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Crescent City’s music and performers impress; but does hyperopera live up to the hype?

It’s amazing how much of our experience of the world is predicated on expectation. I can’t count the number of comedies I’ve been disappointed by because I’d heard how amazing they were, and how many events I’ve loved because I hadn’t been expecting much. Crescent City, the first production from The Industry, LA’s new opera company, suffers from this unfortunate effect of impossibly high expectations. It is, however, a pretty …more…


Opera in Close Quarters

I tend to leap at any opportunity to hear opera singers perform in an intimate venue. True, their voices are made – or at any rate trained – to fill vast spaces, reaching across a teeming orchestra pit to touch thousands of awed listeners.

But up close, you can watch how they breathe – how they summon the necessary stamina. You can read expressions, not just broad gestures.

Three events in New York this …more…

"The Machine" in Das Rheingold. Photo by Ken Howard, Metropolitan Opera, Courtesy of National CineMedia.

Wagner Marathon in Anchorage — But What About Local Opera?

It’s not often that Alaskans get to see Wagnerian opera, much less the full Ring cycle in one sweep, but this week and next, the Metropolitan Opera is beaming all four Wagner Ring operas to cinemas around the world, including to the Century 16 Cinema in Anchorage. Ring-nuts rejoice! ...more...

Ben Heppner

Taking Odds and Payoffs on Moby Dick

I would place my bet that Canadian tenor Ben Heppner will withdraw from October’s scheduled performances of Jake Heggie’s opera “Moby Dick” handing the role of Captain Ahab over to his comrade Jay Hunter Morris. In February, Heppner withdrew from  the San Diego Opera’s performances of the same work, citing illness. This comes upon a string of recent cancellations, quite often replaced by Morris, including withdrawing from the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring Cycle …more…

Cincinnati May Festival

Choirs taking over the tri state!

In the upcoming months, choral groups all over will be converging on special locations throughout the city, sharing their voices and cultures with Cincinnati residents. ...more...

Michigan Opera Theatre: Preserve the Legacy

The month of May features the final opera performance of the Michigan Opera Theatres’ spring season: Ruggero Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci. The production, running from May 12th through the 20th, will feature Antonello Palombi and John Pickle splitting the famous tenor role of Canio, with Jill Gardner (Nedda), Gordon Hawkins (Tonio), Luis Ledesma (Silvio), and Phillippe Pierce (Beppe) rounding out the cast.

I Pagliacci rounds off the spring MOT “fate” season, …more…

silent night

Have Snow Will Sing: Another Writer Looks at Minnesota’s Thriving Art Scene

I love Minnesota. Really I do.  Despite the first couple years of my life having been in sunny Puerto Rico, I somehow ended up developing a tolerance for our bitter cold weather. Granted, I am writing this in the middle of a gorgeous spring afternoon, so it’s easy to talk kindly of our climate at the moment.

It has crossed my mind in the past that our state’s frigidity is the very …more…

Maestro and artistic director Mrobert Lyall

N.O. Opera pairs ‘Pagliacci,’ ‘Carmina Burana’

While thousands of visitors to the city may be looking to hear the sounds of traditional and contemporary jazz, rock, blues or gospel in the tents of the annual Jazz Fest, there is a dedicated coterie of opera fans who will be heading this weekend to the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.  They will be taking in the mounting of an opera and a special production of a …more…

Julia Adolphe

Sylvia: A darkly effective musing on inner turmoil

Independently produced opera can be an unwieldy beast.  Sometimes you come hoping for the cutting edge, and get something unstaged that sounds like a failed attempt at Sondheim on an out of tune piano. Sometimes representation of the action leaves far, far too much to the imagination to make showing up worthwhile. But sometimes — most often because the composer, director, and musicians have the talent and dedication to pull …more…

Loyola graduate Mark Rucker, a renowned bass-baritone reprises his debut role with the New Orleans Opera Association. (©

Two New Orleans Opera events today

Mark Rucker, a celebrated baritone and longtime operatic star with the New Orleans Opera Association, is slated to be honored later today. Rucker, who started his New Orleans career in 1993 with the role of Tonio in  Ruggero Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci,” will be honored at a late morning reception at the African American Resource Center in the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library. The reception, which is free to …more…

Michele Angelini, Susannah Biller, Marie-Eve Munger

A Field Day for Virtuosi

Michele Angelini, Susannah Biller, Marie-Eve Munger

Il sogno di Scipione is seldom performed – for the simple reason that the author, a 16-year-old Mozart, was feeling his adolescent oats and loaded it with intricate, high-flying arias that would challenge the most skilled of singers, then or now. In fact, the piece was never even produced in this country until 2002, when the then brand-new (and apparently fearless) Gotham Chamber Opera …more…

Tax Tax

Qualified Performing Artists: Tax Day Edition

One of the cruel realities of performing artists is while they often do not earn much, they have extremely complicated tax returns. This can involve a stack of 1099s, W2s, and filing in multiple states, royalties statements, and even international returns. Performing artists also have greater out-of-pocket expenses than the average worker, and one of the complicating factors in their tax return is how to divide deductions between schedule C …more…

Anna Caterina Antonacci (photo © Serge Derossi/Na•ve)

The Halls Are Alive

Is it something in the air? There’s so much opera going on as spring sets in, you’d swear we were genetically programmed to burst into song in sync with the  croci and daffodils.

I’m super-psyched to hear Anna Caterina Antonacci making her New York recital debut as part of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Song” series at Allice Tully Hall on April 8. Antonacci – celebrated on the Continent — can …more…

Celena Shafer in the 2001 producion of  "Il sogno di Scipione;" photo by Richard Termine, culled from the Gotham Chamber Opera web site.

