This Used to be a Fun Home

Fun Home musical poster

Fun Home musical poster

I’d read about this years ago and hadn’t heard about it again until today, but Alison Bechdel‘s graphic novel memoir Fun Home has been adapted into a musical by composer Jeanine Tesori and is now up at the Public Theater.  Don’t know how I missed the premiere a full year ago, but better late than never…  Here’s the latest New York Times review.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home, Copyright Alison Bechdel

Obviously Bechdel is (or maybe was, before Fun Home) best known for her long-running strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and Tesori is known for musicals like Violet and Caroline, or Change, though also for the Shrek musical and for scoring several Disney animated sequels and prequels…  Here’s a clip of the production of Violet at Endstation Theatre in Virginia:


In other Tesori news, the score of Caroline, or Change is now available to stream on Spotify!  Good preparation maybe…


Occupy San Diego Opera

San Diego Opera poster by R. Black

R. Black‘s posters for San Diego Opera‘s 2013 season

Sorta late on the bandwagon, but I’m loving San Diego Opera‘s posters for their 2013 season, created by a graphic artist more commonly associated with grassroots protest movements, R. Black.  An outside-the-box collaboration that proved fruitful!  There’s even a tenuous comics connection, since Dark Horse published a book of his work!

Back to the opera, SDO doesn’t seem to be the most adventurous house as a whole, but they did present two pretty unique operas this season…  One was Ildebrando Pizzetti‘s rarely heard 1958 Assassinio nella Cattedrale, based on T.S. Eliot‘s play on the 1170 assassination of Thomas Becket (aw yeah, medieval English history through an operatic Italian lens!).  The other was the world’s first mariachi opera, Cruzar la Cara de la Luna by José Pepe Martínez, director of Mariachi Vargas since 1975.

R. Black's posters for San Diego Opera

Both pretty rare, highly anticipated pieces, both wellreviewed.  Despite their rarity, it’s now possible to hear them both on Spotify!  Cruzar la Cara de la Luna was recorded at its Houston Grand Opera premiere, and the Pizzetti is represented by two recordings (I’d checked before, so these are new…).

Here’s the full first act  of the 1958 premiere performance of Assassinio nella Cattedrale from Spotify:

Easter(n) Cantata

Lou Harrison portrait

Lou Harrison, photo by Oscar White, 1973

Mixing things up for Easter with a 20th century composition for the occasion.


Lou Harrison‘s Easter Cantata opens with the Gamelan style chords he is most known for.  He certainly seems like an eccentric character (I mean, just look at that portrait!), and he has an interesting biography, with impressive connections to Schoenberg and Ives.  If you want to hear more, his one-act opera Rapunzel is up on Spotify:


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!

The Isle is Full of Noises…

Tonight I’ll be seeing the Met Opera premiere of Thomas AdèsThe Tempest!  I’m always curious about new opera, and though the Met hasn’t always had the most adventurous programming, I think they’ve been trying to branch out more lately.  Here are a few reviews of the Met production, and even a Met Opera dedicated minisite.

The premiere recording of The Tempest is actually up in full on Spotify, so if you don’t have Spotify yet, get on it!

And if you’re always looking out for the next big thing, it looks like Adès has a new opera in the works based on Buñuel‘s The Exterminating Angel!  Exciiiting…

Speaking of new opera, don’t miss your chance to see the full, world premiere performance of George Benjamin‘s Written on Skin; just a few days left, and it’s perfect for Halloween!  : )

Morning, Good Morning

Continuing my pattern of early morning wake-up songs, here’s one from Leonard Bernstein:

You’ll need Spotify to hear this, but it’s definitely worth getting.  It’s a free program that lets you stream full CDs of all kinds, including an amazing selection of classical & opera, so check it out if you like free music : )

I actually saw A Quiet Place at New York City Opera a few seasons ago (a rare revival since its ’83 premiere), and it did suffer from a melodramatic, “very special episode” style in places.  Bit awkward, but I guess they were a bit risqué thematically, so that could do it.  I did like the way this aria opened the third act, though.

EDIT: Ok, for anyone who can’t hear the above track through Spotify, here’s the opening of Trouble in Tahiti, Bernstein’s 1952 one-act opera that was ultimately folded in to A Quiet Place.  They do say “morning” a few times in the jazzy opening number, so I guess that counts?


This is from a 2001 BBC film version available for purchase as a DVD on Opus Arte (ProTip though: the whole thing’s actually available as a playlist on YouTube.)