Ave Maria for the Children of Haiti now available on I-Tunes and CD BABY



One of the world’s most famous and beloved voices, Aprile Millo teams up with the marvelous young Canadian soprano Maria Vetere in a ravishing, hauntingly beautiful new Ave Maria, destined to become a classic. And 100% of all net proceeds from sales of the recording will benefit Hurricane Matthew Relief in Haiti.

When Peter Danish, the Classical Music Editor of BroadwayWorld.com, heard from the pastor of a local Haitian church that donations were down significantly because of the bad press surrounding the Red Cross and the Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti, he contacted opera legend Aprile Millo with an idea.

He suggested Millo record a spiritual song, an AVE MARIA for the holidays, with 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the recording going to Hurricane relief. Millo, one of the world’s best-loved sopranos, known as “the high priestess of that old time operatic religion,” has had a career spanning 30 years on the world’s greatest operatic stages. Millo agreed and they went to work. “From the first time Peter played the song for me, the melody positively haunted me.” said Millo. Time was extremely short for a Xmas release, but Danish found everyone he reached out to gladly offered to help. And in just over three weeks from start to finish, AVE MARIA (For the Children of Haiti) was completed.

A GLOBAL VIRTUAL ORCHESTRA: Danish enlisted help of musician friends and in a little over two weeks over 20 musicians from 8 countries contributed their time and talents to the song: a choir in Venezuela, a string quartet in Israel, a cellist from Croatia, flutist from the Netherlands, Canada , Mexico, Ireland, Latvia and the list goes on! It has gone global with everyone performing their parts and then emailing the tracks to Danish in New York for the final mix. Danish turned to master engineer Frank D. Fagnano to handle the mixing and mastering, and Fagnano wove together dozens of parts into a ravishing mosaic.

“The out-pouring of offers was completely overwhelming!” said Danish. “The difficulty was that I hadn’t even written parts for all of these instruments. But we won’t turn anyone down that wants to help. It’s been crazy, but good crazy and for a great cause.”

The song, AVE MARIA holds a very special significance for the people of Haiti. “At holiday time, it’s especially important to remember those who are less fortunate than us. Think about the kind of Christmas the children of Haiti are going to have this year,” said Dordy Joseph, of the Church of God, in Nyack, NY. “We at Nyack Church of God are thrilled that Aprile Millo, Maria Vetere and Peter Danish have given so unselfishly of their time to help the kids. Every little bit helps.”


To download from CD Baby Click Here

To download from I-Tunes   CLICK HERE

Presenting “Operavision Academy: L’Accademia Millo Vetere” Launching in Urbania 2015

Operavision Academy Summer Poster


Along with legendary operatic soprano, Aprile Millo, we are proud to present Operavision Academy, an innovative summer academy for professional and semi-professional opera singers and pianists.  Set in the beautiful medieval town of Urbania (Le Marche) and in association with the renowned Centro Studi Italiani, we are pleased to bring a most esteemed group of musicians and professionals, and high profile operatic personages to guide you toward the highest stage performance excellence possible.  Alongside, Dr. Vetere and Mme. Millo will be Maestri of the highest rank from the Metropolitan Opera, the Puccini Opera Festival, Teatro Carlo Felice Genoa, Glyndebourne Festival, and a panel of remarkable guests.  We are especially honoured to bring Maestro Richard Bonynge for a series of masterclasses and discussions on Bel Canto, Dr.ssa Simonetta Puccini, head of the Villa Museo Puccini and granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini, special video visits by Maestro Franco Zeffirelli, and other esteemed individuals to help you get closer to your dream and achieve it.  Special performances will be given for the city of Urbania (Teatro Bramante), The Casa Di Riposo Giuseppe Verdi, The Museo Renata Tebaldi (in conjunction with the Comitato Renata Tebaldi, and The Villa Museo Puccini (Torre del Lago) in conjunction with Dr.ssa Simonetta Puccini.  For more information, please visit our website at www.operavisionacademy.co or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.  You can contact OV Academy directly at operavisionacademy@gmail.com.  Come be with us this summer!  Count down to Urbania 2015 begins!!!

Aprile Millo performs in Toronto TONIGHT!


Internationally renown operatic soprano Aprile Millo performs tonight in recital at Trinity St Paul’s United on Bloor St W at 7:30pm. Tickets are available at http://www.ticketleap.com (search Millo) or at the door.

She is performing a wonderfully varied repertoire of Italian art songs, German Lieder, and of course her most beloved arias, with Linda Ippolito, piano; Gustavo Ahualli, baritone; Merynda Adams, harp; Mary-Lou Vetere, soprano/accordion; Giacomo Folinazzo, tenor. Don’t miss this spectacular evening with the Golden Voiced angel of opera.

Published in: on November 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm  Comments (1)  
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Upcoming Broadcasts: Tonight “Carmen” Live from the MET

It’s always a great idea to sit down with a glass of wine or a good cup of coffee or tea and listen to LIVE opera.  If you can’t get to the house to hear it live, this is the next best thing.  Here is what is coming up this week!

Carmen: Tuesday September 30, 2014



Conductor: Pablo Heras-Casado
Micaëla: Anita Hartig
Carmen: Anita Rachvelishvili
Don José: Aleksandrs Antonenko
Escamillo: Massimo Cavalletti

Click here to Listen Live!

Also available on Met Opera Radio via Sirius/XM Radio

To Chat Live click here to enter OPERACHAT LIVE!


Anita Hartig

Soprano, Anita Hartig is Micaela

Macbeth: Friday, October 3, 2014



Conductor: Fabio Luisi
Lady Macbeth: Anna Netrebko
Macduff: Joseph Calleja
Macbeth: Željko Lucic
Banquo: René Pape


Click here to Listen Live on Sirius XM Radio (via subscription)


Anna Netrebko Macbeth Metropolitan Opera

Soprano Anna Netrebko is Lady Macbeth

Spend the Weekend with Aprile Millo in Toronto: Opera Spectacular!

Don’t miss this exciting event!  Legendary diva with the golden voice hits Toronto!

Come spend two nights with Aprile Millo as she presents Canadian talent and sings a long-anticipated recital in the heart of Toronto!

