Enjoy an updated and edited version of my previous post on San Francisco Opera’s “Notes from Valhalla: The RING Blog”:
Two years ago I began a journey into the fire…into San Francisco Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. That journey comes full circle (pun intended) this month.
It all started when I was invited to collaborate on the iconic brand image and identity for this Ring (with the fantastic design and marketing studio Mission-Minded). This alone was a dream come true. I had become an official Wagner-phile when I experienced SFO’s previous naturalistic production in 1999, with my dear operagoing friend Gil. (Watch the documentary Sing Faster for a great glimpse of that beloved production.)
The creative process began with a meeting with Director Francesca Zambello and General Director David Gockley, to discuss the particular approach of this new production (shared with ENO and WNO, but not yet performed in its entirety). The goal: to highlight the concept of destruction and rebirth, and portray a dose of the production’s modernity, including an accessible and familiar visual vernacular. (The production employs a trailer, projections of power lines and electrical towers, an office building board room, a stylish, contemporary bedroom…to mention just a few of these modern nods.)
The iconic image evolved in a direction that also took a tragic nod from 9/11, using the burning and fall of city skyscrapers to show the destruction of a civilization, parallel with that of nature (via a forest). Perched atop this, a reborn/renewed female visage…a triumphant Brünnhilde. The photo-illustration was made up of 15 or so separate images.
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.
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.
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how jumping clapping man did in 2010, and here’s some interesting data on how the year looked!:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow!
Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. jcm was viewed about 68,000 times in 2010. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would have performed about
In 2010, I had 85 new posts, growing the total archive to 170 posts. I uploaded 265 pictures, taking up a total of 45mb. (That’s about 5 pictures per week.)
The busiest day of the year was February 16th with 1,469 views. The most popular post that day was Olympic Reigns Ending: Likelihoods or Naysaying?.
Where did they come from?
Some visitors came searching, mostly for cheeseburger, olympics 2010,
2010 olympics, vancouver olympics, and cheese burger. (“Cheeseburger”?…REALLY?!)
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Olympic Reigns Ending: Likelihoods or Naysaying? July 2009
“Cheese Berger” July 2009
jcm’s ‘10 Olympics’ Podium Predictions Contest January 2010
Missteps, Falls & Wet Tushes March 2009
Heidi Melton: The Official Berlin E-Interview January 2010
It’s that time again! I’m serving up my second annual Top 10 LIVE Performances of the year. It’s a follow-up to my ‘09 list. Sadly, there are no Broadway shows on this list. I plan on remedying that in 2011!
1. Die Walküre, San Francisco Opera (Details)
This production offered one of the finest casts that could possibly be assembled for this opera (and The Ring) in the current operatic landscape. The production said some new things, and offered a few fresh perspectives, but didn’t try too hard, or overshadow the score. Maestro Runnicles is a Wagnerian master, and he and the orchestra rose to the occasion again. Yeah, I was a “Supernumerary” in the production, but I was able to watch much of it from the orchestra during rehearsals, and even accounting for my bias, this would still takes my top spot. Enjoy my full review here.
2. Scalpel! The Musical, Brava Theatre (Details)
Can you say fun? It had me at the opening number, with countless heals and drag runway walks. It was the first show I’ve seen in the Brava, and I immediately loved this venue…the warm lighting, the urban ambience, and the straight, raked seating offering direct views. Even with all the camp and hijinks, the entire cast was completely committed to the material. This was the second mounting of the show, and my fingers are crossed that it returns yet again. Apparently, there was a bit of a curse on the production, with multiple cast injuries (including a very unfortunate broken leg for leading man, Mike Finn), but they pushed through, with some quick and fortuitous replacements and prevailed. Picturing Sara Moore as “poop-raking” TV reporter Kitty Kelly (“Hardballs” host) still makes me laugh.
3. Heidi Melton: Salon at the Rex, The Rex Hotel (Details)
To hear Heidi Melton plead in spoken french AND debut her chest voice was alone faint-worthy, and positively scintillating. And, to hear her in repertoire much outside her core operatic rep and comfort genres was a treat (ie: Irving Berlin and Kurt Weill cabaret, and Korngold songs). Her rendition of Berlin’s “Always” left not a dry eye in the audience. (Her Noe Valley Chamber Music Recital a few weeks before was also very beautiful). No thanks to the Adler “Future is Now” concert, which was on the same night, the recital was over all too soon (evidenced by a jcm quotation here and here)! I stuck around and imbibed and dined at the bar…I wanted to savor the spell Heidi had cast.
