Tag Archives: Ask Richard

ask Richard about National Opera Week

Dear Richard,  

My sister-in-law said National Opera Week begins on October 29.  Here’s my problem. I’m going to be traveling out to see her that week, with stops in Pittsburgh; Columbus, Ohio; Quincy, Illinois; and finally, heading back toward Cincinatti, early on the 7th. What’s worth stopping for along the way?  

Alice in Altoona  

Dr. Richard Rohrer, self-proclaimed opera expert


Dear Alice,  

You have hit the jackpot, my dear. Get a load of just some of the fun things you can do in America’s heartland during this celebrated week.  

First stop is on Sunday, October 31 at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, 2425 Liberty Avenue,  at 2:00 p.m.  There you can enjoy “Opera Up Close: Lucia di Lammermoor,”  an in-depth look at the music and story of Lucia di Lammermoor — with Maestro Walker and a star-studded panel of opera artists. Free and open to the public. No reservations required. More information here.  

Next stop on Thursday, November 4, at Opera Columbus, 11 E. Gay Street, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m for Opera’s Greatest Hits at Sugardaddie’s Sumptuous Sweeties. For more information, contact Sarah Rhorer at srhorer@operacolumbus.org or visit www.operacolumbus.org.  

If you’re speedy, next you hightail it over to Quincy Illinois, on Saturday, November 6, to see Muddy River Opera Company’s  “Potpourri of Songs and Roses” at the State Theatre at 434 South 8th Street,  from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Enjoy a  special American Opera Week luncheon, strolling fashion show, entertainment with songs of past operas and musicals, raffle and door prizes.  Tickets are $25. Raffle tickets, which include a one half-hour plane ride over the city and the Mississippi River plus 15 other prizes, are six for $10. For information and tickets, contact abernzen12@gmail.com or 217-242-3829.  

The Turn of the Screw/photo by John Cahill


For the last official day of National Opera Week, hustle back to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music on Sunday, November 7, for the final performance of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw (one of my favorites!) held at the Patricia Corbett Theater on W, Corry St, at Jefferson Avenue, on the UC Campus at 2:30 p.m.  This production is directed by Amanda Consol and conducted by Christopher Allen. Tickets are $15 for General Admission; $10 for non-UC Students (UC Students are free). For information, contact boxoff@uc.edu.  

There you go, Alice. A week jam-packed with opera because these organizations participate in National Opera Week.  

And if any of you, dear readers, want to know what’s on the docket in your neck of the words, you can use the nifty little search engine on the Opera America site to find the complete slate of events–from Alabama to Wisconsin.


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Character from DEVILED BY DON, Live opera performance, Opera Marketing

if it’s Tuesday, ask Richard about Pandora . . .

Cut Bank, Montana

Dear Richard,

A co-worker recently told me about a personalized Internet radio service called Pandora that helps you find and hear music based on your favorite composers. Not sure why they called it Pandora, since she opened up a world of trouble. Is it worth investigating? Or nothing more than a world of trouble?

Curious in Cut Bank, Montana


Dear Curious,

Funny you should ask about Pandora. I only started using Pandora last month. Despite the name–almost a misnomer–I find it a very agreeable service. Lately, it’s almost impossible to load a whole day’s worth of music on the stereo. Sometimes, I never know what to choose–must be my advanced years creeping up on me.

With Pandora, all I do is plug in the composers I want to hear, and it supplies the artists and orchestras. It’s like getting a gift  you don’t expect,  as they trot out Renata Tebaldi singing Meyerbeer or the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse performing Carmen, which is what I’m listening to right now. I love getting pleasant little surprises throughout my day and not having to fuss whatsoever to obtain them. My dogs and my garden need daily attention, so Pandora is a pleasureable timesaver for me. As long as you don’t exceed forty hours per month, it remains free–perfect for someone on a fixed income or watching their pennies.

I say, give it a try. It’s easy to use and fun to be surprised by a recording you’ve forgotten about.


Dr. Richard Rohrer

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Character from DEVILED BY DON, DEVILED BY DON

modern genius? ‘Ask Richard’

Dear Richard,   

Are there any modern composers considered to be as extraordinary as Mozart?   

Curious in Crump, Tennessee   

Dr. Richard Rohrer, opera expert


Dear Curious,   

First of all, I didn’t even know that you had access to the Internet in Crump, Tennessee (population 1,521). Just joshing. And I am so tickled by the way you Tennessians pronounce your home state: TENNessee, whereas we in the North say tenneSEE.   

Anyhoo, back to the real answer of your question. It’s difficult to compare classic and modern composers on any set of criteria but especially so in terms of comparable genius. That has more to do with the fact that most composers are never fully appreciated during their own lifetimes and, much like visual artists, are ascribed more measure of their true talent after death.   

Why, I remember reading a story about Saint-Saëns, who only permitted Carnival of the Animals to be performed twice during his lifetime, fearing the work would hurt his reputation as a serious composer. Call me provincial, but I can’t imagine how bereft my classical listening experiences would be had he not written “The Swan.”   

