Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Forward: Second Annual NEW YORK OPERA FEST!


NEW YORK OPERA ALLIANCE presents the second annual NEW YORK OPERA FEST May & June 2017

The festival showcases the breadth and diversity of opera in New York City through 28 events, ranging from virtual reality to improv opera, with productions in theaters, gardens, garages, bars, playgrounds and more.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017 — The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA), a consortium of New York opera companies and producers, proudly presents the second annual New York Opera Fest (http://nyoperafest.com), a two-month celebration of opera during May and June with over 20 New York City-based companies putting on 28 events in venues around the city.
The festival showcases New York’s vibrant and varied opera scene, with repertoire ranging from the traditional operatic canon to innovative world premieres, taking place in diverse venues such as theaters, bars, gardens, garages, and playgrounds. With the New York Opera Fest, the Alliance shows how NYC’s opera scene is truly a living, breathing community of people who are working together to produce new work, develop new artists and engage with communities of all ages and backgrounds.
“The festival is a reminder that opera doesn’t need a 3,000-seat theater to be grand, and some of the more innovative, impassioned, exciting and vital – as well as affordable – productions are coming out of these smaller, more nimble companies.” 
-WQXR

“I honestly thought I knew all about the New York City opera scene…I was barely scratching the surface.”
-VAN Magazine
In addition to performances, the festival also includes forums, film screenings, and workshops, as well as a kickoff event on Thursday, April 27 featuring excerpts from the 2017 festival. The evening will honor soprano Lauren Flanigan for her contribution to the NYC Opera Community with the 2nd annual NYOA Service Award.
The New York Opera Alliance works in partnership with OPERA America, the national service organization for opera and the nation’s leading advocate for American opera, based in the National Opera Center in New York City. The New York Opera Festival is supported in part by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

PERFORMANCES INCLUDE:

  • American Opera Projects presents the New York premiere of Robert Paterson’s Three Way, three playful one-act operas, on the present and future of sex and love.
  • Bronx Opera closes their 50th anniversary season with an English-language production of Verdi’s Falstaff.
  • Heartbeat Opera presents their spring festival featuring new interpretations of Bizet’s Carmen and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.
  • Experiments in Opera presents Flash Operas, six newly commissioned 15-minute operas based on ‘Flash Fiction’ stories.
  • Opera on Tap releases The Parksville Murders, the world’s first virtual reality horror opera, in addition to performances in two bars and a school playground.
  • On Site Opera presents new site-specific productions of Mozart’s The Secret Gardener in the West Side Community Garden and the U.S. premiere of Darius Milhaud’s La mère coupable at The Garage.                    
  • Sign & Sing incorporates American Sign Language into the opera experience with “EXPLORATIONS”: three stories of love and travel.
  • Family friendly operas include New Camerata Opera’s rendition of Peter Rabbit and Ardea Arts’s performance of George Plimpton’s Animal Tales.                    

ABOUT THE NEW YORK OPERA ALLIANCE

The New York Opera Alliance (NYOA) is a consortium of New York City opera companies and producers established to enhance and support the visibility and viability of opera in NYC. Founded in 2011, NYOA has grown from 4 organizations to more than 40, and counting. Since 2013, NYOA has been fiscally sponsored by OPERA America.
They believe that New Yorkers and visitors to New York alike can be better informed about the breadth, range and vitality of New York City’s opera-producing community. NYOA is a community-driven organization; together, they aspire to increase awareness of participating organizations, share ideas and resources, and generate revenue for collaborative projects.         

ABOUT OPERA AMERICA

OPERA America leads and serves the entire opera community, supporting the creation, presentation and enjoyment of opera. Artistic services help opera companies and creative and performing artists to improve the quality of productions and increase the creation and presentation of North American works. Information, technical and administrative services to opera companies reflect the need for strengthened leadership among staff, trustees and volunteers. Education, audience development and community services are designed to enhance all forms of opera appreciation. OPERA America provides organizational and project support to NYOA, through convenings, facilitated discussion, professional development leadership and access to OPERA America member resources. For more information, please visit https://www.operaamerica.org/

