Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Singers’ Category

All photographs by Eugene Opera’s official photographer, Cliff Coles:

Here’s Minnie’s saloon, “The Polka”

 9428

 

Sheriff Jack Rance (Aaron St. Clair Nicholson) shakes hands with the only Wells Fargo agent in operatic history, Ashby (William Hulings)

 0183

This image tells us a lot about Our Girl Minnie (Emily Pulley)

 0199

As does this–Minnie and The Miners:

 0217

And this:

 0308

Ashby and The Miners:

 0519

Rance and Nick (Brenden Guillory), the “Polka’s” bartender:

 0490

Minnie and Dick Johnson, aka Ramirrez (tenor Raul Melo) in an intimate moment in Act II:

 0390Minnie, taking care of herself later in Act II with a dangerous Rance:

 0419

The Native Americans, Wowkle (Lina Delmastro) and Billy Jackrabbit (Joseph Bonnevie)–just two of our many international, national, and local artists who, under the inspired guidance of director David Lefkowich and our Music Director Andrew Bisantz, have made more of these characters than was thought possible:

 0346

Read Full Post »

http://registerguard.com/rg/entertainment/arts/31253798-60/opera-west-eugene-melo-bandit.html.csp

OPERA

The bold West sings its way into the heart of Eugene

A tale of the American frontier, translated by Giacomo Puccini

By Randi Bjornstad

The Register-Guard

PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., MARCH 13

The wild, wild West comes to the stage this weekend — sure as shootin’ — as Eugene Opera presents “The Girl of the Golden West.”

It’s a classic spaghetti Western love triangle, set in Gold Rush-era California: good woman (rough-and-tough outside, heart of gold within) falls in love with misunderstood bandit, breaking the heart of honorable sheriff who loves her so much that he lets them both get away.

And it’s a spaghetti Western in another way, too, because it was written by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, one of the biggest names in opera — you can even call it “La Fanciulla del West” if you want — for the New York Metropolitan Opera, which first performed it in 1910.

It was quite an event back then. Enrico Caruso sang the part of bad guy Dick Johnson, aka Ramerrez, to Emmi Destinn’s Minnie. And Arturo Toscanini himself conducted.

Wow again, because the three leads in the show — soprano Emily Pulley as Minnie, tenor Raul Melo as Johnson/­Ramerrez and baritone Aaron St. Clair Nicholson as Sheriff Rance — all are veterans of the Metropolitan Opera stage.

They’ll be joined by Eugene’s own William Hulings as Ashby, the Wells Fargo agent on the trail of the bandit, and Brennen Guillory, a Lutheran pastor from Junction City who plays Nick, the bartender.

Andrew Bisantz — now in his fourth season as Eugene Opera’s music director, besides working with orchestras all over the country and the world — will conduct.

Pulley has sung the role of Minnie for years, and it has personal as well as professional meaning for her.

“I remember the first time I saw the show, I fell in love with the character,” she said. “That time period is part of the myth of the American West, and if I’d lived in that time, Minnie is the character I would hope to have been.”

Then Pulley pulls out her cellphone and scrolls through photos until she comes to one of her great-great grandfather, John Frederich Grau.

“He called himself J. Fred, and he was a sheriff in the Oklahoma Territory at about the same time this opera is set, so I think of him,” she said.

“I love this show because Minnie — she’s one of only two women among the main characters — is sister, mother, friend and teacher to all of the miners. She even teaches them about the Bible.

“This is basically a story of redemption in the Old West. These are all such human, human characters.”

For Melo, singing the Johnson/Ramerrez role is a first.

“I’m really excited to be doing it; I get to be a cowboy,” Melo said. “This opera is the trope for practically every movie Western, with the good woman who sees the good in a man and saves him from the wrong path.

“Even the music from this opera has been stolen for all kinds of other movies, including the big love tune in ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ Same key and everything.”

Melo has plumbed the depths of his role, a combination of the bandit Ramerrez and the pretender cowboy, Johnson.

“What I’m trying to do is not to act like I’m not a bandit, just not to say it,” he said. “So the question is, ‘Why is this character a bandit?’

“And the answer is, because this is all part of history. It’s a very complex backstory.”

