Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Fashionistas get a caucus!

When linking this story on Twitter, our dear friend / PR Goddess / Fashion Priesta / Stylist Amy Keller said it best:

From NY Magazine:
Washington lawmakers have even less of an excuse for wearing offensive clothing on the Hill now that the fashion caucus has become official! It's called the Congressional Apparel Manufacturing and Fashion Business Caucus, which one might shorten to CAMAFBC (it almost has FAB in there). Greater Washington Fashion Chamber of Commerce president Christine Brooks-Cropper spearheaded the formation of the group. They aim to secure funding for a fashion incubator and scholarships for fashion students; create jobs; and save New York's garment district.

Diane Von Furstenberg has said as part of her reelection to the CFDA that she wants to secure copyright protection for designers. The caucus hopes to revisit the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, legislation meant to do that, which could put a damper on the knockoff industry. Fashion people may migrate to D.C. for an advocacy day Brooks-Cropper has planned for May 20. That might be a good time to put any bright-yellow skirt suits away.
StellarK: this complete and utter flawlessness is fully calling your name, Friend. You better hit that mess up!

By the way, Chickens... you can follow Yours Truly on Twitter by clicking right here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Vanity Fair on the State of the MET: "Is there anyone under 40? Find young people!”

From Vanity Fair's May 2010 issue:
The Met's Grand Gamble

Since Peter Gelb took the reins at the Metropolitan Opera, in 2006, he’s relentlessly picked up the pace—more new productions, more aggressive marketing, live high-def broadcasts—until everyone from chorus members to major donors has felt the strain. But is Gelb presiding over a leap into the 21st century, or the slow decline of the world’s greatest (and most extravagant) opera house? Examining the Met’s $47 million deficit, the horrendous economics of opera, and the effort to sell high culture to the masses, the author reveals what a huge risk the controversial impresario is taking.
This is a fascinating read. I know I've said that before, Friends - but, this one truly is. This article, by Nina Munk, is a engrossing backstage look at Gelb, his history, the Met's history, it's founding as a place for "new money", the Met's future and the future of Opera.

Do not pass go - do not collect your $200. Read this article!

Friday, March 26, 2010

An old fashioned "opera diva at home" article - yes!

Soprano Anna Netrebko, pictured at right in a Reem Acra gown, is all grown up and has the apartment to prove it. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Dressed in black leggings and long, layered tank tops, Anna Netrebko was bouncing around her apartment, a sheepskin boot on one foot while her other remained bare. "Has anybody seen my other shoe?," she asked loudly, causing the group assembled in her living room to burst out laughing.

The outgoing and in-demand Russian soprano has long enjoyed socializing and shopping. For years she protested the notion of marriage and children. Full of colorful, fanciful furniture, her apartment "was for a girl and parties," says interior decorator Jayme Burzette.

But since having her son, Tiago, 18 months ago, Ms. Netrebko has been settling into a different rhythm. Last November, she and her fiancée Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott moved with their son from their old condominium a few blocks away to her new "grown-up" apartment—a three-bedroom 1,900-square-foot condo in a high rise three blocks from Lincoln Center.
Isn't this perfection-on-a-stick, Friends? A good, old fashioned "opera diva at home" type article ... complete with pictures. We haven't seen one of these in ages. It's a must read & see.

Thanks WSJ! For the entire article, as well as the slideshow, visit the Wall Street Journal online.

[Photos: Top - Anna Netrebko, wearing a Reem Acra gown. Photographed by Michael Falco for The Wall Street Journal.]

I've been thinking: Why excuses?

Alexander Pope once said:
"An excuse is worse than a lie, for an excuse is a lie, guarded."
I fully love that. It speaks volumes in a single sentence.

Today, Susan Eichhorn-Young - a singer, actor and voice teacher based here in New York - wrote a very pointed blog about excuses. She writes in part:
So, how many excuses did you make this week?

And did you just take a breath to begin the excuse for the excuses????

Excuses like denial, are a form of stress management. However, they also begin to take on a life of their own and can overtake your life!

Suddenly your life is FULL of excuses and nothing more.

Excuses do not promote positive development but rather, promote standing still and sinking fast.

Why the excuses? Just STOP THAT. Excuses are a waste of energy, of time and of life.

