Millo speaks about the World of Opera and “Minnie’s Beautiful Heart” (in GBOpera Magazine)

Known for her super-magnificent opera blog, Operavision, for her elevated intellect, and for her eloquence in writing and speech, it is obvious that Aprile Millo doesn’t just sing well (even if her’s is one of the greatest voices of all-time)–she is a true defender of the faith; operatic faith, that is. Recently, she has developed a column at the request of  GBOPERA Magazine, an Italian-based publication that is devoted to all-things operatic.  Here is a link to Opera AM and her recent publication:

“Puccini’s Love Letter to the Golden West” (April 2, 2011) English Version

Opera AM with Aprile Millo Italian Version

 


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Millo’s love letter to Puccini

On a day of anniversary, these thoughts from a great soprano could not be overlooked. Her posting on Operavision could not have been more well-researched or heart-felt. In a time when appearance is more important than voice, I cannot be quiet, and will NOT be quiet, nor still in knowing that THIS great Minnie ought to be singing tonight. For any who heard her Laggiu nel Soledad at her 25th anniversary recital in November of 2009…and me, who has the distinct pleasure of hearing this voice more often, recently, than most…her inflection, emotion, quality of tone and gargantuan high C would have sent Puccini soaring, and yet she routes on her colleagues and wishes for the best possible presentation for them. A true elegant Diva…folllowing the examples of her mentors. I honor him today and I honor her voice as the only true and authentic voice alive today that belongs to the Girl of the Golden West.

Listen to Millo’s performance of “Laggiu nel Soledad” from the 25th Anniversary 2009

Millo’s Love Letter to the Golden West

A Big Feat…A Devoted heart….A Long Time Coming.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll have noticed that as of late, posts have been few and far between.  The reason has nothing to do with a lack of interest lately, but more to do with a profound experience that has been the culmination of a very long journey for me.  On May 4th, 2010, I successfully defended my Ph.D dissertation, “Italian Opera from Verdi to Verismo: Boito and “La Scapigliatura.” For the last 13 years of my life, I have devoted myself to the letters, works, and operas of several important composers, namely Giuseppe Verdi, Arrigo Boito, and Giacomo Puccini, and although I have been researching and writing for approximately five years, I had not anticipated that defending my work would be so emotional.  As I spoke about my 600 + page manuscript, at one moment I could strangely hear myself talking and wondering, “Who is talking? Is this me?”  The voice was filled with passion and fire and vibrancy.  At that moment, I felt that I might have converted any non-opera loving person to the other side, just by the sheer determination in my voice.  And, all for the love of opera.

Verdi and Boito

I recalled that the first post on this blog displayed a picture of Indiana Jones.  In effect, the research I conducted was not much different than that presented in the third movie of that series, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” where Indiana takes on his father’s passionate search for the Holy Grail by using a diary filled with clues that required decoding.  Who would have thought that Italian Opera would present a similar situation?  The point I wish to make is that the study of music history, although some might think it to be tedious or even boring, is just as exciting as any action movie.  It is also what leads us to maintain an authentic, appropriate, and most of all, a respectful manner of performance practice that is based on the wishes and direction of the composers whose works we are so compelled to sing, perform, or conduct. It is my hope that young music students continue to study history and use it as a foundation for whatever musical discipline they are devoted to. As musicians the path to a fundamental happiness and success can only be achieved by hard work and devotion, but let us not forget that love for music and art play a significant role.  For those of us who remain devoted…a world of wonder awaits.

Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Opera Kitchener to present Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”

OPERA KITCHENER with THE LIVING ARTS CENTRE presents

“MADAMA BUTTERFLY” by G.Puccini


Friday March 26th 2010 ~ 8pm

The most performed OPERA of all TIME

Opera’s most epic and exotic tale of passion and betrayal comes to THE LIVING ARTS CENTRE. A young woman must decide between living without dignity or dying with honour in the opera most performed throughout the world.

This fully staged performance will be sung in Italian, with English Surtitles, accompanied by orchestra, soloists and chorus conducted by Maestro Sabatino Vacca.

Puccini’s soaring melodies and iconic orchestration bring to life the tale of a young geisha girl, Cio-Cio San, also know as Madama Butterfly, who at the opening of the opera has been arranged to marry a U.S. Navel Lieutenant B.F. Pinkerton. However, the carefree young officer tells his friend, the American Counsel Sharpless, that although he likes Butterfly and will proceed with the ceremony, he won’t think much of it when he returns to America. With the arrival of all her guests and relatives, Butterfly reveals to Pinkerton that she has renounced her faith to be with him. As Pinkerton then realizes what Butterfly has given up for him, the gravity of this action climaxes: suddenly Butterfly’s Uncle, a high priest, arrives and curses the girl for forsaking the ancient religion of her ancestors. All the wedding guests leave, denouncing Cio-Cio San, and leave her to be comforted solely in the arms of her new husband. Can the two lovers overcome the ancient curse as cultures collide ?

