This is the streaming opera for you to attend! Fun and beautiful!

Here's a great new thing for you to try in 2015!

The Merry Widow is an operetta, which means the story and music are light-hearted and quickly paced. This production is sung in English (for operas in other languages, subtitles are provided,) the principal roles are played by two Americans; Renee Fleming and Nathan Gunn, who portray middle-aged people getting a second chance at love, and it also features a Broadway musical star, Kelli O’Hara. The staging, costumes, and sets were all created by Broadway veterans, as well. There are dancers and dancing; more than you will see in most operas, more dialogue than in a typical opera in which all or nearly all of the story is sung, and there are also plenty of laughs.

You can check to find which movie theaters near you are showing The Merry Widow, either streaming live on Saturday afternoon, January 17, or as an encore the following Wednesday evening. Tickets most places are $22 and $20, and it is well worth it. You’ll see varying camera views, close-ups, behind scene staging, and interviews with the stars, as well as have a few minutes to step out between acts. After the first act finishes, the hostess will speak to a couple people, then you’ll see a countdown time (something like 10 minutes) on screen letting you know how much time is left to step out. At that time, a camera will follow backstage action. But after the countdown, there will be another interview or another peek backstage, and/or a preview for upcoming attractions before the next act begins, and then a similar pattern is followed between the second and third acts. The whole thing including intermissions should take about 2.5 hours.

 This is a ten minute video with discussions on the production, sets, and costumes, and excerpts from rehearsals, and I think it will make you want to go.

And here you can watch Fleming and O’Hara sing “Silver Bells” together.

My Opera Era

This is mainly just for me to have a good set of lists. But you can have a look. I dabbled in opera interest for many years, but mostly just listening, occasionally looking in on a TV broadcast. Then I moved to Cincinnati in 2011, and by the next year, realized I could now afford to see the Met Live in HD transmissions. Weird to have lived so close for 11 years without being able to go. But such is often the way of things on the east coast. Then at the end of 2012 right after my first one, Otello, I saw two movies that drove me to take it all more seriously: Quartet, and Amour (better if you, like me, know little about it going in.) Only I don’t go all in swiftly on much these days; I have to work up to it.

So anyway, now that’s the plan for 2015; heavier opera immersion. And here are some lists. There’s overlap, but I didn’t repeat them. I mean, I’ve seen a few of them more than once from different sources, and I’ve listened to some without seeing them, others I’ve both listened to and seen. I just added where I’ve seen some since 2012, and also didn’t add who the principals were, because that’s better as a whole separate list. I am learning about the styles I like and who sings in them.

By the way. I love the Met Live in HD transmissions for several reasons. First, there are multiple cameras, so we get to see several points of view, inside the orchestra pit, and lots of close-ups. Between acts there are interviews with performers and production people, and a look at the stage being set for each scene. And it’s in a movie theater with 10-20 other people who are delighted to be there. At least where I live; there might be more in other places!

Operas I have watched:

1786 Le nozze di Figaro Mozart (Met Live in HD 2014)
1790 Cosi fan tutte Mozart (Met Live in HD 2014)
1816 Il barbiere di Siviglia Rossini (Met Live in HD 2014)
1817 La Cenerentola Rossini (Met Live in HD 2014)
1847 Macbeth Verdi (Met Live in HD 2014)
1851 Rigoletto Verdi (Met Live in HD 2013)
1887 Otello Verdi (Met Live in HD 2012)
1893 Falstaff Verdi (Met Live in HD 2013)
1859 Faust Gounod
1868 Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Wagner (Met Live in HD 2014)
1870 Die Walküre Wagner
1876 Siegfrid Wagner
1876 Götterdämmerung Wagner
1882 Parsifal Wagner (Met Live in HD 2013)
1875 Carmen Bizet (Cincinnati Opera live 2014)
1879 Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky (Met Live in HD 2013)
1892 Pagliacci Leoncavallo
1892 Werther Massenet (Met Live in HD 2014)
1896 La bohème Puccini (Met Live in HD 2014)
1900 Tosca Puccini (Met Live in HD 2013)
1904 Madama Butterfly Puccini (Cincinnati Opera live 2014)
1901 Rusalka Dvořák (Met Live in HD 2014)
1929 The Nose Shostakovich (Met Live in HD 2013)

