A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, opera a cappella now available at Albany Records

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Opera coming to a multiplex near you

With the second year of the live telecasts from the Metropolitan Opera, the recent production of La Scala's AIDA, and the announcement of San Francisco Opera getting into the mix, opera is descending on the multiplex. In general, regional opera companies are embracing the phenomenon as one that will educate, enrich and enlarge the audience for opera everywhere.

If we do it right, it'll be like Starbucks coming into a community and actually driving up sales at independent coffee shops, and not like Wal-Mart killing off mainstreet hardware stores and five and dimes. Check out the story about Starbucks online at Slate.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Mr. Tater

I mentioned in an earlier entry about the outsider bluesman from Clarksdale, Mr. Tater. Here are photos of him taken by Jerry Litton of Lightscribe Photography.

Thank Congress for Supporting NEA Increase

Congress has approved a $20 million dollar increase for the National Endowment for the Arts. I have mixed feelings about the NEA. Historically, more money goes to the big companies in the big cities. I wish they'd pass more through directly to the state arts commissions. Still, it is a good thing, so find your congressman and thank them. The Americal Arts Alliance has some text you can use.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Macbeth Costumes

Our upcoming Opera Memphis production of Verdi's opera Macbeth features costumes from our own stock.

Costumes turn out to be as valuable as scenery in regional opera. We are saving thousands of dollars thanks to the purchase of the large costume inventory from Pro Eto costumes in Austin.

Our production at the end of January will feature traditional costumes and a non-traditional, abstract set.

By the way, the Scottish Play superstition about Macbeth is associated with Shakespeare's play and not Verdi's opera. Our production is actually underwritten by a descendant of Macbeth, Andrew Macbeth Clarkson. So as far as I can tell, Macbeth is good luck as far as we're concerned.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Robert Orth

One of my favorite singers is baritone Robert Orth. He has a wicked sense of humor. Check out his dark biography.

Happy Holidays

Songwriter Hugh Moffatt, who has written three operas and a handful of songs with me, provided me with this poem which we turned into a song LIGHTS OF CHRISTMAS.

It is sung here by baritone Mark Walters.

Lyric by Hugh Moffatt
Music by Michael Ching

Lights of Christmas frame the houses,
Welcoming the dawn of winter.
I remember as I struggle like the new born sun to rise.

Long ago a star came shining,
In the night and dawn of winter,
Beckoning to us to follow through the darkness to the light.

Lights of Christmas still they shine on
As the day begins to break.
There is still a star that guides us,
lighting ev'ry step we take.

Mary's child laid in the manger,
In that hopeful dawn of winter,
Given by the Lord of all a son of peace to light our way.

How we've fought and how we've failed him.
Darkening the dawn of winter.
Can't we see that all are welcome in by the light of Christmas day.

Still we hope and still we name him,
Light of love for Light of love for ev'ry nation.
Ev'ry man and ev'ry woman,
Jew and Gentile, Christian, Muslim
All are one and all are are welcome
In the light of Christmas day.
In the light of Christmas day.
In the light of Christmas day.


Last weekend I attended a holiday party in Clarksdale, Mississippi hosted by John Ruskey who runs Quapaw Canoe Company. Quapaw's trips on the river are truly a local treasure. John used to run the Blues Museum in Clarksdale and several of his friends played at the festivities.

The most unusual was Mr. Tater. The best way to describe his work is "outsider blues." Instead of three chords there was only one and much of his singing was incomprehensible. Instead of boring, I found his work to be hypnotizing. You were free to imagine the lyrics... Check out a brief sample of his music.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Center for Contemporary Opera

Check out what James Paulk has to say about opera and new opera in Atlanta. He feels correctly that small companies have a key role to play in new operas. Here in Memphis Susan Leinert and her husband Michael Leinert have started Chamber Opera Memphis

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Outside a club in Syracuse

Base ball caps must be worn forwards or backwards? Obviously I'm so out of it.

There are so many rules that it almost looks like dressing for church.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pathways to a Premiere

This weekend, Opera America, our field service organization, has organized an ambitious conference for composers in Syracuse. We have gathered to help, advise, and encourage, emerging opera composers.

For composers, "emerging" can be challenging. Opera composing involves both musical skills, dramaturgical creativity, and even lyric crafting. One has to combine realistic advice with encouragement.