Thursday, November 13, 2014:  Opera Spectacular

Saturday, November 15:  Aprile Millo in Recital


Millo Recital 2014 Toronto


The legendary soprano returns to Toronto for a special weekend of music. The New York Post’s James Jorden wrote “The soprano, considered the foremost stylist of Italian romantic vocal music, always draws an audience of hard core cognoscenti, who are practically an opera in themselves”. Aware of the traditions in opera and keenly determined to see them continue on November 13, 2014 Miss Millo is presenting the promise of tomorrow in Opera Spectacular! where she is featuring a fabulous young soprano in Mary-Lou Vetere and her Vetere Studio filled with amazing Canadian voices. Then on Nov 15th, with renowned piano virtuoso, Linda Ippolito, she gives a recital of arias, art songs of Italy, lieder and Irish and American songs. Special guest artists will be joining her, Argentinian baritone, Gustavo Ahualli, and Mary-Lou Vetere showcasing another of her many talents on accordion as well, and magical harpist, Merynda Adams. Both nights will be like nothing you have ever seen.

Click here to purchase tickets to Aprile Millo Recital


Opera Spectacular!  Final Draft

Iconic soprano, Aprile Millo understands what it means to be a part of the great tradition of opera. Her mentors in her legendary career number some of the greatest who ever sang, Renata Tebaldi, Zinka Milanov, Magda Olivero, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Licia Albanese and Richard Bonygne and Randolph Mickelson and gloriously singing with Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, and Carlo Bergonzi and Canada’s great tenors, Ben Heppner, Richard Margison and the great Ermano Mauro, to name a few. Keenly aware of the need to continue the Bel Canto traditions, Mme. Millo met and mentored a talented young Canadian Italian soprano, (with a PHD yet!), in Mary-Lou Vetere and began working with her and her amazing group of young singers in The Vetere Studio. Opera Spectacular! is a glamourous evening of arias and scenes featuring some of those fabulous voices! Mme. Millo wanted to share her joy with the great nation of Canada her immense joy at finding so many wonderful artists in love with OPERA and eager to learn and promote culture and the arts. Fresh from their sold-out cheering performances in Niagara Falls, ON. this recital is unlike anything you have ever seen. Who said Opera is boring? Passion, romance, intrigue and grandeur wrapped up in a melodic little package all for the price of admission. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a community to build a star. Come see Canada’s brightest hopes for the future and be a part of it all!!! Channel your inner Pavarotti and come join in, you will never be the same!


Click here to purchase tickets to Opera Spectacular

Metropolitan 2014/2015 Season Opener Just a Couple of Hours Away!

Met Auditorium


In a couple of hours, the Metropolitan Opera will open its doors to the 2014/2015 season.  Tonight, the incomparable Maestro James Levine conducts Mozart’s masterpiece, “Le Nozze di Figaro.” You can listen live on Met Opera Radio or on the Met Opera Website by clicking here.



Click here to Listen Live!!!

Cast for Nozze Di Figaro:

Countess Almaviva: Amanda Majeski
Susanna: Marlis Petersen
Cherubino: Isabel Leonard
Count Almaviva: Peter Mattei
Figaro: Ildar Abdrazakov

Ildar Abrazakov

Ildar Abdrazakov as Figaro

Production Team
Production: Richard Eyre
Set & Costume Designer: Rob Howell
Lighting Designer: Paule Constable
Choreographer: Sara Erde

Isabel Leonard

Isabel Leonard as Cherubino

Join OPERACHAT LIVE during the opera!


Speaking out for Tradition

Richard Tucker Day August 28, 2014


Tomorrow, New York City celebrates and pays tribute to the great American tenor, Richard Tucker. Amidst all of the chaos surrounding opera in New York City in recent weeks, it is seemingly appropriate to publicize a true celebration of artistry and the genre as it ought to be considered.

Many of you have asked why I’ve not commented or posted about the ongoings at the Met and the closing of a few European houses and the truth is that 1. I refuse to join this fabricated bandwagon that opera is dying and that there are no big voices left, that tradition is dead, that opera needs to be modernized, etc…
2. Ive decided to fight back this notion by studying my own singing intently and completely focusing on tradition, perfecting my technique, and following  the influence of those great singers who came before me in hope of reversing the notion that bel canto is dead.
3. Ive centered on my studio of 35 wonderful young talents, all big voices focused on line, phrasing, text, delivery, content and complete avoidance of the plethora of uncontrolled vibrato that seems to inhabit the stage today. For those interested in hearing our traditional army of singers, stay tuned for our upcoming presentation in Toronto, Ontario in the late fall. Im so thrilled for these amazing singers and more than thrilled to present them as guardians of tradition and this art.

Finally, I feel that the times are changing. We need to get back to the opera house, back in the seats to hear LIVE singing and singers need to give audiences a reason better than looking beautiful to fill those seats. Audiences havent gone anywhere but the greats have…so lets really give em something to talk about. VOCE VOCE VOCE!!

I will have more to say in upcoming weeks and some performance announcements too but I cannot close without paying remembrance to the great Licia Albanese who passed away earlier this month. She was a beacon of tradition and truth, a guiding artist and soprano of the highest esteem. May her voice and memory remain fervent in our hearts always. Riposa in pace grande Licia!


Published in: on August 27, 2014 at 5:41 pm  Comments (3)  
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An Italian Operatic Journey: Il Tabarro, Puccini, La Tebaldi, and Zeffirelli

Tabarro Poster



A story of infidelity and deception, murder, and infinite purgatory, a man whose music transcends, and a woman who was born to sing with Golden beams of sound that cause frenzied audiences: the combination of a lifetime and the reason behind one of the most rewarding trips to Italy I have ever taken and may ever take. I’ve thought for awhile about writing this blog entry and how or if I was going to publish one at all because of the deeply personal value of this trip for me, however the experiences and personas that I encountered, the understanding of the current artistic situation in Italy, and the state of opera in general have to be shared in order for it to gain true value.

