Tag Archives: Giuseppe Verdi

‘Rigoletto’ potpourri: a tale, trivia, and a magical performance

MOT's 'Rigoletto' opened May 14

Editor’s note: All month long, in honor of Verdi’s birthday, we will celebrate all things Verdi on Operatoonity.com. This Golden Operatoonity repost features my favorite Verdi opera “Rigoletto.”

Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto premiered in Venice, Italy in 1851. Based on a story by Victor Hugo, Rigoletto is a darkly tragic, gut-wrenching opera that ends in a senseless death. But at least for one performance at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden circa 1948, Rigoletto turned into a bit of a comedy:

English tenor Walter Midgley was playing the Duke.  During the aria “Questa o quella,”  a lively, upbeat piece, Midgley caught the end of his fake mustache in his mouth and gradually sucked in the entire thing, which eventually lodged itself in his windpipe. If losing his fake mustache wasn’t enough of distraction, at the end of the aria, Midgley managed to blow it out across the stage, into the orchestra pit, and right into the conductor’s face.

According to Bachtrack, the world’s best way to find live classical music, Rigoletto was one of the ten most performing operas in the world  in 2009-10.

Tenor David Lomeli singing the Duke in COC's 'Rigoletto'

Canadian Opera Company is doing Rigoletto this season with a first-rate cast.

In celebration of Rigoletto’s 160th anniversary, here is a link to “Questa o quella,” sans any extra slapstick comedy, from one of my favorite productions last season, Rigoletto a Mantova, as sung by the ever-appealing Italian tenor  Vittorio Grigolo.

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Marion’s blogs celebrate her devotion to opera greats

Marion Lignana Rosenberg / c. Maeghan Donohue

Editor’s Note: Opera Bloggers’ Month continues with a Q&A with the always gracious and utterly captivating blogger, the intrepid Marion Lignana Rosenberg.

Many cyber-savvy opera lovers identify Marion Lignana Rosenberg  with the striking profile of Maria Callas via her Twitter profile @revisioncallas.

Marion Lignana Rosenberg is the esteemed host of the blog of the same name–“Re-visioning Callas”  which blends history, anecdotes, and insightful commentary–an homage to opera’s greatest diva Maria Callas using a multi-media platform.

However, Marion also authors the blog “Verdi Duecento,” which she created to recognize Giuseppe Verdi in anticipation of the bicentennial of his birth in 2013.

Marion  is an award-winning writer, blogger, and translator. At WHRB in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she produced what likely remains the most comprehensive broadcast ever of Verdi’s music, including many then-unpublished compositions.

Marion has published extensively on opera and the performing arts including  her essay “Re-visioning Callas,” which won a Newswomen’s Club of New York Front Page Award. She also wrote the entry on Maria Callas for Notable American Women: Completing the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press).

An acclaimed broadcaster and journalist, Marion has contributed features, reviews, and essays about the arts to Newsday, Time Out New York, Salon.com, Forward, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Magazine, Opera News, and Playbill. Besides her programs for WHRB,  she has offered commentary on WNYC’s “Soundcheck.”

Marion’s writing has appeared in the programs and season books of the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and other companies in the United States and Europe.

So it is with great pride and distinct pleasure that I welcome Marion to Operatoonity.com.

Re-visioning Callas by Marion Lignana Rosenberg

"Re-visioning Callas" by Marion Lignana Rosenberg

O: When did you start blogging and why?

Marion: I started blogging back in 2002, first as a way to give vent to political rage, and then to get the word out about my freelance articles for Opera News, Time Out New York, and other publications.

O: What is your biggest challenge? Biggest thrill?

Marion: My biggest challenges are my tendencies to monomania and perfectionism. I curate blogs about Callas and Verdi and related Twitter feeds. In the past year, I have translated a non-fiction book (Carlo Rovelli’s The First Scientist: Anaximander and His Legacy) and a 150,000-word novel. I’m completing two book proposals. I’m always working on smaller translation projects (for example, English texts for Gianmaria Testa’s forthcoming CD, Vitamia). And I’m looking for a full-time position! I’m not complaining, but if I had my druthers, I would do one of these activities at a time with obsessive devotion. Instead, I breathe deeply, remind myself that “the best is the enemy of the good,” and carry on!

My biggest thrill is “meeting” so many deeply kind and intelligent people from all over the world. Thanks to my Callas blog alone, I correspond with lovely individuals in Greece, Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Iran, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, the United States, and elsewhere.

O: What is your favorite post and why?

Marion: From my Callas blog, I like Callas de cire, Callas de son because, well, who knew that the great Serge Gainsbourg had (unwittingly, I’m sure) shed light upon Maria Callas’s existential dilemmas?

