Category Archives: sopranos

most popular posts on Operatoonity…

What posts have people come to to read most? Since just passed its four-year anniversary, I thought it was time to trot out some sexy stats for y’all.

In the last four years, I’ve created 388 posts and logged more than 3.4 million visitors on this site! Not too shabby, eh?

Since I use WordPress, I can also corroborate the most popular posts using my analytics plugin and a nifty report that WordPress sends me each year.

One of the world's best tenors

Roberto Alagna, one of the world’s best tenors

#1 best opera singers in the world today – male persuasion 42 COMMENTS
#2 best opera singers in the world today – female persuasion 45 COMMENTS
#3 today’s top tenors 48 COMMENTS
#4 100 greatest operas . . . really? 7 COMMENTS
#5 Puccini’s best opera? 21 COMMENTS

(Funny thing about the “Best Opera Singers” lists. I created them because I couldn’t find any up-to-date lists online to blog about.)

A goal for 2015 is to update some of my “Best Singers” lists, taking into account all the suggestions in readers’ comments. A lot can change in five years, even in the opera world though I can say, categorically, Roberto Alagna belonged on my original list.

Not convinced? Then you need to watch this aria:

YouTube Preview Image

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Filed under artists, Baritones, Best of Operatoonity, blog stats, Favorite arias, lists, opera star power, Performers, sopranos, tenors

happy anniversary, ‘Tosca,’ and an aria to celebrate!

Sondra Radvanovsky in Tosca

Sondra as Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera production

Today marks the anniversary of a beloved, and I do mean a beloved, opera–Tosca, which premiered in on January 14, 1900in Rome, Italy. One stunning aria after another. A bad guy who is so utterly evil he makes your blood run cold. A flawed but valiant heroine who lives and dies for love.

It is my favorite Puccini opera–bar none.

Two years ago this month, I saw Tosca at the Met, and it was a life-changing performance for me. (You can read my Bachtrack review here. )

While some of the “regie” directorial choices were clearly questionable, the performances were nothing short of stunning. I fell in love with Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi. German baritone Falk Struckmann gave a chilling performance as the villain Scarpia, one of the best I’ve ever seen on stage in the U.S.

But it was American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky who would seal my fate as a Tosca devotee for the rest of my life.

As it turned out, I was lucky to escape that performance with my life intact. See, during her second art aria, “Vissi d’arte,” which was absolutely breathtaking, Sondra hit that high note around 3:11 on the video below, and it took my breath away–literally. I gulped in air and began coughing.

Just my luck, that gorgeous high note at 3:11 resolves sotto voce in the next few measures. I thought the people sitting around me were going to kill me. Because the end of the song is so quiet, I couldn’t scrounge around in the my purse for a lozenge to stop the coughing. I almost died trying to hold my breath until the end of the song.

But death would have been a noble end if Sondra’s voice were the last thing I’d heard before expiring.

Thank you, Sondra Radvanovsky, for your peerless artistry, and for teaching me a lesson. Never sit through a live performance of opera without a lozenge clenched in your fist.

Here is Sondra’s stellar, gorgeous, captivating aria, for you to enjoy, too:

YouTube Preview Image


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Filed under anniversary, Performers, sopranos

top ten posts on ‘operatoonity’ in 2012

Operatoonity's Top TenWhy did viewers stop in on this blog in 2012? What posts did they read most in the past year?

Would it surprise you to know of the nearly 111,000 visitors to this blog in 2012, that, far and away, most were seeking a definitive list of top classical singers in the world today? Divas, then divos?

Frankly, I am not in the least bit startled by this news.

There are so few definitive “talent” lists around. And I should know. I searched feverishly for such a list not too long ago. That’s why I compiled  mine –I couldn’t find any good/current list of opera singers myself.

Not surprisingly, people continue to chime in on who should and shouldn’t have made these lists.  I knew each was an imperfect instrument when I compiled it, and I honestly think it’s time to upgrade each one, since the best talents in the operasphere can change or fade in a matter of only years. We are talking about the most delicate and sometimes most frail of instruments–the human voice–after all.

Other top topics were top tenors, best operas, and the beloved composers Puccini and Mozart.