Syracuse turns out to be delightful in early winter. The picture is of Clinton Square in downtown. The Erie canal used to flow where the Christmas tree is. There is a skating rink in the foreground. Syracuse Opera's youthful and energetic new Musical Director, Doug Kinney-Frost took me to L'Adour. It's a French restaurant with terrific quiche.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Auditions at Riverside Church

The Riverside Church holds a prominent position on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The tower is one of the tallest buildings in the area. We auditioned on the 9th floor. The ninth floor is a beautiful room--the picture is of the fireplace there.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


For the past two days, we have had auditions in New York from 10-6. We audition at the Riverside Church on the Upper West Side. Good weather made for very smooth auditions. There are always cancellations and there are also "crashers" folks without an appointment who hope to be slipped in. This time, the cancellations and the crashers balanced each other out perfectly and we rarely had any wasted time. Auditions are in ten minute increments. Unlike Broadway auditions--sixteen bars and done at preliminary cattle calls--we give our singers about ten minutes. It is our job to prescreen them so that there are no dreadful singers. Dreadful singers are a waste of everyone's time and money.

Larry Marshall, who will direct our TREEMONISHA next season, came up for the auditions. Today he had to leave to do his two performances--matinee and evening--of THE COLOR PURPLE on Broadway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Audition Hell

For those of you who read this who are not involved directly in opera, you might as well know that auditions are hellish for everyone concerned. After eight hours, opera singing begins to sound like yelling and even the most delicate aria can sound like an irate parent screaming at a toddler. And people wonder that I don't go to the opera after a day of auditions.

For the singers, it is probably even worse. They spend hard earned dollars on these ten minute opportunities which are very much subject to late plane arrivals, scary cab rides, bad audition accompanists, and assorted sniffles and upset stomachs.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Later this week, we have auditions in New York for our upcoming season. Auditions are for very specific roles and for our young artist quartet. Check back later in the week for blogs from New York.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On the opera tour?

Keith Williams, who is President of Underwriters Laboratories, arranged for me to see the UL headquarters facility in Northbrook, Illinois. John Drengenberg gave me a terrific tour. He said they tested 19,000 varieties of products.

The picture is of cleanup operations after a simulated warehouse fire.

Keith is an opera fan. His wife Kaori recently sang Liu in our TURANDOT.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chinatown in Chicago

In the sixties, we would go to visit my grandfather in Chicago's Chinatown. He lived in this house, which didn't have yellow siding in those days.

He didn't speak English (although he understood it) and I didn't speak Chinese, so he always seemed mysterious, shrouded in cigar smoke. Most of the light in the room came from the black and white TV.

One of my most memorable moments with him was walking down the sidewalk in Chinatown and watching him spit on the sidewalk. I promptly spit on the sidewalk too, which resulted in a severe scolding from my parents.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Life is Short, Opera is Long

Saw two spectacularly done productions at the Lyric Opera of Chicago--Handel's GIULIO CAESARE and Strauss' DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN. What a great job they do!

The Handel was an unusual blend of baroque gestures--a use of forced perspective and scenic machines--with a very charming, tongue in cheek, vernacular staging. It was the longest opera I've ever attended--over four and a half hours. Still it held the audience's attention. Seems to me it would have done even more than "held my attention" if it had been about a third shorter.

I still don't get Strauss. It seems like a lot of accompanied recitative punctuated by brief interludes of orchestrally brilliant clarity. That makes a certain amount of sense from a psychic point of view--talk it over, light bulb goes off, talk it over, light bulb goes off--but it doesn't add up to an easy listen. By the time the opera reached its ten minute climax at the end, I was ready for a brisk walk and a bus ride home.

The audience at the opening night of FRAU was surprisingly casual. My favorite lobby moment was watching an old patron sit on the red carpeted steps and get sustenance to prepare for the long evening by scarfing down a family size bag of plain M&Ms, complete with pouring the contents of the bag down his throat at the end.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The tough state of Opera in Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill

With three sophisticated communities, each with a sizeable middle class, one would think that opera would flourish here in the heart of Carolina. This hasn't been the case. There are rival companies, and some of them have gone under. One of the bright spots is Long Leaf Opera

Long Leaf Opera has lasted for ten seasons and is actually pulling it off with a new American works focus. Kudos to Ben Keaton, their founder and artistic director.

