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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: November 8, 2006 Archive

Tonight's Top Ten

Posted at 6:50 AM on November 8, 2006 by Valerie Kahler
Filed under: The blog

Happily, late-night fans tuning in for Letterman tonight won't be seeing the soon-to-be-ex-Mr.-Britney-Spears pimping his new (and roundly panned) rap recording. No, for the first time, tonight's musical guests won't be pop stars or rock stars.

From the NY Daily News:

Opera buffs can get a sneak peak at the Met's upcoming production of Rossini's "Il Barbiere di Siviglia" (that's "The Barber of Seville" for all of you barbarians) tomorrow on, of all places, "Late Show With David Letterman."

It will be the first time Letterman, an opera fan, has had an opera production as his musical guest. The plan is to have six principal singers and a chorus of 12 with a 22 piece orchestra. The chorus and orchestra will be trimmed by half to fit on the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater, but it will be the biggest musical production "Late Show" has staged.

"Barber" is perhaps one of opera's most recognized works. It opens Friday at the Met, with six performances through Nov. 27.

Metsters Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, Peter Mattei, John Del Carlo, and Samuel Ramey will grace the stage of the Ed Sullivan Theatre with the finale to Act 1 of Barber of Seville, which opens at the Met this Friday.

I know where I'll be tonight at 10:30.

Wasserstein at the Opera (and the Thanksgiving table)

Posted at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2006 by John Birge
Filed under: The blog

Interesting item below. And a reminder to Wasserstein fans that a few years ago, she was a guest on my annual Thanksgiving special, Giving Thanks. You can hear her Thanksgiving story here. It's the last segment in the first hour.

And don't forget to listen to Giving Thanks 2006, with special guests Anne Lamott and Gary Snyder! Audio will be posted in a couple weeks.

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) -- Actresses Allison Janney and Stockard Channing will help an opera company honor the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein.

The Glimmerglass Opera of Cooperstown will be joined by Emmy winners Janney and Channing to present "An Uncommon Woman: A Celebration of Wendy Wasserstein" on Tuesday, Nov. 28 in New York City.

Wasserstein, who died in January from lymphoma at age of 55, was best-known for her award-winning plays that focused on women's issues. Her play, "The Heidi Chronicles" won the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award in 1989.

Wasserstein also wrote film scripts and penned the libretto for "The Festival of Regrets," one of three one-act operas featured in the trilogy, "Central Park." The work was commissioned by the Glimmerglass Opera and premiered in 1999.

The Nov. 28 tribute will feature readings by Channing and Janney, as well as performances by members of the Mount Holyoke Chamber Singers and alumni of Glimmerglass Opera's Young American Artists program.

The event, to be held at the Colony Club in Manhattan, will also feature a performance of songs from the musical "Pamela's First Musical," which Wasserstein adapted from her children's book of the same name.

Opera auditions

Posted at 4:13 PM on November 8, 2006 by Rex Levang

Young people are so clever nowadays.

That's the overwhelming impression left by attending the first round of the Metropolitan Opera’s auditions last Saturday. It's always been a showplace for youthful potential – but sheerly in terms of professional polish, the average level of attainment seems to get higher and higher.

Take something like languages: In addition to the operatic Big Three (Italian, German, French), there were also arias in Russian and Czech on offer, plus English. In everything I heard, the singers seemed to know the meaning of what they were singing -- no phonetic singing by rote -- and negotiated the tricky points of pronunciation and diction with aplomb.

By the same token, the repertory choices seem to be ever-expanding. At one time, most of the arias sung seemed to come from "the book"– the standard G. Schirmer collection of arias for soprano (or for mezzo, or tenor, etc.) Many was the time that Musetta waltzed, or Papageno informed us that he was the birdcatcher, always merry, tra-la-la.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that: if you become a professional singer, Puccini and Mozart will help you out with a lot of car payments. But on Saturday, the singers had also prepared arias by composers like Britten, Andre Previn, Stravinsky, and (a new name to me) Edwin Penhorwood.

And we also heard singers who went beyond the familiar notes of the standard scores and sensitively ornament their vocal lines. One baritone did a well-known Mozart aria, but with some high notes that aren't in the standard score.

Sacrilege? Not necessarily. A few years back, a musicologist published some alternate versions of this aria dating from Mozart’s day -- possibly by Mozart himself. So here was a singer who either hit the library for some scholarly research, or else tossed off some improvisations, "in the style of."

Young people are so clever nowadays!