SebaSM Comics Digest, Weeks of Mar. 10th and 17th

SebaSM-Comics-Trio-MarchI missed my weekly update last week because I was out of the country, but I did have two normally scheduled SebaSM Comics during my trip, and two more new comics this week too!

Today’s update is Bizarro Twins appropriate, since it’s vaguely inspired by Donizetti‘s Lucia di Lammermoor, which I saw this week at the Metropolitan Opera.  Not based on any of the big iconic moments really, just some old school relationship stuff as seen through a 21st century lens, of course…2015-03-26-R-99 Here’s a clip from the Met’s production in a previous season with Natalie Dessay:

Pearl Fishing

Well, I’m back from Vancouver, but on one of my last days there I saw a work-in-progress dance performance by local company 605 Collective at the Vancouver International Dance Festival. which I enjoyed, but after a mostly electronic soundtrack, I was surprised that the piece ended to the tune of Enrico Caruso singing this aria from Bizet‘s 1863 Pearl Fishers opera:

Probably the best known piece from this opera, but if you want to see the full picture, it’ll be receiving its first Met Opera production in 100 years in the forthcoming 2015-2016 season:

Putting the Canadian in Canadian Opera Company

So I’m in Vancouver, Canada for a week, and considering the last opera I saw was the Canadian Opera Company‘s performance of Semele at BAM last week it seems fitting to discuss their forthcoming season, which, fittingly, features the world premiere of a Canadian Opera!

In October, COC will give the world premiere of Barbara Monk Feldman‘s short 2010 opera, Pyramus and Thisbe.  It’s based on a tale from antiquity so the COC is presenting it alongside two short, similarly classically themed, pieces by the grandfather of opera, Claudio Monteverdi: a scena for three voices and an aria, which is the only fragment to survive from his second opera, L’Arianna, performed below by Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci:

Here’s hoping I can make a return trip to Canada for this interesting early opera/premiere opera combo!

If It’s Baroque, Don’t Fix It

Tonight I’m going to see Händel‘s 1743 opera Semele, which I adore, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a production created by La Monnaie in Brussels and the KT Wong Foundation.  It’s being performed by the Canadian Opera Company in a reprisal of their performances in the 2011/2012 season, with Canadian soprano Jane Archibald resuming the title role.

Looks pretty crazy, right?  The key to this unusual production is the KT Wong Foundation, devoted to fostering dialogue in the arts and education between China and the West, which approached Chinese artist Zhang Huan with the idea of directing an opera.  His inspiration was a 450 year old Chinese temple he bought and wound up using as the centerpiece of the production (watch it being assembled at BAM here).

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Three Heads Six Arms by Zhang Huan in Florence, 2013

KT Wong has several videos about the project on Youtube and it’s certainly an interesting one!  Besides performances at Brussels and Toronto, the show was also taken to Beijing (where it was censored, natch)

Now, as a first-time opera director, Chinese person unfamiliar with Western opera, and a fancy-shmancy artist, Zhang is not beholden to opera’s sacred cows and has taken a pretty radical approach.  Besides the weirdo stage elements, he’s omitted some of Handel’s music (a capital offense in my book) and inserted several anachronistic Chinese elements.  So some weird hybrid of baroque opera and modern performance piece which I’m admittedly having a hard time preparing myself for…  I’ve seen reviews run the gamut from negative to glowingly positive, so we’ll see which what side I’ll land on…

In any other situation calling this concurrent production of Semele at the Seattle Opera the more traditional one might seem strange, but heck, this is just old school in comparison!  Opera News seemed to like this one a lot more, at least…

It’s great to see Semele performed by a smaller, regional companies, and if Zhang Huan’s production spurs renewed interest in this very deserving opera, than that’s a good thing!

SONY DSC

The stage maquette for Semele by Zhang Huan at La Monnaie

And for no other reason than because I like their Digital Archive, here is a set maquette from La Monnaie!

Alice’s Adventures in Opera

Another big anniversary this year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland!  What better way for us to celebrate than with Unsuk Chin‘s opera Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland?  Below, the Mad Tea Party scene performed by the Seoul Philharmonic:

The Los Angeles Philharmonic celebrated this sesquicentennial with a staged performance in collaboration with the Los Angeles Opera.  This was the work’s belated LA premiere, since the LA Opera was one of the original commissioners of the piece, which ultimately premiered at the Munich Opera Festival in 2007.

Photo by Lawrence K. Ho for Los Angeles Philharmonic

Photo by Lawrence K. Ho for Los Angeles Philharmonic

The reviews I’ve read have been excellent, which is pleasantly surprising as I’ve heard mixed things about the opera with its bristly, modern musical language and elliptical, playfully obtuse libretto by David Henry Hwang.

The production, by English director Netia Jones, matched that darker tone by animating illustrations from British satirist Ralph Steadman‘s 1972 edition of the book.  Jones has used this technique with the LA Phil before, animating Maurice Sendak’s own Where the Wild Things Are illustrations for a performance of Oliver Knussen‘s operatic adaptation of that work.

At any rate, an interesting recent development is that the Royal Opera House in London has commissioned a sequel opera by the same team of Chin and Hwang, based on Through the Looking Glass!  This is scheduled for the 2018/2019 season, so I wonder if that will add fire to the second wind that Wonderland seems to be having…

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 Very Operetta New Year

Gipsy Princess poster from The Memory of the Netherlands digital collection

Gipsy Princess poster from The Memory of the Netherlands digital collection

In the latest case of me learning about something just hours before it’s set to start, Medici.tv will be live streaming a special New Year’s performance of Emmerich Kalman‘s 1915 operetta Die Csárdásfürstin (aka, The Gipsy Princess for those non-Hungarian speakers among you) from Staatskapelle Dresden with the powerhouse duo of Anna Netrebko and Juan Diego Flórez.  You’ll need an account to see the live performance, but it’s free and pretty painless!

Here’s an old school televised version of a duet from the Gipsy Princess in all it’s glory:

Operetta seems to be an old world New Year’s tradition, and the Met Opera is getting in on the game with a new production of Franz Lehar‘s Merry Widow premiering on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve!  So get your operetta fix this week!