I love it when fresh images of iconic artists make the gallery rounds. When it comes to the Velvet Underground, the Factory and anything Warhol, I am always interested. It's too bad the exhibit, All Tomorrow’s Parties - Andy Warhol, la Factory e i Velvet Underground is opening in Bologna, Italy, because I would have loved to view the more than 80 pictures shot by internationally renowned photographers, like David McCabe, in person.
Warhol was a close friend and collaborator with the Velvet Underground, and there is something so fabulously vivid about way the musicians and artists of the period were captured on film. Here are some pictures from the show, in case you don't have a flight booked to Europe for the holidays.
Jonas Kaufmann really wants you to watch Faust this weekend. How can you say no to that face?
THE BIRDS TAKE UP THEIR CHARMING SONGS ONCE MORE Special guest narrator: Bruce Hunter Vivaldi - Four Seasons Musical Improvisations – The Audience becomes the Storyteller
The holidays are a time to be together with those you love. Join with friends, family and community and participate in some music making with Via Salzburg. The Baroque sounds of Vivaldi prepare our ears as Via Salzburg and our audience create music together for the first time. Friday, December 9, 2011, 8pm. Rosedale United Church, 159 Roxborough Drive, Toronto.
BACK TO BACK - CONTINUUM MUSIC Continuum Musicco-presented with the Music Gallery and Toronto New Music Projects, Back to Back is a concert of works for small ensemble by experimentalist extraordinaire Vinko Globokar. This event, together with a New Music Concerts performance on December 11, creates a rare concentration of Globokar’s work that is not to be missed. The programme includes Dos à Dos, Terres brûlées, ensuite…, a brilliantly theatrical trio for piano, saxophone and percussion with electronics by Thomas Kessler, and a group improvisation led by Globokar on trombone. Performers - Composer and trombone: Vinko Globokar (FR) With: Thomas Kessler (electronics), Wallace Halladay (saxophone), Stephen Clarke (piano), Ryan Scott (percussion), David Schotzko (percussion). December 9, 2011, 8 pm. The Music Gallery, 197 John Street, Toronto, ON, CA, M5T 1X6
Gratuitous photos of ripped men covered in pizza dough. It’s art, don’t judge. Exhibition by Chris Curreri. [Daniel Faria Gallery]
Don’t know your fachs from your fermatas? Do "falcon," "dugazon" and "baryton-martin" sound like high priced cocktails to you? Want to impress that opera singer next door? You should read this article about musical terminology. [Opera News]
Pablo Heras-Cased, the young Spanish one to watch, has been named principal conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Watch out for performances at Carnegie Hall and Caramoor. [NYTimes]
“The astonishing thing about this debut album of prim and chilly Canadian synth pop is singer Katie Stelmanis—the shuddery force in her operatic voice, and the way she builds it into layers and harmonies that feel like little sculptures.” Austria’s lead singer, Katie Stelmanis sang with the Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, the band performed at Operanation 2011, and is New York Magazine’s number one album choice for 2011. [NYMag]
I spent this summer in Germany and Austria, I’d like to pay homage to those two nations with a list of the best schnitzel in Toronto. [BlogTO]
"Back in the 1970s, when Tori Amos was a pre-adolescent girl in the preparatory program at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, none of her teachers would have imagined that one day she would be recording her own compositions for the renowned classical label Deutsche Grammophon." [The Globe and Mail]
Beer, jam sessions, jeans. It’s a classical music revolution, and it’s happening all over North America. [The Globe and Mail]
Topless Ballet Lessons with Roberto Bolle: Yes, It's Really as Good as it Sounds. [Opera Chic]
Critics and artists are often dependent on each other for their careers, and can blame failure on one another as well. The critic’s job is to analyze and discuss perceived problems while acknowledging success. Amici Chamber Ensemble has decided to make the critic an integral part of the process, rather than an observer at the conclusion, by asking some of Toronto’s most influential critics to personally suggest the repertoire that Amici will play. John Terauds (Toronto Star), John Van Driel (Classical 96.3 FM) and Colin Eatock (Globe and Mail) are the three critics who have contributed by helping to program Amici’s latest project.