Durham, NC

Durham is a diverse and earthy little city with a wonderful, laid-back vibe. The Durham Arts Council helped produce some of the first operas I was involved in back in the eighties. DAC is currently running a show of beautiful "fused dichroic glass" by Syed Ahmad

(I took a pretty lousy picture to make sure no one gets sensitive about me stealing images.)

The banner in front of the old Carolina Theatre "Freedom of Expression Isn't Free" seems to coopt the freedom of speech issue for the purpose of arts funding.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Robert Ward

Tomorrow, I'm off to visit my most important composition teacher and mentor Robert Ward

Bob is ninety but still composing and still very active in the music business. He lives in Durham, North Carolina. He has a generosity of spirit and positive attitude that is unparalleled in my experience.

When I was a student at Duke, the music department did a small production of my final project, a one act opera. Dr. Ward was very insistent that I try to sing all of the vocal lines myself--to prove the point that if I couldn't sing them, how could I expect someone else to?

Friday, November 9, 2007


Our city's united arts fund, recently rebranded itself, from Memphis Arts Council to Arts Memphis

One of the things they did was put images from the city's performing arts on a bus. One side has a picture from last season's CARMEN production.

Monday, November 5, 2007



Professor Michal Grover-Friedlander at Tel Aviv University is presenting a paper about BUOSO'S GHOST at the World Music Days in Hong Kong at the end of the month. BUOSO is a sequel to GIANNI SCHICCHI. I wrote BUOSO in 1996. It will play next summer at Lake George Opera Festival.

Looks like "canon" is the theme of the papers at the World Music Days. Canon as in the body of music that comes to be the standard repertoire. Now coming up on its 8th production, there is a glimmer of hope that BUOSO might be edging its way toward repertoire status. Prof. G-F recognizes BUOSO'S path toward the canon is unusual because of its overt relationship to Puccini. Most works of the canon are very much stand-alone pieces. Can a piece based on another piece plausibly enter the canon? Check back in fifty years for the answer!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Check out Smart City

Smart City is a Memphis based public radio show hosted by Carol Coletta. Recently they had a segment featuring Steve Tepper of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt. It is a thought provoking thirty minutes about the future of the arts and well worth a listen. Check it out.

We used the segment as a basis for a stimulating long term planning session amongst the opera's staff.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Last week, I went to Tallahassee to hear the graduate students at Florida State University's fine opera program. It's a strange place for it, but FSU has one of the top programs in the country. The program is led by Matthew Lata and Douglas Fisher.

They were in the midst of rehearsals for a new production of LA BOHEME. In the auditions class, the students were uniformly well prepared and all of them sang their hearts out.

Upon landing, the US Air hostess said "Welcome to Tally-Hassy!"

Friday, October 19, 2007

And on to the next one...

Our board has approved an opera season for 08/09. Theater dates have to be reserved, the symphony lined up. After that the artists who we are interested in for the shows (most of whom have already been contacted) need to get official notice. Contracts are negotiated and sent out. Then after that, we schedule auditions for the remaining available roles. Like most opera companies, ours are in New York. We will hear about twelve hours worth, and only for the roles we have left open. Opera companies generally do not do "cattle calls."

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Vincero! Vincero!

Turandot opened last night. It was a fine production. This is a picture of Calaf, Roy Cornelius Smith, after the show. His "nessun dorma" was superb. We were thinking for awhile that we might bis (encore) the aria but we chickened out.

I could have wished for a bigger crowd--the auditorium was perhaps 2/3rds full.

About 350 stayed afterwards for LORD T. AND ELOISE.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Turandot opens tomorrow

We had our final dress last night, which went very well. We should have an extraordinary opening tomorrow night.

We always work to try to build casts that are not only talented, but also cooperative. This may have been one of the best yet. It is thoroughly remarkable that artists with such demanding roles such as Turandot (Audrey Stottler) and Calaf (Roy Smith) can also be not just decent human beings, but warm, collegial, and just plain fun!

Tomorrow night is also our after-opera Lord T. and Eloise experiment. We plan to have a video up on U-Tube as quickly as possible, perhaps as early as Monday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Turandot has a Children's Chorus...

Chinese Gongs

The orchestration in Turandot calls for a set of Chinese gongs. These are small gongs which have specific pitches.

