Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Renee Fleming - not a person who repeats very much

La Diva Renee at the Hollywood Bowl - 2004
Ladies and Gents ... can you believe this? It turns out that our 52 year old Diva Next Door is getting hitched. That's right. LA Times is reporting that Renée Fleming is engaged to be married and expected to take the walk down the aisle this September. The groom? Lawyer Timothy Jessell, of course.

And, I had to hear the news from the LA Times? Someone's holding out on me!

In addition to settling down with her new husband ... and let's not forget her two daughters from a previous marriage - Amelia and Sage ... it appears that La Diva Renée is starting to give some clues to us about the twilight of her career. In politics, it's called a dog whistle: something that is said off the cuff in a perfectly innocent manner [wink wink] - but, for the operatic-base, we hear her loud and clear.

From the LA Times:
Fleming said she has no plans to do another pop album -- "I'm not a person who repeats very much," she said. This summer, she'll be in Paris to record an album of French music. After that, Fleming said she wants to devote more time in her career to concerts and recitals, especially to German songs. "I'm kind of enamored of the song recital and I'm looking forward to getting back to that," she said.
So, opera's Queen Bee has put her foot on the brake. She may not be pressing too hard on it, but let's just say this: her foot is no longer on the gas pedal - that's for certain. Now Chickpeas, before you go and get all lathered up about this, let's remember that it takes a good 10 years for an operatic career like La Diva Renée's to truly come to a stop.

La Diva Renee's first Press Conference with LOC
While her foot is resting on the brake pedal of her singing career, her creative inspiration is still full throttle, though. As you'll remember, she was recently appointed Lyric Opera of Chicago's first Creative Consultant in the company's history. As Creative Consultant she'll play an integral role in creating new projects and initiatives designed to increase opera audiences and awareness of the art form, while sharing in the company’s artistic vision.

Speaking about her creative influences, the ever-cerebral La Diva Renée points to the following:
Marilyn Horne: It all goes back to the first album my father bought me -- Marilyn Horne singing German lieder. It was my introduction to lieder sung by a consummate professional who was in her prime. Certain musical moments in your life become markers, and this was one of them for me.

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki: I first heard it in high school, where I had a special class for composition. I loved it because it sounded like what it was about. Usually, some sort of new music captured my imagination. George Crumb's Ancient Voices of Children was another obsession.

Modern art: I love art from sort of the late 19th century to now. I wasn't exposed to this much as a child. The first time it struck was at the National Gallery in London, when I was a student, and I happened to go as a tourist and there was an exhibit on Marc Chagall. His art is so whimsical and fanciful and inherently romantic, and that started me on my journey.

The musical tastes of my daughters: When I was a kid, nobody listened to what their parents listened to. Now it's quite common. My 15-year-old [Sage] is into '40s music and Frank Sinatra, and my daughter in college [Amelia] is into classical music. Their listening habits are more eclectic than ours were. It's not because I'm a hip parent.
I say, cheers Renée. Brilliant.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Terrence McNally on Tyne Daly's Callas as "Master Class" returns to Broadway

The Tony Award-winning playwright and librettist Terrence McNally's 20th Broadway production arrives on July 7 of this year ... a revival of his Tony Award-winning Best Play of 1995, Master Class, starring Tyne Daly as Maria Callas. This revival comes as McNally still has a show on the boards of the Great White Way - Catch Me If You Can which he wrote with Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Terrence McNally opened up to's Harry Haun about his fascination with Maria Callas:

Are you pleased that Master Class is coming back?

Oh, very. Tyne gave an extraordinary performance at the Kennedy Center. It deserves to be seen in New York. She made it her own. I never found myself comparing her to anyone else who's done the part. I thought she was absolutely wonderful on her own terms — and I've been very lucky with my Marias: My God! from Zoe Caldwell to Patti LuPone to Dixie Carter, just on Broadway. Fanny Ardant had a great success in it in Paris, and there's a woman doing it in The Netherlands now who got extraordinary reviews and is kinda their leading actress there.

Was it easy for you to write Callas? It seemed like you were so connected to that character.

Maria Callas was someone I've thought about since I was a very young person when I first heard her voice on the radio growing up in Texas. I fell in love with the sound of her voice. She has fascinated me. And then her life! That kind of inner turmoil of falling in love with and being rejected by one of the richest, most powerful men in the world — it's quite an extraordinary trajectory for anyone's life. It just seemed very theatrical to me.

But when you sit down to write it, you don't know if anyone else is going to enjoy it or be interested in it. I'll never forget the first time we ever did it for anyone. Zoe and I and Lenny Foglia, the director, went to Big Fork, Montana, and read the play in a Town Hall sort of auditorium just to see how Normal People — non-opera, non-Callas fanatics, non-New York theatregoers — would react to the play. We took three planes and still drove for quite a while. It was a very long trip, but they loved it. When it was over, one of the questions was, "Is Maria Callas a real person?" Then the woman turned to her husband and said, "Ya see, I told you she was a real person." Someone else asked Zoe if she was a professional actress. Zoe said, "Yes, I am." The woman said, "You're very good." Zoe said, "Thank you." So we thought if the play works for an audience that doesn't know that, my God, this is the legendary Zoe Caldwell with 85 Tony Awards, then maybe the play has a chance elsewhere.
For more from Terrence McNally, visit the full write up at

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Friday Finale: Bernstein, Arroyo and Verdi

Generally speaking, Chiclets - I like to bring you a stunning photo for A Friday Finale. But today, I thought I would bring you the incredible finale from Verdi's Messa da Requiem - which is, of course, the Libera Me.