Other operas I have listened to in full:

1791 Die Zauberflöte Mozart
1805 Fidelio Beethoven
1853 La traviata Verdi
1865 Tristan und Isolde Wagner
1869 Das Rheingold Wagner
1893 Manon Lescaut Puccini

Operas I plan to watch in 2015:
(Met Live in HD; will be added to when the new season is announced)
The Merry Widow Lehàr 1905 (Planning a separate post soon for this because you should go, too.)
Les Contes d’Hoffman Offenbach 1881
Iolanta Tchaikovsky 1892
Bluebeard’s Castle Bartok 1918
La Donna del Lago Rossini 1819
Cavalleria Rusticana Mascagni 1890
Pagliacci Leoncavallo 1892

(Cincinnati Opera if I save well for it, otherwise I’ll find another way to hear or see them)
Il Trovatore Verdi 1853
Don Pasquale Donizetti 1843

(Other sources via recommendations; this is a repeat of the “have listened to” list, for now.)
1791 Die Zauberflöte Mozart
1805 Fidelio Beethoven
1853 La traviata Verdi
1865 Tristan und Isolde Wagner
1869 Das Rheingold Wagner
1893 Manon Lescaut Puccini

I want to start with those, because I am familiar with the music. After that, I will move on to find recommended singers and performances.

Opera, relevance, art, censorship

I rarely cry "censorship." But I will in this case, because I believe the pressure that led to this decision is causing exactly that. Here are posts I made in other spots, with their links, collated in this spot.

Met Opera Cancels Simulcast of Klinghoffer. This is disappointing and alarming. I think the following comment excerpt says it best,

The suggestion that composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman have in essence written an anti-Semitic opera is profoundly libellous. Furthermore, their critics are trying to silence them without letting others judge. The excuses made by those involved in cancelling the simulcasts ("I don't believe this is anti-Semitic, but it could inflame anti-Semitism") are illogical, hypocritical and craven. Thanks, Metropolitan Opera, for making sure I can't see an opera because three people and some rich donors don't want me to.

I like what I've heard of John Adams' work so far (it is "different,") and was looking forward to seeing something contemporary and challenging this fall.

The Death of Klinghoffer: if John Adams's opera isn't antisemitic, how can it fan antisemitism?

Here on the east side of Cincinnati, me and the twenty old people who attend these things are being done a disservice, for an illogical purpose that sure sounds like it must have money talking behind it. Not our $22.50 apiece, though.

Here's a 2012 interview with the librettist.

And a review of the 2012 London production.

A YouTube argument for every single thing ever, there is.

Me, I'd have quibbled more about the choreography than the extra note at the end, could I be made to care about that.

The bits in Italian in these screen shots range from "Eh, it's been a lot worse," to "it's just that the recording is bad," to "if it was an unknown singer, he'd be booed instead of praise." In other words, same old thing.

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Sunday: serendipity, I guess

What I mean is, not really serendipity unless perhaps...but that's for a later paragraph. I mean...a collection of this and that, from the past few days.

Last night I bought two tickets to see the Cincinnati Opera perform Carmen next month. I'm going to take my son who is nearly 16, and here's why. He is the least interested in music of anyone I've ever known. In our large family, that's a considerable thing to behold, because the rest of us are pretty much fully immersed in music all of the time. He never actively chooses to listen to some. Ever. He can't name a band or style he likes, because he doesn't know any.

And yet. He often has a tune in his head, going around humming, and it's usually orchestral. If you asked him about it, he'd seem unaware. But once in awhile he'll hum something and wish to know what it is, and it'll turn out to be from a movie soundtrack or an old symphony excerpted in a cartoon like Family Guy or The Simpsons.

I believe he will like the spectacle of live music performed this way, especially music with which he has real familiarity, partly because I'm inclined to wake them by singing in a shouty falsetto voice, "L'amour est enfant de Boheme," and partly because bits of it show up in all kinds of things. And of course, it's a torrid story, with lots of chaos and carrying on. TheronMuch too tall to someday be someone's opera boyfriend, besides the fact that none of us has ever heard him sing.