Friday, October 5, 2007

From the Radio Preview

Here are a couple of pictures from last week's live preview on WKNO-FM. Lord T. and Eloise are being interviewed by Darel Snodgrass of WKNO and the two singers standing are our Liu, Kaori Williams, and our Calaf, Roy Cornelius Smith. These photos were taken by one of our patrons, Dr. Douglas Tai.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ping Pang n Pong

Turandot has three councilors--Ping, Pang and Pong who sing some of the most beautiful and intricate ensembles ever written in opera.

Pictured here are Joseph Hu (Pang), Scott Guinn (Ping), and David Hamilton (Pong).

They have destroyed MANY fans during the course of rehearsal.

Friday, September 28, 2007

An Unusual Combination

I may have mentioned this awhile back, but after the opening night of TURANDOT on October 13th, a Memphis based band called LORD T. AND ELOISE will be performing onstage after the opera. It is an unusual and decidedly un-purist audience development foray. LT&E do a form of Rap they call Aristocrunk.

Here they are at a photo shoot in the Memphis Botanic Garden with our Box Office Manager, Hillary standing in as Princess Turandot.

WKNO-FM Preview

Last night we had our first live on air preview of an opera on our local NPR affiliate, WKNO-FM. For a first time, it came off well. We did sections from the first act of TURANDOT and then had three interview segments. Roy Smith (Calaf) sang a country pop tune he'd written, Lord T. and Eloise--the Aristocrunk group performing after Turandot's opening night--showed up in their full regalia for an interview, featuring the WKNO-FM debut of their song, "Million Dollar Boots," and we ended the show with Memphis diva Kallen Esperian reminiscing about her experiences with the late, great, Pavarotti.

We were surprised at how well our rather mature live preview audience reacted to Lord T. and Eloise...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Master Class with Princess Turandot

Audrey Stottler, our Turandot, gave a master class this evening to ten talented members of our ensemble. She could not be a greater personality contrast from Puccini's icy princess. By using humor, Audrey made what can be a very tense and awkward situation (public criticism) into a rewarding, educational, and even entertaining session.

She was not shy, not afraid grab the participants by the jaw or the back to calm or reinforce. She said that tempo in verismo was like the ample elastic band in men's underwear--with lots of stretch...

One of the most wonderful elements of her class was how Audrey was able to get the participants to work together and not in competition. She brought students back onstage to help with issues of support, posture, and breathing, and was constantly referring back to previous participants as the class progressed.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Rehearsal Props

Turandot chorus staging started today for our Opera Memphis production, October 13 and 16. Typically, only a small minority of props used in rehearsal are used in the actual performance.

These are benign imagibricks used to represent heads on poles.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rock after Opera

As mentioned elsewhere, a group called Lord T. and Eloise is going to do a performance of their "Aristocrunk" music onstage, in front of the Turandot set, after the October 13th performance. I have posted a question at nfcs.net about a group or performer to engage next season--preferably one who might have some affection for Opera. Here are some of the suggestions so far. We hear that most of these folks have at least a passing interest in opera.
Linda Ronstadt
Kristen Chenoweth
Bono and U2
Celine Dione
Harry Belafonte
Aretha Franklin
Stevie Wonder
Michael Bolton
Freddy Mercury (but he's dead...)
Alexa Joel (Billy Joe's Daughter)
Christina Aguilera
Phoebe Snow
Jill Scott
Nneenna Freelon
Diana Krall
Jubilant Sykes
Elvis Costello
John Legend
Alicia Keyes
Arcade Fire
Broken Social Scene

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More Blogging to Come...

We start Turandot here soon in Memphis. I need to get my camera working...

Princess Turandot, Audrey Stottler
New to Opera Memphis, she's done the icy princess all over the world.
The Emperor Altoum, her father, William Heuttel
A former board member, Billy sang leading roles with us in the 1960s!
Timur, the dispossessed King of Tartary, Jason McKinney
A North Carolinian who was Ferrando in last season's TROVATORE.
Calaf, Roy Smith
Last seen here about eight years ago, Roy has scored a big success in Vienna as Calaf
Liu, a young slave-girl, Kaori Williams
A wonderful new face
Ping, Grand Chancellor, Scott Guinn
A former artist in residence
Pang, General Purveyor, David Hamilton
The Artistic Director of Fargo Moorhead Opera who did a great job as Meriwether Lewis--you can see pictures of David in this blog
Pong, Chief Cook, Joseph Hu
A fine tenor I last worked with in a MAGIC FLUTE many moons ago in Nashville.
Mandarin, Sean Cooper
A great baritone who is, fortunately for us, getting an advanced degree at University of Memphis

