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A stylishly well heeled life, inspired by opera.

Countdown to the COC Ensemble Studio Competition Gala

By art life and stilettos · November 21, 2014 · 0 Comments ·



Glitz and Glamour abound as the COC Vocal Showcase takes Centre Stage in Toronto

The Canadian Opera Company really knows how to promote young talent while raising funds that support the opera house. I know many theatres that could learn from their example. Their latest event is a Gala dinner and competition that will feature the finalists from the Ensemble Studio Competition. The Ensemble Studio is the resident Young Artist Program (YAP) at the Canadian Opera. 

I love the way they open the final round of auditions to the public in the form of a concert, instead of hiding away the talent in a closed audition setting. This way the singers get extra exposure, and have the opportunity to be adjudicated during a performance, instead of in a potentially nerve-wracking, and stifling audition room. 

The company has the opportunity to fundraise by hosting a swanky event that compliments the competition, and the public has the opportunity to hear fresh talent, have a few cocktails, and if they're so inclined, to enjoy an intimate, post-concert black-tie dinner on stage catered by Chef David Lee. The whole thing is fab, and the audience even gets to vote for their favourite singer. After the concert the winners receive a cash prizes ranging in value from $1,500 – $5,000, and the newest additions to the Ensemble Studio are announced. 

Ben Heppner will host the festivities when the seven singers perform on the mainstage accompanied by the COC Orchestra conducted by Johannes Debus. They also have a surprise musical guest lined up to perform with the Orchestra. It's anyone's guess who will be singing. 

Some official info: 

The young singers featured in the 2014 vocal competition are: mezzo-soprano Zoe Band (Toronto); soprano Eliza Johnson (Stratford, Ont.); baritone Dimitri Katotakis (Toronto); baritone Nathan Keoughan (Charlottetown); tenor Aaron Sheppard (St. John's, N.L.); mezzo-soprano Michelle Siemens (Calgary); and tenor Charles Sy (Toronto). You can learn more about the singers by visiting Centre Stage.

The jury is comprised of COC General Director Alexander Neef, COC Artistic Administrator Roberto Mauro, COC Music Administrator Sandra Gavinchuk and Head of the COC Ensemble Studio Liz Upchurch, as well as Canadian soprano and Ensemble Studio Head Vocal Consultant Wendy Nielsen.

Here are the details of you would like to attend (please send me photos or video, I wish I could be there!):

Centre Stage takes place at 6:30 p.m. in R. Fraser Elliott Hall at the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W.). Centre Stage Competition tickets are $100 and include a pre-competition cocktail celebration in the Four Seasons Centre's sparkling Isadore and Rosalie Sharp City Room. Specially priced $35 tickets are also available for patrons between the ages of 16 and 29 through Opera Under 30 sponsored by TD Bank Group.

Filed in: opera, videos
Tagged with: COC, toronto, opera, life

Free Performance Featuring Alberto Zedda, and Olga Peretyatko

By art life and stilettos · November 14, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

OLGA PERETYATKO AT The OPERA OF BOLOGNA IN A MULTIMEDIA PERFORMANCE
FREE ADMISSION

A special, never seen before event featuring the music of Rossini! Music, film, live TV, with the public acting as protagonist. This looks like a lot of fun, and it is FREE.

"L'evento SPECIALE, in forma mai vista prima! La musica di Rossini, i film, le foto, Live TV recording, dove il pubblico diventerà protagonista, venite tutti, prendete gli amici, raccontate a tutti! preparate le domande, CI DIVERTIREMO!!!!

L'ingresso è GRATIS!!"

Saturday Novembre 15, 6:00 pm at Teatro Manzoni

featuring the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale

conducted by Alberto Zedda

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: opera, events, Italy

Tapestry presents Tapestry Briefs: Booster Shots

By art life and stilettos · October 30, 2014 · 0 Comments ·


TAPESTRY presents TAPESTRY BRIEFS: BOOSTER SHOTS

An Opera Crawl in the Distillery

Tapestry's latest opera event is going to be an unique, provocative telling of 10 new and original mini operas, and site-specific installations that will take place all over the Distillery Historic District in Toronto.  You'll be serenaded, and entertained amidst the public galleries, brick lined halls, and distinctive distillery locales while be treated to craft beer and ice cream along the way. 

The evening will feature the fine vocal talents of baritone Alex Dobson; soprano Carla Huhtanen; tenor Keith Klassen; and mezzo soprano Krisztina Szabò. 

From secrets in suburbia to dating on Queen West West, from a notorious murder to the dystopian world of 1984, Booster Shots offers up a fresh, beautiful and absurd opera and theatre experience with contemporary music and texts. Here are some of the highlights:

1984: THE FOLDED PAPER by Nicolas Billon and Christopher Thornborrow

Orwell's iconic Winston Smith is secretly handed a love note from Julia. Not sure if it is real or a trap, he hides it, agonizing over what it could mean.

THE OVERCOAT by Morris Panych and James Rolfe

Panych's hugely successful reinterpretation of short stories by Russian dramatist Nikolai Gogol, the wordless The Overcoat, is brought to life once again by Panych and Rolfe in a scene where two comically opinionated tailors dominate the man being fitted for a simple overcoat.

MEMES by Nicholas Billon and Dean Burry

A hipster couple on a first date discover they don't have anything in common . . . until they discover a shared passion for trending memes. Virtual romance and hilarity ensue!

