Tag Archives: Metropolitan Opera

Tenor James Valenti returns to Met Opera stage in April

James Valenti

American tenor James Valenti will sing the role of Pinkerton in Met Opera’s ‘Madama Butterfly’ | photo by Dario Acosta

When Operatoonity.com last spoke with American tenor James Valenti, he was learning the tango for The Dream of Valentino, a new production for Minnesota Opera.

James Valenti as Valentino, courtesy of Minnesota Opera | photo 2014 © Michal Daniel

James Valenti as Valentino, courtesy of Minnesota Opera | photo 2014 © Michal Daniel

Now, fresh from portraying the silent film star and marquee idol Rudolph Valentino, James enthusiastically reports that he has mastered the dance that Argentina put on the map. (Let’s hope Valentino comes east soon, so that we, too, can witness his ballroom dancing prowess. If like me, curiosity has gotten the better of you, you can watch James tangoing in this YouTube clip.)

In less than two weeks, he opens in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Madama Butterfly, which seemed like an ideal opportunity to catch up with him.

Welcome back to Operatoonity.com, James. You’re back in NYC to prepare for singing Lt. Pinkerton for four productions on April 4, 9. 12 & 15.
It’s always exciting being close to home. I get to see a lot of my old friends–my high school friends–and of course my family.

How are you preparing for your imminent Met appearance?
I’ve seen the Minghella production, and I just sang the role for Lyric Opera in Chicago this past fall. In fact I’ve sung the role many times. Of course, every theater has a different way they operate. Sometimes withe European companies, you don’t even get an orchestra rehearsal. I feel as though I have sufficient preparation time prior to that April 4 opening at the Met.

James Valenti in Madama Butterfly, courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago | photo by Dan Rest

James Valenti in Madama Butterfly, courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago | photo by Dan Rest

How are you different from the young artist who sang Pinkerton in 2008, when you won New York City Opera’s Debut Artist of the Year award?
I certainly feel differently. I have been working on a new dramatic repertoire, singing more lyric-spinto. My voice now takes on new colors. I got to sing Don Carlo and Valentino–Valentino was a milestone in my career, and I really grew a lot. So I am excited to bring my new technique to the role. I have a new way of singing, and I hope that I have a huge success and get invited back for the next ten years.

You sing a great deal of classic opera. Do you prefer more traditional versions or lean toward experimental interpretations?
Definitely more of a traditionalist. However, Anthony Minghella’s production is rather modern, and it works. The little boy character is actually a puppet. Puppeteers wearing black will be onstage manipulating him. This choice was controversial when Minghella first introduced it. But I have to say, it’s a stunning interpretation.

Will you have much down time while you’re in New York?
Certainly, I’ll have enough time to see other performances at the Met when I am not rehearsing or performing. I definitely want to see Werther and Andrea Chénier.

Any other fun things you plan on doing while you’re in the Big Apple?
There’s so much going on here. Great restaurants. I’ll do things in Central Park once it gets a little warmer. I love going to those nice hotel spas. I like to let loose a little, too.

James Valenti casualBesides a good tango, how do you kick up your heels?
My high school friends and I  head to Koreatown for a little karaoke. I like singing stuff from the 80s, like “Living on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi and a lot of Journey hits like “Don’t Stop Believing.” I sing a lot of Billy Joel, too. I love all his music, dating back to his earliest album Cold Spring Harbor.

According to the the performance schedule on your website, you are getting a little break this summer. Any special plans?
I’m taking  a little time off to record my first CD. All Italian and French music that will probably be available around August 1. You’ll definitely be hearing more about that project. But this is the beauty of my life. I’m not married. I don’t have children. I don’t have anything tying me down that keeps me from picking up and going to Europe. I still get to fly by the seat of my pants.

(And, to conclude, an Operatoonity Q&A staple) The Lightning Round

Cheesesteak or Cheesecake? Cheesecake (with ricotta, the Italian way)
Jeans or khakis? Jeans
Sweater or sweatshirt? Sweater
Dogs or cats? Dogs
Spaghetti or lasagne? Lasagne
House of Pizza or House of Cards? House of Cards

 * * *

You can  follow James on Twitter @James_Valenti or become his Facebook fan at https://www.facebook.com/jamesvalentitenor, where he regularly posts content and photos from around the world.

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Filed under Golden Operatoonity, Heartstoppers, Interviews, Italian opera, Q&A, tenors

Met opens Monday night…see y’all on Twitter?

Eugene Onegin photo

Eugene Onegin opens at the Met Monday night, starring Met darlings Mariusz Kwiecien and Anna Netrebko.

A wonderful small tradition has emerged on Twitter that occurs round about the third Monday in September.

Not everyone can attend opening night in Lincoln Center or watch it in Times Square. Here’s the next best thing:

An Opening Night TwitFest.

Many opera junkies in the U.S. and across the pond listen to the Metropolitan Opera’s opening night via Live Stream while meeting up on Twitter to dish about the production, the performers.

Sounds like fun? You have no idea how much fun it is. Word! We’re talking star power, sex appeal, gossip, innuendo, admiration, infatuation–all expressed in 140 characters with the hashtag #MetOn.

