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.    

Friday, June 3, 2016

Understanding Italian Opera: Guest Reviewer Kristen Seikaly has been at it again!

The Lost Language of Opera:
Tim Carter's Discussion of Librettos 

By Kristen Seikaly

If we were to judge a book by its cover, it would be easy to think that Tim Carter’s Understanding Italian Opera is simply another introduction to the beautiful art form. Look a little deeper though, and it becomes apparent that this book is instead an analysis of one of the most overlooked aspects of Italian opera today: the text. Although sleek in size, this book is essentially a textbook that has much to offer when it comes to studying the librettos of Italian opera. The book begins with a discussion of Italian opera at large. It is worth taking the time to consider this introduction, as it sets up Carter’s thought process for the rest of the book. Then, five famous Italian operas are discussed at length and in chronological order. Each chapter can stand on its own, and each has the same basic outline. First, a picture is offered of the composer, along with a brief description. Then, the roles in the opera are listed along with their voice types, and a synopsis is given. Afterwards, he gives a biography for the composer, focusing on the creation of the opera at hand. This historical review often details the musical tastes of the time period as well. Finally, the librettist is introduced and Carter launches into the textual mechanics for each opera. He usually divides this discussion even further into musical numbers such as arias, ensembles, or recitatives. At the end, further reading is recommended. The main idea that Carter focuses on in terms of setting texts to opera is that of balance. For example, for Le nozze di Figaro, he discusses the balance the composer and librettist sought to find between the original text they were working with, and how they can appropriately adapt that into an opera. Furthermore, the concept of “verisimilitude”, or the appearance of stories being real, is brought up over and over again in each section. This is with good reason, as the issue of believability is a constant struggle for opera as an art form.

In terms of enjoying this book, it is best read in a number of ways by a certain set of readers. While those who are merely curious about opera would find this overwhelming, serious students or professionals of Italian opera have much to gain from this book. Simply reading it through may still prove difficult though, as it is far too easy to miss a nuanced yet important detail.

This reviewer would recommend reading this book in one of three ways. First, one could read this with study materials in hand such as a notebook, a highlighter, and a recording of each opera. Although Carter goes into great detail regarding the relationship between text and music, it will always be easier to process this discussion while actually listening to the music.

Second, this book could simply serve as a reference to be opened up as needed. If, for example, someone was doing research on Italian recitative, or aria forms, or a particular period in Italian opera, they could simply flip to the appropriate chapter, or find the subject in the index.

Finally, this book would serve its reader best as a companion to a course or a group discussion on Italian opera. Since there is so much useful knowledge in this book, it would be easiest to digest it all through the structure of a course. It would also be worth using as a tool to discuss the role text and history plays in modern operatic productions.

There are numerous books available on the study of Italian opera. This one, however, offers great consideration to what has ironically become the lost language of opera: the language itself. In Tim Carter’s biography, it notes that he teaches numerous lectures and workshops on the subject. Since we can’t all be so lucky as to attend one of those, he has been kind enough to offer us his specific and unique knowledge in a well-organized and readily available manner.

Kristen Seikaly
Materials for this review were provided by the publisher. The views and opinions expressed here are completely those of the reviewer.

Kristen Seikaly is a freelance writer, singer, and voice teacher in the Philadelphia area. Additionally, she runs Operaversity, a website geared towards providing resources on opera for artists and audiences.

She tweets at @KristenSeikaly.

Readers! Don't forget you can get an attractive discount buying the book at the publisher web site using this code: AAFLYG6.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rigoletto at Amore Opera

On Sunday afternoon I was very pleased to see the final performance of Amore Opera's Rigoletto--Amore's final performance of the season. In these pages I have often sung the praises of performance organizations like Amore, whose purpose is to produce enjoyable opera using young professionals.  I hope how much I enjoyed Amore's L'Elisir d'Amore and Poliuto in March came through in my posts about those operas.

Allow me to talk first about the singers I liked the most. Gennadiy Vyotskiy as Sparafucile and Kathleen Shelton as his sultry sister/partner in crime Maddalena were my two favorites. Mr. Vyotskiy had the wonderful masculine bearing of a hired assassin while singing the low and demanding role of Sparafucile quite beautifully. I hope he achieves great things with that powerful voice of his. Ms. Shelton satisfied in the same way as Maddalena. She was sexy and seductive, and a pleasure to hear.

The orchestra was pretty ragged. In fact, my biggest complaint is that the whole show seemed ragged. Perhaps it is because it was a matinee, which I know some singers simply loathe, or perhaps it was because it was the last performance of the run, perhaps it was mistakes in casting, but I can't really say every performer I witnessed was completely committed to his or her character, or that all were suited their roles by vocal quality or maturity. Without slamming anyone individually, which I don't do with singers at this level, I'll just say I heard singing that sounded tired, or not technically ready for the role, or as if the individual had one voice for high notes and another for everything else. None of them are bad singers, and some are quite effective actors, so I hope I'll hear them again under better circumstances. Direction, however, was difficult to detect, and there was a lot of stand-and-sing positioning. Costumes were a hodge-podge of eras and styles. Choreography was cute, however, and it was a pleasure having the small group of dancers on stage.

While I don't regret going to see this performance, it does pain me very much to report on it in this way

Friday, May 20, 2016

Coming soon on TLC: Real Courtesans of Paris

No, not really, but below we have an excellent review by guest blogger Kristen Seikaly about the new book from Oxford University Press, The Real Traviata: The Song of Marie Duplessis, by Rene Weis:

When asked to name operas based on historical figures, a long list would naturally appear before La traviata. René Weis strives to change this perception though through his book The Real Traviata: The Song of Marie Duplessis. This biography examines the life of one of the most famous courtesans in 19th century France. She also inspired the novel and play La Dame aux camélias, which subsequently led to Verdi’s La traviata.

Told primarily in chronological order, this well-researched account gives a wealth of information about Marie Duplessis--arguably too much. The author takes his readers through Duplessis’ life from birth to death, and leaves out no gruesome detail. Starting with her impoverished childhood, Weis delicately lays the foundation of Duplessis’ tragic life. Although she began life with a different name, Duplessis began to use her body as her livelihood from an incredibly young age. Others shamed her for this while also taking advantage, including her own family.

As Duplessis grew older and into the courtesan immortalized by Verdi, she began to refine her skills. Her charm became just as valuable as her body, if not more so. This led to a higher class of client and more notoriety in Parisian society. Still, it only took her so far before she died of consumption (now known as tuberculosis) just shortly after she turned 23.

Weis then takes time to discuss the works that were inspired by the courtesan’s story. First, he discusses La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas fils, who knew her intimately and was a main character throughout this biography. Then, a considerable amount of time is spent discussing Verdi, La traviata, and the opera’s initial reception.

At times this book is wonderfully narrative. When telling this sad story, the author often resembles a sort of historical tour guide. In these moments, the reader is able to explore the information given, and consider more deeply the effect the heroine’s life had on others (such as Liszt, who is confirmed as one of Duplessis’ lovers in the book). Other times, however, the biography gets bogged down by the weight of its own information. The author will find himself stuck in particular dates, factual inconsistencies, or side stories that have little to do with the heroine. As a result, the narrative flow is halted and it can be difficult to press on.

Still, it is refreshing to read a biography of someone who affected so much culture, yet is largely lost to the contemporary mind. It is also a pleasure to be invited into Weis’ passion for the subject matter at hand, even if it is not always easy for the reader to follow him on his quests for truth.

Readers who are preparing either to perform or to see La traviata as an audience member would enjoy this book. Furthermore, those who wish to study Ms. Duplessis, La traviata, French history, or any subject relating to this cultural figure would be well served by the history this book has to offer. As a work of research, The Real Traviata is second to none.

Ultimately, through this book, Weis strives to bring humanity and empathy back to the characters of opera through one heroine in particular. Far too many modern audiences feel that opera is too separate from life today. Perhaps modern audiences, reminded that some of the most famous operas are based on real people, can connect to operas in the same way they would movies or television programs. This possibility alone makes The Real Traviata a worthwhile read above all else.

Kristen Seikaly
Materials for this review were provided by the publisher. The views and opinions expressed here are completely those of the reviewer.

Kristen Seikaly is a freelance writer, singer, and voice teacher in the Philadelphia area. Additionally, she runs Operaversity, a website geared towards providing resources on opera for artists and audiences.

She tweets at @KristenSeikaly.

Readers! Don't forget you can get an attractive discount buying the book at the publisher web site using this code: AAFLYG6.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Falstaff at Opera Delaware

Yesterday I wrote about Opera Delaware's intense and beautiful production of Amleto, and today is my time to write about their perfectly delightful production of Falstaff. Although it is unknown whether the two operas were chosen for this reason, Opera Delaware has made a lot of the fact that these are Arrigo Boito's first and last completed opera libretti. All I know is they're both great operas.

Sean Anderson as Ford and Steven Copley as Falstaff
Photo:  Moonloop Photography
One goes to a Falstaff performance expecting to be delighted by comedy high jinx and amazed by great singing and acting. Opera Delaware's production did not disappoint. In Steven Condy, we had a Sir John Falstaff who was appropriately blustery and self absorbed, while remaining likable and vulnerable. His skillful singing was certainly plain to all, and his solo passages were quite memorable.  By the end one was more sympathetic toward an old fool than bitter toward an old would-be Lothario, so that we were all on board for the final, rousing chorus.

Equally well sung and acted was the Ford of Sean Anderson. Just as proud and full of bluster as Falstaff--probably more, since the times and his own hard work have granted him close to equal social position--Ford is another baritone full of pride and bluster and, in the end, not all that bright.

Maariana Vikse as Meg Page, Sharin Apostolou as Nanetta,
Ann McMahon Quintero as Mistress Quickly and
Victoria Cannizzo as Alice Ford
Photo: Moonloop Photography
Alice Ford, as sung by Victoria Cannizzo, was also a delight, full of spunk and charm and great vocal skill. Her pals, Maariana Vikse as Meg Page and Ann McMahon Quintero as Mistress Quickly, were another treat to see and hear.  Ms. Quintero was especially endearing as the flirtatiously matronly Quickly. Real-life couple Ryan McPherson and Sharin Apostolou as Fenton and Nanetta were simply adorable. Both are highly accomplished singers and actors, so of course one enjoyed every moment they were on stage.

