Bernstein Centennial forthcoming

I’ve repeatedly mentioned how this year has been a big one for operatic anniversaries;  bicentennials of Verdi and Wagner and a centennial for Britten (born on St. Cecelia‘s Day, appropriately enough!).  Well, some people are gearing up for another centennial five years in advance…


Leonard Bernstein was born in 1918, and the Leonard Bernstein Office in New York is now fielding submissions for a logo for his centennial.  Information on competition guidelines are here, and the last day to submit is January 31st, 2013.  Any creative followers out there get cracking!  And definitely share your submissions with us!

(PS: If you came through Facebook, the photo of Bernstein appearing in that status update is by Jack Mitchell; credit where it’s due!)

Talent Put to Good Use!

Wasted Talent job searchCopyright Angela Melick

Ironically, when I first blogged about Angela Melick‘s adorably chipper autobio webcomic Wasted Talent, that day’s update informed us she’d just lost her job…  But luckily, her latest “informational update” shows the successful fruits of the job search, so all is well again!

I’m trying to apply to jobs and internships for next semester en masse right about now, so I can relate to the frustration of the job search…  Another inspiring thing about Melick to me is that she has these really intense-sounding engineering jobs, but still makes time for her comics.  Gives me hope that I can juggle some sorta librarian position with art someday myself…


To follow today’s Studio YOLO post, let’s have anothervariations on a theme“-themed day.

The Prix de Rome was an annual award for French artists to study in Rome for a year first set up by Louis XIV in 1663(!), though the award for composition only started in 1803, lasting 165 years until 1968.  One of the tests for applicants was to set a chosen text to music.


I first learned about these Prix de Rome cantatas through Berlioz, who created 4 such cantatas before finally winning a joint award in 1830 with a score he later destroyed.  La Mort de Cleopatre is the most popular of these cantatas nowadays, even though no first prize was awarded that year; it’s sung above by soparno Dame Gwyneth Jones.  Naxos has a CD with all four of these cantatas, available here

I was having a hard time finding multiple setting of any one text until I finally found two records of two settings of the 1901 text, Myrrha.  First off is the winning composition by someone totally new to me, André Caplet, available on another Naxos CD of Prix de Rome cantatas by Caplet, Ravel, and Debussy, all part of the same turn-of-the-century artistic milieu.

Ironically, the third place winner is much better known these days…  Here is part of Maurice Ravel‘s setting of the same text, and a link to a second part.


Reading lists of art award recipients years after the fact is always interesting…  Makes you wonder how good time is at weeding out artists and how many people are unfairly neglected…  I guess that’s why I like musical archaeology, rediscovering forgotten artists and fleshing out our understanding of their time period…  ANYWAY.  Enjoy your Sunday!

Studio YOLO Strikes Back

Meghan Lands Studio Yolo "A Professional"Copyright Meghan Lands

Remember when I talked about Dean Haspiel‘s 3-week comics residency in Florida and the group exercise of everyone making a comic based on the same text?  No?  Well, here’s the original blog post, so catch up!

George Jurard for Studio YOLO Copyright George Jurard

Turns out all the artists involved in that original workshop liked the original exercise enough to keep it going online in the form of Studio YOLO (You Only Live Once, natch).  Each month a different member of the collective (George Jurard this time) posts a short text for other members to adapt.  They’ve done one new comic so far, and the good news is that we can join in on the fun too!  Simple instructions on submitting your own versions are here, and next month’s text is up already, so get crackin’!

Unknown Artist? Studio YOLO "A Professional"I don’t know who did this one, but it’s great too!

ROH Robert Live

Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable from the Royal Opera House, on BBC Radio 3

I love it when BBC Radio 3 features really obscure operas, so this live stream of a performance of Giacomo Meyerbeer‘s 1831 Robert le Diable really hits the spot; after all, it’s been 120 years since it was performed at the Royal Opera House.


Meyerbeer is very foreign to me, but in his time he was hugely popular and important, helping to usher in the tradition of Grand Opera.  Popular as he was, his works have diminished dramatically in frequency owing largely to the high demands (vocal, theatrical, financial) they place on singers and opera companies.  Also, based on the pretty negative reviews so far, it looks like Meyerbeer‘s style may not have aged very well as dramatic entertainment…  So might be for the best we’ll just be listening to his tunes!

Today’s performance is live from the ROH at 5:45pm London time, or 12:45 New York time, and it’ll be up for a week afterwards.  Just click on the link at top.

Degas "Ballet of the Nuns" from Robert le DiableBy Edgar Degas, showing the famous Ballet of (dead) Nuns from Robert le Diable

For a more permanent Robert resource, we can always turn to Opera Today, who have the full streaming 1985 Paris Opera performance that the above video, with American bass Samuel Ramey, comes from:

Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable from Paris Opera, on Opera Today

American Elf go Boum

In autobio webcomic news, James Kochalka is apparently going to quit his 14-year running daily diary comic American Elf?  The end of an era friends…

American Elf 12-7-2012Copyright James Kochalka

… And French-Canadian cartoonist Boum (aka Samantha Leriche-Gionet) is pregnant! She occasionally documents that experience on her diary webcomic Boumeries  (when she’s not busy dreaming about toilets).  There’s a pregnancy tag, so you can catch up on the process so far.

