Lean, Green, Cycling Machine

by Suzanne Calvin

 

Meet the new generation of opera divas -- making big inroads for the arts with a teensy, tiny carbon footprint, Canadian style! They’re taking the art form on the road to battle outdated stereotypes and convert skeptical naysayers.

Read on in this politically correct report from canada.com and please note my favorite bit: “Brun Hilda.”

Is that a first and middle name, like Mary Anne? Or a first and last name?

That’s rather snarky of me. I blame the heat myself.  They’re outside bicycling, without so much as breaking a sweat.  I’m watching eggs fry on our balcony before they get laid.

(Photo courtesy of Alice Irene and Teiya Kasahara for canada.com)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

The SSNT Casts a Spell of Its Own

by Suzanne Calvin

It’s definitely the little newspaper “that could,” and I mean that in the nicest possible way. The “Sulphur Springs News-Telegram” and its intrepid, award-winning arts editor Terry Mathews continue to defy the odds with detailed, in-depth interviews and articles that have kept the spotlight on the Dallas Opera all season long -- and beyond! Or so it seems with this excellent three part, post-season series entitled, “Making Magic.”

Part One deals with the background of the key characters in this story. Read it all here.

Part Two recaps the amazing Dallas Opera season just ended -- including the Cowboys Stadium Simulcast.  Get it here.

And Part Three looks ahead to the upcoming “Pursuits of Passion” Season…we’ll update shortly to include.

Read the first two parts and thank your lucky stars that small town journalism is alive and well, and holding it’s head high -- with good reason -- in places like Sulphur Springs, Texas.

UPDATE: Part Three in the series, right here.

(Photo of Michael Heaston and composer Jake Heggie by Karen Almond)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

B-I-G, Big Berlioz

by Suzanne Calvin

For the first time in forty years, Berlioz’ grand five-and-a-half hour masterpiece, LES TROYENS, is trodding the boards in a complete staging at London’s Royal Opera House.  Critic Andrew Clements at “The Guardian” gave the new David McVicar production four out of five stars in this review.  Perhaps he knocked off a star for the questionable use of a flying saucer…perhaps not.  Details on that in this Associated Press article in the “Washington Post.”

Question: How much is too much?  Would you welcome a five-and-a-half-hour world-class production at the Winspear Opera House -- or would you rather wait for the DVD, with or without extraterrestrial beings, to be enjoyed at leisure in your den?  Just curious… 

(Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

by Megan Meister

A shot of the interior of Berlin’s Komische Oper with a sold out house for Handel’s XERXES

I am heading for the airport in a few minutes for my flight back to Dallas, but I wanted to report on yesterday while it was still fresh in my mind.

Yesterday afternoon I met with a colleague I hadn’t seen in several years who is a casting consultant for several opera houses in Europe, including Munich and Glyndebourne.  It was great to catch up and compare notes on singers and productions each of us had seen and share “war” stories.

I then spent some time with soprano Katie Bolding, the former Dallas Opera chorister who moved to Berlin last year to pursue a singing career.

She sang the role of Countess Ceprano in RIGOLETTO in her solo debut with TDO in 2011, and has now been engaged as a principal singer at the opera house in Gera, near Leipzig, starting in the fall.  She is off to China next week for some big gala concert, so things seem to be going very well for her.  I am very proud of her and admire her resourcefulness in launching her European career.

Last night I attended a performance of a new production of Handel’s XERXES at the Komische Oper.  It just opened last week to rave reviews, and contrary to the performance of IDOMENEO I had attended the night before, it was completely sold out.

The production was staged by Norwegian Stefan Herheim, who is now one of Europe’s most important directors.

It was dazzling!

The set, by Heike Scheele, was an enormous turntable that when spun around showed both backstage and onstage of an eighteenth century theatre.  This allowed the audience to see all sorts of theatrical machinery of the period utilized in imaginative ways, as well as all sorts of backstage shenanigans.

There was, of course, some overt sexuality that would make American audiences uncomfortable, including a graphic scene with a randy sheep, which was played for laughs, and a gang rape of one of the sopranos, that most certainly was not.

The singing ranged from acceptable to outstanding, but the most arresting timbre was the dark chocolate tones coming from the mezzo playing the supporting role of “Amastris”— Katarina Bradic.

The plot of XERXES is very convoluted, with everyone in love with the “wrong” person.  The two sisters “Romilda” and “Atalanta” were dressed identically, as were most of the men (mostly sung by mezzos in “travesty”) which didn’t help clarify who was who.

It took a while to figure it all out, but I think that this confusion was part of what Mr. Herheim intended.

I didn’t quite “get” why the chorus all came on at the end in their street clothes, though.  I have seen this in a number of European productions, and it must MEAN something.

I just keep thinking that it is done so the chorus can get out of their make-up and costumes and go home earlier.  I would hate to think that this is done so the theatre doesn’t have to pay an increment of overtime, but that surely can’t be the reason!

The sets and the rest of the costumes must have cost a fortune, though.