Several months ago, when Aprile Millo was contracted to sing Giorgetta in Puccini’s “Il Tabarro”, I became overly excited because I have spent so much time with the great Maestro’s music.  I was tickled by the fact that her ever beautiful, but now much more lush and buoyant sound, filled with “corpo” and a cut that few singers have in this day and age, would be mingled with the harmonies in Tabarro that had haunted me the first time I heard it.  I was really interested to see how an artist of her ilk, seeking perfection and being very selective about the heroines she chooses to portray, was going to wrap her mind around a woman who is definitely one of the least honourable of Puccini’s women.  It is truly a lesson as an artist to observe someone great go through a journey of this type and boy what an honour it was for me to see this unfold.

IMG_3656 Via XX Settembre, Genoa


View from the upstairs of the Teatro Carlo Felice

IMG_3688The beautiful Teatro Carlo Felice

Arriving in Genoa, the diva didn’t have much time to assimilate and acclimatize from the cold temperatures of New York to the more springlike temperatures of Genoa, nor the fact that we were in the north of Italy.  Nothing fazed her and off  she went to rehearsal the day after arriving.  I did not attend the first rehearsal but was busy exploring the area around the Via XX Settembre, which was of course filled with everything I adore:  bookstores, cafés, pen and stationary stores, and yes…shoe stores but we won’t talk about that…that’s another blog entry all on it’s own!

IMG_3675 Dress Rehearsal for “Il Tabarro”

The following day, I did attend the dress rehearsal in the Teatro Carlo Felice and was very interested in the construction of the theatre, especially the exposed stone walls that surround the stage.  I immediately fell in love with this orchestra.  Ma che bravissimi!!!  And, Maestro Donato Renzetti was truly a caring, diligent, and supportive conductor who allowed the singers and musicians to express while keeping the constraints of the music.  I cannot stand when Puccini is conducted like Mozart.  The music is very expansive with flex and fold and I usually become agitated when the passionate fervour of his orchestral palate is destroyed by a conductor who does not understand the important balance Puccini required  that in each of his operas is different.  Maestro Renzetti made sure to allow for expansiveness and flexibility which allowed the singers to express freely.

Donato Renzetti

Maestro Donato Renzetti


The cast list

It was at this rehearsal that I became entranced with what Aprile was doing with Giorgetta.  I had always listened to la Tebaldi sing it and enjoyed it very much, but in this Aprile brought her own personal interpretation which was different and one that I have to say I enjoyed even more than Tebaldi’s.  Every word was expressed to the point that even the softest piani were heard in the back of the theatre.  Her sense of “parlato” was impeccable and the diction clear as a bell.  She was able to expand the character both expressively and vocally with a huge range of colour and volume.  Personally, I had never really liked Giorgetta as a character, and we’re not really supposed to the way Puccini presents her, but what I found was that I actually liked Millo’s Giorgetta.  I felt for her…I understood why she was acting the way she was.  The opera suddenly became more valuable to me within the repertoire.  I was also deeply moved by the rich chocolate baritone of Carlos Almaguer and the mezzo of Renata Lamanda who expressed their roles with elegance and personality.

The performance was gaining a lot of buzz around Italy and I was very happy to find this in the newspaper the day of the show:


A full 3 page article discussing Puccini’s heroines in the Genovese newspaper and yes THAT is how it’s done in Italy people.  Opera gets headline news!!!  Viva L’Italia!!!  The theatre was buzzing that night and important persons were present, especially of note Signora Simonetta Puccini, the granddaughter of Giacomo Puccini himself.  She personally asked to meet Aprile before the performance and the two who are both soldiers for opera and the preservation of its authenticity became fast friends.  However, it must be noted that after the performance, Signora Puccini in my presence told Millo that her performance of “Tabarro” was the best she had ever heard.  She wished to include her photo at Torre del Lago of the great interpreters of his roles.  I already knew something historic was happening that night and Signora Puccini also realized what was being presented.  This would not be the final meeting with Signora Puccini…


Aprile Millo and Signora Simonetta Puccini

The performance was electric.  A very lovely Suor Angelica was presented prior to, sung by the renowned Italian soprano Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, who sang with beautiful tone and attention to every detail.  Also, of note was the singing of mezzo-soprano Annunziata Vestri who sang the role of La Badessa.  When Tabarro began, immediately the harmonies sweep you away into something you’re not sure you want to be in but you can’t help yourself.  Millo and her colleagues dove right in from the first utterances of “O Michele Michele.” which caused a hush in the theatre.  I was even more impressed by the expansiveness Millo showed that evening with the softest piano and two hairsplitting high C’s that are so full and yet penetrating that you’re not really sure what happened to you once they ring in the theatre walls.  The audience was in great appreciation with multiple curtain calls and a Signora Puccini who was applauding with great enthusiasm. Needless to say, honouring Puccini that evening was a great success for the Teatro Carlo Felice.

Review of Il Tabarro from the Bergamo Opera-click


Lots of pictures and line ups of aficionados


Maestro Valerio Galli, Aprile Millo, and Renato Bonajuto


Renata Lamanda in praise of her colleague

Part II:  Villa Puccini


Not only did Signora Puccini enjoy the performance, she invited Millo (and me in tow) to Puccini’s villa in Torre del Lago a couple of days later.  For me, this was the invitation of a lifetime.  I’ve spent 20 years studying the music of the great maestro and he is of course my “preferito” and so I could not believe that I was going to his home, where he had written so many of the operas I adore and those that I have fallen crazy in love with.  We arrived in Torre del Lago in what seemed to be a violent tempest of rain.  Blowing wind, water that seemed to be jumping up over the edge of Torre del Lago like some kind of wild animal, and very poor visibility because of the buckets of rain that fell.  As soon as we drove into the little town, the energy became electric for me.  Every street has the title of an opera and it is a long road that leads to one place only…the place Puccini loved, that he spent his most beloved hours in life.

IMG_3743Puccini’s statue in the distance looking at the wild water of the Lake.


Exterior facade of the Villa Puccini

Upon arriving at the villa, my heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear anything else.  After so much time adoring this man I never even met and probably spending more time studying him and his music than I have with even my own family, I realized that I was on sacred operatic ground.  Not only was his villa intact with everything he owned, his furniture, photos, hunting materials, and his beloved piano on which he composed, he was also buried in the villa.  Needless to say my legs were shaking.  We were met by Signora Puccini, adorable in a red toque at the door after traversing the blowing wind and rain to get in.  Aprile and I were immediately overwhelmed by the idea of where we were standing.  The first room was filled with old letters, manuscripts, and photo signed by all of the great interpreters of Puccini, a beautiful statue of Enrico Caruso in La Fanciulla del West, and a glass case in which lay the white vest and cummerbund that Maestro wore.  I looked at it almost as if trying to figure out exactly how big a man he was.  Note:  none of these photos were taken by me personally.  They are taken from online sources.