Boumeries 11-23-2012Copyright Boum

Boum also just put out an unrelated dystopian comic, La Petite Révolution, put out by Front Froid, purveyors of fine Québécois bandes dessinées; English translation forthcoming, but a good gift idea for your favorite French-speaker in the meantime?  You can buy it here.  Here’s a video trailer:

Neat, no?  Like a cartoonier Paul Pope somehow…

Strange Anniversary Bedfellows

Sorry for the prolonged absence!  Really done with classes now, so hope to get back in the swing of things…

I’ve been digging around Operabase‘s statistic and anniversary watch features lately, and good thing too since I learned of this notable double feature anniversary today…  Premiering just 7 years apart Puccini‘s 1918 Il Trittico and Berg‘s 1925 Wozzeck are nonetheless worlds apart stylistically; old-school Italian verismo versus Berg‘s cutting-edge atonal, expressionist opera.

Il Trittico premiered here in New York at the Metropolitan Opera and is actually made up of three one-act operas: Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi, the latter being the most popular nowadays, though Suor Angelica was apparently Puccini’s favorite.   To celebrate, here is a (incomplete?) performance from the state conservatory of Yerevan, Armenia, because it’s the randomest:

Berg, as a pupil of Schoenberg‘s, adapted his 12-tone compositional technique for his first opera Wozzeck about a man’s descent into madness and murder, driven by jealousy.  Not too far off thematically from certain verismo works, but told in a much more jarring way…  Here’s an amazing movie version of Wozzeck from Hamburg State Opera in 1970.  It is in full on Youtube somehow, but if you like it (and what’s not to like), consider buying it through Naxos (a nice little stuffing stocker perhaps?).

This may seem like a weird duo, but Madrid’s Teatro Real did put on a  Suor Angelica / Il Priggionero double-bill (video trailer at link) last month, so not too far off…

Mission to Mission


Cecilia Bartoli is a world-renowned mezzo-soprano who’s also a big champion of musical archaeology, digging through and rediscovering forgotten Baroque opera, as evidenced by her 2009 compilation CD Sacrificium, covering music for castrati by a range of more obscure composers.

Her latest release, Mission, covers the music of one composer, Agostino Steffani, and wraps the package up in a deeper investigation of the man behind the music, investigating his roles as an ecclesiastic and diplomat.  In fact, the CD is being released with a book exploring this history and even inspired a mystery novel to be released concurrently!  Bartoli obviously inspires a lot of confidence in the music industry…


(You can see how they’re pushing the history in this trailer for the CD.)

So Much Clemency

Maybe I spoke too soon about being off the hook for finals, but regardless, tonight I’m taking a little break at the Met Opera listening to some Mozart, his 1791 La Clemenza di Tito to be precise.  Luckily, you can listen along thanks to Opera Today, who comes to the rescue with three recordings of live performances of La Clemenza from throughout the ages…

Mezzo Elina Garanča looking great in drag in the Met‘s production as Sesto, a role written for a castrato.

Here’s a 1955 performance from Köln, Germany, with Nicolai Gedda in the title role, followed by a 1976 performance from the Royal Opera House. with Janet Baker as Vitellia.  Lastly, for those who don’t like listening to Italian, you can hear a 2007 performance sung in English, courtesy of the English National Opera.

After Finals Catch Up

Hey all, sorry for my recent inactivity, I’ve been wrapping up my first semester of library science school.  I’m out of the woods now though, so back to blogging with some catching up to do!

This week’s BBC Radio 3 streaming opera is a classic, Donizetti‘s L’Elisir d’Amore from the Royal Opera House, up here through Saturday, when it’ll be replaced by Verdi‘s Un Ballo in Maschera coming from the Met Opera in New York.  You can also preview that Ballo live (again) tonight, at 7:25 here from the Met‘s own live-streaming website.

JIllian Tamaki Awago Beach Babies art

Shifting to comics, I missed this when I posted about Jillian Tamaki the other day; forget reverse, it’s full speed ahead for Tamaki as she works on a new book with her sister Mariko Tamaki, partner-in-crime for the 2008 Skim.  Also, over on her sketchblog Jillian muses on the difference between drawing and illustration and how it bears on former students who don’t make it as freelance illustrators:

Illustration is about fitting your conceptual and aesthetic style to a problem. There is a “solving” aspect to it. I find students either revel in this aspect or absolutely hate it. It can represent a brainteasing challenge or be completely oppressive, depending on your point of view. If you want to become a professional illustrator, it helps to be the former.

Also, you’ve probably already heard about the over-the-weekend sensation that is the Hawkweye Initiative, but if not, enjoy Hawkeye as you’ve never seen him before…