One of my favorite parts of Falstaff is Verdi's remarkably skilled writing in the large ensembles, where the male characters usually sing together, with music of one character and texture. The female characters have similar independence, with a melodic and rhythmic passages that are their own and might seem to collide with, but actually coincide with those of the men. Fenton and Nanetta observe and sing their own melodic line that transcends all the others. Sidekicks Matthew Curran as Pistola and Jeremy Blossey as Bardolfo completed a quite fine cast of principals.

Jeremy Blossey as Bardolfo, Ryan MacPhereson as Fenton,
Sharin Apostolou as Nannetta, Matthew Curran as Bardolfo
Photo: Moonloop Photography
I rather think conductor Giovanni Reggioli handled all of this chaos successfully. There might have been one or two moments that were a tiny bit ragged, but in a score of this size and complexity, that's quite an accolade! Also successful were stage director Dean Anthony, set designer Peter Tupitza, and all of the rest of the technical team.

Falstaff will be performed again next weekend in Wilmington. I hope you'll go see it!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Essere o non essere - questo è il problema

On Saturday evening, Opera Delaware opened its 2016 Opera Festival with a much-anticipated production of Franco Faccio's Amleto (Hamlet) and a very happy return to Wilmington's Grand Opera House. One almost doesn't know what to report first--the beautiful production, the extremely fine performances, the opera itself, or Opera Delaware's tremendous achievement of returning to financial stability and growth after a few somewhat uncertain years. (Opera Delaware's comeback story has been well documented elsewhere, and will have to be a separate article in these pages.)

Joshua Kohl as Amleto, with friend
Photo:  Moonloop Photography
The opera itself is the primary news item, having been rescued from obscurity only recently. A collaboration between Faccio (1840-1891) and librettist Arrigo Boito (1842-1918), Amleto was a success at its 1865 premiere in Genoa. The autograph had been in the Ricordi archives since 1871, however--never performed after a much less successful La Scala debut. Conductor and composer Anthony Barrese began reconstructing the work in 2003 from images of faded and marked up autograph pages. It was first performed on these shores in productions by Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Southwest in 2014.

As usual my focus is primarily on the performances, and I was happy with every singer on stage. First and foremost I must report that tenor Joshua Kohl was a tremendous Amleto (Hamlet). Beautiful singing throughout, powerful stage presence, gripping characterization are just some of the accolades I could shower on this gifted young singer. The aria after the ghost of his father implores Amleto to avenge his murder was a wonder.

Joshua Kohl as Amleto
Lara Tillotson as Geltrude
Photo: Moonloop Photography
Ofelia (Ophelia) was sung by Sarah Asmar, whom we were told might be coming down with a cold. We heard no evidence of illness in her beautiful tone, and like her stage lover, she gripped the audience every moment she was on stage.

Geltrude (Gertrude) was sung just as beautifully by Lara Tillotson, and Claudio (Claudius) was sung and acted with great skill by Timothy Mix. The ghost of Hamlet's father was sung by commanding and sonorous bass Ben Wager, with great authority and commitment.

Mr. Barrese led the Opera Delaware Orchestra with a skilled hand, and the chorus, prepared by Jeffrey Miller, deserves applause, as well. The dancers, members of the First State Ballet Theater, were a delight.

The production was spare but beautiful. Although costumed as a traditional production of Hamlet, the set was constructed of various platforms on scaffolding, and made skillful use of projections. (Sets by Peter Tupitza, costumes by Howard Tsui Kaplan for Malabar Ltd.) It worked well for this production, and was easily morphed into the set for the concurrently running Falstaff.

Amleto will be performed again next weekend. I hope anyone who can will be there to see it!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Profile: Keith Chambers and New Amsterdam Opera

Keith Chambers
Founder and Artistic Director
New Amsterdam Opera
What goes into creating a new opera company? There's no single answer to that question--each company has its own story, its own goals, its own people driving it. I had the opportunity to discuss this at length with Keith Chambers, Founder and Artistic Director of New Amsterdam Opera, recently. The group will present its first performance, a concert production of Fidelio with orchestra, on June 9. In Keith's case, there were several driving factors--having his own ideas about forming a group, having some great ideas for potential performance projects, having the right people suggest and/or encourage the idea at the right time, and seeing a need in both the singing and opera-going communities for what he can offer. While the group is still young and some strategies and specific plans are still in the formative stages, the bottom line is that New Amsterdam Opera plans to offer a high-quality role preparation and performance experience to singers and a satisfying audience experience to opera goers.

Kirsten Chambers
sings Leonore
Keith already has an active conducting and coaching career. He has conducted for The Dallas Opera, Amarillo Opera, Asheville Lyric Opera, American Lyric Theater, and American Opera Projects. He has also been assistant conductor under noted conductors Emmanuel Villaume, Patrick Summers, and Riccardo Frizza, among others. With credits like these, it's no wonder he has already assembled an Artistic Advisory Board with names like Frederica von Stade, Richard Cross, Anthony Roth Costanzo, and Willie Anthony Waters. It's also no wonder he has been able to attract a promising cast of young professionals and veterans for Fidelio. The cast includes Kirsten Chambers as Leonore, Brent Reilly Turner as Florestan, Kevin Langan as Rocco, and Richard Cross, narrator. The narration is intended to substitute for dialogue usually used in staged performances. The Fidelio concert takes place on June 9 at WestPark Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. Click here for ticket information. (Please note the venue change.)