Manuscript room

We continued through the house and entered into a room in which both of us were in tears.  Everything as he left it, preserved beautifully by his granddaughter.

Puccini villa 2

Upon seeing that piano, the presence of the Maestro was palpable.  I think Signora Puccini was not sure what to do because we were both so overwhelmed with emotion.  She graciously had the glass over the keys removed so we could touch the keys and Maestro Galli, who we were with, played “Tu che di gel sei cinta” on the piano.  Never will I forget the sweet but prominent tone of that piano on which my favourite composer in the world composed the operas that steal my heart.


But more overwhelming was the move into the the room just behind the piano where the Maestro is buried right behind the piano he loved so much to play and on which the first melodies of Boheme rang against that wall.  It was not a place of sadness but of joy, of music, of someone trying to say, my music is important and I left it for you, please honour it.  We had brought a huge bouquet of red long stemmed roses which now was placed at the foot of his sepulchre.  Finally, I was able to put my hand where he rests and say “thank you” for the beauty and joy he brings to my life every day.  Even without knowing him, the room was filled with smiles, especially from Signora Puccini who by this point understood that Aprile and I were completely devoted to her grandfather.

We were so blessed to have spent time with her and I will never forget the wonderful things she spoke about, which I will not write here simply because of the nature of a private conversation, but I must document one important thing.  It became clearly evident how much the preservation and “authenticity” of her grandfather’s music was to her and to him.  Hearing her discuss her feelings on modernizing his productions made me furious with those who think it’s ok to simply ignore Puccini’s markings, instructions, and indications on the score.  It is NOT OK for directors to just rethink Puccini.  He did the thinking!!!  Modernizing is not the issue, it is when the composer’s wishes are bypassed in order to “rethink” his art.  I will forever stand in solidarity with Signora Puccini who made it clear that her grandfather would not have been too pleased.

In all, this was a day none of us will ever forget.

IMG_3747Simonetta Puccini and Myself

Part III:  The Home of Renata Tebaldi


This angel continues to influence young singers every day.  I did not go on this trip and expect to be so close to her and yet so far. Another person I have admired and adored, who I never met, and yet now I feel like I have.  Aprile, who had a very beautiful friendship with La Tebaldi had not been to her home since her death and so this experience was different for her than it was for me.  It was one of realization and some sadness, but joy in being with those who devote their life to her still.  In Milano now, we were greeted at the door by the president of the Renata Tebaldi foundation, Giovanna Colombo, who is busy preparing for the opening of the Tebaldi Museum in Busseto in June.  I stood beneath a huge plaque that indicated this place as one of honour in Milano because she had lived there.  Again, shaking is an understatement.

Up the little elevator we went and down a hallway where we were greeted by Marisa and a little dog who ended up stealing my heart.  Bonnie (III) is the little dog of Tina Viganò who had spent more than half her life in service to “la signorina” (she never calls her by first name).  I could not believe I was meeting her.  I was immediately hit in in the face with a gorgeous life-size portrait of Tebaldi on the wall that was so radiant you would think it was going to speak to you.  Out came Tina, a sweet, gentle smiled woman with open arms so happy to see Aprile who Tebaldi had adored as a friend and an artist.  I  was so moved to meet her but I became mute as I usually do when something affects me deeply.  All of la Tebaldi’s things were in the apartment, untouched, almost as if she was still living there. Especially moving was the piano that was the centrepiece of the room, covered with photos of important people and of the angel herself.  When I was asked by Tina to play it, I felt like I couldn’t possibly touch this instrument but I sat at the bench and collected myself before touching the keys as respectfully as I could.  A beautiful sweet sound, one that I could imagine her voice mingling with.  What a gift.

Afterwards we spent a lovely dinner talking about “la signorina” with little Bonnie (III) keeping an eye on everything but mostly on her Tina who was so watchful of her.  So many things, so many memories, I felt honoured to hear them and I felt like somehow La Tebaldi would’ve been tickled to know that Aprile was with Tina.

My beautiful pictureAprile with Renata Tebaldi

DSC_0091Aprile holding Bonnie III, Tina, me, and Giovanna Colombo

To visit the Official Renata Tebaldi Page and learn more about the beautiful Museum set to open soon please click here:

Sito Ufficiale del Comitato Renata Tebaldi

Part III: Franco Zeffirelli

Rome:  one of the greatest directors of all time celebrating his birthday and of course Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Liu’s in history, was invited to celebrate with him.  Another unexpected meeting for me, but one I was honoured to experience.  His house was a thing of beauty.  Art, and music everywhere, photos of great actresses he had worked with and singers.  The vibrance and elegance of this man, and a huge personality abounds.  With one of his many little dogs firmly planted on his lap the entire evening, he smiled broadly, welcoming everyone who was beautifully dressed  and so happy to be there.  I kept thinking of how I felt when the curtain opens on the Imperial Scene in Turandot and how majestic it is and Act II of La Boheme.  SHAME ON ANYONE who is trying to replace his magnificent artistic and creative productions.  Viva Zeffirelli per sempre!!! Happy Birthday Maestro…I was so happy to meet you!!

Aprile and Franco

Zeffirelli and Aprile Millo

1938039_10152223612963497_1304165351_n The sweetest man and a great artist

Part IV:  Various and Sundry

Some photos for your pleasure


The facade of the Vatican


Teatro Carlo Felice (Genoa)


The interior window of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele (Milano)


Interior of the Galleria (Milano)


Exterior of the Galleria at night (Milano)


Duomo Milano (at night)


Il Colosseo (Roma)


Piazza del Duomo (Milano)


Il Duomo (Milano)


La Scala and someone who loves her


Beautiful and rainy Venezia


Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)


A room with a view


If one could only wake up to this every day


The bridge of Sighs (Venice)


St. Mark’s (Venice)


Interior of St. Mark’s (Venice)


Gondolas on the water


One of the beautiful bridges (Venice)




Yay for female gondoliers!  I wonder if she sings?


