Category Archives: Opera and humor

Barkarole? Tannschnauzer? NY opera company seeks calendar dogs!

Victor the Basset Hound as Canio in 'I Pagliacci'

Have a canine who’s a natural to star in The Marriage of Fido, Lassi Of Lammermoor, The Dalmation of Faust?

Attention, dog-loving opera fans!  Tri-Cities Opera of Binghamton, New York, is calling all photogenic mutts for its Mutt-ropolitan Opera Dog 2012 calendar.

Set against a TCO opera backdrop, your prized pup can play a lead role or be part of the opera chorus. Solo and ensemble photo sessions with photographer Randy Cummings will take place periodically at the Opera Center, 315 Clinton St. in Binghamton, and will include TCO costumes to either be worn by your pet or superimposed onto the photo afterwards.

Existing favorite photos of your pet will be accepted for use in the desk-format calendar, and a special “In memoriam” section will be reserved for photos of beloved pets that have passed away.

Mutt-ropolitan Opera Calendar canine

The calendar will be released in the fall and sold throughout TCO’s 2011-12 season. Pricing options are available. For more information, visit www.tricitiesopera.com. For questions or to schedule a photo session for your canine countertenor, call TCO at 729-3444 today or e-mail editor@tricitiesopera.com.

Comments Off on Barkarole? Tannschnauzer? NY opera company seeks calendar dogs!

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Opera and humor, Opera Marketing, opera parody

get to know ‘Pavarotti of the Panhandle,’ tenor Eric Barry

Eric Barry, tenor

Eric Barry is setting himself apart with his distinctive sound–which is both passionate and earnest–and with his genuine facility for dramatic expression.

His performances have earned him international approval: the PBS documentary Young Opera declared him to be “the next big thing in the tenor world.”

The Spanish-American tenor has been heard throughout the US and Europe–including broadcasts on National Public Radio. Eric is a graduate of the prestigious School of Music at Yale University, where he earned both an M.M. and an A. D. in Opera Performance.

He has so many professional engagements in the coming year that they can’t can’t all be mentioned in this post. (I hope he packs as well as he sings!) Why? Because everyone wants to hear this young talent! (Including moi.)

Welcome to Operatoonity, Eric. We are very excited to learn more about you.

Where did you grow up and how did it affect your life choices?

Eric Barry at the Teatro Real in Madrid

I grew up in Sundown, Texas — population 1511.  Sundown is about an hour from the closest movie theater or mall, and over three hours away from the closest opera company.  My mother always listened to classical music in the house and every now and then played CD’s of ‘The Three Tenors.’  I remember hating it.  “They’re just screaming,” I’d tell her.  That was the most exposure I’d had to classical singing until I was 20 years old.  Little did I know that a seed was being planted way back then.

Years later I found myself studying business in college and basically tripped into an offer for voice lessons.  (That’s an entire story on it’s own!)  I was an accomplished trumpet player but singing was relatively foreign to me.  I remember thinking, “I have to read music and words??”  Nevertheless, I had a pretty natural gift for singing and kept taking lessons clear into my MBA degree. I’d get a gig every now and then when my voice teacher would recommend me for something and as time passed those gigs got bigger and more exclusive.  Within a couple of years of studying voice I had already sung for princes and presidents and all kinds of social VIP’s. It was quite a ride, and for being only a hobby at the time I was starting to get quite involved.

Before I completed my MBA, my voice teacher sat me down and told me that if I didn’t take the dive and study music full time I’d probably never do it. I took a trip to NYC with my teacher and my mom and sang for various people and eventually decided to move to the East Coast.  From there things really started to blossom. I’ve been on the coast for four years now and now sing opera full time. If you asked me just five years ago what I’d be doing in 2011, I most certainly wouldn’t have guessed this!

When did you know that you were destined to become an opera/classically trained singer?
Ha, ha. There is a specific moment in my life when I realized my potential, but that’s a very personal story that I don’t usually share because I consider the events somewhat sacred. I can say that after I stumbled into those voice lessons, I knew that I liked singing. It was fascinating to think that a single human voice could be so penetrating that it could be heard over an orchestra in a 2,000 seat house. But, it was at least three years after my first voice lesson that I realized I had real potential.

The longer I pursued the art form, the more opportunities began to present themselves. I was offered a gig with the local symphony, and a small role in the local opera company, then lead role, etc. etc.  I wasn’t even really pursuing it, but the opportunities were there. I decided to audition for a summer program and was accepted.  As I mentioned earlier, everyone encouraged me to move to New York and start working as soon as I could. So, in 2007, I packed up my car and moved. During that drive I remember collecting my thoughts as to how I came to the decision to make such a drastic change in my life, and honestly, it all happened so quickly I couldn’t even connect the dots. I was nervous, but proud of myself for taking the leap of faith.

