Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check out this very comprehensive new site for all of your arty or entertainmenty needs in the greater Boston area. The opera section is quite good and includes a number of performances that I had missed including on my own thorough (I thought) calendar of events for New England and New York.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


This press release is discouraging:

James Levine to Undergo Surgery for Herniated Spinal Disc

Mr. Ronald Wilford, Chairman of Columbia Artists and James Levine’s manager has announced that Mr. Levine will undergo immediate surgery for a herniated spinal disc. The procedure necessitates withdrawing from his scheduled performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera.

Mr. Levine has withdrawn from performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston on Tuesday, September 29 and Saturday, October 3 and from Carnegie Hall’s opening night performance on Thursday, October 1. Mr. Levine has also withdrawn from performances of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera on October 6 and 10.

So the back issues continue. Here's to your quick recovery, maestro.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Well, this is disappointing (for me, not for opera). Apparently, Say it Ain’t so, Joe! has been sold out for all performances. Congrats to Guerilla Opera. I would have liked to see that, though.

I'm used to making decisions at the last moment and and purchasing tickets at the door. I guess I'm not in Arizona anymore.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

sarah di wasilla

Well, it has been a long summer and I haven't seen much opera, and you certainly haven't been seeing me blog about anything for quite a while. But, the season approacheth and there is at least one small reason that I may have to zip up to Boston this weekend.

An opera about Sarah Palin? You betcha!

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Monday, March 9, 2009

shostakovich's nose

The Nose
When I first saw that Opera Boston would be putting on a production of The Nose, my immediate thought was "Well, I must see that. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" When the Metropolitan Opera announced that they too would be staging The Nose next season, I was relieved that I would get the chance to see it in Boston and not have to feel the pressure to travel down to New York to see it. After all, there are at least a dozen can't possibly miss productions being put on by the Met next season (inevitably, half of which I will miss) and any opportunity to get my fix locally saves me time and money and no small amount of psychological well-being (for example, my compensation for not getting to see Renee and Stephanie in the Rusalka which had its season premiere tonight in New York, is seeing it later this month at the Boston Lyric).

Minor miscalculation. My immediate thought upon leaving the opera house last Tuesday after seeing The Nose was "I simply must see it at the Met next year. After all, how many opportunities come along to see The Nose?" Especially in two different productions within a year's time.

It was an absolutely delightful evening at the opera. The slight criticism of Opera Boston that I had the first time I attended one of their productions (Der Freischütz earlier this season)--the cheapness of the sets and the slightly campy/vulgar acting--absolutely works for The Nose. The music was interesting. Let me just say right off the bat that I am not a fan of new music: by new music I don't mean modern music, but music I haven't heard before. I generally enjoy an opera after I get to know the music first. Even such gorgeously lyrical operas like Madama Butterfly and Le nozze di Figaro sounded ugly to me the first time I heard them. The first time I ever attended a Lucia, I generally had a miserable experience (I also wasn't feeling good that day), but now I will go to every Lucia I have the opportunity to go to because I love it so much now. The same goes for nearly every favorite of mine: Eugene Onegin, Salome, the list goes on.

I did not have this problem with The Nose. The music just worked for me from the beginning. I don't think that I will be jamming down the freeway with this music blaring through my car stereo any time soon or even ever. It's just too non-tonal and non-lyrical I think to be enjoyed in that way, but as a part of the complete theatrical experience, it is brilliant and witty (I'm pretty sure I heard fart noises coming from the orchestra pit!).

One snag: no more than ten minutes into the opera, the music suddenly stopped and a voice came from the orchestra pit (it took me half a second to realise this was not part of the opera, it was in English). "We apologize for stopping the opera, folks, but all the lights just went out in the orchestra pit!" The only character on-stage at this time was the Barber (Vladimir Matorin) who kind of hammed it up a bit to the delight of the audience, and no more than two minutes later, the opera resumed.

A note on the players: Stephen Salters starred as Kovalyov and was quite effective. But I think that the audience favorites, in addition to Matorin, were Frank Kelley who played the Police Inspector brilliantly and with great humor, and Yeghishe Manucharyan as Ivan the Lackey, also very funny. Some of the loudest applause (and the only one to also get some loud whoops from a certain section of the Mezzanine) was Sol Kim Bentley who played the pretzel seller with enough sexiness to win over some lusty fans (especially from a certain section of the Mezzanine). A nice touch near the end of ACT III in which a "prominant citizen" or "celebrity" (that seems to be how they translated it) appears on stage and turns out to be none other than the young Shostakovich himself.

All in all, a successful evening. I very much now want to know how the Met will approach this work. I doubt if they will be this campy, but it would be interesting to see how another production team interprets it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

blo announces 2009-2010 season

Not to be outdone by Opera Boston, the Boston Lyric Opera yesterday announced their new season, which is now expanded to four operas rather than their usual three.