A history lesson

The opera takes place circa 1900, about the time the U.S. government declared the end of the Western frontier, Melo said.

“Before that, parts of the West had been under Spanish control for centuries, then Mexican, and then American,” he said.

As time passed and governance changed, “Land was taken away from many of the big landholders — some of them were even killed — their cattle were stolen and their way of live destroyed. There was nothing left for their sons but to become bandits, and of course there was also some taking of revenge.”

But in the opera, Melo gets “only 12 measures” to convey this complicated history.

“I have this crazy, very difficult thing to sing: Yes, I’m a bandit; no, I didn’t rob you; yes, I’m ashamed; that’s the way life is — and then I have this high note that lasts for six measures.”

It’s not so much the difficulty of holding the note that concerns him, but “the dread of what color I turn,” Melo quipped. “No amount of makeup will cover that purple.”

When it comes to being on the losing end in the pursuit of Minnie, St. Clair Nicholson said, the sheriff may be the antagonist, “but he’s not evil.”

“He feels his own kind of love, but he’s a man of honor,” he said. “His honor and his obsession battle within him, but he keeps his word.”

It may all be a bit melodramatic, but that’s the way of both spaghetti Western movies and operas, “and I think this one is a masterpiece that really appeals to people,” St. Clair Nicholson said.

A genuine horse opera

As for Hulings, “The Girl of the Golden West” is his debut performance with Eugene Opera, “and I’m excited to be in the same room with these folks,” he said.

“I’m continually watching what they do, and they’ve been tremendously welcoming, and I’m also trying to bring my theater experience along.”

This production is a premiere for Eugene Opera, and general director Mark Beudert sees it as a real crowd-pleaser.

Even for people who don’t know much about opera or think they don’t like it, “This won’t be boring,” Beudert said, because of the spirited acting this group of opera singers is known for, the nontraditional cowboy costuming, the American West plot line and the participation of local people who make up the supporting cast.

At the same time, he said, coming to it with an appreciation of history that recognizes the contributions — and confrontations — among people of all cultures who settled the West also is important.

“This opera is not like fast food. You have to chew it, but it’s tasty, and it’s good,” Beudert said. “And it’s being performed by people who want to share the meal with everyone.”

Follow Randi on Twitter @BjornstadRandi. Email randi.bjornstad@registerguard.com.

OPERA PREVIEW

The Girl of the Golden West

When: 7:30 p.m. March 14 and 2:30 p.m. March 16

Where: Silva Concert Hall, Hult Center, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street

Tickets and information: $20 to $69 (541-682-5000, hultcenter.org ,eugeneopera.com )

Read Full Post »

I have to admit that I was expecting this article would talk about different types of sopranos…

http://nyti.ms/1gGV4tJ

Read Full Post »

th

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/arts/music/rise-stevens-opera-singer-dies-at-99.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&smid=tw-nytimes&partner=rss&emc=rss&&pagewanted=print

Risë Stevens, the internationally renowned mezzo-soprano who had a 23-year career with the Metropolitan Opera, where she practically owned the role of Carmen during the 1940s and ’50s, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 99.

Her son, Nicolas Surovy, confirmed the death.

On the Met’s roster from 1938 to 1961, Ms. Stevens was a superstar in an era when operatic superstardom was conferred mostly on sopranos and tenors. A Bronx native from a modest background, she was widely admired as a populist who help democratize the rarefied world of opera. She was known to a large public not only through her recordings and recitals, but also through her appearances on radio and television and in motion pictures.

After retiring from the stage, Ms. Stevens had a prominent second career as an arts administrator with the Met and as president of the Mannes College of Music in New York City.

As a singer, Ms. Stevens was known for her acute musicianship, her expansive repertory, her accomplished acting and, in particular, her warm, velvety voice. (In 1945, Lloyd’s of London insured her voice for $1 million.) Though she occasionally sang Wagnerian roles early in her career, she soon abandoned them in favor of the less heavy, though no less rich, parts to which her voice was ideally suited.

Besides Carmen, her best-known roles included Octavian in “Der Rosenkavalier,” by Richard Strauss; Dalila in “Samson et Dalila,” by Camille Saint-Saëns; Cherubino in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”; Prince Orlofsky in “Die Fledermaus,” by Johann Strauss; and the title role in “Mignon,” by Ambroise Thomas.

