Friday, 28 August 2009

Opera Singer Laryngoscope

This is what your vocal folds look like. The second part of the video, where it looks like slow motion, is called "laryngo-stroboscopy." Thus the laryngologist can see if the vocal folds open/close properly.

Thanks to scottyandgenie for uploading.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Best of Twitter re: Hvorostovsky

Kathrine_A: On my desktop there is now a lovely wallpaper of Dima Hvorostovsky. (Yes, I'm twelve.:) Though listening to Jussi Björling at the moment.

24601_: Just went to see Dimitri Hvorostovsky, he signed my DVD and I told him to come to Chicago more often. I love him.

LLSi: Meninas, esqueçam Brad Pitt. Dmitri Hvorostovsky não é feio, além de ser um dos melhores cantores da atualidade. (Girls, forget Brad Pitt. Dmitri Hvorostovsky is not ugly, besides being one of the best singers of our time)

andrewpatner: Dmitri Hvorostovsky makes Rigoletto his own at Ravinia with the CSO

Still in clouds after opera Rigoleto last nite w/Dmitri Hvorostovsky, most gorgeous baritone in opera.

icmanu43: Mood of the moment: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin with Fleming, Hvorostovsky and Vargas under Gergiev. Few things are as painfully beautiful.

LutheranLucciol: Dmitri Hvorostovsky is coming to SF Opera! Hello, sexual sin. Some women actually go to hear his voice, too. (I'm joking....sort of).

Petruccl: Hvorostovsky rocks my world...


#iamsinglebecause Dmitri Hvorostovsky is still not divorced.
#iamsinglebecause I couldn't say his name to the priest
#iamsinglebecause still can't spell his name

Opera_is_Sexy @thaisinhafc Dmitri Hvorostovsky is such a Hottie! I have an #operacrush on him! lol

tommydavidson: Spent time with Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Arguably the world's greatest baritone. Believe my wife would have left me in 5 seconds for this dude

Stickolofogus has a HUGE crush on Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Like seriosly HUGE!

musicbizkid: I think today I'll listen to nothing but Dmitri Hvorostovsky singing "Ja vas lyublyu" That oughtta kill my ambition to make music ever again

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

20:13 CET: New Concert Coming Soon

Frufru is now watching this concert. It features some arie antiche and some bel canto arias. The young Dmitri Hvorostovsky is accompanied by the young Mikhail Arkadiev. As soon as Frufru finishes watching, she'll cut it and post it to YouTube.


Done. The playlist is here.

Something which I've never seen in a recital occurred here: the audience demanded a bis, so we hear Fenesta che lucive twice in a row! I actually prefer the second time around, what about you?

******UPDATE #2******

My dearest friend fazed111 discovered that the concert had also another part. In the beginning, Mr.Hvorostovsky sang also some Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. Coming to YouTube soon.

Mario Lanza - L'alba separa de la luce l'ombra (Tosti)

My all-time favourite tenor sings an incredibly beautiful and sad Italian art song. It is even more sad when you consider that it was recorded only months before his untimely death.

Francesco Paolo Tosti / Gabriele D'Annunzio

L'alba separa dalla luce l'ombra,
E la mia volutta' dal mio desire.
O dolce stelle, l'ora di morire.
Un piu' divino amor dal ciel vi sgombra.

Pupille ardenti, O voi senza ritorno
Stelle tristi, spegnetevi incorrotte!
Morir debbo. Veder non voglio il giorno,
Per amor del mio sogno e della notte.

O Notte, nel tuo sen materno,
Mentre la terra pallida s'irrora.
Ma che dal sangue mio nasca l'aurora
E dal sogno mio breve il sole eterno!
E dal sogno mio breve il sole eterno!


The dawn divides the darkness from light,
And my sensual pleasure from my desire,
O sweet stars, it is the hour of death.
A love more holy clears you from the skies.

Gleaming eyes, O you who'll ne'er return,
sad stars, snuff out your uncorrupted light!
I must die, I do not want to see the day,
For love of my own dream and of the night.

Envelop me,
O Night, in your maternal breast,
While the pale earth bathes itself in dew;
But let the dawn rise from my blood
And from my brief dream the eternal sun!
And from my brief dream the eternal sun!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Opera Stars & Muppets

Long gone are those times when we would watch The Muppet Show and Open, Sesame. They would not just teach us to count, but also a little to appreciate the arts. They also showed that even opera divas can have sense of humour.

