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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 22:39
Knowing that I am among the world's biggest Patricia Racette fans, you might have wondered why no review of Susannah, which I'd been looking forward to since rumors of its local appearance first hit my inbox several years back. Well, I was scheduled to review it for SFCV. But on August 20, I came home from work a couple of hours early, feeling under the weather. By the end of the week, I had a fever and a cough that would not go away. Ten days later, I had a pneumonia diagnosis, which knocked me out until after the run was over.

That's how it goes. Fortunately, I was able to get to Norma, which opened the season, at the next to last performance. Let me tell you, if you missed this one, especially after Russell Thomas replaced Marco Berti, I do feel for you. You are not going to hear singing of this quality, in this opera, very often.

And I should know. When I started getting serious about opera 20 years ago, I got myself a couple of Callas's recordings, and I figured I would probably never see it, because it was rarely done and anyway nobody could sing it.

Boy, was I wrong. This was my fifth Norma:
  • Los Angeles, 1996, Eaglen, Mentzer, Cura, unfortunately conduced by Placido Domingo
  • SFO, 1998, Vaness, Antonacci, Sylvester/Summers
  • Met, 2001, Eaglen, Zajick, Margison/Rizzi
  • SFO, 2005, Nagelstad, Mishura, Todorovich/Jobin
  • SFO, 2014, Radvanovsky, Barton, Thomas/Luisotti
Fifth time's a charm, I guess. The 1996 was very good, the conducting excepted; at that point in her career, Jane Eaglen could trill and do the runs well; you could hear the trills at "Adalgisa fia punita," unlike almost everyone else. She and Susanne Mentzer had worked out beautiful variations for the second verse of "Si, fino al'ore." Cura was a convincing Pollione, too.

The 1998 SFO bring-up was bad, with Ana Caterina Antonacci giving the impression that she was the only person on stage who could sing. Of Carol Vaness and Michael Sylvester, I can only say that Gary Rideout, singing Flavio, was three times as heroic-sounding as Sylvester. My notes say that Patrick Summers conducted very well. The 2005 was also dismal; Nagelstad...eh...Todorovich, worse; somewhat flabby conducting. Again, Adalgisa saved the day, with Irene Mishura giving a fine performance indeed. As for Met 2001, by then Eaglen had lost much of the flexibility in her voice, and Margison was mediocre and inaudible next to the women's gigantic voices. Well, at least it had decibels.

We'll never know the full story of how this year's SFO Norma was cast. The announced trio of principal principals was Sondra Radvanovsky, Davida Karanas, and Marco Berti. Karanas withdrew during the rehearsal period, replaced by Cardiff Singer of the World winner Jamie Barton. Berti withdrew after the second performance, replaced by Russell Thomas.

It's lucky that Jamie Barton was more or less free: she withdrew from a single engagement in London to be able to sing the full run. (I seriously doubt that she was covering Karanas, though odd things do happen in the opera world.) And Thomas was evidently Berti's cover.

By the time I saw it, at the next-to-last performance, the whole thing had come together very nicely, at least vocally. I do not expect to hear this opera sung any better than it was on September 27, which is to say, pretty close to flawlessly. 

Barton, especially, is lavishly gifted, with an extremely beautiful, round, warm mezzo soprano, very even and with high notes in place. (The tessitura for Adalgisa is the same as for Norma; the latter is just up there in the heavens a lot more. But Adalgisa does need to be strong above the staff.) No complaints at all about her. She was dignified, she moves well on stage, and she sang like an angel. She also sounded great with Rad in the duets; their voices are oh so different, but sounded good together.

Russell Thomas has a good, strong tenor voice, well-placed, clarion, tireless, and with all the notes there, cleanly. He was audible in the trio and sounded good with both Barton and Rad.  I liked hearing him a lot and hope his career gets a big boost from this. 

And then there's Sondra Radvanovsky. I am not, unlike some, going to say this was flawless, but it was damn close. I will be lucky if I hear this role better sung in my lifetime, and those flaws I heard? They are fixable: her trills aren't great, and honestly, that thing she does where she sings so softly her voice practically disappears? It is an overdone mannerism that calls attention to itself; if she simply diminished the sound to a piano with some body, it would be more beautiful and just as impressive. And we know she can do this, because "Son io" was breathtaking and sung exactly the way I wish she'd sung all of her piano phrases.

