Thursday, December 11, 2008

Design Mom 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways

Oh my.

Design Mom, the queen of all that is lovely and super-mom-extraordinaire (seriously, how does she do it?), is hosting some pretty amazing giveaways beginning TOMORROW, Dec. 12. Did you know that is one day before my birthday? Yes, it is. I'm pretty sure that means I am going to win all of the giveaways.

Check it out, here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Singing Lesson

OK. Opera singing is really hard, I'm not going to lie. It's effort-full, but needs to seem (relatively) effortless.

Check out this clip of Anna Netrebko singing "Regnava nel Silencio...Quando rapito in estasi" from Lucia di Lammermoor. The cavatina (the slower part), is very slow, sustained, high, etc. The cabaletta (when the music sounds lighter and happier), is FAST and high. In short, it's like swimming a 500, or running the mile. It's pretty long, but not long enough that you can coast. You have to sing really hard stuff for 8.5 minutes. Yikes.

What I like about her here? Her posture is pretty great. I really get the sense that her spine is aligned, maintaining the integrity of her breathing apparatus and her throat. She really does an impressive job, especially because the coloratura (the fast stuff) doesn't come naturally for her (I heard her say that somewhere...can't remember where, sorry). You can also tell that she's working hard, and that her whole body is involved. Nice work!

Monday, March 31, 2008

TGIP! (Thank God It's Puccini)

Here it is, at last! Puccini!!

I'm about to get a little rhapsodic...

I love Puccini's compositions in general. But, I rate two of his operas in the top five of my "Sid Loves These Operas Most" list;
1. The Marriage of Figaro, W.A. Mozart.
2. La Boheme, G. Puccini
3. Madama Butterfly, G. Puccini
4. Carmen, G. Bizet
5. Don Giovanni, W.A. Mozart

There are a bunch of others I find groovy, as well. (Feel free to leave your top five in the comments section. Ya gotta love somethin, Baby!)

With La Boheme coming up, I want to encourage you to take a listen to any recording you can get your hands on of Pavarotti or Domingo singing an aria by Puccini. In our lifetimes, we have been blessed to have two of the all time great tenors living and competing for the same spotlight. Their rivalry created a sensation unparalleled in Opera history. There have certainly been other tenors who have "duked" it out through the centuries, but none had the modern media to use as cogs in their propaganda machines.

Both of them used Puccini arias as their weapon of choice. I learned to love opera by listening to Domingo sing "E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca and Pavarotti sing "Che gelida manina" from La Boheme again and again.

Listen to these two masterful singers sing these two masterfully crafted arias a few times, and soon you'll be joining Nancy and me in the greatness (not the snootiness) of Opera.

(And, of course, Nancy, nothing could keep me from going to the Opera with you!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Look for the Met HD Broadcasts

...on your local PBS station! The Met has just announced that 14 of its Live in HD performances will be broadcast on PBS...that's FREE! Check out the press release here, and local show times here.

Sid, Will you be my date?

La Bohème is probably the most romantic opera ever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Master

Pavarotti was famous for a reason. He was arguably the best tenor ever. Here is a clip from a 1979 La Scala production of La Bohème (with Ileana Cotrubas!).

P.S. This is the next production for the Met HD Broadcasts!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sid und Nancy vs. Tristan und Isolde

We've decided to take a tag-team approach for our review of the Met HD Broadcast of Tristan und Isolde. There is no way one person can possibly opine on all 5.5 hours of that monstrosity.

First up: The Music

Sid Says: Tristan und Isolde is VERY long. It would be impossible not to say that it is genius. With that much volume (both in sound and number of notes), you're going to get some really amazing moments. But it's soooo long. From the beginning notes of the overture (including an awesome bass clarinet lick) to the last notes of Isolde singing her way to her death, the music keeps going and going. Did I mention it's long? I'm a big fan of Romantic music, and Wagner writes a bunch of it for this one. Love music, martial music, sailor music, bass music, soprano music, tenor music, slow music, fast music, sad music, dying music, angry music....and 95% of it's amazing. It's just that there's a lot to try to remember. I was overwhelmed. Sadly, I only remember the six note main theme. Probably not the best thing considering the length of the show. Did I mention it was really long?