Do what you say [you'll] do, or don't. Follow through, or do something else...

...If you call yourself a singer - then SING. If you call yourself an artist, then BE ONE.

"I'm too broke", "I'm too fat", "I can't find the right teacher", "I can't find the right class", "I can't get an agent", "but I need new headshots", "but I have nothing on my resume".

SUCK IT UP PRINCESS! ... SHUT UP AND DO IT!
Thank you, Susan. Being reminded of this now and again, is a wonderful thing.

To see more of Susan's blog, including the above in its entirety, visit: Once More With Feeling.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The "Liberal Hunting Permit" - watch out for helicopters

This is absolutely unacceptable.

The lovely item pictured right (literally and figuratively) was brought to our attention by The Political Carnival. In order to get the full impact - please be sure to read the fine print of this backwoods, redneck and hateful piece of trash.

Also, in today's news it was reported that more than 10 democratic members of the House of Representatives have received threats (some of which were death threats) since casting their votes in favor of Health Care Reform. CNN Reports:
House Democrats are concerned about their security due ... House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday.

Hoyer told a news conference that "a significant number, meaning over 10," had reported either threats, vandalism or other incidents. Capitol Police officials have briefed House Democrats on reporting suspicious or threatening activity and taking precautions to avoid "subjecting themselves or their families to physical harm," said Hoyer, D-Maryland.

Earlier Wednesday, the Albemarle County Fire Marshal's Office in Virginia confirmed the FBI was investigating a suspicious incident at the home of Virginia Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello's brother, days after the brother's home address was posted online by a Tea Party activist.

An aide to Perriello told CNN that a line to the propane tank on his brother's gas grill had been severed.
As I reported yesterday, there are websites and blogs that are encouraging this violence. In addition, many on the Right - the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Baggers, Sarah Palin and Fox News, just to name a few - are advocating it as well. If not in word, certainly by their silence.

They claim they're standing up for the "majority of Americans" in advocating this hatred through their silence and inaction. To me, they're doing nothing more than perpetuating filth, disgust, rancor, hostility, violence and pure repugnance.

When you actually take this news in and then read the reports today of Mike Vanderboegh, the yea-hoo that decided to blog his encouragement of violently breaking windows, was recorded on the radio saying "rifles are being cleaned right now. Do you understand that? Rifles are being taken out of the cabinet and cleaned right now."

It is evident by her Facebook page that Sarah Palin already knows that rifles are being cleaned. Check out this map [R.] of democratic seats to ... uhm ... target. Nice crosshairs, Sarah. Are you planning to shoot democrats like you do moose - from helicopters?

Ladies and Gents - I ask you: do we really think this is about Health Care? No - I didn't think so either.

Now, think about all of this and add to it the report on MSNBC.com today that there are a record number of people who are now licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

I hate to say it - but, this looks like a 'perfect storm' in the making.

Does anyone remember the very beginning of the Obama administration when there was a group of people, egged on by Fox News and the like, who thought "Obama's coming to get our guns"? Woops! Doesn't look like that really happened, huh? In fact, these people are carrying concealed weapons in record numbers, now.

Guess what?! That same "sky's falling & Obama is taking our guns" mentality is going to be scoffed at in about 6 months when people start seeing how much Health Care Reform is going to actually help them. How it's actually NOT socialized medicine. How it's actually NOT a government take over of health care.

My hope and prayer is that no one will be harmed between now and when people start to wise up and realize that this is actually GOOD for them - GOOD for the America.

Please. Lay aside your violent rhetoric.

I think Donna Brazile said it best on Twitter today when she said:
The House and Senate leaders from both parties should call a press conference asap to encourage civility and respect for dissenting views.
Thank you, Ms. Brazile! Civility. Respect.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"There's already enough hate in this world..."

Ladies and Gents - I'm steering away from the usual "libretto" fodder and moving a little more toward the "liberal" in this post. But, don't be scared.

The Health Care Reform legislation is now law and I, for one, am thankful. While it is not the bill that I would have liked to have seen - it is a step. There is more work to be done for certain - but, we are indeed on the right track.

Unfortunately, the debate that swirled around this legislation went from bad to worse to absolutely hateful.

