Archive for the ‘video’ Category

Delicacies: The Finest Light Lyric Sopranos

Why LLS (Light Lyric Sopranos)? Why now?

In April, I attended the Cal Perfs recital of Sandrine Piau at Hertz Hall. I’ll wait until my “Top 10” EOY post to review it, but needless to say, she was sensational. I bought my tickets well in advance, knowing it would be the sleeper of the season.

However, at the time it crossed my mind that the recital came and went without much fanfare, she had no SF Opera presence in this or any season to date, the hall was only half full despite its intimate size, AND even few if any of my opera friends in-the-know had it on their must list. The reasons? Her career has been almost entirely in Europe, she’s essentially a “specialist” (ie: early music, Mozart, and lieder/art song), and she’s an LLS. Unfortunately, this fach rarely commands the same mainstream attention as the big guns, and in more standard operatic fare usually serves ensemble or comprimario roles.

I’ve spent much time on jcm raving about my beloved coloraturas, dramatic sopranos, and at times full lyrics, but it’s time I shed a spotlight on the finest LLS of our time (all of them active). I hope you discover an artist new to you.

Wikipedia shares that an LLS “has a bigger voice than a soubrette, but still possesses a youthful quality.” SO, clearly this doesn’t include the full lyrics, typified by a Fleming, Moffo, or Steber. Their predecessors are Elisabeth Schumann, Bonney, and Cotrubas.

What are the qualities I want in my LLS?

I look for well modulated technique, emission “on the breath” (unless for expressive purposes), singing within one’s “column of sound” (— L. Price), a balance of sweetness and brightness (not too much of one), good taste (which is VERY important in this fach, lest they become cloying), and of course unique interpretive and expressive abilities/gifts.

There’s no hard line drawn between fachs, so some of these singers have characteristics of a coloratura, soubrette, and lyric, but I believe they are at their essence LLS. It should come as no surprise that many of their coloratura skills are astonishing, as a leaner voice is wont to move fast at times.

Karina Gauvin

She was the inspiration for this post, because, she, like Sandrine is offering a Bay Area recital this year (this weekend!), which I’m not going to miss. As with Sandrine, it likely won’t be sold out, has been rather under-marketed, BUT will surely contain some of the finest singing the Bay Area has heard all year. Her holiday album Images de Noël is always a part of my Christmas. I also recommend her Baroque duet album with Marie-Nicole Lemieux: “Streams of Pleasure.”

Sandrine Piau

She is the definition of good taste, portraying a supreme elegance, self-possessed carriage, and pristine tone. Her Mozart aria recital CD is superior to Dessays, but she’s less flashy and more reserved, so not the mainstream marketing darling that Dessay has become. (I admire Dessay’s art too for different reasons.)

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In the Bleak Midwinter

Happy Christmas to you!


Click on the image or link below (and turn up your volume) to enjoy my favorite performance from
Christmas in the Ballroom 2011 (a track off our live CD).

It features our chorale of 9 and pianist in a simple, largely unison arrangement of the Holst classic, by Catherine Bennett. So atmospheric and peace-filled.

The photography is from my february visit to beautiful Telluride, CO.

May you have peace and joy!

In the Bleak Midwinter

Three Notable Female Vocal Jazz Discoveries

Since I run my design biz from my home office, I have the freedom to follow my musical whims throughout a workday. But, I tend to craft a pretty predictable soundtrack. Almost without fail, I start the day with the equivalent of aural wallpaper: low-key, instrumental, classical music (ie: KDFC, or an iTunes playlist). It helps me focus, and offers just the right flavor and vibe to support my work, as I find my daily mojo.

