Friday, August 31, 2012

Verdi’s Forza - the Joys of Chaos

Acting on a commission for La Forza del Destino from the Bolshoi Theatre in St. Petersburg, Verdi responded by on a practical level preparing for winter; it would premiere in late November. He sent ahead Italian provisions; sausage, pasta, salami and acquired a very warm coat, of which there is a famous photograph and commenced work on his masterpiece of chaos.

La Forza del Destino begins with a common romantic operatic theme, thwarted love.  Donna Leonora is loved by Don Alvaro and they come from different classes and her father objects to the relationship, but there is also a darker reason – he is of Incan descent. A Peruvian mother and a Spanish father, both of whom died when he was young. He is in a way psychologically marked and sees in this love relief and salvation. On the night of their attempted elopement, the Marquis of Calatrava discovers them and horrified at the prospect of his daughter fleeing with a half caste he challenges the young Alvaro to a duel. Alvaro will not fight him and instead after swearing to the Marquis that his daughter remains untouched - offers up his life to be sacrificed to her honor. In an extravagant gesture of surrender Don Alvaro he throws his pistol to the floor and readies himself for the shot that never comes. In a caprice of fate the pistol fires when it strikes the floor, fatally wounding the father. Leonora falls to his side and to her surprise the Marquis dies cursing her.
In the madness that follows from this incredible accident all the action of the opera's plot grows in chaos and dissonance.  An obsessed brother, Don Carlo di Vargas now swears vengeance not only on Alvaro but also on his rebellious sister .Through different towns and countries in the space of years the chase scene goes on. The two lovers are parted, in fact Alvaro thinks Leonora dead. All three assume false identities that ironically insure their eventual and fatal reunion. There are wars, sword fights, false oaths, religious confessions, flights into mountain solitudes and church cloisters – all in vain. As predicted by a gypsy who senses that all are lying, but not toward what ends, they live in a state of emotional war with themselves and all around them. In exhaustion and restlessness Leonora speaks for them all in the beautiful” Pace, pace “:
Pace, pace mio Dio , pace mio Dio .
Cruda sventura
M’astringe , ahime , a languir :
Peace, O mighty Father, give me peace !
Bitter misfortune
Has brought me low

In the original version of the opera all three principals die. In the revision Verdi allowed for one to live and suffer with the knowledge of their fates.

In opera lore singers distrust the work. Leonard Warren died on stage performing it and Pavarotti it was said avoided the role of Alvaro all his performing life. We present the classic performance of the young Leontyne Price as Leonora along with Richard Tucker, Robert Merrill and Shirley Verrett in 1965.

Tune in for this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and hear Verdi’s glorious opera of the damned, La Forza de Destino, here at noon on KPAC and KTXI .

by Ron Moore

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kind of Blue

YOSA Philharmonic is looking for some crystal glasses that are part of a work by Jennifer Higdon, Blue Cathedral, that they will perform this fall.

From their Facebook page: "Lead crystal wine glasses produce the best sound. The glasses will be carefully monitored by YOSA staff and safely stored between rehearsals until the performance on November 5, after which they will be returned.
If you have crystal to lend, please email"

Host John Clare spoke to Higdon about her Blue Cathedral:

John Clare and Jennifer Higdon
[John] The first commercial recording I had been familiar with was of Blue Cathedral – I know this is a very personal piece and I wondered, was curious about – that idea of putting yourself or having something personal in music.

