Recently in Commentary
Apotheosis Opera is proud to announce their inaugural production
will be a fully-staged English translation of Richard Wagner’s early
masterpiece TANNHÄUSER on Friday, July 31, 2015, at 7pm and Sunday,
August 2, 2015, at 3pm at the theatre of El Museo del Barrio (1230 5th Avenue)
‘Competitions are for horses, not artists.’ The words of Béla Bartók seemed apposite on Sunday night at the Royal Opera House, as 11 soloists walked swiftly onto the Covent Garden stage, performed their chosen aria, briefly acknowledged the applause and then returned summarily to the wings.
Twin sisters – one pensive, the other gregarious – are soon to wed their beau, whose contrasting characters – one earnestly introverted,
the other a boisterous hedonist – perfectly match their respective betrotheds’.
Derrick Wang is a composer who graduated from law school and has an interest in this country’s highest court.
Sara Gartland is an emerging singer who brings an enormous talent and a delightful personality to the opera stage. Having sung lighter soprano roles such as Juliette in Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and Violetta in Verdi’s La traviata, Gartland is now taking on the title role in Leoš Janáček’s dramatic opera Jenůfa.
Madness descends upon Welsh National Opera for its autumn 2015 season, with three new productions that will explore human turmoil through some of the finest musical expressions of madness and the human condition.
American composer Jennifer Higdon has won many awards for her imaginative music. Her percussion concerto received the 2009 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
Bratislava in Slovakia might seem an unlikely place to come across the opera
I gioielli della Madonna (The Jewels of the Madonna) a 1911 rarity
written by the Italian/German Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, a composer best known for
his one-act opera Il segreto di Susanna ( Susanna’s Secret)
and his comedies based on Goldoni.
Last year’s Strauss anniversary year — 150 years since his birth —
offered, at least in the United Kingdom, a typical number of opportunities and
On 6 June, Jonathan Dove’s Flight touches down in Kensington,
west London. Opera Holland Park is to stage the first London production of
Dove’s operatic presentation of the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri,
the Iranian exile who, lacking residency rights or refugee status, was forced
to live in the departure lounge of Terminal One at Charles de Gaulle Airport
for 18 years.
San Diego Opera, the company that General Manager Ian Campbell had scheduled for demolition, proved that it is alive and singing as beautifully as ever. Its 2015 season was cut back slightly and management has become a bit leaner, but the company celebrated its fiftieth season in fine style with a concert that included many of the greatest arias ever written.
Kathleen Ferrier may have been one of the world’s finest contraltos but this year’s Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final, held at the Wigmore Hall, was all about lyric sopranos.
East Coast Premiere at Opera Philadelphia next season. Performances from Cold Mountain at the Guggenheim in New York this Monday, March 30.
Five Young Singers Named Winners of the 2015 Met National Council Auditions, America’s Most Prestigious Vocal Competition
Julia Noulin-Mérat is the principal designer for the Noulin-Merat Studio, an intrepid New York City production design firm that works in theater, film, and television, but emphasizes opera and immersive site-specific theatre.
A brand new opera — especially one that is groundbreaking— can really put an opera company on the map. British composer Barry Seaman’s stunning new work, Mirabai, which explores the story of the free thinking, mystic
16th century Hindu princess, Mira, is ambitious on many levels —
artistically, technically and creatively.
Bampton Classical Opera has announced that applications are now open for the
company’s Young Singers’ Competition 2015. This biennial competition was
first launched in 2013 to celebrate Bampton Classical Opera’s 20th
birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers
currently working in the UK.
Anita Rachvelishvili recently performed the title role in Carmen broadcast by The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD. Here she drops by for a little chat with our Maria Nockin.
This is a revised version of my review of the Sept 5th
1991American premiere of The Death of Klinghoffer, at the
Brooklyn Academy of Music. The opera was first performed at Brussels’ La
Monnaie the previous spring.
"Although there are now more people on this planet than there have ever been before, there are fewer dramatic voices. Something is wrong with that equation. I thought there needs to be some sort of helping hand so that dramatic voices don’t fall through the cracks in the system as they advance through their various stages of development."