Around the time 11:30 – noon rolls around, I normally make a switch over to jazz. I’ve grown to love 1.FM, Adore Jazz, a primarily vocal jazz station offered on iTunes. By the time 4pm hits, I’m usually on my way to pop, rock, bluegrass, or dance. Unless it’s friday, in which case I make that transition much earlier. But I digress…

Adore Jazz has introduced me to a slew of artists I’d likely not otherwise know. For that I am very thankful. I wanted to share and highlight a few of the best discoveries. Perhaps you jazz/vocals aficionados already know these singers well, but they feel to me to be unjustly under the radar, and were certainly outside of my mainstream. I’m not sure why this is so, as I’ve quickly grown to consider them some of the finest, certainly of the contemporary crop.

Stacey Kent

In trying to describe Stacey Kent to a friend, I likened her to a modern-day Blossom Dearie. She has an impossibly sweet tone. Coming from another artist, it could threaten to be cloying, but her delivery is so honest, it never rings false. She feels very much a product of a different time (ie: 50s-60s)…not only calling to mind Blossom, but also Astrud Gilberto.

Stacey, a Jersey girl, has been nominated for a Grammy, so I suppose she’s hardly a best-kept secret, but I’ve never heard another vocal-phile reference her, or heard her recordings in another venue or on a different station.

Continue Reading About Jazz Discoveries—>

Best Skating Programs of the Season: 2010

The Grand Prix Landscape

It’s that time of year, when we’ve witnessed 4 of the 6 Grand Prix events, and can now step back and assess the choreographic and program landscape, to compare and contrast what the skaters have put out there. Just a few of these skaters (and a single musical selection) are repeaters from last season’s list.

I was loath to include ANY latin programs, since I already feel like a sponge, saturated and dripping from them this season (likely no thanks to Lysacek and Rochette’s success in them last season?). But, alas, a few virtuosic ones eek’d through. Ugh…let’s please hang them up for the remainder of this Olympic cycle!

What’s the real clincher in making the list? Programs that made me want to watch them again. As I noted last year, it’s impossible to separate out the performance quality of the skater, but these nods aim to be more about the program and choreo itself. The timing and execution of the elements (especially jumps) to key musical accents and phrases is critical for memorable emotional impact. And musical selection alone, as per my own subjective taste also of course plays a role.

Lori Nichol and Marina Zueva tie this year with the most nods (3 each). I also encourage you to compare my nods to Tony Wheeler’s own compelling list. We agreed on three as most notable. Sometimes it’s VERY clear what’s peerless! The list does not include Kim Yu-Na, Joanie Rochette, Virtue & Moir, or any other skaters/teams who are not decisively retired and may emerge at their Nationals.

Men’s SP

Daisuke Takahashi: Historia de un amor, Que rico mambo, and Mambo No. 5 by Perez Prado; Batucada by DJ Dero; (Choreo: Shae-Lynn Bourne). Too predictable a choice? This brilliance can’t be denied.

Runner-Up: Shawn Sawyer, Assassin’s Tango by John Powell (Choreo: David Wilson)

Honorable Mentions: Javier Fernandez’s Histoire d’un amour/Nu Pogodi, and Tomas Verner’s Singin’ in the Rain!

Continue Experiencing the Best Programs of 2010! —>

My Favorite Divas of This Generation

My responses to La Cieca’s quizzes and inquiries are often worthy fodder for re-posting here on jcm. Her current call for nominees is for “your favorite opera diva of this generation,” from which the surpreme list of ten will be crafted.

The acceptable career range is onstage between 1980 and 2010, BUT I took it upon myself to discluded any divas who had a large part of their primes BEFORE 1980 (begrudgingly discluding the queens of my Diva Totem: Price, Caballé, Ludwig, etc.), because they are really Golden Age holdovers, NOT really divas of THIS generation. For each the notable attributes are highlighted.

Here goes…they are essentially in order of my nomination, but I felt they were just too equal to assign a number to. Which of your favorites, or other truly deserving divas (OF THIS GENERATION!) have I left off?

Ileana Cotrubas
Limpid tone, truly affecting pathos.

Agnes Baltsa
Blazing coloratura, firm tone, balls-out ferocity.