Ms. Stevens appeared regularly with leading opera companies around the world, among them the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in England and La Scala in Milan. In Hollywood, she sang in “The Chocolate Soldier” (1941), with Nelson Eddy, and in “Going My Way” (1944), with Bing Crosby; she also supplied the voice of Glinda the Good Witch in the animated film “Journey Back to Oz” (1974). On television, she appeared often on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show.”

Despite her acclaim, Ms. Stevens was by all accounts a down-to-earth diva, as comfortable singing Broadway musicals — as she did in a 1964 production of “The King and I,” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, at Lincoln Center — as she was singing Bizet. As the magazine Opera News wrote in 2006, Ms. Stevens “was perhaps one of the sanest big opera stars of her time.”

The daughter of a Norwegian-born father and an American Jewish mother, Risë Gus Steenberg was born on June 11, 1913, and reared in a railroad apartment there. (Her given name is pronounced REE-suh; her middle name was after an aunt, Augusta.) Her father, Christian Steenberg, was an advertising salesman and by all accounts a heavy drinker. Her mother, the former Sadie Mechanic, recognized Risë’s vocal talent early and was an enthusiastic steward of her youthful career.

As a girl, Risë earned a dollar a week singing on “The Children’s Hour,” a Sunday morning program on the local radio station WJZ. (The program’s host was Milton Cross, who later became famous as the voice of the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday afternoon radio broadcasts.) She took the professional name Risë Stevens as a teenager.

When Risë was 14, the family moved to the Jackson Heights section of Queens. By the time she was 18, she was appearing regularly, sometimes in leading roles, with the Little Theater Opera Company, a Brooklyn troupe. (The company was later known as the New York Opéra-Comique.) In the audience one night was Anna Schoen-René, a well-known voice teacher on the faculty of the Juilliard School. She began teaching Ms. Stevens privately, and arranged for her to attend Juilliard on a scholarship, starting in the fall of 1933.

The summer before her scholarship took effect, Ms. Stevens helped support herself and her family by working in the garment district of Manhattan as a fur-coat model, an unenviable job in the days before widespread air conditioning. She later earned money singing on the radio show “Palmolive Beauty Box Theater.”

Ms. Stevens spent two and a half years at Juilliard, where she continued her studies with Mlle. Schoen-René. Though Ms. Stevens had been considered a contralto, Mlle. Schoen-René discerned her true vocal register and helped lighten her voice for mezzo roles. In 1935, financed by Mlle. Schoen-René, Ms. Stevens spent the summer at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, where her teachers included the distinguished soprano Marie Gutheil-Schoder.

Returning to New York, Ms. Stevens entered the first Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in the winter of 1935-36. Broadcast live on the radio, the auditions offered the winning singers one-year contracts with the Met. Ms. Stevens lost, though a few months later, when the Met asked her to sing Orfeo in Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice,” she declined. She realized, she said afterward, that she was not yet ready.

Ms. Stevens returned to Europe, making her formal operatic debut in Prague, as Mignon, in 1936. Joining the Met in 1938, she made her first appearance with the company on Nov. 22, singing Octavian out of town in Philadelphia. On Dec. 17, she performed for the first time on the Metropolitan Opera stage in New York, singing Mignon.

Reviewing that production in The New York Times, Olin Downes called Ms. Stevens “a new debutante of unquestionable gifts, both vocal and dramatic.” He added, “It is a voice that should carry its possessor far.”

In 1939 Ms. Stevens married Walter Surovy, a Hungarian actor who was later her manager; they remained married until his death in 2001. Besides their son, Nicolas, a film and television actor, Ms. Stevens is survived by a granddaughter.

In her nearly quarter-century with the Met, Ms. Stevens was most famous for Bizet’s “Carmen.” She sang the title role 124 times with the company, many of them opposite the distinguished tenor Richard Tucker as Don José. Over time, Ms. Stevens forsook the traditional interpretation of Carmen as a saucy temptress, playing her instead as “hard, calculating, tough and one step away from a prostitute,” as The International Dictionary of Opera said in 1993.