Pavarotti of the Panhandle

You have been called the ‘Pavarotti of the Panhandle.’  Do you agree with the comparison?
A four-star general heard me sing the national anthem at a political event in Texas and started his speech by complimenting my rendition. He said, “I never thought I’d fly from the Pentagon for this event today and hear something like that. You have your very own “Pavarotti of the Panhandle.”  The event was covered by the newspaper and the title stuck from that point forward.

Let’s be honest…no one will ever replace Luciano. My talents pale in comparison, but I do think there is something engaging in my voice that is attractive to listen to. That distinct beauty is VERY present in Pavarotti’s voice. You can hear a recording of him from 500 feet away and know that it’s him within two measures. I think I have a distinct sound too, but more than anything we just look similar!

How would you describe your voice?
What a hard question to answer. I actually went onto my website to listen to a clip before answering this. My singing is very Italianate. That’s just the way I was taught – very long, legato lines with an emphasis on true Italianate vowels.  I have a decent range and can comfortably sing a tenor’s low-b to high-d on stage. I love romantic music, but can move my voice surprisingly well too so I’m starting to sing a lot of Rossini and Bellini as well. As to my timbre, I think I have a unique tone that has a quality I can only describe as “honest.” I don’t really know how else to describe it.

What  role/opportunity/person was the biggest single influence on your career?
So many people have played a large part in the succession of events that have put me here.  Dr. Joe Ella Cansler, my first voice teacher, is responsible for convincing me to take voice lessons in college.  Needless to say, I loved it, and without her I would most likely not be singing at all.

But, I’d have to say that Mary Jane Johnson has probably been the most influential person in my career. She is a dear friend of Dr. Cansler’s, was my second voice teacher, and is a small town girl from Texas who became an international star.  Mary Jane nurtured me, taught me everything I know about Italianate singing, and has worked me like a dog. We have laughed and cried together over the years and I consider her family. She still advises me to this day and will always be a fixture for me.

Curtain call for 'La Bohème,' Teatro Comunale di Sulmona in Italy

As to influential roles, they’ve all played a part in my growth. My most memorable production up to this point was La Bohème at the Teatro Comunale di Sulmona in Italy.  It was my international debut in my favorite opera . . . in Italy!  It was really a dream come true.

One of the most advantageous opportunities for me was studying at Yale University. They called me in May of 2008 and asked me to audition.  I nervously accepted, auditioned the next day, and ended up getting two degrees there in three years.  Being there opened a lot of doors for me and I was able to learn a lot about myself during my time there.

How did the opportunity to be on the PBS “Young Opera” special come about?
I received a call from the program host asking if I’d be willing to interview for a PBS documentary on up-and-coming opera singers.  I’m not sure how they had heard about me because I had only been singing full-time for less than a year at that point.  Heck, I didn’t even know I was “up-and-coming.”  But I did know that I couldn’t turn down the opportunity.  After the interview was aired on TV and posted to the Internet, it received an overwhelming amount of attention.  I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with that production team on other projects as well, but that initial interview was certainly a memorable moment in my early career.

Favorite composer? Favorite opera? Favorite role? Favorite venue?
Favorite composer:  Puccini (although Wagner is creeping up the list) Favorite opera: La Bohème. Cliché? Perhaps, but I love it. Favorite role: This answer changes with the weather.  On a serious day, maybe Don Carlo. On a light-hearted day, Gianni Schicchi is pretty great. Favorite venue?  Who doesn’t want to sing at La Scala?

As the Duke in 'Rigoletto'

What would you like to be doing in five years?  Ten years?
It’s healthy and important to review professional goals so I’m glad you asked that. I think it’s realistic to hope for very steady regional work supplemented by appearances in a few large houses in the U.S. and Europe (I am an EU citizen after all!) in five years, most likely singing Mozart, Donizetti, Bellini and some Rossini. In ten years, I’d love to be jumping between international opera houses singing all of that and Puccini. I LOVE concert work too. I’d be perfectly content singing requiems, hodies and oratorios wherever those opportunities arise too. And, since my background is in business, I think eventually I’d like to manage other singers careers!

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your resume?
I feel like I’m a prince of useless talent:  From spinning random objects on my finger to catching marshmallows in my mouth from seven stories high. Or being a killer ping-pong player, frisbee thrower, and competition kite flyer. Odd talent is my specialty, including singing opera I suppose. I also love to cook and travel with my own kitchen knives.