Continue Meeting jcm’s Divas —>

“Turn the clock to zero…”

I have no idea which interpretation of this Sting song will hold true for me on this most important of days, but it inspires me to start anew, continue looking and building forward, and choosing love and truth:

“I’m thinking in a brand new way…
The river’s wide, (I’ll) swim across.
We’re starting up a brand new day.”

Thanks Sting!

(Here are the complete song lyrics.)

A Very Short Video History of “Bel Canto”

My submission to La Cieca’s You Can Ring My Bel Cantocompetition, over at parterre.com was deemed one of four runners-up, from what must have been close to 50 submissions, I’m guessing.

The challenge? To post a youtube video that serves as a sterling example of the art of bel canto, including narrative explaining why. Enjoy it here:

A Brief youtube History of Bel Canto

It includes offerings by Orgonasova (‘94), Baltsa & Gruberova (‘84), Pavarotti (‘68), Steber (‘58), Gigli (‘33), and Barrientos (‘18, pictured above). I will always jump to the defense of my favored, and less touted bel cantists!

Many submissions honored the greats: Muzio, Callas, Kraus, Sutherland, Horne, Caballé, Sills, and so on. However, this offering, by Shirley Verrett, although not a winner or runner-up was the most exciting new find for me:

Now, please share your bel canto favorites!

Our Pink Martini Music Video Won 4th Place!

Our prizes?


Two guest list tickets for an upcoming Pink Martini show, as well as some “other gifts” (possibly P.M. schwag?!). We’re contemplating one of the Hollywood Bowl Pink Martini shows in September. But, it’s tempting to save up for a European concert locale.

What people are saying


Pink Martini’s Business Manager shared this:

“We’ve been consistently amused by your video since its submission. In fact, it was the first video we received that we really loved, and at that time, unsure how the contest would go, we were relieved to know we had at least one gem. By far the best of the “home video” type entries we received.

We’d love to…post it permanently on our YouTube channel and on our website, and use it at other venues too. Thanks again for your video, and thank your fabulous cast for us as well!”

The creation of the video was a joy, but the contest announcements have brought it all to life again!

See their facebook page for fan’s comments on our video and to follow the remaining contest, and click “Like” to keep up-to-date on their concerts and activities.

The Final “Cut”: Music Video Contest Entry

I now present to you my entry for La Cieca’s (parterre.com) light-hearted lip dub video competition:

http://www.vimeo.com/12347347

Although a winner hasn’t been announced, happily, my entry was featured today on parterre.com: Darkest Before the Dawn

[UPDATE: I won! My video received the winning prize worth $200.00, and cries of "Bravissimo!," "genius," "brilliant," "poignant" and "hilarious." Woo-hoo!]

The song is opera diva Renée Fleming’s recent crossover single “Endlessly” (originally by Muse). It was GOBS of fun to create, and this is Faux Paul’s official video debut! A tragic tranny mess? Visionary? You be the judge, but it’s nothing if not fun. Plus, I didn’t know I was a blonde (the look chosen to APPROXIMATE the album cover)…the results proved me SO wrong.

For non-opera aficionados, the paper dolls are of Peter Gelb (he runs the Metropolitan Opera), Barbara Walters (operagoer), Mary Zimmerman (director), James Levine (music director and conductor at the Met), and La Cieca! (Yes, the inside jokes abound.)

I invite you to share comments directly below the video at vimeo.com link provided above! Praise me, roast me, sex me up, and so on!

Here’s the official collectible album cover:

“When the River Meets the Sea”

Back in february, CJ and I performed with our friends inEMERGENCY Cabaret Relief: Haiti.” It was our cabaret debut together, and our first performance together since we met six years ago, in ROLT’s production of The Wizard of Oz.

We performed a song very near and dear to my heart, Paul William’s “When the River Meets the Sea,” from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. This Jim Henson movie has been a family favorite since I can remember, and it’s spiritual questioning felt so perfect for the tone of this fundraiser.

I’m pleased to be able to finally share the video of our performance. Unfortunately, the source audio is not ideal, so please turn up your volume for the beginning, and be prepared to turn it down once the source volume increases:

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