Scott Joplin transformed the world of jazz and classical music with his catchy ragtime melodies and rag-opera, Treemonisha. We can all agree that the inestimable Scott Joplin was the King of Ragtime, but was he hot to trot? You decide!
May 29th, 1913 is a day that will live in infamy! A day that music history will not forget and people are still gossiping about and scandalizing. I’m talking, of course, about the infamous riot that took place on the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (aka Le Sacre du Printemps).
I absolutely adore and am obsessed with The Rite of Spring. It is honestly one of my favorite pieces from the classical music repertoire. It STILL seems outrageous and avant garde. I can completely understand why the Parisians rioted on the day of the premiere. It was way too weird, there were no pretty women in tutus frolicking about, people were spastically flailing their limbs, and it depicted the brutality of the Russian people as a sacrificial virgin dances herself to death!
You know, I normally despise the ballerina/princess subculture that gets thrust on girls and young women. But seriously, if I were a ballerina, I would totally play the sacrificial virgin and dance myself to a tizzy. Because, hello? I want that on my resume!
I also wanted to mention that you almost never see the ballet performed – live or televised. It is a real treat to see a ballet performance of the The Rite of Spring. After only hearing the orchestral version on CD and at the symphony, it was a shocker to see the ballet. My husband said that the “music made sense” after watching the ballet. The meter and rhythm constantly changes, and I can imagine it is a challenging piece to perform well.
Lets give it up to our homeboy Stravinsky for shaking the music history world with this gem of a piece. Tis’ a headbanger’s delight!
Enjoy this wonderful performance by the Mariinsky Theater and Ballet, with Valery Gergiev conducting.
Mozart himself said that his wife’s physical beauty consisted of her “nice figure and two little black eyes.” Not sure how kind our Wolfie was being with that statement… But we’re all adults, we can decide how hot Constanza was? What do you think – was the love of Mozart’s life a hot mamacita? You decide!
First of all – I LOVED the event. It made opera fun and accessible, which is important when people like me drag their husband to opera performances! The plot of the story was to show the audience what happens when a house full of opera singers are put together in a “reality tv” situation and left to stalk their prey. And let me tell you – there were some cat fights! Rowr!! Literally, one of the opera duets between two characters, Hilda and Donna, was Rossini’s Cat Duet! I was really impressed with how Fresco Opera incorporated such a diverse amount of music into a cohesive and entertaining plot line. ACTUAL reality tv shows cannot do that! They must seriously know their opera backwards and forwards – ready to play with it and make it modern.
I want to talk about some of my favorite moments. I was in love with Cherubino (the lovesick boy from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro). The role has traditionally been played by a woman, normally a mezzo-soprano. Allison Hull played Cherubino, but in The Real Divas performance, she was a washed-up cute boy band singer driven to drinking, excess and depression. They had some great photos up on the stage while Cherubino sang the Cherubino Medley from the Marriage of Figaro. They were photoshopped images of Ms. Hull as a boy band wonder, in various Bieber-esque poses! She gave an amazing performance, effectively lamenting her plight in life with the aria.
And for your viewing pleasure, here’s a picture of the original Cherubino. No wait, that’s The Biebs!
On to other fabulous arias. My absolute favorite moment was during a Puccini aria. Puck, played by Heath Rush, sang Che gelida manina from Puccini’s La Boheme. Puck was chatting with a girl online (Hot4Tenors was her screen name!) and he acted like Rodolfo from La Boheme as he did so. As he sang Che gelida manina, he typed in the lyrics he was using in the hyper-dramatic aria and freaking out the person on the other end! For example:
What a frozen little hand,
Now that you know all about me,
After all of this, Hot4Tenors went offline, as I’m sure she didn’t know how to respond! Huge laughs with this one. I’ve always thought some opera arias sound so crazy that if you said it in person, the listener would flee in distress.
These two characters had such great chemistry together! Papageno wanted a simple life with a homespun girl to share it with, and Laurie, who was frustrated by the superficial girls surrounding her, was just a homespun girl with simple desires. A match made in Heaven! Now’s the time for little Papagenos and Papagenas…. I’m curious, what does a little Papageno look like?
I would definitely go to another Fresco Opera performance. They have another show September 27-29, 2013, called The Paranormal Playhouse, also playing at the Overture Center. Go see it if you’re in the area – it was a real treat!
Brahms is considered the last great composer in the Classical tradition – stretching back to Mozart, Haydn and Bach. His Variations on a Theme by Haydn are a favorite of mine. He was best-friends with Robert Schumann and was secretly in love with his wife, Clara. Well, not that secretly – but that’s another post!
Anyways – the real question gnawing at everyone’s brain right now is, was Johannes hot to trot or just another stodgy old German composer? You decide!
John Williams – if you’re reading this, please forgive me….but this was FUNNY! If you know anything about the composer John Williams of Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, and E.T. fame, he’s written music for just about everything in American pop culture. But his music really does start to sound the same, and my husband – who collects sci-fi soundtracks and respects John Williams as a composer, agrees with me on this.
Check out this hilarious clip making fun of Williams’ mad skillz played out by The Whitest Kids U’ Know. And to be fair, I’ve also included a composition of his that I do like and think is original!
I just heard that Pope Francis loves some opera. Hmmm….I wonder which ones are his favorites?! Ooohh….guessing game!!
The Magic Flute? Nah…too Masonic. Rigoletto? Nah…too weird. The Barber of Seville? Maybe!
What do you guys think is the new Pope’s favorite opera? Is opera the way the Pope gets his Groove on?
I wanted to write a post honoring Barbara Strozzi, a successful 17th century Baroque singer and composer. I have to say that I really admire Strozzi – she actively pursued her intellectual and career interests in a time when it was REALLY difficult for a woman to do so. And major props to her dad, Guilio Strozzi, for pushing her to excel in music. The realm of composition has been especially difficult for women to enter into – but she was able to do so successfully and is considered one of the greatest and most prolific composers of secular vocal music of her time.
Plenty of women do not receive the fame they justly deserve due to societal prejudices. Fortunately, Strozzi’s compositions still exist and music history recognizes her as a unique musical force to be reckoned with. We should be aware of women like Strozzi who have broken strictly held norms and shown the world that women as individuals and as a group should not be ignored simply because of their gender.
Here’s some gorgeous and haunting music by Strozzi – called “Che si può fare.”
I watched this wonderful rendition of Turandot conducted by Zubin Mehta and performed in the Forbidden City of Beijing. It was marvelous except for one thing…none of the main singers were of Asian descent. Not a single one! A great majority of the side performers (like the dancers, choral singers, guards) were Asian, but none of the main singers were. And this was filmed in China?!
I understand the opera producers may have wanted to appeal to a certain crowd, and it happened that only Italian singers would really sell the show and fit the bill. I’m not sure I buy this logic, though. I watched this marvelous interpretation of Madame Butterfly that had Ying Huang, a Chinese soprano singing the titular role. I found the opera convincing and engaging. Ms. Huang did a wonderful job playing Cio-Cio San and reflected the role well. However, I have a really big problem when singers of European descent play roles of other ethnic groups. For instance, a European or Caucasian woman playing Madame Butterfly simply doesn’t fly with me. I have a REALLY hard time believing the role and find the bad makeup too distracting.
I mean seriously, who finds this convincing? Not me!
There are plenty of talented Asian/Asian American opera singers. Opera productions should utilize them in a variety of roles, but definitely ones that call for individuals of Asian descent. Actors slathering on makeup to look more like a certain race can seem disingenuous and kind of condescending. I mean, look at Ping, Pang and Pong from Turandot…what is up with this?