The Spring For Music festival in New York is holding an arts blogger challenge that involves answering various questions on a weekly basis for a month. Though I am not much for competition or contests, this seems fairly harmless and the possibilities for the earnest and absurd are promising. The first question posed, apparently due today, is "New York has long been considered the cultural capital of America. Is it still? If not, where?" My initial reaction to this query is simply that it seems somewhat broad and also rather loaded.
New York City has a population upwards of eight million inhabitants, the most populous in North America. It has more than twice the number of people than the next largest metropolis, Los Angeles. It would be very odd indeed if New York were not the center of arts and culture, given this alone. With so many people packed into 321 square miles, even the sheer number of people whose deictic center is New York is impressive.
Even if one were to argue that New York is not the cultural capital of the United States, it seems difficult to back up the claim of another single place. Let us just take opera companies as an example. The Metropolitan Opera held 289 performances in 2009 and had total operating expenses of $266,400,000. In contrast, San Francisco Opera (which has made claims to being the second biggest opera company in North America) held about 89 performances and had an annual operating budget of $67,806,615 in Fiscal Year 2009.
It is interesting to note, however, that the Met's 2008-2009 report highlights the debuts of three famous directors, namely Robert Lepage, David McVicar, and Penny Woolcock. Perhaps it doesn't signify much, but both Lepage and McVicar had productions (The Rake's Progress and Don Giovanni, respectively) at San Francisco Opera before 2008. McVicar's Il Trovatore (pictured above in a cupcake rendering) debuted at Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2006, was performed at the Met in 2008, and came to San Francisco in 2009. It is also funny that the Woolcock production was of Doctor Atomic, the opera itself having premiered in San Francisco.
Another strange fact about the cultural power of New York is that it seems not to have imposed its dialect on the rest of the country. Standard American English is based on accents of the Midwest (that is, away from New York), while British Received Pronunciation is comes from the south of England and Standard French is more or less Parisian.
To be clear, these are just asides. New York City is home to unrivaled arts and cultural organizations, drawing in tons of people from everywhere as tourists or residents. It is rather bizarre to take the time to muse on something so self-evident, but I suppose a little navel-gazing never hurt anyone.
Jay Hunter Morris (pictured left in the State Opera of South Australia's production of Moby-Dick) will replace Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab in the San Diego Opera's Moby-Dick on Tuesday, February 21, 2012. Heppner is ill. Morris had been originally scheduled for the San Diego performances, but withdrew to sing Siegfried in the Metropolitan Opera's Götterdämmerung last month.
This year's subscriber survey from San Francisco Opera was a little bit boring, so here are the funniest ones, with answers from the Opera Tattler filled in, of course. To be perfectly honest, I should have checked all of the boxes for question 6, but somehow that did not seem helpful, so I picked ones that I would consider going if I were normal, and did not go to all the operas at San Francisco Opera. I find it particularly alarming that none of the operas that I listed were ones in questions 5 or 6.
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4. Please name up to five operas you would most like to see in the near future.
Mozart's La finta semplice
Vivaldi's Orlando Furioso
5. To help us plan for future seasons, please indicate which of the following operas you would be extremely interested in attending in the next five years. Please check all that apply.
The Flying Dutchman (Wagner)
x Don Giovanni (Mozart)
x Tales of Hoffmann (Offenbach)
x Die Meistersinger (Wagner)
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti)
The Magic Flute (Mozart)
x Peter Grimes (Britten)
The Barber of Seville (Rossini)
Il Trovatore (Verdi)
Elektra (R. Strauss)
x The Trojans (Berlioz)
x Porgy and Bess (Gershwin)
La Traviata (Verdi)
The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart)
Die Frau ohne Schatten (R. Strauss)
A Masked Ball (Verdi) Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
Così fan tutte (Mozart)
Der Rosenkavalier (R. Strauss)
Cavalleria rusticana (Mascagni)
x Nixon in China (John Adams)
La Bohème (Puccini)
6. To help us plan for future seasons, please indicate which of the following works you would CONSIDER ATTENDING. Please check all that apply.
The Dialogues of the Carmelites (Poulenc)
West Side Story (Bernstein)
Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky)
Les Misérables (Claude-Michel Schönberg)
x Julius Caesar (Handel)
x Jenůfa (Janáček)
Susannah (Carlisle Floyd)
x From the House of the Dead (Janáček)
x Xerxes (Handel)
Carmina Burana (Orff)
King Roger (Szymanowski)
Show Boat (Jerome Kern)
I Puritani (Bellini)
La Cenerentola (Rossini)
Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti)
x Moby Dick (Jake Heggie)
Adriana Lecouvreur (Cilea)
x Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (Shostakovich)
I Capuleti e i Montecchi (Bellini)
x Ainadamar (Osvaldo Golijov)
Florencia en el Amazonas (Daniel Catán)
Andrea Chenier (Giordano)
Don Quichotte (Massenet)
The Portrait (Weinberg)
X Rusalka (Dvořák)
Sweeney Todd (Stephen Sondheim)
x Mosè in Egitto (Rossini)
x Ernani (Verdi)
In case you, gentle reader, were wondering who the Opera Tattler and her lovely guest writers are, here are some brief biographies. The Unbiased Opinionator's first review will be posted tomorrow, covering the Boris Godunov that premieres tonight at the Met. You can hear the performance live tonight at 7pm EST.