TAPESTRY presents TAPESTRY BRIEFS: BOOSTER SHOTS 

November 13-16, 2014, All performances begin at 8pm • All Tickets $35 Ernest Balmer Studio, Studio 315, 9 Trinity Street, Distillery Historic District

For more information and to purchase online, visit tapestryopera.com or call 416.537.6066

Filed in: opera, Events
Tagged with: Tapestry New Opera, toronto, opera, events

Il Campiello, by Wolf-Ferrari, at Opera di Firenze

By art life and stilettos · September 27, 2014 · 0 Comments ·


I saw Il Campiello, at Opera di Firenze Thursday night, and was pleasantly surprised by this gem of an opera. It's by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (Venice, 1876- Venice, 1948) a little known Italian composer who's non verismo, comedic style just couldn't compete with the popularity of Puccini and Mascagni. His writing style is very instrumental in nature, and I found myself connecting to the opera on a symphonic level, more than an operatic. The main reason being the obvious lack of arias. Ariosos were peppered throughout the work between accompanied recits and ensembles, creating a dynamic musical style that continually moved forward. Harmonically, Wolf-Ferrari manages a balance between bel canto melody, and modern harmonic colour, hearkening to the Germanic influence and modernization of music at the time.

The story is adapted from a play by the same name, written by Venetian Playwright, Carlo Goldoni. The beauty of the story is the non-apologetic lack of story. The entire opera showcases the daily goings on of the residents of a square in Venice. There is little plot development in the traditional sense, and little drama. Just a gem of observation and character study. The director, Leo Muscato, took some unique liberty with the historical timing of the piece, while keeping the location and characters true to the story. He placed each of the opera's 3 acts in a different time period, 1700s, 1930s, and 2014. It was a great way to show how life in the square develops, yet remains essentially the same over centuries. It was a direction that really worked, creating interest where a traditional retelling may have fallen flat. 

Here's Opera di Firenze's retelling of the evening from their various social media feeds:

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: Opera di Firenze, florence, opera

A sultry voiced cast of Le nozze di Figaro opens a seductive new season at The Met

By art life and stilettos · September 23, 2014 · 0 Comments ·
Marlis Petersen (Susanna), Peter Mattei (Count), Amanda Majeski (Countess) Photo: Ken Howard/Met OperaMarlis Petersen (Susanna), Peter Mattei (Count), Amanda Majeski (Countess)
Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera


I would love to say that Peter Mattei stole the show during the Opening Night Gala of Le nozze di Figaro, at The Metropolitan Opera, but that would be unfair to his cast-mates who were equally worthy of the achievement, such as Amanda Majeski in her Met debut as the Countess, Isabel Leonard, as Cherubino, Susan Menzer, as Marcellina, Ildar Abrazakov, as Figaro, and Marlis Petersen, as Susanna. Since I'm in Europe, I was only able to listen to the performance via live stream, but without a doubt, Mattei has a glorious instrument, approaching the role of the Count wth elegance, ease, and the right air of seduction. I've heard whispers from those in the theatre that in person his singing is absolutely
luscious. Amanda Majeski was sublime as the Countess, with a voice that conveyed an understated, slow burning fire. I'm looking forward to watching the full production when it returns as an HD broadcast

About the production:
"Met Music Director James Levine conducts a spirited new production of Mozart's masterpiece, directed by Richard Eyre, who sets the action of this classic domestic comedy in an 18th-century manor house in Seville during the 1930s." The Met

Amanda Majeski, "Porgi amor" The Met, dress rehearsal, 2014

Isabel Leonard, "Non so più" The Met, dress rehearsal, 2014

Peter Mattei, "Deh vieni alla finestra" La Scala, 2011

Things are stable, for now, at The Met Opera as all eyes are focused on Opening Night

By art life and stilettos · September 22, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Marlis Petersen (Susanna), Isabel Leonard (Cherubino), Amanda Majeski (Countess)  Photo: Ken Howard/Met OperaMarlis Petersen (Susanna), Isabel Leonard (Cherubino), Amanda Majeski (Countess) 
Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera

Spending their way out of a recession, blaming the artists, blaming the management, blaming the public then rustling up the public, rounding up union members, scare tactics. This summer played out like an opera at The Met, full of twists, turns, and potential tragedies, but thankfully things have settled down and the season will begin, as originally scheduled, with Le Nozze di Figaro, on September 22. It will be a black tie gala that will hopefully serve to rebuild the relationship between the public, the management and the artists, all in the name of artistic excellence. You can read all about the results of the contract negotiations, and about the new season here. 

Ildar Abdrazakov (Figaro), Marlis Petersen (Susanna)Ildar Abdrazakov (Figaro), Marlis Petersen (Susanna) 
Photo: Ken Howard/Met Opera

Filed in: opera, life
Tagged with: The Met Opera

Toronto Event: Roundtable Talk with Top Arts and Culture Organizations

By art life and stilettos · September 19, 2014 · 0 Comments ·


If you are in Toronto, and are looking to have a meaningful discussion about the future of arts and culture in the city, you might want to check out some of the upcoming roundtable discussions being organized by Salon West. They are an informal way for the public, artists, and companies to discuss and create. 

The next salon will be on September 26th at 8:30pm,
Heliconian Club,
32 Hazelton Avenue.

Speakers will include representatives from Opera Atelier, Against the Grain Theatre, Mural Routes, Tafelmusik, Canadian Opera Company, Art Gallery of Ontario, as well as Professor Linda Hutcheon O.C., and Michael Hutcheon M.D.

To purchase tickets, and for more info follow me

Filed in: life, Events
Tagged with: toronto, events, life

A second conductor resigns from the Vienna State Opera

By art life and stilettos · September 17, 2014 · 0 Comments ·
StateOperaViennaNightBackside by Markus Leupold-Löwenthal - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:StateOperaViennaNightBackside.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Stat"StateOperaViennaNightBackside" by Markus Leupold-Löwenthal - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Franz Welser-Möst, and Bertrand de Billy have both stepped down as conductor within a two week span. Welser-Moest on Sept. 5, and De Billy on Tuesday.

"It has to do with singers and directors; it has to do with the entire domain that determines the artistic direction of the house. Believe me: this is a is very painful decision for me," said Franz Welser-Möst, "one of Austria's most famous conductors, said he had informed the opera house's artistic director, Dominique Meyer, of his decision to resign, due to "long-standing artistic differences that were not resolved in several discussions". The Independent

"Bertrand de Billy says he refuses to work under opera director Dominique Meyer, mentioning "dishonesty" and "lack of loyalty." Washington Post

It seems like management, and artists are having a few too many problems in recent years. Let's hope that some real change happens soon.

Read about this from: European Source // American Publication

Filed in: opera, life
Tagged with: Vienna State Opera

How Roberto Alagna learned to sing in bars

By art life and stilettos · September 15, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

photo (c) Lebrecht Music & Arts

Photo (c) Lebrecht Music & Arts

 By Norman Lebrecht, excerpted from the blog Slipped Disc: Norman Lebrecht on shifting sound worlds

The opera tenor Roberto Alagna, who started out signing in a Paris pizza bar, confessed to a huge admiration for Barbara and said he learned from her how to perform in small spaces like L'Ecluse, whichseat no more than 60 people, most of them eating their dinner through a performance.

Continue Reading...

Update on the situation at The Met Opera

By art life and stilettos · July 19, 2014 · 0 Comments ·



I recently wrote an article outlining the managerial issues at the Met Opera, which emphasised the American Guild of Musical Artists' (union) perspective on the budget cuts and processes. I felt that the amount of PR available to General Manager, Peter Gelb, to present his position warranted my inclination towards presenting the point of view of the company's artists.

As a follow up to my previous post, I would like to include an update on the situation, and information on the union lock-out that will potentially happen at the beginning of August. A lock-out is when workers are prevented from doing their job by the authoritative power. This is different than a strike, which is a work stoppage activated by the workers themselves. Below I have included the full statement, made by the American Guild of Musical Artists, which was posted yesterday on their Facebook page. This is not an official statement to the press, but an internal update. 

Reposted in full from the page of the American Guild of Musical Artists

"To: AGMA-represented principal artists
From: Alan Gordon
Re: Update on Met Negotiations

Sadly, I have to report to you that recent developments at the Met make it a virtual certainty that Peter Gelb will lock out all of the Met's performers, instrumentalists, stagehands and other performers on or after August 1st. In turn, the eventual result will likely be the cancellation of all Met performances throughout 2014, and possibly for the entire season, and perhaps beyond.

Read More

Filed in: opera, life
Tagged with: AGMA, Metropolitan Opera, The Met, union

Bicycle Opera in gear for five-week tour

By art life and stilettos · July 15, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Bicycle Opera Project members, from left, Christopher Enns, Tristan Durie, Larissa Koniuk, Geoffrey Scott, Stephanie Tritchew, Chelsea Shanoff and Wesley Shen.

I love hearing about innovative arts projects and collaborations. Bicycle Opera have been on my radar for a while, and I am happy to say that they are receiving some deserved recognition for their dedication to sustainable travel, and dispursment of culture across the province of Ontario. I have included below an article recently printed in the Toronto Star, featuring The Bicycle Opera Project. 

Bicycle Opera in gear for five-week tour

Filed in: opera

Mezzosoprano Frederica Von Stade On Her Glorious Career

By art life and stilettos · July 8, 2014 · 0 Comments ·


For your viewing pleasure, the lovely Frederica Von Stade talking about her life, her career, and the glamour of working at the Met Opera. Von Stade is a renowned mezzosoprano, with an elegant, effortless voice that is seamless from top to bottom. Some great examples of her singing can be heard below.




Singing "Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio," as Cherubino in Mozart's, Le Nozze di Figaro, at the Glyndebourne Festival, 1973. 

In concert singing "Song to the Moon," from Dvorjak's Rusalka.

Ndiphilela Ukucula: I Live to Sing - Film documents the lives of three South African opera singers

By art life and stilettos · July 3, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

I Live to Sing - Excerpts from BetterThanFiction Productions on Vimeo.

There is no clear-cut path to becoming a successful artist. Success is subjective, often defined by the artist, and the struggles and sacrifices one has made to pursue their craft can be difficult to understand. Many give up pursuing their artistic passions because of the many obstacles, and the inherent instability an artistic career can bring. These people may not ever see the fruits of their years of dedication, study, practice, nor of their financial investment.

Now imagine being an aspiring young, black, opera singer in post-Apartheid South Africa, dedicating your life to an art form that has frequently been associated with white performers and audiences. The documentary "Ndiphilela Ukucula: I Live to Sing," by Julie Cohen, does exactly that, chronicling the particular struggles that three opera singers at the University of Cape Town Opera School face.

"Decades after the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela's election as South Africa's first black president, the nation struggles to fulfill the promise of a transformed society. At the University of Cape Town's once all-white opera school, both the struggle and the promise are embodied in an enormously talented group of classical singers from the black townships. When the opera school opened its doors to black students after apartheid, faculty members were awed by the wave of gifted singers that poured in. Many learned opera in competitive community choirs in the townships, while others heard it only on TV. Today, the school is two-thirds black and mixed race, and is achieving greater success than ever in propelling graduates to the world opera stage. Recent alumni are now achieving great acclaim at venues such as The Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and La Scala in Milan, Italy.

Ndiphilela Ukucula: I Live to Sing (half of the title is in Xhosa, the native language of many of the black students) is a documentary and performance film following three of the opera school's top students through a year in the program. The filmmakers travel with the students from their home townships, where they've faced financial hardship and in some cases health struggles, to Cape Town, where they perform in the city's opera hall, once a flash point in the anti-apartheid movement, to New York where they sing at the prestigious Glimmerglass Festival. Along the way, they confront everything from racial politics to tuberculosis to their parents' fears that opera is not a suitable career. Filmmaker: Julie Cohen" American Documentary Film Festival

Filed in: opera, life, videos
Tagged with: struggle, training, South Africa, singer

Così fan tutte at La Scala, cancelled due to strike

By art life and stilettos · June 27, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Photo: (c) Kerstin Joensson - AP

Anyone fortunate enough to have tickets to see Mozart's Così fan tutte or Rossini's Le Comte Ory at La Scala di Milano this week just got struck by some bad luck. This evening's production of Così fan tutte has been officially cancelled, and the opening of Le Comte Ory scheduled for Friday, July 4, 2014, is equally at risk. The reason behind the cancellation is a multi union strike, which includes workers and orchestra members.

The two major issues that the unions have taken issue with are, the intended changes with regards to sick days. The proposal is that workers who are absent due to illness will have a salary reduction of 40-50% during the first 10 days of absence. The second issue involves musicians who teach in conservatories and universities abroad. They have been presented with an ultimatum, choosing between their place at the theatre or their work outside of Italy. This is due to a stipulation that constrains them to teach in Italy only. These educators feel there should be an allowance for teaching outside of Italy.

Filed in: opera, life
Tagged with: Cosi fan tutte, La Scala, Strike, union

Mismanagement of The Metropolitan Opera

By art life and stilettos · June 19, 2014 · 0 Comments ·


There has been a lot of discussion about the financial situation at The Metropolitan Opera in recent months. The media has been bombarded with remarks from Metropolitan Opera General Manager, Peter Gelb, citing the demise of opera, its imminent death and the aging audiences as the reason the opera house is now falling into debt and supposedly facing bankruptcy. From reading the various articles and interviews with Gelb, one begins to get a sense of being distracted from other important factors, thanks to the foresight of the Met's most prominent, and influential character. Gelb has been publicizing the financial problems, and exposing average salaries of the orchestra and chorus members, making the case that their wages are compromising the company as one of their greatest expenditures. This action has given Gelb some fuel to talk union pay cuts while garnering sympathy.

When, instead, the focus shifts towards the management of the company, the story starts to fill out in a way that few outside the Met's internal community could explain. The Met Opera Orchestra, and Local 802 AFM, the union representing the musicians, have released a public statement, which clearly explains The Metropolitan Opera's current financial situation, arguing that the budget problems and deficit has less to do with the cost of paying musicians wages, and more to do with the failing artistic vision and mismanagement of Peter Gelb.

I have available here the full statement, with financial figures and box office numbers. Please take to time to read the document, and reflect on the media campaign Gelb has recently launched. The document emphasizes the manner in which the budget has been handled over the last seven years, under Gelb's management. There has been an increase of spending in all areas, including musician and management wages, but most notable is the huge increase in spending on media and new productions. According to the budget documents acquired by the union,



Julie Jacobson / Associated Press Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera

"This figures vary dramatically from the information the media has received, claiming, "When the Met's finances are in order — payroll for 3,400 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees eats up 75 percent of the Met's $330 million annual operating budget — Gelb's most important job is artistic director." 

It is yet to be determined where the truth lies. Considering how little increase there has been to the production costs over the last seven years, and the large increase in other new spending, it appears that the Met's ideal budget is lowered at the cost of the singers, instrumentalists, seamstresses, stage management, actors, lighting and tech crew, ushers, box office employees, maintenance staff, essentially the people that make the shows happen, rather than publicity and spectacle. Is this a healthy compromise? I suppose it all comes down to what draws audiences to the theatre.

"The Met is seeking to cut its labor costs to deal with a number of serious challenges: box-office revenues have been declining; costs have been rising; and although the company has bridged that gap with record fund-raising, it has also drawn heavily on its endowment. The Met's endowment was valued at $253 million at the end of last year — less than its operating expenses that year, which were $327 million."


Michael Mayer's new production of Rigoletto, set in Las Vegas

Much of the criticism has been surrounding the increased spending on new, modern revivals of repertoire productions, and the recent emphasis on the visual aspects of the performance, rather than on the comprehensive artistic quality of the productions. Over the last few years, visually spectacular shows and the Met's "Live in HD" experience have become central elements. Some say Gelb is pandering to new audiences, to those who wouldn't normally attend a live performance at the theatre, while ignoring the company's loyal patrons and opera loving supporters.

"It's hard to defend myself without sounding defensive," Gelb said. "What's difficult and frustrating for me is that so many critics seem to have so little appreciation for what we're trying to do theatrically. I think there is a lack of understanding about our effort to make these productions appealing to an audience that may or may not know much about opera." NYTimes

Critics have also begun to rail against the noticeable decline in vocal quality, often at the mercy of more realistic acting or an improved visual presence. 


The Met's new Ring cycle, directed by Robert Lepage


In a post on The Times's Web site, Joe Pearce said he wondered whether Gelb understood the difference "between his true opera-loving audience and the happening-seekers he would convert" and dismissed as nonsense the idea that new meaning could be found in great works of art "through semi-Eurotrash reimaginings by third-rate theatrical minds." The bigger issue, he told me — bigger than any one opera-company general manager — is the decline of vocal artistry. "Singers are no longer being trained to act with their voices like they used to do," he said. "Now they act with their bodies." NYTimes 

Gelb's vision seems to be based on a false ideal, that opera is, or should be a central form of entertainment in today's society. Surely many lovers of opera and classical music would agree that it seems unrealistic that classical music could outperform or match the popularity some other more commercial forms of entertainment, so why even try to compete? It is an idea that seems to contradict the tradition. Many people attend operatic productions precisely for the tradition it represents, not because it is a short-form of entertainment. Gelb goes on to contradict himself when he cites tenor Luciano Pavarotti, as central in the attraction of past audiences. He essentially points out how much of an influence the singer in the production has on ticket sales, rather than flashy sets and marketing. Gelb claims that

"We've embarked on a strategy to make the Met more accessible, including last season's abridged "Magic Flute," for families. The audience is shrinking. I fault our times and short-form entertainment. The days of Pavarotti standing center stage and selling out are gone. Then opera still had a foothold in popular culture. It's a niche now." Bloomberg

I question why Gelb feels opera is inaccessible. I would think that a lack of education on the art form, and perhaps performances in foreign languages would create more of a barrier to new audiences than the theatre's status as "niche".

