By Laura Thompson
7:30AM BST 02 Oct 2013
Downton Abbey is starting to resemble the heyday of The Morecambe and Wise Show. Stars queue up to be in it. Just as Glenda Jackson and Andre Previn seized the chance to cavort with Eric and Ernie, so a Hollywood name like Shirley Maclaine happily trades quips among the teacups with the Granthams. Now we are about to see one of the greatest opera sopranos of the past 40 years, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, in the role of Australian singer Nellie Melba, singing at a Downton soirée (and raising the incidental question of how the cash-strapped Earl could afford Melba’s famously enormous fees).
This is a particularly splendid feather in Downton Abbey’s cap. What is extraordinary, however, is that the legendary Dame Kiri is quite sincerely ecstatic to be part of the programme. Like 120 million others around the world, the New Zealand-born goddess of the opera house is a bona fide fan.
“I nearly choked when I saw the email that invited me,” she says, before describing how, during a stay in New York, she downloaded the previous series then watched it every night in her hotel room. “I rationed myself to an episode at a time. Once I did watch three at a sitting. They’re like chocolates. You try and just have one…”
Kiri Te Kanawa in Downton Abbey’s drawing room
We are talking in a suite at the Mayfair Hotel. Smart as paint in her black trousers and red high-collared jacket, Dame Kiri has the courteous, smiling regality of a true star, but also a down-to-earth Antipodean warmth. The writer and critic Bernard Levin, who was so besotted with her that he proclaimed “When I die they will find ‘Kiri’ written on my heart”, also said, more judiciously, that she “carries such conviction because [her performance] comes from a nature in which there is no falseness, no dissembling”. I have only seen her sing on film, in Joseph Losey’s marvellous 1979 Don Giovanni, and on television at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, but it is easy to recognise the truth of Levin’s perception.
By MICHAEL COOPER
April 26, 2014,
THE NEW YORK TIMES
There was a time, early in the 20th Century, when programs at the Metropolitan Opera warned fanatical opera buffs, in capital letters, “POSITIVELY NO ENCORES ALLOWED.”
The rule has since been relaxed only a handful of times in recent decades. But on Friday night the Mexican tenor Javier Camarena joined the small coterie of opera singers who have literally stopped the show at the Met when he got such a thunderous ovation in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” that he was compelled to give an encore of his bravura aria “Si, ritrovarla io guiro.”
The only other two singers to have sung encores during Met performances in more than half a century, by the opera house’s count, were Luciano Pavarotti, who sang one during a performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” in 1994, and the man Mr. Camarena was filling in for on Friday night: the star bel canto tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who sang an encore in a 2008 performance of “La Fille du Régiment” and in a 2012 performance of “L’Elisir d’Amore.”
“My God, it’s so exciting,” a beaming Mr. Camerena said, slightly out of breath, in a brief interview backstage after the performance ended. “To feel this reaction from the public — it was like a big mountain of roars and bravos and applause. It’s really overwhelming. Fantastic.”
It was quite a feat for a stand-in. His role, playing the the prince opposite Joyce DiDonato’s star turn as Cinderella, was originally to have been sung by Mr. Flórez, who announced earlier this month that he would withdraw from the first few performances due to illness. Mr. Camarena, who had just had a triumph at the Met in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” agreed to step in.
He got rave reviews. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times singled out his singing of the second act aria, writing that Mr. Camarena “dispatched the aria’s impetuous runs — capped by thrilling top notes, including an effortless high D — finally finishing with a glorious high C that he seemed almost reluctant to cut off.” He wrote that the opening night ovation lasted so long that he expected Mr. Camarena to return for a bow, but he did not.
On Friday night, the ovation was again tumultuous, with several members of the audience jumping to their feet – which is unusual, mid-performance.
Mr. Camarena, who had exited the stage as the ovation continued, said: “I was waiting, because last time, there was very long applause, and I was behind the stage and was trying to think, what do I do? Do I come back, or stay? What’s going to happen?”
