Norma Live at the Met tonight on Sirius/XM Radio (Met Opera Radio)

Norma Angela

Tonight begins the battle of the two Normas at the Metropolitan Opera.  Soprano’s Angela Meade and Sondra Radvanovsky take on the role that made so many sopranos legends in the role.  Very large shoes to fill in this regard.  Tonight, the Met Orchestra, which played exquisitely under the baton of Maestro Levine last week, will be conducted by Maestro Riccardo Frizza and Norma will be sung by Sondra Radvanovsky, Adalgisa by Kate Aldrich, Pollione by Aleksandrs Antonenko, and the illustrious James Morris will sing Oroveso.

Norma 1970

Whenever I think of Norma, I think of the magnificent Joan Sutherland and either Marilyn Horne or Tatiana Troyanos as Adalgisa, or more specifically, Rosa Raisa, Claudio Muzio, or Rosa Ponselle in the title role.  Of course, one cannot forget the magnificent technical mastery of the role from La Divina, Maria Callas.  We’ll see how Ms. Radvanovsky fairs in the role this evening.  Historically, the role of Norma was meant for a large voice with incredible agility, a buoyant middle voice and squillo. Taxing is the role because of its weight and the requirement to move the voice fluidly through each melisma, and so it will be interesting to see which of these two sopranos, Ms. Meade or Ms. Radvanovsky, most suits the role.

Norma is a tragedia lirica  in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with a libretto by Felice Romani after Norma, ossia L’infanticidio (Norma, or The Infanticide) by Alexandre Soumet. First produced at La Scala Milano on 26 December 1831, it is generally regarded as an example of the supreme height of the Bel Canto tradition.

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New Poll: What is your favourite International Opera House?

With all the talk of closing opera houses and companies, I thought it appropriate to ask this question.

Which house gives you chills just by walking in the door?

Is it because of who sang there?

Is it because of who conducted there or which opera premiered there?

Is it because of the history associated with the building?

Tell TLV which of these fabulous houses is your favourite!

The Metropolitan Opera


Teatro Alla Scala (Milano)

La Scala Interior

Wiener Staatsoper

Vienna Staatsoper

Berliner Staatsoper

Berlin Staatsoper

Bayerische Staatsoper

Bayerische Staatsoper

Canadian Opera Company


Royal Opera House (London)

Royal Opera House

Paris Opera (Palais Garnier)

Palais Garnier

Sydney Opera House


La Fenice (Venice)

La Fenice

Hungarian State Opera (Budapest)


Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow)


Liceu Barcellona


Semperoper Dresden

Semperoper Dresden

Bayreuth Festspielhaus


Teatro Municipal (Rio de Janiero)


Boston Opera

Boston Opera

War Memorial Opera House (San Francisco)

San Franscisco Opera

Teatro dell’Opera (Roma)


Opera Bastille


New Survey: What do you think of the possible demise of New York City Opera?


Tell TLV what you think:

Click here to take the survey

Some excellent comments from various readers. It’s important that supporters of opera are allowed to voice their opinions and here are just a couple.  More to come as you write in.


The demise of the NYCO has been a steadily downward since it cut it’s season and lost the Lincoln Center venue has a home. But what is the economic enviroment that surrounds the arts at all levels today and the current attitude of the political and financial aritocracy that controls the resources to maintain our arts organzations. Symphonies and museums have been cut across the country for the want of a few million dollars while billions are spent daily on wars, and trillions are poured into the Wall Street coffers. The first academic areas that are cut in our public schools are music,art,libraries as school districts have decreasing property taxes after the 2008 Financial meltdown and massive home forclosures and values of homes plunged. Aid has been cut at the Federal and state levels. Corporate donations to the MET and other cultural entites has lost its appeal.
The crisis at the DSO is part of a national phenomenon. Budgets for arts groups and arts education are under relentless attack from governments in the US at all levels, while wealthy individuals and corporations are reducing their financial gifts. Pay cuts have been imposed at symphony orchestras in Phoenix, Houston, Cincinnati, Seattle, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Atlanta, Virginia, North Carolina and Utah, among other cities and states.


I grew up at the old City Center Opera and saw things there I had not seen performed in this country for many years after that. What an adventurous company it was. I could afford those tickets and could scarcely afford a family circle ticket at the Met so I went often and saw many future opera stars at NYC Opera. A shame that the “peoples” opera and the Amato Opera Theater both will have been closed down. That basically leaves the Met at prices that I can only afford infrequently. Even the Santa Fe Opera out here in the west is now at Met prices. Thank goodness for HDTV broadcasts as that is about the only way I can see an opera “live” these days. Thank goodness for regional companies like Central City and Des Moines with reasonable prices and good performances and adventuresome repertoire. Of course, while I admire the daring of doing the Anna Nicole opera, I have to wonder if that was the wisest thing to do given their financial problems. I think that was a huge mistake.


Published in: on September 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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Sad News for New York City Opera: What of Beverly Sills’ Legacy?


Past home of the NYC Opera

This article in the Wall Street Journal brings more bad news for opera as a whole.  The New York City opera has filed for bankruptcy and if they don’t reach their financial fundraising goal by Monday (which seems unlikely) the company will likely be defunct.  How sad this situation is.  Certainly, City Opera does not present at the level of the Metropolitan Opera or other international companies, but it had it’s place in the echelon of opera, often presenting modern productions and new operas. Perhaps what is most disturbing is that NYC Opera was a place where young singers got their feet wet and experienced stage craft before embarking onto bigger things.  It is truly disturbing that yet another company is being flushed away when there are businessmen in NYC who could save this company single handedly.  Are you out there people?  It’s much more fun to buy a hockey team or invest in Apple than invest in opera right?  What could you possibly get out of saving an opera company?

More than you could ever know.

Drama Behind City Opera: Wall Street Journal

According to the article, “in the hopes of shaking off years of financial turmoil, New York City Opera embarked on a controversial reboot of the company in 2011, leaving its long-time home at Lincoln Center and cutting its season to a fraction of its former length. The reboot didn’t work. Two years later, as it prepares to wind up its affairs, company officials, former board members and experts in the field say the very steps City Opera took to save itself may have hurt it as much as they helped.”  I really can’t fathom to read these words, “wind up its affairs..” and it just means nothing to most people, but not to anyone who loved opera in NYC.


Apparently, City Opera’s board voted on Thursday to file for bankruptcy-court protection and dissolve the 70-year-old company if by Monday it hasn’t achieved its emergency fundraising goal of $7 million, a figure officials said they were unlikely to reach. “We had to shrink in order to survive,” City Opera Chairman Chuck Wall said in an interview earlier this week. “But you lessen or reduce the cultural footprint in the city, and people wonder if you’re going to survive. It’s a catch-22.”

Beverley Sills

It seems that since Beverly Sills passed away, this company has gone downhill faster than one might’ve imagined.

After retiring from singing in 1980, she became the general manager of the New York City Opera. In 1994, she became the Chairman of Lincoln Center and then, in 2002, of the Metropolitan Opera, stepping down in 2005. Sills lent her celebrity to further her charity work for the prevention and treatment of birth defects.

In 1978, Sills announced she would retire on October 27, 1980, in a farewell gala at the New York City Opera. In the spring of 1979, she began acting as co-director of NYCO, and became its sole general director as of the fall season of that year, a post she held until 1989, although she remained on the NYCO board until 1991. During her time as general director, Sills helped turn what was then a financially struggling opera company into a viable enterprise.

One of the major issues was that the company couldn’t afford to stay at Lincoln Center. The departure, and the bruising labor fight that followed, allowed the company to balance its budget for the first time in a decade. Arts management experts and leaders of other cultural organizations said that plan may have been prudent, but it cost the company dearly. Unlike the past two seasons, when its productions began in February, City Opera this year had a production planned months earlier,in September. That left less time to raise money before payroll bills came due, Mr. Wall said.


The opera was “Anna Nicole,” a co-production with the Brooklyn Academy of Music based on the life and death of the tabloid star Anna Nicole Smith. In late August, City Opera scrambled to pull together the cash for its $1.3 million share of the $4 million total production cost, asking board members to chip in and calling other pledges in early. The closing performance of “Anna Nicole,” on Saturday night appears likely to be the company’s last. City Opera had waited too long to reinvent itself, Mr. Steel said. “I wish we had gotten to the business at hand faster.”

I still don’t understand why when a company is in this much trouble they would chose to mount an opera that is so controversial, rather than perhaps picking repertoire that is more widely known and loved.  You want to get operagoers in your seats because they want to hear something they know and love, not because it’s controversial.  That, in and of itself, is a gamble that NYCOpera obviously lost.  It is disheartening to know that in the last two days, this opera company is shutting down, unless a miracle happens (and we’re all hoping for one), and news that La Scala is in jeopardy of closing as well.  WHAT IS GOING ON PEOPLE!!!?  Frankly, I don’t think La Scala will close because the entire country of Italy would be closing its doors on the house that supported their leading composers and singers.  It would probably cause a revolution and be a very stupid move on the part of the government, but that we have to continue to read about struggling artistic organizations is both infuriating and frustrating.

What can we do?  We can continue to go and listen to LIVE opera, not just opera in the movie theatre.  Support the LIVE EVENT.  We can continue to learn opera, we can continue to sing it, and for those of you who are like me (and there are many), you can devote yourself to this genre that is the greatest all-encompassing artistic vehicle in the world in whatever ways you can in order to see its preservation.  Here in the Vetere Studio, I see a good number of singers per week.  Some of them have come to opera in the traditional way, having gone to school for singing and now they are adopting a better technique and learning roles that will propel them further into their art and dreams, and some have come to it from other avenues like Rock and Pop singing.  Regardless of where they came from, this wonderful group of singers has become a literal army for the preservation of opera and in a small town like Niagara Falls Canada managed to sell-out performances because, guess what?  PEOPLE LOVE OPERA!!!  If you bring it to them in a way they can digest it and not overwhelm them, they come….like in the movie “Field of Dreams.”  I choose to contribute to this genre personally as a singer, but also by bringing productions to a small region where opera is not so common, and the long and short of it is that the general public comes back.  They call to find out when the next production is…and this is Niagara Falls, so what is the problem with larger areas like NYC or Milano? Something is wrong somewhere.  Perhaps we live in a technologically charged society and people just can’t relate to sitting in a theatre to watch people sing without electronically enhancing the voice or using a 10,000 watt sound system.  Which is more exciting to you, listening to guitars clad with distortion and a crazy wild light show (the method that most popular bands are using now) or watching a human being with nothing but their God-given gift, the weight of their soul, and the two folds in their throat project emotions that are larger than life, in stories that withstand the test of time, supported by an equally acoustic orchestra to 3000 people?  Maybe many would chose the former…but for me singing opera, listening to opera, participating in opera in any way, even as an audience member is opening yourself to its message:  Love.  Now that is the sexiest and most invigorating thing on earth.

Let’s keep wishing for someone who feels that way to come and save this company that has been a staple of the arts in NYC.

NYC Opera Website

Listen Live to the Met Opera Broadcast of “The Nose”: Sat, Sept 28th at 12:55pm

The Nose 2

Click here to listen live


ConductorValery Gergiev 
Police InspectorAndrey Popov 
The NoseAlexander Lewis 
KovalyovPaulo Szot

The Nose 1


Production: William Kentridge 
Stage Directors:  William Kentridge, Luc De Wit 
Set Designers: William Kentridge, Sabine Theunissen 
Costume Designer:  Greta Goiris 
Video Compositor and Editor: Catherine Meyburgh 
Lighting Designer: Urs Schönebaum

The Nose


OPERACHAT LIVE: The Nose – Join Now! (LIVE Try Relay: the free SMS and picture text app for iPhone.)

Threats to the Future of La Scala Milano

La Scala

Yesterday, Italian Newspapers released articles discussing that factions of cultural government are threatening the continuation of La Scala and the Piccolo Teatro di Milano.

Di Cultura. Pisapia, senza modifiche gravi difficoltà per la Scala e per il Piccolo Teatro

Il Sindaco, chiederò audizione a Commissione Cultura Camera

( Milano, 27 settembre 2013 – “Ho sperato sino all’ultimo che il Senato modificasse il provvedimento che, se non sarà cambiato dalla Camera, provocherà una situazione di grave difficoltà per il futuro non solo della Scala, ma anche del Piccolo Teatro. Per questo condivido pienamente l’allarme dei sindacati”. 

Lo afferma il sindaco di Milano Giuliano Pisapia commentando l’approvazione del Dl Cultura al Senato. 

“Forse il Governo si e’ dimenticato che Milano nei prossimi due anni ospiterà appuntamenti fondamentali per l’intero paese come Expo 2015 e il semestre di Presidenza europea. Quel che e’ più grave e’ che le criticità del provvedimento erano state segnalate, ma non vi e’ stato alcun riscontro. Per questo chiederò subito un’audizione alla Commissione Cultura della Camera per evitare un grave danno a istituzioni che sono un eccellenza di Milano e di tutto il paese”. 

This situation is a rather grave one and bothered me to my fundamental core.  It seems that the Italian government is fine to keep their national sport, soccer (football), thriving but let’s just threaten what is likely the greatest artistic export Italy has ever known and the opera house that stands at the heart of that history: Il Teatro alla Scala.  Something is drastically wrong with this picture.  The mayor of Milano, Giuliano Pisapia, as quoted above, reminded the senate yesterday that Milano is going to host the Expo in 2015 and he is making a plea to the House of Cultural Commissions to evade a grand injustice to the institutions that have led Milan and the entire country to excellence in the arts.

stage of la scala

This history of La Scala is rich within the artistic climate of Italy and has been since its inception on the 3rd of August 1778 Originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre alla Scala (Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala). The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri’s Europa Riconosciuta

Most of Italy’s greatest operatic artists, and many of the finest singers from around the world, have appeared at La Scala during the past 200 years. Today, the theatre is still recognised as one of the leading opera and ballet theatres in the world and is home to the La Scala Theatre Chorus, La Scala Theatre Ballet, and La Scala Theatre Orchestra. The theatre also has an associate school, known as the La Scala Theatre Academy (Italian: Accademia Teatro alla Scala), which offers professional training in music, dance, stage craft and stage management.

But, really….let’s close this house up.

La Scala’s season traditionally opens on 7 December, the feast day of Milan’s patron saint, Saint Ambrogio.  All performances must end before midnight, and long operas start earlier in the evening when necessary.  Within La Scala exists The Museo Teatrale della Scala  (La Scala Theatre Museum), accessible from the theatre’s foyer and a part of the house, contains a collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents regarding La Scala’s and opera history in general. La Scala also hosts the Accademia d’Arti e Mestieri dello Spettacolo (Academy for the Performing Arts). Its goal is to train a new generation of young musicians, technical staff, and dancers (at the Scuola di Ballo del Teatro della Scala, one of the Academy’s divisions).

But who cares about history and schools for young musicians and dancers….let’s close this house up.

La Scala Interior

A fire destroyed the previous theatre, the Teatro Reggio Ducale on 25 February 1776, after a carnival gala. A group of ninety wealthy Milanese, who owned palchi (private boxes) in the theatre, wrote to Archduke Ferdinand of Austria -Este  asking for a new theatre and a provisional one to be used while completing the new one. The neo-classical architect Giuseppe Piermarinii produced an initial design but it was rejected by Count Firmian (the governor of the then Austrian Lombardy).

A second plan was accepted in 1776 by Empress Maria Theresa. The new theatre was built on the former location of the church of Santa Maria della Scala, from which the theatre gets its name. The church was deconsecrated and demolished, and over a period of two years the theatre was completed by Pietro Marliani, Pietro Nosetti and Antonio and Giuseppe Fe. The theatre had a total over 3,000 seats organized into 678 pit-stalls, arranged in six tiers of boxes above which is the ‘loggione’ or two galleries. Its stage is one of the largest in Italy (16.15m d x 20.4m w x 26m h).