When I was a child, my grandmother used to forbid me from using the word 'hate'. If I said, "Grandma, I hate eggs" the response was always the same: "You don't hate them - you dislike them. There's already enough hate in this world without you adding to it."

That was never more evident than it was over the weekend.

On Sunday the Tea Party Protesters who were gathered at the U.S. Capital called Civil Rights pioneer, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) a "ni**er", yelled "FA**OT" in deliberately lisp-y screams at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and SPAT ... they actually SPAT ... on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.).

Meanwhile, in New York - the Democratic headquarters in Rochester was violently targeted having had a window broken - it was unclear whether or not the window was shot at or broken with a blunt object. Also targeted in New York was the office of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY.). The same day a brick shattered a window of her Niagara Falls office, Rep. Slaughter says her staff discovered an assassination threat aimed at her family members.

From Channel 13 in Rochester:
“I’m advocating broken windows. I’m advocating vandalism," says Mike Vanderboegh. We spoke to him by phone from his home in Pinson, Alabama.

Vanderboegh ... says his invitation to “break windows…break them now” is behind the incident in Rochester and at least two others in Tucson and Kansas. The message to Democrats should be clear.

"Wake up and understand what is happening in this country. You need to start listening to people who you think you didn't have to pay any attention to, because sooner or later they will get your attention," he says...

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter has a different take...“I think it says the misinformation that people were given has worried them to a frenzy. They're worried about their jobs and their health insurance and to have this perpetual whipping up of untruths has been very bad," she said by phone from Washington.

Slaughter has been at the center of the push for reform. Last Thursday she received a chilling recorded message at her campaign office. “Assassinate is the word they used…toward the children of lawmakers who voted yes."
Then, there are the members of congress from the GOP ... the party of "YOU LIE". These nut jobs can now add angry tirades of "HELL NO!" & "BABY KILLER!" to their record. Such gentlemen, right?

And finally we come to the Conservative blogger [not pictured] who was apparently so enraged by the impending passage of the health care reform bill that he used his Twitter account to call for the assassination of the president, while also tweeting that since the country survived the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, "we'll surely get over" this one, too. He later recanted his remarks by saying: "I have no intent, desire or motivation to harm the POTUS," he told DailyFinance by email, "I can't imagine why you're interested in my recent tweets."

Seriously? "I can't imagine why you're interested in my recent tweets."?!?! That's just plain stupidity. It's so dumb, in fact, that I can't even bring myself to link to his blog.

This is no longer about Health Care Reform, Friends.

This is hate for hate's sake. It's vile. It's distasteful. It's disrespectful. It's childish and utterly immature.

By the way, I thought this was 2010 - not 1910.

Yet many on the Right - the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Baggers, Sarah Palin and Fox News, just to name a few - are advocating this. If not in word, certainly by their silence. They claim they're standing up for the "majority of Americans" in advocating this hatred through their silence and inaction. To me, they're doing nothing more than perpetuating filth, disgust, rancor, hostility, violence and pure repugnance.

Shame on every last one of them.

Now, let's cut to Keith Olbermann of MSNBC who has spent quite a bit of time with our health care system lately. Last night, K.O. returned to Countdown after having been absent to tend to his father Theodore, who died on March 13 after a long illness and hospitalization.

K.O. came back with gusto and in true K.O. fashion - he gave us a Special Comment. His comment is in regards to the passage of health care reform in the house, warning the Republican party that it is paving the way to its own destruction.

Give it a look see - you'll not be disappointed.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

James Levine is out ... again

The Boston Globe is reporting that Maestro James Levine, whose time as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra has been scarred by injuries, will miss the remainder of the BSO's season due to his chronic back issues.
The BSO announced today that Levine, 66, will be replaced in a series of concerts over the next three weeks that were to have been his final performances of the 2009-2010. Levine underwent surgery for a herniated disc last fall, forcing him to miss months at the BSO and the Metropolitan Opera, where he also serves as music director.

Levine was not available for comment, according to the BSO. Ronald A. Wilford, Levine's manager, said it was too early to know what course of treatment Levine would be taking. "He’s in excruciating pain so they’ve got to figure out what to do about it," he said.
We wish Maestro Levine well and hope that his doctors are able to treat this issue swiftly.

I wonder what this will mean for the MET?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The end of a rocky, yet stabilizing, era

Bloomberg news is reporting that Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of Richard Wagner and director of the composer’s opera festival in Bayreuth for 57 years, died yesterday at the age of 90.
Battling ill health, Wagner stepped down two years ago as director of the 134-year-old festival. A seven-year-long family feud over his succession was resolved in September 2008, when the Bayreuth Festival named Wolfgang’s daughters Katharina Wagner and Eva Wagner-Pasquier to lead the annual event.

He “dedicated his whole life to the legacy of his grandfather,” the festival said in a statement. “He goes down in history as the longest-serving director in the world.”

He was a hard-working, strong-minded festival administrator. From 1966 until 1998, he was also an active stage director. Yet he will always be most remembered for who he was, not what he did. His ambivalent legacy as Richard Wagner’s grandson dominated his life, thoughts and work.

The Bayreuth Festival takes place every summer in the theater founded by Richard Wagner in 1876. Wolfgang Wagner had a lifelong contract to run the festival and had refused to budge from his post unless his youngest daughter Katharina was named his successor.

That led to years of fighting with other Wagners who felt they had a claim, especially Eva Wagner-Pasquier, Wolfgang’s daughter by a previous marriage, and Nike Wagner, his niece.

He groomed Katharina to succeed him, nurturing her interest in stage direction and facilitating engagements in leading German-speaking houses.

A tireless jetsetter with a restless curiosity in young singers and new stage directors, Wagner was widely criticized for his unbendingly autocratic rule and his refusal to allow the performance of operas not by Wagner at Bayreuth.

“Committed to the tradition of his grandfather’s legacy, he succeeded in stabilizing the festival in difficult times and leading it into a secure future,” German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said in a statement sent by e-mail.

“Even though he was himself a rather conservative director, he supported and encouraged ground-breaking interpretations that many saw as provocative,” Neumann said.

The artistic revelations of the 1970s and 1980s were the high point of Wolfgang Wagner’s reign, and he was never able to steer the festival back to the forefront of the operatic world thereafter. Still, under his guidance, the festival remained a mecca for operagoers worldwide, with a waiting list of as long as 10 years for tickets.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A little too ironic

For some strange reason, I find this incredibly funny - and a little too ironic.

From the @MetOpera Twitter feed:
Cast change: at tomorrow's matinee performance of La Bohème, Angela Gheorghiu will replace Anna Netrebko, who is ill.
Take from it what you will.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Garanca est un oiseau rebelle

So... by now you've all heard that Elina Garanca [R.] has "withdrawn" from San Francisco Opera's production of Werther. NO! You haven't?

Well, it's kind of a juicy story as there were some rumors swirling around like un oiseau rebelle. Some said she was fired and others said she withdrew.

Once and for all, here's the sitch - courtesy of a press release from SF Opera:

David Gockley has accepted Elina Garanca’s withdrawal for “personal reasons” from San Francisco after discovering that a “series of European concerts has been recently announced on Ms. Garanca’s website during the Werther performance schedule.”

Was this poor time management on her part, or was this unmitigated stupidity? Yours Truly is inclined to believe the later. Be that as it may, Mr. Gockley continues...
“It pains me greatly to announce that Ms. Garanca has chosen not to appear in next season’s Werther as promised. She is a glamorous young star who has created a stir in Europe and at the Metropolitan Opera [as Carmen], and I was looking forward to presenting her West Coast debut. However, after extensive discussions with her management and having filed a grievance through the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), I am satisfied that the financial settlement we have reached disposes of the matter.”
Financial settlement? You know darn well that we are talking about some fury and some significant negotiations.

Replacing the Lady G. is Alice Coote [L.]:
“I am very pleased to welcome back to the War Memorial Opera House stage Alice Coote, a highly accomplished and extraordinary artist who has had two very big successes with us beginning with Alcina in 2002 and with Idomeneo in 2008…. Her magnificent artistry has been acclaimed around the world for her repertory ranging from Charlotte, Sesto and Octavian, to her recent triumph as Hansel at the Met. We are very honored to feature her in our new production.”
Take THAT Lady G.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bocelli CAN do everything

Oh yes, Ladies and Gents... it's been a while since I trudged through the muck and mire that is TMZ. But, I finally did it and you'll be thankful that I did.