[Jennifer] Yeah, you know, I had a great debate with myself when I first wrote Blue Cathedral because it was written in – it was written as part of a commission from Curtis in its 75th anniversary, but I started the piece a year after my brother's death, and it made me really stop and think about the fact that in a lifetime, we have a lot of people cross our paths. I was thinking about the kids here at Curtis. I thought, Wow, their colleagues will come to mean a lot to them once they leave school, and I thought about the fact that everyone you meet affects you in some way – but when I wrote the piece, I actually had no intention of telling anyone about the background that was running in my head about this piece.
My brother's middle name was Blue, so that's part of the title, but I was thinking about him throughout the process of writing – but the ironic thing was, so many reporters were asking me about the title that it's like I could not escape explaining what the piece was about.
My thought about that was, well, you know, it's good to share that message, I guess, although I had real conflicted feelings about it, but I have found that it's been a very cathartic piece for a lot of people who've lost people  – when I got to concerts where that piece is being done, people come up to me often in the lobby, and sometimes they can't even speak, they're – they have tears in their eyes. They'll take my hand. It's really a very moving experience. Sometimes they can tell me about someone who's died in their family. So I think it's not such a bad thing. I don't think you have to know the program to have the piece speak to you. At least I hope that's the case. But it is interesting. It's a very exposed feeling for a composer – to write something that personal and to put it out into the world, because you're basically kind of – it's literally wearing your heart on your sleeve. You're wearing it on the manuscript paper, you know, and you hope that it speaks to people but there's no way to know how it will be taken and no way to know what the reaction will be and you have to make sure you don't let that affect you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

7+ 6 trombones

Not quite 76, but there are gifted trombonists gathering at Johnson High School this week at Summerbonz. They creation of Ilan Morgenstern, there have been masterclasses, clinics and recitals. Host John Clare spoke to Morgenstern and participant Colin Cardwell about Summerbonz:

The trombone choir and faculty recital is tomorrow, Saturday August 25 at 5pm in the auditorium at Johnson High School. You can find out more here at

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tannhauser, Wagner’s Great Scandal

In opera, as in journalism, politics or entertainment, nothing sells like scandal.  “Rumor travels halfway round the world, before truth can put on it’s shoes “ this rough paraphrase holds in our time as it did in biblical times (David and Bathsheba), Oedipus or Hippolytus (tragic myth in the ancient world) or recent history. Robert Downey, Jr. did what ! (a case of actors behaving  badly) and don't forget Presidential candidates or politicians in general - where applicable. In Wagner’s case it was his artistic will verses society’s demands.
courtesy of Wikipedia
In his French exile in Paris Wagner has a grand plan – if he can’t go to Germany he’ll have Germany in Paris. He will use the Opera as a launching pad for the next stage of his career. With Tristan waiting in the wings, he’ll begin to showcase a series of works beginning with Tannhauser. It all begins well; Princess Metternich backs the plan and the Paris Opera accepts the work. But, the Opera has certain rules and expectations. No opera may be put on except in the French language; no composer may conduct his own opera (still he will supervise endless rehearsals, by one count one hundred and sixty four) then fatally there must be a ballet.
The plot of Tannhauser revolves around a dichotomy, that of the attractions and value of sacred versus profane love embodied in the figures Elisabeth and Venus. This struggle is placed in a both historical and mythic German past in which these themes take place during a singing competition. The goal is to attain artistic expression and fame as a knight and musician using these topics; from this will come redemption and fulfillment. Wagner achieves this masterfully in his middle period style. He then decides that contrary to Opera habit he will not place the ballet in the traditional second act. This spells disaster in spite of the powerful overture and the memorable arias and ensembles including the great evensong:
Wie Todesahnung Dammerung deckt die Lande ,
Umhullt das Tal mit schwarzlichem Gewande ;
Like a premonition of death, darkness covers the land
And envelopes the valley in its somber shroud;
Oh, my gracious evening star
courtesy of Wikipedia

Unfortunately he is intent on placing the ballet (for dramatic effect) in the first act and not the second. The prestigious and powerful Jockey Club is furious. They want to arrive fashionably late and leave early; before and after the act two ballet, thus enjoying the dancing of their mistresses in the corp de ballet. In response to this and expressing a general dislike of Princess Metternich, they disrupt the opera which simultaneously succeeds artistically but fails financially; Wagner never forgave Paris for this fact to his dying day.  
Tune in this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera and hear the part of the scandalous night that worked and has lasted for more than 150 years. That’s Wagner’s Tannhauser, this week at noon on KPAC and KTXI.
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Debussy on Film

Claude Debussy's music has been used in many films and television programs, from "The Birds" to "The Right Stuff," to the late Jack Horkheimer's astronomy program, "Star Gazer."  Here are two of my favorite uses of Debussy's most famous melody, "Clair de Lune."

The 1940 Disney film "Fantasia" originally included a sequence in the Florida Everglades set to "Clair de Lune." The first time I saw this animation, I honestly gasped out loud at its beauty.

Another sublime use of "Clair de Lune" is in the movie "Ocean's Eleven" (2001), as Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew stand in front of the Bellagio, basking in their audacious heist.

So, what are *your* favorite scenes of Debussy on film? --Nathan Cone

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SA Symphony Players seek contract

Symphony Players give out information
before a concert last spring

The opening of the San Antonio Symphony season is October Fifth and Sixth; however, players do not have a contract. Expired in the fall of 2011, management and players came to an agreement to work under the expired contract while talks continued.
Members of the players negotiation committee (Craig Sorgi, Renia Shterenberg and Mary Ellen Goree) talked to host John Clare about a recent letter they sent to the Board of Directors of the SA Symphony.

Hear their entire conversation here. (mp3 file)
The letter they sent is here. (pdf file)

Symphony management has not responded to emails yet.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Berlioz, the Bard and their Bounty

Of the great figures and ideas that inspired the romantics we may include among others - nature, night, the feminine, death, mythology, medievalism and William Shakespeare. It is hard for us to imagine in this age of global and almost instantaneous communication that only going back 150 years that much of the information of the world was largely un-translated. Many classics of the Greek and Latin literature were expected to be read in the original languages. So the artists effected a change; the professional translation business as we understand it today was largely a creation of the romantics. In many cases into the early twentieth century operas were presented (before the age of digital projection and the supertitle) in the language of the country to which it traveled. Hence Il Sigfrido or Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Otto Nicolai‘s The Merry Wives of Windsor) and many operas (into the 1950’s) presented at the Met in English in hopes of attracting a greater audience.
courtesy of Wikipedia
It was from the travelling troupes of British actors that Berlioz and many of the early romantics encountered the living word of Shakespeare. From Goethe to Mendelssohn the effect was life changing. For Berlioz in the late 1820’s he was so overwhelmed he actually married one of the actresses he saw on stage, Harriet Smithson when her theatre company visited Paris. Many great works flowed from this encounter including Romeo and Juliet, some scenes from Hamlet inspired a vocal work and from Much Ado About Nothing - the opera Beatrice et Benedict. Coming in the 1860’s as a creative relaxation after Berlioz's monumental labor of Les Troyens in the 1850’s. It is witty, epigrammatic in length (it’s not even ninety minutes!) and takes as its subject the battle of the sexes. Two couples are contrasted; Hero and Claudio, very much in love and intent on marriage after war. They and their friends correctly suspect that the confirmed bachelor Benedict and the sharp tongued and combative Beatrice are really two erotic warriors fearful of confessing their mutual affections until friends come to their aid to effect a union.
The short opera contains much beautiful music including the ravishing night piece Nuit Paisble:
Nuit paisble et sereine!
La lune douce reine,
Serene and peaceful night!
The moon, queen of grace,
Smiling as she rides;
The range and variety of Berlioz vocal writing is truly astonishing. I fill out the balance of Saturday Afternoon at the Opera after our short Beatrice and Benedict with arias, ensembles , choruses and classic instrumental interpretations that range from Monteux to Colin Davis, Frederica von Stade and von Otter to Crespin and Vickers . 
Join in the Berlioz bounty this Saturday at noon for Berlioz Plus, beginning with the complete Beatrice and Benedict, here on KPAC and KTXI. 
by Ron Moore

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Olmos opens season

Mark Ackerman, courtesy of
the Olmos Ensemble
This Sunday, August 19th, 3pm it is "A Hot Summer Affair!" with the Olmos Ensemble. Featured are Renia Shterenberg, violin; Lauren Magnus, viola; Barbara George, cello; Mark Ackerman, oboe; and Ilya Shterenberg, clarinet. They'll play music by Mozart, Clark and Kodaly.
Host John Clare spoke to Mark and Ilya about the program. (mp3 file)

Their program:
Duo for Violin and Cello.....Zoltan Kodaly
Duo for Clarinet and Viola.....Rebecca Clark
Adagio for English horn and Strings.....W.A. Mozart
Quartet for Clarinet and Strings......W.A. Mozart

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Marin Alsop in Sao Paulo: Match Made in Heaven?

