Tag Archives: Gioachino Rossini

lend me a tenor?

all month on Operatoonity

I’d love to, but you’ll have to be more specific. That’s like a surgeon saying, “Lend me an instrument” when he needs a scalpel.

Since it’s Talented Tenors month, I thought I’d talk about the categories of tenors determined by the range, weight, and color of their voices. Within the operasphere, not only is there ample discussion about all the different vocal types, opera lovers also argue about which singers should be where, which I suppose boils down to which roles do they sing best.

One thing is for certain–tenors know what roles they can sing. They know their categories (their Fach, as its known in German) and so do the opera houses who hire them. Below is one popular categorization of tenors. Where possible I included an opera singer I’ve seen who has been associated with the category.

Juan Diego Flórez, 'Rossini' tenor

Light-lyric tenor–depending on the repertoire, these voices are often called leggiero tenors or “Rossini” tenors. Juan Diego Flórez is one tenor I’ve seen  in the Met’s Le Comte Ory whose name comes up frequently in this category. On his website he refers to himself as a bel canto tenor or one who is ideal for Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini operas. His website says that he has distinguished himself for his  “fluid, expressive singing and dazzling virtuosity.” Now that I’ve heard him in person, I can’t agree more.

Lyric tenor–with not quite the high register of the light-lyric tenor, this voice category is well represented by many beloved roles in opera such as:

Rodolfo, La bohème (Puccini)
Ferrando, Così fan tutte (Mozart)
Elvino, La sonnambula (Bellini)
Ramiro, La Cenerentola (Rossini)
Nemorino, L’elisir d’amore (Donizetti)

David Lomeli

Mexico City native and Operalia winner David Lomeli sings lyric tenor roles. He has garnered critical acclaim for his Rodolfo, which he’s currently singing at the Sante Fe Opera Festival. I saw him sing Nemorino for New York City opera last March, for which he earned rave reviews, including mine.

Lyric-dramatic tenor–while still lyric in nature, this category of singer demands a certain brightness or dramatic color to soar over the orchestra. Light dramatic tenors are often sought for these roles:

Cavaradossi, Tosca (Puccini)
Don José, Carmen (Bizet)
Florestan, Fidelio (Beethoven)
Canio, Pagliacci (Leoncavallo)
Max, Der Freischütz  (von Weber)

Marcelo Àlvarez

Some consider Marcelo Àlvarez a lyric tenor though the weight and color of his voice was ideally suited to singing the role of the artist Cavaradossi at the Met this past winter.

Dramatic tenor–also called tenore di forza in Italian. Dramatic tenor roles that require a spinto quality–an ability to push the voice–so that it sails over heavily-textured orchestral passages. Sometimes this is also called a robusto tenor. Depending on how they are cast, roles can include:

Andrea Chénier in Giordano’s opera of the same name
Don Alvaro, La forza del destino (Verdi)
Otello in Verdi’s opera of the same name

The title role in Verdi’s Ernani and Manrico (Il trovatore, Verdi) were originally considered part of the robusto tenor tradition even though these roles aren’t often cast that way these days.

Salvatore Licitra, tenore di forza

Tenor Salvatore Licitra is commonly identified as a tenore di forza among opera cognoscenti. I had the great pleasure of seeing him sing the role of King Gustav in “A Masked Ball” at Washington National Opera‘s “Opera in the Outfield” a simulcast of the Kennedy Center production in Nationals Park. Besides wowing the crowd with his singing, he proudly donned a Nationals cap at curtain call and will forever be adored by WNO fans who are also Nationals fans.

Stuart Skelton, heldentenor

Heldentenor–this is the dramatic tenor voice of the German repertoire that demands a distinctive ‘ring’ and weight for roles such as:

Siegfried, Der Ring des Nibelungen (Wagner)
Parsifal, Parsifal (Wagner)
Tristan, Tristan und Isolde ( Wagner)
Walther von Stolzing, Die Meistersinger ( Wagner)

Stuart Skelton is widely considered one of the pre-eminent heldentenors of his generation. Though I didn’t see Skelton in ENO’s Parsifal, David Karlin at Bachtrack.com did and said his singing nearly blew the roof off the London Coliseum. See David’s review here.

What about you, Operatoonity readers? Whom have you observed who define this classification? Any delights or surprises? Do you have a favorite type of tenor voice?

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Filed under Performers, tenors, Terminology

opera or Broadway?

I got lucky earlier this month when I went to the Big Apple. I didn’t have to choose between seeing an opera or Broadway show. I packed them both in one day–Ariadne auf Naxos at the Met and Anything Goes at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre later that night. I realize I was fortunate to have seen both. Today’s theatre prices might have demanded I choose.  No, I’m not independently wealthy. I hadn’t seen a Broadway play since 2008.    

Surprising, really, for someone whose early ambition was to be on Broadway, that I would rather travel to New York to see opera than catch the hottest Broadway show. Stunning, considering I never used to miss the Tony Awards and always tried to pick the winners ahead of time, always knowing most of the contenders. Now, I have a strong command of many of the names and personalities you’re likely to see at the Met and other houses in addition to the roles they are playing. And let’s not forget who’s doing what–thanks to Bachtrack.com, which I consult regularly. Yet I couldn’t tell you more than a handful of details about the current slate of shows on the Great White Way.     

I enjoyed both productions though perhaps not equally. The point of this post isn’t really to pit opera against Broadway and make the reader choose. The point is to tell you that I think my love affair with Broadway has ended–and that I have a new love interest. Begins with an “o.” Ends in an “a.” Five letters.    