The fun begins with the Met Opera interns who Tweet photos of the glitterati arriving for Opening Night. Some look better than others dressed to the nines. It’s even entertaining if they’re a bit of an eyesore.

To say that listeners are enraptured is an understatement. One Twitter listener photographed himself doing pirouhettes  and shared the pic. Retweets abound.

It took a while for the Metropolitan Opera to catch on that they should float a hashtag in advance of the event, so we could all find each other.

But they finally got their you-know-what together and eventually they started publicizing #MetOn in advance of the event and even using it themselves. Better late than never.

I’m glad there’s a dedicated hashtag so that we can easily find each other. But this is an evening not to be missed. Since we are listening only, we’ll miss all the expected directorial gaffes.

So, I hope to see you on Twitter Monday night, September 23, 6:30!  Netrebko, Kwiecien, Valery Gergiev conducting.

The Met is definitely On.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, North American Opera, opera star power, Russian opera

Fly on the wall at a ‘dazzling’ Met Opera cast party

New York City’s Metropolitan Opera premiered a new production of Handel’s Giulio Cesare on April 4, 2013, which was celebrated with a pre-opera dinner, followed by a cast party after the performance.

Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the Metropolitan Opera’s Giulio Cesare gala cast party on opening night!

Well, I’ve got the next best thing, dear readers. Some beautiful photos to share with you from that early April Lincoln Center gala, a sparkling event–literally–thanks to art jewelry designer Gilbert Albert, who sponsored the evening.

Met cast party w/jewelry

Carol Miller (left) is wearing the “nouvelles ecorces” necklace with emeralds. Mezzo-soprano Patricia Bardon, who sang the role of Cornelia, is wearing the Unique “ecorce” necklace with modlavites, freshwater pearls, quartz and diamonds.

Gilbert Albert’s three-story New York boutique recently opened at 43 West 57th Street though the company turns 60 this year. One of their immediate goals was to support the arts in New York City. In an official press statement, Majid Pishyar, Chairman of 32Group, owner of the Gilbert Albert brand said, “Gilbert Albert believes the quest for excellence in opera and all the arts perfectly complements our own goal of producing the finest quality jewelry. It is with great pleasure that we are supporting the Metropolitan Opera’s gala this spring.”

dazzling cast party

Alice Coote (left) is wearing a Gilbert Albert necklace with fulgurite (sand struck by lightning). Sharon Ray, vice president of Gilbert Albert, is wearing the “perle” necklace with azurite stones.

The boutique displays necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and pendants that are unique, one-of-a-kind works of art inspired by nature.  Each piece combines gold and precious stones with a variety of natural exotic materials including crystals, meteorites, corals, shells, scarabs and, most inspiring of all, fossilized dinosaur bones. Many of Gilbert Albert’s pieces are adorned with both cabochon and rough cut stones, a contrast that is magnificent and rarely seen in fine jewelry. The pieces also use fulgurites, which are tubes of glass formed by the extraordinary release of energy when lightning strikes the desert sand.

This is not the first time the designer has been involved in the arts; Gilbert Albert and Prima ballerina Nina Ananiashvili together founded the prize “Star” for young ballet dance talents an annual award that has been presented since 2008 at the Rustaveli State Theatre in Tblisi, Goergia.

What could be better following a winner of a new Giulio Cesare, which Forbes Magazine called “sparkling, playful and musically rich,” than a cast party with extra dazzling fine jewelry, courtesy of Gilbert Albert.

Miller and Ziff

Carol Miller (left) and her husband Richard J. Miller, Jr., opera guild president, flank Met Chairman Ann Ziff, who is donning Gilbert Albert earrings.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Baroque Opera, creative promotions, North American Opera, opera events, Uncategorized

Ups and downs at the Met–a NY Times profile

Editor’s note: Would you like to be a fly on the wall at the world’s biggest and most prolific opera house?  Here’s a sneak peak at the life of Peter Gelb, general manager of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera and New York Times Magazine.

By CHIP BROWN, New York Times Magazine


Peter Gelb (center), general manager of The Metropolitan Opera, with soprano divas Anna Netrebko (left) and Deb Voigt | photo by Erik Madigan Heck for The New York Times

Most mornings Peter Gelb, the 59-year-old general manager of the world’s most prominent opera company, rises between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. The elegant Upper West Side duplex he shares with his wife is four blocks from Lincoln Center. He puts on a bathrobe and pads downstairs to the kitchen, where he turns on his La Pavoni espresso machine with the hand-levered piston that allows him to feel, amid all he can’t control at the Metropolitan Opera, that he can at least control the quality of his coffee. He fixes a skim-milk cappuccino with two shots of espresso, eats a banana and then sits down in his home office, where the walls are decorated with autographed scores by Verdi, Puccini and Shostakovich and the shelves are filled with hundreds of CDs, including some by his great-uncle, the renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz. Gelb himself has no particular musical gift, but his ability to remain alert while attending 280 or so opera performances and rehearsals a year on apparently very little sleep qualifies him as a virtuoso of some sort.

