“Young soprano Elizabeth Gentner…has a supple, full-bodied voice perhaps better suited for a larger venue, but displayed a confidence and command of comedy unusual in a performer at such an early stage in her career.” ~Kathleen Whalen, Daily Republic Correspondent
A dramatic soprano of the highest caliber, who made, Turandot one of Puccini’s most challenging roles her own. This recording of her In questa reggia is one of my favorites!
A little fun: If you skip to about 3:40, this is one of those adorable and suave things that Placido Domingo does that makes him one of my personal favorites.
The great Dame Eva Turner expounds on the Character that she made her own!
Happy Birthday to Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev!
Born #TodayInOpera 1891, the composer from the Ukraine has a wide variety of compositions that have made their way into the core repertoire. One such masterpiece is Петя и волк, Petya i volk or Peter and the Wolf!
I truly don’t have a count for how many times I’ve heard this piece, It is such a significant part of my childhood memories. I remember having heard the piece on a car road trips, I remember watching the Disney cartoon, I vaguely remember seeing it performed live, but no one in my family is certain when that happened. (This is just because we go to so many concerts it’s hard to be sure.)
There is not, in my opinion, a clearer example of thematic composition used to greater advantage. The piece truly informed the way I LISTEN to music. I could identify the instruments and tell you what was happening to two characters at once. I began to listen for changes in key even if I wasn’t able yet to identify the difference. I could listen to the whole thing focusing on one character or another depending on my mood. It Was Fun!
I still think it’s one of the best “introduction to orchestra” pieces ever written! So thank you Maestro Prokofiev, we celebrate your birth!
Franco Corelli sings “E lucevan le stelle” from Puccini’s Tosca
This is the aria, sung by the man, from the opera.
It can bring me to tears before the clarinet finishes its first few notes. I know every word, every note and every breath. I’ll never sing this, myself. I know how this story ends. I know how it started. It makes me cry, every time.
He’s a painter and a political rebel, she’s the reigning operatic superstar of her time and they love each other. She’s absurdly jealous. He’s dangerously impulsive. They know the flaws and joys of being genuinely in love with a real person. A corrupt politician throws the lover’s world into chaos because of his own lust. The lovers are threatened with torture, rape and murder. He’s locked in a cage awaiting his own execution, and he sells his last material possession to send her a letter.
You see, he thinks he’s lost her… That moment is the most telling. That singular moment when he thinks he will never see her again. That’s how you know what he really thinks, what he really feels… Well, at least, that’s what the storybooks say….
The suspended agony, the revelry in the moment is something uniquely operatic. In “real life” this is a breath, a fleeting memory. In operatic theater, this is beauty, pain, pleasure, hope, loss, anger, irony, desire and so much more. These conflicting sensations vibrate the air in suspended animation for performer and audience alike to feel. We hear our very humanity ringing in the air.
This and other moments like it are why opera has been my life’s work. It gives us more than the 3 dimensions that life offers us regularly. Opera demands that time itself hold still, while we revel in awe at Love.
I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine’s Day! Enjoy what you have and who you have and revel in your own fleeting moments.
In 1781, Mozart’s grand opera Idomeneo premiered with Mozart conducting the Bavarian State Opera (Bayerische Staatsoper) in the Residence Theater (Residenztheater) in Munich (München).
The above scene, performed by dramatic soprano Hildegard Behrens, is just prior to the finale of the opera. Elettra has just been told by the gods that she will not be with Idamante with whom she is in love. Desolate, she looses her mind and begins having delusions of snakes tormenting her and she cries out that the must finish her own life.
This clip is how I fell in love with the voice of Marilyn Horne. I was learning this duet for a concert. I had heard her sing in recordings many times before. However, this recording is how I became familiar with the depth and versatility of her artistry! Happy Birthday Maestra!
The above interview with Jesse Norman has been making the rounds yesterday… The headline is “Why I Ignore My Critics.”
Honestly, that statement is the least interesting, least surprising thing said by one of the reigning masters of the operatic sphere. Far more interesting, however, were her statements about how women are treated differently than men in opera. Her remarks about fitting the costume to the singer rather than the singer to the costume were right on target. This is what was substantive in this interview, however the headline did not read: Jesse Norman Discusses Blatant Sexism and Discrimination in Opera.
This is a problem. Further it’s a problem that operatic circles are dismissing. Sexism in Opera, the now infamous Glyndebourne review is just the tip of the iceberg. The costume situation Mrs. Norman discusses references Deborah Voigt being dismissed for not fitting into a costume. However, that is not an isolated instance but rather a pervasive and growing attitude that female opera singers should look a certain way before their voice is considered. That sentiment is generally not applied to men, certainly not at the same scale.