Here then, according to my site stats, are the titles of the most-viewed posts and their visit numbers in 2012:

Title Views
best opera singers in the world today – female 29,375
best opera singers in the world today – male 22,212
today’s top tenors 9,829
get with it, NYC, says M.C. Hammer-bee 1,469
on Carmen’s anniversary, we celebrate its arias 726
100 greatest operas . . . really? 686
don’t quote me . . . 650
Puccini’s best opera? 524
what makes a great tenor? 514
Mozart, the ultimate cross-trainer 464
contemporary opera? modern opera? define, please 464


How about you? Why did you stop in on “Operatoonity”? Did you find what you were looking for this year?

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Baritones, Best of Operatoonity, blog stats, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Modern opera, Mozart, opera lists, Opera Stats, sopranos, tenors

Singer Sunday: an operatic family on a Germanic quest

Opera family: Ross, Jenny and kids

Tenor Ross David Crutchlow is a 6’2” red-headed baritone turned Heldentenor with a booming voice, an infectious laugh, and a huge presence.  Soprano Jenny Millsap is his graceful, demure wife, who is anything but demure when popping off high Fs in her dramatic coloratura roles.

Ross and Jenny have worked in opera, operetta, and musical theater in New York and across the United States.  They have two children – a very active two year old and a perpetually happy eight  month old.

Not every American family would cross the Atlantic to German-speaking Europe to sing there. But then Ross and Jenny aren’t your typical American family.  They are highly enterprising, too, and are using the very popular Kickstarter to fund-raise for their audition trip.

That’s why I’ve invited Ross and Jenny to stop in at Operatoonity today: to tell you more about their dreams and inspire you to support their project. Welcome Ross and Jenny!

How did you meet?

Jenny: We were doing Gilbert & Sullivan in NYC together.  I had been in the company for a couple of years and already knew everyone.  Ross was new.  I wanted to make him feel comfortable, so I made a point of being friendly and talkative with him.  It didn’t hurt that he was easy on the eyes!

Ross: Yeah, she kept following me around, so I figured I’d ask her out.

Jenny: And the fairy tale began!

Is it hard being married to another opera singer?

Jenny: In some ways yes, in some no.  The financial instability is hard.  But that’s true for any freelancer in the United States, really.  It’s an entrepreneurial way of living, which of course is a lot tougher in the arts than probably any other business.  We’ve been lucky enough to be able to work together from time to time, but we’ve also been separated due to gigs.  That’s always hard.

Ross: What’s really great about being married to another singer, though, is the support we give each other.  She knows my voice inside and out and I know hers.  We can say to each other, hey – that phrase sounded a little off, try this.  And it’s better.  We also get what the other one is going through as far as the psychological demands of auditioning and performing.  We can help each other in ways in which non-singers just wouldn’t be able to.

What’s it like having kids while being professional singers?

Soprano Jenny Millsap

Jenny:  Ha!  Well, there’s not much sleep, that’s for sure!  I remember that I used to make a point of getting a lot of sleep before big performances or auditions in my pre-kids days.  Now I just make sure I get a lot of coffee!

Ross: I think I worry a lot more.  Before Jenny and I became parents, I didn’t think about the future so much or the long-term implications of my decisions professionally.  Now I do.  I have to.

Jenny: But the kids are really great.  We used to take Ewan (our two year old) with us to our rehearsals and coachings.  He would crawl around on the floor, watching and listening.  His first time in a green room at a performance was when he was five months old!  He still loves to hear us practice, and sometimes he conducts us!  Nathaniel (our baby) is not as big a fan of opera as Ewan is.  He cries when we sing loudly, so we try to practice when he’s sleeping!

Ross: It’s a lot to juggle, honestly, but both our singing and are kids are vital parts of our lives.  I can’t imagine life without both.

Germany seems like a big step.  What made you decide to head to Europe?

Heldontenor Ross David Crutchlow

Ross: Partly, it’s the repertoire we sing.  I sing primarily Wagner.  Jenny sings mainly Mozart.  We both feel if we want to really do justice to this music, we need to immerse ourselves in the language and culture that made it.  I don’t think we’ll ever feel like we truly understand these two composers as long as we are on this side of the ocean.  We really need to be in Germany.

Jenny: And part of it is very practical – it’s easier for two singing parents to sing and still raise a family over there than here.  It’s a smaller geographical area with a lot more productions –

Ross: And a lot more Wagner!