TMZ.com is reporting that Andrea Bocelli really CAN do everything.
World-renown tenor Andrea Bocelli didn't let a little thing like not being able to see stop him from going on an evening bicycle ride for some wine in Italy last night.
Really? Do we *have* to say "world-renown"? (PS - as Mr. Grienenberger pointed out on facebook: it is "world-renownED". Thanks, Joseph!)

Listen Friends - I don't mean to judge (ok, maybe a little bit) but bless his heart, who decided it was a good idea for a blind man to get on a bike?

James Conlon - Lifetime of achievement

Conductor James Conlon has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Los Angeles for his lifelong activity and dedication to music and excellence in conducting in Italy, as well as all over the world. The award was presented by the Director of the Italian Institute of Culture, Francesca Valente, and by the Consul General of Italy in Los Angeles, Nicola Faganello on Monday, March 15 following Mr. Conlon’s lecture Maria Callas and Richard Wagner: A Surprising Couple at the Italian Institute of Culture as part of LA Opera’s Ring Festival and the Institute’s Maria Callas exhibit of costumes, jewelry, photos and memorabilia.

Mr. Conlon will receive a sculpture entitled Il Tondo by Tuscan artist Mauro Staccioli who was commissioned to create this sculpture by the Contemporary Art Museum of San Diego. Mr. Staccioli’s works have been displayed at two Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition in Venice, are featured at major museums and are part of private collections.

James Conlon is Music Director of Los Angeles Opera, Music Director of the Ravinia Festival, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Cincinnati May Festival where he celebrated his 30th anniversary in 2009. He has cultivated a vast symphonic, operatic and choral repertoire, and developed enduring relationships with the world's most prestigious symphony orchestras and opera houses, including La Scala where his recent performances of Rigoletto garnered critical acclaim from Paola Isotta of the Corrierie Della Sera. Mr. Isotta wrote: “A Rigoletto like this, thanks to the musical direction of James Conlon, is not to be forgotten…he knows and applies interpretive ‘traditions’ like the conductors of another generation…Conlon is one of the maestros who should have a regular place in every season and in the most diverse repertory.”

Mr. Conlon’s other awards and honors include two Grammy Awards, Best Classical Recording and Best Opera Album, for conducting LA Opera’s Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny released on DVD; the Dushkin Award from the Music Institute of Chicago in recognition of his artistry and passion as a performer, educator, and mentor; the Medal of the American Liszt Society for his distinctive performances of the composer’s works; and Italy’s Premio Galileo 2000 Award for his significant contribution to music, art and peace in Florence. He has been honored with a Doctor of Music degree by The Juilliard School, a Doctor of Arts honoris causa by Chapman University, and a Doctor of Humane Letters from Brandeis University. Mr. Conlon was named an Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government in 1996, and in September 2004 he was promoted to Commander—the highest honor awarded by the Ministry of Culture in France. In September 2002, he received France’s highest distinction from the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac—the Légion d’Honneur.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Don't make me huck a shoe

So ... you're standing in line at the Security Checkpoint of Anywhere USA International Airport when you start to panic because you've realized that you've mistakenly packed *all* of your toiletries in your carry-on - thus breaking the "ounces per product per traveler" rule.

Don't lie to me, Friends ... you know you've been there. We all have.

Suddenly, some big, burly woman with whom no one would stand a chance in a street fight rips your Tom's of Maine Deodorant, your new jar of American Crew Fiber, your bottle of (let's be honest, here) TRESemme shampoo and bottle of your favorite cologne - John Varvatos Vintage, right out of your bag and puts it into the dreaded "confiscated" bin.

It's enough to make a guy take a shoe out of the nasty gray bin and huck it in the general direction of the nearest TSA officer.

Guess what, Ladies and Gents? According to UrbanDaddy.com - you need not worry about this very trauma ever again:
And now, your Dopp kit delivered straight to...wherever you're about to be.

Your couriers: Suite Arrival, a new service that lets you order your shampoo/soap/exotic oil of preference to be sent directly to your chosen hotel, online now.

