I absolutely love visiting art galleries, and when I travel I make a point of exploring the artistic treasures hidden in local collections. On the days when my passport is not in hand, and the Canadian winter has snowed me in, I can now visit my favourite pieces of art almost anywhere in the world thanks to the Google Art Project.
Google Art Project is a culturati version of Google Street View. You can navigate your way through archways and over hard wood floors rather than over asphalt and concrete. Step into the MoMa, The National Gallery, The Uffizi and many more of the world's top galleries and take a lasting look at the gorgeous high definition photographs of each piece. You can also create a personal artwork collection featuring your favouries. It's a lazy traveller's dream.
Mark S. Doss performs Escamillo's Todeador Song at the Florentine Opera Company 75th Anniversary Concert and Celebrations May 23, 2009
*Updated Friday February 25, 2011 - Mark's signature role is Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust, not the title role in Boito's Mefistofeles, as I had originally indicated.*
Everyone has been buzzing about the COC's new season announcement, and I am just as excited as the next girl to watch Saariaho's Love From Afar, and see Susan Graham, Russell Braun and Adrienne Pieczonka perform. Another name that keeps coming up is Mark S.Doss. He has won a Grammy award for a 1993 recording of Semele featuring Kathleen Battle, and will be performing tonight at Opera Tampa's "A Night of Stars" honouring Placido Domingo.
I am honored to be performing on this very special evening as Opera Tampa pays tribute to Plácido Domingo...I am also quite excited to be preparing my selections with Sherrill Milnes, for whom I first sang the Toréador Song from Carmen during a Master Class when I was in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s training program.
Doss made his La Scala debut in 2004 as Escamillo in Carmen, and has appeared in the roles of Amonasro in Verdi's Aida at La Scala, Jochanaan in Strauss's Salome at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, and began singing his signature role of Méphistophélès in Gounod's Faust, more than 25 years ago and has since been cast in this part by numerous leading opera companies around the world.
Mark S. Doss will be appearing as Thoas in the COC's fall production of Gluck's Iphigenia in Tauris alongside Susan Graham and Russell Braun.
After The Hills there were the Kardashians, after the Kardashians? Diana Damrau. Our favourite German Coloratura officially has her own reality show. Well, actually more like a reality episode. The one hour documentary followed Damrau over nine months and gives the viewer a rare glimpse into the life of an artist of her calibre. Oh, did I mention it's in French. C'est la vie.
ARTE TV will broadcast Divine Diva on Feb 21, but because everyone hates to wait, art lIfe and stilettos has the whole thing for you to watch after the jump, but first, here is what ARTE TV had to say about Divine Diva:
From Geneva to New York during his recitals and recording sessions, a portrait of the singer Diana Damrau, at the height of glory.
At the age of 12, when she saw La Traviata filmed by Franco Zeffirelli, that little Diana decides to become a singer. Maybe then she dreamed of one day singing with Placido Domingo in front of millions of viewers? A dream came true in 2006 during the opening ceremony of World Cup football: Diana Damrau and his idol interpreted together the "Brindisi" from Verdi's opera ... Onstage and backstage, but also in his family life in Geneva, the director followed for nine months that the German newspapers call "the best soprano of the moment," his immense vocal qualities are projected onto the big stage in the world .
I'm wishing Maestro Riccardo Muti all the best as he recovers from his recent surgeries due to a fall caused by fainting while at the podium during a rehearsal with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on February 3, and the consequent implantation of a pacemaker. Apparently he's recovering well, and I'm hopeful he will be able to swiftly return to what he does best.
In lighter news, Maestro Muti and the CSO have won awards for Best Classical Album of the Year, and Best Choral Performance at the Grammys for their recording of Verdi Requiem.
Verdi Requiem: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Chorus, Riccardo Muti, conductor, Barbara Frittoli, soprano, Olga Borodina, mezzo-soprano, Mario Zeffiri, tenor, Ildar Abdrazakov, bass, Orchestra Hall, Chicago, 17.1.2009 (BJ)
“There is this assumption that women in music and pop culture are supposed to act a certain way, and because I’m just sort of middle fingers up, a-blazing, doing what my artistic vision tells me to do, that is what is misunderstood. People are like, ‘She dresses this way for attention.’ Or like, ‘Ugh, the meat dress.’ ” She rolls her eyes. “People just want to figure it out or explain it. The truth is, the mystery and the magic is my art. That is what I am good at. You are fascinated with precisely the thing that you are trying to analyze and undo.”
Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, Grand Théâtre de Provence, courtesy of Forum Opera
What is going on with our beloved Ben Heppner? According to John Terauds at the Toronto Star, and the CBC our Canadian boy is withdrawing from his Ring Cycle engagement at The Met Opera, and retiring the role of Siegfried. What I don't know is why.