Jenny: Yeah, no kidding.  About 300 performances to the 30 that are done in the US.  And the German culture is just a lot more artist- and family-friendly.

So, you would stay over there?

Jenny: Initially, yes.  If one or both of us are fortunate enough to get a contract, we’d stay for 5-10 years.  We want a long enough stay to really feel like we soaked up as much as we can musically.

Ross: Long-term, we would like to come back to the US and use what we learn from the Germans about how they program, promote and perform opera to help revitalize interest in the art form here – particularly German opera.

Jenny: Mozart has always been seen as accessible even for people who don’t speak German or Italian.  But Wagner – well, unless you’re an opera aficionado, chances are you’ve never heard or seen a Wagner opera.  We’d like to change that.

Ross: I mean, seriously – The Avengers is popular.  Wagner is not that far away!

Jenny as Kathie in "The Student Prince"

What do you do when you’re not onstage or wrangling your two boys?

Jenny: I cook.  For me, it’s a no pressure artistic pursuit that ends in eating.  What could be a better hobby for a singer?

Ross: I hate to admit it, but video games.  It’s my down time and it keeps me sane.

Where can people go if they want to contribute to your Kickstarter campaign?

Jenny:  Our campaign is “Jenny & Ross: To Sing in Germany”.  Just click!  We’ve got some nice rewards for our backers, and we’re open to suggestions for new rewards, too.

Ross as the Pirate King in "The Pirates of Penzance"

Ross:  If you want to find out more about us as singers, Jenny has a website, and so do I.

Jenny:  We also have Facebook fan pages, if you want the latest updates about our singing:  Here’s mine.  And here’s Ross’s.

Ross: And if you can’t contribute financially, we would still very much appreciate everyone spreading the word!

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So there you have it. With a point and click, you can help this talented family immerse themselves in the artistic field they love and in which they were born to succeed. But you better hurry. Their Kickstarter deadline is June 28.

Good luck, Jenny and Ross! We look forward to an update someday from across the pond.


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Best of Operatoonity, fund-raising in opera, profiles, Q&A, Singer Sunday, sopranos, tenors, Uncategorized

catching up with soprano Julia Katherine Walsh on Singer Sunday

Soprano Julia Katherine Walsh

Soprano Julia Katherine Walsh grew up in Berks County, Pennsylvania, where I was also born and raised. In fact, the first time I met Julia, she had come home to Reading to sing at historic Trinity Church last summer, a program I reviewed here.

She sings Richard Strauss as if she was born to it. She is also known for her interpretations of Mozart and Rossini, which showcase her characterization and her voice. This young singer is bubbling over with talent and personality.

Once you connect with Julia, she’ll reach across the globe to stay in touch, as she has with me. She graciously offered to provide a singing review of my opera-themed backstage comedy DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA, which you can view here.

So, it is a great pleasure for me personally, to welcome Julia back to, and find out how she is faring, transplanted halfway around the world in Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

Can you tell me a little about your childhood? How did you grow up and how did it affect your decision to sing opera?
As a child I was always singing, my Mother tells me.  Even when I was a year to two years of age, apparently I could already sing children’s songs that she sang to me (maybe not with perfect words but . . . ) that all to say- my Mom noticed that I had a musical talent.  I actually decided to sing opera, funnily enough, without first knowing what it really was.  I was in third grade and in spelling class and my teacher kept yelling at me for humming.  Eventually it got to the point where she had to call my Mom about it, because every time she yelled at me, I wasn’t aware I was doing it, so I just started up again and the problem persisted.  Well, from this phone call my Mom realized that 1) I was bored or else I wouldn’t be unconsciously humming only in spelling class, and 2) my musical talent needed to be nurtured in a more structured way.

So, it was my mom who discovered the Berks Classical Children’s Chorus and its director at the time, Donald Hinkle, and got me to audition for participation in the choir and also for his church’s children’s choir at Trinity Lutheran Church in downtown Reading.  She also was instrumental in getting the school district to find and supply a tutor for me during spelling class, so that I could work on harder words while the rest of the class learned the normal spelling words.  So, I actually decided I wanted to be an ‘opera singer’ after hearing someone say it once when we were (with BCCC) performing the St. Matthew Passion with the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and I thought, “Being paid to sing for the rest of my life? Sounds like the job for me!” So, that was pretty much how I decided. Only once I was in my junior year of high school and preparing for my upcoming college auditions, did it really dawn on me how much work and how much MONEY it took to actually become an opera singer.  (Money actually more than work, sometimes- much to my dismay and frustration.)