From my Verdi blog, I’m proudest of Massimo Mila on Verdi I. While study of Verdi and his music has flourished in the past thirty years, there remains a great deal of enormously important work by Italian scholars and critics that is largely unknown in the English-speaking world.

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You can follow Marion on Twitter @revisioncallas. Please do stop in on her exquisite blogs Re-visioning Callas and Verdi Duecento. You can learn more about Marion here.



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a Callas remark: an Operatoonity microtale

March 6, 1853 Giuseppe Verdi: Premiere of La Traviata, in Venice, Italy.

Maria Callas as Violetta in ‘La Traviata

On the anniversary of the premiere of La Traviata, a microtale about the Verdi opera most frequently produced in North America seemed in order.

Callas recorded La Traviata early on in her singing career, well before her performance at La Scala in collaboration with Italian conductor Carlo Maria Giulini resulted in her designation as the Violetta of the age. She wanted the chance to redo the part as a stereo recording with a stellar cast during a time in which Plácido Domingo was just establishing himself a prominent tenor.

After Callas and Domingo were introduced, allegedly Callas said that she was losing interest in performing on stage because there were no satisfactory conductors, directors, or singers.

“Thank you, Maria,” Domingo said–laughing.

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Meet bari ‘Andrew’ Stuckey

I love when opera lovers recommend artists to be profiled on “Operatoonity.” Usually that means the performer has a following.

Such is the case with the accomplished baritone
W. A. “Andrew” Stuckey, whose career has whisked him around the world several times over, which explains his recommendation from “a voracious seeker of good opera and classical music” from Valencia, Spain.

Welcome to “Operatoonity,” Andrew!

Q: Where did you grow up and how did it affect your life choices?
A: I grew up in the Midwest, Missouri and Kansas.  I received my undergraduate from Kansas State University and my masters from the University of Kansas.  I’m very thankful to have grown up in the Midwest and still value the friends I have from that time.

Q: When did you know that you were destined to become an opera/classically trained singer?
A: I certainly didn’t grow up wanting to become and opera singer.  The career was really a result of my love for music combined with my proclivity for the challenges of opera.  One must have the voice, a love for language and travel, the rehearsals, and the challenge of the art.  By challenge of the art I mean the unique combination of drama, character development, musical proficiency and high performance standards (hopefully).
 
Q: How would you describe your voice?  
A: This is an interesting question because I’ve found that my own impression may not be entirely accurate.  The term that I consistently hear from others is that it’s a beautiful voice–which is a great thing.
 

Q: What is it about your voice that makes you so successful singing Verdi baritone roles?
A: Generally, it’s a combination of timbre, range and tessitura.  The Verdi baritone should have a powerful voice capable of singing in all dynamic ranges, a brilliant high range, and the ability to sustain a tessitura that is demanding.

Q: You’ve been described as equally adept at Italian, French and German
opera. Do you prefer one to the others?
A: I have more experience in the Italian language, though I must confess an irresistible preference for the sound of spoken French.  Italian for singing is THE language without a doubt.  The vowels are mainly open and easy to maintain and the consonants are, for the most part, a part of the legato.

“Baritone William Andrew Stuckey, in the role of Enrico, has a leonine voice of dark, smoky sonority and a stage presence to go with it.”
Chuck Klaus, Syracuse Post-Standard

Q: Time for some faves. Favorite composer? Favorite opera? Favorite role?  Favorite venue?
A: My favorite opera composer is without a doubt is Verdi.  His writing for the baritone is unmatched.  It is challenging and rewarding.  He really has a sense of drama that is spot on and the melodic genius is seemingly unending. 

My favorite opera is Rigoletto though I haven’t had a chance to perform it yet!!

My favorite role to sing thus far has been Scarpia.  It is a role that is so intense that when it is performed well, the audience really responds.  It is challenging beyond measure, but very memorable.  In a comedic vein, Falstaff has given me the same pleasure.  By the end of the opera, the characters’ spirit becomes a part of the audiences life (or should).  I also feel that Verdi is speaking through the character of Falstaff in an intimate way.  Leaving the world with a wink and a smile.  Love it!!

As far as a favorite venue goes, I don’t really have a preference.  There are some really fantastic theaters which are not in large cities.  I just did fantastic Pirates of the Penzance in, of all places, Trenton, New Jersey, with Boheme Opera.  The cast was fantastic and the theater in Trenton is a real jewel.  A perfect size.  But for me, it’s more about with whom I’m performing and the spirit of the production. 