Where can people see you in 2011-12?
Currently I’m singing with the Wolf Trap Opera company. We just finished a run of Wolf-Ferarri’s Le donne curiose (Washington Times review, Washington Post review,) and I’m now prepping for a recital with Steven Blier and a production of Sweeney Todd (as Anthony) with the National Symphony Orchestra.  Here’s a rundown of my schedule for the rest for the 2011  (more in the works!):

  • July 10, 2011 – Recital w/Steven Blier, Wolf Trap Opera Company
  • July 22, 2011 – Sweeney Todd as Anthony, Wolf Trap Opera Company with National Symphony Orchestra
  • October 1-2, 2011 – La Bohème as Rodolfo, Amarillo Opera
  • October 14, 2011 – Symphony No. 1 by Frank Ticheli with the Yale University Concert Band

Eric will be touring the US in the Fall of 2011 performing the Mozart Requiem with the Munich Symphony:

  • Oct. 26, 2011 – Richmond, KY
  • Oct. 27 – Granville, OH
  • Oct. 28 – Carmel, IN
  • Oct. 30 – Manhattan, KS
  • Nov. 1 – Fayetteville, AR
  • Nov. 3 – Conway, AR
  • Nov. 4 – St. Louis, MO
  • Nov. 5 – Joplin, MO
  • Nov. 6 – Overland Park, KS
  • Nov. 7 – Lincoln, NE
  • Nov. 10 – Winston-Salem, NC
  • Nov. 13 – Athens, GA
  • Nov. 15 – West Palm Beach, FL
  • Nov. 16 – West Palm Beach, FL
  • Nov. 17 – Gainesville, FL
  • Nov. 18 – Daytona, FL
  • Dec. 1-4, 2011, Hodie by Ralph Vaughan Williams with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra

* * *

Anyone is interested in the rest of Eric’s season, can visit him or contact him through his website. Or you can follow him on Twitter @ebtenor where his profile reads: Tenor, but also a sophisticated Spaniard, vaudevillian veteran, ultimate consumer, instigator/enabler, certified ninja, chef and visionary.

5 Comments

Filed under Interviews, Opera and humor, Performers, profiles, tenors

gaga for Marcy’s #operaplot!

Marcy Richardson, aka @OperaGaga

By her own admission Marcy Richardson, aka @OperaGaga on Twitter, is a soprano. Oh, and a lover of Handel, contemporary music, and sophisticated musical theater. Marcy also has a shoe fetish, loves aerial pole fitness, and laughs every single day.   

And one more important thing. She is a big winner in the 2011 #Operaplot contest, where you had to distill an entire opera plot into a single tweet. Judge Eric Owens selected five top winners,  including this plot of Marcy’s:   

I should be able to f*ck my maid. Apparently, no one else agrees. #operaplot [Le Nozze di Figaro]   

Marcy Richardson’s pithy (a scant 76 characters with #operaplot), plotty perfection! It’s bold. It’s beautiful.   

It’s blue.   

How lucky are we, then, to have Marcy give us the 4-1-1 on her prize-winning plot!   

Why did you decide to enter #Operaplot? Was it your first time?
I entered operaplot because my good friend and colleague Jennifer Peterson (gaspsiagore on twitter) told me as soon as it started, “You have to enter operaplot! You’d be so good at it!” I was like, uh…what’s that? So I had a few glasses of wine, went home, and just started writing. I was an operaplot virgin before this year. I didn’t even tweet before December! My Facebook status updates are rather legendary I must say, so it was only fitting that I start tweeting.   

Did you feel you had a winner when your plot was complete?
Not really. Non musicians often ask me, “What’s such and such opera about?” if I mention a show I’ve done or would like to be in. I try to give them the shortest and most concise/amusing answer as possible, so I’ve actually had some real life operaplot practice. I just started picking shows I liked and went for it. I loved the plots I wrote for Lulu, Boheme, and Capriccio as well. The Figaro one…I wrote it…I thought about adding more…and then I realized, nope! That’s it. That’s the whole show. And then I kept writing more plots. That one came to me VERY quickly and then I moved on.   

You specialize in singing baroque opera. Have you performed in Le Nozze di Figaro or simply know the opera? 
Yep. I’ve sung both Susanna and Barbarina in Figaro.   

Some have said you’ve elevated the f-bomb to an art form. Any misgivings about dropping it in your plot?
Of course not. I never have any doubts or apologies when it comes to dropping the f-bomb. I tested out using “screw” or “bang” for media’s sake when I was typing, and then I thought, no. That’s just not it. There is no real substitute for the f-bomb. It’s a great f*cking word. I f*cking love it.   

Any unusual reactions since winning the contest?
Nope! Nothing but congrats!   

What prize did you choose and why?
I chose the Deborah Voigt recital. She is a phenomenal artist–I got to sing shepherd boy in concert when she sang Tosca in Vero Beach and haven’t had a chance to hear her since! Though some of the prizes around the country looked really fun, that would not have been possible without free airfare and accommodations for a hustling bitch such as myself.   

