Category Archives: Classical Music

Opera Music Broadcast, a treat for music lovers & resource for opera companies

Opera Music Broadcast.com

Editor’s note: Congratulations to Kelly Rinne and everyone at Opera Music Broadcast for for being recognized as one of the five best opera websites at High50Culture.com. In honor of their accomplishment, here’s a Golden Operatoonity post on the station everyone needs to enjoy–regularly.

Have you tuned into Opera Music Broadcast yet? If you haven’t, you don’t know what you are missing.

Opera Music Broadcast offers all opera, art song, and vocal music via an online format, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus they have news, reviews, live webcasts, audio. They stream opera online and offer Internet radio online. You name it. Opera Music Broadcast has it goin’ on.

At this time last week, I was listening live from my computer and headset.  The music was so beautiful–MISSA O REX GLORIAE (for four voices)- I. Kyrie – Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O’Donnell– I had to stop what I was doing and let it wash over me before I could continue my work.

As I write this I am listening to Ruggero Raimondi, Kiri Te Kanawa, etc.; Lorin Maazel: Paris Opera Orchestra & Chorus singing Don Giovanni highlights. Does it get any better than that?

Their tagline is “Music does not have to be understood. It has to be listened to.” — Hermann Scherchen

Kelly Rinne, music director, has kindly agreed to a little Q&A to help Operatoonity readers learn more about what they do. Hello, Kelly. Welcome to Operatoonity.com!

It appears you’ve been broadcasting since 2009. How much time did it require to develop your station prior to that?

Well, our “parent” station is Classical Music Broadcast.com, which debuted in Nov. of 2005 only playing for about 3 hours/day as we tweaked the technology and loaded a LOT of music in. Once that station was solidly up and running 24/7 in 2006, then it became MUCH easier to develop the opera station. One big thing I discovered early on is that the opera listeners are much more passionate and much more actively involved in the music. If they like something, they let me know, and if they don’t like something, I never hear the end of it….(grins).

Even though I say I’m the Music Director, I do take some direction from the listeners. Mostly suggestions – the big thing that helped  was to do a poll before we even launched. There had been another all-vocal Internet station called Viva La Voce, which was entirely subscription based.  I went on forums and newsgroups (this was before Twitter and Facebook were household names) and I asked people. They were bemoaning the loss of VLV, so I decided that a non-subscription based model was the way to go. Offer it to everyone.

Kelly Rinne, music director

So the original poll asked people what types of vocal music did they like? opera, concert song, choral, modern, lieder (fill in the blank). And we developed the original mission statement based on that, plus a dash of my personality.

Even though I’m a lot younger than many of my listeners, I really like historical recordings. I also like modern compositions, which drives everyone nuts. Until I get that one email that says – “Tabula Rasa – holy crap, I’m in love. I…* forgets what she was typing, reverting back to slack-jawed music trance*” and yes, I’m quoting directly.

So the station took about 2 years to develop before we went online.

What’s the best source of referrals and are most people finding you on Twitter?
Google keyword search, hands down. Some Twitter and Facebook, some direct referrals “Hey, I saw your post on XYZ and I’ve been listening”.  Mostly its folks typing in “opera streaming.”

What I notice compared to the CMB listeners is that they listen at very specific times of day. The folks listening to instrumental tend to put it on as “background” and leave it on all day.

Opera fans tend to listen in 2-3 hour blocks, and often send tweets asking for this or that request. I get a LOT of retweets of the playlist — folks who are listening who spread the word to their friends online. Twitter is tough because “opera” as a hashtag has to compete with the browser. (sigh)

One of the Twitterati that I love the most is david_m_wagner — he is a Rutgers law professor who is amazingly erudite about opera, and has a snarky sense of humor. I plan to start running his retweets on the site and in the stream because his commentary is priceless. Funny and educational all at the same time.

How many users do you have, would you like to have?

Not enough, and as many as the server can handle. The majority of listeners are from:

  • United States
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Germany
  • Australia
  • Italy
  • France
  • Argentina
  • Spain
  • Belgium

How are you able to keep up with an ever-changing landscape of performing arts/music events?
Wow, its tough. The record labels help a LOT — they send me press releases and promo copies. It has been much harder to get opera    companies to do the same. I would love to throw them as much promotion as possible, but with my small number of volunteers it is difficult. HINT to all you opera companies: SEND ME PRESS RELEASES. Opera companies are not nearly as responsive on Twitter as I think they should be – they use it to promote “sort of”, but they do not reach out to the media directly. Yes, you can consider that a hand slap, but a kind one.

Another hint to opera companies – learn how to use a Twitter list, and broadcast to it.

Artist management and artists also contact me directly — this happens MUCH more on the instrumental station than on the opera station. I have a lot of performers on my OMB Twitter and Facebook pages, but they rarely tell anyone that they are performing anywhere. They talk about rehearsing more than performance. Performers should be part of their PR campaign…hint hint hint.

