Category Archives: Baroque Opera

A mystery to delight opera lovers

Interrupted Aria, A Tito Amato Mystery

Interrupted Aria, A Tito Amato Mystery

I have a book to recommend to all you opera lovers who also happen to be readers of fiction.

I believe I found this lovely little gem on Bookbub, a free service that emails ebook deals to your preferred inbox daily.

When I saw the title Interrupted Aria (Poisoned Pen Press: 2012), it immediately piqued my attention. The demi-mask with blood dripping from a pair of gilded lips was also very compelling.

Here is the book blurb:

Venice, 1731. Opera is the popular entertainment of the day and the castrati are its reigning divas. Tito Amato, mutilated as a boy to preserve his enchanting soprano voice, returns to the city of his birth with his friend Felice, a castrato whose voice has failed. 

Disaster strikes Tito’s opera premier when the singer loses one beloved friend to poison and another to unjust accusation and arrest. Alarmed that the merchant-aristocrat who owns the theater is pressing the authorities to close the case, Tito races the executioner to find the real killer. The possible suspects could people the cast of one of his operas: a libertine nobleman and his spurned wife, a jealous soprano, an ambitious composer, and a patrician family bent on the theater’s ruin.

With carnival gaiety swirling around him and rousing Venetian passions to an ominous crescendo, Tito finds that the most astonishing secrets lurk behind the masks of his own family and friends.

But no matter what’s on the front, or how intriguing a book’s description, it is the text itself that matters, right?

Beverle Graves Myers’ novel is a delight. History lovers will appreciate the lush period details. Opera lovers will adore the references to opera’s earliest days and experiencing 18th century Venice from a castrato singer’s viewpoint.

Graves Myers is talented author. Her self-confessed love of early opera is readily evident in this richly detailed work.

Why not give it a try? No matter whether you love opera, period fiction, or strong writing, you’ll find something to love about this series.

Interrupted Aria is available in ebook, print, hardcover, and as an audio CD. You can learn more about the author at her website: www.beverlegravesmyers.com.

 

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Filed under Baroque Opera, Books, Interdisciplinary arts, Opera books

Fly on the wall at a ‘dazzling’ Met Opera cast party

New York City’s Metropolitan Opera premiered a new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare on April 4, 2013, which was celebrated with a pre-opera dinner, followed by a cast party after the performance.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the Metropolitan Opera’s Giulio Cesare gala cast party on opening night!

Well, I’ve got the next best thing, dear readers. Some beautiful photos to share with you from that early April Lincoln Center gala, a sparkling event–literally–thanks to art jewelry designer Gilbert Albert, who sponsored the evening.

Met cast party w/jewelry

Carol Miller (left) is wearing the “nouvelles ecorces” necklace with emeralds. Mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon, who sang the role of Cornelia, is wearing the Unique “ecorce” necklace with modlavites, freshwater pearls, quartz and diamonds.

Gilbert Albert’s three-story New York boutique recently opened at 43 West 57th Street though the company turns 60 this year. One of their immediate goals was to support the arts in New York City. In an official press statement, Majid Pishyar, Chairman of 32Group, owner of the Gilbert Albert brand said, “Gilbert Albert believes the quest for excellence in opera and all the arts perfectly complements our own goal of producing the finest quality jewelry. It is with great pleasure that we are supporting the Metropolitan Opera’s gala this spring.”

dazzling cast party

Alice Coote (left) is wearing a Gilbert Albert necklace with fulgurite (sand struck by lightning). Sharon Ray, vice president of Gilbert Albert, is wearing the “perle” necklace with azurite stones.

The boutique displays necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and pendants that are unique, one-of-a-kind works of art inspired by nature.  Each piece combines gold and precious stones with a variety of natural exotic materials including crystals, meteorites, corals, shells, scarabs and, most inspiring of all, fossilized dinosaur bones. Many of Gilbert Albert’s pieces are adorned with both cabochon and rough cut stones, a contrast that is magnificent and rarely seen in fine jewelry. The pieces also use fulgurites, which are tubes of glass formed by the extraordinary release of energy when lightning strikes the desert sand.

This is not the first time the designer has been involved in the arts; Gilbert Albert and Prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili together founded the prize “Star” for young ballet dance talents an annual award that has been presented since 2008 at the Rustaveli State Theatre in Tblisi, Goergia.

What could be better following a winner of a new Giulio Cesare, which Forbes Magazine called “sparkling, playful and musically rich,” than a cast party with extra dazzling fine jewelry, courtesy of Gilbert Albert.

Miller and Ziff

Carol Miller (left) and her husband Richard J. Miller, Jr., opera guild president, flank Met Chairman Ann Ziff, who is donning Gilbert Albert earrings.

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Magnificent new recording of Handel’s ‘Atalanta’

Philharmonia Baroque of San Francisco has released a new recording of Handel’s Atalanta this year. It is the fourth disc since the founding of Philharmonia Baroque Productions in 2011, and Atalanta is, in a word, magnificent. Sheer beauty to the ear.

Atalanta is a two-disc album of the 1736 opera in three acts that was recorded live at Berkley’s First Congregational Church on September 10 and 11 of 2005. It features the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra conducted by Nicholas McGegan, the Philharmonia Chorale under the direction of Bruce Lamott, and a stellar cast, featuring:

ATALANTA – Dominique Labelle, soprano
MELEAGRO – Susanne Rydén, soprano
IRENE – Cécile van de Sant, mezzo-soprano
AMYNTAS – Michael Slattery, tenor
NICANDRO – Philip Cutlip, baritone
MERCURIO – Corey McKern, baritone

The story behind Atalanta’s creation is interesting. Handel sought to write something to entertain Frederick, Prince of Wales, on the occasion of his marriage to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. A work intended for a wedding must not be too sober and needs to end happily in celebration of true love,  thereby auguring a happy union for the newlyweds.  In that regard Atalanta absolutely fits the bill and ends in a happy duet between the royal lovers after a few missteps including a serious instance of mistaken identity. But how can any royal know if he or she is truly loved without taking on the guise of a commoner?

Dominique Labelle / photo by Lino Alvarez

The leading roles are all expertly sung. In the title role, soprano Dominique Labelle is simply angelic. She exhibits both an indescribable augustness and, though everyone knows true love will prevail for Atalanta by the end of the opera, a surprising level of passion that is perceived as genuinely plaintive, especially in her Act II aria “Lassa! ch’io t’ho perduta,” which has a piercing beauty.

Swedish soprano Susanne Rydén as King Mealagro (originally a castrato role) is also a standout in this recording and displays an impressive command of the baroque repertoire from the moment the opera opens with her mellifluous-as-honey arioso “Cara selve.” What an incredible amount of voice control and judicious use of vibrato!

If there is a style of opera where voices project with more clarity and purity of tone than baroque, I am not aware of it. Of course, the quality of this recording also is to be commended in complementing the form.

Another singer turning in an unforgettable performance on this recording is young American tenor and crossover artist Michael Slattery. He sang the lovesick shepherd Amyntas  adroitly, with power and passion. Slattery sings Baroque opera as skillfully as he handles oratorio and Broadway tunes. His pitch-perfect emotional performance washes over the listener and has the power to sweep her away in a tide of happy reverie. And sometimes unbridled longing to be in the physical presence of such a talented artist.

Nicholas McGegan, conductor of “Atalanta”

The orchestration and choral interludes are alternately crisp and grand–vivacious and befitting of nobility–and a sheer treat for the listener. While Handel himself deserves much of the credit for such a charming and uncommon score, credit must also go to the conductor Nicholas McGegan, whose expertise in handling and interpretation of 18th-century music is unprecedented. He is one of a select few baroque specialists who regularly conducts the major orchestras, including those of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, to name a few. Listening to the chorale is like hearing the choirs of heaven.

Since its inception in 1981, San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra has been devoted historically-informed performance of Baroque, Classical, and early-Romantic music on original instruments and is regarded as an “ensemble for early music as fine as any in the world today.” It was founded by early music pioneer and harpsichoridist Laurette Goldberg.

Click here to order your copy today.

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Filed under Baroque Opera, Recording, Reviews, Uncategorized

COC nabs three Dora Awards

The Canadian Opera Company (COC) swept the Opera Division Monday evening during the The Dora Mavor Moore Awards, an annual ceremony honoring the best in Toronto Theatre. All totaled, the COC won three awards that evening:

  • Orfeo ed Euridice, directed by the Toronto-born Robert Carsen, won the award for Outstanding Production (Opera Division).
  • Alan Oke, front, as Gustav von Aschenbach

    Alan Oke, who played Gustav von Aschenbach in October 2010’s Death in Venice, won the award for Outstanding Performance (Opera Division).

“Scottish tenor Alan Oke sang the role superbly, with a flexible lyrical sound, wonderful pitch and clear words, conveying all of Aschenbach’s tortured speculations and desires within the very specific reaches of Britten’s melodic limning of his character.”Globe and Mail
  • Harry Bicket, who conducted Orfeo ed Euridice, won the award for Outstanding Musical Direction (General Theatre Division).

Hearty congratulations to everyone at the COC on their successful season.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Baroque Opera, Modern opera, North American Opera, Opera Awards