As famous as the actual tale itself is the magnificent and memorable music that pours forth from the score; familiar arias such as the heart wrenching “Un bel Di” and “Addio, fiorito asil”, the duet of the young lovers “Vieni la sera”, and the hauntingly beautiful “Humming Chorus” all depict overwhelming emotions via of the power of the human voice soaring above an orchestra. Premiering an all-Canadian cast, this period production features the vocal talents of Suzanne Kilgore as the heroine Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly), Romulo Delgado as Pinkerton, Louisa Cowie as Suzuki and Mark Gardner as Sharpless.

MEDIA RELEASEDon’t miss this performance of the world’s most beloved opera: “Madama Butterfly” by G.Puccini will be for only one performance only ~ Friday March 26th 2010 at 8pm. Call the Living Arts Centre Box Office at 905.306.6000 or 1.888.805.8888 and book your tickets today!

OPERA KITCHENER is owned and operated by husband and wife team Emilio and Jennifer Fina. Their mandate is to present traditional, fully-staged professional operatic productions on a yearly basis, to provide the experience only opera can bestow to the public with affordable ticket prices and to employ the talents of resident musicians and artists of the community.

OPERA KITCHENER’s “MADAMA BUTTERFLY” – an opera by G.Puccini – Friday March 26th 2010 at 8pm The Living Arts Centre 4141 Living Arts Drive, Mississauga ON L5B 4B8

Fully staged with sets, costumes, orchestra, chorus and soloists Sung in German with English Surtitles

For Tickets call the Living Arts Centre Box Office at 905.306.6000 or 1.888.805.8888

Visit us at http://www.operakitchener.com for more information on this performance or our 2009/2010 season.

Zeffirelli’s indispensable “Boheme” returns to the Met

Il Maestro

After the outright scandalous “new” production of Tosca that opened the 2009/2010 season at the Metropolitan Opera with booing and catcalls, audiences are thankful that Mr. Gelb didn’t also dispense with Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s well-loved masterpiece, “La Boheme.”  Imbued with grandeur, scenic realism, and a broad colour palate; not to mention, a significant spacial quality, Mr. Zeffirelli’s productions have been staples at the Met and are strongly linked to Puccini’s operas on an international level.

The cast has soprano, Anna Netrebko in her second stint as Mimi at the Met, the polish tenor, Piotr Beczala, Canadian baritone Gerald Finley as Marcello, and Nicole Cabell as Musetta.  There will be nine performances into March.

A recent review:  Netrebko, Beczala a Winning Couple in  ‘La Boheme’ (The Associated Press)

Franco Zeffirelli’s magnificent production of “La Boheme”

This week at the Met and on Sirius/XM Radio

Monday, Feb. 22, 2010 at 8pm (Sirius/XM)

“La Fille du Regiment”

ConductorMarco Armiliato

MarieDiana Damrau
Marquise of BerkenfeldMeredith Arwady
Duchess of KrakenthorpKiri Te Kanawa
TonioJuan Diego Flórez
SulpiceMaurizio MuraroWednesday, Feb 24, 2010 at 8pm

Production: Laurent Pelly
Set Designer: Chantal Thomas
Costume Designer: Laurent Pelly
Lighting Designer: Joël Adam
Choreographer: Laura Scozzi
Associate Director/Dialogue: Agathe Mélinand

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 at 8pm:

“La Boheme”

Anna Netrebko in a previous production, as Mimi

ConductorMarco Armiliato
MimìAnna Netrebko
MusettaNicole Cabell
RodolfoPiotr Beczala
MarcelloGerald Finley
SchaunardMassimo Cavalletti
CollineOren Gradus
Benoit/AlcindoroPaul Plishka

Production: Franco Zeffirelli
Set Designer: Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler

Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 at 1pm:  Toll Brothers and Sirius/XM Radio

“La Boheme”

The magnificent and unparalleled, Puccini

ConductorMarco Armiliato

MimìAnna Netrebko
MusettaNicole Cabell
RodolfoPiotr Beczala
MarcelloGerald Finley
SchaunardMassimo Cavalletti
CollineOren Gradus
Benoit/AlcindoroPaul Plishka

Production: Franco Zeffirelli
Set Designer: Franco Zeffirelli
Costume Designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting Designer: Gil Wechsler

February’s Singer of the Month: Renata Tebaldi

The glorious one with the voice of an angel:  Renata Tebaldi

One of the most beautiful Italian voices ever to grace the stage, Renata Tebaldi was born in Pesaro on February 1, 1922.  In memory of Madama Tebaldi’s birthday, having fallen just a few days ago, I decided to implement a new section to this blog called, “Singer of the Month.”  It is only appropriate, knowing my devotion to the old-school and to Italianante singing, that Renata Tebaldi be the first singer featured in this new section.  Every month, I will select a singer or artist of the past or present who has contributed their talents to the field of opera, in one way or another.

