What is Opera, Alex?

We here at Bizarro Twins are huge Jeopardy fans, and always relish the rare opera or comic-themed categories, but opera has burst onto America’s favorite trivia show in a surprising way recently…

If you’ve been watching, the current Jeopardy champ is Elliot Yates from New York, and he’s introduced as an opera producer which is exciting enough on its own…  But in his second chat with host Alex Trebek he talked about a new opera he’s working on about Truman Capote!  Unfortunately, my Googling is not turning up much concrete information about this project, but as always, I’m excited to hear about new operas, no matter how far in the future they may be!

Capote is obviously known as a writer of prose, from short stories to novels to non-fiction, but he did write the book for one musical: 1954’s House of Flowers, about rival bordellos in Haiti…  cheery, I guess.  With music by Harold Arlen, the most enduring song is probably A Sleepin’ Bee, sung here by Diahann Carroll, a member of the original Broadway cast.

Funnily enough, this song was also sung by Barbra Streisand seven years later on her first appearance on American national television, on The Jack Paar Show in 1961:

Now, another interesting tidbit about this forthcoming Truman Capote opera is the fact that Capote’s distinctive voice will be portrayed by a countertenor.  On hearing this, Alex Trebek referenced the British singer Alfred Deller who helped revive the use of the countertenor voice in the mid 20th century.  So now I like Alex even more than before!  Here is Deller singing an Elizabethan love song by Thomas Campion, accompanied on lute as he was wont to be…

All around, not a bad day for opera on national television…

A Week of Free Early Music

Early Music Festival NYC LogoGreat news for early music fans like myself!

Starting tomorrow is the Early Music Festival NYC, with multiple free concerts a day in venues across the city between Friday the 13th and Thursday the 19th.

The schedule and programs are listed on their site for your planning pleasure (though really, how wrong could you go?), and the Festival gets off to a big start tomorrow with cellist Paul Dwyer performing all six of J.S. Bach‘s Cello Suites in five venues across all five of New York’s boroughs!

There are also quite a few vocal concerts in the line up, including…

No shortage of offerings as you can see!  And that’s not counting many other purely instrumental concerts!  So hope you enjoy!

PS: Sorry for my long absence from the blog!  I sorta let it go as I was on the job hunt but realized it might be a good thing to keep going when it was brought up during one of my interviews!  The comic / opera theme seemed to amuse people, haha…


Midsummer at 7:30

Tonight’s season premiere performance of Britten‘s 1960 opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Met Opera will be live streamed on their website tonight at 7:25.  Here’s the full schedule of streaming performances for the rest of the season.

Here’s an excerpt from the Liceu in Barcelona, featuring David Daniels as Oberon, King of the Fairies (teehee):

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7m-mmnV4VQ&w=350&h=300]

Incoronation Week

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_isL0E-4TsQ&w=350&h=300]

Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble in New York, dedicated to giving student performers a bridge from school to professional productions, is presenting Claudio Monteverdi‘s 1643 opera L’incoronazione di Poppea this week through Saturday.

Above you can see Philippe JarouskkyDanielle de Niese duetting it up in a production from the Teatro Real Madrid.  And at this other, full length YouTube video, you can see a 1993 performance from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Italy, including Anna Caterina Antonacci and Jennifer Larmore.  Enjoy it while it lasts!

Romanian Opera Power Couple

pictures of Angela Gheorghiu & Cezar Ouatu

Angela Gheorghiu & Cezar Ouatu

Remember when I ironically posted about EuroVision and their crazy Romanian vampire countertenor?  Well joke’s on me, cuz Florin Cezar Ouatu (aka Cezar the Voice) has entrenched himself into the operatic world by somehow becoming Mr. Gheorghiu.  Yeah, that Gheorghiu.

Internationally renowned, diva-tastic Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu has apparently been a champion of Cezar‘s since the start, introducing him on Romanian TV back in December of 2012:

And now that they’re the out & proud new Romanian opera power couple, they went back on Romanian TV to sing La Barcarolle, famous duet from Offenbach‘s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, with the traditionally mezzo part taken on by Cezar.

Hats off to you Cezar, you’re really set for life now.

Hymn to Daylight Savings Time

Akhenaten ancient Egyptian relief

Akhenaten and family adoring the Sun.

Operabase just alerted me to the fact that Philip Glass‘ first opera, Akhnaten, premiered in Stuttgart 29 years ago today.  Here is British countertenor Paul Esswood, who originated the song singing the Hymn to the Sun (with Daylight Savings Time, I’m feeling pretty grateful for all this additional sun too).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0DkPUyOOfE&w=350&h=300]

EDIT: The sculptures in the video are the Tolerance Statues by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, located in Houston, Texas.

The last in his “portrait trilogy” of operas, the other two dedicated to Einstein and Gandhi, it was inspired by the life of Egyptian pharoah Akhenaten (given name Amenhotep IV) who reigned during the mid 14th century, BC.  He is notable these days for moving away from polytheism to a monotheism (with him as the god, natch) and being married to stone cold fox Nefertiti.

Mission to Mission

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g7Yr52t12w&w=350&h=300]

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…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDtxRzosEpw&w=350&h=300]

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

Countertenor Heartthrob

OMG.  My opera crush, countertenor Iestyn Davies, answers five questions on Opera News‘ Take 5 video series.  I’m obviously not his sole admirer as this spotlight article in Details calls him a “heartthrob to both sexes”, aw yeah.

Here is just a small sample from his world premiere recording of Nicola Porpora‘s cantatas for HRH Frederick, Prince of WalesSwoon

As You Sleep, You Stir Up Love

A whole slew of “good night” arias to lull you to sleep…  These are all from settings of Metastasio‘s libretto for L’Olimpiade, set by more than 60 composers!

First off, Italian contralto Sara Mingardo sings Vivaldi‘s take, followed by Caldara, for whom the libretto was written in the first place; noted French countertenor Philippe Jaroussky sings here.


Finally, Pergolesi‘s version, sung by German soprano Simone Kermes.  With all these settings of a single text laying around, it was really genius of Naive Records to create a pastiche, uniting arias by different composers to showcase the range of interpretations.  But it’s also interesting to hear different takes on the same aria, no?  Here’s a review of Naive‘s recording, and a behind-the-scenes video too: