Category Archives: favorites

have you met the Ginger Trietto?

I have a little secret. I have a supplier . . . of nifty opera guides. My fellow writer Ginger travels 200+ days a year for her job and frequents secondhand shops. Whenever she finds a book about opera, no matter where she is in the country, she packs it up and ships it to me.   

Without further adieu, let me introduce the Ginger Trietto, coming to opera lovers at Christmastime as a trunk show:   

The Standard Opera and Concert Guide

The first book in the triad is The Standard Opera and Concert Guide, by Upton and Borowski. This old chestnut was last published in 1930. This is a wonderful guide for learning all about classic opera, organized by composer. Sometimes the book offers brief biographical information about the composer. Sometimes it jumps directly into an analysis of their seminal work. I love the voice of the book almost as much as the information it provides. The authors sound like perfect gentlemen–they never shred any work, they always find some redeeming quality or they haven’t included it in the volume. I used this book to write many posts for Operatoonity, including a post about Englebert Humperdinck, another about a Ravel opera, and a post about a classic premiere in MayThe Marriage of Figaro, my favorite. This is a full-bodied reference book that goes well with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.   

Fifty Favorite Operas, also goes well with Cabernet

Next up, we have the always delightful, Fifty Favorite Operas by Paul England, no relation to the Queen of England. I used this lovely text–organized by work, not by composer–to write a post called “Fifty Favorite Operas,” a truly fruitful post because of the comments it evoked. Several commenters left a top-ten list of their favorites, which led me to investigate and write posts about Pelléas et Mélisande (which happens to be one of my favorite posts if you haven’t read it) by Debussy as well as a wistful post about Der Freischütz by Weber. I absolutely adored Pelléas et Mélisande, the story, yes, but especially the music–soaring and transcendent, which I might never have been introduced to without Ginger sending me this book. As a result, I’m seeing the show at the Met on December 17, and reviewing it for Bachtrack.   

The Penguin Opera Guide

The most recent tome is the comprehensive Penguin Opera Guide edited by Amanda Holden. This beefy paperback (530 pages) is organized alphabetically by composer. This text is the most modern of all three and offers generous bios of each composer. It’s broader in scope because it includes modern opera composers like Adams (Nixon in China) and Britten (Turn of the Screw). I remember feeling like I hit the jackpot with this text. Every time I encounter a new work, I check it out in this book. It’s also great for fact-checking. And coincidentally, like the Cabernet with which it’s paired, it is likewise full-bodied and intriguing.   

To sum it up, I have three wonderful texts to use to create meaty and accurate posts for this blog. And I have one wonderful friend to thank for them.

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Filed under Classic Opera, Classical Composers, favorites, Heartstoppers

take me out to WNO opera any day! it’s a win-win-win!

For years now, the Pennsylvania Lottery has used the saying, “You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play.” So simple, it’s (almost) eloquent.      

Fact of life. You’ll never complete that slide to second base if you’re afraid to muddy your pants. Similarly, you’ll never win any kind of writing contest if you’re not willing to put your work, yourself, and your (oh *so* delicate) ego out there for public scrutiny from time to time.      

Just to clarify, I do put my writing “out there” regularly, querying agents, editors, and publishers, sometimes receiving a friendly “keep at it,” but more often incurring a) callous rejections b) snarky comments c) downright bitchiness and/or d) all of the above.  Generally, no one knows but them and me whether I’ve succeeded or not in my literary quest unless a snarky agent snarks about me on Twitter (which actually happened).      

masked revelers in Nationals Park

How lucky for me then that the Washington National Opera was sponsoring a really fun-sounding, heart-pounding, low-risk songwriting contest themed around a Simulcast of Verdi’s “Masked Ball” in Nationals Park. All entrants had to do was take one verse of the acclaimed “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” tune and adapt it with creativity and singability, while paying homage to the nature of the event: live opera in a major league ball park on the big screen.      

I had a week’s vacation and figured I’d give it a try. I agreed with this kind of event in principle. A noble idea! Finding corporate underwriters to make the event free for thousands of people (families, too) and holding it in a setting as comfortable as your favorite pair of slippers–lime green slippers with big floppy bunny ears.      

a shot from my video entry

Also, I have a high fun index, so this augured to be several hours of creative engagement–writing, editing, filming, and learning the movie works program on my laptop, for starters. Truth is, I utterly entertained myself by just writing and filming my entry, which I blogged about earlier this month. The making it was enough of a reward, if I’m being honest. And I like major league baseball–especially at Citizens Bank Park.      

So, pleased with myself for following through on a goal and because I liked the end results, I sent my entry sailing through cyberspace to the people at WNO.      

I waited a few days.      