Brent Reilly Turner
sings Florestan
And what of the future? What does life after Fidelio hold? Although many of these details are in the formative stages, Keith's eyes lit up when I asked whether he envisioned performing other operas for singers with large, dramatic voices. He agrees there are not enough opportunities for young singers with large voices and works like Fidelio are not performed often enough. Although he wouldn't make specific statements about such plans, on some points he was very firm and determined:
  • Singers would gain valuable, valid experience from New Amsterdam Opera productions. 
  • A New Amsterdam Opera credit on a singer's resume would be respected.
  • Audience members would enjoy high-level performances of great operatic repertoire. 
  • Each production, whether concert or fully staged, would have orchestra.
  • Every singer, every production or technical worker, every orchestra member would be paid for their work.

For now, I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing Fidelio on June 9, and on reporting any other news I learn about plans for New Amsterdam Opera.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

NY Opera Fest: An exciting time to be an operaphile in NYC!

From Anna Mikhailova's video opera
'in the distance go on forever/
the story of contemporary frankenstein,'
scheduled for MAY 6 & 7 at the
Anthology Film Archives.
Photo: Experiments in Opera
Last week I had the opportunity to speak with Peter Szep, who is in charge of the exciting New York Opera Fest, currently running in and around NYC. The Opera Fest is organized by New York Opera Alliance, a consortium of over 40 independent opera companies in New York, ranging from more established companies like Bronx Opera and Regina Opera (both of which have been featured in these pages) to newer, more experimental groups like Rhymes With Opera and Experiments in Opera. The festival opened last week with an event at Opera America headquarters honoring WQXR's revered opera columnist Fred Plotkin, with performances from NY Opera Fest participating companies Opera Upper West, On Site Opera, Bronx Opera, and Regina Opera.

Following are just some of the exciting offerings presented as part of NY Opera Fest:

Ardea Arts presents “BOUNCE: The Basketball Opera”
Performed on an actual basketball court, BOUNCE is grounded in contemporary issues facing today’s youth.

Center for Contemporary Opera presents “The Wild Beast of the Bungalow.”
A new work by Rachel Peters and Royce Vavrek, part of CCO’s Development Series.

Hunter Opera Theater presents Jake Heggie’s “At the Statue of Venus.”
Accompanied by several opera shorts by composer Richard Burke.

On Site Opera presents North American premiere of Portugal’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
A site-specific production of Beaumarchais beloved comedy at the opulent West Village townhouse 632 on Hudson.

Opera on Tap presents New Brew Series.
Curated concerts of new music, with a focus on music written by local composers.

Opera Upper West presents two classic 20th Century operas.
Poulenc’s “Le voix humane” and Menotti’s “The Telephone,” seen through a modern prism. 

Paula Kimper Ensemble presents “Patience and Sarah - A Pioneering Love Story.”
A revival of Paula Kimper’s opera, with two staged concert performances for Pride Week.

Spectrum Symphony of New York, New York Baroque Dance Co, and Deborah Mason present "Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock Opera-Oratorio.”
Alexander Pope's exquisite poetry set to music in a modern madrigal style.

Vertical Player Repertory presents the North American premiere of Giovanni Pacini’s “Malvina di Scozia.”
Pacini’s controversial opera based on a true story. Its first performance in over 150 years.
This is just a partial list. Check the web site to see a complete listing and calendar.

Opera on Tap will present several
programs in area bars
Photo: Opera on Tap
What comes next for NY Opera Alliance? In addition to NY Opera Fest 2.0, already in its planning stages, Mr. Szep envisions expanding the consortium's support activities with workshops on topics like fund raising and development, and finding and managing volunteers. He also spoke of a database of shared resources, including lists of recommended production personnel (lighting designers, stage managers, etc.).

From NYOA's formation in 2011, founders Mr. Szep, Gina Crusco, and Cori Ellison envisioned a festival featuring the work of many different opera groups. NYOA has grown from four organizations to more than 40, and since 2013 the consortium has been fiscally sponsored by OPERA America. Mr. Szep states,"We 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. Together we aspire to increase awareness of participating organizations, share ideas and resources, and generate revenue for collaborative projects."

Monday, May 2, 2016

More book news

Here is your chance to order either or both of these books from the publisher at 30% off!  Just go to the following sites and use the code AAFLYG6 at checkout to receive the discount:




Quoth the publisher:
Ever since its invention in Florence around 1600, opera has exerted a peculiar fascination for creative artists and audiences alike. A "Western" genre with a global reach, it is often regarded as the pinnacle of high art, where music and drama come together in unique ways, supported by stellar singers and spectacular staging. Yet it is also patently absurd--why should anyone sing on the stage?--and shrouded in mystique. In this engaging and entertaining guide, renowned music scholar Tim Carter unravels its many layers to offer a thorough introduction to Italian opera from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century. Complete with synopses, cast lists, and suggested further reading for each opera discussed, Understanding Italian Opera is a must-read for anyone with an interest in and love for opera.

