist in residence, has an enveloping voice so mammoth that it practically becomes its own stage set. There are a couple of stunning moments when she steps out of the playing space to sing from the apron of the stage. The foil to Goerke in more ways than one is the equally fine coloratura soprano Rachele Gilmore. As a nimble Zerbinetta, she easily tackles an incredibly lengthy and acrobatic vocal part. Yet another strong performance comes from mezzo Catherine Martin as the composer. Director Zambello’s fresh approach to this character draws on what’s been in Strauss’ score all along. Normally it’s a trouser role (a male character sung by a female), since a composer has to be a man, right? Well, not here. This composer is a woman, though in trousers. And true to the original work, she falls for Zerbinetta. And so at the opera’s conclusion, along side the mythic pairing of Ariadne and Bacchus there’s also a lesbian couple in a warm embrace. Kathleen Kelly conducts the Glimmerglass Orchestra with sensitivity and finesse. The imaginative costumes are by Erik Teague and the set, which grows ever more sparse throughout the night, is the work of Troy Hourie." For more information about the opera and performance schedule, click here. [Source]

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tamar Iveri Plans Charity Concert For Violence Victims

"A Georgian opera singer plans a charity concert dedicated to gays, lesbians and other sexual minorities. Tamar Iveri’s announcement in Tbilisi on Thursday comes after she was denied to perform by Opera Australia and La Monnaie of Brussels because of her alleged homophobic statements. Speaking at a press conference, Iveri said that the concert is a way to once again apologize to LGBT people for the letter which was posted to her Facebook page after the anti-gay violence on May 17, 2013. The planned concert will take place in Tbilisi on October 11, which is the National Coming Out Day (NCOD). Iveri added that the concert is to be dedicated to the victims of all kinds of violence and called on other Georgian artists to also participate. The money made on the charity concert will be spent on assisting victims of violence." [Source]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Leandra Ramm Reveals Dangerous Obsessive Stalker On TV

The real Leandra Ramm (pictured above)
suffered intense mental anguish.
"A man masquerading as a musical sponsor turns opera singer Leandra Ramm's life into a nightmare." [Source] Originally airing in October 2013, the Investigation Discovery channel featured the intense stalking situation of up-and-coming soprano Leandra Ramm (played by Alison Arnopp in the re-enactment). After a promotional stint on Anderson Cooper, Ms. Ramm started receiving telephone calls from an Asian man named "Carl" who promised a contract for performing at the Singapore Opera Festival. It didn't take long for the 20-year old starlet to realize that he was a fraud and was not going to help her at all. That is where her personal nightmare began. Soon thereafter he started stalking her by phone and email, to the point of destroying her personal and professional relationships. After approaching the police and the FBI, she was left on her own to watch the destruction of her career.  See more about her imprisoned stalker here. Music featured in the episode and a video of the real-life Leandra Ramm performing, after the jump.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Latonia Moore Set To Return To Ozarks For Opera Gala

The soprano costumed by Peter J. Hall for Aida
at the Dallas Opera in 2012 (Photo: Daylon Walton)
"Opera in the Ozarks, a nationally acclaimed training ground for emerging opera professionals, proudly presents its summer Gala Concert featuring star alumni of the program and the exceptional operatic voices of tomorrow. The special concert is a tribute to Jim Swiggart, Opera in the Ozarks’ longtime General Director who is now General Director Emeritus. Metropolitan Opera artist Latonia Moore is headlining the show along with American tenor Joel Burcham. Both are Opera in the Ozarks alumni. The Gala Concert will be held on Sunday, July 13, at 4 p.m. at Bentonville’s Arend Arts Center (1901 S.E. J Street). There is a silent auction scheduled for 3 p.m. with a reception following the concert. Tickets are $27, on sale now at The Gala Concert features Moore and Burcham in scenes and arias from Bizet’s Carmen, Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, Massenet’s Hérodiade and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin accompanied by the Opera in the Ozarks Orchestra. The entire Opera in the Ozarks’ company comes together as the chorus for extended excerpts from Mascagni’s passionate Cavalleria rusticana. And, the majestic final scene from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg has been adapted as a tribute to Swiggart." [Source]