And nice things began to happen. First, WNO posted my video on their website. Then I got an email saying I was one of three finalists in the contest, inviting me to come down to the park to receive my prize during the “7th Aria Stretch.”      

Sunday, September 19 was a breathtakingly beautiful day in the Mid-Atlantic States. Blue skies, wispy clouds, a hint of a breeze. It was a smooth drive to Washington, D.C.  despite being a  home game day for the Redskins. The staff at the park was friendly and upbeat–they had their game faces on–though their game had changed from nine innings to three acts.      

Luca Salsi as Count Anckarström

The picture on the Nationals Park Jumbotron is brilliant. It’s HD to the max. The sound was wonderful–and not so loud you couldn’t talk quietly to the person beside you. The air smelled like fattening, stadium foods. The sun was shining, the beer flowing.      

When the opera began, the singing was glorious–none more so than Tamara Wilson as Amelia. It was so easy to become enraptured in the production, I sort of forgot that the grand prize winner would be announced at the end of Act II and that I was a contender.      

Contest organizers gathered all the finalists in a VIP staging area just before Act II concluded. The reporter from the DC television station picked off the contestants, one by one. After the second and first runners-up were named, I was left standing. I had won first prize. What an honor. A talented singer from WNO’s young artists program along with the TV reporter warbled with me as my lyrics appeared on the Jumbotron.        

Being announced as the Grand Prize Winner

I remember feeling a little shell-shocked, mostly because I was surprised that I’d won–that my little entry was selected by none other than Placido Domingo, WNO’s general director. It was like someone dumped two tons of  glee on top of all the joy and attention participating in this event had already garnered me as a finalist from friends, family, and writing colleagues.       

A crowning touch was having the lyrics I wrote appear on the Jumbotron while everyone sang along–that sealed the specialness of the day for me (just click on the pic for the video). Oh, and I also loved the curtain call when the principals came onstage for their bows wearing Nationals red baseball caps.      

Though WNO has offered “Opera in the Outfield” for three years, this was the first year for the songwriting contest. If they offer it again next year, I have three words for you: Go. For. It.      

All my "booty" from WNO

They are a capable, friendly organization. I think their marketing department could sell sand in the Sahara. The prizes were are fantastic. In addition to the generous Target gift card and VIP tickets to Madama Butterfly, I got a tote bag, T-shirt, screen-printed baseball souvenir, and, of course, crackerjacks. Oh, and a mention in the Washington Post today (I just had to throw that tidbit in there).      

Fun. Glory. Prizes. Win. Win. Win.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Contests, favorites, Opera Marketing

favorite opera overtures? . . . the Twittersphere speaks!

Classical Vinylist, a fellow music blogger, said in a recent post that opera overtures might be the best way to ease into opera listening. Though somewhat new to the operasphere myself, I’ve been a musical theatre lover for more than 35 years. And I can tell you that as a performer, nothing is more thrilling than hearing that overture performed by a full orchestra on opening night, as you are waiting in the wings to make your entrance. My all-time favorite is the overture from Gypsy by Jule Styne (love those wailing trumpets). 

So, this morning, I took the question to my friends on Twitter (which is a great place to make acquaintances if you’re interested in opera and classical performance), and here’s what they said: 

 10rWfe – Carmen!

Adam Richter cheapclassical – I vote for #BarberOfSeville as my favorite so far.

 colla_voce – For sheer concise brilliance, Candide

CosimaWagner – My favorite opera overture is Lohengrin; I feel it was this work which really decided my fate.

Claire Holdich IceSk8Diva That would be La Traviata, followed by Le Nozze di Figaro in close 2nd!

 JaneRutter – my two favourite #Opera overtures are #TheMagicFlute and #Tannhauser

La Toya Lewis LaToyaLewis Marriage of Figaro!!

Lizzie LizzieVS Can I name two? The marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville. Also Tannhäuser is very beautiful.

 LisztNut – The overture to The Barber of Seville.

 missmussel – it changes regularly but today’s answer is The Bartered Bride

 nicmax28  – overture to Carmen 

Catharine Rogers operacat cor tough one! Today: Forza!

 OperaCraig – Carmen gets my vote- but Verdi wrote a lot of great overtures too.

 OperaRat  William Tell Overture (see excerpt of his response below)*

Paulo M operarules What a great question- extremely tough to answer, but here’s my vote: http://youtu.be/F0CIYiC5Uw0 (The Bartered Bride)

 Operatoonity– Le Nozze di Figaro

Cheryl A. Pierce OperaZone – I love La Forza del destino! 

Terry Moore proxli –  Fav overture: Tannhäuser – I admit some early influence http://www.bcdb.com/cartoon_video/5289-Whats_Opera_Doc.html 

Jiwon Maurizio Hwang pucciniano My fav. opera overture is Norma’s :))

revisioncallas My favorite overture? So many! “Forza,” “Vêpres,” “Cenerentola”… In a different vein, “Traviata,” “Lohengrin”… ☺ But my real favorite overture is “Ruslan”!

Ron Schechter RonSchechter  le nozze di figaro 

NatashaMoore song_burd le Nozze di Figaro

tenorecbechtel I really don’t have one actually. Maybe Rigoletto 

thania1  – Is between Tannhauser or Tristan und Isolde !! Definitely among top best 🙂 

vivomusique – Oh wow, for me, there are actually a couple but the one that stands out would be Wagner’s TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. Absolutely creamy ;-).

*Not to be limited to 140 characters on this topic, Roberto Romani, aka OperaRat, is a wonderful writer, one my faves, and had this to say regarding my question:

“As a stand-alone piece of music, William Tell is almost without question the greatest opera overture ever written, and after I don’t know how many hundreds of listenings it still gives me chills when I hear it performed well and not just knocked off to get a rise out of a crowd. I get a particular charge out of hearing it from a marching band. But as an overture it’s sort of a failure because it’s too climactic, especially at the start of a mediocre opera. I think an overture should heighten your anticipation of what kind of night you’re in for without merely setting a tone or quoting tunes from the rest of the show.”

And the winner in this exhaustive, statistically insignificant poll is:  The Marriage of Figaro–Le Nozze di Figaro by WA Mozart. Since it’s my favorite, too, I was going to wax eloquently about it, but OperaRat beat me to punch!

“From that standpoint [of anticipating the kind of night you’re in for] I’d say the best is Marriage of Figaro. It’s a classically beautiful Mozart composition and it gives you an accurate preview of the evening: you’re going to see a show that’s comic and complicated with some tender moments. It’s not my favorite opera by a long shot – it has fantastic music, but as theater it’s too long and hard to follow and I don’t actually think it’s all that funny.”

Ahh, but here great minds diverge, Roberto. I love the slapstick humor in Marriage of Figaro.

So, there you have it. Thanks for your participation. Feel free to leave your fave in the comments.

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Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, favorites

“best of” countdown #1 – why do women fall for bad boys?

(first published February 22, 2010) 

NYC Opera's Don G (with Leporello)

Alpha males. Cads. Rakes. Men behaving badly. Whatever you call them, women know them by their swagger. Just as Don Giovanni can claim to smell femininity, women can smell bad boys, too, literally and figuratively. Women know what havoc bad boys can wreak in their hearts and lives, and yet, they still become involved with them . . . or secretly long to (and not just because bad boys can smell very good).   

What is it about bad boys women find so hard to resist?    

In a nice little article at Self-Growth.com, Chris Williamson lists seven reasons why women love bad men. Basically, Williamson contends bad boys are confident, adventurous men who appear to be in control but are always testing the boundaries–yours, theirs, and everyone else’s–all qualities women find very appealing.   

Opera Australia's Don G with Tahu Rhodes

The opera Don Giovanni is based on the legend of Don Juan, who lived in the early Renaissance. Giovanni is the ultimate bad boy, who’s broken hearts all across Europe. He’s had ninety-one women in Turkey alone, according to a funny line  from an aria sung by Giovanni’s manservant, who catalogs all the women his master has bedded (but never wedded). Yet, audiences never tire of hearing about or seeing Giovanni’s sexual exploits on stage. Baritones love to play the part. And audiences love watching a quintessential ladies’ man (especially when they look like  Teddy Tahu Rhodes  and Erwin Schrott).    

Will women ever stop being attracted to bad men? Hard to say. 

Erwin Schrott as Don Giovanni

In a blog called “Hot and Trendy,” author Barbara Lebey talks about women’s attraction to naughty men. Lebey said, “Some women love to capture elusive men. We all have within us the desire to tempt fate–to climb steep mountains, race cars, or gamble at roulette tables. Forbidden love provides a similar thrill.”  

I’m guessing there are also women like me, who prefer to marry a good man in real life, but long to escape with a bad boy via a good book. I certainly hope so. I have such a bad boy in my opera novel, an Argentine baritone Leandro Vasquez, who’s so good looking, he could definitely be a contender on a Poster Boys of Opera calendar, if he were a real opera singer and not just a fictional one.    

Is Leandro Vasquez someone you want your daughter to date? Absolutely not. Is he fun to read about? You bet your sweet bippy, he is.

