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.