Maybe he's tired, overworked, doesn't like the production, or just wants some press. I sincerely hope it has nothing to do with the vocal challenges that have been plaguing him over the past few years. I had the opportunity to see him in recital in September of 2010, and in the spring of 2005 in Toronto, and both times he cracked on high notes, faltered during delicate passages, and left the stage looking less than confident. Critics blamed it on the Heppner Curse, while others labeled it a vocal catastrophe. Regardless, I feel for the guy, having to endure such rattling press. What does this mean for his upcoming schedule? Only time will tell, but I am dying to see him in the Bayerische Staatsoper Opernfestspiele production of Tristan und Isoldethis summer.
Replacing Ben Heppner as Siegfried will be Gary Lehman and Stephen Gould.
Composer John Adams, speaking to Colin Eatock in a special interview for The Globe and Mail
“Coming back to it now,” says Adams, “I’m astonished by what I was able to do at the time, given my lack of experience in the world of opera. I hardly ever went to opera, and I’d never written a piece for solo voice. I had no experience in the theatre beyond acting with my mother in South Pacific as a kid, and conducting The Marriage of Figaro with my classmates in college. It was kind of a miracle that my first attempt turned out to have a lasting life.”
Adams is the most respected opera composer in the United States today, and not a year goes by without a company somewhere presenting one of his four operas: Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer, Dr. Atomic or A Flowering Tree. Currently, Nixon in China is in production in two cities: It launched at New York’s Metropolitan Opera on Wednesday, and on Saturday the Canadian Opera Company opens it in Toronto.
Director Diane Paulus, who has worked on such varied stage works as David Lynch's Lost Highway, The Donkey Show, Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria, and the Broadway revival of Hair, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award describes the COC production of the Magic Flute:
We have set the action in 1791, the year in which the opera was first performed, against the backdrop of the Enlightenment. The entire play-within-the-play is presented in the open space of a nobleman’s garden, itself a place of enchantment and symbolic power during this historical period. As the drama unfolds, the actors leave the theatre behind and continue to enact their story in an elaborate labyrinth that covers the grounds of the estate. The theatricality of their journey is enhanced by the mysteries of the outdoor world beneath the cover of night where they act out the rituals of the drama. All distinctions between fantasy and reality fade away as their pageant lasts through the night until dawn.
People are saying the production is visually fantastical, and the overall reception has been really good. I haven't seen it yet, but I'll be there to see Simone in a couple of weeks.
The Canadian Opera Company's new production of The Magic Flute opened Saturday, Jan. 29 and will run for twelve performances through Feb. 25th. The Ensemble Studio will give a special performanceon Feb. 17.
Check out the gallery below of costume sketches and production photos. It all looks very visually appealing.
So let's be frank, I love opera, it is true but I also have a soft spot for any amazing music, especially when it's being made by local musicians. I came across Steve Poloni's music while at graduate school and think his guitar based jazz rock fusion is original, fun, and just plain good. You should definitely check him out.
Lucrezia Borgia is an opera written about a true femme fatale, it is based on the legendary tales of Lucrezia’s life. Some of the rumours about her include wearing a ring that hid poison which she would drop into her victim’s drink, and that she committed incest with both her brother, and father.
Lucrezia Borgia was born at near Rome, Italy in 1480, into the powerful dynastic House of Candia. She was betrothed twice by the time she turned 13, married Giovanni Sforza, and remained with him until her father bullied Giovanni into having the marriage annulled, as he had found a better suitor for his daughter. Before she could marry this suitor she bore and hid an illegitimate son, Giovanni, who is known as the Roman Infante. She then entered into a marriage with Alfonso of Aragon. Before long her brother Cesare had him murdered, and Lucrezia married her third husband, the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso of Este. Lucrezia and Don Alfonso were both unfaithful, and her lovers included a poet, and her bisexual brother-in-law.
...And all that happens as a prologue to the opera. In Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia, the focus is on the discovery of her illegitimate son by her husband, Don Alfonso, how he plots to murder him, and how Lucrezia both causes his death, and out of grief dies with him.
Mike Figgis, the film director best known for the movies Leaving Las Vegas, and Timecode, has taken on the task of directing the English National Opera’s production of Lucrezia Borgia. His method for inspiration was to take the translated libretto and turn it into a paper and ink film script, then adopting the text into a visual language in an attempt to create a dramatic presentation of the opera, that takes a limited multimedia approach. Figgis also created a cinematic overture that throws the audience into the middle of the story right from the first note, and weaves his cinematic vision throughout the opera through a series of six cinematic vignettes.
An incestuous relationship, a mother who finds her son, poisons him, then unpoisons him, poisons him again, he dies – yes, that’ll do,” he says drily in a conversation between rehearsals at the Coliseum. “That sounds like opera. Mike Figgis, to the Financial Times
Here is a clip of the specially commissioned Lucrezia Borgia film by Mike Figgis:
I much prefer the shorter Lucrezia Borgia Director’s Film, and would have liked to include it here, but alas I could not figure out a way to embed it on this page. Please check out the clip at this link.
If you’re feeling truly inspired, you can hear about the director’s creative process from Mike Figgis himself in the following interview clip: