Tag Archives: Opera

ten #operaplot entries ready and counting . . .

So far, I’ve written ten entries for #operaplot 2011. I’m finding that the better I know the opera or the more ludicrous the premise, the more I am able to click into my imagination.

The constraints of 140 characters total with #operaplot also forces me to be more creative than I might normally be. I really wanted to write an #operaplot for Cosi Fan Tutte. Had an idea–a trope (as we writers say). It’s only when I couldn’t get the letters to fit that I really began digging for an original solution.

This week I have jury duty–beginning tomorrow! So, I’m going to preload my entries into SocialOomph so they start appearing tomorrow at the required time. As soon as I have a break and can access my BlackBerry, I’m going to be jumping on Twitter to read everyone’s entries.

I can’t quite explain why I’m so fond of this contest. Okay, I like contests–it’s in my DNA. I can’t sing opera, but I can write about it. Writing is my talent. This competition gives me a chance to show what I can do well within the confines of the operasphere.

Ahh, but will my best be good enough? Ay, there’s the rub!


Filed under Uncategorized

the state of opera in Ireland

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and you may have ingested a green beer or two. 

Do you know the state of opera in Ireland? 

As a part of a government plan to establish Ireland’s first national opera company in 2011, something for which Opera Ireland has long campaigned and formally proposed to the Irish government in 2009, Opera Ireland has voluntarily wound down its opera producing organization and related services, as agreed upon at the end of a successful 2010 and almost seventy years of history as the main provider of professional grand opera in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin. 

Following the 2010-2011 season, the planned hand-over to a new national company called Irish National Opera (INO ) will be completed. 

According to Niall Doyle, the Chief Executive for Opera Ireland, the first INO productions are now being planned  for 2012. 

Opera Ireland's Don G., 2009


When a national opera company in Ireland finally emerges, Ireland will no longer be the only European country without a national company. It offers a platform to provide Irish opera with the same levels of national recognition, commitment and support we have provided so well for other great art forms. Opera Ireland is taking the ultimate step of bringing down its own final curtain as a separate producing company. 

It is the sincere hope of all who care about opera in Ireland that Irish National Opera will be a great success and will incorporate and develop further the great artistic traditions, audience relationships and audience reach at the heart of the two companies on which it is to be built to make a positive move forward for opera and audiences in Ireland. 

–Niall Doyle 

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Holidays, International opera

gaga for Google

This post is not a veiled attempt to ramp up my SEO by putting “Gaga” in the title. I just happen to love alliteration a little too much for my own good.

So, why the shout-out for Google? As many of you know, I’m endeavoring to post every day remaining in 2011. I started on January 11, and so far, I’ve managed a post a day on “Operatoonity” since then.

If you’ve ever tried to write a round-up or a post featuring the names of multiple opera singers, composers, or works, then you know the particular challenge opera and classical bloggers share. Correctly spelling foreign names requires using the proper accents–a whole new world for many English speakers.

I’m not fluent but I’ve had enough German in school to know that a word that requires an umlaut (a little pair of dots appearing over the ä, ö and ü) must have the dots or it is considered misspelled.

Opera is an international art form. If you are spelling the names of performers from other countries or titles of operas and songs, you will encounter many unfamiliar diacritical marks that must be used to render that name correctly. Here’s a small sampling of  some of the proper nouns I’ve encountered while writing this blog that require special accents:

  • Plácido Domingo
  • La bohème
  • Elīna Garanča
  • Leoš Janáček

And many, many more. You get the idea.

If I had to toggle back and forth to a word processing insert feature to find the proper mark required for each use and then insert each mark, I would never be able to work as quickly as I do. Because of Google’s search engine capacity, I simply type in a reasonable facsimile of the name in quesion, and voilà! Dozens of hits pop up with the correct marks already inserted. When I find two or three that use the same set of marks, I assume they are correct. Then  I merely cut and paste from the Google link and have a properly spelled name.

Now, I’m not claiming you’ll never see a misspelled word on this blog. Precisely because opera is an international community, I face more spelling challenges writing for this blog than I have writing any previous blogs.  But thanks to Google, you’ll see more precision than I ever would be able to muster myself.


Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Performers

North American Opera . . . the answers

I promised answers to yesterday’s quiz today, and here they are. True confessions time: I didn’t have to work very hard identifying them. One reader, John Gilks, came up with most every answer I needed. I was so tickled I told John he earned a prize,* which will soon be speeding toward his home.

  1. Dmitri Hvorostovsky in SF Opera's Simon Bccanegra/Photo by Terrence McCarthy

    Most people can name the largest opera house in North America. What is the second largest?
    John thought it was Sante Fe, but according to my research, it’s  the Civic Opera House in Chicago, with 3,563-seats, home to Lyric Opera of Chicago; whereas the Metropolitan Opera has 3,800 seats and more than 300 spaces for standing room. The second largest company is San Francisco, by their own accounting.