Though the Opera Tattler may have secured an audience with Danielle De Niese, Marco Vratogna, and Nicola Luisotti, we are wondering who you, gentle readers, would like us to interview next. It may be easiest if we limit this to those who are here in San Francisco now for the opera. Below are some suggestions, feel free to pick these or others.
This haiku is the last of three pieces from Miss LCU's European holiday concerns Rossini's La donna del lago at Opéra national de Paris. The performance in question occurred on July 10, 2010 at Palais Garnier and starred Karine Deshayes as Elena opposite Javier Camarena as King James/Uberto.
* Notes *
in July is all tourists
A couple of years ago Martin Bernheimer wrote a piece entitled "Critics in a hostile world" for the Financial Times, blaming the Interwebs for killing off newspapers. Up until that point, I had not thought much about bloggers taking the place of professional music critics. Of course, anyone can start a blog. There are loads of them, most quite boring. It is difficult to even find an audience, given the amount of content, or lack thereof, that is out there. With a newspaper, whether in print or online, it is clear where to go.
This month Bernheimer covered journalist Donald Rosenberg's lawsuit against The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland Orchestra. Rosenberg lost, and this doesn't bode well for critics, obviously. Now the music critic of the Orange County Register, Tim Mangan, has been reassigned to cover celebrity nonsense. It is all rather alarming.
San Francisco Opera and Classical 102.2 KDFC are having competition for who is to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the simulcast of Aida this September. Video submissions can be uploaded to KDFC's Web site from July 6 to 25, and listener voting takes place from August 16 to 29. A panel of celebrity judges will review the contestants and choose the winner to perform at AT+T Park.
* Notes *
This year's Day at Merola was Tuesday, beginning with a lunch in Lower Level Café of the War Memorial Opera House. A couple of members of the Opera Standees Association who are also sponsors of tenor Alexander Lewis kindly invited me to join their table. Mr. Lewis conversed with us about how he stayed in Jane Eaglen's house as a kid, his voice changing, The Ring, countertenors, and Mozart. It was especially endearing when he related his realization that as a tenor rather than a baritone there was no role for him in Le Nozze di Figaro. Alex is going to move to New York soon, to participate in the Metropolitan Opera's Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. At lunch I also had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Thompson, the one bass of the Merola Program this summer.
It was difficult to decide between the L'Elisir d'Amore rehearsal, Sheri Greenawald's master class, and Mark Morash's master class, as all of these occurred in the first time slot, starting at 1:30pm. I ended up in the Chorus Room for Greenawald's master class, accompanied by Jenna Douglas. Colleen Brooks sang "Wie Du Warst" from Der Rosenkavalier, Eleazar Rodríguez sang "Here I Stand" from The Rake's Progress, and Kevin Thompson sang "O, wie will ich triumphieren" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. Everyone sang well, but with Rodríguez, one could only feel regret for not making it to his performances as Tom Rakewell for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Greenawald had Rodríguez concentrate on where the rests were in the music, and illuminating the text.
Kathy Cathcart gave a master class accompanied by David Hanlon that started with Ryan Kuster singing the "Abendlied" from Das Rheingold. Kuster's voice is very bright. Janai Brugger-Orman sang Menotti's "Steal Me, Sweet Thief," from the one act radio opera The Old Maid and the Thief. Cathcart got Brugger-Orman to sing with a good deal more energy, and difference was very clear. Dan Kempson sang "Lieben, Hassen, Hoffen, Zagen," Harlequin's aria from Ariadne auf Naxos with beauty.
For the second half of the day, I went up a flight of stairs to the Ballet Studio for master classes with Martin Katz and Steven Blier. Katz focused on Bel Canto. Natalia Katyukova accompanied Robin Flynn, who sang "Deh! tu, bell'anima" from I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Ryan Kuster, who sang "Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni" from La sonnambula. For both of these, a lot of time was spent on the recitative before the arias, and Katz got a good laugh out of the audience by translating "E vicin la fattoria," then having Kuster sing the line. Renée Rapier sang "Cruda Sorte" as she did for the Auditions for the General Director, but with Michael Spassov as her accompanist instead of David Hanlon. Rapier's dark sound was very sassy, and Katz got her to sound lighter and more bubbly.
Blier's master class involved art song, as one would imagine, and he joked that the day's event should have been called "Death by Aria." We heard Colleen Brooks sing Schoenberg's "Galathea," which she wrote her thesis on, with Jenna Douglas playing piano. At one point Blier had Michael Spassov lie on the ground so that Brooks could sing to him, and this worked well, though might have been somewhat embarrassing. Spassov certainly was a good sport. Accompanied by David Hanlon, Daniel Montenegro sang "Canción al arbol del olvido." Abigail Santos Villalobos sang "La tarántula é un bicho mu malo" from Giménez's La tempranica and Reynaldo Hahn's "La lune blanche." Her voice is pretty, and Michael Spassov's playing was pleasantly dry. The final song of the evening was "Pierrots Tanzlied," which Dan Kempson sang with great beauty. Natalia Katyukova's playing was also impressive.
* Tattling *
As soon as I walked into the lunch room I was asked if I was from Korea, and can only imagine I was mistaken for Hye Jung Lee. Even though I answered in the negative, it was still assumed I was a Merolina, and I was directed to the person with the name tags. Evidently only Merolini and Amici di Merola get them, as I was bluntly informed.
The attendees of this event are, for the most part, the die-hard, obsessive fans of opera. There was aggressive jockeying for the front row seats of each master class, such that we were made to leave the room before Blier's class, for safety purposes.