In short, it's like having an online assistant to pack and ship your grooming supplies. So instead of sacrificing your soap at the security line—or chancing it that your hotel has the organic bamboo-aloe-whale-fat shampoo that keeps your follicles looking so luscious and Redfordian—they'll ship it to your hotel, where it will be sitting, waiting for you in your suite when you arrive. (As of press time, they are not transporting personal bathers.)
You guys, I can't. This is just too amazing for me to comprehend. It's brilliant.

The next time you're heading out and stressed because you can't make everything fit in a rinky-dink ziplock bag - just remember: Suite Arrival - your "online assistant".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Director Zambello is going to Cooperstown

Kate Taylor of the Wall Street Journal is reporting:
Glimmerglass Opera, the 35-year-old summer opera festival in Cooperstown, N.Y., has named Francesca Zambello as its general and artistic manager, replacing Michael MacLeod. Ms. Zambello, who has worked at many of the world's major opera houses and also directed Disney's The Little Mermaid on Broadway, will likely give the small company, which presents four operas a season, a higher profile.

"I have been after her for, oh, most of the decade," Sherwin Goldman, president of Glimmerglass's board, said in a phone interview. He said that Ms. Zambello will assume her post in September and will announce soon after a "major overhaul" of the company. Asked what that might entail, Mr. Goldman said, "I think some exciting breakthroughs of new ways to consider how to produce a festival." He added: "Everything's on the table."
For more, visit the Wall Street Journal online.

[Photo: Zambello with Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula from Disney's The Little Mermaid on Broadway.]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On the MET's Attila by: Samuel Ramey (I was the Pope)

Here's the funny thing about writing - you just never know who is going to be reading what you've written. In addition, you never know who is going to make a comment - as Yours Truly found out when I wrote a certain article about Danielle de Niese.

On March 6th, Scott Cantrell wrote a piece in the Dallas Morning News about the MET's production of Attila that prompted a comment by a member of the cast - more on that after some of the articles highlights. Cantrell wrote in part:
In 130 years, you'd think the Metropolitan Opera had covered the significant repertory. But not until last month, 164 years after its Venice premiere, did Verdi's Attila reach the MET. And it came with some starry names.

The sets were by Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who have some Texas notoriety: Picked to expand Austin's Blanton Museum of Art, they withdrew in 1999 ... international outrage ensued. Costumes were by fashion maven Miuccia Prada. The conductor was Riccardo Muti, in his own belated Met debut.

It's hard to defend Verdi's opera about the head of the Huns as great music. The vocal writing is pretty formulaic, and at this early stage in his career Verdi had exactly three devices for accompaniment: insistent pulsings, arpeggios and oompahs.

The opera can be salvaged, sort of, by great singers, and by a director with real imagination. At the MET, it has, well, one of the former.

At Saturday's matinee reprise, Violeta Urmana, portraying the Roman princess Odabella, was announced as suffering from a cold ... ever thereafter, she sang and acted with a passion and expressiveness scarcely suggested by either her friends or foes.

Ildar Abdrazakov's Attila looked more like a bar bouncer than the scourge of Europe. His bass was pleasant enough, but when Samuel Ramey
[L. as Leone] briefly appeared as the Roman bishop Leone, even through a wide wobble one was reminded how thrilling a great bass voice can be...

... Known for buildings of elegant finesse, [set designers] Herzog and de Meuron supplied a first-act pile of concrete slabs and rebar that looked like the aftermath of an earthquake. Scenes in the woods were set beneath, and in holes within, a wall of vegetation as dense as a tropical jungle. (The opera's setting, remember, is fifth-century Italy.) The chorus sang stirringly, but lined up downstage like half-buried Qin Dynasty warriors.

Muti and the orchestra made all that could be made of the score. Pierre Audi, who has some prominence in Europe, was listed as director, but there was little evidence of directorial concept – or, frankly, anything but the most obvious interactions among the dramatis personae.

The Prada costumes made much of crinkly dark crepe and what looked like Naugahyde. But the gold duds for the aborted Attila-Odabella wedding dazzled.
Now, as we all know, the MET is doing all sorts of "new and exciting" things this season - like the Luc Bondy Tosca for instance [pause for sighs of annoyance].