Now that I've got that out of the way: she was enormously impressive. I like her voice, which is not beautiful in the Ponselle mold, but which has a lot of character. She has tremendous control of dynamics, from that teeny piano up to ff that sounded as though she could have been even louder. Beautiful, supple, phrasing; good fioriture, plenty of dramatic presence: that's what this role takes, and she had it.

If only the direction and production had been better. Holy silly costumes, Batman! I understand there was an explicit attempt to have a Game of Thrones ambiance, and uh well....nothing in GoT quite accounts for the hideous wig Rad was wearing, the leftover Star Trek uniform they stuffed Thomas into, or the Modern Cabana where Norma's children were living.

For reasons unclear to me, the Druids lived inside a stockade, rather out in the woods, crediting them with a different level of technology than the usual Norma production. Perhaps the idea was to imply that they really could successfully take on the Roman empire? If so, the production could have taken this idea further. (Why someone hasn't done the obvious and created a radical feminist Norma production, I don't understand, because the most intense personal relationship does seem to be between the priestesses.)

Worst of all were the ghastly props and stage furniture, and the supers/stage hands constantly moving them around. The Modern Cabana came and went a few times; there was an unnecessary platform that Oroveso and Norma both sang from; there was that....horizontally suspended tree that Norma cuts the mistletoe from; the gong that had to be brought forward and then removed; the Druid bull, a wheeled statue that looked as if it was made out of huge tongue depressors. 

These props usually took up about a third of the stage, forcing the singers, including the chorus, to maneuver around them. The constant movement on and off stage of the props was very, very distracting, especially from my seat in the Dress Circle. 

And Kevin Newbury's Personregie left a lot to be desired, as in, he did almost nothing interesting with the characters. So many opportunities for scenery chewing missed! I mean, nothing happened dramatically when Rad turned on Pollione, after discovering his betrayal of her. Almost nothing happened when she confessed and walked into the fire, or when she was furious with Adalgisa, or about the kill the children, or...

There's plenty of room for drama in this most voice-focussed of operas, and yet.....most of the drama went for nothing.

Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "SFO"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 22:32
There's a meme of sorts going around, or maybe two: one is to name ten pieces you never want to hear again (see Slipped Disc for about 120 examples), the other is to name ten pieces you want to hear more often.

I'm going to pass on the first, which would consist of overplayed 18th and 19th c. standards, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, etc., and generalize a lot about the second.

For starters, you might take a look at my Fantasy Opera series. Most of the operas I listed are rarities of one kind or another. I'm sure Svanda Dudak is performed more often in the Czech Republic than outside it (although I see that it's being done in Palermo shortly).

After that, really, it's all new and old music. I believe I have never heard a Dufay mass performed live, and there is a huge wealth of music before 1700 that I would love to hear in person. Of 20th and 21st century music, I'm interested in modernists such as Crawford, Carter, Boulez, and Babbitt; Europeans such as Haas and Birtwistle; Feldman; women whose music has been overlooked or ignored; etc. I'm interested in music by the second- and third-string composers; the better-than-competent composers whose music is buried under the top layer. I'd like to hear almost everything that's off the beaten track.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Tuesday, 07 Oct 2014 13:44
Not your usual list of reviewers, as you'll see:
Yes, you are reading that right: my review is in the Chron. And the first thing I have to do is apologize, because 90 minutes after I filed, I realized I'd forgotten to remark on the performances by singers in smaller roles, and by then it was too late for a change. Those singers would be Christian Van Horn and Scott Conner as the conspirators; they sang very well, and I wish Jose Maria Condemi's direction had given them more distinct physical presences. Efrain Solis, a current Adler Fellow, had a lot of personality - and voice - as Christian, a beneficiary of Gustavus's generosity during the fortune-telling scene. A.J. Gluekert was fine as the Chief Magistrate, but is this character traditionally a buffoon out of G&S? I would have thought him a serious foil to Oscar.