Ms. Stevens retired while in her prime. Her last performance with the Met was, fittingly, as Carmen, on April 12, 1961. In 1964 she was named, with Michael Manuel, a general manager of the new Metropolitan Opera National Company, a touring ensemble. (Lacking funds, the company folded in 1967.) Ms. Stevens was later the executive director of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional Auditions.

In 1975, Ms. Stevens assumed the presidency of the Mannes College of Music, a small, prestigious conservatory in Manhattan that is today part of the New School. She helped the college overcome a potentially crippling budget deficit and recruited world-renowned musicians, including the pianist Vladimir Horowitz, to the faculty. She resigned in 1978, citing intractable differences with some members of the school’s board.

Among Ms. Stevens’s awards are an honorary doctorate from Mannes in 1980. In 1990, she was an honoree of the Kennedy Center in Washington.

On records, Ms. Stevens sang Hänsel in the Met’s first recording of a complete opera, Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hänsel und Gretel,” in 1947. Her many other recordings include the Kurt Weill-Ira Gershwin musical “Lady in the Dark” in 1963. She was the subject of two biographies: “Subway to the Met” (1959), by Kyle Crichton, and “Risë Stevens: A Life in Music” (2005), by John Pennino.

In Ms. Stevens’s 351 regular appearances at the Met, her professionalism was perhaps never more apparent than it was in one of her many productions of “Samson et Dalila.” Playing the temptress Delilah, Ms. Stevens reclined on a chaise longue to sing the aria “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix,” among the most famous seductions in opera. One night, overcome with theatrical passion, Samson flung himself onto her mid-aria.

Samson did not know his own strength. Under his considerable force, the chaise longue, on casters, began to move. Ms. Stevens sailed offstage and into the wings, still singing.

<nyt_correction_bottom>

<nyt_update_bottom>

Read Full Post »

http://www.artsjournal.com/slippeddisc/2013/03/only-on-slipped-disc-the-mets-conductor-responds-to-antonio-pappanos-singer-outburst.html
 

We received this letter overnight from Fabio Luisi, principal conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, in response to his Covent Garden colleague’s assault on singer cancellations:

Luisi Fabio - C Barbara Luisi_thumb_thumb

 

Dear Norman,

I think nobody, not even Tony, came to the core of the problem, and we, as conductors, have to pronounce a very clear “mea culpa” in this.

Most singers, especially the young ones, are simply too young, not prepared enough, with technical problems and they get the wrong roles.
Take e.g. a good, young soprano who makes a successful debut with, let’s say, Micaela or Liu’.

Some agent will eventually ask her if she could take over Violetta, then Leonora (Trovatore), at the end probably Butterfly or Tosca. “You know, darling, they are looking for a new, young and pretty Tosca in that international Opera House, director and conductor would love to have a new voice, they would love to discover a new star. That’s you!”

It can work maybe a couple of times, if the orchestras are not too loud, if the director is understanding, if the conductor helpful (not looking for Magda Oliviero’s sounds). Of course, we do need Butterflies and Toscas, but are they the right roles for a young soprano? Definitely not. You can sing them of course, with a fresh voice, but not for long. So they start to cancel – and then they disappear.

 

gruberova_3

Gruberova (above) never accepted such roles (she sung even Violetta not very often) – and she still sings. If I read that the Nemorino-tenors are approaching Des Grieux (Puccini) or Cavaradossi, of course I am curious, but I already can see… it won’t last long. How many singers, Norman, have we seen “bruciati” by famous conductors? Freni and Butterfly? she was smart enough to do it only once (and, as soon as I know, never on stage), but she had a 40 years long career. Gruberova ditto.
Best regards to all

Yours
Fabio

 

We are holding space for Antonio Pappano to reply. Meantime,

Dear Fabio

You are absolutely right for blaming agents and conductors for putting undue pressure on singers, but that’s nothing new. Look how many sopranos were ruined by Herbert von Karajan’s premature expectations… What is new, it seems to me, is the power of directors to demand young, slim singers and the enthusiastic approval of their demands by authoritarian opera house and festival directors. What can a maestro do when faced with an unholy trinity of agent, director and the man who signs his own contract? N’est-ce pas?

all best wishes

Norman

Read Full Post »