To set the scene here, we have Maestro Leonard Bernstein conducting The London Symphony Orchestra at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. The soloists for this stellar concert were soprano Martina Arroyo, mezzo-soprano Josephine Veasey, tenor Placido Domingo(who was only 29 years old at the time), and bass Ruggero Raimondi.

What I find remarkable about this clip - putting the sheer beauty of Martina Arroyo aside - is the incredible conducting from the 52 year old Maestro. When the clip begins, you can see his fatigue ... or, maybe he was just in need of a cigarette break. To be honest, I've so been there ... in times past, of course. Remarkably, he comes back pretty quickly with conducting that is exciting, stirring, inspiring and yes, theatrical. Truly beyond amazing.

Enjoy the clip ... and afterwards, make sure to check out this link to hear the 29 year old Placido Domingo in the beginning of the Requiem ... he opens up right around the 6:53 mark. I don't know many 29 year old tenors around today who make sounds like his - sing big.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Franco Zeffirelli reacts ... to Elizabeth Taylor's death

Zeffirelli and Taylor on the set of "Taming of the Shrew"
I was wondering when we would hear from Maestro Zeffirelli regarding the passing of Old-Hollywood icon and actress Elizabeth Taylor.

Well, Chickpeas... here it is. With his usual dramatic flare, Maestro Z. tells ANSA news agency:
"I am very sad. We have lost a memorable person who I was fortunate enough to know and work with on two films. People like Liz don't exist anymore... because fairy tales no longer exist. Liz Taylor was a winning combination of rare qualities. She was beautiful, intelligent... a woman who could also allow herself to marry eight times and have seven husbands in times very different to today."
The 88-year-old opera/film/etc. director's first film with Taylor was a version of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew in 1967 starring her and husband Richard Burton. Her second with Maestro Z. was Young Toscanini in 1988.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Dame Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

My continued fascination with all things Old-Hollywood has some sadness mixed in it, today. Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the Academy Award winning actress whose saucy screen persona, rocky personal life and enduring fame, class, magnetism and stunning beauty made her a template for the modern celebrity, died of Congestive Heart Failure early this morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 79 years old.

Truly one of the last of the iconic, Old-Hollywood movie stars, Taylor was named seventh on The American Film Institute's Female Legends list ... right smack-dab between #6 Marilyn Monroe and #8 Judy Garland. She starred in some 50 films, including screen classics such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, BUtterfield 8 - for which she won her first Academy Award for Best Actress, The Taming of the Shrew, Cleopatra - for which she received a staggering $1 million, a film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical A Little Night Music and of course Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - the only film to be nominated in every eligible category at the Academy Awards ... including a Best Actress win for Taylor. Here's why:

Dame Elizabeth Taylor was not only an actress and Old-Hollywood icon, but she was also a humanitarian who worked tirelessly on behalf of AIDS research. She was also a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.

Her passion for jewelry was well-known and virtually un-paralleled. Over the years she owned a number of famous gems; most notably the 33.19-carat Krupp Diamond and the 69.42-carat pear-shaped Taylor-Burton Diamond, which were among many gifts from husband Richard Burton. Taylor also owned the 50-carat La Peregrina Pearl, purchased by Burton as a Valentine's Day present in 1969. The pearl was formerly owned by Mary I of England, and to prove it Burton sought a portrait of Queen Mary wearing the pearl. After Burton purchased the painting, he and Taylor discovered that the British National Portrait Gallery did not have an original painting of Mary I, so they donated theirs to the gallery.

You can find out more about Taylor's passion for jewelry by checking out her collection as documented in the book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry. She started designing jewels to be sold at Christie's House of Taylor. She also launched three perfumes, "Passion", "White Diamonds", and "Black Pearls", which, together, earn an estimated $200 million in annual sales.

In addition to her movie stardom and perfumes, Dame Elizabeth Taylor - who despised being called "Liz" - was probably best known for her slew of stormy marriages. She was married eight times to seven different husbands: Conrad "Nicky" Hilton (yes, *that* Hilton ... grand-uncle to Paris and Nicky), Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton - X2, Senator John Warner (R-VA) and of course, Larry Fortensky. She had four children: two sons with Michael Wilding, one daughter with Michael Todd and one daughter (adopted) with Richard Burton. Her first grandchild was born when Taylor was only 39 years old. Nine other grandchildren would follow, as would four great-grandchildren.

As the news of Dame Elizabeth Taylor's death broke this morning, ABC News interrupted their regular programming to carry this Special Report:

Taylor's oldest son, Michael Wilding, memorialized his mother this way:
“My Mother was an extraordinary woman who lived life to the fullest, with great passion, humor, and love. Though her loss is devastating to those of us who held her so close and so dear, we will always be inspired by her enduring contribution to our world. Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished. We know, quite simply, that the world is a better place for Mom having lived in it. Her legacy will never fade, her spirit will always be with us, and her love will live forever in our hearts.”
Perhaps Dame Elizabeth Taylor's life is best summed up in her own words:
"I have never felt more alive than when I watched my children delight in something, never more alive than when I have watched a great artist perform, and never richer than when I have scored a big check to fight AIDS. Follow your passion, follow your heart, and the things you need will come."
Rest peacefully, Dame Elizabeth.

Monday, March 21, 2011

James Levine is cutting his podium time at The Met ... again.