Dortmund, Germany, where Julia now lives

Have you liked being in Germany? How long will you stay in Germany? Why did you relocate there?
I like Germany a lot.  I plan on staying here indefinitely until I receive my next engagement, and then, I’ll go where that happens to be.  At this point, I still have to remain very flexible and not ‘settle down’ too much anywhere really, because I never know where I’ll be for the next year, few months, and even the coming week, sometimes.  I actually decided to make Germany my home base for a while now because I am at a transitional point in my life (my formal education is finished, I worked and lived in New York for a while, my boyfriend lives here) and I thought simply, “This might be the best time to do something like this, and if nothing else, at least I’ll be fluent in German and have experienced a totally different way of living than what I was used to in the USA, and that can never be a bad thing.”

Julia Katherine

Any updates on new roles/achievements that have you excited?
I am excited to be singing this July the role of Konstanze with Oper Schloss Laubach in Mozart’s Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail.  It will be my first time singing the role, my second professional engagement in Germany, and the people who direct the program and with whom I get to work have thus far been really lovely and have extraordinary credentials musically speaking, so I am really excited to work on the role with them this summer!

What has been the greatest thrill in your career thus far? Greatest challenge?
The biggest thrill thus far for me actually happened last summer when I realized that my career as an opera singer is finally something that I believe can really happen- 100%, and that I am ready for the challenges it presents and that I am capable enough to overcome them and be successful in this field.  That feeling was simply amazing and I actually experienced it through my participation in Joan Dornemann’s IVAI in Virginia and through singing my first leading role as Rosine in Der Barbier von Sevilla in Bad Orb, Germany.  Those two experiences were the greatest thrills thus far, and also the greatest challenges.  They required so much of me physically, mentally and personally, but in the end those were the most rewarding things that I could have given to make both experiences as successful as they were.

Do you have any favorites? Composer? Opera? Role? Venue?
My favorite composer- ha!  Hard to choose between so many good ones.  I’ll give you the short list: of the composers whose works I have sung, I like Mozart and Strauss best, and of the composers whose works I haven’t yet sung I like Janacek, Rachmaninoff and Britten best.  Since I’m a huge opera fan as well as singer, I love so many operas- off the top of my head my favorites I’ve seen are: Ariadne auf Naxos (actually that’s my VERY favorite one of all-time), Peter Grimes, Die Zauberfloete, Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail, Susannah, Vanessa, Jenufa, Simon Boccanegra, Il Barbiere di Siviglia (especially the new Bart Sher production at the Met with the orange trees!), Lucia di Lammermoor, From the House of the Dead, War and Peace and Thais.

Do you miss the US? When are you coming back to States?
I do miss the USA, but perhaps because I miss the people there more than anything. I’ll be coming back to the States in the middle of May of this year and staying until the end of June.

Julia as Rosine

Are you *now*  fluent in German? What’s your favorite repertoire?
I am now fluent in German- yay!  My favorite German repertoire- definitely everything Strauss, Richard and Johann- both are wonderful.  Also Schubert is simply superb. And who can forget the Bach cantatas and Mozart’s art songs? They are also wonderful, in addition to his great German Singspiel pieces- Magic Flute and Entfuehrung.

Where would you like to be in five years? In ten years?
In five years I’d like to be married and singing at major opera houses.  In ten years I’d like to have children, some pets, still be singing internationally, have written some books, started a television network and done something to bring back the world focus to how important the arts are to everyone, and not just for those who can ‘afford’ them.

What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your professional bio?
Hmm….that’s a tough one.  I love all animals, especially dogs and frogs, and if I weren’t an opera singer I think I’d open my own zoo, or simply have a ton of pets.  I also love to write, but if you read my blog, you could have already guessed that one!

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Julia blogs at Opera Singing in Germany and Other Adventures. You can follow her on Twitter @operadventuress or friend her on Facebook. More information about Julia is available at her website.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Performers, profiles, Q&A, Singer Sunday, sopranos