  2. What is North America’s oldest continuously operating summer opera company?
    It’s Chautauqua Opera, in Chautauqua, New York, founded in 1929.
  3. Can you name three of the most popular operas produced in North American in 2009-10?
    According to OPERA America, the most frequently produced operas in the 2009-2010 season were: The Marriage of Figaro, La bohème, Carmen, Tosca, La traviata, Madame Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, The Elixir of Love and Don Giovanni.
  4. Can you name three of the most popular North American operas presented in 2009-10?
    Per OPERA America, the most frequently produced North American operas in the 2009-2010 season were: George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, John Adams’s Nixon in China, Lewis Spratlan’s Life is a Dream, Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers and Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.
  5. To the closest hundred, how many new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America since 1990.
    This is OPERA America’s stat, and here’s how they answered it: Over 400 new operatic works have been produced by professional opera companies in North America since 1990.
  6. Name five Canadian cities currently producing opera.
    John actually nailed these answer, so here’s what he said: “Toronto, Hamilton, Waterloo, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Victoria, Richmond Hill, Kawartha Lakes, Quebec, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, Halifax. I’m sure I’m missing some.” (Anyone who reads this blog knows about all the extraordinary opera in Toronto! Or they haven’t been reading “Operatoonity.”)

How I love these audience participation posts! And thanks again, John, for making tonight’s work easier. (I’ll get those nails filed and polished after all.)

*So what did John win? Why, a Manet’s Masked Ball Mouse Pad personalized with the Operatoonity website address.


Filed under Audience participation, North American Opera, quiz

no time for opera snobs

Athena, springing from the head of Zeus

O, would that we could all spring from the head of Zeus, fully formed in battle armor, like the goddess Athena.  (No wonder Zeus had the mother of all headaches.)    

Alas, real-life intervenes for the fully mortal. We have to learn to sit up before we can crawl, crawl before we can walk, walk before we can run.    

No matter what the art (or craft) pursued, most of us need training to realize our potential. The harder it is to realize mastery, the more time and training it takes.    

I can think of few art forms in which students need more layers of study and  development than in opera performance. Even for those who can naturally warble a few resonant notes, singing for three hours or more, several times a week often in foreign languages, considering also all the stamina, technique and vocal gymnastics that opera scores require of their singers, demands a level of vocal fitness that can take years to attain.    

That’s why my blood boils when I hear comments like, “I’m an opera snob,” as one person told my friend unapologetically. “That company is third-rate,” he continued, referring to a regional house, adding that he refused to patronize them any longer.    

My god. Even the sports world (and every other discipline) understands the value of the apprenticeship and how important local offerings are to the quality of life in smaller cities and towns–be they sporting events, cultural events, visual arts, lectures, whatever. Major league ball clubs use farm teams to develop talent. One of the greatest Philadelphia Phillies to play the game, Mike Schmidt, played for their farm team, the Reading Phillies before he hit the big leagues.    

In the same way, regional opera companies help develop tomorrow’s students. What? Accomplished opera singers don’t spring from the heads of opera gods, fully formed? No, they don’t. And only a dolt would fail to see the connection between offering live opera performance outside of  major US cultural centers and the profileration and growth of opera as an art form.    

” . . . I believe that regional opera houses play a central role in the development of opera in America.  They provide performing venues for the stars of tomorrow, and they provide a rich cultural experience for communities that they serve.”
–Dr. Todd Queen, from the blog Operagasm, on “The Importance of Regional Opera”    

Some of the most memorable productions I’ve ever seen weren’t necessarily shows on Broadway. There are several community theatre productions that loom large in my memory for their freshness, artistic vision, and execution. They featured selected performances by *gasp* non-professionals so well hewn, they’ll stay with me forever.    

There’s no guarantee that one will have a spectacular experience with regional theater or regional opera. At the same, neither should you assume you’re going to see perfection at the Met, La Scala, or any other world-class venue you can name.    

“It is sad how many people are in positions of importance in opera who don’t know whether or not the singing is beautiful until they see the singer’s name.”
–Luciano Pavarotti    

I have no tolerance for opera snobs and others who expect perfection from live performance. If you want perfection, go listen to an overproduced CD where they had to do twenty to thirty takes to get the high quality you think you deserve.    

If you truly love opera, you can find something beautiful and worthy in every production, wherever it’s being produced. If you don’t, then let me spell it out for you: You are a selfish opera snob with no genuine regard for the art form as a whole.


Filed under Classic Opera, North American Opera, Rant, Regional opera