The Metropolitan Opera announced today that health issues will force music director James Levine to reduce his conducting dates with the company for the rest of the current season. On the advice of his doctors, Levine will forego conducting spring performances of Das Rheingold and Il Trovatore at the Met while he continues to recover from recent procedures to alleviate back pain.

The March 30 and April 2 performances of
Das Rheingold will now be conducted by the Met's principal guest conductor, Fabio Luisi, while performances of Il Trovatore, scheduled for April 20, 23, 27 and 30, will be lead by Marco Armiliato, who conducted the company's performances of Verdi's opera earlier this season.

Levine is still scheduled to conduct performances of
Wozzeck on April 6, 9, 13 and 16, as well as performances of the company's new production of Die Walküre on April 22, 25, 28, May 2, 5, 9 and 14. In addition, he will also lead the MET Orchestra in two concerts at Carnegie Hall on April 10 and May 15. Levine is also slated to lead performances of La Bohème and Don Carlo in Nagoya and Tokyo during the Met's June tour of Japan.
Here's a question that I'm sure many are asking: Are we sure that Maestro Levine is getting the proper care? It seems that he's had quite a few procedures in regards to this recurring back pain (amongst other ailments). Look, Chiclets ... I know he's James Levine and probably has some pretty-damned-amazing doctors. I'm just wondering whether or not the foundational issues are being addressed rather than just slapping on a band-aid in order to mask the issues.

I don't know ... call me crazy, but I think something else is going on here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Maestro Riccardo Muti to receive the 2011 Birgit Nilsson Prize

Maestro Muti at work.
Italian conductor Riccardo Muti will receive what has been called classical music's "Nobel Prize" - the 2011 Birgit Nilsson Prize.

The 69-year-old maestro, who has been in the news lately due to some unfortunate health issues, is music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and has been the conductor of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, Philadelphia Orchestra and Teatro alla Scala in Milan.

The jury who adjudicates the nominations said that Muti "is recognized for his extraordinary contributions in opera and concert, as well as his enormous influence in the music world both on and off the stage."

"I was deeply touched by the jury's accolade," Muti says, "all the more so given my profound admiration for this unique and extraordinary artist, both as an incomparable musician and a great interpreter".

Soprano Birgit Nilsson
The Birgit Nilsson Prize is only given out every two or three years for outstanding achievements to a currently active singer or conductor. This year's prize is only the second time the prize has been awarded. In 2009, it went to Placido Domingo, whom Nilsson had hand-picked herself for the award.

Maestro Riccardo Muti will receive his award and it's $1 million purse at an October 13 ceremony attended by Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

Congratulations, Maestro.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan's earthquake and tsunami - give where you can

If you have ever doubted the force and power of Mother Nature, take a look at this video. It will leave you speechless.

Our thoughts and wishes for strength and peace continue to be with all of those whose lives are effected by the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan.

As you know, children tend to be effected the most during these crises. Many are left orphaned, hungry and without anything more than instinct to help them survive. UNICEF is prepared to do anything and everything they can to help the children of Japan in the aftermath of the tsunami. If you can, I encourage you to contribute to help their effort. Please visit the UNICEF Website for more details.

If you aren't able to give money at this time, I encourage you to volunteer - give where you can.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A new Marschallin for San Diego Opera - Twyla Robinson

Robinson as Donna Anna | Photo by Tim Fuller
San Diego Opera has had a changing of the Marschallin. Twyla Robinson will sing the role in next month's production of Der Rosenkavalier. She replaces Greek/German soprano Anja Harteros who asked to be released at the last minute from these performances due to medical reasons.

“Twyla Robinson is one of America’s finest artists, and we are fortunate indeed, that she can join us,” comments San Diego Opera General and Artistic Director Ian Campbell.

A winner of the 2002 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Twyla Robinson also received First Prize in the 2001 Competizione dell'Opera in Dresden and in the 2002 MacAllister Competition. She was seen last season as Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg at Cincinnati Opera and received accolades for her recent performances as Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Arizona Opera.

An active concert recitalist, she has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Staatskapelle and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the batons of conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Franz Welser-Möst, Michael Tilson Thomas and Christof Perick, who leads these performance of Der Rosenkavalier. She joins an all-star cast that includes British bass-baritone Andrew Greenan, German mezzo-soprano Anke Vondung and Italian soprano Patrizia Ciofi.

“I am very excited to have Twyla Robinson join this splendid cast. She’s a singer I’m familiar with and well known by our stage director Lotfi Mansouri, our conductor Christof Perick and our Baron Ochs, Andrew Greenan. I know her addition makes this production of Der Rosenkavalier the strongest we’ve had in our Company’s history, and reunites old friends,” adds Campbell.

Der Rosenkavalier opens Sunday, April 3, 2011 for only four performances. With Mansouri directing and Perick on the podium, this production is sure to be a stunner.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More on James Levine, his 40 Years at The Met and calls to turn in his keys...

Maestro Levine on the Podium in Boston
A stunning new book is set to hit the shelves. James Levine: 40 Years at The Metropolitan Opera, an extraordinary insider’s view of the legendary conductor’s Met career, illustrated with vivid historic photographs, will be published by Amadeus Press on May 3, and available for $32 at the Met Opera Shop and national retailers. Marking the 40th anniversary of Met Music Director James Levine’s company debut on June 5, 1971, the book celebrates his unparalleled artistic achievements through commentary by the maestro himself, as well as anecdotes and tributes from many of the great artists who have performed with him.

