Archive for the ‘turandot’ Tag

jcm’s Top 10 SF Performances of ’11

It’s time for my third annual Top 10 round-up. These don’t attempt to be comprehensive reviews…but rather an Amuse-bouche of the most stellar performances I witnessed by the Bay, in ’11. How in the world can I compare a Pop Star to a Handel opera, you ask? Well…I warm up the jcm-ulator, and out come the tabulated results. It doesn’t lie. I seem to be trending towards opera, with musicals taking a back seat. Why? They sing louder, higher and without mics?

1) RING Cycle, SF Opera  details

With the carefully crafted characterizations of a stage play, this Cycle was a well-deserved hit and had the city abuzz with Wagner. Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde was an utter triumph, equal parts true Wagnerian and singing actress. Stunning SFO leading role debuts were offered by Heidi Melton as Sieglinde, and Daveda Karanas as Waltraute. There wasn’t a weak link in the cast. Francesca Zambello’s concept was fortunately not too heavy-handed, largely staying out of the way of the story and score…more often informing it, and only periodically misstepping. I found the Industrial Revolution concepts throughout Das Rheingold to be the most iconic and potent. However, the mythic Die Walküre was the emotional highpoint, featuring the burnished, virile tenor of Brandon Jovanovich’s Siegmund. Siegfried was also surprisingly engaging. I had the good fortune of serving as Super Captain and Supernumerary in Walküre and Götterdämmerung.

2) Stacey Kent, Venetian Room, Fairmont Hotel  details

I fell in love with her voice three years ago. After stalking her tour schedule for a Bay Area performance, I got to experience her art live at last. She’s a real pixie…a gentle spirit, with a frail flutter to her vibrato. She completely transported me and her audience, casting a convincing spell. Her palpable, loving connection to her band leader, sax player and husband Jim Tomlinson added to the glow. She embodied “less is more,” drawing us in, rather than overworking her numbers in a too extroverted manner. Her set included lots of brazilian and french songs unfamiliar to me, some off her just released album. Come back soon Stacey!

 

Continue reading jcm’s Top 10 —>

Giddy With #OperaPlot Nods & Early Booty

Wow, the pleasing aftershocks of #OperaPlot have proven to be just as fun as the contest itself. Here’s my latest happy news!

Short Lists & Nods


#OperaPlotter extraordinaire, and former winner muzicbizkids posted Highlight Reel, featuring his favorite “top 3%” on his blog ambling with i am. Two of my entries were included:

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]

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

Then, musicvstheater posted How to write an #operaplot, on his blog Music vs. Theater. It’s a fascinating “semi-scholarly taxonomy” of entry trends and categories. My above “Copacabana” Traviata entry was included under “The Lyrics.” I jokingly told him that I’m really a dramatic coloratura trapped in a lyric’s body.

MMmusing has created a genius audio version of my winning entry, using text2speech.org. Thanks MM!!!

Premature Booty & Glory


It only gets better!

Next, blogger opera-toonity announced her top 4 results from the #OperaPlot Don Giovanni entries. I was thrilled to discover that my Right Said Fred entry received 2nd Place:

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*

Finally, I fell off my chair when Decca sprang a surprise on the eager proceedings, and offered 5 early, unexpected prizes. My “Copacabana” entry landed Best Pop Culture Reference,” and a copy of Jonas Kaufmann’s latest CD (Thanks Decca and Miss Mussel)! Just a CD, you ask? Well, it’s more about the glory and pleasure of winning than the prize itself. ;-) Boy, I’m going to owe a lot to Barry Manilow for this!

Or, perhaps being chauffeur for 3 different Violetta’s, including Anna Netrebko in SF Opera’s Traviata last season rubbed off on me? What a wonderful way to start my 40th birthday festivities! The fun of it all was alone worth the participation, but I’m no closet competitor, so this has me positively giddy. It looks like pop references might just be my calling card.

[UPDATE: Jonas has spoken! His picks have been announced. Congrats to all the winners! No more glory for me…but I’m not complainin’. Til next time!]