Santa Maria della Salute (Venice)


I tried very hard to take this from the train.  The Alps were magnificent

Part IV:  Verdi’s Grave

It would not have been right for one of the greatest interpreters of Verdi in the world to go and pay respects to Puccini and not to her “preferito”, Giuseppe Verdi.  Straight from a long train ride from Venice to Milano, we took a cab to the Casa di Riposo Giuseppe Verdi.  Although this was a deeply personal moment for her, I feel the need to recount it for its beauty and honesty. I knew this was going to be an emotional moment for la Millo because she had not ever been to this spot (I had several years ago during a research trip to Milano and had a totally breakdown in front of that great man’s tomb).  We both became very muted and there was no one around, just the sound of her walking on the stone path that leads to his and Giuseppina Strepponi’s grave.  In the courtyard, one of the residents known to sing constantly, was singing Act II of La Bohème with such beautiful “nella maschera” singing that you could hear her from the street and she was probably 70-something years old.  I walked behind Aprile and gave her space to approach this man to whom she is so utterly connected.  In my mind I recalled her unparalleled “Ballo in Maschera” and “Aida” and all of the operas of his that she had left an inedible mark on. She stopped before entering the chapel in which the great man is buried and I watched her catch her breath although she was visibly shaking.  She entered there and immediately fell to her knees at the stone wall that separates the graves from the public.  The head bowed in complete prostration and the tears falling upon the stone….we stood in complete silence but I broke the solemnity to take this photo which I think speaks a thousand words and ought to be public for its beauty and for the devotion of this artist to this composer.  I know he would have smiled at you Aprile, for the honourable manner in which you continue to serve him not just on stage but every day of your life. Viva Verdi!!!

DSC_0519Aprile Millo at Verdi’s Grave

And so ended this time with little Tina Viganò, and Bonnie III coming in the early morning to hug Aprile and myself and say goodbye.  How beautiful it was that she came to wave and watch the car drive away, as Aprile had done the last time she saw Tebaldi leave.  We were both moved and I personally felt such a protectiveness toward Tina that I didn’t want to leave.  I cried outright at leaving this lady who in her devotion to Tebaldi became a solider of the arts herself.  This time that was filled with opera and singing, history, tears of joy, tears of gratitude, song, new friends, old friends, and the beauty of a country that remains in my heart every day.  How proud I am to be Italian and although I was born in Canada I owe so much to my great-grandparents Erminia and Ernesto for instilling in me the ways of life in Italy, traditions I keep to this day.  I promise that I will return to her much sooner than later and with a song in my heart willing to be expressed in honesty and devotion to these beautiful memories that I was absolutely blessed to have experienced.  Viva la patria!  Grazie Aprile and congratulations on a huge success. Stay tuned everyone for much more to come from her very soon!  I’ll keep you posted!

Claudio Abbado, Rusalka, and more on the Weight/Voice issue


Maestro Claudio Abbado (1933-2014)

The most significant event in recent days was the unfortunate passing of Maestro Claudio Abbado at 80 years of age, after a lengthy illness.  Known for his devotion to Italian Opera, opera fans and music fans are devastated over the loss of this enigmatic, giving, and very special man.  The following is his full obituary from The Guardian:

Claudio Abbado, who has died aged 80, was not only among the greatest of conductors; in his last decade, after suffering from very severe illness, he raised a superband of players all gathered together for his sake, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, to heights that many listeners have never experienced in other orchestral concerts. A recording producer defined his special gift as a sense of “absolute pulse” – more precisely, an unerring sense of the right and natural tempo relations in a piece that could give shape and meaning even to the most seemingly amorphous of works, and within that a supple life to the individual musical phrases that no contemporary has equalled. He also rejected what he called the “ghettoisation” of music and refused to make a special case for “modern” music as a thing apart: he was as ardent a champion of many living composers as of Brahms or Debussy.
Reserved and economical of gesture in rehearsal, frequently inspirational in performance, he regarded conversation about his profession as a poor means of communicating about the act of music-making. He was surely right; his achievements at the head of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic orchestras, which elect their chief conductors, and then of the Lucerne ensemble speak for themselves.

