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A Tremendous Tosca

I left Music Hall Friday night filled with glee and excitement. Evan Mirageas's debut production was positively spectacular. Puccini performed to perfection.

Giordano Bellincampi accentuated the sumptuous romance and drama embedded in the score and the orchestra supported the sublime vocalists. In my past four years attending the Cincinnati Opera, I have never heard such vocal fireworks as I heard last night. After attending many memorable Met performances, I've never been nearly as impressed with Cincinnati's offerings. However, Cincinnati's 2006 Tosca now holds a place among my favorite performances. The front row center seating was also memorable! The set design by Jean Pierre-Ponelle was palatial and opulent, full of Catholic pageantry culminating in the visually stimulating Te Deum finale in Act I. The large chorus was filled with old students of mine and it was a pleasure to pick out their faces in their costumed regalia and see them singing in such a star-studded production.

The casting was brilliant. It is a rare thing to see such convincing acting on the stage today. Acting that doesn't appear staged and rehearsed. The type of acting that comes from deep emotional connection with the character and true craft. Singing actors of the Callas tradition are indeed uncommon. However, Aprile Millo as Floria Tosca brought such exceptional conviction to her role. Millo's singing was stupendous, a warm robust instrument that conjures memories of Renata Tebaldi in her prime. In the end, her age (nor size) did not matter at all. I was so spellbound in her performance, that I could focus only on the dramatic intentions of Tosca and the depth of her emotions. I only hope Millo's performances remind American audiences of the great singing actor tradition of the past, that supersede today's preoccupations with glamour and slimness that have prompted the utter madness of the Anna Netrebko craze. I've heard many a "Vissi d'arte," but few performances have moved me so deeply that I was on the verge of tears.

A bright shining star emerged with tenor Antonio Palombi's performance as Cavaradossi. His technique was glorious and his transitions from the hounded lover, to melodramatic romantic, to passionate revolutionary were remarkable. "E lucevan le stelle" in Act III was nothing short of heartbreaking. I hope to see more of him on the American stage. He is a glorious singer and performer. Mark Delavan performed a bastardly Scarpia. The use of smacking his leather switch against his knee-high boots in the first act had S&M undertones, which worked in Delavan's favor. His voice, still large and rich since I'd heard him as Scarpia six years ago at NYCO, needed a little more punch in the Te Deum, a difficult feat for any baritone. However, his performance of the evil police chief was extremely compelling. The roles of Angelotti (Wayne Tigges) and Sacristan (Thomas Hammons) were also a delight.

I look forward to the rest of the season. I will be going to Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (CCM's Ken Shaw is singing!) and Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann, both entertaining favorites featuring coloratura Sarah Coburn.

Cincinnati does Tosca

I am anxiously awaiting Friday evening so I can see Cincinnati Opera's Tosca starring Aprille Millo.

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Janelle Gelfand posted her response to Thursday's opening night performance in her blog. She asks whether an opera singer should "look" the part or not. Unfortunately, this is the trend in the US right now. Take note of Deborah Voigt (before and after) and Andrea Gruber's gastric bypass surgeries as well as the horrid affair of Anna Netrebko singing at the Met. How does an behemoth industry, such as opera, reconcile the looks vs. talent issue? The Met had success with Angela Gheorghiu (despite Gelfand's opinion), but gave into looks by adding Netrebko to the 2006 season roster.

This is an interesting question to pose with Millo at Music Hall. In response to Gelfand, ultimately, looks do not matter. Especially in regards to one's size. However, Millo looks nearly sixty, although she is only forty-eight. By no means do I intend to sound like an ageist opera queen here, but it does seem implausible for someone who looks sixty to convincingly play Tosca. We all heard about what happened with Catherine Malfitano as Carmen last year. However, Dame Millo is "the" reigning Tosca. So I will have to wait and see how this all plays out on Friday.

Mark Delavan will rock Scarpia. He recently sang in Forza del Destino at the Met and I've heard him sing numerous times with NYCO. I actually heard him as Scarpia in NYCO's Tosca when I was at Manhattanville...his Scarpia is positively brutal and scary! Cavaradossi is being played by Antonio Palombi, a tenor relatively new to the US. Here's hoping he gets it right! I want his "E lucevan le stelle" to break my heart and make me cry. I am really excited to see how this all will pan out under Evans Mirageas's direction. I've gotten used to Nick Muni's modernist and avant-garde productions...so an opulent Tosca will be an extreme change. But the grey-haireds will love that Cincinnati is moving away from stark and interpretive productions.