23 Jun 2006
"Castrato" — In Search of a Lost Voice
Nestling artistically in a bowl, carefully arranged and lit to suit the camera early in the programme, the testicles seemed to glow softly with their hidden history, their inherent potential and, now, their very lack of future.
One might say they reflected rather neatly the subject of this film recently
made for television by BBC Producer Francesca Kemp: those fabled creatures of
the 17th and 18th centuries, the Castrati. These singers were such artists,
such performers, such celebrities in their heyday of the mid baroque, that
our musical folk memory is still full of them — they have never really died.
It seems that each new generation of music lovers is re-discovering their
story, is enraptured by the myth, and fascinated by the reality of their
lives as we know it today. But the greatest fascination of all is the voice
itself — what did it sound like? Would we recognise it as the marvel it was
then considered? We are still chasing that holy grail, that rainbow’s
end, with ever more sophisticated methods, and this film sets out to try to
illuminate, if not answer, some of the questions we still have about it.
If you are wondering just why people might be tempted to watch, Kemp
herself has no such doubts. “We're so much more interested in their
repertoire now, especially the operatic; it’s a natural extension of
the recent explosion of interest in the countertenor voice. And we're so much
more aware of issues around period style — we know how exciting and revealing
it is to hear Mozart concerti played on a fortepiano, and I think there's an
equally valid interest in getting closer to understanding what this
particular vocal quality might or might not have been.” She adds:
“And more broadly, it's a fascinating model for understanding our
eternal obsession with the humanly bizarre or unusual, and our current
preoccupations with a whole host of socio-cultural issues such as fame at any
price/body alteration/gender models/child abuse and so on.”
The film’s central scientific thrust is one of the attempted
regeneration of the voice electronically, and unlike the well-known attempt
to do this for the feature film “Farinelli” whereby the engineers
rather crudely morphed a soprano and countertenor voice, here the professors
and scientists seek to try to match electronically on a computer certain
elements of what is probably our only recorded history of a castrato voice,
that of Alessandro Moreschi, with elements of a tenor and treble voice. How
they do this, and what they base their ideas on, makes for interesting
viewing and listening. Whether the final result satisfies, or merely
frustrates, will be up to the viewer to decide — certainly there is no
definitive answer here even if intriguing pathways are opened up for
exploration. As presenter Nicholas Clapton (author of works on the castrati)
says: “In the recordings of Moreschi, which I do not believe are as bad
as many people do, we have “documentary” evidence of the castrato sound.
There is a strong tenor element in his voice, although because of his
child-size vocal tract it is a tenor sound “up an octave”, with what sounds
rather like a super-charged treble above that.”
During the experiments, we hear examples of several voices: boy treble,
soprano, countertenor (Clapton himself,) and perhaps most exciting of all,
that of the young American operatic male soprano Michael Maniaci. Excerpts of
his rendition of the Alleluja from Mozart's motet “Exultate, jubilate”, K.
165, written in 1773 for the famous castrato Venanzio Rauzzini, certainly
raise the musical temperature of the film many notches and were impressive.
(As a footnote, Mozart also created the role of Lucio Cinna for Rauzzini in
his opera “Lucio Silla” — a role that Maniaci has recently sung
at Santa Fe Opera).
In contrast to the music made by this male soprano, the electronic
experiments seem only to have produced some, frankly, unattractive sounds so
far and I asked for Francesca Kemp’s view. “Yes I agree Michael
is completely wonderful. But I do wonder whether we're right to think that
he's “closer” to the castrato sound than the other electronic or human
examples ………we don't know what the end result should be,
and as is pointed out in the film, we absolutely don't know that we'd like
the sound of an 18th century castrato voice any more than we tend to “like”
that of Moreschi”. Clapton agrees: “My hunch is that modern
listeners would find the voice, manner and whole performance of a castrato
like Farinelli extremely strange, indeed alien, much like we would find the
conversation of Handel, Johnson, or George II extremely peculiar
If so, despite our enduring fascination with these long-dead superstars,
perhaps this is a reason for letting sleeping voices lie?
S.C. Loder © 2006
(The broadcast is scheduled for screening on
BBC 4 television in the UK, on July 5th at 2100hrs.)