In this new book, readers will be taken behind the scenes as Levine shares his many artistic triumphs, the singular low point of his career in 1980, and challenges he has faced over four decades at the Met, including introducing works to the Met repertoire and developing the company’s orchestra and chorus. He reminisces about remarkable moments such as the phone call from tenor Richard Tucker minutes before his debut (“Jim, it’s Richard. Knock ’em dead.”), Kiri Te Kanawa’s transformation from unknown to star in her debut, the unforgettable farewell performance of Leontyne Price, and the historic prank Levine played on the great Luciano Pavarotti – in full view of the Met audience.

Some of opera’s most illustrious stars contribute personal stories and recollections. Martina Arroyo, Stephanie Blythe, Natalie Dessay, Renée Fleming, Mirella Freni, Marilyn Horne, Sherrill Milnes, James Morris, Jessye Norman, René Pape, Renata Scotto, Teresa Stratas, Frederica von Stade, and many others relive first encounters with the maestro and look back on their musical partnerships. In a special essay, Plácido Domingo details the friendship and incomparable artistic collaboration he has shared with Levine for over 40 years. Conductors Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez comment on working with the Met’s unrivaled orchestra. Director Franco Zeffirelli explains why he “would jump out of bed at midnight to go work with Jimmy,” while Otto Schenk shares the secrets of their long and successful association. All of these colorful accounts are complemented by images of performances, rehearsals, curtain calls, and backstage moments.

“For 40 years at the Met, Maestro Levine has been enveloping artists with his energy and warmth,” said Met General Manager Peter Gelb, who has worked closely with Levine for almost 25 years and contributes the book’s foreword. “This book overflows with their loving tributes and offers a revealing look at the man behind the music. It is immediately clear that Jim is not only one of the true conducting legends of all time, but also the most beloved.”

Essential reading for all lovers of opera and classical music, the book provides a generous glimpse into the backstage workings of the world’s busiest opera company, a revealing exploration of the art form, and an intimate portrait of one of opera’s artistic giants.

Maestro Levine at The Met in 2009 - Mary Altaffer, AP
This book and subsequent celebration of the Maestro's monumental 40 years at The Met both come on the heels of critics beginning to sound the trumpet for his resignation - following his resignation from the Boston Symphony Orchestra this week. As I reported yesterday, things aren't going well for Maestro - physically speaking. I suggested perhaps pulling back his conducting and taking a more administrative role. I also pondered whether or not it was time for Maestro Levine to step across the street and into more teaching at his beloved Juilliard. Justin Davidson of NY Magazine, however, goes a little beyond that - boldly calling for Maestro Levine to "hand the keys to someone else." Davidson says:
Conducting an orchestra is a surprisingly athletic daily discipline, which is one reason so many maestros remain lithe and youthful as they age. But Levine, who is only 67 but moves with the stiffness of a much older man, looks as if he spent his waking hours manipulating a joystick rather than wielding a conductor’s baton.

The odd thing about his infirmities is that the sounds he draws out of his musicians have such vigorous physicality. He can nudge a crescendo gradually from a barely detectable rumble into a seismic event. He slows certain Wagner passages down to the brink of collapse but keeps them unbearably taut. In Verdi’s more ominous passages, you can hear a leviathan’s slouch. And always, he gets orchestral musicians to phrase like singers, with suppleness and breath.

Whenever he’s returned from convalescence in recent years, Levine has seemed undimmed: You can’t hear a consistent decline. But conducting is a form of leadership, and the current conviction flowing from him has flickered. In 2009, Boston Globe critic Jeremy Eichler remarked that “the more lingering concern is the state of Levine’s and the BSO’s larger artistic vision.” At the Met, he has gradually relinquished the role of artistic counterweight to the general manager: This is Peter Gelb’s Met now; Levine only works there...

... The Met has more leeway to renegotiate a relationship with a musician who’s given it 40 astounding years and who still has plenty to offer on the podium even if he’s no longer in charge. But even if he’s in fine fettle for the anniversary gala on May 1, the time has come to make him conductor laureate for life and hand the keys to someone else.
Mmmmmm - I'm not convinced that handing the keys to someone else is the right choice. Scaling back the conducting is one thing, giving up his artistic vision for The Met (even if it is diminished by The Met's current and more commercially inclined administration) doesn't have to be the only option. I don't believe it is that cut-and-dried of a situation.

For more about Maestro Levine's incredible knowledge and vision, you must ... and I mean *must* ... read this article from 2006 called: "Hey, Baby, It's Jimmy..."

Monday, March 7, 2011

Maestro James Levine: What happens next?

Maestro James Levine
After a tenure marred by deteriorating health and claims of a split focus that was not managed well, Maestro James Levine's occupancy of the podium at the Boston Symphony Orchestra is quickly drawing to a close. The 68 year old conductor's resignation from the orchestra will be effective September 1, 2011.

Even though the managing director, Mark Volpe, praised the Maestro's efforts in Boston as having rebuilt and "revoiced" the orchestra, it is clear that there were some tensions brewing. In his blog post on Friday at the, Tom Service reports in part:
This week's programme – three violin concertos with Christian Tetzlaff, including a world premiere of the new concerto by Harrison Birtwistle – is in the hands of one of Boston's assistant conductors, Marcelo Lehninger. Last week's concerts featuring Mahler's Ninth Symphony were conducted by the BSO's other assistant, Sean Newhouse.