Thursday, September 6, 2007

My most interesting Luciano Pavarotti story

When I was on the staff of the Greater Miami Opera (now Florida Grand Opera) in the early 80s, folks like Pavarotti came with great regularity. They would not generally come for the whole rehearsal period, but for perhaps a week to a week and a half before opening. The company did a MASKED BALL with Pavarotti--Emerson Buckley, the artistic director back then was one of the tenor's favorite conductors and went with him frequently on the road. There were BALLO performances in three places, Miami, Miami Beach, and a challenging last performance up in Fort. Lauderdale. The Ft. Lauderdale location was much smaller than the two Miami locations, so many artistic compromises had to be made and the show was put up without a spacing rehearsal up there. Pavarotti sang fabulously and, as you may know, the tenor dies at the end of the show. Well, he died on the wrong side of the curtain and it came down, with him looking like a beached you-know-what. The curtain came back up a few feet, Pavarotti rolled under it, and the curtain came back down.

Frankly, working with people like Mr. Pavarotti drove me into regional opera where the budget are smaller, but he egos are too and where everyone collaborates and pulls his own weight. But
I view this as a positive lesson and still appreciate the opportunity to have been around productions with the likes of him.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Jerry Springer: The Opera

Our Brave Colleagues at Playhouse on the Square have done the first American production of JERRY SPRINGER: THE OPERA.

The Opera Memphis staff went to see it last night. It is a sophisticated rock opera. One of the best things about it was its fast pace. The first act was more or less a setting of vignettes that seemed identical to those on the show--guests with "can you top this" problems" and an mob/chorus out for an afternoon's thrill. After Jerry's warm up man shoots him, the second act is more theological, with an argument between Jesus and Satan over Jerry's immortal soul.

Playhouse did a terrific job with the show. As a show it left me reasonably entertained but with little desire to see it again. I doubt if opera houses will be clamoring for it any time soon. Perhaps the fact that Playhouse has managed to do it without being threatened or picketed will make other theater companies brave enough to perform it.

The dragging of opera through the muck of Springer left me feeling mildly in need of a bath or at least a febreezing. Still it was good to see the emotionally magnifying quality of our art form put to an interesting use.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Happy birthday Bernd Ulken

Bernd Ulken, a great Wagner fan, had a major birthday celebration this week, so I stayed at Cooperstown for the celebration. His wife Esther Nelson surprised him by having Tim Hoekman (Codirector of Glimmerglass Opera's young artists program) and me set some of Bernd's favorite German poems. The one I set was von Platen's Der Pilgrim vor St. Just.

Here's a link to a nice reading and translation of the poem by one Pavel Chichikov.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Glimmerglass: All Orpheus all the time

This summer, Michael MacLeod of Glimmerglass Opera, had the innovative idea to program all of the Glimmerglass repertoire around the Orpheus theme. I just saw them all in three days. The operas ranged from the familiar (Monteverdi, Gluck, and Offenbach) to the exotic (Glass and Haydn). The approaches ranged from the brilliant (Sam Helfrich's intriguing treatment of the Glass and Lillian Groag's elegant Gluck) to the horrific (Christopher Alden's trashing of the Monteverdi).

Glimmerglass did a fantastic job with all five productions. Even the Alden Monteverdi had moments of brilliance and maintained high musical values throughout.

None of these five operas completely keep you from asking "Why can't he avoid looking back at her?" or "What's with this arbitrary rule anyway?" but we're not really allowed to question the validity of old Greek myths, are we.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

William Gibson

I love what one of my favorite writers, William Gibson, said recently to Salon:

"I basically agree with Mr. Bigend in "Pattern Recognition" when he argues that our present has become so unutterably brief and ever-changing that we have no ground upon which we can stand and project a future historical arc as H.G. Wells and Robert Heinlein were able to. The short form of that is, none of us know what the hell is going to happen next."

And also: "somewhere now there's a team of people working on something that's going to profoundly impact your life in the next 10 years and change everything. You don't know what it is and they don't know how it's going to change your life because usually these things don't go as predicted."

...A challenging environment when trying to figure out where opera fits in. Perhaps our old stuff provides stability and comfort. Or perhaps its so day-before-yesterday.