Other remarks: 
  • The press materials and program say that Christian Van Horn is singing Count Horn, the web site says he's singing Count Ribbing, and I don't know which is correct, but you can tell from reading the reviews who believed which source.
  • To hear an Italian Verdi baritone as Renato/Anckarstrom. try Gino Bechi on the 1943 Serafin/Gigli, Caniglia, Bechi, Barbieri set. For that matter, Gigli is a stunning beautiful and convincing Riccardo.
  • That scene at the gallows? Somebody please throw a black or brown cloak over Julianna Di Giacomo, please: it is within the realm of the possible that the man she's married to will recognize that pretty blue outfit.
  • Heidi Stober makes such an adorable leggy teenaged boy that it is obviously time to revive the practice of casting sopranos as Cherubino and Octavian.
  • My appearance in the Chronicle will be a rarity or even one-time event; this review happened because the usual reviewers, three of them, were unavailable.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "SFO"
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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 17:31
It's been reported in a couple of Chicago papers, and SFS has confirmed to me, that an offer for the open principal oboe seat at San Francisco Symphony has been made to Eugene Izotov, currently filling the same position at the Chicago Symphony and formerly of SFS.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "SFS"
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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 11:52
You could have some fun by moving Ballo into the early 21st century, shifting it a bit to the south of Boston, and making up the characters to look like the following real-life personages:

Riccardo - Gov. Chris Christie
Renato - Robert Menendez or Cory Booker
Amelia - Menendez or Booker's spouse
Ulrica - Maureen Dowd or Gail Collins, or maybe the biggest gossip-monger in NYC
Tom & Samuel - NJ State Troopers
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "opera, politics, Verdi"
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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 11:25
Last Saturday, I received a printed invitation from San Francisco Opera to an Important Company Announcement, to be held Friday morning in the lounge behind the opera shop. I figured it must be one of three things:

1. Announce David Gockley's successor, since we've all known for the last year that he planned to retire after the 2015-16 season.

2. Announce Nicola Luisotti's departure and his replacement, though the news that he has quit his Italian job made this less likely.

3. Announce a gigantic gift to renovate or replace the elderly and space-constrained War Memorial Opera House.

But I was wrong.

The press conference was to formally announce Gockley's retirement and to chat a bit. "At the request of the Board," he'll be planning the two seasons after his departure, because you have to sign singers and conductors now for four years out. So he is planning 2016-17 and 2017-18. He confirmed that there will be a Ring revival in 2017-18, meaning summer 2018. He didn't mention who is conducting, but it's not Nicola Luisotti.

He mentioned that when he joined the company, he told the Board he was committed to ten years, more or less, and thinks that is a good tenure for an opera company executive. (Says the man who ran the Houston Opera for 33 years!) Asked what he was proudest of in his time here and which of his commissions he was proudest of, he mentioned first, the 2011 Ring, and second, said he was very proud of The Bonesetter's Daughter, Heart of a Soldier, and Dolores Claiborne. He did say the critics didn't always agree. (You bet: I thought Bonesetter was an embarrassment with one good scene and a horrid libretto.)

(If I were him and I'd been asked that question, the slam-dunk answer is Nixon in China. It's a great piece, it has entered the repertory, and he took a big chance on Adams when he commissioned it, at a time when Terry McEwan was saying it would appear in the War Memorial Opera House over his dead body.)(Oh, and by the way, Appomattox is being performed in DC a couple of years out.)

Opera Association President Keith Geeslin and Gockley both discussed the challenges facing the company, including:

  • The ever-rising cost of presenting opera
  • The shrinking subscriber base. (See this SFCV report for figures Gockley discussed earlier this year.)
  • The need for a huge amount of fund-raising
Asked about mistakes he'd made that he would counsel his successor to avoid, he said more or less the following:
  • We're space and facilities challenged in a 1930s house. There are ways to create productions for the house, but you have to be careful.
  • It's challenging to co-produce with other houses because of the size of the house and the facilities. He specifically mentioned Covent Garden, a much small house with a smaller stage.
  • Keep the constraints in mind and be creative.
  • It's very labor intensive to move sets on and off stage because of the space constraints, and this increases costs.
  • No new house in the offing.
  • Spend time in Europe and put in time talking face to face with the artists of the day, because that's the only way to persuade some of them to perform in San Francisco.
At this point, Nicola Luisotti pointed out that in the 1980s, weak European currencies made European artists eager to work in SF. Now that the Euro is strong against the dollar, they'd rather work closer to home and get paid better.

Luisotti's contract has been extended through 2017-18. He is conducting three operas that fall. This gives Gockley's successor the opportunity to replace Luisotti if he or she wants to. (You may recall that on her way out the door, Pamela Rosenburg signed Donald Runnicles to a new contract, extending well into Gockley's tenure. I'm glad to have had Runnicles around for that extra time, but I own that it was not exactly a collegial act.)

Also - the only real news - there is another commission out to Jake Heggie, date and subject not known.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Gockley, SFO"
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Oy Vey   New window
Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 23:20
Peter Gelb, June 2014, in a Met press release:
“I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “But I’ve also become convinced that there is genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.” 
He doesn't say "we think showing Klinghoffer will increase anti-Semitism," but the statement is phrased to imply that he is saying that. Instead, he is agreeing with nameless others that there's concern that it's inapporpriate to show Klinghoffer. I thought this was a dumb stance to take in June, and I still think it is a dumb stance.

Peter Gelb, September 2014, according to Commentary:
“He took the outrageous position that challenging this opera would increase anti-Semitism because it would appear that Jews were controlling the arts,” the rabbi recalled. “We said this opera is an affront not only to Jews but also to all decent people, especially those victimized by terrorists. Many 9/11 families have spoken against it. Given this mentality what’s next, an ISIS love story?”
This is the worst possible argument to make: it is outrageous because it is wrong and stupid. All he needs do is to keep repeating "We believe in this opera, we are going to stage it, you cannot make us cancel the production. Thank you for your comments." And needless to say, anyone who wants to challenge or protest or picket the opera itself should do so; free speech and all that.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Gelb, John Adams, Met, stupidity"
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As If   New window
Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 23:00

Bill Clinton reminds you of exactly the chances that the Met will succeed in silencing the Jews:

If you must read the Commentary article, it's here. If their report is accurate, I own that Peter Gelb can and should be handling this situation better.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "John Adams, Met, politics"
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Date: Monday, 29 Sep 2014 19:35
ASO Photograph
He's probably not smiling quite this much right now.

Stanley Romanstein - excuse me, Dr. Stanley Romanstein, Ph.D. - has resigned as CEO of the Atlanta Symphony. The ASO's statement says this:
“I believe that my continued leadership of the ASO would be an impediment to our reaching a new labor agreement with the ASO’s musicians,” Romanstein said in an ASO statement.
You bet, Stan. Er, Dr. Romanstein.* It's likely a good thing that you are departing within weeks of the stupid and damaging lockout you instituted, rather than the nearly two years it took for Michael Henson to leave the Minnesota Symphony.

* Every press mention of him that I have seen calls him Dr. Romanstein and often includes the letters after his name. I checked, and he really does have a doctorate, in musicology, which doesn't exactly qualify a person to take a position running the business side of a major symphony orchestra. 
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ASO, labor"
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Date: Sunday, 28 Sep 2014 23:35
Andris Nelsons has begun his tenure as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, three years after James Levine resigned on account of his health problems. His first concert was last night, and the reviewers were there.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 10:57
Conductor and early music pioneer Christopher Hogwood died on September 24th at 73, following several months of illness. He was a founder of the Early Music Consort, with the great David Munrow, and the Academy of Ancient Music, one of the first period-instrument orchestras. With the Academy, he recorded a groundbreaking complete set of Haydn's symphonies, as well as the complete symphonies and piano concertos of Mozart and many other works.

in the US, he was director of Boston's Handel & Haydn Society for a good 15 years. He guest-conducted at major orchestras around the world and taught at various universities and conservatories.

I never heard him conduct in person, but his recording of the Mozart Requiem was the first performance of the piece I found at all convincing, because he performed it as if it were Mozart, where far too many conductors give it the weight and phrasing of Brahms.

He had an immense impact on the musical world and the performance of 18th and early 19th c. music. RIP, Christopher Hogwood.

Plenty of obituaries have been published:
  • Guardian, Barry Millington
  • Los Angeles Times, David Ng
  • Telegraph (I cannot find an author name, but this is quite a charming obit)
  • Washington Post, Adam Bernstein (I was expecting Anne Midgette!)
  • AP (in the SF Chron), David McHugh
  • NY Times, Vivien Schweitzer (See the next post on this blog for further commentary)
Update: The announcement on Christopher Hogwood's web site includes the cause of death, a brain tumor.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "obits"
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Date: Saturday, 27 Sep 2014 10:01
I have more than one beef with the obit, actually.

Author Vivien Schweitzer can't be blamed for the terrible, terrible headline; someone else came up with "Christopher Hogwood, Early-Music Devotee, Dies at 73."