The scope of your project is seems enormous and growing. How many people work behind the scenes to bring this station to its listeners?
Not enough. I wish I could clone myself, or hire a few people, but the station is a long way off from having paid staff. I have less than 10 dedicated volunteers/board members who put in a few hours here and there, updating playlists, the database, (which is CONSTANTLY changing) logging music, writing reviews, sending music, suggestions etc.

What are your greatest needs right now, in terms of the site and or its management?
From a content perspective I would love an opera reviewer or two who could submit regular live performance reviews. and someone to review DVDs. Oh, and time. I don’t do this full time and wish I could. It seems like there is never enough time to implement what I want. Um a grant writer would be phenomenal — The parent station is a 501 3(c) non-profit, and OMB is a dba under that corporation filing. We are eligible for non-profit grants, and I have no one to spearhead that    type of project. (big sigh)

When will you feel as though the site has “arrived,” or are you already there?
I feel that way with the instrumental site, but not quite with Opera Music Broadcast — I definitely have a website facelift in mind. The section that is the daily playlist does not get nearly enough traffic, considering how many questions I get about what we are playing.

What are you most proud of about Opera Music Broadcast?
Last year we started live video webstreaming of opera — every performance we have broadcast has averaged about 60-80,000 viewers, from over 20 countries. In 2012 we will be broadcasting a Werther from the Minnesota Opera with James Valenti and Roxana Constantinescu as the star-crossed lovers Werther and Charlotte. We are in talks with some other US-based opera companies. My goal is to do for the regional companies what the HD broadcasts did for the Met — our station already has the built-in audience through our use of social media. We just need the opera companies to step      up and look to build their audience beyond the physical confines of the opera house. I want Opera Music Broadcast to pick up where PBS is failing the arts community. Less and less fine arts performance programming is played on PBS (and I like PBS, this is not a bash-fest) and that is a disservice to a loyal and growing audience.

Anything else you’d like to tell me?
If I can babble on a little more about the live webstreaming — when we broadcast an Ariadne from the Toledo Opera, the many emails I received all said something very similar which I will paraphrase:  “I/we had NO idea that Toledo had this level of singing. I/we bought tickets for the XYZ performance after seeing the webcast.” And to me, that justified all the hard work that OMB has done over the past 2 years — we made tens of thousands of people aware of a very small opera company that performs with high quality singers and musicianship, and helped them sell tickets. Yea to us.

If the station, whether through 24/7 radio broadcast or live video webcasting convinces 1 to 1 million people to add opera to their musical diet — well then, I might be doing something right.

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You’ll find Opera Music Broadcast online at http://operamusicbroadcast.com, on Twitter @operabcast (where they take requests), and or Like them on Facebook.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Music, Interviews, opera news, Sunday Best

ENO makes BIG splash with mini comp

If writing for opera sounds like something you’ve always wanted to try, but you never dreamed you’d have a chance to try it, you need to know about English National Opera’s (ENO) new Mini-Opera writing competition.

Somebody’s going to win BIG with something mini, and it might as well be you.

Who should enter this competition? The better question is who shouldn’t enter this competition. No one, that’s who. If you can write, compose, create with film, there are no barriers to trying your hand at writing opera.

But you better get on it–the script-writing portion is already underway.

See, the ENO is seeking the next generation of opera talent–librettists and writers, composers, and filmmakers–and has devised a brilliant way to engage up-and-coming artists.

And if you win the competition, you have a chance to be mentored for a year by some of the  most talented and successful creatives working in opera today: Jeremy Sams, Nico Muhly or Leo Warner.

ENO’s Mini-Operas has three parts:

  • Script Competition (March 26 to May 21)
  • Soundtrack Competition (June 4 to July 23)
  • Filmmaking  Competition (August 6 to September 24)

ENO has made the whole competition timeline available here.

Since every great opera starts with a libretto, that’s where this competition begins.

For starters, some wonderfully inspiring writers — Will Self, A.L. Kennedy and Neil Gaiman — have each generated seed stories. Those interested in entering the script competition must read the seed stories and pick one that inspires them to write a script for a 5-7 minute opera based on that story. In terms of inspiration, anything goes: a single word, title, a mood or even a character name, as the guidelines suggest. All scripts must be in English.

In May, ENO will pick 10 scripts going through to the next round.  Those scripts will become the seeds that people will compose soundtracks for in the next leg of the competition.  Remember that the script will be set to music by someone else and that words can take a lot longer to sing than to read, so “less is definitely more.”

Writers have until May 21 to write their scripts and enter them using ENO’s online form.

For those who might benefit from some extra coaching in the script-writing department, ENO’s  resident author Tamsin Collison has written examples for each story.  They plan to add more expert help to the site before the May 21 deadline, so do check back at the Mini-Operas site for more tips.

What do have to lose? Your mini-opera could be a BIG winner!

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classical Arts marketing, Classical Music, Collaborative opera, creative promotions, opera competitions, opera milestones

A Christmas-y video from Operatoonity!

To all my friends and visitors in cyberspace, my heartfelt wishes for a very merry Christmas holiday! Here’s a little day brightener from the great state of Alaska, USA:

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Filed under Classical Music, Uncategorized, Video

Bachtrack founder’s reviews and posts connect the world to live opera

David Karlin, founder of Bachtrack

Editor’s note: This is the second in this month’s series about Opera/Classical Bloggers.

Being the techno-mastermind behind U.K.-based Bachtrack–the world’s best way to find live classical music–might be achievement enough for some.

Not for Bachtrack founder David Karlin. Though he and his wife Alison Karlin are responsible for all the administration and marketing of the site, David has also stepped out as a masterful reviewer in addition to being Bachtrack’s blogger-of-record.

Reviews are a mainstay of many opera bloggers. Some only do reviews. Some do news and postcards. David does it all with a signature blend of respect for classical arts, great writing, technical savvy, and essential enthusiasm.

Welcome to Operatoonity, David.

O: When did you start blogging and why?
David:
I started about three years ago, a few months after we started Bachtrack. We realised that to get search engine visibility for the main listings site, we needed to have original unique content, and I figured that the best way was to try writing some. I started enjoying the writing, and things got slightly out of hand.  . . . By the way, due to oddities in the way the site is structured, most of my writing appears on the reviews pages rather than the blog–something I’ll fix one of these days. I use the blog for anything I fancy writing about that isn’t a review.

O: What is your biggest challenge? Biggest thrill?
David: On the opera side of my writing, the biggest challenge is to be fair about Regietheater. I instinctively loathe the kind of opera production which tries to marry a perfectly good opera to a visual narrative that has little or no connection to it; I try hard to write about these on their own terms while bearing in mind the director’s artistic intent, but it’s a struggle to be polite.

David's review of Anna Nicole on Bachtrack

There are two big thrills.

The first is that I get to see and write about some fantastic opera that I wouldn’t necessarily have gone to. The best example was the Royal Opera’s production of Steffani’s Niobe, regina di Tebe: I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special and was completely blown away. The other big thrill is when it turns out that people actually enjoy what I write and send in interesting bits of information.

O: What is your favorite post and why?
David: My favourite post is one of the shortest: the diagram I did to illuminate the impenetrable cast list of Adriana Lecouvreur. (http://www.bachtrack.com/adriana-lecouvreur-cast-guide) The review I’m most proud of is the one of Anna Nicole (http://www.bachtrack.com/review-anna-nicole), which is also the longest (but there was a lot to talk about).

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You can find all of David’s reviews on Bachtrack here and access the site’s blog here.




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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Music, opera and technology, profiles, Reviews

‘Der Freischütz’: Bowing out of popular favor?

(Today marks the anniversary of composer Carl Maria von Weber‘s death. In his honor, I am reposting this piece about his most acclaimed opera.)

My husband came home last night and mentioned, while I was putting the finishing touches on our dinner, that the “Movie Mavens,” a show his television station produces, panned the new Robin Hood with Russell Crowe. I love the Robin Hood legend and have watched every version I possibly could. So, it got me thinking about archers and opera. What operas, if any, featured legendary archers?

That’s why I’m talking about Der Freischütz today on “opera-toonity.” Never one to shy away from a German title with a juicy umlaut (a pair of dots or lines [ ¨ ] placed over a letter), I decided to investigate the work in my nutmeg-colored volume kindly bestowed on me by Ginger, The Benevolent.

Der Freischütz is a three-act opera by Carl Marià von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind, first performed in Berlin in 1821. It is considered the first important German Romantic opera, and also significant because von Weber’s work was reputedly an influence the work of Richard Wagner. Like the story of Robin Hood is to the English, Der Freischütz is based on German folk legend, and many of its tunes were inspired by German folk music.

(I guess every nationality has an artistic love affair with their legendary archers.)

Opera Boston's 'Der Freischutz', 2008

It tells the story of a marksman who makes a pact with the dark side to win a contest and the hand of his beloved.

Though Der Freischütz quickly became an international success, with some 50 performances in the first 18 months after its premiere,  it is not often performed in the United States today. A press release about Opera Boston’s 2008 production stated that their production was the first to be given in Boston in 25 years.

Not too long ago, an opera aficionado I respect, Roberto Romani, aka Opera Rat, decried the fact that the same operas are produced over and over again, in this instance, he didn’t think the Midwest needed yet another mounting of La Traviata. 

If some operas suffer from overexposure, and if enthusiasm still teems for archer legends, why isn’t Der Freischütz produced more often? Does it require perfect voices like Il Trovatore?

Despite its overall lack of production, the overture and the “Hunter’s Chorus” from Act III (“with Princely enjoyment and manly employment …”) used to be oft-performed concert pieces. The overture has been hailed as a masterpiece of brilliant instrumentation, providing listeners with keys to the entire work by announcing leading themes.

YouTube‘s queue wasn’t running over with clips. Here’s one of the Südfunk-Sinfonieorchester, from 1970, conducted by Carlos Kleiber. It is, in a word, magnificent.

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Filed under Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Classical Music, opera firsts