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

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.