Devotee? Really? That makes Hogwood sound like someone who buys dozens of early music records and attends early music camp every summer*, not a world-famous professional musician who worked in the field for nearly 50 years and made an outsized impact.

But let's get to my problems with what Schweitzer did write. She mentions Hogwood's Mozart records, but there's not a word about his monumental, not-quite-complete Haydn symphony set, a groundbreaking long-term project if ever there was one. It's the first thing that comes to mind for me when I think about his career.

Then there's this unsourced remark:
Mr. Hogwood, who early in his career played continuo in Neville Marriner’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, was once referred to as “the Von Karajan of early music” — a reference to Herbert Von Karajan, who in addition to being one of the 20th century’s most important conductors was a famously imperious personality.
Schweitzer follows this with a quotation from a musician who worked with Hogwood, who doesn't quite fall over laughing, but who notes that Hogwood was the farthest thing possible from von Karajan's imperious image, and calls Hogwood a great collaborator who was happy to yield to a musician who had a better idea.

Now, who might have made that remark about Hogwood, and why?

As it happens, it was Hogwood's publicist, according to the Telegraph obit. My guess is that the publicist might have been referring to Karajan's stature in the conducting world, or his enormous repertory. I rather think that an email or two might have uncovered this information for the Times obit. In fact, Hogwood's publicist would have been a valuable contact for someone writing an obit of the conductor.

Lastly, there's this:
Some musicians and scholars now believe that modern instruments allow for greater interpretive possibilities than original instruments — that the wonders of Bach’s music, for example, can be best illustrated on a modern piano. 
What can you say about this? Again, we've got an unsourced assertion about what "some musicians and scholars" think. Who are they, and where did they express this belief? And what about the phrasing? "Some musicians and scholars now believe" makes it sound as though this is something new, something established by scholars after long, thoughtful research.

Well, it's not new, in the sense that pianists have been playing Bach on the piano more or less forever, because, after all, they are pianists. That Bach's music is readily adapted to be played on practically any instrument is hardly controversial or new.** But I'd really like to see Schweitzer back up "now believe" and provide the basis on which scholars believe, and can demonstrate, that there are greater interpretive possibilities on the piano. Sure, you can play louder on a piano than on a harpsichord, but you can't add or remove registers; Bach's music demands interesting phrasing before it demands volume or the kinds of color you can get on a piano.

In the end, Schweitzer is just setting up a semi-straw man for Hogwood to knock down, because here is the next sentence of the obit:
But according to Mr. Hogwood, “the theory that Mozart’s music was simply awaiting the invention of the Steinway is wrong.” 
Sigh. The Times can, and does, do better in the obit department than that. I would have assigned this one - oh, heck, I would, if I could, assign every Times obit - to the great Margalit Fox, who would have gotten the details right. And would not have required the long string of corrections that you can read at the end of this obit.

* I mean no disrespect toward people who attend early music camps. I have done so myself, though not recently; the thriving population of amateurs playing early music in their spare time is one of the great things in the music world.

** And I'm happy to hear Bach played on almost any instrument, provided the performer has interesting and persuasive interpretive ideas. A boring player will be boring on piano, harpsichord, virginals, or organ. An interesting player could be playing an accordion, for all I care.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "obits"
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Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 11:52
Jeremy Eichler, the chief classical music critic at the Boston Globe, has started what I gather will be a multi-part series on opera in Boston. This is a fraught subject, for various reasons: the city demolished what was supposedly a first-class venue in 1958 - for a parking lot - and the brilliant but erratic Sarah Caldwell burned through gigantic amounts of money and good will. 

I'm finding a few things to quibble with in the first article, though not in what Eichler himself writes. First, there's the cringeworthy graphic illustrating the article. There's curvaceous woman with a halberd and horned helmet, with, uh...are those breastplates?....on stage looking at the orchestra pit, in which the players are facing the stage, not the audience. Uh....if that's supposed to be a Wagnerian soprano, and the stereotypes suggest it is, could it be any worse? I, uh, think I would have used a photo of the old Boston Opera House. (I can find plenty of photos of the exterior, but I believe the interior shots are all of the current theater called the Boston Opera House, a different venue entirely.)