Marin Alsop

It's early, yet, to pass judgement on the marriage of conductor Marin Alsop and her new band in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP). After all, the orchestra's previous relationship, with John Neschling, ended in a bruising power struggle. This after Neschling helped raise the orchestra's international profile to not only best orchestra in Latin America, but one of the best in the world. The many recordings made during the Neschling tenure confirm an orchestra of the first rank. Neschling was followed by a very brief fling with Yan Pascal Tortelier. This yielded only one recording I know of, a disc of compositions by Florent Schmitt, which has gotten rave reviews. (It's on its way to my mailbox as I am writing this.)

Many predict that the Alsop-OSESP tandem will be a great one, and I can certainly see their logic. After all, as James Jolly remarks in the August, 2012, issue of Gramophone magazine, "Alsop's flare for colour and rhythm makes this repertoire a perfect fit." The reference, of course, is to Latin-American music in general, and specifically to the music of Villa-Lobos and the other prominent musical voices of Brazil. But as all who know the reputation of the OSESP will attest, this is an orchestra which is as fluent in European repertoire as it is in the symphonies of Guarnieri. This makes Alsop's first recording project with the orchestra oh-so-intriguing - the complete symphonies of Prokofiev (for Alsop's label, Naxos). I can't wait to share these with the listeners to Itinerarios (Sunday evenings at 7pm on KPAC and KTXI).

We all get a wonderful opportunity for a sneak preview of Alsop and the Brazilians on Wednesday afternoon, August 15, at 1:30 pm CT. Listen online at, as the orchestra takes center stage at the BBC Proms. The audio player should appear 30 minutes prior to the beginning of the broadcast. I hope all who are interested will join me in the virtual concert hall for what should be a wonderful experience.

Sala Sao Paulo
Wednesday's concert, part of the BBC Proms from Royal Albert Hall in London, was originally to have been Alsop and her "other" band, the Baltimore Symphony. Sadly, the Baltimore Symphony management felt it could not afford to send their orchestra abroad during these financially stressed times. Enter the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra. Not only is the Brazilian economy one of the more vibrant in the world right now, but the Sao Paulo Orchestra is also enjoying immense popularity in its home hall, Sala Sao Paulo, a former train terminal transformed by architect Nelson Dupre into a world class acoustic. So popular are the orchestra's concerts that the orchestra's management has had to cap season ticket sales at 70% of the Sala Sao Paulo's capacity of 1498 seats. According to Marcelo Lopes, the orchestra's executive director, "that's really the highest we can go because we must have some tickets for single buyers. If we didn't do this we'd sell every ticket before the season even started!"

On Wednesday's program, from Royal Albert Hall, will be Dvorak's New World Symphony, music by Copland, Joan Tower, Ginastera, and Villa-Lobos' Momoprecóce.
-James Baker

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Donizetti’s Divine Madness

As there are many kinds of love, so it is with madness. The almost hour long hallucination and final collapse of Tristan takes this idea to a certain extremity leaving Isolde alone at the end to sing her Liebestod. In England in the twentieth century the fisherman Peter Grimes grows demented by very dramatic degrees. In act one his possible crimes are put off as accidents. By act two and their near repetition the community puts him on warning. Near the end his storm tossed passions are mirrored in the tumultuous sea climax, his off stage disappearance and the return to the natural rhythms of life and nature. But Gaetano Donizetti is another matter altogether, and his Lucia of Lammermoor is something of a test case in the exquisite psychopathology of nineteenth century opera. Donizetti has her enter an impossible situation over which she has no control. The music and scenes build with delicacy and quiet deliberation. Like Bellini the stranger and more unhinged she becomes, the more beautiful the music. It is a luminous, almost divinely inspired delirium. Its’ famous conclusion is not simply a mad scene, it is known as THE mad scene and with good reason.
Taken from the popular novels of Sir Walter Scott, Lucia di Lammermoor begins in the quiet countryside. Here is political scheming, family enmity and most critically a world ruled by men in which a woman who is at once the complete focus of their desires and obsessions, who is powerless to control her fate. She is mistakenly judged as duplicitous by her lover Edgardo; faint hearted and indecisive by her family’s choice, Arturo and impractical and hopelessly wrong headed by her predatory brother Enrico. Her response is mounting anxiety that the music portrays in a glorious and progressive fragmentation. She vocally and literally “falls apart”. Overwhelmed, this most gentle of women, resorts to madness, murder and finally suicide. Her final disintegration when it is reached - is a swirling and acrobatic high wire act for the voice; with flute obbligato - she literally and vocally drifts away from us in one of the classic farewells in all of opera:   
Ardon gl’incensi ,