Volpe described how Levine only confirmed his cancellation on Thursday, a couple of hours before the first of four scheduled performances. And he revealed that at the open, public rehearsal the day before, Levine couldn't control his physical gestures on the podium due to the after-effects of an operation on his back.

"Frankly, he had to medicate himself to get through the pain. It was clear he didn't have control of some of his motor skills. But that's how much he wanted to conduct; he was prepared to put himself in jeopardy. But we had to have an intervention of sorts, and I had to say to him: 'Jim, it's not right for you, it's not right for the audience.' Nobody wants to see somebody suffer, especially somebody you have a relationship with."

Volpe says there's relief that the uncertainty of the past few seasons is over. But the question is, what happens next?
Maestro James Levine leads a rehearsal with the BSO in 2007
Indeed. I think we are all wondering about "What happens next?" Not just for the BSO, but for the Met as well. It's clear that Maestro Levine is in need of something that he's not getting - clearly, his physical issues have not improved and the necessary medication is causing his gestures to be affected.

Perhaps it's time for him to transition into more teaching at Juilliard ... or perhaps it's time to transition his Music Director position at the Met into a more administrative positon - both of which would certainly require less from his body, physically speaking.

I highly doubt that anyone would pass judgment on him for making a change. After 40 years and over 2500 performances conducted at the Met *alone*, it might be time to give his body a break.

Friday, March 4, 2011

All a-Twitter

Just a little reminder, Chickpeas: if you're not already a resident of Twitterville, you had better get on the turn pike and put the peddle to the metal. You're missing a wealth of knowledge, information, breaking news and let's face it - gossip.

In January of this year, I brought you My Top 100 Must Follow Tweeters for 2011. Classical music, opera, theater, politics, fashion, media ... you name it, the list has got it. If you missed it, here it is again ... so, get that following finger ready to click. And ... GO!

My Top 100 Must Follow Tweeters for 2011

National Endowment for the Arts: Our nation's independent agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, the NEA is responsible for furthering the notion that "A Great Nation Deserves Great Art". (Although, our current Congress would love nothing more than to de-fund this very important agency.)

Rachel Maddow: Because she's incredibly bright, funny, politically savvy and loves an amazingly good cocktail. Need I say more?

San Diego Opera: San Diego Opera, ranked by OPERA AMERICA as one of the top 10 opera companies in the United States, is a widely respected member of the international opera community. Compelled to seek new audiences for opera, this company uses innovation as capital and invests in Podcasts, Television, YouTube, Blogging and yet more Television. This national and regional model for all arts organizations is a must follow for sure!

Keith Olbermann: It's no secret that I'm a fan of this guy. He's brilliantly clever and isn't afraid to speak his mind against corruption, obstruction and anything else that stands in the way of progress.

The Metropolitan Opera: Our nations top opera house is deserving of a follow from you - just because of who they are ... am I wrong?

Krupp Group: If you crave info on fashion - including designer news, sample sales, new products and events - then, the "Krupp Cakes" over at Krupp Group PR are a must follow for you.

NOH8 Campaign: Celebrity photographer Adam Bouska created the NOH8 Campaign as a silent protest to California's Proposition 8 - which, as you'll remember, amended California's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. So far, the campaign encompasses over 5,500 faces and continues to grow.

Jenn Newman: Singer, life'style specialist, human rights advocate and soon to be real estate goddess - this lady is a force of nature. I should know ... she's my better half.

Amy Keller: Not only is she the voice for all things Social Media over at Krupp Group... but, this PR dynamo and Jane-of-All-Trades is also a personal shopper and stylist. No joke - she will edit your closet within and inch of it's life and then, help you fill it with pieces that mix, match and make you feel like a zillion bucks! Follow. Her. Now.

Larry Tenney: PR Guru. Brand Master. Reputation Ambassador. Corporate Communications Genius. Public Affairs Wizard. Trendspotter. Social Media Evangelist. You name it, Larry has got it covered. Clearly you'll learn something if you follow him ... so, if you want to be in the know - do it.

Cory Booker: As the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, this guy is a political power house who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves with the residents of Newark and get some real work done. It wont be long before he's standing center stage in the national political scene.

Soprano Deborah Voigt
Deborah Voigt: This dramatic soprano [L.] has often been called "a down to earth diva". Follow her and you'll see how true it is. As a matter of fact, she tweeted a special message to Josh Groban just yesterday saying: "If u ever want to sing with an opera singer, I'm your lady! Love your voice." Not gonna lie, the track would be repeating on my iPod for sure ... sort of like La Diva Renée's Endlessly- I. Was. Obsessed. I love a good crossover.

As a side note - Josh, you've gotta do this. Seriously. Have your people call Deb's people!

Renée Fleming: Speaking of La Diva Renée ... as news broke about her new appointment at Lyric Opera Chicago, I knew she had to be on the list. One of the most celebrated sopranos of our day, "the people's diva" is following in the footsteps of another operatic media darling and is slowly making her way into a new role as operatic ambassador and administrator.

Kelly Cutrone: From "the people's diva" to People's Revolution ... Kelly Cutrone is the uber savvy, high strung, yet surprisingly zen high priestess of Public Relations. Her book If You Have to Cry, Go Outside should be on the "must read" list of every Lady (and Gent, too) who wants to live to their fullest potential.

Americans for the Arts: The nation's leading non profit organization for advancing the arts. A great cause to become involved in, don't you think?