But here's a quotation I consider to be unadulterated bullshit:
“To remain among the major cities in America, Boston needs world-class opera, and this requires a proper performance venue,” said Ray Stata, a technology entrepreneur who has been part of BLO’s think tank, in a statement last week. “It is not just about providing access to opera for music lovers. A city with cultural diversity and excellence attracts the best and brightest minds to build a strong economy.”
I think it would be great for Boston to again have an opera house, but c'mon. A metropolitan area that includes Harvard, MIT, BU, BC, Tufts, Brandeis, NEC, Wellesley, a host of smaller colleges, the BSO, Mass General and many other important medical institutions, the USS Constitution, dozens of musical organizations, and a giant swath of US history is in absolutely no danger of becoming less than one of the major cities in the US, whether or not it has an opera house. 

Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "opera, stupidity"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 10:14
From the Met press office:
Hei-Kyung Hong will sing the role of Mimì in Puccini’s La Bohème on September 26 and 29, replacing Ekaterina Scherbachenko, who is ill. As previously announced, Hong also sings the role on October 4.
I've never heard Hong in person, but on broadcasts she is a perfectly lovely singer with a beautiful voice. In a different world, she'd be a star, but somehow she has never hit the big time.

The rest of the Boheme cast is not too shabby either!
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "cast change, Met"
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Date: Thursday, 25 Sep 2014 09:57
On the heels of the radio announcement comes an announcement about her memoir, Call Me Debbie, which will be published in late January:

Call Me Debbie hits bookstores on January 27
In bookstores on January 27Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva is one of the most electrifying performances of Voigt’s life. In her strikingly honest memoir, she recounts – with characteristic candor, charisma, and wit – her harrowing and ultimately successful private battles to overcome the addictions and self-destructive tendencies that nearly cut short her life. She describes the events that led to her dangerous gastric bypass surgery in 2004 and its shocking aftermath: her substantial weight loss coupled with the “cross addiction” that led to alcoholism and severe depression before she emerged from the darkness to achieve complete sobriety. Voigt also offers fascinating insight into the roles she’s played and the characters she loves – Strauss’s Ariadne and Salome, Puccini’s Minnie, and Wagner’s Sieglinde, Isolde, and Brünnhilde among them. Enriched with hilarious anecdotes and juicy backstage gossip, she paints diverting portraits of the artists with whom she’s worked, her most memorable moments onstage, and the secrets of her singing. 

I never imagined myself becoming a world-famous dramatic soprano who’d share the stages of the biggest opera houses in the world with the most celebrated vocalists of our time,” Voigt explains. “I didn’t yearn to meet presidents, princes, Pavarottis, and Plácidos. As a child, I only knew I loved to sing – I was singing before I was talking.” 

Voigt will discuss and read from the book in an extensive promotional tour throughout the month of February (dates/locations TBA).

Already known to Twitter fans as a “Dramatic soprano and down-to-earth Diva,” Voigt was named as one of the top 25 cultural tweeters to follow by the Los Angeles Times. She offered something of a preview of her memoir in her confessional one-woman show, Voigt Lessons; boding well for Call Me Debbie, at its Glimmerglass Festival premiere, the show was pronounced “chatty, witty, and sometimes painfully poignant” (New York Times).

Will it join Frances Alda's Men, Women, and Tenors among the great diva memoirs? Time will tell.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "opera"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 09:01
First Ben Heppner joins the CBC, now Deborah Voigt joins WQXR. Well, she's charming and funny and has had plenty of practice hosting the Met HD broadcasts.

WQXR Names Deborah Voigt Inaugural Susan W. Rose Artist-in-Residence

“The Sopranos with Debbie Voigt,” WQXR’s New Opera Series,
Launches Saturday, October 11 at 12pm ET

(New York, NY—September 24, 2014) – WQXR, New York City’s classical music station, announced today that American operatic soprano and Grammy Award-winner DEBORAH VOIGT has been named the inaugural Susan W. Rose Artist-in-Residence, an annual position awarded to a prominent classical artist.

The Susan W. Rose Artist-in-Residence program, made possible through a generous gift from Susan and Elihu Rose, will bring a prominent personality closer to WQXR’s audiences through a range of activities including radio-hosting, live events and performances throughout the course of a season.   

Voigt was selected as the Susan W. Rose Artist-in-Residence for the 2014-2015 season in recognition of her stature as one of our generation’s greatest communicators and advocates for music and as a highly respected performer.