Learn counting to five with Renée Fleming, melody of Caro Nome from Rigoletto:

Samuel Ramey - "eL Toreador:"

Beverly Sills 1 - tap-dancing:

Beverly Sills 2 - spoon-hanging:

Beverly Sills 3 - Pigoletto:

Thanks for uploading to gtelloz, sawing14s and bakerpaters.

Friday, 21 August 2009

21st August: Heroes and Villains

During the night from the 20th to the 21st August 1968, five armies of the Warsaw pact crossed the borders of Czechoslovakia. During the first phase of the operation organized by the Kremlin, Czechoslovakia was invaded by about 100,000 soldiers, 2300 tanks and 700 airplanes. With relation to the occupation, 290 people were killed and 577 were seriously injured. It was a reaction to the gradual loosening of the totalitarian system, called "Socialism with human face," which ultimately led to the abolition of censorship early in 1968 and the so-called "Prague Spring." It was followed by long years of "normalization," which was ended by the Velvet revolution in 1989.

"Little Brother, Close the Gate" Thanks for composing and uploading to muv69

The Czechs, in their history, learnt to laugh at tragedies they could do nothing about: "A Well Intended Advice - Go Home, Ivan!" (And never come back. Ever.) Thanks for composing and uploading to bwdbwd

Paradoxically, my heroes come from the ranks of the "villains." On the 25th, eight people made a hard choice between clear conscience and imprisonment. Eight Russians went to the Red Square in Moscow and demonstrated against the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia. Their names were Larisa Bogoraz (whose husband, a writer, had previously been sent to Gulag for "anti-Soviet activity"), Konstantin Babitsky, Vadim Delaunay (a poet, died in Paris, aged 35 of a heart attack), Vladimir Dremluga, Pavel Litvinov Natalya Gorbanevskaya (a writer and poet, her blog is here), Viktor Fainberg, and Tatiana Baeva. Some of them ended up in jail, some of them in asylums, some in forced exile in Siberia.

For your and our freedom

The story continues. Forty years later, on the 24th August 2008 (not on the 25th, so that the police forces wouldn't be ready), seven activists went to the Red Square to remember this event. According to Novaya Gazeta, they were holding up a banner with the same slogan and were handing out leaflets: "There are again political prisons in this country [...] Love for country has been replaced with the love for leaders." The entire action (which had been authorized by the authorities) lasted five minutes. The police confiscated their banners and arrested the three activists who didn't manage to escape. They tried to confiscate the journalists' cameras and arrested correspondents of Novaya Gazeta, Grani-TV, The New Times and Vedomosti. The journalists were released the same day, the activists the following. The situation is not as bad as in 1968, but not too good, either - and could get worse. (NY Times article here)

Photos: Wikipedia and Novaya Gazeta, respectively

Hvorostovsky's Ex's Solicitor Chosen "Lawyer of the Week"

Lawyer of the Week: "Michael Rowlands, a partner in Cripps Harries Hall, acts for Svetlana Hvorostovsky, the former wife of the opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky."

"Variation of existing maintenance orders is a hot topic and there is a lack of certainty for those going to court. My client therefore needed to be kept on the right side of the risk-reward balance. Maintenance payments for life — in this case to the former wife and the two children — are a division of expected future income and it is reasonable for payments to go up to a level that might outweigh the standard of living enjoyed at the time of marriage breakdown."

Now I don't want to be Dmitri's wife any more. I wanna be his ex-wife!

On the left, Dmitri with his first wife, Svetlana, and boy twins. On the right, with his present wife, Florence, and their second child, Nina.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Meet... The Countertenor

Countertenor, compared to other voice types, is quite obscure to the pure Puccini-Verdi opera goers. But you don't want these faces when you first hear it, do you?
With the use of falsetto, men can achieve a sound quite similar to that of castrati. When you get used to the pitch, you realize that the timbre is distinctly male, or at least not female. That's what gives the voice the quality that many people describe as "angelic." Some even prefer the countertenor to the female voices. However, falsetto is difficult to master, and only with a great amount of talent and hard work you can be a good countertenor.