The seasons begins flatly with a new production of Carmen in November 2009. This does not actually excite me, but the rest of the season does. March 2010 will see the "North American premiere of [a] Welsh National Opera production" of Ariadne auf Naxos. This opera is a particular favorite of mine, and I am happy to see it in Boston. The Met will do an Ariadne as well next season. In April-May 2010, BLO will be staging a new production of Idomeneo. These three operas comprise the BLO's standard run at the Schubert Theatre. But wait, there's more...

In what they are calling their Opera Annex, the BLO will be presenting an additional opera at an as-yet undisclosed location, but not the Schubert. And the great pleasure is that the opera in question is Benjamin Britten's The Turn of the Screw, which I certainly would not mind seeing. This is scheduled to occur in February 2010.

And, as an extra bonus, they are throwing in a one-hour, English language version of Barber of Seville aimed at the young folks. And that is that.

for those of you in boston this week...

The touring company--Teatro Lirico D'Europa--will be at the Cutler Majestic Theatre (home of Opera Boston) this weekend. They will be presenting the venerable double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci March 6-8.

As mentioned a few posts ago, New England Chamber Opera has Ralph Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea in Cambridge. Admission is free.

Coming up on Wednesday, March 11, Opera Boston Underground will be at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge with Kurt Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. No advance ticket sales, just a $10 cover at the door.

for those of you in new york city this week...

It seems that a young new company, The Opera Manhattan Repertory Theatre, will be staging an English version of Die Fledermaus March 5-8.

Also, this weekend and next, Regina Opera in Brooklyn will be presenting Gianni Schicchi.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

opera boston 2009-2010

The Opera Boston 2009-2010 season was announced a week or so ago, and it is exciting. From the letter by Chairman of the Board Winnie Gray in the program I received last night:

Next season, we take our mission to a whole new level with our first commission, the world premiere of Madame White Snake by Zhou Long and Cerise Lim Jacobs. This dramatic and epic work, with two choruses, Chinese instruments, and a world-class cast and artistic team, led by the acclaimed director Robert Woodruff, will be a fitting introduction of this classic Chinese fable to western audiences.

A world premiere for this relatively small company: a very nice coup for them! I can't wait. It would be my first premiere.

The excitement continues when we welcome two of the world's greatest opera singers who will make their Boston staged-opera debuts with us next season: Ewa Podleś in the title role of Rossini's Tancredi and Stephanie Blythe in the title role of Offenbach's La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein.

One of the productions I really really really wanted to attend this year was Orfeo ed Euridice at the Met. Sadly, I couldn't make it happen. By all accounts, Stephanie Blythe was amazing and it will be nice to have the chance of seeing her in Boston (as well as in Il Trittico at the Met next season).

I also missed the vaunted return of Ewa Podleś to the Met in La Gioconda at the start of the season, and this will be a rare and wonderful opportunity to hear her.

The BLO must be so envious...

Monday, March 2, 2009

la sonnambula

I listened to the the live broadcast and participated in the live chat tonight, courtesy of La Cieca. Needless to say, I wasn't as disappointed as the majority of listeners seemed to be.

I enjoy an opera largely on the basis of its music; giving more credit to the composer than anyone else. I love Bellini and I love La sonnambula, so I had a good time. Yes, Pido, was a bit plodding and and slow, but at times, that worked. I just love Natalie Dessay and, if at times she missed a few notes, I forgave her for it. Juan Diego Flórez, was absolutely amazing tonight and was a pleasure to hear. Pertusi may have been a bit thin, but the beauty of the music carried the day. How could it not?

The audience, I will agree, was tepid. Although largely undemonstrative, they did resoundingly boo the production team--lead by Mary Zimmerman--when they were called onto the curtain call by Dessay at the end. Fair enough. I don't come for the production (and I couldn't see it anyway!). I enjoyed myself tonight, and that's the only thing that really matters in the end.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

on the horizon

Next up, Opera Boston and Shostakovich's The Nose on Tuesday, March 3.

On March 7, the plan was to see The Daughter of the Regiment, but Connecticut Opera made the disturbing news last month that they were canceling the final two productions of their season. This is a troubling trend these days. Let's hope that these local companies can ultimately weather the storm.

However, this opens up the New England Chamber Opera's production, also on March 7 (and March 8) of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Riders to the Sea. And guess what? Admission is FREE!!!

March 25 will find me back in Boston, this time for the Boston Lyric Opera and Rusalka.

And finally, I make my way back to the Met on April 1 for the Diana Damrau premiere of Rigoletto

Sunday, February 22, 2009

and the correct answers are...