This time, he came out again, and not only bowed but repeated the second part of the aria, hitting another high D.
Now, given Mr. Camarena’s reception, there may be suspense about whether Mr. Flórez will return, as scheduled, to sing the three final performances of the opera, including a May 10 matinee that will be transmitted to movie theaters around the world as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.
photo:Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
BY TOM HUIZENGA
In much of the country it still feels like summer is a long way off, but it’s not too early to plan on hitting the road and hearing great music. From bucolic college campuses in New England to musical rafting trips down the Colorado, these are 10 of the most intriguing classical festivals. And below them is a listing, by region, of many of the best fests. Been to one we missed? Pass along your own advice in the comments section or via or .
June 26-Aug. 17, Aspen, Colo.
In many ways, the Aspen Music Festival is the Cadillac of summer classical music fests, in terms of its unparalleled roster of guest musicians and its extensive student training program. This year, the 65-year-old festival explores the idea of the New Romantics. Violinist Joshua Bell takes up the old school sound of Bruch, while Robert McDuffie finds the contemporary Romantic in Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, “The American Four Seasons.” There’s Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin, but also Lowell Liebermann’s recent operatic take on The Picture of Dorian Gray. Seven world premieres are scheduled — from the likes of Mason Bates, Matthias Pintscher and others — amid more than 300 events. Need more than classical? Jazz guitarist Bill Frisell makes an appearance, as do Tony Bennett and Rufus Wainwright.
June 27-Aug. 17, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
Celebrating its 25th year, the adventurous Bard Music Festival picks a single composer and creates an immersive experience including music from contemporaries, plus film, dance, drama and lectures. Schubert and His World is the theme this year, with concerts following the stages of the composer’s short but fertile career. Schubert’s songs come into sharp focus in performances throughout the festival by Paul Appleby, Susanna Phillips and Nicholas Phan. And there’s an opportunity to hear Schubert’s opera Fierrabras and Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe, both rarely performed. Leon Botstein conducts several of Schubert’s symphonies and Luciano Berio’s fascinating Rendering, a reworking of fragments Schubert’s unfinished Tenth Symphony.
June 27-Aug. 2, Vail, Colo.
If musical heaven is overdosing on orchestras, Bravo! Vail is the place to be. The New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony are the headliners. Alan Gilbert leads the New Yorkers in music by Richard Strauss and Pulitzer winner Christopher Rouse, including the former’s Don Juan and Till Eulenspiegel and the latter’s Oboe Concerto. Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Philadelphians in Beethoven’s “Eroica” and pianist Hélène Grimaud joins them for the Brahms First Piano Concerto. Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas musicians offer Beethoven’s Ninth, Copland’s Third and Barber’s Violin Concerto with James Ehnes. And, to scale down a bit, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, the Calder Quartet and others are on hand for chamber music from Steve Reich and Bartok to Bach and Vivaldi.
June 21-Aug. 3, Katonah, N.Y.
Opera mavens flock to Caramoor, as the festival often gives plum roles to important young singers. In 2010, when soprano Angela Meade sang her first Norma there, critics gushed and many others discovered an amazing voice for the first time. She’s back this year in the title role of Donizetti’s hair-raising Lucrezia Borgia. Verdi’s Rigoletto stars Stephen Powell and Georgia Jarman. Cellist Alisa Weilerstein is Caramoor’s artist-in-residence; she’ll give a solo recital, join the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in Elgar’s brooding Cello Concerto and team up with the Ariel Quartet for chamber music by Schubert and Arensky.
June 11-Aug. 16, Chicago, Ill.
Not to be confused with Chicago’s huge, multi-genre (running concurrently), the Grant Park Music Festival, now in its 80th year, focuses on classical music. Best of all, it’s all free (if you don’t mind picnicking on the lawn or sitting in seats near the rear). Pulitzer-winning composer William Bolcom’s week-long residency includes the premiere of his Concerto for Orchestra. Festival artistic director Carlos Kalmar, known for his creative programming, leads performances of Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis’ Northern Lights and Piston’s Suite from The Incredible Flutist. Guest artists include Leonard Slatkin leading Shostakovich and David Robertson conducting Britten’s Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham.