What do you think? Is it a brilliant idea to let the judges of your work contibute to the final product, or is it crazy to let an outsider have imput on your work? I'd love to hear your responses in the comments section.
After weeks of exploring America, Art Life and Stilettos is finally back home. I spent the good part of two weeks on the great American road trip: driving across America on Route 66, and trust me the song doesn't do it justice.
I started out in my hometown of Toronto, then drove straight to Chicago where I spent two nights. After that it was 66 all the way to Los Angeles, California. On the way I saw many interesting and odd sights, and visited many friendly and unique towns. From Joliet, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri; Springfield; Stanton; Bourbon; Rolla; Baxter Springs, Kansas; Vinita, Oklahoma; Oklahoma City; Elk City; Texola; Amarillo, Texas; Santa Rosa, New Mexico; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Pertified Forest, Arizona; Flagstaff; The Grand Canyon; Seligman, Arizona; Oatman; Barstow, California; and finally through Los Angeles all the way to the Santa Monica Pier.
There were so many other towns we visited, there is just no way I can mention all of them. Let me tell you that the trip was amazing, lots of fun, relaxing and gave me a true taste of real American Car Culture. I will never forget my time driving through the mid and south-west and hope beyond hopes that I have the opportunity to do it again. I highly reccomend the drive for anyone itching to do a road trip. Oh, and LA? I envy your weather more than you will ever understand. Yesterday in Toronto IT SNOWED!! Take me back to Paridise City, please...
Seeing as I can't show you every picture from my trip, I'll start with a few highlights from Chicago. I hope to keep sharing interesting photos with you in future posts.
I wanted to attend the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Handel's Hercules, featuring Eric Owens, Alice Coote, David Daniels, Lucy Crowe and Richard Croft, but alas I could not locate any tickets. Instead I attended a wonderful concert by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The evening featured three perfect Saturday night pieces: Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture, Penderecki Concerto grosso for Three Cellos and Orchestra, and the beautiful Elgar Enigma Variations. The concert was conducted by Charles Dutoit (not Muti) and featured cellists John Sharp, Kenneth Olsen and Katinka Kleijn. The evening was superb.
I snapped a few photos after the concert:
Get well soon, Maestro.
After highbrow symphony we hit up some dirty blues at Kingston Mines. This is where I tried Rib Tips for the first time. Sometimes I wish I asked what a dish actually consists of before ordering it, even if it is a Chicago specialty. Anyone else try Rib Tips? What do you think?
Here's a picture of B.L.U.E.S. right across the street in Blues Alley:
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.”
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.
COC production of Die Walküre, Photo: Michael Cooper
Why are audiences turned off by modern classical music? Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise, has written an engaging article in the Guardian exploring some contributing factors to the public’s general distaste for modern classical music. Ross has watched people leave during concert performances, and points out that
Some Prommers are still traumatised by the shock of encountering Harrison Birtwistle's ultraviolent piece at the 1995 Last Night of the Proms.
Panic - Harrison Birtwistle Johan van der Linden Saxophone Wilbert Grootenboer Drums Doelen Ensemble olv Arie van Beek 9-10-10 De Doelen, Rotterdam
Isn't the best music supposed to stir emotion? I am stirred right in the pit of my stomach after listening to Panic.
In his article Ross describes a scientific theory that indicates a preference for simple tonality is wired into the human brain, and a sociological explanation that boils the issue down to the discomfort of being trapped in a seat for a prolonged period of time. After (thankfully) dismissing these theories, Ross offers the following insight
The People's Diva has slowly been taking on fewer and fewer operatic engagements in fewer houses around the world. Is her voice still gorgeous? Yes. Is her vocal style idiosyncratic? Pretty sure. Is she an indie princess? She is now.