After checking overnight box-office totals and other automated reports, Gelb typically uses the predawn hours to telephone agents, artists and opera impresarios in Europe and Japan. But this morning in late October, only months after his most difficult season — a season of scathing reviews that indicted him for accenting spectacle over cohesive drama and various other felonies having to do with his taste, temperament and sensitivity to criticism — he has decided to overhaul a script. Any underling could handle the job of rewriting remarks for the soprano Sondra Radvanovsky when she introduces the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcast of “Otello” in two days, but Gelb is an unabashed micromanager, and the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts didn’t become his capital achievement because he let somebody else make the coffee.

So he opens his laptop. The stakes will be high the afternoon of the show, he notes. Johan Botha, the tenor playing Otello, has been out with a cold and will be making a comeback in front of 4,000 opera fans in the house and another 250,000 watching in movie theaters around the world. Better call them “discerning” — 4,000 discerning opera fans in the house. He types some more stuff about adrenaline and taking vocal risks, and now he needs only a line to wrap things up. He recalls a phrase he heard years ago in Italy when he was representing classical artists and producing music documentaries, one that conveys the backstage intensity of an opera house as the curtain is about to rise. It pretty much sums up life at the Met — for the performers and for the man in charge, in need of a comeback himself after a bitter, bruising year. “As we say backstage: In bocca al lupo. Into the mouth of the wolf.”

The job of Met Opera general manager is as iconic in its way as mayor of New York or manager of the Yankees. By any standard, Peter Gelb, now well into his seventh season, has established his tenure as among the most significant in the Met’s 130-year history. Giulio Gatti-Casazza saw the company through the stock-market crash and the depths of the Great Depression. Rudolf Bing delivered it to its new home at Lincoln Center. Gelb has guided the opera company into the digital age and has put an art form long associated with aristocratic privilege on a more populist footing.

Annual new productions at the Met have nearly doubled; geriatric demographic trends have been arrested, if not reversed; fund-raising is setting records. The Met now has a 24-hour channel on SiriusXM radio; an iPad app; education programs in more than 150 schools in 21 states; subsidized tickets; free dress rehearsals. When Gelb became general manager in 2006, the number of subscribers surged and the percentage of sold-out shows rebounded off historic lows. Subscriptions and the percentage of house seats sold have tailed off in the past few years, and the Met recently had to roll back last season’s 10 percent ticket-price increase, but these negative box-office trends have been offset by the growth of the audience for the Met’s “Live in HD” broadcasts, which Gelb initiated and which last season drew 2,547,243 viewers in 54 countries.

“Peter’s record of achievement and ambition is unparalleled — I think he’s saved the Met from brontosaurusdom, and I say that as someone who has been going to opera since 1958,” says André Bishop, who as artistic director of Lincoln Center Theater has joined Gelb in establishing a commissioning program for new operas and musical-theater pieces.

And yet if plenty of people are over the moon about the changes, plenty of others are keening arias of Internet rage and indignation. This, after all, is opera, opera in New York, not some dainty pastime like professional hockey, and the stage is crowded with grumbling members of the old guard who aren’t renewing subscriptions, disenchanted reviewers, vendors of vitriol on blogs like Parterre Box, self-described “opera queens” bristling at the loss of beloved productions and even old-fashioned letter writers like the one who recently sent Gelb a hand-scrawled note saying: “You are an uneducated disgrace to the Met. Resign now!”

The cast of critics includes some classic connoisseurs like Joe Pearce, a retired banker in Brooklyn, who first got hooked on opera at 12 when he heard Mario Lanza singing in the film “The Great Caruso” and now, at age 74, has 60,000 records, is the president of the Vocal Record Collectors’ Society and can make a case for why any of the four broadcast recordings of Giovanni Martinelli singing at the Met from 1938 to 1941 puts every other performance of “Otello” to shame. In a post last year on The Times’s Web site, Pearce said he wondered whether Gelb understood the difference “between his true opera-loving audience and the happening-seekers he would convert” and dismissed as nonsense the idea that new meaning could be found in great works of art “through semi-Eurotrash reimaginings by third-rate theatrical minds.” The bigger issue, he told me — bigger than any one opera-company general manager — is the decline of vocal artistry. “Singers are no longer being trained to act with their voices like they used to do,” he said. “Now they act with their bodies.”

To read the full article, click here.

Video: Scenes From Two Days at the Metropolitan

Interactive Feature: Inside the Metropolitan’s Stage

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Filed under opera production

over-the-topera music to party by, USA!

Everyone who doesn’t live in a cave in the U.S. knows today is Superbowl Sunday. Lots of food, festivities, and football (American-style). Hoagies, beer, chips, dip, hot wings, and more beer. (Yes, it gets a little ridiculous and over-the-top, frankly.)

While I plan to be watching “Downton Abbey” myself, here’s a little number that the Metropolitan Opera whipped up, just for you, to celebrate the spirit of BIG GAME DAY in the USA. The more you drink, the better the dancing–I promise!

Enjoy a little Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila, “Bacchanale “:

YouTube Preview Image

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Filed under ballet, French opera