NEW YORK OPERA FEST EVENTS

For additional event details, please visit: http://nyoperafest.com
APRIL 27: New York Opera Festival Kickoff  
Marc A. Scorca Hall; OPERA America’s National Opera Center, 330 Seventh Ave
Featuring excerpts from the 2017 festival and honoring soprano Lauren Flanigan for her contribution to the NYC Opera Community with the 2nd annual NYOA Service Award.
MAY 1: New Camerata Opera presents Peter Rabbit
Venue TBA
A rollicking, action-packed introduction to the world of classical music, featuring the timeless melodies of Gaetano Donizetti. About thirty minutes long, with a brief question and answer session, children learn and laugh at the same time!
MAY 5: Experiments in Opera presents Flash Operas
Symphony Space, Thalia Theater, 2537 Broadway
Experiments in Opera partners with Symphony Space to commission six new short operas based on inventive ‘Flash Fiction’ stories by Jack Handey, A.M. Homes, Patricia Marx, Andrew McCuaig, Peter Mehlman, and Keith Scribner.  
MAY 6 & 7:  Bronx Opera Company presents Verdi’s Falstaff
Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, 695 Park Ave
An English-language version of Verdi’s Falstaff closes out BxO’s 50th season celebration. Additional performances April 29 & 30 at Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre.
MAY 10: Regina Opera Company presents a preview of Donizetti’s L'Elisir d'amore 
Our Lady of Perpetual Help school auditorium, 5902 6th Ave, Brooklyn NY
FREE EVENT
Regina Opera Company offers a free “sneak-peek” of their upcoming performance of Donizetti’s sparkling comedy, L’Elisir d’Amore.
MAY 11: Opera on Tap presents Home Brewed Opera
Freddy's Bar and Backroom, 627 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY
FREE EVENT
Have a Stella with your Strauss! The Divas of Opera on Tap bring you funny, irreverent, immersive operatic concerts in a casual setting.
MAY 11-13: On Site Opera presents Mozart’s The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) 
The Westside Community Garden, 123 West 89th Street
FREE EVENT
On Site Opera and The Atlanta Opera join together to bring Mozart’s The Secret Gardener (La finta giardiniera) to life in a new site-specific production at the Westside Community Garden.
MAY 11 & 12: Hunter Opera Theater presents Fireworks and Lady Bird
Danny Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, 695 Park Avenue
The NYC premieres of Fireworks by Kitty Brazelton and Lady Bird by Henry Mollicone.
MAY 13, 14, 20 & 21: Regina Opera Company presents Donizetti’s L'Elisir d'amore 
Our Lady of Perpetual Help School Auditorium, 5902 6th Ave, Brooklyn NY
A shy bumpkin – a rich girl – a swaggering soldier – a quack doctor – a love potion. All these add up to sparkling comedy in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (The Elixir of Love).
MAY 18: Encompass New Opera Theatre presents Paradigm Shifts: Music & Film Festival
Baruch Performing Arts Center, Engelman Recital Hall, 55 Lexington Avenue
A music, opera and film festival, celebrating true stories of courageous change-makers preserving our planet, oceans and wildlife.
MAY 18-20: New Opera NYC presents Rimsky-Korsakov’s Golden Cockerel
Sheen Center for the Arts, 18 Bleecker St
A cornerstone of the Russian opera heritage, based on faux fairytale by a great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin and set to a libretto by Vladimir Belsky.
MAY 19 & 20: Rhymes With Opera presents Bonnie Lander’s Coping Mechanisms 
124 Bank Street Theater, 124 Bank St
An improvisatory opera, in which an ensemble of singers create their own narrative, textures, characters and vocalizations, focusing on our need for both privacy and communication in modern society.
MAY 20 & 21: Ardea Arts presents George Plimpton’s Animal Tales
Location TBA
A rambunctious masterpiece bursting with fun, optimism, and insight into the human journey for audiences of all ages. Seven animals and their veterinarian, assisted by a children’s chorus, will raise the curtain on a new family favorite that speaks to the child in all of us.
MAY 20-28: Heartbeat Opera presents annual Spring Festival
Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Avenue
