"The Rag Man," a review of Edward Berlin's King of Ragtime: Scott Joplin and His Era (2nd edition): "As such, to Mr. and Mrs. America circa 1908, ragtime was not “The Entertainer,” but peppy little songs with peppery little lyrics, that you could get up and dance to. Only through these could one make a living, and Joplin had other ideas...." [more inside]
If you whistle a tune often enough to a starling, the bird will not only sing it back to you, it will improvise its response and create something new. On May 27, 1784, Mozart whistled a 17 note phrase to a starling in a Viennese shop and to his delight it spat the tune right back — but not without taking some liberties first. So he bought it and brought it home. That bird lived with him for the three most productive years of his life, during which he completed more than 60 compositions, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The piano concerto as we still understand it was built in those rooms. The “Jupiter” Symphony began and Figaro ended. Melodies that two centuries of humans have since whistled could have first been volleyed between a genius and his pet bird.
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara died on Wednesday at the age of 87. He wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works. [more inside]
"Many of the people involved in the Washington National Opera’s production of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle say their first exposure to opera came from the same source—Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd cartoons." [SLWSJ]
Part 1. Part 2. Two hours and forty minutes of classic Russian opera, in over-the-top Soviet style, produced in the unsettled years between Stalin's death and Krushchev's Secret Speech. If you don't have the time, you can watch the eleven minute death scene (part 1 and part 2 - a truly operatic death), performed by Boris Christoff a couple of years later in London. [more inside]
In 1980, Menahem Golan showed us a harrowing vision of the power of rock...in 1994 The Apple is a futuristic, dystopian disco rock musical that also manages to be a druggy, sexy biblical allegory. [more inside]
"Hey, Ambrož, what are you up to?" "Little brain surgery, little opera, quiet day for me."
First reported in this article by Alison Kinney, writing about the legacy of African-Americans in Opera, and later picked up by the NYT. SLYT: Otello's monologue sung by James McCracken in 1983, and by Placido Domingo in 1991. Perhaps someday soon we can hear the rising star Issachah Savage sing this role at the Met.
"We know that Conrad was an admirer of Stevenson’s work, and in fact that he thought more highly of Stevenson’s South Seas nonfiction writings than of his novels, at least according to Colvin, who knew both men. To my knowledge, however, no one has connected the next set of dots, not just from Stevenson’s writing to Conrad’s, but from Stevenson’s Samoan persona to Kurtz. Why not consider whether Stevenson’s grandiose island life influenced Conrad’s masterpiece?" Where Did Kurtz Come From? [single page], Matthew Pearl for Slate. Related: Conrad’s 'Heart of Darkness' gets operatic treatment (SF Examiner) | reviews (with stage photos).
The Pacific Opera Project has mounted a production of a the Star Trek/Mozart mashup that this galaxy so desperately needs. Klingon Opera purists will likely be disappointed, though. It's been a while since Terrans have turned their ears and their eyes to the stars for operatic inspiration, so this work fills a yawning void in the canon.
In 2011, Mark-Anthony Turnage's opera Anna Nicole premiered at the Royal Opera House in London. The story is based on the life of Anna Nicole Smith. [more inside]
Perhaps no other classical composer was as obsessed with good food and wine as Gioachino Rossini, who claimed he would only visit America if his close friend, legendary chef Antonin Carême, accompanied him. Because of his culinary devotion, many dishes are named "alla Rossini." One of the most decadent is Tournedos Rossini, a heart-stopping combination of beef filet, fois gras, butter, black truffle, and Madeira. In honor of Signor Crescendo's birthday on February 29, here is a recipe for that infamous dish. And while it’s cooking, how about some bel canto? [more inside]
Barbara Hannigan performs György Ligeti's 'Le Grand Macabre' with the Gothenburg Symphony. [YouTube] [Wiki]
Top hat at the cleaners? Opera glasses broke? Lost your box? Watch The Metropolitan Opera, the Bavarian State Opera (Deutsch, English) Vienna State Opera, or concerts from the Berlin Philharmonic and a variety of options from medici.tv and The Young Vic, The Globe, The Royal Opera House, The Royal Shakespeare Company, and more. [more inside]
British romance novelist Ida Cook (1904-1986) wrote over a hundred books for Mills & Boon under the name Mary Burchell, including the thirteen-book, opera-focused Warrender saga. The passion she and her sister, Louise Cook, shared for opera carried them across oceans and countries in the years prior to the outbreak of WWII, and when Ida took account of her writing career's financial success, she was by struck by a "terrible, moving and overwhelming thought--I could save life with it." So beginning in 1937, she and Louise helped save dozens of lives by entering Germany disguised as themselves: eccentric opera fanatics. Louise Carpenter's "Ida and Louise" looks into the lives of these two sisters, these "lives which swung dizzyingly between the purest fantasy and the utterly real." [more inside]
Carlo Bergonzi was one of the 20th century's greatest operatic tenors Bergonzi's reputation was one of the great (if not THE) Verdian tenor of mid-late 20th century opera. Here is an outstanding performance by Begonzi, of "Quando le sere al placido" from Verdi's opera, "Luiza Miller"; Bergonzi is in his late 50's in this performance; here is Bergonzi singing the same aria at 70 (in 1996) - an amazing performance for that age! [if you don't know this aria, let it develop - it's one of the most lyrical and dramatic in all of Verdi's work) [more inside]
"[F]rom the vantage point of a 12-year-old, adulthood is something best avoided. The key question, then, is how long can you run?" Rolling Stone launches their new monthly feature, "Be Kind, Rewind" with a new look at Step Brothers. [more inside]
Barihunks. A blog about hunky baritones. That is all.