Chris Hayes: Now, you all know that Politics are my sport of choice. As Washington Editor of The Nation Magazine, as well as frequent guest host on MSNBC, this guy shows some serious smarts regarding our nation's politics on a frequent basis. What his Twitter feed shows is his broad array of interests and a wittiness beyond compare.

Madison Opera: Celebrating 50 Years of professional opera in Madison, Wisconsin - this company continues to use the uniqueness of opera to enrich the culture of the community.

Matchbook Magazine: Launching this month, Matchbook Magazine is an online lifestyle magazine celebrating the classics. Matchbook will inspire you ladies to design a life you adore. Their Twitter Bio says it all: "From lipstick to letterpress, gelato to grosgrain, and Paris to Peru, consider us your field guide to a charmed life."

Thompson Small Travel Duffle
COACH: As the leading American brand of luxury leather goods, fine accessories and gifts - COACH is a must follow. After all, every singer, musician or conductor should have a great bag to carry their scores in and COACH is just the place to get one! I've had my COACH Drafting Tote for almost 3 years and I feel just as great carrying my stuff in it today as I did the day I got it. Now, if I *had* to get a new COACH carry-all, it would definitely be the one pictured left. Ugh-mazing!

Actor's Equity: As the labor union that represents Actors and Stage Managers in the United States, this group can seem like a pain in the neck, but they really do take care of their own.

BabyCakes NYC: This Kosher Bakery on the Lower East Side of NYC is the home of tasty treats that are Vegan, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free and Agave-Sweetened. They are truly incredible!

Mark Blankenship: Editor of The Critical Condition, Mark's tweets are always insightful, clever and are sure to make you want to run to the nearest Pop Music station.

Chris Benz: As one of New York’s top designers, this guy has stellar access to some of the brightest and best events, parties and people in the fashion industry. His tweets are punchy, pithy and always topped with tons of wit. Most definitely a *must* follow.

Ezra Klein: Blogger for the Washington Post, columnist for Newsweek, contributor to MSNBC ... this guy will make you think. His blog brings you the hottest policy ideas and provides his own unique take on them.

Caroline Manzo: This Real Housewives of New Jersey star is not someone I'd want to tangle with while walking in a dark alley. Known in our house as "Mama Manzo" (because secretly, I wish she'd adopt me) this woman will cut anyone who even *thinks* about coming after her family.

Kristin Chenoweth: This little lady is the closest thing you can get to a human sawed-off shotgun. She's small, but packs a hilarious and well sung punch!

Aprile Millo: While this soprano doesn't tweet as often as we'd like, I think this "High Priestess of that old time operatic religion" is certainly a tweeter of note! If you haven't already, check her out on YouTube. The voice is to die for.

Greer Grimsley: One of the nations leading bass baritones, this guy [pictured left on the cover of Opera News] is a force of nature - and I can say that having shared a stage with him. His voice is gigantic. I mean, it's like standing next to a Harley-Davidson with the hammer down. What's more is that his artistry easily overshadows the huge-osity of his voice. Great guy.

Doyle and Doyle: An antique, estate and fine jewelry boutique in Manhattan's Lower East Side - this place will rock your socks!

Lyric Opera Chicago: The finest singers of our time paired with an internationally celebrated orchestra and chorus makes for some grand spectacle in Chicago.

Joyce DiDonato: This lady is one of the most important and successful mezzo sopranos of our day. Ever the professional, this Lady Di always delivers a great performance - even with a broken leg!

West Elm: West Elm designs clean, simple products for modern living. They are amazing.

New York Philharmonic: Founded in 1842 by a group of local musicians led by American-born Ureli Corelli Hill, the New York Philharmonic is by far the oldest symphony orchestra in the United States, and one of the oldest in the world. It currently plays some 180 concerts a year, and on May 5, 2010, gave its 15,000th concert — a milestone unmatched by any other symphony orchestra.

Glimmerglass Opera: Glimmerglass Opera is a world-renowned summer opera festival in Cooperstown, NY. This spectacular organization has been the launching pad for many operatic careers - singer, pianists and conductors alike.

Naxos USA: Distributor of 100+ classical, jazz and performing arts recording labels. Amazing folks over there.

Phoenix Chorale: This Grammy winning group of uber talented singers is certainly one of the finest professional choral ensembles in America.

Jet Blue: For info, deals and more you must follow these guys. They give award winning service and DirectTV.... I mean, come on. It's a no-brainer.

Vancouver Opera: V.O. is the second largest opera company in Canada. It is regarded worldwide for its fine mainstage productions; for its country-leading education programs, which have reached more than 1.6 million children and their families in 35 years. Of course they're Canadian.

Tasty Treats From Macaron Parlour
Macaron Parlour: The Missus had these little treats [L.] at her last cabaret and let me tell you ... they are the tastiest little gems you could imagine. SO tasty, as a matter of fact, that I witnessed people stock-piling them on the tables. (You know who you are.)

MENY NYC: The New York City chapter of Marriage Equality New York is a *must* follow for sure. This group of truly dedicated individuals is the oldest organization in the state of New York to advocate full and equal marriage for same-sex couples. Equal Rights for all!

Delos Music: Called the Great American Label, Delos was formed to give outstanding American artists an international platform in 1973. These folks are a serious asset to the American artist and to classical music.

Freedom to Marry: Freedom to Marry is the campaign to win marriage equality nationwide for all loving and committed couples. Again, must I say it? Equal Rights for ALL!! Let's be honest ... Most straight couples wouldn’t want someone telling them they couldn’t marry, and when they think about it, many say they wouldn’t want to deny that for anyone else.

