WHAT MAKES A GREAT OPERA SINGER?

Callas

In America today there is a strange anomaly: more and more young men and women studying to become opera singers and a decline in subscribers to opera companies. I specify subscribers even though single-ticket buyers are down, too, because opera companies live off of the committed subscriber. Though the recession is over, most company's bottom lines do not look healthy, yet the flood of singers … [Read more...]

THE REIGN OF THE DIRECTOR

English National opera 2014
Cosi fan tutte

Recently I wrote a blog complaining about the lack of focus on the singers in many reviews, and suggested that critics should spend time on whether the singer really brought over the meaning of the words and the emotions of the character. Even when the writer concentrates on the production he or she rarely mentions whether the director has connected his ideas to the opera’s music or words. Often … [Read more...]

AN INDEFATIGABLE OPERAGOER

Verna Parino - August 2013

​A few days ago I reflected on the passing of Jon Vickers, one of the great artists of the twentieth century. Opera, however, lives because of those who love it,  most of them nameless in the press. A friend told me of the passing away of one of the more remarkable opera lovers I have ever known, certainly the most dedicated Ring devotee.​ ​Verna Parino, who lived in Marin County north of San … [Read more...]

Four Hundred Years of Opera: Murder, Passion, Betrayal, and Ecstasy

© Bill Mohn

In my thirty-one years as General Director of Seattle Opera I think the most fun I had were the question-and-answer sessions I held with interested audience members after every performance. Starting in 1996, I had 732 of these sessions, and I found each one both instructive and intensely enjoyable. The best attended were always the Wagner sessions, which because of the length of the Wagner operas … [Read more...]

IN MEMORIAM: JON VICKERS

Vickers

  My first experience of Jon Vickers was as Siegmund in Die Walküre at the old Metropolitan Opera House on February 9, 1960. His earlier appearances as Canio and Florestan had been well received, but that night the theater came close to exploding. With Aase-Nordmo Lövberg as Sieglinde, he created a passionate, involved, intense Siegmund, equal in both lyricism, drama and voice to the live … [Read more...]

Les Troyens

Troyens

Imagine an empty stage apron with a black curtain behind it on which a beautiful woman with flowing blond air, all in white, is kneeling and pouring out expressive, rich sound, her words filled with an exquisite and resigned acceptance of fate, and you will have some idea of how Susan Graham realized the section of Berlioz Les Troyens that begins with “Je vais mourir” and concludes with “Adieu, … [Read more...]

BAD BREAKFAST

Breakfast

I have been reviewing opera at least since 1947 when I first realized that every singer was not perfect. On that occasion the Violetta tried for the high E-flat at the end of Act I of La Traviata and spectacularly missed it. Ten years and some two hundred performances later the Dallas Morning News published my first critique--of the Metropolitan Opera's Samson et Dalila, with Rise Stevens. I loved … [Read more...]

A Great Artist

Dido

The first great opera artist I experienced live was Rise Stevens as Octavian in a 1946 performance of Der Rosenkavalier by the touring Metropolitan Opera in Dallas. I had no idea at  the age of nine that she was a great artist, but she certainly impressed me. Since then I have had lots of opportunities to hear many of those who have been called great--and over the past three decades to present … [Read more...]

AN AMAZING COMPOSER IN SEATTLE

Photo: Alan Alabastro

Inappropriate as it may be for me to comment on the Ariadne auf Naxos that I planned and cast for Seattle Opera, my only justification is that I had nothing to do with its preparation as I retired last August. I am writing about it because of one truly astonishing performance, that of Kate Lindsey as the Composer. The level of this artist's singing and acting is always high; in this Composer she … [Read more...]

A NEW HELDENTENOR

Photo: Rozarii Lynch

  Three years ago in auditioning for the International Wagner Competition of 2014, which took place last August at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, my colleague, Aren Der Hacopian, and I scoured the world for young dramatic singers between 25 and 40. It was the third such competition. In our New York auditions in the fall of 2012 we heard a tenor named Issachah Savage. A very … [Read more...]