Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

jcm’s Best of #OperaPlot

In attempting to peruse all 907 entries of #OperaPlot, I realized that there are so many great ones, taking so many diverse approaches that the result is and will be HIGHLY subjective. Honestly, there are probably 20-30 deserving tweets. But, it will all come down to Jonas’ particular funny bones ;-)

Well, as far as my own take, these are the best of those that were posted by midday today on T.O.M.! Hopefully, at least a few of these (and my own!) will make the prize list. My top favs by “chickenfeet2003″ and “patty_oboe” are proof that simple can be better. Also, interestingly, very few bel canto operas were tackled…perhaps proof that they are indeed all about the beautiful singing.

The Best of Other’s OperaPlots


villa_lobos Be vewy qwiet, I’m hunting wabbits – Oh Bwunhilde, you’w so wuvwy – stwike da wabbit! [dead] What do you expect, a happy ending? [Die Walküre]

chickenfeet2003
Batter my ears three noted score [Dr. Atomic]
Witch son was that? [Il Trovatore]
Hunchback ticks off boss. Get’s the sack. [Rigoletto]

Patty Oboe She dances just to get a head. [Salome]

musicvstheater Ego Rex,yo! With my mad flow. Tiresias be hatin on my bling tho. Cuz I’m the king, aint no other. Is my ho fly? Word to my mother! [Oedipus Rex] (This entry was accompanied by an amazing rap audio track!)

pschleuse Though cigarettes can be a killer, they’re nothing to a Seguidiller. As Don Jose’s been known to quip, love can really be a gyp. [Carmen]

devoncestes Cougar on the prowl, her cousin shows up. Random Italian Tenor. A silver rose later, prey finds a girl his own age. Time flies. [Der Rosenkavalier]

Bonnie Situation Alb. makes a ring, Loge & Wotan plan a sting. Erda: give up the bling! Fafner: Ka-ching! [Das Rheingold]

DrGeoduck Their relationship was doomed from the beginning. Elsa wanted a champion, but he preferred swanning about. [Lohengrin]

musicbizkid WhenCleverDalilaFinesses/MightySamson,HeDumblyConfesses/
SourceOfHisStrength/IsInHisCoiffure’sLength/&DameColdlyHacksOffHisTresses [Samson & Dalila]

gtheule Cigarettes are unwise and bullfighting is nuts, but a mezzo has them beat for crazy any day of the week. [Carmen]

Sam Neuman The Princess is double-parked, so she has to be succinct: kid’s dead, sister’s engaged, love the habit, sign here, kthxbye. [Suor Angelica]


My Five Best


“Ice Ice Baby” [Jenufa]

My head says Turandon’t! But my heart says Turando! [Turandot]

I’m too sexy for amor—too sexy for Seville. I’m a charmer—I shake my lil tush on the piazza. I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns* [Don Giovanni]

Her name was Violet, she was a call girl. With camélias in her hair & consumption in the air. At the AH-PRAH! Don’t fall in love! [La Traviata]

TwoMenWageToProveWomenFickle/LandingThemInQuiteAPickle/
AsAlbaniansTheyKnew/BothSistersThey’dWoo/AudiencesAgelessHijinksDothTickle. [Così fan tutte]

jcm’s #OperaPlot Contest Entries: Redux

Thank goodness today is the final day of The Omniscient Mussel’s contest. I’m feeling the need to race off to #OperaPlot 12-Step after this week (it’s insanely addictive)! I want those tickets to Ireland so bad, I can smell the shamrocks.

Now, cross your fingers with me, and pray that hunkentenor (Jonas) chooses right! In my next post I’ll share my favorites from ALL the entries (there are some doozies), and then follow up with the actual prize winners. But for now, here’s my second round of tweets

My Final 13 Entries


“Ice Ice Baby” [Jenufa]

My head says Turandon’t! But my heart says Turando! [Turandot]

“It Takes a Village (To Ice a Child)” [Jenufa, variation]

“It Takes a Village to Raze a Child” [Jenufa]

“Kaiser & Kaiserin Plus 8″ [Die Frau ohne Schatten, variation]

TwoMenWageToProveWomenFickle/LandingThemInQuiteAPickle/
AsAlbaniansTheyKnew/BothSistersThey’dWoo/AudiencesAgelessHijinksDothTickle. [Così fan tutte]