Ryan MacPherson: This tenor has a penchant for heavy metal and motorcycles. The dichotomy is just too good to pass up, no?

Lincoln Center: Find out what's going on at this hub of culture.

The British Monarchy: Who in their right mind doesn't want a little Royalty in their life? This is your way to get it.

Andy Cohen: Royalty of a different sort ... Reality TV Royalty. Andy Cohen is Senior Vice President of Original Programming and Development at Bravo TV - Which means he's responsible for bringing you all the reality TV goodness you can handle.

Kiehl's: If you're looking for incredible skin or hair care - Kiehl's is the place you want to go. Their amazing products are long lasting - you wont go wrong.

Opera's "It" couple Netrebko and Schrott
Erwin Schrott: As one of the operatic "it" guys of our time, bass baritone Erwin Schrott [seen left in concert with his Missus] continues to WOW audiences with his dazzling vocal abilities and his rugged 'hollywood' charm. And let's be honest, having a lady like La Netrebko on your arm clearly doesn't hurt your image. -UPDATE: also check out Schrott's new blog Erwin's music den.

Anna Netrebko: I have come 'round the bend where La Netrebko [seen left in concert with her Mister] is concerned. After seeing her as Antonia in the Met's Les Contes D'Hoffmann, my icy heart gave way to pure fan-dom for this Russian superstar. Her tweets are general PR schlock most of the time, but at least you get a sense of what she's up to - and you get to read about her fantastic Zac Posen coat ... which, I'm told, is a big deal.

Kenneth Cole: His shoes are amazing. His bags are incredible. His social conscience is beyond. For thoughts by Cole himself as well as others who are "behind the seams" follow him.

Ken Davenport: This Broadway and Off-Broadway producer brings you The Producer's Prospective - which is not only a blog, but also a spectacular resource for Broadway and beyond. I'm saying a spectacular resource, Chickpeas!

Brooklyn Botanical Garden: Because into everyone's life, some beauty must fall - follow these fantastic folks for bloom updates in the garden and much, much more.

Opera Chic: Coming to you from Milan, this superstar blogger and all around media maven is *the* go-to-girl for news about opera, fashion and most everything in between. For example: she just reported on the partnership waged between Japanese make-up giant Shiseido and Teatro alla Scala... check out the advertisement!

Broadway Impact: A grassroots coalition of the Theatre community and its fans, mobilizing in support of MARRIAGE EQUALITY.

Lyric Opera Kansas City: The Lyric Opera of Kansas City is one of the nation's premier regional opera companies, and has 97 different productions (29 of which are American operas) to its credit.

CNN's Political Ticker: Although, truth be told I rarely watch CNN anymore, this is a good ticker to keep your thumb on.

The Enchantment Resort
The Enchantment Resort: In secluded Boynton Canyon near Sedona, Arizona, this resort is truly a stunning place to vacation. Your senses will be dazzled by the red rock - your body will be calmed by the tranquility and your spirit will be cleansed by the vortex ... seriously, it will.

Gawker: From the Beltway and Manhattan to Hollywood and (where else matters?), Gawker is the place to go when you need the scoop.

The Kennedy Center: Hub of the arts in our Nation's Capital, The Kennedy Center is also America's living memorial to President John F. Kennedy.

Liam Bonner: This rising star in the operatic world is a self-proclaimed Steelers fan, dog lover, beer drinker, social butterfly and arts fanatic. Seriously ... what more could you want in a Tweeter?

The White House: This is the offical White House twitter account. Why not follow what is going on at "the People's House"?

Ovation TV: Tweets from the only television network dedicated to the arts and personal creativity! And how about those reruns of "Bathroom Divas"? Love them!

New York City Opera: They came back from the brink of disaster with a gusto - follow them to find up to the minute details on everything from VOX to Rufus Wainwright's Prima Donna.

Joseph Calleja
Joseph Calleja: The AP says tenor Joseph Calleja [L.] "... has a voice unlike anyone else on the operatic scene today." Follow this young star on the rise.

James Sims: Sr. Editor: Broadway World. Blogger: Huffington Post, The Wrap, Sr. New Media Specialist: American Museum of Natural History. This guy is an important guy to follow if you like to be in-the-know ... and you know you do.

Brooklyn Flea: NYC's coolest flea market, for sure! The New York Times calls Brooklyn Flea "One of the great urban experiences in New York." If you haven't been - GO!

Neil Carlson: Neil is Co-founder of the Brooklyn Creative League - a place that gives independent professionals, small-shop companies, and nonprofits the tools they need to get their work done: affordable, green, shared workspace. All good things.

Zachary Woolfe: He's writer/editor at Capital NY and is also opera critic for the NY Observer. He's a critic I like!

San Francisco Opera: San Francisco Opera has been one of the world’s leading producers of opera since its inception in 1923. In addition, their array of Artist Development programs are a beacon for thousands of young singers who would love nothing more than to have a life on the stage.

Opera News: Celebrating 75 years of giving coverage to all things operatic.

Susan Eichhorn Young: This singer, actor and director is a power house voice teacher. With active studios in New York, Toronto and Los Angeles, I have no idea how she finds time to blog as well.

BAM Brooklyn: BAM is America's oldest continuously operating performing arts center, founded in 1861. Cinema, Performance, Art, Literature, Talks, and Special Events ... they've got it all.

Minnesota Opera: Opera News says they have the most daring programming in America - don't you want to see for yourself?