The danger in assembling any list is not those you include but those you leave off.  That being said, I predict that, in time, the following modern composers’ genius will loom larger than it does now.   

Great modern opera composers include Leoš Janáček, Richard Strauss, Benjamin Britten, Dmitri Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, and John Adams.   

Will any of them ever be considered as great as Mozart? Well, I’m pushing retirement age, so I can say with confidence, not in my lifetime.

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Filed under 20th Century Opera, Classical Composers

on “Ask Richard,” a question about female composers

 If it’s Tuesday on “Operatoonity,” it’s “Ask Richard”: 

Dear Richard, 

How many female opera composers are there? Is the author of this blog sexist? I mean, I haven’t read about a woman composer yet in 120-some posts. 

Cranky in Kankakee 


Dear Cranky, 

Dr. Richard Rohrer, Hankey's self-appointed opera expert


First, let me say that I don’t think the author of the blog is sexist. I happen to know on good authority she’s hit the glass ceiling several times during her 15-year career in marketing/communications. And you’re wrong about what’s-her-name not featuring any female composers. Last April she wrote about Tiffany Moon, composer of a series of Harry Potter operas. I can’t give you an exact number on woman opera composers either, but yours is a good question and merits some discussion. 

At least as it relates to French opera, historian Jacqueline Letzter has cited two factors: “the relative openness of theaters to composers and librettists in general, and the accessibility and propriety of the domi operatic genres for women” in a book she coauthored called Women Writing Opera. 

Here are a few notable female composers: 

  • Francesca Caccini (1587–1630) is credited as the first female Italian opera composer, and recognized by Monteverdi.
  • Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) is perhaps most famous for her work for the suffragettes; however, she also wrote several operas of note, including The Wreckers.
  • Thea Musgrave (born 1928) is a Scottish 20th century composer, known for her dramatic abstract style, and operas including Mary, Queen of Scots, and Harriet, the Woman Called Moses.
  • Judith Weir (born 1954) began composing full-length operas in 1987 with A Night at the Chinese Opera.

But I’d like to single out one composer in particular, Philadelphia composer Margaret Garwood, born 1927, whose work, The Scarlet Letter, will be seen right here in Eastern Pennsylvania this fall, presented by the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia–the world-premiere, in fact. Garwood’s work is an operatic retelling of the Hawthorne classic. The Scarlet Letter opens November 19, 2010 at the Merriam Theater for three performances. She has written four operas, numerous song cycles, and works for combined chorus and orchestra. Her operas have received fully staged productions in New York, Philadelphia and on the West Coast. She has written the librettos to all her own operas, with the exception of the first one. 

If you’re in the mood for further reading on the topic of women composers, just visit the Women in Music Festival site, sponsored by the Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester. 

Yours in all things opera, 

Dr. Richard Rohrer 

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Filed under 20th Century Opera, 21st Century Opera, Classical Composers

if it’s Tuesday, ask Richard . . .

Dr. Richard Rohrer is the reigning expert regarding classic opera in the Rust Belt town of Hankey, Pennsylvania, the fictional setting for my comic novel, DEVILED BY DON, and of all things “Operatoonity.” Since Tuesday is “Ask Richard” day, we proffer the following musical question:

Dear Richard,

Is there any commonality to posts that have been most successful with Operatoonity readers?

Dying to know in Dayton

Dear Dying,

Good question. Actually, my analysis of the site suggests that Gale’s interviews with performers have been far and away the most popular posts. Here are the top three:

Meet LeandraOpera on Sunday Best–an interview with American singer/performer Leandra Ramm

Meet soprano Zita Tátrai tonight on “Operatoonity”–an interview with Hungarian-born singer, stage and film actress, and visual artist

Meet Kala Maxym, lyric soprano (and TOI principal)–an interview with an American soprano who is also the executive director of The Opera Insider, a new opera website.

One could surmise that these three interviews have been the most popular because all of the women are lovely, gracious, and talented. (That’s just good old-fashioned common sense.) But there are other reasons, too. All these women have what is called a “presence” on  the new Social Media. Therefore, it’s easy to say to their followers, “Click this link (off Facebook or Twitter), and you can read this profile about me at this blog,” et cetera, et cetera.

So, you see, they’ve made it sinfully easy for fans to stay abreast of their comings and goings by being visible on these social networking sites. Also, they can be seen on the YouTube channel, which is critically important these days. Some performers, believe it or not, have not taken the time or interest to post videos of their performances on YouTube. I’m no digital native, but even I know that we’re in the throes of a revolution in the ways we reach new audiences, and that being accessible through Social Media can only benefit performers in this century–even if they’re partial to music from other centuries.

Yours in classic opera appreciation,

Richard Rohrer

So, there you have it. Three female performers and opera insiders with “Google Juice” top the list for Operatoonity readers. Highest ranking posts start Sunday, August 8.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, DEVILED BY DON, favorites, Performers, Sunday Best