For example, what if the two major opera houses in New York start doing "regietheater" How do we react to that? I mean, the professional theater in Memphis is doing Jerry Springer, the opera.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

A parting word

Every summer I write songs while I'm in Hawaii and I did this one this year. I will post the music on my myspace music page soon. It's a little controversial, but it's the way I feel about how things are going there... more cars, more development, more conspicuous consumption.


Is that the sound of the surf
Or the noise of the cars?
The lights of the city
Obliterate the stars.
O Hawaii, what are you doing to yourself?

There's more and more for the rich
And less and less for the poor
Is the almighty dollar
Gonna be the only thing that's sure?
Oh Hawaii, What are you doing to yourself?

Pele would cry
And Queen Liliou would too.
Oh stop before it's too late
Oh Hawaii, Oh Hawaii
I'm so blue over you Hawaii.

Is paradise found
Gonna be paradise lost?
Are your land and your people
Going to pay the ultimate cost
Oh Hawaii,what are you doing to yourself?

If the law of the land
Is perpetuated in righteousness
Then it's time to be righteous
It's time for us to stop this mess
Hawaii, what are you doing to yourself?

Pele would cry
And Queen Liliou would too
Oh stop before it's too late
Oh Hawaii, Hawaii, Oh Hawaii
I'm so blue over you
I'm so blue over you
I'm so blue over you

Monday, August 6, 2007


Hawaii Opera Theatre uses its summer show to introduce new audiences to the company and to build bridges into the community. It is a real asset to them.

After the final performance at Hawaii Opera, everyone sings Aloha oe onstage. After so many years and so many wonderful friends here, it is actually too hard to participate in...

Back home to Memphis tomorrow!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Last performance this afternoon

4th and 5th shows

The Friday night and Saturday afternoon shows went well. The Saturday afternoon show was promoted as a family performance so the vibe was a little different--less clapping until the very end.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Old Hawaiian Farmers

Fred Cachola's presentation emphasized Kamehameha's skill in logistics, including building heiau and large military operations. Kam I was also good at feeding his people. These furrows, visible near the end of the day in the mountains of Kohala are what is left of large farming operations which supplied things like sweet potatos.

Kohala Coast

For the most part the Kohala coast line is rugged, with few beaches or harbors. It has an isolated beauty that hopefully will not be ruined by overdevelopment.


The native plants at Lapakahi State Park are suffering because the earthquake last year cut off their water supply. Water is being trucked in but some of the plants don't like chorine. All of the lauhala trees looked a little droopy while we were there. This variety has magnificent bark.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Today, we visited the Pu'ukohola Heiau, a sacred temple that was built by Kamehameha the great. It was one way he consolidated his mana on his way uniting the islands under his rule at the end of the 18th century. Some parts of the site were damaged by an earthquake last summer.

We also went to Lapakahi State Park, which is the site of a former Hawaiian fishing village.

We also visited Kamehameha's Birthplace is in a remote spot near Hawi. It is down a dirt road from the tiny Upulo Airport. It is very odd that the birthplace of Hawaii's most revered monarch is so inaccessable. The two birthing stones are revered objects.

Kohala Bound

It is an honor to be taken on a tour of Kohala (the northernmost part of the Big Island of Hawaii) by Fred Cachola. Fred is a longtime member of the HOT ensemble and has been in every show that I have conducted in Honolulu. Fred was born and raised in Kohala and is particularly active in Hawaiian affairs. For example, when we got to the visitor center at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park I found out he was one of the people who was instrumental in the creation of the park, which houses restored fishponds that were created by the Hawaiians. The park also has some extraordinary petroglyphs, including this one of a European ship.

Fred is still involved in Kohala, where is currently building a house. Fred has been part of the campaign to keep the Kohala coastline from being overdeveloped and turned into gated communities. My "tour" coincided with a chance for Fred to pass some of his knowledge on to his grandson and to be on-camera for a distance learning class being created by the Kamehameha Schools.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Three Down, three to go

The Saturday and Sunday performances were stronger than opening and the audience response has been good. This is the chorus with some of the Tahitian dancers.