An example of the hyperawareness of the Met's media image can be understood through Gelb's presence in the preparations for "The Met: Live in HD"

"After checking overnight box-office totals and other automated reports, Gelb typically uses the predawn hours to telephone agents, artists and opera impresarios in Europe and Japan. But this morning in late October, only months after his most difficult season — a season of scathing reviews that indicted him for accenting spectacle over cohesive drama and various other felonies having to do with his taste, temperament and sensitivity to criticism — he has decided to overhaul a script. Any underling could handle the job of rewriting remarks for the soprano Sondra Radvanovsky when she introduces the Met's "Live in HD" broadcast of "Otello" in two days, but Gelb is an unabashed micromanager, and the Met's "Live in HD" broadcasts didn't become his capital achievement because he let somebody else make the coffee." NYTimes

Sources for this article:

Met Orchestra Musicians Local 802 AFM Presentation to the Board of Directors of The Metropolitan Opera Association Announcement and Full Report 

New York's Metropolitan Opera Opens Its Budget Curtain 

The Epic Ups and Downs of Peter Gelb 

Met Opera Tax Filing Reveals Pay For Gelb 

Tony Awards 2014: Highlights and Performances

By art life and stilettos · June 10, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Host Hugh Jackman (C) onstage during the 2014 Tony Awards. Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images

 

The 68th Annual Tony Awards ceremony was held this past weekend at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and in Broadway style featured some of today's greatest singers, dancers, musicians, directors, writers and choreographers mixed in with Hollywood and Music's most memorable names and films. Some of the evening's winners included the award for best musical, which went to "A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder," and the award for Best Play, which went to "All The Way," by Robert Schenkkan. 


Winner: Best Play

ALL THE WAY by Robert Schenkkan

A gripping new play about a pivotal moment in American history starring Bryan Cranston as President Lyndon B. Johnson.

 

Winner: Best Musical

A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER

A new musical comedy set in England's elegant Edwardian era that shows just how low we'll go to make it to the top.

 

Winner: Best Revival of a Musical

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

Neil Patrick Harris stars in the Broadway premiere of the legendary John Cameron Mitchell/Stephen Trask rock musical.

 

Winner: Best Original Score

THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown

 

Winner: Best Actor in a Play

BRYAN CRANSTON, in All the Way

 

Winner: Best Actress in a Play

AUDRA MCDONALD, in Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill

 

Winner: Best Actor in a Musical

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, in Hedwig and the Angry Inch

 

Winner: Best Actress in a Play

JESSIE MUELLER, in Beautiful–The Carole King Musical

 

 

A full list of the evening's winners can be found at the Tony Awards Official Site

A deserving recognition for soprano Adrianne Pieczonka

By art life and stilettos · January 25, 2014 · 0 Comments ·

Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka has been honoured with the Paul de Hueck and Norman Walford Career Achievement Award, a $20,000 prize granted by the the Ontario Arts Foundation biannually in areas of keyboard artistry, art photography and singing. The award honours the career of a working artist.

It seems fitting that Pieczonka receive the award, as she is one of a small number of Canadian opera singers who has solidified an international career, while maintaing a balance of performance and continued education in Canada. Last year alone Pieczonka gave four public masterclasses for young opera singers in Toronto and London, while performing roles in Ontario, Italy, France, and across Germany.  In 2014 Pieczonka will perform locally in as Amelia in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Verdi’s A Masked Ball, as well as appear in operas at La Scala, Covent Garden and with the Bavarian State Opera. 

This is not the first time her enviable career has been recognized, Pieczonka is an Officer of the Order of Canada, an Austrian Kammersängerin, and has received two Juno Awards. 

When asked about her future intentions, Pieczonka gave the following insight: “My plan is to sing until I am 60 or so in my current roles. I don’t necessarily want to go into ‘old bag roles,’” she says. “I want to stop at my peak, with my star not fading, and devote myself to fostering and mentoring.”

You can read the full article on the Toronto Star’s Website

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: Adrianne Pieczonka, Ontario Arts, award

Amelita Galli-Curci, a soprano who single-handedly revived bel canto repertoire in America

By art life and stilettos · November 26, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


On November 26, 1963, Italian soprano Amelita Galli-Curci (1882-1963) died of emphysema at the age of 81. The great soprano, known for her coloratura and command of the bel canto repertoire was also one of the first divas of the recording industry. Her contribution to the history of the art form is only complimented by our ability to listen to her various Gramophone recordings.

 

Amelita Galli-Curci studied piano at the Conservatory of Milan and taught herself how to sing, after the Pietro Mascagni, composer of "Cavalleria Rusticana," heard her and encouraged her to study towards a career as an opera singer. Born in Milan, of Italian and Spanish descent, her father was a banker, and could afford her the advantage of learning about the art-form and hearing world class opera singers live at La Scala from a very young age. 

"'I learned about the operas,' she said, 'from going to La Scala Theatre. I heard them all from the time I was 6 years old.' As for acting, ten lessons from Valvassura, whom she called a rival of Bernhardt in 'Tosca,' sufficed. She did not, like too many young singers, pin faith to instructors nor to tricks of song. 'The coloratura is not enough by itself,' she exclaimed. 'The same 'cikeraki, cikeraki' is a little annoying. The public grows tired. A lyric style is important first.' She studies locked in her room, listening to her records on American talking machines." New York Times, January 27, 1918. 


She made her debut at the Constanzi Theatre in Rome as Gilda in Rigoletto in 1910, and made her New York debut in 1918 singing the title role of "Dinorah" at the Lexington Theatre. 

"Her debut here was a veritable triumph; she was cheered for twenty minutes after the big scene in the second act, and from that time hers has been an operatic fame almost the equal of Caruso's" The New York Times, February 8, 1921.



Galli-Curci's emphasis on the lyric quality of the voice and the elimination of frivolity or musical "tricks" as she called them, was one of the reasons she became such a sensation. She approached this repertoire with intelligence and substance, giving emotional weight to the roles and music while maintaining a celestial, delicate vocal quality.
 


According to the New York Times, "her singing is of lyrical quality, however, a 'voice that floats,' with singular purity of tone, and an even range of about three octaves. She speaks and sings in seven languages." New York Times, February 8, 1921.