Building expenses were covered by the sale of palchi, which were lavishly decorated by their owners, impressing observers such as Stendhal.  La Scala (as it came to be known) soon became the preeminent meeting place for noble and wealthy Milanese people. In the tradition of the times, the platea (the main floor) had no chairs and spectators watched the shows standing up. The orchestra was in full sight, as the golfo mistico (orchestra pit) had not yet been built.

But again….why would anyone care?  Let’s just close it up.

La Scala in Verdi's time

La Scala in Verdi’s time

Above the boxes, La Scala has a gallery where the less wealthy can watch the performances, called the loggione. The loggione is typically crowded with the most critical opera aficionados, who can be ecstatic or merciless towards singers’ perceived successes or failures. La Scala’s loggione is considered a baptism of fire in the opera world, and fiascos are long remembered. (One recent incident occurred in 2006 when tenor Roberto Alagna was booed off the stage during a performance of Aida, forcing his understudy, Antonello Palombi, quickly to replace him mid-scene without time to change into a costume.) Of course, La Scala is not without scandal.  For me, the most outstanding of scandals took place in 1868 with the premiere of Boito’s Mefistofele, when the entire audience was so shocked by the presence of the devil and his “control” of the world that they ran out of the theatre screaming into the Piazza della Scala.

But…never mind….let’s close her up!

La Scala was originally illuminated with 84 oil lamps mounted on the palcoscenico and another thousand in the rest of theatre. To prevent the risks of fire, several rooms were filled with hundreds of water buckets. In time, oil lamps were replaced by gas lamps, these in turn were replaced by electric lights in 1883.

The original structure was renovated in 1907, when it was given its current layout with 2,800 seats. In 1943, during WWII, La Scala was severely damaged by bombing. It was rebuilt and reopened on 11 May 1946, with a memorable concert conducted by Arturo Toscanini—twice La Scala’s principal conductor and an associate of the composers Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini—with a soprano solo by Renata Tebaldi that created a sensation.

Toscanini Conducts

Arturo Toscanini


La Tebaldi at La Scala

La Scala hosted the prima (first production) of many famous operas, and had a special relationship with Verdi. For several years, however, Verdi did not allow his work to be played here, as some of his music had been modified (he said “corrupted”) by the orchestra. This dispute originated in a disagreement over the production of his Giovanna D’Arco in 1845; however the composer later conducted his Requiem there on 25 May 1874 and he announced in 1886 that La Scala would host the premiere of what was to become his penultimate opera, Otello. The premiere of his last opera, Falstaff was also given in the theatre.

Otello premiere

Falstaff Manifesto

Turandot Prima

In 1982, the Filarmonica della Scala was established, drawing its members from the larger pool of musicians that comprise the Orchestra della Scala.

But yeah….see ya later La Scala.


They Italians have no problem promoting soccer or sports, but it’s ok to throw out comments that suggest closing a theatre that stands historically at the helm of the greatest art Italy has exported.  I think the issue is that government officials are  coming to office younger and younger and like many Italians, they are obsessed with la Cultura Americana, which also placates to sports more than it does to Opera and other classical arts.  It has seemed that La Scala has always been a house that North American opera companies have looked  going because La Scala has always been there, like a father figure, showing them the way, and now that the main helm of opera is being threatened, what will happen here? Some people think opera and music is a dispensable art.  Is it?  How many films have you watched in complete silence?  How many children go to schools now and receive absolutely no music or arts education?  What are we creating, a society of robot-like and technologically savvy youngins who have no idea who Beethoven is or who Verdi is?

The very notion of closing La Scala, or even the very mention of it threatens so many things.  It’s the large rock that falls into a still pool…the ripples will continue to resound in areas that we can’t even imagine for years after.  It is my hope and I’m sure the hope of many that the Italian government will protect the institutions of art that bring so much joy and culture to the world.  If not, North American companies and other European houses, remain steadfast in your devotion to opera and the arts.  Do not follow suit.  A life with out art is darkness….a life without opera….unimaginable, at least for me.