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!

Rare Gems: A Dramatic Soprano Meet ‘n Greet

Underrated. Forgotten. Neglected. Unknown.


Spanish Soprano Angeles Gulin

Call them what you will. Re-discovering such divas has always been the pride of Opera Queens the world round, just like hipster punks staking their claim on discovering the coolest, unknown bands. But, back in the day it took the divining powers to wade through the sea of “pirates”! Today, we all know a quick click on youtube takes us places that it would require months of recording research to get to in the past.

So, I’m pleased to share a series of some notable, and some great “would be stars today” divas, suffering from varying degrees of neglect in posterity. No, I’m not talking about Gencer, Cerquetti, Souliotis, or Deutekom…they’re too easy, and hardly forgotten any longer. I’m focusing on dramatic and spinto sopranos (plus a bonus mezzo and baritone), billed by me as Divas With Cojones! Since they are among the rarest operatic fachs these days, and offer the most visceral thrill, they also deserve our greatest honor and sentiment. I hope these discoveries provide you the same pleasure they do me.

Why aren’t they household names?


They were either of a more eccentric type, dimmed by health problems, from smaller countries that offered less intl. exposure, or denied recording contracts of perhaps more “refined” singers. All this contributed to their lack of attention or fame, but conversely they now offer more unique pleasures. I just started to scratch the surface when I touted lesser known contemporary divas Anne Schwanewilms and Paula Almerares.

So, I now introduce (or, perhaps reintroduce) you to these fine Wagnerians, Verdians, and Mozarteans:

Anita Välkki (b. Sääksmäki, 1926)


This Finnish hochdramatische’s (heroic-dramatic) tone and tireless technique bears a resemblance to another more famous Scandinavian, although it’s even more dark and pleasing to my ears. Judging by these samples, it appears that perhaps only a lack of a leading role in the Solti Decca Ring (ie: Third Norn, instead of Brünnhilde), or the rumored onset of a short top (evidenced by later mezzo roles) kept her from becoming the household name that Nilsson did. What a crime. Amazingly, she began her career as an actress, and in operetta.

Enjoy her and the outrageously loud prompter in this “In Questa Reggia,” from Turandot (Puccini):

ThisO Don Fatale,” from Don Carlos (Verdi) is an unexpected treat, outside her fach, but VERY satisfying!

And, finally, Brünnhilde’sHo-jo-to-ho!,” from Die Walküre. This also offers some great video clips of her offstage, and of NYC.

Continue This Engaging Meet ‘n Greet!

DIVA Mask Madness

Opera in the Park: Redux


Just when the dust began to settle on the DIVA Totem Pole, the 2002 SF Opera in the Park rolled around. Knowing the bar was high, and wanting to make it even more fun for friends, I took a different strategy: interactivity!

I sourced the most iconic and expressive diva portraits I could get my hands on to create quickie cut-out masks. They had to be high-resolution enough to print out cleanly at actual size. This was during my heyday of designing the SF Ballet Nutcracker collateral. I had just used a similar mask idea for their direct mail brochure, with many of the characters from their production (but with eye holes, rather than mouth holes).

The Divas & Divo


I dug up hot shots of Birgit Nilsson’s icy Met Turandot (complete with one ton bejeweled crown), Regina Resnik’s tragic Klytemnestra, and June Anderson mugging in a photoshoot. But, I branched out a bit too, including Wagnerian basso Hagen (with imposing helmet, singer unknown), as well as two popular divas: 1960’s “Color Me…” Barbra, and AI Kelly “Moments Like This” Clarkson.

The pictures make me laugh out loud every time I rediscover them. The lips look positively labial. I reigned over the proceedings here as Turandot. A Streisand fanatic friend immediately got his paws on Babs (and even did her mannered hands, see above). My friends brought these TO LIFE!

As I sign off for now, I share with you Nilsson singing Turandot’s ruthless aria In Questa Reggia (and lookin’ like buttah) at Arena Macerata in ’71, for some bonus dementia!

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