Frufru's favourite countertenor is without doubt Philippe Jaroussky. Here, at the "Artiste lyrique," he sings Vivaldi's Vedro con mio diletto (beating Roberto Alagna in the competition)

Something for coloratura lovers:

Just in case you don't believe their speaking voices are "normal" (or that they don't have a sense of humour) - Sombrero:

Countertenors can be encountered even on the pop scene. Just for fun, here's Vitas's Il dolce suono (Lucia di Lammermoor):

Thanks to Vitorvhs, BaroqueFever, MehdiCaps, and rxsuicide, respectively, for uploading.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Review of Netrebko's Videoclips from the DVD "The Woman, The Voice"

I'm going to be untypically harsh here, but I can't attempt to like modernized opera and remain nice at the same time.

Anna Netrebko is not one of my favourite singers, but she's far from bad and she's nice to look at. Especially in a videoclip. That's what I thought when I was downloading purchasing her DVD. Upon seeing the screenshots, I thought it would be interesting.

As I'm not interested in Ms.Netrebko reveling in talking about how she loves shopping in boutiques, I kept fast-forwarding to the videoclips, scattered on the whole length of the film. I quite liked the first one, Musetta's waltz. You could argue that it doesn't retain the spirit of the aria, but none of the videoclips here does. Musetta's waltz video is elegant, even though it somewhat lacks invention (what operatic videoclips don't?). I was especially annoyed by the switching to the black&white shots, but I liked the way she and the driver exchanged glances in the beginning *wink*! I guess this balancing on the edge of cliché is a match with Puccini.

However, the videoclips that followed were not short only of invention and originality, but also a slightest hint of style, pretending to be artistic. The diva is running/standing/lying around, with no further ideas to it. Vincent Paterson, the director, obviously thought that "the woman and the voice" is enough for a videoclip. He stayed half way between the traditional, where not so many things happen and you are left to enjoy beautiful music accompanied by beautiful pictures (as Sumi Jo's clip), and the progressive. He managed the almost impossible: modern opera clips which are boring.

The second clip was the Jewel Song from Faust. Ms.Netrebko in three very different settings for no apparent reason doesn't do anything but puts on jewels and adores herself in the many mirrors. Isn't that enough? Eh, not for me, especially when the settings are so kitschy.

A sparkle of hope came with the Don Giovanni clip, even though it immediately reminded me of the walking-talking trees in the Russian fairy-tale film Morozko (Jack Frost) and Titus. Unfortunately, the director again did nothing about it, so "the woman" is left there among the dancing trees, only opening her mouth to "the voice" and moving arms. Plus, there are several moments when the camera is so bad it's attracting attention.

La Sonnambula clip is so eurotrash it's almost useless to analyze it. The director knew no better way how to make it interesting than "the weirder, the better." It's tasteless, pointless, but at least not boring.

The Song to the Moon clip has been critically acclaimed, even by people who didn't like the other videos, but the reason escapes me. I'm amazed that so few people are capable of understanding the fact that Rusalka (opera) is a delicate and tender tragedy. The very *point* of it is that Rusalka (character) has got pure heart. There's a certain naïveté in her, but also strength: she sacrifices everything, is betrayed, but does not betray her love. Netrebko's approach to the aria is shallow every time, but when accompanied by a videoclip where she sings opens her mouth lying on a floating mattress, in a nouveau-riche style, with a giant moon behind her, it's just making fun of Dvořák and his depth. Otherwise, the clip is well structured, its only problem is that it's just as superficial as Ms.Netrebko's interpretation. Rusalka coming to the Prince when he's having a shower?

Well, I'm sure everybody who reads this review, including myself, will love the videoclips as a result. It's the expecting-a-disaster effect. If you like eurotrash productions and/or adore Anna Netrebko, I'm sure you will enjoy this DVD. However, it's almost a pity that she wasn't given the opportunity of having a documentary like those about Rolando Villazón or Elina Garanča. What actually saddens me the most is the wasted potential. Some clips look good at first sight, but the director let it all be as if unfinished, just the basic concept with no idea.

...But the pics look nice, don't they? Click to enlarge:
Musetta being neglected

The black&white inside life of the poor Musetta, who is neglected by her husband, which led her to having an affair with the driver. Which opera is this from?