As part of the residency, Voigt will host a new WQXR’s series, “The Sopranos with Debbie Voigt,” an eight-part weekly exploration of what it means to be a soprano. Voigt will share insights and anecdotes from her illustrious career as she introduces a vibrant selection of recordings to illustrate each topic.  The series will air Saturdays at 12 noon beginning on October 11, with encore broadcasts Wednesdays at 10pm, on WQXR 105.9 FM and atwww.wqxr.org.

Series topics include: 
·         How to Die at the OperaLarger than life, exotic, and romantic deaths in opera.
·         Puccini’s WomenThere’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Puccini’s vulnerable heroines.
·         Mad ScenesOpera’s crazy ladies from Lucia to Lady Macbeth.
·         The Girls of OperaSingers whose roles keep them forever young.
·         The Great Ladies of Opera: Exploration of the Dramatic and Wagnerian soprano sound.
In addition, Voigt will co-host a live national radio broadcast of Carnegie Hall’s Opening Night performance by the Berlin Philharmonic as part of WQXR’s new season of Carnegie Hall Live on Wednesday, October 1. She will host the New York Public Radio Annual Gala on Monday, November 17and will appear at events at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR throughout the season.

In January 2015, Voigt will host another new weekly series, highlighting more gems from the operatic repertoire.

"I am honored to have been named WQXR's first Artist-In-Residence,” said Voigt. “I look forward to the many events planned, especially our new opera series 'The Sopranos with Debbie Voigt,' a group of ladies I know a little about!"

“It’s thrilling to have Debbie join us as the first Susan W. Rose Artist-in-Residence,” said Graham Parker, General ManagerWQXR.  “She is a natural in front of the microphone and live audiences, bringing an ease and abundant personality guaranteed to draw audiences into the music through her engaging commentary.  We are looking forward to working with her closely during this year. And we are grateful to Susan and Elihu Rose for their support of the Artist-in-Residence program.”

“As a lifetime and daily listener to WQXR, I am thrilled to lend my personal support to this new initiative,” saidSusan Rose. “It is crucial that our greatest performers find their way onto WQXR, bringing their unique insights and artistry to the widest audience possible.”

Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "opera, radio"
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Sep 2014 23:13
A couple of choice columns from the NY Times's resident conservative remind me why I should never, ever read him. Happily, in both cases, commenters hammered him. I'm not going to link to them; if you must read him, you can find the columns yourself.

  • "Goodbye, Organization Man," published September 15, about the disappearance of people who wanted to get things done. One of his examples is opposition to terrorism, the other is the fight against Ebola. Of course there is no acknowledgement that we can't respond rapidly to crises such as the Ebola epidemic because his conservative buddies want to shrink government and drown it in the bathtub. I can't tell you how many significant public health projects, including research, have gone unfunded because of Republican hostility toward science, the shutdown, the sequestor, etc., etc.
  • "Snap Out of It," published September 22, tells us that things really aren't that bad! They used to be worse! All we need is for rich people to behave in a less entitled fashion and the "porous elite" to govern once again. Nothing about global warming; nothing about massive economic inequality, poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness; nothing about the persistence of racism. Also, Republicans and Democrats should just stop hating each other. He seems completely unaware that the period of cooperation from 1945 to about 1980 was the anomaly in American history. Back in the 1850s, senators used to come to blows on the Senate floor!
I wonder where he stands on The Death of Klinghoffer. No, on second thought, I don't want to know.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "politics"
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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 19:34
I am not familiar with the work of either of these conductors, so here it is from the San Francisco Opera press release:
San Francisco Opera today announced that Grammy-nominated American conductor Julian Wachner will make his San Francisco Opera debut conducting George Frideric Handel’s Partenope, presentedOctober 15–November 2, 2014 at the War Memorial Opera House.  Mr. Wachner replaces British conductor Christian Curnyn, who has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons. 
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "cast change, SFO"
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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 10:20
Over at New York Magazine, Justin Davidson has a lengthy analysis of the libretto and music of John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, which opens next month at the Met. I'd call it a must-read; he clears away a fair amount of the accumulated past discussion of the opera, and clarifies what is actually going on.

Meanwhile, protestors are already out there on the Lincoln Center plaza, because it's opening night at the Met.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "John Adams, Met, politics"
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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 09:55
Well, the headline speaks for itself. Here are some links.
The Atlanta musicians accepted cuts after a lockout two years ago....and now they are locked out again.
Author: "Lisa Hirsch (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "ASO, labor"
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