"She has an uncanny intelligence; and because of this you know that she does not use the great gift of her voice merely for the display of its own possibilities, but as a means to the higher ends dictated by her artistic consciousness." New York Times, February 10, 1918.


 


With the public and critical interest in the performance style of Galli-Curci, came a change in the way bel canto operas were perceived. There had been a decline in interest, in Chicago and New York City, of operas featuring coloratura singing that became rekindled with the debut of Galli-Curci. The same phenomenon of a singer bringing depth and substance to bel canto roles, and subsequently sparking the public's interest in the style of composition, can also be attributed to such sopranos as Joan Sutherland and more evidently, Maria Callas. Herbert Witherspoon, retired operatic bass, singing teacher, and eventual general manager of The Metropolitan Opera, explains this cycle quite eloquently for the New York Times:

"In recent years the public has been starved of this type of singing...The history of music has moved in cycles; the musical-dramatic ideals of the early Florentines gave place to operas in which the thought and dramatic quality was next to nothing, and the vocal acrobatics of the prima donna took on almost the whole importance. Then, in turn, came another reaction, and in the realistic operas of recent years we have seen almost the complete disappearance of the sort of music in which Mme. Galli-Curci has displayed such distinguished ability. This imposed quite needless and unreasonable limitations upon the art of song. There was nothing the matter with coloratura singing in itself; the objections to it were objections to the quality of many coloratura roles, the type of opera in which they were found, and the needless degredation of all the other factors that should blend in their composition-the bad results that would be found in any art if it were shut off from a considerable portion of the field which it should cover. They can be found in the general decline of our singers in the last twenty years…Now comes a singer like Galli-Curci and gives the public something it wants and has unconsciously longed for. IT is impossible that her example should not bring results. More coloratura sopranos will be developed, as it is evident that the public taste still likes them; and this means, od course, that the old operas are going to be revived with much greater frequency. They will be restudied, cut no doubt, altered here and there; but they will be revived, and with them will grow up a school of singers who can sing them." New York Times, February 10, 1918.

Amelita Galli-Curci singing "Si, Carina" from Meyerbeer's Dinorah. Victor recording, June 17, 1924:

Here is a short radio interview with Galli-Curci, broadcast on KFC radio in November, 1963, where she discusses the early recording process, vocal technique, Joan Sutherland, her career, and gives some solid advice for young singers: 

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: bel canto, Galli-Curci, soprano, biography, diva

Fame? Glee? Nope, it's L'elisir d'amore

By art life and stilettos · November 16, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

"Noi in questo Elisir abbiamo voluto ritornare ad es- sere Peter Pan, perché la freschezza della musica magnifica di Donizetti unita alla leggerezza di cui parla Calvino nelle sue Lezioni americane"

In this Elisir we wanted to go back to being Peter Pan, because the freshness of the magnificent music of Donizetti, paired with the lightness that Italo Calvino described in his book Lezioni americane.


 

The opera, which is currently running at Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, takes place in a performing arts school in America, where each student dreams of fame and glory. Adina is the most popular girl in school, Nemorino the loser, Belcore is the school bully who has a thing for cheerleaders, and Dulcamara is That Guy who graduated years ago, but keeps coming back to high school to relive his glory years. This is where the elixir of love rules, making every moment seem perfect. Where you can find a love that brings you to paradise, or that ultimately destroys you.

 

Here is a video of the original production, performed in Bologna, Italy in 2010:

 

L'elisir d'amore

TEATRO COMUNALE di Firenze

L'elisir d'amore GAETANO DONIZETTI Melodramma giocoso in due atti di Felice Romani Musica di Gaetano Donizetti Edizione: Edwin Kalmus & Co., Inc., Boca Raton, Florida 

Nuova produzione Allestimento del Teatro Comunale di Bologna Direttore di Programmazione e Produzione Marco Zane Direttore Allestimento scenico Tiziano Santi Con sopratitoli a cura di Prescott Studio, Firenze

Adina Rocio Ignacio - Auxiliadora Toledano (16, 19, 21) 

Nemorino Giorgio Berrugi - Alessandro Scotto di Luzio (16, 19, 21)

Belcore Mario Cassi - Julian Kim (16, 19, 21) 

Il Dottor Dulcamara Marco Camastra Giulio Mastrototaro (16, 19, 21) 

Giannetta Elena Borin

 

 

Direttore Giuseppe La Malfa 

Regia Rosetta Cucchi 

Scene Tiziano Santi

Costumi Claudia Pernigotti 

Luci Daniele Naldi 

Video proiezioni Roberto Recchia 

Assistente regista Stefania Panighini 

Maestro al pianoforte Andrea Severi

 

 

TEATRO COMUNALE di Firenze

Venerdì 15 novembre 2013, ore 20.30 

Sabato 16 novembre, ore 20.30 

Domenica 17 novembre, ore 15.30 

Martedì 19 novembre, ore 20.30 

Mercoledì 20 novembre, ore 20.30 

Giovedì 21 novembre, ore 20.30

 

 

SYNOPSIS

Act I. The entrance to Adina's farm. The harvesters are resting in front of the farm- house after working in the fields, while the rich and capricious Adina is sitting apart reading the story of Tristan and Isolde. Nemorino, a shy peasant, who is very poor, is watching her, consumed with love for her. At the request of everyone pres- ent, the young girl reads with incredulity the strange story of Tristan who suc- ceeded in obtaining Isolde's love through a magic potion which everyone then dreams of possessing. A platoon of soldiers arrives headed by the conceited Ser- geant Belcore who gives Adina a bunch of flowers and proposes to her, certain that she reciprocates, but the girl shows that her suitor does not interest her par- ticularly. Nemorino plucks up courage to propose to Adina but she rejects him saying she is too fickle to tie herself to one man and advises him to look for an- other girl.