Dear Readers & Friends,
Please click on the image or link below (and kindly turn up your volume) to enjoy my holiday greeting to you:
Many blessings & best wishes to you and yours!
Enjoy the newest in my “Diva Website Series” (that’s tongue-in-cheek…well, perhaps it shouldn’t be?):
www.rhoslynjones.com just went LIVE!
Visit this new website to keep up and connect with San Francisco Opera Merola & Adler alumni, “The delicious diva,” soprano Rhoslyn Jones. Experience her amazing artistry, musings, repertoire, acclaim, and don’t miss out on her upcoming performances!
Your clicks will also help her site more swiftly climb to the top of the search engine results…so, thanks for clicking around!!!
(I designed and built it on the squarespace.com platform.)
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.
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)
I share here a recent solicited (and edited) opinion from a friend on my impending new phone purchase. The 7-year old Samsung Clamshell that came free with my Sprint plan finally kicked the bucket. His manifesto is chock-full of ruminations on the perks and disadvantages of both options. Perhaps it will also help inform you, as it did me with an upcoming purchase!
Do You ❤ iPhone?
I think iPhone users have to say they love their phone, but I’m ambivalent about mine. I like the smartphone concept but I’m not a real “power user” of anything it offers, except email when I’m on the train. I’m also not an iPod user, except SOMETIMES when I fly, and I don’t take tons of photos and want to upload them instantly to FB.
You, on the other hand, are more techy and much more connected via texting, phone, email, Facebook, etc. You can get the same via a nice phone from Sprint (HTC?) with an unlimited data and text plan, but it won’t have the Apple cachet.
I do think that one should not have to dial numbers or look them up. If you have someone in your contacts, you should just be able to tell the phone to dial. That was not on the first iPhone but was part of my previous Samsung phones’ package for at least 8 years.
AT&T vs. Sprint
iPhone and AT&T will be more expensive initially and monthly than Sprint. It’s hard to do an apples to apples comparison because the plans are different, but it is significant. Not a plane ticket to New York each year. But maybe two very nice dinners with wine a year.
You can log into the AT&T Coverage Viewer web page and input your zip code to see your coverage. Mine, for instance, does show as lower quality. I’m not sure about your neighborhood, but I do remember when I called you on the way to meet you at the DeYoung Museum last week, I tried to use the 3G service to get Google Maps and it was worthless. Typical. I get good service at home on my Wi-Fi where I don’t need a map, but when I’m lost and away from my home Wi-Fi connection, AT&T sometimes fails me. All networks will probably have problems somewhere.
I do have much slower connection times (from the time I dial to the time it starts ringing) with AT&T than I did with Sprint. More dropped calls. Has been totally awful? No. Do I like my phone? Yes. Could I live with another phone from another network? Yes.
Consumer Guide Weighs-In
Consumer Guide just came out with a pretty big statement that they cannot recommend the iPhone (4). But only because they feel that Apple is putting too much of a burden on consumers to ASK for a case to bypass the antenna problem that Consumer Guide says is a design flaw that Apple needs to fix. I agree that it’s bad that Apple initially spent tons ‘o money to send cases to current iPhone 4 users who bought the phone before it was a known issue. But now they seem to have the attitude, like…well, people should know about it by now, so why should we fix it?
Just Like Barbie & Ken
On a lighter note, if you do get an iPhone, before you know it, you’ll be playing with it in bed until the battery goes dead. And, then you’ll totally be accessorizing it like a Barbie or Ken doll. Everyone does, you know. :)
It Can Be Undone
Whatever you do, it can be undone. You simply have to pay some money to cancel a contract (which I believe depreciates over time) or you just hold on for 2 years. There will be more advances by then and you WILL NOT hold on to the same phone for 7 years like you did the last. It will be like wearing the same costume to Trannyshack 2 years in a row! Just telling you, because a new wave is coming and you’re going to ride it.
Play with phones in both places AFTER you know the price differences. Then, go with your informed gut. Remember that none of the marketing or bells and whistles they have on the phone is geared towards what we actually NEED. They will be pushing all your buttons to get you to focus on what you WANT — or, what the world makes you WANT.
What do you WANT? That is the only question you need to answer. Then just buy it — whatever it is.
— Guest Ghost Blogger
[jcm footnote: Just in case you're wondering, I DID purchase my first iPhone, a 3GS, and am just breaking it in! As a web designer, I couldn't pass up on the amazing and intuitive interface, despite these stated disadvantages. I can't believe I waited this long. I also opted for the warm grey, metallic Incase.]