How are you going to top this year’s plot or will you retire at the top?
If the spirit moves me and I’m feeling inspired, I’d enter again.   

How did you come up with your Twitter username @OperaGaga?
People often yell, “hey gaga!” to me on the street here in NY, usually when I’m wearing sunglasses–I guess we have a similar facial structure in some ways, light blonde hair, petite, and I’m not exactly conservative when it comes to how I dress. One day my voice teacher (Trish McCaffrey) said, “Hey, Mark and I have a nickname for you! Gaga! We don’t know if it should be MarcyGaga or OperaGaga or what.” I liked OperaGaga for a twitter handle when I was trying to come up with one later, so there it is.   

Where can we see and hear you singing in 2011?
I’m the soprano soloist in the Mozart Vespers on June 27th at Alice Tully Hall and am singing my second Dalinda in Handel’s Ariodante this March in Baltimore with Opera Vivente. Also, don’t forget to look for my Handel CD which I’m producing from my live concert/recording session of seconda donna Handel arias April 29th featuring fellow tweeps Jennifer Peterson (gaspsiagore), Bryan DeSilva (countertenorbry) and the OperaMission Handel Band. Other than that, if I don’t get some more work soon, I guess any interested parties would have to come shower with me and hear me then.   

* * *   

Learn more about Marcy, the soprano, at her website. Or follow her on Twitter at @OperaGaga. Read all five winning #operaplots and runners-up at the Omniscient Mussel here.

Comments Off on gaga for Marcy’s #operaplot!

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Interviews, Opera and humor, profiles

Polly want a soprano?

Sopranos aren’t always women.

There’s the boy soprano–like the wonderful Michael Kepler Meo appearing in New York City Opera’s Seance on a Wet Afternoon. And plenty of sopranos pretending to be boys (trouser roles). There’s also the countertenor, or a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or (less frequently) a soprano.

Sometimes, sopranos aren’t even human.

My favorite non-human soprano is the African grey parrot who sings (or used to sing–sadly, the parrot died) “The Queen of the Night Aria” from The Magic Flute. In this video, little Menino hits notes I could only dream of reaching.

Menino’s performance was so inspiring, I  refer to an opera-singing parrot in honor of Menino, in a scene from my opera book.

Comments Off on Polly want a soprano?

Filed under Classic Opera, DEVILED BY DON, Mozart, Opera and humor, sopranos

my favorite #operaplots: a 21-plot salute!

Last week, Twitter was more fun than a barrel of baritones because of the 2011 #Operaplot Contest organized by “The Omniscient Mussel.” Each day of the contest, I savored reading all the opera plots appearing in my Twitter feed, noting my favorites, promising to revisit them after Miss Mussel posted her first comprehensive list of plots.

When The List emerged yesterday evening, I trawled through the entire thing like a kid on Christmas morning tearing the wrapping off gifts, reliving some of my favorite plotting moments last week while experiencing new levels of merriment caused by plots I hadn’t yet seen.

Originally, I was just going to select 10 favorites and post them on this blog. Well, that proved impossible! Thankfully, I can select nearly as many plots as I like, which in this case turned out to be 21 (though I was trying to limit the list to 20, so when I liked more than plot from a single plotter, which often happened, I limited my selection to only one plot per user.)

Congratulations to these talented plotters and best of luck in the overall contest judged by Eric Owens. Winners are expected to be announced on Wednesday. And I’m sorry I couldn’t recognize everyone that I liked. I really enjoyed so many of them, and appreciated everyone’s contributions to #operaplot.

Acis and Galatea
Low on a plain sang lonely sheep-herd. Layee odl layee odl layee odl oh. Skull crushing rock his girlfriends giant heard. Layee…#operaplot — Tim Regan (@Dumbledad)

Attila
Now who’s that super foxy slave girl, gonna kill the King of the Huns with his own sword? ODABELLA! Your daaaaaamn right. #operaplot — Daniel John Kelley (@funwithiago)

Don Giovanni
Guess who’s coming to dinner… #operaplot — Adam Rothbarth (@foundsound)

Götterdämmerung
Look, Wotan, the bottom line is it’s not the end of the world if you…oh, wait, scratch that. #operaplot — @SamNeuman (Sam Neuman)

Hansel und Gretel
Cannibalistic old lady lures welfare kids with promise of junkfood. Years of advice concerning strangers with candy confirmed. #Operaplot — Bryan DeSilva (@countertenorbry)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia
Count A. in Seville: unlocked the ‘Rosina’ badge. #operaplot — Matthew Guerrieri (@sohothedog)

Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria
Ten years, he doesn’t call, he doesn’t write, then this guy who shows up and kills all my boyfriends is him? I don’t believe it. #operaplot — @bachtrack

Il Tabarro
Is that a tenor under your tabarro, or are you just happy to see me? #operaplot — Claudia Friedlander (VoiceTeacherNYC)

La Bohème
Oooh, I’m such a sensitive, poetic, bohemian tortured soul…but I can’t see a dying girlfriend when she’s staring me in the face. #operaplot — Catrin Woodruff (@catrinwoodruff)

La Fanciulla del West
In a cabin in a canyon selling liquor for a dime sits a bible toting schoolma’am and her bandit quitting crime #operaplot — John Gilks (@johngilks)

L’Elisir d’Amore & Tristan und Isolde
Dear Tristan, You’re an idiot. My love potion worked just fine. – Nemorino #operaplot — Eleni Hagen (@EleniH83)

Madama Butterfly
Breaking News: Geisha girl, mother of one, stabs self after recording first episode of new radio show: His American Wife #operaplot —Patty Mitchell (@Pattyoboe)

Nixon in China
Crooked American goes to the Orient with his wife. No, this is at the beginning of the opera! #operaplot — London Opera Meetup (@LondonOperaMeet)

Norma
Her name was Norma. She was a priestess, with a secret Roman lover and two kids kept undercover. Don’t fall in love. #operaplot — Amanda Watson @amndw2)

Ring Cycle
Hello and welcome with Wagner’s Wonder Tour’s!! We’ll take you from Rhinemaidens to Utter destruction in just 15 hours… #operaplot — Rhian Hutchings (@rhchhutch)

Susannah
Oh Susanna, don’t you cry for me, I’m a man of God who loves your bod, in New Hope Tennessee. #operaplot — Ralph Graves @RalphGraves

Tales of Hoffmann
Dude, you hooked me up with a robot, a hooker, and a hypochondriac?! That’s the last time you’re my wingman. #operaplot — Brendan (@indybrendan)

Tosca
A hectic concert schedule and a dangerous police chief keep this diva on the go. She’s parapetetic. — Rachel Alex Antman (@Verbiagent)

Tosca
“We had a jumper. No time to talk her down.” — Police captain following area woman’s suicide. “Can’t prosecute for murder now.” #operaplot — Marc Geelhoed (@marcgeelhoed)

The Turn of the Screw
Mix one part Mary Poppins and one part Sixth Sense. Turn until screwed. #operaplot — Brian M. Rosen (musicvstheater)

Wozzeck
Keep yourself / Full of beans / And avoid / Bloody scenes / Give your captain / Burma-Shave #operaplot — Sarah Noble (@primalamusica)

Comments Off on my favorite #operaplots: a 21-plot salute!

Filed under Contest, Opera and humor, Opera and social media

my 2011 #operaplot entries

If you aren’t on Twitter, you might not be aware of a cultural tsunami building there (or should that be counter-cultural?), 140 characters at a time, called #Operaplot. The energy and excitement on Twitter are palpable.     

Every #operaplot entrant is accorded 25 tries to grab the judge’s attention with a winning summary of an opera’s plotline in a single Tweet. All entries must be in by midnight this Friday.     

This is my first year actually participating in the contest. I joined Twitter around the time of last year’s contest–too late to enter but not to late to enjoy all the entertaining entries.     

So, here’s all my entries thus far: (There’s 21 one of them below, which means *shudder* I only have FOUR ENTRIES LEFT!!)     

Who stabbed a horny guy with bad breath? Tos-caa! Who mourned her beau and leapt to her death? Tos-caa! #operaplot (Tosca by Puccini)     

You can tell by the way she looked at him they’d been to bed, but their fate was grim. Ah-ah-ee-dah. Buried alive! Buried alive! #operaplot (Aida by Verdi)     

Here’s a story of due donne. Boyfrenzi no trusta, not a lick. So, dey getta 2 mustaches. Duets great but silly plotta make asick. #operaplot (Cosi fan tutte by Mozart)     

I love to die at weddings. And I died after my wedding. I killed the groom. I left the room. I sang of gloom. I met my doom. #operaplot  (Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti)      

Isn’t it queer? Aren’t we a pair? You with a knife in your chest. Me with red hair. Send in the clown. Don’t bother. He’s here. #operaplot (Pagliacci by Leoncavallo)     

     

Master? Viper! Hush. Coward! Silence! Daddy? Fool. Monster! Revenge! My Lord? My angel. Beat me. Hisst. Ta-ta-ta-ta. Repent! No! #operaplot (Don Giovanni by Mozart)     

Don O walks with me. Don O talks with me. He tells me I am his own. We share no joy–the silly boy. To think! He’s fully grown! #operaplot (Don Giovanni by Mozart)     

A is 4 Aida and Amneris. I is 4 the temple Isis owns. D is 4 the dungeon for Radames. Locked in A, Aida’s arms, Morir, he moans. #operaplot (Aida by Verdi)     

Fair-haired mare ensnares a herr and his frère. Back in the lair. Stares. Glares. An affair? A temper flares. A rapier. Despair! #operaplot (Pelléas et Mélisande—Debussy)     

Oy vey, Moses! Seeink Yahweh in that schmattah? Take my sport coat—Brooks Brothers—but leave the Rolex. Brink me a tchatchke!  #operaplot (Moses und Aron by Schoenberg)     

Come here, Gilda. Can’t dig your new squeeze, daughter. I may be a hunchback, but I ain’t no drag. Papa’s got a burlap bag. #operaplot (Rigoletto by Verdi)     

Happy Easter. Bite me. #operaplot (Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni)     

1 rake, 2 acts, 3 soprani, 4 ta’s, 5 padre mio’s, 6 nò’s, 7 classes of conjugal conquests, 8 roles, 9 vile’s, 10 heavenly appeals #operaplot (Don Giovanni by Mozart)     

Madame Butterfly

 

CC – gotta go. bt IL B bac W d roses, d warm n sunny Cson wen d red-breasted robins r bZ nesting, ASAP posbL, my lov – BF #operaplot (Madama Butterfly by Puccini)     

In Seville, this skank I drilled, say “Sit on it and rotate it.” Tried to skate it. It was fated. Set my GPS for hell. Yeah well. #operaplot (Don Giovanni by Mozart)     

*Cough, cough* Darts in the bodice? *wheeze* Fitted waistline? *rasp* Puffed sleeves? *gasp* I can do a lace yoke. *death rattle* #operaplot (La bohème by Puccini)     

Anna Bolena at the Met 2011

 

Anna anna bo banna, marries a fat man-a, Percy kisses her hand-a. Die, Anna! Jane jane bo bane, Anna’s death is your gain, Jane! #operaplot (Anna Bolena by Donizetti)     

A tisket, a tasket. A stout knight in a basket. They tossed him in the River Thames and foxed his fat white ascot. #operaplot (Falstaff by Verdi)     

Prison Break: A new Fox series! Starring Don Florestan as the Spaniard, Leonore disguised as a youth, & Gary Busey as old Rocco. #operaplot (Fidelio by Beethoven)     

And now. The end is near. Dear Fyodor I’ve lost my marbles. Your voice is really high. It’s like a girl’s. Go lift some barbells. #operaplot (Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky)

Countess Adèle. She’s real swell-ah. Break me off a piece of that Countess Adèle. I’ll even don a wimple for a piece of Adèle. #operaplot (Le Comte Ory by Rossini)     

      


 And of course, I’m having a blast reading everyone else’s plots. And that means I’ll be recognizing my favorites on this blog next week, once they are all categorized. So, whaddya think, cats and kittens? Do I have a chance to win with any of these plots?

3 Comments

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Contests, Opera and humor, Opera and social media

up close and personal with Stephen Llewellyn, aka Operaman, two-time #Operaplot winner

Opera blogger extraordinaire Stephen Llewellyn

It would be absolutely insufficient to call Stephen Llewellyn, aka “Operaman,” merely an opera blogger. Stephen is an Internet luminary, barely contained by the cyber-seams constraining you and me. His posts as the longtime blogger of record for Portland Opera bristle with good humor, unparalleled opera savvy, and compassion. He is the picture of joie de vivre–just look it up in the Glossary of French Expressions Most Americans Butcher,  and you will see his photograph there.     

He also happens to be a two-time #Operaplot winner–my hero!–who very graciously gave his hard-won grand prize to a D. C. schoolteacher the first time he won the Twitter competition, which you can read all about here.       

In case you are wondering whether you have the talent to compete with the best plotters in #Operaplot 2011, which begins next week by the by, take a look at Stephen’s two prize-winning Tweets:     

2009 #Operaplot Grand Prize winner:
There was a young lady called Fricka
Who…who…*snore*
“Wake up & it’s over.”
It’s good, I just wish it were quicka.
[The Ring Cycle.  Yep, all of it!]

Note from Stephen: “It sounds rather better than it reads, I think.”  So the sound file of Stephen reading his winning entry is below (just click on the download link to hear his rendition):
fricka

2010 #Operaplot Honorable Mention
Kissed the girls and made them cry.
Stabbed one’s dad and watched him die.
Offered chances to repent,he opted to be Hades sent.
Men!
(Don Giovanni)     

Oy! I guess I have my work cut out for me this weekend: revising my entries to have a prayer of a chance of competing with the likes of “Operaman.”     

So, Stephen! So nice to have you join us. A hearty “Operatoonity” welcome and all that.     