The opera is pretty expensive. I buy half price ticket packages to the symphony, so I was not thrilled with the amount, but these things do cost a lot to put on. For the symphony, I sit way up high in the gallery in section Q, which is right in the center, and it's a great view of the orchestra. Also, the people around me tend to be there for the music, rather than to Attend the Symphony. I entertained the idea of sitting up there with the boy for Carmen, and had an amusing moment or two imagining a Cincinnati version of the loggionisti, up there hollering at the tenor for flubbing a phrase, and throwing cold Belgian waffles or whatever, but that's probably not going to happen. Still, the people will appear tiny on stage from the upper gallery, so I opted for the next level down, not quite in the center, for $20 more per seat. We should be just below the view on the left side in this photo.

I get it about purists, but not really. Innovation is all that will save opera. Nothing has to be all or nothing at all; it can be what it is and still move with the times.

Oh! About the serendipity. Exactly
If you saw that clue and thought to yourself, "What's 4 divided by 15?" We need to meet because we are probably soul mates. Unless you're in an institution which allows only monthly visitors.

There was more to this, or meant to be, but I'll save it for another time.

Every little thing the Reflex does

God (or Bob, if you prefer, but I'm closely related to one of those,) help me when this song pops into my head, which it does with magnificently awful regularity. It's like a stand-in, when nothing else is going on in there. I don't hate "The Reflex" or anything; prefer post-2004 Duran Duran, but we can all make our peace with the loudest part of the mid-80s if we just set our minds to it.

And this is the sort of thing which denotes why I'll never have a huge blog following. With that, too, I have made peace.

I've been enjoying my Typepad home again quite a lot since I cleaned out the closets here. It feels fresh and welcoming again. I added a new page you can look at, but won't be sharing links from it often; it's just big pictures I take or arrange to capture a thought or a moment. Visual haiku. I tend to use the supplementary pages in seasons or spells, so right now I aim to have at least a weekly update on the garden one. You could look at it this way: this page is the main area where I offer your coffee or a cocktail, because I always have a room in my house just for that purpose, even though I never have any real live friends to put in it. I have the albums in here, and some interesting books and old magazines to look at. Sometimes we talk about what's going on in the world right now.

But then once in awhile we go back to the living room to watch an old movie, or I feed you (because I really like feeding people) while fussing a bit in the kitchen. Now and then we head straight for the deck to watch the light glint across the pool or pick some cherry tomatoes or flowers.

And that's this blog with its four side pages, linked at the top.

I have the house to myself all afternoon, and if I hadn't been fairly useless the past couple of days, I'd add tiny flowers to this canvas I painted years ago in a fit of black anger. I have never since that time bought black paint, because if you don't have it, you can't use it, can you? And it's better to mix the right dark, anyway. However, the main floor is starting to sulk from lack of attention, and the chicken in the refrigerator won't fry itself, so all that comes first. And therefore, I'm determined to listen to some good music while attending to it all, so that "The Reflex" is banished from the old thinking pan for a few days, at least.

Last weekend, I saw La Cenerentola, again alone because of timing, and it was wonderful and so disappointing. Here is a screenshot of how one of the interviews looked; I found it online. Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 7.24.31 PMThat's Deborah Voigt speaking with the stars, Joyce DiDinato and Juan Diego Flórez. This was Ms DiDinato's final performance in the role, for which she is well-known. And she was beautiful to hear. He was excellent. However, this is how we saw the entire thing at Milford 16:

MilfordviewIt was just awful to watch; the entire performance rendered so, and nothing the technician could do would fix it. We were in a different theater than usual, and somehow that must have been the key to the trouble. But they didn't offer a partial refund or discount or anything to me and the half dozen elderly in the audience. And it's too bad, because if they had, I'd have returned on Wednesday to see it again and see who else was in the audience...

And for some reason, this is now the song floating through my head, and I can now go make peace with all the rest of the day.  

Night at the opera

The Met Live in HD streaming performance of Così fan tutte had its encore Wednesday night, and all the cool kids were there. The cool kids were: a couple sitting in the row in front of me who were old enough that they probably call themselves old, and a man sitting several rows behind me who was...five-ten years older than me. Well, and me. I was wearing light grey ankle cropped pants with a sleeveless drape top in white, red, and black print, and my black two piece flat shoes.