Q: What goes through your head when you are called in to sing a role on
only a few hours notice? How have you done this successfully?
A: What goes through my head is sheer panic!  I’ve been called upon to do this three times in my career.  The first was at the Lyric Opera of Kansas City at the beginning of my professional career.  I was singing Wagner in Faust and chorus for the rest of the show.  When I arrived at the theater, the stage director was pacing outside and asked my to go to the conductor’s (who was also artistic director) dressing room immediately.  My first thought was that I had been sent to the principal’s office and was in trouble!  I knocked on the dressing room and entered into a cloud of smoke.  He asked me how well I knew Mephistopheles and I said not very.  He explained that the singer (with whom I am still in touch) who was singing Mephistopheles didn’t think he could make it through the show.  Well, I sang my role in act 2.  He made it through the next act while I coached the role backstage in a stairwell with an electric keyboard.  We made it through the rest of the opera twice.  Then, still in costume for Wagner, I went to the orchestra pit and sang the role.  It was quite the experience! 

The second time was with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  I was singing Yamadori and was an understudy for Sharpless.  The principal artist got sick and I went on.  The Lyric in Chicago does an excellent job of preparing the understudies so I felt very ready to go on. 

The third was with Washington National Opera in Washington, D.C.  I was an understudy for Jon Sorel.  I ended up being called at 5 o’clock for an 8 o’clock start.  Not much rehearsal and no costume fitting there so it was a good thing that he and I were about the same size. 

Thankfully, they were all successful.

Q: According to your resume, you’ve been traveling for 13 years all
around the country and around the world. Still traveling? What were the great takeaways from your itineracy?

Brittany, 500 km from Paris, largest of Breton Islands

A: I still enjoy traveling though I don’t travel as much due to my school obligations.  My favorite job was with the Festival Lyrique-en-mer in France.  It takes place on an Island called, appropriately enough, Belle-ile during the summer from early July to mid-August.  It is truly beautiful and during my second year there, I was able to bring my daughter, who was seven at the time, with me.  We had such a fantastic time there.  I hope to go back soon.

 Q: What would you like to be doing in five years? Ten years?
A: I am in my first year at Rutgers University DMA program.  I would like to continue to have a performing career but feel that I am ready to teach as well.  I suppose that in five years and ten years I would like to be doing what I am doing, but maybe getting paid a LOT more.  🙂

Andrew's Twitter pic

Q: When did you embrace social media and how has it impacted your career or visibility. Or has it?
A: We singers really needed Facebook.  Let me explain.  Our job entails traveling and rehearsing for 2-6 weeks, depending on the company.  We get to know some fantastic people and before Facebook, it was not easy to keep in touch as our homes were all scattered throughout the world.  For me, Facebook has been a wonderful way to re-connect with my colleagues and keep in touch.

The potential of Social Media in opera fascinates me.  It is absolutely necessary for singers to have some sort of online presence.  It doesn’t have to be anything special or over the top, but it is necessary.  I have used Facebook and Twitter and have my own domain- www.wastuckey.com – where I have been able to maintain my own website for some years now.  In fact, I wouldn’t have been referred to you had we both not been on Twitter.  My former agent listened to a recording on my website and that helped inform her decision to work with me.

For instance- We just finished a show at Rutgers.  Consider this.  Every student in the show who is on Facebook conservatively has 500 friends.  So let’s say twenty students publicize the show on their Facebook account.  That’s 10,000 people who now know about the show and it is a narrowly targeted audience.  The numbers are huge.  Now, realistically, the percentages are not great.  But social media absolutely is a great way to communicate with people who may be interested in what we do.  In fact, the paradigm has shifted.  Now people EXPECT to be able to interact with the artists they see or admire.  I think that’s really cool and why shouldn’t it translate into our world of classical music?

Q: What is something most people don’t know about you, something not on your resume?
A: I’m really into baking bread and brewing beer.  I generally think yeast is amazing.

Q: Where can we see you performing in 2010?
A: Just check out www.wastuckey.com

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Follow Andrew on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wastuckey
Friend him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/wastuckey

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Sherrill Milnes . . . a ‘bari’ microtale

Since we are basking in bass-baritones this month on “Operatoonity,” it’s the ideal time to recognize the contributions of Sherrill Milnes, an American baritone most famous for his Verdi roles, who made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1965 and continued appearing there through 1997. 

Sherrill Milnes as Rigoletto

 

In an English-language adaptation of Rigoletto produced by Russian conductor and impresario Boris Goldovsky, a young Sherrill Milnes was singing the title role in English. Nearing the end of one of Rigoletto’s monologues, Pari siamo, instead of “it is an evil omen; ah, no, it’s madness,” Sherrill sang, “It is an oval eeman.” Then realizing his mistake, he ad libbed, “Ah, no. It is a round one.” 

  

(adapted from Opera: Aria Ready for a Laugh by Stephen and Nancy Tanner)

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