Splendon le sacre faci,

Splendon intorno

O joy that I feel and cannot express!

The incense burns,

The holy candles shine,

The shine all around
As the world grows darker, her madness grows more lucid and she sees it as an aspect of the divine. The music captures this mood perfectly. There are many notable arias, ensembles and most famously the unforgettable sextet, Chi mi frena in tal momento?  Who holds me back at such a moment ?

courtesy of Wikipedia
We hold you’ll join us and experience some of the infectious, inspired and divine madness of Donizetti in Lucia di Lammermoor on this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. The cast includes Maria Callas, Di Stefano and Gobbi ; that’s here at noon, on KPAC and KTXI. 

by Ron Moore 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Shades of Classical?

Several questions for this new release...will it introduce new people to classical music? does it compliment the books? would you read them knowing it has classical music ties?

EMI Classics will release Fifty Shades of Grey – The Classical Album, a 15-track album featuring classical music personally selected by author E L James herself and referenced in her bestselling Fifty Shades book trilogy. The album will be available in the U.S. and Canada digitally on August 21st and in CD format on September 18th. The album will be released internationally in both formats on September 17th.
Says James of the new album: "I am thrilled that the classical pieces that inspired me while I wrote the Fifty Shades Trilogy are being brought together in one collection for all lovers of the books to enjoy."
The three novels in the Fifty Shades trilogy (Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed) are published by Vintage Books and have sold more than 20 million copies in the U.S. (the trilogy has sold 31 million copies worldwide). The books’ various references to classical music have spurred sales of the pieces mentioned – even going so far as to cause Spem in Alium, a 16th century motet for 40 voices by Thomas Tallis, to jump to the top of the classical charts in the UK.
Fifty Shades of Grey – The Classical Album aims to provide the perfect accompaniment to the Fifty Shades reading experience, setting a mysterious and alluring atmosphere with just the slightest hint of danger…the music on the album includes The Tallis Scholars’ sweeping version of Spem in Alium featured in the first novel, along with 14 other works from the books, such as the ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakmé, Pachelbel’s Canon in D, the ‘aria’ from Bach’s Goldberg Variations and more. The recording artists include such world-class performers as Sir Simon Rattle, King’s College Choir, Barbara Hendricks, and Alexandre Tharaud, and the album features cover art based on the novels.
"We are delighted to be partnering with E L James and Random House on this project," said Wendy Ong, VP of EMI Classics. "The Fifty Shades books are a bona fide cultural phenomenon, and they offer an exciting new way to present this timeless music to audiences who might not otherwise be exposed to it." - from EMI Classics' press release

Monday, August 6, 2012

Opera Ball

Dawn Upshaw, photo by Brooke Irish
used with permission
The editors of Opera News have announced the honorees for the 2012 Opera News Awards, paying tribute to five superb artists who have made an invaluable contribution to the art form: sopranos Mirella Freni and Dawn Upshaw, countertenor David Daniels, baritone Simon Keenlyside, and bass-baritone Eric Owens. The eighth annual Opera News Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, April 21 at The Plaza in New York City. All the winners – and a host of the city’s cultural, civic, and social luminaries – will be present at the gala awards dinner, which will feature celebrity presenters speaking about the awardees and introducing video performance clips.
The official announcement of this year’s honorees appears in the September 2012 issue of Opera News, and has Piotr Beczala on the cover. The Polish tenor performs this season at the Metropolitan Opera in Gounod’s Faust – his company role debut as the opera’s title character – and in a new production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. The September issue also offers the magazine’s annual preview of the year in opera. The April 2013 issue of Opera News will contain tributes to the five awardees, all distinguished members of the international opera community.
Created in 2005, the Opera News Awards recognize five individuals each year for distinguished achievement in the field of opera. Proceeds from the gala evening on April 21 will benefit the education programs of the Metropolitan Opera Guild.
For the third consecutive season, the Opera News Awards includes a special sweepstakes that will give a lucky winner round-trip air transportation for two to New York, provided by American Airlines, as well as a two-night stay at Trump International Hotel and Tower and VIP tickets to the Opera News Awards. No purchase is necessary to enter the sweepstakes; details are available at and in the September issue.

