Tag Archives: Washington National Opera

six opera events to celebrate in 2010

James Valenti Wins Richard Tucker Award (April 16)

The Richard Tucker Award has been called “the Heisman Trophy of Opera.” It’s a $30,000 prize recognizing an American singer on the cusp of an international opera career, and on April 16, 2010, James Valenti was named the winner. Why was this year’s award so exciting? James Valenti is an alumnus of the Academy of Vocal Arts, a premier opera training program for young artists located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, my home state. These  programs are so critical to preparing the next generation of opera performers. Besides grooming and showcasing up and coming talent, they also showcase new works, as in the case of Margaret Garwood’s The Scarlet Letter.       

Jake Heggie's Moby Dick/photo by Karen Almond

 

Moby Dick World Premiere (April 30)

Composer Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer       

Commissioned by the Dallas Opera in partnership with four other companies, Moby Dick premiered at the Winspear Opera House on April 30. Notable for its outstanding staging and performances, it’s also extremely heartening to see opera companies collaborating to bring new opera to the stage.       

#Operaplots 2010 (around May 3-7-entries submitted earlier)

Sam Neuman--Grand Prize #Operaplot Winner

 

 Miss Mussel orchestrated an enormous mini-contest celebrating not the masterplot but the microplot–only 140 characters allowed to summarize the plot of an opera. Oh, and the hashtag “#operaplot” had to be included! More than 900 entries representing 200+ different operas were read, sorted, alphabetized, and categorized, etc., at Tweetning-fast speed. Winners were announced the week of May 3. What a fabulous and most entertaining of display ingenius brevity!       

Met in the Park 2010

Met in the Park

 

The Metropolitan Opera performed six concerts in parks in the five boroughs of New York City from July 12-29, 2010. I was sitting in a bar in Soho two weekends ago, when a woman I just met told me how much she enjoyed the program that came to Crotona Park (Bronx) on Thursday, July 15 that featured Monica Yunus, soprano; Matthew Plenk, tenor; Donovan Singletary, bass-baritone; and Jonathan Kelly, pianist.       

Rigoletto a Mantova, September 4 & 5

Rigoletto a Mantova

 

The live simulcast of ‘Rigoletto’ a Mantova was a brave and beautiful project filmed on location in Mantua, lending the entire enterprise the scope and versimilitude of a major motion picture. It featured an all-star cast including Plácido Domingo, Julia Novikova, Vittorio Grigolo, and Ruggero Raimando.  The production values, the direction, the musical direction, the soloists, the orchestra, the conductor, the setting, the choral numbers, the cinematography, the costumes, the singing, the singing, the singing were all squisito.  With any luck, this production set the stage for more such live simulcasts.  Grazie, Plácido.    

Opera  in the Outfield (September 19) and Aida at the Ballpark (September 25)

Aida in Giants Park, San Francisco

 

Two major opera houses obtained corporate underwriting to offer free simulcasts of live opera in major ballparks in 2010. “Play Ballo!” was the motto of the Washington National Opera‘s third annual “Opera in the Outfield” event. Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” was broadcast from the Kennedy Center live in Nationals Park, to 11,000 fans. Aida in the Ballpark in the San Francisco Giants home park for approximately 50,000 fans.       

Opera Company of Philadelphia’s Random Act of Culture (October 30)

Six hundred singers filled Macy’s Department Store in Philadelphia and sang Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” What a beautiful celebration of spontaneous performance! It’s as much fun to see the crowd’s reaction to the live performance as it is to hear the singers.       

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I’m certain there were many other wonderful things happening in the world of classical music during 2010. If I’ve not mentioned your favorite event, please mention it in the comments section. And here’s to more inspiring events in 2011.

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Filed under 21st Century Opera, Audience participation, Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Live opera performance, News Roundup

Bachtrack’s Young Reviewer Program offers fresh, fun learning

A few months ago, a young, knowledgeable friend from the operasphere won a young reviewer’s contest sponsored by Pacific Opera. You can read all about Paulo Montoya’s winning review at this Operatoonity post. Regarding Paulo’s review of Hansel and Gretel, someone remarked that United States opera companies should encourage more reviews of classical events from young people, which encourages their attendance at concerts and operas, contributing to a lifelong appreciation for the classical arts.        

Bachtrack is going one better. Their worldview is, well, a global one. They have classical music, opera, and ballet listings from all over the planet. Now they have a Young Reviewer Program which gives children ages 12 to 18 an opportunity get free tickets to a top class classical concert and have the review published on the Bachtrack site.        

If I were still a junior high teacher, I’d give my students the choice to see a concert or an opera and write a review for Bachtrack as one of their writing requirements. This kind of program introduces an important life skill to children: first, deciding whether or not they like something and then articulating to what extent they appreciated the performance and why.        

Washington National Opera's "Opera in the Outfield" attracted thousands of young viewers.

 

Bachtrack is actively seeking orchestras, promoters, opera companies, concert halls and/or anyone else who promotes classical music, to partner with them in building young audiences as a component of the young reviewers program. There’s a simple, online application form to fill out. Bachtrack even offers guidelines on how to write a review.        