"Penny Dreadful" Makes Dorian Gray A Sex-Craved Opera Lover

Nothing comes between a man of eternal youth and his needle: Reeve Carney as Dorian Gray.
"Some of literature's most terrifying characters, including Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, and iconic figures from the novel Dracula are lurking in the darkest corners of Victorian London. Penny Dreadful is a frightening psychological thriller that weaves together these classic horror origin stories into a new adult drama." [Source] Showtime's latest original series, Penny Dreadful, features some of the best writing, acting, and scenography, in recent television. Creators, John Logan and Sam Mendes, have truly designed a turn-of-the-century atmosphere that encapsulates the British mentality moving away from rationalism into mysticism. One unique trait of the Dorian Gray character is his love of all things sensual, including opera. The audience is treated to several risqué scenes at his mansion where there is generally In flagrante delicto with opera playing for ambience. In one scene, it actually acts as a catalyst for a tête-à-tête with fellow actor Josh Hartnett. Listen to sound clips of the music sampled in the show, read more about the television series, and see some (NSFW) pictures of Dorian Gray's escapades, after the jump.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Legendary New York Conductor Julius Rudel Is Dead At 93

The maestro (left) with Beverly Sills (center)
"Julius Rudel, the Austrian-born conductor who raised the New York City Opera to a venturous golden age with highbrow music for the masses and a repertory that, like him, bridged the Old and New Worlds, died on Thursday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93. His death, announced by his son, Anthony, came eight months after his beloved and financially struggling City Opera filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors. 'I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would outlive the company,' he told The New York Times shortly afterward. Mr. Rudel was the maestro and the impresario, the principal conductor and the director of City Opera for 22 years (1957-79), working in the orchestra pit while running the company on shoestring budgets, signing contracts, casting productions and nurturing young singers like José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes and Beverly Sills." [Source] Watch a video of the National Endowment for the Arts paying tribute to Julius Rudel in 2010, and see more pictures of the conductor with opera singers, after the jump.

Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute To Close Doors After 17 Years

An early portrait of Johanna Meier who made her Metropolitan Opera
company debut in 1972 as Donna Anna  (Don Giovanni) and her house
debut in 1976 as Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos). She went on to sing over
75 performances with the MET, until her last as the Empress in 1989
(Die Frau ohne Schatten).
"A Black Hills State University opera company is closing out a 17-year run with a pair of final performances this weekend. The Johanna Meier Opera Theater Institute began in 1998, and Meier told the Black Hills Pioneer ( that she's grateful for having been able to share the beauty and gift of music through the years. 'Music has given substance and joy to our efforts and brings something new and special to each of us,' she said. 'It has been a good run.' The retired internationally acclaimed opera singer and Spearfish resident said she been involved in theater and music since she was an infant, and she would like a few years to relax and do other things. Meier said the nonprofit institute, where she has acted as artistic director, involves an extensive amount of work year-round — 'getting out information about the program to students across the country and engaging faculty, ultimately listening to the audition tapes we receive and selecting the students who will come and on the basis of that decision, what the repertoire will be and who will sing what.' This year, 22 students are performing. Meier said several former students have since had successful singing careers, including one South Dakotan who recently made a debut at the Metropolitan Opera. 'Every year, something particularly memorable happens — either a very fine young singer taking their first big steps or a production which we feel has really reached the audience,' Meier said." [Source] To learn more about the Black Hills University performances, click here. Read more about Johanna Meier, and watch a clip of her singing the "Liebestod" from Tristan und Isolde at the Bayreuth Festival, after the jump.