Barack Obama by Pete Souza
Pete Souza: Official White House Photographer - you can always find amazing shots through his tweets ... like this one on the left of President Obama. Love it.

Portland Opera: One of the premier arts organizations in the Pacific Northwest, Portland Opera is currently producing A Season of Fantasy or Reality?. Truly they continue to celebrate the beauty and breadth of opera.

Boston Lyric Opera: New England's premier opera company, BLO is known for it's artistically excellent and diverse productions. They are also committed to featuring emerging operatic talent.

Robert Diamond: Editor-in-chief of, this guy has more than one finger on the Broadway Pulse.

Huffington Post: This internet newspaper was founded in part by Arianna Huffington who wrote the fantastic book Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend. Features, news, tickets and all things Broadway.

Long Beach Opera: Continuing it's longstanding commitment to presenting an expanded vision of opera, this beacon of the Southern California artistic community stays true to it's motto: "expect the unexpected".

Theatre Development Fund: A.K.A. TKTS (as in the booths in Times Square), the TDF was established in 1968 to support theatrical works of artistic merit.

The Dallas Opera: Ever since it's inaugural concert with the legendary Maria Callas in 1957, The Dallas Opera has continued it's artistic excellence for over fifty years.

The Cut: The Cut blog is New York Magazine's fashion blog and Friendlies, it's the place to find out the goods on ... well ... the goods.

Fort Worth Opera: Another operatic gem in Texas is this fantastic opera festival. Their passion? To become recognized internationally as an organization that preserves and expands the transcending Art of opera.

La Jolla Symphony: Now in its 55th season, the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus enriches the lives of Southern Californians with a wide array of traditional and contemporary music.

New Orleans Opera: Although this company has a very rich history, it doesn't have too many followers on Twitter. Perhaps if all of you Chiclets follow, they'll be coaxed to tweet more and give us the inside scoop on what they have to offer in that great American city.

Leah Crocetto: Soprano Leah Crocetto is a second-year Adler fellow with San Francisco Opera and winner of the 2010 Met Opera National Council auditions, this girl's star is on the rise.

Opera Zone: Cheryl Pierce is a publicist enamored with opera, brownies, champagne and the Boston Red Sox. To be honest, we see eye to eye on everything except the Boston Red Sox - I'm just not that into Water Polo.

Nashville Opera: Tennessee's crown jewel of opera. This is a company that is dedicated to producing greatness and isn't afraid to tweet about it.

New York Transit Museum
New York Transit Museum: Need something fun to do? You have to visit this truly unique museum devoted to the impact of public transportation on the New York metropolitan region. GO!

Time Out New York: This magazine's twitter feed is a great place to discover activities, events and other things to do in NYC.

Royal Opera House: Find out what's going on across the pond with this house's two resident companies, The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet.

Paul Gosselin: This Theater, Celebrity, TV, Opera, Twitter and Cosmo fanatic is an absolute hoot to follow. You're sure to get a chuckle or two from his Twitter feed!

Opera Theatre St. Louis: Outstanding artist sing at this company that prides itself on audience intimacy. 94% of the seats in their theater are closer to the center of the stage than the front row at the Met.

Janet Hopkins: This Met Diva is a fervent advocate of opera and of the arts in general. Uber supportive tweeter.

Everyday Opera: Life full voice: opera, food, wine and travel ... what more could one want really? With her blog Everyday Opera, a healthy social network on Ning and an online radio show, Lori Lewis has taken her passions to the next level, and then some. Follow her to find out more about life full voice.

Opera Manhattan: This non-profit opera company provides a nurturing environment for emerging artists to learn, develop and perfect their craft. Good stuff!

Austin Lyric Opera: An opera company that prides itself on its fresh and innovative approach to all things opera.

Go forth and follow these lovely tweeters!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Move over Sydney - could the world have a new Opera House icon?

Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian
When many people think of opera houses, the Sydney Opera House generally comes to mind as the world's greatest Opera House icon. That may be changing.

Set in Haixinsha Square, a brand new stretch of south China's ever-expanding trading city, the Guangzhou Opera House rises sort of like a Phoenix from the ashes -- or as Jonathan Glancey of the says of British-Iraqi Zaha Hadid's design:
[T]he opera house takes the form of what appear to be two enormous pebbles that might have been washed up on the shores of the Pearl river, on which Guangzhou stands. Rough-shaped things sheathed in triangles of granite and glass protrusions, one houses the main auditorium while the smaller encloses a multipurpose performance space. There's no question, though, that the opera house is best experienced at night. As darkness falls and the foyers fill up with people, the building magically comes to life.
Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian
China's operatic gain was Great Britain's loss, however. In 1994, Hadid had designed a Cardiff Bay Opera House which, some say, would have become the most radical and significant building in Great Britain. Unfortunately, some stodgy Brits wouldn't hear of it and made sure, via tight-fisted control of the purse strings, that it wouldn't be built.

The Brits haven't written Hadid off completely, however. The Aquatics Center for the 2012 Olympics is her design. The £244m aquatics centre boasts a 160-metre roof and will house two 50-metre pools, a 25-metre diving pool and will be able to accommodate 17,500 spectators.

I think it's safe to say that Hadid certainly knows big buildings - but, she also knows more intimate venues as well. Hadid designed the pavilion for the mobile Chanel exhibit which visited New York a couple of years ago. See images of that project here.

For video coverage of the Guangzhou Opera House's opening night, hop on over to the Guardian's website. For more photos visit the gallery.
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