Gotham Chamber Opera Celebrates Tenth Anniversary with Mozart Revival

Fittingly, Gotham Chamber Opera in New York City has come full circle since its debut production of W.A. Mozart’s one-act opera Il sogno di Scipione during the 2001-02 season. Fast forward 10 years to April 11, 2012, when the opera company will stage a revival of the work at the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College.

Celena Shafer in the 2001 producion of "Il sogno di Scipione;" photo …more…

JoyceDiDonato triumphant

Opera 24-7

The Met’s current revival of director Adrian Noble’s 2007 version of Verdi’s Macbeth is remarkable not just for Mark Thompson’s thrillingly stark sets, and for Thomas Hampson and Nadja Michael’s chilling portrayal of a timeless power couple, but for Dimitri Pittas’s show-stopping lament as Macduff. If his traumatized “Ah la paterna mano” does not bring a lump to your throat, better check your pulse. Macbeth plays, passim, to April 9, …more…

University Opera Theatre

University Opera Theatre Presents Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress” in Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan’s University Opera Theatre will be presenting a production of “The Rake’s Progress,”  featuring music by Igor Stravinsky, and libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman. There will be four performances at the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor, spanning March 22-25. Please visit the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance events page here for more details.

Stravinsky’s 1951 opera, considered to be one of …more…

Cover work from the Deutsche Grammophon recording

Literary Festival to feature highlights from ‘Streetcar’

Portions of Andre Previn’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” will get a rare public hearing from a historic balcony on Friday evening and it’s all part of the ongoing Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival that kicks off tonight.

Previn’s modern opera made its debut in San Francisco in 1998 and was given its second outing in New Orleans later that year a month before Houston Grand Opera’s slated performances. Both of …more…

Giordano Competition

Tomorrow’s Stars Get Their Start

Just as baseball fanatics – especially self-styled scouts — look forward to spring season, opera-lovers savor open contests such as the Marcello Giordani Foundation Vocal Competition,  which took place March 3 at the Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center in New York City. Conceived  as a boost for early-career singers, the sing-off could well prove life-changing. ...more...

Mill city - star tribune photo by David Brewster

A Midsummer Night’s Opera: Pagliacci in the Ruins of a Flour Mill

South 2nd Street and Chicago Avenue is already a great destination for those seeking cultural enrichment and a top notch entertaining time in downtown Minneapolis.  Guthrie Theater, Sea Change Restaurant, Mill City Museum – take your pick. But if you’re planning an outing for mid-July of 2012, be sure to factor in a new attraction: Mill City Summer Opera. ...more...

Milton Bush and Delfeayo Marsalis ©Alan Smason

Big Easy 2012 Classical Arts Awards

Each year the Foundation for Entertainment Development and Education, known colloquially as the “Big Easy Entertainment Awards foundation,” honors the musicians, dancers, conductors and singers who contribute to the classical arts of opera, ballet and dance and music.

The affair a luncheon held at the Hotel Monteleone is an opportunity to honor these artists, patrons and teachers who contribute to the classical arts in significant ways and enrich the culture of …more…

Hai-Ting Chinn

Opera on a Roll

It has been a bit of a tumultuous season so far for East Coast opera. On the minus side, Opera Boston — the city’s innovative, second-tier company, a boon to the local scene since 2003 — abruptly shut down just before Christmas: a sad case of the piper (i.e., principal donor) calling the tune. Happily, as if to compensate, the union standoff that had been holding up New York City …more…

San Francisco Opera Announces New Season (yawn).

With opera companies booking singers and productions four to five years in advance, season announcements come as something of a pro-forma ritual with little actual news. The SF Opera season announcement came this week with no surprises, so, here it is:

Rigoletto – 12 performances 9/7 – 9/30
I Capuletti e i Montecchi – 6 performances 9/29-10/19
Moby Dick (Heggie) – 8 Performances 10/10 – 11/2
Lohengrin – 7 Performances 10/20 – 11/9
Tosca – …more…


Feeding the Trolls: Copyright just got longer (again)

The U.S. Supreme Court issued an incredibly ill-considered and poorly-reasoned decision last week in Golan v. Holder – one that will cost American orchestras and opera companies millions of dollars and one that does nothing to promote artistic development. The court ruled Congress could retroactively apply copyright protection to works in the public domain. At issue were Iron-curtain works, such as the symphonies of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, not subject to …more…

Taimi Lepasaar, top, and Ants Lepasaar, flier for "And Then I Remember;"  culled from Lembit Beecher's website.

Lembit Beecher Presents Documentary Oratorio And Then I Remember in NYC

Taimi Lepasaar, top, and Ants Lepasaar, flier for "And Then I Remember;" culled from Lembit Beecher's website.

Outside of the medium of opera, composers are not often characterized as storytellers. Increasingly in recent years, however, with the use of multimedia to tell abidingly personal stories in a concert setting, the description of composer-as-storyteller has become more apt.

At 8 p.m. today, January 20 and Saturday, January 21 at …more…


2011 Top Musical Discoveries (a personal list)

Many critics, reviewers, and bloggers end the year with a top ten list of the year’s best recordings, best performances, top news stories, etc. For my record of San Francisco and Bay Area jazz happenings, I want to offer a list of top musical discoveries of 2011. Admittedly, this is a highly personal list and I offer it in the hopes that readers respond with their own discoveries:

Early Music scene …more…