The Dallas Opera Appoints Ian Derrer As Artistic Administrator

"In the wake of Jonathan Pell’s decision to step down after thirty years of distinguished service to The Dallas Opera, General Director & CEO Keith Cerny is delighted to announce the appointment of a new Artistic Administrator, Ian Derrer....Mr. Derrer grew up in North Carolina and, in 1996, completed a Bachelor of Music degree in Voice Performance from the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. He then worked as a freelance Assistant Director and Stage Manager for Santa Fe Opera, The Atlanta Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera Pacific, and Washington Opera. From 1999-2005 he completed Masters Degrees in Opera Production, Voice, and Performing Arts Management from Northwestern University and Brooklyn College. During the summers of 2001-2003 he was also the Scheduling Coordinator for the International Institute of Vocal Arts in Chiari, Italy. Afterwards, he served as Rehearsal & Music Coordinator for the New York City Opera (2004-2006). Mr. Derrer also has invaluable experience in the field of orchestra and artist management. Immediately prior to joining the Dallas Opera, Ian held multiple positions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago (2006-2014), including Head of the Rehearsal Department, Rehearsal Administrator, and Director of Production, while, also, making time to serve as Rehearsal Director for Santa Fe Opera during the summer of 2012." [Source]

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking Back At The Old Metropolitan Opera House

"Most would find it surprising that The Metropolitan Opera Management sued to have their own opera house razed but that is exactly what happened in the mid-1960s. The Metropolitan Opera Association already had plans to relocate to Lincoln Center and they feared the competition that might arise if a new opera company took over the existing Metropolitan Opera House. Part of the reason the association wanted to relocate was because of the opera house’s plain, and what some called ugly, exterior. The opera house, done in the Italian Renaissance style, was even dubbed a 'third-rate warehouse.' What the exterior did not hint of was the building’s lavish interior. The group of wealthy New Yorkers designed the inside to be more extravagant than the competition, the Academy of Music." [Source] Read the whole story and view more pictures here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Maria Callas Artwork Appears In Architect Abeijón-Fernández Work

All eyes on the room: Maria Callas watches over all at Cuatro Caminos
"El estudio Abeijón-Fernández Sociedad de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, se fundó en el año 1996 con el objeto de desarrollar, desde el ejercicio libre de la profesión, algunos de los conceptos iniciados durante el aprendizaje académico. Desde este inicio, trabajamos en la elaboración de proyectos enmarcados en varios ámbitos de la Arquitectura. Elaboramos proyectos para obras de carácter público encargadas por administraciones y por entidades privadas. También desarrollamos una amplia labor en el ámbito de la vivienda; llevando a cabo obras de vivienda colectiva, tanto vivienda libre como vivienda protegida, y obras de vivienda unifamiliar. En particular, en la Arquitectura Residencial, entendemos como fundamental la profunda reflexión para la consecución de arquitecturas que permitan la mayor claridad funcional, buscando siempre las máximas prestaciones para el usuario final, sin descuidar la innegable importancia formal de los objetos construidos. Asimismo realizamos proyectos de Arquitectura interior, para espacios comerciales, administrativos y vivienda. En toda nuestra trayectoria trabajamos para conseguir un compromiso entre el creador y el observador, tratando de generar una complicidad visual y formal entre la obra, el lugar y las personas. Por último, cabe destacar el reconocimiento obtenido por parte de la sociedad, reflejado en la cantidad de publicaciones que han recogido nuestras obras, tanto en prensa diaria como en publicaciones internacionales." [Source] See the original use for the image that inspired the artwork, after the jump.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Top Performers: Carmen, Jenson Button, And Mobil Synthetic Motor Oil

As unsuspecting drivers pull in for a car wash, they are soon met with a pit crew cleaning their cars and a surprise visit from British Formula One race car champion Jenson Button. The overture from Bizet's opera Carmen plays under the action during the commercial.
"To prove the outstanding, all-around performance of Mobil 1™ synthetic motor oil, we authenticate our lab results in some of the toughest, most extreme, real-life conditions anywhere in the world. That’s why:
- More than half of all NASCAR teams choose it
- Many automakers choose it for factory fill
- It has received more automaker and industry approvals
And that’s why Mobil 1 is the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand. Time after time Mobil 1 delivers. [Source]

Watch the video and read more about Jenson Button after the jump.