Operaman in his younger days, a dead ringer for Paul Newman

When you began blogging in 2007, how did you get the job? You were a barrister and formerly sang opera. How was it decided you were the man (Operaman) for the job?
I am English and I spent my professional life as a barrister: the whole wig and gown thing.  Think “Rumpole of The Bailey,” but I’m not as good looking as Leo McKern. From 1978 until 1996 I ran my practice from Hong Kong but in 1996, shortly before the hand-over of Hong Kong to the Chinese government I left Asia and settled in Northern California. I had decided that after 32 years, my legal career had run its course, and I had my mind set on drinking a lot of Californian chardonnays and watching birds from my beach house on Bodega Bay. Divorce put the kibosh on those plans, but that’s another story your readers really can do without hearing.     

I moved up here to Portland in 2004.  Some friends of mine who had lived here for many years had waxed lyrical to me about it’s sub-tropical climate; Portland is a city, they said, where every garden had a mango tree and the traditional cocktail is the Mai Tai. Like Rick who had gone to Casablanca for the waters, it transpired that I was “mis-informed.”  Portland’s only similarity to the tropics is that it rains all the damn time. And forget Mai Tais — the traditional cocktail here is Double Bastard Ale from the Stone Brewing Company!      

Now, after seven years of living here, like every other long-time resident of the Pacific North West my tailor is The North Face, and I am developing webbed feet. In 2004, I got a job with Portland Opera, in their Patron Services department. I have a long background in opera, so I was delighted to be able to swap the legal milieu for a job in the performing arts. On paper I was really just a telemarketer, selling subscriptions and garnering donations but in reality it was a wonderful job for me.  I got to spend all day chatting with patrons about opera — not just our productions but singers of the past, great recordings, whereever our conversation took us.  And because this translated into great sales figures, I was given very free rein.      

Publicity shot for the TV Times in England (June 1971) when Stephen had his own special on BBC2

One day, the General Director brought the Board of Directors into the room and said, “I want you to meet Stephen Llewellyn. He knows more about opera than anyone else in this building.”  I thought, Um, shouldn’t that person be  you, dude? But I smiled in an aw-shucks kind of way and carried on with what I was doing. A few days later, the Director of Marketing came to me and said they were thinking of trying an experiment with “this new blogging thing” (well, it was new to him!) and would I be interested in scribbling a few words for a week or two.     

This week will be my 223rd consecutive weekly blog under the soubriquet Operaman. I left Portland Opera in 2007, but the blogging continues. Somehow they have never got around to firing my ass!     

How has your blog grown or changed in past four years, assuming it has?
I would like to tell you that during the four and a bit years I have been Operaman, I have grown and matured as a writer and that there is now a witty sophistication to my blog that was not evident originally; a result that only hours of tireless self-editing can successfully produce. Yes, I really would like to be able to tell you that….but it wouldn’t bear a scintilla of truth, which is that from the beginning, Operaman’s Blog has been a mish-mash of gossip from the opera world, personal recollections, and a heavy reliance on YouTube.     

How have you changed as a result of your blogging?
Changed? I’ve not. It has been of the utmost importance to me that fame and fortune on a scale you quotidian scribes can only dream of, should not in any way change my inherent narcissism, arrogance and ability to bore the pants off anyone who I can get to listen to my endless recounting of my memories of Benjamin Britten. Speaking of which, did I tell you about that time we were doing Noye’s Fludde and …What?  Another time?  Oh, very well. I would certainly be open to change if I thought there was any room in my life for personal growth or character improvement and, you may believe it or not, people are for ever making suggestions to me on this very topic but somehow those suggestions never manage to quite resonate with me. No, I think I am a very good example of  “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”      

Since you began blogging before Facebook and Twitter caught fire, how has social media impacting your ability to grow the audience for your blog? For opera?
Well, obviously, if, as I am lucky enough to have,  you have a few hundred followers or more on Twitter, then posting a link to my blog each week means that there is a reasonable chance that a decent proportion of those followers will click on the link and take a look. Similarly with Facebook friends.  Both on Facebook and Twitter my friends are nearly all connected with music in one way or another so that helps grow the blog readership. Over four years my readership has increased almost tenfold and we expect to be in double figures before the decade’s out.     

Who is your audience for Operaman today?
It is no surprise that when Operaman was first sprung on an unsuspecting public, the readership was largely local to Portland and the surrounding area.  Now, I have readers throughout the United States and quite a few in Europe – even some in Australia. I try to see that each week there is something that will appeal to opera lovers whereever they may be.  Obviously, if there is something going on in the opera world in Portland I write about that but, by and large, Portland Opera is pretty good about letting me write about what ever I think will interest  the readers. It need not even be about opera, though I try to see there is some connection there, however tenuous. I think the readership falls into a number of categories: those who are Portland Opera attenders who like to keep in touch, general opera fans, whereever they may be, who like a blog that’s not too heavy on queenly criticism, written by someone who doesn’t think the continuum of opera came to a grinding halt in 1960 when Jussi Björling handed in his dinner pail. And, of course, my Mum — who doesn’t have a computer but likes to read the blog in hard copy when I think to send it to her.      