Irish ♀ + Breton ♂ = ♥ death [Tristan und Isolde, variation]

My dazzling beauty, vast pleasure palace & pearly fioriture weren’t enough for “The Six Tenors”? Screw love, revenge is sweeter! [Armida]

A cautionary tale about eloping with Papa Smurf, honeymoon feng shui & baggage. Behind door #7? “The Real Housewives of Hungary” [Bluebeard's Castle]

“Women Are Like That/Thus Do They All/The School for Lovers/Tit for Tat/Fiancée Swap/Such Are All Women” (Call it what you will!) [Così fan tutte]

Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, but mum’s the word…smooch, smooch, glub, glub. [Rusalka] (via Gil)

“Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was freak like me? Don’t cha, don’t cha?” [The Threepenny Opera]

I ♥ NY [West Side Story]


The 2010 #OperaPlot Twitter Contest Begins!

Today, The Omniscient Mussel launches her second annual “OperaPlot” contest. The goal? To synopsize any opera in 140 characters (including the hashtag #operaplot), and post up to 25 on twitter.com, before midnight EST, friday, April 30th. Anyone can enter, so hit her with your best shots!

T.O.M. scored a major coup, landing the biggest hunken-tenor on the intl. scene Jonas Kaufmann as arbiter! It was tempting to tailor my entries to his repertoire (ie: Werther, Tosca, Die Walküre, etc.), but I maintained my integrity! My entries milk song lyric adaptations, current mainstream celebrity fixations, whimsical text icons, and my love for the melodramatic side of the art form.

(Photo by Johannes Ifkopvits, 2006)

Follow all submissions here. Here are the Rules and FAQs, the 2010 Prize Pool, and the 2009 Winners & Prizes.

My First 12 Entries


I’m too sexy for amor—too sexy for Seville. I’m a charmer—I shake my lil tush on the piazza. I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns* [Don Giovanni]

Her name was Violet, she was a call girl. With camélias in her hair & consumption in the air. At the AH-PRAH! Don’t fall in love! [La Traviata]

Irish ♀ + Breton ♂ x ♪ leitmotifs in ♠s = ♥ death [Tristan und Isolde]

(Inappropriate for Children) “Je-rry! Je-rry!” A chick with a *BLEEP*. Commercial break. Satan/Jesus fued *BLEEP*! Final Thought. [Jerry Springer: The Opera]

All that stands between Turandot and her man: a millennia-old feminist grudge, “Hope, Blood, Turandot,” slave girl and frigidity. [Turandot]

The primacy of words or music? Inseparable! A poet or composer’s heart, and whose operatic ending? Hmm…what’s a Countess to do? [Capriccio]

Shadow chasing ensues, proving Her Heart Belongs (nicht) To Daddy, but to hubby. Next up: “Empress & Kaiser Plus 8″ or Octomom? [Die Frau ohne Schatten]

3 protagonists enter. 3 cries of “Turandot.” 3 gongs. 3 riddles. 3 correct answers. 3 ministers lament. 3 “Vinceròs!” 3 Acts end. [Turandot]

1) Death by strangulation on a barge on the Seine in Paris, 2) by poison in a convent near Siena, 3) and by old age in Florence. [Il Trittico]

The Don’s Hectic Calendar: Seduce. Rape. Duel. Kill. Flirt. Lure. Flee. Regroup. Accuse. Swap. Fool. Invite. Revel. Refuse. BURN! [Don Giovanni]

The Empress needs what the mortal woman has, decides she doesn’t want it badly enough, but gets it anyway. Typical daddy’s girl! [Die Frau ohne Schatten]

“Questo è il fin di chi fa mal!” So, don’t seduce, rape, accuse, fool, desert, lure, beat, or kill, lest you be dragged to hell! [Don Giovanni]

Perhaps I’ll be inspired to generate a second phase of entries! This is VERY addictive, and I wanna win!

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet with SFO Adler Fellows

The Melding of Classical Voice & Dance


Thanks to my friend Sara, last night I attended one of the freshest, most daring shows I’ve seen in a very long-time. Somehow, it hadn’t even entered my radar before her mention of it. The first half was the World Premiere of Wheel in the Middle of the Field,” presented by Alonzo King Lines Ballet, and featuring a quartet of the current Adler Fellows, two of whom I touted in their Merola debut last year. The second half was “Rasa,” a piece performed by the dancers alone.

Other than brief insets within an opera, I’ve only seen the melding of dance with live classical voice a handful of times. The most effective have been Iphigénie en Tauride at the SF Opera (’07), with choreography by Phillipe Giraudeau, Purcell’s King Arthur by the Mark Morris Dance Company (Zellerbach, ’96), and Christopher Wheeldon’s “Sea Pictures” at the SF Ballet, set to Elgar’s song cycle, and sung by mezzo and Adler Fellow Katia Escalera (’01). This happy meeting of two of my favorite disciplines always leaves me wanting more. When I saw the listing of this program, I felt it was kismet, and clearly the product of someone thinking outside the box. Ultimately, this is the sort of risk that is a requirement if these art forms are to survive, having the power to woo the younger audiences we all pray for.

Alonzo King said about the project: “The challenge is to integrate body, mind and intention, within the individuals themselves and between the two different disciplines. I encourage them to explore and expand into their physical bodies, using the entire body as a vocal cord. I initiate exercises in being, not doing. Being without armor—which is difficult to do—is believing that what you are is enough.” That intent proved to be very successful.

Curtains Up!


The performance began with the Adler quartet taking the stage: Ryan Belongie, Sara Gartland, Maya Lahyani, and Austin Kness, (with accompanist Allen Perriello in the pit). The women wore beautiful, shimmering slate blue dresses, just below the knees in length. Gartland’s was spare with spaghetti straps, and Lahyani’s with an additional expressive band of fabric hanging down on her left shoulder. The men were in black, both with a subtle nod to a masculine, japanese Samurai silhouette. Surprisingly, they began not to sing, but to dance! The results were mixed, but it was quite unexpected and engaging. I respected the total emotional commitment from them, especially to something they aren’t presumably well-trained in.

Continue Reading LINES/Adler Review —>

“The 40 Year-Old Homo” Blog Roast!

Alas, it’s true…I’m a mere 2 weeks away from this notorious milestone. I aim to make it as whimsical and festive as possible. I welcome a blog roast here on jcm! So, fire away…hit me with your best shot! Whatchyoo got on me? Make Joan Rivers and Kathy Griffin proud.

roast


def: noun. A facetious tribute, as at a banquet, in which the honoree is alternately praised and insulted.

A French Delicacy Discovered: Andrée Esposito

L’Objet du Désir


Back in the pre-youtube days (yes, a mere 5+ years ago), presumably in one of my crusty old opera books, I came across this photo of a french diva who performed to acclaim from the mid-50’s through 70’s. I remember being smitten, and trying to imagine experiencing a great lyric soprano, in this case as Thaïs, in such an alluring, voluptuous package (my feminine ideal, which I wish would return to favor). I also stood in disbelief of the costume, which could hold its own even among today’s drag best, and would still be considered shocking on the stage of any international opera house. This exotic, statuesque vision was one Andrée Esposito.

Somehow she only reentered my radar last week. I’ve been transfixed since, exploring her art on youtube. Yes, she had much more than just a beautiful physique. Her elegant phrasing and on-the-breath tonality bears more than a slight resemblance to another of my favored divas, Eleanor Steber. One can also hear flashes of Sills’ attack and brightness, but none of her acidity or tonal pressing. This is impassioned, fully committed, unforgettable singing, and particularly idiomatic in her native french.

She embodies all the finest qualities of the french operatic style: a ringing, well supported column of sound, and the perfect dose of taut tonal nasality. But, unlike Steber, who sometimes stepped over into a matronly firmness of tone, Andrée, while having thrust, never muscles past a girlish vulnerability. So many of the quintessential french divas of mid-century (ie: Vallin, Robin) offer too brittle or bright a sound for my ears, and one which feels more caricaturish and less human. Andrée offers the best of their qualities, but balanced with a cool smoothness more pleasing, and realness more affecting to my modern ears.

An Overview: Her Life & Career


She was born (February 7, 1934) in Algiers, Algeria, into a family of French-Italian origin. She completed her studies at the Paris Music Conservatory, where she was a pupil of Louis Noguéra and Charles Panzéra.