Three snapshots from The Jewel Song, no comment

It looks beautiful, pity there's no meaning to it.

♪♫ Non mi dir ♪♫

La sonnambula. Flirting with an old man with pigtails on his beard. You should know that on the table there's a cake in the shape of a female leg.

Poor Bellini


I bet you didn't believe me the one about the shower!

Unfortunately, 90% of the time of the DVD we see just this:

Joyce DiDonato: The Anti-Diva

Frufru is now going through Joyce DiDonato's web log and is getting the impression that Frufru is the most self-centered woman on earth. Not only does Ms.DiDonato possess a wonderful voice capable of some wild coloratura, but also is a beautiful person with a
heart of gold.

Photography: Nick Gillespie (Member of the ROH chorus), taken from Ms.DiDonato's official website

This is my favourite Una voce poco fa. In the beginning, yet another little proof of Ms.DiDonato's magnanimity.

Thanks to thecelticspirit and Klassizismus for sharing.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Mario Lanza: An American Tragedy

My first operatic post here cannot be on anyone else than the person thanks to whom I listen to this beautiful genre of music. I had been acquainted to the performances of The Three Tenors, Bocelli, and others who are considered popular opera singers and who perhaps have set many people’s footsteps on the path of classical music. However, it was the smashing tour de force of Lanza’s voice, together with the incomparable heartfelt interpretation, what really caught my heart.

It is a twisted humour of the Fate that the one who could have become the greatest tenor in history died so prematurely, having made so few truly great recordings. His good looks turned out to be more of a curse, rather than a blessing. After a couple of years in Hollywood, everything started turning against him. The classical music critics started savaging him, resulting in a loss of his self-confidence, so vital for a performer.

The studio needed him to be slim for the filming, so he would put on weight for making of the soundtrack, and then quickly put it off for the shooting. As years passed, simple dieting would not work, so Lanza had to take medicines. He started having problems with phlebitis. Heavy drinking did not help his physical state.

After his moving to Italy, he made two more films and was planning to do more serious work. A TV spectacle with Maria Callas, or Pagliacci on stage of the Opera Roma season opening were on his schedule, but it was too late. Mario Lanza died on October 7th 1959 of pulmonary embolism, aged 38.

You’ll find a more detailed biography in Derek McGovern’s essay “Mario Lanza: A Radical Reassessment” here. A much more detailed biography is offered in the excellent book by Armando Cesari. You might also be interested in the Mario Lanza Google Group, the members of which are also Mr.McGovern and Mr.Cesari.

Lanza had no artistic guidance during his Hollywood years, plus many recordings were made quickly, without an established opera conductor. Moreover, most Lanza collections, especially those named “Lanza Gold” or “The Best of Lanza”, or similar to that, are simple packs of various recordings, no matter if good or bad. Even the only purely operatic CD “Mario Lanza – Opera Arias and Duets” is a decidedly mixed offering. It contains also lesser recordings, such as the Celeste Aida from the 1952 radio show. Why not the excellent one from The Great Caruso, with Peter Herman Adler conducting? Amor ti vieta, Nessun dorma, O soave fanciulla – ditto. In a situation where many opera aficionados don’t take him as a serious singer, there should be at least a CD of his true best.

If you’d like to know what his greatest recordings are, search here, a song-by-song review of the most popular CDs can be found here.

This is my absolute Lanza favourite. Un di all'azzurro spazio from Andrea Chenier. If Mozart's compositions are a proof of God's existence, this recording of Lanza's is double so.

Here you have some of Lanza's film best. Thanks to DiPlacido71 and Tenor65 for sharing.
The first clip is Dio, mi potevi scagliar from Verdi's Otello, as shown in the film Serenade, 1956.

The following video is of Vesti la giubba from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. It's a clip from Lanza's last film, paradoxically named "For the First Time", 1959.

Here we have Lanza in his youthful best: La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto, from the film The Great Caruso, 1951. Peter Herman Adler is conducting the soundtrack. The woman looking at him from the backstage is the famous Jarmila Novotná, who plays a selfish diva named Maria Selka. Unfortunately, their duet didn't make it to the final version of the film.