Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Opera

Rigoletto in Vegas

Last Wednesday I saw the opera Rigoletto, by Giuseppe Verdi, at the Met. The opera is an old one but there was an interesting twist:instead of being set in the medieval town of Mantua in Italy, it was set in the 70’s town of Las Vegas, complete with cocaine, strippers, mobsters, oil sheiks, and martinis. The setting was an interesting choice considering that the story is one of decadence in the court of a lecherous duke. But despite the best efforts of the designers and stage crew, it was to no avail. The music  and the singing kept on calling you back to Italy, so that you would have to continue to remind yourself that the characters were wearing trousers instead of hoses and pinstripe suits instead of doublets. In truth, you forgot that it was supposed to be Las Vegas.

I was not terribly impressed with Hvrastovsky’s singing (who played the titular role of Rigoletto, a cruel and derisive jester who has great love for his daughter Gilda) which was poor at first and gained some power throughout the second act, reached its peak with La Dona e Mobile (which is such a masterpiece of opera arias that I would be altogether dissapointed if he did not make some effort to perform it well) and then generally declined. To be honest the only male voice that I though really hit the mark as that of the singer who played Sparafucile. What really brought down the house was the singing of Sonya Yoncheva who played Gilda. Her singing is difficult to explain with words because of its great beauty and strength. She alone gave 110% and it was her singing that made this timeless opera worth seeing


December 9, 2013   No Comments

Tosca-Forgot to Post!

So a couple of weeks ago I went to see the opera Tosca at the Met and forgot to post about. So here goes…

The opera was amazing. It had everything that a good opera, in my opinion needs, namely, great music, great arias, a great story, and fantastic singing. The opera was written by Giacomo Puccini and is set in Rome against the background of the Napoleonic wars. Before going to see it, I read up a  bit about it and was interested to find that this opera is a prime example of the verismo, or “realistic” style of opera, greatly propagated and advanced by Puccini and present in his other works. Verismo departs from the classical opera stories of gods and heroes and deals more intimately with ordinary people who often find themselves in extraordinary situations. Ultimately this form of opera is at times, easier to connect to, as it deals with common themes that we as humans constantly are involved in and deal with. It is truly amazing to watch a skillful opera composer, such as Puccini, weave an amazing story out of simple characters, people who could have been you or me ( I would also like to make clear that I enjoy classical opera very much also, despite their more fantastical elements, and just as their is a time to hear the story of the factory girl or the painter, so too is their a time to hear the story of the demigod.)

Tosca, I feel, is best described as raw in emotion. It was as though Puccini took all the romanticized emotions that a person could feel, namely, love, hatred, patriotism, rebelliousness, piety, sacrilege, and stripped them down to their most essential state, husking the outer shells built up by years of censorship, of correctness, as one might husk an ear of corn, and presented to us, the audience, these emotions, unmolested and unedited. Truly, one can say that Puccini did not create anything in this opera, but rather removed all the unnecessary elements, all the reins and bridles that held back these feelings, and gave them to us in the form of Tosca. Likewise I was interested to see Puccini introduce themes of suicide and torture, that give the opera a darker tone in contrast with the more lighthearted, almost comedic, atmosphere of the first act.

Dealing with Met production of the opera, as I mentioned, the singing was amazing. The sets were well constructed. The orchestra was perfect. Truly, this was a very successful production, if ever I saw one, and while watching Tosca you never feel the time go by. Rather it flies by and you hardly notice, so enchanting was this Puccini classic. I definitely recommend it to everyone while it is still playing at the Met.

November 26, 2013   No Comments

Il Divo: A Musical Affair

For a few years, my brother and I have been fans of a band called Il Divo. However, to say that Il Divo is simply a band is a colossal understatement. Il Divo consists of four men who have the most angelic and perfect voices you will ever have the pleasure of listening to, whether it be on recording or live. The band sings operatic pop in many different languages. They do covers of songs and original songs with only some of the choruses in English. Luckily for me, I was able to hear these angels sing live on November 8th. My brother had gotten tickets for my birthday to their concert at the Marquis Theatre. The concert was part of the tour for their new album titled, “A Musical Affair.” This album was comprised entirely of Broadway show tunes, which, needless to say, was perfect for me. The combination of hearing Il Divo sing and hearing them sing Broadway songs was absolutely incredible. They also had guest singer, Heather Headley, who is featured on the album. Her voice is absolutely incredible and she has starred in many Broadway productions, such as The Lion King. I got chills after every single song they sang. This concert was very different from the other concerts I’ve been too. People dressed up and sat in a theatre with chairs made of red velvet, whereas in other concerts, I was standing in a crowd of young people jumping up and down and screaming. Another thing that really intrigued me about the concert was the fact that the members of the band strongly discouraged people from using their cell phones to take pictures or videos. One of the members would even gesture for someone to put their phone away from the stage. The singers really wanted the audience to enjoy the performance and not be caught up in taking pictures and videos. Often times, we do not realize how focused we are on capturing every minute of a concert, and we miss out on actually experiencing the concert.

November 22, 2013   No Comments

Midsummer Night’s Dream [10.15.13]

Opera was something that I’ve always held close to my hard and had a great respect for. I guess it brings me back to the times before my mom decided that voice lessons were getting expensive and that I should stop. They were times that I loved and  feared. The fear surprisingly was more from my teacher than the actual performing. While doing scales, she would viciously grab at our diaphragms to remind us to use them for support and pull our chins down so that we could project more. Starting at ten years old, I was probably able to sing opera when I turned twelve and she assigned me the song “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera. It took a long time and it was still really difficult.

This is why I give props to the opera singers I saw that night (it was my first time going to an actual opera). Not only are the notes tremendously high, but they’re moving around, lying down or sitting which is extremely difficult. That skill takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Despite the fact that I knew I had a biology lab waiting to be done and an 8 AM class the next day, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was the singing phenomenal, but the sets and costumes were beautiful. I know the set was either a hit or a miss for most people, but I thought it was so clever in how it sort of let your own mind start imagining the scene because of the simplicity of the actual one. I also loved how the four main characters were wearing all white starting off, and then it started getting stained with green as they ran around the forest. So far, this has been my most favorite experience in Macaulay and think it’ll top the ballet, too but we’ll see. 😉

November 7, 2013   No Comments

Ze Opera!

The opera, a branch of art that I’ve rarely experienced. This was my first time to an Opera in about 8 years and it was amazing! The stage was large, the seats were good, and the performances were spectacular. I loved their interpretation of the play because it was so off the walls and hilarious. The characters had great voices and I commend them for singing for so long, that is a true feat.

Unlike other forms of art, this didn’t make me feel much. I wasn’t moved or forced to think critically about anything, I felt like this was solely for my entertainment. The only underlying messages I found were the clever ideas that Shakespeare conveyed through this play about how our ideas of love may be very skewed, like a woman loving a donkey. Overall this was one of the best if not my favorite event that we have gone to, it was so much fun, but way too overpriced. One more awesome thing was the stage. I loved how dynamic it was, always changing to set a mood or switch scenes, that added a lot to the experience, seeing the odd figures fly across the stage, or the black moon with a red outline, all of it helped to make this experience great.

That’s all folks.

October 28, 2013   No Comments