Andrée was then quickly invited to all the major opera houses of France, including the Paris Opéra-Comique, singing the standard French light lyric repertory: Olympia, Philline, Mireille, Micaela, Leila, and Lakmé. She made her debut at the Paris Opéra in 1959, as Violetta. Other roles there included Rosina, Lucia, Gilda, Xenia, Marguerite, Juliette, Manon, Thaïs. She also enjoyed singing Rosalinda and Hanna. She was also a very active recitalist.

Andrée was married to French baritone Julien Haas, with whom she often appeared on stage, the two were also active as voice teachers at the Strasbourg Music Conservatory. (Wikipedia)

A Video Sampling


These videos are some of her finest offerings available online (do NOT miss “La Chanson perpétuelle” below). Both the Mireille and Manon duos are with the elegant, tender french lyric tenor Alain Vanzo.

“Oses venir, toi qui braves Vénus!,” from Massenet’s Thaïs

With Andrée as the courtesan Thaïs, this recording (french radio, 1959) also features the magnificent Robert Massard as Athanaël, a Cenobite monk, and tenor Jean Mollien, as the nobleman Nicias. Albert Wolff conducts.

Continue Experiencing Andrée’s Art —>

The Cultural Phenom of the National “Diva”

Thanks (again) to Vinyl Divas, I discovered the singer “Gohar Gasparyan.” I youtubed her, simply because her name was so eccentric, and her mug not exactly the prettiest. I immediately smelled a camp classic discovery. Well, I was both wrong, and right. Turns out, she was very lovingly considered “The Armenian Nightingale.” It struck me that each country or culture seems to have their divathe one considered to be the greatest, and to inspire and somehow embody the spirit of the nation.

Here’s a look at some of the biggies. Some of these names immediately came to mind, but a few took a little more digging. Some are genuine classics, and a couple (ie: Gohar and Yma) have one foot firmly (if unintentionally) in camp. One of the qualifications of a true diva is a title, nickname, or single name (ala Cher), as most all of them prove. Pathos is a requirement, and often a tragic life and/or death the deal maker for that highest rung of fame in posterity. In some cases, an operatic diva reaches this highest level of mainstream public adoration, but only in those cases did I include them here. Of course, the diva phenom and the gay sensibility are inextricably linked, and although that is surely part of my own inspiration, it is not the focus here.

Armenia


Gohar Gasparyan (’24 – ’07): “The Armenian Nightingale”

“In ’48, she migrated to Soviet Armenia, along with hundreds of thousands of other Armenians from the Middle East.” Upon her death, she was billed “The greatest master of the Armenian Opera Theater, the People’s Artist of the USSR, the hero of the Social Labor, the National Artist of Armenia, the Mesrop Mashtots order-bearer, and the professor of the Yerevan State Konservatory after Komitas.” In her prime, she displayed beautiful control and range:

This video ofO beau pays from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots shows she had the chops, but no technical or interpretive greatness in western opera to qualify her as a true operatic legend outside of Armenian rep. She delivers priceless camp at 7:05, with a shameless peekaboo that will have you rolling! As with all true divas, she was still worshipped in her later years, when her voice and body were in decline, because her heart and expressivity were at their most potent (the accidental whistle on her “sh” consonants is precious).

Continuing Discovering National Divas —>

jcm Nominated for “Blog of the Year”: Vote Now!

I am thrilled to be one of the Top 6 nominees for “Blog of the Year,” in Axels, Loops and Spins’ 3rd Annual Loop Axel Awards! Although AL&S has apparently pre-determined his winners, if you like what you see/read/hear here, please vote for me there (under “Comments,” or click on his “View my complete profile” and email him directly), to help sway the deal for jumping clapping man! And, while you’re there, enjoy seeing Aaron’s other Awards. Last year Lifeskate.com deservedly won for best blog.

I’m takin’ a shameless page from Kathy Griffin’s “book,” and launching a guerilla marketing campaign for votes (Avenue Q also won the Tony this way in 2004!). Of course, I think I should be up for “Best New Face,” and “Best Outfit” too.  ;-) Thank you kindly for returning to jcm, (and even more for your votes)!