In a new four-character adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen with a brand-new instrumental arrangement, love is a fire that burns everything in its path and leaves no prisoners. A newly orchestrated Puccini’s Madama Butterfly investigates the stereotypes, racism, and misogyny embedded within the foundations of this masterpiece.
MAY 21: SIGN & SING presents Explorations
Symphony Space, Thalia Theater, 2537 Broadway
EXPLORATIONS examines three stories of love and travel – Heggie’s At the Statue of Venus, Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Elgar's Sea Pictures  reimagining great works of classical music in sung English and American Sign Language. Open captions and assisted listening devices will be provided.
JUNE 2, 3, 9 & 10: Opera Upper West presents Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied
Baylander IX-514, West Harlem Piers, New York, NY 10027
Board a Vietnam war aircraft carrier and be immersed in the story of Colonel Floyd James Thompson, America's longest serving Prisoner of War. Experience the culture shock of the 60’s and 70’s, and observe how media and memory forge American identity.
JUNE 2: Opera Lafayette presents Rameau’s Les Indes Galates - Part IV
The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue
The cast, Opera Lafayette Orchestra, and Gallery Voices, an acclaimed chamber vocal ensemble, highlight the incomparably rich music of this most famously gifted of French composers in this multinational love story set in North America.
JUNE 2: Opera on Tap presents New Brew: Pint-Sized Opera Edition
Barbes, 376 9th St., Brooklyn, NY 
An irreverent and entertaining concert filled to the brim with very short operas that pack a punch (shots of opera, if you will), written by some of today's most exciting composers.
JUNE 5: Vertical Player Repertory presents Britten’s Phaedra
LEIMAY CAVE, 58 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY
A staged performance of Britten's solo cantata for mezzo soprano, featuring Judith Barnes, presented in partnership with LEIMAY, the interdisciplinary ensemble and producing organization, and performed with a reduced chamber ensemble as part of SOAK.
JUNE 15: Opera on Tap presents The Elixir of Love: The Playground Opera
The Playground, Public School 129, 425 W 130th St
FREE EVENT
Opera on Tap returns to Harlem PS 129 for the third year in a row, presenting a colorful re-imagining of Donizetti's Elixir of Love, co-produced by the students and performed in their school playground.
JUNE 15-18: American Opera Projects presents Robert Paterson’s Three Way
BAM Fisher - Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Pl, Brooklyn, NY
The New York premiere of Robert Paterson’s Three Way, a new opera, comprised of three playful one-acts, on the present and future of sex and love.
JUNE 17: Martina Arroyo Foundation presents MAF Prelude to Performance Opera Highlights Concert
Ida K. Lang Recital Hall, Hunter College, East 69th St
Join the exciting young artists of the MAF Prelude to Performance program for excerpts from the upcoming Prelude operas, Bizet's, Carmen and Puccini's, Suor Angelica/ Gianni Schicchi.
JUNE 20 & 22-24: On Site Opera presents Darius Milhaud’s La mère coupable
The Garage, 611 West 50th Street
The U.S. premiere and new site-specific production of Darius Milhaud’s La mère coupable (The Guilty Mother).
JUNE 23: OperaRox Productions presents A New Works Concert
Location TBA
A concert of entirely new songs, featuring OperaRox Young Artists.
TBA: Indie Opera Podcast presents Women in Opera
The National Opera Center, 330 7th Avenue, 8th Floor
FREE EVENT
Prominent women gather from various aspects of Opera Production to discuss issues facing women in opera today. Is access and influence fair or still a loaded game?
TBA: Victor Herbert Renaissance Project LIVE! presents Victor Herbert and the Grand Opera Natoma
Location TBA
VHRP LIVE! will give you an overview of Herbert's place in American musical theatre, the opera's history, our restoration, excerpts from the vocal score, and a comparison of an excerpt on piano with the same excerpt as heard with a full orchestra -- utilizing portions of Herbert's grand opera Natoma.
    