Aug. 28-Sept. 8, Moab, Utah
It’s tough to beat the scenery at the Moab Music Festival. The organizers like to think of their festival as “music in concert with the landscape.” Where else can you hear chamber music in a red rock grotto amid immaculate wilderness or take a four-day, three-night musical rafting trip down the Colorado River? This year, a few geographical themes emerge, including a nod to England with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial By Jury and Britten’s English Folk Songs and a Polish/Russian exploration of music by Chopin, Mieczysław Weinberg and the excellent but little known Grażyna Bacewicz. Mercurial Colombian jazz harpist Edmar Castañeda makes the trek with his quartet.
July 25-Aug. 23, New York, N.Y.
Naturally, large doses of Mozart are on offer at this Lincoln Center festival. High points will likely include pianist Richard Goode’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 23 on opening night and the Requiem that ends the festival. In between, conductor Osmo Vänskä teams up with pianist Yuja Wang in a concerto by Shostakovich, and the in-demand-everywhere conductor Gianandrea Noseda leads a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth. Another top draw this year is the Mark Morris Dance Group with three performances of Handel’s Acis and Galatea (arranged by Mozart). Some of the festival’s most popular events are the hour-long late night concerts in the Kaplan Penthouse overlooking the city. Richard Goode, clarinetist Martin Fröst, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and pianist Steven Osborne are on the roster for these 10 p.m. shows.
June 12-June 15 Ojai, Calif.
What the Ojai Festival may lack in terms of its length it makes up with a concentrated supply of intriguing concerts in both early morning (Brooklyn Rider playing Glass at 8 a.m.) and late night (Uri Caine’s Sextet with Gershwin at 10:30 p.m.). Perhaps the most anticipated work on tap this year is the world premiere of The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts), a chamber opera based on pianist and pedagogue Charles Rosen’s book The Classical Style by festival music director and pianist Jeremy Denk and Pulitzer-winning composer Steven Stucky. Crafty young pianist/composer Timo Andres teams up with The Knights chamber orchestra in music by Andrew Norman, and Pink Martini singer Storm Large stars in Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins.
May 23-June 8, Charleston, S.C.
Churches, theaters and parks in historic Charleston play host to Spoleto Festival concerts. Three performances of the oratorio El Niño by John Adams headline a broad variety of events this year, which include operas by Janáček (Kát’a Kabanová) and Michael Nyman (Facing Goya), lunchtime chamber music, orchestra performances and a pair of concerts by the Westminster Choir.
June 27-Aug. 30, Lenox, Mass.
The summer home of the Boston Symphony will be buzzing this year as Andris Nelsons, the orchestra’s new music director, is poised to take over. He’ll lead the orchestra in four concerts including an all-Dvorak program with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, Brahms’ Third Symphony and excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier. Soprano Renée Fleming opens the festival, which includes concert performances of Leonard Bernstein’s opera Candide, Handel’s Teseo and a new chamber version of Jack Beeson’s gripping Lizzie Borden. The list of A-list guest artists, as usual, is long.
Are you tired of success? Do you feel like you’ve had enough? Are mediocrity and failure what you’re after now? Or, do you simply want to stall your career and keep success at bay for a while? Well, you’re in luck! I sat around thinking about that, and came up with seven tips that are sure to set you on the path toward failure. Together, they offer the perfect formula for existential and artistic death. Here’s what you can do starting today, if you absolutely want to fail in the arts:
1. Sit around and wait for approval, permission, and authorization to be what you dream of being and do what you want to do. It doesn’t matter that the greatest artists of all time were daring, fearless visionaries who boldly took matters into their own hands with whatever resources they had. Don’t you do the same!