It’s no secret that classical music has a problem with sexism but to look around at the orchestras in the United states and there are far more women than there used to be. No one is yelling victory yet but there has been some progress. Orchestras have started to fill some chairs with female instrumentalists, who face their own problems.
Opera doesn’t appear to have even tried to change for the better… Operatic educational programs fund male singers, starting in college with scholarships to universities then later to young artist programs. Every roadblock along the way, there is money directed specifically to male singers. Requirements for opera programs are far more stringent for female over male singers to the point of the age requirements being different by years. A woman with a better voice, work ethic, language, musicianship and acting skills will have a much harder time than an average male singer breaking into the industry in the first place and she will continue to find more competition and less funding as she proceeds.
The consistent and overwhelming number of female singers over male is not considered a problematic issue, it is regarded as a standing joke. Yet in an industry so overwhelmingly female, the positions of power are not even remotely balanced between the sexes. Though women hold a significant majority, they are treated as an unfortunate minority.
Who is doing the hiring? Mostly men. Who is conducting? Men. Who is directing? Mostly men. Who is composing opera? Men. Who is on stage (as leads)? Mostly men. Even in operas where the title character is female, men still make up the vast majority of the other characters on stage. The notable exception that has made it into the standard repertory is Suar Angelica, with an all female cast with a plot about a particularly “sinful” nun. This, sadly, doesn’t do much for equality. Opera is a historical art form and is as such a reflection of the times in which it was created. It is natural that some imbalance would remain. However, this trend persists in the new works that are being funded.
These new operas tend to favor men as well and are still written predominantly by men. Moby Dick by Jake Heggie has one role for a woman dressed as a man. Dr. Atomic by John Adams, has six male leads and two female. There are many more examples following this pattern. The stories that are being performed on the operatic stage require a large number of men because they are about men, being written and composed by…men.
The entertainment industry got the memo about sexism and the changing needs of the audience, not that they’ve quashed sexism in entertainment, however it is clear that an effort is being made. TV shows and movies provide a steady stream of female-centric programming see Scandal, Hunger Games, Frozen, and so many more. Even Downton Abbey has a more balanced cast than an average opera.
The problem isn’t that this phenomenon exists, because it has for some time. The baffling part is that no one is really doing anything about it. In the movement to generate a new audience, opera companies all over the world are using the “sex sells” formula. See Seattle Opera’s new Don Giovanni promo which is very bluntly selling sex, not opera. Sex is already everywhere. Sex is already on the cover of the magazines, movies, websites. Is opera the same? Shouldn’t the goal be to market Opera as something different?
Why isn’t opera taking the “All About That Bass” route? Opera doesn’t need the photo-shop, opera doesn’t need auto-tune. Opera is all natural, baby. Opera will show you how real women sing. Opera could make stars of big girls not because they look a certain way but because they can sing Lady Gaga under the table, unplugged. (Dear Marketing Department at Pick an Opera Company, please take this concept and run with it…)
As opera looks for it’s next “Big Thing” it would do well to look at an opera written by a woman, conducted by a woman, produced by a woman, directed by a woman, about women, starring a cast full of talented women. It would be a welcome change of pace. In the meantime, opera folks, it’s time to stop talking and DO something about it, unless we want opera to go the way of the Miss America Pageant.
Pervasive sexism at its core is that women are not judged on how good they are at something they’re judged by how sexually appealing they look to men while doing it. Opera has long been able to transcend these societal limitations and get to the underlying art. Taking a step back isn’t the right move here. This conflict is an issue that the world is grappling. Opera could be the perfect place to bring this international issue front and center. Opera can and should be the champion of women who are so much more than their physical appearance.
“It’s difficult for union members to accept cuts.” ~ Peter Gelb
No, not really. More accurately, it’s difficult for them to accept cuts from a person who gives himself lavish raises while demanding they take cuts. It’s difficult for them to accept cuts from someone who takes no responsibility for the problems of an organization, and puts all the blame squarely on their shoulders. It is difficult for them to accept cuts when they have done all that was asked and required of them from a person who hasn’t done his part to save the organization. It is difficult for them to accept cuts from a person who says repeatedly that the art form has no future. And it is difficult for them to accept cuts from a person who repeatedly dehumanizes them by sneering out the word “union” as a pejorative.Mr. Gelb, I imagine if you had gone into negotiations with an attitude of “we’re all in this together and we’re all going to be part of the solution,” you might have seen more willingness from other stakeholders to take cuts.And if you had gone in with statistics that weren’t transparently false, and made fewer statements that were transparently self-serving, there would have been even more willingness to accept cuts.
via Gelb vs. Zahn.
Here is a recording of Air de Bijoux by yours truly… All of the Jewelry photos are ones i took in Munich! Hope you like it!