Elvis in Honolulu

This is a new statue of "The King" that has been put up this week outside the Blaisdell Center where Elvis played in the seventies. South Pacific is in the concert hall in the same complex.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

An Opera Memphis Aside--Arthur Espiritu to make La Scala Debut

Tenor Arthur Espiritu was scheduled to appear twice in Opera Memphis' 2007-2008 season, first as Pang in TURANDOT and then as Prince Ramiro in CENERENTOLA on April 5, 6, 2008. But La Scala called. Actually, Espiritu made it to the final round this summer at the Belvedere Competition, an international competition for promising singers in Vienna. After one of the competition rounds, a representative of the famed Italian opera house approached him and they planned to fly him to Milan the next day for a stage audition. "I had to find a music store in Vienna and buy a score to COSI FAN TUTTE for sixty Euros. I had covered the role at the Pittsburgh Opera, but had to study hard, because they wanted to hear the arias and some recitative." The audition panel was a distinguished one, including Mirella Freni, Teresa Berganza, and Luigi Alva. As a result, Arthur will get eight performances of Ferrando, four at La Scala and four at the associated Teatro Piccolo. In order to do this, Opera Memphis has had to release Arthur from his contract to sing one of the councillors, Pang, in TURANDOT. But his La Scala debut is sure to raise the interest level of our audience when he comes to Memphis in March/April to sing in LA CENERENTOLA.

This exciting debut is a bright spot for Arthur, whose family home in Chalmette, Louisiana was destroyed by hurricane Katrina. Arthur lived in New Orleans for sixteen years, but does not anticipate being able to move back there. He currently resides in Phoenix.

A successful opening

Opening performance--enthusiastic audience. It was, I think, a relief for the performers to be able to deliver their dialogue in front of an audience.

Over at the Honolulu Advertiser site, there is an article about the show by Wayne Harada.
The article focuses on Marlene Sai, our Bloody Mary. Since being discovered by Don Ho at eighteen, Marlene has had a full and storied career here as singer and actress.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Final Dress

Last night's final dress went well. The audience was responsive and most of the balance issues have been fixed.

These are mountain apples, which look like apples, but actually have the texture and look of very mild pears. They say they are too fragile to be commercialized.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pacific Aviation Museum

Today's focus was an evening event at the Pacific Aviation Museum. The World War II era planes made a great backdrop to talk about the show.

My brief speech was about "Some Enchanted Evening" which was a number one hit in 1949 for Perry Como and was also recorded by Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Ezio Pinza--all in the same year. Alas, big hits do not come out of Broadway any more, let alone opera.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Orchestra Dress #1

Last night we had the first orchestra dress rehearsal. There were some challenges with the balances between pit and stage, in finding a level of sound enhancement that is true to an "acoustical" feel vs. a canned, miked one. Connie, the harpist, came in from a visit to the mainland and despite having missed the first two rehearsals, and fighting looming jet lag, she did a near perfect job.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Piano Dress Rehearsal

Today we had our first rehearsal with costumes. It was a very smooth one--no train wrecks. We also had an orchestra rehearsal with singers, so it was a long day. As you can see, it is going to be a good show. I actually took these photos from the orchestra pit during the run through.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Orchestra Reading

Yesterday we had our first orchestra reading. Norman Foster, who is the first clarinetist, makes musical cards. Here's the link.

He also write fun piano rags with names like Ginkgo Leaf Rag.

South Pacific requires flute and piccolo, oboe and english horn, two clarinets, bassoon, three french horns, three trumpets, two trombones, tuba, percussion and drum set, harp and strings.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


After speculating that this delicacy was not available in Hawaii, I ran into balut (fertilized duck eggs) at a local market. The lady explained that you should boil them for thirty to forty minutes and after she sized me up, she said, "you should cook them forty minutes."

Several of us tried these after rehearsal. The taste was a combination of hard boiled egg yoke and liver--definitely rich. The texture was a bit acquired...

Several of our Filipino colleagues in the ensemble said that even they weren't willing to give balut a try, in spite of it being a national delicacy in the Philippines.

Tailgates: Parking Lot Luaus

One of the truly wonderful things about Hawaii Opera is the community created by the chorus which tailgates after every rehearsal. The tailgates get larger and larger and by the time we reach the performances they become full scale parking lot luaus. This is actually a picture from a tailgate after THE MIKADO a few years back.

Cluelessly Classical

Clueless classical musician that I am, I would not have known about Dog the Bounty Hunter were it not for my enthusiastic Opera Memphis colleague, Michelle. Thanks for keeping me au courant on a bit of popular culture, Michelle!