Nancy responds: Yep. Long. First act...crappy. Second and third acts...very beautiful! Therefore, I found 66.6% of the music amazing. I feel like Tony and Wilbon from PTI! I wish we still had cable, Sid.

Next: The Singers

Nancy says: Deborah ("Debbie" for you cognoscenti) Voight can sing really really loud. I mean L-O-U-D, LOUD! Truly, it's impressive. The orchestration in Wagner is just monstrous. Her voice had to carry over like a billion trombones or something. Fortunately for all of us, her voice is also amazingly beautiful. It has a really lovely shimmery vibrato, and she has great ease in her singing. It's a pleasure to watch her and listen to her. Great!

Robert Dean Smith was Debbie's fourth Tristan in as many performances (read about all of the drama here). He sounded great (in a European kind of way...little bit smaller voice, but very focused and clean vibrato and great intonation), but was a little stiff in the first two acts. In act III, however, he just blew us all away! It was so exciting to watch and hear. It was his Met Opera debut, and you could tell how thrilled he was at the curtain call. Hooray for you, Robert Dean Smith! It was especially cool to see behind the scenes before act III...he was being shown his blocking (where to go when)!!!! Talk about stress.

I kind of have a crush on the guy who played Kurwenal. He, too, had this huge voice (baritone), and would just sort of stand there and sing. We call that "park and bark" in the biz. It was cute.

Sid responds:

Dear Peter Gelb, Met Director,

If you do not hire Robert Dean Smith to sing lots of other things at the Met. You are stupid or something. Maybe it would be ok if Ben Heppner didn't get well....

Dear James Levine, Conductor,

You gotta make the old bass guy sing faster. Sheesh...he was going so slow, I thought we were going backwards through time....that may be why it's sooooo long?

Lastly: The Production

Sid Says: NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!! Bad Met!

....Um, I don't know if the designer knows this or not, but a triangle (which is what the stage was shaped like), comes to a point. When you put that point at the front, you severely limit the number of singers who can stand there (one, particularly at the size that Wagnerian singers tend to be). Somehow, bewilderingly, the set itself made the singers "upstage" themselves. (For the non-theater person, upstaging means, that a performer has to turn away from the audience to look at other performers while they are doing something important like SINGING. It is a VERY bad thing to do, especially to your fellow performers.)

When there was more than one singer on the stage, the action had to move away from the audience to allow the singers to be able to sing out over the audience. That's a pretty important logistical mistake considering the previously-mentioned million trombones. The orchestra out numbered the singers 10 to 1. They needed to be able to get as near to the front of the stage as possible.

The lighting was expensive.

The props were stupid.

Nancy Responds: I really liked the minimalist, Eastern, Zen-like feel of the production. It made an epic event seem a bit more intimate. The camera-work for the broadcast itself was a bit different for this show. They did lots of split-screen work, enabling us to see the big stage picture, and the artist's faces at the same time. It was a great idea, but "less is more (Sid's quote)." In act III, there were these weird miniature sculptures all over the stage. I couldn't tell if they were supposed to represent actual farm animals/implements of Tristan's, or if we were in his statuary. Then they disappeared later in the act before Isolde sang her famous Liebestod. They could have done without them.

The lighting was amazing! They constructed a gigantic light-box for the back of the stage.

Final Thoughts

Nancy: Overall, I came away surprised that I really loved the show. The music was gorgeous (except act I). I'm pretty sure I would sit through it again, if I knew that the singers were really top-notch. It was quite an event!

Sid: Overall, I'm feeling pretty mixed emotions. There's a sense of congratulations/relief that we made it through. I kind of felt like those of us in the audience should have had a big group hug/high five at the end. If a sense of accomplishment in watching the whole thing is a good thing, then that was the best opera I've ever seen.