He was born into a musical family in Milan. His mother, Maria, gave him his first piano lessons when he was eight years old; his father, Michelangelo, was a violinist and teacher at the city’s Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory, where Claudio followed his older brother Marcello, now a distinguished pianist and composer, as a student of piano, conducting and composition. Graduating from the conservatory in 1955, he spent the next summer at the masterclasses of Siena’s Accademia Chigiana. There another promising student, Zubin Mehta, recommended him to his teacher at the Vienna Music Academy, Hans Swarowsky, whose mathematical approach Abbado was later to value for laying firm foundations and freeing him to concentrate on interpretation.
Abbado also benefited from the more general lessons of great masters in Vienna. In Milan, he had seen Furtwängler and Toscanini conduct; now he and Mehta joined the bass section of the Vienna Singverein exclusively to learn from the technique of Herbert von Karajan. In 1958, the year of his graduation from the academy, he travelled to Tanglewood in the US to participate in the Koussevitzky prize competition andon his own admission was astonished to come first.
Success, however, was still not immediate; after making his operatic debut that same year conducting Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges in Trieste and a first appearance at the Milan’s Piccolo Scala in a concert in 1960 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Alessandro Scarlatti, he turned to teaching – partly to support his new wife, Giovanna Cavazzoni, and their two children, Daniele and Alessandra. As the post was to take charge of chamber music at the Parma Conservatoire, he learned invaluable lessons about listening to other musicians and lost no time in familiarising his Italian students with scores by Schoenberg, Bartók and Stravinsky.
Then, in 1963, he returned to America for another competition given in the name of Dimitri Mitropoulos; this time, he later declared, he conducted badly, the award of (joint) first prize was wrong and the whole experience revealed the iniquities of the competition system.
The real turning point came not with his subsequent appearance with the New York Philharmonic but two years later, when at Karajan’s invitation he chose to perform Mahler’s Second (Resurrection) Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Festival.
The large-scale late romantic symphony was to become one of the pillars on which his reputation was established, and launched his last Mahler series in Lucerne; two others followed in the shape of a contemporary opera – Giacomo Manzoni’s Nuclear Death – and Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, both of which he subsequently conducted at La Scala. Milan was not slow to offer him the post of principal conductor there, which he took up in 1968; the titles of music director and artistic director followed in 1972 and 1976 respectively.
Strengthening the backbone of the Scala orchestra with an injection of non-Italian players, he encouraged it to look beyond the confines of Italian opera to the wider symphonic repertoire and even to chamber music. Even so, he never lost sight of its essential Italianate singing quality and refused to record Verdi with any other orchestra – a conviction to which his 1977 recording of Simon Boccanegra is perhaps the finest testament. At the same time, other opera houses were to benefit from his supremely flexible Verdi conducting; he made his debut at London’s Royal Opera in 1968 with Don Carlos.
Establishment infighting took its toll on the conscientious and introspective Abbado; he resigned several times in the 1970s when La Scala politics threatened to overwhelm him. A shorter course in opera-house politics came in 1991 when he gave up his two-year post as music director of the notoriously difficult Vienna State Opera on grounds of ill-health (though he continued to serve as artistic consultant). Yet his achievements here, too, were outstanding – above all new productions of Mussorgsky’s Khovansh- china and Berg’s Wozzeck, both recorded for posterity – and his relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic, which also serves as the opera’s orchestra, had been well established since 1971.
Three collaborations with younger ensembles brought out the best in Abbado, as they were to do in Lucerne when he conducted the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. He united the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and an outstanding roster of international singers in Rossini’s effervescent but then-neglected Il Viaggio a Reims at the 1985 Pesaro festival; the resultant recording proved a bestseller and remains a desert-island set for many opera lovers. When he took over as music director of the European Community Youth Orchestra in 1977, the astonishing results they achieved together came from a training and dedication few other international conductors would be willing to offer. The orchestra’s organiser, Joy Bryer, has spoken about his concern for the individual welfare of the young players and his tireless attempts to help them in their careers after their time in the ECYO. In 1986 he established another ensemble for whom no allowances of age and inexperience ever needed to be made, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; their Mahler Fourth and Ninth Symphony performances are, happily, preserved on DVD.
Abbado would have been the first to place his concerts with the ECYO as equal in importance to his long-term work with three major orchestras. In 1979 he celebrated his appointment as principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra with a typically electrifying concert of Brian Ferneyhough, Brahms – the First Piano Concerto, with his long-term concerto partner Maurizio Pollini – and Tchaikovsky, to whose symphonies he always brought a bel canto beauty of line. His programmes in the orchestra’s Mahler, Vienna and the Twentieth Century series were both eclectic and logical; on one evening, the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony and Debussy’s Nocturnes shared an elusive tonal incandescence that will never be forgotten by those who heard it.
Even so, the Vienna Philharmonic remained Abbado’s ideal instrument for Mahler, and in 1990 he moved on to the greatest challenge of his careerr at that time – moulding the life of the Berlin Philharmonic after the Karajan years. On the face of it, the changes in Berlin were obvious – to extend the orchestra’s repertoire beyond the late romantic core which had been Karajan’s element. Although Abbado would voice his reservations about visiting conductors who expected to shine in the standard works for which the orchestra had become famous rather than to challenge audiences with anything new, he was in a unique position to do both. His intensive work with promising musicians continued in the Berlin Encounters concerts of the annual Berlin festival, created in conjunction with the cellist Natalia Gutman – who later, and surely uniquely for the finest of soloists, played in his Lucerne orchestra – to bring together young instrumentalists with established professionals.
Musical life in Berlin was not always plain sailing; Abbado was wounded, as ever, by critical campaigns against his integrity and his work with the orchestra. There was sometimes a feeling in his later performances and recordings that the old, familiar sense of challenge had gone gentle; his Mahler Eighth Symphony in Berlin, for example, proved a surprisingly soft-grained conclusion to a Mahler cycle on disc that had begun with a far greater sense of dynamism (it was the only Mahler symphony he would later fail to conduct in Lucerne, where an advertised performance was pulled and replaced by the Mozart Requiem). On the other hand, the Brahms Third Symphony that he brought to London with his orchestra in 1998 still revealed a masterly control of ebb and flow in a work which Abbado had always regarded as one of the most difficult to conduct from the technical point of view. His turning back to Beethoven at the end of a musically rich career was characteristic of the way he was able to blend a self-renewing personal vision of familiar music with a close examination of textual scholarship (in this case Jonathan Del Mar’s painstaking edition of the symphonies).
After radical treatment for cancer, Abbado took on a new lease of life by recreating the ideals of a Festival Orchestra in Lucerne in 2003. Not only did this usually laconic figure speak eloquently about how music had given him a burning will to live and how he felt his approach had now deepened; the players he gathered around him raised the whole notion of orchestral solidarity, at a time when the structure was coming under question, to a whole new level.
There were string quartets starting with the Hagen Quartet, top players from the Berlin Philharmonic and other world orchestras and a core of the youth he valued so much in the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. When I met the MCO conductor Daniel Harding at the 2005 festival, he described the big orchestral collaboration as resulting in “not so much a concert as a love-in”, treasuring its uniqueness while questioning whether such a situation could possibly last.
It did, through to a Mahler Ninth in 2010 which I cannot be alone in unhesitatingly naming the greatest concert that I have ever heard. There were also a concert Fidelio, and a Bruckner Fifth which the ensemble brought to London in 2011. Sadly, Abbado was too ill to conduct further concerts planned in London. I count myself lucky to have seen a collaboration between the Orchestra Mozart and the Orchestra of Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where Abbado wrought supernatural magic in Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest and was warmly embraced at the end by president Giorgio Napolitano. It came as no surprise when last August Napolitano appointed him senator for life.
Abbado’s breadth of interests and curiosity remained a constant: a start had been made on planting the 90,000 magnolias that he suggested for Milan in 2008; later, deeply impressed by Michael Haneke’s film The White Ribbon, he earmarked him as the ideal collaborator for a putative production of Berg’s Wozzeck.
The awards and honours garnered throughout the conductor’s life would be as impossible to list as the number of truly outstanding performances with orchestras and opera companies throughout the world. What remains are the films and the discs, equalling in their mastery and outshining in their breadth those of his equals, Furtwängler and Toscanini.
Abbado’s first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, Gabriella Cantalupi, and their son, Sebastiano; by Daniele and Alessandra; by Misha, his son with the violinist Viktoria Mullova; and by his brothers, Marcello and Gabriele, and his sister, Luciana.
• Claudio Abbado, conductor, born 26 June 1933; died 20 January 2014