2. Follow the rules and follow the crowd. Play it safe! Don’t think outside of the box, don’t be different, audacious, or brave ever, unless you’ve been given permission or approval as stated above. Disregard the fact that humanity needs the artist to dream big, take risks, and bust through conventions. It must not be you who does this. Wait for someone else to do it first.
3. Care deeply about what people think. If someone doesn’t like your performance or your headshot or your play or whatever, go home and cry, and seriously question your talent.
4. Actively seek out the opinions of others, especially those who have never taken any risks on behalf of a dream or created any art of their own, and then change your work according to their advice, which they are usually happy to share at length.
5. Do some more waiting around for permission and approval. It’s the best use of your time, so get comfy and cozy. Do not, by any means, create your own circumstances, opportunities, and marketing materials with the free tools available to you such as the Internet, social media, YouTube, and Vimeo.
6. At all times, try to please everyone and be sure to live with a paralyzing fear of rejection. This will keep you on your toes and far from any artistic risk-taking and growth.
7. Allow others to define you, industry professionals and laypeople alike. It’s important that you really know who you are, so always allow them to determine your worth and whether or not you’ve got a future in the arts. Do not follow your heart. Do not look within and trust your own inner guidance.
I hope you’ll find these tips helpful on your journey. Remember to practice them daily if you want to give away your personal power, feel insecure, uninspired, and ruled by fear. Failure is right around the corner!
BY David Harding
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study
A recent research study found that those suffering from moderate to severe dementia did particularly well singing show tunes from movies and musicals such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Oklahoma!’ in group settings and had a marked improvement in their remembering skills versus those who simply listened during the sing-alongs.
The hills are alive with the sound of music, which could help people with Alzheimer’s stave off the effects of the debilitating disease.
A study by U.S. scientists has shown that the brain function of those suffering from dementia can be improved if they belt out their favorite show tunes.
Researchers working with elderly residents at an East Coast care home found in a four-month long study found that people who sang their favorite songs showed a marked improvement compared to those who just listened.
Among the songs sung during 50-minute sessions were hits from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music.”
The most improvement was among those sufferers with moderate to severe dementia.
Jane Flinn, one of the scientists involved in the study who works at George Mason University in Virginia, concluded singing was beneficial.
“Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful,” she said.
“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”
Meeting Joyce DiDonato in the green room at the Wigmore Hall, I have to resist an impulse to fall to my knees in reverence. A few days earlier I had heard her at Covent Garden singing Elena’s rondo “Tanti Affetti” in Rossini’s La Donna del largo, and I can only say that the sound she made was so perfectly beautiful – so purely projected, so elegantly shaped, so intensely felt and delicately coloured – that adjectives such as angelic and sublime floated to mind.
Fortunately, the delightfully warm and upbeat Miss DiDonato – born Flaherty (DiDonato is the legacy of a now terminated marriage) in 1969 – emerges as a straightforward Kansas gal, and I manage to remain respectably upright in her presence.
But I do find it hard to think of any other female singer of today so gloriously in her prime, commanding not only a stupendous technique, exquisite musicality and the ability to light up a stage, but also a rigorously professional commitment to her status and its responsibilities.
London has been good to her over the years, and she will be back at Covent Garden next season to sing the title role in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda. Meanwhile, there’s some fun stuff to get through – she’s booked to be this year’s vocal soloist at the Last Night of the Proms.
She’s sung at the Proms before and often catches up with concerts on her laptop, so she knows roughly what to expect: it’s an extra thrill for her that this year’s concert will be streamed to the US, so her extended family in Kansas can get a taste of the party.
Fashion mavens will be tantalised to learn that she teasingly denies me a sneak preview of the wardrobe she proposes for the occasion. “Just let me reassure everyone that I shall do my damnedest to uphold the grand tradition. And that sparkle will feature somewhere.”