BBC Arts is now hosting the entirety of a performance of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier live from Glyndebourne. This version was recently presented streamed into cinemas. A podcast about the production is available here at Glyndebourne's own website.
"The thing that really gets to me about the reviews is that all of them, almost grudgingly, admit that she sang the extraordinarily difficult role beautifully. And yet the bulk of their criticism is reserved for her body type." Irish Tara Erraught, soprano star of this year's Glyndebourne festival, garnered almost universal contempt from London's male critics. Guardian roundup, including a mention of Alice Coote's open letter to critics.
In a new production of Christoph Willibald Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice (Orpheus and Eurydice) in Vienna, the part of Euridice is shared between the soprano Christiane Karg, who sings from the stage, and Karin Anna Giselbrecht, a young woman in a persistent vegetative state, who lies in a nearby hospital. "The music is played to her and video cameras relay her image to the stage." [From the opera blog Intermezzo.] [more inside]
The Nightingale and the Rose is an 8 minute film-opera by composer Emily Hall and filmmaker Gaelle Denis, and performed by the amateur voices of Streetwise Opera.
"And let it be set down, Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the 20th century, and the greatest genius of 20th-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that. And it hardly matters. He knew it. That the world was too stupid to keep up was not his problem." Robert Ashley dies at 83. [more inside]
"The cinema was made for horror movies. No other kind of film offers that same mysterious anticipation as you head into a dark auditorium. No other makes such powerful use of sound and image. The cinema is where we come to share a collective dream and horror films are the most dreamlike of all, perhaps because they engage with our nightmares." And so Mark Gatiss opens his three-part series, A History of Horror. "One of the great virtues of this series is that it is thoroughly subjective. Gatiss does not feel any particular obligation to give us an A to Z of horror, but instead lingers lovingly over his own favourites," taking the viewer with him from the Golden Age of Hollywood horror through the American horror movies of the 1960s and 1970s. [more inside]
World Concert Hall publishes a schedule, seven days out, of live classical concerts and operas scheduled for streaming broadcast on the web.
The young Talese wanted to be American, not Italian, so he resented the Verdi and Puccini, this soundtrack to the boyhood he didn’t want to have. [more inside]
Nike Wagner, the composer's great-granddaughter, puts the question that this raises in these terms: "Should we allow ourselves to listen to his works with pleasure, even though we know that he was an anti-Semite?" There's a bigger issue behind this question: Can Germans enjoy any part of their history in a carefree way?
Marguerite Humeau is an artist who has made reconstructions of extinct creatures' vocal tracts, extrapolating from extant species and fossil remains. The Extinction Orchestra. [more inside]
Pitch Battles: How a paranoid fringe group made musical tuning an international issue.
The petition had its origins in one of the strangest conflicts to have overtaken classical music in the past thirty years, and many of these luminaries were completely unaware of what they’d gotten themselves into. The sponsor of both the petition and the conference that featured Tebaldi was an organization called the Schiller Institute, dedicated to, among other things, lowering standard musical pitch. ... But behind this respectable front lurks a strange mélange of conspiracy, demagoguery, and cultish behavior. At its founding in 1984, its chairman Helga Zepp-LaRouche laid out the Institute’s role in surprisingly apocalyptic termsOriginally published at The Believer.
