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A Golden Operatoonity!


Do you know the story about Operatoonity.com?

This past weekend, I had a unique opportunity to tell it at the Pennsylvania Writers Conference. Seven years ago, in February of 2010, I founded this blog to build a platform for my opera-themed novel about a small-town opera guild struggling to mount Don Giovanni.

Two presenters during a Wilkes University Creative Writing Program residency suggested I take a semester’s worth of research I conducted for the novel and turn it into a blog.

What I thought was a pursuit secondary to fiction writing became much larger than I ever imagined. I’ve had so many unique and fulfilling experiences in the world of opera since I launched this blog.

I have met aspiring performers and singers at the top of their professions. I have witnessed unforgettable moments in the realm of live opera performance because of Operatoonity.com.

I am very thankful to all the people who helped me along the way to this blog being viewed more than 6 million times in the last seven years. I can tell you that the public relations directors at two major East Coast Companies, Frank Luzi at Opera Philadelphia and Brittany Lesavoy at Glimmerglass Festival, are two of the finest in the industry and have made reviewing shows for their organizations a total pleasure.

My presentation took the form of a PowerPoint called “Turning Research into a Blog.” If you’d like to view it, you can do so here. I am proud to tell you the photos used in this presentation were all from productions I reviewed since 2010.

Thanks to so many visitors, performers, and fellow aficionados in the operaverse! You have enriched my life in ways I simply can’t express. Here’s to seven more years, God willing.

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Opera stars, mind your manners!

One of the things that can make opera winning is a children’s chorus. Puccini included children in several of his operas. Glimmerglass Festival produced La bohème this summer, and the voices of the children’s chorus added so much beauty and lightness to the Christmas Eve scene in the Latin Quarter.

David Walton as Parpignol in The Glimmerglass Festival production of Puccini's "La bohème." Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

David Walton as Parpignol in The Glimmerglass Festival production of Puccini’s “La bohème.” Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival

The scene and the show were just magical. You can read my review here.

So when a colleague told me last week that an unnamed opera star was allegedly tearing up rehearsals for an unnamed upcoming show, hollering and dropping the “f” bomb around children, I became angry. My colleague was aghast at this star’s unprofessional, outlandish behavior.

I had encouraged my young friend to have her child be considered for the show. The child could not have been more excited to have been selected. That was before said opera star behaved badly.

Who is the performer being paid because they are a professional? Right. The opera star.

A word to opera stars. You are not curing cancer. You are not creating world peace. You have not been dropped into a war zone with your platoon to defend someone’s freedom.

You sing. You act. While I am personally very appreciative of what I have seen onstage, when you take yourself so seriously that you almost ruin a theatrical experience for impressionable young children, you are way out of bounds. You are behaving more childishly than the children you are frightening.

You should mind your manners. Because an opera’s success rests with many people and sometimes with children, too. Not just you. It’s not always about you.

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Celebrate the new release of DON JUAN and win!

“Packed with comic misadventures, mystery, intrigue and opera lore, the book rollicks along to a satisfying conclusion….readers need not be opera buffs to enjoy this novel.” — Kirkus Reviews

In this humorous backstage novel, a small-town opera guild headquartered in Hankey, Pennsylvania stages Mozart’s most famous opera ‘Don Giovanni’ to stave off financial ruin.

Who doesn’t love the story of Don Giovanni? A ghost exacts revenge on a notorious womanizer by dragging him into hell? Love, lust, romance, mystery, friendly ghosts, scary ghosts–my contemporary novel DON JUAN IN HANKEY, PA has it all:

To celebrate its re-release by Northampton House Press in 2016, I’m offering a Goodreads Giveaway. Win one of up to five signed copies if you enter by September 17.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Don Juan in Hankey, PA by Gale Martin

Don Juan in Hankey, PA

by Gale Martin

Giveaway ends September 17, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Donna Anna, Elvira, Don G., Ottavio, Zerlina, Leperello? All the characters you love to love and love to hate? They’re all there, in this book (just with different names). Available in print and ebook formats at Northampton House PressAmazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Indiebound.org.

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World’s best tenors top most-read posts on Operatoonity in 2015!

Each year, WordPress sends me an annual report for Operatoonity.com, and it’s always fascinating to view this blog’s outreach in summary, like this form provides. Thank you, everyone, who has stopped in on this blog. Here’s to a bigger, better Operatoonity.com in 2o16. Enjoy viewing the results you all helped create:

Wordpress analysis of Operatoonity.com is always an interesting report.

WordPress analysis of Operatoonity.com is always an interesting report.Operatoonity’s Annual Report 2015

This next piece of data was the most surprising stat in the report:

I was very surprised to learn that my post about male singers was more popular than female singers. Sea change?

My post about male singers was more popular than female singers. A sea change, for sure. Is Anna Nebtreko’s star power waning?

Is 2016 the year I update these lists? I created them because I couldn’t find the compendia I was seeking. As you can see,  these lists will be nearly five years old in 2016, and a lot can happen in the operasphere in five years. New singers have come into prominence and others are fading from view. With your input, I will pledge to update some of these lists in 2016:

Annual Report 2015_6

 

I am very grateful for those outlets who continue to refer readers to operatoonity.com: Here is a big mmmwwwwaaahhhh to you all!