The Real Traviata is the rags-to-riches story of a tragic young woman whose life inspired one of the most famous operas of all time, Verdi's masterpiece La Traviata, as well as one of the most scandalous and successful French novels of the nineteenth century, La Dame aux Camelias, by Alexandre Dumas fils.
And the guest reviewer for these books will be Kristin Seikaly.  Watch this space in the coming weeks for her reports!

Potent potables for 1000 lire, Alex

Dimitri Pittas as Nemorino
Photo:  Opera Philadelphia
On Sunday I was delighted to attend the second performance of Opera Philadelphia's L'Elisir d'Amore. I call this production, which originated with the Santa Fe Opera, a success. Although I'm not completely sure why they updated the setting to 1940s-era Italy (although all the military costumes looked quite American), it was a visually beautiful production with design by Ashley Martin Davis, and full of delightful touches from director Stephen Lawless.

Good performances always win me over, and those we had in abundance. Tenor Dimitri Pittas, a late replacement for ailing tenor Christopher Tiesi, was a charming Nemorino. The role fits him like a glove vocally, and he easily adopted the persona of the naive but not dumb peasant. Mr. Pittas performed the role in this production at Sante Fe in 2009, with Opera Philadelphia Music Director Corrado Rivaris conducting and Stephen Lawless directing, and garnered high praise there--Opera News opined, "His Nemorino was no illiterate klutz but a young man who, with delightful spontaneity, is discovering the joys and woes life has to offer. "

Kevin Burdette as Dulcamara and Sarah Shafer as Adina
Photo:  Opera Philadelphia
As Adina Sarah Shafer was a delight. With just the right vocal weight and tone for the role--I've always believed a good Adina would also be a good Blondchen and a great Susanna--she charmed the audience with her opening aria about the story of Tristan and Isotta (Isolde), and had them in the palm of her hand with "Prendi, per me sei libero." A well handled "Prendi" always makes this hardened cynic shed a tear, and I must say I wasn't disappointed.

I've praised Kevin Burdette highly in these and other pages before, and my faith in his talents and ability to win an audience has not wavered one bit. As Dulcamara, snake oil salesman extraordinaire, Mr. Burdette was slimy and unsavory while still remaining somehow lovable. Of course, his singing was just as skillful as that of his cast mates. Craig Verm as Belcore was delightfully smarmy and self-involved, showing just enough of Belcore's vulnerability to allow us to like him while we're cheering on his rival.

Corrado Rivaris held the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra together with the spritely tempi we have come to expect from him, with only one or two spots where there seemed a lack of togetherness between pit, chorus, and principals. My only complaint about the Opera Philadelphia Chorus, which I've made before, is that it needs to be bigger. As I mentioned, director Stephen Lawless was full of clever ideas, but I'm not sure the case was made for the update in setting. The fact that these events could have occurred in the new time frame as easily as the original is not reason enough to my perhaps too traditional mind.

Minor qualms aside, I call this a successful production. I hope all the remaining performances are sold out and many, many audience members come away remembering happy tunes and beautiful singing.

Also, a shout-out of congratulations to Opera Philadelphia for their 2016 International Opera Awards nomination as Best Opera Company, putting them in the highly esteemed company of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Theater an der Wien, Welsh National Opera, and others.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

In praise of new music

I've never made a secret of the fact I'm a bel canto bear and don't always understand new music. Much of it I find beautiful and moving. I still can't talk about Jake Heggie's Dead ManWalking without getting misty, for instance. (I know it's almost ancient, having been premiered in 2000, but it's new music to me.) Nonetheless I was pleased to be invited twice to a concert on Sunday afternoon of new music for flute and soprano. First by the composer of one of the pieces on the concert, a longtime friend, and second by a member of the board of the organization that presented the concert, The Phoenix Concerts. The concert itself was to celebrate the release of a new CD by Lindsey Goodman, flute, and Gilda Lyons, soprano. Gilda Lyons was also one of the composers represented on the concert.

Lindsey Goodman, flute
I can't talk about every piece, of course, but I'll mention a few.  The first was Jeffrey Nytch's Covenant (2012), for soprano, flute, and alto flute.  Text is from a moving poem by Jessica Melilli-Hand called Wedding Poem.  The poem uses moments of normal, every day intimacy to portray a truly loving relationship:  "Do you understand? I'm trying/to open my mouth around a language/better suited for fingers." I enjoyed how the alto flute alternated between being a drone and having a weaving melody that intermingled with those of the flute and the soprano.

The excerpts from Dear Youth (1990) by Daron Hagen were particularly effective. Mr Hagen is a Civil War buff, and the texts for these songs come from the letters of women of the era.  One of them reads, "This is Christmas night and I am all alone and lonely.... I hope this awful war will soon close and we will be happy once more." These songs were commissioned and premiered in 1991 by the trio Sonus.

Penelope's Song by Judith Shatin is a tribute to Penelope, Queen of Ithaca and wife of Odysseus in Homer's epic The Odyssey. Odysseus was kept away at sea for 20 years, and one of Penelope's ruses to ward of unwelcome suitors was to make them wait until she had finished weaving a shroud for her father in law Laertes. The suitors never knew she unraveled by night all the work she had done during the day. The composer recorded the sounds of actual weaving on a loom, and electronically manipulated them in many ways to make the wide array of weaving sounds with which the flute enjoys play.

Once again, I know almost nothing about new music, but I found something to enjoy about every piece on this concert. I'd highly recommend the CD, too!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ooh! New books!