Tebaldi was one of those voices that is unforgettable.  Madama’s voice was liquid, lush, filled with vibrancy, with a burnished middle voice, a magnificent upper range, and the power of a hundred chariots.  Her charisma and musicianship combined with her God-given gift, not only made her famous in her day, she remains a true example for any young singer who wants to understand what the “real deal” is.

She studied at the Conservatorio di Musica Arrigo Boito, in Parma with Carmen Mellis and made her debut in 1944 in Arrigo Boito’s “Mefistofele” as Elena. In 1946, when La Scala reopened, she partook in that concert under Toscanini’s baton and subsequently sang Mimi and Eva in the 1946-47 season. From 1949-1954, she sang regularly at La Scala in roles such as:  Maddalena in Andrea Chenier, Tosca, Adriana Lecouvreur, Desdemona in Otello, and La Wally.  She soon made debuts in London and in San Francisco as Aida.  In 1955, she became a prima at the Metropolitan Opera, where she remained for 20 years.

Tebaldi’s voice was capable of nearly anything.  Not only did she perform the “lirico spinto” repertoire, she also delved into such roles as Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare, Spontini’s Olympia, and Verdi’s Giovanna D’Arco, showing a tremendous versatility and range.  Her Forza del Destino is the stuff of legend and I, of course, have a personal devotion to her understanding of Puccini’s repertoire, most specifically Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, and Mimi in La Boheme; not to mention Angelica in Suor Angelica.

If you’ve never watched or seen, or heard her, for that matter, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!? Her elegance, her mannerisms–a true lady–the way in which she used her hands, the beauty of her persona were all aspects that made La Tebaldi what she was, an artist of true value. Her voice lingers in one’s mind and heart, and her’s is a historical lexicon of recordings that we as operagoers, historians, and afficionados must make sure to preserve and introduce to those too young to have known about her.  On this anniversary of her birth, on behalf of all who loved her and continue to, “Madama, we remember…we can never forget and we fight that your legacy continue, that your art, as you saw it and understood it so intimately, be preserved as it were, now and always.  In grand devotion, we thank you.  Grazie mille, Brava!”

Elegance personified: a true diva, private, respectful of her art, and authentic

Sirius/XM Radio broadcast of Puccini’s “Il Trittico” tomorrow night at 8pm.

Stephanie Blythe and Patricia Racette in the Met’s “Trittico”

 

Stay tuned for a review to follow.

ConductorStefano Ranzani
GiorgettaPatricia Racette
LuigiAleksandrs Antonenko
MicheleŽeljko Lucic
FrugolaStephanie Blythe
Suor AngelicaPatricia Racette
Sister GenovieffaHeidi Grant Murphy
La PrincipessaStephanie Blythe
LaurettaPatricia Racette
RinuccioSaimir Pirgu
Gianni SchicchiAlessandro Corbelli
ZitaStephanie Blythe

 

Published in: on November 25, 2009 at 3:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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The chicken or the egg?

Chicken or egg

Prima le parole e dopo la musica, or Prima la musica e dopo le parole?

The other day I was thinking about the fact that opera still has the power to command people, and I don’t just mean in an emotional sense even if it certainly does that too.  What I mean is that people who love opera, “afficionados,” love it and would kill for it; yet, those who hate it, HATE IT!  For those of us who love it, it is infinitely difficult to convert someone from “the other side,” but it is possible, trust me!  So, what is it?  What is this thing called opera, this thing that has been an emotional, social, political vehicle, fully encompassing every artistic genre in order to achieve its premise?

In order to answer this question accordingly, we would have to embark on a serious study of this genre that has existed for centuries, now (sometimes I feel like I’ve been studying it for centuries, as the grey hairs on my head seem to suggest). But, to give a surface scraping answer:  opera is a spectacle of combinatory proportions with the sole purpose of “affecting” the listener beyond the manifestation of words alone.  It is meant to instruct us, frighten us, to arouse us, to seduce us, to make us laugh, to make us cry, and to infect us with the grandeur of life.  Opera, is life.