Annual Report 2015_4

And of course it never gets old seeing how far Operatoonity.com reaches globally:

Annual Report 2015_5

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016 for all. To see the complete report, simply visit Annual Report 2015.

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Viva, Verdi! Viva, Violetta!

Operatoonity.com review: La traviata presented by Opera Philadelphia
Live performance: Sunday, October 4, 2015, 2:30 p.m.
The Academy of Music, Philadelphia
Music: Giuseppi Verdi
Libretto: Francesco Maria Piave
4.5 out of 5.0 stars

4.5strslg

 

 

Opera Phila's La Traviata

Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) sings the Brindisi in Act I of Verdi’s La traviata |Photos by Kelly & Massa

While La traviata is consistently one of the most performed operas in the world, it is also universally ranked as one of the greatest operas ever written. The story may be sheer melodrama, but the clarity of the storyline compared to other Verdi operas is refreshingly linear. The music is refined and elegant throughout. Opera Philadelphia deserves an ovation for offering a refreshing production of La traviata with a level of refinement and elegance to complement the virtues of Verdi’s beloved score.

Credit must go to Director Paul Curran for the show’s winning sensibility. He chose to set the opera in Paris during the 1950s, a thoughtful choice that he and his team executed with class and precision, from the glorious set featuring a sweeping staircase to the beautiful costuming and technical direction. In a Q&A, Curran says that the moral climate of the 1950s, when sex scandals actually mattered, hearkens back to the era in which La traviata premiered. Curran’s resetting worked so well and was so meticulously rendered that even traditionalists hoping to see a recreation of the 18th century could not have objected. The 1950s were characterized by a preoccupation with propriety regarding appearance and appearances that it was common to be disingenuous at one’s core. For instance, even the tuxedos couldn’t mask the proclivities which drew these well-clad Parisian men to a party in the home of a high-class prostitute.

Doctor Grenville (Andrew Bogard), the Marchese (Jarrett Ott) and Flora (Katherine Pracht) in the Act I party scene from Verdi’s La traviata

Doctor Grenville (Andrew Bogard), the Marchese (Jarrett Ott) and Flora (Katherine Pracht) in the Act I party scene from Verdi’s La traviata

However, even a La traviata, however lovely, can’t succeed without the ideal Violetta.

Seeing La traviata with the perfect Violetta has not been a common experience for me. Viva, Opera Philadelphia, for casting American soprano Lisette Oropesa to portray the most renowned fallen woman in the contemporary opera repertoire. What a triumph she was! Oropesa was as refined and elegant as the opera she was tasked to sing. Violetta is, after all, a courtesan–not a vestal virgin. So the sensuality Oropesa brought to “The Brindisi” and to the character throughout Act I was spot on. Alfredo falls in love with her at first sight, so Violetta must be lovely but also a little wild, not merely coquettish.

Lisette Oropesa was a tour de force as Violetta

Lisette Oropesa was a tour de force as Violetta

Yet, she can’t just be a fine actress. She must be a coloratura soprano whose vocal gifts can effortlessly push the limits of any soprano’s range. Oropesa took a well-deserved solo bow for a tour de force performance at the conclusion of the opera that brought the audience to its feet. Viva, Violetta.

At Flora’s ball, Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) is back on the arm of the Baron (Daniel Mobbs)

At Flora’s ball, Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) is back on the arm of the Baron (Daniel Mobbs)

Vocally, Oropesa was a star but not the only star. As Germont, Pennsylvania baritone Stephen Powell was, in a word, extraordinary. He, too, received a wildly enthusiastic ovation at curtain call. Germont might be easy to dislike because he destroys the relationship between Alfredo and Violetta, but Powell’s Di Provenza il mar was heartfelt and beautiful.

Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont (Stephen Powell) pleads with Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) to end her relationship with Alfredo for the good of his family.

Alfredo’s father, Giorgio Germont (Stephen Powell) pleads with Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) to end her relationship with Alfredo for the good of his family.

We nearly forgot the hypocrisy Germont displays showing up as a guest Flora’s “raunchy” ball. Only a gifted performer can convince the audience that Germont is genuinely remorseful for separating Violetta from his son after learning Violetta is dying. Powell is that consummate performer.

Regrettably, tenor Alex Shrader’s Alfredo was overshadowed by these two supernovas. Though he did a servicable job with role, he didn’t have much stage presence compared to Oropesa and Powell. His voice seemed taxed and muddy. He even cracked a few times rather than reaching the rafters.

Alek Shrader stars as Alfredo Germont in Opera Philadelphia new production of Verdi’s La traviata

Alek Shrader stars as Alfredo Germont in Opera Philadelphia new production of Verdi’s La traviata

The Philadephia Opera Orchestra conducted by Corrado Rovaris and the Chorus under chorus master Elizabeth Braden sounded the best I’ve ever heard them in the last several years. Rovaris clearly loved the score and conveyed that adoration to his musicians. And though the Philadelphia Opera Chorus didn’t take a bow because the set contracted as Violetta’s world became smaller and there was simply no room to accommodate more than the principals for curtain call, they deserved a bow.

Alfredo (Alek Shrader) returns to the bedside of Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) as she is dying of consumption

Alfredo (Alek Shrader) returns to the bedside of Violetta (Lisette Oropesa) as she is dying of consumption

This reviewer never thought she would be grateful to Opera Philadelphia for staging (yet) another production of La Traviata.  I stand corrected. Never say never.

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