Any way you slice it, it's bound to be entertaining. Tosca is one of my favorites. I have the Oblinski artwork from the last Cincinnati production in my bedroom. Front row, here I come.

I am back.

I've been neglecting this blog for far too long, but I've had a lot of health issues going on which had me sidetracked. For the moment, my grad school career is on hold, but I'm trying to stay positive about things and get myself better. Currently looking for a day job. I'll be doing goodness-knows-what, but hopefully I will end up teaching somewhere this fall.

Now, on to play musical catch-up.

Here are some musicians and musical things I am loving lately:
Anna Nalick, Coverville, KT Tunstall, P!nk's newest release, anything by Regina Spektor and the Pandora site that Alex Ross pointed out on his blog.

Steven Pressfield's book The War of Art has recently inspired me to get back in touch with the creative person I used to be. I've messed around with GarageBand on my iBook and have put some new tracks up on MySpace and on GarageBand. I am still just acquainting myself with GarageBand, so be nice! Best yet, I've started composing again. I thought for sure musicology would have sucked away any composition skill I had left, but it's nice to know it's been there all along just waiting for me to come back to it.

Once my job situation is squared away, I have plans to submit freelance work to Bust and Bitch. I've got a couple of pop essays in the works at the moment.

A couple RIDICULOUS links to sate the crowd:

A Mario Bros. Rock Opera?!?!

And for all the Starbucks lovers...oh the disaster!

Thanks for your continued reading!


I'm nauseous...

...and JAMES BLUNT made me that way.

James Blunt

That heinously annoying voice that sounds like a little elf who just ran a marathon, "You're beautiful, it's true.  I saw your face in a crowded place and I don't know what to do because I'll never be with you."  That voice--so affected, not remotely natural sounding.  Horrid songwriting.  And it's not just this song either that is lacking any sort of craftmanship.  It's unfortunate though, because he is a video dream with a hot A&F media-friendly body.  Teenage girls probably still like him although his singing lukewarm tunes is abysmal. 

It's an interesting phenomenon.  His voice sounds embodied in a 15 year old nerd who hasn't yet hit puberty and yet, here he is, chiseled swimmer's body and all, beautiful face, half-naked and shoeless on MTV, performing the athletic cliff-jump and looking hot while doing it. 

From the visuals alone, I expect a sound more muscular and visceral; definitely more passionate.  Not a whiny wallflower, which is what I get. 

Hollow lyrics.  Hollow voice.  Hollow melodies.  Hollow harmonies.  The whole package just falls apart.  Thank goodness he has his arresting good looks to hold it all together.

I just read a review of him that likens his music to that of Jeff Buckley.  I have to disagree.  I'd take Ryan Cabrera's whining over this any day.  Better yet, I'll stick with Damien Rice.

Finally, some good music!

Oh Rob Thomas!

Something To Be...total FABULOUSNESS.  I love.  I adore.  His music keeps getting more interesting...and here he is, SOLO!

The brass choir on the title track and "Streetcorner Symphony" is just genius.  Rock.

"All That I Am," has the best orchestration since Bjork.  POP PENTATONICISM!  HELL YES.  Marimba, bells, percussion ensemble, shofar, kanun, and duduk.  This is the most interesting song on the album with the most poignant lyrics.  It has Miss Saigon flavor without Andrew Lloyd Webby overkill.  Love love love this song.

Awesome collaborations on here too.  Wendy Melvoin (guitar), Greater Anointing (backup vocals), Cassidy (backup vocals), and John Mayer (guitar).

I love the hell out of matchbox twenty...but oh my god this is wonderful.

Thomas's songwriting gets better and better.  And his voice continues improving. 

Chicks Rock (in more ways than one)!

I had a most FABULOUS weekend and wanted to share my joy. Here goes: Saturday was BEAUTIFUL weather, mid 70s, breezy, gorgeous. Lizz and I traveled into Kentucky. Three years later, the fact that I live only a ten minute drive from Kentucky is still a novelty to me. We went to Newport and walked around, got some sun, and had some delicious stuffed grape leaves at Cafe Istanbul.

We purchased tickets for Chicks Rock Fest at the Southgate House that evening, drove back to my place, got glammed up, and went back out. The music was great. Please take all my opinions with a grain of salt. Live is always different. And I am a music snob, after all. But no band was bad, I recommend checking out their sites and seeing any of the bands live if you like them and they play near you!!!