These are my choices, not predictions:

Best Picture: Milk. The best of the choices given, but three of the choices were weak. My nominees would have been Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Visitor, Doubt, and The Wrestler

Best Director: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. This is the year to split the Picture/Director awards. The nudge goes to Boyle for doing what he did in the difficult location shoot in Mumbai.

Actor: Mickey Rourke. Sean Penn and Richard Jenkins were also strong contenders. Frank Langella and especially Brad Pitt have no business being in this category this year.

Actress: Melissa Leo. Anne Hathaway the only realistic alternative here. I loved Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road, unfortunately she was nominated for the wrong film.

Supporting Actor: Robert Downey Jr. Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffmann, and Michael Shannon also very good. Heath Ledger the only weak link in this category: I did not particularly appreciate his over-hyped performance.

Supporting Actress: Taraji P. Henson. Everyone is strong in this category. Viola Davis was very effective, but in the end, her role was just too small to give it to her.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Some first impressions...

I am currently reviewing most of the films that have been nominated for Academy Awards. Out of the Best Picture category, I have seen Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, and Milk.

I am almost willing to say at this point that Milk should win it all. Slumdog is a great picture, as is The Reader. But emotionally, I need to go with Milk. Especially given the profound disappointment with California this year and the Proposition 8 vote which was manipulated out-of-state by the Mormon Church this year. Fuck them.

Let's back up a minute and review the two nominees that I have not yet seen (and I might very well revise my opinions once I have seen them, which will be soon).

Benjamin Button sounds like one of those trite romantic fantasies that always seem to make into the finals, but never stands a chance. Frost/Nixon is a Ron Howard film. Ron Howard knows very well how to make inconsequential popcorn movies and nothing else. That "A Beautiful Mind" ever won Best Picture is an eternal blight upon the Academy Awards (eclipsing even the travesty that was "Titanic").

I will see both "Frost/Nixon" and "Benjamin Button" within the next few days. Unless either of them unexpectedly blow me away, "Milk" is my winner along with Sean Pean as Best Actor as he truly WAS Harvey Milk in this film. Despite the fact that I still have a really hard time seeing guys making out on film (I admit to averting my eyes), I feel strongly that gay rights ARE the civil rights issue of this day, and I feel personally offended whenever some idiot politician comes out opposing gay rights for lack of any other substantive issue in his platform.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


I grew up in Orange County, California a Dodgers fan. My father had grown up in Brooklyn during the 1930s and so loyalty to the team and to the sport was never a question. As far as football was concerned, we had the hapless Rams. Consequently, I was never much of a football fan. Until... The Raiders moved down to LA sometime in the 1980s, and everybody jumped on their bandwagon. My adolescent thought at that time was "screw that!" I decided that I would be a Rams fan.

Soon after, I moved down to San Diego to attend college at SDSU. Back then, it seemed that half of SDSU students were from Orange County and the other half were from the Bay Area, so the Rams-49'rs games were always contentious. In fear of stating the obvious, the 49'rs were somewhat more successful during those years. I don't mind routing for the underdog, but those years were brutal. Then, the Rams moved to St. Louis and I at that point lost all interest in the franchise.

In 1994, I moved to Arizona to pursue a graduate degree at ASU. For a few years, I was indifferent. But, after the 1996 perfect season of the ASU Sun Devils--led by Jake Plummer and Pat Tillman who were then drafted by the Cardinals--I became a whole-hearted supporter of the Arizona Cardinals.

It has been a difficult 15 years. Even at my regular bar in Phoenix, I was often the only Cardinal fan. Most people in Arizona come from somewhere else--mostly the mid-west, so we have plenty of Packer fans, Viking fans, Browns fans, etc. Plus, most native Arizonans are actually Cowboy fans, since they long ago drank the Kool-Aid of "America's Team" before Arizona had a team of their own. So, it was brutal there also.

When I moved to Rhode Island in June, I knew I was moving into a town that was drunk with the success of their Patriots, their Red Sox, and (soon) their Celtics. When I established myself at a local watering hole at the start of the NFL season, I boldly predicted that the Super Bowl would be contested by the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals (Being pretty confident about the Patriots, but almost joking about the Cardinals).

So suck it, New England fans! My prediction was half true. Whether they win or lose, I don't care. The Cardinals already have the championship that has eluded them for 61 years: they are the NFC Champions of 2008 and nobody can take that away from them. But, I think that I have converted a lot of New England fans over to the Arizona cause. Normally, my drinking place here in Providence would be pretty empty if the Patriots were not in the big game. Now I know that a lot of my new-found friends will be there at least supporting me in this game. Here's to a good game!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

eight months

Having moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Pawtucket, Rhode Island eight months ago, I find myself no longer on a deserted island when it comes to opera offerings. To be fair, Arizona Opera was (and is) a fine company. However, with (at most) five productions a year to contemplate, my options were limited considerably. Financially speaking, I couldn't jet off to LA or San Francisco or Seattle as often as I would have liked (in reality: zero times).

I feel positively spoiled and overwhelmed to be on the East Coast now for the first time in my life. The operatic riches for a bumpkin like me are a bit embarrassing (Incidentally, I am maintaining a public Google Calendar of opera events in New England and as far south as New York. You may access the calendar here. Please let me know if you have any additions, corrections, or comments regarding these entries.).

I have missed more performances that I would have died to go to here in my last 8 months than I could have ever hoped to attend in 15 years in Arizona. However, I did manage to get out a little bit.

Eugene Onegin (August 2, 2008 in concert at Tanglewood; Renee Fleming)

What a beautiful idyllic Berkshire summer evening. I am now sorry that I bought a seat in the Shed. After intermission, I went outside and spent the rest of the performance on the lawn. Note: will bring lawn chairs next time and hope for another evening like this without rain. James Levine and Ramon Vargas called in sick for this gig, but I did get to see Renee who was lovely and in great voice.

Salome (September 23, 2008 The Metropolitan Opera; Karita Mattila)

This was my very first trip to the Met, and I was not disappointed. There seem to be many differing opinions about this performance, which was the season's opening night for Salome. For me, KM nailed the part: I measure this very scientifically by the degree in which the hair on the back of my neck stands up during Ach, ich habe deine Mund geküsst. Nearly matches the rating of my Cheryl Studer recording (Sorry fans, but Nilsson doesn't quite do it for me).

Seated Orchestra Rear.

Lucia di Lammermoor (October 5, 2008 Salt Marsh Opera; Diana McVey)

Basically, the opera house is a small converted church in Westerly, RI, not the greatest acoustics for opera. The stage is about the size of a largish dinner table and the set could have been stolen from a local high school's production of Hamlet. That being said, the singers were marvelous, particularly the young local soprano Diana McVey in the title role.

There are two classes of seating in the "church". The classy seats are in the nave area with unobstructed views of the stage. I was in the cheap seats on the side in what I guess you would call the transept or aisle, which means that as the singers moved about the stage, I had to dodge my head left or right to see around the columns which obstructed my view. The good part was that by the first intermission, everyone in my section and in back of me had moved to empty nave seats and so I could shift around freely and even stand up without bothering anyone. I even managed to film the sextet for posterity.

The orchestra, by the way, was above and behind the stage. At the back of the church hung a large video monitor which displayed the conductor, presumably for the benefit of the singers on stage, but I also found it interesting to watch from time to time.

Der Freischutz (October 21, 2008 Opera Boston)

Boston being much closer to me than New York, I hope to not miss any productions of the Boston Lyric Opera and the more daring Opera Boston. The Cutler Majestic Theatre (home of Opera Boston) is a grand old lady. I do have to say, however, that the balcony seating is ridiculously cramped. Luckily, being in the first row, I was able to hang my legs over the railing and nobody objected. I don't know how many opportunities I will have to see Der Freischutz over my lifetime, so I was very grateful to see this (adequate) production.

I remember the singing as wonderful, but not having made any notes I cannot recall any standouts. The staging and acting, however, I would describe as eccentric at best descending down to silly (and even borderline pornographic at one point).

Les contes d'Hoffmann (November 18, 2008 Boston Lyric Opera)

Practically next door to the Cutler Majestic, the Shubert Theatre is its rather plain sister. The Shubert, however, is the Cutler's equal in its assault on your legs and knees in the balcony section. Being in the second row this time, we just had to grit it out.

This production was absolutely spectacular in almost every way. In marked contrast to the Opera Boston production notes above, the BLO really outdid itself with this staging of Hoffmann. The sets were gorgeous and quirky; the acting was brilliant and funny; the singing was top drawer throughout.

Lucia di Lammermoor (January 26, 2009 The Metropolitan Opera; Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón)

My triumphant return to the Met was also the occasion of the (not so triumphant) returns of La Trebka and Mr. Villazon. Much has already been written of this performance, to which I can add little. Colin Lee was a promising Arturo with his clear ringing (and in-tune) voice. That the only role I am writing about in a production of Lucia is the Arturo let us leave speak for itself.

One thing about the audience, and I don’t care how bad the performance was or how late the start time: the steady flow of people exiting the theater after the Mad scene is just plain rudeness. This turned into a cattle drive after the last scene, BEFORE the curtain call. Being in Standing Room for this one and next to the exit, I guess I noticed this more than most.

If I were not quite so poor, I would be out every night....