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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Taminophile on hiatus. Sort of.

Many of you who know Taminophile personally know that I have become very ill. I am on the mend , but can't predict how soon complete recovery will be at. hand. My opera schedule this summer might be  cut back, but how much has not been determined yet.  Stay tuned.