That was it. There are usually a couple dozen people who attend the live stream on Saturday afternoon, but I was unable to do so. And clearly that isn't the cool crowd.

As I was attending this one alone, I left home early enough to get a snack and settle in before the lights went down. One of the pleasures of being me is that I am always on time without ever being in a hurry. But I should have prepared better for the snack. My choices were the movie theater nachos, hot dogs, pizza or popcorn, or Wendy's, or Target. Normally I'd have chosen something from Target, however, protein was calling my name, and I went into Wendy's for a spicy chicken sandwich.

I'm glad I went inside to order it instead of using the drive-thru. First, if you say no lettuce or mayo, keep the tomato, add onion and pickle, without looking someone directly in the eyes, you don't have any idea what you might get. But second, the people in front of me. Two women and a man. The older woman was fumbling through her order, trying to remember what she likes and how it comes, and the man was coaxing her along. It was interesting to watch. She was tall, with grey hair, and a firm but gentle countenance. The other woman was short and had dyed black hair, and was wearing a considerable amount of makeup; the snowbird variety. The man was...every man around age 70. Pleasant. After I ordered, we were all waiting together, and the older woman took a french fry off the partially assembled tray. He told her, "You just stole that woman's french fries. Those are hers." And then he had to repeat himself so she heard.

She was so astonished, I had to tell her they weren't mine, because I didn't order french fries. Then I apologized to him for ruining the joke. Chuckles all around. They were chuckles because it was a group thing; combined age of the four of us outstripping everyone in the building. But I brought the average down more than I realized, as the tiny woman told me, "Can you believe it? She's going to be 80 soon." Well, I couldn't believe it if I hadn't heard her try to order. She hardly looked 70, and that's not just me getting older. The nearly 80 year-old said, "Well, she's nearly 69." They were all happy about this, so I said, "I think you both look terrific." The younger one said, "She sure does; she doesn't look 80."

And then they took their trays as the man said something about eating there every Wednesday. And okay, these two women looked the same age, but they both looked about 65. So that was nice.

The self-serve kiosks at the theater were not working! Nor was anyone at the ticket sales area. Tickets were being sold by the manager at customer service. Benefit of this was that he knew to hand me the printed program notes, and pointed out I saved a couple dollars by coming to the encore. I sat in the first full row of the main section of seats, with the small old couple in the forward row where there's room for wheelchairs and things. Renee Fleming did the introductions, and that's good; I like her hosting best. Just as the lights went down, the other man came in and sat near the back.

The duets and sextets were basically perfect, and also as we watched Levine direct the overture, it was easy to see how much he loves it and knows it. And I really liked the set design; it was simple but not too stark, no long fussy interruptions, and the singers interacted with it all organically, which sometimes added to the comedy, but wasn't distracting. It felt young and light, which I appreciated. It was not what you'd call perfect overall, just good to listen to, and very entertaining. The arias in Così are mostly simple to follow, yet quite engaging. Mozarty. Also, I am now a fan of the enchanting Danielle de Niese. I hope to see her in something again soon.

During the second act, the old couple moved down to the back row of the front section of seats. I felt adrift at first, but I didn't take it personally. However, the man several rows back, whose appearance I did not notice as tall and sharp with a good profile, suddenly began enjoying himself immensely. He laughed aloud at least a dozen times, at actual funny moments, so that wasn't annoying, plus, he had a very pleasurable laugh to hear. At one point he left for a minute, and when he returned, I did not notice the shirt he was wearing as he passed by.

At the end, the old couple stood to leave before the bows, and he waved, first to me, so I waved in return, and then he waved to the man in the back. This delighted me. I had the sudden sense that we really had all been watching it together somehow, one of those energy in the air things you get, like at an extra innings baseball game.  So then the two of us were in the theater together, watching the curtain calls like we were watching for Robert Downey Jr. to dig into his chicken shawarma.

And so naturally, I called a kid on the phone the moment I stood up, and had a conversation with him all the way to the car, in front of the tall man with the pleasant laugh who got into a four door Acura in the row across from me. He might have had very nice grey hair, cut just as I like hair to be cut on a man, but I didn't notice.