Arias by Handel, Rossini and Mozart make up the first half of her programme, with Over the Rainbow, Danny Boy and You’ll Never Walk Alone for dessert, before the inevitable Rule, Britannia, into which she may introduce some spectacular baroque flourishes.
The inclusion of Over the Rainbow was non-negotiable. It’s a song with a message that she feels encapsulates the way she’s lived her life, and it was the last thing that her late beloved father ever heard her sing. “He was a choral director, a Bruckner man, who always hated Judy Garland. But on his deathbed, he told me that I’d finally made him realise what a beautiful song it was.”
There’s also going to be a special hug on the night for her manager, the London-based Simon Goldstone. “He’s the only manager I’ve ever had, and our relationship goes back 15 years, to a time when I was starting off. Agents kept turning me down and I was very disheartened. When Simon called and told me that he thought he could make me a star, I told him he was crazy, but I went with him anyway – and one of the first things he said was that he just couldn’t wait to hear me sing at the Last Night of the Proms. So this is one for you, Simon.”
It may all sound too cute for words, but it isn’t. Along the way DiDonato has had plenty of struggle and heartbreak, both personal and professional. “I’ve developed a thick skin,” she says, and behind her bubbling charm and impressive range of extra-musical enthusiasms (including baking, wine, photography, yoga and tennis) she is remarkably focused and canny, as well as being a sterling trouper of the old school.
The conductor Antonio Pappano’s recent attack on flakey singers could not apply to her: she has only cancelled two performances in her entire career, “when my father was dying”, and has even struggled through recitals “relying on a box of Kleenex on the top of the piano”.
Perhaps the most impressive instance of her show-must-go-on attitude was the now legendary occasion at Covent Garden in 2009, when she slipped on stage and broke her fibula during the first act of Il barbiere di Siviglia but chose to finish the show on crutches, with absolutely no loss of verve or style.
Yet she doesn’t pass snap judgment on people who are less spunky than she is. “The pressures are intense, and it’s not surprising that some singers get a bit flighty. To them I would say: don’t forget that you have a job to do, and learn how to say no when you map out your advance schedule. But managements are often at fault, too. They continue to hire people who are unreliable, and that makes them feel that bad behaviour is permissible.”
DiDonato tries to find time to mentor young singers and inculcate them with good habits. “I don’t do formal teaching, but I like to pass on whatever experience I have – I think it’s important for students to have contact with people who are in the thick of it, not just those who have retired.”
What does she tell them? “It’s difficult. I’m painfully aware that even in the most prestigious conservatories like Juilliard only 10, 15 per cent of students will go on to make a career in opera, but they’re all looking at me and thinking – up there is someone living my dream.”
“So I tell them that it’s not about us, the singers, it’s about the music. We’re just the messengers, the vessels, and the freer we can be from our own egos the more of Mozart or Handel than can come through.”
“I advise them not to attempt to turn the sound they make into something it isn’t – don’t try to be Bartoli or Pavarotti. I did that when I was 25 and it got me into trouble. Have the confidence to be yourself and shed the pretence: that’s something I feel I’ve only learnt recently myself.”
She has trenchant things to say to the people who run the business too, and has a blast at certain operatic marketing campaigns that she believes are misleading and unhelpful. “Stop apologising, stop trying to sell our music by dumbing it down. Sell opera on the basis that it is like nothing else on the planet, not on the basis that it’s superficially cool and hip – that is so phoney.”
“Recently I performed at the Grammy awards. I felt like a fish out of water surrounded by all these rock and jazz musicians in a huge conference hall environment. But I sang the second half of Cenerentola’s rondo, and it seemed to go down very well.”
“What really moved me was an African-American girl who might have been 15. She came running up to find me afterwards and said ‘I don’t know what you call that sort of singing, but it was the most wonderful thing I have ever heard. Where can I find more of it?’ If we do our job properly, people will listen and get it. You see, great music just works.”
By Rupert Christiansen, Opera critic
7:00AM BST 05 Sep 2013