Rusalka at the Met

With exciting news that Ms. Fleming is set to sing the American National Anthem at the upcoming Super Bowl, reviews for her Rusalka at the Met were mixed.  Here are a few reviews, but of course, go to the opera house and judge for yourself.  Unquestionably, Ms. Fleming has one of the  more “pretty” voices in opera but interestingly, she is having some difficulties which I think are less due to ability and more to the fact that she is singing less.  She’s frankly not old enough to be singing less but it is all about what you let people tell you…in the Golden Age of singing, singers sang until they were 70 and those techniques seemed to last just fine. I’m not sure I understand this newfound “youth age” of opera.  I’d so much rather see a seasoned performer who has been on the stage for years perform opera, rather than the “let’s find the next best thing” attitude that seems to be permeating the art form today.  It’s one thing to look for talent, but another entirely to dismiss singers whose voices work just fine because they’re (gasp) middle aged!  I mean seriously!

Zachary Woolfe’s Review (The New York Times)

Wilborn Hampton (The Huffington Post)

Anne Midgette on Fleming at the Super Bowl (The Washington Post)

Weight/Voice? What is Opera really about?

The following article appeared in the London Telegraph today and really infuriated me and will likely infuriate many opera supporters and aficionados of the authentic art.

Danielle De Niese: New generation of opera stars to combat ‘fat lady sings’ parody (Hannah Furness)

First of all, the photo accompanying this article is laughable.  Is THAT what we’re going to see at the opera?  There are a few strip clubs in my home town or a few shows in gay Paris that would offer the same view without the singing.  Geez!  If we’re supposed to be seeing this, then why on earth didn’t Renata Tebaldi, Renata Scotto, Leontyne Price, Kiri Te Kanawa (who is mentioned in the article), Tatiana Troyanos, Teresa Stratas, Claudia Muzio, Rosa Ponselle, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Christa Ludwig….do you want me to go on?….dress like this on-stage.  Lord knows half the world would have killed to see that!  I mean really!  Is that what we are combating ‘the fat lady sings’ with?!!

There is no question, opera is about singing, about voices, or at least it ought to be….frankly, I don’t think anyone has gone to the opera to see someone’s face but to hear their voice and to be touched by it, to be pierced by the live human instrument, to be affected by the story, to exist in a world “other” than our own for a little while before returning to the often heavy reality of our lives.  When Birgit Nilsson sang, you didn’t go to see her face or to see her parade around in her skivvies, you went and you barely breathed as that voice began its ascent into the stratosphere…what she did with sheer human power and a God-given gift was what caused the sensation.  You would attend to hear Price, whose face was glorious I might add, begin her regal floating, spinning lines of gold thread and everything stood still.  These women weren’t waifs and their intension was never to parade around in a corset!!  I think if they had been asked to in this day and age, they wouldn’t have even sung because so many things are becoming disrespectful to an art that has long existed as a vocation and an obligation, not a social party to look at pretty girls and see who can get more naked on stage (I think Catharine Malfitano wins that award for her portrayal of Strauss’ Salome, in which she stripped down to the nude during the dance of the seven veils….mind you, she was a fabulous Salome vocally so her nakedness on stage wasn’t to detract from the fact that she couldn’t sing.  It was done in a dramatic impetus).

Weight, by the way, has NOTHING to do with technique.  If you know how to sing, you can sing well heavy and you can sing well thin, or in between.  There is so much being placed on this issue today that it disgusts me, and you know what the long and short of it is:  the argument is only coming from singers (and directors, casting and otherwise) who seem obsessed with worry that the fat lady is going to come and blow them off the stage because they can sing better.  1. That is not the case because you “should” be able to sing just as well thin; 2. I kind of hope she does come and blow you off the stage!!!  GROW UP!!!  WHY ARE WE DISCUSSING THIS!!!?

Opera should be about music, about stories, about drama, about VOICES.  If we wanted to hear an opera without voices we’d go to the symphony.  We go to the opera to hear VOICES!  The show of skin and the display of sex on stage nowadays does nothing except to detract the audience from what they’re really there to see.  I wonder how people would react to Maria Callas today?  Do you think she’d agree to pose in that picture that Ms. De Niese is in?  I think not!  In recent days, I had the pleasure of being in the company of one of opera’s most important and highly respected impresarios, and one of the most brilliant men about singing.  I was wide eyed like a little girl as he recounted how he and his group of aficionadi used to stand outside at the Met smoking and then would run up the stairs to hear Renata Tebaldi or Franco Corelli sing their scene, and when they were done, they’d travel back downstairs to discuss the event and smoke some more (Needless to say, this group would’ve been the pride and joy of someone like Arrigo Boito who felt that smoking was a matter of intelligencia!).  I thought about what he said a lot.  I thought about how that could happen in this day and age. Was there the possibility of a singer who would cause the aficionadi to run into the theatre and only when they sang….perhaps now they’d be running into see Anna Netrebko in her bathing suit on her terrace in the middle of a snowstorm (not kidding…true story…check the internet and no I will not post).

Some food for thought on this brisk Sunday morning.  Grab a cup of coffee and maybe put on an old recording of Price or Nilsson, or Schwarzkopf…even Flagstadt…if you’re lucky Tebaldi or Muzio….and go listen to a voice…naked in its own glory and true to the art of opera.

Happy Sunday everyone!



Odds and Ends…or more like Oddities!

What's new?

2014 has begun afresh with new and exciting announcements about upcoming opera seasons, live broadcasts, unanticipated debuts, masterclasses, and birthdays (Happy Birthday Marilyn Horne!) In only the 3 short weeks, so much has gone on and I’ve sort of sat back and watched things unfold in a kind of voyeur type fashion (although I’m not talking about spying on intimate encounters).  Even if one is working in the operatic field every day, it’s sometimes more telling to stand back and observe what is going on around you so that you can fully understand it.