The first five minutes after I walked into the bar, LA musician Jennifer Corday approached me to tell me "she liked my tank top." HA! Likely story. I was impressed nonetheless. I don't think Lizz was. LOL. Despite the flattery and listening to a pretty good set by the Ani DiFranco meets Paula Cole-ish Julie Loyd (from Boston), there was a drunk blonde with the most piercing voice on her cell phone at the back of the bar LOUD AS HELL. She remained at the bar for the entire set and three hours total, proceeding to get more shitfaced with every passing minute, calling everyone she knew, yelling into the phone, taking pictures, and asking other random bar friends how to text message. Oy. Moved to the ballroom and caught a song by Paperboy Jack. Very poppy, No Doubt-ish, with a Gwen-esque singer..think less attitude, bigger boobs, less intricate songwriter, more trite lyrics.

After Julie Loyd, we saw an awesome set by The Walker Project from Cincinnati. Talented siblings, Carole and Chris Walker. Think soul meets folk meets funk meets gospel meets pop. The lead singer has an amazing voice which the mp3s do not enough justice to, she needs to be heard live. And she has a TON of energy. TO. FUCKING. DIE. They are really fab and I plan on supporting them by seeing some of their local shows and getting a CD. A lot of people turned out to see them, which rocked. Unfortunately, drunk blonde was continuing her loud cell convo in the back... People were getting pissed at this point. Add a few beers and a tequila shot in here, and there I am.

We caught a couple songs from Crankbox. I heard of this band a few months ago when the lead singer, Bre (second from left), found my personals ad and started emailing me. She seemed cool enough, but I was too busy with school to start anything. We caught their song "On the Radio" which was pretty damn funny.

After this was the much awaited set from Hungry Lucy, a trip-hop band in the vein of Portishead and Massive Attack. Needless to say I was excited. Well, things started to turn into a surreal lesbian independent film as soon as Hungry Lucy was getting ready to perform--War-N from the group was wearing a white tunic/caftan, looking very much like a religious experience, complete with the iBook, Korg, and a dumbek, while Christa Belle was looking high on life (or something better) in a white lace slip dress over a pair of jeans, and waist length brown curly hair. Quite the pair! I was ready. Maybe it would have been better if I was high. Not sure. I actually thought War-N was really good and made good use (not overuse) of precomposed loops on the iBook. His drumming, particularly on the dumbek, also good. Christa Belle had a clear, if not whispery soprano voice, which most times sounded too childish for trip-hop. There was no annunciation whatsoever, so I couldn't tell if the lyrics were anything spectacular or not, but at one point I did think I made something out about "killing trees." Hmm. I also had a problem with the way she had her eyes closed for the ENTIRE set. It's one thing to close your eyes while singing occasionally...it shows you really have deep emotional attachment to what you are singing about; however, to do so for an extended period of time cuts off the audience completely and then the performance becomes one-dimensional and self-serving. Underneath the music remained the high-pitched drone of Loud Blonde on the cell. After the band finished each song, the guy in the chair next to me (Promoter? Biggest Fan Ever? Not really sure.) clapped so loud I thought his hands were going to flail off and break or hit me in the face inadvertently. Incidentally, he also brought a stack of three of their CDs of them which he had neatly stacked on the table. Perhaps to be autographed??? As I looked behind me, a woman was wearing pants made completely of WHITE LACE. Oh so wrong. Lizz bought me a much needed Corona to pick up where the tequila left off.

Next we saw The Outside from NYC part punk, part hard rock, part emo. LOVE. They really rocked out. The lead singer, Tree, somehow makes butchiness cute. She totally rocked hard, complete with kicking and thrashing, along with some impressive singing. I only wish we had seen the entire set. The audience was eating it up though.

Awesome awesome awesome night!

Perhaps the worst American Idol moment


Let me preface this rant with the fact that I am practically gay, a gay rights supporter, and a supporter of HRC, the gay BLT, and the rest...I mean no offense.  But this moment could not go unmentioned.

Hello gayness Anthony Fedorov!  Thank you for Rogers and Hammerstein rolling around in their graves.  Thank you little impish freak for choosing to sing "Climb Every Mountain" from The Sound of Music.  That's right--the song that Mother Abbess sings.  A NUN.  And you, Fedorov?  Gayest of gays, which I love and embrace.  This one should have come with a warning label: EXTREME GAYNESS.  Conservatives and Middle Americans Beware--too gay for you.  It would have been bad enough had Fedorov sung the song as it was written.  But, no, obviously NOT GAY ENOUGH!  He in fact turned it into some kind of musak-pop complete with hip-shaking on the lyric "A dream that will need all the love you can give..."  And then, he did mistakenly reach for some stratospheric note high into the heavens where Richard Rogers was throwing up into a trash can, only to sound like a sheep.  OH. MY. GOD.

