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


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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

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


Six Years Gone and Still His Voice Gleams Brilliant: In Tribute to Luciano Pavarotti

By Dr. Mary-Lou Vetere

Pavarotti End

The Greatest

His voice is unmistakable, individual, a ray of sunshine that gleams brighter even on the sunniest day, a thread of gold that blessed our lives for the limited time he was here.  Six years ago, the radio suddenly stopped its regular program and his voice began playing over the airwaves.  Who would have known the next information would be that this voice would now remain silent.  Luciano Pavarotti was simply the most beautiful voice in the world and then…in a fleeting moment, it was over.  What remains is a gaping hole that is meagrely filled by recordings and videos, pictures, and memories of those who heard and saw him live, but these things can never capture the larger-than-life essence that was this man.

Young Luciano 1

Young and handsome

Luciano Pavarotti was born in 1935 on the outskirts of Modena in Northern Italy, the son of Fernando Pavarotti, a baker and amateur tenor, and Adele Venturi, a cigar factory worker. Although he spoke fondly of his childhood, the family had little money; its four members were crowded into a two-room apartment. According to Pavarotti, his father had a fine tenor voice but rejected the possibility of a singing career because of nervousness. World War II forced the family out of the city in 1943. For the following year they rented a single room from a farmer in the neighbouring countryside, where the young Pavarotti developed an interest in farming.

After abandoning the dream of becoming a soccer goalkeeper, Pavarotti spent seven years in vocal training. Pavarotti’s earliest musical influences were his father’s recordings, most of them featuring the popular tenors of the day – Beniamino Gigli, Giovanni Martinelli, Tito Schipa, and Enrico Caruso. Pavarotti’s favourite tenor and idol was Giuseppe Di Stefano. He was also deeply influenced by Mario Lanza, saying, “In my teens I used to go to Mario Lanza movies and then come home and imitate him in the mirror”. At around the age of nine he began singing with his father in a small local church choir.

After what appears to have been a normal childhood with a typical interest in sports—in Pavarotti’s case soccer above all, he graduated from the Scuola Magistrale and faced the dilemma of a career choice. He was interested in pursuing a career as a professional soccer goalie, but his mother convinced him to train as a teacher. He subsequently taught in an elementary school for two years but finally allowed his interest in music to win out. Recognising the risk involved, his father gave his consent only reluctantly.

Pavarotti began the serious study of music in 1954 at the age of 19 with Arrigo Pola, a respected teacher and professional tenor in Modena who offered to teach him without remuneration. In 1955, he experienced his first singing success when he was a member of the Corale Rossini, a male voice choir from Modena that also included his father, which won first prize at the International Eistedfodd in Llangollen, Wales. He later said that this was the most important experience of his life, and that it inspired him to become a professional singer. At about this time Pavarotti first met Adua Veroni. They married in 1961.

When his teacher Arrigo Pola moved to Japan, Pavarotti became a student of Ettore Campogalliani who at that time was also teaching Pavarotti’s childhood friend, Mirella Freni, whose mother worked with Luciano’s mother in the cigar factory. Like Pavarotti, Freni was destined to operatic greatness; they were to share the stage many times and make memorable recordings together.

Just like many young singers, during his years of musical study, Pavarotti held part-time jobs in order to sustain himself – first as an elementary school teacher and then as an insurance salesman. The first six years of study resulted in only a few recitals, all in small towns and without pay. When a nodule developed on his vocal chords, causing a “disastrous” concert in Ferrara, he decided to give up singing. THANK GOD HE DIDN’T!!! Pavarotti attributed his immediate improvement to the psychological release connected with this decision. Whatever the reason, the nodule not only disappeared but, as he related in his autobiography, “Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve”.

Young Luciano 2

Getting ready with that mischievous smile

Pavarotti began his career as a tenor in smaller regional Italian opera houses, making his debut as Rodolfo in La Boheme at the Teatro Municipale in Reggio Emilia in April 1961. He made his first international appearance in La Traviata in Belgrade. Very early in his career, on 23 February 1963, he debuted at the Vienna State Opera in the same role. In March and April 1963 Vienna saw Pavarotti again as Rodolfo and as Duca di Mantova in Rigoletto. The same year saw his first concert outside Italy when he sang in Dundalk, Ireland for the St Cecilia’s Gramophone Society and his Royal Opera House debut, where he replaced an indisposed Giuseppe Di Stefano as Rodolfo.

With Sutherland

With the great Joan Sutherland

While generally successful, Pavarotti’s early roles did not immediately propel him into the stardom that he would later enjoy. An early coup involved his connection with Joan Sutherland (and her conductor husband, Richard Bonynge), who in 1963 had sought a young tenor taller than herself to take along on her tour to Australia. With his commanding physical presence, Pavarotti proved ideal.The two sang some forty performances over two months, and Pavarotti later credited Sutherland for the breathing technique that would sustain him over his career. He made his American début with the Greater Miami Opera in February 1965, singing in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor opposite Joan Sutherland.  The tenor scheduled to perform that night became ill with no understudy. As Sutherland was traveling with him on tour, she recommended the young Pavarotti as he was well acquainted with the role.

Shortly after, on 28 April, Pavarotti made his La Scala debut in the revival of the famous Franco Zeffirelli production of La Bohème, with his childhood friend Mirella Freni singing Mimi and Herbert von Karajan conducting. Karajan had requested the singer’s engagement. After an extended Australian tour, he returned to La Scala, where he added Tebaldo from I Capuletti e i Montecchi to his repertoire on 26 March 1966, with Giacomo Aragall as Romeo. His first appearance as Tonio in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 2 June of that year. It was his performances of this role that would earn him the title of “King of the High Cs”.

Being nasty

Being a tad nasty with Renata Scotto.  That mischievousness latent here.

He scored another major triumph in Rome on 20 November 1969 when he sang in I Lombari opposite Renata Scotto. This was recorded on a private label and widely distributed, as were various recordings of his I Capuleti e i Montecchi, usually with Aragall. His major breakthrough in the United States came on 17 February 1972, in a production of La fille du régiment at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, in which he drove the crowd into a frenzy with his nine effortless high C’s in the signature aria. He achieved a record seventeen curtain calls. Pavarotti sang his international recital début at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri on 1 February 1973, as part of the college’s Fine Arts Program, now known as the Harriman-Jewell Concert Series. Perspiring due to nerves and a lingering cold, the tenor clutched a handkerchief throughout the début. The prop became a signature part of his solo performances.

With Price

With the fabulous Leontyne Price

He began to give frequent television performances, starting with his performances as Rodolfo (La bohème) in the first Live from the Met telecast in March 1977, which attracted one of the largest audiences ever for a televised opera. He won many Grammy awards. In 1976, Pavarotti debuted at the Salzburg Festival, appearing in a solo recital on 31 July, accompanied by pianist Leone Magiera. Pavarotti returned to the festival in 1978 with a recital and as the Italian singer in Der Rosenkavalier in 1983 with Idomeneo, and both in 1985 and 1988 with solo recitals. In 1979, he was profiled in a cover story in the weekly magazine Time. That same year saw Pavarotti’s return to the Vienna State Opera after an absence of fourteen years. With Herbert von Karajan conducting, Pavarotti sang Manrico in Il Trovatore In 1978, he appeared in a solo recital on Live from Lincoln Center.

Mirella Freni, Luciano Pavarotti

With the lovely Mirella Freni, his childhood friend and lifetime devotee

At the beginning of the 1980s, he set up The Pavarotti International Voice Competition for young singers, performing with the winners in 1982 in excerpts ofLa bohème and L’elisir d’amore. The second competition, in 1986, staged excerpts of La bohème and Un ballo in maschera. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of his career, he brought the winners of the competition to Italy for gala performances of La bohème in Modena and Geneoa and then to China where they staged performances of La bohème in Beijing (Peking). To conclude the visit, Pavarotti performed the inaugural concert in the Great Hall of People before 10,000 people, receiving a standing ovation for nine effortless high Cs. The third competition in 1989 again staged performances of L’elisir d’amore and Un ballo in maschera. The winners of the fifth competition accompanied Pavarotti in performances in Philadelphia in 1997.

In the mid-1980s, Pavarotti returned to two opera houses that had provided him with important breakthroughs, the Vienna State Opera and La Scala. Vienna saw Pavarotti as Rodolfo in La bohème with Carlos Kleiber conducting and again Mirella Freni was Mimi; as Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore; as Radames in Aida conducted by Lorin Maazel; as Rodolfo in Luisa Miller; and as Gustavo in Un ballo in maschera conducted by Claudio Abbado. In 1996, Pavarotti appeared for the last time at the Staatsoper in Andrea Chénier.

With Millo

With his beloved and devoted friend Aprile Millo, Luciano

and she recorded one of the greatest Ballo in Maschera’s in history.

In 1985, Pavarotti sang Radames at La Scala opposite Maria Chiara in a Luca Ronconi production conducted by Maazel, recorded on video. His performance of the aria “Celeste Aida” received a two-minute ovation on the opening night. He was reunited with Mirella Freni for the San Francisco Opera production ofLa bohème in 1988, also recorded on video. In 1991, he recorded with his dear and devoted friend, American Soprano Aprile Millo, one of the greatest Ballo in Maschera’s in history, with James Levine at the podium and Leo Nucci.  In 1992, La Scala saw Pavarotti in a new Zeffirelli production of Don Carlos, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Pavarotti’s performance was heavily criticized by some observers and booed by parts of the audience.

With his buddies

With his buddies, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras

Pavarotti became even better known throughout the world in 1990 when his rendition of the aria Nessun Dorma from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot was taken as the theme song of BBC’s TV coverage of the 1990 FIFA World CUp in Italy. The aria achieved pop status and remained his trademark song. This was followed by the hugely successful Three Tenors concert, held on the eve of the World Cup final at the ancient Baths of Caracalla in Rome with fellow tenors Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras and conductor Zubin Mehta, which became the biggest selling classical record of all time. A highlight of the concert, in which Pavarotti hammed up a famous portion of di Capua’s “O Sole Mio” and was mimicked by Domingo and Carreras to the delight of the audience, became one of the most memorable moments in contemporary operatic history.  In June 1993, more than 500,000 listeners gathered for his free performance on the Great Lawn of New York’s Central Park, while millions more around the world watched on television. The following September, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, he sang for an estimated crowd of 300,000.  On 12 December 1998, he became the first (and, to date, only) opera singer to perform on Saturday Night Live, singing alongside Vanessa Williams.  In 1998, Pavarotti was presented with the Grammy Legend Award.

Amidst the successes, the type of talent that Pavarotti possessed was also the cause of bitter attacks, as is often the case when people are either jealous of someone’s success or simply when something is so remarkably different and stands out so drastically that the only way to deal with it is to criticize it.  For example, In 2004, one of Pavarotti’s former managers, Herbert Breslin, published a book, The King & I. Seen by many as bitter and sensationalistic, it is critical of the singer’s acting (in opera), his inability to read music well and learn parts, and his personal conduct, although acknowledging their success together.  How petty that someone who worked for this wonderful man had nothing better to do but write sensationalistic material for his own gain.  One can imagine how Pavarotti must’ve felt having to hear this type of news…and yet he handled it with persistence and always a kind smile.  I write this for those singers who think that someone who performed at Pavarotti’s level was not without controversy, strife, and criticism.  The criticism only gets more volatile at that level and unfortunately comes with the territory.  

He received an enormous number of awards and honours, including Kennedy Center Honours in 2001. He also holds two Guinness World Records: one for receiving the most curtain calls and another for the best-selling classical album (In Concert by The Three Tenors).

Pavarotti began his farewell tour in 2004, at the age of 69, performing one last time in old and new locations, after more than four decades on the stage. On 13 March 2004, Pavarotti gave his last performance in an opera at the Metropolitan Opera for which he received a long standing ovation for his role as the painter Mario Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca. On 1 December 2004, he announced a 40-city farewell tour. Pavarotti and his manager, Terri Robson, commissioned the Worldwide Farewell Tour. His last full-scale performance was in December 2005.

On 10 February 2006, Pavarotti sang “Nessun Dorma” at the 2006 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremonies in Turin, Italy, at his final performance. In the last act of the opening ceremony, his performance received the longest and loudest ovation of the night from the international crowd. For many of us…this was the last time we saw him or heard him.

While undertaking an international “farewell tour,” Pavarotti was diagnosed with pancreatic in July 2006. The tenor fought back against the implications of this diagnosis, undergoing major abdominal surgery and making plans for the resumption and conclusion of his singing commitments. He died at his home in Modena on 6 September 2007. Within hours of his death, his manager, Terri Robson, noted in an e-mail statement, “The Maestro fought a long, tough battle against the pancreatic cancer which eventually took his life. In fitting with the approach that characterized his life and work, he remained positive until finally succumbing to the last stages of his illness”.

Pavarotti’s funeral was held in the Modena Cathedral.  The Frecce Tricolori, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Italian airforce, flew overhead, leaving green-white-red smoke trails. After a funeral procession through the centre of Modena, Pavarotti’s coffin was taken the final ten kilometres to Montale Rangone, a village part of Castelnuovo Rangone, and was entombed in the Pavarotti family crypt. The funeral, in its entirety, was also telecast live on CNN. The Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival Hall flew black flags in mourning.Tributes were published by many opera houses, such as London’s Royal Opera House. The Italian soccer giant Juventus F.C, of which Pavarotti was a lifelong fan, was represented at the funeral and posted a farewell message on its website which said: “Ciao Luciano, black-and-white heart” referring to the team’s famous stripes when they play on their home ground.

How many lives he touched, and not just singers and opera aficionados.  People the world over who were in horrible situations, marital strife, dying children, world suffering, stopped to hear the voice of this man because it soothed something that nothing else could soothe.  No alcohol, cigarette, drug, or sex could tame the soul like Pavarotti’s sunny, warm, and soothing voice.  It might’ve been an interesting idea to bottle him up and sell him as a tonic.  The proverbial saying is that one never appreciates something until it is gone, and although Luciano Pavarotti was appreciated in life, I think he is appreciated more today than ever. 

Why is it that two little folds of skin in the throat, met by air from the lungs, can manifest the insanity that overcomes an audience and send them into a complete frenzy?  Not to be overly religious here, but God just made it this way and he certainly put something extra special in the throat of Luciano Pavarotti.  When he was trying to play soccer or worked as a math teacher, did he ever imagine that in 2013, six years after his death he would be the standard by which all tenors are evaluated? Every tenor in the world is compared to this man and although there are some fabulous voices singing today, none can quite match the glory that came from that throat.  Not to be morbid, but when he died, I did not sleep well for days because I could not rid myself of the thought that now entombed, that throat would slowly decay…I often wonder if it ever did or if like the relics of the saints, his was kept intact. No one will ever know. Yes, I adored this man almost obsessively.  I recall getting thrown out of a historical conference once because he had been spoken of poorly. I almost ate the speaker alive for doing so, and I would do it again.  For all he was, and for what he gave, for the tears that would slowly and quietly fall down the face of my great-grandfather, who had been an Italian POW kept prisoner in Africa during WWII, whenever he heard Pavarotti’s voice, for the warmth he made at every Christmas when mom would put on his O Holy Night, for the inspiration that he was and remains for me and anyone who attempts to make the “sound” from those two folds of skin, there aren’t words. 

We wait every day for another voice like yours to appear, and like yours there will never be another.  

You were the solitary, singular spirit of true love manifested in sound.

God rest your soul forever, Luciano Pavarotti


“American Tenor, Michael Fabiano Talks Bel Canto” and about the ENO’s Upcoming Production of Donizetti’s “Lucrezia Borgia”

ENO presents a unique new staging of one of the Italian composer’s most profound masterpieces Lucrezia Borgia. Legendary recordings are cherished by opera fans everywhere, but live performances of the work in its entirety are rare, so this staging is an extraordinary treat for all serious music lovers.

Director Mike Figgis has created some of the most significant cinema in recent years, including the Oscar-winning classic Leaving Las Vegas starring Nicolas Cage. Here, he brings his visionary directorial style to opera for the first time. The production features a specially commissioned new film by Figgis, charting the early life of Lucrezia Borgia.

Claire Rutter, star of ENO’s Zandra Rhodes-designed Aida, returns as Renaissance Italy’s darkest femme fatale, with rising young American tenor Michael Fabiano as Lucrezia’s long-lost son. ENO’s Olivier Award-winning former Music Director, Paul Daniel, conducts.

Jan 31, Feb 9, 15, 18, 23, 25 & Mar 3 at 7.30pm, Feb 5, 12 at 6.30pm


Claire Rutter (Lucrezia Borgia)

Michael Fabiano (Gennaro)

Elizabeth DeShong (Maffio Orsini)

Alastair Miles (Alfonso d’Este)


Interview: Michael Fabiano stars in ENO’s new production of Lucrezia Borgia

A great voice and brains to boot, tenor Michael Fabiano

World’s first live 3D opera
ENO and Sky are collaborating again on a world-first broadcasting project, with Lucrezia Borgia becoming the first ever live opera in 3D.

The partnership will create the world’s first ‘quadcast’ on 23 February 2011, with a live broadcast on Sky Arts 2 (HD), Sky 3D and live into selected cinemas in 3D around the UK and a deferred relay in 2D into selected cinemas internationally. The fourth element of the ‘quadcast’, onto Sky Arts 1, is directed by Mike Figgis, and will allow audiences a closer understanding of his concept for Lucrezia Borgia as well as including interviews with people behind the scenes.

Synopsis of “Lucrezia Borgia”


The Palazzo Grimani, Venice

A party is in full swing and Gennaro and his companions are enjoying themselves. The conversation turns to Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, and his infamous wife, Lucrezia Borgia. Orsini recounts how Gennaro saved his life in battle. They swore eternal friendship, but had no sooner done so when a man appeared prophesying that the two friends would die together and that they must avoid Lucrezia Borgia.

Bored and tired, Gennaro leaves his friends and falls asleep on the terrace, where he is discovered by Lucrezia Borgia. Wearing a mask to protect her true identity, she has followed Gennaro to Venice because he is her long-lost son. Preoccupied by Gennaro, she fails to notice Alfonso and his henchman, Rustighello, lurking in the shadows. Gennaro wakes and, overwhelmed by Lucrezia’s beauty, declares there is only one other woman he loves more: the mother he never knew. He recounts to Lucrezia the story of his childhood.

Gennaro’s comrades return and immediately recognize Lucrezia, who has been responsible for murdering members of each of their families. Gennaro is horrified.

Act I
Scene 1 A piazza in Ferrara

Alfonso wrongly believes Gennaro and Lucrezia to be lovers and plots Gennaro’s murder.

Gennaro and his entourage have come to Ferrara as part of the Venetian embassy and have taken lodgings close the ducal palace. To show his hatred of Lucrezia’s crimes, Gennaro defaces an image of her.

Gubetta (sent by Lucrezia) and Rustighello (sent by Alfonso) are both looking for Gennaro. Rustighello and his men seize Gennaro.

Scene 2
A room in the ducal palace

Alfonso orders Rustighello to fetch two decanters of wine, one of silver and the other – containing poisoned wine – of gold.

Lucrezia enters. Having seen her defaced image, she demands revenge on the perpetrator. Gennaro is brought before them and accused of insulting the Borgias, a charge to which he confesses. When she discovers that it is Gennaro who is responsible, Lucrezia attempts to back-track from her previous position and makes excuses for him. Alfonso accuses her of infidelity with Gennaro, which she vehemently denies. She threatens Alfonso, reminding him of the fate that met each of her previous husbands. But Alfonso remains adamant, and forces her to choose the manner of Gennaro’s execution.

Alfonso pretends to Gennaro that he has yielded to Lucrezia’s pleas to release him. Gennaro is surprised by the duke’s clemency and reveals that he once saved the life of Alfonso’s father in battle, news of which prompts Alfonso to feign gratitude. The duke offers him a glass of wine, and forces Lucrezia to pour the drink from the poisoned decanter.

As soon as Alfonso leaves, Lucrezia administers an antidote to the poison and begs Gennaro to leave Ferrara.

Interval of 20 minutes

Act II
Scene 1 A courtyard leading to Gennaro’s lodgings

Gennaro admits to himself that he loves Lucrezia.

Rustighello and his men come to arrest Gennaro. They overhear Orsini persuading Gennaro to remain in Ferrara and attend the banquet at the Princess Negroni’s that evening.

Scene 2

The Princess Negroni’s banquet

Gubetta, who is loyal to Lucrezia, mocks Orsini and a fight breaks out. Liverotto puts a stop to it, and Gubetta invites everyone to drink a toast to friendship. Orsini leads a drinking song which is interrupted by mysterious voices chanting the service for the dead.

Lucrezia enters and announces that in revenge for their insults in Venice, Gennaro’s associates – Orsini, Liverotto, Vitellozo, Petrucci and Gazella – have been served poisoned wine. Horrified to see Gennaro still in Ferrara, she swears she never intended her vengeance to extend to him. There is still some of the antidote left, but not enough to save him and his companions. Gennaro attempts to kill Lucrezia but she stops him by revealing that she is his mother. Son and mother are briefly united before the poison acts on Gennaro. Realizing that she has murdered her own son, Lucrezia calls on God to strike her down.

The Last Verista’s “Pick of the Week” for Jan 17-23: Samuel Barber’s “Vanessa” from 1958 with Eleanor Steber

Eleanor Steber


Monday, 1/17
6:00 AM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

9:00 AM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman

12:00 PM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

3:00 PM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

6:00 PM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

9:00 PM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale

3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

Steber and Elias in Vanessa


Tuesday, 1/18
6:00 AM ET Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
1/21/1995-Müller; Swenson, Hadley, Oswald, Plishka

9:00 AM ET Verdi: Aida
12/26/1970-Cleva; Arroyo, McCracken, Bumbry, Colzani, Flagello

12:00 PM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
3/15/1997-Isepp; Vaness, Croft, Graham, Gunn, McLaughlin

3:00 PM ET Puccini: La Bohème
1/16/1982-Levine; Stratas, Carreras, Scotto, Stilwell, Monk, Morris

6:00 PM ET Wagner: Parsifal
4/14/1979-Levine; Vickers, Ludwig, Weikl, Talvela, Shinall, Plishka

12:00 AM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

Wednesday, 1/19
6:00 AM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale
3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

9:00 AM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

12:00 PM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

3:00 PM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman

8:00 PM ET Verdi: La Traviata (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Noseda; Poplavskaya, Polenzani, Dobber

12:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

Rosalind Elias


Thursday, 1/20
6:00 AM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

9:00 AM ET Puccini: La Bohème
1/16/1982-Levine; Stratas, Carreras, Scotto, Stilwell, Monk, Morris

12:00 PM ET Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore
1/21/1995-Müller; Swenson, Hadley, Oswald, Plishka

3:00 PM ET Barber: Vanessa
2/1/1958-Mitropoulos; Steber, Gedda, Elias, Resnik, Tozzi

8:00 PM ET Verdi: Simon Boccanegra (SEASON PREMIERE – LIVE FROM THE MET)
Levine; Hvorostovsky, Frittoli, Vargas, Furlanetto

12:00 AM ET Mozart: Così fan tutte
3/15/1997-Isepp; Vaness, Croft, Graham, Gunn, McLaughlin

Friday, 1/21
Happy 70th Birthday, Plácido Domingo!

6:00 AM ET Giordano: Andrea Chénier
3/26/1977-Levine; Domingo, Arroyo, MacNeil, Kraft, Love, Chookasian

9:00 AM ET Puccini: Manon Lescaut
3/29/1980-Levine; Scotto, Domingo, Elvira, Capecchi

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Stiffelio
3/5/1994-Levine; Domingo, Sweet, Chernov, Plishka, Riberi, Lattimore

3:00 PM ET Wagner: Lohengrin
2/16/1985-Levine; Domingo, Tomowa-Sinto, Martin, McIntyre

9:00 PM ET Verdi: Otello (SIRIUS XM Premiere)
10/13/1995-Levine; Domingo, Fleming, Morris, Bunnell, Croft

12:00 AM ET Bizet: Carmen
3/22/1986-Levine; Ewing, Domingo, Malfitano, Devlin

Saturday, 1/22
6:00 AM ET Wagner: Parsifal
4/14/1979-Levine; Vickers, Ludwig, Weikl, Talvela, Shinall, Plishka

1:00 PM ET Verdi: Rigoletto (LIVE FROM THE MET)
Arrivabeni, Meoni, Calleja, Machaidze, Kocán, Chávez

6:00 PM ET Saint-Saëns: Samson et Dalila
2/25/2006-Villaume; Forbis, Borodina, Lafont

9:00 PM ET Verdi: Aida
12/26/1970-Cleva; Arroyo, McCracken, Bumbry, Colzani, Flagello

12:00 AM ET Dvorák: Rusalka
12/11/1993-Fiore; Benacková, Heppner, Martin, Toczyska, Koptchak

Sunday, 1/23
6:00 AM ET R. Strauss: Salome
1/5/1974-Levine; Bumbry, Ulfung, Resnik, Shadur, Lewis

9:00 AM ET Donizetti: Don Pasquale
3/22/1980-Rescigno; Trimarchi, Peters, Rendall, Duesing

12:00 PM ET Verdi: Macbeth
2/3/1973-Molinari-Pradelli; Milnes, Arroyo, Raimondi, Tagliavini

3:00 PM ET Live from Carnegie Hall: The Met Orchestra
Mozart: Serenade in D Major, K. 320, “Posthorn”
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Levine; DeYoung, O’Neill

9:00 PM ET The Met on Record: Puccini: Madama Butterfly (1956)
Mitropoulos; Kirsten, Barioni, Miller, Harvuot, De Paolis

12:00 AM ET Bartók: Bluebeard’s Castle
1/28/1989-Levine; Ramey, Norman



Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2011 from The Last Verista


Wishing you and yours a safe, healthy, happy, and love-filled holiday season.  See you in the New Year!!!

Published in: on December 24, 2010 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  
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