Operaman making pasta and singing 'Ah, mes amis' from La Fille du Regiment. Can't you just hear those nine top C's

How has your blogging impacted Portland Opera visibility and audiences?
Let’s not get carried away here. When people hear the words Portland Opera, they think “Ah, a terrific regional opera company that manages to get some first-rate talent!” and not “Oh, they’re the ones who have Operaman!”  That having been said, I think the press ink that Priscilla’s Great Adventure got throughout the United States, did bring Portland Opera to the attention of many people who had never heard of it before.  Do I think it has grown the audience?  I very much doubt it, but I think those who do read Operaman’s Blog as well as attend our performances feel a little closer to the action.  Certainly, that is what they tell me.     

Why don’t more companies host a blog the caliber of Portland’s?
Oh, that’s an easy one, Gale.  It’s because writers who manage to combine  the lack of literary talent and depth of ignorance I display on a weekly basis are hard to come by. Most companies are happy to be producing blogs of a much higher calibre than mine.     

Believe me, if any of Portland Opera management were ever to read another opera company’s blog my gig would be over in a heart-beat! Fortunately, thus far, I have been able to persuade them that they are on the cutting edge of the social media scene and that we are the only opera company in the land to host a blog.  You and I know different.  I would ask you to keep this to yourself.  I have a really good deal going here!     

What are some of your greatest challenges to regular blogging?
Again, let’s not get carried away. ‘Operaman’s Blog’ and ‘greatest challenges’ are not phrases that really belong in the same paragraph, let alone sentence.  Each week I sit at my computer, pull up the notes or links to articles I have gathered over the past seven days and cobble together a few paragraphs.  Recently, I heard Philip Glass talking about Bach. Glass said “I think Bach just wrote what was in his head.  I don’t believe he ever composed anything in his life!”  So, it would seem that JSB and I share this creational technique — just write what’s in your head.  The difference between us is that in my case, it bloody shows! I suspect that, like many bloggers, my biggest challenge is getting people to comment.  I wish there were something I could say or do that would make the readers understand how much better the experience would be if it were a conversation and not the sound of one hand clapping.  I am interested — does your reader ever comment?     

Any other intangible perks (besides the wonderful #Operaplot prize story)?
Yes, there is one and I am going to be wholly serious while I tell you what it is. With some regularity, at Portland Opera performances and at the Met HD movie shows, people come up to me with broad smiles and exclaim “Operaman!” and go on to tell me how much they enjoy reading my blog.  That, naturally, is a delightful thing to hear.  But then they will go on to say how a particular blog or a part of the blog, has made them see opera in a different light, or has made them go to listen to an opera they had never before considered – that kind of thing. And then I take a huge pride in knowing that, if in only a limited way, I have done something to increase an individual’s pleasure in an art form I truly love. I am not being flippant when I tell you that moments like that make me feel it is a real privilege for me to have the avenue I do to express that love.     

Has blogging helped you realize any personal or professional goals?
If you mean did I grow up saying to myself “One day I want to write largely inconsequential nonsense in exchange for almost no monetary gain,” then, no, not really. Sometimes my blog has realised a personal goal I didn’t know I had.  For instance, just this week a nice lady emailed me saying “I just peaked at your blog…” I emailed back “Seriously? Either a) you meant ‘peeked’ or b) Brava!”  I mean, how many opera blogs are going to give you that kind of bang for your buck? (That was wholly true. You can’t make this stuff up.)     

What would be your dream opera experience — work/cast/venue, etc.?
Back in about 1972 I sang in a performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Snape Maltings with Janet Baker and the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ben Britten.  I’m not sure that, for me, dream opera experiences get any better than that.     

Paul Potts and Rebecca Black in Turandot might run it a close second.     

* * *     

Follow Stephen on Twitter @leboyfriend and on Facebook. And, of course, you’ll want to check out his blog “Operaman” on the Portland Opera website.

1 Comment

Filed under Classic Opera, Contests, Interviews, North American Opera, Opera and humor, profiles

take me out to the opera–an Operatoonity microtale

Babe Ruth, a legendary baseball player, not known for singing opera

Today, March 20, is the first day of spring, and many people in North America equate spring with baseball. In celebration of America’s favorite spring sport, I found a microtale about both opera and baseball. 

A group of American reporters once asked Caruso what he thought of Babe Ruth. Caruso, who was unfailingly polite and friendly, said that he didn’t know because unfortunately he had never heard her sing. 

Comments Off on take me out to the opera–an Operatoonity microtale

Filed under Microtales, North American Opera, Opera and humor