This opera house is almost completely subsidized by the government, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry…

It was a lovely way to spend my last night in Berlin, but now I am eager to get home.

Jonathan Pell, Artistic Director, Berlin Part IV

by Megan Meister

End of Act I of Mozart’s IDOMENEO at Berlin’s Komische Oper

Last night was a performance of Mozart’s IDOMENEO at Berlin’s Komische Oper.  It was sad to see so few people in the audience—I would guess that there were only around 250 people in attendance.

It was a stark, modern production with a unit set consisting of a steep curved rake of black planks with a small irregularly shaped pool of water in the center.  At the end of the opera, somewhat predictably, the character of “Elettra” drowned herself in this shallow pond.

The chorus, in street clothes, stormed on and off carrying metal chairs that were strewn around the stage from time to time while other choristers crawled around the set throughout the evening.

Veteran tenor Rainer Trost sang very well in a touching performance of the title role.   In this production, “Idomeneo” is a doddering, broken old man, clutching a model sail boat and muttering to himself all night long.  The rest of the cast was solid, with a standout performance by mezzo-soprano Susanne Kreusch as “Idamante.”

As odd as this production might sound, it was very effective and really told the story clearly and affectingly.

 

Curtain call from a production of IDOMENEO at Berlin’s Komische Oper

Berlin III – Jonathan Pell, TDO Artistic Director

by Megan Meister

Today was the final day of auditions in Berlin, and the quality was consistently higher than the previous two, with one outstanding Korean bass named Jongmin Park.  There were several other interesting singers today (an Australian mezzo, a Polish bass-baritone, a Finnish soprano and two Romanian sopranos) so all in all, this was well worth it.

It was wonderful to see colleagues from other theatres who were also here for the auditions, including representatives from the Metropolitan Opera, the Canadian Opera and the Palm Beach Opera in North America, as well as representatives from the opera companies of Berlin, Braunschweig, Bremen, Cologne, Darmstadt, Lyon, Magdeburg, Rome, Salzburg, Santiago, Toulouse, Vienna and the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.

I will now hear a couple of performances at the Komische Oper before heading back to Dallas on Friday.

Jonathan Pell Artistic Director – Berlin II

by Megan Meister

Today I heard auditions from another 36 singers, representing 9 more nationalities, bringing the grand total to singers from 30 different countries in just two days.

The singers today were from some of the same countries I mentioned yesterday, but also included people from Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cuba, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Switzerland.

No one can say that opera isn’t an international art form!

There were some very good singers today, but one in particular stood out for me because she is a former member of the Dallas Opera chorus, soprano Katie Bolding.  She made her solo debut with TDO in the spring of 2011 as the Countess Ceprano in RIGOLETTO, and has now moved to Europe to pursue a solo career.  Several artist managers seem to have taken an interest in her as a result of this audition today, and perhaps some of the representatives from other opera houses have, too.   I certainly hope that things will “take off” for her here in Europe.

Tomorrow I will hear another group of singers, and who knows what surprises are in store?

Berlin Part I by Jonathan Pell, TDO Artistic Director

by Megan Meister

I arrived in Berlin at 7:30 this morning on an overnight flight from New York and went straight into a full day of auditions that started at 10:30.  Even with a few cancellations, I still managed to hear 41 singers from 21 countries, only two of whom I had heard before.  The list of places from where these young singers come is fascinating, so in alphabetical order, the singers were from Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States and Uruguay !

These auditions were held in a rehearsal room in Berlin’s Komische Oper before a panel of representatives from opera houses and artist managers from around the world looking for exciting new talent.

Roughly 20 of these singers we heard today were selected, and will go on to  sing again on stage of the Komische Oper Theater tomorrow and Tuesday, along with about forty or fifty singers who were already passed on to the final round from screening auditions or industry recommendations.

The only prize awarded, since this is not a competition, is the chance to be heard by so many opera houses at one time, and the possibility of being engaged to sing by some of these theaters.

With a few notable exceptions, today’s group was slightly disappointing, but tomorrow promises to be a better day!

When Pay Day Deserves to be in Caps

by Suzanne Calvin

Bloomberg dug into the Metropolitan Opera’s 2011 tax return and wrote up a piece claiming that Artistic Director James Levine saw a 39% increase in his paycheck that year, due “in part” to the success of the opera company’s HD screenings which have attracted audiences all around the globe. No mean feat for the Met or Maestro Levine in the midst of a seriously troubled economy.

No, honestly, if you are seeking an uncontestable definition of success, try this on for size: the Met came out of the 2010-2011 Season with a $41 million surplus -- despite an 8 percent increase in spending AND a $25 million deficit hanging over from the previous year. Un-be-lievable.

Check out the Bloomberg story in all its enviable detail right here.

It’s a bit like settling into the wrong line at the grocery store, isn’t it?

(Lincoln Center photo by John Glines for PBase.com)

Suzanne Calvin, Manager/Director Media and PR

3 Questions for Keith – Desert Island Edition

by Suzanne Calvin

3 QUESTIONS FOR DALLAS OPERA GENERAL DIRECTOR AND CEO KEITH CERNY
FROM DAVID FELD, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF MODERN LUXURY DALLAS MAGAZINE

1. What if I still don’t like opera after having gone to numerous opera’s, Verdi, Puccini and Wagner, and reading “The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire,” to boot?