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“best of” countdown #2 – 2010 #operaplot entries for ‘Don G’ sparkle

(first published May 3, 2010)

For opera-involved (-crazed, -cranked, -obsessed, etc.)  individuals, the Twittersphere was crackling with entries last week in #operaplot 2010, or, how to reduce the plot of an entire opera to a Tweet–140 characters including a hashtag and the word #operaplot.      

This brainy battle of the curt, terse, and pithy is organized by Toronto music critic Marcia Adair, aka Miss Mussel, classical music’s champion of the short and sweet.  Since “Operatoonity” wouldn’t  exist in the blogosphere without Mozart’s Don Giovanni–the opera that inspired my novel DEVILED BY DON–with Miss Mussel’s permission, I thought I would share all the entries this year for Don G:      

Don Giovanni (Mozart)
Vankan0 – it 640 de 231 fr 100 tr 91 es 1003. Kill father. Dress up as servant. Seduce farmer girl. Supper with ghost. Go to hell.
Gerrit Theule – A rake’s progression goes from woman to woman to woman to hell. His poor servant, left to explain things, escapes at least.
Gerrit Theule – Three strikes and the Don’s out. The Commendatore wins every time. Except at the beginning. He doesn’t fare so well there
Patrick Swanson – I tell ya, Leporello-life is good. Bangin hot chicks, breakin hearts. Pass the butter. *knock knock* Who’s there? Oh shit.
Paul JZ – The Don’s Hectic Calendar: Seduce. Rape. Duel. Kill. Flirt. Lure. Flee. Regroup. Accuse. Swap. Fool. Invite. Revel. Refuse. BURN!
Paul JZ – “Questo è il fin di chi fa mal!” So, don’t seduce, rape, accuse, fool, desert, lure, beat, or kill, lest you be dragged to hell!
Thos Carpenter – A cautionary tale for serial rapists everywhere: never invite a walking, talking statue from hell to a dinner party.
MMmusing – Cad kills Commendatore. Conquests cataloged, courts country cutie. Cry creates chaos. Cast Commendatore comeback cues comeuppance.
MPR Mike – 1003 in Seville is plenty.
Paul JZ – I’m too sexy for amor—too sexy for Seville. I’m a charmer—I shake my lil tush on the piazza. I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns*
Fabtab – Man leaves Playboy mansion to compete for a virgin; sings a rap so filthy even the Pope digs it.
Oliver JMC – By some miracle, he didn’t experience any burning sensations until after the 1003rd.
Eric Mahlzeit – Cunning Spanish nobleman murders, seduces, serenades, and throws one hell of a dinner party.
Where’s Runnicles – How many? I don’t believe you. Seriously, I made a list. Where do you think you’re dragging me off to and why is it so hot there?
CTMCC – Go to hell Don G says mad woman, sad woman, nearly-bad woman, their menfolk and many many others.
MPR Mike – In which our hero learns that, in Spain, he should have stopped at 1003.
Pattyoboe – He’s made a long list, checked it more than twice. Everyone knows he’s naughty, not nice. Dinner time for Statue & Don.
Otterhouse – Leporello: “Drink wet cement and really get stoned.”
Shevinka – Hi lep, remember that old dude we killed? Well he got me b4 the stds did! give your wife *one* for me :p, see you in hell xx
Lattavanti – No reference from former boss because he went to Hell for killing some chick’s dad. Here’s a list of other gfs—see, he trusted me
Henri Drost – I can’t get no satisfaction tho I’ve tried 2066 times. No no no says Leporello but I’d be damned to decline an invitation.
Le Boyfriend – Kissed the girls and made them cry. Stabbed one’s dad and watched him die. Offered chances to repent, he opted to be Hades sent. Men!      

Aren’t they all fantastic? Which is your favorite?  I  can tell you mine. Drumroll, please . . .      

Henri Drost gets my first-place blue ribbon. I love how he added up all the conquests from Leporello’s “Catalogue Aria.” Very clever!!     

Second place goes to Paul JZ  for the I’m too sexy for amor . . . I’m too sexy for this opera. *burns*

Third place goes to MMmusing  for the totally alliterative entry.  

Honorable mention goes to Pattyoboe for her “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”-inspired Tweet.

Read all of this year’s entries (almost a thousand based on more than 200+ different operas) at The Omniscient Mussel.      

The overall contest winners judged by Jonas Kauffman [were] announced on May 7!

Addendum to original post from The Omniscient Mussel: 

Runners Up as selected by Jonas Kaufmann

Name: Stephen Llewellyn (@LeBoyfriend) Portland, OR, was named a runner-up for his Don G entry.
Tweet: Kissed the girls and made them cry.Stabbed one¹s dad and watched him die. Offered chances to repent,he opted to be Hades sent. Men! [Don Giovanni]

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, Don Giovanni, favorites