I got a message from a lovely marketing diva at Oxford University Press, asking me to share information about two newly published books my readers might find interesting:  Understanding Italian Opera by Tim Carter and The Real Traviata: The Song of Marie Duplessis by Rene Weis.

Quoth she:
Ever since its invention in Florence around 1600, opera has exerted a peculiar fascination for creative artists and audiences alike. A "Western" genre with a global reach, it is often regarded as the pinnacle of high art, where music and drama come together in unique ways, supported by stellar singers and spectacular staging. Yet it is also patently absurd--why should anyone sing on the stage?--and shrouded in mystique. In this engaging and entertaining guide, renowned music scholar Tim Carter unravels its many layers to offer a thorough introduction to Italian opera from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century. Complete with synopses, cast lists, and suggested further reading for each opera discussed, Understanding Italian Opera is a must-read for anyone with an interest in and love for opera.

The Real Traviata is the rags-to-riches story of a tragic young woman whose life inspired one of the most famous operas of all time, Verdi's masterpiece La Traviata, as well as one of the most scandalous and successful French novels of the nineteenth century, La Dame aux Camelias, by Alexandre Dumas fils.
Your faithful reporter has no time to review books, so I am offering a review copy of either in exchange for posting your guest review of the book in these pages.  Send me a message privately telling me of your interest, and I'll arrange with the marketing diva to get you a copy.

If I get no responses from guest reviewers, I will still have a copy of each book to give away, so here is the second-chance contest:
Tell me in either the form of a Haiku or in a 140-byte tweet about your very first live opera.
Guest reviewers and/or contest winners will be chosen by me.  There is nothing random or objective about this contest, and gifts of cash or liquor might--might--increase your chances of winning. Gifts of real estate would definitely increase your chances of winning.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Revenge = Bad; Love = Good

As if I weren't glued firmly enough to my computer keyboard, I have found a totally new online obsession: The Opera Platform. This is a site where one can watch video of operas performed at many European opera houses, similar to the Met On Demand service offered by the Metropolitan Opera--except The Opera Platform offers more than one venue, and it's free. It has just started offering real-time live streaming performances, to be made available on demand later, but I haven't been able to catch one yet.

Atle Antonsen as Papageno
Silvia Moi as Papagena
Photo:  Erik Berg, Den Norske Opera
There are some operatic treasures on offer at the landing page--Parsifal from Vienna, Aida from Turin, etc.--but by poking around I found even more treasures. For instance, had I not clicked on an article about Queen of the Night costumes from various productions, I would have totally missed the video of Den Norske Opera's recent re-imagining of our old favorite, Die Zauberflöte. (It now appears on the landing page list.)

I have railed in the past against updating or "re-imagining" operas, for several quite good reasons. Perhaps I'm softening. Or maybe I am finally seeing some productions where it works better than I expect it to. In this case, we have a Star Wars-like set-up, and Tamino crash-lands his space ship on an exotic, unknown planet that curiously has just the right atmosphere for humans to sing and, well,  you know, live. From there the story, with libretto and dialogue in Norwegian, keeps close to what we know. In fact, the re-imagined story and stage direction by Alexander Mørk-Eidsen brought out some points worth considering in any production. For instance, Tamino's apparent about-face in attitude upon entering Sarastro's temple is explained by making the suggestion he is bewitched by the Queen and her Ladies when given the charge to rescue Pamina. All in all, I found the production charming.

Marius Roth Christensen
Photo: Erik Berg, Den Norske Opera
Papageno is the only character who breaks the fourth-wall barrier by communicating directly with the audience. His character became very much like the patter baritone in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and in fact he was played by the popular Norwegian comic actor Atle Antonsen. Mr. Antonsen acquitted himself vocally very well, and was quite the convincing Papageno--a child in a man's body, all heart but very little reason, and yet he might be the wisest of the bunch in the end. In this production Papageno is hairy enough to suggest Chewbacca, while still keeping the appearance and persona of a television presenter.

Tamino is the handsome, brave, true young lad we require. This Tamino was performed by Marius Roth Christensen, a former Norwegian rock star who has been singing opera successfully for about ten years. Although Wikipedia gives his age as 43, he can play the 20-something prince convincingly if the camera man is careful with his close-ups. We certainly did enjoy his singing--sweet and beautiful throughout, with very few signs of strain, even in Tamino's most difficult passages--and we believed in his love for the beautiful Pamina.

The Queen really is atop Pamina's little hut,
one of many places she is suspended
during that scene

Eir Inderhaug as Queen of the Night
Mari Eriksmoen as Pamina
Photo:  Erik Berg, Den Norske Opera
The more I think about the role of Pamina, the more I think there's just something wrong with that girl. She falls in love with the idea of a man, never having met him, based solely on the news that he found her picture (or hologram in this case) attractive. In Act II she is ready to end her life because Tamino keeps silent toward her as part of a trial. And she knows he's undergoing trials. Does she have a screw loose or is she just that self absorbed? This Pamina was sung by the beautiful young soprano Mari Eriksmoen. Her singing was a treat--free and clear throughout--and she acted the somewhat ridiculous role of Pamina gracefully.