Besides collaboration, some opera singer have attempted to sing different genres altogether, but for the most part their forays are into Gospel or Musical Theatre. Not the case for Le Fleming. Her latest album Dark Hope, released last spring, includes songs by artists as diverse as Muse, Leonard Cohen, The Mars Volta, Tears For Fears, and the Arcade Fire.
Last night La Fleming performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra a somewhat unbalanced programme that included operatic favourites, and indie hits. The programme included arias from Faust, Thais, La Boheme, and Conchita, wrapped around Hallelujah, Soul Meets Body, and Endlessly. The fact that the songs were arranged with orchestra seems interesting to me, but the reviews? Completely contradictory, of course.
I’ve heard more distinctive and meaningful singing from little-known performers in bars around Toronto. The nadir came in Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, an overperformed song in a stodgy arrangement (the worst of a lame group), during which Fleming slipped into protective sotto voce every time the song ventured up to what should have been its peak moments. I don’t think this material is beneath her, she’s just the wrong singer to do it. The Globe and Mail
The orchestra successfully made itself over into a backup band as Fleming gamely tackled three songs – most successfully Leonard Cohen ubiquitous Hallelujah, which sounded like she really meant it. The Toronto Star
Included in the Roy Thomson Hall program was a brief note regarding the three songs. Notice there is no information on the composers work or a biography, as was done for the classical selections, instead there is a letter in defence of her artistic judgement:
These selections from Dark Hope, Renée Fleming’s recent “indie rock” CD, showcase her longstanding interest in popular music, and the astonishing range and versatility of her expressive talent. Regarding her purpose in making the CD, she has written, “I have always been inspired by artists who have shown musical and intellectual curiosity, especially those who have the courage to take risks.” She describes the idea of ‘dark hope’ as “an outlook that comes with maturity, an outlook of someone who’s really lived. I love the title, because its paradox immediately makes you stop and think how the two concepts fit together.”
Since I was unable to attend her concert due to a performance of my own, I am unable to comment on the event itself, but I will say this. How often have you attended a live show by a high profile band where they only played music off their latest experimental album, and neglected to give the fans what they really want, which is to hear their hits? Le Fleming has not made this mistake. Instead she has gently nudged the audience towards the acceptance of her latest musical inclination, while carefully ensuring their comfort and acceptance.
Shirley Verrett, the veteran opera singer "who overcame racial prejudice to bring fearless power, scrupulous musicianship and keen dramatic instincts to opera stages throughout the world, has died" at the age of 79. Opera Chic
Shirley Verrett, the vocally lustrous and dramatically compelling American opera singer who began as a mezzo-soprano and went on to sing soprano roles to international acclaim, died Friday morning at her home in Ann Arbor, Mich. She was 79. NYTimes
She was renowned for intense performances as a mezzo for much of her career and a soprano in her later years. She was part of the second generation of black opera singers who followed Marian Anderson's breakthrough at the Met in 1955. LA Times
The Metropolitan Opera deserves a trophy for Otto Schenk's new production of Donizetti's operatic farce "Don Pasquale." Tenor Matthew Polenzani has been praised for his vocal talents, but the show was undoubtably stolen by Anna Netrebko.
The Met has given Mr. Schenk a marvelous cast, especially the charismatic soprano Anna Netrebko in a portrayal of Norina that dazzled Friday night's audience...There was so much intensity in her singing you would have thought she was performing Lucia's "Mad Scene." The house, understandably, went wild. (New York Times Review)
For those of us unfortunate souls not living in NYC, the opera will be broadcast Live in HD at Cineplex Movie Theatres on November 13.
Features in the November 2010 issue of Opera News, the annual Diva Issue, is the article "Anna's Voyage" by Oussama Zahr. Opera News declares it is one of the best articles ever written about Anna Netrebko. The article focuses on roles that Netrebko has sung in the past, as well as what she has planned for the future now that she has become on of the most famous, and marketable sopranos in the world. The article offers up some of Netrebko's candid opinions on singing and opera. Not only is she a pleasure to watch perform, but she really understands what makes opera so exciting for the audience, and what makes a singer's voice both electric and beautiful.
When I mention that I hear Mirella Freni in her voice, Netrebko's eyes light up. "Mirella. Thank you. I always heard this, since I started studying. And you know what, listening to her helps me a lot, because I think her technique is amazing for what she's doing.
"She always sang," says Netrebko of the Italian soprano. And, here, Netrebko reveals her partiality for singers with flowing, generous voices, unlike a different breed of singer she sees today, marked by lots of covered tone without forward placement in order to manipulate dynamics easily. "This dynamic control, usually, it's not going from the breath. Beautiful for the audience, dangerous for the singer," she explains. "I will not tell you the name of the singer – very good soprano, beautiful voice, one of the most beautiful – and I attend a couple of her performances in different roles. And I was like, why the fuck are you singing half mezzavoce? Who needs that? Open your mouth, give me your voice – on the breath, supported, pointed, and that's it. But lots of people think this is the musicality. I think it's bullshit. You can show a couple of the notes, okay, you have piano, thank you. After that, give me singing, give me the voice."
February 22, is the birthday of the the poet of the piano. Some say it's March 1, but his baptismal certificate says Feb. 22. I don't think it really matters, everyday is a day to take a few minutes and enjoy some piano virtuosity.
Hand crafted by "veik11" are a bunch of Lady GaGa Barbies that prove to be striking renditions of GaGa's outrageous costume creations. I've included a bunch of photos for you to check out and you can click here to find the original pics and a bunch more of veik11's Lady Gaga Barbie Dolls.
The series features The Beatles' digitally remastered recordings and exclusive new interviews with a variety of artists and producers as they reveal the influence of The Beatles on their individual careers. In Part Two you will be treated to stories from Brian Wilson, Tom Petty, Dave Grohl, Slash, Bob Seger, T-Bone Burnett and many others.
Anne Midgette, who was the former Classical Music Critic for the New York Times, has a fantastic track record for identifying impeccable artistry in the continually lowered artistic standards of opera houses today. Below is her version of a decade top ten list featuring the greatest moments in classical music. Trust me, this list is not what you would expect. My favourite quote is in the extra category labeled "worst" of the decade. Her understanding of the business is right on the mark:
"Opera improved on its glitz factor thanks to HD broadcasts and tabloid publicity, but lost sight of its artistry. Administrators and critics fostered the wholly erroneous notions that singers of the past couldn't act and singers today could; while the jet-set demands of the international lifestyle fostered hothouse careers: the next great hope comes along, wins acclaim, oversings and fades from sight. The tenor Rolando Villazón became a poster boy for opera in the 2000s: not, alas, for his huge talent, but for singing his voice to shreds."
This was Rolando's Apology Message to his fans for having to take time off for vocal surgery to repair a cyst on his vocal cords:
The Royal Opera House has become the first performing arts organisation in Europe to launch its own iTunes U site. Nearly 300 items of free multi-media content from the Royal Opera House are now available via a dedicated area within the iTunes Store. The materials being offered include performance excerpts, rehearsal footage, audio and written resources on productions, plus master-classes, interviews with artists, sessions focused on specific repertory of both the operas and ballets performed at The Royal Opera House, London.
I love sitting down to watch Spectacle... with Elvis Costello on Sunday nights. The second season has just hit the air Friday night on CTV, but I missed it. U2 was the special guest. Of course it was only a matter of time before Bono got involved. The first season is still being aired on Bravo, and it's well worth watching. This week's guest was Herbie Hancock. He discussed the process of writing and arranging tunes, and how he comes up with his most memorable licks. There was a really special moment where Hancock played Joni Mitchell's "Edith and the Kingpin," Costello offered his, ahem, unique vocal stylings to the tune. Here's a great version of Watermelon Man.