The Best of jcm Rink Side


Here’s a look back at some highlights of my skating posts, balancing legit commentary with high camp. Click here to see all/only my skating-related posts:

A Rivalry Reignited: Torino Worlds Ladies FS, and other Worlds’ posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

“GAY Stars On Ice & Friends!” PRESENTS: (My response to the “Stars on Ice” “family friendly” assertion, and supposed Johnny shut-out.)

Vancouver Games: Week 1 Supersized Recap, and other Olympics’ posts: 1, 2

jcm’s Olympics’ Podium Predictions Contest, and Winners (What other blog gives away money…and for free!?)

The Best of Spokane: Buttercups, Fizzles & Knives

Skaters Who Blew Through the Technical Ceiling (A robust technical overview.)

Ghoulish Figure Skating Clinics (Some Halloween season fun…yes, at the mercy of skaters.)

Olympic Reigns Ending: Likelihoods or Naysaying? (I nailed it! Bet your money on my soothsaying next time.)

Yu-Na Gets A Makeover! (Yes, I even made-over Yu-Na.)

[UPDATE: AL&S has announced that senior ice dancer Todd Gilles' entertaining Vlog "Blips of Todd..." is the winner.]

Cohen & Czisny’s Opera on Ice Duet

When I originally read the “Stars On Ice” program lineup, the highlight, hands-down, was the prospect of a Cohen/Czisny performance of Delibes’ Flower Duet,” from Lakmé. It was the only number that came close to the inventiveness of my GAY Stars on Ice… lineup! (Yuka Sato’s “Clair de Lune” was also enticing.) Well, since I don’t plan to attend the show live, thankfully a youtube video of it has surfaced, however janky and incomplete it may be.

Unfortunately, it feels quite underrehearsed, which is odd for the two perfection queens of the ice. But, it’s still quite pleasing, considering their peerless, but comparable spiral positions. Hello Charlottes…I’ve missed you so! It’s quite the “Anything you can do, I can do better” routine. Good thing they don’t attempt any of those pesky jumps.

Also, my hopes for some hint at the implied (or projected?) lesbian subtext of the duet were dashed. No surprise there. Although, I’m still tempted to bill this the “Spiral Bump” routine (ala Donut Bump).

The full name of the scene is: Viens, Mallika, les liens en fleurs…Sous le dôme épais. In the context of the opera, “Lakmé and her servant Mallika are left behind and go down to the river to gather flowers…As they approach the water at the river bank, Lakmé removes her jewelry and places it on a bench (while they bathe)” (Wikipedia). It is one of the examples of grand opera’s and mainstream culture’s obsessions at the time with eastern exoticism and orientalism (also evident in Madama Butterfly).

The duet was also famously used to set the tone in the beautiful, overtly lesbian scene with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, in “The Hunger.” It uses it to full effect.

Below is the libretti excerpt. What do you think? Is the lesbian subtext intended, or projected by the viewer or culture of the time?

Under a dome of white jasmine
With the roses entwined together
On a river bank covered with flowers laughing in the morning

Gently floating on it’s charming risings
On the river’s current
On the shining waves
One hand reaches
Reaches for the bank
Where the spring sleeps and
The birds, the birds sing.

Under a dome of white jasmine
Ah! calling us
Together!

Introducing: “Vinyl Divas”

I just discovered the most potent porn for any opera, LP, or LP cover design lover or fanatic: Vinyl Divas! If you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the site, sprint there now. It’s a true well of greatness, an opiate for opera queens. For long-time aficionados, it will take you WAY back…for newbies, it will introduce you to some of THE golden and notorious recordings and singers.

I had so much fun perusing V.D. that I’ve gathered up my favorite covers out of the lot (this isn’t about the recordings themselves), and compiled them for you here. BUT, be sure to visit the site, as this is just the tip of the immense iceberg, and my aim is to honor and spread V.D.! I’ve categorized the covers here differently from the original site. (Click on the thumbnails to view them larger.)

The Paragon

Flawless styling, lighting, composition, depth of field, and Régine in her prime: slam dunk!

Worship at the Altar of Diva

These put us in a sort of trance, through the beauty, allure and irrestistability of the diva. Never have Elisabeth, Edita, or Elena looked more “like buttah.” Leontyne’s art song LP was recorded when she was a young Julliard graduate.

Continue Reliving Vinyl Divas —>

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