A native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, David Daniels has been called “today’s gold standard among countertenors.” After studying as a tenor, while he was an undergraduate at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Mr. Daniels made the switch to the countertenor repertory during his graduate studies at the University of Michigan. In North America, Mr. Daniels has redefined the countertenor voice category with well-received appearances at Glimmerglass, New York City Opera, Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Minnesota Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, and at the Met. Notable European appearances for Mr. Daniels include Didymus in Handel’s Theodora at Glyndebourne; the title role in Handel’s Orlando at the Bayerische Staatsoper; Arsace in Partenope at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien; Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Milan and Barcelona; and Farnace in Mozart’s Mitridate at Covent Garden.
Mr. Daniels made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1999 as Serse in Handel’s Giulio Cesare. He has since returned to the Met as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Cesare in Giulio Cesare; Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda; Orfeo in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice; and as Prospero in the world premiere of The Enchanted Island, the Met’s Baroque pasticcio, which was transmitted to movie screens worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD. Mr. Daniels returns to the Met this season as Cesare in the company premiere of David McVicar’s staging of Giulio Cesare.
A much-admired recitalist, Mr. Daniels has appeared in recital and in concert in New York, Vienna, London, Munich, Paris, Barcelona, Chicago, and Washington, DC, as well as at the Edinburgh, Tanglewood, and Ravinia Festivals. In 2002, Mr. Daniels made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall.
Mirella Freni made her professional debut in 1955 as Micaela in Carmen, in her hometown of Modena, Italy. In 1963, La Scala welcomed her as Nannetta in Falstaff. The following year, Ms. Freni was hailed as one the greatest Mimìs in history when she sang in a new La Scala staging of La Bohème, directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Mimì was also her debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in 1965, and at San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Houston Grand Opera. Her subsequent roles at the Met included Adina, Susanna, Alice Ford, Liù, Elisabetta di Valois, Micaela, Gounod’s Juliette and Marguerite, Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, and the title roles in Manon Lescaut, Adriana Lecouvreur, and Fedora. In May 2005, the Metropolitan Opera celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Ms. Freni’s professional debut, as well as the fortieth anniversary of her company debut, with a special gala.
Ms. Freni has appeared at the world’s most important opera centers, including the Vienna State Opera – where she was given the title of “Kammersängerin” by the Austrian government – and the Salzburg Festival, where Karajan cast her as Desdemona in his historic 1970 production of Otello. She has also given triumphant performances at the Paris Opera, Covent Garden, the Liceu in Barcelona, and the Glyndebourne Festival.
A treasured colleague of the world’s great maestros, Ms. Freni has collaborated in opera and on recordings with James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Carlo Maria Giulini, Charles Mackerras, Carlos Kleiber, and Georges Prêtre, as well as with Karajan, who was perhaps the most profound influence on her career. Many of her performances are available on DVD, including live Metropolitan Opera telecasts of Don Carlo and Fedora. Ms. Freni remains active, conducting master classes in Europe, North America, and Asia. She has conducted a series of classes for the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program.
London-born baritone Simon Keenlyside made his opera debut in 1988 at the Hamburg State Opera, starring as Count Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro. He has since sung in Geneva, Zurich, Barcelona, Madrid, San Francisco, Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Munich, Tokyo, and Salzburg; also at La Scala, Glyndebourne, Scottish Opera, English National Opera, and Covent Garden, where he created the roles of Winston in Lorin Maazel’s 1984 and Prospero in Thomas Adès’s The Tempest. Mr. Keenlyside sings Prospero this season in a new Robert Lepage production of The Tempest at the Metropolitan Opera, where he has been an audience favorite since his company debut, as Belcore in L’Elisir d’Amore, in 1996. Recent Met engagements include the title role in a new production of Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, and Posa in the Met premiere of Nicholas Hytner’s staging of Don Carlo, both in 2010. For his performances in Billy Budd at ENO and 1984 at Covent Garden, Mr. Keenlyside won the 2006 Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in Opera. In 2007 he was given the ECHO Klassik award for Male Singer of the Year, and in 2011 he was honored with Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year Award. In the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, Mr. Keenlyside was made a CBE in recognition of his services to music.