No matter the issues at the MET, we very rarely hear comments about productions from singers - and if we do, it's usually from a singer who is flapping their jaws just to get the publicity.

Not so, this time. If you read through the comments at the end of the article, you find there is a lot of talk about Samuel Ramey [R. as Attila] - some even directly addressing Mr. Ramey. Well, it just so happens that Sammy Sammerstein not only read the article, but commented on it as well:
It is unfortunate that for the Met's first production of ATTILA they could not do a more "conventional" production. The sets and the costumes had nothing to do with the period of the opera or the characters. I know from having been at rehearsals that the director gave the singers nothing and the set prevented them from doing anything dramatically. The production is a fiasco!

Samuel Ramey(I was the Pope).
I'm sorry - but that made me howl in an inappropriately loud manner - Samuel Ramey (I was the Pope). I love it.

Now, isn't it easy enough in this day and age for someone to pose as Mr. Ramey - saying whatever they want under his name? Potentially.

Except for these little details: Mr. Ramey posted the comment under an aol.com email address. I happen to know, having corresponded with Mr. Ramey years ago while preparing to sing Rev. Blitch in Floyd's Susannah, that this is indeed his email address. In addition, our dearest La Cieca received an email from Mr. Ramey confirming that he did, in fact, make the comment.

In a "PS" of sorts, Mr. Ramey posted another comment:
I should add that musically it was incredible. Muti truly loves the early Verdi operas and, especially, ATTILA. I know from experience as I recorded the opera with him and performed it with him at La Scala almost 20 years ago(the title part).
Here's what: there *are* still some singers out there who recognize, even where the MET is concerned, that sometimes you have to make your opinion known - and not just for the sake of publicity, but because you actually stand for artistic integrity.

Bravo, Sam Ramey!

Monday, March 8, 2010

"There ain't no decency left..."

Here's a question: Where do people get off acting like they don't know any better - or better yet, where do people get off acting like, as the line from Chicago puts it, "they ain't got no class"?

Before I go any further- let me just remind you, Chickens, that I don't assume to be the end-all and be-all of class. But, I at least know when to chill-the-hell-out.

So - last night, if you watched the Oscars, you saw an awkward exchange when producer Elinor Burkett wrestled the microphone away from director-producer Roger Ross Williams after their film, Music by Prudence won for Best Documentary Short.

Williams was Kanye’d.

As we know, there are two sides to every story. But, before I take you there - here is the video. Brought to you by Mediaite.com:



Salon.com, where Elinor Burkett used to be a contributor, is reporting:
What really happened? We reached both shortly after by cell phone, and got both sides of the story. We first reached Burkett ... [while] she took a smoking break as the proceedings continued inside:

People are already saying you "pulled a Kanye." What happened?

BURKETT: What happened was the director and I had a bad difference over the direction of the film that resulted in a lawsuit that has settled amicably out of court. But there have been all these events around the Oscars, and I wasn't invited to any of them. And he's not speaking to me. So we weren't even able to discuss ahead of the time who would be the one person allowed to speak if we won. And then, as I'm sure you saw, when we won, he raced up there to accept the award. And his mother took her cane and blocked me. So I couldn't get up there very fast.

Can you explain the reason behind the conflict?

BURKETT: The movie was supposed to be about the entire band, Liyana. And the [band members] were very clear they did not want to participate if it ended up being just about one person. The director and HBO decided to focus solely on Prudence ...

And that led to the rift. But didn't you see him at other events to discuss what would happen if you won?

BURKETT: He won't talk to me! This whole week, there have been events thrown by the International Documentary Association, and he hasn't passed any of the invitations on to me.

The movie was my idea. I live in Zimbabwe. Roger had never even heard of Zimbabwe before I told him about this. And you know, I felt my role in this has been denigrated again and again, and it wasn't going to happen this time.

How do you feel about the final product?

BURKETT: The final product, it's not that it's bad. It's not what I envisioned when I came up with this project. And it's not what we promised the boys in the band. It's just not what we wanted it to be.

About 15 minutes later, Salon reached director-producer Roger Ross Williams by cell phone as he celebrated backstage with family and friends. We asked for his side of the story.

How did that happen?