The Queen of the Night was sung quite well by Eir Inderhaug. Technically spot on, with every note solid, accurate, and beautiful. She was also convincingly angry. Or mad, rather. One begins to see a pattern here. The Queen is surrounded by the oddest group of Ladies I have ever seen--they seem to be half amphibian, half nymphomaniac. But they're all good singers, and we enjoyed their scenes. Poor Monostatos was sung and acted quite well by Nils Harald Sødal, but I wouldn't wish that costume on my worst enemy--believe me, it's better imagined than described. And we can't forget the sonorous tones of Sarastro, sung by Henning von Schulman.

I must admit as Act II progressed I was growing more and more uncomfortable with some of the narrative--the emphasis on man's superiority over woman, how a woman needs a man to guide her, the disdain for any trait not considered manly in that worldview. It all built up to a climax at the end of the quintet in the Act II finale, when the Queen, the Ladies, and Monostatos are caught trying to sneak into the temple to kidnap Pamina. Just as it looks like we'll see a brawl that would not be unusual on a rugby pitch, Papageno and Papagena interrupt to remind us of the true message of the story: hate and revenge are bad things, and love and forgiveness are good. Take away what remains of the sexist message of the temple and the trials, and I'm good with that.

Photo:  Erik Berg, Den Norske Opera

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wisdom from Jerry Hadley

I was a big fan of Jerry Hadley, and I was very sad indeed when the poor lad took his own life in 2007.

In this recording, made around 2002 or perhaps a little earlier, I assume, , he talks about what is missing in the teaching of singing nowadays. I have to say I think he's right in nearly everything he says.

Monday, April 11, 2016

New music concert on Sunday in NYC!


Sunday / April 17, 2016 at 6:00 PM* 
St. Matthew & St. Timothy,
26 West 84th Street, NYC 10024 
$10 donation at the door.
FREE admission with student I.D.

Lindsey Goodman, flute
with Gilda Lyons, voice

A post-concert reception will celebrate the release of
Ms. Goodman's new CD reach through the sky,
out this month on New Dynamic Records.


Sleep’s Undulating Tide*~ (2016) 
for flute & live-processed electroacoustics

Covenant* (2012)
for soprano, flute, and alto flute 
JEFFREY NYTCH / Jessica Melilli-Hand

Demon/Daemon*~ (2016)
for flute 

Alice Front* (2016)
an aria from A New Kind of Fallout 
GILDA LYONS / Tammy Ryan

Penelope’s Song* (2013) 
for flute and electronics 

songs from Dear Youth (1990) 
for soprano & flute

*New York premiere 

CONTACT: Gilda Lyons
Director, The Phoenix Concerts

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Shabby little shocker in the Big Easy

On Friday evening I saw the opening of New Orleans Opera's lush and luscious Tosca at the Mahalia Jackson Theater in New Orleans. (I just love that the theater is named after a gospel superstar!) Yes, I've hit the road once again to see and hear some opera, and it was well worth it!

Jennifer Rowley
Photo: Ariele Doneson
Tosca is a story of political intrigue, murder, lust, and a jealous soprano. (No, really, this is on stage, not in the wings.) A Parisian critic wrote after its 1900 opening that Tosca “is coarsely puerile, pretentious and vapid.” (The popular phrase “shabby little shocker” actually comes from musicologist Joseph Kerman’s 1956 book Opera as Drama, not from Puccini’s time, as I’d always thought.) Puerile or not, Tosca can always be counted on to sell tickets, and audiences leave humming its melodies. When done well, Tosca can be devastating.

Scott Hendricks as Scarpia
Jennifer Rowley as Tosca
Photo:  neworleansopera.org
This Tosca truly was devastating, largely due to the singing and acting of its star, Jennifer Rowley. Her Tosca was jealous, of course, but also impetuous, loving, fearful, dominant, and a thousand other conflicting traits, often at the same time. This Tosca felt like the very young woman Tosca really is. For example, at the end of Act II, after Tosca has killed Scarpia (sorry if that's a spoiler), the act of setting up candles around his body and making the sign of the cross has a truly devout feeling to it, not ironic. Nearly every vocal moment was like spun gold, with a rich sound and a legato worthy of the golden-age singers of the mid-20th century. I have never heard or seen a more effective "Vissi d'arte"--we could feel Tosca's defeat and humiliation, along with her determination to survive. Miss Rowley's vocalism in this aria was exceptional--well shaped phrases, tasteful dynamics, rich sound.

Noah Stewart
Photo: noahstewart.com
Cavaradossi, Tosca's lover, was sung by Noah Stewart, a handsome young tenor with an impressive list of credits. I found his singing quite likable, especially his ringing high voice. His high notes sounded free, powerful, and pleasing in timbre--a rare combination among today's Cavaradossi-sized voices. "Vittoria! Vittoria!" sent chills down the spine. His acting was passionate and convincing. Scarpia was Scott Hendricks, another handsome young man with an impressive list of credits. His singing was bold and effective, and one looks forward to hearing more of him in the future.

Visually, this opera was a treat. The scenic design by Constantine Kritikos was quite beautiful, especially the Act I chapel scene. Acts II and III were quite effective, too. However, the moment in Act II where closing the window ends the cantata is less effective without an actual window. On the left side of the house no window was visible.