No, it’s not Omaha.    

It’s opera, of course. But why? Because it is so damn difficult to sing and to present. And the performers and houses that do it well make an art form that requires consummate skill and knowhow look easy, like you should try it at home.    

Unless you are a trained professional, don’t even attempt opera singing. You might kill yourself. Or the people living with you, if you persist.    

I won’t go into the reasons why I didn’t pursue that Broadway career. Had life circumstances not changed my path radically, I think I might have made it. I did have talent way back when. Whereas I never could’ve sung opera professionally. Too difficult. It requires too much discipline to study and perform.    

Damrau, Florez, and DiDonota in Le Comte Ory

Too much vocal skill. Skill and vocal calisthenics that many Broadway performers would have a hard time matching–certainly not night after night, performance after performance. Right now, I’m remembering the bedroom scene during Act II of the Metropolitan Opera’s Le Comte Ory. Not only are the three principals acting–deftly–with broad comic timing. They are also singing Rossini at the same time. Rossini. As I said in my review on Le Comte Ory for Bachtrack, “The tryst scene in Act II in which Diego Flórez, Damrau, and DiDonato sing ‘À la faveur de cette nuit obscure’ was the ideal synthesis of song and performance.”   

I’ve never seen Rent and doubt I ever will. The last thing I want is to pay heapum lottum money to be serenaded by an audience of Rent-heads.    

Given the chance to see another professional production of La bohème, I’m there faster than you can say, “Mimi.”

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COC mounts ‘Cenerentola’ with sensational cast . . . and cute contest!

Lawrence Brownlee (foreground) as Don Ramiro in ‘La Cenerentola’

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee as the Prince? Elizabeth DeShong as Cinderella? The two talents together singing classic Rossini?  North American opera simply doesn’t get much better than that.

The Canadian Opera Company’s (COC) spring 2010/2011 season opens with Gioacchino Rossini’s Cinderella (La Cenerentola) featuring a glittering cast in a whimsical rendition. La Cenerentola, an opera for all ages, was created by the Spanish artist collective Els Comediants and led by director Joan Font. Leading the COC Orchestra and Chorus is rising young Italian conductor Leonardo Vordoni, recognized across the United States and abroad for his interpretation of the Italian repertoire.  

COC’s production also includes a Cinderella Outfit Challenge called “Send your Doll to the Ball!” (My aunt and grandmother used to crochet outfits for my Barbie. Is this contest a way cute idea or what?)

Inspired by the crocheted dress-wearing doll used in the creative campaign of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Cinderella, the opera company launches the Cinderella Outfit Challenge. The gauntlet has been thrown to designers, fashionistas, and those handy with a needle and thread to create a doll’s hand-crafted costume inspired by the classic fairytale.

Participants who submit a photo of their homemade doll costume, inspired by Cinderella, will have a chance to win a prize package including four tickets (plus lounge pass and drink tickets) to the opening night of the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Cinderella (La Cenerentola), an overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto, a gift basket from Cheese Boutique valued at $200, and a chance to meet the members of the cast after the performance.

Sung in Italian, Cinderella runs for nine performances at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on April 23, 28, May 1, 7, 10, 13, 19, 22 and 25, 2011.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, North American Opera, opera firsts

Rossini’s opinion of Mozart … an Operatoonity Tiny Tale

Someone  asked Gioacchino Rossini who was the greatest musician.

“Beethoven,” came the reply.

“What of Mozart then?”

“Oh, Mozart is not the greatest musician,” Rossini said. “He is the only.”

*Rossini  wrote 39 operas as well as sacred music, and chamber music. He was born in 1792, one year after Mozart died.

 

(adapted from Opera Anecdotes by Ethan Mordden)

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Filed under Classical Composers, Microtales, Opera and humor

how about COC’s indie pop & opera mashup!

Indie darlings Broken Social Scene and members of the Canadian Opera Company (COC’s) Ensemble Studio are combining forces for a truly special special event, Operanation VII, Cinderella: Rock the Ball. Operanation takes place at the beautiful Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on October  29.  So, pack your sedans and head to Toronto, one of the most vital opera meccas in North America.

The theme of this event is inspired by the opera La Cenerentola, the Cinderella story as written by Rossini. It includes a special (sold-out) VIP dinner before the party. Tickets are $150.

The evening’s performances will include triple-threat Clara Venice, Canadian artist who is an electric violinist, theraminist, and vocalist, who will give a special performance when the clock strikes midnight. Her style has been described as “electro-pop-meets-cabaret-show,” and she’s planning a special genre-bending performance. She’s keeping some of the details of her midnight performance under wraps: “I’ve created something extra-special and never-yet-performed, so expect a few surprises.”

We also have it on good authority that the audience is in for another surprise–that there will be two drag queens playing the roles of the “ugly stepsisters.”

Parlando, the COC Blog, has Q&As with Ambur Braid and Wallis Giunta, who will sing with Broken Social Scene, as well as a behind-the-scenes perspective from Barney Bayliss on preparing the Four Seasons Centre for the party and a primer on the work of Clara Venice.

Fashion designers and jewelers dressing the artists include Evan Biddell, Farley Chatto, McCaffrey Haute Couture, and Myles Mindham. The cocktails and appetizers will be provided by Rose Reisman Catering.

Does this sound like a can’t miss event or what? Canadian Opera Company, stop back with pix from this fabulous fall event that we know without a doubt is going to Rock the Party.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Benefit, North American Opera, Opera Marketing