All of us should pursue opportunities to sharpen our critical thinking skills. What a splendid chance for children to develop confidence in themselves and their thinking and writing abilities, replete with a prestigious clip that can be enjoyed by a worldwide audience!        

Bravo, Bachtrack!

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Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Music, opera firsts, Opera Marketing, opera trends, Reviews

take me out to WNO opera any day! it’s a win-win-win!

For years now, the Pennsylvania Lottery has used the saying, “You Can’t Win if You Don’t Play.” So simple, it’s (almost) eloquent.      

Fact of life. You’ll never complete that slide to second base if you’re afraid to muddy your pants. Similarly, you’ll never win any kind of writing contest if you’re not willing to put your work, yourself, and your (oh *so* delicate) ego out there for public scrutiny from time to time.      

Just to clarify, I do put my writing “out there” regularly, querying agents, editors, and publishers, sometimes receiving a friendly “keep at it,” but more often incurring a) callous rejections b) snarky comments c) downright bitchiness and/or d) all of the above.  Generally, no one knows but them and me whether I’ve succeeded or not in my literary quest unless a snarky agent snarks about me on Twitter (which actually happened).      

masked revelers in Nationals Park

How lucky for me then that the Washington National Opera was sponsoring a really fun-sounding, heart-pounding, low-risk songwriting contest themed around a Simulcast of Verdi’s “Masked Ball” in Nationals Park. All entrants had to do was take one verse of the acclaimed “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” tune and adapt it with creativity and singability, while paying homage to the nature of the event: live opera in a major league ball park on the big screen.      

I had a week’s vacation and figured I’d give it a try. I agreed with this kind of event in principle. A noble idea! Finding corporate underwriters to make the event free for thousands of people (families, too) and holding it in a setting as comfortable as your favorite pair of slippers–lime green slippers with big floppy bunny ears.      

a shot from my video entry

Also, I have a high fun index, so this augured to be several hours of creative engagement–writing, editing, filming, and learning the movie works program on my laptop, for starters. Truth is, I utterly entertained myself by just writing and filming my entry, which I blogged about earlier this month. The making it was enough of a reward, if I’m being honest. And I like major league baseball–especially at Citizens Bank Park.      

So, pleased with myself for following through on a goal and because I liked the end results, I sent my entry sailing through cyberspace to the people at WNO.      

I waited a few days.      

And nice things began to happen. First, WNO posted my video on their website. Then I got an email saying I was one of three finalists in the contest, inviting me to come down to the park to receive my prize during the “7th Aria Stretch.”      

Sunday, September 19 was a breathtakingly beautiful day in the Mid-Atlantic States. Blue skies, wispy clouds, a hint of a breeze. It was a smooth drive to Washington, D.C.  despite being a  home game day for the Redskins. The staff at the park was friendly and upbeat–they had their game faces on–though their game had changed from nine innings to three acts.      

Luca Salsi as Count Anckarström

The picture on the Nationals Park Jumbotron is brilliant. It’s HD to the max. The sound was wonderful–and not so loud you couldn’t talk quietly to the person beside you. The air smelled like fattening, stadium foods. The sun was shining, the beer flowing.      

When the opera began, the singing was glorious–none more so than Tamara Wilson as Amelia. It was so easy to become enraptured in the production, I sort of forgot that the grand prize winner would be announced at the end of Act II and that I was a contender.      

Contest organizers gathered all the finalists in a VIP staging area just before Act II concluded. The reporter from the DC television station picked off the contestants, one by one. After the second and first runners-up were named, I was left standing. I had won first prize. What an honor. A talented singer from WNO’s young artists program along with the TV reporter warbled with me as my lyrics appeared on the Jumbotron.        

Being announced as the Grand Prize Winner

I remember feeling a little shell-shocked, mostly because I was surprised that I’d won–that my little entry was selected by none other than Placido Domingo, WNO’s general director. It was like someone dumped two tons of  glee on top of all the joy and attention participating in this event had already garnered me as a finalist from friends, family, and writing colleagues.       

A crowning touch was having the lyrics I wrote appear on the Jumbotron while everyone sang along–that sealed the specialness of the day for me (just click on the pic for the video). Oh, and I also loved the curtain call when the principals came onstage for their bows wearing Nationals red baseball caps.      

Though WNO has offered “Opera in the Outfield” for three years, this was the first year for the songwriting contest. If they offer it again next year, I have three words for you: Go. For. It.      

All my "booty" from WNO

They are a capable, friendly organization. I think their marketing department could sell sand in the Sahara. The prizes were are fantastic. In addition to the generous Target gift card and VIP tickets to Madama Butterfly, I got a tote bag, T-shirt, screen-printed baseball souvenir, and, of course, crackerjacks. Oh, and a mention in the Washington Post today (I just had to throw that tidbit in there).      

Fun. Glory. Prizes. Win. Win. Win.

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Filed under Best of Operatoonity, Classic Opera, Contests, favorites, Opera Marketing