The village square. A trumpet call can be heard and Doctor Dulcamara arrives in an showy carriage, arousing general curiosity; he is, in fact, only a charlatan who goes round from town to town selling bottles of his "elixir" which is supposed to cure every kind of malady. The naive Nemorino immediately asks him for the magic potion of Queen Isolde thinking that in this way he will awake the love of Adina. Taking advantage of his naiveté Dulcamara sells him a bottle of wine, assuring him that he will feel the incredible effect after only a day, time enough for him to put some distance between himself and the village. Nemorino happily drinks the wine and sure of the magic power of the"elixir"he appears happy and indifferent before Adina; the girl is surprised and irritated by the changed attitude of the young man and to revenge herself for his indifference she decides to accept the courtship of Belcore and marry him that very evening as the sergeant and his men have to leave the following morning. Nemorino is desperate and begs Adina to put off the wedding until the following day when, according to the doctor's prom- ise, the elixir is bound to take effect, but the girl again rejects him and the young man smarts under Belcore's ridicule: the marriage will take place and the whole village will be invited to the celebrations.

Act II. Inside Adina's farmhouse. Everyone is already singing and drinking happily while busy preparations for the imminent wedding are being made; Dulcamara also takes part in the celebrations and suggests that he and the bride should sing a lively song together. Belcore announces the arrival of the notary and the bride and bridegroom leave to sign the register followed by the rejoicing crowd. Dul- camara is left alone at the wedding table reflecting on the pleasure of such fes- tivities when he is joined by Nemorino who asks him what he must do to win the heart of the girl. The doctor advises him to drink another bottle of his elixir and the young man, who has no more money, has to hurry off and look for some if he wants a second dose of the magic potion. While Nemorino is wondering how to find sufficient money, he is joined by Belcore who says he is amazed by the ex- traordinary behaviour of women; Adina loves him but wants to postpone the wedding until evening. The sergeant sees his rival is desperate and advises him to enrol in the army; military life will bring him joy, glory, fleeting love affairs and twenty scudi prize money. The young man accepts in order to receive the money to procure the filter and although he is worried about his decision hurries to join Dulcamara who awaits him at the Partridge Inn.

Rustic courtyard open at the back. News has reached the village that Nemorino has become rich after suddenly inheriting a large sum of money. Everyone is talking about it but the young man has not yet been notified. A peasant girl, Giannetta, was the first to hear the news and is telling everyone about it but she implores them not to mention it. Nemorino arrives, and after drinking another bottle of elixir his hopes are raised once more. Everyone looks at him with different eyes now he has be- come a good match for the village girls, but he believes that this unusual interest is due to the effect of the magic potion. Meanwhile Adina and Dulcamara arrive on the scene and are surprised to see the young man courted by all the girls. Nemorino happily thanks the mystified doctor. Adina, on the other hand, con- vinced she would find her suitor in tears, is jealous and in this way she discovers that she is in love. She has also found out that he has enrolled in the army and would like to speak to him but Giannetta and the other peasant girls drag the young man off to the ball. Adina and Dulcamara are left alone and Adina discovers that the reason for this change is the elixir and that Nemorino has only signed up for money in order to buy the potion. The girl is now desperate; she loves Nemorino but he does not seem to notice her any longer. The doctor offers her the filter but the young girl is certain that her charm will be enough to win back the lost lover. Nemorino sees a "furtive tear" fall from the eyes of Adina and realises that he is loved but he decides to continue to pretend to be indifferent until the girl reveals her true feelings. She, in the meantime, has bought back the youth's contract of en- rolment and gives it to him without any further comment. The young man is dis- appointed and refuses to accept it; if Adina doesn't love him he prefers to go off and be a soldier. Only at this point does the girl confess her love and the two are at last happy. Belcore, followed by his garrison, joins the two lovers; he realises he has been defeated by his rival but consoles himself by thinking that, after all, the world is full of women. The real winner of the whole story is, however, Dulcamara, who gives himself the credit for the happy ending and leaves the village to the accla- mations of the crowd, having proved yet again the virtues of his elixir of love.

Complete programme can be viewed here

All photos in the following gallery are credited to Gianluca Moggi, New Press Photo Firenze, and can also be viewed at this link.

Bass-Baritone Luca Pisaroni on the culture of opera in Italy

By art life and stilettos · October 21, 2013 · 0 Comments ·



There is no denying that politics and the economy have caused major problems for the arts in Europe, but to hear an honest account of the cultural climate in Italy from an internationally acclaimed opera singer, who was born and raised in the same town as Giuseppe Verdi, really helps to put things into perspective. 

“In spite of being in huge demand on the world’s major opera stages, Luca Pisaroni rarely sings in his native Italy.The bass- baritone describes how apathy towards cultural heritage has taken the shine off Verdi’s birthday celebrations in his homeland.” Interview by Courtney Smith

Giuseppe Verdi 200: your interactive guide

By art life and stilettos · October 11, 2013 · 0 Comments ·

 

Verdi just turned 200, and to celebrate the region of Emilia-Romagna and the Province of Parma, Italy, have created a beautiful website dedicated to the genius that is Giuseppe Verdi. Here you can find biographies, films, libretti, archival documents, exhibitions, tour guides, apps and photos all lovingly curated and offered free to the public. Oh, and the site is offered in english as well as Italian.

 


Cartolina Otello Collezione Renato Manici

 

I loved scrolling through the photograph and caricatures galleries and have included a few pics below. The one of Verdi resting on his laurels is especially charming.

The Verdi 200 project can be found at www.giuseppeverdi.it

 

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: Verdi

Patrice Chéreau, groundbreaking opera and film director, has died

By art life and stilettos · October 9, 2013 · 0 Comments ·


Patrice Chéreau in 2005 on the set of his film Gabrielle, starring Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex Features



Patrice Chéreau, groundbreaking opera and film director, died of cancer on October 7, 2013. He was 68 years old.

Chéreau is the French theatre director best known for his controversial staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth in 1976. The production, conducted by Pierre Boulez, was controversial for its departure from a traditional, storybook fable, to a modern, conceptualized interpretation that played on the symbolic and psychological aspects of the story. 