The costumes by Julie Winn were rich and beautiful, especially Tosca's dresses. Although wigs and makeup by Don & Linda Guillot were usually good, they didn't flatter Mr. Stewart as much as they did the other singers. In the dark lighting of Act III, he almost looked like a zombie.

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra played well under Robert Lyall, but one wished for more togetherness between the pit and the stage.

I regret that there is only one more performance of Tosca, but I encourage anyone who reads this before Sunday afternoon to see it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Hot Szot on 54th Street

I was happy when the team at Feinstein's/54 Below contacted me and asked me to come to Paulo Szot's cabaret show, which opened Tuesday evening. (Billy Stritch was Music Director and led an excellent backup trio.) To quote the publicity team at 54 Below:
Paulo Szot
Uncredited photo from 54Below.com
Audiences can prepare to swoon as the Tony-winning star of South Pacific headlines Feinstein’s/54 Below with a brand new show for a limited 5-night engagement. In his show, the Brazilian opera star takes us on a journey [through] the most romantic songs of the American Songbook, including iconic hits from the Golden Age of Broadway and more. Expect Lerner and Loewe, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Burton Lane, the Gershwins, Leonard Bernstein and more.
And swoon we did! Mr. Szot's American Songbook selections all showed his impressive vocal tone and musical instincts, as well as his charisma on stage. My two favorite songs were the two he seemed to throw himself into the most--"This nearly was mine" from South Pacific, with which he won that Tony; and the duet "Bess, you is my woman now" from Porgy and Bess, with surprise guest artist Christine Ebersole. I hadn't heard Ms. Ebersole sing before, and was quite pleased with what I heard. The two had a wonderful chemistry together.

Although I say these songs stood out, I was pleased with the entire program. "Being Alive" from Company was very effective. (One wondered why Mr. Szot has never been cast as Bobby in Company--having more history with this remarkable song would have made it even better.) The medley of Brazilian songs was charming and fun, and featured Mr. Stritch, who also took a prominent part in "How about you?", a Burton Lane song from the 1941 film Babes on Broadway. I quite liked "Lover, come back to me" from Sigmund Romberg's 1927 operetta The New Moon. Mr. Szot also offered "Stars" from Les Miserables, using lyrics in the local languages from the many places around the world it's performed--a few phrases in Spanish, some in French, just one in German, finally concluding in English.

There was something to like in nearly every song Mr. Szot sang, but I don't want to take up space praising them all. I do want to praise the trio of Music Director Billy Stritch on piano, Tom Hubbard on bass, and David Meade on drums. As a trio and individually, the three shone brightly. The venue of 54 Below itself deserves praise, too, especially for the food of Chef Lynn Bound and the excellent service. (All shows have a cover charge and a food/drink minimum.)

Qualms? Very few. I don't really like the practice of holding a long note at the end of a song with a straight tone and slowly adding vibrato just before the end, especially when practiced by opera cross-over artists. This happened with several songs, and sometimes the straight tone lacked support and intonation. I found some of the patter between songs cheesy--it came across as overly sentimental or downright insincere. In fact, when Mr. Szot interrupted one song with additional patter it was intrusive and unpleasant.

As I say, qualms are minor, and I'd highly recommend this show. It plays through April 9. Go!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

For Rossini lovers in the southern Illinois area

Press release from our friends in Illinois:

The 2016 Southern Illinois Music Festival Presents:
Rossini’s Opera William Tell (in 1776)
Part I: June 7 and 10; Part II: June 8 and 11
All performances at 7:30pm at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center

The Southern Illinois Music Festival, now in its 12th season, will present Rossini's final opera, William Tell, sung in French with projected English supertitles, at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center June 7, 8, 10 and 11. This opera has only been produced in the United States in its entirety three times in the last century, so this is an historic event.

Most people know William Tell's famous overture (with its Lone Ranger theme), but the opera is full of beautiful arias, stirring ensembles and rousing choruses. This production is set in 1776, to coincide with Washington crossing the Delaware, on this 240th anniversary of our Independence, and also includes all the original ballet music. The entire opera is presented twice over two nights, June 7/8 and June 10/11. Separate admission is required each night.

Josh Shaw, Director of the Pacific Opera Project in Los Angeles, directs the production, which stars internationally recognized singers including Wes Mason, in the title role, and William Davenport, singing one of the most demanding Tenor roles in the repertoire. Other professional lead singers come from New York to Los Angeles and points in between, along with a 40 voice chorus, 20 member ballet company, and the fabulous Southern Illinois Music Festival Orchestra, under the musical direction of Edward Benyas.

The Festival Orchestra will also perform a grand orchestral program of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, including the “Eroica” Symphony and the Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra, featuring violinist, Michael Barta and cellist, Eric Lenz. The Festival will also present music by Mozart from 1776, including his three great violin concerti, the concerto for three pianos, the Serenata Notturno and the “Paris” Symphony. Mark your calendars for May 31 through June 12, 2016.

The Southern Illinois Music Festival presents three-dozen professional performances of classical music and jazz in two dozen venues throughout Southern Illinois each June. The Festival has been nationally recognized in Symphony magazine, the premiere publication for American orchestras; by the Chicago Tribune Travel section as one of 24 top summer activities (musical and otherwise) in an eight-state region; and by AAA Midwest magazine as a Midwest Travel Treasure.