Mr. Keenlyside also enjoys extensive concert and recital work and appears regularly in most of the world’s major recital venues. His talent is showcased on five volumes of Hyperion Records’s complete Franz Schubert Edition, as well as on the second volume of Hyperion’s complete Robert Schumann Edition, all with pianist Graham Johnson. Mr. Keenlyside has also released recital discs of Schubert, Strauss, and Brahms Lieder, and an English song program, Songs of War, with pianist Malcolm Martineau. For Sony BMG, Mr. Keenlyside recorded an orchestral arias disc, Tales of Opera, which won a 2007 Gramophone award.
Philadelphia native Eric Owens has established himself as one of opera’s most exciting and versatile singers. His brilliant performance as Alberich has made him the breakout star of the Metropolitan Opera's Robert Lepage Ring cycle, which returns to the Met in spring 2013. Other memorable performances by the bass-baritone include General Leslie Groves in the world premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic at San Francisco Opera, as well as the first performances of the work at Lyric Opera of Chicago and at the Met; the Storyteller in the world premiere of Adams’s A Flowering Tree in Vienna; the title role in Handel's Hercules at Lyric Opera of Chicago; and the title role in the world premiere of Elliott Goldenthal's Grendel at Los Angeles Opera. In the summer of 2012, Mr. Owens was artist-in-residence at the Glimmerglass Festival, where he appeared as Amonasro in Aida, Stephen Kumalo in Lost in the Stars, and in an evening of cabaret. Among Mr. Owens's career highlights in Europe are appearances in Norma at Covent Garden; Die Zauberflöte at Paris Opera; and Ariodante and L'Incoronazione di Poppea at English National Opera.
A graduate of Temple University and the Curtis Institute, Mr. Owens is a former member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio.
American soprano Dawn Upshaw began her career as a member of the Young Artists Development Program at the Metropolitan Opera, where she made her company debut as Countess Ceprano in Rigoletto in 1984. She was soon recognized as a Mozartean of exquisite accomplishment, with memorable performances as Susanna, Cherubino, Ilia, Zerlina, Pamina, and Despina to her credit over the years. More recently, Ms. Upshaw has become celebrated as a muse to some of contemporary music's most distinguished composers, such as Osvaldo Golijov, who wrote the opera Ainadamar and the song cycle Ayre for her; and John Adams, in whose oratorio El Niño she created a leading role. Other world premieres for Upshaw include Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin and Le Passion de Simone, as well as John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, in which she created the role of Daisy Buchanan.
Ms. Upshaw's current schedule involves not only engagements for recitals and concerts, but also a number of teaching affiliations. Ms. Upshaw teaches master classes and workshops throughout North America; she is a faculty member of the Tanglewood Music Center, and is Artistic Director of the Vocal Arts Program at Bard College Conservatory of Music. In 2007, Ms. Upshaw became the first vocal artist to receive a "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. She is the recipient of four Grammy Awards; her more than fifty recordings range from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro with James Levine to Messiaen’s Saint François d'Assise with Kent Nagano, as well as the million-selling Symphony No. 3 by Henryk Górecki.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Soundtrack Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Courtesy Sony Music.
How nice to come across a comic book movie soundtrack that revels in melody and mystery, rather than succumbing to simple thumping, percussive elements! James Horner’s score for “The Amazing Spider-Man” also benefits from extended tracks that allow the composer to stretch his themes out and develop them a bit, instead of cutting them off shortly after the two-minute mark, which is generally what happens on another recent soundtrack I received, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” by Henry Jackman.