For more info, full schedule and tickets, visit: http://nyoperafest.com           

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

PSA from your friendly audition monitor!

A dear friend who is no stranger to these pages recently published these words on her Facebook page after serving a day as an audition monitor.  Heed her well!


Its that time of year again. I monitored almost an entire day of YAP auditions yesterday and would like to give you some observations...

  1. Always have extra copies of your resume/headshot/materials. Always. Have, like, 10 extra copies in your binder or folder at all times. It will cost you very little money and space to just be prepared. A very large number of people yesterday seemed surprised that the panel wanted 3 copies of their resume. Many people didn't even have one copy. What if there was a surprise person from another company there who loved you and wanted your info?
  2. Its useful to have them also available for emergency printing. Many of the fancy copiers at FedEx Kinkos, Staples, etc have direct printing from Dropbox and Google drive. Even easier is to have them on a little USB thumb drive that you can print from basically anywhere.
  3. Be early. People cancel for a myriad of reasons and not getting totally off schedule will help everyone.
  4. Be nice to the monitor. We are often friends/colleagues of the people you want to be working for. If you're an asshole to us, I guarantee you we will tell the people inside. Unless you're the second coming of Pavarotti, they'd rather hire someone just as good as you, whom they'd actually like to spend 6 hours a day with. This is ESPECIALLY true if you're trying to crash the audition. 
  5. If you're trying to crash, come at the beginning of the day, warmed up and ready to kick ass. Coming in an hour before they're done and already behind schedule because some poor tenor was asked to sing 4 arias isn't going to help your cause. Also, if you're sitting for a while, KINDLY remind us that you're there. We haven't forgotten you out of spite. I promise.
  6. I always have to remind myself of this, too: THEY WANT YOU TO BE GOOD. They're rooting for you to be awesome. If you're good, their job is much easier. The panel is on your side and deeply wants to like you. It isn't a jury where they're looking for mistakes. They WANT to hire you.
  7. If you can't make the audition, please cancel ASAP. Often times there's a waitlist longer than Leporello's catalogue. Give someone else a fighting chance.
I'm sure I'll have more PSAs later. Keep fighting the good fight, friends. Love and Hugs!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Audition season advice

I published this post last March about auditions, and as we are in the fall/winter audition season, I think it's still relevant.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

What? All of it? part deux

That's the title I gave to the post about Mr. Rossini's Guillaume Tell, which I was delighted to see at Caramoor in 2011 (click here to read it). I was thrilled to see a new production of Guillaume Tell at the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday evening. It's a rather long opera, but I'm happy I saw every last bit of it. Looking at the Met's online calendar, it appears there is only one more performance, on Saturday, November 12. I say go see it if you can!

Janai Brugger as Jemmy and Gerald Finley as Tell
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
For me it's always about the singing, and I'm happy to report that I wasn't disappointed in anyone on stage. Gerald Finley, in the title role, lived up to the high regard I already had for him. His "Sois immobile", during what I call the apple scene, was a marvel of impassioned and yet legato singing, seamlessly beautiful from top to bottom. One knew the father's heartache Tell was experiencing in the moment. In every scene Mr. Finley was in, his sound and his acting were really admirable.

The role of Arnold, who falls in love with the oppressors' princess Mathilde (of course, because this is opera), is a fiendishly difficult bit of singing and acting. The role lies so high in the voice, for so long, that lighter tenor voices are sometimes erroneously cast in the role. But were it not for the ridiculous number high Cs (and above), and some difficult fast-moving passages, this might resemble a heldentenor role. I'm delighted to say that Bryan Hymel was equal to the many challenges of the role and popped off the high notes as if flicking lint off his costume. His last-act aria, "Asile héréditaire", was intensely passionate and beautiful, and deserved the many shouts of "Bravo!" from the audience. Mr. Hymel usually sings lower-lying roles like Rodolfo, Don Jose, and Pinkerton, and my friends who have heard him live more often than I have longed for the richer sound he employs in those roles.

Bryan Hymel as Arnold and Marina Rebeka as Mathilde
Photo:  Metropolitan Opera
I quite liked Marina Rebeka as Mathilde. Her sound is full and rich and even throughout. My one quibble is the way she sometimes sings pickups--one or more notes leading up to the first strong beat of a phrase--with a less full and vibrant sound. One occasionally wished for a little more graceful singing. I didn't know of Ms. Rebeka before, but her bio lists great roles like Violetta and Fiordiligi in impressive venues. I hope to hear a lot more of her. (My beloved Jennifer Rowley was covering this role, and it would have thrilled me to no end to hear her sing it!)  I also liked Janai Brugger as Jemmy and Maria Zifchak as Hedwige.

Tenor Michele Angelini is no stranger to these pages, and his performance Ruodi, the fisherman, showed the skilled and musical singing we always hear from him. I hope this leads to bigger and better roles at the Met. He's already singing lead roles in prestigious houses all over the world. Ever-reliable bass-baritone John Relyea gave us a well sung and sinister Gesler, the governor of the oppressors' state.

I can't say I'm crazy about the production by Pierre Audi and the Dutch National Opera. Aside from some stunning lighting by Jean Kalman, the whole thing left me cold. Mr. Audi's direction seemed arbitrary, George Tsypin's sets ridiculous, and Andrea Schmidt-Futterer's costumes left the poor cast and chorus looking like either Amish farmers or Israelites--except for the bad guys, who had sparkly black costumes.