My mother promptly called me.  This is one of my FAVORITE musical theatre pieces which he shredded, destroyed, murdered, slaughtered, and then sodomized with a metal pole.  I sang this song when I was 16 at my voice recital.  It was "my" song.  Complete with a rocking high Ab at the end.  And he killed it.  KILLED.  MOCKED.  HUMILIATED.  For all Americans to see. 

Mr. Fedorov.  I am very disappointed in you.  You mocked musical theatre legends.  You destroyed a lovely song.  A lovely musical.  I am sure there is a group of Fedorov haters somewhere, preparing for your demise.  I only seek justice, and ask all America to serve this justice fairly by ensuring you be voted off Idol tonight. 

In general, I do not take reality tv seriously, but I take singing seriously and goddamn this was a travesty.

The Beekeeper has Left the Building

My copy of The Beekeeper came from Amazon yesterday.  I really want to like this CD, I really do.  In fact, I've been playing it nonstop to try and force it on myself.  But God, Tori...where have you gone? 

There are *maybe* three good songs--"Parasol," "Sleeps with Butterflies," and "Martha's Foolish Ginger."  And a couple mediocre-good songs--"The Power of Orange Knickers," "Goodbye Pisces," and "Toast."  But the problem is that they are all permutations of one another, the orchestrations are all similar and boring, complete with the FM-lite rhythm track.  And the lyrics which are normally excellent and you can dive into, move things around, and find alternate and varied interpretations fall completely flat here.  They are trite at best, "Original Sinsuality" and "Ireland" or completely incomprehensible drivel, "Jamaica Inn." 

And then there is Tori-Gone-Wrong.  "Hoochie Woman?"  What the fuck?  If you've heard it, you know what I am talking about.  Please do not insert a lyric about "I bring home the Bacon."  More apt is from the same song is, "I went to work and the office girls were all burning their poetry.  It wasn't good."  NO DOUBT. 

"Cars and Guitars?"  You are NOT Chrissie Hynde.  Enough.  I am just immensely disappointed.  This is adult-FM Tori gone too far hippy-dippy.  I feel this CD won't be rotating in my stereo much longer, despite my attempts.  I will not be seeing this tour.  I don't want to see these songs performed live.  Tori, come back.

Music at the Oscars

Oscar moment:

I love Beyonce as a R&B/pop artist.  Please dear God, do not moonlight as a serious songstress singing a psuedo-operatic chanson from the French film Les Choristes. French choral music is lovely.  I am all for crossover artists, but seriously, what was that???

And speaking of travesties, I just saw the Nationwide commercial featuring MC Hammer.  OH SNAP!!! 

*dies laughing*

And why, oh why, is Beyonce now trying to be a musical theatre goddess in a shoddy second attempt at divadom singing the heinous aftermath Loud Lloyd Webber pastiche of "Learn to be Lonely?"  It certainly wasn't good with Minnie Driver's less than supple pipes wailing it out and Beyonce brought no hope to the song either, although she looked pretty singing it.  Oy vey.  Awful song, trite performance.

But yay to the Santana-Antonio Banderas collaboration on "Al Otro Lado del Rio."  I <3 Santana.  Antonio singing is super fab....*dreams of Evita* A good song, but performance-wise, even better!  This may win.

I enjoy Josh Groban as a adult-contemporary artist though way too many people try to say he is an opera singer (FAR from the truth) and "Believe" is typical of his genre.  I like this song, for all its saccharine.  But, why must Beyonce join in?  He sang it fine by himself at his concert.  Why wasn't I notified the Oscars were changing over to The Beyonce Show this year?

As for the Counting Crows, when did they become bubblegum junk?  I used to find them somewhat profound, and now they are CRANKING out the crap.  "Accidentally in Love?"  COME ON.  Accidentally punch me in the damn face!  I never knew Duritz could write such turgid lyrics!!!  And why does he now resemble Kid from Kid 'n Play of House Party fame (only with a floppier fade)?

Best Score goes to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek for Finding Neverland who gave a lovely speech!  Now, I cannot wait to see this movie next weekend, for musical purposes alone.

Thank you for YO-YO MA performing the Bach Sarabande.  AH...lovely as always!  And a delightful break from Beyonce!