The end of , the beginning of Blink... The Evolution of the Web, in a Blink
SHROOM TRIP ARIA Italiano [6m48s] is a music video of a section of Joseph Keckler's one-man show I Am An Opera. [more inside]
Shortly thereafter, one of the nuns died. La Maupin disinterred the body of the deceased nun and, placing it in the bed of her beloved, set the room afire so that the two could flee in the ensuing confusion. Julie d’Aubigny a.k.a. La Maupin or Mademoiselle Maupin was a 17th century fencer and opera singer of the Paris Opera. In detail. [more inside]
FillDisk -- HTML5 permits websites to store considerable data on your local disk. It was originally expected that the browsers would impose a ceiling on this, but IE, Opera, Safari, and Chrome do not. A properly coded HTML5 site can completely fill your hard drive. [more inside]
You know the blue alien lady that sings that crazy techno opera song in The Fifth Element? Said to be humanly impossible, Laura sings it without any digital enhancements. The original singer's voice is sung by Albanian soprano Inva Mula.
"Disney goes to Anaheim late at night to help repair the animatronic Disneyland Lincoln, which has been malfunctioning and attacking members of the audience. Disney gets in an argument with the robot about blacks, and Lincoln goes crazy again and whacks Walt...." (source). Starting today at 2 PM Eastern time (just under 3 hours from now) and for the next 90 days, medici.tv will stream, free of charge, Teatro Real's January 22 premiere performance of the new Philip Glass opera The Perfect American. It's based on the novel of the same name by Peter Stephan Jungk, which the NY Times called "a surreal, meditative, episodic account of the last days of Walt Disney." Four minute preview video. ENO rehearsal trailer. (Happy belated 76th, Mr. Glass.) [more inside]
For those who like a little WTF? with their opera. [NSFW]. Of course, there's a Making Of video. Also NSFW, and in German.
Aria was an art movie/promotional stunt put out by Virgin Media in 1987 with famous directors providing a music-video take on various opera pieces. ( A full review by That Opera Chick). Of particular note is Julien Temple's (Of Earth Girls Are Easy fame) adaptation of Verdi's Rigoletto as a zany, cartoonish, ecstasy-fueled and very 80s farce set at the infamous Madonna Inn. Watch the whole delirious sequence here.
GlamourFilter: Opening Night at La Scala. Pictures from La Scala's opening nights, dating through the fifties and sixties. (Main story here, slideshow here, those links in Italian, but easy enough to figure out for non-speakers.) Pictures of Callas, Toscanini, Princess Grace, Dick and Liz, and many more, all looking impossibly fab and glamourous. (Via the always informative and entertaining Opera Chic.)
225 years ago today, in the Teatro di Praga, there premiered a new opera - conducted by the 31 year old composer, who was in demand after his success in Vienna the year before. Although he had completed the overture less than 24 hours earlier, the opera was an instant smash - with the composer being "welcomed joyously and jubilantly by the numerous gathering". In the years to come, Kierkegaard would agree with the French composer Charles Gounod that the opera was "a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection". Flaubert would call it one of "the three finest things God made". Today, it is the 10th most performed opera in the world. It is Mozart's Don Giovanni (spoiler). [more inside]
Flipping through public access or PBS channels one might have seen Classic Arts Showcase with it's familiar ARTS bug. The 24-hour non-commercial free-to-air satellite channel broadcasts a repeated 8-hour mix of about 150 video clips weekly a mix of various classic arts including animation, architectural art, ballet, chamber, choral music, dance, folk art, museum art, musical theater, opera, orchestral, recital, solo instrumental, solo vocal, and theatrical play, as well as classic film and archival documentaries. The channel has no VJs and only silent interstitials encouraging the viewer to “...go out and feast from the buffet of arts available in your community.” [more inside]
"Pass the Spoon is a daft and instantly lovable collaboration between cartoonist David Shrigley, composer David Fennessy and director Nicholas Bone. The posters promised a "sort-of opera" about cookery; what transpired was a zany, warm-hearted sort-of pantomime held together by some extremely good music and expert comic delivery." The short-run "sort-of opera" was largely structured around the story and designs of artist David Shrigley, who had never been to an opera, and doesn't have any specific interest in TV cookery. The Space is streaming a lovely, professionally shot film of a performance.
Next week, for the first time in 22 years, PBS will televise the four dramas of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle on consecutive nights - a rare opportunity to encounter in the manner intended "the most ambitious and most profound work of art ever created". [more inside]
The 101st Bayreuth Festival opened today with a new staging of Richard Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman. The celebrity audience including German Chancellor Angela Merkel were overshadowed by the sudden departure from the cast of its leading baritone, Evgeny Nikitin, who withdrew from the company four days ago after a German TV program showed film clips of the Russian singer sporting what appeared to be a swastika tattoo. [more inside]