As usual, however, I was crazy about the amazing Metropolitan Opera Chorus under Donald Palumbo, and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under the baton of Fabio Luisi. Who doesn't love the Guillaume Tell overture, even if you're too young to have watched the Lone Ranger on television.  I'm younger than that, and I wept openly.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

RIP Daniela Dessì

The opera world is reeling from the unexpected death of soprano Daniela Dessì at age 59. I regret that Ms. Dessì did not receive much coverage in the pages of Taminophile. To partially rectify that grave error, I offer a few stunning videos here.

As Norma, 2011, Bologna--absolutely amazing:





As Fiordiligi at La Scala, 1989, under Riccardo Muti:



Interesting performance of "Summertime" in concert, 2015:


Monday, August 15, 2016

La Traviata at dell'Arte Opera Ensemble

Taminophile has returned from his illness-induced hiatus (much better, thank you, but I still get worn out very easily) to witness live opera and report about it again. I hope this fills your heart with joy. It does mine. Who better as my first victim feature out of the gate than dear dell'Arte Opera Ensemble? I've often written of my great passion for opera production at this level--young professionals just breaking into the opera world--and I've written about dell'Arte's great work in training and producing opera that never fails to engage, even on a shoe-string budget. dell'Arte usually has a theme in programming a season, and this season it is "Violetta and Her Sisters", a look at the demimonde of 19th-century Paris. The first offering was La Traviata.

Jeremy Brauner as Alfredo and
Margaret Newcomb as Violetta
Photo: Mark Brown for dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
I was delighted to see a performance of this grand work on Sunday. As it was the second performance, I saw Cast B. It hurts me that expediency often demands such labels. I can assure you, this cast could not possibly be the poor relation to any Cast A. I heard good things from every singer, and was impressed by the commitment of the entire cast to the story.

If I see and hear a performance of La Traviata and I'm not gushing about the Violetta, I don't call it a successful production. Consider this production very successful, then, because I was crazy about the Violetta of Margaret Newcomb. Miss Newcomb is beautiful in face and figure, and has a very strong stage presence. Most importantly, she can sing this fiendishly difficult role and make it seem like it's easy. Her high notes seemed free, her coloratura unforced, her middle voice rich and beautiful. I hope I'll hear a lot from this singer in coming seasons.

Paul Khoury and Margaret Newcomb
Photo: Mark Brown for dell'Arte Opera Ensemble
Jeremy Brauner is transitioning from baritone to tenor, and Alfredo in this production is his first tenor engagement. I think that's a good thing, for the role seems to fit his voice, and he certainly inhabited the role of Alfredo well. He even took the high C at the end of the cabaletta "O mio rimorso" (definitely not among Verdi's best cabalettas, in my humble opinion). I look forward to seeing and hearing more good things from him. Like Mr. Brauner, Paul Khoury as the elder Germont seemed to require a bit of time onstage to warm up vocally and dramatically. He never did seem fully warmed up, however, which proved a distraction.

Smaller roles were populated by eager and able younger dell'Arte artists, many of whom I'd love to hear again in the future, especially Nick Webb (Dr. Grenvil), Magda Gartner (Flora), and Natasha Nelson (Annina).

The technical and creative team deserve kudos for the beautiful production--especially Stage Director Kyle Pfortmillr, Scenic Designer James Fluhr, and Lighting Designer Mary Ellen Stebbins. Many a truly striking visual image was struck with a very simple set and lighting that seemed not terribly elaborate but truly effective. One of my favorite visual touches was a vase on a small table that remained on stage through every scene. It began the show with several camellias, but Violetta drew one camellia for each scene as a token of her love, leaving the vase (and Violetta?) empty at the end.

John Spencer led a small orchestra, and they usually played very well. One suspected more rehearsal might have done a lot of good.

There are more performances next weekend, and I highly recommend you see one if you can! dell'Arte also presents Massanet's Manon as part of its summer festival, as well as several concerts.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

RIP Patrice Munsel

We've lost another mid 20th-century opera great.  Reports are circulating that Patrice Munsel died last week, although the Wikipedia article I link above does not reflect that as of this writing, and other news outlets' web sites do not confirm this.

In any case, allow me to celebrate the wonder of Patrice Munsel's singing and stage presence below:

Italian Street Song on Milton Berle, 1951



Adele's Laughing Song, possibly from the same 1951 television appearance



A 1958 appearance singing "I'll be loving you always", possibly from her own television show, which was broadcast 1957-58