WILLIAMS: Only one person is allowed to accept the award. I was the director, and she was removed from the project nearly a year ago, but she was able to still qualify as a producer on the project, and be an official nominee. But she was very angry -- she actually removed herself from the project – because she wanted more creative control.

But couldn't you decide ahead of time who would speak?

WILLIAMS: That was handled by the publicist for the academy. I don't know what they told her. The academy is very clear that only one person can speak. I own the film. She has no claim whatsoever. She has nothing to do with the movie. She just ambushed me. I was sort of in shock.

You seemed to run up there pretty fast. Didn't you see her coming up the aisle? What did you think was going to happen when she got there?

WILLIAMS: I just expected her to stand there. I had a speech prepared.

She claims she found the movie's story, that she brought it to you.

WILLIAMS: No, not at all. The truth is that she saw the band perform [in Zimbabwe], and told me about that, and then I opened up a dialogue with the [King George VI School & Centre for Children with Physical Disabilities] school and went on my own – which you would've heard about in my speech -- and spent $6,000 going to Africa shooting myself. And when people expressed interest in the film, I asked her to come on board. And then I regretted that decision. Then she sued.

It was quite a tussle. Does this diminish the Oscar at all?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely not. It's such a career achievement, to win an Academy Award. This is what the business is. There are times when there's disagreement and dispute and you always hope that people will rise up to the occasion. It doesn't diminish it. She disowns it and doesn't want any part of the film. I'm so proud of the movie .

OK, did your mother try and block her with her cane?


WILLIAMS: My mother got up to hug me. And my mother is 87 years old. She was excited. What are people saying about it?

They're saying it looked like she pulled a Kanye.

WILLIAMS: She did! She pulled a Kanye. And it's a shame, because this is such positive, happy film.
If you look at the footage right after the winner was announced, you can see Williams take off in a sprint to the stage - and in the back, you can see Burkett struggling to get out of the aisle.

Hmmmmm -

I don't know, I think it's a huge publicity stunt - after all, just look at all the press.

Friday, March 5, 2010

빌리 엘리엇 - The Musical

So, let's pretend that your a musical about an aspiring young dancer in a British coal-mining town and you've become a hugetastic hit in Britain, America and Australia, what do you do next? Take your show to South Korea, of course. From the New York Times:
The producers of Billy Elliot: The Musical said that a Korean-language version of the show, adapted from the 2000 Stephen Daldry film, would play in Seoul starting in August after years of planning that began long before Billy Elliot won the 2009 Tony Award for best musical.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, Eric Fellner, a co-chairman of Working Title Films, which produced the
Billy Elliot movie and produces its stage incarnations, said that the company was first approached about foreign versions of the musical about five years ago, just as the original West End show was starting up...

...Local actors have been hired for the South Korean cast, including a team of four young Billys, and some dialogue or other minor elements may be changed to suit the hometown crowd. But over all the show (whose music is by Elton John and whose book and lyrics are by Lee Hall) will remain intact, and the show’s American design and construction team has built the sets for the Seoul production.

Mr. Fellner said that a Japanese version of the “Billy Elliot” musical was being prepared for the summer of 2011, and talks were continuing with German and Dutch producers but nothing had been set yet.
[Photo: The Korean Billys By Megistella/Agence France-Presse]

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What to do now?

Ladies and Gents - I must apologize for my radio-silence.

I'm afraid I've been suffering from a minor case of "Blogger's Block". I have nothing. No funny stories - no news to share (that you haven't already seen elsewhere) - in fact, I don't even have any news that I can dress up in a pretty bow for you.

[sigh]

What's a blogger to do? I've surfed YouTube and found the same clips I've been looking at for ages. I've even resorted to looking at Google Images for inspiration - no inspirational images to be had, but I did find this:

In honor of Antonio Vivaldi's 332nd birthday, Google has paid homage with it's name by cleverly capturing the 4 seasons.

Monday, March 1, 2010

What makes opera grand?

Let's ask Leonard Bernstein. Leonard Bernstein made a few instructional appearances in the 1950s on Omnibus, a television program about science and the arts. Some of the appearances have just been released on DVD.

Want to see Bernstein's ideas on what makes opera grand? Check out the New York Times video here.
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