Where Jackman’s score does little more than pound or drone, Horner’s “Spider-Man” score takes a theme, played by the trumpet in the opening track, and develops it over the course of the album. The instrument has an inherently heroic quality about it, but here Horner echoes some sense of the isolation Peter Parker must feel as well, away from his birth parents, aloof and apart from his classmates, all while fighting the bad guys as the web-slinging Spider-Man.

Electronics are used throughout the score, either as added percussion, or as a synthesized voice. But they’re only a part of what is mostly a traditional orchestral palette that Horner uses.  As a point of comparison, I think Horner’s overuse of synthesized voices in his “Titanic” score sounds dated. Here, not only does the technology of 2012 sound better than 1997, but the synth is not used as the primary voice.

In addition to the main theme, some of my favorite moments in the score include the piano-based “Rooftop Kiss,” and the action scene cue, “Lizard At School!” which, though necessarily intense, never forgets the power of a good melody.

--Nathan Cone

Violinist off to the Big Apple

Violinist Amy Boyd is going to New York City this fall to study violin. She'll perform a recital of Mozart, Saint-Saens and Sarasate next Sunday afternoon (August 12) at UIW's Our Lady's Chapel with Christine Debus at 3:30pm.
She has also performed with Mango Moon, a local group in San Antonio:

John Clare spoke to Amy about her plans: MP3 file
This is Amy Boyd's Indie-gogo site.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aida, opera as Cinema-Scope

courtsey of Wikipedia

There are so many genres of opera. There are the exquisite chamber operas that are close to plays like Strauss’ Capriccio of Gluck’s chamber operas. Then there are the operas of morality or ideology like Beethoven’s Fidelio or Mozart’s Idomeneo. Verismos raw emotions  and atonal expressionisms decadent excesses like Berg’s Lulu or the opera of scandal, like Salome and the late romantic opera as epic poetry, The Ring. The list goes on and on, opera has something for everybody. But for the great public is there anything quite like opera as spectacle. The curtain rises and before a note is sung we hear the gasps from the audience at the scale, luxury and sheer grandeur of the “spectacle” laid out before us. The historical drama of epic scale with its costumes, archaic or imaginary dances, historical and or mythological figures, vast and exotic architecture, fauna and flora, evocative locals is like Cecil B. De Mille for the musical theatre. It is perhaps also the most salient intersection of opera and cinema. If ever there was a model of this genre it is Verdi’s Aida.

Beginning as a commission from the Khedive of Egypt to Verdi to write something for the opening of the Suez Canal the composer at first declined. It was only later that he was presented with the spectacle of Aida. We are shown vast palaces, pyramids, courtiers, priests to enact long lost religious ceremonies, beautiful gardens and sometimes camels and elephants, depending on the venue. The clash of classes, of civilizations, romantic rivalries, battle scenes, a barge floating up the Nile and even an entombment! And on top of all this a romantic triangle at its center around which all this is taken beyond war to personal vendetta. The vocal writing fits the larger than life scale all the principals are given some of the most memorable music ever written, for Radames there is Celeste Aida, for Aida Ritorna Vincitor, for Amneris Fu la sorte dell’armi and on and on it goes.

                  In the climax, the great love duet:

O terra, addio, valle di pianti …

Sogno di guadio che in dolor svani.

Oh earth, farewell: farewell vale of tears …

Dream of joy which in sorrow faded.

This as irony is piled upon, literally to the operas closing bars. In an attempt to separate the two lovers, Aida and Radames, the scorned Amneris has had her ex- lover sentenced by a religious tribunal and buried alive only to discover that Aida has joined him and they are now united forever.

The cast is also a classic: Tebaldi, Bergonzi and Simionato with Herbert von Karajan directing the Vienna Philharmonic.

Please tune in this Saturday at noon for operas version of “The Greatest Show on Earth“, Verdi’s Aida, here at noon on KPAC and KTXI

by Ron Moore