Adriana Chuchman

From the Met’s celebratory and opulent Die Fledermaus  making its première on New Years Eve, the season has continued with the great Falstaff,  L’Elisir D’Amore, and now La Bohème, three Italian masterpieces to be sure.  There have been several debuts, and cancellations such as Ms. Netrebko’s cancellation last week (due to illness) and the surprise debut of Canadian soprano Andriana Chuchman.  Ms. Chuchman’s debut was well received, and she represented her country well.  Of many singers I’ve heard as of late, I felt that Ms. Chuchman had a lovely tone and good control over her instrument.  At times it seemed a bit light for possible heavier roles, like Mimi, but for Adina, she seemed well-suited.  For those who had gone to hear the lush voluptuousness of Ms. Netrebko, they wouldn’t be receiving the same type of Adina for sure, but one that was her own valid representation.

anna_netrebko sexy

Instead, last week on Wednesday night, Ms. Netrebko showed off her more intimate self at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge, where she sang a number of Russian songs and brought several colleagues to perform with her.  The more intimate setting with just piano brought an operatic voice into the mainstream and hopefully won over some of the non-opera going public to get their butts in the seats at the opera house.  I think this idea of having singers sing in more colloquial atmospheres is intimate enough that the audience member gets to feel them up close and personal, just enough to urge them to purchase a ticket to the opera (at least I hope this is the case and that we aren’t forcing voices meant for the stage into night clubs just because). Then they can really hear the grandeur of the voice in the venue for which it was meant to be presented.

Le poisson rouge

NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge

Click here to read Zachary Woolfe’s Review of Netrebko’s performance at Le Poisson Rouge



The Bohème from earlier in the week was decent but over the radio it is never easy to tell what a voice sounds like in the theatre and the long and short of it is that I was a bit disappointed in the musical presentation.  I’m not sure what’s going on but Verismo and the Puccinian Palate is being presented in a very stilted manner these days.  It’s Puccini, people!!! It’s about lust, passion, love (the kind that hurts), and suffering…for Puccini above all, suffering. This Bohème seemed sanitized to me. Unfortunately, I really didn’t feel the explosive passion of this couple as they meet and their entire world explodes with longing and desire. Sure, the idea is to sing through the lines and to connect phrases but with portamento that is “inherent in Italian speech.” When the normal pattern of speech and language is disturbed to keep the lines very straight, like reading a Bach prelude and fugue, this is NOT Puccinian style.  The performance had very little give and take between the singers and conductor. The Butterfly on Tuesday was a bit freer, to be sure, but not enough to promote true Puccinian cantilena.  Don’t know what that is, Puccini-ites? Read Mosco Carner on Puccini.  Povera faccia melody did not exist in these to productions and it’s a shame. The Met has the tools, the singers, and the conductors to present this style as it should and used to be presented, but like vocal technique has changed (for some) so has the transmission of Puccinian style, and true Verismo style. I hate to pick on one issue, but it is an important one and up and coming singers ought to understand what that is and they’re not going to learn it by listening to today’s Met broadcasts (sorry).  Maybe opera is becoming more modern but Maestro Puccini isn’t!

Puccini caricature

Mosco Carner

Puccinian Authority, Mosco Carner

“Si Canta Come Si Parla”, is the first rule of Italian singing but there is not much “talking” going on this year…very little in fact, and I don’t just mean at the Met.  The Met tries its best to promote the art form in whatever way it can get people in the seats, but I think this very small little rule that produces such a huge result is important and useful.  Operas were the only type of dramatic/musical entertainment when the genre was first developed and into the early 1900s.  Musical theatre was not yet created, and there certainly were no Cineplex Odeon VIP theatres to go watch films in while being served beer and chips in your seat.  The teatro dell’opera was where you went to socialize, to hear singers (who were equated to the level of movie stars and sports stars today) and you heard (guess what?) A STORY!!!  Today, the story gets lost because teachers are too focused on sound and that, my friends, is what we’re getting…sound and not words, not vowels, lots of trilling and fluttering that sounds pretty, but we lose the actual language.  If I’m Italian and I go see an opera and I can’t understand the opera and it’s in Italian…what does it mean?

Mafalda Favero  Tito Schipa

                                                Tito Schipa

Awhile back I was helping my mom and dad move and I had my I-Pod fixated in my ear. I was at the time studying Suzel in L’Amico Fritz and Mimì and I came across the wonderful Italian singer, Mafalda Favero.  Many don’t know who she is but I want you to go and youtube this voice.  I had no score in front of me and I understood her words perfectly.  Her vowels were central, the line was beautiful, the tone was beautiful and she and Tito Schipa expressed the most beautiful Cherry Duet I’ve ever heard.  I began listening to everything she sang, from Suzel to Desdemona to Margherita in Mefistofele and it was all clear as a bell and with line enough that Puccini would’ve been thrilled.  Something that is a bit lost today is that old recordings promote this type of singing but the quality isn’t as great. What you hear is mostly squillo because the recording tools were not capable of fully capturing the tone of the singer and so the majority of what we hear is the word but the voice’s cut, which is why so many singers don’t listen to the older recordings.  Well, let me tell you, they are a treasure trove.  For example, a few singer colleagues of mine subscribe to Met on Demand (a very useful tool) but they are finding only two recordings of “Rigoletto” for example, and one of them is the most recent production.  The Met has one of the largest archives in the world and yet we are offering only two examples of Rigoletto when hundreds were performed and recorded earlier.  A case in point.

Rosa Ponselle

So, what is the point of all of this? Can the tide be changed and can we start a revolution in singing that promotes “la parola?” I’m not sure, but this singer is certainly taking the voices of the past more into consideration than anything else.  Listen to a Bohème with Tebaldi and Di Stefano, or with Albanese and Pierce and listen to the difference, crappy recording quality or not.  Last night I listened to Rosa Ponselle sing Traviata and I was in my glory.  Sure the quality is horrible, but man is it rewarding to hear the language of  the Patria sung clear as a bell and with expression enough to make a grown man weep.  Oh how I long for those days, even if they were before my time…it doesn’t mean I can’t still belong to them, and so can you.  Singer friends, take note.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Stay tuned for upcoming blog entries from The Last Verista coming to you from Italy from Feb 1-15.