“For Mr. Chéreau, the story was a Marxist allegory of capitalism and the exploitation of the working class.” New York Times

“Chéreau attempted, and successfully achieved, a daring interplay of the mythological and contemporary planes on which the work is constructed. He set the action in an industrialised society, with a hydro-electric dam taking the place of the free-flowing Rhine; there were also occasional 20th-century costumes and props. He was not the first to invoke a modern setting for the action – roughly the century framed by the history of the work to date, 1876–1976 – but the incisive social critique of Chéreau's production was regarded by some of the ultra-faithful as an outrage, and created a scandal of unprecedented proportions.” The Guardian

This departure caused controversy with the audience at the time, revolutionising modern opera and ushering in a new age of highly conceptualized theatre productions centring on the director’s vision.

“He once jokingly told me,” Mr. Gelb said of Mr. Chéreau in an interview, “that he was responsible for the movement disparagingly referred to as ‘Eurotrash,’ because his production of the Ring at Bayreuth, which is now legendary, was the first kind of high-concept operatic production that radically transformed the action.” New York Times

Chéreau’s final project was Strauss’s Elektra, for the 2013 Festival d’Aix-en-Provence. Information on the production, with a link to the full program can be found here: http://www.festival-aix.com/en/node/2031

Filed in: opera
Tagged with: Chéreau, wagner, obituary, director

Opera singing songwriter Ashleigh Semkiw goes Underground at The Drake

By art life and stilettos · August 17, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

I know, I know, I've been on summer hiatus. Don't worry, I'll be filling you in on the Art Life and Stilettos summer transcontinental trek in no time. In the meantime why not take a break from the serious world of classical music and check out some rarely seen crossover talent? No, not that kind of crossover...

Opera singer, and singer songwriter Ashleigh Semkiw will be headlining the Drake Underground on Saturday, August 18. Ashleigh is a unique artist, in that her most recent operatic performance was in the spring of 2012 with Chicago Opera Theatre in their production of Shostakovich's Moscow, Cheryomushki, and if you're expecting her pop stylings be reminiscent of Renée Fleming's most recent pop curious album Dark Hope, rest assured that Ashleigh writes and performs her own music and is decisively marching to the beat of her own drum. You can check out Ashleigh's music and art at www.ashleighsemkiw.com

Filed in: opera, life
Tagged with: Ashleigh Semkiw, events

Join Opera Atelier for an evening at Versailles, without ever leaving Toronto

By art life and stilettos · May 8, 2012 · 0 Comments ·


 


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Join Opera Atelier for this intoxicating evening of mouth-watering delights,

alluring auctions, and bewitching performances.

 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 * The Evergreen Brickworks

550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto

Drinks & Hors d'oeuvres 6:00 pm * Dinner 7:30 pm

Featuring Performances by

Armide stars Colin Ainsworth and Peggy Kriha Dye

The School of Atelier Ballet * Artists of Atelier Ballet

Host: Jeanne Beker

Tiffany & Co Raffle Item * Silent & Live Auction

Black Tie

 

Click here to Buy your Tickets Now!

Single Tickets $500

For the first time: Under-30 Tickets $250

 

...and for those of you who can't afford the price tag but still want to attend the event, why not consider volunteering for the evening? "Join Opera Atelier for Mirage: the 2012 Versailles Gala and help support their education, outreach and artist development programs by applying to volunteer as a server, a live auction spotter, or even a wardrobe assistant. This is your chance to rub elbows with Toronto's elite and get exclusive behind-the-scenes access at the same time!"

Apply now or get more information: email Alexandra Lalonde at alexandra.lalonde@operaatelier.com or call (416) 703-3767 x221.

 

Filed in: life
Tagged with: Opera Atelier, toronto, events, gala

Laughter is definitely the Best Medicine

By art life and stilettos · April 27, 2012 · 0 Comments ·

Will Arnett, Jerry Seinfeld, Amy Poehler. (CNW Group/Toronto East General Hospital)



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Every once and a while I try to step out of my box and have a new experience. Attending opera and classical music performances is obviously on the top of my list of regulars, along with events in all the performing arts, but attending comedy festivals is something I just don’t do often enough. When I was offered the opportunity to attend the Toronto East General Hospital’s first annual comedy gala, I decided it was about time to write about something else that makes me smile.

The event, which was aptly titled “Laughter is the Best Medicine,” turned out to not only be a fun, inspired evening but a night that made me appreciate the power we have as individuals to collectively affect the lives of others. In this case, the result was overwhelmingly good, and I’m sure being within arms distance of the well-adored (at least by me) Canadian comic, Will Arnett really helped seal the deal.

Yes, that Will Arnett. The same Arnett I fondly remember playing G.O.B. on Arrested Development, the one who played one half of a wicked, hot pick wearing, figure skating pair in Blades of Glory, and my personal favourite, as the little boy in a suit, Devon Banks on 30 Rock.

Sure, Arnett was hilarious at the Gala, but what struck me most is how dedicated his family and adoringly doting wife, Amy Poehler are to supporting the hospital. Will’s dad, Jim Arnett has served on the hospital’s board for seven years, and the Arnett family was commemorated for their long-term support of the hospital. Will was awarded the title of Toronto East General's first-ever "Honourary Doctor," to which he replied, "I'm the first doctor at the hospital that failed math and science...But I've got great bedside manner.”

Will donated his time and talent to host the event, helping to introduce the new five million dollar donation from Peter and Diana Thomson, which will establish the Ken and Marilyn Thomson Patient Care Centre, a surprise announcement of a one million dollar donation from the Jain Family, toward’s the hospital’s capital redevelopment campaign, and to introduce the evening’s comedic headliner, Jerry Seinfeld.

The event raised three million dollars towards the hospital’s redevelopment campaign. Not bad for one night.

 

Here is a clip of a strikingly serious Will Arnett filmed for The Hour, followed by a clip of Jerry Seinfeld filmed by Mr WIll-W

 



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