Almost everyone I meet enjoys live theater, so I encourage people who don’t consider themselves opera goers to experiment with a wide range of different styles and musical possibilities. One example is operas where the dramatic and theatrical components are equally important (such as our production of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse or even an older classic like Britten’s 1954 chamber opera The Turn of the Screw). Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas are another possibility. When performed with elegance and wit, Gilbert and Sullivan makes for great theater and finds a natural home in the opera house. There are other works to consider, too, which fit comfortably in the operatic world (e.g. Chicago Lyric’s upcoming production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s musical Showboat). And, of course, George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess makes many converts of opera skeptics.

2. If you (Keith) were forced to take only three CD’s to a desert island with no hope of rescue, what would they be? And would they necessarily even be operas?

The first would be a selection of Beethoven piano trios. After graduating from Berkeley, I studied piano for four years in London with Lady Spender (née Natasha Letvin). She had studied intensively in her youth with famed Beethoven interpreter Artur Schnabel, who used to refer to her as “his first granddaughter.” As you can imagine, Beethoven’s piano music was a core part of my musical training, and I would want to bring some of his best works to enjoy. Rather than piano sonatas, I would bring the wonderful Sony Classical CD of Beethoven’s “Ghost” (Op. 70 No.1) and “Archduke” (op. 97) trios performed by Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern and Leonard Rose.

My second choice would be Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde -- one of my favorite operas, and worth listening to many times; the overture is one of the masterpieces of Western music, and the Liebestod is equally magnificent. I would select the Warner Classics CD with Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with John Treleaven and Christine Brewer singing the title roles.

For my third CD, I’d pick something lighter: the original cast recording of The Will Rogers Follies, starring Keith Carradine. Follies premiered on Broadway in 1991, and won multiple Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score. The musical tells the inspiring and ultimately tragic life story of Will Rogers using the Ziegfeld Follies as a backdrop. If that piece can’t keep your spirits up in a tough situation, nothing can!

3. What are the three great modern operas? “Nixon in China” can’t be one, that’s too easy!

I think that John Adams continues to write very important opera, and am delighted that Nixon in China continues to gain mainstream acceptance. I would add Adams’ opera, Dr. Atomic, which premiered in San Francisco in 2005 when I worked there as Executive Director (COO) and CFO. It’s an excellent work. One of my favorite moments is Oppenheimer’s aria at the end of Act I -- “Batter my heart” -- set to text by 17th century poet John Donne and sung in the world premiere by Gerald Finley. In this aria, I’m particularly intrigued by the juxtaposition of lyrical vocal writing and Adam’s signature minimalist compositional style.

Although I had no hand in its creation, I also believe that Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s Moby-Dick is another great opera that will stand the test of time. I also traveled to San Diego in February, 2012 to see it a third time. If that choice sounds a bit partisan because of Dallas Opera’s role in its commissioning, I would also highly recommend Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally’s Dead Man Walking, which San Francisco Opera premiered in 2000.

I’m a little torn for my third choice. I admire the exoticism and orchestral coloring of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar. If you are after something more firmly rooted in 19th and early 20th century tradition, I think that Daniel Catán’s Florencia en el Amazonas is a worthy selection.

If I could add a work scored for chamber orchestra as well, it would be Tod Machover’s Death and the Powers. DATP is a unique blend of classical opera and high tech, and a personal favorite. Tod appeared in Dallas as part of TDO’s “Composing Conversations” series, jointly hosted with the Museum of Nature and Science, and was very well received.

Fifth-generation Dallas native David Feld began his career as a design editor in 1994 when he left New York Magazine to join Architectural Digest as a contributing editor. He then became an editor at large for Condé Nast’s House & Garden, producing, styling and writing stories on great residential interiors worldwide. Feld was later named senior contributing editor at Southern Accents.

Locally, Feld served as the creative director of D Magazine Partners for four years, where he led the editorial team for D and D Home and launched D Weddings and D Design Book, with a special interest in developing the audiences for each of the titles. Prior to his time at D Magazine Partners, Feld held the position of editor at large for PaperCITY, where he wrote a monthly column on design (“Our Man At Large: David Feld”) and served as the launch editor of PaperCITY House in Dallas, Houston and San Francisco.

Most recently, Feld worked as a freelance writer/editor for the The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, before returning to his Highland Park hometown and joining Modern Luxury Dallas as Editor-in-Chief and Dallas Group Editor in July 2011.

“Feld brings more than two decades of journalistic and editorial experience to Modern Luxury Dallas. His strong familiarity of Dallas and intent to further increase locally relevant content, in combination with his proven track record for editorial leadership, has ushered in a new era for Modern Luxury Dallas’ publications, including Dallas Brides and Modern Luxury Interiors Texas,” says Modern Luxury Vice President of Editorial Beth Weitzman.