Of course, it combines music, staging, drama, literature, orchestration, costume, movement, and often dance, but the magical element above all these is the inclusion of the Voice, a most seductive and dangerous being.  As it is, the Voice can represent any number of things and often serves purposes that are not always relegated to singing, per se.  To me, the voice is a metaphysical being (which is why I capitalize it); that is, something that is not entirely of this world, something that descends from a higher realm and does not have a bodily or visceral form.  If that’s true, then how does it come from the body of a singer?  While some might think that the singer embodies the voice, I tend to think that the voice embodies the singer, which is why many singers actually transcend as they’re performing, a wonderful feeling to be sure (and I don’t mean they levitate…that would be scary…or wonderful, who knows?)

Since its inception in Italy around the 1600s (yes, it was us hot-blooded Italians that started this all…mix in some good food and vino and you’ve got a full evening’s entertainment), Italian composers and dramatists recognized the affects of the voice on the body, especially the solo voice, which is why they created “monody.”  Monodic songs (they weren’t really considered arias as of yet), had the power to shift the “affections”.  During the Renaissance, the general thought was that certain vibrations affected the body.  These vibrations, called hot and cold vapours, could either warm or cool down the body temple.  In other words, voices can either turn us on or turn us off.

Interestingly, one of the first imprecations in opera still remains today, whether the words or the music should come first, akin to the proverbial “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Prima le parole e dopo la musica or Prima la musica e dopo le parole? Actually, come to think of it, this was the first thing I ever learned about opera and it’s certainly intriguing that after so many years of studying this genre, I keep returning to this point.  Of course, it depends on the composer.  Would it surprise you to know that Puccini wanted the text to, “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” before he composed the aria?  When you listen to that aria, it seems almost unbelievable that he would manifest the type of melody he did, especially when the words and music seem so homogeneous.  But, then, this is the sign of a great melodist.

There were, however, other composers who wrote melodies first and then decided on the text.  If you were an opera composer, which methodology would you choose?  It’s an interesting topic, for sure, and there have been many studies on whether or not the overall success of an opera is measurable by this question?  Perhaps.  Some food for thought……

Would the real “Turandot” please stand up?

Well, according to the poll, 75% feel that neither Lindstrom nor Guleghina were authentic enough in their portrayal of Puccini’s Principessa di Gelo.  So, what do I mean by authenticity?  When a composer creates a character, it is not solely their dramatis personae that is taken into account.  In fact, most operatic characters are defined by their singing, by the style of their music, and thus a number of elements come into play that go above and beyond fach.  To be authentic, language, aesthetic understanding, musicality, and emotional impetus are mandatory.

The role of Turandot is usually sung by a dramatic spinto, but don’t let this confuse you.  There are many moments where lyric qualities are absolutely necessary.  Actually, Turandot’s style and her mannerisms shift as her persona goes through a series of emotional shifts.  As such, the singer portraying her must possess all of these capabilities.  The role was originally sung by Puccini’s favourite soprano, Maria Jeritza.  The other great, and my personal favourite, was Birgit Nilsson.  Unfortunately, neither Lindstrom or Guleghina came close…should we expect them to?  ABSOLUTELY!  Just because we are hedging on 2010 doesn’t mean that we should consider that the great era of singers has come to an end.  Obviously, this notion affects the young generation of singers and how they are being instructed (but that’s another issue altogether).

Lindstrom’s debut was exciting, to say the least, and the voice has the type of laser quality that is absolutely necessary of Turandot.  Lacking in this quality deems Turandot’s persona to be warmer than she should be.  The upper tessitura requires that kind of silver shimmer that lingers in the theater long after the note has ended.  Unfortunately, Ms. Lindstrom’s middle and lower voice were uneven in relationship to her upper voice.  This is a technical issue and not the result of the role itself.  Interestingly, singers of this fach need to use chest resonance in the middle and lower voices because the top is so heavy.  Pushing the head voice down too far isn’t condusive.

Guleghina, on the other hand, has a much darker tone and is, in my opinion, not as much a spinto as she is a Dramatic Soprano.  She is more comfortable in the middle and lower range than the top and unfortunately many of her upper notes left much to be desired.  She infused portamenti into those phrases where the higher notes are meant to be held, lingering, spinning, and laser-like, in order to save herself.  There is no question that the voice is important in the genre, but unfortunately, she didn’t impress more than Lindstrom.

Perhaps we should make a clone by combining the two of them:  Lindstrom’s top with Guleghina’s middle and bottom would be ideal….but still, never Nilsson.

Nilsson as TurandotBirgit Nilsson, the quintessential Turandot