James Levine Returns to the Met

Levine in Met


James Levine is a singer’s conductor.  Since 1971 he has riled the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra into frenzies of Wagnerian fortitude, balanced the beautiful webbed orchestration in Strauss, enchanted with the soaring cantilena of Puccinian melody, and exuded the splendour of Verdi’s unparalleled palate and all to showcase the instrument he knows how to support and promote more about than practically any conductor, the voice.  I have always been fascinated by this man, his intelligence, his understanding of opera, and most of all his ability to make the written page come to life in colours and flashes of light that are unfortunately missing in the bag of tricks that belong to most conductors today.

James Levine Boston Met

When I heard that Maestro Levine was going to return to the podium this season, I waited in great anticipation to hear which operas he would conduct.  Sorely disappointed was I that he would only conduct three, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  For those three works, Cosi Fan Tutte (which premiered last evening), Falstaff, and Wozzeck, opera fans and aficionados who truly understand the art will flock to the Met to listen to the grandeur of Levine’s conducting.  It’s interesting how someone can be missing for a couple of years and when they return, we REALLY know what we’ve been missing.  How does that old adage go:  you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it?

Levine made his Met debut in 1971 following a June Festival performance of Tosca. Following further appearances with the company, he was named principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in February 1972 and became the Met’s music director in 1976.  He rose to higher acclaim In 1983 when he served as conductor and musical director for Franco Zeffirelli’s screen adaptation of La Traviata, which featured the Met orchestra and chorus members. He became the company’s first artistic director in 1986, but relinquished the title in 2004.  There is no question that during Levine’s tenure, the Met orchestra expanded its activities into the realms of recording, and performing in separate concert series for the orchestra and chamber ensembles at Carnegie Hall.  Additionally, he has led the Metropolitan Opera on many domestic and international tours. For the 25th anniversary of his Met debut, Levine conducted the world premiere of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, commissioned especially to mark the occasion. On his appointment as General Manager of the Met, Peter Gelb emphasized that James Levine was welcome to remain as long as he wanted to direct music there.  How gracious of him.

Return to MetLevine’s curtain call from last night’s Cosi Fan Tutte

Certainly, some things have changed at the Met, but last night brought the Levine we remembered (if not better) and the orchestra was at its finest.  Personally, I wish it had been Puccini that he chose to conduct or a Verdi or Strauss because I’ve never been a huge fan of Cosi Fan Tutte, but hey…whatever we can get.  I hope that Maestro Levine continues to live in good health because we definitely need him and those singers that have been either excluded or given one short run at the Met who are living examples of the machine that opera once was.  The other night, during opening night, Margaret Juntwait interviewed Rosalinde Elias and suddenly just through the splendour of that speaking voice, I was transported to a time I didn’t even live in, to a time not even that long ago when singing, conducting, and certainly directing, was of a different ilk.  Call me a lover of the golden age….I just am.  No apologies.  Levine still retains aspects of those singers who influenced him, and his presence can only continue to influence the ones of today.  Bravo Maestro Levine.  Continued health and much much more music to come.


New York Times Review of Maestro Levine’s Return to the Met

Opera and Politics forever Continue: Reviews from last night’s Met Season Opener


opera-metropolitan-opera-anna-netrebkoPhoto by Ken Howard (Metropolitan Opera)

Review: NY Times: Anthony Tommasini

News: Michael Cooper (NY TIMES)

Bloomberg on Gelb’s decision not to protest Anti-Gay Law in Russia

Anne Midgette (Washington Post)

Thanks to everyone who came to Operachat!  Hope to see you again soon on another broadcast night!


OPERCHAT LIVE: Met Season Opener 2013, Eugene Onegin

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OPERACHAT LIVE: Met Season Opener 2013, Eugene Onegin – Join Now! (LIVE Try Relay: the free SMS and picture text app for iPhone.)

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Met Chandaliers

Operachat begins tomorrow night at 6:30pm


Aficionados, singers, and opera lovers, join me tomorrow night for the live broadcast of the Met’s season opener, Eugene Onegin.  An opera chat link will be available tomorrow and the chat will begin at 6:30pm.  TLV will join a little after 7pm. Come share your opinions, discuss singing, and hear an opening night, which is always an historic event, with other opera lovers.  See you there!

Metropolitan Opera